Orlando Furioso, by Lodovico Ariosto

Canto 16

Argument

Gryphon finds traitorous Origilla nigh

Damascus city, with Martano vile.

Slaughtered the Saracens and Christians lie

By thousands and by thousands heaped this while;

And if the Moor outside of Paris die,

Within the Sarzan so destroys each pile,

Such slaughter deals, that greater ill than this

Never before has been exprest, I wiss.

I

Love’s penalties are manifold and dread:

Of which I have endured the greater part,

And, to my cost, in these so well am read,

That I can speak of them as ’twere my art.

Hence if I say, or if I ever said,

(Did speech or living page my thoughts impart)

“One ill is grievous and another light.”

Yield me belief, and deem my judgment right.

II

I say, I said, and, while I live, will say,

“He, who is fettered by a worthy chain,

Though his desire his lady should gainsay,

And, every way averse, his suit disdain;

Though Love deprive him of all praised pay,

After long time and trouble spent in vain,

He, if his heart be placed well worthily,

Needs not lament though he should waste and die.”

III

Let him lament, who plays a slavish part,

Whom two bright eyes and lovely tresses please:

Beneath which beauties lurks a wanton heart

With little that is pure, and much of lees.

The wretch would fly; but bears in him a dart,

Like wounded stag, whichever way he flees;

Dares not confess, yet cannot quench, his flame,

And of himself and worthless love has shame.

IV

The youthful Gryphon finds him in this case,

Who sees the error which he cannot right;

He sees how vilely he his heart does place

On faithless Origille, his vain delight:

Yet evil use doth sovereign reason chase,

And free will is subdued by appetite.

Though a foul mind the lady’s actions speak,

Her, wheresoe’er she is, must Gryphon seek.

V

Resuming the fair history, I say,

Out of the city he in secret rode;

Nor to his brother would his plan bewray,

Who oft on him had vain reproof bestowed:

But to the left t’wards Ramah shaped his way,

By the most level and most easy road.

Him six days’ journey to Damascus brought,

Whence, setting out anew, he Antioch sought.

VI

He nigh Damascus met the lover, who

Perfidious Origilla’s heart possest,

And matched in evil customs were the two,

Like stalk and flower: for that in either’s breast

Was lodged a fickle heart; the dame untrue,

And he a traitor whom she loved the best.

While both the lovers hid their nature base,

To others’ cost, beneath a courteous face.

VII

As I relate to you, the cavalier

Came on huge courser, trapped with mickle pride;

With faithless Origille, in gorgeous gear,

With gold embroidered, and with azure dyed.

Two ready knaves, who serve the warrior, rear

The knightly helm and buckler at his side;

As one who with fair pomp and semblance went

Towards Damascus, to a tournament.

VIII

Damascus’ king a splendid festival

Had in these days bid solemnly proclaim;

And with what pomp they could, upon his call,

Thither, in shining arms, the champions came.

At Gryphon’s sight the harlot’s spirits fall,

Who fears that he will work her scathe and shame;

And knows her lover has not force and breath

To save her from Sir Gryphon, threatening death;

IX

But like most cunning and audacious quean,

Although she quakes from head to foot with fear,

Her voice so strengthens, and so shapes her mien,

That in her face no signs of dread appear,

Having already made her leman ween

The trick devised, she feigns a joyous cheer,

Towards Sir Gryphon goes, and for long space

Hangs on his neck, fast-locked in her embrace.

X

She, after suiting with much suavity

The action to the word, sore weeping, cried:

“Dear lord, is this the guerdon due to me,

For love and worship? that I should abide

Alone one live long year, deprived of thee,

— A second near — and, yet upon thy side

No grief? — and had I borne for thee to stay,

I know not if I should have seen that day.

XI

“When I from Nicosia thee expected

(When thou wast journeying to the plenar court)

To cheer me, — left with fever sore infected,

And in the dread of death, — I heard report

That thou wast gone to Syria; and dejected

By that ill tiding, suffered in such sort,

I, all unable to pursue thy quest,

Had nigh with this right hand transfixt my breast.

XII

“But fortune, by her double bounty, shows

She guards me more than thou: me to convey

She sent my brother here, who with me goes,

My honour safe in his protecting stay;

And this encounter with thee now bestows,

Which I above all other blessings weigh,

And in good time; for hadst thou longer stayed,

My lord, I should have died of hope delayed.”

