Orlando Furioso, by Lodovico Ariosto

Canto 42

Argument

The victory with Count Orlando lies;

But good Rinaldo and Bradamant at heart,

(One for Angelica, the other sighs

For young Rogero) suffer cruel smart.

Him that in chase of the Indian damsel hies

Disdain preserves; from thence does he depart

Towards Italy, and is with courteous cheer

And welcome guested by a cavalier.

I

What bit, what iron curb is to be found,

Or (could it be) what adamantine rein,

That can make wrath keep order and due bound,

And within lawful limits him contain?

When one, to whom the constant heart is bound

And linked by Love with solid bolt and chain,

We see, through violence or through foul deceit,

With mortal damage or dishonour meet.

II

And is the mind sometimes, if so possest,

To ill and savage action led astray,

It may deserve excuse; in that the breast

No more is under Reason’s sovereign sway.

Achilles, when, beneath his borrowed crest,

He saw Patroclus crimsoning the way,

Was with his murderer’s slaughter ill content,

Till he his mangled corse had dragged and shent.

III

Unconquered Duke Alphonso, anger so

Inflamed thy host the day that weighty stone

Wounded thy forehead with such grievous blow,

That all believed it to its rest was gone;

— Inflamed them with such fury, for the foe

In rampart, fosse, or wall, defence was none,

Who, one and all, within their works lay dead,

Nor wight was left the woeful news to spread.

IV

Seeing thy fall caused thine such mighty pain,

They were to fury moved; hadst thou, my lord,

Maintained thy footing, haply might thy train

Have with less licence plied the murderous sword.

Enough for thee thy Bastia to regain!

In fewer hours replaced beneath thy ward,

Then Cordova’s and fierce Granada’s band

Took days erewhile, to wrest it from thy hand.

V

Haply Heaven’s vengeance ordered what befel,

And in that case thy wound so hindered thee

To the end, the cruel outrage, foul and fell,

Done by that band before, should punished be.

For after the unhappy Vestidel,

Wearied and hurt, had sought their clemency,

Among them (mostly an unchristened train)

He, mid a hundred swords, unarmed, was slain.

VI

To end; I say that other rage is none

Which can be weighed with that in equal wise,

Which kindles, when an injury is done

To kinsman, friend or lord before our eyes.

Then justly in Orlando’s heart, for one

So dear to him, might sudden fury rise;

When him he saw, extended on the sand,

Slain by the stroke of fierce Gradasso’s brand.

VII

As nomade swain, who darting on its way

In slippery line the horrid snake has seen,

That his young son, amid the sands at play,

Has killed with venomed tooth, enflamed with spleen,

Grasps his batoon, the poisonous worm to slay;

His sword, than every other sword more keen,

So, in his fury grasped Anglantes’ knight,

And wreaked on Agramant his first despite,

VIII

Scaped, bleeding, with helm loosened form his head,

With half a shield and swordless, through his mail,

Sore wounded in more places than is said;

As from the dull or envious falcon’s nail,

Escapes the unhappy sparrowhawk, half dead,

With ruffled plumage and with loss of tail.

On him Orlando came and smote him just

Where with the helmed head confined the bust.

IX

Loosed was the helm, the neck without its band:

So, like a rush, was severed by the sword.

Down-fell, and shook its last upon the sand

The heavy trunk of Libya’s mighty lord.

His spirit, which flitted to the Stygian strand,

Charon with crooked boat-hook dragged aboard.

On him Orlando wastes no further pain,

But, sword in hand, seeks him of Sericane.

X

As the headless trunk of Africk’s cavalier

Extended on the shore Gradasso’s viewed,

(What never had befallen him whilere)

He shook at heart, a troubled visage shewed,

And, at the coming of Anglantes’ peer,

Presageful of his fate, appears subdued:

Nor seeks he means of fence against his foe,

When fierce Orlando deals the fatal blow.

XI

Orlando levels at his better side,

Beneath the lowest rib, his faulchion bright;

And crimsoned to the hilt, a hand’s breadth wide

Of the other flank, the sword appears in sight;

And well his mighty puissance testified,

And spoke him as the strongest living knight

That stroke, by which a warrior was undone,

Better than whom in Paynimry was none.

XII

Little his victory good Orlando cheers:

Himself he quickly from his saddle throws;

And, with a face disturbed, and wet with tears,

To his Brandimart in haste the warrior goes;

The field about him red with blood appears,

His helmet cleft as by a hatchet’s blows;

And, had it been than spungy rind more frail,

Would have defended him no worse than mail.

