Book I, Canto VIII, Part 1

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


Rinaldo at the Joyous Isle arrives,
But it’s Angelica’s, and so he leaves.
To save a kidnapped damosel he tries,
But he himself is by a giant seized.
In Castle Cruel, an old hag describes
Her wicked customs, scarce to be believed,
Then throws Rinaldo in a monster’s den
Where gallantly he doth himself defend.

Rinaldo at the Joyous Palace lands,
(For thus the island he had come to hight)
Whereas his wayward bark ran on the sand,
That bark that steered, though with no pilot dight.
Fair shady trees within a garden stand,
The sea inclosed it, beating on each side.
All was abundance, green was all the isle,
That stretched its length and breadth for fifteen miles.

Amidst the garden, looking out to sea,
A palace rich and beautiful appeared
Of marble white, polished so wondrously
That all the garden in its walls was mirrored.
Upon the sand Rinald leapt instantly.
To stay upon th’enchanted boat he feared.
And when he stands upon the beach, there greets him
A lady beautiful, who sweetly greets him.

The lady said, “O worthy cavalier,
You have been hither led by kindly Fate.
Pray do not think that you were guided here
Without  a reason on your journey great
Though such strange passages, so full of fear.
Joyful and sweet will be your final state
And pleasant, though most painful was its start
If, as I think, you have a loving heart.”

As thus she spoke, she took him by the hand
And to the Palace Beautiful him led.
The doors were reed and white, with carvings grand,
With marble black and green and flecked, inset.
The very flooring upon which they stand
Is all of parti-colored marble set.
Loggias on ev’ry side great treasure hold
Of bas-reliefs, inlaid with blue and gold.

And hidden gardens, luscious, fresh and green
Are on the rooftops and upon the grounds.
With paintings rich, with gold and gems’ fair sheen
These noble, joyous pleasances abound.
Clear fountains and delightful spread their streams
Beneath the shady trees that ring them round.
And best of all, there wafted sweet perfume
To joy the heart that’s most beset with gloom.

The knight and dame go in a gallery
Rich and delicate and gaily trammeled.
For ev’ry face and corner you could see
Was decorated with gold and enamel.
The sunlight’s rays were gently blocked by trees,
The sweetest known in all of nature’s annals.
The columns which that lovely work uphold
Have crystal shafts and capitals of gold.

Into this loggia is the baron gone.
Of ladies beautiful there was a band.
Three sang together, while one played upon
An instrument unheard of in our lands,
But sweetly harmonized it with the song.
The other ladies in a ring did dance,
And when that worthy in the loggia found him,
The ladies came and formed a ring around him.

One of them, with a count’nance sweet and fine
Begins, “The tables are made ready, lord,
And now it is the hour when we dine.”
And so, upon the lush, sweet-smelling sward
Beneath a trellis rosy they recline,
Beside a fount whence waters clear outpoured.
Here all things for a feast were ready dight.
The plates were golden and the cloths pure white.

Four of the damsels at the table sit,
And bid Rinaldo take the highest place.
Rinaldo with astonishment is smit.
His chair with ornaments of pearls is graced.
He sees arriving viands delicate
And goblets decked with jewels from brim to base,
Filled up with wine of scent and taste superb.
Three of the damsels on Rinaldo serve.

The dinner ended, and they cleared away
The sparkling plates and chalices of gold.
On lutes and harps they now begin to play.
One of the ladies to Rinaldo stole
And softly in his ear began to say:
“This royal palace, all the wealth it holds,
(And thou hast not yet seen one half its treasures)
Are all thine own to deal with at thy pleasure.

Our Queen devised this palace for thy sake,
For thee alone, alone of all men born.
Thou art a worthy knight indeed, to wake
Love in her heart, who doth so many scorn.
She’s whiter than the lily on the brake,
And redder than the rose among the thorns;
Angelica the lovely maiden hight,
Who loves with heart and soul and mind and might.”

When Don Rinaldo, joyous past belief,
Hears the maid named whom he detesteth so,
He never in his life has felt such grief,
And on his face is plainly writ his woe.
He rates the palace at a withered leaf,
And has no wish but to arise and go.
But then the lady says, “Attend, good sir.
Deny thou canst not. Th’art our prisoner.

Thy sharp Fusberta will not help thee flee.
Hadst thou Baiard, yet couldst thou not take flight.
On ev’ry side we’re girded by the sea;
Thou must forgo thine arrogance and spite.
To change thy bitter heart behooveth thee.
My lady wishes nought besides thy sight.
If thou art scared of one whose love is great,
What will thou do to one who bears thee hate?”

The damsel  now seems bold and now seems meek,
But neither art affects the cavalier.
He does not listen to a word she speaks,
But turns and stalks out of the garden dear.
The Joyful Palace seems but dull and bleak,
As with a pitiless cold heart and fierce
Desiring nothing but to leave that place
Towards the sea he firmly set his face.

He seeks the bark that bore him to these shores,
And when he finds it, leaps into the stern.
He’d rather take his chance with wave and storm
Than ever to that garden fair return.
The boat won’t move. He thinks he’s all forlorn.
To leave this isle doth his spirit yearn
So much that he is just about to leap
Over the rails and drown him in the deep,

When suddenly the boat casts out to sea,
And soon the island out of sight has passed.
No words of mortal man could possibly
Describe how swift it went, it sailed so fast.
When morning dawns, before his eyes he sees
That he has landed by a forest vast.
When Don Rinaldo steps upon the sand,
At once he’s greeted by an ancient man.

The greybeard says, though weeping sore with grief,
“Oh, don’t abandon me, O worthy knight.
For chivalry, for honor, give relief
To this poor ancient and defend the right!
A false, deceitful, and most vicious thief
Has stol’n my only child, my daughter bright.
He just ran off, thou’lt catch him if th’art fleet.
They can’t have gone more than two hundred feet.

The cavalier by pity’s overcome.
He has his sword, although he lacks a steed.
Along the sand, in armor clad, he runs.
Not for an instant does he slack his speed.
When the false robber sees the champion come
He drops the lady, but he doesn’t flee.
Instead, a mighty horn he drew and wound,
And with that noise the earth and sky resound.

Rinaldo rushes up the slope and sees
Not far ahead of him, a little spit
Of rock that’s jutting out into the sea,
On top of which a crimson castle sits,
Whose drawbridge lowers when the horn blows free,
And a ferocious giant crosses it.
His head was sixteen feet above the land.
A chain and javelin he had in hand.

This great chain had a hook upon its tip
(Now see if you can guess the reason why)
When the fierce giant sees the knight, he grips
His dart, and raises it, and lets it fly.
All the way through Rinaldo’s shield it rips
(Although ‘twas finest steel; I do not lie)
Then pierced the hauberk and the mail within
And lightly pricked the worthy baron’s skin.

Book I, Canto VI, Part 2

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

I asked Him to be helped, and not consoled.
A curse upon the ass that did thee bear!
I wouldn’t die if thou wert not so old,
No worser helper could have found me here!”
The friar says, “Alas! Thou baron bold,
I see thou art abandoned to despair.
Thou soon shalt lose thy life, as all must do.
Think of thy soul, and do not lose that, too.

Thou seem’st to be a lord of strength and sense,
And in the face of death art thou so weak?
Know thou, that God Almighty’s providence
Never abandons those who for Him seek.
Immeasurable is His omnipotence!
About myself a little shall I speak,
For all my life I’ve never had a doubt of
God’s mercy. Hear what He has brought me out of.

I and three friars from Armenia went
At holy shrines in Georgia to seek grace.
We travelled on the road with pure intent,
And came into the kingdom of Circase.
The youngest of us four ahead we sent
So that he could discern for us the way.
When suddenly, we saw him running fast
Towards us, shouting “Help!” with face aghast.

