Orlando Furioso, by Lodovico Ariosto

Canto 24

Argument

Odorico’s and Gabrina’s guilt repaid,

Youthful Zerbino sets at large the train;

He in defence of good Orlando’s blade,

Is afterwards by Mandricardo slain.

Isabel weeps; by Rodomont is made

War on the Tartar king, and truce again,

To succour Agramant and his array;

Who to the lilies are well-nigh a prey.

I

Let him make haste his feet to disengage,

Nor lime his wings, whom Love has made a prize;

For love, in fine, is nought but phrensied rage,

By universal suffrage of the wise:

And albeit some may show themselves more sage

Than Roland, they but sin in other guise.

For, what proves folly more than on this shelf,

Thus, for another, to destroy oneself?

II

Various are love’s effects; but from one source

All issue, though they lead a different way.

He is, as ’twere, a forest, where parforce

Who enter its recess go astray;

And here and there pursue their devious course:

In sum, to you I, for conclusion, say;

He who grows old in love, besides all pain

Which waits such passion, well deserves a chain.

III

One here may well reproach me: “Brother, thou

Seest not thy faults, while thou dost others fit.”

— I answer that I see mine plain enow,

In this my lucid interval of wit;

And strive and hope withal I shall forego

This dance of folly; but yet cannot quit,

As quickly as I would, the faults I own;

For my disease has reached the very bone.

IV

I in the other canto said before,

Orlando, furious and insensate wight,

Having torn off the arms and vest he wore,

And cast away from him his faulchion bright,

And up-torn trees, and made the forest hoar

And hollow cave resound, and rocky height,

Towards the noise some shepherds, on that side,

Their heavy sins or evil planets guide.

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V

Viewing the madman’s wonderous feats more near,

The frighted band of rustics turned and fled;

But they, in their disorder, knew not where,

As happens oftentimes in sudden dread.

The madman in a thought is in their rear,

Seizes a shepherd, and plucks off his head;

And this as easily as one might take

Apple from tree, or blossom from the brake.

VI

He by one leg the heavy trunk in air

Upheaved, and made a mace the rest to bray.

Astounded, upon earth he stretched one pair,

Who haply may awake at the last day.

The rest, who well awake at the last day.

The rest, who well advised and nimble are,

At once desert the field and scour away:

Nor had the madman their pursuit deferred,

Had he not turned already on their herd.

VII

By such examples warned, the rustic crew

Abandoned in the fields pick, scythe, and plough,

And to the roof of house and temple flew,

(For ill secure was elm or willow’s bough,)

From hence the maniac’s horrid rage they view;

Who, dealing kick, and bite, and scratch, and blow,

Horses and oxen slew, his helpless prey;

And well the courser ran who ‘scaped that day.

VIII

Already might’st thou hear how loudly ring

The hubbub and the din, from neighbouring farms,

Outcry and horn, and rustic trumpeting;

And faster sound of bells; with various arms

By thousands, with spontoon, bow, spit, and sling.

Lo! from the hills the rough militia swarms.

As many peasants from the vale below,

To make rude war upon the madman go,

IX

As beats the wave upon the salt-sea shore,

Sportive at first, which southern wind has stirred,

When the next, bigger than what went before,

And bigger than the second, breaks the third;

And the vext water waxes evermore,

And louder on the beach the surf is heard:

The crowd, increasing so, the count assail,

And drop from mountain and ascend from dale.

X

Twice he ten peasants slaughtered in his mood,

Who, charging him in disarray, were slain;

And this experiment right clearly showed

To stand aloof was safest for the train.

Was none who from his body could draw blood;

For iron smote the impassive skin in vain.

So had heaven’s King preserved the count from scathe,

To make him guardian of his holy faith.

XI

He would have been in peril on that day,

Had he been made of vulnerable mould;

And might have learned was ’twas to cast away

His sword, and, weaponless, so play the bold.

The rustic troop retreated from the fray,

Seeing no stroke upon the madman told.

Since him no other enemy attends,

Orlando to a neighbouring township wends.

XII

Since every one had left the place for dread,

No wight he found within it, small or great:

But here was homely food in plenty spread,

Victual, well sorting with the pastoral state.

Here, acorns undistinguishing from bread,

By tedious fast and fury driven to sate

His hunger, he employed his hand and jaw

On what he first discovered, cooked or raw.

XIII

Thence, repossest with the desire to rove,

He, through the land, did man and beast pursue;

And scowering, in his phrensy, wood and grove,

Took sometimes goat or doe of dappled hue:

Often with bear and with wild boar he strove,

And with his naked hand the brutes o’erthrew;

And gorging oftentimes the savage fare,

Swallowed the prey with all its skin and hair.

XIV

Now right, now left, he wandered, far and wide,

Throughout all France, and reached a bridge one day;

Beneath which ran an ample water’s tide,

Of steep and broken banks: a turret gray

Was builded by the spacious river’s side,

Discerned, from far and near, and every way.

