The Legend of Bernardo del Carpio 7: Bernardo at Roncesvalles

Section 1: Chronicles

Lucas While Bernardo was making ready for war, Charles was besieging Tudela, which he would have captured if not for Galalon’s treason. Charles did, however, take Nájera and Monte Jardín, and then prepared to return to France.

The barbarian King Marsil of Saragossa rallied an army of Saracens and allied with Bernardo and his Navarrese, and fell on the Frankish rear as they passed through Rocidevallis, killing Prefect Rodlandus of Brittany, Count Anselm, Egiardus the Steward, and many more. King Charles later had his revenge on the Saracens, killing a great number of them, [it is not clear if this is the second battle in the Song of Roland or an entirely new expedition]. After his revenge Charles went on pilgrimage to Saint James, made peace with King Alfonso, rebuilt the city of Iria, and obtained from Pope Leo III for Compostela to be elevated to a metropolitan [archbishopric]. He then returned to Germany with Bernaldus and died soon after, at Aix, where he was buried. Bernaldus served in the imperial household even after Charlemagne’s death, under Louis the Pious (814-840) and Lothair I (840-855).

Emperor Charles III (the Fat, not the Simple, r. 881-888) invaded Spain, attacking Christians and Muslims alike [this never happened], but Bernaldus raised an army of Christians and allied with King Muza of Saragossa, and turned back Charles’ army before they had even crossed the Pyrenees. Charles made alliance with Alfonso, who restored the Mozarabic rite in the churches of Spain. Charles went on pilgrimage to Santiago and San Salvador, and obtained from Pope John Metropolitan [archepiscopal] privileges for those two sites. Bernaldus returned to his fatherland, laden with spoils. Lucas explains that there were three Emperors named Charles: Charles the Great, who lived in the days of Pope Leo and Alfonso the Chaste; another Charles who lived in the days of Pope John, and Charles the Hammer, who succeeded him. Continue reading


Book I, Canto X, Part 1

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



The bold Astolfo turns his tail and flees.
Then Agricane’s army he descries.
He beats them to Albracca. When he sees
The siege begun at last, then out he hies.
His golden lance gives him some victories,
But then he’s conquered. Sacripant arrives
To save Angelica. He fiercely wars,
And all day long the noise of battle roars.

Orlando after Duke Astolfo spurred,
Quick as he could, but no reward it brings.
For Baiard, “marvellous” is not the word,
He runs as swiftly as if he had wings.
Off the road, to the woods, Astolfo turned.
The though of leaving Brandimart stings.
He’d been a true companion n the trail,
And now he left him in a worse than jail.

But mighty Durindan so much he feared,
Which in his cousin-german’shand remained,
That in the wild wood he disappeared.
Orlando tried to follow, but in vain.
He climbed a hill, and all around he peered,
But could not see him, in the woods or plain.
Out in the fields he makes no longer stay,
But rides back to the bower without delay.

There still is raging an intensive fight,
For yet high in the saddle Brandimart
Now King Ballon, now Chiarïone strikes,
Hammering them, and makes them sorely smart,
The while his lady pleads with all her might
That he will leave the battle and depart,
And with the two enchanted knights make peace,
And strive the lady Dragontin to please.

For by no other means could he evade
Having to drink of the enchanted glass,
Which would wipe clean his thoughts and mem’ry’s slate,
But when she saw the fay tread o’er the grass,
Certainly with intent her knights to aid,
She dared not tarry, but the frightened lass
Swiftly turned roundabout her palfrey good,
And galloped till she reached the shadowed wood.

Ballan and Chiarïon now draw apart.
The fairy’s will is law throughout her palace.
And Dragontina takes Sir Brandimart,
Off’ring a drink from her enchanted  chalice,
Which from the magic stream she filled by art.
The cavalier falls victim to her malice.
Forgetting ev’rything he once knew, he
Completely changed from what he used to be.

O pleasant liquor, bev’rage sweet and clear,
Which thus can snatch a man out of his mind!
Now Brandimarte’s love has disappeared,
Which did his heart in silken cords once bind.
He hopes for nothing; he has no more fear
To lose his honor, or disgrace to find.
On Dragontina centers all his thought,
And of all things beside he reckons nought.

Back to the garden comes the Count, astounded,
And before Dragontina’s feet he kneels.
He makes excuses, in which long words abounded.
No knight so eloquently e’er appealed.
The Paladin was perfectly confounded
That a mere boy outdid him in the field,
Speaking of which, I ought to go and find him.
He thinks Orlando ever right behind him,

So constantly he travels on his way,
By day and night, that hero stout and good.
Nothing at all he finds the foremost day,
Travelling through a vast deserted wood,
But on the second morn his eyes survey
Where on a plain, a vast encampment stood.
Astolfo asks a herald to explain
Why all these people gathered on this plain.

The herald shows a banner to the knight,
Which fluttered in the center of the horde,
And says, “Here lodges, with his men of might,
The king of kings, the Tartars’ sov’reign lord.
That is his royal banner, black as night,
The one that has a rampant silver horse.
It’s decked with pearls and precious stones and gold.
The world does not a richer treasure hold.

“The white flag, there, that has the sun of gold,
Marks great Mongolia’s monarch, Saritron.
The world knows not a knight so frank and bold.
That green one, where the lion white is shown,
Belongs to Radamant the Uncontrolled,
Who measures twenty feet, it’s widely known.
Beyond the mountains, holds he ‘neath his hand
Moscow the mighty and the Coman land.

“That golden moon upon the flag of red
Is Polifermo’s, a great king who reigns
Over Orgagna. He’s a man to dread
And often shows his prowess on the plain.
I wish to speak of ev’ry flag outspread,
So that unknown no standard will remain,
So thou mayst tell out might to friend or foe
Into whatever country thou mayst go.

“The mighty king of Gothland there is shown.
King Pandragone is this worthy hight.
The emperor of Russia’s flag is blown;
He’s called Argante. He’s a man of might.
See Santaría and the fierce Lurcon.
The first is ruler of the Swedes by right,
The next of Norway. See on his right hand
The banner of the king of Norman land.

“Brontino is this mighty ruler called.
His is the green flag with the burning heart.
Camped next to him, the Danish monarch tall,
Who’s named Uldano. Well he plays his part.
King Agricane, master of them all,
Summoned these vassals when he wished to start
A war, and all have gathered on this plain
To give King Gallifrone bitter pain.

“This Gallifrone is from India, where
He rules a vast dominion called Cathay.
He has a daughter, with whom can’t compare
The freshest rose that blossoms in the May.
Such love for her King Agricane bears
He thinks of nothing else by night or day,
Save how to have the lady for his own.
He cares not for his kingdom or his throne.