XIII

Orlando lifts the helmet, and descries

Brandimart’s head by that destructive brand

Cleft even to his nose, between the eyes;

Yet so the wounded knight his spirits manned,

That pardon of the king of Paradise

He, before death, was able to demand,

And to exhort to patience Brava’s peer,

Whose manly cheeks were wet with many a tear;

XIV

And — “Roland, in thy helping orisons, I

Beseech thee to remember me,” he cried,

“Nor recommend to thee less warmly my —”

— Flordelice would, but could not, say — and died;

And sounds and songs of angels in the sky,

As the soul parts, are heard on every side;

Which from its prison freed, mid hymns of love,

Ascends into the blissful realms above.

XV

Orlando, albeit he should joy in heart

At death so holy, and is certified

That called to bliss above is Brandimart;

For he heaven opened to the knight described;

Through human wilfulness — which aye takes part

With our weak senses — hardly can abide

The loss of one, above a brother dear,

Nor can refrain from many a scalding tear.

XVI

Warlike Sobrino, of much blood bereaved,

Which from his flank and wounded visage rained,

Long since had fallen, reversed and sore aggrieved,

And had by now his vessels well nigh drained.

Olivier too lies stretched; nor has retrieved,

Nor can retrieve, his crippled foot, save sprained,

And almost crushed; so long between the plain,

And his stout courser jammed, the limb has lain;

XVII

And but Orlando helped (so woe begone

Was weeping Olivier, and brought so low)

He could not have released his limb alone;

And, when released, endures such pain, such woe,

The helpless warrior cannot stand upon,

Or shift withal his wounded foot, and so

Benumbed and crippled is the leg above,

That he without assistance cannot move.

XVIII

The victory brought Orlando small delight;

On whom too heavily and hardly weighed

Of slaughtered Brandimart the piteous sight;

Nor sure of Oliviero’s life he made.

Sobrino yet survived; but little light

The wounded monarch had, amid much shade:

For almost spend his ebbing life remained

So fast from him the crimson blood had drained.

XIX

The County has him taken, bleeding sore;

Thither, where he is saved with sovereign care;

And he as if a kinsman of the Moor,

Benignly comforts him and speaks him fair:

For in Orlando, when the strife was o’er,

Was nothing evil; ever prompt to spare.

He from the dead their arms and coursers reft,

The rest he to their knives’ disposal left.

XX

Here as my story stood not on good ground,

Frederick Fulgoso doubtful does appear;

Who, searching Barbary’s every shore and sound

Erewhile on board a squadron, landed here;

And the isle so rugged and so rocky found,

In all its parts so mountainous and drear,

There is not (through the land) a level space

(He says) whereon a single boot to place.

XXI

Nor deems he likely, that six cavaliers,

The wide world’s flower, on Alpine rock should vye,

In that equestrian fight, with levelled spears.

To whose objection thus I make reply:

Erewhile a place, well fit for such careers,

Stretched at the bottom of the hills did lie;

But afterwards, o’erthrown by earthquake’s shock,

A cliff o’erspread the plain with broken rock.

XXII

So, of Fulgoso’s race thou shining ray,

Clear, lasting light, if, questioning my word,

Thou on this point hast ever said me nay,

And haply too, before the unconquered lord,

Through whom thy land, reposing, casts away

All haste, and wholly leans to kind accord,

Prythee delay not to declare, that I

In this my story haply tell no lie.

XXIII

Meanwhile his eyes the good Orlando reared,

And saw, on turning them to seaward, where

Under full sail a nimble bark appeared,

As if she to that island would repair.

I will not now rehearse who thither steered;

For more than one awaiteth me elsewhere.

Wend me to France and see if they be glad

At having chased the Saracens, or sad;

XXIV

See what she does withal, the lady true,

That sees her knight content to wend so wide;

Of the afflicted Bradamant I shew;

After she saw the oath was nullified,

Made in the hearing of those armies two,

Upon the Christian and the paynim side;

Since he again had failed her, there was nought

Wherein she could confide, the damsel thought.

XXV

And now her too accustomed plaint and wail

Repeating, of Rogero’s cruelty

Fair Bradamant renewed the wonted tale;

She cursed her hard and evil destiny;

Then loosening to tempestuous grief the sail,

Heaven that consented to such perjury,

— And did not yet by some plain token speak —

She, in her passion, called unjust and weak.