What here he did I shall relate elsewhere,

Who first must make the Scottish prince my care.

XV

When Roland had departed on his quest,

Zerbino paused some deal; then, in his rear,

Slowly his steed by the same path addrest,

Which had been taken by Anglantes’ peer;

Nor two miles on his way, I think, had prest,

When he beheld a captive cavalier,

Upon a sorry, little, hackney tied,

And by armed horseman watched on either side.

XVI

Zerbino speedily the prisoner knew,

And Isabel, as soon, when nigh surveyed.

This was Sir Odoric, the Biscayan, who,

Like wolf, the guardian of a lamb was made:

To whom, of all his friends esteemed most true,

Zerbino Isabella had conveyed;

Hoping, one hitherto by him found just,

Would now, as ever, have approved his trust.

XVII

Even then how all had chanced, with punctual lore,

Was Isabel relating to the knight;

How in the pinnace she was saved, before

The broken vessel sank at sea outright;

Odoric’s assault; and next, how bandits bore

Her to the cavern, in a mountain dight.

Nor Isabella yet her tale has told,

When bound the malefactor they behold.

XVIII

The two that had Sir Odoric in their ward,

The royal damsel Isabella knew;

And deemed he was her lover and her lord,

That pricked beside the lady, fair of hue.

More; that the bearings on his shield record

The honours of the stem from which he grew;

And found, as better they observed his cheer,

They had judged rightly of the cavalier.

XIX

Lighting, with open arms and hurried pace,

They make towards Zerbino eagerly,

And, kneeling, with bare head, the prince embrace,

Where lord is clipt by one of less degree.

Zerbino, looking either in the face,

Knows one Corebo of Biscay to be,

And Sir Almonio, his co-mate; the pair

Charged, under Odoric, with the galley’s care.

XX

Almonio cried, “Since God is pleased in the end,

Grammercy! Isabel should be with you;

My lord, I very clearly comprehend

I should deliver tidings, nothing new,

If I should now inform you why I wend

With this offender, whom with me you view.

Since she, who at his hands has suffered worst,

The story of his crimes will have rehearsed.

XXI

“How me that traitour duped thou hast not to learn,

What time he rid himself of me, nor how

Corebo, who would have avenged the scorn,

Intended to the damsel, was laid low;

But that which followed, upon my return,

By her unseen or heard, she cannot know,

So as to thee the story to have told;

The sequel of it then will I unfold.

XXII

“I seaward from the city, with a store

Of nags, collected in a hurry, fare;

Aye watchful, if the trace I can explore

Of those left far behind me; I repair

Thitherward; I arrive upon the shore,

The place where they were left; look everywhere;

Nor sign of them perceive upon that strand,

Except some steps, new-printed on the sand.

XXIII

“The steps I traced into the forest drear;

Nor far within the greenwood had I wound,

When guided by a noise which smote my ear,

I saw my comrade bleeding on the ground:

Of Isabel I asked the cavalier,

Of Odoric, and what hand had dealt his wound;

And thence departed, when the thing I knew,

Seeking the wretch these precipices through.

XXIV

“Wide circling still I go, and through that day

I find no other sign of him that fled;

At length return to where Corebo lay,

Who had the ground about him dyed so red,

That he, had I made little more delay,

A grave would have required, and, more than bed

And succour of the leech, to make him sound,

Craved priest and friar to lay him in the ground.

XXV

“I had him to the neighbouring city brought,

And boarded with a friendly host; and there

Corebo’s cure in little time was wrought,

Beneath an old chirurgeon’s skilful care.

This finished, having arms and horses brought,

We thence together to the court repair

Of King Alphonso of Biscay; where I

Find out the traitor, and to fight defy.

XXVI

“The monarch’s justice, who fair field and free

Allowed us for the duel, and my right,

And Destiny to boot (for Destiny

Oftener makes conquest where she listeth, light)

So backed my arms, that felon was by me

Worsted, and made a prisoner in the fight.

Alphonso, having heard his guilt confessed,

Bade me dispose of him as liked me best.

XXVII

“Him would I neither loose, nor yet have slain,

But, as thou seest, in bonds to thee convey:

That whether he should be condemned to pain,

Or death, it should be thine his doom to say.

I, hearing thou wert with King Charlemagne,

Thither, in hope to find thee, took my way.

I thank my God, that thee upon this ground,

Where I least hoped to meet thee, I have found.

XXVIII

“As well I render thanks, that Isabel

I see restored to thee, I know not how,

Of whom, by reason of that traitor fell,

I deemed thou never more should’st tidings know.”

In silence prince Zerbino hears him tell

His story, gazing upon Odoric’s brow,

In pity, more than hate, as he perpends

How foully such a goodly friendship ends.

