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 see.
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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Notes to the Ninth Canto, Part 2

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

25. Similar unorthodox methods of killing a monster by tricking it into eating something were used by Bellerophon against the Chimera, Daniel against the dragon worshipped by the Babylonians, and others, but I cannot recall any instances exactly parallel to this one.

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On to Part 3

Book I, Canto IX, Part 2

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

21
She ceased her talk, descended to the ground,
Where the beast lurked, prepared for fresh attacks,
And there the knotted cord the dame unwound,
And from its pan she threw the cake of wax.
The monster snatched it in its jaws, but found
Its teeth stuck fast, and it began to wax
Exceeding wroth, and snorted, shook, and leapt,
And straightway got entangled in the net.

22
The damsel left it in its hempen prison,
And flew away as swiftly as she’d come.
By that time was the lovely star arisen
Which mounts up in the East before the sun.
The growing light brought to Rinaldo’s vision
The beast, whose jaws were sealed and who had run
Smack-dab into a mazy web of knots.
It could not move a hands-breadth from its spot.

23
Immediately he leaps down to the ground,
Where the ferocious freak of nature lies
And bellows so that all the folk around,
Despite their wall, with fear are paralyzed.
Rinaldo quickly his Fusberta found,
And to assault the monster great he tried.
But such thick skin possessed the beast accurst,
It seemed Fusberta would be broken first.

24
Rinaldo searches for its weakest place.
He strikes the right side now, and now the left,
And now he stabs its legs, and now its face,
But still the monster’s skin he hasn’t cleft.
Fusbert can split a rock or iron mace,
But of incisions is the beast bereft.
But bold Rinaldo isn’t took aback.
At once he switches to another tack.

25
To leap upon the monster’s back he rushed,
And threw his arms around its ugly throat,
His knees into the monster’s flanks he pushed.
This is the wildest steed he ever rode!
The baron’s visage crimson red was flushed.
All of his power in this fight he showed,
More strength than he had ever used before,
Till the abomination breathed no more.

26
After he beast’s completely suffocated,
Rinaldo starts to ponder how to fly.
The field was circumscribed (as I have stated)
By an enormous wall both thick and high.
There was one window only, which was grated
With latticed iron work. Rinaldo tries
To slice it open with Fusberta, but
The grate’s too thick and strong for him to cut.

27
Rinaldo realizes at this pass
He’s still a pris’ner in this castle vile.
The folk won’t life him o’er the wall, alas!
And with starvation he must reconcile.
He searches all around, till on the grass
He finds, just lying there, a massive file.
Angelica had left it on the sod.
The baron thinks it must have come from God.

28
The magic file swiftly cuts the bars.
The knight’s about to make his getaway.
From the bright heaven disappear the stars,
As rosy-fingered dawn leads forth the day.
But lo! a giant strolling by, who mars
Rinaldo’s plans not in the slightest way.
For when he sees the knight, he gives a yelp,
And turns, and runs away, and shouts, “Help! Help!”

29
Rinaldo’s sawed completely through the grate,
And from the window he removes the bars,
But the scared outcries of the giant great
Have summon all the wicked folk to arms.
Rinaldo issues from the window straight.
He has Fusberta drawn. He must look sharp,
For ‘gainst him come the people of the castle,
More than six hundred armed and angry vassals.

30
The worthy baron doesn’t care at all;
Were they six times their strength, he’d face them yet.
Leading the rabble is a giant tall,
Who tries to snare Rinaldo in a net.
That false poltroon, whose virtues are but small,
Rinaldo dodges, and he does not fret,
But strikes the giant just below the knee,
Without his legs upon the earth fell he.

31
He left him there; against the rest he sped.
Death and destruction with Fusbert he rained,
And soon he stood alone; the rest were fled.
Not one of all the Saracens remained.
Some left their arms behind, and some their heads.
The courtyard now is even more blood-stained.
The old hag in the keep is barricaded.
With her last soldiers for Rinald she waited.

32
The other giant in the room there stood.
Rinald arrives and doesn’t gape or gawk,
But strikes the door and batters through the wood
Until the door is off its hinges knocked.
The mighty giant in confusion stood,
In terror and embarrassment and shock.
Although he armored is from head to toe,
Not till the door is open does he go

33
Leaping out, brings his club down with a roar;
On Don Rinaldo’s head his great blow fell.
Rinaldo merely laughed at him and swore
“I do thee honor, wretched infidel.
To take thy death from Montalbano’s lord –
Thou wilt be honored for it, down in Hell,
Where thou wilt shortly meet, I dare assert, a
Mighty host I’ve sent there with Fusberta.”

