Orlando Furioso, by Lodovico Ariosto

Canto 25

Argument

Rogero Richardetto from the pains

Of fire preserves, doomed by Marsilius dead:

He to Rogero afterwards explains

Fully the cause while he to death was led.

Them mournful Aldigier next entertains,

And with them the ensuing morning sped,

Vivian and Malagigi to set free;

To Bertolagi sold for hire and fee.

I

Oh! mighty springs of war in youthful breast,

Impetuous force of love, and thirst of praise!

Nor yet which most avails is known aright:

For each by turns its opposite outweighs.

Within the bosom here of either knight,

Honour, be sure, and duty strongly sways:

For the amorous strife between them is delayed,

Till to the Moorish camp they furnish aid.

II

Yet love sways more; for, save that the command

Was laid upon them by their lady gay,

Neither would in that battle sheathe the brand,

Till he was crowned with the victorious bay;

And Agramant might vainly with his band,

For either knight’s expected succour, stay.

Then Love is not of evil nature still;

— He can at times do good, if often ill.

III

’Twas now, suspending all their hostile rage,

One and the other paynim cavalier,

The Moorish host from siege to disengage,

For Paris, with the gentle lady, steer;

And with them goes as well that dwarfish page,

Who tracked the footsteps of the Tartar peer,

Till he had brought the warrior front to front,

In presence with the jealous Rodomont.

IV

They at a mead arrived, where, in disport,

Knights were reposing by a stream, one pair

Disarmed, another casqued in martial sort;

And with them was a dame of visage fair.

Of these in other place I shall report,

Not now; for first Rogero is my care,

That good Rogero, who, as I have shown,

Into a well the magic shield had thrown.

V

He from that well a mile is hardly gone

Ere he a courier sees arrive at speed,

Of those dispatched by King Troyano’s son

To knights whom he awaited in his need;

From him Rogero hears that so foredone

By Charles are those who hold the paynim creed,

They will, save quickly succoured in the strife,

As quickly forfeit liberty and life.

VI

Rogero stood awhile in pensive case,

Whom many warring thoughts at once opprest;

But neither fitted was the time nor place

To make his choice, or judge what promised best.

The courier he dismist, and turned his face

Whither he with the damsel was addrest;

Whom aye the Child so hurried on her way,

He left her not a moment for delay.

VII

Pursuing thence their ancient road again,

They reached a city, with the westering sun;

Which, in the midst of France, from Charlemagne

Marsilius had in that long warfare won:

Nor them to interrupt or to detain,

At drawbridge or at gate, was any one:

Though in the fosse, and round the palisade,

Stood many men, and piles of arms were laid.

VIII

Because the troop about that fortress see

Accompanying him, the well-known dame,

They to Rogero leave the passage free,

Nor even question him from whence he came.

Reaching the square, of evil company

He finds it full, and bright with ruddy flame;

And, in the midst, is manifest to view

The youth condemned, with face of pallid hue.

IX

As on the stripling’s face he turns his eyes,

Which hangs declined and wet with frequent tear,

Rogero thinks he Bradamant descries;

So much the youth resembles her in cheer:

More sure the more intently he espies

Her face and shape: when thus the cavalier:

“Or this is Bradamant, or I no more

Am the Rogero which I was before.

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X

“She hath adventured with too daring will,

In rescue of the youth condemned to die;

And, for the enterprise had ended ill,

Hath there been taken, as I see. Ah! why

Was she so hot her purpose to fulfil,

That she must hither unattended hie!

— But I thank Heaven, that hither have I made:

Since I am yet in time to lend her aid.”

XI

He drew his falchion without more delay,

(His lance was broken at the other town),

And, though the unarmed people making way,

Wounding flank, paunch, and bosom, bore them down.

He whirled his weapon, and, amid the array,

Smote some across the gullet, cheek, or crown.

Screaming, the dissipated rabble fled;

The most with cloven limbs or broken head.

XII

As while at feed, in full security,

A troop of fowl along the marish wend,

If suddenly a falcon from the sky

Swoop mid the crowd, and one surprise and rend,

The rest dispersing, leave their mate to die,

And only to their own escape attend;

So scattering hadst thou seen the frighted throng,

When young Rogero pricked that crowd among.

XIII

Rogero smites the head from six or four,

Who in escaping from the field are slow.

He to the breast divides as many more,

And countless to the eyes and teeth below.

