Orlando Furioso, by Lodovico Ariosto

Canto 15

Argument

Round about Paris every where are spread

The assailing hosts of Africa and Spain.

Astolpho home by Logistilla sped,

Binds first Caligorantes with his chain;

Next from Orrilo’s trunk divides the head;

With whom Sir Aquilant had warred in vain,

And Gryphon bold: next Sansonet discerns,

Ill tidings of his lady Gryphon learns.

I

Though Conquest fruit of skill or fortune be,

To conquer always is a glorious thing.

’Tis true, indeed, a bloody victory

Is to a chief less honour wont to bring;

And that fair field is famed eternally,

And he who wins it merits worshipping,

Who, saving from all harm his own, without

Loss to his followers, puts the foe to rout.

II

You, sir, earned worthy praise, when you o’erbore

The lion of such might by sea, and so

Did by him, where he guarded either shore

From Francolino to the mouth of Po,

That I, though yet again I heard him roar,

If you were present, should my fear forego.

How fields are fitly won was then made plain;

For we were rescued, and your foemen slain.

III

This was the Paynim little skilled to do,

Who was but daring to his proper loss;

And to the moat impelled his meiny, who

One and all perished in the burning fosse.

The mighty gulf had not contained the crew,

But that, devouring those who sought to cross,

Them into dust the flame reduced, that room

Might be for all within the crowded tomb.

IV

Of twenty thousand warriors thither sent,

Died nineteen thousand in the fiery pit;

Who to the fosse descended, ill content;

But so their leader willed, of little wit:

Extinguished amid such a blaze, and spent

By the devouring flame the Christians lit.

And Rodomont, occasion of their woes,

Exempted from the mighty mischief goes:

V

For he to the inner bank, by foes possest,

Across the ditch had vaulted wonderously:

Had he within it been, among the rest,

It sure had been his last assault. His eye

He turns, and when the wild-fires, which infest

The infernal vale, he sees ascend so high,

And hears his people’s moan and dying screams,

With imprecations dread he Heaven blasphemes.

VI

This while a band King Agramant had brought,

To make a fierce assault upon a gate:

For while the cruel battle here was fought,

Wherein so many sufferers met their fate,

This haply unprovided had he thought

With fitting guard. Upon the monarch wait

King Bambirago, ‘mid his knights of price,

And Baliverso, sink of every vice.

VII

And Corineus of Mulga, Prusion,

The wealthy monarch of the blessed isles;

Malabuferzo, he who fills the throne

Of Fez, where a perpetual summer smiles;

And other noble lords, and many a one

Well-armed and tried; and others ‘mid their files,

Naked, and base, whose hearts in martial fields

Had found no shelter from a thousand shields.

VIII

But all things counter to the hopes ensue

Of Agramant upon his side; within,

In person, girded by a gallant crew,

Is Charlemagne, with many a paladin:

Ogier the Duke, King Salamon, the two

Guidos are seen, and either Angelin;

Bavaria’s duke, and Ganelon are here,

Avino, Avolio, Otho, and Berlinghier.

IX

And of inferior count withal, a horde

Of Lombards, French, and Germans, without end;

Who, every one, in presence of his lord,

To rank among the valiantest contend,

This will I in another place record;

Who here a mighty duke perforce attend,

Who signs to me from far, and prays that I

Will not omit him in my history.

X

’Tis time that I should measure back my way

Thither, where I Astolpho left of yore;

Who, in long exile, loathing more to stay,

Burnt with desire to tread his native shore;

As hopes to him had given the sober fay,

Who quelled Alcina by her better lore,

She with all care would send the warrior back

By the securest and the freest track.

XI

And thus by her a barque is fitted out;

— A better galley never ploughed the sea;

And Logistilla wills, for aye in doubt

Of hinderance from Alcina’s treachery,

That good Andronica, with squadron stout,

And chaste Sophrosina, with him shall be,

Till to the Arabian Sea, beneath their care,

Or to the Persian Gulf he safe repair.

XII

By Scyth and Indian she prefers the peer

Should coast, and by the Nabataean reign;

Content he, after such a round, should veer

For Persian gulf, or Erithraean main,

Rather than for that Boreal palace steer,

Where angry winds aye vex the rude domain:

So ill, at seasons, favoured by the sun,

That there, for months together, light is none.

