Book I, Canto XII, Part 4

The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto XII, Stanzas 61-80

Iroldo covers now his face and head,
For with his eyes he does not wish to see
His dear beloved to her death thus led.
Now doth Tisbin begin to sorrow free.
Her heartsickness hath not yet from her sped;
Her own death naught to her appears to be,
But all her grief is for Prasildo’s death;
This woe all other sorrows augmenteth.

To leave no thing undone, and keep her word,
Towards Prasildo’s house she takes her way,
And secret audience with him implored;
She went alone, just at the break of day.
When Don Prasild her gentle knocking heard,
He went and opened to her straightaway.
He wished to do all things to please the dame,
Nor knew he what to do for fear and shame.

But once they are alone together in
A secret place, and may be at their ease,
With dulcet voice and soft words he begins
To do whatever he thinks may her please.
He tries to make her laugh, or even grin,
For tracks of tears upon her face he sees.
He though it only was for maiden’s shame;
He knew not death with hasty footsteps came.

At last, with gentle chiding, he implores her,
By what she loves the most in all the world,
To tell him why and wherefore she deplores her,
And by what stormy grief her soul is whirled,
For, so he swears to her, he so adores  her
He’d die, if need were, for his joy, his pearl;
So urgently for answering he sought,
At last he hears what he’d far rather not.

Because Tisbina answered him: “The love
Which after so much labor thou hast gained
Is in thy power, but for not above
Four hours more. My oath unbroke remains.
I lose my life, but what I prize most of
All things is that the man I love was fain
To lost his life with me and walk beside
Me when away from thee fore’er I hide.

“Had my heart been at any time my own,
And hadst thou been, as thou hast been, so true,
A great discourtesy I should have shown
Had I not loved thee much as I could do;
But so I could not do, for one alone
I love, and no one can have love for two.
To love thee, sir, I cannot even start,
Though much compassion long has filled my heart.

“And this my having pity on thy lot
Has grown my misery a hundredfold,
For thy laments such sorrow to me brought
Since first I heard thee all thy griefs unfold,
That to stay faithful to my love, I wrought
My poison-death ere I might thee behold.”
With further words, she all the tale explains,
How Don Irold and she had drunk their banes.

Don Prasildo hath such grief at heart
When he hath heard Tisbina’s woeful speech,
To speak or move he cannot even start.
And where he’d thought his happiness to reach,
He sees all happiness for aye depart,
For in his heart she hath made such a breach,
Her, in whose person all his joy resides
He now sees dying right before his eyes.

“Ah, would that neither God, nor thou, Tisbina,
Had put my courtesy to such a test,”
The baron said, “No one has ever seen a
Fate like ours cruel, not lovers so distressed.
That lovers twain should slay themselves has been a
Thing done too often at great Love’s behest,
But three together, I can see full well
By evening shall together wend to Hell.

“O thou of little faith, why didst thou doubt
That I’d release thee from thy plighted boon?
Thou saidst thou heardst me in the woods without
A hardened heart. Ah, speak the truth, dear, now.
I trust thee not; this lays it plainly out.
Thou’st slain thyself to murder me, I trow.
Ah, wherefore could I not have been born blind,
Before thy lovely face I chanced to find?

“Wert so disgusted when my love was shown,
O cruel one, for death thou couldst not wait?
God be my witness, if I’d only known
I could not cease to love, or start to hate,
But in the wastes I would have lived alone,
If my love pressed thy heart with so much weight.
Who could have been so cruel as to provide
One sweet as thou the means for suicide?

“I never wished to cause thee any grief,
I do not wish to now, nor shall I ever;
Now from my luckless love I grant relief
To thee, though I shall love another never.
If not yet in my good-will thou’st belief
Then I shall prove it, and all ties I sever.
Hereby I free thee of all oaths to me,
And in all things I shall be ruled by thee.”

Tisbina hears the baron courteous,
And filled with pity, she begins to say:
“Thy courtesy hath conquered me by this;
For thy sake, living still would make me gay.
But Fortune wills the contrary, ywis,
And but a little time I have to stay,
But in what little space to me remains,
To please thee, gladly I’d take any pains.”

Prasildo’s heart is burning up with woe,
So sad is he that he her death hath wrought.
He doesn’t comprehend her words, and so
With mind so sorrowful it hath no thought
He only pressed his lips against her own,
Then left her free to do whate’er she sought.
And when he hears the door behind her close,
Sobbing, himself upon his bed he throws.