XXIX

After Almonio had his tale suspended,

Astounded for a while the prince stood by;

Wondering, that he who least should have offended,

Had him requited with such treachery:

But, his long fit of admiration ended,

Waking from his amazement with a sigh,

Questioned the prisoner in the horsemen’s hold,

It that was true the cavalier had told.

XXX

The faithless man alighted, and down fell

Upon his bended knees, and answered: “Sir,

All people that on middle earth do dwell,

Through weakness of their nature, sin and err.

One thing alone distinguishes the well

And evil doer; this, at every stir

Of least desire, submits, without a blow;

That arms, but yields as well to stronger foe.

XXXI

“Had I been charged some castle to maintain,

And, without contest, on the first assault,

Hoisted the banners of the hostile train,

— For cowardice, or treason, fouler fault —

Upon my eyes (a well deserved pain)

Thou might’st have justly closed the darksome vault;

But, yielding to superior force, I read

I should not merit blame, but praise and meed.

XXXII

“The stronger is the enemy, the more

Easily is the vanquished side excused:

I could but faith maintain as, girded sore,

The leaguered fort to keep her faith is used;

Even so, with all the sense, with all the lore

By sovereign wisdom into me infused,

This I essayed to keep; but in the end,

To o’ermastering assault was forced to bend.”

XXXIII

So said Sir Odoric; and after showed

(Though ’twere too tedious to recount his suit)

Him no light cause had stirred, but puissant goad.

— If ever earnestness of prayer could boot

To melt a heart that with resentment glowed,

— If e’er humility produced good fruit,

It well might here avail; since all that best

Moves a hard heart, Sir Odoric now exprest.

XXXIV

Whether or no to venge such infamy,

Youthful Zerbino doubted: the review

Of faithless Odorico’s treachery

Moved him to death the felon to pursue;

The recollection of the amity

So long maintained between them, with the dew

Of pity cooled the fury in his mind,

And him to mercy towards the wretch inclined.

XXXV

While Scotland’s prince is doubting in such wise

To keep him captive, or to loose his chain;

Or to remove him from before his eyes,

By dooming him to die, or live in pain;

Loud neighing, thitherward the palfrey hies

From which the Tartar king had stript the rein;

And the old harridan, who had before

Nigh caused Zerbino’s death, among them bore.

XXXVI

The horse, that had the others of that band

Heard at a distance, thither her conveyed.

Sore weeping came the old woman, and demand

For succour, in her trouble, vainly made.

Zerbino, when he saw her, raised his hand

To heaven, that had to him such grace displayed,

Giving him to decide that couple’s fate;

The only two that had deserved his hate.

XXXVII

The wicked hag is kept, so bids the peer,

Until he is determined what to do:

He to cut off her nose and either ear

Now thought, and her as an example shew.

Next, ’twere far better, deemed the cavalier,

If to the vultures he her carcase threw:

He diverse punishments awhile revolved,

And thus the warrior finally resolved.

XXXVIII

He to his comrades turned him round, and said:

“To let the traitour live I am content,

Who, if full grace he has not merited,

Yet merits not to be so foully shent.

I, as I find his fault of Love was bred,

To give him life and liberty consent;

And easily we all excuses own,

When on commanding Love the blame is thrown.

XXXIX

“Often has Love turned upside down a brain

Of sounder wit than that to him assigned,

And led to mischief of far deeper stain,

Than has so outraged us. Let Odoric find

Pardon his offences; I the pain

Of these should justly suffer, who was blind;

Blind when I gave him such a trust, nor saw

How easily the fire consumes the straw.”

XL

“Then gazing upon Odoric, ‘gan say:

“This is the penance I enjoin to thee;

That thou a year shalt with the beldam stay,

Nor ever leave this while her company;

But, roving or at rest, by night or day,

Shalt never for an hour without her be;

And her shall even unto death maintain

Against whoever threatens her with pain.

XLI

“I will, if so this woman shall command,

With whosoe’er he be, thou battle do.

I will this while that thou all France’s land,

From city shalt to city, wander through.”

So says he: for as Odoric at his hand

Well merits death, for his foul trespass due,

This is a pitfall for his feet to shape,

Which it will be rare fortune if he ‘scape.

XLII

So many women, many men betrayed,

And wronged by her, have been so many more,

Not without strife by knight shall he be stayed,

Who was beneath his care the beldam hoar.

So, for their crimes, shall both alike be paid;

She for her evil actions done before,

And he who wrongfully shall her defraud;

Nor far can go before he finds an end.

XLIII

To keep the pact Zerbino makes him swear

A mighty oath, under this penalty,

That should he break his faith, and anywhere

Into his presence led by fortune be,

Without more mercy, without time for prayer,

A cruel death shall wait him, as his fee.

Next by his comrades (so their lord commands)

Sir Odoric is unpinioned from his bands.

