Orlando Furioso, by Lodovico Ariosto

Canto 12

Argument

Orlando, full of rage, pursues a knight

Who bears by force his lady-love away,

And comes where old Atlantes, by his sleight

Had raised a dome, Rogero there to stay.

Here too Rogero comes; where getting sight

Of his lost love, the County strives in fray

With fierce Ferrau, and, after slaughter fell

Amid the paynim host, finds Isabel.

I

Ceres, when from the Idaean dame in haste

Returning to the lonely valley, where

Enceladus the Aetnaean mountain placed

On his bolt-smitten flanks, is doomed to bear,

Her girl she found not, on that pathless waste,

By her late quitted, having rent her hair,

And marked cheeks, eyes, and breast, with livid signs,

At the end of her lament tore up two pines,

II

And lit at Vulcan’s fire the double brand,

And gave them virtue never to be spent;

And, afterwards, with one in either hand,

Drawn by two dragons, in her chariot went,

Searching the forest, hill, and level land,

Field, valley, running stream, or water pent,

The land and sea; and having searched the shell

Of earth above, descended into hell.

III

Had Roland of Eleusis’ deity

The sovereign power possessed no less than will,

He for Angelica had land and sea

Ransacked, and wood and field, and pool and rill,

Heaven, and Oblivion’s bottom: but since he

Had not, his pressing purpose to fulfil,

Her dragon and her car, the unwearied knight

Pursued the missing maid as best he might.

IV

Through France he sought her, and will seek her through

The realms of Italy and of Almayn,

And thence through the Castiles, both old and new,

So passing into Libya out of Spain.

While bold Orlando has this plan in view,

He hears, or thinks he hears, a voice complain:

He forward spurs, and sees on mighty steed

A warrior trot before him on the mead;

V

Who in his arms a captive damsel bears,

Sore grieving, and across the pommel laid;

She weeps and struggles, and the semblance wears

Of cruel woe, and ever calls for aid

Upon Anglantes’ prince; and now appears

To him, as he surveys the youthful maid,

She, for whom, night and day, with ceaseless pain,

Inside and out, he France had searched in vain.

VI

I say not is, but that she to the sight

Seems the Angelica he loves so dear.

He who is lady-love and goddess’ flight

Beholds, borne off in such afflicted cheer,

Impelled by fury foul, and angry spite,

Calls back with horrid voice the cavalier;

Calls back the cavalier, and threats in vain,

And Brigliadoro drives with flowing rein.

VII

That felon stops not, nor to him replies,

On his great gain intent, his glorious prey;

And with such swiftness through the greenwood hies,

Wind would not overtake him on his way.

The one pursues while him the other flies,

And with lament resounds the thicket gray.

They issue in a spacious mead, on which

Appears a lofty mansion, rare and rich.

VIII

Of various marbles, wrought with subtle care,

Is the proud palace. He who fast in hold

Bears off upon his arm the damsel fair,

Sore pricking, enters at a gate of gold.

Nor Brigliador is far behind the pair,

Backed by Orlando, angry knight and bold.

Entering, around Orlando turns his eyes,

Yet neither cavalier nor damsel spies.

IX

He suddenly dismounts, and thundering fares

Through the inmost palace, seeking still his foe,

And here and there in restless rage repairs,

Till he has seen each bower, each galleried row;

With the same purpose he ascends the stairs,

Having first vainly searched each room below.

Nor spends less labour, on his task intent,

Above, than he beneath had vainly spent.

X

Here beds are seen adorned with silk and gold;

Nor of partition aught is spied or wall:

For these, and floor beneath, throughout that hold,

Are hid by curtains and by carpets all.

Now here, now there, returns Orlando bold,

Nor yet can glad his eyes, in bower or hall,

With the appearance of the royal maid,

Or the foul thief by whom she was conveyed.