XIII

Next, when she all in readiness espied,

Her license to depart the prudent fay

Accorded to the duke, first fortified

With counsel as to things too long to say;

And that he might no more by charms be stayed

In place from whence he could not wend his way,

Him with a useful book and fair purveyed,

And ever for her love to wear it prayed.

XIV

How man should guard himself from magic cheats

The book instructed, which the fay bestowed;

At the end or the beginning, where it treats

Of such, an index and appendix showed.

Another gift, which in its goodly feats

All other gifts excelled, to her he owed;

This was a horn, which made whatever wight

Should hear its clang betake himself to flight.

XV

I say, the horn is of such horrid sound,

That, wheresoe’er ’tis heard, all fly for fear;

Nor in the world is one of heart so sound

That would not fly, should he the bugle hear.

Wind, thunder, and the shock which rives the ground,

Come not, in aught, the hideous clangour near.

With thanks did the good Englishman receive

The gift, and of the fairy took his leave.

XVI

Quitting the port and smoother waves, they stand

To sea, with favouring wind which blows astern;

And (coasting) round the rich and populous land

Of odoriferous Ind the vessels turn,

Opening a thousand isles on either hand,

Scattered about that sea, till they discern

The land of Thomas; here the pilot veers

His ready tiller, and more northward steers.

XVII

Astolpho, furrowing that ocean hoar,

Marks, as he coasts, the wealthy land at ease.

Ganges amid the whitening waters roar,

Nigh skirting now the golden Chersonese;

Taprobana with Cori next, and sees

The frith which chafes against its double shore;

Makes distant Cochin, and with favouring wind

Issues beyond the boundaries of Ind.

XVIII

Scouring at large broad ocean, with a guide

So faithful and secure, the cavalier

Questions Andronica, if from that side

Named from the westering sun, of this our sphere,

Bark, which with oars or canvas stemmed the tide,

On eastern sea was wonted to appear;

— And could a wight, who loosed from Indian strand,

Reach France or Britain, without touching land.

XIX

Andronica to England’s duke replies:

“Know that this earth is girt about with seas,

And all to one another yield supplies,

Whether the circling waters boil or freeze:

But, since the Aethiops’ land before us lies,

Extending southward many long degrees.

Across his waters, some one has supposed

A barrier here to Neptune interposed.

XX

“Hence bark from this Levant of Ind is none

Which weighs, to shape her course for Europe’s shore;

Nor navigates from Europe any one,

Our Oriental regions to explore;

Fain to retrace alike the course begun

By the mid land, extending wide before:

Weening (its limits of such length appear)

That it must join another hemisphere.

XXI

“But in the course of circling years I view

From farthest lands which catch the western ray,

New Argonauts put forth, and Tiphys new

Opening, till now an undiscovered way.

Others I see coast Afric, and pursue

So far the negroes’ burning shore, that they

Pass the far sign, from whence, on his return,

The sun moves hither, leaving Capricorn;

XXII

“And find the limit of this length of land,

Which makes a single sea appear as two;

Who, scouring in their frigates every strand,

Pass Ind and Arab isles, or Persian through:

Others I see who leave, on either hand,

The banks, which stout Alcides cleft in two,

And in the manner of the circling sun,

To seek new lands and new creations run.

XXIII

“The imperial flags and holy cross I know,

Fixed on the verdant shore; see some upon

The shattered barks keep guard, and others go

A-field, by whom new countries will be won;

Ten chase a thousand of the flying foe,

Realms beyond Ind subdued by Arragon;

And see all, wheresoe’er the warriors wend,

To the fifth Charles’ triumphant captains bend.

XXIV

“That this way should be hidden was God’s will

Of old, and ere ’twas known long time should run;

Nor will he suffer its discovery, till

The sixth and seventh century be done.

And he delays his purpose to fulfil,

In that he would subject the world to one,

The justest and most fraught with prudent lore

Or emperors, since Augustus, or before.

XXV

“Of Arragon and Austria’s blood I see

On the left bank of Rhine a monarch bred;

No sovereign is so famed in history,

Of all whose goodly deeds are heard or read.

Astraea reinthroned by him will be, —

Rather restored to life, long seeming dead;

And Virtues with her into exile sent,

By him shall be recalled from banishment.

XXVI

“For such desert, Heaven’s bounty not alone

Designs he should the imperial garland bear, —

Augustus’, Trajan’s, Mark’s, Severus’, crown;

But that of every farthest land should wear,

Which here and there extends, as yet unknown,

Yielding no passage to the sun and year;

And wills that in his time Christ’s scattered sheep

Should be one flock, beneath one Shepherd’s keep.

