Orlando Furioso, by Lodovico Ariosto

Canto 45

Argument

Young Leo doth from death Rogero free;

For him Rogero Bradamant hath won,

Making that maid appear less strong to be,

Disguised in fight like Leo; and, that done,

Straight in despite would slay himself; so he

By sorrow, so by anguish is foredone.

To hinder Leo of his destined wife

Marphisa works, and kindles mighty strife.

I

By how much higher we see poor mortal go

On Fortune’s wheel, which runs a restless round,

We so much sooner see his head below

His heels; and he is prostrate on the ground.

The Lydian, Syracusan, Samian show

This truth, and more whose names I shall not sound;

All into deepest dolour in one day

Hurled headlong from the height of sovereign sway.

II

By how much more deprest on the other side,

By how much more the wretch is downwards hurled,

He so much sooner mounts, where he shall ride,

If the revolving wheel again be twirled.

Some on the murderous block have well-nigh died,

That on the following day have ruled the world.

Ventidius, Servius, Marius this have shown

In ancient days; King Lewis in our own;

III

King Lewis, stepfather of my duke’s son;

Who, when his host at Santalbino fled,

Left in his clutch by whom that field was won,

Was nigh remaining shorter by the head.

Nor long before the great Corvinus run

A yet more fearful peril, worse bested:

Both throned, when overblown was their mischance,

One king of Hungary, one king of France.

IV

’Tis plain to sight, through instances that fill

The page of ancient and of modern story,

That ill succeeds to good, and good to ill;

That glory ends in shame, and shame in glory;

And that man should not trust, deluded still,

In riches, realm, or field of battle, gory

With hostile blood, nor yet despair, for spurns

Of Fortune; since her wheel for ever turns.

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V

Through that fair victory, when overthrown

Were Leo and his royal sire, the knight

Who won that battle to such trust is grown,

In his good fortune and his peerless might,

He, without following, without aid, alone

(So is he prompted by his daring sprite)

Thinks, mid a thousand squadrons in array,

— Footmen and horsemen — sire and son to slay.

VI

But she, that wills no trust shall e’er be placed

In her by man, to him doth shortly show,

How wight by her is raised, and how abased;

How soon she is a friend, how soon a foe;

She makes him know Rogero, that in haste

Is gone to work that warrior shame and woe;

The cavalier, which in that battle dread

With much ado had from his faulchion fled.

VII

He to Ungiardo hastens to declare

The Child who put the imperial host to flight,

Whose carnage many years will not repair,

Here past the day and was to pass the night;

And saith, that Fortune, taken by the hair,

Without more trouble, and without more fight,

Will, if he prisons him, the Bulgars bring

Beneath the yoke and lordship of his king.

VIII

Ungiardo from the crowd, which had pursued

Thither their flight from the ensanguined plain,

For, troop by troop, a countless multitude

(Arrived, because not all the bridge could gain)

Knew what a cruel slaughter had ensued:

For there the moiety of the Greeks was slain;

And knew that by a cavalier alone

One host was saved, and one was overthrown;

IX

And that undriven he should have made his way

Into the net, and of his own accord,

Wondered, and showed his pleasure, at the say

In visage, gesture, and in joyful word.

He waited till Rogero sleeping lay;

Then softly sent his guard to take that lord;

And made the valiant Child, who had no dread

Of such a danger, prisoner in his bed.

X

By his own shield accused, that witness true,

The Child is captive in Novogorood,

To Ungiardo, worst among the cruel, who

Marvellous mirth to have that prisoner shewed.

And what, since he was naked, could he do,

Bound, while his eyes were yet by slumber glued?

A courier, who the news should quickly bear,

Ungiardo bids to Constantine repair.

XI

Constantine on that night with all his host,

Raising his camp, from Save’s green shore had gone:

With this in Beleticche he takes post,

Androphilus’, his sister’s husband’s town,

Father of him, whose arms in their first joust

(As if of wax had been his habergeon)

Had pierced and carved the puissant cavalier,

Now by Ungiardo pent in dungeon drear.

XII

Here from attack the emperor makes assure

The city walls and gates on every side;

Lest, from the Bulgar squadrons ill secure,

Having so good a warrior for their guide,

His broken Grecians worse than fear endure;

Deeming the rest would by his hand have died.

Now he is taken, these breed no alarms;

Nor would he fear the banded world in arms.

XIII

The emperor, swimming in a summer sea,

Knows not for very pleasure what to do:

“Truly the Bulgars may be said to be

Vanquished,” he cries, with bold and cheerful brow.

As he would feel assured of victory,

That had of either arm deprived his foe;

So the emperor was assured, and so rejoiced,

When good Rogero’s fate the warrior voiced.

XIV

No less occasion has the emperor’s son

For joying; for besides that he anew

Trusts to acquire Belgrade, and tower and town

Throughout the Bulgars’ country to subdue,

He would by favours make the knight his own,

And hopes to rank him in his warlike crew:

Nor need he envy, guarded by his blade,

King Charles’, Orlando’s, or Rinaldo’s aid.