XI

This while, as here and there in fruitless pain

He moves, oppressed with thought and trouble sore,

Gradasso, Brandimart, and him of Spain,

Ferrau, he finds, with Sacripant and more;

Who ever toiling, like himself, in vain

Above, that building, and beneath explore,

And as they wander, curse with one accord

The malice of the castle’s viewless lord.

XII

All in pursuit of the offender speed,

And upon him some charge of robbery lay:

One knight complains that he has stolen his steed,

One that he has purloined his lady gay.

Other accuses him of other deed:

And thus within the enchanted cage they stay,

Nor can depart; while in the palace pent,

Many have weeks and months together spent.

XIII

Roland, when he round that strange dome had paced

Four times or six, still vainly seeking, said

Within himself, at last, “I here might waste

My time and trouble, still in vain delayed,

While haply her the robber whom I chased

Has far away, through other gate conveyed.”

So thinking, from the house he issued out

Into the mead which girt the dome about.

XIV

While Roland wanders round the sylvan Hall,

Still holding close his visage to the ground,

To see if recent print or trace withal

Can, right or left, upon the turf be found,

He from a neighbouring window hears a call,

And looks, and thinks he hears that voice’s sound,

And thinks he sees the visage by which he

Was so estranged from what he wont to be.

XV

He thinks he hears Angelica, and she

“Help, help!” entreating cries, and weeping sore,

“More than for life and soul, alas! of thee

Protection for my honour I implore.

Then shall it in my Roland’s presence be

Ravished by this foul robber? Oh! before

Me to such miserable fate you leave,

Let me from your own hand my death receive!”

XVI

These words repeated once, and yet again,

Made Roland through each chamber, far and near,

Return with passion, and with utmost pain;

But tempered with high hope. Sometimes the peer

Stopt in his search and heard a voice complain,

Which seemed to be Angelica’s: if here

The restless warrior stand, it sounds from there,

And calls for help he knows not whence nor where,

XVII

Returning to Rogero, left, I said,

When through a gloomy path, upon his steed,

Following the giant and the dame who fled,

He from the wood had issued on the mead;

I say that he arrived where Roland dread

Arrived before him, if I rightly read.

The giant through the golden portal passed,

Rogero close behind, who followed fast.

XVIII

As soon as he his foot has lifted o’er

The threshold, he through court and gallery spies;

Nor sees the giant or the lady more,

And vainly glances here and there his eyes.

He up and down returns with labour sore,

Yet not for that his longing satisfies;

Nor can imagine where the felon thief

Has hid himself and dame in space so brief.

XIX

After four times or five he so had wound

Above, below, through bower and gallery fair,

He yet returned, and, having nothing found,

Searched even to the space beneath the stair.

At length, in hope they in the woodlands round

Might be, he sallied; but the voice, which there

Roland recalled, did him no less recall,

And made as well return within the Hall.

XX

One voice, one shape, which to Anglantes’ peer

Seemed his Angelica, beseeching aid.

Seemed to Rogero Dordogne’s lady dear.

Who him a truant to himself had made:

If with Gradasso, or with other near

He spake, of those who through the palace strayed.

To all of them the vision, seen apart,

Seemed that which each had singly most at heart.

XXI

This was a new and unwonted spell,

Which the renowned Atlantes had composed,

That in this toil, this pleasing pain, might dwell

So long Rogero, by these walls enclosed,

From him should pass away the influence fell,

— Influence which him to early death exposed.

Though vain his magic tower of steel, and vain

Alcina’s art, Atlantes plots again.

XXII

Not only he, but others who stood high

For valour, and in France had greatest fame,

That by their hands Rogero might not die,

Brought here by old Atlantes’ magic came:

While these in the enchanted mansion lie,

That food be wanting not to knight or dame,

He has supplied the dome throughout so well,

That all the inmates there in plenty dwell.

XXIII

But to Angelica return we, who

Now of that ring so wondrous repossessed,

(Which, in her mouth, concealed the maid from view,

Preserved from spell when it the finger pressed,)

Was in the mountain-cavern guided to

Whatever needed, viands, mare, and vest,

And had conceived the project to pursue

Her way to her fair Indian realm anew.