Westward, descending from the mount, we saw
A mighty giant with a single eye
Amidst his forehead. Through my shock and fright
The mail he wore I could not well descry,
But I think it was made of dragon hide.
Three javelins and a mace he carried high,
But did not need to use them to entrap us.
Without a fight, we simply let him grab us.

He led us to a cavern’s gaping maw,
Where many other prisoners he had.
And once within, with my own eyes I saw
Him grab our erstwhile guide, a tender lad,
And dash his brains out and devour him raw.
I never saw a spectacle so sad.
The brute then looked me and uttered, scowling,
“This tough old geezer isn’t worth the gnawing.”

And with his foot he kicked me out the door,
And down a slope all jagged, stark, and grim.
Three hundred feet ‘twas to the valley floor.
In God I trusted, and was saved by Him,
For as I tumbled down, in peril sore,
I found within my hands a sturdy limb,
On a young sapling growing in a cleft.
I clung to this, and ‘neath it took my rest.

And there, in silence, keeping still, I waited,
Until the evening faded into night – ”
But as the friar thus his tale related,
He glanced around, and, overcome with fright,
Ran for the woods, and cried, “O wretch ill-fated!
Behold, the wicked monster, whose delight
It is to feast upon the flesh of man.
O worthy knight, I leave thee in God’s hands!”

With these words said, no longer did he wait,
But ran and hid himself within the wood.
The fearful giant to the bridge came straight.
His beard and mustaches were soaked with blood.
With his large eye, the region he surveyed.
He saw Orlando, and surprised he stood.
He grabbed him by the arms and stoutly pulled him,
But could not break the chains that did enfold him.

“I do not wish to leave so plump a man,”
The giant said, “here lying on the ground.
I ought to boil him like a luscious ram.
But since my dinner I’ve already found,
I’ll only eat his shoulder – if I can.”
Then pondering he cast his eye around,
And saw where Durindan lay on the sand.
He quickly knelt and took it in his hand.

His mace of iron and his three great darts
The giant leans against a mighty oak.
Then raises Durindan, that blade so sharp,
And swings with both his hands a mighty stroke.
He doesn’t kill the count, for he is charmed.
But certainly the iron net he broke.
And Don Orlando felt the mighty blow,
So he broke out in sweat from head to toe.

But he is so delighted to be free,
That soon he doesn’t feel the pain at all.
He squirms out of the net, and instantly
Runs to the oak, and grabs the club so tall.
The monster’s startled, for he thought that he
Would be as docile as a gelding small.
But now he sees that things are otherwise,
And he will have to fight to win this prize.

These two had switched their weapons, as you know.
Orlando of his Durindan is wary,
And so he doesn’t wish to get too close,
But from a distance he the giant harries.
The brute swings downward many fearful blows.
To dodge which, Count Orlando does not tarry.
Now there he dodges, and now here he smites,
But keeps aye Durindana in his sights.

He hits him often, but no blood he draws.
The giant doesn’t even feel his blows,
Because his mail is made of griffin’s claws.
No harder  substance on the earth is known.
Orlando wearies, and thinks all is lost;
He can’t endure until three days are flown.
But as he fights on with a sinking heart,
He has a new idea and grabs a dart.

One of the darts the brute left on the sward,
Orlando snatches up, and lets it fly.
The aim is true of good Anglante’s lord.
He strikes the center of the giant’s eye.
He had but one, as you have heard before,
Above his nose. He had no time to cry,
Before the dart had driven through his brain.
The brute falls with a crash upon the plain.

No further blows are needed; he is dead.
Orlando kneels to give God thanks and praise.
The monk returns, by noise of battle led,
And sees the giant lying on his face.
Even in death, the monster seems so dread,
That back towards the wood he starts to race.
Orlando, laughing, calls him to draw near.
The monk obeys, though trembling with fear.

And then he says to him, “O knight of Heaven,
For well thou dost deserve that name to have,
For like a pious baron hast thou striven,
The innocent from that ill fiend to save.
New life unto his captives hast thou given.
Follow, and I will lead thee to his cave.
But if he blocked the entrance with his stone,
Then thou wilt have to open it alone.

These words once spoke, he was the baron’s guide,
Towards the cave, which, as he feared, was blocked.
Orlando stood in front, and loudly cried.
The mouth was closed by an enormous rock.
They head a woeful voice from th’other side,
Coming from those inside, that hapless flock.
The rock was square, and of one solid piece.
Each side thereof did span ten feet at least.

One and a half feet was the depth of it.
Two chains of iron held it in its place.
A strength and potency nigh infinite
The worthy Count of Brava now displays.
With Durindan the iron chains he split,
And then within his arms the rock he raised;
All of the prisoners he swiftly frees,
Who then resume their journeys as they please.

Orlando left the friar and the rest,
And traveled on along a forest trail.
He came where four roads cross, and paused, perplexed.
He stared down each of them, and pondered well
Which of these branching paths to take were best,
To come unto some land wherein men dwell.
As he debates, there comes a herald riding.
The Count him halts, and asks him for his tidings.

He says, “I’m coming from among the Medes,
And go to seek the King of Circassy.
Through all the world I travel with my steed,
To find help for my wretched princess. She
Has suffered woes, which I beseech thee heed.
The mighty Emperor of Tartary
Loves her so much, that he’s to madness nigh,
But for her part, she’d gladly watch him die.

Book I, Canto V, Part 2

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

“And if to do a favor thou art fain
To me, who brought thee out of that dark cave,
Thou canst bring me from death to life again
If thou wilt send to me thy cousin brave,
Rinaldo, he who causes me such pain.
To hide me woes from thee I do not crave.
Love hath lit in my heart so great a fire,
That night and day nought else do I desire.

If thou wilt swear upon thy sacrament,
To make Rinaldo come before me here,
A fight I’ll give which shall thee well content,
For nothing else, I think, thou hold’st so dear:
Thy book I’ll give thee, which from thee I rent.
But if thou thinkest to prove insincere,
I warn thee that a magic ring I bear.
No spells can touch me while this ring I wear.”

Don Malagise makes no long reply,
But swears exactly as the dame directs.
He knows not how Rinaldo’s feelings lie,
And thinks his oath will easily be kept.
The sun was sinking in the western sky,
But, as the darkling night upon earth crept,
Don Malagise calls a fiend to bear
Him swiftly onward through the dusky air.

The demon keeps the wizard entertained
As they fly onward through the gloomy night
By telling him about the war in Spain,
And how Don Ricciardet fared in the fight,
And how the single combat was ordained.
In fact, whatever had occurred, the sprite
Told Malagise, and some things beside;
His conscience smote him if he hadn’t lied.

Soon were they come to Barcelona town,
About an hour ere the break of day.
The demon gently set the wizard down,
Who through the tents begins to make his way,
Seeking where Don Rinaldo might be found.
At last he found the hero where he lay
Upon his cot, enwrapped in slumber deep.
The wizard enters, and disturbs his sleep.

When Don Rinaldo sees his cousin’s face,
He’s gladder than he’s ever been before.
He leaps up, grabs him in a glad embrace,
And showers him with kisses by the score.
Don Malagise tells him, “Now make haste,
For I am here because an oath I swore.
If thou art willing, thou canst set me free.
If not, a prisoner again I’ll be.

But put thy mind at ease and have no dread,
That I shall lead thee into perils rare.
I’ll only lead thee to a damsel’s bed,
Who’s bright like amber and like lilies fair.
I from despair, and thou to joy art led.
This rosy-visaged girl beyond compare
Is one thou’st never thought of, I dare say:
Angelica, the princess of Cathay.

