The Battle of Tours

Today is the 1,285th anniversary of the Battle of Tours, also known as the Battle of Poitiers, October 10, 732, when Charles Martel and his “northern men of robust limbs and iron hands stood like an unmovable wall of ice and cut the Arabs to pieces,” as the Mozarabic Chronicle puts it.

The Mahometan hordes had overrun Spain in 711, and after consolidating their control, they turned their attentions to France. In 720, when Theuderic IV was King of the Franks and Charles Martel was his Mayor of the Palace, the Saracens conquered Narbonne and laid siege to Toulouse. Duke Eudes of Aquitaine saved Toulouse, but could not recover Narbonne, and there Islam began to take root, and thence tentative minor raids were made on France. In 732 the Emir of Spain, Abd-er-Rahman, decided that there had been enough pussy-footing around, raised an army, crossed the Pyrenees, burned every church in his path, sacked Bordeaux, expelled Duke Eudes, and continued north, until he came to Poitiers, a mere 200 miles from Paris. Duke Eudes, however, had fled to the north, and formed an alliance with Charles, Mayor of the Palace. Their combined army held the road between Poitiers and Tours, and thanks to Charles’ brilliant tactics, the Franks held their ground. Abd-el-Rahman was slain, and his army melted away. There would be many further raids, but never again would they come so far north. France was saved.

Modern scholars have attempted to downplay the importance of the battle, but their arguments are weak. One the one hand, they point out that Muslim raids on Christendom continued. On the other, they claim that even in Charles and Eudes had been defeated, the Muslims still would not have conquered France. As to the first, that the raids continued is true, but, as we said above, they never again went so far north. As to the second, the idea that the Muslims would not have conquered France if Charles Martel had been out of the picture is preposterous in the extreme. A victory at Tours, with Charles disgraced or dead, would have left the road open for Abd-el-Rahman to reach the Rhine. Theuderic IV, a true do-nothing heir of the Merovingians, would certainly not have stopped him, and all France would have had to choose between the Koran, the sword, or dhimmitude. France would have become a new center of Muslim power, and new converts would have been made, a few from the Franks, most likely, and certainly many from the still-pagan Saxons and other Germans beyond the border, who would have been among the next to be attacked, and who, being pagans, would not have had the option of dhimmitude. One shudders to think what would have become of Italy and Constantinople if they had been attacked from the north by Vikings filled with zeal for Islam on top of their lust for plunder.

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Book I, Canto XI, Part 3

The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto XI, Stanzas 41-53

41
Redoubted Sacripante leads the rest,
And doesn’t seem to hold his life too dear,
For he no armor had upon his chest.
You’d think the ending of his life was near,
But his agility is of the best,
As is his strength, and so he has no fear.
Nothing protects him but a copper shield,
But still, his sword with deadly skill he wields.

42
Sometimes a rock he throws, sometimes a dart,
And now he fights his foes with spear in hand,
Now he stands with his shield, a ways apart,
And strikes his enemies with his good brand.
So well he fights that Agricane starts
To think this battle may not go as planned.
His vigor and his prowess are in vain.
By now, three hundred of his men are slain.

43
Although his strength and efforts he redoubles,
And darts and arrows on his foe he rains,
King Sacripante gives him still more trouble,
And the Circassians new courage gain.
His plume is gone, his crest broke like a bubble.
Less than a quarter of his shield remains.
Rocks strike his head and make his helm resound;
All up and down his body wounds are found.

44
As when, force by an angry crowd of men,
A raging lion’s driven to the wood
But scorns to seem a coward even then,
He often turns his head, as if he would
Come back to fight, and swings his tail, and when
He roars, he stands like mighty kings have stood,
Even so Agricane, forced to flight,
Shows courage more than many do in fight.

45
At ev’ry thirty steps he turns around,
And breathes defiance, fronts his foes with scorn,
But far too many of them press him round,
All through the city, and his hope’s forlorn.
Rushing from ev’ry side new folk are found;
Behold a fresh battalion there is born.
With newfound heart and vigor they attack,
Pressing close up to Agricane’s back.

46
But even so, they can’t alarm the king,
Who strikes among them, dealing woe and ruin.
Footmen and cavaliers to earth he flings,
In desperation growling like a bruin.
Now shall I leave him, as his sword he swings,
I wish to sing about Rinaldo’s doings,
Who recently has left the Cruel Rock,
And now along the seashore takes a walk.

47
My lords, remember how I told before
How on a woeful damosel he came,
Who seemed to wish for death, such grief she bore.
The baron courteously hailed the dame,
And begged her, but whatever love she bore,
And by whatever can her love most claim,
And by the God of Heaven and by Mahound,
To tell him why she was in sorrow drowned.

48
With weeping answers him the dame forlorn,
“All thou art fain to know I will thee tell.
Oh, God! Why couldn’t I have ne’er been born,
Or died in bliss, before to woe I fell?
I’ve searched this land, and will search many more,
But have no even found a hope of help.
For I must find, to save me from this plight,
One who can fight alone against nine knights.”

49
“Rinaldo answers, “I care not to boast,
That I could fight with two, much less with nine,
But thy sad speech and plight me slay almost.
Such pity stir they in this heart of mine,
That I will fight for thee against a host
To prove what I can do for thee and thine.
Take heart, for I’ll be ever at thy side,
Till in thy cause I’ve conquered or I’ve died.”

50
She said, “God bless thee for thy fair design!
And for the noble goal thou hast in aim.
But half unknown to thee’s this task of thine.
When thou know’st all, thou’lt leave me as I came,
For Count Orland is among the nine.
Thou hast perhaps, heard somewhat of his fame.
The others also all are men of might.
Thou wilt not go with honor from this fight.

51
When Don Rinaldo hears the damosel
And hears his cousin Count Orlando’s name,
At once he gently asks if she will tell
All that she’s heard of Count Orlando’s fame.
The lady tells him all that her befell:
The stream that robs all mem’ry from the brain,
And all things else she tells of as they happed,
And how Orlando with the rest was trapped.

52
When he hears ev’rything the lady says,
And how she parted was from Brandimart,
Rinald immediately boldly prays
That with all speed she’ll guide him to those parts,
And swears and promises upon his faith
To use his utmost strength and utmost art,
Whether in fighting, or in feigning love,
To save them all from her they’re pris’ners of.