XLIV

Corebo frees the traitor in the end,

Almonio yielding, yet as ill content:

For much Zerbino’s mercies both offend,

Which thus their so desired revenge prevent.

Thence, he disloyal to his prince and friend,

In company with that curst woman went.

What these befel Sir Turpin has not said,

But more I once in other author read.

XLV

This author vouches (I declare not who)

That hence they had not one day’s journey wended,

When Odoric, to all pact, all faith, untrue,

For riddance of the pest to him commended,

About Gabrina’s neck a halter threw,

And left her to a neighbouring elm suspended;

And in a year (the place he does not name)

Almonio by the traitor did the same.

XLVI

Zerbino, who the Paladin pursues,

And loath would be to lose the cavalier,

To his Scottish squadron of himself sends news,

Which for its captain well might stand in fear;

Almonio sends, and many matters shews,

Too long at full to be recited here;

Almonio sends, Corebo next; nor stayed

Other with him, besides the royal maid.

XLVII

So mighty is the love Zerbino bore,

Nor less than his the love which Isabel

Nursed for the valorous Paladin, so sore

He longed to know if that bold infidel

The Count had found, who in the duel tore

Him from his horse, together with the sell,

That he to Charles’s camp, till the third day

Be ended, will not measure back his way.

XLVIII

This was the term for which Orlando said

He should wait him, who yet no faulchion wears;

Nor is there place the Count has visited,

But thither in his search Zerbino fares.

Last to those trees, upon whose bark was read

The ungrateful lady’s writing, he repairs,

Little beside the road; and there finds all

In strange disorder, rock and water-fall.

XLIX

Far off, he saw that something shining lay,

And spied Orlando’s corslet on the ground;

And next his helm; but not that head-piece gay

Which whilom African Almontes crowned:

He in the thicket heard a courser neigh,

And, lifting up his visage at the sound,

Saw Brigliadoro the green herbage browze,

With rein yet hanging at his saddle-bows.

L

For Durindane, he sought the greenwood, round,

Which separate from the scabbard met his view;

And next the surcoat, but in tatters, found;

That, in a hundred rags, the champaign strew.

Zerbino and Isabel, in grief profound,

Stood looking on, nor what to think they knew:

They of all matters else might think, besides

The fury which the wretched Count misguides.

LI

Had but the lovers seen a drop of blood,

They might have well believed Orlando dead:

This while the pair, beside the neighbouring flood,

Beheld a shepherd coming, pale with dread.

He just before, as on a rock he stood,

Had seen the wretch’s fury; how he shed

His arms about the forest, tore his clothes,

Slew hinds, and caused a thousand other woes.

LII

Questioned by good Zerbino, him the swain

Of all which there had chanced, informed aright.

Zerbino marvelled, and believed with pain,

Although the proofs were clear: This as it might,

He from his horse dismounted on the plain,

Full of compassion, in afflicted plight;

And went about, collecting from the ground

The various relics which were scattered round.

LIII

Isabel lights as well; and, where they lie

Dispersed, the various arms uniting goes.

Lo! them a damsel joins, who frequent sigh

Heaves from her heart, and doleful visage shows.

If any ask me who the dame, and why

She mourns, and with such sorrow overflows;

I say ’twas Flordelice, who, bound in trace

Of her lost lover’s footsteps, sought that place.

LIV

Her Brandimart had left disconsolate

Without farewell, i’ the court of Charlemagne:

Who there expected him six months or eight; —

And lastly, since he came not there again,

From sea to sea, had sought her absent mate,

Through Alpine and through Pyrenean chain:

In every place had sought the warrior, save

Within the palace of Atlantes’ grave.

LV

If she had been in that enchanted hold,

She might before have seen the cavalier

Wandering with Bradamant, Rogero bold,

Gradasso and Ferrau and Brava’s peer.

But, when Astolpho chased the wizard old,

With the loud bugle, horrible to hear,

To Paris he returned; but nought of this

As yet was known to faithful Flordelice.

LVI

To Flordelice were known the arms and sword

(Who, as I say, by chance so joined the twain),

And Brigliadoro, left without his lord,

Yet bearing at the saddle-bow his rein:

She with her eyes the unhappy signs explored,

And she had heard the tidings of the swain,

Who had alike related, how he viewed

Orlando running frantic, in his mood.

LVII

Here prince Zerbino all the arms unites,

And hangs, like a fair trophy, on a pine.

And, to preserve them safe from errant knights,

Natives or foreigners, in one short line

Upon the sapling’s verdant surface writes,

ORLANDO’S ARMS, KING CHARLES’S PALADINE.

As he would say, ‘Let none this harness move,

Who cannot with its lord his prowess prove!’

LVIII

Zerbino having done the pious deed,

Is bowning him to climb his horse; when, lo!