XXVII

“And that this be accomplished with more ease,

Writ in the skies from all eternity,

Captains, invincible by lands and seas,

Shall heavenly Providence to him supply.

I mark Hernando Cortez bring, ‘mid these,

New cities under Caesar’s dynasty,

And kingdoms in the Orient so remote,

That we of these in India have no note.

XXVIII

“With Prospero Colonna, puissant peer,

A marquis of Pescara I behold; —

A youth of Guasto next, who render dear

Hesperia to the flower-deluce of gold;

I see prepared to enter the career

This third, who shall the laurel win and hold;

As a good horse before the rest will dart,

And first attain the goal, though last to start.

XXIX

“I see such faith, such valour in the deeds

Of young Alphonso (such his name) confest,

He in his unripe age, — nor he exceeds

His sixth and twentieth year, — at Caesar’s hest,

(A mighty trust) the imperial army leads:

Saving which, Caesar not alone the rest

Of his fair empire saves, but may the world

Reduce, with ensigns by this chief unfurled.

XXX

“As with these captains, where the way by land

Is free, he spreads the ancient empire’s sway,

So on the sea, which severs Europe’s strand

From Afric, open to the southern day,

When with good Doria linked in friendly band,

Victorious he shall prove in every fray.

This is that Andrew Doria who will sweep

From pirates, on all sides, your midland deep.

XXXI

“Pompey, though he chased rovers everywhere,

Was not his peer; for ill the thievish brood

Vanquished by him, in puissance, could compare

With the most mighty realm that ever stood.

But Doria singly will of the corsair

With his own forces purge the briny flood:

So that I see each continent and isle

Quake at his name, from Calpe to the Nile.

XXXII

“Beneath the faith, beneath the warrantry

Of the redoubted chief, of whom I say,

I see Charles enter fertile Italy,

To which this captain clears the monarch’s way;

But on his country, not himself, that fee

Shall he bestow, which is his labour’s pay;

And beg her freedom, where himself perchance

Another would to sovereign rule advance.

XXXIII

“The pious love he bears his native land

Honours him more than any battle’s gain

Which Julius ever won on Afric’s strand,

Or in thine isle, France, Thessaly, or Spain.

Nor great Octavius does more praise command,

Nor Anthony who jousted for the reign,

With equal arms: in that the wrong outweighs

— Done to their native land — their every praise.

XXXIV

“Let these, and every other wight who tries

To subject a free country, blush for shame,

Nor dare in face of man to lift his eyes,

Where he hears Andrew Doria’s honoured name!

To him I see Charles other meed supplies;

For he beside his leaders’ common claim,

Bestows upon the chief the sumptuous state,

Whence Norman bands their power in Puglia date.

XXXV

“Not only to this captain courtesy

Shall Charles display, still liberal of his store;

But to all those who for the empery

In his emprizes have not spared their gore.

Him to bestow a town, — a realm — I see,

Upon a faithful friend, rejoicing more,

And on all such as have good service done,

Than in new kingdom and new empire won.”

XXXVI

Thus of the victories, by land and main,

Which, when long course of years shall be complete,

Charles’ worthy captains for their lord will gain,

Andronica did with Astolpho treat.

This while, now loosening, tightening now, the rein

On the eastern winds, which blow upon their feet,

Making this serve or that, her comrade stands;

While the blasts rise or sink as she commands.

XXXVII

This while they saw, as for their port they made,

How wide the Persian sea extends to sight;

Whence in few days the squadron was conveyed

Nigh the famed gulf from ancient Magi hight;

Here they found harbourage; and here were stayed

Their wandering barks, which stern to shore were dight.

Secure from danger from Alcina’s wrath,

The duke by land continued hence his path.

XXXVIII

He pricks through many a field and forest blind,

By many a vale and many a mountain gray;

Where robbers, now before and now behind,

Oft threat the peer by night or open day;

Lion and dragon oft of poisonous kind,

And other savage monsters cross his way:

But he no sooner has his bugle wound,

Than these are scared and scattered by the sound.

XXXIX

Through Araby the blest he fares, where grow

Thickets of myrrh, and gums odorous ooze,

Where the sole phoenix makes her nest, although

The world is all before her where to choose;

And to the avenging sea which whelmed the foe

Of Israel, his way the duke pursues;

In which King Pharaoh and his host were lost:

From whence he to the land of heroes crost.

