Orlando Furioso, by Lodovico Ariosto

Canto 27

Argument

By good Rogero and those paynims three

Defeated, Charlemagne to Paris flies.

Already all, throughout their chivalry,

Are mad with spite and hatred; jars arise,

And strife; and means to still their enmity

Their sovereign is unable to devise.

From him departs the monarch of Argier,

Who is rejected of his lady dear.

I

A woman for the most part reasons best

Upon a sudden motion, and untaught;

For with that special grace the sex is blest,

‘Mid those so many gifts, wherewith ’tis fraught;

But man, of a less nimble wit possest,

Is ill at counsel, save, with sober thought,

He ruminates thereon, content to spend

Care, time and trouble to mature his end.

II

That seemed good counsel, but was ill indeed

Of Malagigi’s, as before was said;

Albeit he so rescued in his need

His cousin Richardet, with odds o’erlaid,

When from the paynim monarchs him he freed

By ready demon, who his hest obeyed;

For sure he never deemed they should be borne,

Where they would work the Christian army scorn.

III

Had he some little prize for counsel stayed,

(We with the same success may well suppose)

He to his cousin might have furnished aid,

Yet brought not on the Christian host their foes:

That evil sprite he might as well have made,

Him, who embodied in the palfrey goes,

Eastward or west, so far that lady bear,

That France should hear no further of the pair.

IV

So the two lovers, following her who flies,

To other place than Paris might be brought:

But this calamity was a surprise

On Malagigi, through his little thought;

And fiendish malice, banished from the skies,

Which ever blood and fire and ravage sought,

Guided them by that way to Charles’ disaster;

Left to his choice by him, the wizard master.

V

The wayward fiend who makes that palfrey ramp

Bears off the frighted Doralice amain;

Nor river nor yet yawning ditch, or swamp,

Wood, rock, or rugged cliff, the steed restrain;

Till, traversing the French and English camp,

And other squadrons of the mingled train,

Beneath the holy flag of Christ arraid,

He to Granada’s king the fair conveyed.

VI

The Sarzan and the Tartar the first day

That royal damsel a long while pursue;

Because her distant form they yet survey;

But finally they lose that lady’s view;

When, like a lyme-dog, whom the hunters lay

On hare or roebuck’s trail, the valiant two

Follow upon her track, nor halt, till told

That she is harboured in her father’s hold.

VII

Guard thyself, Charles: for, lo! against thee blown

Is such a storm, that I no refuge see:

Nor these redoubted monarchs come alone,

But those of Sericane and Circassy;

While Fortune, who would probe thee to the bone,

Has taken those two shining stars from thee,

Who kept thee by their wisdom and their light;

And thou remainest blind and wrapt in night.

VIII

’Tis of the valiant cousins I would speak:

Of these, Orlando of his wit bereft,

Naked, in sun or shower, by plain or peak,

Wanders about the world, a helpless weft;

And he, in wisdom little less to seek,

Rinaldo, in thy peril thee has left;

And, for in Paris-town she is not found,

In search of his Angelica is bound.

IX

A cunning, old enchanter him deceived,

As in the outlet of my tale was said:

Deluded by a phantom, he believed

Angelica was with Orlando fled;

And hence with jealousy, at heart, aggrieved

(Lover ne’er suffered worse) to Paris sped;

Whence he, as soon as he appeared at court,

By chance, was named to Britain to resort.

X

Now, the field won, wherein with mickle fame

He drove King Agramant his works behind,

To Paris yet again the warrior came,

Searched convent, tower, and house, and, save confined

‘Twixt solid walls or columns be the dame,

Her will the restless lover surely find:

Nor her nor yet Orlando he descries,

So forth in the desire to seek them hies.

XI

Her to Anglantes or to Brava brought,

He deemed the Count enjoyed in mirth and play;

And vainly, here and there, that damsel sought,

Nor here nor there, descried the long-sought prey.

To Paris he repaired again, in thought

The paladin returning to waylay;

Because he deemed he could not rove at large

Without that Town, but on some special charge.

XII

Within he takes a day or two’s repose;

And, when he finds Orlando comes not there,

Again to Brava and Anglantes goes

Inquiring tidings of the royal fair;

Nor, whether morning dawns or noontide glows,

— Nor night nor day — his weary steed does spare;

Nor once — but twice a hundred times — has run

The selfsame course, by light of moon or sun.

XIII

But the ancient foe, deluded by whose say,

To the forbidden fruit Eve raised her hand,

Turned his wan eyes on Charlemagne one day,

When he the good Rinaldo absent scanned;

And seeing what foul rout and disarray

Might at that time be given to Charles’s band,

Of all the Saracens the choice and flower

Marshalled in arms against the Christian power.

XIV

King Sacripant and King Gradasso (who

Whilere companionship in war had made,

When from Atlantes’ palace fled the two)

Together to unite their arms, in aid

Of royal Agramant’s beleaguered crew,

And where through unknown lands the warriors hied,

Made smooth the way, and served them as a guide.

XV

Thither another fiend that ruthless foe

Bade Rodomont and Mandricardo bear

Through ways, by which his comrade was not slow

With the affrighted Doralice to fare:

A third, lest they their enterprize forego,

Rogero and Marphisa has in care:

But their conductor journeys not so fast;

And hence that martial pair arrives the last.

XVI

Later by half an hour, against their foes,

So matched, Rogero and Marphisa speed;

Because the sable angel, who his blows

Aimed at the bands that held the Christian creed,

Provided, that the contest which arose

About that horse, his work should not impede;

Which had again been kindled, had the twain,

Rodomont and Rogero, met again.

XVII

The first four ride until themselves they find

Where the besiegers and besieged they view;

And see the banners shaking in the wind,

And the cantonments of those armies two.

