Book I, Canto VII, Part 2

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

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.

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.

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!”

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

“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!”

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.


Book I, Canto IV, Part 2

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


Although Marsil had little hope that he
Could raise the siege, he still had let him go.
He could not think of any remedy
Short of surrendering his crown and throne.
For utter weariness and misery
He speaks to none, and spends his time alone.
But he sees arriving succors two:
The host of Charlemagne, and Ferragu.

Don Serpentino by his liegelord stands.
Spinel and King Morgante there remain.
And Isolier, and Matalist the grand,
The Argalif and Amirant of Spain.
All of the other lords who held their land
From King Marsil or lived in his domain
Along with Baligant and Falsiron
Are either dead, or into prison thrown.

When King Gradasso launched his expedition
With troops uncountable, he was not lax,
But forced the Indian Sea into submission,
And strong Ceylon succumbed to his attacks.
When Persia and Arabia came in vision
He conquered them, and conquered all the blacks.
He’d sailed across and conquered half the world,
Before in Spain his banners were unfurled.

He brought along with him so great a throng
And kings so many that my tongue would falter
To tell them all. No host was e’er so strong.
They disembarked, and quickly took Gibraltar.
He burnt Granada, and he seized ere long
Toledo and Seville, and did not halt or
Delay to raze Valencia with fire.
Whatever lands he passed through felt his ire.

He took as prisoners, as I have said,
All of the lords who held their lands in fief
Except for those who to Gerona fled,
And kept Marsilio company in grief,
And for Grandonio, who most bravely led
A force to Barcelon to bring relief.
Morning and eve he fought, and was so stout,
‘Twas thanks to him alone they still held out.

To King Marsilio let us turn again.
Rinald’s arrival filled his soul with bliss.
He thanked him for the aid from Charlemagne,
And greeted Ferraguto with a kiss.
And said, “My son, I know thou’lt be the bane
Of King Gradasso. Many times ere this
I’ve seen they courage and thy strength are great.
Thou shalt be the preserver of our state.”

They give their orders that they’ll march toward
‘Sieged Barcelona at the break of dawn.
Though King Grandon from fire and from sword
Defends it, he cannot hold out for long.
They draw the army up, and give a lord
To each battalion. Once the first is drawn,
They give it to Spinell and Serpentin.
Full twenty thousand in this band are seen.

Rinaldo’s troop of fifty thousand knights
And men-at-arms will follow to the fray.
Then Matalist and King Morgant will fight
With thirty thousand soldiers brace as they.
Then twenty thousand, a most goodly sight,
‘Neath Isolier and th’Amirante’s sway.
Then Ferragu will follow with a band
Of thirty thousand under his command.

Marsil himself is leader of the last.
Fifty thousand make up this brigade.
The orders given, little time is passed
Ere all the troop are properly arrayed.
At break of day the trumpets gave a blast.
The banners in the morning breezes swayed.
As on the army marched across the heights,
They came straight into King Gradasso’s sight.

Cardon, Francardo, and Urnass he calls,
And Straciaberra, mighty kings were they.
“Lead the assault at Barcellona’s walls,
And raze it to the ground this very day.
Kill ev’rybody once the city falls,
Except Grandonio. I shall make him pay
For his resistance. I want him alive,
And ‘gainst my dogs I mean to make him strive.”

From India these monarchs were, all four.
They’d brought so many of their swarthy race
That nobody could count them. Furthermore,
Two thousand elephants were in that place
With towers and with castles armed for war.
Now King Gradasso calls before his face
A mighty giant, ruler of Ceylon,
Who for his charger, sat a giraffe upon.

A thing more hideous nobody knows
Than this king’s face. Alfrera was he called.
Gradasso tells him. “Take thy men and go,
To lead my banner ‘gainst this new assault.
Take all thy vassals with thee ‘gainst this foe.”
This said, he turns around without a halt
To King Faraldo, lord of Araby.
A most robust and worthy knight was he.