XXIV

King Sacripant, or Roland, willingly

The damsel would have taken for her guide;

Not that, propitious to their wishes, she

(Averse from both) inclined to either side;

But, since her eastern journey was to be

Through town and city, scattered far and wide,

She needed company, and ill had found

More trusty guides than these for such a round.

XXV

Now this, now that she sought with fruitless care,

Before she lit on either warrior’s trace,

By city or by farm, now here, now there,

In forest now, and now in other place.

Fortune, at length, where caged with Roland are

Ferrau and Sacripant, directs her chase;

Rogero, with Gradasso fierce, and more,

Noosed with strange witcheries by Atlantes hoar.

XXVI

She enters, hidden from the enchanter’s eyes,

And by the ring concealed, examines all;

And Roland there, and Sacripant espies,

Intent to seek her vainly through the Hall;

And with her image cheating both, descries

Atlantes old. The damsel doubts withal

Which of the two to take, and long revolves

This in her doubtful thought, nor well resolves.

XXVII

She knows not which with her will best accord,

The Count Orlando or Circassia’s knight.

As of most powers, her would Rogero ward

In passage perilous, with better might.

But should she make the peer her guide, her lord,

She knew not if her champion she could slight,

If him she would depress with altered cheer,

Or into France send back the cavalier:

XXVIII

But Sacripant at pleasure could depose,

Though him she had uplifted to the sky.

Hence him alone she for her escort chose,

And feigned to trust in his fidelity.

The ring she from her mouth withdraws, and shows

Her face, unveiled to the Circassian’s eye:

She thought to him alone; but fierce Ferrau

And Roland came upon the maid, and saw.

XXIX

Ferrau and Roland came upon the maid;

For one and the other champion equally

Within the palace and without it strayed

In quest of her, who was their deity.

And now, no longer by the enchantment stayed,

Each ran alike towards the dame, for she

Had placed the ring upon her hand anew,

Which old Atlantes’ every scheme o’erthrew.

XXX

Helm on the head and corselet on the breast

Of both the knights, of whom I sing, was tied;

By night or day, since they into this rest

Had entered, never doffed and laid aside:

For such to wear were easy as a vest,

To these, so wont the burden to abide.

As well was armed, except with iron masque,

Ferrau, who wore not, nor would wear, a casque.

XXXI

Till he had that erst wrested by the peer,

Orlando, from the brother of Troyane;

For so had sworn the Spanish cavalier,

What time he Argalia’s helm in vain

Sought in the brook; yet though the count was near,

Has not stretched forth his hand the prize to gain.

For so it was, that neither of the pair

Could recognise the other knight while there.

XXXII

Upon the enchanted dome lay such a spell,

That they from one another were concealed;

They doffed not, night nor day, the corselet’s shell,

Not sword, nor even put aside the shield.

Saddled, with bridle hanging at the sell,

Their steeds were feeding, ready for the field,

Within a chamber, near the palace door,

With straw and barley heaped in plenteous store.

XXXIII

Nor might nor mean in old Atlantes lies

To stop the knights from mounting, who repair

To their good steeds, to chase the bright black eyes,

The fair vermillion cheeks and golden hair

Of the sweet damsel, who before them flies,

And goads to better speed her panting mare;

Ill pleased the three assembled to discern,

Though haply she had taken each in turn.

XXXIV

And when these from the magic palace she

Had ticed so far, that she no more supposed

The warriors to the wicked fallacy

Of the malign enchanter were exposed,

The ring, which more than once from misery

Had rescued her, she ‘twixt her lips enclosed,

Hence from their sight she vanished in a thought,

And left them wondering there, like men distraught.

XXXV

Although she first the scheme had entertained

Roland or Sacripant to have released,

To guide her thither, where her father reigned,

King Galaphron, who ruled i’ the farthest East,

The aid of both she suddenly disdained,

And in an instant from her project ceased;

And deemed, without more debt to count or king,

In place of either knight sufficed the ring.