I grant no helmets on their heads they wore,

But there were shining iron caps enow;

And, if fine helmets did their temples press,

His sword would cut as deep, or little less.

XIV

Such good Rogero’s force and valour are,

As never now-a-days in warrior dwell;

Nor yet in rampant lion, nor in bear,

Nor (whether home or foreign) beast more fell.

Haply with him the earthquake might compare,

Or haply the great devil — not he of hell —

But he who is my lord’s, who moves in fire,

And parts heaven, earth, and ocean in his ire.

XV

At every stroke he never less o’erthrew

Than one, and oftener two, upon the plain;

And four, at once, and even five he slew;

So that a hundred in a thought were slain.

The sword Rogero from his girdle drew

As knife cuts curd, divides their plate and chain.

Falerina in Orgagna’s garden made,

To deal Orlando death, that cruel blade.

XVI

But to have forged that falchion sorely rued,

Who saw her garden wasted by the brand.

What wreck, what ruin then must have ensued,

From this when wielded by such warrior’s hand?

If e’er Rogero force, e’er fury shewed,

If e’er his mighty valour well was scanned,

’Twas here; ’twas here employed; ’twas here displayed;

In the desire to give his lady aid.

XVII

As hare from hound unslipt, that helpless train

Defends itself against the cavalier.

Many lay dead upon the cumbered plain,

And numberless were they who fled in fear.

Meanwhile the damsel had unloosed the chain

From the youth’s hands, and him in martial gear

Was hastening, with what speed she might, to deck,

With sword in hand and shield about his neck.

XVIII

He, who was angered sore, as best he cou’d,

Sought to avenge him of that evil crew;

And gave such signal proofs of hardihood,

As stamped him for a warrior good and true.

The sun already in the western flood

Had dipt his gilded wheels, what time the two,

Valiant Rogero and his young compeer,

Victorious issued, of the city clear.

XIX

When now Rogero and the stranger knight,

Clear of the city-gates, the champaigne reach,

The youth repays, with praises infinite,

Rogero in kind mode and cunning speech,

Who him, although unknown, had sought to right,

At risk of life, and prays his name to teach

That he may know to whom his thanks he owed

For such a mighty benefit bestowed.

XX

“The visage of Bradamant I see,

The beauteous features and the beauteous cheer.”

Rogero said; “and yet the suavity

I of her well-known accents do not hear:

Nor such return of thanks appears to be

In place towards her faithful cavalier.

And if in very sooth it is the same,

How has the maid so soon forgot my name?”

XXI

In wary wise, intent the truth to find,

Rogero said, “You have I seen elsewhere;

And have again, and yet again, divined,

Yet know I not, nor can remember where.

Say it, yourself, if it returns to mind,

And, I beseech, your name as well declare:

Which I would gladly hear, in the desire

To know whom I have rescued from the fire.”

XXII

“ — Me, it is possible you may have seen,

I know not when nor where (the youth replied);

For I too range the world, in armour sheen,

Seeking adventure strange on every side;

Or haply it a sister may have been,

Who to her waist the knightly sword has tied;

Born with me at a birth; so like to view,

The family discerns not who is who.

XXIII

“You not first, second, or even fourth will be,

Who have in this their error had to learn;

Nor father, brother, nor even mother me

From her (such our resemblance) can discern.

’Tis true, this hair, which short and loose you see,

In many guise, and hers, with many a turn,

And in long tresses wound about her brow,

Wide difference made between us two till now.

XXIV

“But since the day, that, wounded by a Moor

In the head (a story tedious to recite)

A holy man, to heal the damsel’s sore,

Cut short to the mid-ear her tresses bright,

Excepting sex and name, there is no more

One from the other to distinguish; hight

I Richardetto am, Bradamant she;

Rinaldo’s brother and his sister we.

XXV

“And to displease you were I not afraid,

You with a wonder would I entertain,

Which chanced from my resemblance to the maid;

Begun in pleasure, finishing in pain.”

He to whom nought more pleasing could be said,

And to whose ears there was no sweeter strain

That what in some sort on his lady ran,

Besought the stripling so, that he began.

XXVI

“It so fell out, that as my sister through

The neighbouring wood pursued her path, a wound

Was dealt the damsel by a paynim crew,

Which her by chance without a helmet found.

And she was fain to trim the locks which grew

Clustering about the gash, to maker her sound

Of that ill cut which in her head she bore:

Hence, shorn, she wandered through the forest hoar.