53
The lady sees the baron resolute,
And of his person ev’ry limb was strong,
As if all noble deeds were his pursuit,
And he who gave him knighthood did no wrong.
But though this canto’s short, here stops my lute,
Because the next one will be very long,
Wherein I’ll tell a pleasant tale in rhyme
The damsel told to him to pass the time.

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No notes to this part

The Legend of Girart of Roussillon – Origins and Influence

ORIGINS OF THE LEGEND

Girart of Roussillon, Girart of Vienne, and Girart of Euphrate are all inspired by the same historical figure: Girart II, Count of Paris, born 810, ascended 837, died c. 878.

Now Girart I of Paris had married Rotrude (who may have been the daughter of Carloman, son of Charles Martel), and founded the Girardid dynasty of Counts of Paris. His three sons, Stephen, Begon, and Leuthard I, succeeded him in turn as Counts. Leuthard I had two sons: Girart and Adalard. Adalard served as King Louis the Pious’ seneschal, and Girart became Count of Paris. Meanwhile, Count Hugh of Tours had two daughters: Bertha and Ermengarde. Girart II married Bertha sometime before 819, and Ermengarde married Lothair I, son of Louis the Pious and king of Middle Francia, Bavaria, and Italy, and Emperor of the West. In 836, Girart was sent on official business to Italy. In 837, he was made Count of Paris. He lost the title in 841, when he took the side of Lothair I against King Charles the Bald and broke down the bridges across the Seine to inconvenience the latter. Girart was among Lothair’s soldiers at the Battle of Fontenoy in 841, when that king and his nephew Pepin II of Aquitaine were decisively defeated by Louis the German and Charles the Bald. Lothair nonetheless made Girart his count of the palace in 842. When Lothair I died in 855, his son Charles, still a child, inherited Provence as his kingdom, and Girart became his regent. In 860, Girart repelled a band of Vikings who had sailed up the Rhone. The following year, Charles the Bald attempted to disinherit his nephew, but he was repelled, possibly by Girart, and returned to France. Around this time, Girart and Bertha founded the monasteries of Vézelay and Pothièrs. In 863, Charles of Provence died young and childless, and his lands passed to his brother Lothair II, King of Lotharingia, for whom Girart continued to administer them until that king’s death in 869, whereupon his territories were divided by his uncles Louis the German and Charles the Bald. Charles went to occupy Provence, but met with resistance from Girart and Bertha. Charles laid siege to Vienne, which was ably defended by Bertha while Girart was holding another castle nearby. Charles, however, first burnt all the lands around Vienne and then promised the people mercy if they surrendered. The people told Bertha they wished to surrender, Bertha send word to Girart, and Girart formally surrendered to Charles on Christmas Eve, 870. The couple went into retirement in their fiefs near Avignon, where Girart died between 877 and 879. He was buried in the abbey of Pothièrs, in Langres, where once could be seen Girart’s tomb on the Gospel side of the chapel, Bertha’s on the Epistle, and, in front of the altar, an epitaph for their infant son Thierry.

Bedier would have it, as usual, that the legend was created in the 11th or 12th century by some minstrel who had heard or read the monks’ chronicles of their founder, Girart. He argues that the only similarities between Girart of Paris and Girart of Roussillon are that they fought a king named Charles, had a wife named Bertha, had a son who died young, and founded certain monasteries, all facts that a minstrel could have learned at the abbey. The minstrels did not, however, know about such striking facts as Girart of Paris’ defeat of the Vikings, his protection of the young prince Charles of Provence against his cruel uncle, Bertha’s protection of Vienne on her own, etc., all things we would expect them to know if the story of Girart had been passed down orally.

Although Saint Badilon is real, the cult of St. Mary Magdalene at Vézelay seems to have been an invention of the eleventh century. Although Girart and Bertha did obtain for their monasteries the relics of Ss. Pontien, Eusebius, Andéol and Ostien, there is no record of the relics of the Magdalen there prior to 1050. Unfortunately for Vézelay, in the mid 1200’s a tomb was discovered in Provence. This tomb was, in reality, a Gallo-Roman tomb of the 500’s with a carving of Pontius Pilate washing his hands and a servant holding the washbasin. The discoverer, however, thought the servant was Mary Magdalene preparing to wash the feet of Christ, and the word went out that St. Mary Magdalene’s tomb had been found. The monks of Vézelay now claimed that they had received their relics from the south, but their popularity declined, and the cult in Provence flourished. Had it not been for this discovery, there would have been no association of the Magdalen with Provence, no tradition of St. Lazarus as bishop, no legend of St. Martha taming the Tarrasque, no Holy Blood, Holy Grail, no Da Vinci Code, and Dan Brown would be an obscure third-rate hack writer, instead of a rich and famous third-rate hack writer.

The relics at Vézelay were destroyed the Protestants during the Wars of Religion, and the church turned into a stable. The relics currently venerated there are replacements sent from elsewhere. The shrine in Provence was destroyed during the Revolution, but the skull was saved and is now in a rebuilt shrine. The most likely candidate for the real relics are those brought to Constantinople in the ninth century, but I can find no information on what became of them afterwards, or if they are still preserved today.

Read more on St. Mary Magdalene here.

Val Pergunde is perhaps Valprionda, a suburb of Cahors.

INFLUENCE

Girart of Roussillon appears already in the Oxford Song of Roland as one of the Twelve Peers, and he dies at Roncesvalles. Later works incorporated him into the elaborate genealogies of the Paladins, and made him the brother of Aymon of Dordone, Doon de Nanteuil, and Bueve d’Aigremont. He plays hardly any role, however, in the poems of the Nanteuil cycle or those of the Aymonids. On occasion he fights alongside his kinsmen, but they seldom if ever, if I recall correctly, allude to the events of his life story as given in his own chansons. Later still, Girart was made into one of the twelve sons of Doon de Mayence. Besides the three mentioned above, the other eight were: Gaufrei (father of Ogier the Dane), Grifon d’Hautefeuile (of Altafoglia, one of the Maganzans), Othon, Ripeus, Seguin of Bordeaux (father of Huon), Pierre (father of the Swan Knight), Morant de Riveirs, and Hernaut de Girone.

