Book I, Canto XII, Part 2

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

21
“But let my death, O gracious God, be hid
Within these woods, and never let her know
How I and she at once of grief were rid.
Let none lament me, none feel any woe.
May sorrow never damp her gen’rous lids,
And make her wish that pity she had shown.
Although she pains me so, I love her yet,
Even in death, my love I’ll ne’er forget!”

22
The lamentations of that noble lord
With broken words and mixed with sighing came,
And from its scabbard he withdrew his sword,
As pale as if already he were slain,
And ever called on her whom he adored,
Hoping to die and speak Tisbina’s name,
For calling on that name he hoped to rise
Alongside that fair name to Paradise.

23
But she, with her beloved, stood nearby,
And all the baron’s burning woes she hears.
Iroldo’s breast with pity swelleth high,
And all his face was covered with his tears;
And with his lady he resolves to try
To fend of this catastrophe which nears.
Iroldo hidden in the thicket stays,
While Tisbin shows her to her lover’s gaze.

24
That she has heard his plaints she gives no clue,
Nor that she’s heard him call her cruel and cold.
But as the branches she is pushing through,
She feigns astonishment, him to behold,
And says, “Prasildo, if thy love is true,
Which oft before thou didst to me unfold,
Do not abandon me in my great need.
For if thou fail me, I am doomed indeed.

25
“And if I were not in a woeful plight,
About to lose my life and my good name,
To such a task I would not thee invite,
For all the world holds not a greater shame
Than asking help from him one’s held in spite.
Thou burnest for me with so great a frame,
And I have always been to thee so hard;
But henceforth shall I hold thee in regard.

26
Upon my honor now I swear to thee,
I’ll pledge my love to thee beyond recall
If thou wilt but fulfill this quest for me;
I trust thy fate no longer hard thou’lt call.
Beside a wood in far-off Barbary,
There lives a garden with an iron wall.
There are four gates which this fair garden hath.
One is the gate of Life, and one of Death.

27
One is of Riches, one of Poverty.
Who comes by one, must out the other go,
And in the midst of it there grows a tree,
Too tall to shoot its top branch with a bow.
All those who see it stand amazedly,
For pearls thereon instead of flowers grow.
The Treasure Tree ‘tis called, I have been told,
Its fruits are emeralds; its boughs are gold.

28
And I must have  a branch of this same tree,
For otherwise I am undone for aye,
And by thy services I shall well see
If thou hast love as much as thou dost say.
I’ll love thee even more than thou dost me,
If thou wilt start thy quest without delay,
My hand and heart together shall reward
Thy laboring; of this be well assured.

29
When Don Prasildo hears he has a chance
To win the love of her who hath no peer,
So much his ardor and desire advance,
He swears to seek the branch, devoid of fear.
He would have offered, for a kindly glance,
To fetch a star, the moon, the sun so dear.
All of the oceans, all the land and air
He would have offered to this lady fair.

30
Without delay upon his quest he goes
To fetch the branch, his lady’s love to claim.
He leaves the city, dressed in pilgrim’s clothes.
Now must thou know Iroldo and his dame
Had sent Prasildo to this garden-close
(The Bower of Medusa was its name)
So that the labor and the flow of time
Would drive Tisbina’s image from his mind.

31
The lovers knew another thing, besides,
That this Medusa was a damsel fair
Who ‘neath the shady Treasure Tree abides,
And whoso spies her lovely visage there
Forgets at once whatever cause him guides.
But he, with word or sign, who greets her there,
Or touches her, or who beside her sits,
Loses at once his mem’ry and his wits.

32
The ardent lover on his journey rides,
Alone with love to keep him company.
O’er the Red Sea within a boat he glides,
And soon Egyptian land behind leaves he.
The Barca mountains finally he nighed,
When an old palmer there he chanced to see;
The ancient man he courteously addressed,
And as they spoke, he told him all his quest.

33
The old man says to him, “Thy kindly fate
It was that guided thee to meet me now.
All of thy doubts and fears thou mayst abase,
For I shall show thee how to win the bough.
Thou only thinkest how to find the gate,
But thy true danger cometh once ‘tis found:
The gates of Life and Death thou must leave be.
Come to Medusa but by Poverty.

34
“Ignorant of this dame I think thou art,
Thou didst not name her, telling of thy quest.
This is the damsel who is joyed at heart
To guard the shining Tree withouten rest.
From him who sees her, memory departs,
And of all wit and sense she him divests.
But if she ever saw her face herself,
She’d flee the garden and forsake her wealth.

