Orlando Furioso, by Lodovico Ariosto

Canto 37

Argument

Lament and outcry loud of some that mourn,

Attract Rogero and the damsels two.

They find Ulania, with her mantle shorn

By Marganor, amid her moaning crew.

Upon that felon knight, for his foul scorn,

A fierce revenge Marphisa takes: a new

Statute that maid does in the town obtain,

And Marganor is by Ulania slain.

I

If, as in seeking other gift to gain,

(For Nature, without study, yieldeth nought)

With mighty diligence, and mickle pain,

Illustrious women day and night have wrought;

And if with good success the female train

To a fair end no homely task have brought,

So — did they for such other studies wake —

As mortal attributes immortal make;

II

And, if they of themselves sufficient were

Their praises to posterity to show,

Nor borrowed authors’ aid, whose bosoms are

With envy and with hate corroded so,

That oft they hide the good they might declare,

And tell in every place what ill they know,

To such a pitch would mount the female name,

As haply ne’er was reached by manly fame.

III

To furnish mutual aid is not enow,

For many who would lend each other light.

Men do their best, that womankind should show

Whatever faults they have in open sight;

Would hinder them of rising from below,

And sink them to the bottom, if they might;

I say the ancients; as if glory, won

By woman, dimmed their own, as mist the sun.

IV

But hands or tongue ne’er had, nor has, the skill,

Does voice or lettered page the thought impart,

Though each, with all its power, increase the ill,

Diminishing the good with all its art,

So female fame to stifle, but that still

The honour of the sex survives in part:

Yet reacheth not its pitch, nor such its flight,

But that ’tis far below its natural height.

V

Not only Thomyris and Harpalice,

And who brought Hector, who brought Turnus aid,

And who, to build in Lybia crost the sea,

By Tyrian and Sidonian band obeyed;

Not only famed Zenobia, only she

Who Persian, Indian, and Assyrian frayed;

Not only these and some few others merit

Their glory, that eternal fame inherit:

VI

Faithful, chaste, and bold, the world hath seen

In Greece and Rome not only, but where’er

The Sun unfolds his flowing locks, between

The Hesperides and Indian hemisphere;

Whose gifts and praise have so extinguished been,

We scarce of one amid a thousand hear;

And this because they in their days have had

For chroniclers, men envious, false, and bad.

VII

But ye that prosper in the exercise

Of goodly labours, aye your way pursue;

Nor halt, O women, in your high emprise,

For fear of not receiving honour due:

For, as nought good endures beneath the skies,

So ill endures no more; if hitherto

Unfriendly by the poet’s pen and page,

They now befriend you in our better age.

VIII

Erewhile Marullo and Pontante for you

Declared, and — sire and son — the Strozzi twain;

Capello, Bembo, and that writer, who

Has fashioned like himself the courtier train;

With Lewis Alamanni, and those two,

Beloved of Mars and Muses, of their strain

Descended, who the mighty city rule,

Which Mincius parts, and moats with marshy pool.

IX

One of this pair (besides that, of his will,

He honours you, and does you courtesies;

And makes Parnassus and high Cynthus’ hill

Resound your praise, and lift it to the skies)

The love, the faith, and mind, unconquered still,

Mid threats of ruin, which in stedfast wise

To him his constant Isabel hath shown,

Render yet more your champion than his own.

X

So that he never more will wearied be

With quickening in his verse your high renown;

And, if another censures you, than he

Prompter to arm in your defence is none;

Nor knight, in this wide world, more willingly

Life in the cause of virtue would lay down:

Matter as well for other’s pen he gives,

As in his own another’s glory lives;

XI

And well he merits, that a dame so blest,

(Blest with all worth, which in this earthly round

Is seen in them who don the female vest,)

To him hath evermore been faithful found;

Of a sure pillar of pure truth possest

In her, despising Fortune’s every wound.

Worthy of one another are the twain;

Nor better ere were paired in wedlock’s chain.

XII

New trophies he on Oglio’s bank has shown;

For he, mid bark and car, amid the gleam

Of fire and sword, such goodly rhymes hath strown,

As may with envy swell the neighbouring stream.

By Hercules Bentivoglio next is blown

The noble strain, your honour’s noble theme;

Reynet Trivulzio and Guidetti mine,

And Molza, called of Phoebus and the Nine.

XIII

There’s Hercules of the Carnuti, son

Of my own duke, who spreads his every plume

Soaring and singing, like harmonious swan,

And even to heaven uplifts your name; with whom

There is my lord of Guasto, not alone

A theme for many an Athens, many a Rome;

In his high strain he promises as well,

Your praise to all posterity to tell.

XIV

And beside these and others of our day,

Who gave you once, or give you now renown,

This for yourselves ye may yourselves purvey:

For many, laying silk and sampler down,

With the melodious Muses, to allay

Their thirst at Aganippe’s well, have gone,

And still are going; who so fairly speed,

That we more theirs than they our labour need.

XV

If I of these would separately tell,

And render good account and honour due,

More than one page I with their praise should swell,

Nor ought beside would this day’s canto shew;

And if on five or six alone I dwell,

I may offend and anger all the crew.