Here they short counsel took, and next opined,

In spite of Charlemagne’s beleaguering crew,

To carry speedy succour to their liege,

And rescue royal Agramant from siege.

XVIII

Where thickest camped lay Charles’s host, they spurred,

Closing their files against the Christian foe.

“Afric and Spain!” is the assailants’ word,

Whom at all points the Franks for paynims know.

— “To arms, to arms!” throughout their camp is heard:

But first is felt the Moorish sabre’s blow:

Even on the rear-guard falls the vengeful stroke,

Not charged alone, but routed, beat and broke.

XIX

The Christian host throughout is overthrown,

And how they know not, in tumultuous wise;

And that it is a wonted insult done

By Switzer or by Gascon, some surmise;

But — since the reason is to most unknown —

Each several nation to its standard flies,

This to the drum, that to the trumpet’s sound,

And shriek and shout from earth to heaven redound.

XX

All armed is Charlemagne, except his head,

And, girt with paladins, his faithful stay,

Arrived demanding what alarm has bred

Disorder in his host and disarray;

And stopt with menace this or that who fled,

And many fugitives, upon their way,

Some with maimed face, breast, arm, or hand, espied,

And some with head or throat with life-blood dyed.

XXI

Advancing, he on earth saw many more,

Or rather in a lake of crimson laid,

Horribly weltering in their own dark gore,

Beyond the leech’s and magician’s aid;

And busts dissevered from the heads they bore,

And legs and arms — a cruel show — surveyed;

And, from the first cantonments to the last,

Saw slaughtered men on all sides as he past.

XXII

Where the small band advances in such wise,

Deserving well eternal praise to gain,

Vouching their deeds, a long-drawn furrow lies,

A signal record of their might and main.

His army’s cruel slaughter, with surprise,

Anger and rage, is viewed by Charlemagne.

So he whose shattered walls have felt its force,

Throughout his mansion tracks the lightning’s course.

XXIII

Not to the ramparts of the paynim crew

Of Agramant as yet had pierced this aid,

When, on the further side, these other two,

Rogero and Marphisa, thither made.

When, once or twice, that worthy pair a view

Have taken of the ground, and have surveyed

The readiest way assistance to afford,

They swiftly move in succour of their lord.

XXIV

As when we spark to loaded mine apply,

Through the long furrow, filled with sable grain,

So fast the furious wildfire darts, that eye

Pursues the progress of the flash with pain;

And as dire ruin follows, and from high,

The loosened rock and solid bastion rain,

So bold Rogero and Marphisa rush

To battle, so the Christian squadrons crush.

XXV

Front and askance, the assailants smote, and low

On earth heads, arms, and severed shoulders lay,

Where’er the Christian squadrons were too slow

To free the path and break their close array.

Whoe’er has seen the passing tempest blow,

And of the hill or valley, in its way,

One portion ravage and another leave,

May so their course amid that host conceive.

XXVI

Many who had escaped by quick retreat,

Rodomont and those other furious three,

Thank God that he had given them legs and feet,

Wherewith to fly from that calamity;

And from the Child and damsel new defeat

Encounter, while with endlong course they flee:

As man, no matter if he stands or run,

Seeks vainly his predestined doom to shun.

XXVII

Who ‘scape one peril, into other fly,

And pay the penalty of flesh and blood;

So, by the teeth of dog, is wont to die

The fox, together with her infant brood,

By one who dwells her ancient cavern nigh

Unearthed, and with a thousand blows pursued;

When from some unsuspected place, that foe

Has filled with fire and smoke the den below.

XXVIII

Marphisa and the Child, of danger clear,

Enter the paynim ramparts; and, with eyes

Upturned, the Saracens, with humble cheer,

Thank Heaven for the success of that emprize:

The paladins no longer are their fear;

The meanest Moor a hundred Franks defies;

And ’tis resolved, without repose, again

To drench with Christian blood the thirsty plain.

XXIX

At once a formidable larum rose;

Horns, drums, and shrilling clarions filled the skies;

And the wind ruffles, as it comes and goes,

Banner and gonfalon of various dyes.

The Germans and the warlike Bretons close;

Ranged on the other part, in martial wise,

Italians, English, French, were seen, and through

Those armies furious war blazed forth anew.

XXX

The force of the redoubted Rodomont,

And that of Agrican’s infuriate son,

That of Rogero, valiant’s copious font,

Gradasso’s, so renowned for trophies won,

The martial maid, Marphisa’s fearless front,

And might of Sacripant, excelled by none,

Made Charles upon Saint John and Denys call,

And fly for shelter to his Paris wall.

XXXI

Of fierce Marphisa and her bold allies

The unconquered daring and the wondrous might,

Sir, was not of a nature — of a guise —

To be conceived, much less described aright:

The number slaughtered hence may you surmise!

What cruel blow King Charles sustained in fight!

Add to these warriors of illustrious name,

More than one Moor, with Ferrau, known to Fame.

XXXII

Many through reckless haste were drowned in Seine,

For all too narrow was the bridge’s floor,

An wished, like Icarus, for wings in vain,

Having grim death behind them and before,

Save Oliver, and Ogier hight the Dane,

The paladins are prisoners to the Moor:

Wounded beneath his better shoulder fled

The first, that other with a broken head.

XXXIII

And. like Orlando and Duke Aymon’s son,

Had faithful Brandimart thrown up the game,

Charles had from Paris into exile gone,

If he had scaped alive so fierce a flame.

Brandimart does his best, and when ’tis done,

Yields to the storm: Thus Fortune, fickle dame,

Now smiles upon the paynim monarch, who

Besieges royal Charlemagne anew.

XXXIV

From earth beneath the widow’s outcry swells,

Mingled with elder’s and with orphan’s prayer,

Into the pure serene, where Michael dwells,

Rising above this dim and troubled air;

And to the blest archangel loudly tells,

How the devouring wolf and raven tear

His faithful English, French, and German train,

Whose slaughtered bodies overspread the plain.

