Orlando Furioso, by Lodovico Ariosto

Canto 22

Argument

Atlantes’ magic towers Astolpho wight

Destroys, and frees his thralls from prison-cell.

Bradamant finds Rogero, who in fight

O’erthrows four barons from the warlike sell,

When on their way to save an errant knight

Doomed to devouring fire: the four who fell

For impious Pinnabel maintained the strife,

Whom, after, Bradamant deprives of life.

I

Ye courteous dames, and to your lovers dear,

You that are with one single love content;

Though, ‘mid so many and many, it is clear

Right few of you are of such constant bent;

Be not displeased at what I said whilere,

When I so bitterly Gabrina shent,

Nor if I yet expend some other verse

In censure of the beldam’s mind perverse.

II

Such was she; and I hide not what is true;

So was enjoined me for a task by one

Whose will is law; therefore is honour due

To constant heart throughout my story done.

He who betrayed his master to the Jew

For thirty pence, nor Peter wronged, nor John,

Nor less renowned is Hypermnestra’s fame,

For her so many wicked sisters’ shame.

III

For one I dare to censure in my lays,

For so the story wills which I recite,

On the other hand, a hundred will I praise,

And make their virtue dim the sun’s fair light;

But turning to the various pile I raise,

(Gramercy! dear to many) of the knight

Of Scotland I was telling, who hard-by

Had heard, as was rehearsed, a piercing cry.

IV

He entered, ‘twixt two hills, a narrow way,

From whence was heard the cry; nor far had hied,

Ere to a vale he came shut out from day,

Where he before him a dead knight espied.

Who I shall tell; but first I must away

From France, in the Levant to wander wide,

Till I the paladin Astolpho find,

Who westward had his course from thence inclined.

V

I in the cruel city left the peer,

Whence, with the formidable bugle’s roar,

He had chased the unfaithful people in their fear,

And has preserved himself from peril sore;

And with the sound had made his comrades rear

Then sail, and fly with noted scorn that shore.

Now following him, I say, the warrior took

The Armenian road, and so that land forsook.

VI

He, after some few days, in Natoly

Finds himself, and towards Brusa goes his ways;

Hence wending, on the hither side o’ the sea,

Makes Thrace; through Hungary by the Danube lays

His course, and as his horse had wings to flee,

Traverses in less time than twenty days

Both the Moravian and Bohemian line;

Threaded Franconia next, and crost the Rhine.

VII

To Aix-la-Chapelle thence, through Arden’s wood,

Came and embarked upon the Flemish strand.

To sea, with southern breeze his vessel stood;

And, so the favouring wind her canvas fanned,

That he, at little distance, Albion viewed

By noon, and disembarked upon her land.

He backed his horse, and so the rowels plied,

In London he arrived by even-tide.

VIII

Here, learning afterwards that Otho old

Has lain for many months in Paris-town,

And that anew nigh every baron bold

Has after his renowned example done,

He straightway does for France his sails unfold,

And to the mouth of Thames again is gone.

Whence issuing forth, with all his canvas spread,

For Calais he directs the galley’s head.

IX

A breeze which, from the starboard blowing light,

Had tempted forth Astolpho’s bark to sea,

By little and by little, waxed in might,

And so at last obtains the mastery,

The pilot is constrained to veer outright,

Lest by the billows swampt his frigate be,

And he, departing from his first design,

Keeps the bark straight before the cresting brine.

X

Now to the right, now to the other hand,

Sped by the tempest, through the foaming main,

The vessel ran; she took the happy land

At last nigh Rouen; and forthwith, in chain

And plate Astolpho cased, and girt with brand,

Bade put the saddle upon Rabicane;

Departed thence, and (what availed him more

Than thousands armed) with him his bugle bore;

XI

And traversing a forest, at the feet

Of a fair hill, arrived beside a font,

What time the sheep foregoes his grassy meat,

Penned in the cabin or the hollow mount;

And, overcome by feverish thirst and heat,

Lifted the weighty morion from his front;

Tethered his courser in the thickest wood,

And, with intent to drink, approached the flood.