“Yesterday, Gallifron to us addressed
A message, by one of his heralds sent.
With many words, his majesty confessed
He could not yield the girl, though his intent
Had been to do so, for she was impressed
With madness, had defied the king, and went
To the Rock of Albracca, where she claimed
She would remain unwed till death her claimed.

“So now it’s likely that this massive throng
Before Albracca will begin a siege.
Because her father has done nothing wrong,
If his fair daughter cannot love my liege.
But I believe (and my belief is strong)
The damsel won’t have any remedies
To make a very lengthy war of it;
It would be better for her to submit.”

As soon as Don Astolf the reason hears
For the assembly of this people vast,
He sets out journeying, that cavalier,
Riding by day and night exceeding fast.
Albracca Rock at length the hero nears
And to the lovely damsel comes at last.
She, when she saw Astolfo face to face,
Knew him at once, and gladly him embraced.

“Welcome a thousand times!” the lady cried,
“Welcome a thousand more, Sir Paladin,
Thou who to succor the distressed dost ride!
Would that Rinaldo with thee had come in!
This castle gladly would I cast aside
And all my kingdom reck not at a pin,
To have that worthy baron with us here;
All of the world beside I would not fear.”

Astolfo says, “I wish not to deny
Rinaldo is a valiant cavalier,
But I would have you recollect that I
In battle am more fearsome than that peer.
Many a time we two our strength have tried,
And he has had the worst of it, I fear.
For I have made him sweat, and made him sore,
And made him say, ‘I yield, I can no more.’

“And of Orlando, too, thou mayst record,
The standard-bearer of all chivalry,
That were he missing Durindan, his sword,
The way my other cousin’s lost his steed,
He would not be as famous as before,
Nor so intimidating would he be.
Not like myself, you see, for when we fight,
No matter what my arms, I beat those knights.”

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The Legend of Renaud of Montauban 10: Italian

The Italian family consists of the following versions:

I Cantari di Rinaldo da Montealbano. In ottava rima, from the late 1300’s. Crticial edition by Elio Melli in 1973 under the title I Cantari di Rinaldo da Monte Albano.

El Inamoramento de Rinaldo da Monte Albano. The aforesaid Cantari, with the story of Fierabras interpolated, a prologue dealing with the feud of Aymon and Ginamo of Baiona added, and many episodes lengthened. Also printed under the title of Rinaldo Innamorato, and in either case usually with a very long subtitle.

Prose Rinaldo. Probably by Andrea da Barberino, though this cannot be proved.

Rinaldo, by Torquato Tasso. In ottava rima. Translated into English couplets by John Hoole, whom Scott notoriously described as “a noble transmuter of gold into lead.” More recently translated into ottava rima by Max Wickert.


The oldest and best version is in a MS known as palatino 364, of the Bib. Naz. di Firenze. There are three other versions, each of which expand the first section (up to the chessboard-murder) in their own unique ways. R: a manuscript fragment which ends just before the ambush of Buovo, Cod. Riccardiano 683. a: a printed edition without title or date, probably from 1479, British Museum, Printed Books G 11352. b: the first (surviving) printing of El Inamoramento de Rinaldo da Monte Albano, from which all other printings are descended. After the chessboard-murder these three versions all follow Pal closely, with the exception of b’s interpolation of Fierabras before the beginning of the war against Monte Albano. Since b is the ancestor of all other versions, they are known as the beta family. is most likely related to the prose version in the Laurenzian library.


Charlemagne holds court at Paris, when Ginamo of Baiona tells Amone that he [Ginamo] has cuckolded him [Amone], and that all four of his [Amone’s] sons are actually Ginamo’s. Amone, furious, heads for Dordona, but Orlando, Astolfo, Ulivieri, and Namo send messengers ahead of him to warn the Duchess, who flees with her sons Alardo, Rinaldo, Guicciardo and Ricciardetto to Monte Ermino [Montherme]. Rinaldo swears to clear his mother’s name.

Amone is son of Bernardo of Chiaramonte, and his brothers are Girado of Ronsiglione, Milon d’Angrante [Orlando’s father], King Otto of England, [Astolfo’s father], Duodo of Antonia [Doon de Nanteuil?] and Buovo of Agrismonte. Buovo and his wife Smeragda were long childless, and so went on pilgrimage to Saint James. Smeragda became pregnant, and gave birth to twin boys. However, they were still in Spain at the time, and their train was attacked by King Avilante. Only Buovo and his wife escaped, and their children were left behind in the rout. King Avilante finds the one, adopts him and names him Viviano. The other is found by the Queen of Belfiore, who happens to be passing by some days later. She finds him “mal giacere” [lying ill: that is, alone], names him Malagigi, and teaches him magic. By his magic, he grows up to win Baiardo, whom he finds in a grotto with a hauberk, a helmet, and the sword Frusberta. He slays the deadly serpent that guards them, and claims them. Since, by his magic, he knows who his family are and the peril they are in, he takes leave of his foster-mother and pretends to be a merchant. He sells his cousins Baiardo, saying that no bastard can sit on this wonderful horse. Rinaldo, reassured by his mother, buys the beast, after which Malagigi reveals his identity and departs. The brethren ride to Paris with their train. Ginamo meets them on the way and claims to be their father, but they defy him, and battle is joined. The brethren slay Ginamo, who is carried to his castle, where his sons Ramondo and Beltramo mourn him. Although the Sons are reconciled with their father, Charles banishes them from Christendom for three years for killing Ginamo. As they leave, Gano secretly follows to ambush them. Luckily, Orlando is suspicious, and rides with his other cousins after them, finding them just after Gano’s men have leapt out of the bushes. Gano has concealed his insignia, but Rinaldo gives him an ugly cut through his helmet. Gano flees when Orlando arrives, still unknown. The Duchess returns to Dordona with Amone, and Rinaldo takes up residence in Monte Ermino, deciding to lay low instead of actually leaving. Gano returns to court, where he pretends he had a hunting accident. Orlando is suspicious, but can prove nothing.

Continue reading

Book I, Canto VII, Part 3

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

And thus addresses him, “O Emperor wise,
Every heart within a noble breast
Honor and glory over all doth prize.
He who desires only wealth, or rest
And showeth not his prowess to men’s eyes,
Should of his lands and rank be dispossessed.
I, who within the East had no small name
Came to the West to garner still more fame.

“And certainly not to acquire France,
Or Spain, or Germany, or Hungary.
Let my deeds henceforth bear me countenance
That I’m content  with my own signorie,
For none on earth can equal my puissance.
So now, here are the terms I offer thee:
Within my camp, thou and they valiant knights,
Shall pris’ners stay, but only for tonight.