What then shall I resolve? to pass all by?

Or choose but one from such a company?

XVI

One will I choose, and such will choose, that she

All envy shall so well have overthrown,

No other woman can offend be,

If, passing others, her I praise alone:

Nor joys this one but immortality,

Through her sweet style (and better know I none):

But who is honoured in her speech and page,

Shall burst the tomb, and live through every age.

XVII

As Phoebus to his silvery sister shows

His visage more, and lends her brighter fires,

Than Venus, Maja, or to star that glows

Alone, or circles with the heavenly quires;

So he with sweeter eloquence than flows

From other lips, that gentle dame inspires;

And gives her word such force, a second sun

Seems in our days its glorious course to run.

XVIII

Mid victories born, Victoria is her name,

Well named; and whom (does she advance or stay)

Triumphs and trophies evermore proclaim,

While Victory heads or follows her array.

Another Artemisia is the dame,

Renowned for love of her Mausolus, yea

By so much greater, as it is more brave

To raise the dead, than lay them in the grave.

XIX

If chaste Laodamia, Portia true,

Evadne, Argia, Arria, and many more

Merited praise, because that glorious crew

Coveted burial with their lords of yore,

How much more fame is to Victoria due?

That from dull Lethe, and the river’s shore,

Which nine times hems the ghosts, to upper light

Has dragged her lord, in death and fate’s despite.

XX

If that loud-voiced Maeonian trump whilere

The Macedonian grudged Achilles, how,

Francis Pescara, O unconquered peer,

Would he begrudge thee, were he living now,

That wife, so virtuous and to thee so dear,

Thy well-earned glory through the world should blow;

And that thy name through her should so rebound,

Thou needst not crave a clearer trumpet’s sound!

XXI

If all that is to tell, and all I fain

Would of that lady tell, I wished to unfold,

Though long, yet not so long, would be the stain,

But that large portion would be left untold,

While at a stand the story would remain

Of fierce Marphisa and her comrades bold;

To follow whom I promised erst, if you

Would but return to hear my song anew.

XXII

Now, being here to listen to my say,

Because I would not break my promise, I

Until my better leisure, will delay

Her every praise at length to certify.

Not that I think she needs my humble lay,

Who with such treasure can herself supply:

But simply to appay my single end,

That gentle dame to honour and commend.

XXIII

Ladies, in fine I say, that every age

Worthy of story, many a dame supplies;

But that, through jealous authors’ envious rage,

Unchronicled by fame, each matron dies;

But will no more; since in the historic page

Your virtues ye, yourselves, immortalize.

Had those two damsels in this art been read,

Their every warlike deed had wider spread.

XXIV

Bradamant and Marphisa would I say,

Whose bold, victorious deeds, in battle done,

I strive to bring into the light of day;

But nine in ten remain to me unknown.

I what I know right willingly display;

As well, that all fair actions should be shown,

As well that, gentle ladies, I am bent

Ye whom I love and honour, to content.

XXV

As said, in act to go Rogero stood;

And, having taken leave, the cavalier

Withdraws his trenchant faulchion from the wood,

Which holds no more the weapon, as whilere.

When, sounding loud amid that solitude,

A cry, not distant far, arrests the peer.

Then thitherward he with those damsels made,

Prompt, if ’twere needed, to bestow his aid.

XXVI

They rode an-end; and louder waxed the sound,

And plainer were the plaintive words they heard:

When in a valley they three women found

Making that plaint, who in strange garb appeared:

For to the navel were those three ungowned,

— Their coats by some uncourteous varlet sheared —

And knowing not how better to disguise

Their shame, they sate on earth, and dared not rise.

XXVII

As Vulcan’s son, that sprang (as it is versed)

Out of the dust, without a mother made,

Whom — so Minerva bade — Aglauros nursed

With sovereign care, too bold and curious maid,

Seated in car, by him constructed first

To hide his hideous feet, was erst conveyed;

So that which never is to sight revealed,

Sitting, those mournful damsels kept concealed.

XXVIII

At that dishonest sight and shameful, glows

Each martial damsel’s visage, overspread

With the rich dyes of Paestum’s crimson rose,

When vernal airs their gentle influence shed.

Bradamant marked them; and that one of those

Was Ulany, the damsel quickly read;

Ulany, that was sent with solemn train

From the LOST ISLE to royal Charlemagne;

XXIX

And recognised the other two no less;

From them she saw, when she saw Ulany;

But now to her directed her address.

As the most honoured of those ladies three,

Demanding, who so full of wickedness,

So lawless was and so unmannerly,

That he those secrets to the sight revealed,

Which Nature, as she could, ‘twould seem, concealed.

XXX

Ulany, that in Bradamant descried,

— Known both by voice and ensignry — the maid,

Who some few days before those knights of pride

With her victorious lance on earth had laid,

How, in a town not far remote — replied —

An evil race, by pity never swayed,

Besides that they their raiment thus had shorn,

Had beat them, and had done them other scorn.

