Orlando Furioso, by Lodovico Ariosto

Canto 46

Argument

After long search for good Rogero made,

Him Leon finds, and yields to him his prize:

Informed of all — already with that maid

He wives; already in her bosom lies:

When thither he that Sarza’s sceptre swayed

To infect such bliss with impious venom hies,

But falls in combat; and, blaspheming loud,

To Acheron descends his spirit proud.

I

I, if my chart deceives me not, shall now

In little time behold the neighbouring shore;

So hope withal to pay my promised vow

To one, so long my guide through that wide roar

Of waters, where I feared, with troubled brow,

To scathe my bark or wander evermore.

But now, methinks — yea, now I see the land;

I see the friendly port its arms expand.

II

A burst of joy, like thunder to my ear,

Rumbles along the sea and rends the sky.

I chiming bells, I shrilling trumpets hear,

Confounded with the people’s cheerful cry;

And now their forms, that swarm on either pier

Of the thick-crowded harbour, I descry.

All seem rejoiced my task is smoothly done,

And I so long a course have safely run.

III

What beauteous dames and sage, here welcome me!

With them what cavaliers the shore adorn!

What friends! to whom I owe eternity

Of thanks for their delight at my return.

Mamma, Ginevra, with the rest I see,

Correggio’s seed, on the harbour’s furthest horn.

Veronica de Gambara is here,

To Phoebus and the Aonian choir so dear.

IV

With Julia, a new Ginevra is in sight,

Another offset from the selfsame tree;

Hippolita Sforza, and Trivultia bright,

Bred in the sacred cavern, I with thee

Emilia Pia, and thee, Margherite,

Angela Borgia, Graziosa, see,

And fair Richarda d’Este, Lo! the twain,

Blanche and Diana, with their sister train!

V

Beauteous, but wiser and more chaste than fair,

I Barbara Turca, linked with Laura, know:

Nor beams the sun upon a better pair

‘Twixt Ind and where the Moorish waters flow.

Behold Ginevra! that rich gem and rare

Which gilds the house of Malatesta so,

That never worthier or more honoured thing

Adorned the dome of Keysar or of king.

VI

If she had dwelt in Rimini of yore,

What time, from conquered Gaul returning home,

Julius stood fearing on the river-shore,

To ford the stream and make a foe of Rome,

He every banner would have bowed before

That dame, discharged his trophies, and such doom,

Such pact would have received as liked her best;

And haply ne’er had Freedom been opprest.

VII

The consort of my lord of Bozzolo

Behold! the mother, sisters, cousinhood;

Them of Torello, Bentivoglio,

Pallavigini’s and Visconti’s brood!

Lo! she to whom all living dames forego

The palm, and all of Grecian, Latin blood,

Or barbarous, all that ever were, whose name

For grace and beauty most is noised by Fame;

VIII

Julia Gonzaga, she that wheresoe’er

She moves, where’er she turns her lucid eyes,

Not only is in charms without a peer,

But seems a goddess lighted from the skies:

With her is paired her brother’s wife, who ne’er

Swerved from her plighted faith — aye good and wise —

Because ill Fortune bore her long despite;

Lo! Arragonian Anna, Vasto’s light!

IX

Anne gentle, courteous, and as sage as fair,

Temple of Love and Truth and Chastity:

With her, her sister dims all beauty, where

Her radiance shines. Lo! one that hath set free

Her conquering lord from Orcus’ dark repair,

And him in spite of death and destiny

(Beyond all modern instance) raised on high,

To shine with endless glory in the sky.

X

My ladies of Ferrara, those of gay

Urbino’s court are here; and I descry

Mantua’s dames, and all that fair array

Which Lombardy and Tuscan town supply.

The cavalier amid that band, whom they

So honour, unless dazzled is mine eye

By those fair faces, is the shining light

Of his Arezzo, and Accolti hight.

XI

Adorned with scarlet hat, and scarlet pall,

His nephew Benedict, lo! there I see;

With him Campeggio and Mantua’s cardinal;

Glory and light of the consistory;

And (if I dote not) mark how one and all

In face and gesture show such mighty glee

At my return, no easy task ‘twould seem

So vast an obligation to redeem.

XII

With them Lactantius is, Claude Ptolemy,

Trissino, Pansa, and Capilupi mine,

Latino Giovenal, it seems to me;

Sasso, and Molza, and Florian hight Montine;

With him, by whom through shorter pathway we

Are led to the Ascraean font divine,

Julio Camillo; and meseems that I

Berna, and Sanga, and Flaminio spy.

XIII

Lo! Alexander of Farnese, and O

Learned company that follows in his train!

Phaedro, Cappella, Maddalen’, Portio,

Surnamed the Bolognese, the Volterrane.

Blosio, Pierio, Vida, famed for flow

Of lofty eloquence of exhaustless vein;

Mussuro, Lascari, and Navagero,

And Andrew Maro, and the monk Severo.

XIV

Lo! two more Alexanders! of the tree

Of the Orologi one, and one Guarino:

Mario d’ Olvito, and of royalty

That scourge, divine Pietro Aretino.

I two Girolamos amid them see,

Of Veritade and the Cittadino;

See the Mainardo, the Leoniceno,

Panizzato, Celio, and Teocreno.

XV

Bernardo Capel, Peter Bembo here

I see, through whom our pure, sweet idiom rose,

And who, of vulgar usage winnowed clear,

Its genuine form in his example shows.

Behold an Obyson, that in his rear

Admires the pains which he so well bestows.

I Fracastoro, Bevezzano note,

And Tryphon Gabriel, Tasso more remote.

XVI

Upon me Nicholas Tiepoli

And Nicholas Ammanio fix their eyes;

With Anthony Fulgoso, who to spy

My boat near land shows pleasure and surprise.

There, from those dames apart, my Valery

Stands with Barignan, haply to devise

With him how, evermore by woman harmed,

By her he shall not evermore be charmed.