XL

Astolpho along Trajan’s channel goes,

Upon that horse which has no earthly peer,

And moves so lightly, that the soft sand shows

No token of the passing cavalier;

Who prints not grass, prints not the driven snows,

— Who dry-shod would the briny billows clear,

And strains so nimbly in the course, he wind

And thunderbolt and arrow leaves behind:—

XLI

Erst Argalia’s courser, which was born

From a close union of the wind and flame,

And, nourished not by hay or heartening corn,

Fed on pure air, and Rabican his name.

His way the bearer of the magic horn

Following, where Nile received that river, came;

But ere he at its outlet could arrive,

Towards him saw a pinnace swiftly drive.

XLII

A hermit in the poop the bark did guide

With snowy beard descending to mid breast;

Who when from far the Paladin be spied,

Him to ascend his ready pinnace prest.

“My son, unless thou loathest life, (he cried)

And wouldst that Death today thy course arrest,

Content thee in my bark to cross the water;

For yonder path conducts thee straight to slaughter.

XLIII

“Within six miles, no further, shalt thou light

(Pursued the hermit) on the bloody seat,

Where dwells a giant, horrible to sight,

Exceeding every stature by eight feet.

From him wayfaring man or errant knight

Would vainly hope with life to make retreat;

For some the felon quarters, some he flays,

And some he swallows quick, and some he slays.

XLIV

“He, ‘mid the cruel horrors he intends,

Takes pleasure in a net, by cunning hands

Contrived, which near his mansion he extends;

So well concealed beneath the crumbling sands,

That whoso uninstructed thither wends,

Nought of the subtle mischief understands;

And so the giant scares him with his cries,

That he within the toils in terror flies;

XLV

“Whom with loud laughter, to his seat hard by

He drags along, enveloped in his snare;

And knight and damsel views with equal eye,

And for his prisoners’ worth has little care.

Then, having sucked their brains and life-blood dry,

Casts forth their bones upon the desert lair;

And round about his griesly palace pins,

For horrid ornament, their bloody skins.

XLVI

“Take this, — my son, oh! take this other way,

Which thee will to the sea in safety guide.”

“I thank thee, holy father, for thy say,

(To him the fearless cavalier replied)

But cannot peril against honour weigh,

Far dearer than my life. To the other side

Me vainly dost thou move to pass the wave;

Rather for this I seek the giant’s cave.

XLVII

“I with dishonour life to flight may owe;

But worse than death loath thus to save my head.

The worst that can befall me if I go,

Is I my blood shall with the others shed:

But if on me such mercy God bestow,

That I remain alive, the giant dead,

Secure for thousands shall I make the ways;

So that the greater good the risque o’erpays.

XLVIII

“I peril but the single life of one

Against safety of the countless rest.”

— “Go then in peace,” (the other said). “my son,

And to thy succour, form among the blest,

May God dispatch the Archangel Michael down.”

— And him, with that, the simple hermit blest.

Astolpho pricks along Nile’s rosy strand,

More in his horn confiding than his brand.

XLIX

Between the mighty river and the fen,

A path upon the sandy shore doth lie,

Barred by the giant’s solitary den

Cut off from converse with humanity.

About it heads and naked limbs of men

Were fixed, the victims of his cruelty.

Window or battlements was not, whence strung

Might not be seen some wretched prisoner hung.

L

As in hill-farm or castle, fenced with moat,

The hunter, mindful what his dangers were,

Aye fastens on his door the shaggy coat

And horrid paws and monstrous head of bear;

So showed the giant those of greatest note,

Who, thither brought, had perished in his snare.

The bones of countless others wide were spread,

And every ditch with human blood was red.

LI

Caligorant was standing at the gate

(For so was the despiteous monster hight);

Who decked his house with corpses, as for state

Some theirs with cloth of gold and scarlet dight.

He scarce contained himself for joy, so great

His pleasure, when the duke appeared in sight;

For ’twas two months complete, a third was near,

Since by that road had past a cavalier.

LII

Towards the marish, where green rushes grow,

He hastes, intending from that covert blind

To double on his unsuspecting foe,

And issue on the cavalier behind:

For him to drive into the net, below

The sand, the griesly giant had designed;

As others trapt he had been wont to see,

Brought thither by their evil destiny.