XXXI

What of the shield became, she cannot say,

Nor knows she those three monarchs’ destiny,

Who guided her so long upon her way;

If killed, or led into captivity;

And says that she herself has ta’en her way,

Albeit to fare a-foot sore irksome be,

To appeal to royal Charlemagne, assured

By him such outrage will not be endured.

XXXII

To hear, yet more to see, so foul a wrong,

Disturbed the Child and damsels’ placid air

And beauteous visage, whose bold hearts and strong

No less compassionate than valiant were.

They now, all else forgetting, ere the tongue

Of Ulany prefers demand, or prayer,

That they would venge them on their cruel foe,

In haste towards the felon’s castle go.

XXXIII

With one constant, the maids and cavalier,

By their great goodness moved, from plate and mail

Had stript their upper vests, well fitting gear

Those miserable ladies’ shame to veil.

Bradamant suffers not, that, as whilere,

Sad Ulany shall tramp by hill and dale;

But seats her on her horse’s croup; so do

Her comrades by those other damsels two.

XXXIV

To gentle Bradamant Ulania showed

The nearest way to reach the castle height;

While comfort Bradamant on her bestowed,

Promising vengeance for that foul despite.

They leave the vale, and by a crooked road

And long ascend, now wheeling left, now right:

Nor till the sun is hidden in the sea,

Upon their weary way repose the three.

XXXV

They to a hamlet on the summit wound,

Scaling the mountain’s steep and rugged side;

And such good shelter and good supper found,

As could by such rude quarters be supplied.

Arriving there, they turned their eyes around,

And full of women every place espied,

Some old, some young; nor, mid so large a clan,

Appeared the visage of a single man.

XXXVI

Not more bold Jason wondered, and the train

Which sailed with him, that Argonautic crew,

Seeing those dames that had their husbands slain,

Fathers and sons and brethren, — so that through

All Lemnos’ pleasant isle, by hill or plain,

Of manly visage they beheld not two —

Than here Rogero, and the rest who go

With good Rogero, wonder at this show.

XXXVII

The martial damsels bid for Ulany,

And those who came with her, provide attire;

And gowns that eve are furnished for the three,

If meaner than their own, at least entire.

To him a woman of that villagery

Valiant Rogero summons, to inquire

Where are the men; in that he none descries;

And thus to him that village wife replies:

XXXVIII

“What haply is to you a wonderment,

This crowd of womankind, where man is none,

To us is grave and grievous punishment,

Who, banished here, live wofully alone;

And, that such exile us may more torment,

From those so loved, as brother, father, son,

A long divorce and cruel we sustain,

As our fell tyrant pleases to ordain.

XXXIX

“Sent to these confines from his land, which lies

But two leagues distant thence, where we were born,

Us in this place the fell barbarian sties,

Having first done us many a brutal scorn;

And has with death and all extremities

Threatened our kinsmen and ourselves forlorn,

If they come hither, or he hears report

We harbour them, when hither they resort.

XL

“He to our name is such a deadly foe,

He will not have us nearer than I shewed,

Now have us of our kin approached, as though

Infection from the female sex ensued.

Already have the greenwood trees laid low

Their leafy honours twice, and twice renewed,

Since our lord’s fury to such pitch arose,

Now is there one his phrensy to oppose.

XLI

“For he has spread such passing fear among

The people, death can cause no worse affright;

In that, beside his natural love of wrong,

He is endowed with more than human might.

He than a hundred other men more strong,

In body is of a gigantic height:

Nor us his vassals he molests alone;

But worse by him to stranger dame is done.

XLII

“If your own honour, sir, and of those three,

Beneath your charge, to you in aught is dear,

’Twill safer, usefuller, and better be

To leave this road, and by another steer.

This leads you to his tower, described by me,

To prove the savage use that cruel peer

Has there established, to the shame and woe

Of dame or cavalier, who thither go.

XLIII

“This castellain or tyrant, Marganor

(So name the felon knight) than whom more fell

Nero was not, nor other heretofore,

If other be, whose actions Fame doth swell,

Thirsts for man’s blood, but thirsts for woman’s more

Than wolf for blood of lambs; and bids expel

With shame all females, that, in evil hour,

Their fortune has conducted to his tower.”

XLIV

How in that impious man such fury grew,

Asked young Rogero and those damsels twain,

And prayed she would in courtesy pursue,

Yea, rather from the first her tale explain.

“That castle’s lord, fierce, and inhumane,

Yet for a while his wicked heart concealed,

Nor what he was so suddenly revealed.

XLV

“For in the lifetime of his sons, a pair

That differed much from the paternal style,

(Since they the stranger loved; and loathers were

Of cruelty and other actions vile)

Flourished the courtesies and good customs there,

And there were gentle deeds performed this while:

For. albeit avaricious was the sire,

He never crossed the youths in their desire.

XLVI

“The cavaliers and dames who journeyed by

That castle, there so well were entertained,

That they departed, by the courtesy

Of those two kindly brothers wholly gained.

In the holy orders of fair chivalry

Alike the youthful pair had been ordained.

