Book I, Canto VII, Part 2

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

21
He would have been a captive, or a corpse,
But as I said, Alfrera reappeared,
Swinging his iron mace with deadly force
As through th’advancing Christian host he sheared.
Burgundian Gui he topples from his horse,
And good Duke Naimo of the hoary beard.
But Olivier, Dudon, and Charlemagne
All three at once against the giant came.

22
One charges from that side, and one from this.
Boldly and gallantly they urge their steeds.
He cannot turn his giraffe around. It is
By nature quite a lazy, sluggish beast.
He swings great strokes, but all of them just miss.
Charles and his companions dodge with ease.
Since nought he did availed him, he abated
His fight and fled to where Gradasso waited.

23
His flight the haughty lord Gradasso spies,
Who used to hold him in a high regard.
He turns to him in anger, and he cried:
“Ah, worthless coward, vile sack of lard!
Art thou not shamed, so cravenly to fly?
Art thou so great of limb and small of heart?
Go wait inside my tent, thou scorned of men,
And never let me see thee armed again!”

24
He ceases talking and he spurs his horse,
And with one thrust he overthrows Dudon.
And with what seems a more than human force
He floors Ricardo and King Salamon.
The men of Sericane behind him course.
Their dragon-hearted king deserves his throne.
His lance was iron bound, twenty feet long.
The world has never seen a man so strong.

25
Against Count Ganellone he collides,
Striking the falcon’s breast upon his shield.
He knocks him to the ground, his legs sprawled wide,
Then spies King Charlemagne across the field.
His lance in rest, with utmost speed he rides,
And with one blow, his seat the emperor yields.
But as Gradasso Baiard’s bridle clasped,
That destrier turned its croup, and lightning fast

26
With a loud neighing, he kicks out his heels,
And just below the knee gives such a clout
That though his greaves were of enchanted steel,
Yet they were dented in, while sparks flew out.
Worse pain than ever now Gradasso feels.
It runs all through him, so he turns about,
And leaves Baiardo, letting fall the rein;
The good beast swiftly back to Paris came.

27
Gradasso flees in anguish to his tent.
You all may guess what agony he’s in.
Straightaway for an agéd man he sent,
A master of the art of medicine.
He binds the wound with skill, and then presents
A potion brewed from herbs and roots to him,
Which, when Gradasso quaffs it all, it seems
As if his wound were nothing but a dream.

28
To battle he returns, sans pain or fear .
In fact, he’s even fiercer than before.
Against him gallops Marquis Olivier,
But with one blow he knocks him to the floor.
Avin, Avolio, Guido, Angelier,
Without a pause he overthrows all four
To tell it shortly, ev’ry Paladin
Was by Gradasso captured with great vim.

29
The Christian people turn about and flee;
Against the Saracens no more they fight.
The Frankish lords are in captivity.
The other rabble in distress take flight.
No Christian faces do the pagans see;
Captives or slain are all the valiant knights.
And of the rest, none than the next is bolder,
And all show to the Saracens their shoulders.

30
Now all of Paris hears the tidings dread
Of the defeat, and Karl’s captivity.
Ogier the Dane leaps up at once from bed,
Lamenting loudly, as a baron free.
He donned his arms, then to the gate he sped
On foot, not waiting even for his steed.
But he commanded it be harnessed straight,
And brought to meet him at the Paris gate.

31
When he arrived, he found the gate was down,
And from without he hears the woeful cry
Of all the baptized cruelly cut down.
The murd’rous porter at his ease there lies;
So that the Pagans enter not the town
He is content that his compatriots die.
The Dane him bids to open up the gate;
He clearly sees he can’t a minute wait.

32
The scowling porter, like a churl, informs
The Dane he has no wish to raise the gate,
And with proud boasts he blusters and he storms
That his appointed post he’ll ne’er forsake.
Ogieri lifts his axe, which so alarms
The porter, that he doesn’t hesitate
To run away in terror with a shout.
Ogieri opes the gate and rushes out.