“And in the morning I shall set you free,
And no more in your country interfere,
On this condition: thou shalt yield to me
The lord of Montalbano’s good destrier
Which I have won by combat lawfully,
Because that rascal didn’t dare appear.
Likwise, when next Orlando thou dost see,
Order thou him to send his sword to me.”

King Charles says that he will yield Baiard,
And for the sword he will do all he can;
But King Gradasso drives a bargain hard
And bids him sent to Paris town a man
To fetch the horse. King Charles sends Ricard,
But when Astolfo learns about this plan
(He’d had himself appointed governor)
He seized Ricard  and made him prisoner.

And then he sent a herald to the host,
Gradasso and his cohorts to defy,
And if of conquering Rinald he boasts,
Or making him to flee, give him the lie;
And that the treaty was an idle ghost,
For Baiard wasn’t Charles property.
And for his part, the steed he’d never yield
Unless Gradasso beat him in the field.

Gradass, on being challenged to a duel,
Asks who Astolfo is, and what his sort.
Charles, who tries to keep his temper cool,
Gives of his Paladin a brief report.
Ganelon says, “My lord, he is a fool
Who often gives delight to all our court.
Pay no attention to his nonsense, nor
Forgo the promises you made before.”

Gradasso says to him, “Thou speakest fine,
But think thou not that I’ll let thee depart
For pleasant words if Baiard is not mine.
This Don Astolf must have a valiant heart.
You worthy heroes as my captives pine,
And still he bids me to be on my guard.
Then let him come! If he’s a knight of force
I’ll have some fun before I take the horse.

But if by force Baiardo I obtain,
Then I may deal with you just as I please.
On our agreement you will have no claim,
Since you did not fulfill your pact with me.”
Oh, how distraught and wroth is Charlemagne,
For when he thought to have his liberty,
His barons free, himself once more a king,
This idiot will cost him ev’rything.

At dawn, Astolfo has Baiard prepared,
With leopards sewn on his caparison.
Enormous pearls upon his helm he wears.
His gilded sword hilt sparkles in the sun.
As many precious stones and jewels he bears
As one who ruled the whole earth might have done.
His shield is gold. He leans upon his breast
The gold lance Argalía once possessed.

His entrance on the battlefield he made,
Just as the sun above the hilltops shone.
A mighty blast upon his horn he played,
And he announced in far-resounding tone,
“O King Gradasso, if thou art afraid
To prove thyself against me all alone,
Then bring the great Alfrera by thy side,
And if thou wish, a thousand more beside.

“Bring King Marsil, and Balugante false,
Bring Serpentin and Falsirone then;
Bring on Grandonio, he who is so tall –
I’d love to knock him off his horse again! –
And Ferraguto, full of spite and gall;
All of thy paladins and all thy men
Bring with thee, from the greatest to the least,
For thus my glory will be more increased.”

With such words Don Astolfo loudly cried.
Oh, how Gradasso laughs, so long and hard!
He arms himself, and to the field he rides,
Where he so much desired to win Baiard.
He gives Astolfo greeting most polite,
Then says, “Sir knight, I know not what thou art.
I asked thy peers about my strange contester.
Ganelon told me that thou wert the jester.

“Others have told me that thou art a knight
Graceful, noble, courteous, and free,
Who dost in valor and high deeds delight.
Which one thou art, is yet unknown to me,
But I shall honor thee, who dar’st this fight.
But this I tell thee for a certainty,
That once I knock thee down with smiting hard,
Nought shall I take from thee except Baiard.”

“But thou dost count thy bill without thine host,”
Astolfo said, “And it behooves thee wait;
I’ll knock thee from thy saddle with one blow,
But since thou’st shown thy courtesy so great,
Thou shalt not pay a penny’s ransom, thou
All of thy captives thou shalt yield me straight.
And then thou shalt depart for Pagan lands
Immediately, with all thine heathen bands.”

“I am content thereto, by great Mahound,”
Gradasso says. They swear to keep these terms.
Then off he starts, and lets his truncheon down,
Banded with iron, which is so strong and firm
He trusts to knock Astolfo t the ground
And which could lay a wall upon the earth.
Astolfo, on the other side makes ready.
His strength is little, but his heart is steady.

Gradasso spurs his good Arabian mare,
Nor does Astolfo simply watch him speed;
The thundering of their hoofbeats rends the air,
And in the middle of the field they meet.
Astolfo strikes Gradasso’s shield just ere
The king strikes his. His vict’ry is complete.
The bottom of Gradasso’s shield he grazed,
And the great monarch from his seat was raised.

Gradasso finds himself upon the dust
And thinks he’s dreaming, but his mind soon clears.
He realizes that the war is lost,
And lost is Baiard, charger without peer.
He rose, climbed back upon his mare, and crossed
To Don Astolfo, saying, “Cavalier,
Thou hast the better of me here today.
Come, take my prisoners without delay.

To the camp riding, hand in hand they go.
Gradasso does the victor honor great.
King Charles and the Paladins don’t know
The jousting’s terms, or what will be their fate.
Astolfo to Gradasso whispers low
Not to tell Charles what has chanced of late
And to keep quiet while he plays a jest.
He wanted vengeance; this way suits him best.

With hard-set face, before the king he strides
And says “Ah ha! Thy sins have found thee out!
Thou wert puffed up with arrogance and pride,
And reckoned all the world a rabble rout.
Orlando and Rinaldo saved thine hide,
And thou hast sought for ways to drive them out.
Lo! Thou wouldst take Baiard against all right,
And now possesses him this king of might.

“Against all right thou threwest me in jail
To do a favor unto House Magance.
Now see if Ganelone will avail
To save thee now, or save thy realm of France.
The great Orlando will not be thy bail,
Nor will Rinaldo, master of the lance.
Hadst thou not foolishly chased them away,
Thou wouldst not be a ruined man today.

Keep Reading


The Legend of Girfaus

The legend of Girfaus survives in only one fragment: the top portion of one manuscript leaf which was used as part of the binding for a later book. The fragment is from between 1200 and 1250, and is written in monorhymed decasyllabic laisses. The only edition is “A Fragment of an Unknown ‘Roland’ Epic”, by Roger Middleton and Karen Pratt, in King’s College London Medieval Studies XII: Roland and Charlemagne in Europe. There is no English translation, and to my knowledge this is the first English summary.