When Don Rinaldo hears ‘twill be his quest
To seek out her whom he despiseth so,
What mighty sorrow wells up in his breast!
And how the color from his visage goes!
Now one response, and now another pressed
Against his lips, and nowise did he know
What he should do, or what he ought to say;
He leans now one, and now the other way.

At last, he, like a man of valor true,
In whom lies and deceptions have no place,
Says, “Hear me, Malagise. I will do
Anything else. I’ll undergo disgrace,
Run any risk, no peril I’ll eschew,
My life I’ll hazard, any for I’ll face,
To set thee free I’ll suffer any woe,
But to Angelica I will not go.”

When Malagise this response hath heard,
Which he was not expecting him to make,
He begs Rinaldo to take back his words,
Not for his merit, but for mercy’s sake,
And not to leave him in his jail interred.
Now he appeals to him for kinship’s sake,
And now he swears that he will well repay him,
But all in vain. His words can nowise sway him.

A little longer, still in vain, he pleads.
Then says, “Look here, Rinaldo, it is said
Ungrateful men won’t recognize good deeds
Even if one should knock them on the head.
I’ve nearly damned myself to Hell for thee,
And thou wilt leave me prisoned till I’m dead.
From this time forth, thou art my enemy.
I shall bring thee to shame or injury.”

And with these words, no leave the wizard took,
But stormed off, angrier than I could tell
And for a dark and secret place he looks
(From prying eyes of sentries hidden well)
And there he searches throuhg his magic book,
And then the wizard calls up fiends from Hell
Names Draginazo and Falserta, and
Binds them to do whatever he commands.

Falserta of a herald takes the form,
Who served within the household of Marsil.
The costume by the evil spirit worn
Is counterfeited without flaw or weal.
A message for Gradasso hath he born,
Pretending that Rinaldo, like a leal
And worthy knight, will be beside the sea
At the ninth hour, as they did agree.

Gradass rejoices when the news he hears,
And gives the messenger a cup of gold.
Soon as the fiend from eyesight disappears,
He takes a novel form, and leaves his old.
His rings aren’t on his fingers, but his ears.
His clothing hangs on him in sumptuous folds,
With patterns traced thereon in golden thread.
Now he’s Gradasso’s messenger instead.

He seems to be a Persian almansor,
With mighty bugle and a sword of wood.
He went to meet the French and Spanish lords,
And when in presence of them all he stood,
He gave his message, that his noble lord
At Prime, without excuse or failure, should
Be found alone at the appointed place,
Ready to meet Rinaldo face to face.

Soon is Rinaldo armed from toe to head.
He sent away the barons who were there;
But Ricciardetto to the side he led,
And recommended Baiard to his care.
“Whether or not I e’er return,” he said,
“I trust in God, Who rules how all wars fare.
And if His will it is that I be slain,
Lead thou our army back to Charlemagne.”

I ought to serve him while my life abides,
Though I have often failed in many ways,
Sometimes through wrath, and other times through pride,
But whosoe’er to kick a wall essays
Will bruise his foot and ‘complish nought beside.
To that lord, worthiest of all men’s praise,
And whom I’ve ever held in high regard,
If I am slain, I leave him my Baiard.”

Many another thing the knight did say,
Then kissed him on the mouth, with weeping sore.
Alone towards the sea he took his way,
On foot, concurrent with the oath he swore.
He came, but saw no human in that place.
Naught but a boar at anchor on the shore,
On whose decks nobody was seen to go.
Rinaldo stands and waits to meet his foe.

Now Draginazo comes into his view,
Shaped like Gradasso; he a surcoat bears
Of gold that’s crossed with bars of sapphire blue.
A crown of gold upon his head he wears.
His shield, his scimitar made sharp to hew,
And his white horn with which he rends the air,
And on his helm he bears a pennon white.
In short, he seems the king to all men’s sight.

And as the demon walks beside the sea
He even counterfeits Gradasso’s gait.
He could have fooled his mother, certainly.
He draws his scimatar with war-cries great.
Rinaldo, who had no desire to be
Caught off his guard, lifts up his sword and waits
But Draginazo, not a word he said,
But struck Rinald a blow upon his head.

Book I, Canto V, Part 1

The Orlando Innamorato in English Translation, Book I, Canto V, Stanzas 1 – 20.


Rinaldo and Gradass will fight a duel.
Angelica frees from his dark abode
Don Malagise, who must bring his cruel
Cousin to her. When conversation bodes
No good, by magic he his cousin fools.
Orlando meets a pilgrim on the road,
Then fights a giant, but he little thinks
That his next combat will be with a sphinx.

If you remember, lords, then it is meet,
How last time Don Rinaldo was distraught
To see his brother carried by the feet.
Of King Gradasso he had no more thought,
But charged ahead, the giant fierce to meet,
Who was as naked as when he was brought
Into the world. His black skin was so hard
That shields and armor he could disregard.

Rinaldo swiftly from his horse alights,
For he was sore afraid for Baiard’s sake,
When of that giant’s tree he caught a sight.
Now must he neither hesitate nor slake.
Fierce Orïon has never met a knight
Who looked at him and didn’t start to quake,
Or who was bold enough to give him battle.
He laughs, and thinks Rinaldo’s wits are addled.

But of Fusbert the giant took no note;
Rinaldo’s strength he doesn’t understand,
Or he’d have wished to have a strong steel coat.
The prince of chivalry, with both his hands,
Upon the giant’s thigh with power smote.
When Orïon felt how the hot blood ran
Adown his leg, he threw his captive down,
And bellowed like a bull, that heathen hound.

Don Ricciardet lies sprawled upon the ground,
Bereft of sense, and stunned, and nearly dead.
While that great giant whips his tree around,
Rinaldo’s eyes are on his foeman set.
When Orïone brings a great blow down,
Not only knights, but mountains ought to dread.
Rinaldo carefully steps back some paces,
And sees Gradasso, who towards him races.

Rinaldo wasn’t certain what to do,
And, truth to say, he felt a tinge of fear,
He, who in all the world no equal knew.
He struck a blow so strong it had no peer.
He felt Fusberta slicing through and through
Don Orïone’s waist, and felt it sheer
Down through his flank, and come out in the air.
The giant tumbled in two pieces there.

The worthy baron takes no moment’s rest.
He does not even watch the giant fall.
Immediately upon his steed he leapt,
And spurred him on against Gradasso tall,
Who could not possible be more impressed.
He thought all feats compared with that are small.
He sheathed his mighty sword and raised his hand,
So that Rinald might see and understand

He wished to parley. He addressed him thus:
“O baron, it would be a grievous sin
If one as ardent and as valorous
As thou has shown thyself this day within
This field, should die in manner villainous.
Thou knowest that my army hems thee in,
And thou canst not escape, and that thou must
Become my prisoner, or bite the dust.

But God forbid that I should be so poor
In honor, as to shame so great a knight!
For honor’s sake I’ve settled on this course:
That since today hath little left of light,
Tomorrow we shall duel to end this war,
And both of us without our steeds shall fight:
Because the virtue of a cavalier
Is not the same as that of his destrier.

But let our battle be on these conditions:
If thou slayst me, or canst me prisoner make,
All of the Frankish lords I hold in prison
And King Marsilio’s men, too, for thy sake,
Shall all be freed, nor pay for their remission.
But if I conquer thee, thy steed I’ll take.
Whether I win or lose, I and my band
Will leave and war no more upon this land.

Rinaldo is so pleased, he does not wait
Before he answers him, “Exalted lord,
This battle which we two shall undertake
Can only make my honor grow the more.
Thy prowess is so singularly great
That if I am defeated by thy sword
It cannot be a shame at all to me,
But glory, to receive my death from thee.