34
The worthy cavalier’s discourse is brief.
He strikes a mighty blow and does not flag
Till he has cleft the giant to the teeth.
The others flee; Rinaldo does not lag,
But hunts and slays them all, with no relief.
But the black-hearted, unrepentant hag
Is standing on a narrow balcony,
And leaps down when the cavalier she sees.

35
The balcony rose up a hundred feet.
You may be well assured the hag is dead.
When Don Rinaldo saw that mighty leap,
“Go to the Devil with thy men!” he said.
The blood upon the chamber floor was deep;
But Don Rinaldo, sword in hand, still sped
In hot pursuit, but, not to tell it all,
He left no soul alive within the walls.

36
And then he left and walked back to the sea.
He did not trust the magic bark; instead
Traipsing along the coastline traveled he,
Until he met a lady fair, who said,
“Alas! Ah, woeful wight! Ah, misery!
My life is dreary, would that I were dead!”
But Turpin speaks no more about her here,
And turns to Don Astolfo, England’s peer.

37
Astolfo had departed lovely France;
Upon the good Baiardo travels he.
In gilded armor, with the golden lance.
Alone he journeys, without company.
He passes through the region of Mayence,
And through great Germany, fair Hungary,
The Danube, Transylvania he’s gone,
And through White Russia till he saw the Don.

38
Reaching this place, to the right hand he swings,
And into mountainous Circasse he’s come.
All of that territory’s bustling.
He sees the folk in armor, every one,
For Sacripante, the Circassian king
A mighty war had recently begun
With Agricane, king of Tartary.
Both of the lords were full of chivalry.

39
The war did not begin for reasons of
A recent insult, nor for ancient hate,
Nor for one king another king to shove
Off of his throne, or to extend the state,
But all these men were armed to fight for Love.
For Agricane wanted as his mate
Angelica, and with her he would wed.
She answered him, she’d rather she were dead.

40
She sent out messengers through ev’ry land,
Both near and far, to palaces and tents,
To knights most lowly and to knights most grand,
Inviting one and all to her defense.
And so a myriad, uncounted band
To save the lady, ready their offense.
But Sacripante’s first of all the throng,
Because this worthy king has loved her long.

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Notes

Book I, Canto IX, Part 1

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

ARGUMENT

Angelica by Don Rinald is spurned,
Though she arrives to save her by her arts.
He slays the beast, and then he sorely yearns
To raze the castle. Duke Astolfo starts
His quest, by Sacripant away is turned,
And meets the noble heathen Brandimart.
Orlando in the magic bower he sees,
But they two fight, and Duke Astolfo flees.

1
You’ve heard already of the shape miswrought
The horrible and wasted monster bore,
Which had for long against Rinaldo fought,
And how Fusberta from his hand it tore.
And we shall leave him here, unhelped, distraught,
For now another matter needs me more.
Now of a lady who with love doth burn
I sing, then to Rinaldo I’ll return.

2
Me gracious lords, most humble I request
Ye to recall Angelica the bright.
How she met Malagise on a quest
And watches for his coming day and night.
Now as she waits, her spirit is oppressed.
As all may guess who’ve waited for delight,
And one’s who’s waited for a lover knows
All other waiting seems a pleasant rose.

3
She stands for hours gazing at the sea,
And then for hours looking o’er the land.
And if a ship the poor girl chanced to see,
Or any speck, as she th’horizon scanned,
She whispers to herself that certainly
The gallant Don Rinaldo was at hand.
And when a beast or cart came down the road,
She thought the lord of Montalban there rode.

4
Behold! When Malagise there appeared,
(But no Rinaldo stood there by his side)
Haggard and pale, with a disheveled beard.
Upon the earth he fixed his tired eyes;
His clothes were ragged and with grime besmirched.
He looked like one who from a dungeon flies.
The damsel sees him, seeming hard bestead,
“Alas!” she cries out, “My Rinaldo’s dead!”

5
“He isn’t dead. At least he isn’t yet,”
Says Malagise to the damosel,
“But he cannot endure. He’s hard beset,
And will be eaten by a monster fell.
Confound the day and hour that did beget
A soul who dared to thus ‘gainst Love rebel!”
And then in full detail he makes report
How he had lured Rinaldo to that court.

6
And how the folk had sentenced him to die,
And how a quick and painful end he faced.
You need not wonder if the lady’s nigh
To death. Her spirit sinks, so much abased
She cannot move, cannot let out a cry,
But stands with vacant eyes and icy face.
But strength returning just an instant later,
She says to Malagise, “Ah! Thou traitor!