XXXVI

In haste, they through the forest, here and there,

So scorned of her, still gaze with stupid face;

Like questing hound which loses sight of hare

Or fox, of whom he late pursued the trace,

Into close thicket, ditch, or narrow lair,

Escaping from the keen pursuer’s chase.

Meantime their ways the wanton Indian queen

Observes, and at their wonder laughs unseen.

XXXVII

In the mid wood, where they the maid did lose,

Was but a single pathway, left or right;

Which they believed the damsel could not choose

But follow, when she vanished from their sight.

Ferrau halts not, and Roland fast pursues,

Nor Sacripant less plies the rowels bright.

Angelica, this while, retrains her steed,

And follows the three warriors with less speed.

XXXVIII

When pricking thus they came to where the way

Was in the forest lost, with wood o’ergrown,

And had begun the herbage to survey

For print of recent footsteps, up and down,

The fierce Ferrau, who might have borne away

From all that ever proudest were, the crown,

With evil countenance, to the other two

Turned him about, and shouted “Whence are you?”

XXXIX

“Turn back or take another road, save here,

In truth, you covet to be slain by me.

Nor when I chase or woo my lady dear,

Let any think I bear with company.”

And — “What more could he say, sir cavalier,”

(Orlando cried to Sacripant) “if we

Were known for the two basest whores that pull

And reel from spindle-staff the matted wool?”

XL

Then turning to Ferrau,, “But that thine head,

Thou brutish sot, as I behold, is bare,

If thy late words were ill or wisely said,

Thou should’st perceive, before we further fare.”

To him Ferrau: “For that which breeds no dread

In me, why should’st thou take such sovereign care?

What I have said unhelmed will I prove true,

Here, single as I am, on both of you.”

XLI

“Oh!” (to Circassia’s king cried Roland dread)

“Thy morion for this man let me entreat,

Till I have driven such folly from his head;

For never with like madness did I meet.”

— “Who then would be most fool?” the monarch said;

“But if indeed you deem the suit discreet,

Lend him thine own; nor shall I be less fit

Haply than thee to school his lack of wit.”

XLII

— “Fools, both of you!” (the fierce Ferrau replied)

“As if, did I to wear a helm delight,

You would not be without your casques of pride,

Already reft by me in your despite;

But know thus much, that I by vow am tied

To wear no helm, and thus my promise quite;

Roaming without, till that fine casque I win

Worn by Orlando, Charles’s paladin.”

XLIII

— “Then” (smiling, to the Spaniard said the count)

“With naked head, thou thinkest to repeat

On Roland what he did in Aspramont,

By Agolant’s bold son: but shouldst thou meet

The warrior whom thou seekest, front to front,

I warrant thou wouldst quake from head to feet;

Nor only wouldst forego the casque, but give

The knight thine other arms to let thee live.”

XLIV

— “So oft have I had Roland on the hip,

And oft,” (exclaimed the boaster) “heretofore;

From him it had been easy task to strip

What other arms, beside his helm, he wore;

And if I still have let the occasion slip,

— We sometimes think of things unwished before:

Such wish I had not; I have now; and hope

To compass easily my present scope.”

XLV

The good Orlando could no more forbear,

And cried, “Foul miscreant, liar, marched with me,

Say, caitiff, in what country, when and where

Boast you to have obtained such victory?

That paladin am I, o’er whom you dare

To vaunt, and whom you distant deemed: now see

If you can take my helm, or I have might

To take your other arms in your despite.

XLVI

“Nor I o’er you the smallest vantage wou’d.”

He ended, and his temples disarrayed,

And to a beech hung up the helmet good,

And nigh as quickly bared his trenchant blade.

Ferrau stands close, and in such attitude,

(His courage not for what had chanced dismayed)

Covered with lifted shield and naked sword,

As might best shelter to his head afford.