XIII

The wicked woman, full of subtlety

(Worse than a fox in crafty hardihood)

Pursues, and so well shapes her history,

She wholly throws the blame on Gryphon good;

Makes him believe that other not to be

Her kin alone, but of her flesh and blood,

Got by one father; — and so puts upon

The knight, that he less credits Luke and John.

XIV

Nor he the fraud of her, more false than fair,

Only forbore with just reproach to pay;

Nor only did the threatened stranger spare,

Who was the lover of that lady gay;

But deemed to excuse himself sufficient were,

Turning some portion of the blame away;

And as the real brother she profest,

Unceasingly the lady’s knight carest;

XV

And to Damascus, with the cavalier

Returned, who to Sir Gryphon made report,

That Syria’s wealthy king, with sumptuous cheer,

Within that place would hold a splendid court;

And who, baptized or infidel, appear

There at his tourney (of whatever sort),

Within the city and without, assures

From wrong, for all the time the feast endures.

XVI

Yet I of Origilla’s treachery

Shall not so steadfastly pursue the lore,

Who, famed not for one single perfidy,

Thousands and thousands had betrayed before,

But that I will return again to see

Two hundred thousand wretched men or more

Burnt by the raging wild-fire, where they spread,

About the walls of Paris, scathe and dread.

XVII

I left you where king Agramant prepared

To storm a gate, and to the assault was gone:

This he had hoped to find without a guard;

And work elsewhere to bar the way was none.

For there, in person, Charles kept watch and ward

With many, practised warriors every one;

Two Angelines, two Guidos, Angelier,

Avino, Avolio, Otho, and Berlinghier.

XVIII

One and the other host its worth, before

Charles and king Agramant, desire to show,

Where praise, where riches are, they think, in store

For those that do their duty on the foe.

But such were not the atchievements of the Moor

As to repair the loss; for, to his woe,

Full many a Saracen the champaign prest;

Whose folly was a beacon to the rest.

XIX

The frequent darts a storm of hail appear,

Which from the city-wall the Christians fling;

The deafening clamours put the heavens in fear,

Which, from our part, and from that other, ring.

But Charles and Agramant must wait; for here

I of the Mars of Africa will sing,

King Rodomont, that fierce and fearful man,

That through the middle of the city ran.

XX

I know not, sir, if you the adventure dread

Of that so daring Moor to mind recall,

The leader, who had left his people dead,

Between the second work and outer wall;

Upon those limbs the ravening fire so fed,

Was never sight more sad! — I told withal,

How vaulting o’er that hindrance at a bound,

He cleared the moat which girt the city round.

XXI

When he was known the thickening crowd among,

By the strange arms he wore and scaly hide,

There, where the aged sires and feebler throng.

Listened to each new tale on every side;

Heaven-high groan, moan, and lamentation rung,

And loud they beat their lifted palms and cried:

While those who had the strength to fly aloof,

Sought safety not from house or temple’s roof.

XXII

But this the cruel sword concedes to few,

So brandished by that Saracen robust;

And here, with half a leg dissevered, flew

A foot, there head divided from the bust:

This cleft across, and that behold him hew,

From head to hips, so strong the blow and just.

While, of the thousands wounded by the Moor,

Is none that shows an honest scar before.

XXIII

What by weak herd, in fields of Hircany,

The tiger does, or Indian Ganges near,

Or wolf, by lamb or kid, on heights which lie

On Typheus’ back, the cruel cavalier

Now executes on those, I will not, I

Call phalanxes or squadrons, but a mere

Rabble, that I should term a race forlorn,

Who but deserved to die ere they were born.

XXIV

Of all he cuts, and thrusts, and maims, and bleeds,

There is not one who looks him in the face.

Throughout that street, which in a straight line leads

Up to St. Michael’s bridge, so thronged a space,

Rodomont, terrible and fearful, speeds,

Whirling his bloody brand, nor grants he grace,

In his career, to servant or to lord;

And saint and sinner feel alike the sword.

XXV

Religion cannot for the priest bespeak

Mercy, nor innocence avail the child:

Nor gently beaming eyes, nor vermeil cheek,

Protect the blooming dame or damsel mild.

Age smites its breast and flies: while bent to wreak

Vengeance, the Saracen, with gore defiled,

Shows not his valour more than cruel rage,

Heedless alike of order, sex, and age.