33
Upon the bridge forth strides the gallant knight;
With axe in readiness he takes his stand.
Now is he fortunate to have keen sight,
For as in terror fled the Christian band,
Each of them wishing to be first in flight,
The swiftest Pagans mixed among them ran.
The mighty Dane perceives them where they go,
And with his axe he brings them all to woe.

34
The Pagan army ever closer sped.
Don Serpentino leads them their attack.
Upon the bridge, as swift as lightning, leapt
The Danish hero, brandishing his axe,
And brought it down on Serpentino’s head.
The sparks fly from his helm, which would have cracked
If Serpentino’s armor were not made
By magic art, secure from all such blades.

35
The Dane upon the Pagan army gazed.
Gradasso led, and mighty Ferragu.
So many enemies Ogieri faced,
He clearly saw that nothing could he do.
He called behind him that the bridge be raised.
There never was a knight so brave and true.
Alone against the Pagan host he fights,
And keeps them off the bridge in their despite.

36
Gradasso confidently ‘gainst him came,
Ordering all his vassals to step back.
Ogieri hears the gate shut with a clang,
And in a brave despair he lifts his axe.
Gradasso seizes it, to snap in twain,
Then lights down off his charger, and he grasps
The Dane, who’s stout and skilled in wrestling play,
But King Gradasso carries him away.

37
No knights were left to make an opposition,
As day gave was unto the dusky knight.
The priests lead all the people in processions,
With pure intent, and clad in garments white.
Open is ev’ry church, and ev’ry prison
With fear and terror they await the light.
None dare to rest, for once the gates are breached,
Destruction waits alike for all and each.

38
Astolfo with the others was set free;
No one remembered that he was alive;
For once he’d been thrown in captivity
A rumor went around that he had died.
His habit was to talk incessantly
And brag more proudly than I could describe.
He heard the news, and “Oh, alas!” he moaned,
“Of my arrest, Gradasso must have known!

39
“Had I not been thrown in a dungeon cell,
King Charlemagne would have no cause to moan.
But even now, I can make all things well,
I’ll take Gradasso pris’ner by my lone.
Soon as the dawning o’er th’horizon swells
I’ll arm myself and mount upon my roan.
You all, stand on the walls and watch me fight.
Woe to the infidel who tests my might!”

40
Meanwhile, joy possessed the pagan races.
They cheer their ruler and upon him fawn.
His glee unbounded written on his face is,
Dreaming of seizing Paris at the dawn.
He’s put Alfrera back in his good graces.
Now to review his prisoners he’s gone.
When he sees Charlemagne, he sits down, and
He takes his fellow monarch by the hand

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No notes for this Part.

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Notes to the Seventh Canto, Part 1

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

1. Curtana. Or Cortana, or Cortain, or Curtain. Ogier’s sword. The name means “Short”, and how he got this sword is told in Le Chevalerie Ogier le Danois.
3. Gui of Burgundy. Hero of Fierabras, and husband of the giant Fierabras’ sister Floripas.
15. The Bavarian. Naimo.

Back to Part 1

On to Part 2

The Legend of Emperor Octavian

The legend of Octavian has only a marginal connection to the legend of Charlemagne, but it was the inspiration for the second part of Book II of the Reali di Francia, and one Irish version does set it in the reign of Charlemagne. All other versions are set in the reign of Dagobert. This story has no relation to Augustus Caesar.

The legend of Octavian is extant in three major redactions. Please note that I have given them this classification myself; it does not reflect scholarly usage.

THE FIRST REDACTION
Octavian. A French poem in octosyllables, mid to late 1200’s, ancestor of all other versions.

Octovion. The Northern English version. A poem in tail-rhyme. Can be found in EETS vol. 289, or in TEAMS Four Middle English Romances. c. 1350.