…Karles tells Milon the Bearded that he intends to burn towers, castles and cities to the ground. A Saracen spy overhears this, and begins making his way back to his own camp. He passes by the tents where Roland and Oliver are sleeping, and returns to Orbloise, where he tells Girfaus all. Girfaus splits his army in two, and advances…

…Oliver kills someone…

…Guifar mentions his father Fouré, apparently after killing Druin…

…Roland has Durandal, and kills Jonafin. Oliver kills Brut. Girfaus sees this…

…Antone does something [probably gets killed by Girfaus]…

Girfaus sees the ruin of his men. He kills the young Guion d’Orleans. Roland pursues many, no one can escape him. The younger son of Fourez [probably Guifar] kills Folcart and Focerez, with the sword with which Marsiles the Amirez [Emir] had dubbed him. Oliver sees this, and kills him with Hauteclere. He says that he [the son] will never avenge his father. He then shouts aloud to Girfaus, taunting him with the death of his brother* and of his father Fourez.

[*The MS actually reads “Thy father is dead, and thy father Fourez.” The correction is the editors’, and makes much more sense.]


We have so little information that anything would be mere speculation. If Guifar was dubbed by Marsile, then perhaps this is from some lost version of the Entrée en Espagne? Or perhaps it is a completely different war. We will probably never know. It is anyone’s guess if “Milon le Barbé” is the father of Roland or not. The only other Milon le Barbé listed in Langlois has a walk-on role as one of Ganelon’s family in Aye d’Avignon.

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.

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Book I, Canto VI, Part 1

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


Zambardo, dying, springs a booby trap,
And heavy chains around Orlando wind
A giant cannibal him finds, by hap,
Orlando conquers him, then seeks to find
Angelica, but by a fairy’s trap
He is bewitched and made to lose his mind.
The Christian army flees, their foes advance,
And King Gradasso conquers half of France.

Now hearken, lordings, to the battle great,
Greater and darker than all others ever,
You’ve heard already how malicious fate
Had brought Orlando to the bridge which never
A knight had left alive. I’ll now relate
How great Zambardo, giant fierce and clever,
Was fighting him, but unaware was he,
Orlando was the best there’d ever be.

The knight steps on the bridge and loud defies
Zambard, who bears his iron mace in hand.
Although the count comes only to his thigh,
He makes a mighty leap, so tall and grand,
That he could look the giant in the eye.
Lo, where the giant swings his iron brand!
Orlando sees it from on his descend,
And leaps aside, before his life it ends.

The foul Saracen is quite disturbed.
Orlando makes him more unsettled still,
Because he strikes his arm with so much verve,
He dropped his iron mace; to earth it fell.
Now Count Orlando seems just like a bird,
He strikes now here, now there, both swift and well,
But so tough was the dragon-hide turned mail,
That nothing could Orlando’s blows avail.

Zambardo, since his mace he cannot get,
Out of his scabbard draws his scimitar.
He sees he’ll clearly have to use his net,
Because this cavalier so fiercely spars,
But he does not desire to use it yet.
He deals the count a backhand blow. So hard
A blow upon his helmet did he beat,
Orlando staggered backward twenty feet.

At this, the worthy count is half deranged,
He flushes, and his race by wrath is rent,
His eyes begin to glower fierce and strange,
The fearsome giant’s life is nearly spent.
Orlando strikes so fiercely in his rage,
That mighty Durindan is backwards bent.
Although, as Turpin mentions in this place,
The blade’s width was four fingers at its base.

The hero strikes the giant in the waist,
Splitting the dragon-armor, scales and hide.
Within an iron belt was he incased;
The sharp blade effortlessly through it glides.
Beneath his hauberk was his cuirass placed,
But Durindana all of these defied,
And certainly, he had been cleft in twain,
Had he not thrown himself upon the plain.

Through cunning, or mischance, he fell to ground,
I don’t know which; at any rate, he fell.
No trace of color in his face was found.
Once he had felt that blow so stout and hale,
He beat upon his breast; his teeth he ground.
He reaches out and grabs his fallen flail.
Towards the Count so skillfully he aims,
Right o’er the breast he strikes him with the chains.

That blow knocks down to earth the valiant knight,
And so they lie, each glaring at the other.
Through sprawled out, not yet over is their fight.
Orlando is the foremost to recover
His feet, and grabs the giant’s beard with might,
But he is captured and is nearly smothered.
The felon pinned him close against his chest,
Then stood up, and towards the river pressed.

Orlando punched the giant in the face,
For on the ground was Durindana dread.
So hard he struck him, that he left him dazed.
A second time the giant fell as dead.
Immediately the Count broke free. With haste
He wrapped his arms around the giant’s head.
The brute is furious and cannot see,
But nonetheless, upon his feet leaps he.

And now the merciless assault renews.
This one has Durindana, that his flail.
Orlando clearly sees that he will lose,
If on the ground he stays, so to assail
His foe, he leaps on high before he hews.
Ho fighter ever had such great travail.
Orlando masterfully wields his sword,
And gives the giant ugly gashes four.

Zambardo feigns to strike a back-hand blow,
But in the middle of his swing, he stops.
He sees Orlando stepping back, and so
He presses forward. With both hands he chops.
Orlando cannot leap to safety now.
He hears the chains come whistling as they drop.
The valiant hero is no whit afraid,
But meets the blow impending with his blade,

And strikes the mace so hard he shatters it.
And do not think he therefore paused to nap.
He swung his sword into the giant’s hip,
Where earlier his blows had made a gap.
The serpent’s hide already had been split.
What could Zambardo do in such mishap?
For Durindan as swiftly through him clove,
As thunderbolts hurled by Almighty Jove.

Thus with his top and bottom parted quite
(What holds him still together’s small, or none)
The giant’s visage turned completely white,
For he saw clearly that his death was come.
With his last strength, he stamps his foot in spite.
Immediately the hidden net upsprung,
And with such strength around the knight it wound,
That he dropped Durindana to the ground.

His arms are painfully tied ‘gainst his chest,
So that he can’t move either one at all.
No hempen cords, but iron chains oppressed
The knight. His chances of escape were small.
“O God of Heaven, Virgin ever blest,”
The cavalier exclaimed “For aid I call!”
And as the Count was tangled in the net,
Zambardo tumbled in two pieces, dead.

That place is so remote and desolate
That hardly ever does a man pass by.
The Count, tied up beneath the hot sun, waits.
His hope of rescue sickens, faints, and dies.
Gone is his vigor; gone his spirit great.
His strength is useless. Durindana lies
Out of his reach. With neither food nor drink
He lies all day; that night sleeps not a wink.

The night wore by, the dawn her light outspread,
His hope grew lower and his famine higher.
But then he heard a noise and turned his head,
And he beheld a snowy-bearded friar.
When he perceived him, Count Orlando said,
As loudly as he could, he was so tired:
“O Father, as thou lovest God Most High,
Come set me free, for I’m about to die.”

The aged friar is surprised to see
This sight, and searches all the net, but can’t
Find any way to set Orlando free.
The baron says to him, “Take up my brand,
Slice through this net and thus deliver me.”
The friar says, “I leave thee in God’s hands.
If I should kill thee, I should break my oath.
To take so great a chance am I most loath.”