Some MSS of Hervis de Metz insert an episode, between Hervis proper and the beginning of Garin le Loherain, wherein Girart is at war with Charles Martel. Charles asks the Pope for permission to tax the Church, reminding him that he has always given generously to her and now needs her help. The Pope agrees, but Girart is on the warpath and nearly at Paris. Charles has enough money now, but not yet enough men, and so, reluctantly, sends to Hervis for aid. Hervis makes ready to go to France, but before he gets there, Girart conveniently dies of illness. He is buried in an abbey he founded at Bar-sur-Aube.

There are other minor references to Girart. Auberi le Bourguignon conflates Girart of Roussillon and Girart of Eufrate in a prologue. Adenet le Roi alludes to the story in Bertha Broadfoot, as does the anonymous Italian who wrote the Entrée en Espagne. Girart is mentioned in some of the chronicles, more usually as the founder of abbeys than as the adversarial brother-in-law of Charles the Bald or Charles the Hammer, or as the real Girart II of Paris.

Let thus much suffice for the Legend of Girart of Roussillon, and let us now speak of Auberi of Bourguignon, to him his fiefs were given when he died without inheritors.

The Legend of Girart of Roussillon

The legend of Girart of Roussillon is found in the following versions:

Girart de Roussillon. Rhyming decasyllables, 1150, in an artificial dialect that combines French and Provencal.

Vita nobilissimi comitis Gerardi de Rossellon. A Latin saint’s life.

Le Vie de Gerard. A French translation of the Latin life. Can be found with the Latin in Romania, vol. 7, pp. 161-235.

Gerart van Rossilun. A Low German translation of the saint’s life, of which only one page survives.

Girart de Roussillon. Rhyming Alexandrines, 1300’s, based on the decasyllables and the Latin life.

Jehan de Wauquelin’s Girart in prose, 1477, based on the Alexandrines.

David Aubert’s Histoire de Charles Martel, 1448, taken from Wauquelin.

Jean Mansel’s Fleur des Histoires, also from Wauqeulin.

Popular chapbooks, descended from Mansel’s version.

GIRART IN DECASYLLABLES

The poem claims to have been written by a monk named Sestu [Sextus], who began it in the sweet springtime. Charles Martel is holding a joust at Pentecost when word comes that Rome is under siege by the Saracens. Charles and his army travel thither to save the day with the help of the Emperor of Constantinople’s men. In return the Emperor agrees to give his elder daughter Bertha to Charles and his younger, Elissent, to Girart of Roussillon. Girart is sent to fetch them to France. When the girls arrive, however, Charles sees that Elissent is more beautiful, and demands to switch. Girart is furious, and threatens war. Charles offers him as compensation to be released from all his feudal obligations. Girart asks Elissent if she loves him, and she says yes. Thereupon Girart agrees to make peace, so that she can be Queen, and they will love truly and nobly. The double marriage is celebrated. When Charles releases Girart from his vassalage, he keeps only one right: the right to hunt in Girart’s forests. Queen Elissent gives Girart a ring, and the two part with tears. They love truly and nobly.

Some time later, Charles decides to go hunting in Roussillon, without asking leave of Girart. He prepares the hunt with his vassals, and sends a herald to Girart ordering him to do homage for his lands. Girart answers that he and his father before him held the land in alleu [that is, not as a fief, but in their own right], that he has four bold nephews, and that he does not care a fig for Charles’ power. Charles promptly lays siege to Roussillon. The siege lasts all summer, until the King bribes Girart’s seneschal Richier of Sordane, a peasant’s son, to open the gates for him. Girart awakens to find the enemy inside his castle, and he is obliged to flee to Avignon, which he also holds. He raises an army there and returns to reclaim Roussillon. Fouque kills Richier in the battle. Charles, meanwhile, is in Orleans. Girart sends Fouque as messenger to Charles, who is exceedingly displeased. Thierry says that this is what comes of using treason instead of honest fighting. Charles is angrier still, but Thierry reassures him that he has no love for Girart, because Girart’s father Drogon and uncle Odilon made him an outlaw in the woods for seven years, until Charles restored him to favor and gave him his sister as wife. Charles and Fouque meet in a monastery near Roussillon, and agree to trial by battle, in the field of Vaubeton. The loser will have to travel to the Holy Land as a pilgrim. So many knights come that there are none left anywhere else in France. In the battle, Drogon has a hauberk from the forge of Espandragon [King Uther?] and the sword of Marmion [otherwise unknown]. Nonetheless, Thierry kills him and his brother Odilon. God stops the battle by striking Charles’ and Girart’s standards with lightning, turning them to ashes. The two agree to a five year truce, and that Thierry will be banished.

Meanwhile, in the confusion of the civil war, the Saracens, Saxons and Frisians have all invaded France. Charles marches south first, to deal with Seguran of Syria, who has invaded Gascony. Unbeknownst to him, Girart is there, too, and the brothers-in-law are formally reconciled in Val Pergunde. The French go north to repel King Rabeu [Raimbaut] of Frisia, and Girart serves the king well in other battles over the years. When the five years are up, Girart formally pardons Thierry, and all seems to be well.

It is not well, however, for Girart’s cousins Boson and Seguin (sons of Odilon) murder Thierry and his two sons during a tournament Charles is holding at Pentecost. War again breaks out. Charles sends an ambassador to Girart, who refuses to make peace. Charles defeats Girart in battle after battle, including Mont-Amele, and Civaux. Girart’s men begin to abandon him. Girart is defeated at Civaux, but as he flees he kills some of Charles’ men who have taken sanctuary at a roadside cross, and then goes on to burn down a monastery in which some other men of Charles’ have taken refuge. He then returns to Roussillon, which Charles besieges. Girart insists, against Fouque’s advice, on doing battle in the field. The men of Roussillon are slaughtered, Fouque taken captive, Boson slain. Girart and Bertha head for Hungary, but learn that her family is dead, and they can expect no shelter there. Instead, they settle in Aurillac, where they live as peasants for twenty-two years and do penance for their sins. He becomes a coal-burner, she a seamstress. After twenty-two years, Girart returns to France in disguise and manages to obtain an interview with Queen Elissent by showing her his ring. She recognizes him and obtains his pardon from Charles. For seven years, there is peace. Girart has two sons by his wife after their return. One dies young, but the other grows strong and healthy. Unfortunately, Girart has not learned his lesson about showing favor to the children of peasants: his seneschal, an ex-serf named Guy de Risnel, kills Girart’s son and blames it on Charles, hoping to start the war again. The war does indeed start. Guy repents too late. Girart takes Charles prisoner in battle, but the Pope makes peace, and Girart and Bertha return to Vézelay, to end their days in peace. Bertha sneaks out every night to work on the church, which causes Girart some alarm, until he discovers the reason for her absence. Girart has the body of Saint Mary Magdalene transferred to the monastery of Vézelay, which he joins after Bertha’s death. The wars began in 700, and lasted sixty years, all told, but now he dies in peace and sanctity.

