Orlando Furioso, by Lodovico Ariosto

Canto 28

Argument

To whatsoever evil tongue can tell

Of womankind King Rodomont gives ear;

Then journeys homeward; but that infidel

Finds by the way a place he holds more dear.

Here him new love inflames for Isabel;

But so the wishes of the cavalier

A friar impedes, who with that damsel wends,

Him by a cruel death the felon ends.

I

Ladies, and all of you that ladies prize,

Afford not, for the love of heaven, an ear

To this, the landlord’s tale, replete with lies,

In shame and scorn of womankind; though ne’er

Was praise or fame conveyed in that which flies

From such a caitiff’s tongue; and still we hear

The sottish rabble all things rashly brand,

And question most what least they understand.

II

Omit this canto, and — the tale untold —

My story will as clear and perfect be;

I tell it, since by Turpin it is told,

And not in malice or in rivalry:

Besides, that never did my tongue withhold

Your praises, how you are beloved by me

To you I by a thousand proofs have shown,

Vouching I am, and can but be, your own.

III

Let him who will, three leaves or four pass-by,

Nor read a line; or let him, who will read,

As little of that landlord’s history,

As of a tale or fiction, make his creed.

But to my story:— When his auditory

He saw were waiting for him to proceed,

And that a place was yielded him, o’eright

The cavalier, he ‘gan his tale recite:

IV

“Astolpho that the Lombard sceptre swayed,

Who was King Monacho, his brother’s heir,

By nature with such graces was purveyed,

Few e’er with him in beauty could compare:

Such scarce Apelles’ pencil had pourtrayed,

Zeuxis’, or worthier yet, if worthier were:

Beauteous he was, and so by all was deemed,

But far more beauteous he himself esteemed.

V

“He not so much rejoiced that he in height

Of grandeur was exalted o’er the rest,

And that, for riches, subjects, and for might,

Of all the neighbouring kings he was the best,

As that, superior to each other wight,

He beauty was throughout the world confest.

This pleased the monarch, who the praise conferred,

As that wherein he most delighted, heard.

VI

“Faustus Latinus, one of his array,

Who pleased the king, a Roman cavalier,

Hearing ofttimes Astolpho now display

The beauties of his hand, now of his cheer,

And, questioned by that monarch, on a day,

If ever in his lifetime, far or near,

He any of such beauty had espied,

To him thus unexpectedly replied:

VII

“Faustus to him replied: ‘By what I see,

And what I hear, is said by every one,

Few are there that in beauty rival thee;

And rather I those few confine to one:

Jocundo is that one, my brother he;

And well I ween that, saving him alone,

Thou leavest all in beauty far behind;

But I in him thy peer and better find.’

VIII

“Impossible Astolpho deemed the thing,

Who hitherto had thought the palm his own;

And such a longing seized the Lombard king

To know that youth whose praises so were blown,

He prest, till Faustus promised him to bring

The brother praised by him, before his throne,

Though ‘twould be much if thither he repaired,

(The courier added) and the cause declared:

IX

“Because the youth had ne’er been known to measure,

In all his life, a single pace from Rome;

But, on what Fortune gave him, lived at leisure,

Contented in his own paternal dome;

Nor had diminished nor encreased the treasure,

Wherewith his father had endowed that home;

And he more distant would Paris deem

Than Tanais another would esteem;

X

“And that a greater difficulty were

To tear Jocundo from his consort; who

Was by such love united to that fair,

No other will but hers the husband knew:

Yet at his sovereign’s hest he would repair

To seek the stripling, and his utmost do.

The suit with offers and with gifts was crowned,

Which for that youth’s refusal left no ground.

XI

“Faustus set forth, and, after few days’ ride,

Reached Rome, and his paternal mansion gained:

There with entreaties so the brother plied,

He to that journey his consent obtained;

And wrought so well (though difficult to guide)

Silent even young Jocundo’s wife remained;

He showing her what good would thence ensue,

Besides what gratitude would be her due.

XII

“Jocundo names a time to wend his way,

And servingmen meanwhile purveys and steeds;

And a provision makes of fair array;

For beauty borrows grace from glorious weeds.

Beside him or about him, night and day,

Aye weeping, to her lord the lady reads;

She knows not how she ever can sustain

So long an absence, and not die with pain.