XLVII

’Twas thus those warriors two, with faulchions bare,

Turning their ready steeds, began to wheel;

And where the armour thinnest was, and where

The meeting plates were joined, probed steel with steel;

Nor was there in the world another pair

More fitted to be matched in fierce appeal:

Equal their daring, equal was their might,

And safe alike from wound was either knight.

XLVIII

By you, fair sir, already, I presume,

That fierce Ferrau was charmed is understood,

Save where the child, enclosed within the womb

Of the full mother, takes its early food;

And hence he ever, till the squalid tomb

Covered his manly face, wore harness good

(Such was his wont) the doubtful part to guard,

Of seven good plates of metal, tempered hard.

XLIX

Alike a charmed life Orlando bore,

Safe every where, except a single part:

Unfenced beneath his feet, which evermore

By him were guarded with all care and art.

The rest than diamond dug from mountain hoar

More hard, unless report from truth depart;

And armed to battle either champion went,

Less for necessity than ornament.

L

Waxing more fierce and fell the combat rages,

Of fear and horror full, between the twain:

The fierce Ferrau such dreadful battle wages,

That stroke or thrust is never dealt in vain:

Each mighty blow from Roland disengages

And loosens, breaks, or shatters, plate and chain.

Angelica alone, secure from view,

Regards such fearful sight, and marks the two.

LI

For, during this, the king of Circassy,

Who deemed Angelica not far before,

When Ferrau and Orlando desperately

Closing in fight were seen, his horse did gore

Along the way by which he deemed that she

Had disappeared; and so that battle sore

Was witnessed ‘twixt the struggling foes, by none,

Beside the daughter of king Galaphron.

LII

After the damsel had sometime descried

This dread and direful combat, standing nigh;

And it appearing that on either side

With equal peril both the warriors vie,

She, fond of novelty, the helm untied

Designs to take; desirous to espy

What they would do when they perceived the wrong;

But, without thought to keep her plunder long.

LIII

To give it to Orlando was she bent,

But first she would upon the warrior play:

The helmet she took down with this intent

And in her bosom hid, and marked the fray:

Next thence, without a word to either went,

And from the scene of strife was far away

Ere either of the two had marked the feat;

So were they blinded by their angry heat.

LIV

But Ferrau, who first chanced the loss to see,

From Roland disengaged himself, and cried,

“How like unwary men and fools are we

Treated by him, who late with us did ride!

What meed, which worthiest of the strife might be,

If this be stolen, the victor shall abide?”

Roland draws back, looks upward, and with ire,

Missing the noble casque, is all on fire:

LV

And in opinion with Ferrau agreed,

That he the knight, who was with them before,

Had born away the prize: hence turned his steed.

And with the spur admonished Brigliador.

Ferrau, who from the field beheld him speed.

Followed him, and when Roland and the Moor

Arrived where tracks upon the herbage green

Of the Circassian and the maid were seen,

LVI

Towards a vale upon the left the count

Went off, pursuing the Circassian’s tread;

The Spaniard kept the path more nigh the mount,

By which the fair Angelica had fled.

Angelica, this while, has reached a fount,

Of pleasant site, and shaded overhead;

By whose inviting shades no traveller hasted,

Nor ever left the chrystal wave untasted.

LVII

Angelica, the sylvan spring beside,

Reposes, unsuspicious of surprise;

And thinking her the sacred ring will hide,

Fears not that evil accident can rise.

On her arrival at the fountain’s side,

She to a branch above the helmet ties;

Then seeks the fittest sapling for her need,

Where, fastened to its trunk, her mare may feed.

LVIII

The Spanish cavalier the stream beside

Arrived, who had pursued her traces there:

Angelica no sooner him espied,

Than she evanished clean, and spurred her mare:

The helm this while had dropt, but lay too wide

To be recovered of the flying fair.

As soon as sweet Angelica he saw,

Towards her full of rapture sprang Ferrau.

LIX

She disappeared, I say, as forms avaunt

At sleep’s departure: toiling long and sore

He seeks the damsel there, ‘twixt plant and plant,

Now can his wretched eyes behold her more.

