Orlando Furioso, by Lodovico Ariosto

Canto 41

Argument

His prisoners to the Child the Danish peer

Consigns, who, homeward bound, are wrecked at sea;

By swimming he escapes, and a sincere

And faithful servant now of Christ is he.

Meanwhile bold Brandimart, and Olivier,

And Roland fiercely charge the hostile three.

Sobrino is left wounded in the strife;

Gradasso and Agramant deprived of life.

I

The odour which well-fashioned bear or hair,

Of that which find and dainty raiment steeps

Of gentle stripling, or of damsel fair,

— Who often love awakens, as she weeps —

If it ooze forth and scent the ambient air,

And which for many a day its virtue keeps,

Well shows, by manifest effects and sure,

How perfect was its first perfume and pure.

II

The drink that to his cost good Icarus drew

Of yore his sun-burned sicklemen to cheer,

And which (’tis said) lured Celts and Boi through

Our Alpine hills, untouched by toil whilere,

Well shows that cordial was the draught, when new;

Since it preserves its virtue through the year.

The tree to which its wintry foliage cleaves,

Well shows that verdant were its spring tide leaves.

III

The famous lineage, for so many years

Of courtesy the great and lasting light,

Which ever, brightening as it burns, appears

To shine and flame more clearly to the sight,

Well proves the sire of Este’s noble peers

Must, amid mortals, have shone forth as bright

In all fair gifts which raise men to the sky,

As the glad sun mid glittering orbs on high.

IV

As in his every other feat exprest,

Rogero’s valiant mind and courteous lore

Were showed by tokens clear and manifest,

And his high mindedness shone more and more;

— So toward the Dane those virtues stood confest,

With whom (as I rehearsed to you before)

He had belied his mighty strength and breath;

For pity loth to put that lord to death.

V

The Danish warrior was well certified,

No wish to slay him had the youthful knight,

Who spared him now, when open was his side;

Now, when so wearied he no more could smite.

When finally he knew, and plain descried

Rogero scrupled to put forth his might,

If with less vigour and less prowess steeled,

At least in courtesy he would not yield.

VI

“Pardi, sir, make we peace;” (he said) “success

In this contention cannot fall to me —

Cannot be mine; for I myself confess

Conquered and captive to thy courtesy.”

To him Rogero answered, “And no less

I covet peace, than ’tis desired by thee.

But this upon condition, that those seven

Are freed from bondage, and to me are given.”

VII

With that he showed those seven whereof I spake,

Bound and with drooping heads, a sad array;

Adding, he must to him no hindrance make,

Who would those kings to Africa convey.

And Dudon thus allowed the Child to take

Those seven, and him allowed to bear away

A bark as well; what likes him best he chooses,

Amid those vessels, and for Africk looses.

VIII

He looses bark and sail; and in bold wise

Trusting the fickle wind, to seaward stood.

At first on her due course the vessel flies,

And fills the pilot full of hardihood.

The beach retreats, and from the sailors’ eyes

So fades, the sea appears a shoreless flood.

Upon the darkening of the day, the wind

Displays its fickle and perfidious kind.

IX

It shifts from poop to beam, from beam to prow,

And even there short season doth remain:

The reeling ship confounds the pilot; now

Struck fore, now aft, now on her beam again.

Threatening the billows rise, with haughty brow,

And Neptune’s white herd lows above the main.

As many deaths appear to daunt that rout,

As waves which beat their troubled bark about.

X

Now blows the wind in front, and now in rear,

And drives this wave an-end, that other back;

Others the reeling vessel’s side o’erpeer;

And every billow threatens equal wrack.

The pilot sighs, confused and pale with fear;

Vainly he calls aloud to shift the tack,

To strike or jibe the yard; and with his hand,

Signs to the crew the thing he would command.

XI

But sound or signal little boots; the eye

Sees not amid the dim and rainy night;

The voice unheard ascends into the sky, —

The sky, which with a louder larum smite

The troubled sailors’ universal cry,

And roar of waters, which together fight.

Unheard is every hest, above, below,

Starboard or larboard, upon poop or prow.

XII

In the strained tackle sounds a hollow roar,

Wherein the struggling wind its fury breaks;

The forked lightning flashes evermore,

With fearful thunder heaven’s wide concave shakes.

One to the rudder runs, one grasps an oar;

Each to his several office him betakes.

One will make fast, another will let go;

Water into the water others throw.