The Tartar king arrives upon the mead.

He, at the trophied pine-tree’s gorgeous show,

Beseeches him the cause of this to read;

Who lets him (as rehearsed) the story know.

When, without further pause, the paynim lord

Hastes gladly to the pine, and takes the sword.

LIX

“None can (he said) the action reprehend,

Nor first I make the faulchion mine today;

And to its just possession I pretend

Where’er I find it, be it where it may.

Orlando, this not daring to defend,

Has feigned him mad, and cast the sword away;

But if the champion so excuse his shame,

This is no cause I should forego my claim.

LX

“Take it not thence,” to him Zerbino cried,

“Nor think to make it thine without a fight:

If so thou tookest Hector’s arms of pride,

By theft thou hadst them, rather than by right.”

Without more parley spurred upon each side.

Well matched in soul and valour, either knight.

Already echoed are a thousand blows;

Nor yet well entered are the encountering foes.

LXI

In scaping Durindane, a flame in show

(He shifts so quickly) is the Scottish lord.

He leaps about his courser like a doe,

Where’er the road best footing does afford.

And well it is that he should not forego

An inch of vantage; who, if once that sword

Smite him, will join the enamoured ghosts, which rove

Amid the mazes of the myrtle grove.

LXII

As the swift-footed dog, who does espy

Swine severed from his fellows, hunts him hard,

And circles round about; but he lies by

Till once the restless foe neglect his guard;

So, while the sword descends, or hangs on high,

Zerbino stands, attentive how to ward,

How to save life and honour from surprise;

And keeps a wary eye, and smites and flies.

LXIII

On the other side, where’er the foe is seen

To threaten stroke in vain, or make good,

He seems an Alpine wind, two hills between,

That in the month of March shakes leafy wood;

Which to the ground now bends the forest green.

Now whirls the broken boughs, at random strewed.

Although the prince wards many, in the end

One mighty stroke he cannot scape or fend.

LXIV

In the end he cannot scape one downright blow,

Which enters, between sword and shield, his breast,

As perfect was the plate and corslet, so

Thick was the steel wherein his paunch was drest:

But the destructive weapon, falling low,

Equally opened either iron vest;

And cleft whate’er it swept in its descent,

And to the saddle-bow, through cuirass, went.

LXV

And, but that somewhat short the blow descends,

It would Zerbino like a cane divide;

But him so little in the quick offends,

This scarce beyond the skin is scarified.

More than a span in length the wound extends;

Of little depth: of blood a tepid tide

To his feet descending, with a crimson line,

Stains the bright arms which on the warrior shine.

LXVI

’Tis so, I sometimes have been wont to view

A hand, more white than alabaster, part

The silver cloth, with ribbon red of hue;

A hand I often feel divide my heart.

Here little vantage young Zerbino drew

From strength and greater daring, and from art;

For in the temper of his arms and might,

Too much the Tartar king excelled the knight.

LXVII

The fearful stroke was mightier in show,

Than in effect, by which the Prince was prest;

So that poor Isabel, distraught with woe,

Felt her heart severed in her frozen breast.

The Scottish prince, all over in a glow,

With anger and resentment was possest,

And putting all his strength in either hand,

Smote full the Tartar’s helmet with his brand.

LXVIII

Almost on his steed’s neck the Tartar fell,

Bent by the weighty blow Zerbino sped;

And, had the helmet been unfenced by spell,

The biting faulchion would have cleft his head.

The king, without delay, avenged him well,

“Nor I for you till other season,” said,

“Will keep this gift”; and levelled at his crest,

Hoping to part Zerbino to the chest.

LXIX

Zerbino, on the watch, whose eager eye

Waits on his wit, wheels quickly to the right;

But not withal so quickly, as to fly

The trenchant sword, which smote the shield outright,

And cleft from top to bottom equally;

Shearing the sleeve beneath it, and the knight

Smote on his arm; and next the harness rended,

And even to the champion’s thigh descended.

LXX

Zerbino, here and there, seeks every way

By which to wound, nor yet his end obtains;

For, while he smites upon that armour gay,

Not even a feeble dint the coat retains.

On the other hand, the Tartar in the fray

Such vantage o’er the Scottish prince obtains,

Him he has wounded in seven parts or eight,

And reft his shield and half his helmet’s plate.

LXXI

He ever wastes his blood; his energies

Fail, though he feels it not, as ‘t would appear;

Unharmed, the vigorous heart new force supplies

To the weak body of the cavalier.

His lady, during this, whose crimson dyes

Where chased by dread, to Doralice drew near,

And for the love of Heaven, the damsel wooed

To stop that evil and disastrous feud.

LXXII

Doralice, who as courteous was as fair,

And ill-assured withal, how it would end,

Willingly granted Isabella’s prayer,

And straight to truce and peace disposed her friend,

As well Zerbino, by the other’s care,

Was brought his vengeful anger to suspend;

And, wending where she willed, the Scottish lord

Left unachieved the adventure of the sword.