XII

His lips he had not wetted in its bed

Before a youthful rustic, ambushed near,

Sprang from a copse, backed Rabican, and fled

With the good courser of the cavalier.

Astolpho hears the noise and lifts his head,

And, when he sees his mighty loss so clear,

Satiate, although he had not drunk, upstarts,

And after the young churl in fury darts.

XIII

That robber did not let the courser strain

At speed, or he had from the warrior shot;

But loosening now and tightening now the rein,

Fled at a gallop or a steady trot.

From the deep forest issued forth the twain,

After long round, and reached in fine the spot

Where so many illustrious lords were shent:

Worse prisoners they than if in prison pent!

XIV

On Rabican, who with the wind might race,

The villain sped, within the enchanter’s won.

Impeded by his shield and iron case,

Parforce Astolpho far behind him run;

Yet there arrives as well, but every trace

Of what the warrior had pursued is gone.

He neither Rabican nor thief can meet,

And vainly rolls his eyes and plies his feet.

XV

He plies his feet, and searches still in vain

Throughout the house, hall, bower, or galleried rows:

Yet labours evermore, with fruitless pain

And care, to find the treacherous churl; nor knows

Where he can have secreted Rabicane,

Who every other animal outgoes:

And vainly searches all day the dome about,

Above, below, within it, and without.

XVI

He, wearied and confused with wandering wide,

Perceived the place was by enchantment wrought,

And of the book he carried at his side,

By Logistilla given in India, thought;

Bestowed, should new enchantment him betide,

That needful succour might therein be sought.

He to the index turns, and quickly sees

What pages show the proper remedies.

XVII

I’ the book, of that enchanted house at large

Was written, and in this was taught the way

To foil the enchanter, and to set at large

The different prisoners, subject to his sway.

Of these illusions and these frauds in charge,

A spirit pent beneath the threshold lay;

And the stone raised which kept him fast below,

With him the palace into smoke would go.

XVIII

Astolpho with desire to bring to end

An enterprise so passing fair, delays

No more, but to the task his force does bend,

And prove how much the heavy marble weighs.

As old Atlantes sees the knight intend

To bring to scorn his art and evil ways,

Suspicious of the ill which may ensue,

He moves to assail him with enchantments new.

XIX

He, with his spells and shapes of devilish kind,

Makes the duke different from his wont appear;

To one a giant, and to one a hind,

To other an ill-visaged cavalier;

Each, in the form which in the thicket blind

The false enchanter wore, beholds the peer.

So that they all, with purpose to have back

What the magician took, the duke attack.

XX

The Child, Gradasso, Iroldo, Bradamant,

Prasildo, Brandimart, and many more,

All, cheated by this new illusion, pant

To slay the English baron, angered sore;

But he abased their pride and haughty vaunt,

Who straight bethought him of the horn be bore.

But for the succour of its echo dread,

They, without fail, had laid Astolpho dead.

XXI

But he no sooner has the bugle wound

And poured a horrid larum, than in guise

Of pigeons at the musquet’s scaring sound,

The troop of cavaliers affrighted flies.

No less the necromancer starts astound,

No less he from his den in panic hies;

Troubled and pale, and hurrying evermore

Till out of hearing of the horrid roar

XXII

The warder fled; with him his prisoned train,

And many steeds as well are fled and gone;

(These more than rope is needed to restrain)

Who after their astounded masters run,

Scared by the sound; nor cat nor mouse remain,

Who seem to hear in it, “Lay on, lay on.”

Rabican with the rest had broke his bands,

But that he fell into Astolpho’s hands.

XXIII

He, having chased the enchanter Moor away,

Upraised the heavy threshold from the ground;

Beneath which, figures and more matters lay,

That I omit; desirous to confound

The spell which did the magic dome upstay,

The duke made havock of whate’er he found,

As him the book he carried taught to do:

And into mist and smoke all past from view.

XXIV

There he found fastened by a golden chain

Rogero’s famous courser, him I say

Given by the wizard, that to the domain

Of false Alcina him he might convey:

On which, equipt with Logistilla’s rein,

To France Rogero had retraced his way,

And had from Ind to England rounded all

The right-hand side of the terrestrial ball.