XXVI

Nor the impious king alone with human blood,

— Lord of the impious he — his hand distains,

But even on walls so sorely vents his mood,

He fires fair houses, and polluted fanes.

The houses almost all were made of wood,

Then (as ’tis told) and this, by what remains,

May be believed; for yet in Paris we

Six out of ten no better builded see.

XXVII

Though flames demolish all things far and wide,

This ill appears his furious hate to slake:

Where’er the paynim has his hands applied,

He tumbles down a roof at every shake.

My lord, believe, you never yet espied

Bombard in Padua, of so large a make,

That it could rend from wall of battered town

What, at a single pull, the king plucked down.

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XXVIII

While the accursed man, amid the rout,

So warred with fire and sword, if at his post,

King Agramant had prest it from without,

The ample city had that day been lost.

But he was hindered by the warrior stout,

Who came from England with the advancing host,

Composed of English and of Scotch allied,

With Silence and the Angel for their guide.

XXIX

It was God’s will, that while through town and tower

The furious Rodomont such ruin spread,

Thither arrived Rinaldo, Clermont’s flower.

Three leagues above, he o’er the river’s bed

Had cast a bridge; from whence his English power

To the left-hand by crooked ways he led;

That, meaning to assail the barbarous foes,

The stream no obstacle might interpose.

XXX

Rinaldo had, with Edward, sent a force,

Six thousand strong, of archer infantry,

And sped, with Ariman, two thousand horse

Of lightest sort; and foot and cavalry

Sought Paris by those roads, which have their course

Directly to, and from, the Picard sea;

That by St. Martin’s and St. Denys’ gate,

They might convey the aid the burghers wait.

XXXI

Rinaldo sent with these the baggage train

And carriages, with which his troops were stored;

And fetching, with the forces that remain,

A compass, he the upper way explored.

He bridge, and boat, and means to pass the Seine,

Had with him; for it here was ill to ford.

He past his army, broke the bridges down,

And rank’d in line the bands of either crown.

XXXII

But having first the peers and captains wheeled

About him in a ring, the cavalier

Mounted the bank which overtopt the field,

So much, that all might plainly see and hear;

And cried, “My lords, you should thanksgiving yield,

With lifted hands, to God, who brought you here;

Through whom, o’er every nation, you may gain

Eternal glory, bought with little pain.

XXXIII

“Two princes, by your means, will rescued be,

If you relieve those city gates from siege;

Him, your own king, whom you from slavery

And death to save, a subject’s vows oblige;

And a famed emperor, of more majesty

Than ever yet in court was served by liege,

And with them other kings, and dukes, and peers,

And lords of other lands, and cavaliers.

XXXIV

“So that one city saving, not alone

Will the Parisians bless your helping hand,

Who, sadder than for sorrows of their own,

Timid, afflicted, and disheartened stand;

And their unhappy wives and children moan,

Which share in the same peril, and the band

Or virgins, dedicate to heavenly spouse,

Lest this day frustrate see their holy vows;

XXXV

— “I say, this city saved from deadly wound,

Not only will Parisians hold you dear;

But habitants of all the countries round:

Nor speak I only of the nations near;

For city there is none on Christian ground.

But what has citizens beleaguered here;

So that to you, for vanquishing the foe,

More lands than France will obligation owe.

XXXVI

“If him the ancients with a crown endued,

Who saved one citizen by worthy deed,

For rescuing such a countless multitude,

What recompense shall be your worthy meed?

But if, from jealousy or sloth, so good

And holy, enterprise should ill succeed,

Believe me, only while these walls endure,

Is Italy or Almayn’s realm secure;

XXXVII

“Or any other part, where men adore

Him, who for us upon the cross was hung;

Nor think that distance saves you from the Moor,

Nor deem your island strong, the waves among.

For if, from far Gibraltar’s straits of yore,

And old Alcides’ pillars, sailed the throng,

To bear off plunder from your sea-girt strands,

What will they do when they possess our lands?

XXXVIII

“And, if in this fair enterprise arrayed,

No gain, no glory served you as a guide,

A common debt enjoins you mutual aid,

Militant here upon one Church’s side.

Moreover, let not any be afraid,

Our broken foemen will the assault abide;

Who seem to me ill-taught in warlike art,

A feeble rabble without arms or heart.”