And as for what thou saidst at first, I say,
I thank thee for they generosity,
But not because I am in such dismay
As forces me to beg my life from thee.
If all the world were here in arms today
They could not stop me if I wished to flee,
Still less thy host alone, as thou mayst find,
If of my words thou doubtest in thy mind.

The cavaliers right speedily agree
On all things else that to their duel pertain.
The place shall be on the coast of the sea,
Six miles distant from the battle plain.
Each one shall arm himself full suitable,
With sword and armor only. Upon pain
Of forfeit, they shall bring no lance nor mace,
Or any escort to the dueling-place.

Next morning at the dawning of the light,
Each knight’s prepared for what the day might bring.
About each other’s strength they’ve mulled all night,
Of parries, thrusts, and feints, and such like things.
But ere they have arrived for their great fight,
About Angelica I wish to sing,
Who by her magic arts, as I’ve recorded,
Back to Cathay had swiftly been transported.

She cannot pluck Rinaldo from her heart,
Although the distance ‘twixt them is so wide.
As when a deer is stricken by a dart,
Its pain increases as the time goes by,
And, when it runs the fastest, then doth start
The wound to bleed the most, pains grow most high,
Just so the damsel’s fire grows each hour,
Which she bears for Rinald, that peerless flower.

And when the night has come, she cannot sleep,
Onerous thoughts oppress and grieve her so.
And if, worn out at last by sufferings deep,
She hopes till dawn she may forget her woe,
Even in slumbering her grief she keeps,
For in her dreams, she sees Rinaldo go
As swiftly from her as he did that day
In Arden Wood, and she is as dismayed.

Towards the west the damsel keeps her face.
Oftimes she wept, and oftentimes she sighed,
And said, “In what far land, among what race
Does that bold, handsome, daring knight reside?
Alas! Within his mind I have no place,
And that alone causes my grief t’abide.
He’s hard and cruel as a stone, but still,
He forces me to love him ‘gainst my will.

With words and spells I know well how to do
Marvelous things, and often have I done;
I’ve plucked strange herbs whenas the moon was new,
And dug up roots when darkened was the sun,
But still I have no charms or spells or brews
That by their potency can overcome
This suffering that holds my heart in thrall.
Nothing can help me, for Love conquers all.

Perhaps he soon will come to free from jail
His wizard cousin, whom I keep in chains?
How could he know? I have not spread the tale
Of how that wretch here in Cathay remains.
But I shall free him shortly, without fail,
If that ungrateful vagabond will deign
To recognize my great benevolence
To give his ill deeds such a recompense.

And with these words she heads towards the sea,
Where Malagise is as prisoner held.
She has herself conveyed there magically,
For otherwise it’s hard to reach his cell.
When Malagise hears her enter, he
Is certain that some demon’s come from Hell
To execute him, for he has not seen
A man so long as in that cave he’s been.

The damsel enters where he lies in thrall
And springs him, leading him to sunlight sweet,
And when they stand within her lovely hall,
She takes the fetters off his wrists with speed.
But all this time, no words has she let fall,
Till she removes the weights from round his feet.
When this is finished, she says, “Baron, thou
Hast been my prisoner, but art free now.

The Spanish Charlemagne Ballads 6: Ballads based on the Italian Epics, 1

Spain is home to a large number of beautiful ballads, called romances. Some of these ballads are about lovers. Many are about the Moors who ruled Spain for so many long centuries. There are a large number about the famous Cid who fought the Moors. There is also a large cycle about the Paladins of France, and about Bernardo del Carpio, who, the Spaniards say, killed the mighty Roland in the battle of Roncesvalles. While there are several collections of English translations of the Spanish ballads, scholars and translators tend to focus on the Moorish and love ballads. It is difficult to find any complete account of this branch of the Carolingian legend, which is why I decided to write a summary of every Spanish ballad related to Charlemagne. I quickly discovered that this is an impossible task. The folk tradition is still alive and well, not only in Iberia, but in every land to which the Spanish Jews moved after being exiled by Ferdinand and Isabella. New variants are constantly being recorded, and no Professor Child has yet arisen to make a complete collection of the folksongs and to standardize the titles by which they are known.
The closest thing to a definitive collection of Spanish ballads that currently exists is the Romancero General of Agustin Duran, published in 1877, which includes every ballad printed prior to the 1800’s. This means it does not include any folksongs from the Spain of his day, or, naturally, from later. These folksongs sometimes contain very interesting variants from the printed texts. Many of these later folksongs can be found at the Pan-Hispanic Ballad Project and Folk Literature of the Sephardic Jews, two confusingly arranged messes of websites which I leave it to you to sift through if my dozen posts on Duran’s ballads leave you wanting more.
Duran’s magnum opus is in two volumes, which are volumes 10 and 14 of the Biblioteca des Autores Españoles. The numbers of the ballads below are those of this collection, as are the divisions into classes, based on antiquity.
Class I ballads are pure folksongs.
Class III are productions of uneducated or scarcely educated minstrels.
Class V are early literary ballads, attempts to imitate the oral tradition.
Class VIII are Renaissance or Siglo d’Oro literary ballads, which do not attempt to imitate the oral tradition.

Also note that most of the titles were supplied by Duran. Spanish ballads are usually identified by their first lines.

The principal English translations of Spanish ballads are:
Thomas Rodd, Most Celebrated Ancient Spanish Ballads relating to the Twelve Peers of France mentioned in Don Quixote. 1812.
John Gibson Lockhart, Ancient Spanish Ballads. 1823.
John Bowring, Ancient Poetry and Romances of Spain. 1824.
James Young Gibson, The Cid Ballads and other Poems and Translation from Spanish and German. 1887.
Roger Wright, Spanish Ballads, 1987.



Continue reading

Book I, Canto IV, Part 1

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


Fair Fiordespina stops the fight amain.
Orlando eastward goes, his rival west,
For King Gradasso’s nearly conquered Spain.
Charlemagne sends his bravest and his best
To help Marsilio, and Rinald he names
The leader of the army. With much zest
The French and Spaniards ‘gainst the Indians fight.
Gradass meets Rinald at the battle’s height.

Last time, I sang about the fight begun
Between two cavaliers of worth and praise.
Perhaps, upon a fight so dread, the sun
As went round the earth, ne’er shed his rays.
Orlando never fought with anyone
Who stood against him longer than three days,
And past the second day endured but two:
His cousin Chiaro, and Don Ferragu.

They face each other with anticipation,
With glowing faces and expression grim.
Unwillingly, each fills with admiration,
To see a knight who seems so stout of limb.
As of each other they make estimation,
Each thinks his foe may be as stout as him.
They’ve never met so stout a knight before.
For battle now they hunger even more.

Now the begin their cruel and violent game.
Dispiteously, each the other battered.
At ev’ry blow are scattered sparks of flame.
Their shields are broken, and their armor tattered.
Little by little, such good strokes they aim,
The platemail from their arms is wholly scattered.
Thanks to their magic skin, no blood they lose,
But give each other many an ugly bruise.

As thus these two pursue their fight in vain,
And both of them a clear advantage lack,
Behold a damsel riding o’er the plain
Clothed in a dress of samite fine and black.
She weeps as one who suffers grievous pain,
Beating her breast, she cries, “I’m lost, alack!
What man, what god, will guide me safely through
This forest perilous to Ferragu?”

Now she perceives the dueling cavaliers.
She spurred her horse and in between them rode.
Each of them pulls the reins of his destrier.
She greeted them, and with her head bowed low,
Addressed Orlando, “O most courteous Peer,
Although I know thee not, nor dost thou know
Who I am, yet I pray, for mercy’s sake,
Do not deny me this request I make.