XXVII

“Ranging, she wandered to a shady font;

Where, worn and troubled, she, in weary wise,

Lit from her courser and disarmed her front,

And, couched upon the greenwood, closed her eyes.

A tale more pleasing than what I recount

In story there is none, I well surmise:

Thither repaired young Flordespine of Spain,

Who in that wood was hunting with her train.

XXVIII

“And, when she found my sister in the shade,

Covered, except her face, with martial gear,

— In place of spindle, furnished with the blade —

Believed that she beheld a cavalier:

The face and manly semblance she surveyed,

Till conquered was her heart: with courteous cheer

She wooed the maid to hunt with her, and past

With her alone into that hold at last.

XXIX

“When now she had her, fearless of surprise,

Safe in a solitary place, that dame,

By slow degrees, in words and amorous wise,

Showed her deep-wounded heart; with sighs of flame,

Breathed from her inmost breast, with burning eyes,

She spake her soul sick with desire; became

Now pale, now red; nor longer self-controlled,

Ravished a kiss, she waxed so passing bold.

XXX

“My sister was assured the huntress maid

Falsely conceited her a man to be;

Nor in that need could she afford her aid;

And found herself in sore perplexity.

‘ ’Tis better that I now dispel (she said)

The foolish thought she feeds, and that in me

The damsel should a gentle woman scan,

Rather than take me for a craven man.’

XXXI

“And she said well: for cravenhood it were

Befitting man of straw, not warrior true,

With whom so bright a lady deigned to pair,

So wonderous sweet and full of nectarous dew,

To clack like a poor cuckow to the fair,

Hanging his coward wing, when he should woo,

Shaping her speech to this in wary mode,

My sister that she was a damsel, showed;

XXXII

“That, like Camilla and like Hyppolite,

Sought fame in battle-field, and near the sea,

In Afric, in Arzilla, saw the light;

To shield and spear enured from infancy.

A spark this quenched not; nor yet burned less bright

The enamoured damsel’s kindled phantasy.

Too tardy came the salve to ease the smart:

So deep had Love already driven his dart.

XXXIII

“Nor yet less fair to her my sister’s face

Appeared, less fair her ways, less fair her guise;

Nor yet the heart returned into its place,

Which joyed itself within those dear-loved eyes.

Flordespine deems the damsel’s iron case

To her desire some hope of ease supplies;

And when she thinks she is indeed a maid,

Laments and sobs, with mighty woe downweighed.

XXXIV

“He who had marked her sorrow and lament,

That day, himself had sorrowed with the fair.

‘What pains (she said) did ever wight torment,

So cruel, but that mine more cruel were?

I need not to accomplish my intent,

In other love, impure or pure, despair;

The rose I well might gather from the thorn:

My longing only is of hope forlorn.

XXXV

“ ‘It ’twas thy pleasure, Love, to have me shent,

Because by glad estate thine anger stirred,

Thou with some torture might’st have been content

On other lovers used; but never word

Have I found written of a female bent

On love of female, mid mankind or herd.

Woman to woman’s beauty still is blind;

Nor ewe delights in ewe, nor hind in hind.

XXXVI

“ ’Tis only I, on earth, in air, or sea,

Who suffer at thy hands such cruel pain;

And this thou hast ordained, that I may be

The first and last example in thy reign.

Foully did Ninus’ wife and impiously

For her own son a passion entertain;

Loved was Pasiphae’s bull and Myrrha’s sire;

But mine is madder than their worst desire.

XXXVII

“ ‘Here female upon male had set her will;

Had hope; and, as I hear, was satisfied.

Pasiphae the wooden cow did fill:

Others, in other mode, their want supplied.

But, had he flown to me, — with all his skill,

Dan Daedalus had not the noose untied:

For one too diligent hath wreathed these strings;

Even Nature’s self, the puissantest of things.’

XXXVIII

“So grieves the maid, so goads herself and wears,

And shows no haste her sorrowing to forego;

Sometimes her face, sometimes her tresses tears,

And levels at herself the vengeful blow.

In pity, Bradamant the sorrow shares,

And is constrained to hear the tale of woe,

She studies to divert, with fruitless pain,

The strange and mad desire; but speaks in vain.

XXXIX

“She, who requires assistance, not support,

Still more laments herself, with grief opprest.

By this the waning day was growing short,

For the low sun was crimsoning the west;

A fitting hour for those to seek a port,

Who would not in the wood set up their rest.