XXV

I know not if you recollect how tied

To a tree Rogero left his rein, the day

Galaphron’s naked daughter from his side

Vanished, and him did with that scorn appay.

The courser, to his wonder who espied,

Returned to him whom he was used to obey;

Beneath the old enchanter’s care to dwell,

And stayed with him till broken was the spell.

XXVI

At nought Astolpho could more joyous be

Than this; of all things fortunate the best:

In that the hippogryph so happily

Offered himself; that he might scower the rest,

(As much he coveted) of land and sea,

And in few days the ample world invest.

Him well he knew, how fit for his behoof;

For of his feats he had elsewhere made proof.

XXVII

Him he that day in India proved, when sped

He was by sage Melissa, from the reign

Of that ill woman who him, sore bested,

Had changed from man to myrtle on the plain;

Had marked and noted how his giddy head

Was formed by Logistilla to the rein;

And saw how well instructed by her care

Rogero was, to guide him every where.

XXVIII

Minded to take the hippogryph, he flung

The saddle on him, which lay near, and bitted

The steed, by choosing, all the reins among,

This part or that, until his mouth was fitted:

For in that place were many bridles hung,

Belonging to the coursers which flitted.

And now alone, intent upon his flight,

The thought of Rabicane detained the knight.

XXIX

Good cause he had to love that Rabicane,

For better horse was not to run with lance,

And him had he from the remotest reign

Of India ridden even into France:

After much thought, he to some friend would fain

Present him, rather than so, left to chance,

Abandon there the courser, as a prey,

To the first stranger who should pass that way.

XXX

He stood upon the watch if he could view

Some hunter in the forest, or some hind,

To whom he might commit the charge, and who

Might to some city lead the horse behind.

He waited all that day and till the new

Had dawned, when, while the twilight yet was blind,

He thought he saw, as he expecting stood,

A cavalier approaching through the wood.

XXXI

But it behoves that, ere the rest I say,

I Bradamant and good Rogero find.

After the horn had ceased, and, far away,

The beauteous pair had left the dome behind,

Rogero looked, and knew what till that day

He had seen not, by Atlantes rendered blind.

Atlantes had effected by his power,

They should not know each other till that hour.

XXXII

Rogero looks on Bradamant, and she

Looks on Rogero in profound surprise

That for so many days that witchery

Had so obscurred her altered mind and eyes.

Rejoiced, Rogero clasps his lady free,

Crimsoning with deeper than the rose’s dyes,

And his fair love’s first blossoms, while he clips

The gentle damsel, gathers from her lips.

XXXIII

A thousand times they their embrace renew,

And closely each is by the other prest;

While so delighted are those lovers two,

Their joys are ill contained within their breast.

Deluded by enchantments, much they rue

That while they were within the wizard’s rest,

They should not e’er have one another known,

And have so many happy days foregone.

XXXIV

The gentle Bradamant, who was i’ the vein

To grant whatever prudent virgin might,

To solace her desiring lover’s pain,

So that her honour should receive no slight;

— If the last fruits he of her love would gain,

Nor find her ever stubborn, bade the knight,

Her of Duke Aymon through fair mean demand;

But be baptized before he claimed her hand.

XXXV

Rogero good, who not alone to be

A Christian for the love of her were fain,

As his good sire had been, and anciently

His grandsire and his whole illustrious strain,

But for her pleasure would immediately

Resign whatever did of life remain,

Says, “I not only, if ’tis thy desire,

Will be baptized by water, but by fire.”

XXXVI

Then on his way to be baptized he hied,

That he might next espouse the martial may,

With Bradamant; who served him as a guide

To Vallombrosa’s fane, an abbey gray,

Rich, fair, nor less religious, and beside,

Courteous to whosoever passed that way;

And they encountered, issuing from the chase,

A woman, with a passing woful face.

XXXVII

Rogero, as still courteous, still humane

To all, but woman most, when he discerned

Her dainty visage furrowed by a rain

Of lovely tears, sore pitied her, and burned

With the desire to know her grievous pain;

And having to the mournful lady turned,

Besought her, after fair salute, to show

What cause had made her eyes thus overflow.