XXVI

The sage Melissa she accused, and cursed

The oracle of the cavern, through whose lie

She in that sea of love herself immersed,

Upon whose waters she embarked to die.

She to Marphisa afterwards rehearsed

Her woes, and told her brother’s perfidy;

She chides, pours forth her sorrows, and demands,

With tears and outcries, succour at her hands.

XXVII

Marphisa shrugs her shoulders; what alone

She can, she offers — comfort to the fair;

Nor thinks Rogero her has so foregone

But what to her he shortly will repair.

And, should he not, such outrage to be done,

The damsel plights her promise not to bear;

Twixt her and him shall deadly war be waged,

Or he shall keep the word, which he engaged.

XXVIII

She makes her somewhat thus her grief restrain;

Which having vent in some sort spend its gall,

Now we have seen the damsel in her pain

Rogero impious, proud, and perjured call,

See we, if in a happier state remain

The brother of that gentle maid withal;

Whose flesh, bones, nerves, and sinews are a prey

To burning love; Rinaldo I would say.

XXIX

I say Rinaldo that (as known to you)

Angelica the beauteous loved so well:

Nor him into the amorous fillets drew

So much her beauty as the magic spell.

In peace reposed those other barons true;

For wholly broken was the infidel:

Alone amid the victors, he, of all

The paladins, remained Love’s captive thrall.

XXX

To seek her he a hundred couriers sent,

And sought as well, himself, the missing maid:

He in the end to Malagigi went,

Who in his need had often given him aid:

To him he told his love, with eyelids bent

On earth, and visage crimsoned o’er; and prayed

That sage magicians to instruct him, where

He in the world might find the long-sought fair.

XXXI

A case, so strange and wondrous, marvel sore

In friendly Malagigi’s bosom bred:

The wizard knew, a hundred times and more,

He might have had the damsel in his bed;

And he himself, to move the knight or yore,

In her behalf, enough had done and said:

Had him by prayer and menace sought to bend,

Yet ne’er was able to obtain his end;

XXXII

And so much more, that out of prison ward

He then would Malagigi so have brought.

Now will he seek her, of his own accord,

On less occasion, when it profits nought.

Next that magician Montalbano’s lord

To mark how sorely do had erred, besought:

Since little lacked, but through the boon denied,

Erewhile he had in gloomy dungeon died.

XXXIII

But how much more Rinaldo’s strange demand

Sounded importunately in his ear,

So by sure index Malagigi scanned,

That so much was Angelica more dear.

Rinaldo prayer unable to withstand,

In ocean sunk the wizard cavalier

All memory of old injury assaid,

And bowned himself to give the warrior aid.

XXXIV

For his reply he craved some small delay,

And with fair hope consoled Mount Alban’s knight,

He should be able of the road to say

By which Angelica had sped her flight,

In France or wheresoe’er; then wends his way

Thither where he is wont his imps to cite;

A grot impervious and with mountains walled:

His book he opened and the spirits called.

c42-034

XXXV

Then one he chooses, in love-cases read,

Whom Malagigi to declare requires,

How good Rinaldo’s heart, before so died,

Was now so quickly moved by soft desires;

And of those fountains twain (the demon said)

Whereof one lights, one quenches amorous fires;

And how nought cures the mischief caused by one

But that whose streams in counter current run;

XXXVI

And says, Rinaldo, having drunk whilere

From the love-chasing fountain’s mossy urn,

To Angelica, that long had wooed the peer,

Had shown himself so obstinate and stern;

And he, whom after his ill star did steer

To drink of that which makes the bosom burn,

Her whom but just before he loathed above

All reason, by that draught was forced to love.

XXXVII

Him his ill star and cruel fate conveyed

To swallow fire and flame i’ the frozen lake:

For nigh at the same time the Indian maid

In the other bitter stream her thirst did slake;

Which in her bosom so all love allayed,

Henceforth she loathed him more than noisome snake;

He loved her, and such love was his, as late

Rinaldo bore her enmity and hate.

XXXVIII

Of this strange story fully certified

Was Malagigi by the demon’s lore;

Who news as well of Angelique supplied;

How yielding up herself to a young Moor,

With him embarking on the unstable tide,

She had abandoned Europe’s every shore;

And hoisting her bold canvas to the wind,

In Catalonian galley loosed for Ind.