LIII

When him the wary paladin espied,

He stopt his courser, not without great heed,

Lest he into the covert snare might tide,

Forewarned of this by the good hermit’s rede.

Here to his horn for succour he applied,

Nor failed its wonted virtue in this need:

It smote the giant’s heart with such affright,

That he turned back, and homeward fled outright.

LIV

Astolpho blew, still watchful of surprise,

Weening to see the engine sprung: fast flew

The giant, — as if heart as well as eyes

The thief had lost, — nor whitherward he knew:

Such is his fear, he kens not as he flies,

How is own covert mischief to eschew:

He runs into the net, which closing round,

Hampers the wretch, and drags him to the ground.

LV

Astolpho, who beholds his bulky prey

Fall bodily, drives thither at full speed,

Secure himself, and, bent — to make him pay

The price of slaughtered thousands — quits his steed.

Yet after, deems a helpless wight to slay

No valour were, but rather foul misdeed:

For him, arms, neck, and feet, so closely tied,

He could not shake himself, the warrior spied.

LVI

With subtle thread of steel had Vulcan wrought

The net of old, and with such cunning pain,

He, who to break its weakest mesh had sought,

Would have bestowed his time and toil in vain.

It was with this he Mars and Venus caught,

Who, hands and feet, were fettered by the chain:

Nor did the jealous husband weave the thread

For aught, but to surprise that pair in bed.

LVII

Mercury from the smith conveyed the prize,

Wanting to take young Chloris in the snare;

Sweet Chloris, who behind Aurora flies,

At rise of sun, through fields of liquid air,

And from her gathered garment, through the skies,

Scatters the violet, rose, and lily fair.

He for this nymph his toils so deftly set,

One day, in air he took her with the net.

LVIII

The nymph (it seems) was taken as she flew,

Where the great Aethiop river meets the brine:

The net was treasured in Canopus, through

Successive ages, in Anubis’ shrine.

After three thousand years, Caligorant drew

The sacred relict from the palace divine:

Whence with the net the impious thief returned,

Who robbed the temple and the city burned,

LIX

He fixed it here, beneath the sandy plain,

In mode, that all the travellers whom he chased

Ran into it, and the engine was with pain

Touched, ere it arms, and feet, and neck embraced.

From this the good Astolpho took a chain,

And with the gyve his hands behind him laced:

His arms and breast he swaddled in such guise,

He could not loose himself; then let him rise.

LX

After, his other knots unfastening,

(For he was turned more gentle than a maid)

Astolpho, as a show, the thief would bring,

By city, borough-town, and farm conveyed;

The net as well; than which no quainter thing

Was ever by the file and hammer made.

On him, like sumpter-nag he laid the load,

In triumph led, behind him, on his road.

LXI

Him helm and shield he gives alike to bear,

As to a valet; hence proceeds the peer,

Gladdening the fearful pilgrim every where,

Who joys to think, henceforth his way is clear.

So far an end does bold Astolpho fare,

He is to Memphis’ tombs already near, —

Memphis renowned for pyramids; in sight,

He marks the populous Cairo opposite.

c15-061

LXII

Ran all the people in tumultuous tide,

To see him drag the unmeasured wight along.

“How can it be,” (each to his fellow cried)

“That one so weak could master one so strong?”

Scarce can Astolpho put the press aside,

So close from every part their numbers throng;

While all admire him as a cavalier

Of mighty worth, and make him goodly cheer.

LXIII

Then Cairo was not such, as common cry

Pronounces in our age that costly seat;

— That eighteen thousand districts ill supply

Lodging to those who in her markets meet;

— And though the houses are three stories high,

Numbers are forced to sleep in the open street;

And that the soldan has a palace there

Of wonderous size, and passing rich and fair;

LXIV

And therein (Christian renegadoes all)

Keeps fifteen thousand vassals, for his needs,

Beneath one roof supplied with bower and stall,

Themselves, and wives, and families, and steeds.

The duke desired to see the river’s fall,

And how far Nile into the sea proceeds.

At Damietta; where wayfaring wight,

He heard, was prisoner made or slain outright.

LXV

For at Nile’s outlet there, beside his bed,

A sturdy thief was sheltered in a tower,

Alike the native’s and the stranger’s dread,

Wont even to Cairo’s gate the road to scower.

Him no one could resist, and, it was said,

That man to slay the felon had no power.

A hundred thousand wounds he had in strife

Received, yet none could ever take his life.

