Book I, Canto XIII, Part 1

The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto XIII, Stanzas 1-20

ARGUMENT

Rinaldo, to obtain a magic steed,
Fights with two gryphons and a giant great.
He learns the tale of Albarose sweet,
How she and her beloved were betrayed
And slain by Trufaldino. He is fleet
To swear an oath to venge the hapless maid.
As they ride onward underneath the trees,
A centaur comes and kidnaps Fiordelis.

1
I told you earlier how those two heard
A cry that could have made the brave despair.
No fear nor panic in Rinaldo stirred.
He leapt to ground and left the palfrey there
With the fair maiden, sweet as singing bird,
Whose face was white with anguish and with care.
Rinald advances with an air defiant,
And finds the reason for this is a giant

2
Who stood a sentinel, as it appeared,
Before a darkling and enormous cave.
His face was horrible, his visage fierce,
To terrify the bravest of the brave.
But braver still than they, our cavalier
Who never has known fear in all his days,
Now moves against him with his sword in hand;
But not a muscle moved the giant grand.

3
His right hand he an iron club held stiff in.
From head to foot he was enclosed in mail.
On either side of him there lay a gryphon,
Bound to the rocks by chains too thick to fail,
But lest his presence be a hieroglyph in
Your eyes, his purpose here I will unveil.
This giant here was set to guard, you see, a
Horse, which erst belonged to Argalía.

4
By strange enchantment was this horse begot,
Because, of fire and of purest ashes,
A mare was magic’ly to being brought,
A thing that with the course of Nature clashes.
And then the wind this mare with child got,
And this the horse, of all the fastest,
Which ate no grass and fed upon no hay,
But lived on air alone from day to day.

5
Back to this cave the charger had returned,
As soon as Ferraguto set him free.
Here he was born, for here he ever yearned,
Here all his happy foalhood days spent he,
Till Argalía, who had magic learned,
Compelled him hence, to serve him faithfully,
Long as he loved, and once the knight was dead,
The horse in but a day to his home sped.

6
The giant then his sentry post regained,
The ugly, cruel, strong, and pertinacious,
And with him kept two gryphons tightly chained,
Each with sharp talons, horrid and rapacious.
These chains were wrought, as I should have explained,
So he could quickly loose those beasts hellacious.
Each of these gryphons was so strong in flight,
That though the air they could transport a knight.

7
Rinaldo with caution to the battle stepped,
Deliberate footsteps and a searching eye,
But do not think that fear upon him crept,
Because his paces are so far from spry.
The loft giant who the passage kept
Could clearly see a valiant knight drew nigh.
Not that he cared, for he had slain already
A thousand comers, be they weak or steady.

8
And all around the field were spread the white
Bones of the men the giant fierce had slain.
And now began the hard and eager fight:
Each seeks a vantage point upon the plain.
And furious blows they deal to left and right:
Neither to smile or to laugh will deign,
For each knows, true as there’s a sun i’th’ sky,
That one or th’other on this day will die.

9
The good Rinaldo was the first to strike,
And smites the mighty giant on the head.
But that brute’s helm was stronger than a dyke,
And not a whit was he discomfortéd.
Now his hot wrath and surqidry up-spike,
Just like a storm descends his club of lead;
Rinaldo takes the blow upon his shield,
Which splinters; pieces fly across the field.

10
But this was all the damage that was done;
Rinaldo pays him back a mighty blow
Which was a cruel and a mortal one,
Between his ribs, nigh to his heart it goes,
But scarcely had this wound to bleed begun
Rinald struck, on the other flank, his foe.
The armor strong no more intact remains,
Fusbert cuts through his entrails to his reins.

11
At this the giant was astonished quite;
Clearly he could perceive his death at hand.
From his two wounds his pain is infinite.
Upon his feet the brute can scarcely stand.
So he resolveth, out of hellish spite
That Don Rinald will leave the living land.
He staggers back, and ere his body stiffens,
The chains he loosens to release the gryphons.

12
The first one clutched the giant in his talons
And sailed away with him into the air,
And vanished from the dame’s sight and the gallants.
The other moves against Rinaldo there,
Hoping, perhaps, to knock him off his balance,
Ruffles his feathers, and to strike prepares.
His wings outspread, and ev’ry talon shows.
Rinaldo with Fusberta swings a blow

13
The bold Rinaldo’s aim was stout and true:
Both the beast’s foreclaws at a blow he mauls.
A searing pain the ugly bird shot through;
Shrieking, it fled, and came back not at all
When lo! A mighty noise from in the blue:
The other gryphon lets the giant fall.
I don’t think that he can survive this leap:
The gryphon dropped him from four thousand feet.

14
With a great rushing noise, he downward sped.
Rinaldo sees him falling from the sky;
It seems the brute is headed for his head.
If not exactly there, he’ll land nearby.
He sees that very shortly he’ll be dead,
Nor does he know what tactics he can try;
Whether he runs, or he stays where he’s at,
The giant’s massive corpse will squash him flat.

15
Still closer to the ground it makes its way;
Straight at Rinaldo, seemingly, it’s bound,
Before it lands, less than a foot away.
His head was shattered when it hit the ground,
And made a greater noise than words could say,
And shook the plain for nigh a mile around.
Rinaldo scarcely has the time to sigh,
Before, God help him! other perils nigh.

16
For th’other gryphon his way downwards took,
Wings folded back, with such a rush he comes,
The air re-echoed and the heavens shook,
And he concealed the splendor of the sun,
Shadowing ev’rywhere the knight might look.
A beast so great as this was never none.
Turpin affirms it for a certain thing
That fifteen feet outspread was either wing.

17
Rinaldo firmly for the bird awaits
But very little time does he spend waiting,
Ere like a lightning bolt accelerates
The gryphon, not a whit its speed abating.
Rinaldo his revenge anticipates,
And smites the monster without hesitating:
Beneath its throat he digs a nasty ditch,
Through which the red blood flows without a hitch.

18
But not enough he struck it death to bring.
He could not break the ribs or pierce the lungs.
The brute mounts to the sky, then folds its wings,
And downward with a piercing shriek it plunged.
The ugly brute Rinaldo’s helmet dings,
The crest and circlet from the top it wrung,
But could not break the helm itself because
The magic helmet of Mambrino ’twas.

19
The bird now flies aloft and now dives back;
Rinaldo does not know and cannot guess
Which is the weakest point he should attack.
The damsel watches with such great distress
She thought for fear she would her life soon lack.
Not for herself did she her prayers address
To God above, but only for the knight.
Her own self then she had forgotten quite.

20
The day was vanquished by the dismal night,
And yet the battle ’twixt the two raged on.
One thing alone now caused Rinaldo fright.
He might not see which way the beast had gone;
He knows that swiftly he must end the fight.
To this he bends his members, ev’ry one;
His only hope to keep himself from dying
Is to prevent that vicious bird from flying.

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Notes

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