XXXV

Red blushed the blessed angel, who believed

He ill obedience to his lord had paid;

And, in his anger, deemed himself deceived

By the perfidious Discord and betrayed:

He his Creator’s order had received

To stir the Moors to strife, nor had obeyed;

Had rather in their eyes who marked the event,

Appeared throughout to thwart his high intent.

XXXVI

As servant faithful to his lord, and more

In love than memory strong, who finds that he

Has that forgotten which at his heart-core,

As precious as his life and soul should be,

Hastes to repair his error, nor before

He mend that fault, again his lord will see,

So not to God St. Michael will ascend

Until he has achieved his holy end.

XXXVII

Again he to that monastery flew,

Where whilom he had Discord seen; and there

Seated in chapter sees her, while anew

Their yearly officers elected are,

She taking huge delight those friers to view,

That at each other hurled their books of prayer.

His hand within her locks the archangel twists,

And deals her endless scathe with feet and fists.

XXXVIII

On her he next a cross’s handle broke;

Wherewith her back, and arms, and head he plies:

His mercy with loud voice the wretch bespoke,

And hugged that angel’s knees with suppliant cries.

Michael suspends not the avenging stroke

Till hunted to the Moorish camp she flies,

Then thus: “Believe worse vengeance yet in store,

If I beyond these lines behold thee more.”

XXXIX

Albeit in back and arms all over shent

Was Discord by that angel, in her fear

Of suffering yet again such chastisement,

Such horrid fury and such blows severe,

She speedily to take her bellows went,

And, adding food to what she lit whilere,

And setting other ready piles afire,

Kindled in many hearts a blaze of ire;

XL

And good Rogero (she inflames them so)

With Rodomont and Mandricardo fares

To Agramant; and all (since now the foe

The paynims pressed no more, the vantage theirs)

To him the seed of their dissensions show,

And what the bitter produce which it bears:

Then to the judgment of the king refer

Who first in listed field his claim should stir.

XLI

As well Marphisa to Troyano’s son,

Relates her case, and will conclude the fray

Which with the Tartar king she had begun,

Because by him provoked to that assay;

Nor will she yield her place to any one,

No, not a single hour, yet less a day;

But with loud instances maintains her right

With Mandricardo first to wage the fight.

XLII

To have the first possession of the field

No less renowned king Rodomont contended,

Which he, the African array to shield,

Had interrupted and till now suspended.

Rogero to King Agramant appealed,

As having borne too long, though sore offended,

That Rodomont form him detained his horse,

Nor yet would meet him first in martial course.

XLIII

The Tartar king, for more perplexity,

Denied on any ground Rogero’s right

The bearer of the white-winged bird to be;

And was so passing wood with wrath and spite,

That, if to this those others would agree,

He would at once those several quarrels fight;

And so those others would as well have done,

If Agramant’s consent they could have won.

XLIV

King Agramant, with prayer and kingly word,

Had willingly appeased that jarring crew;

But since the foes were deaf to all accord,

Nor would assent to peace or truce anew,

Considered how at least he might afford

The field of each of them in order due;

And, as the best resolve, at last decreed,

Each should by lot possess the listed mead.

XLV

Four lots the monarch bade prepare, which done,

This “Rodomont and Mandricardo” said;

“Rogero and Mandricardo” were in one;

In one, “Rogero and Rodomont” were read;

That “Mandricardo and Marphisa” run:

Next, as the fickle goddess, Fortune, led,

The lots are drawn, and in the first appear

The Tartar king and sovereign of Argier.

XLVI

Rogero and Mandricardo for that play

Were next; Rogero and Rodomont were third;

Marphisa’s lot and Mardricardo’s lay

At bottom; whence the dame was deeply stirred;

Nor young Rogero seems a whit more gay:

Who knows the prowess of those two preferred

Will nothing in the listed combat leave

For him or for Marphisa to achieve.

XLVII

There lies a place, of Paris little wide,

Covering a mile or somewhat less, and round;

Like ancient theatre, on every side,

Encompast by a tall and solid mound;

With castle whilom was it fortified,

Which sword and fire had levelled with the ground.

The Parmesan like circle does survey,

Whenever he to Borgo wends his way.

XLVIII

In this place is prepared the listed mead,

Which palisades of little height inclose;

A square, of just proportions for that need,

With two capacious gates, as usage goes.

The day on which to combat have agreed

Those valiant knights, who will not balk their foes,

Beside the palisades, to left and right,

Facing each entrance, are pavilions pight.

XLIX

In that, which looks towards the western sun,

Is lodged the giant monarch of Argier;

And him assist his serpent-hide to don

Bold Ferrau and Circassia’s cavalier.

Gradasso and the puissant Falsiron,

In that which fronts the morning hemisphere,

Clothe with their hands, in Trojan plate and chain,

The good successor of King Agricane.

L

High on a throne of ample state appeared

Agramant and Marsilius; next in place

Were Stordilane and all the chiefs, revered

Throughout the squadrons of the paynim race.

Happy was he who found himself upreared

On mound or tree, above that level space.

Great was the throng, and round the palisade

On every side the eddying people swayed.

LI

Were seated with the Queen of fair Castille

Queens, princesses, and dames of noble strain,

From Arragon, Granada, and Seville,

And Atlas’ columns; and amid the train

Assembled to behold that fierce appeal,

Was placed the daughter of King Stordilane:

Two costly vests — one red, one green — she wore;

But ill the first was dyed, and faded sore.

LII

In dress succinct Marphisa sate; in plight

Such as beseemed a warrior and a maid:

Thermodoon haply witnessed Hippolyte

And her fair squadron in like garb arrayed.

Afield already, in his livery dight,

Agramant’s herald made proclaim, and said

It was forbid to all men, far and wide,

In act or word, with either part to side.