VITA COMITIS GIRARDI

The Vita Girardi is found in its original Latin, and in an old French translation, both of which were printed by P. Meyer in Romania, vol. VII. Scholars agree it was based on the chanson de geste.

Girart is stated to have served under Charlemagne, Louis the Pious, Charles the Bald, and Louis II. He was the son of Drogon, born in Avignon. He married Bertha, daughter of Count Hughes of Sens. Bertha’s sister Eloyse marries King Charles. When Count Hughes dies, his sons-in-law quarrel over his inheritance, which starts the war. Girart loses and spends seven years in the forest, after which he and Bertha go to Eloyse, disguised as pilgrims. The Queen makes peace, but Charles the Bald has wicked counselors, who stir up war. Girart defeats Charles, but forbears to pursue him in his flight. They fight 12 or 13 battles, until an angel bids Charles make peace. Girart and Bertha build monasteries, where miracles happen. Girart’s two sons die a natural death in this version. The mention of miracles reminds the author about earlier events in Girart’s life, so now he relates some more details about the war, telling how Charles took Rousillon by treason, Girart reclaimed it, and God intervened by striking both their standards with lightning. Back in the present, Bertha dies and is buried in Pothièrs. Two years later, Girart dies at Avignon, requesting to be buried by his wife. The folk of Avignon try to keep his body, but they are stricken with a seven-year famine. An angel appears to a monk, bidding him transfer the body. So it is done, and Girart works miracles at his new grave.

GIRART IN ALEXANDRINES

Based on the poem and the Vita, but insists that the king is Charles the Bald. Louis the Pious split his empire between Louis the German, Charles the Bald, and Lothaire, who promptly went to war. Girart stayed neutral. The brothers made a treaty at Verdun. Charles the Bald reigned thirty-two years until his own doctor poisoned him, in 878. Bertha died three yeas after. Girart seven years after Bertha. Before that, though, Girart had a very large territory in southeast France. The kings of Hungary, Span, Sicily, Aragon, Navarre, Galicia, and Seville are all his allies. Fouchier le Marshall is the son of Hernault. Girart has four nephews: Fouque, Gibert, Seguin, Boz, the sons of the Count of Provence. Girart himself is eight feet tall. His children, Eve and Theodore, died young. A description of Poitiers follows, and an account of how the Vandals invaded Roussillon, and the city was destroyed and rebuilt. The author suggests it was named after rossignols [nightingales]. Girart, in sum, has almost as much land as Charles. They marry Bertha and Eloise, the daughters of Count Hugons of Sens. When he dies, his sons-in-law quarrel over his inheritance, despite Bertha’s pleading for peace. Charles lays siege to Roussillon, whereupon the rest of Girart’s fiefs surrender without a fight. Bertha advises Girart to surrender. Girart sends Fouque to Charles, as in the decasyllabic poem. Fouque is about to attack Charles, but courtiers restrain him. Girart is defeated and driven from Roussillon to Poligny, where he is defeated again, and flees with Bertha. They intend to go to King Oton of Hungary, but instead are obliged to live in the woods where Girart works as a charcoal burner. Eventually, the reconciliation takes place as in the Vita. Girart and Betha do good works, but at last Girart asks Charles for Bertha’s fiefs back, whereupon Charles declares war. Girart thinks he’s bluffing, and takes possession of the disputed land, whereupon Charles attacks him. Girart defeats Charles in Flanders and at Soissons, then comes the battle of Valbeton, in Pierre-Pertuise. In the battle, Drogon is killed. After the battle, a truce is made, but no lasting peace. Charles returns home, and Girart and Bertha build monasteries. They bring Saint Eusebius to Pothièrs, and Saint Pontien to Vézelay. Saint Badilon, a bishop, brings the body of St. Mary Magdalene from Aix in Provence to Vézelay. Charles resumes the war and lays siege to Roussillon. Girart’s chamberlain betrays him and opens the gates. Girart manages to retake the castle, but Charles sets fire to it as he retreats, and it is ruined. Girart flees and builds a new castle, Chatillon. Charles lays siege to this one, too. Girart sends Bertha to Provence, and himself retreats to Montargis. He and Charles battle at Sixte, near Pont-sur-Yonne. Girart is victorious, and chases the king all the way to Paris, which he besieges. But God sends an angel to make peace. Girart and Bertha return home to live piously and work miracles and Vézelay and Pothièrs. Bertha and Girart die and his vassals fight over his body, all as in the Vita. Miracles occur at their tombs. The lame are healed, a vandal is blinded, and Bertha appears in glory to the sacristan. A hermit sees seats in Heaven prepared for their souls, as in the Vita.

WAUQUELIN’S GIRART

Is a mere mise en prose of the Alexandrines, with a few details of Burgundian local color.

DAVID AUBERT’S HISTORY OF CHARLES MARTEL

Is based on Wauquelin, but he restores Bertha and Eloyse to their place as princesses of Hungary. According to Aubert, Charles the Hammer was the son of Eustache of Berry, who was son of Duke Gloriant of Berry. Charles married the fair Marcebille, daughter of King Theodorus of France, much against that monarch’s will. He then fell in with Duke Girart of Roussillon, and they became fast friends. They went to Constantinople, where they served the Emperor and had many adventures, before returning home, the one to become King of France, the other to become Duke of Bourgogne. The story then continues as in Wauquelin, only much abridged.

JEAN DE MANSEL

I can find little information on him, but what I have indicates that he did little of interest. He slightly abridged Wauquelin, and the chapbooks that followed him and were based on him presumably did the same, with each new edition being even more corrupt than the one before it.

So much for the fables of Girart of Roussillon, and now let us look at the true history of Girart II of Paris.

The Legend of Charles Martel

The popular muse appears to have combined Charles the Hammer with his grandson Charles the Great. The Hammer has very few romances in which he even features and only one, to my knowledge, in which he is the protagonist. Though Pippin the Short is usually remembered as the father of Charlemagne, Pippin’s father is often forgotten, or replaced with such people as King Rother or Agnolo Michele. Even his great victory over the Muslim hordes at Tours left no trace in the oral tradition, although perhaps it lies beneath some of his grandson’s legendary victories.