This king he orders that he strive amain
To take Rinaldo prisoner by force,,
And take the banner of King Charlemagne,
“But have a care thou scratchest not his horse,
Or like a peasant I shall have thee hanged!
‘Twas for that steed that I set on this course
And left sweet Sericane with my vast hoard
To win the horse, and Durindan the sword.”

He bids the king of Persia and his whole
Battalion fight Morgant and Matalist.
(He’s call Framarte, this most valiant soul)
Behold Macrobia’s king, twelve feet at least.
His skin is blacker than a burnt-out coal.
His name is Orion. He rides no beast;
To hold his massive weight no beast has might.
With Amirant and Isolier he’ll fight.

A cunning giant who sits on the throne
Of Ethiopia is summoned now.
He’s named Balorza and his mouth alone
Is larger than your palm. He comes and bows.
‘Gainst Ferraguto will his strength be shown.
To make the final troop, Gradass endows
His Sericanian lords with full command,
But he arms not; within his tent he stands.

Meanwhile, King Marsilio and his train
Came to the field and they beheld the host
Stretched out before them cov’ring all the plain.
It seems to even stretch unto the coast.
At first, that such a mighty army came
They scarce believed, or that the world could boast
So many men as stood within their sight.
It seemed as if their force were infinite.

The one camp closer to their other draws,
Until they’re parted by a pebble’s toss.
All of the troops believe in Mahound’s laws,
Save those of Charlemagne, who bear the Cross.
Spinella and Don Serpentino cause
Their first batallion to march out across
The plain. The cry goes up, a dreadful sound
That makes the heavens and the earth resound.

The drums, and trumps, and voices are so loud
The echoes shake the rivers and the mounts.
In front of all, Don Serpentin sits proud
Upon a terrible and splendid mount.
The great Alfrera came forth from the crowd.
He looked more fearsome than I could recount
From head to toe, full thirty feet he spanned.
He sat upon his giraffe with mace in hand.

This mace was solid iron, and so large
That three palm’s measure couldn’t circle it.
Don Serpentino makes a gallant charge,
With lance in rest, and not afraid a bit.
He wounds the giant, piercing mail and targe,
But that misshapen brute so cleanly hit
Don Serpentino that he knocked him off
His horse, half-dead, and did not deign to scoff.

Once more unto the fray he spurs his giraffe,
And met Spinella, and stretched his hand out
And picked him up, and with a scornful laugh,
Tucked him beneath his arm, then ‘gan to rout
His foes, and chased them as the wind does chaff,
And took their banner, and then turned about
To send it back to King Gradasso the fell,
And sent besides, his prisoner Spinel.

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Book I, Canto II, Part 3

The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto II, Part 3, Stanzas 41-68, Notes

Astolf advances, eager for the fray,
Bearing the lance he found beneath the pine.
Three golden pards his crimson shield displays,
And he sits in his saddle, strong and fine.
But unexpected danger comes his way;
His charger stumbles and he sprawls supine.
Astolfo’s knocked unconscious at that point,
And his right foot is pulled out of its joint.

At this mischance, the crowd lets out a groan,
And Serpentino utters maledictions,
Lamenting that his prowess was not shown.
(But certainly this was a false prediction)
They bear the senseless duke back to his home,
Where carefully they tend to his afflictions.
They bring his senses back, and then his foot,
Is set and wrapped, and in good order put.

Though Serpentin has shown such awesome might,
No whit afraid is Don Ogier the Dane.
So fast he gallops that it seems like flight,
Or like the wind that sweeps across the main.
Upon his shield for emblem hath this knight
A chevron argent on an azure plain.
A basilisk was sculpted on the helm
Of this great champion of the Danish realm.

The trumpets sound, and those two knights ride out
With lance in rest, so fast it was a wonder.
All day there had not been a blow so stout
As this, which sounded like a clap of thunder.
The Dane Ogieri, with a mighty clout
Makes Serpentino’s stirrups split asunder
And knocks him back across his horse’s croup;
He lies in dust, his haughty pride must stoop.

Now strong Ogieri takes the vanquished’s place,
And stridently within the ring defends him.
Flushed red with shame is Balugante’s face.
His dear son’s overthrow so much offends him,
But soon he finds himself in like disgrace,
Because the Dane along the earth distends him.
And now advances the young Isolier,
The bold and court’eous heathen cavalier.