LIII

The frequent crowd expects the double foe;

And often, in impatience, they complain,

And call those famous cavaliers too slow:

When from the Tartar’s tent an angry strain

Is heard, and cries which multiply; sir, know

It was the martial king of Sericane,

And puissant Tartar, who that question stirred,

And made the mighty tumult which has heard.

LIV

Sericane’s monarch, having with his hand

Equipt the king of Tartary all o’er,

Approached to gird him with that sovereign brand,

With which Orlando went adorned of yore.

When Durindana on the hilt he scanned,

Graved with the quartering that Almontes wore;

Which from that wretched man, beside a font,

Youthful Orlando reft in Aspramont.

LV

He, seeing this, agnised it for the blade

So famous, which Anglantes’ warrior bore,

For which he had the fairest fleet arrayed

Which ever put to sea from eastern shore;

And had Castille’s rich kingdom overlaid,

And conquered fruitful France some years before;

But cannot now imagine how that sword

Is in possession of the Tartar lord;

LVI

And asks had he by force or treaty won,

And when and where and how, that faulchion bright;

And Mandricardo said that he had done

Fierce battle for that sword with Brava’s knight;

Who feigned himself of sober sense foregone,

Hoping that so he should conceal his fright:

— “For I on him would ceaseless war have made,”

(He added) “while he kept the goodly blade.”

LVII

Saying the Count, in yielding to his foe

That sword, the Beavers’ known device had tried;

Who. followed closely by the hunter, know

Their fell pursuer covers nought beside.

Ere he had heard him out, — “Nor I forego

That sword to thee nor any one,” (replied

Gradasso, fierce,) “well earned by me, at cost

Of treasure, and of pain, and people lost.

LVIII

“Some other faulchion for thyself purvey;

This will I have; nor deem my reasons new;

Whether Orlando wise or foolish stray,

I make it mine where’er it meets my view.

With none to witness, thou, beside the way

Usurped that sword; I claim it as my due:

For this my scimeter shall reasons yield,

And we will try the cause in listed field.

LIX

“Prepare to win the sword before thou rear

That goodly blade against King Rodomont.

To win his arms is use of cavalier,

Before his foe in duel he affront.”

— “No sweeter music ever soothes my ear”

(Replied the Tartar, as he raised his front)

“Than voice which champions me to martial field;

But see that his consent the Sarzan yield.

LX

“Be thou the first; and, next on listed ground

Let Sarza’s valiant lord the question try;

Nor doubt but I in readiness be found

To thee and every other to reply.”

“ — Thou shalt not so the ordered lots confound,

Or break our compact (was Rogero’s cry):

Either, first Rodomont shall take the field,

Or shall to me his right of battle yield.

LXI

“It that be true Gradasso has averred,

That knight should win the arms he would assay,

Thou hast no title to my white-winged bird,

Save this from me thou first shalt bear away.

But since, forsooth, whilere I said the word,

I will not what I once pronounced unsay,

That mine shall be the second battle, so

That Argier’s monarch first affront his foe.

LXII

“I will confuse the order of the field,

Throughout, if partially confused by thee;

Abandon will I not my blazoned shield,

Unless thou combat for it now with me.”

— “Were one and the other Mars, for battle steeled,

(Replies enraged, the king of Tartary)

“Nor one nor the other’s might should make me waive

My title to that shield and goodly glaive”;

LXIII

And over mastered by his choler, flies

With a clenched fist at him of Sericane,

And smites him with his right-hand in such wise,

As makes him quit his hold of Durindane.

Gradasso bold was taken by surprise,

Not deeming him so furious and insane;

And, while he looked not to the Tartar lord,

Found himself robbed of good Orlando’s sword.

LXIV

Fury and scorn Gradasso’s visage heats,

Which seems to flash with fire, at that disgrace;

And with more rage and pain his bosom beats,

In that ’twas offered in such public place.

To draw his scimeter, the king retreats,

Intent upon revenge, some little space.

So Mandricardo on himself relies

Rogero he to fight, as well defies.

LXV

“Come on in arms against me, both combined,

And be King Rodomont the third!” (he said)

“Come Spain and Afric and all human kind;

Ne’er will I turn.” And he, at nought dismaid,

So saying, in his fury, sawed the wind

About him, with Almontes’ noble blade,

Embraced his shield, and, full of choler, stood

Against Gradasso and Rogero good.

LXVI

“Leave me the care,” the fierce Gradasso cried,

“The phrensy of this madman to subdue.”

— “Not so, by Heaven!” Rogero wroth replied,

“For I this field claim justly as my due.”

— “Stand back!” and “stand thou back!” on either side

They shout; yet neither of the twain withdrew.

And thus among those three began a feud;

And thence some strange result would have ensued,

LXVII

If many had not interposed, and sought

With little wit their fury to restrain;

Who had well-nigh too dear the experience bought

Of saving others at their proper pain;

Nor to accord the world had ever brought

Those knights, but that the worthy king of Spain

Came thither with renowned Troyano’s heir;

Awed by whose sovereign presence all forbear.

LXVIII

Agramant those contending warriors made

The cause of their so burning strife display;

Next earnestly bestirred himself, and prayed

Gradasso that he would, in courteous way,

Concede the Trojan Hector’s goodly blade

To Mandricardo, solely for that day,

Until the cruel fight was at an end,

Wherein he should with Rodomont contend.

LXIX

While royal Agramant would peace restore,

And now with this and now with that conferred,

From the other tent, between the Sarzan Moor

And Sacripant, another strife was heard.

Valiant King Sacripant (as said before)

To equip Sir Rodomont himself bestirred,

And he and Ferrau had that champion drest

In his forefather Nimrod’s iron vest;

LXX

And there had they arrived, where with his spume

The horse was making his rich bridle white:

I of the good Frontino speak, for whom

Rogero urged with yet unfelt despite.