XXXIX

Rinaldo seeking out the sage anew

For his reply — he would dissuade the knight

From loving more that Indian lady, who

Now waited on a vile barbarian wight;

And was so distant he could ill pursue;

If he would chase the damsel on her flight,

Who must have measured than half her way

Homeward, with young Medoro to Catay.

XL

In that bold lover no displeasure deep

The journey of Angelica would move;

Nor yet would mar or break the warrior’s sleep

To think that he again must eastward rove:

But that a stripling Saracen should reap

The first fruits of that faithless lady’s love

In him such passion bred, such heart-ache sore,

He never in his life so grieved before.

XLI

No power hath he to make one sole reply;

His heart, his lip, is quivering with disdain;

His tongue no word is able to untie;

His mouth is bitter, and ‘twould seem with bane.

He flung from the magician suddenly,

And, as by fury stirred and jealous pain,

He after mighty plaint and mighty woe

Resolved anew to eastern realms to go.

XLII

Licence he asks of Pepin’s royal son,

Upon the ground, since with his courser dear

To Sericane is King Gradasso gone,

Against the use of gallant cavalier,

Him honour moves the selfsame course to run,

In the end he may prevent the paynim peer

From ever vaunting, that with sword or lance

He took him from a Paladin of France.

XLIII

Charles gives him leave to go; though, far and nigh,

With him all France laments he thence should wend;

But he in fine that prayer can ill deny,

So honest seems the worthy warrior’s end.

Him Dudon, Guido, would accompany;

But he refuses either valiant friend:

From Paris he departs, and wends alone,

Plunged in his grief and heaving many a groan.

XLIV

Ever in memory dwells the restless thought,

He might a thousand times have had the fair;

And — mad and obstinate — had, when besought,

A thousand times refused such beauty rare;

And such sweet joy was whilom set at nought,

Such bright, such blessed moments wasted were;

And now he life would gladly give away

To have that damsel but for one short day.

XLV

The thought will never from his mind depart,

How for a sorry footpage she could slight,

— Flinging their merit and their love apart —

The service of each former loving wight.

Vext by such thought, which racked and rent his heart,

Rinaldo wends towards the rising light:

He the straight road to Rhine and Basle pursued,

Till he arrived in Arden’s mighty wood.

XLVI

When within that adventurous wood has hied

For many a mile Montalban’s cavalier,

Of lonely farm or lordly castle wide,

Where the rude place was roughest and most drear,

The sky disturbed he suddenly descried,

He saw the sun’s dimmed visage disappear,

And spied forth issuing from a cavern hoar

A monster, which a woman’s likeness wore.

XLVII

A thousand lidless eyes are in her head:

She cannot close them, nor, I think, doth sleep:

She listens with as many ears, and spread

Like hair, about her forehead serpents creep.

Forth issued into day that figure dread

From devilish darkness and the caverned deep.

For tail, a fierce and bigger serpent wound

About her breast, and girt the monster round.

XLVIII

What in a thousand, thousand quests had ne’er

Befal’n Rinaldo, here befel the knight;

Who, when he sees the horrid form appear,

Coming to seek him and prepared for fight,

Feels in his inmost veins such freezing fear,

As haply never fell on other wight;

Yet wonted daring counterfeits and feigns,

And with a trembling hand the faulchion strains.

XLIX

The monster so the fierce assault did make

Therein her master was well descried,

It might be said; she shook a poisonous snake,

And now on this, now on the other side,

Leapt at the knight; at her Rinaldo strake

Ever meanwhile with random blows and wide;

With forestroke, backstroke, he assails the foe;

He often smites, but never plants a blow.

L

The monster threw a serpent at his breast,

That froze his heart beneath its iron case:

Now through the vizor flung the poisonous pest,

Which crept about his collar and his face.

Dismaid, Rinaldo fled the field, and prest

With all his spurs his courser through the chase:

But not behind the hellish monster halts,

Who in a thought upon the crupper vaults.

LI

Wend where the warrior will, an-end or wide,

Ever with him is that accursed Pest:

Nor knows he how from her to be untied,

Albeit his courser plunges without rest.

Like a leaf quakes his heart within his side,

Not that the snakes in other mode molest,

But they such horror and such loathing bred,

He shrieks, he groans, and gladly would be dead.

LII

By gloomiest track and blindest path he still

Threaded the tangled forest here and there;

By thorniest valley and by roughest hill,

And wheresoever darkest was the air;

Thus hoping to have rid him of that ill,

Hideous, abominable, poisonous Care;

Beneath whose gripe he foully might have fared,

But that one quickly to his aid repaired.