There is, however, one romance in which the Hammer has a starring role: David Aubert’s Histoire de Charles Martel. Or at least, he stars in the first part. The bulk of the romance is devoted to the adventures of Girart of Roussillon, Orson of Beauvais, and the Lorrainers. The first part, however, features Charles as the protagonist. Some scholars think it is based on a lost chanson de geste. Be that as it may, the story is clearly very late, and is a typical late Carolingian cliché-fest. As David Aubert has never been printed, the following summary is based on the chapter titles as given in Paul Meyer’s introduction to Girart of Roussillon.

DAVID AUBERT’S LEGEND OF CHARLES MARTEL

Duke Gloriant of Berry lays siege to the city of Lusarne in Spain, which belongs to the Saracens. His eldest son, Huitasse [Eustace] de Berry captures Princess Ydorie of Lusarne from her guardian giant Orrible, and marries her. The Admiral [emir] is furious, takes Gloriant captive, and chases Huitasse away. He returns home to Bourges, whence his brother manages to expel him. As if this were not bad enough, King Theodorus of France [Theuderic IV] learns from his astrologers that the son of Huitasse, named Charles Martel, will be king after him, and plots to kill the lad. Fortunately, Gloriant escapes prison and returns home, where he manages to reconcile his sons. Little Charles is raised by Raimbaut the Marshall and his wife Hermentine, in Paris. He grows of an age to prove himself, and is a wonder. He participates in jousts at Paris, and wins the prize thereof and the love of King Theodorus’ daughter Marsibelle. The two are wed in Avignon. King Theodorus is furious, and imprisons the abbot of Saint-Denis and Count Galleran of Provence for allowing the wedding. He then sends Galleran to arrest his daughter and new son-in-law. Charles is gone, however. He has met Girart of Roussillon and they are adventuring together, en route to Constantinople, where they leave Marsibelle while they adventure. A long war ensues, involving King Agoulant of Jerusalem, king Menelaus of Dammarie, Emperor Belinas of Constantinople, a civil war in France between King Theodorus and Charles’ father Duke Huitasse of Berry, various minor knights and nobles, captivities, rescues, escapes, and all the usual paraphernalia, except, apparently, magic, which does not seem to feature until later in the romance. In the course of these wars, Charles impregnates Menelaus’ daughter Sagramoire. Fortunately for her, she soon marries Agoulant (who has killed Menelaus), and is able to pass off her son Archefer as Agoulant’s. Not till he is grown does she reveal the secret. Meanwhile, peace has been made in France, and King Theodorus has died, leaving the realm to his son Ydrich [Childerich III]. Archefer sees this as a sign that France is weak, and invades with a Saracen army. Charles conquers and converts him. The barons of France all agree to depose the incompetent Ydrich and make Charles king of France. After his coronation, Charles goes overseas with Archefer to convert Sagramoire. Unfortunately, they get caught up in another round of wars. Marsebille leads an army from France to Outremer, but Archefer and Sagramoire kill her. Charles captures his son, and sends him on a quest to Hell, from which, after many adventures, he returns alive, thanks to the enchanters Carniquant, whom he learned from, and Sorbrin, whom he killed and whose book he stole. Archefer presents his father with a great black horse, a gift from Lucifer himself.

Girart of Roussillon now travels to the Holy Sepulchre, and on his way home becomes engaged to Alexandrine, daughter of King Othon of Hungary.

Meanwhile, Duke Hillaire of Aquitaine, brother of Theodorus, wishes to be king of France, now that Ydrich has died. He invades, and very nearly succeeds in driving out Charles Martel, who is, however, saved by Girart. After Hillaire surrenders, Charles and Girart plan to marry the two daughters of King Othon, and the story segues into Girart of Roussillon, in a version which follows that of Wauquelin very closely.

ORIGINS OF THE LEGEND

In actual history, Charles Martel was the bastard son of Pepin II, Mayor of the Palace and de facto ruler of France. Charles was imprisoned by Pepin’s justly irritated wife Plectruda. When Pepin died in 715, Plectruda became the regent for her six-year-old grandson Theodebald. Charles, aged twenty-five, escaped from prison, a civil war broke out, the Saxons invaded, and King Dagobert III died, probably from assassination (715). The Franks opposed to Charles chose Chilperic II as their king, the son of Childeric I. Charles, while skirmishing with northern invaders, set up his own king: Clotair IV, whose exact relation to the Merovingians is unclear. Chilperic fled to Aquitaine, where Duke Eudes supported him – until Charles threatened to invade. Luckily for everyone, Clotair died, and Charles accepted Chilperic as king. Chilperic II died in 720, and the Franks elected Theuderic IV as king, the son of Dagobert III. The Moors crossed the Pyrenees that same year, and occupied the southern coast of France. Eudes recovered Toulouse in 721, but could not save Narbonne, and after several devastating raids thought it prudent to give his daughter Lampegia to the Muslim governor of Catalonia. Theuderic IV died in 727, and Charles never bothered replacing him. In 732, Abdelrahman, the Emir of Spain, attempted to conquer all of France, drove Eudes out of Aquitaine, but was defeated and slain by Eudes and Charles at the Battle of Tours [Poitiers]. In 735, Eudes died. Charles attempted to seize his territory, but was eventually obliged to leave Eudes’ son Hunauld in possession, though as his vassal. Charles next attempted conquering southwestern France, but failed to accomplish anything of value besides reclaiming Avignon for the Christians. Indeed, he often  seemed more interested in fighting Christians then the Saracens, and burned the Christian cities of Nîmes, Agde, and Beziers on his way back to the north to fight the Saxons. In 739, however he was recalled to the south by King Liutprand of Lombardy, in concert with whom he drove the Saracens (slightly) back to the west. Charles died in 741, and was succeeded as Mayor by his sons Carloman and Pepin III the Short. Faced with rebellions on every hand, including from their bastard brother Grifon, the joint Mayors raised Childeric III to the throne in 743, to help restore order. No one knows how Childeric was related to the Merovingian line, if he even really was. The rebellions were put down, Carloman retired to a monastery in 747, and Pepin, by permission of Pope Zacharias, sent Childeric to a monastery in 751 and crowned himself King. In 754 Pope Stephen II travelled to Paris to consecrate Pepin and his sons Carloman and Charles as patrici Romanorum, and forbade the people of France, under pain of excommunication, to ever take a king who was not of their family

As can be seen, there is only the vaguest resemblance between actual history and David Aubert’s romance.