Sechrain Na Banimpire. Or “The Wanderings of the Empress”. Irish prose, flowery like most Irish translations. Englished by Carl Marstrander in “Sechrain Na Banimpire.” Ériu No. 5, 1911. [not freely available on the internet, due to a lack of copies of the journal in America and the idiotic length of copyright in Europe. Be comforted, however. You’re not missing much.]

Octovion. The Southern English version. A poem in six-line aaabab stanzas, with the b lines shorter than the a’s. [This is best known nowadays as Robert Burns’ signature stanza]. Can be found in Weber’s Metrical Romances. No modern edition for the general reader. c. 1350.

THE SECOND REDACTION

Florent et Lyon. French prose, first printed around 1500, but perhaps written earlier, the ancestor of the French chapbooks. No modern editions.

Kaiser Octavianus. A German chapbook, from 1545.

Hans Sach’s play, 1555.

Sebastian Wilde’s poem, 1566.

Danish chapbook, oldest surviving from 1597, probably first printed earlier.

A Polish version from the 1600’s.

The Russian translation, made from the Polish around 1670. No edition, to my knowledge.

Komediya Olundina, or Caesar Otto. A play based on the above by Princess Natalya Alexeyevna, sister of Peter the Great. Included in I. A. Shlyapkin’s Tsarevna Natalya Alekseyevna I teatr yevo vremeni.

A Very Edifying and Touching Tale of an Empress and Her Two Sons and a Lioness. A shorter Russian chapbook version, with no proper names. Published in P. N. Rybnikov’s Pesni, volume 3.

Another play based on that, which was part of the standard repertoire in the schools during Peter the Great’s reign. To be found in S. A. Shcheglova’s Neizvestnaya drama Petrovsky epokhi o tsaritse i l’vitse. In the journal Trudy komissii po drevnerusskoy literature, 1932, I, pp.153-229.

Naturally, none of the Russian works have been translated into English.

Dutch chapbook, oldest surviving from 1621, probably first printed earlier.

Icelandic chapbook, oldest surviving from 1733, probably first printed earlier.

The French prose and its descendents [German, Danish, Dutch, Icelandic, Polish, Russian] are distinguished by renaming the younger Octavian “Lion”, and adding an episode where he wins a tournament and therefore marries the daughter of the King of Spain. They also make Florence become King of England.

THE LONG REDACTION

Florent and Octavian. A chanson de geste in rhymed alexandrines. Some claim it is the original, but much more likely it is an expansion of the octosyllabic version. c. 1356.

Othovyan. A prose adaptation of the long version and of Le Bone Florence de Rome. Circa 1450. Never printed.

 

OCTAVIAN IN OCTOSYLLABLES

Emperor Octavian of Rome, after fifteen years of childlessness, begets twins on his wife, the daughter of King Dagobert of France. His mother says twins are a sign of adultery. The emperor denies it, but his mother slips a page boy into the empress’ bed and shows him to Octavian. As the empress has a prophetic nightmare, Octavian beheads the boy, and when she wakes up, he banishes her. As she rests by a spring, her children are stolen, one  by an ape and one by a lioness. The one stolen by the ape is rescued by a knight, captured by robbers, and bought by a merchant of Paris named Clement, who names him Florent and raises him as his own. The one stolen by the lioness is recovered by his mother, who journeys with him and the lioness [for lions have no power to harm chaste women of royal blood] to Jerusalem, where she is treated kindly by the king. Her son, Octavian, is dubbed a knight when he comes of age.

Florent, meanwhile, due to his high birth, has no talent for business, and wastes all his money on horses, hounds and hawks, much to his foster father’s displeasure. After some humorous scenes, a Sultan attacks Paris, bringing his giant Aragonour and his daughter Marsibelle with him. Emperor Octavian rides to succor King Dagobert. Aragonour promises Marsibelle the head of King Dagobert. Armed in a rusty suit of armor he found in Clement’s attic, Florent kills the giant, and presents his head to Marsibelle, and proceeds to carry her off, but is obliged to leave her when he is ambushed by pagans, much to the princess’ regret. He returns to Paris, and she with her maid Olive, plans to see him again. Clement and Florent are presented to Dagobert and Octavian, and Florent is dubbed. Much humor is made about Clement’s practical, thrifty, behavior at the extravagant court feast.