LIII

But aid, and in good time, a horseman bore,

Equipt with arms of beauteous steel and clear:

For crest, a broken yoke the stranger wore;

Red flames upon his yellow shield appear:

So was the courser’s housing broidered o’er,

As the proud surcoat of the cavalier.

His lance he grasped, his sword was in its place,

And at his saddle hung a burning mace.

LIV

That warrior’s mace a fire eternal fills,

Whose lasting fuel ever blazes bright;

And goodly buckler, tempered corslet thrills,

And solid helm; then needs the approaching knight

Must make him way, wherever ’tis his will

To turn his inextinguishable light.

Nor of less help in need Rinaldo stands,

To save him from the cruel monster’s hands.

LV

The stranger horseman, like a warrior bold,

Where he that hubbub hears, doth thither swoop,

Until he sees the beast, whose snakes enfold

Rinaldo, linked in many a loathsome loop,

Who sweats at once with heat and quakes with cold,

Nor can he thrust the monster from his croup.

Arrived the stranger smote her in the flank,

Who on the near side of the courser sank:

LVI

But scarcely was on earth extended, ere

She rose and shook her snakes in volumed spire.

The knight no more assails her with the spear;

But is resolved to plague the foe with fire:

He gripes the mace and thunders in her rear

With frequent blows, like tempest in its ire;

Nor leaves a moment to that monster fell

To strike one stroke in answer, ill or well;

LVII

And, while he chases her or holds at bay,

Smites her and venges many a foul affront,

Counsels the paladin, without delay,

To take the road which scales the neighbouring mount:

He took that proffered counsel and that way,

And without stop, or turning back his front,

Pricked furiously till he was out of sight;

Though hard to clamber was the rugged height.

LVIII

The stranger, when he to her dark retreat

Had driven from upper light that beast of hell

(Where she herself doth ever gnaw and eat,

While from her thousand eyes tears ceaseless well)

Followed the knight, to guide his wandering feet;

And overtook him on the highest swell;

Then placed himself beside the cavalier

Him from those dark and gloomy parts to steer.

LIX

When him returned beheld Montalban’s knight,

That countless thanks were due to him, he said,

And that at all times, as a debt of right,

His life should be for his advantage paid.

Of him he next demands, how he is hight,

That he may know and tell who brought him aid;

And among worthy warriors, and before

King Charles, exalt his prowess evermore.

LX

The stranger answered: “Let it irk not thee

That I not now my name to thee display;

Ere longer by a yard the shadows be,

This will I signify; a short delay.”

Wending together, they a river see

Whose murmurs woo the traveller from his way,

And shepherd-swain, by whiles, to their green brink;

There an oblivion of their love to drink.

LXI

My lord, that fountain’s chilling stream and clear

Extinguished love; Angelica of yore

Drinking thereof, for good Montalban’s peer

Conceived that hate she nourished evermore;

And if she once displeased the cavalier,

And he to her such passing hatred bore,

For this no other cause occasion gave,

My lord, save drinking of this chilly wave.

LXII

Arriving at that limpid river’s side,

The cavalier that with Rinaldo goes,

Reined-in his courser, how with toil, and cried,

“Here ’twere not ill, meseemeth, to repose.”

— “It cannot but be well” (the peer replied),

“Because, beside that mid-day fiercely glows,

I have so suffered from that hideous Pest,

As sweet and needful shall I welcome rest.”

LXIII

Upon the green sward lit the martial two,

While their loose horses through the forest fed;

And from their brows the burnished helmets threw

On that flowered herbage, yellow, green, and red.

Rinaldo to the liquid crystal flew,

By heat and thirst unto the river sped;

And with one draught of that cold liquid drove

Out of his burning bosom thirst and love.

LXIV

Whenas Rinaldo, sated with the draught,

Raising his head the stranger knight espied,

And saw that he, repentant, every thought

Of that so frantic love had put aside,

He reared himself, and said with semblance haught

That which he would not say before, and cried:

“Rinaldo, know that I am hight Disdain,

Bound hither but to break thy worthless chain.”

LXV

So saying, suddenly he passed from sight;

With him his horse: this in Rinaldo bred

Much wonderment; and the astonished knight,

“Where is he?” gazing round about him, said.

