The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto XII, Stanzas 61-80
Iroldo covers now his face and head,
For with his eyes he does not wish to see
His dear beloved to her death thus led.
Now doth Tisbin begin to sorrow free.
Her heartsickness hath not yet from her sped;
Her own death naught to her appears to be,
But all her grief is for Prasildo’s death;
This woe all other sorrows augmenteth.
To leave no thing undone, and keep her word,
Towards Prasildo’s house she takes her way,
And secret audience with him implored;
She went alone, just at the break of day.
When Don Prasild her gentle knocking heard,
He went and opened to her straightaway.
He wished to do all things to please the dame,
Nor knew he what to do for fear and shame.
But once they are alone together in
A secret place, and may be at their ease,
With dulcet voice and soft words he begins
To do whatever he thinks may her please.
He tries to make her laugh, or even grin,
For tracks of tears upon her face he sees.
He though it only was for maiden’s shame;
He knew not death with hasty footsteps came.
At last, with gentle chiding, he implores her,
By what she loves the most in all the world,
To tell him why and wherefore she deplores her,
And by what stormy grief her soul is whirled,
For, so he swears to her, he so adores her
He’d die, if need were, for his joy, his pearl;
So urgently for answering he sought,
At last he hears what he’d far rather not.
Because Tisbina answered him: “The love
Which after so much labor thou hast gained
Is in thy power, but for not above
Four hours more. My oath unbroke remains.
I lose my life, but what I prize most of
All things is that the man I love was fain
To lost his life with me and walk beside
Me when away from thee fore’er I hide.
“Had my heart been at any time my own,
And hadst thou been, as thou hast been, so true,
A great discourtesy I should have shown
Had I not loved thee much as I could do;
But so I could not do, for one alone
I love, and no one can have love for two.
To love thee, sir, I cannot even start,
Though much compassion long has filled my heart.
“And this my having pity on thy lot
Has grown my misery a hundredfold,
For thy laments such sorrow to me brought
Since first I heard thee all thy griefs unfold,
That to stay faithful to my love, I wrought
My poison-death ere I might thee behold.”
With further words, she all the tale explains,
How Don Irold and she had drunk their banes.
Don Prasildo hath such grief at heart
When he hath heard Tisbina’s woeful speech,
To speak or move he cannot even start.
And where he’d thought his happiness to reach,
He sees all happiness for aye depart,
For in his heart she hath made such a breach,
Her, in whose person all his joy resides
He now sees dying right before his eyes.
“Ah, would that neither God, nor thou, Tisbina,
Had put my courtesy to such a test,”
The baron said, “No one has ever seen a
Fate like ours cruel, not lovers so distressed.
That lovers twain should slay themselves has been a
Thing done too often at great Love’s behest,
But three together, I can see full well
By evening shall together wend to Hell.
“O thou of little faith, why didst thou doubt
That I’d release thee from thy plighted boon?
Thou saidst thou heardst me in the woods without
A hardened heart. Ah, speak the truth, dear, now.
I trust thee not; this lays it plainly out.
Thou’st slain thyself to murder me, I trow.
Ah, wherefore could I not have been born blind,
Before thy lovely face I chanced to find?
“Wert so disgusted when my love was shown,
O cruel one, for death thou couldst not wait?
God be my witness, if I’d only known
I could not cease to love, or start to hate,
But in the wastes I would have lived alone,
If my love pressed thy heart with so much weight.
Who could have been so cruel as to provide
One sweet as thou the means for suicide?
“I never wished to cause thee any grief,
I do not wish to now, nor shall I ever;
Now from my luckless love I grant relief
To thee, though I shall love another never.
If not yet in my good-will thou’st belief
Then I shall prove it, and all ties I sever.
Hereby I free thee of all oaths to me,
And in all things I shall be ruled by thee.”
Tisbina hears the baron courteous,
And filled with pity, she begins to say:
“Thy courtesy hath conquered me by this;
For thy sake, living still would make me gay.
But Fortune wills the contrary, ywis,
And but a little time I have to stay,
But in what little space to me remains,
To please thee, gladly I’d take any pains.”
Prasildo’s heart is burning up with woe,
So sad is he that he her death hath wrought.
He doesn’t comprehend her words, and so
With mind so sorrowful it hath no thought
He only pressed his lips against her own,
Then left her free to do whate’er she sought.
And when he hears the door behind her close,
Sobbing, himself upon his bed he throws.
After, Tisbina to Iroldo came,
Who lay upon his bed with woeful look.
All of Prasildo’s doings she explains,
How nought from her besides a kiss he took.
Iroldo leapt from bed upon the boards
And with clasped hands, and with a voice that shook,
Upon his knees he went, and humbly did he
Beseech High God for mercy and for pity,
That He will rend Prasildo guerdon fair
For courtesy, by selfishness unkept.
But, while he knelt and he poured out his prayer,
Tisbina fell to earth, as if she slept;
Swiftly the potion wrought upon his dear;
And through her delicate, small veins it crept.
Upon a weak heart death takes sooner hold
As do all passions, than one stout and bold.
Now Don Iroldo fells his face like ice,
When that he sees his lady fall to ground,
Just like a rag she fell before his eyes;
She seemed as slumber, and not death, her bound.
Cruel he calls God above, and cruel the skies,
Who with such woes have compassed him around;
Cruel he calls Fortune, cruel he blameth Love,
Who will not slay him, grieved all men above.
But let us leave this cavalier in woes,
Thou mayst imagine, sir knight, how he fares.
Prasildo in his chamber was enclosed.
Thus he lamented, speaking through his tears:
“Does all the world another lover know,
Whom Fortune dealt so cruelly with as here?
For, if I wish to be my lady nigh,
In but a little time I’ll have to die.
“This is my comfort from this heartless one,
Who is so hateful, though as Love he’s known.
Of all my pleasures, come now, leave me none,
Come sate yourself, O cruel one, on my woes!
With thee and thine forever I am done.
There is no worser lot than in thy throes.
And lesser pain, I trow, is found in Hell,
Then in thy kingdom, governed most unwell.”
But while he with lament the air inspires,
Behold arriving there an old physician.
The aged doctor for Prasild inquires,
Whose servants fain would him refuse admission.
The old man says, “My spirit is afire.
I shall come in, with or without permission,
For otherwise you will regret it soon:
Your master will be dead by afternoon.”