XXXIX

Such reasons, and yet better for, that need

Might good Rinaldo in his speech infer;

And with quick phrase and voice, to valiant deed

The high-minded barons and bold army stir;

And this was but to goad a willing steed

(As the old proverb says) who lacks no spur.

He moved the squadrons, having closed his speech,

Softly, beneath their separate banners, each.

XL

He, without clamour, without any noise.

So moves his triple host, their flags below.

Zerbino, marching by the stream, enjoys

The honour first to assail the barbarous foe;

The paladin the Irishmen employs

More inland, with a wider wheel to go.

Thus England’s horse and foot, the two between,

Led by the Duke of Lancaster, are seen.

XLI

The paladin rode on, along the shore,

When he had put the warriors in their way,

And, passing by their squadrons, pricked before

Valiant Zerbino and his whole array,

Until he reached the quarters of the Moor,

Where Oran’s king, and king Sobrino lay;

Who, half-a-mile removed from those of Spain,

Posted upon that side, observed the plain.

XLII

With such a faithful escort fortified

And sure, the Christians who had thither wound,

With Silence and the Angel for their guide,

No longer could stand mute or keep their ground:

But hearing now the foe, with shouts defied

Their host, and made the shrilling trumpets sound;

And with loud clamours, which Heaven’s concave fill,

Sent through the paynim’s bones a deadly chill.

XLIII

Rinaldo spurs before the troops combined

His foaming courser, and his weapon rests;

And a full bow-shot leaves the Scots behind:

So all delay the impatient peer molests.

As oftentimes an eddying gust of winds

Issues, ere yet the horrid storm infests,

So sallying swiftly from the following herd,

Rinaldo forth upon Baiardo spurred.

XLIV

As the aspect of the paladin of France,

The wavering Moorish files betray their fear;

And, trembling in their hands, is seen the lance,

Their thighs and stirrups quivering, like the spear.

King Pulian only marks the knight’s advance,

Knowing Rinaldo not, unchanged in cheer;

Nor thinking such a cruel shock to meet,

Gallops against him on his courser fleet.

XLV

He stoops upon the weapon which he strains,

Whole and collected for the martial game:

Then to his horse abandoning the reins,

And goading with both spurs the courser, came.

Upon the other side no valour feigns,

But shows, by doings, what he is in name;

— With what rare grace and matchless art he wars,

The son of Aymon, rather son of Mars.

XLVI

Well-matched in skill, they aimed their cruel blows,

With lances at each other’s heads addrest;

Ill matched, in arms and valour, were the foes,

For this past on, and that the champaigne prest.

More certain proof of worth, when warriors close,

There needs than knightly lance, well placed in rest;

But Fortune even more than Valour needs,

Which ill, without her saving succour, speeds.

XLVII

With the good spear new levelled in his fist,

At Oran’s king behold Rinaldo dart.

Of bulk, and bone, and sinew, to resist

The monarch was, but ill supplied with heart.

And his might pass for a fair stroke in list,

Though planted in the buckler’s nether part.

Let those excuse it who refuse to admire,

Since the good paladin could reach no higher.

XLVIII

Nor did the buckler so the weapon stay,

Though made of palm within, and steel without,

But that it pierced the paunch, and made a way

To let that mean and ill matched spirit out.

The courser, who had deemed that all the day

He must so huge a burden bear about,

Thanked in his heart the warrior, who well met,

Had thus preserved him from so sore a sweat.

XLIX

Rinaldo, having broke his rested spear,

So wheels his horse, he seems equipt with wings;

Who, turning swiftly with the cavalier,

Amid the closest crowd, impetuous springs.

Composed of brittle glass the arms appear

Where Sir Rinaldo red Fusberta swings.

Nor tempered steel is there, nor corslet thick,

Which keeps the sword from biting to the quick.

L

Yet few the tempered plates or iron pins

With which encounters that descending brand;

But targets, some of oak and some of skins,

And quilted vest and turban’s twisted band.

Lightly such drapery good Rinaldo thins,

And cleaves, and bores, and shears, on either hand;

Nor better from his sword escapes the swarm,

Than grass from sweeping scythe, or grain from storm.

LI

The foremost squadron had been put to flight,

When thither the vanguard Zerbino led.

Forth pricking from the following crowd, in sight

Appeared, with levelled lance, their youthful head:

With no less fury those who trooped to fight

Beneath his banner, to the combat sped;

Like lions, like so many wolves, who leap

In fury to the assault of goat or sheep.