Cylander one, Tanacro hight the other;

Bold, and of royal mien each martial brother;

XLVII

“And truly were, and would have been alway

Worthy of every praise and fame, withal

Had they not yielded up themselves a prey

To that uncurbed desire, which Love we call;

By which they were seduced from the right way

Into foul Error’s crooked maze; and all

The good that by those brethren had been wrought,

Waxed, in a moment, rank, corrupt and naught.

XLVIII

“It chanced, that in their father’s fortilage,

A knight of the Greek emperor’s court did lie;

With him his lady was; of manners sage;

Nor fairer could be craved by wishful eye:

For her Cylander felt such amorous rage,

He deemed, save he enjoyed her, he should die;

He deemed that, when the lady should depart,

His soul as well would from his body part:

XLIX

“And, for he knew ’twas useless to entreat,

Devised to make her his by force of hand;

Armed, and in silence, near his father’s seat,

Where must pass knight and lady, took his stand.

Through natural daring and through amorous heat,

He with too little thought the matter planned;

So that, when he beheld the knight advance,

He issued, to assail him, lance to lance.

L

“To overthrow him, at first shock he thought,

And to win dame and palm in the career;

But that Greek knight, in warlike strife well-taught,

Shivered, like glass, his breastplate with the spear.

The bitter tidings to the sire were brought,

Who bade bear home the stripling on a bier:

He, finding he was dead, loud mourning made,

And him in earth, beside his fathers, layed.

LI

“Yet harbourage and welcome as before

Had he who sought it; neither more nor less:

Because Tanacro in his courteous lore

Equalled his brother as in gentleness.

Thither that very year, from foreign shore,

A baron and his wife their steps address:

A marvel he of valour, and as fair

As could be said, is she, and debonnair.

LII

“No fairer was the dame than chaste and right,

And well deserving every praise; the peer

Derived of generous stock, and bold in fight,

As ever champion, of whose fame we hear;

And ’tis well fitting, that such valiant wight

Should joy a thing so excellent and dear,

Olindro he, the lord of Lungavilla,

And she, his lady wife, yclept Drusilla.

LIII

“No less for her the young Tanacro glows,

Than for that other burned Cylander sore;

Who brought erewhile to sad and bitter close

The wicked love he to that lady bore.

The holy, hospitable laws he chose

To violate no less than he, before

He would endure, that him, with venomed sting,

His new desire to cruel death should bring.

LIV

“But he, because he has before his eyes

The example of his elder brother slain,

Thinks to bear off the lady in such wise,

That bold Olindro cannot venge the stain.

Straight spent in him, not simply weakened, lies

The virtue, wont Tancaro to sustain

Above that flood of vice, in whose profound

And miry waters Marganor lay drowned.

LV

“That night, he in deep silence bade array

A score of armed men; and next conveyed

Into some caverns, bordering on the way,

And distant from the tower, his ambuscade.

The roads were broken, and the following day

Olindro from all sides was overlaid;

And, though he made a brave defence and long,

Of wife and life was plundered by that throng.

LVI

“Olindro slain, they led his lady fair

A captive thence, o’erwhelmed with sorrow so,

That she refused to live, and made her prayer,

Tanacro, as a grace, would death bestow:

Resolved to die, she leapt, in her despair,

From a high bank into a vale below;

But death was to the wretched dame refused;

Who lay with shattered head and sorely bruised.

LVII

“She could not to the castle be conveyed

In other guise than borne upon a bier:

Her (so Tanacro bids) prompt leeches aid;

Because he will not lose a prey so dear;

And while to cure Drusilla they essayed,

Busied about their spousals was the peer:

In that so chaste a lady and so fair,

A wife’s and not a leman’s name should wear.

LVIII

“He had no other thought, no other aim,

No other care, nor spake beside of ought;

Saw he had wronged her, and took all the blame,

And, as he could, to amend his error wrought:

But all was vain; the more he loved the dame,

The more be to appease her anger sought,

So much more was her hate; so much more will,

So much more thirst had she that youth to kill.

LIX

“Yet hatred blinded not her judgment so,

But what the dame could clearly comprehend,

That she, if she would strike the purposed blow,

Must feign, and secret snares for him extend.

And her desire beneath another show

(Which is but how Tanacro to offend)

Must mask; and make him think, that overblown

Is her first love, and turned to him alone.

LX

“Her face speaks peace; while vengeance inwardly

Her heart demands, and but to this attends:

She many things revolves, accepts, puts by;

Or, as of doubtful issue, some suspends.

Deeming she can, if she resolves to die,

Compass her scheme, with this resolve she ends;

And better how can she expend her breath

Than in avenging dear Olindro’s death?

LXI

“She showed herself all joyful, on her part,

And feigned that she desired those nuptials sore;

Nor only showed an unreluctant heart;

But all delay and hindrance overbore.

Painted and tired above the rest with art,

‘Twould seem, she of her husband thinks no more:

But ’tis her will, that in her country’s wise

Tanacro shall their wedding solemnize.