XV

Theodora was by other thoughts possest,

Whose son was killed by young Rogero’s spear;

Which through his shoulders, entering at his breast,

Issued a palm’s breadth in the stripling’s rear;

Constantine’s sister she, by grief opprest,

Fell down before him; and with many a tear

That dropt into her bosom, while she sued,

His heart with pity softened and subdued.

XVI

“I still before these feet will bow my knee,

Save on this felon, good my lord,” (she cried)

“Who killed my son, to venge me thou agree,

Now that we have him in our hold; beside

That he thy nephew was, thou seest how thee

He loved; thou seest what feats upon thy side

That warrior wrought; thou seest if thou wilt blot

Thine own good name, if thou avenge him not.

XVII

“Thou seest how righteous Heaven by pity stirred

From the wide champaign, red with Grecian gore,

Bears that fell man; and like a reckless bird

Into the fowler’s net hath made him soar;

That for short season, for revenge deferred,

My son may mourn upon the Stygian shore.

Give me, my lord, I pray, this cruel foe,

That by his torment I may soothe my woe.”

XVIII

So well she mourns; and in such moving wise

And efficacious doth she make lament;

(Nor from before the emperor will arise,

Though he three times and four the dame has hent,

And to uplift by word and action tries)

That he is forced her wishes to content;

And thus, according to her prayer, commands

The Child to be delivered to her hands;

XIX

And, not therein his orders to delay,

They take the warrior of the unicorn

To cruel Theodora; but one day

Of respite has the knight: to have him torn

In quarters, yet alive; to rend and slay

Her prisoners publicly with shame and scorn,

Seems a poor pain; and he must undergo

Other unwonted and unmeasured woe.

XX

At the commandment of that woman dread,

Chains on his neck and hands and feet they don;

And put him in a dungeon-cell, where thread

Of light was never by Apollo thrown:

He has a scanty mess of mouldy bread;

And sometimes is he left two days with none;

And one that doth the place of jailer fill

Is prompter than herself to work him ill.

XXI

Oh! if Duke Aymon’s daughter brave and fair,

Of if Marphisa of exalted mind

Had heard Rogero’s sad estate declare,

And how he in this guise in prison pined,

To his rescue either would have made repair,

And would have flung the fear of death behind:

Nor had bold Bradamant, intent to aid,

Respect to Beatrice or Aymon paid.

XXII

Meanwhile King Charlemagne upon his side,

Heeding his promise made in solemn sort,

That none should have the damsel for his bride,

That of her prowess in the field fell short;

Not only had his sovereign pleasure cried

With sound of trumpet in his royal court,

But in each city subject to his crown.

Hence quickly through the world the bruit was blown.

XXIII

Such the condition which he bids proclaim:

He that would with Duke Aymon’s daughter wed

Must with the sword contend against that dame

From the suns rise until he seeks his bed;

And if he for that time maintains the game,

And is not overcome, without more said,

The lady is adjudged to have lost the stake;

Nor him for husband can refuse to take.

XXIV

The choice of arms must be by her foregone,

No matter who may claim it in the course:

And by the damsel this may well be done,

Good at all arms alike, on foot or horse.

Aymon, who cannot strive against the crown,

— Cannot and will not — yields at length parforce.

He much the matter sifts, and in the end

Resolves to court with Bradamant to wend.

XXV

Though for the daughter choler and disdain

The mother nursed, yet that she honour due

Might have, she garments, dyed in different grain,

Had wrought for her, of various form and hue.

Bradamant for the court of Charlemagne

Departs, and finding not her love, to her view

His noble court appears like that no more,

Which had appeared to her so fair before.

XXVI

As he that hath beheld a garden, bright

With flowers and leaves in April or in May,

And next beholds it, when the sun his light

Hath sloped toward the north, and shortened day,

Finds it a desert horrid to the sight;

So, now that her Rogero is away,

To Bradamant, who thither made resort,

No longer what it was appeared that court.

XXVII

What is become of him she doth not dare

Demand, lest more suspicion thence be bred;

But listens still, and searches here and there;

That this by some, unquestioned, may be said;

Knows he is gone, but has no notion where

The warrior, when he went, his steps had sped;

Because, departing thence, he spake no word

Save to the squire who journeyed with his lord.

XXVIII

Oh! how she sighs! how fears the gentle maid,

Hearing Rogero, as it were, was flown!

Oh! how above all other terrors, weighed

The fear, that to forget her he was gone!

That, seeing Aymon still his wish gainsayed,

And that to wed the damsel hope was none,

He fled, perchance, so hoping to be loosed

From toils wherein he by her love was noosed;

XXIX

And that with further end the youthful lord

Her from his heart more speedily to chase,

Will rove from realm to realm, till one afford

Some dame, that may his former love efface;

Even, as the proverb says, that in a board

One nail drives out another from its place.