XVII

Of high and superhuman genius, tied

By love and blood, lo! Pico and Pio true;

He that approaches at the kinsmen’s side,

— So honoured by the best — I never knew;

But, if by certain tokens signified,

He is the man I so desire to view,

That Sannazaro, who persuades the nine

To leave their fountain for the foaming brine.

XVIII

Diligent, faithful secretary, lo!

The learned Pistophilus, mine Angiar here,

And the Acciajuoli their joint pleasure show

That for my bark there is no further fear.

There I my kinsman Malaguzzo know;

And mighty hope from Adoardo hear,

That these my nest-notes shall by friendly wind

Be blown from Calpe’s rock to furthest Ind.

XIX

Joys Victor Fausto; Tancred joys to view

My sail; and with them joy a hundred more.

Women and men I see, a mingled crew,

At my return rejoicing, crowd the shore.

Then, since the wind blows fair, nor much to do

Remains, let me my course delay no more;

And turning to Melissa, in what way

She rescued good Rogero let me say.

XX

Much bent was this Melissa (as I know

I many times have said to you whilere)

That Bradamant in wedlock should bestow

Her hand upon the youthful cavalier;

And so at heart had either’s weal and woe,

That she from hour to hour of them would hear:

Hence ever on that quest she spirits sent,

One still returning as the other went.

XXI

A prey to deep and stubborn grief, reclined

Mid gloomy shades Rogero they descried;

Firm not to swallow food of any kind,

Nor from that purpose to be turned aside;

And so to die of hunger he designed:

But weird Melissa speedy aid supplied;

Who took a road, from home forth issuing, where

She met the Grecian emperor’s youthful heir;

XXII

Leo that, one by one, dispatched his train

Of followers, far and wide, through every bourn,

And afterwards, in person went in vain,

To find the warrior of the unicorn.

The wise enchantress, that will sell and rein,

Had on that day equipt a demon, borne

By him, in likeness of a hackney horse,

Constantine’s son encountered in her course.

XXIII

“If such as your ingenuous mien” (she cried

To Leo) “is your soul’s nobility,

And corresponding with your fair outside

Your inward goodness and your courtesy,

Some help, some comfort, sir, for one provide

In whom the best of living knights we see;

Who, save ye help and comfort quickly lend,

Is little distant from his latter end.

XXIV

“The best of knights will die of all, who don,

Or e’er donned sword and buckler, the most fair

And gentle of all warriors that are gone,

Or who throughout the world yet living are,

And simply for a courteous deed, if none

Shall comfort to the youthful sufferer bear.

Then come, sir, for the love of Heaven, and try

If any counsel succour may supply.”

XXV

It suddenly came into Leo’s mind

The knight of whom she parlayed was that same,

Whom throughout all the land he sought to find,

And seeking whom, he now in person came.

So that obeying her that would persuade

Such pious work, he spurred behind the dame;

Who thither led (nor tedious was the way)

Where nigh reduced to death the stripling lay.

XXVI

They found Rogero fasting from all food

For three long days, so broken down; with pain

The knight could but upon his feet have stood,

To fall, albeit unpushed, to ground again.

With helm on head, and with his faulchion good

Begirt, he lay reclined in plate and chain.

A pillow of his buckler had he made,

Where the white unicorn was seen pourtraid.

XXVII

There thinking what an injury he had done

To his lady love — how ingrate, how untrue

To her had been — not simple grief alone

O’erwhelmed him, to such height his fury grew,

He bit his hands and lips; while pouring down

His cheeks, the tears unceasing ran, and through

The passion that so wrapt his troubled sprite,

Nor Leo nor Melissa heard the knight.

XXVIII

Nor therefore interrupts he his lament,

Nor checks his sighs, nor checks his trickling tears.

Young Leo halts, to hear his speech intent;

Lights from his courser, and towards him steers:

He knows that of the sorrows which torment

Love is the cause; but yet from nought appears

Who is the person that such grief hath bred;

For by Rogero this remains unsaid.

XXIX

Approaching nearer and yet nearer, now

He fronts the weeping warrior, face to face,

Greets with a brother’s love, and stooping low,

His neck encircles with a fast embrace.

By the lamenting Child I know not how

Is liked his sudden presence in that place;

Who fears annoy or trouble at his hand;

And lest he should his wish for death withstand.

XXX

Him with the sweetest words young Leo plied,

And with the warmest love that he could show,

“Let it not irk thee,” to the Child he cried,

“To tell the cause from whence thy sorrows flow;

For few such desperate evils man betide,

But that there is deliverance from his woe,

So that the cause be known; nor he bereft

Of hope should ever be, so life be left.

XXXI

“Much grieve I thou wouldst hide thyself from me,

That known me for thy faithful friend and true;

Not only now I am so bound to thee,

That I the knot can never more undo;

But even from the beginning, when to be

Thy deadly foeman I had reason due.

Hope then that I will succour thee with pelf,

With friends, with following, and with life itself.

XXXII

“Nor shun to me thy sorrow to explain,

And I beseech thee leave to me to try

If wealth avail to free thee from thy pain,

Art, cunning, open force, or flattery,

If my assistance is employed in vain,

The last relief remains to thee to die:

But be content awhile this deed to shun

Till all that thou canst do shall first be done.”

XXXIII

He said; and with such forceful prayer appealed;

So gently and benignly soothed his moan;

That good Rogero could not choose but yield,

Whose heart was not of iron or of stone;

Who deemed, unless he now his lips unsealed,

He should a foul discourteous deed have done.

He fain would have replied, but made assay

Yet twice or thrice, ere words could find their way.

XXXIV

“My lord, when known for what I am (and me

Now shalt thou know),” he made at last reply,

“I wot thou, like myself, content wilt be,

And haply more content, that I should die.

Know me for him so hated once by thee;

Rogero who repaid that hate am I;

And now ’tis many days since with intent

Of putting thee to death from court I went.