When to this city, near her sylvan haunt,

Young Flordespine invited Bradament.

XL

“My sister the request could ill deny;

And so they came together to the place,

Where, but for you, by that ill squadron I

Had been compelled the cruel flame to face:

There Flordespina made her family

Caress and do my sister no small grace;

And, having in a female robe arraid,

Past her on all beholders for a maid.

XLI

“Because perceiving vantage there was none

In the male cheer by which she was misled,

The damsel held it wise, reproach to shun,

Which might by any carping tongue be said.

And this the rather: that the ill, which one

Of the two garments in her mind had bred,

Now with the other which revealed the cheat,

She would assay to drive from her conceit.

XLII

“The ladies share one common bed that night,

Their bed the same, but different their repose.

One sleeps, one groans and weeps in piteous plight,

Because her wild desire more fiercely glows;

And on her wearied eyes should slumber light,

All is deceitful that brief slumber shows.

To her it seems, as if relenting Heaven

A better sex to Bradamant is given.

XLIII

“As the sick man with burning thirst distrest,

If he should sleep, — ere he that wish fulfil, —

Aye in his troubled, interrupted rest,

Remembers him of every once-seen rill:

So is the damsel’s fancy still possest,

In sleep, with images which glad her will.

Then from the empty dreams which crowd her brain,

She wakes, and, waking, finds the vision vain.

XLIV

“What vows she vowed, how oft that night she prayed,

To all her gods and Mahound, in despair!

— That they, by open miracle, the maid

Would change, and give her other sex to wear.

But all the lady’s vows were ill appaid,

And haply Heaven as well might mock the prayer;

Night fades, and Phoebus raises from the main

His yellow head, and lights the world again.

XLV

“On issueing from their bed when day is broken,

The wretched Flordespina’s woes augment:

For of departing Bradamant had spoken,

Anxious to scape from that embarrassment.

The princess a prime jennet, as a token,

Forced on my parting sister, when she went;

And gilded housings, and a surcoat brave,

Which her own hand had richly broidered, gave.

XLVI

“Her Flordespine accompanied some way,

Then, weeping, to her castle made return.

So fast my sister pricked, she reached that day

Mount Alban; we who for her absence mourn,

Mother and brother, greet the martial may,

And her arrival with much joy discern:

For hearing nought, we feared that she was dead,

And had remained in cruel doubt and dread.

XLVII

“Unhelmed, we wondered at her hair, which passed

In braids about her brow, she whilom wore;

Nor less we wondered at the foreign cast

Of the embroidered surcoat which she wore:

And she to us rehearsed, from first to last,

The story I was telling you before;

How she was wounded in the wood, and how,

For cure, were shorn the tresses from her brow;

XLVIII

“And next how came on her, with labour spent,

— As by the stream she slept — that huntress bright;

And how, with all her false semblance well content,

She from the train withdrew her out of sight.

Nor left she any thing of her lament

Untold; which touched with pity every wight;

Told how the maid had harboured her, and all

Which past, till she revisited her Hall.

XLIX

“Of Flordespine I knew: and I had seen

In Saragossa and in France the maid;

To whose bewitching eyes and lovely mien

My youthful appetite had often strayed:

Yet her I would not make my fancy’s queen;

For hopeless love is but a dream and shade:

Now I this proffered in such substance view,

Straitway the ancient flame breaks forth anew.

L

“Love, with this hope, constructs his subtle ties;

Who other threads for me would vainly weave.

’Tis thus he took me, and explained the guise

In which I might the long-sought boon achieve.

Easy it were the damsel to surprise;

For as the likeness others could deceive,

Which I to Bradamant, my sister, bear,

This haply might as well the maid ensnare.

LI

“Whether I speed or no, I hold it wise,

Aye to pursue whatever give delight.

I with no other of my plan devise,

Nor any seek to counsel me aright.

Well knowing where the suit of armour lies

My sister doffed, I thither go at night;

Her armour and her steed to boot I take,

Nor stand expecting until daylight break.

LII

“I rode all night — Love served me as a guide —

To seek the home of beauteous Flordespine;

And there arrived, before in ocean’s tide

The western sun had hid his orbit sheen.

A happy man was he who fastest hied

To tell my coming to the youthful queen;

Expecting from that lady, for his pain,

Favour and goodly guerdon to obtain.