“I ask thee to at once give up this war
Which against Ferraguto thou hast made,
For I am suffering misfortune sore,
And he alone can bring me any aid.
If Fortune brings me back to bliss once more,
Then I’ll make certain thou art well repaid.
If thou hast need of ought that I can give,
I shall remember thee, long as I live.”

Orlando answers, “I am well content.
(He speaks as one who’s full of courtesy)
And if thou needest it, I will assent
To lend mine own assistance unto thee.
To aid those in distress is my intent.
If Ferraguto, by mischance, can’t be
Thy champion, thou wilt not find me slack,
Or that the prowess of a knight I lack.”

She bows her head. To Ferragu she turns,
And says, “I’m Fiordespina. Dost thou think
By fighting with this knight renown to earn,
While Spain is tottering on ruin’s brink?
Sieged Barcelona for deliverance yearns;
All Aragon a cup of anguish drinks;
Valencia has been destroyed by fire;
Prisoner of our foe is thy good sire.

The great Gradasso, lord of Sericane,
Has crossed the ocean with his host to bring
Ruin to Charles and the folk of Spain.
Christians and Saracens alike this king
Destroys. He boasts that he will shortly reign
O’er all, and won’t make peace for anything.
He landed at Gibraltar, burnt Seville,
And means to crush all Spain beneath his heel.

Our King Marsilio hopes in thee alone.
Thy name alone he calls in his despair.
I’ve seen him beat his breast and heard him groan.
I’ve seen him tear his snowy beard and hair.
Come, knock this proud Gradasso from his throne.
Come, save thy father from the prison where
He languishes, and once thou art victorious,
This deed of all thy deeds will be most glorious.”

When he has heard her sorrowful account,
The Saracen’s completely stupefied.
“Sir Paladin – he thus addressed the count –
Another time our prowess must be tried.
But well I swear to thee by great Mahound,
That with a knight so strong I’ve never vied.
And if I conquer thee, I’ll dare to say
I am the greatest knight alive today.”

The cavaliers now go their separate ways;
Orlando turns towards the Orient.
The footsteps of Angelica to trace
Where’er he change to go, is his intent.
But he will labor sore for many days,
Because, when from the cavaliers she went,
And was alone, she oped her magic book,
And spirits back unto Cathay her took.

Don Ferraguto, over hills and streams,
O’er plains and valleys gallops on apace,
For ev’ry hour like a hundred seems,
Till he confronts Gradasso face to face.
His wind-like speed a sluggard’s walk he deems,
But let us leave him in his eager chase.
I wish to speak of Emp’ror Charlemagne,
Who heard the news about the war in Spain.

He bids his counsel gather. There appear
Rinaldo and the other paladins.
His speaks: “I saying once I chanced to hear,
That when thy neighbor’s house to burn begins,
Then for thine own thou shouldst begin to fear.
I say that, though Marsil’s a Saracen,
It matters not. We joined in wedlock’s bands
His sister, and his country next ours stands.

So we decree that to the uttermost
We’ll give him help in any way we can,
Against the horrible, outlandish host
Of King Gradasso, who, I understand,
Of conquering fair France already boasts.
He will not slake his thirst with Spanish land.
Under no circumstances would we wish us
To have a neighbor so close and so vicious.

For our salvation, therefore, we decree
To send out fifty thousand cavaliers.
And since we know the strength and chivalry
Of brave Rinaldo, who does not know fear,
Our will is fixed, and changed it cannot be,
For we know well his is without a peer,
The Lord of Montalbano we commission
As supreme general of this expedition.

“And for so long as this sad war drags on,
We will that he be gov’nor of Bordeaux,
Gascony, Languedoc, and Roussillon,
And that their lords to battle with him go.”
So saying, he extends him his baton.
Rinaldo kneels, and bows his head down low,
And says, “I’ll strive with all my might, your grace,
To prove myself deserving of this place.”

He cannot speak another word. His face
With tears of gratitude and joy was wet.
The emperor clasps him in his embrace,
And says, “My son, I bid thee ne’er forget
That my whole kingdom in thy hands I place,
Which in the midst of danger grave is set.
Orlando, whither I know not, has flown.
Our country can be saved by thee alone.”

These words he whispered softly in his ear.
Then joyfully the barons leave the hall.
Ivon and Angelin, and all the Peers
Congratulate him, and from one and all
He takes their homage, and shows them good cheer.
They send their heralds to their fiefs to call
Their vassals, and they come from ev’ry part
Of France, and swiftly southward they depart.

Each cavalier who’s tired of the peace
Joins with Rinaldo, and they journey on.
They climb the Pyrenees, from which they see
The smoke still rising over Aragon.
They cross the pass that is close by Pertuis,
And to Gerona are they come anon.
Marsilio’s waiting there till news is brought
Of how Grandon at Barcellona’s fought.

Keep reading


Book I, Canto III, Part 4

The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto III, Stanzas 61-81

But like a man whose limbs are strong and stout,
He grabs Don Ferragu, and soon above
His foes he finds himself, and starts to clout
Him on the face and head with iron gloves,
But Ferraguto pulls his dagger out,
And where his armor guards him not, he shoves
It through the chink as far as it will go.
Ah, God of Heaven, what a dreadful blow!

While that this youth was in this world alive,
There was no knight so courteous and free,
Nor any who so ardently would strive.
He lacked for nought but Christianity.
Now he, perceiving that his death arrives,
With anguished effort, speaks up quietly
As towards Ferragu he turns his head,
“I beg a gift of thee, since I am dead.

“I beg of thee, as th’art a worthy knight,
And baron courteous, do not say nay!
But take and throw me and my armor bright,
Into the river, ere thou wend thy way,
Lest someone, ignorant about our fight,
Should find me, put my armor on, and say
“A vile knight this must have been who bore
Such arms as these, and still was slain in war.”

Don Ferraguto’s face is wet with tears,
Just as a block of ice beneath the sun.
He says to Argalía, “Worthy peer,
God knows how much I grieve thy course is run.
What happed between us was misfortune drear,
But what Fate wills to happen must be done.
For glory only did I hunt thee down,
And sought not for thy death, but my renown.

“But I must wander among Christian men.
I beg thee, lest I should be recognized,
For but four days to me thine helmet lend,
Then shall I throw it where thy body lies.”
Don Argalía softly gives assent,
Then lays his head back on the ground and dies.
When Ferraguto saw his life was fled,
He knelt beside him; bitter tears he shed.

He takes the helmet off his vanquished foe,
And as he did, into fresh weeping burst,
Then laced it onto his own head, although
He cut the crest off of its summit first.
Then mounts he, with the corpse before him. Slow
He lets his charger pace, led by its thirst.
It took him shortly to a stream, into
Whose waters Argalía’s corpse he threw.

A little while stood he silent there,
Then rode beside the river, plunged in thought
I want to tell you how Orlando fares.
He’s searched through all the wilderness, but caught
No glimpses of Angelica the fair.
Beyond all measure wrathful and distraught,
He blasphemes Fortune as unkind and fell,
When suddenly he sees the damosel.

Sleeping, she seemed so lovely that no power
You have to picture her, nor I to write.
She seemed to have been brought forth from the flowers,
As if the stream were made for her delight.
Whoever now is lovely, at the hour
When she looked fairest, at her beauty’s height,
Recked ‘gainst Angelica, would be outdone
As stars by Dian, or she by the sun.

The count stands silently, as he beholds
Her beauty, like a man whose spirit flies.
To wake her from her sleep he is not bold,
But simply gazes on her where she lies
And with himself soft conversation holds,
“Am I on Earth, or else in Paradise?
I see her there, but it is only seeming,
For I am fast asleep and only dreaming.”