He cannot guess if ’twere a magic sprite,

A fiend by Malagigi thither sped,

From those his ministers, to break the chain,

Fettered whereby he lived so long in pain;

LXVI

Of if an angel from the heavenly sphere

In his ineffable goodness by the Lord,

Dispatched, as to Tobias’s aid whilere,

A medicine for his blindness to afford.

But good or evil angel — whatsoe’er

He was that him to liberty restored —

Him thanked and praised Rinaldo, for a heart

Healed only by his help of amorous smart.

LXVII

Old hate revived upon Rinaldo’s side;

Nor he alone unworthy to be wooed,

The damsel deemed by pilgrimage so wide

Her half a league he would not have pursued.

Nathless anew Baiardo to bestride

To Sericane would go that warrior good:

As well because his honour him compelled,

As for the talk which he with Charles had held.

LXVIII

He pricked to Basle upon the following day,

Whither the tidings had arrived before:

That Count Orlando was, in martial fray,

To meet Gradasso and the royal Moor:

Nor through Orlando was divulged that say:

But one, who crost from the Sicilian shore,

And thither had, in haste, the journey made,

As certain news, the tidings had conveyed.

LXIX

Rinaldo had gladly been at Roland’s side,

And from that battle far himself doth see:

Every ten miles he changes horse and guide,

And whips and spurs, and makes his courser flee.

He crost the Rhine at Constance, forward hied,

He traversed Alp, arrived in Italy,

He left Verona, Mantua, in his rear,

And reached and past the Po, with swift career.

LXX

Much towards eve already sloped the sun,

And the first star was glimmering in the sky,

When, doubting on the bank if he shall run

Another course, or in some hostel lie

Until the shades of night and vapours dun

Before Aurora’s beauteous visage fly,

A cavalier approaching him he viewed,

Who courtesy in face and semblance shewed.

LXXI

He, after greeting him, if he were tied

In wedlock, made in gentle wise demand.

Rinaldo, wondering what the quest implied,

Made answer: “I am bound in nuptial band.”

— “I joy thereat,” the cavalier replied;

Then, that he might this saying understand,

Added, “I pray that you, sir knight, within

My mansion will this eve be pleased to inn.

LXXII

“For I will make you see what must please

A wight” (pursued the stranger) “that is wed.”

Rinaldo, as well that he would take his ease,

— But this, with so long posting sore bested —

As that to see and hear strange novelties

By natural desire he still was led,

His offer takes, and enters a new road,

Following that cavalier to his abode.

LXXIII

A bowshot from the way diverged the two,

And a great palace fronting them descried:

Whence squires with blazing lights (a numerous crew)

Issued, and chased the darkness far and wide.

Entering, his eyes around Rinaldo threw,

And saw a place, whose like is seldom spied,

Of beauteous fabric, and well ordered plan;

Nor such huge cost befitted private man.

LXXIV

Of serpentine and of hard porphyry are

The stones which form the gateway’s arch above.

Of bronze the portal leaves, which figures bear,

Whose lively features seem to breathe and move.

Beneath the vaulted entry, colours rare

Cheating the eye, in mixt mosaic strove,

The quadrangle within was galleried,

And of a hundred yards, on every side.

LXXV

A gateway is there to each galleried row,

And, twixt it and that gate, an arch is bent;

Of equal breadth, but different in their show,

For the architect had spared not ornament.

Each arch an entrance was; up which might go

A laden horse; so easy the ascent.

To arch above leads every stair withal,

And every arch is entrance to a hall.

LXXVI

Above, project the arches in such sort,

They for the spacious portals form a shade;

And each two pillars has for its support:

Of bronze are some, and some of marble made.

The ornamented chambers of the court

Too many are to be at length displayed;

With easements, which (beside what is in sight)

The skilful master underground had dight.

LXXVII

Tall columns, with their capitals of gold,

Which gemmed entablatures support in air;

Exotic marbles engraved with figures fair;

Picture and cast, and works so manifold,

Albeit by night they mostly hidden were,

Showed that two kings’ united treasure ne’er

Would have sufficed such gorgeous pile to rear.

LXXVIII

Above the beauteous ornaments and rich

That mingled in that gay quadrangle meet,

There is a fresh and plenteous fountain, which

Scatters in many threads its watery sheet,

’Tis here that youths at equal distance pitch,

I’ the middle, tables for the festive treat.

Whence they four gates of that rich mansion see,

And seen from those four gates as well may be.