LXII

“The custom howsoever was not true,

Which as her country’s use she certified;

But, because never thought within her grew

Which she could spend on any thing beside,

A falsehood she devised, whence hope she drew

Of killing him by whom her husband died;

And told Tanacro — and the manner said —

How in her country’s fashion she would wed.

LXIII

“ ‘The widow that a husband’s bed ascends,

Ere she approach the bridegroom (said that fair)

The spirit of the dead, whom she offends,

Must soothe with solemn office, mass and prayer;

In the holy temple making her amends,

Where her first husband’s bones entombed are.

— That sacrifice performed — to bind their vows

The nuptial ring the bridegroom gives the spouse.

LXIV

“ ‘But the holy priest, while this shall be about,

Upon wine, thither for that purpose sped,

His orisons, appropriate and devout,

Blessing withal the liquor, shall have said;

Then from the flask into a cup pour out,

And give the blessed wine to them that wed.

But ’tis the spouse’s part to take the cup;

And first that vessel’s cordial beverage sup.’

LXV

“The unsuspecting youth, who takes no heed

What nuptials, ordered in her wise, import,

At her own pleasure bids the dame proceed,

So that she cut his terms of waiting short;

Nor does the miserable stripling read

She would avenge Olindro in that sort;

And on one object is so sore intent,

He sees but that, on that alone is bent.

LXVI

“An ancient woman, seized with her whilere,

And left, withal, obeyed Drusilla, who

That beldam called and whispered in her ear,

So as that none beside could hear the two —

A poison of quick power for me prepare,

Such as, I know, thou knowest how to brew;

And bottle it; for I have found a way

The traitorous son of Marganor to slay;

LXVII

“ ‘And me and thee no less can save,’ (she said,)

‘And this at better leisure will explain.’

The woman went her ways, the potion made,

And to the palace bent her steps again:

A flask of Candian sweet wine she purveyed,

Wherewith Drusilla sheathed that deadly bane;

And kept the beverage for the nuptial day;

For now had ceased all hindrance and delay.

LXVIII

“On the fixt day she seeks the temple, dight

With precious jewels and with goodly gear;

Where her lord’s tomb, befitting such a knight,

Built by her order, two fair pillars rear.

The holy office there, with solemn rite,

Is sung, which men and women troop to hear;

And — gay, beyond his usage — with his heir,

Begirt by friends, Sir Marganor is there.

LXIX

“When the holy obsequies at last were o’er,

And by the priest was blest the poisoned draught,

He into a fair golden cup did pour

The wine, as by Drusilla had been taught,

She drank what sorted with her sex; nor more

Than would effect the purpose which she sought:

Then to the bridegroom, with a jocund eye,

Handed the draught, who drained the goblet dry.

LXX

“The cup returned — Tanacro, blithe and gay,

Opened his arms Drusilla to embrace.

Then altered was her sweet and winning way,

And to a tempest that long calm gave place.

She thrust him back, she motioned him away;

She seemed to kindle in her eyes and face;

And to the youth, with broken voice and dread,

— ‘Traitor, stand off,’ — the furious lady said; —

LXXI

“ ‘Shalt thou then joy and solace have from me,

I tears from thee, and punishment and woe?

Now these mine hands shall make an end of thee.

This, if thou know’st it not, for poison know.

Much grieve I that thou should’st too honoured be

By the executioner who deals the blow;

Should’st die a death too easy: since I wot,

For thee too shameful hand or pain is not.

LXXII

“ ‘In seeing this thy death, it gives me pain,

My sacrifice should be completed ill;

For could I do by thee as I were fain,

Nothing should lack that purpose to fulfill.

May my sweet consort not the work disdain,

And for the imperfect deed accept the will!

That, without power to compass what I would,

I have been fain to slay thee as I could!

LXXIII

“ ‘And that deserved punishment, which I

Cannot, as I desire, on thee bestow,

I hope thy soul shall have; hope to be nigh,

To see thee suffer, in the realms of woe.’

Her turbid eyes then raising to the sky,

With joyous face all over in a glow,

(She cried) ‘Olindro, take this victim’s life,

With the good will of thine avenging wife;

LXXIV

“ ‘And of our lord for me the grace obtain,

To be this day in paradise with thee,

If he reply, none cometh to your reign,

Without desert; say such I bring with me,

Who this fell impious monster, in his fane,

Offer, as my first-fruits; and what can be

A greater merit than to have supprest

Such loathsome and abominable pest?’

LXXV

“Her life, together with her speech, was spent;

And, even dead, her face appeared to glow

With joy, at having dealt such punishment

To him, that laid her cherished husband low.

If fierce Tanacro’s spirit did prevent,

Of follow hers, I wiss not; but, I trow,

Prevented, for on him that venom rank

Yet faster wrought, because he deeper drank.

LXXVI

“Marganor, who beheld his only son

Fall and expire, his outstretched arms between,

Well nigh had with Tanacro died, o’erthrown

By that so sudden grief and unforeseen.

Two sons he had, and now was left alone;

Brought to that pass he by two wives had been;

This was the cause one spent his vital breath

With her own hand, that dealt the other death.