7
“Traitor, cruel, ribald brute, forsworn.
How dost thou dare to tell me such a tale?
When thou hast left thy cousin all forlorn,
So close to death, and hopest he will fail?
But if thou dost not help him, be forewarned,
Thy demons and enchantments won’t avail,
But I shall have thee burnt immediately,
And then I’ll throw thine ashes in the sea.

8
“Make no excuses, thou deceitful cad,
Saying thou’st thought to give me vengeful joy.
Didst thou not know, I would be far more sad
Were he unhappy than if I should die?
The height of beauty and of strength he had,
A vile and a luckless woman I.
And furthermore, I told thee, witless lout,
Thy cousin Rinald I can’t live without.”

9
Quoth Malagis, “If thou dost so much care,
There is a way to help him, even now.
But thou must be the one to help him there,
And do just as I say. I’ll tell thee how.
He, although he is crueler than a bear,
Despite himself, to Love he soon will bow.
Make thyself ready, then, without delay.
He may well die if we an instant stay.”

10
As he is speaking thus, a rope he brings,
Tied into loops about a palm around;
A cake of wax which to his fingers clings;
A magic file which makes ne’er a sound.
He tells the damsel how to use these things.
Angelica a demon black has bound
To serve her, and he flies her through the air
To the Cruel Rock and her beloved there.

11
Now to Rinaldo must I turn my tale,
Who finds himself in woeful plight. Appalled,
It seems Death soon will catch him without fail.
Can swordless knight fight on, or even stall?
He runs away, the monster on his tail,
And lo, before him, halfway up the wall,
A cornice, some ten feet above the ground.
Rinaldo, running, takes a mighty bound,

12
Reaches it, with his hand he grabs the spit,
And pulls his body up with knightly force.
Now perched between the heaven and earth he sits,
And down below, the fearful monster roars.
Although most gross and ponderous is it,
It leapt up, with its savage claws it tore
The air alone; it could not reach the knight.
Rinaldo, nonetheless, is filled with fright.

13
And now the day gave way to darkling night.
Rinaldo, still upon his risky perch,
Knows not what chance or miracle has might
To bring him out of his imperiled lurch,
When he beholds, lit by the moon’s pale light,
(For not a single cloud the sky besmirched)
He knows not what, that through the ether came,
But by its shape, it seemed to be a dame.

14
It was Angelica, who hither raced
To bring deliverance to her cavalier.
But when Rinaldo recognized her face,
To throw himself upon the ground he’s near,
Because for her he had so much distaste
That less repulsive is the monster fierce.
Being devoured seems a lesser grief
That seeing her who’s come to bring relief.

15
She stands before him, hov’ring in the air,
And kneels on nothing, saying, “Cavalier,
One grief above all fills my heart with care:
That by my doing thou art prisoned here.
I must confess, such love for thee I bear,
At times I’m like to lose my wit, I fear.
But never could I do thee injury.
Ah! Couldst thou really think so ill of me?

16
“I but intended to give thee delight,
With joy and pleasure, and with sweet repose,
And so I brought thee to the island bright,
But now I find thee in such perilous throes
And so constrained, in so extreme a plight,
That I am almost slain to see thy woes.
But let all fear be put away from tee,
For I have come, and I can set thee free.

17
“Come, leap into my arms! Oh, be not shy!
And I shall carry thee across the skies,
And thou shalt see the earth below flit by.
Swifter than thought, almost, my whirlwind flies.
Didst thou not ever wish that thou couldst fly?
Thy wish is granted! From thy perch arise.
Come, mount me, worthy knight, and thou mayst find
I am no worse than that Baiard of thine.”

18
The brave Rinaldo was aggrieved full sore,
Whenas her loving words fell on his ear.
He answered thusly: “By Our Blesséd Lord,
I would far sooner meet my death right here,
Than flee this place with thee as my support.
Unless thou instantly dost disappear,
I swear I’ll throw myself down from this spit;
Now stay or leave, whate’er thou thinkest fit.”

19
Believe it well, no greater injury
Than for a loving dame to be rejected.
The man she once adored now hateth she.
Her passions are completely redirected.
But by this deathless animosity,
Angelica is not the least affected.
Her love towards Rinaldo hath such might
That all his injuries to her seem light.

20
She answers him, “I shall obey thy will,
For I lack power to do otherwise.
With my one hand myself I’ll gladly kill,
If I thought at my death you would rejoice.
But most unrightly thou with hate art filled.
I swear, as I have hope of Paradise,
I shall do anything thou dost decree,
Save the impossible: to love not thee.