XIII

“For the mere thought produced such misery,

It seemed from her was ravished her heart’s core.

— ‘Alas! my love (Jocundo cried) let be

Thy sorrows’ — weeping with her evermore —

‘So may this journey prosper! as to thee

Will I return ere yet two months are o’er;

Nor by a day o’erpass the term prescribed,

Though me the king with half his kingdom bribed.’

XIV

“This brought his troubled consort small content:

She that the period was too distant said,

And that ‘twould be a mighty wonderment,

If her, at his return, he found not dead.

The grief which, day and night, her bosom rent,

Was such, that lady neither slept nor fed:

So that for pity oft the youth repented

He to his brother’s wishes had consented.

XV

“She from her neck unloosed a costly chain

That a gemmed cross and holy reliques bore;

Which one, a pilgrim of Bohemia’s reign,

Had gathered upon many a distant shore;

Him did her sire in sickness entertain,

Returning from Jerusalem of yore;

And hence was made that dying pilgrim’s heir:

This she undoes, and gives her lord to wear;

XVI

“And round his neck entreats him, for her sake,

That chain in memory of herself to wind:

Her gift the husband is well pleased to take;

Not that a token needs his love to bind:

For neither time, nor absence, e’er will shake,

Nor whatsoever fortune is behind,

Her memory, which, rooted fast and deep,

He still has kept, and after death will keep.

XVII

“The night before that morning streaked the sky,

Fixt for his journey, to his sore dismay,

Her husband deemed that in his arms would die

The wife from whom he was to wend his way.

She slumbered not: to her a last goodbye

He bade, while yet it lacked an hour of day,

Mounted his nag, and on his journey sped;

While his afflicted spouse returned to bed.

XVIII

“Jocundo was not two miles on his road,

When he that jewelled cross recalled to mind;

Which he beneath his pillow had bestowed,

And, through forgetfulness, had left behind.

‘Alas! (the youth bethought him) in what mode

Shall I excuse for my omission find,

So that from this my consort shall not deem

I little her unbounded love esteem?

XIX

“He pondered an excuse; then weened’ twould be

Of little value, if it were exprest

By page or other — save his embassy

He did himself; his brother he addrest;

‘ — Now to Baccano ride you leisurely,

And there at the first inn set-up your rest;

For I must back to Rome without delay;

But trust to overtake you by the way.

XX

“ ‘No other but myself my need could do.

Doubt not but I shall speedily be back.’

— No servant took he, but, with an adieu,

Jocundo, at a trot, wheeled round his hack,

And when that cavalier the stream was through,

The rising sun ‘gan chase the dusky rack.

At home he lighted, sought his bed, and found

The consort he had quitted sleeping sound.

XXI

“He, without saying aught, the curtains drew,

And, what he least believed, within espied;

For he beneath the quilt, his consort true

And chaste, saw sleeping at a stripling’s side.

Forthwith Jocundo that adulterer knew,

By practice, of his features certified,

In that he was a footboy in his train,

Nourished by him, and come of humble strain.

XXII

“To imagine his distress and wonderment,

And warrant it, that other may believe,

Is better than to make the experiment,

And, like this wretch, the cruel proof receive:

By anger stirred, it was his first intent

To draw his sword, and both of life bereave;

But love, which spite himself, he entertained

For that ungrateful woman, him restrained.

XXIII

“You see if like a vassal he obeyed

This ribald Love, who left him not the force

To wake her, lest to know her guilt surveyed,

Should in his consort’s bosom move remorse.

As best he could, he forth in silence made,

The stair descended, and regained his horse.

Goaded by Love, he goads his steed again,

And ere they reach their inn rejoins his train.

XXIV

“His change of mien to all was manifest;

All saw his heart was heavy; yet not one,

Mid these, in any sort, the reason guessed,

Nor read the secret woe which caused his moan;

All thought he had to Rome his steps addrest,

Woe to the town, surnamed of horns, had gone.

That Love has caused the mischief all surmise,

Though none of them conjectures in what wise.

XXV

“His brother weened he was in grief immersed

For his deserted wife: he, on his side,

For other reason, inly chafed and cursed,

— That she was but too well accompanied.

