The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto XIII, Stanzas 21-40
At last he lays himself upon the ground,
Sprawled out and motionless, and dead he seemed.
The bird immediately hurried down
Like one who such a trap has never seen,
And with his talons clutched Rinaldo round.
The nerves of Don Rinaldo are so keen
That he no sooner felt the monster’s claws,
He swung his sword around without a pause.
Where the wing joined the body Rinald pressed,
And muscle, nerve, and bone Fusberta rent;
The wing fell off, upon the ground to rest,
But not yet did the savage beast relent.
With both its foreclaws it attacked his breast,
Cuirass and plate and mail were all to-shent;
So fierce with one and th’other claw he tore,
The knight was sure his life would soon be o’er.
But still for victory the baron tries;
Now in the chest he strikes it, now the flanks,
And strikes so much, at last he makes it die.
Rinaldo stands once more upon his shanks.
Great peril he’s escaped, it is no lie.
To God he humbly offers praise and thanks;
And then he bids the lady ride him to,
For all the pains and danger now are through.
But Don Rinaldo had beheld the place
Wherein was kept the magic, wind-born horse.
If to its end this path he could not trace,
Then all his life ’twould fill him with remorse.
’Neath the cliff’s horrible and jagged face
The gallant champion boldly set his course.
A hundred steps he did not take before
He found a massive, carven marble door.
With fine enamel was the door o’erspread,
And pearls and em’ralds set there in such wise
Of such a door you never heard or read.
No work e’er known was of so great a price.
Laid behind crystal was a lady, dead,
And golden letters round her were incised:
“Swear to avenge me, thou who passest by,
Or else a death unknightly mayst thou die.
“But he who sweareth to avenge my wrong,
And slay the man by whom I was betrayed,
To him the magic destrier shall belong,
Which leaves the wind behind, so fast its gait.”
Rinaldo doesn’t hesitate for long,
But knelt at once. His vow to God he made,
That if his life and all his strength remain,
He will avenge the wrongly-slaughtered dame.
And then he entered in and saw the steed,
Kept by no stall-door, but by chains of gold.
All things were there a rider e’er could need,
Its coverlet fell down in silken folds.
The horse was black as an obsidian bead,
Save a white spot upon his forehead bold,
And one white patch, close by his tail, forsooth,
And his right foreleg, just above the hoof.
No horse surpasseth him in all the lands.
The great Baiardo is his only peer,
Who still is sung throughout the whole of France.
Baiard is stronger, smarter, without fear,
But swiftest doth this Rabican advance.
Slung stones and darts o’ertake not this destrier.
Nor birds in flight, nor arrows from a bow,
Nor any other thing can faster go.
Rinald is rapt out of this world for bliss,
That such a lofty quest fell to his lot.
But to the chain attached a small book is,
Writ not with sable ink, but crimson blood.
All the sad story is contained in this,
The woeful tale, for all to read who would,
Of the dead lady lying in the door,
How she untimely died; by whom; wherefore.
The book related how King Trufaldin,
The false and wicked ruler of Baghdad,
To neighbor had a Count, in battle keen,
Ardent and frank, and virtues all he had;
So highly praised he was, he long had been
Wholly despisèd by this monarch bad.
Don Orisello was this baron named,
As Montefalcon was his castle famed.
Don Orisello had a sister fair,
Who of all women was the crown and flower.
He face and body’s comeliness were rare.
If grace, and loveliness, and virtue’s power
Reached not their peak in her, they did nowhere.
She loved a knight was stalwart in the stour,
Of noble blood, and courteous and kind;
A better baron could you nowhere find.
The sun, who views the whole world at a glance,
Saw not on earth a pair of truer lovers,
More virtuous, more fair, more blessed by chance.
One will they had; one gentle love them covered.
From day to day their happy love advanced.
Now Trufaldin loved making war on others,
But Montefalcone could he never siege,
For it was strong and safe beyond belief.
Upon a massive, awe-inspiring rock,
(The path a mile long from base to height)
The walls were built, as if the world to mock;
Nor was this all that gave the castle might.
A great, vast, steep, and treach’rous moat there blocked
The way, and ringed the hill on ev’ry side.
Every path which to the castle ran
Had three watchtowers and a barbican.
The caution to his castle dedicated
Was worthy Orisello, for he feared
King Trufaldino and by him was hated.
Often with siegers he the fortress neared,
And ev’ry time he shamefully retreated.
This foul monarch at all goodness jeered,
But then he chanced to meet a knight who loved
Count Orisello’s sister, life above.
Polindo was the worthy baron hight,
And Albarosa hight the lady fair.
Joy she had, much as any human might
So much she was beloved, such love she bare.
Now on a day, this loving errant-knight
Seeking adventure, did at random fare,
Roving through lands and men of ev’ry sort,
At last he came to Trufaldino’s court.
King Trufaldino was a wicked traitor,
But ev’ry mood he perfectly could feign;
To Don Polindo no one could show greater
Favor, or speak so courteously amain.
Would he make war? He’ll be a co-invader.
Is he in Love? He’ll help him win his dame.
What variegated wonders Love can do!
Love fears all things; believes in all things, too!
Who, other than Polindo, would believe
This wicked, foul, breaker of his faith,
Who had so many knights ere this deceived?
The knight heeds not the words that any saith,
But gratefully the offers he received,
And thinks his lady love at last he hath.
He feels her lips already on his cheek.
Of nought else can he think; he scarce can speak.
After the lady has been asked in vain
To leave the gate ajar and let him in,
She swears to meet Polindo on the plain
One quiet night and run away with him.
Thereto she plights her troth, and he again
Pledges that he will serve her ev’ry whim,
If she will come and be his weded wife,
To live in joy together all their life.
All is arranged; prepared the fatal night.
Now Trufaldin had graciously bestowed
On Don Polind a fort for his delight,
A day from Montefalcon by the road.
Hither there came, without the least respite
The knight and lady, who with true love glowed.
With mirth and laughter sat they down to eat,
When Trufaldino burst on their retreat.
O wayward Fortune, fickle and untrue,
Who never wished happiness to last!
Below the ground a tunnel had been hewn
Which from without into the fortress passed.
And Trudaldino well this faucebray knew;
All gifts he gave turned to his gain at last.
While thus the lovers dined and of love spoke,
King Trufaldin them seized without one stroke.