LXXIX

By cunning master, diligent and wise,

With much and subtle toil, the fount was made:

In open gallery or pavilion’s guise;

Which from eight separate fronts, projects a shade.

A gilded roof, which with enamelled dyes

Was stained below, the building overlayed.

Eight marble statues (snowy was the grain),

With the left arm that gilded roof sustain.

LXXX

Fair Amalthaea’s horn in the right hand

Had quaintly sculptured the ingenious master,

Whence water, trickling forth with murmur bland,

Descends into a vase of alabaster;

And he, in likeness of a lady grand,

With sovereign art had fashioned each pilaster.

Various they were in visage and in vest,

But all of equal charms and grace possest.

LXXXI

Upon two beauteous images below

Each of these female statues fix their feet.

The lower seem with open mouth to show

That song and harmony to them are sweet;

And, by their attitude, ‘twould seem, as though

Their every work and every study meet

In praising them, they on their shoulders bear,

As they would those whose likenesses they wear.

LXXXII

The images below them in their hand

Long scrolls and of an ample size contain,

Which of the worthiest figures of that band

The several names with mickle praise explain

As well their own at little distance stand,

Inscribed upon that scroll, in letters plain,

Rinaldo, by the help of blazing lights,

Marked, one by one, the ladies and their knights.

LXXXIII

The first inscription there which meets the eye

Recites at length Lucretia Borgia’s fame,

Whom Rome should place, for charms and chastity,

Above that wife who whilom bore her name.

Strozza and Tebaldeo — Anthony

And Hercules — support the honoured dame:

(So says the scroll): for tuneful strain, the pair

A very Linus and an Orpheus are.

LXXXIV

A statue no less jocund, no less bright,

Succeeds, and on the writing is impressed;

Lo! Hercules’ daughter, Isabella hight,

In whom Ferrara deems her city blest,

Much more because she first shall see the light

Within its circuit, than for all the rest

Which kind and favouring Fortune in the flow

Of rolling years, shall on that town bestow.

LXXXV

The pair that such desirous ardour shew

That aye her praises should be widely blown:

John James alike are named: of those fair two,

One is Calandra, one is Bardelon.

In the third place, and fourth, where trickling through

Small rills, the water quits that octagon,

Two ladies are there, equal in their birth,

Equal in country, honour, charms and worth.

LXXXVI

One was Elizabeth, one Eleanor,

And if we credit what that marble said,

Manto’s so glorious city which such store

Sets my melodious Maro, whom she bred,

More vaunts not him, nor reverences more,

Than these fair dames her poet’s honoured head.

The first of these her hallowed feet had set

On Peter Bembo and James Sadolet.

LXXXVII

Arelio and Castiglion, a polished pair,

That other lady, in mid air, sustain.

Their names were carved upon the marble fair,

Then both unknown, and now so fames a twain.

Next was a lady, that from Heaven shall heir

As mighty virtue as on earth doth reign,

Or ever yet hath reigned, in any age,

Well proved by Fortune in her love or rage.

LXXXVIII

Inscribed in characters of gold is here

Lucretia Bentivoglia, and among

Her praises, ’tis declared Ferrara’s peer

Joys that such daughter doth to him belong.

Her shall Camillus voice, and far and near

Reno and Felsina shall hear his song,

Wrapt in as mighty wonder at the strain

As that wherewith Amphrysus heard his swain;

LXXXIX

And one, through whom that city’s name (where sweet

Isaurus salts his wave in larger vase)

Fame shall from Africa to Ind repeat,

From southern tracts to Hyperborean ways,

More than because Rome’s gold in that famed seat

Was weighed, whereof perpetual record says

Guy Posthumus — about whose honoured brow

Phoebus and Pallas bind a double bough.

XC

Dian is next in order of that train.

“Regard not (said the marble) is she wear

A haughty port; for in her heart, humane

The matron is, as in her visage, fair.

Learned Celio Calcagnine in lofty strain

Her glories and fair name abroad shall bear,

And Juba’s and Moneses’ kingdom hear,

And Spain and farthest Ind, his trumpet clear;

XCI

And a Cavallo shall make such a font

Of poetry in famed Ancona run,

As that winged courser on Parnassus’ mount;

Or was it on the hill of Helicon?

’Tis Beatrice, who next uprears her front,

Whereof so speaks the writing on the stone:

“Her consort Beatrice, while she has breath,

Blesses, and leaves unhappy at her death;

XCII

“Yea, Italy; that with her triumphs bright,

Without that lady fair shall captive be.”