XXXVIII

And she, uplifting their moist rays and bright,

Most kindly to the inquiring Child replied;

And of the cause of her unhappy plight,

Him, since he sought it, fully satisfied.

“Thou hast to understand, O gentle knight,

My visage is so bathed with tears,” she cried,

“In pity to a youth condemned to die

This very day, within a town hard by.

XXXIX

“Loving a gentle lady and a gay,

The daughter of Marsilius, king of Spain,

And feigning, veiled in feminine array,

The modest roll of eye and girlish strain,

With her each night the amorous stripling lay,

Nor any had suspicion of the twain:

But nought so hidden is, but searching eye

In the long run the secret will espy.

XL

“One first perceived it, and then spoke with two,

Those two with more, till to the king ’twas said;

Of whom but yesterday a follower true

Gave order to surprise the pair in bed,

And in the citadel the prisoners new,

To separate dungeons in that fortress led;

Nor think I that enough of day remains

To save the lover from his cruel pains.

XLI

“I fled, not to behold such cruelty,

For they alive the wretched youth will burn;

Nor think I aught could more afflicting be

Than such fair stripling’s torment to discern,

Or that hereafter thing can pleasure me

So much, but that it will to trouble turn,

If memory retrace the cruel flame

Which preyed upon his fair and dainty frame.”

XLII

Touched deeply, Bradamant his danger hears,

In heart sore troubled at the story shown;

As anxious for the lover, it appears,

As if he were a brother of her own:

Nor certes wholly causeless are her fears,

As in an after verse will be made known,

Then, to Rogero: “Him to keep from harms,

Meseems we worthily should turn our arms.”

XLIII

And to that melancholy damsel said:

“Place us but once within the walls, and I,

So that the youth be not already dead,

Will be your warrant that he shall not die.”

Rogero, who the kindly bosom read

Of Bradamant, still full of piety,

Felt himself but all over with desire

To snatch the unhappy stripling from the fire.

XLIV

And to the maid, whose troubled face apears

Bathed with a briny flood, “Why wait we? — need

Is here of speedy succour, not of tears.

Do you but where the youth is prisoned lead;

Him from a thousand swords, a thousand spears,

We vow to save; so it be done with speed.

But haste you, lest too tardy be our aid,

And he be burnt, which succour is delayed.”

XLV

The haughty semblance and the lofty say

Of these, who with such wondrous daring glowed,

That hope, which long had ceased to be her stay,

Again upon the grieving dame bestowed:

But, for she less the distance of the way

Dreaded, than interruption of the road,

Lest they, through this, should take that path in vain,

The damsel stood suspended and in pain.

XLVI

Then said: “If to the place our journey lay

By the highroad, which is both straight and plain,

That we in time might reach it, I should say,

Before the fire was lit; but we must strain

By path so foul and crooked, that a day

To reach the city would suffice with pain;

And when, alas! we thither shall have sped,

I fear that we shall find the stripling dead.”

XLVII

“And wherefore take we not the way most near?”

Rogero answers; and the dame replies,

“Because fast by where we our course should steer,

A castle of the Count of Poictiers lies:

Where Pinnabel for dame and cavalier

Did, three days past, a shameful law devise;

Than whom more worthless living wight is none,

The Count Anselmo d’Altaripa’s son.

XLVIII

“No cavalier or lady by that rest

Without some noted scorn and injury goes;

Both of their coursers here are dispossest,

And knight his arms and dame her gown foregoes.

No better cavaliers lay lance in rest,

Nor have for years in France against their foes,

Than four, who for Sir Pinnabel have plight

Their promise to maintain the castle’s right.

XLIX

“Whence first arose the usage, which began

But three days since, you now, sir knight, shall hear;

And shall the cause, if right or evil, scan,

Which moved the banded cavaliers to swear.

So ill a lady has the Castellan,

So wayward, that she is without a peer:

Who, on a day, as with the count she went,

I know not whither, by a knight was shent.