Meanwhile, with swelling lips and forehead pursed,

The ground that melancholy stripling eyed.

Faustus, who vainly would apply relief,

Ill cheered him, witless what had caused his grief.

XXVI

“He for his sore an evil salve had found,

And, where he should retire, encreased his woes;

Who, with the mention of his wife, that wound

Inflamed and opened, which he sought to close.

He rests not night nor day, in sorrow drowned;

His appetite is gone, with his repose,

Ne’er to return; and (whilom of such fame)

His lovely visage seems no more the same.

XXVII

“His eye-balls seem deep-buried in his head,

His nose seems grown — his cheeks are pined so sore —

Nor even remains (his beauty so is fled)

Enough to warrant what he was before.

Such fever burns him, of his sorrow bred,

He halts on Arbia’s and on Arno’s shore;

And, if a charm is left, ’tis faded soon,

And withered like a rose-bud plucked at noon.

XXVIII

“Besides that Faustus sorrowed to descry

Him so bested; worse cause for sorrowing

Was to that courtier to appear to lie

Before Astolpho; he was pledged to bring

One that was fairest deemed in every eye,

Who must appear the foulest to that king;

Yet he continued on his way to wend,

And brought him to Pavia in the end.

XXIX

“Not that forthwith he lets the youth be seen,

Lest him the king of little wit arraign;

He first by his dispatches lets him ween,

That thither he Jocundo brings with pain:

Saying, that of his beauteous air and mien

Some secret cause of grief had been the bane,

Accompanied by a distemper sore:

So that he seemed not what he was before.

XXX

“Glad was the monarch, of his coming taught,

As of a friend’s arrival he could be;

Since in the universal world was nought,

That he so much desired as him to see:

Nor was the Lombard’s king displeased in ought

To mark his guest’s inferiority;

Though, but for his misfortune, it was clear,

He his superior would have been or peer.

XXXI

“Lodged by him in his palace, every day

And every hour, the stranger youth he sees,

Studious to honour him, and bids purvey

Store of provision for his better ease.

While still his thoughts to his ill consort stray,

Jocundo languishes; nor pastimes please

That melancholy man; nor music’s strain

One jot diminishes his ceaseless pain.

XXXII

“Above his chambers, on the upper floor,

Nearest the roof, there was an ancient hall:

Thither, in solitary mood, (for sore

Pastime and company, the stripling gall,)

He aye betakes himself; while evermore

Sad thoughts some newer cause of grief recall.

He here (who would believe the story?) found

A remedy unhoped, which made him sound.

XXXIII

“At that hall’s farther end, more feebly lighted,

(For windows ever closed shut out the day)

Where one wall with another ill united,

He, through the chink, beheld a brighter ray:

There laid his eye, and saw, what he had slighted

As hard to credit, were it but hearsay:

He hears it not, but this himself descries;

Yet hardly can believe his very eyes.

XXXIV

“He of the Queen’s apartment here was sight,

Her choicest and her priviest chamber, where

Was never introduced whatever wight,

Save he most faithful was esteemed: he there,

As he was peeping, saw an uncouth fight;

A dwarf was wrestling with the royal fair;

And such that champion’s skill, though undergrown,

He in the strife his opposite had thrown.

XXXV

“As in a dream, Jocundo stood, beside

Himself, awhile of sober sense bereaved;

Nor, but when of the matter certified,

And sure it was no dream, his sight believed.

— ‘A scorned and crooked monster,’ (then he cried,)

‘Is, as her conqueror, by a dame received,

Wife of the comeliest, of the curtiest wight,

And greatest monarch; Oh! what appetite!’

XXXVI

“And he the consort to whom he was wed,

Her he most used to blame, recalled to mind,

And, for the stripling taken to her bed,

To deem the dame less culpable inclined:

Less of herself than sex the fault he read,

Which to one man could never be confined:

And thought, if in one taint all women shared,

At least his had not with a monster paired.

XXXVII

“To the same place Jocundo made return,

At the same hour, upon the following day;

And, putting on the king the self-same scorn,

Again beheld that dwarf and dame at play:

And so upon the next and following morn;

For — to conclude — they made no holiday:

While she (what most Jocundo’s wonder moved)

The pigmy for his little love reproved.