“Upon my word, thou shalt incur no guilt,”
Replied the Count, “My armor is so sound,
That by that sword my blood will not be spilt.”
With such like words he brings the palmer ‘round.
The monk grabbed Durindana by the hilt,
And with an effort, raised it from the ground,
And swung with all his might and struck the chains.
He scratched them, but intact they all remain.

The friar sees that poorly he will fare.
He drops the sword, then he begins to try
Consoling Count Orlando, speaking fair.
“O worthy, it behooveth thee to die
Like a good Christian. Yield not to dispair,
But hope and trust in God the Lord on High.
Patiently bear this death which he hath given,
And thou shalt be his cavalier in Heaven.”

The wise old monk made many other words,
And all the martyrology relates,
Telling the sufferings the saints endured,
How some were crucified and some were flayed,
“My son, thou shalt be with them, be assured,
And for thy holy death, give God the praise.”
The Count Orlando’s modest answer is:
“May He be praised indeed – but not for this!”

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Book I, Canto V, Part 4

The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto V, Stanzas 61-83

“My only son, a tender youth, and I
Came walking by not sithence many hours.
But of the giant, not a trace we spied,
For he, God damn him, hid within the tower,
Then snatched my son before my very eyes,
And bore him off. I fear he’s been devoured,
And now, sir knight, thou knowest all my woe.
I beg thee that thou wilt no further go!”

Orlando thinks a moment, then replies,
“I will go further on, let come what may.”
“Then God have mercy!” the old palmer cries,
“Thou oughtest not to throw thy life away.
Believe me, I am telling thee no lies,
Thou shalt behold that giant with dismay.
To see his size, his fierceness, and his might
Will make thee tremble, thou though art a knight.”

Orlando smiled and besought the man
To stay and wait for him a little space
And if he didn’t shortly some again,
Then not to mourn for him, but go his ways.
The palmer to the knight an hour grants,
Who to the crimson clifftop set his face.
When that the giant sees him come, he saith,
“O worthy baron, do not seek thy death.

The monarch of Circassia placed me here,
And ordered me to let none pass beyond,
Because, atop this cliff so wild and drear,
A monster dwells, who of men’s flesh is fond.
Whene’er a traveller in her sight appears,
To aught he asks she’ll truthfully respond,
But with a riddle of her own she’ll meet him,
And if he says amiss then she will eat him.”

Orlando next inquires of the lad.
The giant won’t return the palmer’s son.
They speak awhile, then they wax half-mad,
And soon a battle have the two begun.
This one a sword, that one a great mace had.
I shan’t recount their blows all one by one,
But Count Orlando so adroitly wielded
His sword and shield, that soon the giant yielded.

Thus the Count saved the young man from his plight,
And thus the grieving father he consoled,
Who drew out something wrapped in samite white,
Which he had hidden in his garments’ fold.
Then he displayed a little book to sight,
Covered in fine enamel and bright gold.
Then to Orlando he said, “Knight renowned,
To be thy servant I’m forever bound.

“If I desired to do as much for thee,
As thou hast done, I am too worn by years.
And so I beg thee, take this book from me,
Which is of potency without a peer.
For ev’ry riddle, ev’ry mystery
Within its pages is made plain and clear.”
And giving him the book, said, “Go with God!”
Then joyfully upon his way he trod.

Orlando stood there with the book in hand,
And with himself a while held debate.
He sees the cliff which rises high and grand,
And swears to climb it, whate’er may await,
And see the beast which on the summit stands,
And answers any question she is made.
For this alone th’adventure will he try:
To learn where sweet Angelica abides.

He crosses o’er the mountain without scath.
The giant lets him pass without a stop.
He’s felt what Durindan can do in wrath.
He points the road, and lets the drawbridge drop.
And up a dark and narrow winding path
The Count rides on until he gains the top,
And sees the path lead on between two rocks,
And sees the monster who the passage blocks.

Her hair was gold, he woman’s face was fair,
But when she smiled you saw her wolfish teeth.
Breasts like a lions, forearms like a bear’s
She had. Her griffon claws she did not sheathe.
She held her dragon’s tail aloft in air.
Her wings would make even a peacock seethe
With envy. With her tail she struck the ground,
Which echoed off the rocks for miles around.

When that fierce monster sees the cavalier,
Her wings she spreads out and her tail she raises,
And grins malignantly from ear to ear,
And smites a rock and cracks it. Nought this fazes
The Count, who says to her with visage fierce,
“Among all peoples, nations, tongues and races,
From cold to hear, and from the dusk to dawn,
Tell me, whom dwells Angelica among?”

The beast malignant, with words soft and king,
Thus gives the Count Orlando answer meet.
“She for whose seek thou art disturbed in mind,
Near Cathay, in Albracca has her seat.
Now to my questions must thou answers find.
What animal can walk but has no feet?
And say what other creature there may be,
That walks on four feet, and on two, and three?”

Orlando ponders o’er thse questions curious,
But can’t come up with any good replies,
So he draws Durindan. The sphinx is furious,
And leaps into the air and at him flies.
Now she attacks him with a blow injurious,
And now she soars aloft with piercing cries.
Now she strikes with her claw, now with her tail,
But his charmed skin against her blows prevails.

If he were not enchanted, as he is,
That favored knight would have been sorely pressed.
A hundred gaping wounds would have been his,
Criss-crossing o’er his shoulders and his chest
The Count regains his balance, and at this
His anger mounts, and wrath swells in his breast.
He bides his time, then with a mighty spring,
He leaps on high and slices through her wing.

Shrieking, the cruel monster fell to ground.
Her bellowings could be heard far afield.
Her tail around Orlando’s legs she wound,
And with her claws she tears apart his shield.
But soon the ending of the fight came round,
For through her ribs Orlando drove his steel.
And when Orlando saw the beast was slain,
He climbed back down the cliff unto the plain.

He leapt upon his horse, the reins he shook,
And rode on boldly, as a lover ought,
But still he pondered, as his way he took,
What might the answers be the monster sought.
Then he recalled the palmer’s little book,
And to himself he said, “I had forgot!
I had the power to appease the beast,
Without a fight; but otherwise God pleased.”

He searches through the book, in hopes to find
The answers to the sphinx’s mysteries.
He reads about the seal, and of its kind,
That walks on flippers when it leaves the sea,
And then he finds it written of mankind,
He goes on four feet in his infancy;
He goes on two feet in his life’s next stage,
And totters with a cane in his old age.