This knight was cousin unto Ferragu.
On his green shield he bears three moons of gold.
He spurs his horse; his lance aims straight and true,
And he collides against that baron bold.
The mighty Dane strikes him a blow to rue,
And sweeps him off his horse and knocks him cold.
‘Tis hard to tell if he is still alive.
He lays insensible for hours five.

Then Don Gualtiero, lord of Monleon,
Is by Ogieri laid upon the field.
A dragon, emblem of this hero, shone
In burnished crimson on his golden shield.
“Oh, Christians, – cries Ogier in woeful tone –
Why should we arms against each other wield?
Do you not hear the Pagans’ jeers and mocks
When to ourselves we give such dreadful knocks.

Spinella d’Altamonte was the name
Of a stout Saracen who sought renown
By jousting at the court of Charlemagne.
On his blue shield he bore a golden crown.
Ogieri sends him sprawling on the plain.
Now Matalista on the Dane bears down.
He’s brother to the lovely Fiordespin.
In battle he is ardent, fierce, and keen.

Upon his helm, a dragon is his crest,
His shield in halves of gold and brown is split.
Shortly upon the earth he takes his rest,
Of steed and saddle he’s completely quit.
That dog, Grandonio, issues forward next.
God help Ogier! He has great need of it.
In all the world you could not find so strong
A pagan, though you searched forever long.

This king was seven foot (it is no fable),
He rode the largest horse that could be found.
He held before him a great shield of sable
Which bore a golden image of Mahound.
There was no Christian who thought himself able
To stand against that mighty felon hound.
Gan of Pontiers, soon as he saw his height,
Quietly slipped away from field and fight.

Macario of Lusana does likewise,
Rainer with Pinabello disappears;
Falcone after his companions hies,
And till he’s gone, it seems a thousand years.
Though ev’ry other man of Mayence flies,
Grifon stands firm among King Charles’ Peers.
For fear of shame, or through his bravery,
Or else, he didn’t see his kinsmen flee.

But turn we to that heathen hound atrocious
Who rides as swiftly as the tempest blast.
His lance with which he means to strike his foes, is
So large, a ship could use it as a mast.
Nor was his charger any less ferocious.
It raised great clouds of dust wherev’r it passed,
And split the stones, and caused the earth to shake,
And all the crowd for very terror quake.

With such great wrath against the Dane he comes,
And strikes so hard that he destroys his shield.
Both horse and rider to the blow succumb,
And lie in dust. Ogieri’s senses reel.
The aging Naimo to his nephew runs,
And picks him up, and bears him from the field.
And fetched him doctors for his arm and chest.
Though for a month in bed he had to rest.

A mighty shout goes up on ev’ry side,
And loudest then the Saracens are heard.
Now King Grandonio holds the ring with pride,
But for all this, the Peers are undeterred.
Turpin of Rheims against the giant rides,
And clashes with him, and lands in the dirt.
He felt such pain when from his hose he flew,
The priest was certain that his life was through.

Astolfo had returned unto the square,
Upon a palfrey, gentle, white, and pretty.
No weapons, save his belted sword, he bears,
And sits amidst the dames of Paris city.
He speaks to them with pleasant words and fair,
For he was courteous and very witty.
But while he’s chatting with them, see Grifon,
By King Grandonio now is overthrown.

This knight was of the lineage of Mayence.
On his blue shield he bore a falcon white.
The King Grandonio cries with arrogance,
“O Christians, are you all too tired to fight?
Are your shields heavy? Have you all got splints?”
Now comes forth Guido, a most courteous knight,
Lord of Borgogna, and a he bears a lion
Sable on gold; Grandonio sends him flying.

He throws to earth the mighty Angelier,
Who bore a dragon with a woman’s face.
Avin, Avol, Otton, and Berlinzer,
One after th’other tumble in disgrace.
Their shields with checkered blue and gold shone clear,
Four sable eagles on their helms were placed.
For these four were the sons, I understand,
Of Naimo, Duke of the Bavarian land.