LXVI

To see if he could break the thread which tied

The felon’s life, upon his way the knight

Set forward, and to Damietta hied,

To find Orrilo, so the thief was hight;

Thence to the river’s outlet past, and spied

The sturdy castle on the margin dight;

Harboured in which the enchanted demon lay,

The fruit of a hobgoblin and a fay.

LXVII

He here Orrilo and two knights in mail

Found at fierce strife: the two ill held their own

Against him; so Orrilo did assail

The warlike pair, although himself alone;

And how much either might in arms avail,

Fame through the universal world had blown.

Of Oliviero’s seed was either plant;

Gryphon the white, and sable Aquilant.

LXVIII

The necromancer had this while (to say

The truth) with vantage on his side, begun

The fight, who brought a monster to the fray,

Found only in those parts, and wont to won

Ashore or under water, and to prey,

For food, on human bodies; feeding on

Poor mariners and travelling men, who fare,

Of the impending danger, unaware.

LXIX

The monster, slaughtered by the brethren two,

Upon the sand beside the haven lies;

And hence no wrong they to Orrilo do,

Assailing him together in this guise.

Him they dismembered often and not slew:

Now he, — because dismembered, — ever dies;

For he replaces leg or hand like wax,

Which the good faulchion from his body hacks.

LXX

Gryphon and Aquilant by turns divide,

Now to the teeth, now breast, the enchanted wight.

The fruitless blow Orrilo does deride,

While the two baffled warriors rage for spite.

Let him who falling silver has espied

(Which mercury by alchymists is hight)

Scatter, and reunite each broken member,

Hearing my tale, what he has seen remember.

LXXI

If the thief’s head be severed by the pair,

He lights and staggers till he finds it; now

Uptaken by the nose or by the hair,

And fastened to the neck, I know not how.

This sometimes Gryphon takes, and whirled through air,

Whelms in the stream; but bootless is the throw:

For like a fish can fierce Orrilo swim;

And safely, with the head, regains the brim.

LXXII

Two ladies, meetly clad in fair array,

One damsel was in black and one in white,

And who had been the occasion of that fray,

Stood by to gaze upon the cruel fight:

Either of these was a benignant fay,

Whose care had nourished one and the other knight,

Oliver’s children; when the babes forlorn

They from the claws of two huge birds had torn.

LXXIII

Since, from Gismonda they had these conveyed,

Borne to a distance from their native sky.

But more to say were needless, since displaid

To the whole world has been their history.

Though the author has the father’s name mis-said;

One for another (how I know not, I)

Mistaking. Now this fearful strife the pair

Of warriors waged at both the ladies’ prayer.

LXXIV

Though it was noon in the happy islands, day

Had vanished in this clime, displaced by night;

And, underneath the moon’s uncertain ray,

And ill-discerned, were all things hid from sight;

When to the fort Orrilo took his way.

Since both the sable sister and the white

Were pleased the furious battle to defer,

Till a new sun should in the horizon stir.

LXXV

The duke, who by their ensigns, and yet more

Had by the sight of many a vigorous blow,

Gryphon and Aquilant long time before

Agnized, to greet the brethren was not slow:

And they, who in the peer, victorious o’er

The giant, whom he led a captive, know

The BARON OF THE PARD, (so styled at court)

Him to salute, with no less love resort.

LXXVI

The ladies to repose the warriors led

To a fair palace near, their sumptuous seat:

Thence issuing courtly squire and damsel sped,

Them with lit torches in mid-way to meet.

Their goodly steeds they quit, there well bested,

Put off their arms, and in a garden sweet

Discern the ready supper duly laid

Fast by, where a refreshing fountain played.

LXXVII

Here they bid bind the giant on the green,

Fast-tethered by a strong and weighty chain

To a tough oak, whose ancient trunk they ween

May well be proof against a single strain;

With that, by ten good serjeants overseen,

Lest he by night get loose, and so the train

Assault and haply harm; while careless they

Without a guard and unsuspecting lay.

LXXVIII

At the abundant and most sumptuous board,

With costly viands (its least pleasure) fraught,

The longest topic for discourse afford

Orrilo’s prowess, and the marvel wrought;

For head or arm dissevered by the sword,

They (who upon the recent wonder thought)

Might think a dream to see him re-unite,

And but return more furious to the fight.

LXXIX

Astolpho in his book had found exprest

(That which prescribed a remedy for spell)

How he who of one hair deprived the pest

Only could him in battle hope to quell:

But this plucked out or sheared, he from his breast

Parforce the felon’s spirit would expell.