A second thought succeeds, and paints the youth

Arraigned of fickleness, as full of truth;

XXX

And her reproves for having lent an ear

To a suspicion so unjust and blind;

And so, this thought absolves the cavalier;

And that accuses; and both audience find;

And now this way, now that, she seemed to veer;

Nor this, nor that — irresolute of mind —

Preferred: yet still to what gave most delight

Most promptly leaned, and loathed its opposite;

XXXI

And thinking, ever and anon, anew

On that so oft repeated by the knight,

As for grave sin, remorse and sorrow grew

That she had nursed suspicion and affright;

And she, as her Rogero were in view,

Would blame herself, and would her bosom smite;

And say: “I see ’twas ill such thoughts to nurse,

But he, the cause, is even cause of worse.

XXXII

“Love is the cause; that in my heart inlaid

Thy form, so graceful and so fair to see;

And so thy darling and thy wit pourtrayed,

And worth, of all so bruited, that to me

It seems impossible that wife or maid,

Blest with thy sight, should not be fired by thee;

And that she should not all her art apply

To unbind, and fasten thee with other tie.

XXXIII

“Ah! wellaway! if in my thought Love so

Thy thought, as thy fair visage, had designed,

This — am I well assured — in open show,

As I unseen believe it, should I find;

And be so quit of Jealousy, that foe

Would not still harass my suspicious mind;

And, where she is by me repulsed with pain,

Not quelled and routed would she be, but slain.

XXXIV

“I am like miser, so intent on gear,

And who hath this so buried in his heart,

That he, for hoarded treasure still in fear,

Cannot live gladly from his wealth apart.

Since I Rogero neither see nor hear,

More puissant far than Hope, O Fear! thou art;

To thee, though false and idle I give way;

And cannot choose but yield myself thy prey.

XXXV

“But I, Rogero, shall no sooner spy

The light of thy glad countenance appear,

Against mine every credence, from mine eye

Concealed (and woe is me), I know not where, —

Oh! how true Hope false Fear shall from on high

Depose withal, and to the bottom bear!

Ah! turn to me, Rogero! turn again,

And comfort Hope, whom Fear hath almost slain.

XXXVI

“As when the sun withdraws his glittering head,

The shadows lengthen, causing vain affright;

And as the shadows, when he leaves his bed,

Vanish, and reassure the timid wight:

Without Rogero so I suffer dread;

Dread lasts not, if Rogero is in sight.

Return to me, return, Rogero, lest

My hope by fear should wholly be opprest.

XXXVII

“As every spark is in the night alive,

And suddenly extinguished when ’tis morn;

When me my sun doth of his rays deprive,

Against me felon Fear uplifts his horn:

But they the shades of night no sooner drive,

Than Fears are past and gone, and Hopes return.

Return, alas! return, O radiance dear!

And drive from me that foul, consuming Fear.

XXXVIII

“If the sun turn from us and shorten day,

Earth all its beauties from the sight doth hide;

The wild winds howl, and snows and ice convey;

Bird sings not; nor is leaf or flower espied.

So, whensoever thou thy gladsome ray,

O my fair sun, from me dost turn aside,

A thousand, and all evil, dreads, make drear

Winter within me many times a year.

XXXIX

“Return, my sun, return! and springtide sweet,

Which evermore I long to see, bring back;

Dislodge the snows and ice with genial hear;

And clear my mind, so clouded o’er and black.”

As Philomel, or Progne, with the meat

Returning, which her famished younglings lack,

Mourns o’er an empty nest, or as the dove

Laments himself at having lost is love;

XL

The unhappy Bradamant laments her so,

Fearing the Child is reft from her and gone;

While often tears her visage overflow:

But she, as best she can, conceals her moan.

Oh! how — oh! how much worse would be her woe,

If what she knew not to the maid were known!

That, prisoned and with pain and pine consumed,

Her consort to a cruel death was doomed.

XLI

The cruelty which by that beldam ill

Was practised on the prisoned cavalier,

And who prepared the wretched Child to kill,

By torture new and pains unused whilere,

While so Rogero pined, the gracious will

Of Heaven conveyed to gentle Leo’s ear;

And put into his heart the means to aid,

And not to let such worth be overlaid.

XLII

The courteous Leo that Rogero loved,

Not that the Grecian knew howe’er that he

Rogero was, but by that valour moved

Which sole and superhuman seemed to be,

Thought much, and mused, and planned, how it behoved

— And found at last a way — to set him free;

So that his cruel aunt should have no right

To grieve or say he did her a despite.

XLIII

In secret, Leo with the man that bore

The prison-keys a parley had, and said,

He wished to see that cavalier, before

Upon the wretch was done a doom so dread.

When it was night, one, faithful found of yore,

Bold, strong, and good in brawl, he thither led;

And — by the silent warder taught that none

Must know ’twas Leo — was the door undone.