L

“This knight, as flouted by that bonnibel,

For carrying on his croup an ancient dame,

Encountered with her champion Pinnabel,

Of overweening pride and little fame:

Him he o’erturned, made alight as well,

And put her to the proof, if sound or lame;

— Left her on foot, and had that woman old

In the dismounted damsel’s garment stoled.

LI

“She, who remained on foot, in fell despite,

Greedy of vengeance, and athirst for ill,

Leagued with the faithless Pinnabel, a wight

All evil prompt to further and fulfil,

Says she shall never rest by day nor night,

Nor ever know a happy hour, until

A thousand knights and dames are dispossest

Of courser, and of armour, and of vest.

LII

“Four puissant knights arrived that very day

It happened, at a place of his, and who

Had all of them from regions far away

Come lately to those parts: so many true

And valiant warriors, skilled in martial play,

Our age has seen not. These the goodly crew:

Guido the savage, but a stripling yet,

Gryphon, and Aquilant, and Sansonet!

LIII

“Them at the fortilage, of which I told,

Sir Pinnabel received with semblance fair,

Next seized the ensuing night the warriors bold

In bed, nor loosed, till he had made them swear

That (he such period fixt) they in his hold

Should be his faithful champions for a year

And month; and of his horse and arms deprive

Whatever cavalier should there arrive.

LIV

“And any damsel whom the stranger bore

With him, dismount, and strip her of her vest.

So, thus surprised, the warlike prisoners swore;

So were constrained to observe the cruel hest,

Though grieved and troubled: nor against the four,

It seems, can any joust, but vails his crest.

Knight infinite have come, but one and all,

Afoot and without arms have left that Hall.

LV

“Their order is, who from the castle hies,

The first by lot, shall meet the foe alone,

But if he find a champion of such guise

As keeps the sell, while he himself is thrown,

The rest must undertake the enterprise,

Even to the death, against that single one,

Ranged in a band. If such each single knight,

Imagine the assembled warriors’ might!

LVI

“Nor stands it with our haste, which all delay,

All let forbids, that you beside that tower

Be forced to stop and mingle in the fray:

For grant that you be conquerors in the stower,

(And as your presence warrants well, you may,)

’Tis not a thing concluded in an hour.

And if all day he wait our succour, I

Much fear the stripling in the fire will die.”

LVII

“Regard we not this hindrance of our quest,”

Rogero cried, “But do we what we may!

Let HIM who rules the heavens ordain the rest,

Or Fortune, if he leave it in her sway;

To you shall by this joust be manifest

If we can aid the youth; for whom today

They on a ground so causeless and so slight,

As you to us rehearsed, the fire will light.”

LVIII

Rogero ceased; and in the nearest way

The damsel put the pair without reply:

Nor these beyond three miles had fared, when they

Reached bridge and gate, the place of forfeitry,

Of horse and arms and feminine array,

With peril sore of life. On turret high,

Upon first sight of them, a sentinel

Beat twice upon the castle’s larum-bell.

LIX

And lo, in eager hurry from the gate

An elder trotting on hackney made!

And he approaching cried, “Await, await!

— Hola! halt, sirs, for here a fine is paid:

And I to you the usage shall relate,

If this has not to you before been said.”

And to the three forthwith began to tell

The use established there by Pinnabel.

LX

He next proceeds, as he had wont before

To counsel other errant cavalier.

“Unrobe the lady,” (said the elder hoar,)

“My sons, and leave your steeds and martial geer;

Nor put yourselves in peril, and with four

Such matchless champions hazard the career.

Clothes, arms, and coursers every where are rife;

But not to be repaired is loss of life.”

LXI

“ — No more!” (Rogero said) “No more! for I

Am well informed of all, and hither speed

With the intention, here by proof to try

If, what my heart has vouched, I am in deed.

For sign or threat I yield not panoply,

If nought beside I hear, nor vest nor steed.

And this my comrade, I as surely know,

These for mere words as little will forego.

LXII

“But let me face to face, by Heaven, espy

Those who would take my horse and arms away;

For we have yet beyond that hill to hie,

And little time can here afford to stay.”