LXXIII

Fair Flordelice, who ill maintained descries

The goodly sword of the unhappy count,

In secret garden, and so laments the prize

Foregone, she weeps for rage, and smite her front:

She would move Brandimart to this emprize;

And, should she find him, and the fact recount,

Weens, for short season will the Tartar foe

Exulting in the ravished faulchion go.

LXXIV

Seeking him morn and evening, but in vain,

Flordelice after Brandimart did fare;

And widely wandered from him, who again

Already had to Paris made repair.

So far the damsel pricked by hill and plain,

She reached the passage of a river, where

She saw the wretched count; but what befel

The Scottish prince, Zerbino, let me tell.

LXXV

For to leave Durindana such misdeed

To him appeared, it past all other woes;

Though he could hardly sit upon his steed,

Though mighty loss of life-blood, which yet flows.

Now, when his anger and his heat secede,

After short interval, his anguish grows;

His anguish grows, with such impetuous pains,

He feels that life is ebbing from his veins.

LXXVI

For weakness can the prince no further hie,

And so beside a fount is forced to stay:

Him to assist the pitying maid would try,

But knows not what to do, not what to say.

For lack of comfort she beholds him die;

Since every city is too far away,

Where in this need she could resort to leech,

Whose succour she might purchase or beseech.

LXXVII

She, blaming Fortune, and the cruel sky,

Can only utter fond complaints and vain.

“Why sank I not in ocean, (was her cry,)

When first I reared my sail upon the main?”

Zerbino, who on her his languid eye

Had fixt, as she bemoaned her, felt more pain

Than that enduring and strong anguish bred,

Through which the suffering youth was well-nigh dead.

LXXVIII

“So be thou pleased, my heart,” (Zerbino cried,)

“To love me yet, when I am dead and gone,

As to abandon thee without a guide,

And not to die, distresses me alone.

For did it me in place secure betide

To end my days, this earthly journey done,

I cheerful, and content, and fully blest

Would die, since I should die upon thy breast.

LXXIX

“But since to abandon thee, to whom a prize

I know not, my sad fate compels, I swear,

My Isabella, by that mouth, those eyes,

By what enchained me first, that lovely hair;

My spirit, troubled and despairing, hies

Into hell’s deep and gloomy bottom; where

To think, thou wert abandoned so by me,

Of all its woes the heaviest pain will be.”

LXXX

At this the sorrowing Isabel, declining

Her mournful face, which with her tears o’erflows,

Towards the sufferer, and her mouth conjoining

To her Zerbino’s, languid as a rose;

Rose gathered out of season, and which, pining

Fades where it on the shadowy hedgerow grows,

Exclaims, “Without me think not so, my heart,

On this your last, long, journey to depart.

LXXXI

“Of this, my heart, conceive not any fear,

For I will follow thee to heaven or hell;

It fits our souls together quit this sphere,

Together go, for aye together dwell.

No sooner closed thine eyelids shall appear

Than either me internal grief will quell,

Or, has it not such power, I here protest,

I with this sword today will pierce my breast.

LXXXII

“I of our bodies cherish hope not light,

That they shall have a happier fate when dead:

Together to entomb them, may some wight,

Haply by pity moved, be hither led.”

She the poor remnants of his vital sprite

Went on collecting, as these words she said;

And while yet aught remains, with mournful lips,

The last faint breath of life devoutly sips.

LXXXIII

’Twas here his feeble voice Zerbino manned,

Crying. “My deity, I beg and pray,

By that love witnessed, when thy father’s land

Thou quittedst for my sake; and, if I may

In any thing command thee, I command,

That, with God’s pleasure, thou live-out thy day;

Nor ever banish from thy memory,

That, well as man can love, have I loved thee.

LXXXIV

“God haply will provide thee with good aid,

To free thee from each churlish deed I fear;

As, when in the dark cavern thou wast stayed,

He sent, to rescue thee, Anglante’s peer;

So he (grammercy!) succoured thee dismaid

At sea, and from the wicked Biscayneer.

And, if thou must choose death, in place of worse,

Then only choose it, as a lesser curse.”

LXXXV

I think not these last words of Scotland’s knight

Were so exprest, that he was understood:

With these, he finished, like a feeble light,

Which needs supply of was, or other food.

— Who is there, that has power to tell aright

The gentle Isabella’s doleful mood?

When stiff, her loved Zerbino, with pale face,

And cold as ice, remained in her embrace.

LXXXVI

On the ensanguined corse, in sorrow drowned,

The damsel throws herself, in her despair,

And shrieks so lout that wood and plain resound

For many miles about; nor does she spare

Bosom or cheek; but still, with cruel wound,

One and the other smites the afflicted fair;

And wrongs her curling lock of golden grain,

Aye calling on the well-loved youth in vain.