LII

Both spurred their coursers on, with rested lance,

When either warrior to his foe was near;

And that short interval, that small expanse,

Of plain, between, was seen to disappear.

Was never witnessed yet a stranger dance!

For the Scots only ply the murderous spear;

Only the scattered paynims slaughtered lie,

As if conducted thither but to die.

LIII

It seemed as if each coward paynim grew

More cold than ice, each Scot more fierce than flame.

The Moors believed that with Rinaldo’s thew

And muscle fortified, each Christian came.

Sobrino quickly moved his ordered crew,

Nor stayed till herald should his call proclaim:

Better were they than those which went before,

For captain, armour, and for martial lore.

LIV

Less worthless men of Africa were they,

Though ill had they been deemed of much avail.

Ill harnessed, and worse trained to martial fray,

Forthwith King Dardinel, the foe to assail,

Moved up his host, himself in helmet gay,

And sheathing all his limbs in plate and mail.

The fourth division I believe was best,

Which, under Isolier, to battle prest.

LV

Thraso, this while, the valiant Duke of Mar,

Glad in the tumult, for the cavaliers

Who muster in his train, uplifts the bar,

And to the lists of fame his following chears,

When Isolier, with horsemen of Navarre,

Entered in that fierce fray he sees and hears.

Next Ariodantes moved his chivalry,

Who was of late made Duke of Albany.

LVI

The deep sonorous trumpet’s bellowing,

And sound of drum, and barbarous instrument,

Combined with twang of bow, and whiz of sling,

Wheel and machine, and stone from engine sent,

And (what more loud than these appeared to ring)

Tumult, and shriek, and groan, and loud lament,

Composed a direr whole than what offends

The neighbouring tribes where deafening Nile descends.

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LVII

The arrows’ double shower the ample sky

With wide-extended shade is seen to shrowd;

Breath, smoke of sweat and dust ascend on high,

And seem to stamp in air a murky cloud.

By turns each host gives way, and you might spy,

Now chasing, now in flight, the self-same crowd;

And here some wight, beside his foeman slain,

Or little distant, prostrate on the plain.

LVIII

When, harassed with fatigue, a wearied crew

Withdraw, fresh files their fellows reinforce:

Men, here and there, the wasted ranks renew;

Here march supplies of foot, and there of horse:

Her mantle green for robe of crimson hue

Earth shifts, ensanguined where the warriors course:

And there were azure flowers and yellow sprung,

Now slaughtered men lie stretched their steeds among.

LIX

Zerbino was more wonders seen to do

Than ever stripling of his age, he strowed

The ground with heaps of dead, and overthrew

The paynim numbers which about him flowed.

The valiant Ariodantes to his new-

Entrusted squadron mighty prowess showed;

Filling with dread and wonder, near and far,

The squadrons of Castile and of Navarre.

LX

Chelindo and Mosco (bastards were the twain

Of Calabrun, late king of Arragon),

And one esteemed among the valiant train,

Calamidor, of Barcellona’s town,

Leaving their standards, in the hope to gain,

By young Zerbino’s death, a glorious force,

And wounded in his flanks the prince’s horse.

LXI

Pierced by three lances lay the courser strong,

But bold Zerbino quickly rose anew;

And, eager to avenge his charger’s wrong,

The assailants, where he sees them, will pursue.

Zerbino at Mosco first, that overhung

Him, in the hope to make him prisoner, flew,

And pierced him in the flank; who from his sell,

Pallid and cold, upon the champaign fell.

LXII

When him so killed, as ’twere by stealthy blow,

Chelindo viewed, to avenge his brother slain,

He charged, intent the prince to overthrow;

But he seized fast his courser by the rein,

And, thence to rise not, laid the charger low,

Destined no more to feed on hay or grain;

For at one stroke, so matchless was his force,

Zerbino cleft the rider and his horse.

LXIII

When that fell blow Calamidor espied,

He turned the bridle short to speed away,

But him with downright cut Zerbino plied

Behind, and cried withal, “Stay, traitor, stay.”

Nor from its aim the sword-stroke wandered wide,

Though from the mark it went somedeal astray;

The falchion missed the rider as he fled,

But reached the horse’s croup, and stretched him dead,

LXIV

He quits the horse, and thence for safety crawls;

But he with little boot escapes his foe;

For him Duke Thraso’s horse o’erturns and mawls,

Opprest the ponderous courser’s weight below.