“Behold the man,” that ancient made reply,

“Clear of the bridge!” — Nor did in this missay;

For thence a warrior pricked, who, powdered o’er

With snowy flowers, a crimson surcoat wore.

LXIII

Bradamant for long time with earnest prayer,

For courtesy the good Rogero prest,

To let her from his sell the warrior bear,

Who with white flowers had purfled o’er his vest.

But moved him not; and to Rogero’s share

Must leave, and do herself, what liked him best.

He willed the whole emprize his own should be,

And Bradamant should stand apart to see.

LXIV

The Child demanded of that elder, who

Was he that from the gate first took his way,

And he, “ ’Tis Sansonet; of crimson hue,

I know his surcoat, with white flowers gay.”

Without a word exchanged, the warlike two

Divide the ground, and short is the delay.

For they against each other, levelling low

Their spears, and hurrying sore their coursers, go.

LXV

This while had issued from the fortress near,

With many footmen girt, Sir Pinnabel,

All ready to despoil the cavalier,

Who in the warlike joust should void is sell.

At one another spurred in bold career

The knights, with their huge lances rested well.

Up to the points nigh equal was each stick,

Of stubborn native oak, and two palms thick.

LXVI

Sansonet, of such staves, above five pair

Had made them sever from the living stock,

In neighboring wood, and bade his followers bear

Two of them hither, destined for that shock:

Such truncheons to withstand, well needed-were

A shield and cuirass of the diamond rock.

One he had made them give his foe, and one

He kept himself, the present course to run.

LXVII

With these which might the solid anvil bore,

(So well their ends were pointed) there and here,

Each aiming at the shield his foeman wore,

The puissant warriors shocked in mid career.

That of Rogero, wrought with magic lore,

By fiends, had little from the stroke to fear:

I of the buckler speak Atlantes made,

Of whose rare virtues I whilere have said.

LXVIII

I have already said, the enchanted light

Strikes with such force on the beholder’s eyes,

That, at the shield’s discovery, every wight

Is blinded, or on earth half lifeless lies.

Wherefore, well mantled with a veil, the knight

Keeps it, unless some passing need surprise:

Impassive is the shield as well believed,

Since it no damage in the shock received.

LXIX

The other by less skilful artist wrought,

Did not so well that weightless blow abide,

But, as if smit by thunder, in a thought,

Gave way before the steel, and opened wide;

Gave way before the griding steel, which sought

The arm beneath, by this ill fortified:

So that Sir Sansonet was smote, and reeled,

In his departure, unhorsed upon the field.

LXX

And this was the first comrade of the train

That of the tower maintained the usage fell,

Who there had failed another’s spoil to gain,

And voided in the joust his knightly sell.

Who laughs, as well will sometimes have to plain,

And find that Fortune will by fits rebel.

Anew the warder on his larum beats,

And to the other knights the sign repeats.

LXXI

This while Sir Pinnabello had drawn near

To Bradamant, and prayed that she would shew

What warrior had his knight in the career

Smith with such prowess. That the guerdon due

To his ill deeds might wait the cavalier,

God’s justice that ill-doer thither drew

On the same courser, which before the Cheat

From Bradamant had taken by deceit.

LXXII

’Twas now exactly the eighth month was ended,

Since, if you recollect, upon his way,

The faithless Maganzese, with whom she wended,

Cast into Merlin’s tomb the martial may;

When her a bough, which fell with her, defended

From death, or her good Fortune, rather say;

And Pinnabel bore off her courser brave,

Deeming the damsel buried in the cave.

LXXIII

The courser, and, through him, the cavalier,

Bradamant knew to be the wicked Count,

And, having heard him, and perused him near,

With more attentive eye and front to front —

“This is the man,” (the damsel said) “ ’tis clear,

Who erst designed me outrage and affront.

Lo! him the traitor’s sin doth hither speed,

Of all his treasons to receive the meed.”

LXXIV

To threaten him with vengeance, and to lay

Hands on her sword and charge him now, was done

All in a thought; but first she barred the way

By which he might his fortilage have won.

To earth himself like fox, in his dismay,

Sir Pinnabel has every hope foregone.