LXXXVII

She with such rage, such fury, was possest,

That, in her transport, she Zerbino’s glaive

Would easily have turned against her breast,

Ill keeping the command her lover gave;

But that a hermit, from his neighbouring rest,

Accustomed oft to seek the fountain-wave,

His flagon at the cooling stream to fill,

Opposed him to the damsel’s evil will.

LXXXVIII

The reverend father, who with natural sense

Abundant goodness happily combined,

And, with ensamples fraught and eloquence,

Was full of charity towards mankind,

With efficacious reasons her did fence,

And to endurance Isabel inclined;

Placing, from ancient Testament and new,

Women, as in a mirror, for her view.

LXXXIX

The holy man next made the damsel see,

That save in God there was no true content,

And proved all other hope was transitory,

Fleeting, of little worth, and quickly spent;

And urged withal so earnestly his plea,

He changed her ill and obstinate intent;

And made her, for the rest of life, desire

To live devoted to her heavenly sire.

XC

Not that she would her mighty love forbear,

For her dead lord, nor yet his relics slight;

These, did she halt or journey, every where

Would Isabel have with her, day and night.

The hermit therefore seconding her care,

Who, for his age, was sound and full of might,

They on his mournful horse Zerbino placed,

And traversed many a day that woodland waste.

XCI

The cautious elder would not bear away

Thus all alone with him that damsel bland

Thither, where in a cave, concealed from day,

His solitary cell hard by did stand:

Within himself exclaiming: “I convey

With peril fire and fuel in one hand.”

Nor in such bold experiments the sage

Wisely would trust to prudence or to age.

XCII

He thought to bear her to Provence, where, near

The city of Marseilles a borough stood,

Which had a sumptuous monastery; here

Of ladies was a holy sisterhood;

And, hither to transport the cavalier,

They stowed his body in a chest of wood,

Made in a town by the way-side; and which

Was long and roomy, and well closed with pitch.

XCIII

So, compassing a mighty round, they fare

Through wildest parts, for many and many a day;

Because, the war extending every where,

They seek to hide themselves as best they may:

At length a cavalier arrests the pair,

That with foul scorn and outrage bars their way;

Of whom you more in fitting time shall learn,

But to the Tartar king I now return.

XCIV

After the fight between the two was done,

Already told by me, the king withdrew

To a cooling shade and river from the sun,

His horse’s reins and saddle to undo;

Letting the courser at his pleasure run,

Browsing the tender grass the pasture through:

But he reposed short time ere he descried

An errant knight descend the mountain’s side.

XCV

Him Doralice, as soon as he his front

Uplifted, knew; and showed him to her knight:

Saying: “Behold! the haughty Rodomont,

Unless the distance has deceived my sight.

To combat with thee, he descends the mount:

Now it behoves thee put forth all thy might.

To lose me, his betrothed, a mighty cross

The monarch deems, and comes to venge his loss.”

XCVI

As a good hawk, who duck or woodcock shy,

Partridge or pigeon, or such other prey,

Seeing towards her from a distance fly,

Raises her head, and shows her blithe and gay;

So Mandricardo, in security

Of crushing Rodomont in that affray,

Gladly his courser seized, bestrode the seat,

Reined him, and in the stirrups fixt his feet.

XCVII

When the two hostile warriors were so near,

That words could be exchanged between the twain,

Loudly began the monarch of Argier

To threat with head and hand, in haughty strain,

That to repentance he will bring the peer

Who lightly for a pleasure, rash and vain,

Had scrupled not his anger to excite

Who dearly will the offered scorn requite.

XCVIII

When Mandricardo: “He but vainly tries

To fright, who threatens me — by words unscared.

Woman, or child, or him he terrifies,

Witless of warfare; not me, who regard

With more delight than rest, which others prize,

The stirring battle; and who am prepared

My foeman in the lists or field to meet;

Armed or unarmed, on horse or on my feet.”

XCIX

They pass to outrage, shout, and ire, unsheath

The brand; and loudly smites each cruel foe;

Like winds, which scarce at first appear to breathe,

Next shake the oak and ash-tree as they blow;

Then to the skies upwhirl the dusty wreath,

Then level forests, and lay houses low,

And bear the storm abroad, o’er land and main,

By which the flocks in greenwood-holt are slain.

C

Of those two infidels, unmatched in worth,

The valiant heart and strength, which thus exceed,

To such a warfare and such blows give birth,

As suits with warrior of so bold a seed.

At the loud sound and horrid, trembles earth,

When the swords cross; and to the stroke succeed

Quick sparks; or rather, flashing to the sky,

Bright flames by thousands and by thousands fly.

CI

Without once gathering breath, without repose,

The champions one another still assail;

Striving, now here, now there, with deadly blows,

To rive the plate, or penetrate the mail.