After, Tisbina to Iroldo came,
Who lay upon his bed with woeful look.
All of Prasildo’s doings she explains,
How nought from her besides a kiss he took.
Iroldo leapt from bed upon the boards
And with clasped hands, and with a voice that shook,
Upon his knees he went, and humbly did he
Beseech High God for mercy and for pity,

That He will rend Prasildo guerdon fair
For courtesy, by selfishness unkept.
But, while he knelt and he poured out his prayer,
Tisbina fell to earth, as if she slept;
Swiftly the potion wrought upon his dear;
And through her delicate, small veins it crept.
Upon a weak heart death takes sooner hold
As do all passions, than one stout and bold.

Now Don Iroldo fells his face like ice,
When that he sees his lady fall to ground,
Just like a rag she fell before his eyes;
She seemed as slumber, and not death, her bound.
Cruel he calls God above, and cruel the skies,
Who with such woes have compassed him around;
Cruel he calls Fortune, cruel he blameth Love,
Who will not slay him, grieved all men above.

But let us leave this cavalier in woes,
Thou mayst imagine, sir knight, how he fares.
Prasildo in his chamber was enclosed.
Thus he lamented, speaking through his tears:
“Does all the world another lover know,
Whom Fortune dealt so cruelly with as here?
For, if I wish to be my lady nigh,
In but a little time I’ll have to die.

“This is my comfort from this heartless one,
Who is so hateful, though as Love he’s known.
Of all my pleasures, come now, leave me none,
Come sate yourself, O cruel one, on my woes!
With thee and thine forever I am done.
There is no worser lot than in thy throes.
And lesser pain, I trow, is found in Hell,
Then in thy kingdom, governed most unwell.”

But while he with lament the air inspires,
Behold arriving there an old physician.
The aged doctor for Prasild inquires,
Whose servants fain would him refuse admission.
The old man says, “My spirit is afire.
I shall come in, with or without permission,
For otherwise you will regret it soon:
Your master will be dead  by afternoon.”

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Book I, Canto XII, Part 3

The Orlando Innamorato in English translation, Book I, Canto XII, Stanzas 41-60

The path led up a narrow, dang’rous slope,
Nor without clamor was the gate unbarred.
Few were the times that saw that gateway ope,
Sometimes by Toil, but more oft by Fraud.
Many are they who towards the portal grope,
But few to find it open are well-starred.
Prasildo found it open on that day,
Because one-half the branch he’d had to pay.

Leaving that place, he rides on swift and steady,
Now judge, Sir Knight, if happy he him deemd,
Who longed to be in Babylon already,
And each day to him like a hundred seemed.
Through Nubia, for quicker travel, sped he,
His boat soon through Arabian waters streamed.
By night and day he sped so far and fast,
That into Babylon he came at last.

He sends his squire to the lady how
Her will is done, her knight is faithful still,
And, when she wishes to behold the bough,
She need but name what place and time she will,
And to remind her that the time is now
When likewise she her promise must fulfill,
And if her plighted word she altereth,
She may be certain she will cause his death.

What pain at heart, and how much cause to mourn
This woeful message brings Tisbina bright!
She throws herself upon her bed, forlorn.
To her there comes no rest by day or night.
“Alas for me!” she says, “Why was I born?
Or in the cradle could I not have died?
Death is the remedy for ev’ry ill,
But not for mine; my word I must fulfill.

“For if I slay myself with my own hand,
My oath is broken and I am a coward.
How foolish was I not to understand
That there is nothing that’s beyond Love’s power.
Beneath his sway are sky and sea and land,
With rule o’er mind and body he’s endowered.
Prasild came back alive, and sore I rue it;
Who would have ever thought that he could do it?

“Luckless Iroldo, ah, what wilt thou do,
When thy Tisbina is forever lost
And thine own fault it is that thou must rue,
Thy plan the cause that by distress I’m tossed.
Ah, luckless wretch, why wilt thou speak words new?
Thy words already had so great a cost.
Such woe has come from what my mouth said then,
I swear I’ll never make an oath again!”

Iroldo came, and heard his love lament,
And saw her lying face-down on her bed,
Because she had a message to him sent,
To come at once, where all her woes she said.
Without a word, across the bed he leant,
And took her in his arms; she laid her head
Upon his breast, and neither one could speak,
Nor any other thing could do but weep.