Don Ugo of Marseilles is thrown and killed
By this Grandon, he hits the ground so hard.
The more he jousts, the more he shows his skill.
He knocks down Riccardetto and Alard,
And mocks King Charles with a right good will,
Calling the Christians vile, faint of heart.
The court stands still, in mourning and in fear,
But see, advancing, Marquis Olivier!

It seemed as if the heavens would be torn
For each man cheered and laughed as he rode by.
The marquis comes, adorned in shining arms.
King Charles greets him with his panoply.
The trumpets blow; each herald sounds his horn,
And great and small alike send up the cry:
“Long life to Olivier! Long live Vienne!”
And King Grandonio laughed and armed him then.

The knights charged at each other with more hate
And with more vigor than my tongue could tell.
The crowd looks on, and in suspense they wait,
To see the outcome of this battle fell.
No word was spoken. Ev’ry man doth bate
His breath, and seems as if beneath a spell.
And now they meet! Don Olivier’s puissance
Pierces the Pagan’s shield with his good lance.

That shield was fashioned of nine plates of steel,
And Marquis Olivier has pierced them all.
He breaks the hauberk, and Grandonio feels
The iron wounding him; it stings like gall,
But he, the pitiless, with his mast deals
A blow to Olivier that makes him fall,
And that fierce giant struck him with such force,
He landed twenty feet beyond his horse.

Every man was certain he was dead,
Because his helmet had been cracked in two.
The Christians sorrowfully hang their heads,
Thinking his spirit from his body flew.
Stunned was King Charles, heavy tears he shed,
And cried in anguish, “Baron stout and true,
O flower of my court, my Peer, my son!
Can God be silent when such things are done?”

Grandonio now such arrogance displays
As dwarfs the pride he showed until this time.
He cries, while savage joy lights up his face,
“O Paladins, besotted with your wine,
Back to your taverns, lily-livered race;
This game is harder than your cards, you’ll find!
You Paladins are full of martial spirit,
And boast and threat – when no one else can hear it!”

When Charles hears his court held in despite,
And King Grandonio’s overbearing boasts,
His heart throbs, and his face for wrath turns white.
He glares with flaming eyes at all his host.
“Where are my vassals? Where my stalwart knights?
Why have they left me when I need them most?
Where’s Ganellone? Has Rinald turned dastard?
And where’s Orlando, that dammed treach’rous bastard?

Thou whoreson scoundrel, renegade thrice-damned,
If ev’r again I see thee, may I die
If I don’t stringthee up with mine own hands!”
This and much else the Emp’ror Charles cries.
Astolfo, hearing him, slips from the stands,
And rides back to his house, which stood close by,
And promptly arms himself and rushes back,
In shining armor, ready to attack.

No foolish hope that baron’s breast inspired
That he would best that Pagan in the ring.
With pure and good intentions he desired
Only to do his duty by his King.
He bore him proudly, in fine arms attired,
And seemed to be a paragon of strength,
But ev’ryone who recognized him groaned.
“God send us better help than him!” they moaned.

With reverence, he bends his head down low,
Before King Charles and salutes him. “Sire,
Yon braggart knight I mean to overthrow.
I understand that such is thy desire.”
Charles, scarce caring says to him, “Then, go!
And God go with thee!” But the king, in ire,
Says to his men, soon as the prince can’t hear,
“And from this crowning shame, God keep us clear.”

Astolfo boasts that he will cast that knight
Within the galleys, chained unto an oar.
The giant’s anger reaches such a height,
He has such wrath that no one e’er had more.
In my next canto, lordings, I’ll recite,
With the permission of th’Almighty Lord
A tale most marvelous of fights more dread
Than any you have ever heard or read.


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Book I, Canto II, Part 2

The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto II, Part 1, Stanzas 21-40.

But let us leave the lover in this state.
Astolfo has returned unto the town,
Where Count Orlando eagerly awaits,
And asks him casually as they stroll down
The streets, how he has fared and what his fate,
And of the other fighters of renown.
But of his passion not a word lets slip;
He knows full well how loose Astolfo’s lip.