King Sacripant, who plays the part of groom,

And has to bring afield the Sarzan knight,

Marks narrowly the courser’s gear and shoes,

And sell and furniture throughout reviews;

LXXI

And as his points and nimble parts, more near,

He, in this view, observes with better heed,

The youthful king, beyond all doubt, is clear

He sees his Frontilatte in that steed,

Him he of old had held so passing dear,

Whilom of such debates the fruitful seed;

And for whose loss, whilere he was so woe,

He evermore on foot resolved to go.

LXXII

This from beneath him had Brunello borne

Before Albracca, on the very day

Angelica’s rare ring, and Roland’s horn,

And Balisarda he conveyed away,

With fierce Marphisa’s blade, — and on return

To Afric — to Rogero, from his prey,

Gave Balisarda and the courser, who

Was by the Child Frontino named anew.

LXXIII

Assured ’twas no mistake, Circassia’s chief

Turned him about to Rodomont, and cried:

“Reft from me in Albracca, by a thief,

This horse is mine; which might be certified

By them whose words would warrant well belief:

But as my witnesses are distant wide,

If it be questioned, I will make it plain,

And will, with sword in hand, the truth maintain.

LXXIV

“Yet am I well contented, for that we

Have for these some few days together gone,

To lend him for today; since well I see,

That not without him could the fight be done;

But on condition, that the courser be

Acknowledged mine, and furnished as a loan:

Otherwise hope not for that horse, save first

Me, on this quarrel, thou in combat worst.”

LXXV

The furious king of Argier, that in pride

Surpassed all knights that ever girt the sword,

Whose paragon, for heart and prowess tried,

Meseems no ancient histories record,

Cried: “Sacripant, if any one beside

Thyself, to me should utter such a word,

He should deem quickly, from its bitter fruit,

He from his birth would better have been mute.

LXXVI

“But, for that fellowship in which we went,

(As thou hast said) together, I to show

Such patience and forbearance am content,

As warning thee, thy purpose to forego,

Until thou shalt have witnessed the event

Of strife between me and my Tartar foe:

When him I such example hope to make,

That thou shalt humbly say, ‘The courser take.’ ”

LXXVII

Fierce and enraged, replied Circassia’s peer,

“To play the churl with thee is courteous deed,

But I to thee repeat more plain and clear,

Thou ill wouldst aught design against that steed,

For, while I an avenging sabre rear,

This I prohibit thee, and, should it need,

And every better means of battle fail,

With thee for this would battle, tooth and nail.”

LXXVIII

They from dispute proceed to ribaldry,

From words to blows; and through their mickle ire,

Fierce battle was inflamed, and blazed more high

Than ever lightly-kindled straw took fire.

King Rodomont is steeled in panoply;

Sacripant neither plate nor mail attire:

Yet so in fence is skilled that nimble lord,

He seems all over sheltered by his sword.

LXXIX

No greater were the daring and the might

(Though infinite) which Rodomont displaid

Than the precaution and the nimble sleight

Which the Circassian summoned to his aid:

No mill-wheel ever turns with swifter flight

The circling stone by which the grain is brayed,

Than Sacripant at need moves foot or hand,

And shifts now here, now there his restless stand.

LXXX

But Serpentine and Ferrau interfere:

They with drawn swords the twain asunder bore;

With them Grandonio was and Isolier,

And many other leaders of the Moor,

This was the tumult which was heard whilere

In the other tent, what time they laboured sore,

Rogero vainly to a peace to bring

With Tartary’s and Sericana’s king.

LXXXI

This while some voice to Agramant the news

Reports aright, that Ulien’s might seed,

With Sacripant, Circassia’s king, pursues

A fierce and furious quarrel for the steed.

Agramant, whom so many jars confuse,

Exclaims to King Marsilius: “Take thou heed

That no worse evil mid these knights betide,

While for this new disorder I provide.”

LXXXII

Rodomont reined his anger, and retired

Some deal, at his approaching sovereign’s view;

Nor less respect in Sacripant inspired

The Moorish monarch; of the furious two,

He with grave voice and royal mien inquired

What cause of strife such deadly discord blew;

And having searched their quarrel to the root,

Would fain accord them; but with little fruit.

LXXXIII

Circassia’s monarch would not, on his side,

Longer his horse to Argier’s lord allow,

Save humbly Rodomont to him applied,

That steed for this occasion to bestow.

To him Sir Rodomont, with wonted pride,

Returned for answer: “Neither Heaven nor thou

Shall make me recognize as gift or loan

What I with this good hand can make mine own.”

LXXXIV

The king bade Sacripant explain his right,

And how that horse was taken from him sought;

And this from first to last Circassia’s knight

Rehearsed, and reddened as the tale he taught,

Relating to the king the robber’s sleight;

Who had surprised him overwhelmed with thought,

Upon four spears his courser’s saddle stayed,

And from beneath the naked horse conveyed.

LXXXV

Marphisa, whom these cries, mid others, bring,

When of the robbery of the horse advised,

In visage is disturbed, remembering

How on that day her faulchion was surprised;

And when that courser (which equipt with wing

Appeared when flying her) she recognized;

And recognized as well — at first unknown —

The valiant king who filled Circassia’s throne.

LXXXVI

The others who stood round her, wont to hear

Brunello often boast of the deceit,

‘Gan turn towards that wretch, and made appear

By open signs they knew him for the Cheat.

Marphisa who the subtle knave whilere

Suspected as the author of that feat,

Now questions this, now that, who all accord

In saying ’twas Brunello stole her sword;

LXXXVII

Who, well deserving as a fitting pain

To dangle from the gallows-tree in air,

By Agramant the crown of Tingitane

(An ill example) was preferred to wear.