XLIV

Leo, escorted by none else beside,

Was led by the compliant castellain,

With his companion, to the tower, where stied

Was he, reserved for nature’s latest pain.

There round the neck of their unwary guide,

Who turns his back the wicket to unchain,

A slip-knot Leo and his follower cast;

And, throttled by the noose, he breathes his last.

XLV

— The trap upraised, by rope from thence suspended

For such a need — the Grecian cavalier,

With lighted flambeau in his hand, descended,

Where, straitly bound, and without sun to cheer,

Rogero lay, upon a grate extended,

Less than a palm’s breadth of the water clear:

To kill him in a month, or briefer space,

Nothing was needed but that deadly place.

XLVI

Lovingly Leo clipt the Child, and, “Me,

O cavalier! thy matchless valour,” cried,

“Hath in indissoluble bands to thee,

In willing and eternal service, tried;

And wills thy good to mine preferred should be,

And I for thine my safety set aside,

And weigh thy friendship more than sire, and all

Whom I throughout the world my kindred call.

XLVII

“I Leo am, that thou what fits mayst know,

Come to thy succour, the Greek emperor’s son:

If ever Constantine, my father, trow

That I have aided thee, I danger run

To be exiled, or aye with troubled brow

Regarded for the deed that I have done;

For thee he hates because of those thy blade

Put to the rout and slaughtered near Belgrade.”

XLVIII

He his discourse with more beside pursues,

That might from death to life the Child recall;

And all this while Rogero’s hands doth loose.

“Infinite thanks I owe you,” cries the thrall,

“And I the life you gave me, for your use

Will ever render back, upon your call;

And still, at all your need, I for your sake,

And at all times, that life will promptly stake.”

XLIX

Rogero is rescued; and the gaoler slain

Is left in that dark dungeon in his place;

Nor is Rogero known, nor are the twain:

Leo the warrior, free from bondage base,

Brings home, and there in safety to remain

Persuades, in secret, four or six days’ space:

Meanwhile for him will he retrieve the gear

And courser, by Ungiardo reft whilere.

L

Open the gaol is found at dawn of light,

The gaoler strangled, and Rogero gone.

Some think that these or those had helped his flight:

All talk; and yet the truth is guessed by none.

Well may they think by any other wight

Rather than Leo had the deed been done;

For many deemed he had cause to have repaid

The Child with scathe, and none to give him aid.

LI

So wildered by such kindness, so immersed

In wonder, is the rescued cavalier,

So from those thoughts is he estranged, that erst

So many weary miles had made him steer,

His second thoughts confronting with his first,

Nor these like those, nor those like these appear.

He first with hatred, rage, and venom burned;

With pity and with love then wholly yearned.

LII

Much muses he by night and much by day;

— Nor cares for ought, nor ought desires beside —

By equal or more courtesy to pay

The mighty debt that him to Leo tied.

Be his life long or short, or what it may,

Albeit to Leo’s service all applied,

Dies he a thousand deaths, he can do nought,

But more will be deserved, Rogero thought.

LIII

Thither meanwhile had tidings been conveyed

Of Charles’ decree: that who in nuptial tye

Would yoke with Bradamant, with trenchant blade

Or lance must with the maid his prowess try.

These news the Grecian prince so ill appaid,

His cheek was seen to blanch with sickly dye;

Because, as one that measured well his might,

He knew he was no match for her in fight.

LIV

Communing with himself, he can supply

(He sees) the valour wanting with his wit;

And the strange knight with his own ensignry,

Whose name is yet unknown to him, will fit:

Him he against Frank champion, far and nigh,

Believes he may for force and daring pit;

And if the knight to that emprize agree,

Vanquished and taken Bradamant will be.

LV

But two things must he do; must, first, dispose

That cavalier to undertake the emprize;

Then send afield the champion, whom he chose,

In mode, that none suspect the youth’s disguise:

To him the matter Leo doth disclose;

And after prays in efficacious wise,

That he the combat with the maid will claim,

Under false colours and in other’s name.

LVI

Much weighs the Grecian’s eloquence; but more

Than eloquence with good Rogero weighed

The mighty obligation which he bore;

That debt which cannot ever be repaid.

So, albeit it appeared a hardship sore

And thing well-nigh impossible, he said,

With blither face than heart, that Leo’s will

In all that he commands he would fulfil.

LVII

Albeit no sooner he the intent exprest,

Than with sore grief Rogero’s heart was shent;

Which, night and day, and ever, doth molest,

Ever afflict him, evermore torment:

And though he sees his death is manifest,

Never will he confess he doth repent:

Rather than not with Leo’s prayer comply,

A thousand deaths, not one, the Child will die.

LVIII

Right sure he is to die; if he forego

The lady, he foregoes his life no less.

His heart will break through his distress and woe,

Or, breaking not with woe and with distress,

He will, himself, the bands of life undo,

And of its clay the spirit dispossess.