LIII

“For Bradamant the guests mistake me all,

— As you yourself but now — so much the more,

That I have both the courser and the pall

With which she left them but the day before.

Flordespine comes at little interval,

With such festivity and courteous lore,

And with a face, so jocund and so gay,

She could not, for her life, more joy display.

LIV

“Her beauteous arms about my neck she throws,

And fondly clasping me, my mouth she kist.

If to my inmost heart the arrow goes,

Which Love directs, may well by you be wist.

She leads me to her chamber of repose

In haste, not suffers others to assist

In taking off my panoply of steel;

Disarming me herself from head to heel.

LV

“Then, ordering from her store a costly vest,

She spread it, and — as I a woman were —

The lady me in that rich garment drest,

And in a golden net confined my hair.

I gravely moved my eye-balls, nor confest,

By gesture or by look, the sex I bear.

My voice, which might discover the deceit,

I tuned so well that none perceived the cheat.

LVI

“Next to the hall, where dame and cavalier

In crowds are gathered, we united go;

Who make to us such court and goodly cheer,

As men to queen or high-born lady show.

Here oft I laughed at some, with secret jeer,

Who, knowing not the sex concealed below

My flowing robe of feminine array,

Wooed me with wishful eyes in wanton way.

LVII

“When more advanced in now the festive night,

And the rich board — board plenteously purveyed

With what in season was most exquisite —

Has been some time removed, the royal maid

Expects not till I of myself recite

The cause, which thither me anew conveyed:

By her own courtesy and kindness led,

That lady prays me to partake her bed.

LVIII

“Damsels and dames withdrawn — with all the rest —

Pages and chamberlains, when now we lay,

One and the other, in our bed undrest,

With kindled torches, counterfeiting day;

‘Marvel not, lady,’ (her I thus addrest,)

‘That I return after such short delay;

For, haply, thou imagined, that again

Thou shouldst not see me until Heaven knows when.

LIX

“ ‘The reason I departed from thy side,

And next of my return, explained shall be.

Could I unto thy fever have applied,

By longer sojourn here, a remedy,

I in thy service would have lived and died,

Nor would have been an hour away from thee:

But seeing how my stay increased thy woe,

I, who could do no better, fixed to go.

LX

“ ‘Into the middle of a wood profound

By chance I from the beaten pathway strayed:

Where near me plaintive cries I hear resound,

As of a woman who intreated aid.

To a lake of crystal I pursue the sound,

And, there, amid the waves, a naked maid

Caught on the fish-hook of a Faun, survey,

Who would devour alive his helpless prey.

LXI

“ ‘Upon the losel, sword in hand, I ran,

And, for I could not aid in other wise,

Bereft of life that evil fisherman.

She in an instant to the water flies.

— ‘Me hast thou helped not vainly,’ (she began)

And well shalt be rewarded — with what prize

Thou canst demand — for know I am a nymph,

And have my dwelling in this crystal lymph;

LXII

“ ‘And power is mine to work portentous ends;

Nature and Elements I force: thy prayer

Shape to the scope to which my strength extends,

And leave its satisfaction to my care.

Charmed by my song the moon from Heaven descends;

Fire can I freeze, and harden liquid air;

And I at times have stopt the sun, and stirred

This earth beneath me by a simple word.’

LXIII

“Treasure I covet not, nor yet aspire

O’er land or people to hold sovereign sway;

Nor greater strength nor valour would acquire,

Nor fame in every warfare bear away;

But only to accomplish thy desire,

Entreat the damsel she will show some way.

Nor one nor other method I forestall;

But to her choice refer me, all in all.

LXIV

“Scarce my demand was made, before mine eye

Beneath the lymph engulphed that lady viewed:

Nor answered she my prayer, but, for reply,

Me with the enchanted element bedewed;

Which has no sooner touched my face than I,

I know not how, am utterly transmewed:

I see, I feel — yet doubting what I scan —

Feel, I am changed from woman into man.

LXV— LXIX

(Stazas LXV— LXIX untranslated by Rose)

LXX

“The thing remained concealed between us two;

So that our bliss endured some months; at last

We were espied; and, as I sorely rue,

The tidings to the Spanish monarch past.

Thou that whilere preserved’st me from the crew,

Which me into the flames designed to cast,

By this mayst fully comprehend the rest;

But God alone can read my sorrowing breast.”

LXXI

So Richardetto spake, and by his say

Made the dark path they trod less irksome be.