XXXV

“Because I would not see my promised bride

Borne off by thee; in that Duke Aymon’s love

And favour was engaged upon thy side.

But, for man purposes, and God above

Disposes, thy great courtesy, well tried

In a sore need, my fixt resolve did move.

Nor only I renounced the hate I bore,

But purposed to be thine for evermore.

XXXVI

“What time I as Rogero was unknown,

Thou madest suit I would obtain for thee

The Lady Bradamant; which was all one

As to demand my heart and soul from me.

Whether thy wish I rather than mine own

Sought to content, thou hast been made to see.

Thine is the lady; her in peace possess;

Far more than mine I prize thy happiness.

XXXVII

“Content thee, that deprived of her, as well

I should myself of worthless life deprive;

For better I without a soul could dwell

Than without Bradamant remain alive.

And never while these veins with life-blood swell

Canst thou with her legitimately wive:

For vows erewhile have been between us said;

Nor she at once can with two husbands wed.”

XXXVIII

So filled is gentle Leo with amaze

When he the stranger for Rogero knows,

With lips and brow unmoved, with stedfast gaze

And rooted feet, he like a statue shows;

Like statue more than man, which votaries raise

In churches, for acquittance of their vows.

He deems that courtesy of so high a strain

Was never done nor will be done again;

XXXIX

And that he him doth for Rogero know

Not only that goodwill he bore whilere

Abates not, but augments his kindness so,

That no less grieves the Grecian cavalier

Than good Rogero for Rogero’s woe.

For this, as well as that he will appear

Deservedly an emperor’s son — although

In other things outdone — he will not be

Defeated in the race of courtesy;

XL

And says, “That day my host was overthrown,

Rogero, by thy wond’rous valour, though

I had thee at despite, if I had known

Thou was Rogero, as I know it now,

So me thy virtue would have made thine own,

As then it made me, knowing not my foe;

So hatred from my bosom would have chased,

And with my present love have straight replaced.

XLI

“That I Rogero hated, ere I knew

Thou was Rogero, will I not deny.

But think not that I further would pursue

The hatred that I bore thee; and had I,

When thee I from thy darksome dungeon drew,

Descried the truth, as this I now descry,

Such treatment shouldst thou then have had, as thou

Shalt have from me, to thine advantage, now;

XLII

“And if I willingly had done so then,

When not, as I am now, obliged to thee;

How much more gladly should I now; and when,

Not doing so, I should with reason be

Deemed most ungrateful amid ingrate men;

Since thou foregoest thine every good for me!

But I to thee restore thy gift, and, more

Glady than I received it, this restore.

XLIII

“The damsel more to thee than me is due;

And though for her deserts I hold her dear,

If that fair prize some happier mortal drew,

I think not I my vital thread should shear:

Nor would I by thy death be free to woo:

That from the hallowed bands of wedlock clear

Wherein the lady hath to thee been tied,

I might possess her as my lawful bride.

XLIV

“Not only Bradamant would I forego,

But whatsoe’er I in the world possess;

And rather forfeit life than ever know

That grief, through me, should such a knight oppress.

To me is thy distrust great cause of woe,

That since thou couldst dispose of me no less

Than of thyself, thou — rather than apply

To me for succour — wouldst of sorrow die.”

XLV

These words he spake, and more to that intent,

Too tedious in these verses to recite;

Refuting evermore such argument

As might be used in answer by the knight:

Who said, at last, “I yield, and am content

To live; but how can I ever requite

The obligation, which by me is owed

To thee that twice hast life on me bestowed?”

XLVI

Melissa generous wine and goodly cheer

Thither bade carry, in a thought obeyed;

And comforted the mourning cavalier,

Who would have sunk without her friendly aid.

Meanwhile the sound of steeds Frontino’s ear

Had reached, and thither had he quickly made:

Him Leo’s squires at his commandment caught,

And saddled, and to good Rogero brought;

XLVII

Who, though by Leo helped, with much ado

And labour sore the gentle courser scaled.

So wasted was the vigour which some few

Short days before, in fighting field, availed

To overthrow a banded host, and do

The deeds he did, in cheating armour mailed.

Departing thence, ere they had measured more

Than half a league, they reached an abbey hoar:

XLVIII

Wherein what of that day was yet unworn

They past, the morrow, and succeeding day;

Until the warrior of the unicorn

His vigour had recruited by the stay.

He, Leo, and Melissa then return

To Charles’s royal residence; where lay

An embassy, arrived the eve before,

Which from the Bulgars’ land a message bore.

XLIX

Since they that had for king proclaimed the knight

Besought Rogero thither to repair

Through these their envoys deeming they would light

On him in Charles’s court, where they should swear

Fidelity, and yield to him his right;

And he from them the crown receive and wear.

Rogero’s squire who served this band to steer

Has published tidings of the cavalier.

L

He of the fight has told which at Belgrade

Erewhile Rogero for the Bulgars won;

How Leo and his sire were overlaid,

And all their army slaughtered and undone;

Wherefore the Bulgars him their king had made;

Their royal line excluding from the throne:

Then how Ungiardo took the warrior brave,

And him to cruel Theodora gave.

LI

He speaks with that of certain news, which say

How good Rogero’s jailer was found dead,

The prison broke and prisoner away:

Of what became of him was nothing said.

— Towards the city by a secret way

(Nor was his visage seen) Rogero sped.

He, on the following morning, and his friend,

Leo, to Charles’s court together wend.

LII

To Charles’ court he wends; the bird he bore

Of gold with its two heads — of crimson hue

Its field — and that same vest and ensigns wore,

As was erewhile devised between the two;

And such as in the listed fight before

His bruised and battered armour was in shew.

So that they quickly knew the cavalier

From him that strove with Bradamant whilere.

LIII

In royal ornaments and costly gown,

Unarmed, beside him doth young Leo fare.