Blaspheming his Mahound and Termagant,

And cursing every master of his lore,

Ferrau returned towards the sylvan fount,

Where lay on earth the helmet of the count.

LX

This he soon recognised, for here he read

Letters upon the margin, written fair,

Which how Orlando won the helmet said;

And from what champion took, and when and where.

With it the paynim armed his neck and head,

Who would not for his grief the prize forbear;

His grief for loss of her, conveyed from sight,

As disappear the phantoms of the night.

LXI

When in this goodly casque he was arrayed,

He deemed nought wanting to his full content,

But the discovery of the royal maid,

Who like a flash of lightning came and went:

For her he searches every greenwood shade,

And when all hope of finding her is spent,

He for the vain pursuit no longer tarries,

But to the Spanish camp returns near Paris;

LXII

Tempering the grief which glowed within his breast,

For such sore disappointment, with the thought

That he was with Orlando’s morion blest,

As sworn. By good Anglante’s count, when taught

That the false Saracen the prize possest,

Long time the Spanish knight was vainly sought;

Nor Roland took the helmet from his head,

Till he between two bridges laid him dead.

LXIII

Angelica thus, viewless and alone,

Speeds on her journey, but with troubled front;

Grieved for the helmet, in her haste foregone

On her departure from the grassy fount.

“Choosing to do what I should least have done,”

(She said) “I took his helmet from the count.

This for his first desert I well bestow;

A worthy recompense for all I owe!

LXIV

“With good intentions, as God knows, I wrought;

Though these an ill and different end produce;

I took the helmet only with the thought

To bring that deadly battle to a truce;

And not that this foul Spaniard what he sought

Should gain, or I to his intent conduce.”

So she, lamenting, took herself to task

For having robbed Orlando of his casque.

LXV

By what appeared to her the meetest way,

Moody and ill-content she eastward pressed;

Ofttimes concealed, sometimes in face of day,

As seemed most opportune and pleased her best.

After much country seen, a forest gray

She reached, where, sorely wounded in mid breast,

Between two dead companions on the ground,

The royal maid a bleeding stripling found.

LXVI

But of Angelica I now no more

Shall speak, who first have many things to say;

Nor shall to the Circassian or the Moor

Give for long space a rhyme; thence called away

By good Anglante’s prince, who wills, before

I of those others tell, I should display

The labours and the troubles he sustained,

Pursuing the great good he never gained.

LXVII

At the first city, whither he was brought

(Because to go concealed he had good care),

He a new helmet donned; but took no thought

What was the head-piece he designed to bear.

So safe is he in fairy spell, it nought

Imports, if hard or soft its temper were.

Orlando, covered thus, pursues the quest,

Nor him day, night, or rain, or sun arrest.

LXVIII

It was the hour that our of Ocean’s bed

Dan Phoebus drew his dripping steeds, and high

And low, still scattering yellow flowers and red,

Aurora stained the heavens with various dye,

And Stars had cast their veils about their head,

Departing from their revels in the sky;

When passing on a day fair Paris near,

Orlando made his mighty worth appear.

LXIX

Two squadrons he encountered; one an old

Saracen, Manilardo clept, obeyed;

King of Noritia, whilom fierce and bold.

But fitter now to counsel than to aid.

The next beneath the standard was enrolled

Or Tremisena’s monarch, who was said

‘Mid Africans to be a perfect knight;

Alzirdo he by those who knew him, hight:

LXX

These, with the other Saracen array,

Cantoned throughout the winter months had lain,

Some near the city, some more far away,

All lodged nigh town or hamlet on the plain.

For since King Agramant had many a day

Spent in attacking Paris’ walls in vain,

He (for no other means remained to try)

Would lastly with a siege the city ply;

LXXI

And to do this had people infinite:

Since he, beside the host that with him came,

And that of Spain which followed to the fight

The Spanish King Marsilius’ oriflame,

Many of France did in his pay unite:

For all from Paris he to Arles’s stream,

With part of Gascony, some straggling tower

Excepted, had reduced beneath his power.