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Notes

Book I, Canto VIII, Part 3

The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto VIII, Stanzas 41-64

41
“Then secretly their flesh with me I took
Into the kitchen, and I made a fire.
I’d been their butcher; now was I their cook.
Ah! What cannot be done by woman’s ire?
I served them to their father, who partook
Of my meat pie with relish and desire.
Ah, cruel sun, how could you bear to shine
And gaze on such a horrid deed as mine?

42
“I left the banquet, no one was aware;
My bloody hands and garments none did see.
Towards Orgagna’s king with haste I fared,
Who for long years had burned with love for me,
And was a kinsman unto Stella fair.
I told him all my woeful history.
I led him and his men in army bright
The death of poor Grifone to requite.

43
“We came too late, though eagerly we sped.
For I no sooner did the castle fly
Than cruel Stella, once the guests were fed,
Came to Marchino, her face lit with joy,
And served him one, and then the other head
Of his two sons, whom I’d baked in a pie.
Grief and horror overwhelm each knight;
Their father most, who knew them at first sight.

44
“Stella stood there with disheveled hair.
Her face distorted, she began to rave,
And cried aloud, ‘Those are thy children there,
Those are their heads, and if thy soul doth crave
To see their tomb, look in thy belly, where
Thou buriedst them. Thou art thy children’s grave.’
Now the false traitor knight is racked with pain.
Love and cruelty fight in his brain.

45
“This outrage fearful and unparalleled
Invites a vengeance cruel beyond all other.
On th’other hand, her flow’ry face impelled
Him to have mercy, for he fiercely loved her.
At last, he plumps for vengeance, but he’s held
Bu one thing: How to best be vengèd of her?
When he thinks of the outrage she’s committed,
It seems no punishment on earth is fitted.

46
“To fetch Grifone’s corpse he sends his men,
Which lies unburied in his dying-place.
He binds that body to the lady then,
Hands against hands, his face against her face.
To such a pleasure doth he her condemn.
Now has there ever been a man so base?
The stench was foul of Grifon’s remains,
To which the lovely lady’s bound with chains.

47
“Orgagna’s king now to the castle came,
And with him I and all his meinie rude.
But when he saw us coming o’er theplain
Marchino slit the lovely Stella’s throat.
The lady, not his lust, was thereby slain.
For dead as living with her he abode.
I think he did it only for to boast
Of all men living he had sinned the most.

48
“We then arrived, and after battle hard
Entered the castle and the keep secured
And took Marchin, whose body was all scarred
From many wounds and battles he’d endured.
We hacked him into pieces in the yard,
And then the luckless Stella we interred
Within an ornamented sepulchre,
And laid her dear Grifone next to her.

49
“Orgagna’s king, his vengeance wrought, went home.
Within this dismal castle rested I,
But when eight months and one away had flown
We heard a horrible, bloodthirsty cry
Out of the tomb. What made it was unknown.
To tell our terror, I can’t even try.
Except three giants bold who knew no fear..
The King had ordered them to guard me here.

50
“One of them, great of heart and stout of limb,
Opened the sepulchre lid just a slit.
Regret immediately conquered him.
Because a monster, though it couldn’t fit
Its body through, thrust out a talon grim
And raked and clawed him so, he died of it
Almost at once. It tore of hunks of meat
And bones alike, and pulled them in to eat.

51
“Another man so bold could not be found
As to go near that house of woe and gloom.
We built a thick and lofty wall around
The church. With powder we destroyed the tomb.
A dark misshapen beast crawled on the ground.
We took one glance and fled for fear of doom.
Its awful shape I won’t describe to thee,
For it will be the last thing thou dost see.

52
“This custom all of us thereat decreed
Each day to slay a man and o’er the wall
To throw his body, for the beast to feed
Upon, lest it should seek to eat us all.
Bu when we catch more travelers than we need,
We cut some’s throats, stick some on gibbets tall,
And some alive we cut in pieces four.
Didst see them hanging over our front door?”

53
After the custom in its full enormity
And the detestable and unmatched crimes
By which begotten was the foul deformity
Are all explained, Rinaldo’s horror climbs.
And turning to the old hag who helped form it, he
Exclaims, “Ah, mother! Throw me in, that’s fine.
I only ask, as thou dost love Our Lord,
To let me have my armor and my sword.

54
The hag guffaws and says “It won’t help much!
But take whatever weapons that thou wilt.
No shield can save thee from its talons clutch.
By sword or mace its blood’s been never spilt.
Its teeth can slice through iron with a touch.
‘Twill gnaw thy broadsword up, both blade and hilt.
But take whatso thou wilt. Thy life is done
Regardless, but the beast will have some fun.”