LXXVII

“Love, pity, sorrow, anger, and desire

Of death and vengeance, all together rend

And rack the childless and unhappy sire,

Who groans like sea, when wind and waves contend:

Towards the dame, with vengeful thoughts afire,

He goes, but sees that life is at an end;

And, goaded by his rage and hatred hot,

Seeks to offend her corse that feels it not.

LXXVIII

“As serpent, by the pointed spear pinned down,

Fixes his teeth in it, with fruitless spire;

Or as the mastiff runs towards a stone,

Which has been flung by some wayfaring wight,

And gnaws it in his rage, nor will be gone

Until he venge himself; ’tis so the knight,

Than any mastiff, any serpent, worse

Offends Drusilla’s cold and lifeless corse.

LXXIX

“And, for he venteth not, nor slakes his mood,

By foul abuse upon the carcase done,

Among the women, a large multitude,

He springs, and there shows mercy unto none.

Mown are we with his impious sword, as strewed

Is grass with scythe, when dried by summer sun.

There is no ‘scape; for straightways of our train

Are full a hundred maimed, and thirty slain.

LXXX

“He of his vassals is so held in dread,

There is no man who dares to lift his eyes:

The women with the meaner sort are fled,

And whosoever can, the temple flies.

His friends against the furious fit make head,

At last, with kind constraint and suppliant cries;

And, leaving every thing in tears below,

Him in his castle on the rock bestow.

LXXXI

“His wrath enduring still, to send away

The wretch determines all the female band:

In that, his will us utterly to slay

His people and his friends, with prayer, withstand;

And he bids punish, on that very day,

An order for us all to leave his land;

Placed such his pleasures on these confines: woe

To them that nearer to his castle go!

LXXXII

“Thus husbands from their wives divided are,

Mothers from sons: if hither to resort,

Despite that order, any one should dare,

Let none know this, who might the deed report!

For sorely mulcted for the transgression were

Many, and many slain in cruel sort.

A statute for his town next made the peer:

Of fouler law we neither read nor hear.

LXXXIII

“It wills, all women found within the vale,

(For thither even yet will some descend,)

His men with rods shall on the shoulders whale,

And into exile from those countries send;

But first their gowns shall clip, and parts unveil

That decency and natural shame offend;

And if with escort of an armed knight

Any wend thither, they are slain outright.

LXXXIV

“Those that an armed warrior’s escort have,

By this ill man, to piety a foe,

Are dragged as victims to his children’s grave,

Where his own hand inflicts the murderous blow.

Stript ignominiously of armour, glaive,

And steed, their champions to his prisons go;

And this can he compel; for, night and day,

A thousand men the tyrant’s hest obey.

LXXXV

“And I will add, moreover, ’tis his will,

Does he free any one, he first shall swear

Upon the holy wafer, that he still

To woman, while he lives, will hatred bear.

If then these ladies and yourself to spill

Seem good to you, to yonder walls repair;

And put to proof withal, if prowess more

Or cruelty prevails in Marganor.”

LXXXVI

So saying, in those maids of martial might

First she such pity moved and then disdain,

That they (had it been day instead of night)

Would then have gone against that castellain.

There rest the troop; and when Aurora’s light

Serves as a signal to the starry train,

That they should all before the sun recede,

They don the cuirass and remount the steed:

LXXXVII

And now, in act to go, that company

Behind them hear the stony road resound

With a long trample, when those warlike three

Look down the vale and roll their eyes around;

And they from thence, a stone’s-throw distant, see

A troop, which through a narrow pathway wound:

A score they are perhaps in number, who

On horseback, or on foot, their way pursue.

LXXXVIII

They with them on a horse a woman haul,

(Whom stricken sore in years her visage shows,)

In guise wherein some doleful criminal

Condemned to gallows, fire, or prison goes;

Who, notwithstanding that wide interval,

Is by her features known, as well as clothes:

They of the village, mid the cavalcade,

Know her for fair Drusilla’s chamber maid.

LXXXIX

The chamber wench, made prisoner with his prize,

By the rapacious stripling, as I shewed,

Who being trusted with that ill emprize,

The poisoned draught of foul effect had brewed.

From the others she and those solemnites

Had kept away, suspecting what ensued:

Yea, this while, from that lordship had she fled,

Where she in safety hoped to hide her head.

XC

News being after to her foeman brought,

That she retired in Ostericche lay,

He, with intent to burn the woman, sought

To have her in his power by every way;

And finally unhappy Avarice, bought

By costly presents, and by proffered pay,

Wrought on a lord, assured upon whose lands

The beldam lived, to put her in his hands.

XCI

He on a sumpter horse the prisoner sent

To Constance-town, like merchandise addrest;

Fastened and bound in manner to prevent

The use of speech, and prisoned in a chest.

From whence that rabble, his ill instrument,

Who has all pity banished from his breast,

Had hither brought her, that his impious rage

That cruel man might on the hag assuage.