Thus Charles Martel became King of France, and now let us turn to various knights who lived during his reign and what befell them, to wit:

Girart of Roussillon

Orson of Beauvais

Auberi le Bourguignon

Book I, Canto XI, Part 2

The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto XI, Stanzas 21-40

21
“But thou shalt have a suitable reward,
When my men cut thine down upon the plain.”
One of tthem this way, one the other spurred,
As the battalions met and clashed amain.
They chopped so swiftly that their swords seemed blurred.
Never has such a multitude been slain.
Thirty good scythes could not cut so much wheat
As men that day were taken off their feet.

22
King Agricane Trufaldin attacks,
That scoundrel sees his doom is close at hand.
To leap upon the ground he is not slack,
And shouts, “A noble feet indeed thou’st planned,
To throw me off of my pathetic hack
When thy horse hath no peer in any land.
Give up thy vantage, as is just and right,
I challenge thee on foot with me to fight!”

23
For fame and honor Agricane thirsts.
He leaps to ground; a count he trusted kept
The reins of him who was Rinaldo’s erst,
For no less trusted guard would he accept.
At the right time, King Trufaldin, th’accurst,
Seized on his reins and to his saddle leapt,
And, before Agricane grasped his plight,
Into the fray he lunged and passed from sight.

24
The Tartars now are masters of the battle.
Across the field Circassians all they drive.
The soldiers of Baghdad, that ugly rabble
Flee with those Syrians who are still alive.
Shields, lances, swords they drop in their mad scramble,
Bows, arrows, darts won’t help them to survive.
None to the Tartar onslaught dare respond.
The Turks flee, and the men of Trebisond.

25
On the brink of the moat the army’s clumped,
Sunk in the earth, which keeps Albracca safe.
Some are pushed off the edge, and others jump.
The bridge is raised, and lowered is the gate.
Angelica looks on; her spirits slunmp
To see her people die at such a rate.
She bids the gate to rise, the bridge to fall;
A lack of men would please her not at all.

26
Once thus the way to safety is disclosed,
The common thought is “Devil take the hindmost!”
The Tartars chased them boldly, nor reposed.
The gate drops; some are in, but far behind most.
Of all who by the lattice are enclosed,
King Agricane had for slaughter mind most.
Three hundred knights who serve his beck and call
Are with their lord shut in Albracca’s wall.

27
Upon Baiardo gallantly he rides.
Never was seen a warrior so fierce.
Bordacco of Damascus soon espied
The king, and spurred towards the cavalier,
Defying him with arrogance and pride:
“Now has thy strength, O King, met with its peer.
The fine Baiardo is of no avail!
Thy war and all thy scheming now will fail!

28
Do what thou wilt, thou art about to die!
Thou canst not show thy strength nor make defense.”
King Agricane laughs with scornful eye,
“With words, indeed, thou show’st a good offense.
Enough of talk! Come on, sir knight, and try
To take my life away, and I’ll commence
By sending thee down to the netherworld,
The first of many who’ll by me by hurled.”

29
The King Bordacco wields an iron chain,
Which has for head a massive leaden ball.
A two-hand blow at Agrican he aims,
Who with his shield deflects it ere he sprawls.
And not content to thus avert his bane,
Slices the chain, which in two pieces falls.
The Tartar shouts aloud, “Thou soon wilt feel
Which of our weapons is the better steel!”

30
And with those words, that most redoubted lord,
With both his hands, he strikes his foeman’s crest.
Down through his skull and brainpan drives his sword,
Slices through chin and neck down to the breast.
The folk perceive how King Bordacco’s gored.
They flee, their faces show that they’re distressed.
While such great fear the fleeing crowd evinces,
The Tartar king pursues and he them minces.

31
Hs heart is ardent, and his fear is nought.
He always longs for battle or for raid.
If he had only stopped, and only thought
To turn around and open up the gate,
The castle easily he would have caught,
Angelica his pris’ner he’d have made,
But wrath, which dulls the sense and clouds the mind
Solely to chase the army him inclined.

32
The battle rages, the two hosts betwixt,
Horrible, cruel, confusing all around;
For one side and the other are so mixed
Some die, and some within the moat are drowned.
So many sliced and hacked were, and transfixed,
That the blood ran so much that in the ground
It formed a stream which in its channel flowed,
Till it cascaded right into the moat.

33
Now by fresh terror is the army marred,
And sights still crueler to their eyes appear.
The King in fury charges on Baiard,
A sight so terrible, all fill with fear.
The world has never seen a fight so hard
Nor where so many lost their lives as here;
So many men the Pagan king has slain,
So many corpses leaves he on the plain.

34
But ere Albracca’s gates had been transgressed,
As you have heard, by him of Tartary.
Already had there entered, seeking rest
King Sacripante, full of chivalry.
Disarmed, there tend him leeches of the best,
But so much blood already lost had he
He could not even sit in bed upright,
But lay there stilly, his face pale and white.

35
Now turn we back to Agrican once more,
Who sweepeth onward like a hurricane.
His bloody sword in both his hands he bore.
No one was ever of so many the bane.
Hearing the woeful cries and weeping sore,
That from the wounded and the dying came,
King Sacripante, lying on his cot,
Spoke up and for the noise’s reason sought.

36
Weeping, his squire to the monarch tells,
“King Agricane’s entered in, that hound,
And puts to martyrdom the citadel.”
This herd, the monarch from his sickbed bounds.
All those about, to hold him back try well,
But he escapes them and them all confounds.
Nothing except his shield and sword he bears,
Save for his smock; no other clothes he wears.

37
He meets his army, filled with indignation.
None of them dares their angry king to face.
He cries to them: “Alas, thou shameless nation!
When but one cavalier can all you chase,
How do you live through such humiliation?
How can you dare to look me in the face?
Throw down your shields, go home, and sell your armor,
You’re only fit to live as churlish farmers!