35
“No shield except a mirror shalt thou bear,
Wherein the dame her loveliness may ee.
Carry no arms, let all thy limbs be bare,
For thou must enter in through Poverty.
More cruel appearances that gate doth wear
Than any worldly thing, believe thou me.
Not only are all evil things there hatched,
But he who passes by is sorely thrashed.

36
“But at the other gate when thou’lt attempt
To leave, thou’lt meet with Wealth upon her throne.
All of creation holds she in contempt,
Hated by all, she loves herself alone.
Part of thy branch thou must to her extend.
Without a gift, she will not let thee roam,
For Avarice beside her guards the door,
Who, though she owneth much,  yet longs for more.”

37
Prasildo listens with attention close,
And thanks the pilgrim old with all his power,
Then takes his leave and through the desert goes,
And after thirty days draws nigh the bower,
And since the secrets of the place he knows,
He heads for Poverty and does not cower
Although the gate is terrible and vile.
The garden’s treasure makes it all worthwhile.

38
The garden seemed to be a Paradise
Of flowers, bushes, all things lush and green.
The baron held a mirror before his eyes
So that Medusa’s face would go unseen.
Straight forward through the garden walks he hies,
Hoping to find the Tree of golden sheen.
The lady, when she hears him drawing nearer,
Lifts up her head and looks into the mirror.

39
She sees her face, and she is left astounded.
She’d thought her skin was snow, her lips a rose.
Her thoughts of her own beauty were unfounded.
A hideous dragon’s face the mirror shows.
In terror leapt she up; away she bounded.
Died in the distance her laments and woes.
Soon as the knight no longer hears her cries,
He brings the mirror-shield down from his eyes.

40
He goes towards the trunk, from which hath fled
Medusa, that deceitful, ribald witch.
At sight of her own face discomfortéd,
She had abandoned clean her treasure rich.
Prasild breaks off the branch above his head,
And joys that all has gone without a hitch.
He comes towards the gate which Richesse guards,
Who all noblesse and virtue disregards.

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Book I, Canto XII, Part 1

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

ARGUMENT

Dame Fiordelisa tells Rinald a tale,
Their tedious journey somewhat to beguile,
Of how Prasild of Babylon was pale
With love for fair Tisbina, who by guile
Bade him within Medusa’s garden’s rail
Fetch her a branch. He traveled many a mile,
Ere he returned to please his lady fair,
Who tried to kill herself in her despair.

1
I sung already of the battle drear
Were all day long the noise of battle roared
‘Twixt Sacripante, he who knows not fear,
And Agrican, that free and lofty lord,
But no more bitterness will strike your eat,
And a sweet tale of love I shall record,
If it will please you, lords, to call to mind
Where Don Rinaldo we had left last time.

2
The damsel lightly off her palfrey came,
And offers to the cavalier her seat.
Rinaldo answers her, “Thou dost me shame
To think that I could do so ill a deed.”
With speedy words then answered him the dame
That she can’t let him travel on his feet.
At last (for too-long tales make listeners droop)
He swings to saddle, and she takes the croup.

3
At first, the lady felt a little fear
For virtue’s sake, whih she was cautious of,
But all day long she rode, and didn’t hear
Rinaldo speak a single word of love.
Till somewhat reassured, she makes good cheer
And says to him, “O knight all knights above,
Now through a mighty forest must we wend
A hundred leagues across from end to end.

4
“And so that not so long will seem the way,
Through this oppressive and deserted wood,
I’d like to tell a story, if I may,
Which I think thou wilt like. It’s very good.
If ever th’art in Babylon some day,
Ask anyone, they’ll tell thee how it stood.
For a true story, not a fable, I’ll tell,
And all folk in that city know it well.

5
“There was a cavalier, Iroldo hight,
And a fair lady who was called Tisbin.
Such love for him possessed this lady bright
As Tristan had from fair Isold the Queen.
And in return he loved her with such might,
That always, from the dusk to morn’s first beam,
And from dawn’s birth to when the daylight died,
He thinks of her alone and naught beside.

6
“There was a knight, who dwelt nearby these two,
Reckoned of Babylon the finest knight.
This was the common talk, and it was true,
For he was full of courtesy and might.
His many riches which he had, he’d strew
Lavishly, so to keep his honor bright.
Pleasant at feasts and dreadful in the fight,
A courtly lover and an honest knight.