A lofty song appears of her to indite

A lord of the Correggio’s noble tree;

And, Benedeo’s pride, Timotheus hight.

Between his banks, descending to the sea,

By their joint music shall the stream be stopt,

Whose trees erewhile the liquid amber dropt.

XCIII

Between this and that lofty column’s place

Into fair Borgia fashioned (as was said)

Of aspect so distinguished, of such grace,

A lady was, of alabaster made,

That, hiding in a simple veil her face,

In sable, without gems or gold arraid,

She, ‘mid the brightest, flung her light as far,

As amid lesser fires the Cyprian star.

XCIV

None knows, observing her with steadfast view,

If she of charms or grace have fuller store,

Whether her visage most majestic shew,

Or beam with genius or with beauty more.

“He that would speak — would speak her praises true —

(Declares in fine the sculptured marble’s lore)

The fairest of emprizes would intend,

But never bring his noble task to end.”

XCV

Albeit such grace and passing sweetness shewed

Her fair and well wrought image, she disdain

Appeared to nurse, that one of wit so rude

Should dare to sing her praise in humble strain,

As he that only without comrade stood,

I know not why, her statue to sustain,

The marble all those other names revealed.

That pair’s alone the artist had concealed.

XCVI

The statues in the middle form a round,

The floor whereof dry stalks of coral pave;

Most pleasant, cool, and grateful, is that ground;

So rendered by the pure and crystal wave.

Which vent without in other channel found;

And issued forth in many a stream, to lave

A mead of azure, white, and yellow hue;

Gladdening the plants that on their margins grew.

XCVII

Conversing with his courteous host, the peer

Sate at the board, and oft and often prayed,

That without more delay the cavalier

Would keep the promise he whilere had made;

And marking, ever and anon, his cheer,

Observes his heart with some deep woe downweighed.

For not a moment ‘mid their converse slips,

But what a burning sigh is on his lips.

XCVIII

Oft with desire was good Rinaldo stung

To ask that sorrow’s cause, and the request

Was almost on the gentle warrior’s tongue,

And there by courteous modesty represt.

Now at their banquet’s close a youth, among

The menial crew, on whom that charge did rest,

Placed a gold cup before the paladin,

Filled full of gems without, of wine within.

XCIX

The host then somedeal smiling, from the board

Looked up at Aymon’s son; but who this while

Well marked him, as he eyed Montalban’s lord,

Had deemed him more disposed to weep than smile.

“So oft reminded, to maintain my word,

’Tis time meseems (said he, that owned the pile)

To shew the touchstone for a woman’s love,

Which needs to wedded man must welcome prove.

C

“Ne’er, in my judgment, should the married dame

Be from espial by her lord released;

Thus shall he know if honour or if blame

His portion is; if he is man or beast.

The weight of horns, though coupled with such shame,

Is of all burdens upon the earth the least.

While well-nigh all behold his antlers spread,

He feels them not who has them on his head.

CI

“If certain of thy wife’s fidelity,

Thou hast more ground to prize and hold her dear

Than one, whose wife is evil known to be,

Or husband that is still in doubt and fear.

Full many husbands live in jealousy,

And groundlessly, of women chaste and clear.

On many women many men rely

Meanwhile, who bear their branching antlers high.

CII

“If thou would’st be assured thy wife is true

(As sure methinks thou thinkest and must think)

For it is hard that notion to undo,

Unless thy trust before sure tokens sink,

— No hearsay matter this — thyself shalt view

The truth, if thou in this fair vessel drink,

Placed solely on the supper-board, that thou

May’st see the marvel promised thee but now.

CIII

“Drink, and a mighty marvel shall be seen;

For if thou wearest Cornwall’s lofty crest,

No drop of wine shall pass thy lips between,

And all the draught be spilt upon thy breast.

If faithful is thy wife, thou shalt drink clean.

And now — to try thy fortune — to the test!”

He said, and with fixt eyes the sign explored;

If on his breast the wine Rinaldo poured.

CIV

Rinaldo was nigh moved the cup to raise,

And seek what he would haply wish unsought:

Forward he reached his hand and took the vase,

About to prove his fortune in the draught.

Then of the passing peril of the case,

Before it touched his lips, the warrior thought.

But let me, sir, repose myself, and I

Will then relate the Paladin’s reply.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au//data/web/ebooks/canto42.html

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