XIII

Lo! howling horribly, the sounding blast,

Which Boreas in his sudden fury blows,

Scourges with tattered sail the reeling mast:

Almost as high as heaven the water flows:

The oars are broken; and so fell and fast

That tempest pelts, the prow to leeward goes;

And the ungoverned vessel’s battered side

Is undefended from the foaming tide.

XIV

Fallen on her starboard side, on her beam ends,

About to turn keel uppermost, she lies.

Meanwhile, his soul to Heaven each recommends,

Surer than sure to sink, with piteous cries.

Scathe upon scathe malicious Fortune sends,

And when one woe is weathered, others rise.

O’erstrained, the vessel splits; and through her seams

In many a part the hostile water streams.

XV

A fierce assault and cruel coil doth keep

Upon all sides that wintry tempest fell.

Now to their sight so high the billows leap,

It seems that these to heaven above would swell;

Now, plunging with the wave, they sink so deep,

That they appear to spy the gulfs of hell.

Small hope there is or none: with faultering breath

They gaze upon inevitable death.

XVI

On a despiteous sea, that livelong night,

They drifted, as the wind in fury blew.

The furious wind that with the dawning light

Should have abated, gathered force anew.

Lo! a bare rock, ahead, appears in sight,

Which vainly would the wretched band eschew;

Whom towards that cliff, in their despite, impel

The raging tempest and the roaring swell.

XVII

Three times and four the pale-faced pilot wrought

The tiller with a vigorous push to sway;

And for the bark a surer passage sought:

But the waves snapt and bore the helm away.

To lower, or ease the bellying canvas aught

The sailors had no power; nor time had they

To mend that ill, or counsel what was best;

For them too hard the mortal peril prest.

XVIII

Perceiving now that nothing can defend

Their bark from wreck on that rude rock and bare,

All to their private aims alone attend,

And only to preserve their life have care.

Who quickest can, into the skiff descend;

But in a thought so overcrowded are,

Through those so many who invade the boat,

That, gunwale-deep, she scarce remains afloat.

XIX

Rogero, on beholding master, mate,

And men abandoning the ship with speed,

In doublet, as he is, sans mail and plate,

Hopes in the skiff, a refuge in that need:

But finds her overcharged with such a weight,

And afterwards so many more succeed,

That the o’erwhelming wave the pinnace drown,

And she with all her wretched freight goes down;

XX

Goes down, and, foundering, drags with her whoe’er

Leaving the larger bark, on her relies.

Then doleful shrieks are heard, ‘mid sob and tear,

Calling for succour on unpitying skies:

But for short space that shrilling cry they rear;

For, swoln with rage and scorn, the waters rise,

And in a moment wholly stop the vent

Whence issues that sad clamour and lament.

XXI

One sinks outright, no more to reappear;

Some rise, and bounding with the billows go:

Their course, with head uplifted, others steer;

An arm, an unshod leg, those others show:

Rogero, who the tempest will not fear,

Springs upward to the surface from below;

And little distant sees that rock, in vain

Eschewed by him and his attendant train.

XXII

Himself with hands and feet the warrior rows,

Hoping by force thereof to win the shore;

Breast boldly the importunate flood, and blows

With his unwearied breath the foam before.

Waxing meanwhile, the troubled water rose,

And from the rock the abandoned vessel bore;

Quitted of those unhappy men, who die

(So curst their lot) the death from which they fly.

XXIII

Alas! for man’s deceitful thoughts and blind!

The ship escaped from wreck, where hope was none;

When master and when men their charge resigned,

And let the vessel without guidance run.

It would appear the wind has changed its mind,

On seeing all that sailed in her are gone;

And blows the vessel from those shallows free,

Through better course, into a safer sea.

XXIV

She, having drifted wildly with her guide,

Without him, made directly Africk’s strand,

Two or three miles of waste Biserta wide,

Upon the quarter facing Egypt’s land;

And, as the sea went down and the wind died,

Stood bedded in that weary waste of sand.