LXXII

The quivering brook, as warmer breezes blew,

Beginning now from ice its waves to free,

And the fresh-springing grass and foliage new,

To cloathe again the field and greenwood tree,

All those King Agramant assembled, who

Had followed him in his prosperity;

To muster in review the armed swarm,

And give to his affairs a better form:

LXXIII

Hence did the King of Tremisen’ repair,

With him who had Noritia in command,

To be in time at that full muster, where

Each squadron, good or bad, was to be scanned

Orlando thus by chance encountered there,

As I have told you, this united hand;

Who, as his usage was, went seeking her,

By whom he had been made Love’s prisoner.

LXXIV

Alzirdo, as the approaching count he eyes,

Who in this world for valour has no peer,

With such a haughty front, and in such guise,

The God of war would less in arms appear,

The features known before astounded spies,

The fierce, disdainful glance and furious cheer;

And him esteems a knight of prowess high,

Which, fondly, he too sore desires to try.

LXXV

Arrogant, young, and of redoubted force,

Alzirdo was, and prized for dauntless mind;

Who bent to joust pricked forth his foaming horse,

Happier had he remained in line behind!

Met by Anglante’s prince in middle course,

Who pierced his heart as they encountering joined.

Frighted, the lightened courser scoured the plain,

Without a rider to direct the rein.

LXXVI

Rises a sudden and a horrid cry,

And air on every side repeats the scream;

As his scared band the falling youth descry,

And issuing from his wound so wide a stream:

Disordered, they the count in fury ply,

And, raised to cut or thrust, their weapons gleam.

Against that flower of knights, their feathered reeds,

A thicker squadron yet in tempest speeds.

LXXVII

With sound like that, with which from hill repair,

Or from the champaign’s flat the hurrying swine,

(If the Wolf, issue from his grot, or Bear,

Descending to the mountains’ lower line,

Some bristly youngling take away and tear,

Who with loud squeal and grunt is heard to pine)

Came driving at the count the barbarous rout;

“Upon him!” and “upon him!” still their shout.

LXXVIII

At once spears, shafts, and swords, his corslet bore

By thousands, and as many pierce his shield.

This threatens on one side, and that before,

And those the ponderous mace behind him wield.

But he esteems the craven rout no more.

He, who did never yet to terror yield,

Than hungry Wolf in twilight makes account

To what the number of the flock may mount.

LXXIX

He held unsheathed that thundering sword in hand,

Which with so many foes has heaped the plain,

That he who thinks to count the slaughtered band,

Has undertaken, hard emprize and vain.

The road ran red, ensanguined by his brand,

And scarce capacious of the many slain.

For neither targe nor head-piece good defends,

Where fatal Durindana’s blade descends.

LXXX

Nor safety cotton vest, nor cloths supply,

In thousand folds about the temples spread:

Nor only groan and lamentation fly

Through air, but shoulder, arm, and severed head,

Death roams the field in strange variety

Of horrid forms, and all inspiring dread;

And says, “For hundreds of my scythes may stand

His Durindana in Orlando’s hand.”

LXXXI

His ceaseless strokes scarce one the other wait:

Speedily all his foemen are in flight.

And when before they came at furious rate,

They hoped to swallow quick the single knight.

None is there who, in that unhappy straight,

Stops for his comrade, flying from the fight.

Here one man speeds afoot, one gallops there;

None stays to question if the road be fair.

LXXXII

His mirror Valour bore about, and here

Each blemish of the soul was seen confest:

None looked therein, except an aged peer,

Whose blood was chilled, but courage unreprest.

That death were better deems this cavalier

Than life in flight, and in disgrace possest:

I mean Noritia’s king, who lays his lance

In rest against the paladin of France;

LXXXIII

He broke it on the border of the shield

Of the intrepid count, with stedfast hand,

Who, by the stroke unshaken, nothing reeled:

And smote the king, in passing, with his brand.