38
“See how I’ve come, without my armor dight,
And nearly naked, honor so I prize.”
The army is arrested in its flight,
Full up of admiration and surprise.
Ev’ry last one of them turns back to fight,
Because his fame resounded to the skies,
And when they saw the tales of him were true,
They thought, “There’s nothing that our king can’t do.”

39
Lo! Agricne thund’ring through the streets,
As the defeated, fleeing troops he routs,
Until the newly-heartened men he meets,
And Sacriptant, who boldly leads them out.
Another battle now begins. Great feats
Are done; this is a far more bloody bout
Than was the last. The Tartar host is small,
But their great leader gives them courage all.

40
But nonetheless, such multitudes are lain
Upon the earth by that Circassian king,
That no one thinks retreat will bring him shame,
And they take flight, while the Albraccans fling
Jav’lins and darts, wherewith are many slain.
The clash of weapons makes the welkin ring.
No battlefield could ever be more dread;
None stay within the courtyards save the dead.

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Notes

Notes to the Eleventh Canto, Part 2

The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto XI, Stanzas 21-40 Notes

Status of the Kings:
BESIEGERS:
Agricane of Tartary
Radamanto of Moscow and Comana
Polifermo of Orgagna
Pandragone of Gothland
Argante of Russia
Lurcone of Norway
Santaría of Sweden
Brontino of Normany
Uldano of Denmark

VS.

BESIEGED:
Sacripante of Circassia.
Varano of Armenia
Brunaldo of Trebisond
Ungiano of Roase
Savarone of Media
Torindo of Turkey
Trufaldino of Babylon and Baghdad
Bordacco of Damascus – killed by Agricane

Back to Part 2

On to Part 3

Book I, Canto XI, Part 1

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

CANTO XI

ARGUMENT

King Agrican and Sacripant agree
To fight in single combat, one on one.
But when the valiant King Torindo sees
Sacripant losing, to the duel he runs,
And war resumes. The Tartar valiantly
Enters the keep. Great deeds by him are done,
Ere Sacripant compels him to retreat.
Rinaldo and Don Fiordelisa meet.

1
You’ve heard already of the ruinous course
King Agricane ran, that spirit fierce.
As when a wave destroys a fleet by force,
Or when a cannon through an army sheers,
E’en thus that king attacks without remorse,
Chopping the standards, smiting cavaliers,
Slicing his foes and hacking his own men.
For wrath the king made no distinction then.

2
Circassians and Tartars all are one.
Of friend or enemy he takes no heed.
He cut down all who in his pathway came.
And now that worthy knight advanced with speed
To where he saw the high emprises done
Which Sacripant performed upon his steed.
He saw his men flee fast as legs could carry them,
And the Circassian monarch sorely harry them.

3
“You curst, degen’rate breed, out of my sight!”
King Agricane cries, “You worthless flock!
My vassals nevermore will you be hight.
I won’t be king of such a wretched stock.
Go where the hell you want, and let me fight,
For I can better stand the foeman’s shock
Alone, just as I am, in this fierce battle,
Than I can do with you, you useless rabble.”

4
These words once said, he seeks his foeman out,
And Sacripant to combat he invites.
My lords, believe me, ye need have no doubt
He instantly accepts, that ardent sprite.
He sends a squire through the battle rout
Up to Albracca, to the lady bright,
Praying her that upon the wall she’ll stand,
So that her sight will strengthen his right hand.

5
The damsel stands upon Albracca’s wall,
And to King Sacripant a sword she sends,
That will stay sharp, whatever may befall.
Now grief King Agricane’s bosom rends.
He mutters soft, “I do not care at all,
Because that sword will be mine in the end,
So will Albracca. Sacripant will grovel,
So will that dirty slut and all her brothel.

6
“Hast thou no shame at all, thou ugly witch?
To scorn my love, how is it that thou durst?
When I could make thee happy, make thee rich,
And make thee of all earthly queens the first?
Women, ’tis true, a thousand times will switch
Their minds, and always settle on the worst.
The King of Kings at thy feet doth abase him,
And thou art lusting for a vile Circassian!”

7
Having thus spoke, he turns around and glowers
As from his foe he spurs across the ground.
His mighty lance into its rest he lowers,
As on the other side now turns around
King Sacripant, who comes with strength and power.
The one and th’other clash. The noise resounds
With such a fracas and so great a din,
It seems the sky will fall, the world will end.

8
Each of them strikes the other’s helmet front
With their immeasurably enormous lances,
But neither can his foe from saddle shunt.
Each lance up to its hilt in splinters glances,
Though each was three palms wide, without affront
To truth. To swords the combat now advances.
They fall on one another, raging high,
For each of them desires to win or die.

9
If in a field you’ve ever seen two bulls
Who madly for a milk-white heifer fought,
And seen them locking horns and clashing skulls
And heard their bellowing, with dreadness fraught,
You know how seemed those knights of valor full,
Who for Love’s sake esteemed their lives as nought.
Their shields, in pieces hacked, they cast away,
And fight with more abandon in the fray.

10
Now Sacripant, with all his strength, brings down
A blow dispiteous, uncouth, two-handed,
On Agricane’s head. He splits his crown,
But not his helmet, for that is enchanted.
At the same time the Tartar of renown
A blow on Sacripante’s left flank planted.
Vengeance is all the thought within their heads,
To pay back cake where they were given bread.

11
So swiftly fall not rain, nor hail thus rattles,
Nor in such numbers fall the flakes of snow,
As in that bitter and imperiled battle
Fell the strokes of the broadswords, blow on blow.
Blood runs down from their helmets to their saddles.
No crueler fight can any his’try show.
Each one is wounded sore in places twenty,
And yet of fury they heap up more plenty.

12
But Sacripant fared worse, I have to say.
The blood ran down his leg whene’er he strove.
But little did he prize his life that day,
And thinking of Angelica above
All else, he said, “O King of Heaven, I pray
That all the deeds I do today for love,
Angelica will watch,  and grateful be.
Then care I not for death or injury.

13
“I’d be content to know my death is nigh
If that sweet creature held me in regard.
Oh, if I only once could hear her sigh,
‘I am too cruel and make my heart too hard,
To make this cavalier for Love’s sake die,
When for my love, his life he disregards!’
If but these gentle words mine ears caressed,
In life or death I’d be forever blest.”

14
And with these thoughts he is so much inflamed
That of all cowardice he was bereft.
With ev’ry blow, he shouts his lady’s name,
Striking great blows upon his right and left.
His only thought is how to please the dame.
He cares not for the wounds by which he’s cleft;
But as he loses blood, his spirits fail,
Although he still fights on, his face is pale.