Now thither Roland roved, who paced the shore;

As I in other strain rehearsed before;

XXV

And willing to discover if alone,

Laden, or light, the stranded vessel were,

He, Olivier, and Monodantes’ son,

Aboard her in a shallow bark repair:

Beneath the hatchways they descend, but none

Of human kind they see; and only there

Find good Frontino, with the trenchant sword

And gallant armour of his youthful lord;

XXVI

Who was so hurried in his hasty flight

He had not even time to take his sword;

To Orlando known; which, Balisardo hight,

Was his erewhile; the tale’s upon record,

And ye have read it all, as well I wite;

How Falerina lost it to that lord,

When waste as well her beauteous bowers he laid;

And how from him Brunello stole the blade;

XXVII

And how beneath Carena, on the plain

Brunello on Rogero this bestowed.

How matchless was that faulchion’s edge and grain,

To him experience had already showed;

I say, Orlando; who was therefore fain,

And to heaven’s king with grateful thanks o’erflowed;

And deemed, and often afterwards so said,

Heaven for such pressing need had sent the blade:

XXVIII

Such pressing need, in that he had to fight

With the redoubted king of Sericane;

And knew that he, besides his fearful might,

Was lord of Bayard and of Durindane.

Not knowing them, Anglantes’ valiant knight

So highly rated not the plate and chain

As he that these had proved: they valour were,

But valued less as good than rich and fair;

XXIX

And, for of harness he had little need,

Charmed, and against all weapons fortified,

To Olivier he left the warlike weed:

Not so the sword; which to his waist he tied:

To Brandimart Orlando gave the steed:

Thus equally that spoil would he divide

With his companions twain, in equal share,

Who partners in that rich discovery were.

XXX

Against the day of fight, in goodly gear

And new, those warriors seek their limbs to deck.

Blazoned upon Orlando’s shield appear

The burning bold and lofty Babel’s wreck.

A lyme-dog argent bears Sir Olivier,

Couchant, and with the leash upon his neck:

The motto; TILL HE COMES: In gilded vest

And worthy of himself he will be drest.

XXXI

Bold Brandimart designed upon the day

Of battle, for his royal father’s sake,

And his own honour, no device more gay

Than a dim surcoat to the field to take.

By gentle Flordelice for that dark array,

Was wrought the fairest facing she could make.

With costly jewels was the border sown;

Sable the vest, and of one piece alone.

XXXII

With her own hand the lady wrought that vest,

Becoming well the finest plate and chain,

Wherein the valiant warrior should be drest,

And cloak his courser’s croup and chest and mane:

But, from that day when she herself addrest

Unto this task, till ended was her pain,

She showed no sign of gladness; nor this while,

Nor after, was she ever seen to smile.

XXXIII

The heartfelt fear, the torment evermore

Of losing Brandimart the dame pursued.

She him whilere a hundred times and more

Engaged in fierce and fearful fight had viewed;

Nor ever suchlike terror heretofore

Had blanched her cheek and froze her youthful blood;

And this new sense of fear increased her trouble,

And made the trembling lady’s heart beat double.

XXXIV

The warriors to the wind their canvas rear,

When point device the three accoutred are.

Bold Sansonet is left, with England’s peer,

Intrusted with the faithful army’s care.

Flordelice, pricked at heart with cruel fear,

Filling the heavens with vow, lament and prayer,

As far as they by sight can followed be,

Follows their sails upon the foaming sea.

XXXV

Scarce, with much labour, the two captains led

Her, gazing on the waters, from the shore,

And to the palace drew, where on her bed

They left the lady, grieved and trembling sore.

Meanwhile upon their quest those others sped,

Whom mercy wind and weather seaward bore.

Their vessel made that island on the right;

The field appointed for so fell a fight.

XXXVI

Orlando disembarks, with his array,

His kinsman Olivier and Brandimart;

Who on the side which fronts the eastern ray,

Encamp them, and not haply without art.

King Agramant arrives that very day,

And tents him on the contrary part.

But for the sun is sinking fast, forborne

Is their encounter till the following morn.

XXXVII

Until the skies the dawning light receive,

Armed servants keep their watch both there and here.

The valiant Brandimart resorts that eve

Thitherward, where their tents the paynims rear;

And parleys, by this noble leader’s leave,

With Agramant; for they were friends whilere;

And, underneath the banner of the Moor,

He into France had passed from Africk’s shore.

XXXVIII

After salutes, and joining hand with hand,

Fair reasons, as a friend, the faithful knight

Pressed on the leader of the paynim band

Why he should not the appointed battle fight;

And every town — restored to his command —

Laying ‘twixt Nile and Calpe’s rocky height,

Vowed he, with Roland’s license, should receive,

If upon Mary’s Son he would believe.