Him Fortune saved; for as Orlando wheeled

The blade, it turned, descending, in his hand.

Although an-edge he guides not still the sword,

Stunned from his saddle reels the paynim lord.

LXXXIV

Astounded from his saddle reels the king,

Nor him Orlando turns about to see.

He cuts, and cleaves, and slays his following;

Who all believe him at their backs to be.

As through the spacious air, with troubled wing,

The starlings from the daring merlin flee;

So, of that broken squadron, scattered round,

Some fly, some dip, and some fall flat to ground.

LXXXV

He ceased not his ensanguined blade to sway

Till living wight remained not in his view.

Orlando doubted to resume his way,

Although the country all about he knew.

Does he the right or left-hand road assay,

His thoughts still rove from what his steps pursue,

And he to seek the damsel is in dread

Through other path than that by which she fled.

LXXXVI

Through wood and field his courser did he goad,

Often inquiring for the royal dame:

Beside himself, he strayed beside his road,

And to the foot of rising mountain came,

Whence (it was night-time) through a fissure glowed

The distant flicker of a quivering flame.

Orlando to the rock approached, to spy

If there Angelica concealed might lie.

LXXXVII

As where low junipers o’er shade her lair,

Or in the stubble of the open lay,

What time the hunters seek the fearful hare

Through traversed woods, and through uncertain way,

— Lest peradventure she be hidden there,

They every bramble, every bush assay;

Even so, where hope the toiling warrior leads,

Searching his lady-love, Orlando speeds.

LXXXVIII

Pricking in haste towards that ray, the count

Arrived where in the wood the light was shed,

Forth-streaming from a crevice in the mount,

Within whose womb a spacious grotto spread;

And there, like wall or bank, discerned in front,

Of thorns and underwood a bristly bed,

To hide the grotto’s inmates, and defend

From scathe or scorn, which others might intend.

LXXXIX

By day it had been hidden evermore;

But the clear flame betrayed the haunt by night.

Its use he guessed; but would the place explore,

And better certify himself by sight.

When he without had tied his Brigliador,

In silence to the grotto stole the knight;

Threading the shrubs; nor calling for a guide,

Entered the passage in the mountain’s side.

XC

By a long flight of steps was the descent

Into the cave; where, in the rocky tomb,

Buried were living folk. Of wide extent,

The grot was chiselled into vaulted room;

Nor was, although its entrance little lent,

All daylight wanting to disperse the gloom:

For much was furnished by a window dight,

Within a natural fissure on the right.

XCI

In the mid cave, beside a fire was seen

A gentle maid of pleasing look and guise;

Who seemed to Roland little past fifteen,

As far as at first sight he might surmise.

With that so fair she made the rugged scene

Seem in the warrior’s sight a paradise.

Although this while her eyes with tears o’erflow,

Clear tokens of a heart oppressed with woe.

XCII

An aged dame was with her, and the pair

Wrangled, as oftentimes is women’s way;

But when the County was descending there,

Concluded the dispute and wordy fray.

Orlando hastens to salute them fair

(As still is due to womankind) and they

To welcome him rise lightly form their seat,

And with benign return the warrior greet.

XCIII

’Tis true, that when that sudden voice they hear,

Somedeal confused in look they seem to be,

At the same time beholding thus appear

So fierce a wight, and harnessed cap-a-pee.

“What wight” (demands Anglantes’ cavalier)

So barbarous is, and void of courtesy,

That he keeps buried, in this rude repair,

A face so gentle and so passing fair?”

XCIV

With pain the virgin to the count replies,

As he inquires of her unhappy doom,

In sweet and broken accents, which by sighs

Impelled, through rows of pearl and coral come:

And between rose and lily, from her eyes

Tears fall so fast, she needs must swallow some.

In other canto, sir, be pleased to attend

The rest, for here ’tis time my strain should end.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 12:59