But when he learns that Argalía’s fled
Into the forest, with the girl beside him
And that Rinaldo after them has sped,
He parts, with sorrow on his face, to hide him,
And in despair collapses on his bed.
Such is the pain that’s hammering inside him,
The mighty champion, the hero bold,
Cries like a vulgar boy who’s six years old.

“Alas! – he cries, – that I have no defense
Against this enemy within my soul.
Why can my Durindan make no offense
Against this love that seeketh to control
My heart, and burns me with a heat intense?
All grief seems joyful, reackoned ‘gainst this dole.
In all the world is one worse off than I?
I burn with love and freeze with jealousy.

I know not whether that angelic dame
Will ever deign to give her love to me.
Thrice fortunate, a man could justly claim
To be the Son of Fortune, and would be
Crowned with felicity if her heart flamed
With love for him alone, but as for me,
If hope is lost, I won’t live in despair,
But I will slay myself right then and there.

Ah, luckless wretch! Rinaldo went to fetch her!
What if he find her, wand’ring in some glade?
I know full well he’s such a foul lecher
She’ll never leave his hands and still be maid.
Perhaps right now he’s reaching forth to catch her,
While like a little girl I sit, dismayed,
Holding my head between my hands and sighing,
And think to help myself by vainly crying.

I can’t continue to make secret moan
About this fire which consumes my heart,
But I should die of shame if it were known.
I swear by God, tonight I will depart
From Paris, his in darkness all alone,
And in quest of that beauty I will start.
Until I find her, over dale and fell,
On land, at sea, in Heaven and in Hell.”

With this resolved upon, his bed he leaves,
Where he’d been lying, weeping heavy tears.
He sees the dusk, and at the sight he grieves.
He paces anxiously, now there, now here.
Plan after plan his troubled brain conceives
While weary minutes creep along like years.
But when at last the light was wholly gone,
In secrecy he put his armor on.

His famous quarterings of red and white
He did not bear, but solid dark vermillion.
Then saddles Brigliadoro, and the knight
Mounts him and issues forth through the postillion.
Nor squire nor page accompanies his flight,
As he rides out. He heaved more than a million
Of sighs and groans, the most unhappy soul,
As he moved closer to his longed-for goal.

Now must we leave our champions thus bound
For high adventuring within Ardennes,
Orlando and Rinaldo, knights renowned,
And Ferragu, the flow’r of Saracens,
To turn to Charles, who would fain announce
That in the morn the jousting would commence.
Salomon, Naim, and Gan approved the plan.
Karl called for silence and his speech began:

“O lordings, what I think ought to be done,
Is that we choose a knight to hold the ring.
The rest will joust against him one by one,
Till by his strength or fortune, someone flings
Him from his saddle. Once he’s overcome,
The victor shall continue tourneying
Until he wins the prize or wins disgrace,
And who o’erthrows him shall assume his place.”

Each one applauds the words of Charlemagne,
And call him prudent, wise, and clever lord.
His new conception meets with much acclaim,
And is approved by all with one accord.
Next morning, all prepare for joust and game.
The right of precedence the king awards
To Serpentin, that ardent cavalier,
To fight all comers with the civil spear.

As cheerful dawn to tranquil day gave place
A day more lovely than you would believe,
King Charles rode out to the field apace
Without his armor, saving boots and greaves,
His sword girt on, in hand his judge’s mace,
He rode upon a bold and handsome steed,
While he was followed by his men of might,
His counts and barons and his bravest knights.

Behold where Serpentino hither rides,
In shining armor,  on a mighty horse,
That bears itself and lifts its hooves with pride,
As round the ring it runs a warm-up course.
Its sides are flecked with foam; its eyes start wide,
It seems full eager to display its force,
For while it glares about with glances dire,
Its nostrils flare as if to shoot out fire.

And like the horse the rider doth appear
Who sits upon him with a haughty face,
Armed in magnificent and splendid gear,
And firmly seated in his saddle-place.
The boys and dames point out the cavalier
Who such great vigour and such nerve displays,
And all who see him have no doubt that he
Will conquer all and gain the victory.