XXXIX

He said: “For loved you were, and are by me,

This counsel give I; that I deem it sane,

Since I pursue it, you assured must be:

Mahound I hold but as an idol vain;

In Jesus Christ, the living God I see,

And to conduct you in my way were fain;

I’ the way of safety fain would have you move

With me and all those others that I love.

XL

“In this consists your welfare; counsel none

Save this, in your disaster, can avail;

And, of all counsels least, good Milo’s son

To meet in combat, clad in plate and mail;

In that the profit, if the field be won,

Weighs not against the loss, in equal scale.

If you be conqueror, little gain ensues,

Yet little loss results not, if you lose.

XLI

“Were good Orlando and we others slain,

Banded with him to conquer or to die;

Wherefore, through this, ye should your lost domain

Acquire anew, forsooth, I see not, I;

Nor is there reason hope to entertain

That, if we lifeless on the champaigne lie,

Men should be wanting in King Charles’s host

To guard in Africa his paltriest post.”

XLII

Thus Brandimart to Afick’s cavalier;

And much would have subjoined; but, on his side,

That knight, with angry voice and haughty cheer,

The pagan interrupted, and replied:

“ ’Tis sure temerity and madness sheer

Moves you and whatsoever wight beside,

That counsels matter, be it good or ill,

Uncalled a counsellor’s duty to fulfil;

XLIII

“And how to think, from love those counsels flow

Which once you bore and bear me, as you say,

(To speak the very truth) I do not know,

Who with Orlando see you here, this day.

I ween that, knowing you are doomed to woe,

And marked for the devouring dragon’s prey,

Ye all mankind would drag to nether hell,

In your eternity of pains to dwell.

XLIV

“If I shall win or lose, remount my throne,

Or pass my future days in exile drear,

God only knows, whose purpose is unknown

To me, in turn, or to Anglantes’ peer.

Befall what may, by me shall nought be done

Unworthy of a king, through shameful fear.

If death must be my certain portion, I,

Rather than wrong my princely blood, will die.

XLV

“Ye may depart, who, save ye better play

The warrior, in tomorrow’s listed fight,

Then ye have plaid the embassador today,

In arms will second ill Anglantes’ knight.”

Agramant ended so his furious say;

— His angry bosom boiling with despite.

So said — the warriors parted, to repose,

Till from the neighbouring sea the day arose.

XLVI

When the first whitening of the dawn was seen,

Armed, in a moment leapt on horseback all;

Short parley past the puissant foes between.

There was no stop; there was no interval;

For they have laid in rest their lances keen:

But I into too foul a fault should fall

Meseems, my lord, if, while their deeds I tell

I let Rogero perish in the swell.

XLVII

Cleaving the flood with nimble hands and feet

He swims, amid the horrid surges’ roar,

On him the threatening wind and tempest beat,

But him his harassed conscience vexes more.

Christ’s wrath he fears; and, since in waters sweet

(When time and fair occasion served of yore)

He, in his folly, baptism little prized,

Fears in these bitter waves to be baptized.

XLVIII

Those many promises remembered are

Whereby he to his lady-love was tied,

Those oaths which sworn to good Rinaldo were,

And were in nought fulfilled upon his side.

To God, in hope that he would hear and spare,

That he repented, oftentimes he cried,

And, should he land, and scape that mortal scaith,

To be a Christian, vowed in heart and faith;

XLIX

And ne’er, in succour of the Moorish train,

With sword or lance, the faithful to offend;

And into France, where he to Charlemagne

Would render honour due, forthwith to wend;

Nor Bradamant with idle words again

To cheat, but bring his love to honest end.

A miracle it is that, as he vows,

He swims more lightly and his vigour grows.

L

His vigour grows; unwearied is his mind;

And still his arms from him the billow throw,

This billow followed fast by that behind;

Whereof one lifts him high, one sinks him low.

Rising and falling, vext by wave and wind,

So gains the Child that shore with labour slow;

And where the rocky hill slopes seaward most,

All drenched and dropping, climbs the rugged coast.

LI

All the others that had plunged into the flood

In the end, o’erwhelmed by those wild waters died.

Rogero, as to Providence seemed good,

Mounted the solitary islet’s side.

When safe upon the barren rock he stood,

A new alarm the stripling terrified;

To be within those narrow bounds confined,

And die, with hardship and with hunger pined.