15
The other kings look from afar and wait,
Watching the dreadful combat of their chiefs.
To each of them, it seems a damage great
To watch him die, and bring him no relief.
But, above all, his pity can’t abate
The Turk Torindo, and he’s filled with grief
To see King Sacripante in distress
And not be able to bring him redress.

16
And to the others he begins to say,
That certainly a grievous sin it were
To watch their king die and lend him no aid.
He bursts out: “Ingrates! How can ye endure
To look upon his death without dismay?
The worthiest king that ever vassal served.
We fled, all routed, overwhelmed by strife;
Sacripant saved our honor and our life.

17/18
Be not afraid of them, for all their might,
For with our swords we’ll cut them down to size!
Don’t think it treason to disrupt the fight.
But we’ll be traitors all if our king dies!
’Tis simple duty, ’tis not treason hight,
To save one’s king. If any blame here lies,
Be the blame mine and be the glory yours!”
And with these words he spurs his gallant horse.

18/19
His lance in rest, against the crowd he runs,
Flooring the first and second men he meets.
The third and fourth to him likewise succumb.
A mighty outcry his aggression greets,
As ev’ry Turk and each Circassian comes,
And Trebisond and Syria are fleet,
Following King Torindo down the line.
Russians, Mongolians, and Tartars join

19/20
With mighty Trufaldino of Baghdad.
The dust flew thick, and many men were flayed.
King Trufaldin a hundred thousand had
Who came behind him in a vast brigade.
When Agricane sees this mishap sad
And how his army sorely was dismayed,
To Sacripante thus he speaks: “Sir Knight,
Thy men have done a deed against all right.”

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No notes to this part.

Book I, Canto X, Part 3

The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto X, Stanzas 41-53

41
Who with him brings a host of troops so vast
One hundred thousand men form his brigade.
Damascus’ king his lot with them has cast.
There’s twenty thousand ‘neath this giant’s flag.
He’s called Bordacco. Sacripant is last,
Circassia’s ruler, vigorous and brave,
With a strong body and a prudent soul,
And eighty thousand under his control.

42
They reach Albracca fortress on the day
After Astolf was caught for lack of wit.
They fall upon the camp without delay,
Though Agricane’s host is infinite.
It was at Prime that they began the fray,
And by the rosy dawn the sky was lit,
When the ferocious battle was begun
In which so many lab’rous deeds were done.

43
Of the cruel battle who could even try
To put the seventh part of it in words?
The bitter fighting, blows on ev’ry side,
The shrieks that from the wretched men are heard
Of either army when they fall and die?
Who could set forth the blood that paints the earth,
The crashing metal, and the flags’ advances,
And the field covered with the splintered lances?

44
‘Tis King Vorano strikes the foremost blow.
Without a trace of fear he leads the van.
He’s made sure that all of his soldiers know
To take no pris’ners, but kill ev’ry man.
With speed and without warning his troops go.
“To arms! To arms!” throughout the Tartars ran.
This one defends himself, and that one arms,
And that one hides and flees in his alarm.

45
But they the wisest are who run away;
The enemy’s already in their tents.
The Tartars with the sword and lance they slay.
Not one of all th’Armenians relents.
Through woods and fields, and down the roads and ways
The Tartar army flees, by terror sent.
Behold another reason to abscond:
Here comes the Emperor of Trebisond.

46
With all his men the Tartars he attacks.
Next is the great Ungiano’s prowess shown.
Leading his men, no knightly skill he lacks.
And now Torindo and brave Savaron
Amidst the Tartar army slash and hack.
And still, beneath their banner gently blown,
Sacripant and Bordac are in reserve,
With Trufaldino, treach’rous cur of curs.

47
The sprawling battle engulfs all the crowd.
Some here, some there across the fields take flight.
Of dust the armies kick up such a cloud
That all are hidden from each other’s sight.
And so disorganized is all the rout
It can’t be helped by all the strength and might
Of Agricane, though his force is dread.
He sees before him all his people dead.

48
The king, as sorrow o’er his spirit came,
Left his brigade behind and charged ahead,
And called on all his barons bold by name,
Uldano, Saritron, Argante dread,
King Pandragone, worthy of great fame,
Lurcan and giant Radamant the Red,
With Santaría, Polferom, Brontin,
Summoning one and all to battle keen.

49
Upon Baiard doth Agrican advance,
Before all others, with his lance at rest.
Not one of all his foes against him stands.
With such great wrath across the field he pressed,
He strikes men down without a backwards glance,
And now to King Varano he addressed,
And on his helmet lands a mighty blow
That sends him loudly to the ground below.

50
Brunaldo is unseated from his horse
By Polifermo; look at strong Argante
Who overthrows King Savaron by force;
And see the cruel giant Radamante
Meets with Ungiano and that worthy floors.
Now well perceives the knightly Sacripante
That all his people will be dead or routed
Unless himself he something does about it.

51
He left his troops, that king of valor true
And spurred his charger, laid in rest his lance,
And Poliferm with one blow overthrew;
Brontin and Pandragon to him advance,
The worthy Emperor Argante, too,
Who all fall with a blow of Sacripant’s.
And then he takes into his hand his sword
And drove back to retreat the Tartar horde.

52
Elsewhere is fighting Agricane grand,
And does great deeds of wonder on his own.
He sees how by the hills and level lland
His people have from Sacripante flown.
For ire great he gnaws on both his hands
And cruelly into battle he has thrown
Himself, and cuts down anyone he can,
Whether his own or Sacripante’s man.

53
As when, about the thawing time of Spring,
A river from a mighty mountain flows,
And oversteps its banks, to ruin bring,
So swollen ’tis with showers and with snows,
Just so advances that impetuous king.
With ire great and tumult fierce he goes,
And on that day performs a mighty feat,
Of which in my next canto I will treat.

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Notes

Notes to the Tenth Canto, Part 3

The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto X, Stanzas 41-53 Notes

41. Sacripante thus has 382,000 men (the entire population of Miami), against Agricane’s 2,200,000 (the entire population of modern Paris). The results are predictable.
48. The Red. My addition, forced by the rhyme. Referring to his armor and bloodthirstiness, rather than to his physical appearance.

Back to Part 3

On to Canto XI