For all things can he better bear than one;

Than see that gentle damsel not his own.

LIX

To die is he disposed; but how to die

Cannot as yet the sorrowing lord decide:

Sometimes he thinks his prowess to belie,

And offer to her sword his naked side:

For never death can come more happily

Than if her hand the fatal faulchion guide:

Then sees, except he wins the martial maid

For that Greek prince, the debt remains unpaid.

LX

For he with Bradamant, as with a foe,

Promised to do, not feign, a fight in mail,

And not to make of arms a seeming show;

So that his sword should Leo ill avail.

Then by his word will he abide; and though

His breast now these now other thoughts assail,

All from his bosom chased the generous youth,

Save that which moved him to maintain his truth.

LXI

With the emperor’s licence, armour to prepare,

And steeds meanwhile had wrought his youthful son;

Who with such goodly following as might square

With his degree, upon his way was gone:

With him Rogero rides, through Leo’s care,

Equipt with horse and arms, that were his own.

Day after day the squadron pricks; nor tarries

Until arrived in France; arrived at Paris.

LXII

Leo will enter not the town; but nigh

Pitches his broad pavilions on the plain;

And his arrival by an embassy

Makes known that day to royal Charlemagne.

Well pleased is he; and visits testify

And many gifts the monarch’s courteous vein.

His journey’s cause the Grecian prince displayed,

And to dispatch his suit the sovereign prayed:

LXIII

To send afield the damsel, who denied

Ever to take in wedlock any lord

Weaker than her: for she should be his bride,

Or he would perish by the lady’s sword.

Charles undertook for this; and, on her side,

The following day upon the listed sward

Before the walls, in haste, enclosed that night,

Appeared the martial maid, equipt for fight.

LXIV

Rogero past the night before the day

Wherein by him the battle should be done,

Like that which felon spends, condemning to pay

Life’s forfeit with the next succeeding sun:

He made his choice to combat in the fray

All armed; because he would discovery shun:

Nor barded steed he backed, nor lance he shook;

Nor other weapon than his faulchion took.

LXV

No lance he took: yet was it not through fear

Of that which Argalia whilom swayed;

Astolpho’s next; then hers, that in career

Her foemen ever upon earth had laid:

Because none weened such force was in the spear,

Nor that it was by necromancy made;

Excepting royal Galaphron alone;

Who had it forged, and gave it to his son.

LXVI

Nay, bold Astolpho, and the lady who

Afterwards bore it, deemed that not to spell,

But simply to their proper force, was due

The praise that they in knightly joust excel;

And with whatever spear they fought, those two

Believed that they should have performed as well.

What only makes that knight the joust forego

Is that he would not his Frontino show.

LXVII

For easily that steed of generous kind

She might have known, if him she had espied;

Whom in Montalban, long to her consigned,

The gentle damsel had been wont to ride.

Rogero, that but schemes, but hath in mind

How he from Brandamant himself shall hide,

Neither Frontino nor yet other thing.

Whereby he may be known, afield will bring.

LXVIII

With a new sword will he the maid await;

For well he knew against the enchanted blade

As soft as paste would prove all mail and plate;

For never any steel its fury stayed;

And heavily with hammer, to rebate

Its edge, as well he on this faulchion layed.

So armed, Rogero in the lists appeared,

When the first dawn of day the horizon cheered.

LXIX

To look like Leo, o’er his breast is spread

The surcoat that the prince is wont to wear;

And the gold eagle with its double head

He blazoned on the crimson shield doth bear;

And (what the Child’s disguisement well may stead)

Of equal size and stature are the pair.

In the other’s form presents himself the one;

That other lets himself be seen of none.

LXX

Dordona’s martial maid is of a vein

Right different from the gentle youth’s, who sore

Hammers and blunts the faulchion’s tempered grain,

Lest it his opposite should cleave or bore.

She whets her steel, and into it would fain

Enter, that stripling to the quick to gore:

Yea, would such fury to her strokes impart,

That each should go directly to his heart.

LXXI

As on the start the generous barb in spied,

When he the signal full of fire attends;

And paws now here now there; and opens wide

His nostrils, and his pointed ears extends;

So the bold damsel, to the lists defied,

Who knows not with Rogero she contends,

Seemed to have fire within her veins, nor found

Resting-place, waiting for the trumpet’s sound.

LXXII

As sometimes after thunder sudden wind

Turns the sea upside down; and far and nigh

Dim clouds of dust the cheerful daylight blind,

Raised in a thought from earth, and whirled heaven-high;

Scud beasts and herd together with the hind;

And into hail and rain dissolves the sky;

So she upon the signal bared her brand,

And fell on her Rogero, sword in hand.

LXXIII

But well-built wall, strong tower, or aged oak,

No more are moved by blasts that round them rave,

No more by furious sea is moved the rock,

Smote day and night by the tempestuous wave,

Than in those arms, secure from hostile stroke,

Which erst to Trojan Hector Vulcan gave,

Moved was he by that ire and hatred rank

Which stormed about his head, and breast, and flank.