XCII

As the flood, swoln with Vesulo’s thick snows,

The farther that it foams upon its way,

And, with Ticino and Lambra, seaward goes,

Ada, and other streams that tribute pay,

So much more haughty and impetuous flows;

Rogero so, the more he hears display

Marganor’s guilt, and so that gentle pair

Of damsels filled with fiercer choler are.

XCIII

Them with such hatred, them with such disdain

Against the wretch so many crimes incense,

That they will punish him, despite the train

Or armed men arraid in his defence:

But speedy death appears too kind a pain,

And insufficient for such foul offence.

Better they deem, mid pangs prolonged and slow,

He all the bitterness of death should know.

XCIV

But first ’tis right that woman to unchain,

She whom the hangman-crew to death escort;

And the quick rowel and the loosened rein

Made the quick coursers make that labour short.

Never had those assaulted to sustain

Encounter of so fell and fierce a sort;

Who held it for a grace, with loss of shield,

Harness and captive dame, to quit the field;

XCV

Even as the wolf, who, laden with his prey,

Is homeward to his secret cavern bound,

And, when he deems that safest is the way,

Beholds it crost by hunter and by hound,

Flings down his load, and swiftly darts away,

Where most o’ergrown with brushwood is the ground.

Nor quicker are that band to void the vale,

Than those bold three are quicker to assail.

XCVI

Not only they the dame and martial gear,

But many horses they as well forsook;

And, as the surest refuge in their fear,

Cast themselves down from bank and caverned nook:

Which pleased the damsels and the youthful peer;

Who three of those forsaken horses took,

To mount those three, whom, through the day before,

Upon their croups the three good coursers bore.

XCVII

Thence, lightened thus, their way they thither bend,

Where that despiteous, shameful, lordship lies;

Resolved the beldam in their band shall wend,

To see Drusilla venged; in vain denies

That woman, who misdoubts the adventure’s end,

And grieves, and shrieks, and weeps in piteous wise:

For flinging her upon Frontino’s croup,

Rogero bears her off amid the troop.

XCVIII

They reached a summit, and from thence espied

A town with many houses, large and rich;

With nought to stop the way on any side,

As neither compassed round by wall or ditch.

A rock was in the middle, fortified

With a tall tower, upon its topmost pitch.

Fearlessly thither pricked the warriors, who

Marganor’s mansion in that fortress knew.

XCIX

As soon as in the town that cavalcade

Arrived, some footmen, who kept watch and ward,

Behind those warriors closed a barricade;

While that, before, they found already barred.

And lo! Sir Marganor, with men arraid,

Some foot, some horsemen! armed was all the guard;

Who to the strangers, in few words, but bold,

The wicked custom of his lordship told.

C

Marphisa, who had planned the thing whilere

With Aymon’s daughter and the youthful knight,

For answer, spurred against the cavalier;

And, valiant as she was and full of might,

Not putting in the rest her puissant spear,

Or baring that good sword, so famed in fight,

So smote him with her fist upon the head,

That on his horse’s neck he fell half dead.

CI

The maid of France is with Marphisa gone,

Nor in the rear it seen Rogero’s crest;

Who with those two his course so bravely run,

That, though his lance he raised not from the rest,

Six men he slew; transfixed the paunch of one,

Another’s head, of four the neck or breast;

I’ the sixth he broke it, whom in flight he speared:

It pierced his spine and at his paps appeared.

CII

As many as are touched, so many lie

On earth, by Bradamant’s gold lance o’erthrown;

She seems a bolt, dismist form burning sky,

Which, in its fury, shivers and beats down

Whatever it encounters, far and nigh.

Some fly to plain, or castle from the town,

Others to sheltering church and house repair;

And none, save dead, are seen in street or square.

CIII

Meanwhile the hands of Marganor, behind

His back, the fierce Marphisa had made fast,

And to Drusilla’s maid the wretch consigned,

Well pleased that such a care on her was cast.

To burn the town ’twas afterwards designed,

Save it repented of its errors past,

Repealed the statute Marganor had made,

And a new law, imposed by her, obeyed.

CIV

Such end to compass is no hard assay;

For, besides fearing lest Marphisa yearn

To execute more vengeance, — lest she say,

— She one and all will slaughter and will burn, —

The townsmen all were advised to the sway

And cruel statute of that tyrant stern;

But did, as others mostly do, that best

Obey the master whom they most detest.

CV

Since none dares trust another, nor his will,

— Out of suspicion — to his comrades break,

They let him banish one, another kill,

From this his substance, that his honour take.

But the heart cries to Heaven, that here is still,

Till God and saints at length to vengeance wake:

Who, albeit they due punishment suspend,

By mighty pain the long delay amend.

CVI

The rabble, full of rage and enmity,

Now seeks the wretch with word and deed to grieve;

As, it is said, all strip the fallen tree,

Which from its roots and wintry winds upheave:

Let rulers in his sad example see,

Ill doers in the end shall ill receive.

To view fell Marganor’s disastrous fall,

Fit penance for his sins, pleased great and small.

CVII

Many, of whom the sister had been slain,

The mother, or the daughter, or the wife,

Seeking no more their rebel wrath to rein,

Hurry, with their own hands to take his life;

And young Rogero and the damsels twain

Can scarce defend the felon in that strife;

Whom those illustrious three had doomed to die,

Mid trouble, fear, and lengthened agony.