They seemed two blocks of ice beneath the sun,
For down their faces ran such woeful tears.
They tried to speak, but only sobs would come,
But finally, Iroldo’s voice appears:
“What grieves me most is that what I have done
Has brought such pain to thee, my love, my dear.
For nothing hath the power to be a spite
To me, which is to thee a sweet delight.

“But thou art well aware, my love, my all,
For thou such wisdom hast and such discretion,
That if once Love to Jealousy should fall,
The world knows not a more intensive passion.
This misadventure grieves me more than gall,
For our unhappiness myself have fashioned.
‘Twas I and I alone who made thee swear;
‘Tis I alone deserve the pain to bear.

“’Tis I alone who ought to be in pain,
Who did induce thee to thy woeful plight.
But still, I beg thee, as thou bliss wouldst gain,
And by the love which gave me once delight,
That thou wilt keep thine honor without stain,
And let Prasildo with reward be dight
For his great enterprise and perils vast,
Which at thy bidding he has overpassed.

“But please, oh, grant it not till I am dead,
For I am sure I shall not last the day.
Let Fortune heap up wrongs upon my head
But never living shall I see thee stray
And down in Hell I shall be comfortéd,
Knowing I made thee happy for a day;
But when I know thou art no longer mine,
Though I be dead, I’ll die a second time.”

He would have ‘plained his sorrow even more,
But his voice broke, he was so much distressed;
He stands insensible, and stunned, so sore
His grief; his heart beat high within his chest.
And fair Tisbina no less sorrow bore.
Woe of all color did her face divest.
But, turning now to look upon her love,
She spoke, as soft and gentle as a dove:

“Thinkest thou, such a fickle heart is mine,
That I could live without thee anywhere?
And what hath happened to that love of thine,
Of which so often thou wast wont to swear,
That if you hadst a heaven, or all nine,
Thou couldst not stand to live without me there?
And now thou thinkest thou wilt live in Hell,
And leave me wretched upon Earth to dwell?

“I am and have been thine since first we met,
And shall be thine beyond the gates of death,
If after dying, Love surviveth yet,
And mem’ry in the soul still lingereth.
It never shall of me be writ or said,
‘Another man Tisbina comforteth.’
‘Tis true that at thy death I shall not cry,
For at the news, immediately I’ll die.

“But hearken now, for I have found a way
That I may keep my promise to Prasild.
That curséd promise, which shall soon me slay;
Once it’s fulfilled, myself to death I’ll yield.
Together in the afterlife we’ll stay
While in one tomb our bodies lie concealed.
I beg thee, by the love thou bearest me,
To let me die the self-same time as thee.

“This shall be finished through a pleasant poison,
The which in such a manner hath been brewed,
That slowly from our bodies leaves the foison,
And in five hours with life they’re not imbued.
Time for Prasild to see the face he joys in,
And I shall keep my honor whitely hued,
And soon thereafter, with my death shall cease
All of the evils that disturb our peace.

And thus, and thus, they do their death ordain,
Two hapless lovers, to each other dear.
They stand, their faces by their grieving stained,
Now more then ever are they choked with tears.
Nor wish they ought, but only to remain
Together. Oft they clasp each other near.
At last Tisbina for the poison sent,
And to an agéd doctor’s shop she went.

The doctor gave to her a little vial,
And would not take of her a thing in fee.
Iroldo, when he stared at it a while,
Began, “No other path is offered me,
To change my darling’s sorrows to a smile.
Ah, Fortune, safely may I mock at thee,
For Death has power greater far than thine,
And thy dominion soon I’ll leave behind.”

He swallows half the contents of the flask,
Nor hesitates to drunk the poison sweet.
But not yet to Tisbina’s hand it passed.
He had no fear himself his death to meet,
But did not wish to make hers come more fast;
But when he saw the tears run down her cheek,
He stared down at the ground, and passed the drink,
And seemed to be already on death’s brink,

Not from the toxin, but alone from woe,
That she whom he so dearly loved must die.
Tisbin, with icy heart and motion slow,
And trembling hand, lifts up the vial high.
She blasphemes Fate and Love that forced her so
Unto this cruel end. She brings it nigh
Her ruby lips, and swallows ev’ry drop,
Then on the floor she lets the vial drop.

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Book I, Canto XII, Part 1

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


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.

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.

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.

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.

“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.

“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.

“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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

“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.

“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.”

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