He screaming loud, nor ever making head

Against the damsel, through the forest fled.

LXXV

Pale and dismayed his spurs the caitiff plied

Whose last hope of escape in flight was found;

While with her ready sword, Dordona’s pride

Was at his flank, and prest him in his round,

Hunting him close and ever fast beside:

Loud is the uproar, and the woods resound.

Nothing of this is at the castle kenned,

For only to Rogero all attend.

LXXVI

The other three, who from the fortress came,

This while had issued forth upon their way,

And brought with them the ill-accustomed dame,

Who made wayfarers that ill use obey.

In all (who rather than prolong with blame

Their life, would choose to perish in the fray),

The kindling visage burns, and heart is woe,

That to assail one man so many go.

LXXVII

The cruel courtezan by whom was made,

And by whose hest maintained, that evil rite,

Reminds the warriors that they are arrayed

By oath and pact, to avenge her in the fight.

“If with this lance alone thy foes are laid

On earth, why should I band with other knight?”

(Guido the savage said) “and, if I lie,

Off with my head, for I consent to die.”

LXXVIII

So Aquilant, so Gryphon. For the twain

Singly against a single foe would run;

And rather would be taken, rather slain,

Than he should be assailed by more than one.

To them exclaimed the woman: “Why in vain

Waste you so many words, where fruit is none?

I brought you here that champion’s arms to take,

Not other laws and other pacts to make.

LXXIX

“You should have offered, when in prison-cell,

This your excuse; which now too late is made.

’Tis yours the law’s observance to compel,

And not with lying tongue your oath evade.”

“ — Behold! the arms; behold, with a new sell

And cloth, the goodly steed!” Rogero said,

“Behold with these, as well, the damsel’s vest!

If these you covet, why your course arrest?”

LXXX

She of the castle presses on this side,

On that Rogero rates, and calls them on;

Till they parforce, t’wards him, together hied:

But red with shame, are to the encounter gone.

Foremost appeared ‘mid those three knights of pride,

Of Burgundy’s good marquis either son.

But Guido, who was borne on heavier steed,

Came at some interval, with tardier speed.

LXXXI

With the same lance with which he overbore

Sir Sansonet, Rogero came to fight;

Well-covered with the shield which heretofore

Atlantes used on Pyrenean height;

I say the enchanted buckler, which, too sore

For human sufferance, dazed the astonished sight:

To which Rogero, as a last resource,

In the most pressing peril had recourse.

LXXXII

Although three times alone the Child was fain

(And, certes sore bested) this to display;

Twice when he from the wanton Fairy’s reign

Was to that soberer region on his way!

Last, when the unsated Orc upon the main,

By this astounded, ‘mid the sea-foam lay;

Which would have fed upon the naked maid,

So cruel to the Child who brought her aid.

LXXXIII

Save these three times, he has preserved the shield

Beneath its veil, but covered in such wise

That it may quickly be to sight revealed,

If he in need of its good succour lies.

With this, as said before, he came a-field

As boldly, as if those three enemies,

Who were arrayed before him, had appeared

Yet less than little children to be feared.

LXXXIV

Rogero shocked the valiant Gryphon, where

The border of the buckler joined the sight,

Who seemed as he would fall, now here, now there,

And, from his courser far, last fell outright.

He at the shield had aimed, but smote not fair

The mark; and (for Rogero’s orb was bright

And smooth) the hissing weapon slipt, and wrought

Other effect than was in Gryphon’s thought.

LXXXV

It rent and tore the veil which served to hide

The lightning’s fearful and enchanted rays;

Which, without blinded eyes, can none abide

Upright, nor refuge is for them who gaze.

Aquilant, who was at his brother’s side,

Tore off the rest, and made the buckler blaze:

The splendour struck the valiant brothers blind,

And Guido in their rear, who spurred behind.

LXXXVI

These here, or there, to earth astonished reel;

Nor eyes alone are dazzled by the light,

But every sense astounds the flaming steel.

Unconscious of the issue of the fight,

Rogero turned his horse, and, in the wheel,

Handled his sword, so good to thrust and smite;

And none descried his fury to oppose;

For in the charge dismounted were his foes.