A worthy following and of high renown

Before, behind him, and about him are.

He bowed to Charlemagne, who from his throne

Had risen to do honour to the pair:

Then holding still Rogero by the hand,

So spake, while all that warrior closely scanned.

LIV

“Behold the champion good, that did maintain

From dawn till fall of day the furious fight;

And since by Bradamant nor taken, slain,

Nor forced beyond the barriers was the knight,

He is assured his victory is plain,

Dread sir, if he your edict reads aright;

And he hath won the lady for his wife:

So comes to claim the guerdon of the strife.

LV

“Besides that by your edict’s tenor none

But him can to the damsel lift his eyes,

— Is she deserved by deeds of valour done,

What other is so worthy of the prize?

— Should she by him that loves her best be won,

None passes him, nor with the warrior vies;

And he is here to fight against all foes

That would in arms his right in her oppose.”

LVI

King Charlemagne and all his peerage stand

Amazed, who well believed the Grecian peer

With Bradamant had striven with lifted brand

In fight, and not that unknown cavalier.

Marphisa, thither borne amid the band,

That crowded round the royal chair to hear,

Hardly till Leo made an ending staid;

Then prest before the listening troop, and said:

LVII

“Since here Rogero is not, to contest

The bride’s possession with the stranger knight,

Lest he, as undefended, be opprest,

And forfeit so without dispute his right,

On his behalf I undertake this quest,

— His sister I— against whatever wight

Shall here assert a claim to Bradamant,

Or more desert than good Rogero vaunt.”

LVIII

She spake this with such anger and disdain,

Many surmised amid the assistant crew,

That, without waiting leave from Charlemagne,

What she had threatened she forthwith would do.

No longer Leo deemed it time to feign;

And from Rogero’s head the helm withdrew;

And to Marphisa, “For himself to speak,

Behold him here and ready!” cried the Greek.

LIX

As looked old Aegeus at the accursed board,

Seeing it was his son to whom — so willed

His wicked consort — that Athenian lord

Had given the juice from deadly drugs distilled;

Whom he, if he had recognized his sword

Though but a little later, would have killed;

So looked Marphisa when, disclosed to view,

She in the stranger knight Rogero knew;

LX

And ran forthwith to clip the cavalier;

Nor could unclasp her arms: with loving show

Charlemagne, Roland, and Rinaldo, here

And there, fix friendly kisses on his brow.

Nor him Sir Dudon, nor Sir Olivier,

Nor King Sobrino can caress enow:

Nor paladin nor peer, amid the crew,

Wearies of welcoming that warrior true.

LXI

Leo, who well can play the spokesman, now

That warlike band hath ceased to clip the knight,

Tells before Charles and all that audience, how

Rogero’s daring, how Rogero’s might,

— Albeit to his good squadron’s scathe and woe —

Which at Belgrade he witnessed in that fight,

So moved him that they overweighed all harms

Inflicted on him by the warrior’s arms.

LXII

So that to her Rogero being brought,

Who would all havoc of the youth have made,

He setting all his family at nought,

Had out of durance vile the knight conveyed;

And how Rogero, that the rescue wrought

By Leo might be worthily repaid,

Did that high courtesy; which can by none,

That ever were or e’er will be, outdone;

LXIII

And he from point to point continuing, said

That which Rogero had for him achieved;

And after, how by sorrow sore bested,

In that to leave his cherished wife he grieved,

He had resolved to die, and, almost dead,

Was only by his timely aid relieved;

And this he told so movingly, no eye

Remained, amid those martial many, dry.

LXIV

So efficaciously he after prayed

To the obstinate Duke Aymon, not alone

The stubborn sire of Bradamant he swayed,

And to forego his settled purpose won;

But that proud lord in person did persuade

To beg Rogero’s pardon, and his son

And son-inlaw to be beseech the knight;

And thus to him his Bradamant was plight.

LXV

To her, where, of her feeble life in doubt,

She in a secret chamber made lament,

Through many a messenger, with joyful shout

And mickle haste, the happy tidings went.

Hence the warm blood, that stagnated about

Her heart, by her first sorrow thither sent,

Ebbed at this notice in so full a tide,

Well nigh for sudden joy the damsel died.

LXVI

Of all her vigour is she so foregone,

She cannot on her feeble feet rely:

Yet what her force must needs to you be known,

And what the damsel’s magnanimity.

None doomed to prison, wheel or halter, none

Condemned some other evil death to die,

About whose brows the sable band is tied,

Rejoices more to hear his pardon cried.

LXVII

Joys Clermont’s, joys Mongrana’s noble house,

Those kindred branches that fresh know to view.

With equal grief Count Anselm overflows,

Gan, Falcon, Gini and Ginami’s crew:

Yet they meanwhile beneath contented brows

Conceal the dark and envious thoughts they brew.

As the fox waits the motions of the hare,

They wait their time for vengeance, and forbear.

LXVIII

Besides that oftentimes before the rage

Of Roland and Rinaldo on them fell,

Though they were calmed by Charles’s counsel sage,

And common danger from the infidel,

They had new cause for grief in Bertolage

Slain by their foemen and Sir Pinnabel:

But they concealed their hatred, and endured

Those griefs, as of the matter ill assured.

LXIX

Those envoys of the Bulgars that had made

For Charles’s court (as hath erewhile been shown),

Hoping to find the knight, whose shield pourtrayed

The unicorn, elected to their throne,

Bless the good fortune which their hope repayed,

Seeing that valiant warrior, and fall down

Before his feet, and him in humble speech

Again to seek their Bulgary beseech;

LXX

Where kept for him in Adrianople are

The sceptre and the crown, his royal due:

But let him succour to his kingdom bear;

For — to their further scathe — advices shew

Constantine doth a mighty host prepare,

And thitherward in person moves anew;

And they — of their elected king possest —

Hope the Greek empire from his hands to wrest.