This fires anew Marphisa’s old disdain,

Nor she from instant vengeance will forbear,

For this, as well as other shame and scorn

She on her road had from that caitiff born.

LXXXVIII

A squire laced on her helmet, at her hest;

She wore the remnant of her armour sheen;

Nor without martial cuirass on her breast,

Find I, that she ten times was ever seen,

Even from the day when first that iron vest

Braced on her limbs the passing-valiant queen:

With helm on head, where, mid the highest rows,

Brunello sits among the first, she goes.

LXXXIX

Him by mid breast Marphisa griped amain,

And lifted up the losel from the ground;

As is rapacious eagle wont to strain

The pullet, in her talons circled round;

And bore him where the sons of King Troyane

Heard the two knights their jarring claims propound.

He who perceives himself in evil hands,

Aye weeps, and mercy of that maid demands.

XC

Above the universal noise and shout,

Which rose nigh equally on either side,

Brunello, who from all the crowd about

For pity now, and now for succour, cried,

So loud was heard, that of that ample rout

He gathered round himself the pressing tide.

Arrived before the Moorish army’s head,

To him with haughty mien Marphisa said:

XCI

“This thief (said she), thy vassal, will I slay,

And with this hand of mine will knot the cord

About his neck; because the very day

He stole this courser, he purloined my sword.

But is there any one who deems I say

Amiss, let him stand forth and speak the word;

For I on him will prove, before thine eyes,

I have done right, and who gainsays me, lies.

XCII

“But because haply some one may pretend

I have till such a time of strife delayed

My vengeance, when such famous knights contend,

For three days shall the wretch’s doom be stayed;

In the mean time let him who would defend

That caitiff, come himself, or send him aid.

For afterwards, if none the deed prevent,

His carcass shall a thousand birds content.

XCIII

“I hence to yonder tower, which distant nigh

Three leagues, o’erlooks a little copse, repair,

But with one varlet in my company,

And with one waiting-maid; if any dare

Rescue the thief, let him come thither; I

Wait the approach of his defenders there.”

Thus she; and thither quickly wends her ways

Whither was said, nor any answer stays.

XCIV

Held on the pommel grappled by his hair,

Brunello on Marphisa’s courser lies:

The caitiff weeps, and shrieking in despair,

On all in whom he hopes, for succour cries.

In such confusion is Troyano’s heir,

He sees no way through these perplexities;

And, that Marphisa thence Brunello bore

In such a guise, yet grieved the monarch more.

XCV

Not that he loved the losel or esteemed,

Rather to him some time had borne despite;

And often had to hand the caitiff schemed,

Since he had forfeited the ring of might.

But here his honour touched the monarch deemed,

So that his visage reddened at the slight:

He would, in person, follow her at speed,

And to his utmost power avenge the deed.

XCVI

But the wise king, Sobrino, who was by,

Him from the quest endeavoured to dissuade,

And that with his exalted majesty

Such enterprize were ill assorted said:

Although firm hope, nay full security,

He had to overcome that martial maid,

If he with pain subdued a woman, shame,

Rather than honour, would pursue his name.

XCVII

Small profit and much peril would succeed

From any fight he should with her maintain,

(And he advised him) as the better deed,

To leave that wretched caitiff to his pain;

And albeit but a simple nod should need

To free him, from that nod he should refrain.

In that the monarch would do ill to force

Even-handed Justice from her destined course.

XCVIII

“Thou to the fierce Marphisa may’st apply

To leave his trial (he pursued) to thee,

With promise, her in this to satisfy

And to suspend him from the gallows-tree:

And even should the maid thy prayer deny,

Let her in every wish contented be:

And rather than that she desert thy side,

Let her hang him and every thief beside.”

XCIX

Right willingly King Agramant gave way

To King Sobrino’s counsel sage and staid;

And let renowned Marphisa wend her way,

Nor scathed he, nor let scathe, that martial maid,

Neither endured that any her should pray;

And heaven knows with what courage he obeyed

That wise advice, to calm such ruder strife

And quarrel, as throughout his camp were rife.

C

At this mad Discord laughed, no more in fear

That any truce or treaty should ensue;

And scowered the place of combat there and here,

Nor could stand still, for pleasure at the view.

Pride gamboled and rejoiced with her compeer,

And on the fire fresh food and fuel threw,

And shouted so that Michael in the sky

Knew the glad sign of conquest in that cry.

CI

Paris-town rocked, and turbid ran the flood

Of Seine at that loud voice, that horrid roar;

And, so it echo rang in Arden’s wood,

Beasts left their caverns in that forest hoar.

Alp and Cevenne’s mountain-solitude,

And Blois, and Arles, and Rouen’s distant shore,

Rhine, Rhone, and Saone, and Garonne, heard the pest;

Scared mothers hugged their children to their breast.

CII

Five have set up their rest, resolved to be

The first their different quarrels to conclude:

And tangled so is one with other plea,

That ill Apollo’s self could judge the feud.

To unravel that first cause of enmity

The king began — the strife which had ensued,

Because of beauteous Doralice, between

The king of Scythia and her Algerine.

CIII

King Agramant oft moved, between the pair,

Now here now there, to bring them to accord;

Now there now here, admonishing that pair,

Like faithful brother and like righteous lord:

But when he found that neither would forbear,

Deaf and rebellious to his royal word,

Nor would consent that lady to forego,

The cause of strife, in favour of his foe,

CIV

As his best lore, at length the monarch said,

And to obey his sentence both were fain;

That he who was by her preferred, should wed

The beauteous daughter of King Stordilane:

And that what was established on his head

Should not be changed, to either’s loss or gain.

The compromise was liked on either side,

Since either hoped she would for him decide.

CV

The mighty king of Sarza, who long space

Before the Tartar, had loved Doralice,

(Who had preferred that sovereign to such grace

As modest lady may, nor do amiss)

Believed, when she past sentence on the case,

She must pronounce what would ensure his bliss.