Where the huge crowd upon Zerbino falls,

Ariodantes and Lurcanio go;

And with them many a cavalier and count,

Who do their best Zerbino to remount.

LXV

Then Artalico and Margano knew

The force of Ariodantes’ circling brand:

While Casimir and Enearco rue

More deeply yet the puissance of his hand.

Smote by the knight, escaped the former two;

The others were left dead upon the strand.

Lurcanio shows what are his force and breath;

Who charges, smites, o’erturns, and puts to death.

LXVI

Sir, think not that more inland on the plain

The warfare is less mortal than along

The stream, nor that the troops behind remain

Which to the duke of Lancaster belong.

He valiantly assailed the flags of Spain,

And long in even scale the battle hung.

For Horse and Foot, and Captains of those bands,

On either side, could deftly ply their hands.

LXVII

Forward Sir Oldrad pricks and Fieramont;

This Glocester’s duke, and York’s the other knight;

With them conjoined is Richard, Warwick’s count,

And the bold duke of Clarence, Henry hight.

These Follicon and Matalista front,

And Baricond, with all they lead to fight.

Almeria this, and that Granada guides,

And o’er Marjorca Baricond presides.

LXVIII

Well matched awhile the Christian and the Moor

Appeared, without advantage in the fray.

Not this, now that gave ground, like corn before

The light and fickle breeze which blows in May:

Or as the sea which ripples on the shore,

Still comes and goes, nor keeps one certain way,

When hollow Fortune thus had sported long,

She proved disastrous to the paynim throng.

LXIX

The duke of Glocester Matalista bold

Assailed this while, and hurtled from his sell;

Fieramont Follicon o’erturned and rolled,

In the right shoulder smit, on earth as well.

The advancing English either paynim hold,

And bear their prisoners off to dungeon cell.

This while, Sir Baricond is, in the strife,

By Clarence’s bold duke deprived of life.

LXX

Hence ’tis among the Moors amazement all,

While hence the Christians take such heart and pride,

The bands do nought but quit their ground and fall,

And break their order on the Paynim side,

What time the Christian troops come on, and gall

Their flying rants, which nowhere will abide:

And had not one arrived to aid their host.

The Paynim camp had on that side been lost.

LXXI

But Ferrau, who till this time ever nigh

Marsilius, scarce had quitted him that day,

When half destroyed he marked his chivalry,

And saw that baffled banner born away,

Pricked his good courser forth, in time to spy,

(Where mid those squadrons hottest waxed the fray)

With his head severed in a griesly wound,

Olympio de la Serra fall to ground:

LXXII

A stripling he, who such sweet musick vented,

Accorded to the horned lyre’s soft tone;

That at the dulcet melody relented

The hearer’s heart, though harder than a stone.

Happy! if, with such excellence contented,

He had pursued so fair a fame alone,

And loathed shield, quiver, helmet, sword and lance;

Destined by these to die a youth in France.

LXXIII

When bold French beheld his cruel plight,

For whom he love and much esteem profest,

He felt more pity at the doleful sight

Than, ‘mid those thousands slain, for all the rest.

And smote the foe who slew him with such might,

That he his helm divided from the crest;

Cut front, eyes, visage, and mid bosom through,

And cast him down amid the slaughtered crew.

LXXIV

Nor stops he here, nor leaves a corslet whole,

Nor helm unbroken, where his sword is plied,

Of this the front or cheek, of that the poll,

The arm of other foe his strokes divide;

And he, of these divorcing body and soul,

Restores the wavering battle on that side;

Whence the disheartened and ignoble throng

Are scattered wide, and broke, and driven along.

LXXV

Into the medley pricks King Agramant,

Desirous there his bloody course to run;

With him King Baliverzo, Farurant,

Soridan, Bambirago, Prusion;

And next so many more of little vaunt,

Whose blood will form a lake ere day be done,

That I could count each leaf with greater ease

When autumn of their mantle strips the trees.

LXXVI

Agramant from the wall a numerous band

Of horse and foot withdraws, and sends the array

Beneath the king of Fez, with a command

Behind the Moorish tents to make his way,

And those of Ireland in their march withstand,

Whom he sees hurrying with what haste they may,

And with wide wheel and spacious compass wind,

To fall upon the paynim camp behind.

LXXVII

The king of Fez upon this service prest;

For all delay might sore his work impede.