LXXXVII

The knights, together with the footmen all,

And women, who had from the castle hied,

Nor less the coursers panting with their fall,

As if about to die, the warrior spied.

He wondered first, and next perceived the pall

Of silk was handing down on the left side;

I say the pall, in which he used to lap

His shield, the evil cause of that mishap.

LXXXVIII

He quickly turns, and, turning, rolls his eyes,

In hopes to view his well-loved martial maid;

And thitherward, without delay, he hies

Where, when the joust began, the damsel stayed.

Not finding her, it is the Child’s surmise

That she is gone to bear the stripling aid;

Fearing he may be burnt, while they their journey

So long delay, retarded by that tourney.

LXXXIX

He saw the damsel, stretched among the rest

Who him had thither guided: as she lay,

He took and placed her, yet with sleep opprest,

Before him, and, sore troubled, rode away.

He with a mantle, which above her vest

She wore, concealed the enchanted buckler’s ray:

And to the maid restored, when ’twas concealed,

Her senses, which were ravished by the shield.

XC

Away Rogero posted with the dame,

And did not date his crimsoned visage raise;

Since every one, it seemed to him, might blame

With right that victory, worthy little praise.

“By what amends can I of such a shame

(The blushing warrior said) the stain eraze?

For ’twill be bruited, all my deeds by sleight

Of magic have been done, and not by might.”

XCI

As, thinking thus, he journeyed on his way,

Rogero stumbled upon what he sought;

For, in the middle of the track, there lay

A well, within the ground profoundly wrought:

Whither the thirsty herd, at noon of day,

Repaired, their paunches with green forage fraught.

Rogero said, “ ’Tis now, must I provide,

I shame from thee, O shield, no more abide.

XCII

“Thee will I keep no more, and this shall be

Even the last shame which so on me is thrown:”

The Child, so ending his self-colloquy,

Dismounting, takes a large and heavy stone;

Which to the shield he ties, and bodily

Both to the bottom of the well are gone.

“Lie buried there for ever, from all eyes,

And with thee hidden be my shame!” he cries.

XCIII

Filled to the brim with water was the well;

Heavy the stone, and heavy was the shield;

Nor stopt they till they to the bottom fell,

By the light, liquid element concealed.

Fame was not slow the noble act to swell,

But, wandering wide, the deed in brief revealed,

And voicing it abroad, with trumpet-sound,

Told France and Spain and all the countries round.

XCIV

When that so strange adventure to the rest

Of the wide world, from mouth to mouth was blown,

Knights out of number undertook the quest,

From neighbouring parts and distant; but unknown

To all remained the forest which possessed

The spring wherein the virtuous shield was thrown:

For she who told the action, would not say

Where was the well, nor in what land it lay.

XCV

Upon Rogero’s parting thence, where fell

The four good champions of that evil law,

Made by the castle’s lord Sir Pinnabel,

By him discomfited like men of straw,

— The shield withdrawn — he had removed as well

The light, which quelled their sight and minds who saw;

And those, who, like dead men, on earth had lain,

Had risen, full of wonderment, again.

XCVI

Nor any thing throughout that livelong day

They ‘mid themselves but that strange case relate;

And how it was in that disastrous fray

Each by the horrid light was quelled, debate.

While these, discoursing, of the adventure say,

Tidings are brought of Pinnabello’s fate.

That Pinnabel is dead the warriors hear,

But learn not who had slain the cavalier.

XCVII

Bradamant in close pass, this while, had staid

The faithless Pinnabel, and sorely prest;

And many times had buried half her blade

Within bleeding flanks and heaving breast.

When of his crimes the forfeit had been paid

By him, the infected country’s curse and pest,

She from the conscious forest turned away

With that good steed the thief had made his prey.

XCVIII

She would return where she had left the knight,

But never could make out the road anew;

And now by valley, now by mountain-height,

Wandered well-nigh the ample country through.

Yet could she never (such her fortune’s spite)

Find out the way to join Rogero true.

Him in another canto I attend

Who loves the tale, to hear my story’s end.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au//data/web/ebooks/canto22.html

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