Nor this one gains, nor the other ground foregoes;

But, as if girded in by fosse or pale,

Or, as too dearly sold they deem an inch,

Ne’er from their close and narrow circle flinch.

CII

Mid thousand blows, so, with two-handed swing,

On his foe’s forehead smote the Tartar knight,

He made him see, revolving in a ring,

Myriads of fiery balls and sparks of light.

The croupe, with head reversed, the Sarzan king

Now smote, as if deprived of all his might,

The stirrups lost; and in her sight, so well

Beloved, appeared about to quit the sell.

CIII

But as steel arbalest that’s loaded sore,

By how much is the engine charged and strained,

By lever or by crane, with so much more

Fury returns, its ancient bent regained,

And, in discharging its destructive store,

Inflicts worse evil than itself sustained;

So rose that African with ready blade,

And straight with double force the stroke repaid.

CIV

Rodomont smites, and in the very place

Where he was smit, the Tartar in return;

But cannot wound the Sarzan in the face,

Because his Trojan arms the weapon turn;

Yes so astounds, he leaves him not in case,

If it be morn or evening to discern.

Rodomont stopt not, but in fury sped

A second blow, still aiming at his head.

CV

King Mandricardo’s courser, who abhorred

The whistling of the steel which round him flew,

Saved, with sore mischief to himself, his lord;

In that he backed the faulchion to eschew:

Aimed at his master, not at him, the sword

Smote him across the head, and cleft it through.

No Trojan helm defends the wretched horse,

Like Mandricardo, and he dies parforce.

CVI

He falls, and Mandricardo on the plain

No more astound, slides down upon his feet,

And whirls his sword; to see his courser slain

He storms all over fired with angry heat.

At him the Sarzan monarch drives amain;

Who stands as firm as rock which billows beat.

And so it happened, that the courser good

Fell in the charge, while fast the footman stood.

CVII

The African, who feels his horse give way,

The stirrups quits, and lightly from the sell

Is freed, and springs on earth: for the assay

Hence matched anew, stands either infidel.

Worse than before the battle boils, while they

With pride and anger, and with hatred swell,

About to close; but that, with flowing rein,

A messenger arrives to part the twain.

CVIII

A messenger arrives, that from the Moor,

With many others, news through France conveyed;

Who word to simple knight and captain bore,

To join the troops, beneath their flags arrayed.

For he, the emperor, who the lilies wore,

Siege to their quarters had already laid;

And, save quick succour thither was addrest,

He read, their army’s scathe was manifest.

CIX

The Moorish messenger not only knows,

By ensigns and by vest, the warlike pair,

But by the circling blades, and furious blows,

With which no other hands could wound the air;

Hence dared not ‘twixt champions interpose,

Nor deemed his orders an assurance were

From such impetuous fury, nor the saw,

Which says embassadors are safe by law:

CX

But to fair Doralice approached, and said

Marsilius, Agramant, and Stordilane,

Within weak works, with scanty troops to aid,

Were close beleaguered by the Christian train.

And, having told his tale, the damsel prayed,

That this she to the warriors would explain;

And would accord the pair, and to their post

Dispatch, for rescue of the Moorish host.

CXI

The lady, with bold heart, ‘twixt either foe

Threw herself, and exclaimed: “I you command,

By the large love you hear me, as I know,

That you to better use reserve the brand;

And that you instantly in succour go

Of our host, menaced by the Christian band;

Which now, besieged within its camp, attends

Ruin or speedy succour from its friends.

CXII

The messenger rehearsed, when she had done,

Fully the peril of the paynim train;

And said that he bore letters to the son

Of Ulien, from the son of King Troyane.

The message ended, every grudge foregone,

’Twas finally resolved between the twain,

They should conclude a truce, and till the day

The Moorish siege was raised, their strife delay.

CXIII

Intending, when from siege their Chivalry

Shall be relieved — the one and the other knight —

No longer to remain in company,

But bandy cruel war was with fell despite,

Until determined by their arms shall be

To whom the royal dame belongs of right.

And she, between whose hands their solemn troth

They plighted, was security for both.

CXIV

DISCORD, at hearing this, impatient grew;

With any truce or treaty ill content:

And that such fair agreement should ensue,

PRIDE, who was present, could as ill consent:

But LOVE was there, more puissant than the two,

Equalled of none in lofty hardiment;

And launching from his bow his shafts of proof,

With these, made PRIDE and DISCORD stand aloof.

CXV

To keep the truce the rival warriors swore;

Since so it pleased her well, who either swayed.

One of their coursers lacked: for on the moor

Lifeless King Mandricardo’s had been laid:

Hence, thither, in good time, came Brigliador,

Who, feeding, by the river’s margin strayed.

But here I find me at my canto’s end;

So, with your licence, shall the tale suspend.

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