Nor thus alone King Rodomont conceived,

But all the Moorish host with him believed.

CVI

All know what exploits wrought by him had been

For her in joust and war; they all unsound

And weak King Mandricardo’s judgment ween;

But he, who oft was with her on their round,

And oftener private with the youthful queen,

What time the tell-tale sun was under ground,

He, knowing well how sure he was to speed,

Laughed at the silly rabble’s idle creed.

CVII

They, after, ratify the king’s award,

Between his hands, and next the suitors twain

Before that damsel go, that on the sward

Fixing her downcast eyes, in modest vein,

Avows her preference of the Tartar lord;

At which sore wondering stand the paynim train;

And Rodomont remains so sore astound,

He cannot raise his visage from the ground.

CVIII

But wonted anger chasing shame which dyed

The Sarzan’s face all over, he arraigned

The damsel’s sentence, of the faulchion, tied

About his manly waist, the handle strained,

And in the king’s and others’ hearing cried:

“By this the question shall be lost or gained;

And not by faithless woman’s fickle thought,

Which thither still inclines, where least it ought.”

CIX

Kind Mandricardo on his feet once more,

Exclaims, “And be it as it pleases thee.”

So that ere yet the vessel made the shore

Unploughed remained a mighty space of sea;

But that this king reproved the Sarzan sore,

Ruling that to appeal upon that plea

No more with Mandricardo could avail,

And made the moody Sarzan strike his sail.

CX

Branded with double scorn, before those peers,

By noble Agramant, whose sovereign sway

He, as in loyal duty bound, reveres,

And by his lady on the selfsame day,

There will no more the monarch of Algiers

Abide, but of his band — a large array —

Two serjeants only for his service takes,

And with that pair the paynim camp forsakes.

CXI

As the afflicted bull who has foregone

His heifer, nor can longer warfare wage,

Seeks out the greenwood-holt and stream most lone,

Or sands at distance from his pasturage;

There ceases not, in sun or shade to moan;

Yet not for that exhales his amorous rage:

So parts, constrained his lady to forego,

The king of Argier, overwhelmed with woe.

CXII

Rogero moved, his courser to regain,

And had already donned his warlike gear,

Then recollecting, that on listed plain

At Mandricardo he must couch the spear,

Followed not Rodomont, but turned his rein,

To end his quarrel with the Tartar, ere

He met in combat Sericana’s lord

Within close barriers, for Orlando’s sword.

CXIII

To have Frontino ravished in his sight,

And be unable to forbid the deed,

He sorely grieves; but, when he shall that fight

Have done, resolves he will regain the steed;

But Sacripant, whom, like the youthful knight,

No quarrels in the Moor’s pursuit impede,

And who was unengaged in other quest,

Upon the Sarzan’s footsteps quickly prest;

CXIV

And would have quickly joined him that was gone,

But for the chance of an adventure rare;

Which him detained until the day was done,

And made him lose the track of Ulien’s heir:

A woman who had fallen into the Saone,

And who without his help had perished there,

The warrior drowning in that water found,

And stemmed the stream and dragged the dame aground.

CXV

When afterwards he would remount the sell,

From him his restless charger broke astray,

Who fled before his lord till evening fell,

Nor lightly did the king that courser stay.

At last he caught him; but no more could spell

Where he had wandered from the beaten way:

Two hundred miles he roved, ‘twist hill and plain,

Ere he came up with Rodomont again.

CXVI

How he by Sacripant was overtaken,

And fought by him, to his discomfit sore,

And how he lost his courser, how was taken,

I say not now, who have to say before,

With what disdain and with what anger shaken,

Against his liege and love, the Sarzan Moor

Forth from the Saracen cantonments sped,

And what he of the one and other said.

CXVII

Wherever that afflicted paynim goes,

He fills the kindling air with sighs that burn;

And Echo oft, for pity of his woes,

With him from hollow rock is heard to mourn:

“O female mind! how lightly ebbs and flows

Your fickle mood,” (he cries,) “aye prone to turn!

Object most opposite to kindly faith!

Lost, wretched man, who trusts you to his scathe!

CXVIII

“Neither my love nor length of servitude,

Though by a thousand proofs to you made clear,

Had power even so to fix your faithless mood,

That you at least so lightly should not veer:

Nor am I quitted, because less endued

With worth than Mandricardo I appear;

Nor for your conduct cause can I declare,

Save this alone, that you a woman are.

CXIX

“I think that nature and an angry God

Produced thee to the world, thou wicked sex,

To be to man a plague, a chastening rod;

Happy, wert thou not present to perplex.

So serpent creeps along the grassy sod;

So bear and ravening wolf the forest vex;

Wasp, fly, and gad-fly buzz in liquid air,

And the rich grain lies tangled with the tare.

CXX

“Why has not bounteous Nature willed that man

Should be produced without the aid of thee,

As we the pippin, pear, and service can

Engraft by art on one another’s tree?

But she directs not all by certain plan;

Rather, upon a nearer view, I see,

In naming her, she ill can act aright,

Since Nature is herself a female hight.

CXXI

“Yet be not therefore proud and full of scorn

Women, because man issues from your seed;

For roses also blossom on the thorn,

And the fair lily springs from loathsome weed.

Despiteous, proud, importunate, and lorn

Of love, of faith, of counsel, rash in deed,

With that, ungrateful, cruel and perverse,

And born to be the world’s eternal curse!”

CXXII

These plaints and countless others to the wind

Poured forth the paynim knight, to fury stirred;

Now easing in low tone his troubled mind,

And now in sounds which were at distance heard,

In shame and in reproach of womankind;

Yet certes he from sober reason erred:

For we may deem a hundred good abound,

Where one or two perchance are evil found.