LII

Yet he with an unconquered heart, intent

To suffer what the heavens for him ordained,

O’er those hard stones, against that steep ascent,

Towards the top with feet intrepid strained;

And not a hundred yards had gone, when, bent

With years, and with long fast and vigil stained,

He worthy of much worship one espied,

In hermit’s weed, descend the mountain’s side;

LIII

Who cries, on his approaching him, “Saul, Saul,

Why persecutest thou my faithful seed?”

As whilom said the Saviour to Saint Paul,

When (blessed stroke!) he smote him from his steed.

“Thou thought’st to pass the sea, nor pay withal;

Thought’st to defraud the pilot of his meed.

Thou seest that God has arms to reach and smite,

When farthest off thou deem’st that God of might.”

LIV

And he, that holiest anchoret, pursued,

To whom the night foregoing God did send

A vision, as he slumbered, and foreshewed

How, thither by his aid the Child should wend;

Wherein his past and future life, reviewed,

Were seen, as well as his unhappy end;

And sons, and grandsons, and his every heir,

Fully revealed to that good hermit were.

LV

That anchoret pursues, and does upbraid

Rogero first, and comforts finally:

Upbraideth him, because he had delaid

Beneath that easy yoke to bend the knee;

And what he should have done, when whilom prayed

And called of Christ — then uncompelled and free —

Had done with little grace; nor turned to God

Until he saw him threatening with the rod.

LVI

Then comforts him — that Christ aye heaven allows

To them, that late or early heaven desire;

And all those labourers of the Gospel shows,

Paid by the vineyard’s lord with equal hire.

With charity and warm devotion glows,

And him instructs the venerable sire,

As toward the rocky cell where he resides

He with weak steps and slow Rogero guides.

LVII

Above that hallowed cell, on the hill’s brow,

A little church receives the rising day;

Commodious is the fane and fair enow;

Thence to the beach descends a thicket gray,

Where fertile and fruit-bearing palm-trees blow,

Myrtle, and lowly juniper, and bay,

Evermore threaded by a limpid fountain,

Which falls with ceaseless murmur from the mountain.

LVIII

’Twas well nigh forty years, since on that stone

The goodly friar had fixed his quiet seat;

Which, there to live a holy life, alone,

For him the Saviour chose, as harbourage meet.

Pure water was his drink, and, plucked from one,

Or the other plant, wild berries were his meat;

And hearty and robust, of ailments clear,

The holy man had reached his eightieth year.

LIX

That hermit lit a fire, and heaped the board

With different fruits, within his small repair;

Wherewith the Child somedeal his strength restored,

When he had dried his clothes and dripping hair.

After, at better ease, to him God’s word

And mysteries of our faith expounded were;

And the day following, in his fountain clear,

That anchoret baptized the cavalier.

LX

There dwells the young Rogero, well content

With what the rugged sojourn does allow;

In that the friar showed shortly his intent

To send him where he fain would turn his prow.

Meanwhile with him he many an argument

Handles and often; of God’s kingdom now;

Now of things appertaining to his case;

Now to Rogero’s blood, a future race.

LXI

The Lord, that every thing doth see and hear,

Had to that holiest anchoret bewrayed,

How he should not exceed the seventh year,

Dating from when he was a Christian made;

Who for the death of Pinabel whilere,

(His lady’s deed, but on Rogero laid)

As well as Bertolagi’s, should be slain

By false Maganza’s ill and impious train;

LXII

And, how that treason should be smothered so,

No sign thereof should outwardly appear;

For where that evil people dealt the blow,

They should entomb the youthful cavalier.

For this should vengeance follow, albeit slow,

Dealt by his consort and his sister dear;

And how he by his wife should long be sought,

With weary womb, with heavy burden fraught,

LXIII

‘Twixt Brenta and Athesis, beneath those hills

(Which erst the good Antenor so contented,

With their sulphureous veins and liquid rills,

And mead, and field, with furrows glad indented,

That he for these left pools which Xanthus fills;

And Ida, and Ascanius long lamented,)

Till she a child should in the forests bear,

Which little distant from Ateste are;

LXIV

And how the Child, in might and beauty grown,

That, like his sire, Rogero shall be hight,

Those Trojans, as of Trojan lineage known,

Shall for their lord elect with solemn rite;

Who next by Charles (in succour of whose crown

Against the Lombards shall the stripling fight)

Of that fair land dominion shall obtain,

And the honoured title of a marquis gain;

LXV

And because Charles shall say in Latin ‘Este’,

(That is — be lords of the dominion round!)