XXXVIII

“One day, amid the rest, the youth surveyed

The dame disordered and opprest with gloom;

Having twice summoned, by her waiting-maid,

The favoured dwarf, who yet delayed to come;

A third time by the lady sent, she said:

— ‘Engaged at play, Madonna, is the groom,

Nor, lest he lose a doit, his paltry stake,

Will that discourteous churl his game forsake.’

c28-038

XXXIX

“At such strange spectacle, the Roman knight

Cleared up his brow, his visage and his eyes;

He jocund, as in name, became in sprite,

And changed his tears for smiles; with altered guise,

He waxed ruddy, gay, and plump in plight,

And seems a cherubim of Paradise.

So that such change with wonderment all see,

Brother and king, and royal family.

XL

“If from the youth Astolpho wished to know

From whence this sudden light of comfort came,

No less Jocundo this desired to show,

And to the king such injury proclaim:

But willed that like himself he should forego

Revenge upon the author of that shame.

Hence, that he might discern her guilt, yet spare,

He made him on the Agnus Dei swear.

XLI

“He made him swear that he, for nothing said,

Or seen, which might to him displeasing be,

(Though he, in what he should discover, read

An outrage offered to his majesty,)

Would, now or ever, venge him on his head:

Moreover him he bound to secrecy;

That the ill doer ne’er, through deed or word,

Might guess his injured king that case had heard.

XLII

“The monarch, who to every thing beside

Could better have given credit, freely swore:

To him the cause Jocundo signified,

Why he had many days lamenting sore;

— Because he had his evil wife espied

In the embraces of a serjeant poor;

And vowed he should in fine have died of grief,

If he for longer time had lacked relief.

XLIII

“But that within his highness’ palace said,

He had witnessed what had much appeased his woe;

For, if foul shame had fallen upon his head,

At least he was not single; saying so,

He to that chink the Lombard monarch led,

Who spied the mannikin of hideous show.

(Lines 7 & 8 untranslated by Rose)

XLIV

“You may believe he shameless deemed that act,

Without my swearing it; he, at the sight,

It seemed, would go distraught, — with fury racked,

He against every wall his head would smite —

Would cry aloud — would break the solemn pact,

Yet kept parforce the promise he had plight;

And gulped his anger down and bitter scorn;

Since on the holy water he had sworn.

XLV

“Then to Jocundo: ‘What remains to me

To do in this misfortune, brother, speak;

Since vengeance with more noted cruelty

Thou wilt not let me on the sinners wreak.’

(Jocundo answered) ‘Let these ingrates be;

And try we if all women are as weak;

And if the wives of others can be won

To do what others by our own have done.

XLVI

“ ‘Both fair and youthful, measured by this scale,

Nor easily our equals shall we find;

What woman but to us shall strike her sail,

If even to the ugly these are kind?

At least, if neither youth nor grace avail,

The money may, with which our bags are lined;

Nor will I that we homeward more return,

Ere the chief spoils we from a thousand earn.

XLVII

“ ‘Long absence, seeing with a distant part,

Converse with different women, oft allay,

As it would seem, the troubles of a heart,

Whereof Love’s angry passions make their prey.’

The king is pleased to hear the youth impart

This counsel, nor his journey will delay:

Thence on their road, with but two squires beside,

He and the Roman knight together ride.

XLVIII

“Disguised they go through France and Italy,

They Flanders next and England scower, and where

A woman they of lovely visage spy,

Aye find the dame complaint with their prayer.

They upon some bestow what others buy,

And oft replaced their squandered treasures are.

Our travellers to the wives of many sued,

And by as many other dames were wooed.

XLIX

“By solid proof those comrades ascertain,

Here tarrying for a month, and there for two,

That their own wives are of no other vein

Than those of others, and as chast and true.

After some season, wearied are the twain

With ever running after something new:

For, without risk of death, thus evermore

The intruders ill could enter other’s door.

L

“— ’Twere best to find a girl whose natural bent

And face to both of us should pleasing be;

A girl, that us in common might content,

Nor we in her find cause for jealousy;

And wherefore wouldst thou that I should lament

More than with other, to go halves with thee?’