So says the volume; but instructs not where,

‘Mid locks so thickly set, to find the hair.

LXXX

The duke no less with hope of conquest glows

Than if the palm he has already won;

As he that hopes with small expense of blows

To pluck the hair, the wizard-wight undone.

Hence does he to the youthful pair propose

The burden of that enterprize upon

Himself to take: Orrilo will he slay,

If the two brethren nought the intent gainsay,

LXXXI

But willingly to him these yield the emprize,

Assured his toil will be bestowed in vain;

And now a new Aurora climbs the skies,

And from his walls Orrilo on the plain

Drops, — and the strife begins — Orrilo plies

The mace, the duke the sword; he ‘mid a rain

Of strokes would from the body at one blow

Divorce the spirit of the enchanted foe:

LXXXII

Together with the mace he lops the fist;

And now this arm, now the other falls to ground;

Sometimes he cleaves the corslet’s iron twist,

And piecemeal shares and maims the felon round.

Orrilo re-unites the portions missed,

Found on the champagne, and again is sound:

And, though into a hundred fragments hewed,

Astolpho sees him, in a thought, renewed.

LXXXIII

After a thousand blows, Astolpho sped

One stroke, above the shoulders and below

The chin, which lopt away both helm and head:

Nor lights the duke less swiftly than his foe.

Then grasps the hair defiled with gore and red,

Springs in a moment on his horse, and lo!

Up-stream with it along Nile’s margin hies,

So that the thief cannot retake the prize.

LXXXIV

That fool, who had not marked the warrior’s feat,

Was searching in the dust to find his head;

But when he heard the charger in retreat,

Who through the forest with the plunder fled,

Leapt quickly into his own courser’s seat,

And in pursuit of bold Astolpho sped.

Fain had Orrilo shouted “Hola! stay!”

But that the duke had borne his mouth away:

LXXXV

Yet pleased Astolpho had not in like guise

Borne off his heels, pursues with flowing rein.

Him Rabican, who marvellously flies,

Distances by a mighty length of plain.

This while the wizard’s head Astolpho eyes

From poll to front, above the eyebrows twain,

Searching, in haste, if he the hair can see

Which makes Orrilo’s immortality.

LXXXVI

Amid innumerable locks, no hair

Straiter or crisper than the rest was seen.

How then should good Astolpho, in his care

To slay the thief, so many choose between?

“To cut them all (he said) it better were.”

And since he scissors lacked and razor keen,

He wanting these, resorted to his glaive,

Which cut so well, it might be said to shave.

LXXXVII

And, holding, by the nose, the severed head,

Close-sheared it all, behind and eke before.

He found, among the rest, the fatal thread.

Then pale became the visage, changing sore,

Turned up its eyes, and signals sore and dread

Of the last agony of nature wore;

And the headless body seated in the sell,

Shuddered its last, and from the courser fell.

LXXXVIII

The duke returns where he the champions two

And dames had left, the trophy in his hand,

Which manifests of death the tokens true;

And shows the distant body on the sand.

I know not if they this with pleasure view,

Though him they welcome with demeanour bland:

For the intercepted victory might pain

Perchance inflict upon the envying twain.

LXXXIX

Nor do I think that either gentle fay

With pleasure could that battle’s issue see:

Since those kind dames, because they would delay

The doleful fate which shortly was to be

In France the brethren’s lot, had in that fray

With fierce Orrilo matched the warriors free;

And so to occupy the pair had cast,

Till the sad influence of the skies were past.

XC

When to the castellan was certified

In Damietta, that the thief was dead,

He loosed a carrier pigeon, having tied

Beneath her wing a letter by a thread.

She went to Cairo; and, to scatter wide

The news, another from that town was sped

(Such is the usage there); so, Egypt through,

In a few hours the joyful tidings flew.

XCI

As he had brought the adventure to an end,

The duke now sought the noble youths to stir,

(Though of themselves that way their wishes tend,

Nor they to whet that purpose need the spur)

That they the Church from outrage to defend,

And rights of Charles, the Roman Emperor,

Would cease to war upon that Eastern strand,

And would seek honour in their native land.

XCII

Gryphon and Aquilant thus bid adieu,

One and the other, to his lady fair;

Who, though it sorely troubled them, ill knew

How to resist the wishes of the pair.