He read, till at a river he arrived,
Swift and deep, and horrible, and dark.
No place to swim across it he espied,
For both the banks were jagged, steep, and stark.
Along the riverbanks downstream he rides,
Hoping to find some passage on a barque.
He saw a bridge, which had a giant placed
For guardian, and thither he made haste.

The giant saw him coming, and he said,
“O wretched knight, enjoy thy final breaths!
Thy great misfortune hath thee hither lead.
Know, thou art come unto the Bridge of Death.
All ways hence are so tortuous and dread
That none have e’er survived who by them left,
And if across the stream thou’rt fain to go,
Then one of us must lay the other low.”

This bridge’s guardian, so tall and fierce
Had for his name Zambardo the Robust.
His head was two feet wide from ear to ear,
And all his limbs were in proportion just.
When armed, just like a mountain he appears.
He held an iron bar devoid of rust.
From off this bar five iron chains extend,
Each with a ball of iron at its end.

Each of these balls was twenty pounds or more.
From head to toe he wore a serpent’s hide,
For plate and mail, which kept him safe in war.
His scimitar hung dangling by his side.
But what was worse, he had a trap in store:
A heavy net. When anyone defied
Him to a duel, and he seemed like to win,
He’d trap him in the net and finish him.

No cavalier this thick net ever sees.
It’s fully hidden underneath the sand.
Whene’er he wishes, he the knight can seize,
And throw him bound into the river grand.
The wretch has no recourse, no remedies,
But drowns most painfully at Zambard’s hands.
But nought of this the worthy baron knows.
He lights on foot and rides towards his foe.

With shield on arm and Durindan in hand,
He sees his enemy grand and appalling,
The Roman Senator is as alarmed
As if his foe were but an infant squalling.
A mighty duel began that caused much harm,
Which in this canto I won’t be recalling,
Because already has my throat grown sore,
And I must rest before I tell you more.

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The Legend of Floovant

UPDATED VERSION: The original version of this post contained numerous errors, which are hopefully now corrected.

The legend of Floovant, son of King Clovis, is to be found in the following versions:

La Chanson de Floovant. French Alexandrines, assonanced, c. 1200.

Fioravante, Italian prose, c. 1315-1340.

Andrea da Barberino’s I Reali di Francia, Book II. Italian prose. c. 1400

Flovent, Dutch couplets, fragmentary, 1300s.

Floresvento: Portuguese ballad, still alive and kicking in the Azores and the mainland.


La Chanson de Floovant is a poem in Old French Alexandrines, assonanced. It survives in only one MS and a few fragments.

English Translation:

Newth, Michael A. H., trans. “The Song of Floovant,” in Heroines of the French Epic. D. S. Brewer, 2014.

Floovant, the oldest son of King Clovis of France, is committed to the care of the Duke of Bourgogne. He cuts the duke’s beard while he is asleep. The duke complains to the king, who is about to order Floovant executed when the Queen persuades him to reduce the sentence to seven years’ exile. Floovant leaves, intending to offer his services to King Flore of Ausai, who is fighting the Saracens. On the way, he rescues a maiden (who turns out to be Flore’s daughter Florete) from three Saracen robbers. As they ride on, he meets the Saracen giant Fernagu, son of King Galien, who tries to steal the lady. Here there is a gap in the MS. What follows in italics is hypothetically supplied from fragments and from other versions. Ferangu has four minions to help him. Luckily, Floovant’s squire Richier has been seeking him, and arrives at this juncture. The Saracens are slain. The three Christians arrive at Beaufort, where Flore greets them and makes Floovant his general. Florete gives Floovant the sword Joyeuse. Floovent, Richier, and Urbain the Allemand [German] besiege Avenant.

Maugalie, daughter of Galien, falls in love with Floovant. After beating back a Saracen sortie, Floovant returns to Flore’s court, where he refuses all honors, and the love of Florete. He returns to the siege and takes Avenant. He keeps Maugalie under his protection. Galien hears of this. Meanwhile, Flore and his sons Maudaran and Maudoire take possession of Avenant, and offer Florete’s hand to Floovant. Florete and Maugalie meet and quarrel. Flore and his children leave the castle in Floovant’s hands. The princes agree to betray him to Galien. That king retakes Avenant, capturing his daughter and her lover. Richier escapes with Joyeuse. At Maugalie’s plea, Floovant is thrown in the dungeon instead of being hanged. Richier kills a man on the road, then stays at the castle of Emelon, who turns out to be the deceased’s father. The father forgives him, after a fight. He comes to Baume, where he disguises himself as a Moor, pretends to be an escaped captive, and joins the Saracen camp. Meanwhile, Galien has captured twelve French barons and thrown them in jail with Floovant. Richier slips away to comfort them. Maugalie sees him, confronts him, and agrees to help the Christians escape if Floovant marries her. Galien, meanwhile, has promised her to Maudaran. The French escape, and ride for Beaufort with Galien in pursuit. At Beaufort, Flore and his army ride out to the rescue. The Pagans flee, and Maugalie is baptized and married to Floovant. Richier marries Princess Florete. Galien, furious, decides to besiege Clovis in Laon instead. Floovant and company ride to the rescue, saving Emelon from Saracen raiders on the way. Clovis’ other two sons have betrayed him. One is killed, but Geté flees to Baume, and succeeds Galien as king. Floovant and Maugalie become king and queen of France.



For the FioravanteAndrea da Barberino, and the Reali di Francia see our page on Fiovo.

Fioravante and Andrea are in very close agreement for this section, with the main difference being Andrea’s greater loquacity.

Fiorello, son of Fiovo, son of Emperor Gostatino who was baptized by Pope Sylvester in 322, is king of France. Riccieri is duke of Sansogna. Fiorello marries Biancadora of Bavaria. His brother Fiore is king of Dardenna, and is father of Lione, Lionello, and Uliana. At age 20, Biancadora gives birth to Fioravante, who has a cross-shaped birthmark on his right shoulder, as Bevis of Hampton, Charlemagne, Orlando, and William of Orange later would. Fioravante cuts the beard of Salardo of Brettagnia, because he snores. The Queen gives her son Gioiosa [Joyeuse] when he is banished, and sends the Paladin Riccieri after him. The princess Fioravante rescues is Uliana, his cousin, and her father is fighting King Balante of Balda. He calls himself Guerrino, so she won’t recognize him. He fights with Finau, the son of King Galerano, whence Riccieri rescues him, killing Finau.