(Exclaimed Astolpho) ‘well I know is none,

Of all the female sex, content with one.

LI

“ ‘One damsel that in nought shall us constrain,

— Then only, when disposed to please the fair —

Will we in peace and pleasure entertain,

Nor we, about her, have dispute or care.

Nor, deem I, she with reason could complain:

For if two fell to every other’s share,

Better than one might she keep faith with two;

Nor haply we such frequent discord view.’

LII

“Much seems the king’s proposal to content

The Roman youth; and thus it is, the twain,

To execute Astolpho’s project bent,

Journey by many a hill and many a plain;

And find at last, well fitting their intent,

The daughter of a publican of Spain,

Of presence and of manners framed to win;

Whose father at Valencia kept his inn.

LIII

As yet, upon the bloom of spring, the maid

Was a fresh flower that scarce began to blow:

Her sire with many children was o’erlaid,

And was to poverty a mortal foe.

Hence ’tis an easy matter to persuade

Mine host his buxom daughter to forego,

And let them, where they will the damsel bear;

In that to treat her well the travellers swear.

LIV

(Lines 1-6 untranslated by Rose)

They to Zattiva come upon the day

That from Valencia they had bent their way.

LV

“The travellers from their inn to street and square

And places, public and divine, resort;

Who, wheresoever they had made repair,

Themselves were so accustomed to disport,

The girl is with the valets left in care,

Who make the beds, and wearied hackneys sort:

While others in the hostel-kitchen dight

The meal against their lords’ return at night.

LVI

“As groom, a stripling in the hostel plied,

Who in the other landlord’s house had been:

He, from her childhood at the damsel’s side,

Had joyed her love: they, without change of mien,

On meeting, closely one another eyed,

Since either apprehended to be seen:

But when alone — now left together — raised

Their eyelids and on one another gazed.

LVII

“The stripling asked her whitherward they sped,

And of the two which claimed her as his right;

This, point by point, to him Flammetta read;

Flammetta she, the Greek that boy was hight.

‘ — When I had hoped the time was coming,’ said

The Greek — ‘that I should live with thee, my light,

Flammetta, thou, alas! art lost to me,

Nor know I if I more thy face shall see.

LVIII

“ ‘I to the bitter dregs the cup must drain

Of promised sweets; since thou art others’ prey.

’Twas my design, having with mickle pain

And labour sore, some money put away,

Which I had hoarded out of frequent gain

From parting guests, and from my yearly pay,

To seek again Valencia, and demand

Thee from thy sire in lawful wedlock’s band.

LIX

“The damsel shrugs her shoulders, and complains;

And — that he is too late — is her reply.

The Greek laments and sobs, and partly feigns:

‘ — Wilt thou (he answered her) thus let me die?

Let me, at least, exhale my amorous pains!

Let me, but once, in thine embrace lie!

For every moment in thy presence spent,

Ere thou depart, will make me die content.’

LX

“To him the damsel, full of pity, cries:

‘Believe, I covet this no less than thee;

But here, surrounded by so many eyes,

Is neither time nor opportunity.’

‘ — I feel assured’ (to her that youth replied)

‘Were I beloved by you, as you by me,

This very night you would find out a place

Wherein to solace us some little space.’

LXI

(Stanza LXI untranslated by Rose)

LXII

“She bade him come — when she awhile had thought —

When he believed that all asleep were laid;

And how by him her chamber should be sought,

And how he should return, at full, displaid.

The cautious stripling did as he was taught,

And, when he found all silent, thither made:

He pushed, till it gave way, the chamber-door,

And, upon tiptoes, softly paced the floor.

LXIII— LXX

(Stanzas LXIII— LXX untranslated by Rose)

LXXI

“Gazing on one another, with surprise,

The monarch and Jocundo are confused;

Nor even to have heard a case surmise

Of two, that ever thus had been abused:

Then laughed so, that they sate with winking eyes,

And open mouth, and lungs which breath refused;

And, wearied with the mirth her tale had bred,

Fell backwards, both, exhausted on the bed.

LXXII

“When they had laughed so loud a laugh, the dew

Stood in their eyes, and each with aching breast

Remained, the pair exclaimed: ‘What shall we do

In order not to be a woman’s jest?