Gazing this way upon the girl delights
The worthy baron, lost in daydreams vain.
Ah! How much better can he win a fight,
Then can he win the favors of a dame!
For opportunity will soon take flight,
And void and empty will his hand remain.
For at this very moment, someone nears
Who shall with bitterness his pleasure pierce.

Because Don Ferraguto hither rides,
Glad that the forest to a clearing yields.
And when the Count Orlando he espied,
Because he did not recognize his shield,
He wondered who he was, but then descried
The damsel sleeping in the open field:
Her he has recognized without a falter.
His face and feelings in an instant alter.

He has no doubts, but is completely sure
This knight is standing there to be her guard.
He runs to him, commences to adjure
The cavalier with haughty words and hard.
“I loved the lady long ere thou ever knew her,
And it is time for thou and she to part.
Give up the lady, or give up thy life,
Or try to take mine own from me in strife.”

The Cont Orlando, sorely grieved at heart
To see his fortune slipping from his hands,
Responds, “O cavalier, thoud’st best depart,
And not make such impertinent demands.
Though, on my faith, I do not wish to start
A fight with thee, or any other man,
Thy presence here is an offense so great,
Thy death alone will serve to expiate.”

“From what thou sayest, it is plain to see
That either thou or I must quit this place.
But I assure thee that I shall not flee,
Nor shalt thou stand for long before my face,
For I shall make thee so afraid of me,
That if before thee was a furnace’ blaze,
Thou’lt rush into it, if I thee pursue.”
Such ardent words as spoke by Ferragu.

Wroth beyond measure is the Count to hear
These words. His cheeks a crimson hue displayed.
“I am Orlando, and if ‘gainst me here
Were all the world, I wouldn’t be dismayed.
And such a one as thou I no more fear
Than I would fear a squalling new-born babe,
Thou vile ribald, thou son of a whore!”
And with these words, he pulls out his good sword.

Now could you see begin the greatest brawl
That ever was between two cavaliers.
Pieces of armor like a shower fall,
Hacked off by awful blows from men most fierce.
Each hopes his foe will quickly fade and pall,
So that he can possess the dame who cheers
His heart so much, for she may yet desert them
And vainly then in battle they’ll exert them.

But at that moment does their tumult wake
The lovely damsel whom they wish to gain.
Fear and terror make her sorely quake,
To see the armor scattered on the plain,
And the ferocious battle that they make.
She mounts her palfrey, and lets fall the rein,
And swiftly off into the woods she goes,
At which the Count Orlando halts his blows,

And says, “Sir Cavalier, grant in the name
Of chivalry, that we postpone this strife
And let me follow after my sweet dame,
And I shall reckon thou hast saved my life.
Besides, to fight without a prize to claim,
Or any quarrel, is with folly rife.
The girl is fled, for whom we came to blows.
For God’s sake, let me follow where she goes!”

“No, no, put such a thought out of thy mind,”
Says Ferraguto, and his head he shook,
“If towards fighting thou art disinclined,
Thy lady rightly such a man forsook.
I swear that only one of us shall wind
Throughout this forest for the dame to look.
If I thee slay, I shall resume my quest.
If thou slay me, do as it likes thee best.”

“Thou shalt gain no advantage from this tussle,”
Responds Orlando, “By Our Blessed Lord!”
Now they begin the fight with wit and muscle,
As in another canto I’ll record.
You’ll see there Count Orlando fight and hustle
More stoutly than he ever has with sword.
Of Ferraguto I shall say no more,
But he was angrier than e’er before.

Keep reading


Book I, Canto III, Part 3

The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto III, Stanzas 41-60

She tied her palfrey to the pine right soon,
And softly closer to Rinald she goes.
Watching the cavalier, she nearly swooned.
How she could stand to leave him, nought she knows.
The meadow with sweet flowers was festooned,
The silver lily and the gentle rose.
She plucks an armful of them in that place,
And lays them gently on Rinaldo’s face.

At this, Rinaldo wakens from his sleep,
And sees above him the resplendent maid
Who hails him joyfully, with greeting sweet.
His face shows clearly that he is dismayed,
And instantly upon his horse he leaps,
And to her pleasant words no heed he paid.
Back to the greenwood he pursues his flight.
She mounts her palfrey and pursues the knight.

As she speeds on, she cries in woeful tone,
Oh, worthy cavalier, why dost thou flee?
Thy life is dearer to me than mine own,
And thou repayest it by slaying me.
Dost thou think I’m Ginamo of Bayonne,
Seeking thee here and full of treachery?
I’m not Macario, I’m not Gan the snake.
I hate them one and all for thy love’s sake.

Why dost thou flee from me in such disdain?
More than my very self I love thee, dear,
Only turn round, and look upon the pain
Thou causest me. Dost thou have so much fear
Of my sweet face, thou ridest without rein
Into this forest, desolate and drear?
Oh, wilt thou only spur thy steed less hard,
I’d be content to follow from afar.

For if, in galloping, thou chance to fall,
‘Twould be my fault, for thou art fleeing me.
My life would be as bitter as is gall –
If I could live through so much misery!
Look back a bit; see who I am who call,
Art thou not shamed from a mere maid to flee?
My face is not one thou shouldst flee in fright,
But one thou shouldst run after with delight.”

The girl says this, and many sweet words more,
As she rides on, but says them all in vain.
Baiardo from the forest issued forth,
And vanished from her sight across the plain.
The damsel beats her breast and sighs full sore.
There are no words that could describe her pain.
Broken-hearted she proclaims the stars,
The sun, and Heaven are most cruel and hard.

But calls Rinaldo cruel beyond compare,
In soft lamentings, full of tenderness.
“Who would have ever thought a face so fair –
She says – could hide a heart so merciless?
Love rules my heart, yet leaves me well aware
That no such passion flares within the breast
Of my belov’d Rinaldo for my charms.
But, still, he shoudn’t flee so from my arms.

I should not feel that I was lacking aught,
If but in sight of him once more I came.
If but to gaze upon him I were brought,
‘Twould cool a little my sore passion’s flames.
To flee from Love, my Reason says I ought,
But where Love is, unheard are Reason’s claims.
I call him traitor, villain, false, and fell
But while I call him thus, I love him well.”

Lamenting thus, the girl forsakes her quest,
And makes her weary way back to the pine.
“O blessed flowers – says she – grass most blest,
Who touched his gracious cheek, in you I find
A rival, and I envy how you pressed.
Your lot is far more fortunate than mine.
If I should lay by him, I know that I
O’erwhelmed by happiness, would surely die.”

With such laments, she tugs her palfrey’s rein,
And lights upon the plain, that wretched lass,
And kneeling where Rinaldo erst had lain,
Waters with tears and kisses much the grass.
Thinking this way to cool her burning flames,
But quite the contrary she brings to pass.
Worn out by sorrow, she does naught but weep,
And lies there till she cries herself to sleep.

My lords, I know that you are wondering
Why of Gradasso I’ve made no report
In all this time. I’ll tell you that the king
Is still a ways away from Charles’ court.
Across Iberia his host he brings,
But I don’t wish to tell you anymore,
Until th’adventures I have told to you
Of our knights errant; firstly, Ferragu.

The lover through the woods pursues his quest,
Brooding and cursing, beyond measure wroth.
His love and ire so inflame his breast,
His life he reckons hardly worth a straw
Unless that lovely lady he possessed,
Or met her brother, ‘gainst him for to draw
His sword, for he wished to avenge him quick
Upon the knight who’d played him such a trick.