The duke, together with the warlike two,

Turns to the right, resolved to worship, where

God erst incarnate dwelt, the holy places,

Ere he to cherished France his way retraces.

XCIII

The warriors to the left-hand might incline,

As plainer and more full of pleasant cheer,

Where still along the sea extends their line;

But take the right-hand path, abrupt and drear;

Since the chief city of all Palestine,

By six days’ journey, is, through this, more near.

Water there is along this rugged track,

And grass; all other needful matters lack.

XCIV

So that, before they enter on their road,

All that is needful they collect, and lay

Upon the giant’s back the bulky load,

Who could a tower upon his neck convey.

The Holy Land a mountain-summit showed,

At finishing their rough and salvage way;

Where HEAVENLY LOVE a willing offering stood,

And washed away our errors with his blood.

XCV

They, at the entrance of the city, view

A gentle stripling; and in him the three

Agnize Sir Sansonet of Mecca, who

Was, in youth’s flower, for sovereign chivalry,

For sovereign goodness, famed the country through,

And wise beyond his years: from paganry

Converted by Orlando to the truth,

Who had, with his own hands, baptized the youth.

XCVI

Designing there a fortilage, in front

Of Egypt’s caliph they the warrior found;

And with a wall two miles in length, the mount

Of Calvary intending to surround.

Received with such a countenance, as is wont

To be of inward love the surest ground,

Them he conducted to his royal home,

And, with all comfort, harboured in the dome.

XCVII

As deputy, the sainted land he swayed,

Conferred on him by Charlemagne, in trust,

To him the English duke a present made

Of that so sturdy and unmeasured beast,

That it ten draught horse burdens had conveyed;

So monstrous was the giant, and next gave

The net, in which he took the unwieldy slave.

XCVIII

In quittance, Sansonet, his sword to bear,

Gave a rich girdle to Astolpho bold,

And spurs for either heel, a costly pair,

With bucklers and with rowels made of gold;

Which (’twas believed) the warrior’s relicts were,

Who freed the damsel from that dragon old;

Spoils, which Sir Sansonet, with many more,

From Joppa, when he took the city, bore

XCIX

Cleansed of their errors in a monastery,

From whence the odour of good works upwent,

They of Christ’s passion every mystery

Contemplating, through all the churches went;

Which now, to our eternal infamy,

Foul Moor usurp; what time on strife intent,

All Europe rings with arms and martial deeds,

And war is everywhere but where it needs.

C

While grace the warlike three devoutly sought,

Intent on pardon and on pious lore,

A Grecian pilgrim, known to Gryphon, brought

Tidings, which ill the afflicted champion bore,

From his long-cherished vow and former thought,

Too foreign, too remote; and these so sore

Inflamed his troubled breast, and bred such care,

They wholly turned aside his mind from prayer.

CI

For his misfortune, one of lovely feature

Sir Gryphon worshipped, Origilla hight.

Of fairer visage and of better stature,

Not one among a thousand meets the sight:

But faithless, and of such an evil nature,

That thou mightst town and city search outright,

And continent and island, far and near,

Yet, never, as I think, wouldst find her peer.

CII

In Constantine’s imperial city, burned

With a fierce fever, he had left the fair;

And hoped to find her, to that place returned,

Lovelier than ever; and enjoy her there.

But she to Antioch (as the warrior learned)

Had with another leman made repair;

Thinking, while such fresh youth was yet her own,

’Twere not a thing to brook — to sleep alone.

CIII

Sir Gryphon, from the time he heard the news

Had evermore bemoaned him, day or night:

Whatever pleasure other wight pursues

Seems but the more to vex his troubled sprite.

Let each reflect, who to his mischief woos,

How keenly tempered are Love’s darts of might,

And, heavier than all ills, the torment fell,

In that he was ashamed his grief to tell.

CIV

This: for that Aquilant had oft before

Reproved him for the passion which he nursed,

And sought to banish her from his heart’s core;

— Her, who of all bad women is the worst,

He still had censured, in his wiser lore,

If by his brother Aquilant accurst,

Her Gryphon, in his partial love, excuses,

For mostly self-conceit our sense abuses.

CV

It therefore is his purpose, without say

To Aquilant, alone to take the quest

As far as Antioch, and bear her away,

Who had borne off his heart-core from his breast:

To find him, who had made the dame his prey,

And take such vengeance of him, ere he rest,

As shall for aye be told. My next will tell

How he effected this, and what befell.

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