Since we, with all our heed, between us two,

Could not preserve the one by us possest,

A husband, furnished with more eyes than hair,

Perforce must be betrayed with all his care.

LXXIII

“ ‘A thousand, beauteous all, have we found kind,

Nor one of those so many has stood fast.

If tried, all women we by proof should find

Like these; but be the experiment our last.

Then we may deem our own not worse inclined

Than are the wives of others, and as chaste:

And, if like others we our own discern,

I hold it best that we to them return.’

LXXIV

“When they have come to this resolve, they, through

Flammetta, call the youth into their bower;

And with the girl her leman, in the view

Of many, gift, and add a fitting dower.

They mount, and to the east their way pursue,

Accustomed westward hitherto to scower;

To their deserted wives again repair,

Nor of their after deeds take farther care.”

LXXV

Here paused mine host; to whom on every side

His audience had with careful heed attended.

Rodomont listened, nor a word replied,

Until the landlord’s story was suspended.

Then — “Fully I believe,” that paynim cried,

“The tale of women’s frauds would ne’er be ended;

Nor could that man in any volume note

The thousandth part, who would their treasons quote.”

LXXVI

Of sounder judgement, ‘mid that company,

There was an elder, one more wise and bold;

That undefended so the sex to see,

Was inly wroth, and could no longer hold:

To the relater of that history

He turned; and, “Many things we have been told”

(Exclaimed that ancient) “wherein truth is none,

And of such matters is thy fable one.

LXXVII

“Him I believe not, that told this truth to you,

Though in all else he gospel-truths exprest;

As less by his experience, than untrue

Conceit respecting women prepossest.

The malice which he bears to one or two,

Makes him unjustly hate and blame the rest.

But you shall hear him, if his wrath o’erblow,

Yet greater praise than blame on these bestow.

LXXVIII

“And he a larger field for speaking well

Will find, than blaming womankind withal;

And of a hundred worthy fame may tell,

For one whose evil deeds for censure call.

He should exalt the many that excel,

Culled from the multitude, not rail at all,

If otherwise your friend Valerio said,

He was by wrath, and not by reason, led.

LXXIX— LXXXIII

(Stanzas LXXIX— LXXXIII untranslated by Rose)

LXXXIV

So reasoning, that just elder and sincere,

With ready instances, supports his creed;

Showing there many women are who ne’er

Sinned against chastity, in word or deed:

But him with impious visage and severe

The paynim scared, ill pleased the truth to read.

So that, through fear, he further speech forbore,

But changed not therefore aught his former lore.

LXXXV

Having stopt further question in this wise,

The paynim monarch from the table rose:

Then lays him on his bed, till from the skies

The dusky shades depart, and morning glows:

But spends a larger part of night in sighs

At his liege-lady’s sin, than in repose.

Rodomont thence departs at dawn of day,

Resolved by water to pursue his way.

LXXXVI

For with such care for his good horse’s plight,

As is becoming a good cavalier,

The courser fair and good, made his in spite

Of young Rogero and Circassia’s peer;

Seeing he, for two days, that horse’s might

Had taxed too hardly in his long career,

— As well he for his ease embarked the steed,

As to pursue his way with better speed.

LXXXVII

He straight makes launch the vessel from the marge,

And bids put forth the oars from either side:

Nor big nor deeply laden, she, at large,

Descends the Saone, transported by the tide.

Care never quits him, though the shifting barge

The king ascend, or nimble horse bestride:

This he encounters aye on prow or poop,

And bears behind him on his courser’s croup;

LXXXVIII

Rather within his head or heart always

Care sits; whence every comfort is o’erthrown:

No remedy the wretched man surveys,

In that his enemies are in the town.

From others hope is none; since they who raise

This fearful war against him, are his own:

Vext by that cruel one, aye night and day,

Whom he might hope to find his natural stay.

LXXXIX

Rodomont navigates the day and night

Ensuing, aye by heavy thoughts opprest;

Nor can he ever banish the despite,

Suffered from King and Lady, from his breast.

The self-same grief sate heavy on his sprite

Aboard the bark, as when his steed he prest.

Such fire was not by water to be drowned,

Nor he his nature changed by changing ground.