Florent volunteers to be a messenger, in order to see Marsibelle again. At the Sultan’s tent, however, he is recognized, and must fight his way home. He does, however, receive Marsibelle’s sleeve, and wears it in the next battle. Later, he sneaks into her garden, and she tells him to steal her father’s unicorn. Clement, disguised as a Saracen, accomplishes this. Nonetheless, the Saracens capture Florent, Dagobert, and Octavian in the next battle.

This news comes to Jerusalem, whence the young Octavian, his mother, and the lioness set out with an army. He saves the captives, and all recognize each other. Marsibelle converts and marries Florent, Octavian’s mother is sentenced to boil in brass, but stabs herself instead, and everyone else lives happily ever after.

 ENGLISH OCTOVIAN

Octavian’s seven-year barrenness is cured not by coincidence, but by prayer to Our Lady and by endowing a monastery. Octavian throws the page boy’s head at the queen to wake her up. In the Northern version, he refrains from sentencing her until he has invited her father, [who is not Dagobert, here, but the king of Calabria] to court and asked him what adulteresses deserve. He answers that they deserve to be burnt, and Octavian sentences the queen accordingly, only commuting her sentence to banishment when she is already tied to the stake. The queen, living in Jerusalem, is taken into King Amauri’s household, instead of merely being known to him. In the Southern version, Clement is a butcher, not a merchant.

 IRISH OCTAVIAN

From the Northern English. King Charlemagne replaces Dagobert, and Roland, Oliver, Ogier, Naymes, Gui of Burgundy, and Denis [probably Saint Denis, but here king of Norway!] at first refuse to fight the Sultan’s giant, and afterwards are captured by the Sultan alongside Plurens [Florent]. Plurens marries the Sultan’s daughter Felicita, and Octavian marries Charlemagne’s daughter.

 FLORENT ET LYON

The French prose and its descendents [German, Danish, Dutch, Icelandic, Polish, Russian] are distinguished by renaming the younger Octavian “Lion”, and adding an episode where he wins a tournament and therefore marries the daughter of the King of Spain. They also make Florence become King of England. I will pass over this redaction, because it has nothing to do with Charlemagne, only noting that by the time the story reached Russia, the emperor was named Otto, and the empress Olunda.