Up a small height this while their journey lay,

Girded with cliff and cavern, drear to see.

Bristling with rocks, a steep and narrow way

Was to that rugged hill the stubborn key;

A town, called Agrismonte, crowned the steep,

Which Aldigier of Clermont had in keep.

LXXII

Bastard of Buovo, brother to the pair,

Sir Vivian and Sir Malagigi hight:

Who him Gerardo’s lawful son declare,

Are witnesses of little worth and light.

— This, as it may! — strong, valiant, wise, and ware,

Liberal, humane, and courteous was the knight;

And on the fortress of its absent lord,

By night and day, kept faithful watch and ward.

LXXIII

His cousin Richardetto, as behoved,

Was courteously received by Aldigier;

Who him as dearly as a brother loved,

And made Rogero for his sake good cheer;

But not with wonted welcome; — inly moved —

He even wore a visage sad and drear:

For he, that day, ill-tidings had received,

And hence in heart and face the warrior grieved.

LXXIV

To Richardetto he exclaims, instead

Of greeting: “Evil news are hither blown.

By a sure messenger, today I read

That faithless Bertolagi of Bayonne,

With barbarous Lanfusa has agreed,

And costly spoils makes over to that crone;

Who will consign to him the brethren twain,

Thy Malagigi and thy Viviane;

LXXV

“These she, since Ferrau took them, aye has stayed

Imprisoned in a dark and evil cell;

Till the discourteous and foul pact was made

With that false Maganzese of whom I tell;

And them tomorrow, to a place conveyed

‘Twixt Bayonne and a town of his, will sell

To him, who will be present, to advance

The price of the most precious blood in France.

LXXVI

“One, at a gallop, even now, to report

Tidings to our Rinaldo of the wrong,

I sent; bur fear that he can ill resort

To him in time, the journey is so long.

Men have I not to sally from my fort;

And my power halts where my desire is strong.

The traitor will the knights, if rendered, slay;

Nor know I what to do nor what to say.”

LXXVII

Sir Richardetto the ill news displease,

And (as they him) displease in equal wise

Rogero; who, when silent both he sees,

Nor able any counsel to devise,

Exclaims with mickle daring: “Be at ease;

I challenge for myself the whole emprize;

And, to set free your brethren, in my hand

More than a thousand shall avail this brand.

LXXVIII

“I ask not men, I ask not aid; my spear

Is, I believe, sufficient to the feat.

I only ask of you a guide to steer

Me to the place where for the exchange they meet:

I even in this place will make you hear

Their cries, who for that evil bargain threat.”

He said; nor to one listener of the twain,

That had helped his actions, spake in vain.

LXXIX

The other heard him not, or heard at most

As we great talkers hear, who little do:

But Richardetto took aside their host

And told how him he from the fire withdrew;

And how he was assured, beyond his boast,

He would in time and place his prowess shew.

’Twas now that better audience than before

Aldigier lent, and set by him great store;

LXXX

And at the feast, where Plenty for the three

Emptied her horn, him honoured as his lord.

Here they conclude they can the brethren free

Without more succour from their gaoler’s ward.

This while Sleep seized on lord and family,

Save young Rogero: no repose afford

To him the thoughts, which evermore molest,

And, rankling in his bosom, banish rest.

LXXXI

The siege of Agramant, to him that day

Told by the messenger, he has at heart.

He well discerns that every least delay

Will he dishonour. What a ceaseless smart

Will scorn inflict, what shame will him appay,

If he against his sovereign lord take part?

Oh! what foul cowardice, how foul a crime

His baptism will appear at such a time!

LXXXII

That true religion had the stripling swayed

Men might at any other time conceive:

But now, when needed was the warrior’s aid

From siege the Moorish monarch to relieve,

That Fear and Baseness had more largely weighed,

In his designs, would every one believe,

That any preference of a better creed:

This thought makes good Rogero’s bosom bleed.

LXXXIII

Nor less to quit his Queen, her leave unsought,

Did with Rogero’s other griefs combine:

Now this and now that care upon him wrought;

Which diversely his doubtful heart incline:

The unhappy lover fruitlessly had thought

To find her at the abode of Flordespine;

Whither together went (as told whilere)

To succour Richardetto, maid and peer.

LXXXIV

He next bethinks him of the promise plight

To meet at Vallombrosa’s sanctuary,

Deems her gone thither, and that ’twill excite

Her wonderment himself not there to see.