LXXIV

Now aims that martial maid a trenchant blow,

And now gives point; and wholly is intent

‘Twixt plate and plate to reach her hated foe;

So that her stifled fury she may vent:

Now on this side, now that, now high, now low

She strikes, and circles him, on mischief bent;

And evermore she rages and repines;

As balked of every purpose she designs.

LXXV

As he that layeth siege to well-walled town,

And flanked about with solid bulwarks, still

Renews the assault; now fain would batter down

Gateway or tower; now gaping fosse would fill;

Yet vainly toils (for entrance is there none)

And wastes his host, aye frustrate of his will;

So sorely toils and strives without avail

The damsel, nor can open plate or mail.

LXXVI

Sparks now his shield, now helm, now cuirass scatter,

While straight and back strokes, aimed now low, now high,

Which good Rogero’s head and bosom batter,

And arms, by thousands and by thousands fly

Faster than on the sounding farm-roof patter

Hailstones descending from a troubled sky.

Rogero, at his ward, with dexterous care,

Defends himself, and ne’er offends the fair.

LXXVII

Now stopt, now circled, now retired the knight,

And oft his hand his foot accompanied;

And lifted shield, and shifted sword in fight,

Where shifting he the hostile hand espied.

Either he smote her not, or — die he smite —

Smote, where he deemed least evil would betide.

The lady, ere the westering sun descend,

Desires to bring that duel to an end.

LXXVIII

Of the edict she remembered her, and knew

Her peril, save the foe was quickly sped:

For if she took not in one day nor slew

Her claimant, she was taken; and his head

Phoebus was now about to hide from view,

Nigh Hercules’ pillars, in his watery bed,

When first she ‘gan misdoubt her power to cope

With the strong foe, and to abandon hope.

LXXIX

By how much more hope fails the damsel, so

Much more her anger waxes; she her blows

Redoubling, yet the harness of her foe

Will break, which through that day unbroken shows;

As he, that at his daily drudgery slow,

Sees night on his unfinished labour close,

Hurries and toils and moils without avail,

Till wearied strength and light together fail.

LXXX

Didst thou, O miserable damsel, trow

Whom thou wouldst kill, if in that cavalier

Matched against thee thou didst Rogero know,

On whom depend thy very life-threads, ere

Thou killed him thou wouldst kill thyself; for thou,

I know, dost hold him than thyself more dear;

And when he for Rogero shall be known,

I know these very strokes thou wilt bemoan.

LXXXI

King Charles and peers him sheathed in plate and shell

Deem not Rogero, but the emperor’s son;

And viewing in that combat fierce and fell

Such force and quickness by the stripling shown;

And, without e’er offending her, how well

That knight defends himself, now change their tone;

Esteem both well assorted; and declare

The champions worthy of each other are.

LXXXII

When Phoebus wholly under water goes,

Charlemagne bids the warring pair divide;

And Bradamant (nor boots it to oppose)

Allots to youthful Leo as a bride.

Not there Rogero tarried to repose;

Nor loosed his armour, nor his helm untied:

On a small hackney, hurrying sore, he went

Where Leo him awaited in his tent.

LXXXIII

Twice in fraternal guise and oftener threw

Leo his arms about the cavalier;

And next his helmet from his head withdrew,

And kiss’d him on both cheeks with loving cheer.

“I would,” he cried, “that thou wouldst ever do

By me what pleaseth thee; for thou wilt ne’er

Weary my love: at any call I lend

To thee myself and state; these friendly spend;

LXXXIV

“Nor see I recompense, which can repay

The mighty obligation that I owe;

Though of the garland I should disarray

My brows, and upon thee that gift bestow.”

Rogero, on whom his sorrows press and prey,

Who loathes his life, immersed in that deep woe,

Little replies; the ensigns he had worn

Returns, and takes again his unicorn;

LXXXV

And showing himself spiritless and spent,

From thence as quickly as he could withdrew,

And from young Leo’s to his lodgings went;

When it was midnight, armed himself anew,

Saddled his horse, and sallied from his tent;

(He takes no leave, and none his going view;)

And his Frontino to that road addrest,

Which seemed to please the goodly courser best.

LXXXVI

Now by straight way and now by crooked wound

Frontino, now by wood and wide champaign;

And all night with his rider paced that round,

Who never ceased a moment to complain:

He called on Death, and therein comfort found;

Since broke by him alone is stubborn pain;

Nor saw, save Death, what other power could close

The account of his insufferable woes.

LXXXVII

“Whereof should I complain,” he said, “wo is me!

So of my every good at once forlorn?

Ah! if I will not bear this injury

Without revenge, against whom shall I turn?

For I, besides myself, none other see

That hath inflicted on me scathe and scorn.

Then I to take revenge for all the harm

Done to myself, against myself must arm.