LXXI

He accepts the realm, by their entreaties won;

And, to afford them aid against their foes,

Will went to Bulgary when three months are done;

Save Fortune otherwise of him dispose.

When this is heard by that Greek emperor’s son,

He bids Rogero on his faith repose;

For since by him the Bulgar’s realm is swayed,

Peace between them and Constantine is made;

LXXII

Nor needeth he depart in haste, to guide

His Bulgar bands against the Grecian foe;

For all that he had conquered far and wide,

He will persuade his father to forego.

None of the virtues, in Rogero spied,

Moved Bradamant’s ambitious mother so,

Or so to endear her son-inlaw availed,

As hearing now that son a sovereign hailed.

LXXIII

The rich and royal nuptials they prepare

As well befits him, by whose care ’tis done,

’Tis done by Charles; and with such cost and care

As if ’twere for a daughter of his own.

For such the merits of the damsel are,

And such had all her martial kindred shown,

Charles would not think he should exceed due measure

If spent for her was half his kingdom’s treasure.

LXXIV

He a free court bids cry; whither his way

Securely every one that wills may wend;

And offers open lists till the ninth day

To whosoever would in arms contend;

And bids build bowers afield, and interlay

Green boughs therein, and flowers and foliage blend;

And make those bowers so gay with silk and gold,

No fairer place this ample world doth hold.

LXXV

Guested within fair Paris cannot be

The countless foreign bands that thither fare;

Who, rich and poor, of high and low degree,

And Greeks and Latins and Barbarians are.

There is no end of lord and embassy

That thither from all ends of earth repair;

All lodged conveniently, to their content,

Beneath pavilion, booth, and bower and tent.

LXXVI

The weird Melissa against the coming night

With singular and matchless ornament

Had for that pair the nuptial chamber dight;

Whereon long time before she had been bent:

Long time before desirous of the rite

Had been that dame, presageful of the event;

Presageful of futurity, she knew

What goodly fruit should from their stems ensue.

LXXVII

She had prepared the genial, fruitful bed,

Under a broad pavilion; one more rich,

Adorned, and jocund, never overhead

(Did this for peace or war its master pitch)

Was in the world, before or after, spread;

And this from Thracian strand had borne the witch.

The costly prize from Constantine she bore,

Who for disport was tented on that shore.

LXXVIII

She with young Leo’s leave, or rather so

The Grecian’s admiration to obtain,

And a rare token of that art to show,

Which on Hell’s mighty dragon puts the rein,

And at her pleasure rules that impious foe

Of Heaven, together with his evil train,

Bade demons the pavilion through mid air

To Paris from Constantinople bear.

LXXIX

From Constantine that lay therein, who swayed

The Grecian empire’s sceptre, at mid-day

This with its cordage, shaft whereby ’twas stayed,

And all within and out, she bore away;

And of the costly tent, through air conveyed,

For young Rogero made a lodging gay.

The bridal ended, this her demon crew

Thither, from whence ’twas brought, conveyed anew.

LXXX

Two thousand tedious years were nigh complete,

Since this fair work was fashioned by the lore

Of Trojan maid, warmed with prophetic heat;

Who, ‘mid long labour and ‘mid vigil sore,

With her own fingers all the storied sheet

Of the pavilion had embroidered o’er;

Cassandra hight; that maid to Hector brave

(Her brother he) this costly present gave.

LXXXI

The curtiest cavalier, the kindliest shoot

That ever from her brother’s stock should grow

(Albeit she knew far distant from its root,

With many a branch between, should be that bough)

In silk and gold upon the gorgeous suit

Of hangings had she wrought in goodly show.

Much prized that gift, while living, Priam’s son,

For its rare work and her by whom ’twas done.

LXXXII

But when by treachery perished Priam’s heir,

And Greeks the Trojans scathed in cruel sort,

When her gates opened by false Sinon were,

And direr ill was done than tales report,

This plunder fell to Menelaus’ share,

Wherewith to Egypt’s land he made resort;

There left it to King Proteus, Egypt’s lord,

In ransom for his prisoned wife restored;

LXXXIII

She Helen hight: her Menelaus to free,

To Proteus the pavilion gave away;

Which, passing through the line of Ptolemy,

To Cleopatra fell; from her in fray

Agrippa’s band on the Leucadian sea

Bore off the treasure, amid other prey.

Augustus and Tiberius heired the loom,

Kept till the time of Constantine in Rome:

LXXXIV

That Constantine, whom thou shall ever rue

Fair Italy, while the heavens above are rolled.

Constantine to Byzantium, when he grew

Weary of Tyber, bore the tent of old.

Melissa from his namesake this withdrew,

Its pole of ivory and its cord of gold,

And all its cloth with beauteous figures fraught;

Fairer Apelles’ pencil never wrought.

LXXXV

Here the three Graces in gay vesture gowned

Assisted the delivery of a queen.

Not in four ages in this earthly round

Was ever born a boy so fair of mien.

Jove, Venus, Mars, and Mercury renowned

For fluent speech, about the child are seen:

Him have they strewed, and stew with heaven’s perfume,

Ambrosial odours and aetherial bloom.

LXXXVI

Hippolytus a little label said,

Inscribed upon the baby’s swaddling clothes.

By the hand him Fortune leads in age more staid;

And Valour as a guide before him goes.

An unknown band in sweeping vest arraid,

With long descending locks, the tapestry shows,

Deputed by Corvinus to desire

The tender infant from his princely sire.

LXXXVII

He reverently parts from Hercules’ side,

From her, his lady mother, Eleanor;

And to the Danube wends; where far and wide

They meet the boy, and as a god adore.

The prudent king of Hungary is descried,

Who does due honour to his ripened lore,

In yet unripe, yea, raw and tender years,

And ranks the stripling above all his peers.

LXXXVIII

One is there that in his green age and new

Places Strigonia’s crozier in his hand.