7
This worthy knight, (Prasildo was his name)
Was once invited, to his sore mishap,
Into a garden, where the knights and dames,
Tisbin among them, played a game. One sat
Amidst them, as the mistress of the game,
And one knight hid his head within her lap,
Then she would point to one to tap his hand,
And he must guess who thus obeyed the command.

8
Prasildo stood awhile and watched the fun,
Until Tisbina signalled him to hit.
He tapped the palm of the blind, kneeling one,
Who quickly guessed him, and now he was It.
Face in her lap, he felt such fire run
Through all his veins, and felt his heart so lit,
His only thought is how to answer wrong,
For no time in her lap can seem too long.

9
After the game is over and the feast,
The flame that’s burning in his heart won’t quail.
But all that day its violence increased.
At night, more sharp and bitter pains assail.
He cannot fathom why his face has ceased
To bear its wonted glow and turned so pale,
And why he cannot find repose in sleep.
He finds no place where he his rest can keep.

10
His pillow seems to him to be so hard,
That he would gladly change it for a stone.
The lively sorrow grows within his heart,
From which all other thoughts away have flown.
Sighs without number from his lips depart.
What grief he had, is but to lovers known.
For I can not describe, and no one can,
What love is like to an unloving man.

11
His hunting horses and his hunting hounds
Which he once raised and raced devotedly,
No longer with them is he ever found.
Now he delights in jolly company.
To feasts and parties is he always bound.
Verses he writes and gives them melody.
He often jousts and enters tournaments,
With great destriers and rich apparellments.

12
And if he had some courtesy before,
Now by a hundred times ‘tis multiplied.
For ev’ry virtue always grows the more,
Which finds itself with faithful love allied.
I’ve never known a man who virtue bore,
Which didn’t blossom, having Love for guide.
But this Prasildo, he who loved so greatly,
Grew still more courtly, courteous, and stately.

13
He found himself a faithful advocate,
Who was among Tisbina’s dearest friends,
Who ev’ry evening of Prasildo prates.
Nor did she think the first rebuff the end,
But all for naught. Tisbina wasn’t swayed.
To oaths and prayers would she never bend.
But still the lady didn’t cease attempting;
She knew full well a change is always tempting.

14
She often wheedles her, “O lady fair,
Does not hear opportunity now knock.
When thou hast such a lover, past compare,
Who thinks none fairer under Heaven walks
Than thou? Although thou art of beauty rare,
Yet swift time at thy fading beauty mocks.
Take the delight, and while th’art young, be merry,
Or when th’art old, thou wilt forever tarry.

15
Youth with beauty and with pleasure glows,
The young with merriment and glee should go,
For in an instant all its fairness goes,
As when the morning sun dissolves the snow,
Or in one day the bright vermillion rose
Loses its scent and color, even so
Youth flies away, and none can him retain.
No one can hold him, for he has no rein.

16
Often these words and similar ones she wields
Against Tisbina, but she fights in vain.
But, when the violets sprouted in the fields,
And all the earth was gladdened by the rain,
And winter’s ice to solar radiance yields,
The lofty knight was sunk so deep in pain,
And had been brought to such a woeful state,
For death and death alone he hopes and waits.

17
No longer does he celebrate and feast.
He’s pained by pleasure and his eyes are bleary.
His chalky pallor ev’ry day increased.
He stayed away from happy men and cheery.
He knew of naught by which he would be pleased,
Except to swiftly leave this world so dreary.
He often went alone into the forest,
There to lament when agony was sorest.

18
He did this often, till one morning came
Iroldo riding out, on game intent.
Beside him was Tisbina, lovely dame.
They heard a voice that through the branches went,
With sighs and sobs the broken voice complained.
Prasild so sweetly did his love lament,
And with such gentle words he made his moan
He could wake pity in the very stones.

19
“Hear me, ye flowers and ye woods,” he said,
“For she, ah, cruel she! Her ears are closed.
Hear what misfortunes fall upon my head!
And thou, O sun, that only now arose,
And ye, bright stars, thou moon of gentle tread,
Hear only once the story of my woes;
For these my final words are. Soon will I,
A most cruel death for my belovéd die.

20
“With such extremities I am content,
Because my live contains nought else but bad,
Since heaven such a cruel soul hath sent
To one who such a gracious virtue had,
She would be joyous if my life were shent,
So I shall kill myself to make her glad.
There is no other thing I more delight in
Than to make her sweet face a little brighten.”