Entitled in a future season Este

Shall with good omen be that beauteous ground;

And thus its ancient title of Ateste

Shall of its two first letters lose the sound.

God also to his servant had foresaid

The vengeance taken for Rogero’s dead;

LXVI

Who shall, in vision, to his consort true

Appear somedeal before the dawn of day;

And shall relate how him the traitor slew,

And where his body lies to her shall say.

She and Marphisa hence, those valiant two,

With fire and sword on earth shall Poictiers lay;

Nor shall his son, when of befitting age,

Less harm Maganza in his mighty rage.

LXVII

On Azos, Alberts, Obysons, did dwell

That hermit hoar, and on their offspring bright;

Or Borso, Nicholas, and Leonel,

Alphonso, Hercules, and Hippolyte,

And. last of those, the gentle Isabel;

Then curbs his tongue and will no more recite.

He to Rogero what is fit reveals,

And what is fitting to conceal, conceals.

LXVIII

Meanwhile Orlando and bold Brandimart,

With that good knight, the Marquis Olivier,

Against the paynim Mars together start;

(Name well befitting Sericana’s peer)

And the other two — that from the adverse part,

At more than a foot-pace their coursers steer;

I say King Agramant and King Sobrine:

The pebbly beach resounds, and rolling brine.

LXIX

When they encounter in mid field, pell-mell,

And to the sky flew every shivered lance,

At that loud noise, the sea was seen to swell,

At that loud noise, which echoed even to France.

Gradasso and Roland met as it befel;

And fairly balanced might appear the chance,

But for the vantage of Rinaldo’s horse;

Which made Gradasso seem of greater force.

LXX

Baiardo shocked the steed of lesser might,

Backed by Orlando, with such might and main,

He made that courser stagger, left and right,

And measure next his length upon the plain:

Vainly to raise him strove Anglantes’ knight,

Thrice, nay four times, with rowels and with rein;

Balked of his end, he lights upon the field,

Draws Balisarda, and uplifts his shield.

LXXI

With Agramant encounters Olivier,

Who, fitly matched, their foaming coursers gall.

Bold Brandimart unhorsed in the career

Sobrino; but it was not plain withal

If ’twas the fault of horse or cavalier;

For seldom good Sobrino used to fall.

Was it his courser’s or his own misdeed,

Sobrino found himself without a steed.

LXXII

Now Brandimart, that upon earth descried

The king Sobrine, assailed no more his man;

But at Gradasso, who Anglantes’ pride

Had equally unhorsed, in fury ran.

On Agramant and Oliviero’s side,

Meanwhile the warfare stood as it began:

When broken on their bucklers were the spears,

With swords encountered the returning peers.

LXXIII

Roland who saw Gradasso in such guise,

As showed that to return he little cared,

— Nor can return; so Brandimart aye plies,

And presses Sericana’s monarch hard,

Turns round, and, like himself, afoot descries

Sobrino, in the doubtful strife unpaired:

At him he sprang; and, at his haughty look,

Heaven, as the warrior trod, in terror shook.

LXXIV

Foreseeing the assault with wary eye,

Prepared, and at close ward, behold the Moor!

As pilot against whom, now cresting nigh,

The threatening billow comes with hollow roar,

Towards it turns his prow, and, when so high

He views the sea, would gladly be ashore.

Sobrino rears his buckler, to withstand

The furious fall of Falerina’s brand.

LXXV

Of such fine steel was Balisarda’s blade,

That arms against it little shelter were;

And by a person of such puissance swayed,

By Roland, singe in the world or rare,

It splits the shield, and is in nowise stayed,

Though bound about with steel the edges are:

It splits the shield, and to the bottom rends,

And on the shoulder underneath descends.

LXXVI

Upon the shoulder; nor, though twisted chain

And double plates encase the paynim foe,

These hinder much that sword of stubborn grain

From opening wide the parted flesh below.

Sobrino at Orlando smites; but vain

Against the valiant count is every blow;

To whom, for special grace, the King of heaven

A body charmed against all arms had given.

LXXVII

The valorous count, redoubling still his blows,

Thought from the trunk the monarch’s head to smite.

Sobrino, who the strength of Clermont knows,

And how the shield ill boots, retired from fight,

Yet not so far, but that upon his brows

Fell the dread faulchion of Anglantes’ knight:

’Twas on its flat, but such his might and main,

It crushed the helm and stupefied the brain.