Him ever at Corvinus’ side we view;

Whether he doth in court or camp command,

Whether against the Turk, or German crew

The puissant monarch leads his martial band,

Watchful Hippolytus is at his side,

And gathers virtue from his generous guide.

LXXXIX

There is it seen, how he his blooming age

Divides mid arts and wholesome discipline:

The secret spirit of the ancient page

There Fuscus well instructs him to divine:

“This must thou shun, that follow” — seems the sage

To say — “if thou immortally wouldst shine.”

Fashioned withal with so much skill and care

By her who wrought that work, their gestures were.

XC

A cardinal he next is seen, though young

In years, at council in the Vatican;

Where for deep wisdom graced by eloquent tongue,

With wonder him the assembled conclave scan.

“What will he be” — they seem to say among

Themselves — “when he is ripened into man?

Oh! if on him St. Peter’s mantle fall,

What a blest aera! what a happy call!”

XCI

That brave youth’s liberal pastimes are designed

In other place; on Alpine mountain hoar

Here he affronts the bear of rugged kind;

And there in rushy bottom bays the boar:

Now on his jennet he outgoes the wind,

And drives some goat or gallant hind before;

Which falls o’ertaken on the dusty plain,

By his descending faulchion cleft in twain.

XCII

He is descried, amid a fair array

Of poets and philosophers elsewhere

This pricks for him the wandering planets’ way;

These earth, these heaven for his instruction square.

Some chant sad elegies, some verses gay

Lays lyric or heroic; singers there

He with rich music hears; nor moves a pace

But what in every step is sovereign grace.

XCIII

The first part of the storied walls pourtraied

That noble prince’s gentle infancy.

Cassandra all beside had overlaid

With fears of justice, prudence, modesty,

Valour, and that fifty virtue, which hath made

With those fair sisters closest amity;

I speak of her that gives and that bestows.

With all these virtues gilt, the stripling glows.

XCIV

In this part is the princely youth espied

With that unhappy duke, the Insubri’s head;

In peace they sit in council at his side,

Together armed, the serpent-banner spread.

The youth by one unchanging faith is tied

To him for ever, well or ill bested;

His followers still in flight before the foe,

His guide in peril, his support in woe.

XCV

Him in another quarter you descry,

For his Ferrara and her duke in fear,

Who by strange proofs doth sift, and certify

To his just brother, vouched by tokens clear,

The close device of that ill treachery,

Hatched by those kinsmen whom he held most dear;

Hence justly he becomes that title’s heir,

Which Rome yet free bade righteous Tully bear.

XCVI

Elsewhere in martial panoply he shone,

Hasting to help the church with lifted blade;

With scanty and tumultuous levy gone

Against well-ordered host in arms arraid:

And lo! the coming of that chief alone

Affords the priestly band such present aid,

Extinguished are the fires before they spread.

He came, he saw, he conquered, may be said.

XCVII

Elsewhere he stands upon his native strand,

Fighting against the mightiest armament,

That whensoever against Argive land,

Or Turkish, from Venetian harbour went;

Scatters and overthrows the hostile band,

And — spoil and prisoners to his brother sent —

Nothing reserves save that unfading bay;

The only prize he cannot give away.

XCVIII

Upon those figures gazed the courtly crew,

But read no meaning in the storied wall:

Because there was not any one to shew

That these were things hereafter to befall.

Those fair and quaintly fashioned forms they view

With pleasure, and peruse the scrolls withal:

But Bradamant, to whom the whole was known,

By wise Melissa taught, rejoiced alone.

XCIX

Though not instructed in that history

Like gentle Bradamant, the affianced knight

Remembers how amid his progeny

Atlantes often praised this Hippolyte.

— Who faithfully could verse such courtesy,

As Charlemagne vouchsafed to every wight?

With various games that solemn feast was cheered,

And charged with viands aye the board appeared.

C

Who is a valiant knight, is here descried;

For daily broke a thousand lances lay:

Singly to combat or in troops they ride;

On horseback or afoot, they mix in fray.

Worthiest of all Rogero is espied,

Who always conquers, jousting night and day;

And so, in wrestling, dance, and every deed,

Still from its rivals bears away the meed.

CI

On the last day, when at their festive cheer

Was seated solemnly the assembled band,

Where at Charles’ left was placed the wedded peer,

And Bradamant upon his better hand,

Across the fields an armed cavalier,

Of semblance haughty, and of stature grand,

Was seen to ride towards the royal table;

Himself and courser wholly clothed in sable.

CII

The King of Argier he; that for the scorn

Received from her, when on the bridge he fell,

Never to clothe himself in arms had sworn,

Nor draw the faulchion nor bestride the sell,

Till he had like an anchoret outworn

A year and month and day in lowly cell.

So to chastise themselves for such like crimes

Were cavaliers accustomed in those times.

CIII

Albeit of Charles and Agramant the Moor

Had heard the several fortunes while away,

Not to foreswear himself, he armed no more

Than if in nought concerned in that affray:

But when the year and month were wholly o’er,

And wholly past was the succeeding day,

With other courser, harness, sword, and lance,

The king betook him to the court of France.

CIV

He neither lighted from his horse, nor bowed

His head; and, without sign of reverence due,

His scorn for Charlemagne by gestures showed,

And the high presence of so fair a crew.

Astound and full of wonder stood the crowd,

Such license in that haughty man to view.

All leave their meat, all leave their talk, to hear

The purpose of the stranger cavalier.

CV

To Charles and to Rogero opposite,

With a loud voice, and in proud accent, “I

Am Rodomont of Sarza,” said the knight,

“Who thee, Rogero, to the field defy;

And here, before the sun withdraws his light,

Will prove on thee thine infidelity;

And that thou, as a traitor to thy lord,

Deserv’st not any honour at this board.