The worthy cavalier bears for design
Upon an azure shield a star of gold;
His helmet, made to match it, richly shines;
His surcoat’s wrought with patterns manifold.
His coat of arms and helmet light and fine
Could not be valued; worth had they untold,
And all his armor in the sunlight shone;
‘Twas decked with pearls and other precious stones.

He takes his place and eagerly awaits
His foes, and like a mighty tower stands.
The trumpets blare up, and in through the gates
The jousters enter. Foremost of the band
Is Angelino of Bordeaux, who straight
Lays lance in rest. He is a mighty man,
In wars and tournaments, and bears for shield
A silver moon upon an azure field.

Swift as the wind the cavaliers advance,
And clash with noise as when the thunder rolls.
Don Angelino’s blow does naught but glance
Off his foe’s arm, but Serpentino bowls
Him off his horse with his unyielding lance.
To heaven Angelin displays his soles.
The crowd applauds and cheers with all its might,
And shouts the praises of the Starry Knight.

Next comes the strong Ricardo from the crowd,
Who held the lordship of all Normandy.
A golden lion hath this baron proud
Upon a scarlet shield. Right speedily
He came, but Serpentino was uncowed
And raced to meet him, with great chivalry.
He gave the Paladin a blow so grand
It made his body knock against the sand.

Oh, how King Balugant rejoices there
To see his son achieving such renown.
A checkered shield his next opponent bears,
Around his helm he bears a golden crown.
‘Tis Salamon, the wise and silver-haired,
Who rushes forward with a reckless bound.
But Serpentino strikes him stout and true,
And knocks him to the ground, and his horse, too.

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Book I, Canto I, Part 1





While King Gradasso plots to conquer France,
Charles, unawares, is putting on a feast,
At which Angelica has evil plans
To kidnap all his knights and take them East.
First Malagise falls into her hands,
And then Astolfo by the dame is seized,
But Ferraguto, headstrong and extreme,
Upsets completely her malicious scheme.

Come, gentle lords and knights and gather round,
To hear a novel and delightful thing.
Pay close attention and make not a sound
And hearken to the history I sing
Of mighty deeds and enterprise renowned
Of wondrous feats and high adventuring
Done by Orlando when he felt Love’s pain
When Charles the Great as emperor did reign.

“Orlando in Love.” My lords, be not astounded
To hear that title, for if truth be known,
The man whose strength and prowess were unbounded
By love was overcome and overthrown.
Not strength of arms, nor soul in reason grounded,
Nor shield, nor mail, nor sword of sharpest hone,
Nor any other thing may men defend,
But Love shall take and bind them in the end.

This tale is scarce, and very few have read it,
Because Don Turpin, once the tale was written,
Thinking, perhaps, that it would being discredit
Upon the Count, to tell how he was smitten
By Love, who said when no one else had said it,
That by his might Orlando had been beaten,
Hid the true story of the Count away,
Which I have found, and tell you all today.

Turpin begins his chronicle veracious
Stating past India reigned a potentate
Whose fiefs and territories were so spacious,
His lands so fertile and his wealth so great,
And he himself so mighty and pugnacious,
That he thought none in all the world his mate.
This worthy admiral Gradasso hight,
Who had a dragon’s heart and giant’s height.

But great lords have an all-too-common habit:
They see the wealth which other people own
And straight consumes them a desire to nab it
And make it to belong to them alone,
And in their greed they cook up plans to grab it,
From which all trace of common sense hath flown.
So this strong Pagan had but one desire:
Baiard and Durindana to acquire.

He sent through his dominions far and nigh,
Calling his lords to gather on a day,
For well he knew he could not simply buy
The horse and sword: too valuable were they.
Their owners asked a price which was so high
That even kings would find it hard to pay.
So he determined to go into France
And simply take them through his great puissance.

One hundred fifty thousand men of might
He chose from all his warriors who there banded.
Not that he wished to use them in the fight.
He hoped to gain his triumph single-handed
Against King Charlemagne and all the knights
Of every land wherein the Cross was planted,
And he himself would conquer and subdue
Ev’ry last country which the son doth view.