LXXVIII

Stunned by that furious stroke, he pressed the shore,

And it was long ere he again did rise.

The paladin believes the warfare o’er,

And that deprived of life Sobrino lies;

And, lest Gradasso to ill pass and sore

Should bring Sir Brandimart, at him he flies:

For him the paynim overmatched in horse,

In arms and faulchion, and perhaps in force.

LXXIX

Bold Brandimart, who guides Frontino’s rein,

The goodly courser, erst Rogero’s steed,

So well contends with him of Sericane,

The king yet little seems his foe to exceed;

Who, if he had as tempered plate and chain

As that bold paynim lord, would better speed;

But (for he felt himself ill-armed) the knight

Often gave ground, and traversed left and right.

LXXX

Better than good Frontino horse is none

To obey upon a sign the cavalier;

‘Twould seem that courser had the sense to shun

Sharp Durindana’s fall, now there now here.

Meanwhile elsewhere is horrid battle done

By royal Agramant and Olivier;

Who may be deemed well matched in warlike sleight,

Nor champions differing much in martial might.

LXXXI

Orlando had left Sobrino (as I said)

On earth, and against Sericana’s pride,

Desirous valiant Brandimart to aid,

Even as he was, afoot, in fury hied:

When, prompt to assail Gradasso with the blade,

He, loose and walking in mid field, espied

The goodly horse, which had Sobrino thrown;

And bowned him straight to make the steed his own.

LXXXII

He seized the horse (for none the deed gainsaid)

And took a leap, and vaulted on his prize.

This hand the bridle grasped, and that the blade.

Orlando’s motions good Gradasso spies;

Nor at his coming is the king dismaid;

Who by his name the paladin defies:

With him, and both his partners in the fight,

He hopes to make it dark before ’tis night.

LXXXIII

Leaving his foe, he, facing Brava’s lord,

Thrust at the collar of his shirt of mail,

All else beside the flesh the faulchion bored;

To pierce through which would every labour fail.

At the same time descends Orlando’s sword,

(Where Balisarda bites no spells avail)

Shears helmet, cuirass, shield, and all below,

And cleaves whate’er it rakes with headlong blow;

LXXXIV

And in face, bosom, and in thigh it seamed,

Beneath his mail, the king of Sericane.

From whom his blood till how had never streamed

Since he that armour wore; new rage and pain

Thereat the warrior felt, and strange it seemed

Sword cut so now, nor yet was Durindane.

Had Roland struck more home, or nearer been,

From head to belly he had cleft him clean.

LXXXV

No more in arms can trust the cavalier

As heretofore; for proved those arms have been:

He with more care, more caution than whilere,

Prepares to parry with the faulchion keen.

When entered Brandimart sees Brava’s peer,

Who snatched that battle from him, he between

Those other conflicts placed himself, that where

It most was needed, he might succour bear.

LXXXVI

While so the fight is balanced ‘mid those foes,

Sobrino, that on earth long time had lain,

When to himself he was returned, uprose,

In face and shoulder suffering grievous pain.

He lifts his face, his eyes about him throws;

And thither, where more distant on the plain

He sees his leader, with long paces steers

So stealthily, that none his coming hears;

LXXXVII

He on the Marquis came, who had but eyes

For Agramant, and in the warrior’s rear,

Wounded upon the hocks in such fierce wise

The courser of unheeding Olivier,

That he falls headlong; and beneath him lies

His valiant master, nor his foot can clear;

His left foot, which in that unthought for woe,

Was in the stirrup jammed, his steed below.

LXXXVIII

Sorbine pursued, and with back-handed blow

Thought he his head should from his neck have shorn;

But this forbids that armour, bright of show,

By Vulcan hammered, and by Hector worn.

Brandimart sees his risque, and at the foe

Is by his steed, with flowing bridle, borne.

Sobrino on the head he smote and flung;

But straight from earth that fierce old man upsprung;

LXXXIX

And turned anew to Olivier, to speed

The warrior’s soul more promptly on its way;

Or at the least that baron to impede.

And him beneath his courser keep at bay:

Bold Olivier, whose better arm was freed,

And with his sword could fend him as he lay,

Meanwhile so smites and longes, there and here,

That at sword’s length he holds the ancient peer.