CVIII

To the hag, who bore such hatred to that wight,

As woman to an enemy can bear,

They give their prisoner naked, bound so tight,

He will not at one shake the cordage tear;

And she, her pains and sorrow to requite,

Crimsons the wretch’s body, here and there,

With a sharp goad, which, mid that village band,

A peasant churl had put into her hand.

CIX

Nor she the courier maid, nor they that ride

With her, aye mindful how they had been shent,

Now let their hands hang idle by their side;

No less than that old crone on vengeance bent:

Such was their fierce desire, it nullified

The power to harm; but rage must have its vent.,

Him one with stones, another with her nails,

This with her teeth, with needles that, assails.

CX

As torrent one while foams in haughty tide,

When fed with mighty rain or melted snow;

And, rending form the mountain’s rugged side

Tree, rock, and crop and field, the waters go:

Then comes a season when its crested pride

Is vanished, and its vigour wasted so,

A child, a woman, everywhere may tread,

And often dry-shod cross, its rugged bed.

CXI

So Marganor whilere each bound and bourn

Made tremble, whereso’er his name was heard:

Now one is come to bruise the tyrant’s horn;

And now his prowess is so little feared,

That even the little children work him scorn:

Some pluck his hair and others pluck his beard.

Thence young Rogero and the damsels twain

Towards his rock-built castle turn the rein.

CXII

This without contest its possessors yield,

And the rich goods preserved in that repair.

These the friends partly spoiled, and partly dealed

To Ulany and that attendant pair.

With them, recovered was the golden shield,

And those three monarchs that were prisoned there;

Who, without arms, afoot, towards that hold

Had wended, as meseems whilere was told.

CXIII

For from the day that they were overthrown

By Bradamant, afoot, they evermore,

Unarmed, in company with her had gone,

That hither came from her so distant shore.

I know not, I, if it was better done

Or worse, by her, that they their arms forbore;

Worse, touching her defence; but better far,

If they were losers in the doubtful war.

CXIV

For she would have been dragged, — like others, whom

Armed men had thither brought beneath their guide,

(Unhappy women) to the brothers’ tomb, —

And by the sacrifice knife have died.

Death, sure, is worse, and more disastrous doom

Than showing that which modesty would hide;

And they who can to force ascribe the blame,

Extinguish this and every other shame.

CXV

Before they hence depart, the martial twain

Assemble the inhabitants, to swear,

They to their wives the rule of that domain

Will leave, as well as every other care;

And that they will chastise, with heavy pain,

Whoever to oppose this law shall dare.

— In fine, man’s privileges, whatsoe’er,

They swear, shall be conferred on woman here:

CXVI

Then make them promise never to bestow

Harbourage on whosoever thither sped,

Footman or cavalier, nor even allow

Any beneath a roof to hide his head,

Unless he swore by God and saints, or vow

Yet stronger made — if stronger could be said —

That he the sex’s cause would aye defend,

Foe to their foes, and woman’s faithful friend;

CXVII

And, if he then were wived, or ever were

— Sooner or later — linked in nuptial noose,

Still to his wife he would allegiance bear,

Nor e’er compliance with her will refuse.

Marphisa says, within the year, she there

Will be, and ere the trees their foliage lose;

And, save she find her statute in effect,

That borough fire and ruin may expect.

CXVIII

Nor hence they part ill from the filthy place,

Wherein it lay, Drusilla’s corse is borne;

Her with her lord they in a tomb encase,

And, with what means the town supplies, adorn.

Drusilla’s ancient woman, in this space,

Marganor’s body with her goad has torn.

Who only grieves she has not wind enow,

No respite to his torture to allow.

CXIX

Beside a church, the martial damsels twain

Behold a pillar, standing in the square;

Whereon the wicked lord of the domain

Had graved that mad and cruel law; the pair,

In imitation, his helm, plate, and chain,

And shield, in guise of trophy fasten there;

And afterwards upon the pillar trace

That law they had enacted for the place.

CXX

Within the town the troop set up their rest,

Until the law is graved, of different frame

From that before upon the stone imprest,

Which every woman doom’d to death and shame.

With the intention to replace her vest,

Here from that band divides the Islandick dame;

Who deems, at court ’twere shameful to appear,

Unless adorned and mantled as whilere.

CXXI

Here Ulany remained, and in her power

Remained the wicked tyrant Marganor:

She, lest he any how, in evil hour,

Should break his bonds and injure damsel more,

Made him, one day, leap headlong from a tower,

Who never took so still a leap before.

No more of her and hers! I of the crew

That journey toward Arles, the tale pursue.

CXXII

Throughout all that and the succeeding day,

Till the forenoon, proceed those banded friends;

And, where the main-road branches, and one way

Towards the camp, to Arles the other tends,

Again embrace the lovers, and oft say

A last farewell, which evermore offends.

The damsels seek the camp; to Arles is gone

Rogero; and my canto I have done.

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