55
The morning sun was raising up his head,
As Don Rinald was lowered over the wall.
The church door opened, and at once out sped
A beast misshapen and grotesquical.
It gnashed its teeth together. Filled with dread,
The lookers-on went running, one and all.
The wall is high and thick, but nonetheless,
In fear and terror, down the stairs they press.

56
Nobody stays to watch Rinald’s defense.
His shining armor and Fusbert he took.
But I believe you all are in suspense
To know just how the monster fearsome looked.
The loathsome beast’s existence fell commenced
When some ill demon from Hell’s darkest nook
Transformed Marchino’s seed inside the flesh
Of her whom he had lately put to death.

57
It’s larger than a bull, and far more strong.
Its massive head is rather like a snake’s.
Its mouth in measurement is six palms long.
Each of its teeth a palm and half length’s takes.
It has two tusks like boars’. Against these prongs
No shield nor armor can resistance make.
Upon each of its temples grew a horn
Which any way it wished the beast could turn.

58
Each of the horns like swords is sharp and keen;
Its bellowing could fill the deaf with fright.
Its skin was particolored gold and green,
And scarlet, sooty black, and snowy white.
Bloodstains amidst its tangled beard were seen.
Its eyes were blazing with hellfire’s light.
Its hands looked human, but they had such claws
As ne’er were seen on bears’ or lions’ claws.

59
Its teeth and talons were so sharp and hard
That they could pierce through any plate or mail.
Its pelt was thick. It never had been scarred,
Because no blade against it could prevail.
Now this abomination’s eyes regard
Rinaldo, and it rushes like a gale.
Upon two feet it turns, its mouth agape.
Rinaldo swings Fusberta at the shape.

60
And smacks it in the middle of its maw.
The wrathful monster moves as swift as fire,
Faces the knight, lifts up a massive paw,
And brings it down, and lands a blow so dire
It sheers right through his mail. So much it claws,
It tears to ribbons all his steel attire.
So strong its claws, so deftly does it work,
The worthy knight’s left standing in his shirt.

61
Rinaldo’s far from paralyzed by fear:
He sees death imminent and doesn’t blench.
He strikes a two-hand blow behind its ear.
Alas! The monster doesn’t even flinch.
But with each blow he lands, it grows more fierce.
Enraged, it leaps aback, then forward sprints,
And now with one paw, now the other slashes,
And on Rinaldo’s skin makes ugly gashes.

62
He bears four grievous wounds, but nonetheless
The world holds not a baron stouter-hearted.
He looks death in the face without distress.
His wrath burned fiercer as his strength departed.
What would in any other fight be best
In this one only gets his troubles started.
For even if the monster’s flesh he carves,
The castle folk may leave him here to starve.

63
The day’s beginning to give way to dusk,
And all this time the battle fierce has raged.
Rinaldo’s back against the wall is thrust.
He’s lost much blood and he is growing faint.
His death is pressing close at hand, he trusts.
But still he strikes great blows with his good blade.
It’s true, the monster’s blood may not be spilt,
But still he gives it many ugly welts.

64
His life he shall sell dearly, come what may.
He swings a mighty stroke, that baron true.
The wicked monster knocks his sword away.
Now what can Montalbano’s baron do?
He cannot flee. He’s doomed if he should stay
Because Fusberta from his grasp out flew.
But you must wait to hear about their war.
For in this canto I shall tell no more.

Keep Reading

Notes

Notes to the Eighth Canto, Part 3

The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto VIII, Stanzas 41-64 Notes.

46. Boiardo is airing his classical learning here. (He translated several Greek and Latin classics into Italian) Just as the vengeance of Marchino’s wife is based on the Greek myth of Procne and Philomela (which Boiardo would have read in Ovid), so Marchino’s vengeance was the favorite punishment of King Mezentius in the Aeneid.
50. Boiardo now moves from classical lore to medieval, as is typical of him. A similar story to this one was brought back by the Crusaders from the Byzantine Empire. It was a development of the Gorgon legend, and told how a young man who lived near the Gulf of Satalia [now called Antalya], consumed with lust for his deceased lady-love, begot a terrible head that, every seven years, rose out of the Gulf and brought misfortune or storms. Various versions can be found in Walter Map’s Courtiers’ Trifles, Book 4; Gervase of Tilbury’s Otia Imperialia 2.12; Mandeville’s Travels, usually near the section on Constantinople; and other places.
52. The cruelty is partly gratuitous, but partly prudent: it keeps prisoners from escaping and from needing to be fed.
57. Turning horns are generally attributed to the eale or yale, a creature found in Pliny (VIII.30) and sometimes in heraldry, but not, as far as I have ever seen, appearing in fiction or folklore.

Back to Part 3

On to Canto IX