With such intent, upon his way he sweeps.
Looking on ev’ry side, he chanced to see a
Cavalier beneath a tree asleep
And recognized that it was Argalía.
His charger had been tied beneath a beech.
He cut the rope, and then cuts from the tree a
Switch, and beats the horse until it flees
And vanished from sight among the trees.

His own horse he dismounts, and to a branch
He ties him. Then beneath a verdant laurel
He seats himself, and then waits for the man
To waken so they can resume their quarrel.
Although the sight of him his fury fans
And for revenge he longs, it were immoral
And most unchivalrous to kill a knight
Asleep, or with a weary one to fight.

But in a little while the knight awoke,
And realised his goodly steed had fled,
At which discovery he was provoked,
To think that he would have to walk in steade.
But Ferragu arose and to him spoke.
“Be not disturbed by this, O knight,” he said,
“For thou or I will meet with death today,
And he who lives may ride my horse away.

“I chased thine own away for fear lest thou
Shouldst once again attempt to turn and flee.
Thou’lt have to keep thy chest towards me now,
And ne’er again I hope thy back to see.
Thou didst deceive me last time, but I vow
I shall make thee regret thy villainy.
If thou canst not defend thyself in strife
With honor, thou deservest not thy life.

Don Argalía says without alarm,
“Of what thou chargest me, I stand confessed.
But by my hand I swear, and my right arm,
And by the heart that beats within my breast,
I fled not from our fight for fear of harm,
Or weakness, or because I needed rest,
But solely to oblige my sister, who
Desired of me that this deed I’d do.

If thy desire still rages uncontrolled,
Then thou hast need of me to be afraid.
The choice ‘twixt peace and battle thou dost hold.
But recollect thou’st seen my strength displayed!”
With such words speaks the baron young and bold,
But Ferraguto is no whit dismayed.
His face contorts, and with an angry shout,
He cries “Engarde!” and pulls his broadsword out.

Against each other run these valiant knights,
With blows and batterings full stout and good.
So lustily with sword and shield they smite,
That for a mile it echoes through the wood.
Don Argalía leapt aloft with might,
Holding his sword as high up as he could,
To himself thinking, “With this mighty blow,
I’ll send this villain to the realms below.”

He deals a blow that is exceeding grim,
And had it hit the fight would have been through.
But Ferraguto rushes up to him,
And grabs him, and to wrestling fall the two.
More strong is Argalía in his limbs;
More quick and dexterous is Ferragu.
Now has one got the other on the ground –
Don Argalía underneath is found.

Keep reading


Book I, Canto III, Part 2

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

Astolfo has collided with Raineri,
And knocked his from his seat with legs spread out.
His limbs he stretches, his lance lifts with nary
A fear, and starts to turn his horse about.
Anselmo rushes at the duke unwary,
With guile and teachery, his foe he clouts
Upon the side with his unyielding lance.
He makes it seem not ill intent, but chance.

Astolfo headlong fell upon the plain,
And to the heavens was upturned his face.
You need not wonder if he was in pain.
He pulled himself up to his feet apace,
And drew his sword in ire and disdain,
And, uttering curses against all the race
Of false Maganza and of Ganelon,
He smote upon the helmet Don Grifon,
Who’s saved from certain death by his steel crest.
Now could you see a mighty brawl commence.
Macario, Gan, and Ugolino pressed,
With swords on high, against the English prince.
But Naimo, Turpin, and Ricard addressed
Themselves to bring their friend aid and defense.
On either side the cavaliers join in.
King Charles plunges in amidst the din,

Giving great whacks and blows to all about.
He cracked the crowns of thirty men at least.
“Who is the traitor, who the rebel lout
Who dared to start a quarrel at my feast?”
He spurs into the middle of the bout.
At his approach, all the barons ceased
Their fighting. Some for shame bowed down their heads,
And some for terror of his anger fled.

He says to Gan: “What art thou fighting for?”
And to Astolfo he says: “Now explain
Thy conduct.” Then Grifone, bleeding sore,
Falls on his knees before King Charlemagne,
And with a shout that almost is a roar,
“Justice!” he cries, and thus makes his complaint,
“Justice, my lord, august and elevated,
In whose high presence I’m assassinated.

“Make inquiries of all men here, my lord,
For ev’ryone can tell you what was done.
If thou find I was first to draw my sword,
Or spoke a threat’ning word to anyone,
They call me liar, bind me with a cord,
And have be quartered ere the set of sun.
But if thou find the opposite is true,
Than let the ill return to whence it grew!”

So wroth Astolfo is, his reason flies,
And of King Charlemagne he takes no heed,
But, “Villain, false and treacherous – he cries –
Thou worthy flower of a wicked seed!
I’ll tear thy heart out of thy breast alive
Before I leave this place, and I shall feed –”
Grifone interrupts him, “Have no fear.
I’ll fight with thee soon as we’re gone from here.

“But here I keep my anger within bounds,
For to our king such reverence I bear.”
Astolfo keeps on talking, “Felon hound,
Thou thief and ribald, what will thou not dare?”
King Charlemagne for anger glared and frowned,
And said, “Astolfo, by Our Lord I swear,
More court’ously thou shalt make thine appeal,
Or thou’lt have time enough to cool thy heels.”

Astolfo of his words takes no account.
So wroth was he, I doubt he even heard.
Like one who’s truly wronged, his anger mounts,
He speaks more villany with ev’ry word.
Behold Anselmo, the malicious count,
By his ill chance, towards King Charles spurred.
Astolfo saw this, and could not restrain him
From rushing forward with his sword to brain him.

And certainly he would have struck him dead,
If he had not been stopped by Charlemagne.
The men heap blame on Don Astolfo’s head,
And Charles bids them tie him up amain.
Now quickly to the palace was he led,
And in the dungeon given ball and chain,
Where of his folly he received the flower,
And languished there for many a weary hour.

But he is happier in his new abode
Than are those other three enamored knights
Whom love for fair Angelica so goads
They have no respite, nor by day nor night.
Each of the three, along a diff’rent road
To Arden Forest has pursued her flight.
Rinaldo reached it first, thanks to the speed
Incredible of Baiard his good steed.

Once in the woods, the lover looks around,
Searching and wondering which way to go.
A shady grove of little trees he found,
‘Round which a clear and sparkling streamlet flowed.
Thinking the lady might perhaps be bound
For such a joyous shelter, in he rode.
Therein he saw a pleasant fountain stand,
Which never had been built by human hands.

The fountain that was to his eyes displayed
Was wrought of alabaster pure and white.
With gold so richly was the stone inlaid,
It bathed the trees and flowers in gentle light.
Merlin it was who had the fountain made,
So Don Tristano, that redoubted knight,
Should drink its water and the Queen forsake,
Ere they should die for one another’s sake.

But poor Tristano, by his sad mischance,
Ne’er came upon that fountain fresh and clear.
Though oftentimes he sojourned in fair France
And through the forest hunted boar and deer.
But still the fountain has such strange puissance,
That whatsoever loving cavalier
Drinks of its waters, all his love abates,
And her he once adored now wholly hates.

The sun was high up and the day was hot.
Much heat and thirst Rinaldo had endured,
Before he stumbled on that pleasant spot
And by the smoothly running waters lured,
Off of his noble steed Baiard he got.
Of thirst and love alike he’s promptly cured,
For as the waters he imbibed, no part
Was left unchanged of his enamored heart.

Alongside those is vanished all his will
In quest of such a silly thing to fare.
No longer does his inmost being thrill
Rememb’ring her he thought beyond compare.
Such is the power of that wondrous rill,
Not only was his heart of love swept bare,
But changed completely, so that he abhorred
The sweet Angelica he once adored.