Could he at least a message send or write,

That he with reason might not censured be,

Because not only he had disobeyed,

But was departing hence, and nothing said!

LXXXV

He, having thought on many things, in the end

Resolves on writing what behoves; and, though

He knows not how his letter he shall send,

In the assurance it will safely go,

This hinders not; he thinks that, as they wend,

Chance in his way some faithful Post may throw;

Nor more delays: up leaps the restless knight,

And calls for pen and paper, ink and light.

LXXXVI

That which is needed, in obedience meet,

Aldigier’s valets bring, a careful band,

The youth begins to write; and, first, to greet

The maid, as wonted courtesies demand;

Next tells how Agramant has sent to entreat,

In his dispatches, succour at his hand;

And, save he quickly to his comfort goes,

Must needs be slain or taken by his foes.

LXXXVII

Then adds, his sovereign being so bested,

And praying him for succour in his pain,

She must perceive what blame upon his head

Would light, if Agramant applied in vain;

And, since with her he is about to wed,

’Tis fitting he should keep him with stain;

For ill he deems a union could endure

Between aught foul and her to passing pure.

LXXXVIII

And if he erst a name, renowned and clear,

Had laboured to procure by actions fair,

And having gained it thus, he held it dear,

— If this had sought to keep — with greater care

He kept it now, — and with a miser’s fear

Guarded the treasure she with him would share;

Who, though distinct in body and in limb,

When wedded, ought to be one soul with him;

LXXXIX

And, as he erst by word, he now explained

Anew by writing, that the period o’er,

For which he was to serve his king constrained,

Unless it were his lot to die before,

He would in deed a Christian be ordained,

As in resolve he had been evermore;

And of her kin, Rinaldo and her sire,

Her afterwards in wedlock would require.

XC

“I would,” he said, “relieve, with your good will,

My king, besieged by Charlemagne’s array,

That the misjudging rabble, prone to ill,

Might never, to my shame and scandal, say:

Rogero, in fair wind and weather, still

Waited upon his sovereign, night and day,

And now that Fortune to King Charles is fled,

Has with that conquering lord his ensign spread.’

XCI

“I fifteen days or twenty ask, that I

Yet once again may to our army speed;

So that, by me from leaguering enemy

The African cantonments may be freed:

I will some fit and just occasion spy,

Meanwhile, to justify my change of creed,

I for my honour make this sole request;

Then wholly yours for life, in all things, rest.”

XCII

Rogero is such words his thoughts exposed,

Which never could by me be fully showed;

And added more, nor from his task reposed,

Until the crowded paper overflowed:

He next the letter folded and enclosed,

And sealed it, and within his bosom stowed;

In hopes to meet next morning by the way

One who might covertly that writ convey.

XCIII

When he had closed the sheet, that amorous knight

His eyelids closed as well, and rest ensued:

For Slumber came and steeped his wearied might

In balmy moisture, from a branch imbued

With Lethe’s water; and he slept till — white

And red — a rain of flowers the horizon strewed,

Painting the joyous east with colours gay;

When from her golden dwelling broke the day:

XCIV

And when the greenwood birds ‘gan, far and wide,

Greet the returning light with gladsome strain,

Sir Aldigier (who wished to be the guide,

Upon that journey, of the warlike twain,

Who would in succour of those brethren ride,

To rescue them from Bertolagi’s chain)

Was first upon his feet; and either peer

Issues as well from bed, when him they hear.

XCV

When clad and thoroughly in arms arrayed —

Rogero with the cousins took his way,

Having that pair already warmly prayed

The adventure on himself alone to lay:

But these, by love for those two brethren swayed,

And deeming it discourtesy to obey,

Stood out against his prayer, more stiff than stone,

Nor would consent that he should wend alone.

XCVI

True to the time and place of change, they hie

Whither Sir Aldigier’s advices teach;

And there survey an ample band who lie

Exposed to fierce Apollo’s heat; in reach,

Nor myrtle-tree nor laurel they descry,

Nor tapering cypress, ash, nor spreading beech:

But naked gravel with low shrubs discerned,

Undelved by mattock and by share unturned.

XCVII

Those three adventurous warriors halted where

A path went through the uncultivated plain,

And saw a knight arrive upon the lair,

Who, flourished o’er with gold, wore plate and chain,

And on green field that beauteous bird and rare,

Which longer than an age extends its reign.

No more, my lord: for at my canto’s close

I find myself arrived, and crave repose.

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