LXXXVIII

“Yet was but to myself this injury done,

Myself to spare (because this touched but me)

I haply could, yet hardly could, be won;

Nay, I will say outright, I could not be.

Less can I be, since not to me alone,

But Bradamant, is done this injury;

Even if I could consent myself to spare,

It fits me not unvenged to leave that fair.

LXXXIX

“Then I the damsel will avenge, and die,

(Nor this disturbs me) whatsoe’er betide;

For, bating death, I know not aught, whereby

Defence against my grief can be supplied.

But I lament myself alone, that I

Before offending her, should not have died.

O happier Fortune! had I breathed my last

In Theodora’s dungeon prisoned fast!

XC

“Though she had slain, had tortured me before

She slew, as prompted by her cruelty,

At least the hope would have remained in store

That I by Bradamant should pitied be:

But when she knows that I loved Leo more

Than her, that, of my own accord and free,

Myself of her, I for his good, deprive,

Dead will she rightly hate me or alive.”

XCI

These words he said and many more, with sigh

And heavy sob withal accompanied,

And, when another sun illumed the sky,

Mid strange and gloomy woods himself espied;

And, for he desperate was and bent to die,

And he, as best he could, his death would hide;

This place to him seemed far removed from view,

And fitted for the deed that he would do.

XCII

He entered into that dark woodland, where

He thickest trees and most entangled spied:

But first Frontino was the warrior’s care,

Whom he unharnessed wholly, and untied.

“O my Frontino, if thy merits rare

I could reward, thou little cause” (he cried)

“Shouldst have to envy him, so highly graced,

Who soared to heaven, and mid the stars was placed.

XCIII

“Nor Cillarus, nor Arion, was whilere

Worthier than thee, nor merited more praise;

Nor any other steed, whose name we hear

Sounded in Grecian or in Latin lays.

Was any such in other points thy peer,

None of them, well I know, the vaunt can raise;

That such high honour and such courtesy

Were upon him bestowed, as were on thee.

XCIV

“Since to the gentlest maid, of fairest dye,

And boldest that hath been, or evermore

Will be, thou wast so dear, she used to tie

Thy trappings, and to thee thy forage bore:

Dear wast thou to my lady-love: Ah! why

Call I her mine, since she is mine no more?

If I have given her to another lord,

Why turn I not upon myself this sword?”

XCV

If him these thoughts so harass and torment,

That bird and beast are softened by his cries;

(For, saving these, none hears the sad lament,

Nor sees the flood that trickles form his eyes)

You are not to believe that more content

The Lady Bradamant in Paris lies;

Who can no longer her delay excuse,

Nor Leo for her wedded lord refuse.

XCVI

Ere she herself to any consort tie,

Beside her own Rogero, she will fain

Do what so can be done; her word belie;

Anger friends, kindred, court, and Charlemagne;

And if she nothing else can do, will die,

By poison or her own good faulchion slain:

For not to live appears far lesser woe,

Than, living, her Rogero to forego.

XCVII

“Rogero mine, ah! wonder gone” (she cried)

“Art thou; and canst thou so far distant be,

Thou heardest not this royal edict cried,

A thing concealed from none, expecting thee?

Faster than thee would none have hither hied,

I wot, hadst thou known this; ah! wretched me!

How can I e’er in future think of aught,

Saving the worst that can by me be thought?

XCVIII

“How can it be, Rogero, thou alone

Hast read not what by all the world is read?

If thou hast read it not, nor hither flown,

How canst thou but a prisoner be, or dead?

But well I wot, that if the truth were known,

This Leo will for thee some snare have spread:

The traitor will have barred thy way, intent

Thou shouldst not him by better speed prevent.

XCIX

“From Charles I gained the promise, that to none

Less puissant than myself should I be given;

In the reliance thou wouldst be that one,

With whom I should in arms have vainly striven.

None I esteemed, excepting thee alone:

But well my rashness is rebuked by Heaven:

Since I by one am taken in this wise

Unfamed through life for any fair emprize.

C

“If I am held as taken, since the knight

I had not force to take nor yet to slay;

A thing that is not, in my judgment, right;

Nor I to Charles’s sentence will give way,

I know that I shall be esteemed as light,

If what I lately said, I now unsay;

But of those many ladies that have past

For light, I am not, I, the first or last.

CI

“Enough I to my lover faith maintain,

And, firmer than a rock, am still found true!

And far herein surpass the female train,

That were in olden days, or are in new!

Nor, if they me as fickle shall arraign,

Care I, so good from fickleness ensue;

Though I am lighter than a leaf be said,

So I be forced not with that Greek no wed.”

CII

These things and more beside the damsel bright

(‘Twixt which oft sobs and tears were interposed),

Ceased not to utter through the livelong night

Which upon that unhappy day had closed.