After killing a rogue who tried to rob them, they come to Dardenna, fight King Mambrino, nephew of Balante, and are succored by Tibaldo di Lime [Urbain the Allemand]. They present Uliana to her father, and she marries Tibaldo. King Fiore’s sons are Lione and Lionello, who betray Fioravante and Riccieri to Balante and Galerano. Balante’s daughter Drusolina and Galerano’s daughter Galerana fall in love with Fioravante. When the prince indicates his preference for Drusolina, Galerana retires to her chamber and dies of grief. Drusolina throws her body into the moat, and pretends that it was an accident. Tibaldo di Lime takes the news to Fiore, and then summons Emperor Arcadio and Pope Innocent Albanus [this is the year 345, according to the book] to send an army. At the siege, Tibaldo kills the traitors Lione and Lionello, but Balante kills him and King Fiore. Drusolina, after being baptized, releases her beloved Fioravante and Riccieri to aid the Christians. Galerano is killed in the ensuing fight, and Balante flees, taking his wife and daughter with him. Fiorello inherits the kingdom, and Fioravante and Riccieri return home. The Queen wishes her son to wed Salardo’s daughter. Fioravante makes excuses, and leaves to find his beloved Drusolina.

On the road, his squire steals his horse and sword [Durindarda here, introduced out of nowhere]. Fioravante recovers them, and travels to Scondia. Here the son of the Sultan of Babylon [Cairo] is besieging that city, for love of Drusolina. He fends off the advances of a damsel who dies for love of him, and takes service with Balante, pretending [to all except Drusolina] to be a knight who has killed Fioravante and stolen his armor. He wins the war, peace is made, but his identity is revealed, and Balante throws his savior in prison. Drusolina and her mother help him escape, and the lovers flee to Monfalcon, where Balante besieges them.

Meanwhile, Fiorello, Fioravante’s father and king of France, dies. Since all think Fioravante is dead, too, they wish to crown Riccieri. But the court jester knows where the prince is, but only reveals it after being promised the Countess of Flanders as wife in exchange for the information. Riccieri, the Emperor Arcadio [the 41st emperor, says the book] and the Pope ride to the rescue. They save the day again. Balante is defeated and baptized, and Fioravante takes his love back to France and weds her.

The Queen Mother, the Countess of Flanders, and Salardo’s wife and daughter all hate Drusolina. It happens that a poor widow comes begging to the court, with her twin infants. Drusolina remarks that this cannot happen without adultery. Fioravante rebukes her for saying so, and informs her that a woman can have up to seven children at a birth, and adultery has nothing to do with it.

Soon enough, the princess herself gives birth to twin sons. Shortly thereafter the Queen Mother orders a servant named Antonio to wait in Drusolina’s room while she sleeps, and brings Fioravante to see. He, enraged, immediately kills Antonio, but can’t kill his wife or children, thanks to Drusolina’s prayer to Mary. Riccieri runs in, and calms Fioravante down. The king sentences his wife and children to burn at the stake. The fire, however, does not hurt her, but does spread to the Queen Mother’s palace. Riccieri rescues Drusolina, and flees with her and the babies to the forest. He leaves her in a safe place while he goes to try to talk sense into Fioravante. As Drusolina sleeps, Giogante the thief steals one baby, and a lion the other.

Giogante is captured and hanged, and the boy given to a merchant of Paris named Chimento, who names him Gisberto Fier Visaggio [Gisbert of the Fierce Face] and raises him as his own. When Gisberto is eighteen, he takes part in a tournament, and is taken into favor by King Fioravante, and eventually made seneschal. Meanwhile, Saint Mark, disguised as a lion, accompanies Drusolina and her other son, Ottaviano del Lione, back to Scondia, where, unrecognized, the three live at king Balante’s court. She takes the name Rosana. Old Danebruno, the Sultan of Babylon [Cairo] hears the news, and demands that such a wondrous lion be sent to him. When Rosana refuses, he sends his son to besiege Scondia, which is not far from Bruges. [remember that Saxon and Saracen are interchangeable in old romances, and this makes much more sense]. Ottaviano captures the young Sultan, makes peace, and takes his daughter for wife. During the war, Balante’s vassal, the giant Giliante, had revolted. Now Balante and Ottaviano subdue him. Then they make war on Fioravante. That king and Riccieri are captured and thrown in prison, where Drusolina recognizes them. Gisberto and Ottaviano duel, but Saint Mark throws off his disguise, parts them, and reveals all. Balante is baptized [again?] and leaves his kingdom to Ottaviano. Fioravante’s mother is burnt at the stake. Fioravante himself lives three more years, then dies, leaving France to Gisberto. Drusolina dies five years after.


The horrors of the Reformation and the arrogance of the Renaissance wrought an incalculable destruction to medieval art, and the Dutch Charlemagne romances were among the hardest hit. Some two dozen romances are known, most of which survive only in one or two fragments. Why this is so can only be guessed at, but the most likely explanation is that the Dutch nobility read the romances in the original French, and preserved them in elaborate manuscripts that were made partly as status symbols, while Dutch translations were made for the bourgeoisie, in plain manuscripts that no one was interested in preserving from the scrap heap.1

1 Have, J. B. van der, “The Manuscripts of the Middle Dutch Charlemagne Romances.” Olifant 26.2 (2011) 9-34. p. 29.

As for Flovent, it survives only in two fragments, totaling just over 600 lines, in rhyming couplets, dated between 1330 and 1370.2

2 Have, J. B. van der, “The Manuscripts of the Middle Dutch Charlemagne Romances.” Olifant 26.2 (2011) 9-34. p. 27.


Bartsch, Karl, “Flovent,” in Germania, IX (1864) 407-436.

Fragment 1: …Galien and the Saracens are besieging Floovant, Margalia, and the twelve Peers. Flure of Antsai, Duke Hemelioen of Bavaria, Ritzier, and Lucari the hermit arrive with an army. Maugalie helps the French escape, and they triumph. Margalia is crowned, and marries Floovant. Ritzier marriers Fleur di rose [evidently Flure’s daughter]. Galien lays siege to Paris with fifteen kings. Clovis, however, isn’t there, so Galien besieges Laon instead. He builds Purlepont to stop the army from Anstai. Clovis wishes that he hadn’t banished Floovant for offending Salvaerd. With his sons Germin and Severin, and the castellan Rigant, he makes a sally…

Fragment 2: …Claude, the Queen, on the walls, sees an army coming. All in the city arm. Clovis’ son Disdier joins Galien, who has promised him Bavaria. He almost kills Severin, but Rigant takes the blow and is slain. Floovant, with army and Joyeuse, arrives. Hemelioen, Lucari, and Flure are killed. Ritzier kills Disdier and Galien. After winning the battle, he announces his intent to turn hermit…


The Pan-Hispanic Ballad Project collects eighteen versions of Floresvento. The format is Date Collected, Location. First printed edition, page number. (Pan-Hispanic Ballad Project number). For the sigla of the ballad collections, see this page.