But let us leave them sailing on the main,
Until they’ve made their way across the sea,
And rather turn to France, to Charlemagne,
Who also summoned all his barony.
His dukes, marquis, and counts before him came
With all the flow’r of Christian chivalry.
For Charles had proclaimed both far and wide
He’d hold a tournament at Whitsuntide.

To Charles’ court came all the Paladins
To do him honor and enjoy the feast.
Men came from ev’rywhere. The Paris inns
Were full to bursting; still the crowds increased.
And with the Christians mingled Saracens,
For Charles had proclaimed a solemn peace,
And ev’ry knight his solemn oath had made
To be no traitor and no renegade.

A host of brave and worthy cavaliers
Had come from Spain with all their retinue:
The King Grandonio, like a serpent fierce;
Lowering like a griffin, Ferragu;
And Serpentin and his friend Isolier;
King Balugante, father-in-law  to
King Charles, with far more knights than I could state,
The jousts and tourneys eagerly await.

The city rang through all its streets and courses
With sounds of drums, of trumpets, and of bells.
Had you been there, you would have seen the forces
Decked in their best array. I must not dwell
On all the finery of men and horses.
They bore more gold and jewels than I could tell.
To please the king, and make each other jealous,
Each knight for his apparellings was zealous.

The day had come when Charles had decreed
The joustings and the tourney should commence,
But first he summoned one and all to feed
In his own hall, with great magnificence.
All of the cavaliers of either creed
Came to do Charles fitting reverence,
And when the number of them was completed,
Twenty-two thousand thirty there were seated.

King Charles sat upon a throne of gold,
With joyous face, among his paladins,
At his round table, whence he might behold
All things. Near him the noblest Saracens
Sat not on benches, but on carpets lolled
Like dogs, for this their custom long has been,
To lie on carpets when they wish to dine.
To try the Frankish custom they decline.

On either side of him, in order fitting,
Were ranged the tables, says the history.
At the first table all the kings were sitting.
King Desiderio, who ruled Lombardy;
And King Ottone, sovereign lord of Britain,
And Salamon the wise of Brittany.
According to their rank, on either hand,
Sat the crowned kings of ev’ry Christian land.

Marquis and dukes the second table grace;
The third is for the counts and simple knights.
Men of Maganza have a special place,
And Ganelon is on the emperor’s right.
Rinaldo’s eyes with wrath and fury blaze,
Because these traitors, to do him despite,
Mock at his poverty, and put on airs
Because his clothes are not as fine as theirs.

Although his anger is by no means spent,
He masks it with a joyous countenance,
While to himself he thinks, “O hateful men,
Tomorrow in the lists you’ll feel my lance.
We’ll see who sits aloft in triumph then,
Accursed family, and scourge of France!
If my heart fails me not, I shall, I trust,
Make ev’ry one of you roll in the dust.”

King Balugante eyes Rinaldo then,
And guessing somewhat of his inner thought,
By his interpreter a message sends
To ask the knight if honor can be bought
At Charles’ court, or only worthy men
Obtain it, for he wishes to be taught
The Christians’ customs, that he might dispense
To ev’ry man a fitting recompense.

Rinaldo smiled, and raised up his head,
And to the messenger said, “Tell the king
That if by our example he’d be led,
And be at one with us in reckoning,
Gluttons at table and our whores in bed
Win praise from us above all other things.
But let him wait until he sees us fight,
And then he’ll know whom he ought to requite.”

But while these two their conversation hold,
The trumpets ring out, and the feast begins.
The servers enter, bearing plates of gold,
Heaped with fine viands, while the cups from brim
To base were wrought with carvings manifold.
Which Charlemagne sent as a gift from him
To ev’ry baron, and the like largesse
He showed to ev’ry man of high prowess.

With gabs and boasts, and many merry jests,
With mirth and revelry the hall resounds
King Charles looks, and joy swells in his breast,
Seeing kings, dukes, and knights of such renown.
He thinks the Pagans will be sorely pressed
In jousts, like dust before the breezes blown.
But just then, there occurred a wondrous thing,
Which stunned alike the barons and the king.

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