XC

As the sick man who with a fever grows,

And, weak and weary, shifts his place in vain,

Whether he right or left himself bestows,

And hopes in turning some relief to gain,

Finds neither on this side nor that repose,

But everywhere encounters equal pain;

The pagan monarch so found small relief,

By land or water, for his secret grief.

XCI

Rodomont brooked no more aboard to stay,

But bade them land him, and by Lyons hied;

By Vienne and Valence next took his way,

And the rich bridge in Avignon descried.

For these and more, which ‘twixt the river lay

And Celtiberian hills upon that side,

(Theirs, from the day they conquered the champaigne)

Obeyed the kings of Afric and of Spain.

XCII

To pass to Afric straight, the cavalier

Kept to the right, towards Acquamorta’s shore,

And lighted on a stream and hamlet, dear

To Ceres and to Bacchus, which that Moor

Found quitted by the peasants, in their fear,

As often by the soldier harried sore.

The beach upon one side broad ocean laved,

And on the other yellow harvests waved.

XCIII

Here, newly built upon a hillock’s crest,

A little church the Saracen espied;

Abandoned by its priesthood, like the rest,

For war was flaming upon every side.

Rodomont of this place himself possest;

Which, from its site, as well as lying wide

Of fields, from whence he tidings loathed to hear,

So pleased him, he for it renounced Argier.

XCIV

He changed his scheme of seeking Afric’s land,

(So this fair spot seemed fit for his behoof!)

And here housed carriages, and steed, and band,

Together with himself, beneath one roof,

At few leagues’ distance, did Montpelier stand,

And other wealthy towns, not far aloof.

The village was upon a river’s side,

So that its every need might be supplied.

XCV

Here standing, full of thought, upon a day,

(Such was his common wont) the paynim spied,

Advancing by a narrow path, which lay

Through a green meadow, from the adverse side,

A lovely damsel, that upon her way

Was by a bearded monk accompanied;

And these behind them led a lusty steed,

Who bore a burden, trapt with sable weed.

XCVI

Who that attendant monk and damsel were,

And what that burden, will to you be clear,

Remembering Isabella is the fair,

Charged with the corse of her Zerbino dear:

I left her, where from Provence, in the care

Of that good sire, she bowned herself to steer,

By whom persuaded, had the lady given

The remnant of her virtuous life to heaven.

XCVII

Although in her pale face and troubled guise,

The sorrow of that dame is manifest,

Although two fountains are her streaming eyes,

And sobs aye issue from her burning breast,

And more beside of suffering testifies,

With what a load of grief she is opprest,

Yet, in her faded cheek such beauties meet,

Love and the Graces there might fix their seat.

XCVIII

As soon as he of Sarza saw appear

The beauteous dame, he laid the thought aside

Of hatred to that gentle race and dear,

By whom alone the world is glorified;

And best by Isabel the cavalier

Believed his former love would be supplied,

And one love by another be effaced,

As bolt by bolt in timber is displaced.

XCIX

Her with the kindest mien and mildest tone

That he could fashion, met the Sarzan knight;

To whom the dame her every thought made known;

And said, when she was questioned of her plight,

She would with holy works — this world forgone —

Seek favour in her Heavenly Father’s sight.

Loud laughed that godless paynim at the thought,

Who every faith and worship held at nought;

C

And said that she from reason wandered wide,

And termed her project sudden and unsound;

Nor deemed her less to blame than those who hide,

Through greediness, their treasure under ground,

And keep it from the use of all beside,

Though hence no profit to themselves redound.

Rightly were prisoned lion, snake, and bear,

But ill whate’er is innocent and fair.

CI

The monk, that to this talk has lent an ear,

Prompt with advice that mournful dame to stay,

And lest she quit her course, prepared to steer

His bark, like practised pilot, on her way,

A sumptuous table, rich in spiritual cheer,

Had speedily bestirred him to array;

But, born with evil taste, that paynim rude

No sooner tasted, than he loathed, the food.

CII

And having interrupted him in vain,

Nor having power to make him stint his lore,

That paynim, stirred to fury, broke the rein

Of patience, and assailed the preacher hoar.

But haply wearisome might seem the strain,

If I upon this theme dilated more:

So here I close, nor words will idly spend,

Admonished by that ancient’s evil end.

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