This while King Agramant unites the rest,

And parts the troops who to the battle speed.

He sought himself the river, where he guessed

The Moorish host might most his presence need;

And, from that quarter, had a courier prayed,

By King Sobrino sent, the monarch’s aid.

LXXVIII

He more than half his camp behind him led,

In one deep phalanx. At the mighty sound

Alone, the Scotsmen trembled, and in dread

Abandoned honour, order, and their ground:

Lurcanio, Ariodantes, and their head,

Zerbino, there alone the torrent bound;

And haply he, who was afoot, had died,

But that in time his need Rinaldo spied.

LXXIX

Elsewhere the paladin was making fly

A hundred banners: while the cavalier

So chased the quailing Saracens, the cry

Of young Zerbino’s peril smote the ear;

For, single and afoot, his chivalry

Amid the Africans had left the peer.

Rinaldo turned about and took his way

Where he beheld the Scots in disarray.

LXXX

He plants his courser, where their squadrons yield

To the fierce paynims, and exclaims: “Where go

Your bands, and why so basely quit the field,

Yielding so vilely to so vile a foe?

Behold the promised trophies, spear and shield,

Spoils which your loaded churches ought to show!

What praise! what glory! that alone, and reft

Of his good horse, your monarch’s son is left!

LXXXI

He from a squire receives a lance, and spies

King Prusion little distant, sovereign

Of the Alvaracchiae, and against him hies;

Whom he unhorses, dead upon the plain.

So Agricalt, so Bambirago dies;

And next sore wounded is Sir Soridane;

Who had been slain as well amid the throng,

If good Rinaldo’s lance had proved more strong.

LXXXII

That weapon broken, he Fusberta rears,

And smites Sir Serpentine, him of the star.

Though charmed from mischief are the cavalier’s

Good arms, he falls astounded by the jar,

And thus Rinaldo round Zerbino clears

The field so widely, where those champions war,

That without more dispute he takes a horse

Of those, who masterless, at random, course.

LXXXIII

That he in time remounted it was well,

Who haply would not, if he more delayed:

For Agramant at once, and Dardinel,

Sobrino, and Balastro thither made;

But he, who had in time regained the sell,

Wheeled, here and there his horse, with brandished blade,

Dispatching into hell the mixt array,

That how men live above their ghosts might say.

LXXXIV

The good Rinaldo, who to overthrow

The strongest of the foeman covets still,

At Agramant directs a deadly blow,

— Who seems too passing-proud, and greater ill

Works there, than thousand others of the foe —

And spurs his horse, the Moorish chief to spill.

He smote the monarch, broadside charged the steed,

And man and horse reversed upon the mead.

LXXXV

What time, without, in such destructive frays

Hate, Rage, and Fury, all offend by turns,

In Paris Rodomont the people slays,

And costly house, and holy temple burns:

While Charles elsewhere anther duty stays,

Who nothing hears of this, nor aught discerns.

He, in the town, receives the British band,

Which Edward and Sir Ariman command.

LXXXVI

To him a squire approached, who pale with dread,

Scarce drew his breath, and cried: “Oh, well away!

Alas! alas!” (and thus he often said,

Ere he could utter aught beside). “To-day,

To-day, sire, is the Roman empire sped,

And Christ to the heathen makes his flock a prey.

A fiend from air today has dropt, that none

Henceforth may in this city make their won.

LXXXVII

“Satan (in sooth, it can no other be)

Destroys and ruins the unhappy town.

Turn, and the curling wreaths of vapour see,

From the red flames which wander up and down;

List to those groans, and be they warrantry

Of the sad news thy servant now makes known!

One the fair city wastes with sword and fire,

Before whose vengeful fury all retire.”

LXXXVIII

Even such as he, who hears the tumult wide,

And clatter of church-bells, ere he espy

The raging fire, concealed from none beside

Himself, to him most dangerous, and most nigh;

Such was King Charles; who heard, and then descried

The new disaster with his very eye.

Hence he the choicest of his meiny steers

Thither, where he the cry and tumult hears.

LXXXIX

With many peers and chiefs, who worthiest are,

Summoned about him, Charlemagne is gone:

He bids direct his standards to the square

Whither the paynim had repaired; hears groan

And tumult, spies the horrid tokens there

Of cruelty, sees human members strown.

— No more — Let him return another time,

Who willingly will listen to this rhyme.

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