CXXIII

Though none for whom I hitherto have sighed

— Of those so many — have kept faith with me,

All with ingratitude, or falsehood dyed

I deem not, I accuse my destiny.

Many there are, and have been more beside

Unmeriting reproach: but if there be,

‘Mid hundreds, one or two of evil way,

My fortune wills that I should be their prey.

CXXIV

Yet will I make such search before I die,

Rather before my hair shall wax more white,

That haply on some future day, even I

Shall say, “That one has kept her promise plight.”

And should not the event my trust belie,

(Nor am I hopeless) I with all my might

Will with unwearied pain her praise rehearse

With pen and ink and voice, in prose and verse.

CXXV

The Saracen, whom rage no less profound

Against his sovereign lord than lady swayed,

And who of reason thus o’erpast the bound,

And ill of one and of the other said,

Would fain behold that monarch’s kingdom drowned

With such a tempest, with such scathe o’erlaid,

As should in Africk every house aggrieve,

Nor one stone standing on another leave.

CXXVI

And would that from his realm, in want and woe,

King Agramant a mendicant should wend;

That through his means the monarch, brought thus low,

His fathers’ ancient seat might reascend:

And thus he might the fruit of fealty show,

And make his sovereign see, a real friend

Was aye to be preferred in wrong or right,

Although the world against him should unite;

CXXVII

And thus the Saracen pours forth his moan,

With rage against his liege and love possest;

And on his way is by long journeys gone,

Giving himself and courser little rest.

The following day or next, upon the Saone

He finds himself, who has his course addrest

Towards the coast of Provence, with design

To his African domain to cross the brine.

CXXVIII

From bank to bank the stream was covered o’er

With boat of little burden, which conveyed,

For the supply of the invading Moor,

Victual, from many places round purveyed:

Since even from Paris to the pleasant shore

Of Acquamorta, all his rule obeyed;

And — fronting Spain — whate’er of level land

Was seen, extending on the better hand.

CXXIX

The victual, disembarked from loaded barge,

Was laid on sumpter-horse or ready wain;

And sent, with escort to protect the charge,

Where barges could not come; about the plain,

Fat herds were feeding on the double marge,

Brought thither from the march of either reign;

And, by the river-side, at close of day,

In different homesteads lodged, the drovers lay.

CXXX

The king of Argier (for the dusky air

Of night began upon the world to close)

Here listened to a village-landlord’s prayer,

That in his inn besought him to repose.

— His courser stalled — the board with plenteous fare

Is heaped, and Corsic wine and Grecian flows;

For, in all else a Moor, the Sarzan drank

Of the forbidden vintage like a Frank.

CXXXI

To warlike Rodomont, with goodly cheer

And kindlier mien, the landlord honour paid;

For he the port of an illustrious peer

In his guest’s lofty presence saw pourtrayed.

But, sore beside himself, the cavalier

Had scarce his heart within him, which had strayed

To her — whilere his own — in his despite;

Nor word escaped the melancholy knight.

CXXXII

Mine host, most diligent in his vocation

Of all the trade who throughout France were known,

(In that he had, ‘mid strange and hostile nation,

And every chance of warfare, kept his own)

— Prompt to assist him in his occupation,

Some of his kin had called; whereof was none

Who dared before the warrior speak of aught,

Seeing that paynim mute and lost in thought.

CXXXIII

From thought to thought the Sarzan’s fancy flies,

Himself removed from thence a mighty space,

Who sits so bent, and with such downcast eyes,

He never once looks any in the face.

Next, after silence long, and many sighs,

As if deep slumber had but then given place,

His spirits he recalls, his eyelids raises,

And on the family and landlord gazes.

CXXXIV

Then silence broke, and with a milder air,

And visage somewhat less disturbed, applied

To him, the host, and those by-standers there,

To know if any to a wife were tied;

And landlord and attendants, — that all were,

To Sarza’s moody cavalier replied:

He asked what each conceited of his spouse,

And if he deemed her faithful to her vows.

CXXXV

Except mine host, those others were agreed

That chaste and good their consorts they believed.

— “Think each man as he will, but well I read,”

(The landlord said,) “You fondly are deceived:

Your rash replies to one conclusion lead,

That you are all of common sense bereaved;

And so too must believe this noble knight,

Unless he would persuade us black is white.

CXXXVI

“Because, as single is that precious bird

The phoenix, and on earth there is but one,

So, in this ample world, it is averred,

One only can a woman’s treason shun.

Each hopes alike to be that wight preferred,

The victor who that single palm has won.

— How is it possible that what can fall

To one alone, should be the lot of all?

CXXXVII

“Erewhile I made the same mistake as you,

And that more dames than one were virtuous thought,

Until a gentleman of Venice, who,

For my good fortune, to this inn was brought,

My ignorance by his examples true

So ably schooled, he better wisdom taught.

Valerio was the name that stranger bore;

A name I shall remember evermore.

CXXXVIII

“Of wives and mistresses the treachery

Was known to him, with all their cunning lore.

He, both from old and modern history,

And from his own, was ready with such store,

As plainly showed that none to modesty

Could make pretension, whether rich or poor;

And that, if one appeared of purer strain,

’Twas that she better hid her wanton vein.

CXXXIX

“He of his many tales, among the rest,

(Whereof a third is from my memory gone)

So well one story in my head imprest,

It could not be more firmly graved in stone:

And what I thought and think, would be professed

For that ill sex, I ween by every one

Who heard; and, Sir — if pleased to lend an ear —

To their confusion yon that tale shall hear.”

CXL

“What could’st thou offer which could better please

At present” (made reply the paynim knight)

“Than sample, chosen from thine histories,

Which hits the opinion that I hold, aright?

That I may hear thee speak with better ease

Sit so, that I may have thee in my sight.”

But in the following canto I unfold

What to King Rodomont the landlord told.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au//data/web/ebooks/canto27.html

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