But, when within Cimmeria’s caverned height

Nocturnus with his troops of shades reposed,

Heaven, which eternally had willed the maid

Should be Rogero’s consort, brought him aid:

CIII

This moves the haught Marphisa, when ’tis morn,

To appear before the king; to whom that maid

Saith, to the Child, her brother, mighty scorn

Was done; nor should he be so ill appaid,

That from him should his plighted wife be torn;

And nought thereof unto the warrior said;

And on whoever lists she will in strife

Prove Bradamant to be Rogero’s wife;

CIV

And this, before all others, will prove true

On her, if to deny it she will dare;

For she had to Rogero, in her view,

Spoken those words, which they that marry swear;

And with all ceremony wont and due

So was the contract sealed between the pair,

They were no longer free; nor could forsake

The one the other, other spouse to take.

CV

Whether Marphisa true or falsely spake,

I well believe that, rather with intent

Young Leo’s purpose, right or wrong, to break,

Than tell the truth, she speaks; and with consent

Of Bradamant doth that avowal make:

For to exclude the hated Leo bent,

And of Rogero to be repossest,

This she believes her shortest way and best.

CVI

Sorely by this disturbed, King Charlemagne

Bade Bradamant be called, and to her told

That which the proud Marphisa would maintain;

And Aymon present in the press behold!

— Bradamant drops her head, nor treats as vain,

Nor vouches what avows that virgin bold,

In such confusion, they may well believe

That fierce Marphisa speaks not to deceive.

CVII

Joy good Orlando and joy Rinaldo show,

Who view in valorous Marphisa’s plea

A cause the alliance shall no further go,

Which sealed already Leo deemed to be;

And yet, in spite of stubborn Aymon’s no,

Bradamant shall Rogero’s consort be;

And they may, without strife, without despite

Done to Duke Aymon’s, give her to the knight.

CVIII

For if such words have pass’d between the twain,

Fast is the knot and cannot be untied;

They what they vowed more fairly will obtain,

And without further strife are these affied.

“This is a plot, a plot devised in vain;

And ye deceive yourselves (Duke Aymon cried)

For, were the story true which ye have feigned,

Believe not therefore that your cause is gained.

CIX

“For granting what I will not yet allow,

And what I to believe as yet demur;

That weakly to Rogero so her vow

Was plighted, as Rogero’s was to her;

Where was the contract made, and when and how?

More clearly this to me must ye aver.

Either it was not so, I am advised;

Or was before Rogero was baptized.

CX

“But if it were before the youthful knight

A Christian was, I will not heed it, I;

For ‘twixt a faithful and a paynim wight,

I deem that nought avails the marriage-tie.

For this not vainly in the doubtful fight

Should Constantine’s fair son have risked to die;

Nor Charlemagne for this, our sovereign lord

Will forfeit, I believe, his plighted word.

CXI

“What now you say you should before have said,

While yet the matter was unbroke, and ere

Charles at my daughter’s prayer that edict made

Which has drawn Leo to the combat here.”

Orlando and Rinaldo were gainsayed

So before royal Charles by Clermont’s peer;

And equal Charlemagne heard either side,

But neither would for this nor that decide.

CXII

As in the southern or the northern breeze

The greenwood murmurs; and as on the shore,

When Aeolus with the god that rules the seas

Is wroth, the hoarse and hollow breakers roar,

So a loud rumour of this strife, that flees

Through France, and spreads and circles evermore,

Affords such matter to rehearse and hear,

That nought beside is bruised far or near.

CXIII

These with Rogero, those with Leo side;

But the most numerous are Rogero’s friends,

Who against Aymon, ten to one, divide.

Good Charlemagne to neither party bends;

But wills that cause shall be by justice tried,

And to his parliament the matter sends.

Marphisa, now the bridal was deferred,

Appeared anew, and other question stirred;

CXIV

And said, “In that anther cannot have

Bradamant, while my brother is alive,

Let Leo, if the gentle maid he crave,

His foe in listed fight of life deprive;

And he, that sends the other to his grave,

Freed from his rival, with the lady wive.”

Forthwith this challenge, as erewhile the rest,

To Leo was declared at Charles’ behest.

CXV

Leo who if he had the cavalier

Of the unicorn, believed he from his foe

Was safe; and thought no peril would appear

Too hard a feat for him; and knew not how

Thence into solitary woods and drear

That warrior had been hurried by his woe;

Him gone for little time and for disport

Believed, and took his line in evil sort.

CXVI

This shortly Leo was condemned to rue:

For he, on whom too fondly he relied,

Nor on that day nor on the following two

Appeared, nor news of him were signified;

And combat with Rogero was, he knew,

Unsafe, unless that knight was on his side:

So sent, to eschew the threatened scathe and scorn,

To seek the warrior of the unicorn.

CXVII

Through city, and through hamlet, and through town,

He sends to seek Rogero, far and near:

And not content with this, himself is gone

In person, on his steed, to find the peer.

But of the missing warrior tidings none

Nor he nor any of the Court would hear

But for Melissa: I for other verse

Reserve myself, her doings to rehearse.

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