A: 1869, Velas, Velas, Isla de S. Jorge, Azores, Portugal. Braga, Romanceiro Geral, 230-231. (PHBP 0343:16)

B: 1869, Ribeira de Areias, Velas, Isla de S. Jorge, Azores, Portugal. Braga, Romanceiro Geral, 232-233. (PHBP 0343:17)

C: 1883, Vimioso, Vimioso, Braganza, Trás-os-Montes, Portugal. Leite de Vasconcellos 1886A,4 19. (PHBP 0343:12)

4 The PHBP lists this ballad as first published in Leite de Vasconcellos 1883. However, since the article known by that sigla is impossible to find on the internet, we here give the second time the ballad was published.

D: 1902, Braganza, Braganza, Trás-os-Montes, Portugal. Leite de Vasconcellos 1958-1960, I:44. (PHBP 0343:9)

E: 1906, Vinhais, Vinhais, Braganza, Trás-os-Montes, Portugal. Tavares 1906B, 297. (PHBP 0343:15)

F: 19??, Castiñeira, Vilariño de Conso, Pobra de Trives, Viana do Bolo Ourense, Spain. RT-Galicia 1998, p. 181. (PHBP 0343:1)

G: 1928, Vinhais, Vinhais, Braganza, Trás-os-Montes, Portugal. Martins 1928, 219. (PHBP 0343:13)

H: 1938, Vinhais, Vinhais, Braganza, Trás-os-Montes, Portugal. Martins 1938, 26. (PHBP 0343:14)

I: 1958, Parada de Infanções. Braganza, Braganza, Trás-os-Montes, Portugal. Leite de Vasconcellos 1958-1960, I:43-44. (PHBP 0343:8)

J: 1958, Salselas, Macedo de Cavaleiros, Braganza, Trás-os-Montes, Portugal. Leite de Vasconcellos 1958-1960, I:43. (PHBP 0343:11)

K: 1960, Parada de Infanções. Braganza, Braganza, Trás-os-Montes, Portugal. Leite de Vasconcellos 1958-1960, II:482. (PHBP 0343:10)

L: 1969, As Lajes das Flores, As Lajes das Flores, Isla de As Flores, Azores, Portugal. Purcell 1987, Ilhas, 6.1, pp. 80-81 (PHBP 0343:18)

M: 1969, Ponta Ruiva, Ponta Ruiva, Santa Cruz das Flores, Isla de As Flores, Azores, Portugal. Purcell 1987, Ilhas, 6.2, pp. 81-82 (PHBP 0343:19)

N: 1980, Baçal, Braganza, Braganza, Trás-os-Montes, Portugal. Costa Fontes 1987c, I, p. 38, no. 59 (PHBP 0343:2)

O: 1980, Sacóias, Braganza, Braganza, Trás-os-Montes, Portugal. Costa Fontes 1987c, I, p. 38, no. 60a-b (PHBP 0343:3)

P: 1980, Santalha, Vinhais, Braganza, Trás-os-Montes, Portugal. Costa Fontes 1987c, I, p. 39, no. 61a-b (PHBP 0343:4)

Q: 1980, Carção, Vimioso, Braganza, Trás-os-Montes, Portugal. Costa Fontes 1987c, I, p. 39-40, no. 62 (PHBP 0343:5)

R: 1984, Portugal. Costa Fontes 1997b, p. 77 (PHBP 0343:6)

Question marks in the following summary indicate my ignorance of Portuguese, not gaps in the texts.

Joãozinho A, Flores e Ventos B, Cruelbento CK, Cruelvento DEGHIJNOPQR, Crua o vento F, Florbento K, Florevento M, on Christmas Eve ABLM, wins a hundred doubloons at gambling (?) ABM, kills a priest ACEFK, seven priests B, three priests DGJOPR, a hundred priests LM, at the altar (before cockcrow, at the moment of consecration G), rapes seven maidens ABM (three CDEQ, three royal maidens FGIKNOPR, kills seven maidens L), and burns seven castles/cities ABLM (three C, three in Portugal DEIK, three churches in Portugal FGJNOPQR). He kills three babies (?) I. He robs seven rich men Q.

ABM: The authorities, (His father the king B) wish to kill him, but his mother (and her servants M) has him banished instead. He wanders through strange lands, where he cannot find bread, nor wine, nor water, and at last he goes to the Holy Land.

CEHIJKLMNOQR: He offers to pay for the castles/churches, marry the maidens or pay their dowry, and seek God’s pardon for the priest(s) (babies I). Money cannot atone for rape Q.

DEGHI: He is sentenced to go overseas (Africa, and the ship will sink G, A land with no bread nor wine H)

D: The rivers he crosses will be difficult. The fountains he drinks at will run dry (also GI). His wife will be faithless, his children worthless.

I: None will give him water. He will not eat his bread nor sleep in peace.

LM: No one will give him bread, and his wife will be faithless. Dona Branca takes two cavaliers as her lovers while her husband is away. He comes home and asks whose two hats are hanging up, and whose two white horses are in the stables, but she says they are gifts for him L. He finds the men and threatens to kill her, but ultimately leaves her punishment to God M.

If it were not for the names in a few versions, and for the Queen’s intercession in ABM, this ballad’s descent from Floovant would be utterly undetectable.


No one is sure. The truth appears to be a combination of the following theories and the ever-fertile imagination of minstrels.

Theory 1: The song was inspired by Dagobert I, known to French children as Le Bon Roi Dagobert. According to legend, he cut off the beard of Sadragesile, duke of Aquitaine, who was his tutor and was plotting to usurp the throne. In real life, Dagobert did indeed marry the Saxon serving-girl Nanthilde, and made war on the still-pagan Saxons.

Theory 2A: The historical Clovis had four sons. One of them, Clotaire, fought the Saxons in 555 and 556, whereupon his brother Childebert attacked his territory and besieged Laon. Also, the plot of Floovant is very similar to that of Lohier and Mallart, and Lohier is the same name as Clotaire.

Theory 2B: Clovis’ other son, Theuderic, who also warred against the Pagans. [Incidentally, Theuderic’s son Theudebert killed the historical Hygelac, from Beowulf, in this war.] Theuderic also warred, with his brothers, against the Burgundians, and married their princess Suavegotha.

The French Floovant was probably written between 1170 and 1200, after Fierabras and La Chevalerie Ogier, but before Auberi le Bourguignon. It was most likely the ancestor of the other versions. The further adventures of Drugiolina and her sons Gisberto and Ottavione in I Reali are lifted almost wholesale from the romance of Octavian. The Portuguese ballad probably came from the Italian, directly or indirectly. Flovents Saga (or its lost French source) appears to have attracted some elements from Floovant into its retelling of Fiovo.

Let thus much suffice for Floovant, and let us now speak of Ottaviano del Lione.

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.



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