FLORENT ET OCTAVIEN IN ALEXANDRINES

The story is set in the year 240, under Dagobert, the fourth king of his line, who founded the Abbey of Saint Denis. Emperor Octavian, long childless, goes to help him fight the Wandres [Vandals?] and returns to find his wife Florimonde has given birth to twins, and been accused of adultery, despite the red crosses on their shoulders [a sign of royal blood]. The story continues as the short version, only changing a few names (the sultan is Acarius, the giant Fernagu), until the younger Octavian is sixteen, at which time the Sultan of Damascus demands the hand of Esclarmonde, daughter of King Amauri of Jerusalem. Octavian and his lion defeat the sultan, and the lad wins the love of Esclarmonde. Traitors wrongfully tell the king that he has deflowered her, and so Amauri sends Octavian to the Sultan with a Bellerophon-letter. The Sultan decides to keep him imprisoned instead of killing him, and marches on Jerusalem. Amauri surrenders Esclarmonde, who discovers the situation, pretends that she sent the letter, and asks for the favor of killing Octavian herself, immediately. The sultan sends her with a jailer to the dungeon, but she kills him and frees her lover. The two flee with the lion. They sail from Acre to Rome, still under siege by Acarius, who has captured the Emperor and Florent. Octavian’s traitorous minister Couart is mulling how best to surrender, when Dagobert arrives, and saves the day with the young Octavian and the lion’s help. The youth exposes his grandmother as a fraud, and defeats Couart, her lover, in a trial by combat. Couart is hanged, but the young Octavian manages to get his grandmother’s sentence reduced from burning to perpetual imprisonment.
Acarius retreats, but still has Florent and Octavian senior in captivity. Octavian junior follows him to Babylon, stopping en route to save Amauri from the Sultan of Damascus. Amauri is mortally wounded in the battle, but pardons Octavian and bequeaths him his daughter and his kingdom. Octavian leads his new kingdom to war against Babylon, but on the way he learns of Margalie, Marsebille’s sister, who is locked in Castel-Geant, where only minstrels are allowed to visit. Dressed as a minstrel, he goes to her, who fortunately has fallen in love with him by report. Her uncle, King Malaquin, catches the happy couple, and a fight ensues which ends with Octavian and his lady’s maid holding a tower against his garrison. The maid shows him a secret passage, and he slips away to defeat Acarius, and thereby win Margalie’s hand in marriage.
One month later, as they reign in Babylon [Mesopotamian Babylon, for once; not Cairo], Clement, his son Clodoan, Esclarmonde and Marsebille arrive. The awkwardness is resolved by wedding Florentto Marsebille, and Clodoan to Esclarmonde, and giving this last couple the throne of Babylon. Clement receives Jerusalem, and the brothers and their wives go home to Italy.
King Morgan of Tartary lays siege to Babylon. Esclarmonde kills her husband by treason, and sends to young Octavian for aid. He arrives, and she steals his seal to send a forged letter to Marsebille, luring her onto a ship bound for the Levant. Esclarmonde’s goons are about to throw her overboard, when she is saved by prayer. She meets King Corsabrun of Rochebrune’s ship, who is bringing aid to Morgan. He drowns her persecutors, and brings her to Rochebrune, where he leaves her as governor while he makes war. Octavian thinks his wife is dead, thanks to Esclarmonde. King Cladius of Tarse abandons Corsabrun after a quarrel at chess, and joins Octavian, converting to Christianity. They two go to Jerusalem for help from Clement. They rest at Rochebrun, where the lion recognizes Marsebille and refuses to leave her, much to Octavian’s bafflement. On his way back from Jerusalem with thirty thousand soldiers, he besieges Rochebrun to get his lion back, and all is explained. They go to Babylon, rout the Tartars, burn Esclarmonde at the stake, and Octavian is again Sultan.
Florent returns from a trip to Paris to find a note from Marsebille, saying she has taken their son Othonet to Babylon to see her family. But really, traitors told her he was dead, then, when she wanted to sail home, threw her and her son overboard. She is rescued by merchants of Palerne and Aumarie, who take her to be a slave in Palerme and him to be a slave in Aumarie. The traitors try to kill Florent in his bedroom, who jumps out the window, escapes, rallies his faithful men, and kills them. He then goes to Babylon, but is caught be Saracen pirates, who sell him to the King of Palerne. He is comforted by Princess Police. Meanwhile, Corsaut of Aumaries, a giant, defies the King of Palerne, but Florent kills him. Corsaut’s men, though, seize him and sell him to the King of Aumarie, where he meets Marsebille. The two escape and flee to Rome. Othonent, meanwhile, is being raised by the Saracen King of Palerne as his own son, under the name of Aceré. At sixteen, he is dubbed, conquers Aumarie, and learns he is adopted, which gladdens him, as he can now wed Police. He leads his army to Rome, is captured by Florent, who recognizes him. When his fellow Saracens refuse to follow his example in conversion, he is obliged to rout them. Police is the only one who converts. Marsebille dies soon after, and Florent goes to end his days in Babylon with Octavian, leaving Othon as king of Rome. He was the father of La Bonne Florence, whose story is announced to follow in all manuscripts, but only does so in one verse MS, and all the prose ones.

Since La Bonne Florence’s story originated separately, was only attached to Octavian in a late version, continued to circulate independently afterwards, and has nothing to do with Charlemagne, it will be treated of in a later post, if at all.

So let us leave thus subject, and treat of King Rother.