CVI

“Albeit thy felony be plain and clear,

Which thou, as christened, canst not disavow;

Nathless to make it yet more plain appear,

This will I prove upon thee; and, if thou

Canst find a knight to combat for thee here,

Him will accept; — if one be not enow —

Will four, nay six accept; and will maintain

My words against them all in listed plain.”

CVII

Rogero, with the leave of Pepin’s son,

Uprose at that appeal, and thus replied:

That he — nor he alone — but every one,

Who thus impeached him as a traitor, lied;

That so he by his king had ever done,

Him none could justly blame; and on his side,

He was prepared in listed field to shew

He evermore by him had done his due.

CVIII

He can defend himself; nor need he crave

Another warrior’s help that course to run;

And ’tis his hope to show him he would have

Enough, perhaps would have too much, of one.

Thither Orlando and Rinaldo, brave

Olivier, and his white and sable son,

Thither good Dudon and Marphisa wend;

Who fain with that fierce paynim will contend.

CIX

They tell Rogero that, as newly wed

The combat he in person should refuse.

“Take ye no further pains,” the warrior said,

“For such would be for me a foul excuse.”

The Tartar’s arms were brought, which cut the thread

Of more delay and of all further truce:

With spurs Orlando deck’d the youthful lord,

King Charlemagne begirt him with the sword.

CX

Marphisa and Bradamant in corslet case

His breast, and clothe him in his other gear.

Astolpho led his horse of noble race:

Sir Dudon held his stirrup: far and near

Rinaldo and Namus made the mob give place,

Assisted by the Marquis Olivier.

All from the crowded lists they drive with speed,

Evermore kept in order for such need.

CXI

The pale-faced dames and damsels troop, in guise

Of pigeons round the lists, a timid show;

When, homeward bound, from fruitful field they rise,

Scared by wide-sweeping winds, which loudly blow,

Mid flash and clap; and when the sable skies

Threat hail and rain, the harvest’s waste and woe:

A timid troop, they for Rogero fear,

Ill matched they deem with that fierce cavalier.

CXII

So him deemed all the rabble; and so most

Of those bold cavalier and barons thought;

In that they had not yet the memory lost

Of what that paynim had in Paris wrought,

When singly fire and sword the warrior tost,

And much of that fair town to ruin brought;

Whose signs remained, and yet will long remain:

Nor ever greater havoc plagued that reign.

CXIII

Bradamant’s heart above those others’ beat:

Not that she deemed the Saracen in might,

Or valour which in the heart-core hath its seat,

Was of more prowess than the youthful knight;

Nor (what oft gives success in martial feat

That with the paynim was the better right.

Yet cannot she her some ill misgivings quell.

But upon those that love such fear sits well.

CXIV

Oh! in her fear for him, how willingly

She battle for Rogero would have done!

If lifeless on the listed field to lie

Surer than sure, — in fight with Ulien’s son.

More than one death would she consent to die,

If she withal could suffer more than one,

Rather than she in that unhappy strife

Would see her cherished consort risk his life.

CXV

But prayer availed not on the damsel’s part

To make Rogero leave to her the quest:

She then with mournful face and beating heart

Stood by to view that pair to fight addrest.

From right and left the peer and paynim start,

And at each other run with lance in rest.

The spears seem ice, as they in shivers fly.

The fragments birds, that mount through middle sky.

CXVI

Rodomont’s lance which smote in the career

Upon mid-shield, yet harmed it little; so

Perfect was famous Hector’s iron gear,

Hardened by Vulcan’s hand, and safe from blow.

As well against the shield his levelled spear

Rogero guides, and that good buckler — though

Well steeled within and out, with bone between,

And nigh a palm in thickness — pierces clean;

CXVII

And — but his lance resists not that fierce shock,

And at the first assault its splinters fly,

And bits and fragments of the shivered stock

Seem fledged with feathers they ascend so high;

Were his arms hewn from adamantine rock,

The spear would pierce the paynim’s panoply;

And end that battle: but it breaks withal,

And on their croups both staggering coursers fall.

CXVIII

With bridle and with spur the martial pair

Raise their proud horses nimbly from the ground;

And having broke their spears, with faulchions bare

Return, to bandy fierce and cruel wound.

Wheeling with wondrous mastery, here and there,

The bold and ready coursers in a round,

The warriors with their biting swords begin

To try where either’s armour is most thin.

CXIX

Rodomont had not that hard dragon-hide

Which heretofore had cased the warrior’s breast;

Nor Nimrod’s trenchant sword was at his side;

Nor the accustomed helm his temples prest.

For on that bridge which spanned the narrow tide,

A loser to Dordona’s lady, vest

And arms suspended from the votive stone

He left; as I, meseems, erewhile have shown.

CXX

Clad was the king in other goodly mail;

Yet not like that first panoply secure:

But neither this, nor that, nor harder scale

Could Balisarda’s deadly dint endure;

Against which neither workmanship avail,

Enchantment, temper, nor prime steel and pure.

So here so there Rogero plied his sword,

He more than once the paynim’s armour bored.

CXXI

When Rodomont beholds in that fierce close

His widely crimsoned arms, nor can restrain

The greater portion of those griding blows

From biting to the quick, through plate and chain,

He with more fury, with more rage o’erflows,

Than in mid winter the tempestrous main

Flings down his shield, and with both hands outright

Lays at Rogero’s helm with all his might.

CXXII

With that excessive force, wherewith the gin,

Erected in two barges upon Po,

And raised by men and wheels, with deafening din

Descends upon the sharpened piles below,

With all his might he smote the paladin

With either hand; was never direr blow:

Him the charmed helmet helped, or — such its force —

The stroke would have divided man and horse.

CXXIII

As if about to fall, the youthful lord

Twice nodded, opening legs and arms; anew

Rodomont smote, in that he would afford

His foe no time his spirits to renew:

Then threatened other stroke; but that fine sword

Bore not such hammering, and in shivers flew;

And the bold Saracen, bereft of brand

Was in the combat left with unarmed hand.

