The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto VIII, Stanzas 21-40
Rinaldo says to him, “Thou soon wilt know
Which of us two can better wield a blade!”
And viciously towards the brute he goes.
When the brute saw him, he was so afraid,
He turned his shoulders and he was not slow
But swiftly for a little stream he made.
One only bridge across this stream was thrown,
The which was made of one enormous stone.
On one end of the bridge there was a ring,
To which the giant fixed the chain’s hook tightly,
And when Rinaldo on the bridgestone springs,
And is about to slay the giant lightly,
The villain pulls the chain with all his strength.
The bridge collapses, “Holy God Almighty,”
Rinaldo cries, “O Virgin Mother, save –”
And with these words, he fell into a cave.
The cavern was tenebrous, foul, and wet,
And over it, rolled on the river black.
Across the mouth of it was spread a net
In which the baron’s captured. Nor doth slack
The foul giant. He takes no rest yet,
But slings the trussed-up knight across his back
And taunts him. “Wherefore didst thou give my friend
Such trouble? I still caught thee in the end.”
Rinaldo makes no answer to the churl,
But in his mind he thus laments his state.
“I see, how Fortune in her spite has hurled
Disgrace upon disgrace upon my pate.
Whoever is most luckless in the world
Would count him blessèd if he knew my fate,
For in such misery I have arrived,
I do not know how it could be described.”
As he lamenteth thus, tied up and bound,
The giant to the Cruel Castle came,
Where skulls and severed heads the merlons crowned,
And stuck on hooks, dead men and women hang,
But what was worst of all, were strewn around
The limbs and organs of men freshly slain.
The castle’s crimson stones seem from afar
Fire, but covered with men’s blood they are.
Rinaldo prays to God. He’s all alone.
I must admit that he was filled with fright.
Before him now appears an ancient crone.
Her dress was black, her unkempt hands were white,
Her face was wrinkled, her hands skin and bone.
She seemed both merciless and full of spite.
She bade the giant drop Rinaldo down.
Thus she addresses him, while he’s still bound.
“Perhaps, sir knight, thou’st heard from flying fame,”
The crone beings, “The customs full of sorrow,
Which we upon this barren rock maintain.
If not, then know that thou shalt die tomorrow,
And in what little time to thee remains,
Lest thou shouldst hope a further space to borrow,
I shall relate to thee the root and cause
Of our most cruel customs and fierce laws.
“A noble cavalier of matchless might
Was once this castle’s sovereign and lord.
He gave largesse, and kept his honor bright;
All travelers were welcome at his board.
He gave all wand’rers lodging for the night,
Damsels and pilgrims, cavaliers and bards.
His wife a lady was of high degree;
The fairest woman in the world was she.
“Grifone was this worthy baron named.
As Altaripa was this castle known.
His lady rightly was as Stella famed,
Because her beauty like the day-star shone.
It was in May, when Earth her joy regained,
Grifone left his castle, all alone,
And passed along the rolling ocean’s strand,
The very beach where you this morn did stand.
He roamed into the woods, and chanced to meet
Another knight, who out a-hunting rode.
He hailed him joyfully, and did him greet
With invitation to his own abode.
My husband was this knight of whom I speak:
Marchino, who did fair Aronda hold.
Grifone led him to this very hall,
And honored him, the way he did to all.
“Now, as it happened by unhappy chance,
Stella the beautiful he chanced to see.
And Love became his master with one glance.
He saw her comeliness and modesty,
And on her soft and lovely countenance
He gazed, and Love o’er him had mastery.
He longs for nothing, thinks of nothing else
Than how to have the lady for himself.
“He left the castle, meditating harm,
And came back home. We saw a great change in
His countenance, but knew not Stella’s charms.
He left Aronda with some of his kin
And took a shield that bore Grifone’s arms,
(For in his face, he somewhat looked like him)
And in the forest he did hide his band,
With armor on, and weapons in their hands.
“But he laid by his arms, as if the deer
He meant to hunt, and loud his horn he blew;
Grifon the courteous that winding hears,
For he was in the woods that morning, too.
He finds Marchino the accurst, who peers
Around to spot Grifone’s retinue,
And once he’s certain that he’s all alone,
‘Alas! I’ve lost it!’ he begins to moan.
“He hangs his head and sadly looks around,
Then starts, pretending that he just now sees
Grifon, and says to him, ‘I’ve lost my hound,
And know not where to look among these trees.’
They go together, and soon reach that ground
Where Don Marchino’s men plot villainies.
Not to prolong the history past reason,
They fall upon him and kill him by treason.
“Guised as Grifon, the gates he passes through,
And doesn’t leave a single man alive.
Young men and old, without remorse he slew,
The maidens, and the widows, and the wives.
Stella alone he spared, fair Stella who
Beholds the dead. He heart in anguish writhes.
To kiss and speak her fair Marchino starts,
But makes no impression on that pilgrim heart.
“She always thinks upon the cruel deeds
The wicked traitor wrought deceitfully,
And always close within her heart she keeps
Her much-belov’d Grifone’s memory.
Vengeance for him’s the only thing she seeks,
Vengeance, she thinks no thing could sweeter be.
At last, he cruel desires find consummation
Through the most fearful being in creation.
“The creature deadliest, most merciless,
The one most ravenous. More fierce than Hell is she:
A wife, who once was loved, who once knew bliss,
Who has been scorned and thus succumbs to jealousy.
The fiercest lion’s not more pitiless.
Than firedrakes or scorpions more fell is she.
Such is the wife, such is the woeful lover,
Who sees herself forsaken for another.
“I may well say it, for I proved it true,
When I found out about my husband’s deeds.
No greater grief I ever had been through.
Like a mad dog I howled in my grief.
When thou hear’st of the cruelty I used
That day, it scarce will win from thee belief.
But when love hath by jealousy been slain,
‘Tis strange if any goodness there remain.
“By my Marchino I had two young sons;
I slit the first one’s throat with my own hand.
The other stood and saw what I had done,
And said, ‘Stop, Mother! I don’t understand!’
I grabbed him by his feet, the wretched one,
And dashed his brains out on a boulder grand.
And dost thou think that my revenge was done?
May, rather I had only just begun.
“They still were warm, when I them cut in four;
And drew their little hearts out of their chests.
I chopped their limbs up. How my heart was sore!
But lust for vengeance all my soul possessed.
I save their heads, not for the love I bore
Them once. No love remained within m y breast.
I had no love, no pity, no remorse.
I wished to give my vengeance greater force.