Out of the forest with contented mind,
Returns that warrior without a fear.
And on his way, a little stream he finds
Of living water, crystalline and clear.
Nature had decked its banks with ev’ry kind
Of flower which in springtime sweet appears.
And to give shade, she’d placed beside the stream
A beech, an olive, and an evergreen.

This was the Stream of Love, which was not wrought
By wise old Merlin, or by magic art,
But of its nature made the soul distraught,
And filled with frenzy and with love the heart.
Many a knight in error had been caught
By drinking of its water, but no part
Rinaldo had therein, for he had erst,
In drinking at the fountain, quenched his thirst.

When the proud knight came to that pleasant burn
He thought for rest it seemed a goodly place.
He loosed the bridle of Baiard, and turned
Him loose within the field, his fill to graze.
He laid him down to rest, all unconcerned,
Beside the river banks, beneath the shade.
The baron slumbered and was unaware
When somebody perceived him lying there.

Angelica, once she had turned and fled
From that great fight wherein those two knights vied,
Came to the river, and by thirst was led
To drink. She walks now by her palfrey’s side.
Now will she fell as she has ne’er felt yet,
For Love desired to rebuke her pride.
She saw Rinald among the flowers sleeping;
At once her heart for fear and joy was leaping.

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Book I, Canto II, Part 1

The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto II, Part 1, Stanzas 1-20.


Angelica, to flee from Ferragu,
Runs with her brother into fair Ardennes.
Rinaldo and Orlando her pursue.
King Charles bids the tournament begin.
The barons clash with courage stout and true,
Till King Grandonio seemeth like to win.
He knocks down even mighty Olivier,
But then Astolfo comes to cause him fear.

Last time, I sang to you, my lords, or those
Two mighty knights locked in a battle fierce.
Prince Argalía’s conquered all his foes,
And Ferragu ‘mongst pagans hath no peers.
One’s magic armor shields him from all blows;
The other’s magic skin cannot be pierced,
Except his navel, which he keeps concealed
With twenty plates of fine Damascus steel.

If you have seen a pair of lions vie
For mastery, with biting and with thrashing,
Or heard two thunderclouds roar in the sky,
And seen the brilliant sparks of lightning flashing,
Then know that these were far exceeded by
The worthy cavaliers together clashing.
The earth was shaken, and the heavens roared,
When these two struck each other with the sword.

And thus they clash together in their wrath,
And view each other with expression dread.
Each knight, though certain he is safe from scath,
Trembles for anger and is soaked in sweat.
Don Argalía, with all strength he hath,
Strikes his opponent right on his bare head,
And he is sure beyond a shade of doubt,
That Ferraguto’s luck has just run out.

So when he sees his polished blade just bounce
Right off, and fail to draw a single drop
Of blood, the sight completely him astounds.
His hair curls, and for wonderment he stops.
But Ferraguto is not slow to pounce;
He thinks to vivisect him with one chop.
“Mahound have mercy on thy soul, for I
Will have none on thy body,” is his cry.

And with these words a mighty blow he deals,
That would have cleft a diamond in twain.
The helm enchanted fortunately steals
The sharp sword’s pow’r to cleave; it strikes in vain.
Completely baffled, Ferragu’s mind reels.
He wonders if he hasn’t gone insane.
Thus stupefied, the knights desist from violence,
And each one looks upon his foe in silence.

A little while they stand without a word,
Quite still, they marvel at each other so.
At last, Don Argalía’s voice is heard,
“O worthy knight, – quoth he, – “thou oughtst to know
That all this armor wherewith I am girt
Makes me invincible from head to toe,
By magic art. Give up thy fight with me;
Thou canst win nought but shame and injury.”

Says Ferraguto, “By Mahound I swear
That all my armor, from my boots to crest,
And e’en my shield, not for defense I wear,
But ornament, for I have been so blest
In all my skin there is but one place where
I can be hurt. And so for thee ‘tis best
At once to yield, and I shall let thee live,
If unto me thou wilt thy sister give.

Then shall I place myself at thy command,
And serve thee faithfully forevermore.”
Says Argalía, “Baron frank and grand,
I’ve never met a knight so skilled at war
As thou. I’ll gladly give my sister’s hand
And live with thee in brotherly accord –
If she be willing, be that understood.”
And Ferraguto thinks his offer good.

Though Ferragu is in the bloom of youth,
His voice is raspy and his skin is dark.
Hs face is fearful and his beard uncouth.
His eyes are bloodshot, glowering and stark.
He has no care for cleanliness, forsooth,
But never bathes, and so his skin is marked
With dust and grime. His hair is black as night,
And curled. In short, he is a dreadful sight.

Angelica, when she perceives that he
Is not the handsome blond she hoped to find,
Calls Argalía and says quietly,
“O dearest brother, I must speak my mind.
I’d rather hang myself upon this tree
Or wander begging, crippled, deaf, and blind,
Before to such a monster I’ll be chained.
Better to die than to be so insane.

Therefore I pray thee by our lord Mahound,
That once again thou fight that cavalier,
While I suck on the ring and thus confound
That brute by vanishing, and flee from here.
Then once I’m gone, turn thou thy horse around
And flee. So swift and light is thy destrier
He’ll never catch thee. We two shall meet then,
Just eastward, in the forest of Ardennes.

And then together we shall take our way
Back to our father, by the eastern sea.
But if we do not meet within three days,
Then I shall have the demons carry me,
(Thanks to that dog who tried to do me shame,
Where I was lying underneath the tree)
And thou wilt have to come back on thine horse
The way we came; thou knowest well the course.

Don Argalía to this plan assents
And turns back to the Moorish knight to say
His sister won’t by any means consent.
But Ferraguto will not go away.
But “Death or victory!” he cries, intent
To win to maiden of the flow’ry face,
When suddenly, to his immense surprise
She vanishes before his loving eyes.

He’d kept his face towards her in the fight
So that the sight of her would give him strength.
But now that she has vanished from his sight
He knows not what to do or what to think.
When Argalía sees the baffled knight,
He gives his horse the spur. Quick as a wink,
He gallops off and disappears from view,
Abandoning the fight and Ferragu.

The youthful lover for a moment stood,
Then realized that he had been deceived,
And galloped after him into the wood,
Which was beginning to bring forth its leaves.
His shame and anger on his visage could
Be seen most clearly, and he disbelieved
That he would lose the dame for whom he pined.
But though he sought, he could by no means find.

Now turn we to Astolfo, who remained
Alone beside the fountain, as you know.
He’d watched the battle with delight unfeigned,
And joyed to see each mighty thrust and blow
And now, delighted that he has regained
His freedom, praises God, and is not slow
To don his armor and to mount his steed;
He knows how Fortune can transform with speed.

The paladin lacked nothing save a lance.
(His own was shattered when he fell supine.)
Looking around him, he beheld by chance
Don Argalía’s, leaning on the pine.
The gilding sparkled and the dim light glanced
Off the enamel and the gold refined.
Astolfo grabs it from its place, although
Its magic potency he does not know.

He pricks forth on his way with merry heart,
As men are wont when they escape from jail.
He meets Rinaldo riding on Baiard,
And greets him warmly and tells all his tale.
So wounded is Rinald by Cupid’s dart,
That no attempt to cure him would avail.
He’s come from court with but one end in view:
To find out what’s become of Ferragu.

So when he hears he went towards Ardennes,
He gallops off that way across the grass,
Without a word of parting to his friend,
Such is the love he bears that lovely lass.
He calls Baiard a lazy sluggard then,
A worthless hack, a good-for-nothing ass,
The while he’s galloping at such a speed,
A flying arrow couldn’t catch that steed.

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