XC

He hopes, if him but little he withstood,

He shall be straight delivered from that pain:

He sees him wholly strained and wet with blood,

And that he spills so much from open vein,

‘Twould seem he speedily must be subdued,

So weak he hardly can himself sustain.

Often and oft to rise the Marquis strove,

Yet could not from beneath his courser move.

XCI

Brandimart has found out the royal Moor,

And storms about that paynim cavalier;

Upon Frontino, like a lathe, before,

Beside, or whirling in the warrior’s rear.

A goodly horse the Christian champion bore;

Nor worse the southern king’s in the career:

That Brigliador, Rogero’s gift he crost,

Erewhile, by haughty Mandricardo lost.

XCII

Great vantage has he, on another part:

Of proof and perfect is his iron weed.

His at a venture took Sir Brandimart,

As he could have in haste in suchlike need;

But hopes (his anger puts him so in heart)

To change it for a better coat with speech;

Albeit the Moorish king, with bitter blow,

Has made the blood from his right should flow.

XCIII

Him in the flank Gradasso too had gored;

(Nor this was laughing matter) so had scanned

His vantage that redoubted paynim lord,

He found a place wherein to plant his brand;

He broke the warrior’s shield, his left arm bored,

And touched him slightly in the better hand.

But this was play, was pastime (might be said),

With Roland’s and Gradasso’s battle weighed.

XCIV

Gradasso has Orlando half disarmed;

Atop and on both sides his helm has broke:

Fallen is his shield, his cuirass split; but harmed

The warrior is not by the furious stroke,

Which opened plate and mail; for he is charmed;

And worser vengeance on the king has wroke,

In face, throat, breast has gored that cavalier,

Beside the wounds whereof I spake whilere.

XCV

Gradasso, desperate when he descried

Himself all wet, and smeared with sanguine dye,

And Roland, all from head to foot espied,

After such mighty strokes unstained and dry,

Thinking head, breast, and belly to divide,

With both his hands upheaved his sword on high;

And, even as he devised, upon the front,

Smote with mid blade Anglantes’ haughty count.

XCVI

And would by any other so have done;

— Would to the saddle-tree have cleft him clean:

But the good sword, as if it fell upon

Its flat, rebounds again, unstained and sheen.

The furious stroke astounded Milo’s son

By whom some scattered stars on earth were seen.

He drops the bridle and would drop the brand,

But that a chain secures it to his hand.

XCVII

So by the noise was scared the horse that bore

Upon his back Anglantes’ cavalier.

The courser scowered about the powdery shore,

Showing how good his speed in the career:

The County by that stroke astounded sore,

Has not the power the frightened horse to steer.

Gradasso follows and will reach him, so

That he but little more pursues the foe;

XCVIII

But turning round, beholds the royal Moor

To the utmost peril in that battle brought;

For by the shining helmet which he wore,

With the left hand, him Brandimart had caught;

Already had unlaced the casque before,

And with his dagger would new ill have wrought:

Nor much defence could make the Moorish lord;

For Brandimart as well had reft his sword.

XCIX

Gradasso turned, nor more Orlando sought,

But hastened where he Agramant espied:

The incautious Brandimart, suspecting nought

Orlando would have let him turn aside,

Had not Gradasso in his eyes or thought,

And to the paynim’s throat his knife applied.

Gradasso came, and at his helmet layed,

Wielding with either hand his trenchant blade.

C

Father of heaven! ‘mid spirits chosen by thee,

To him thy martyr true, a place accord;

Who, having traversed his tempestuous sea,

Now furls his sails in port. Ah! ruthless sword,

So cruel, Durindana, can’st thou be,

To good Orlando, to thine ancient lord,

That thou can’st slaughter, in the warrior’s view,

Of all his friends the dearest and most true?

CI

An iron ring that girt his helmet round,

Two inches thick, was broke by that fell blow

And cleft; and with the solid iron bound,

Was parted the good cap of steel below,

Bold Brandimart, reversed upon the ground,

With haggard face beside his horse lies low;

And issuing widely from the warrior’s head

A stream of life-blood dyes the shingle red.

CII

Come to himself, the County turns his eye

And sees his Brandimart upon the plain,

And in such act Gradasso standing by

As clearly shows by whom the knight was slain.

If he most raged or grieved I know not, I,

But such short time is left him to complain,

His hasty wrath breaks forth, his grief gives way;

But now ’tis time that I suspend my lay.

c41-tail

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