CXXIV

But not for this doth Rodomont refrain:

He swoops upon the Child, unheeding aught:

So sore astounded is Rogero’s brain;

So wholly overclouded is his thought.

But him the paynim well awakes again,

Whom by the neck he with strong arm has caught,

And gripes and grapples with such mighty force,

He falls on earth, pulled headlong from his horse.

CXXV

Yet leaps from earth as nimbly, moved by spleen

Far less than shame; for on his gentle bride

He turned his eyes, and that fair face serene

Now troubled the disdainful warrior spied.

She in sore doubt her champion’s fall had seen;

And well nigh at that sight the lady died.

Rogero, quickly to revenge the affront,

Clutches his sword and faces Rodomont.

CXXVI

He at Rogero rode, who that rude shock

Shunned warily, retiring from his ground,

And, as he past, the paynim’s bridle took

With his left hand, and turned his courser round;

While with his right he at his rider struck,

Whom he in belly, flank and breast would wound;

And twice sore anguish felt the monarch, gored

In flank and thigh, by good Rogero’s sword.

CXXVII

Rodomont, grasping still in that close fight

The hilt and pommel of his broken blade,

Layed at Rogero’s helmet with such might,

That him another stroke might have dismaid:

But good Rogero, who should win of right,

Seizing his arm, the king so rudely swayed,

Bringing his left his better hand to speed,

That he pulled down the paynim from his steed.

CXXVIII

Through force or skill, so fell the Moorish lord,

He stood his match, I rather ought to say

Fell on his feet; because Rogero’s sword

Gave him, ’twas deemed, advantage in the fray.

Rogero stands aloof, with wary ward

As fain to keep the paynim king at bay.

For the wise champion will not let a wight

So talk and bulky close with him in fight;

CXXIX

Rogero flank and thigh dyed red beheld,

And other wounds; and hoped he would have failed

By little and by little, as it welled;

So that he finally should have prevailed.

His hilt and pommel in his fist yet held

The paynim, which with all his might he scaled

At young Rogero; whom he smote so sore,

The stripling never was so stunned before.

CXXX

In the helmet-cheek and shoulder-bone below

The Child was smit, and left so sore astound,

He, tripping still and staggering to and fro,

Scarce kept himself from falling to the ground.

Rodomont fain would close upon his foe;

But his foot fails him, weakened by the wound,

Which pierced his thigh: he overtasked his might;

And on his kneepan fell the paynim knight.

CXXXI

Rogero lost no time, and with fierce blows

Smote him in face and bosom with his brand;

Hammered, and held the Saracen so close,

To ground he bore that champion with his hand.

But he so stirred himself, again he rose:

He gripes Rogero so, fast locked they stand.

Seconding their huge vigour by address,

They circle one another, shake, and press.

CXXXII

His wounded thigh and gaping flank had sore

Weakened the vigour of the Moorish king:

Rogero had address; had mickle lore;

Was greatly practised in the wrestlers’ ring:

He marked his vantage, nor from strife forbore;

And, where he saw the blood most freely spring,

And where most wounded was the warrior, prest

The paynim with his feet, his arms, and breast.

CXXXIII

Rodomont filled with spite and rage, his foe

Takes by the neck and shoulders, and now bends

Towards him, and now pushes from him; now

Raises from earth, and on his chest suspends;

Whirls here and there and grapples; and to throw

The stripling sorely in that strife contends.

Collected in himself, Rogero wrought,

To keep his vantage taxing strength and thought.

CXXXIV

So shifting oft his hold, about the Moor

His arms the good and bold Rogero wound;

Against his left flank shoved his breast, and sore

Strained him with all his strength engirdled round.

At once he past his better leg before

Rodomont’s knees and pushed, and from the ground

Uplifted high in air the Moorish lord;

Then hurled him down head foremost on the sward.

CXXXV

Such was the shock wherewith King Rodomont

With battered head and spine the champion smote,

That, issuing from his wounds as from a font,

Streams of red blood the crimsoned herbage float.

Rogero, holding Fortune by the front,

Lest he should rise, with one hand griped his throat,

With one a dagger at his eyes addrest;

And with his knees the paynim’s belly prest.

CXXVI

As sometimes where they work the golden vein

Within Pannonian or Iberian cave,

In unexpected ruin whelm the train

By impious avarice there condemned to slave,

So with the load they lie opprest, with pain

A passage can their prisoned spirit have:

No less opprest the doughty paynim lay,

Pinned to the ground in that disastrous fray.

CXXXVII

Rogero at his vizor doth present

His naked poniard’s point, with threatening cry,

That he will slay him, save he yields, content

To let him live, if he for grace apply.

But Rodomont, who rather than be shent

For the least deed of shame, preferred to die,

Writhed, struggled, and with all his vigour tried

To pull Rogero down, and nought replied.

CXXXVIII

As mastiff that below the deer-hound lies,

Fixed by the gullet fast, with holding bite,

Sorely bestirs himself and vainly tries,

With lips besmeared with foam and eyes alight,

And cannot from beneath the conqueror rise,

Who foils his foe by force, and not despite;

So vainly strives the monarch of Argier

To rise from underneath the cavalier.

CXXXIX

Yet Rodomont so twists and strives, he gains

The freedom of his better arm anew;

And with the right hand, which his poniard strains,

For he had drawn his deadly dagger too,

Would wound Rogero underneath the reins:

But now the wary youth the error knew

Through which he might have died, by his delay

That impious Saracen forthwith to slay;

CXL

And smiting twice or thrice his horrid front,

Raising as high as he could raise in air

His dagger, buried it in Rodomont;

And freed himself withal from further care.

Loosed from the more than icy corse, to font

Of fetid Acheron, and hell’s foul repair,

The indignant spirit fled, blaspheming loud;

Erewhile on earth so haughty and so proud.

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