Two squadrons lack of those which muster under
King Agramant, by single Roland slain;
Hence furious Mandricardo, full of wonder
And envy, seeks the count by hill and plain:
Next joys himself with Doralice; such plunder,
Aided by heaven, his valiant arms obtain.
Rinaldo comes, with the angel-guide before,
To Paris, now assaulted by the Moor.
In many a fierce assault and conflict dread,
‘Twixt Spain and Afric and their Gallic foe,
Countless had been the slain, whose bodies fed
The ravening eagle, wolf, and greedy crow;
But though the Franks had worse in warfare sped,
Forced all the champaigne country to forego,
This had the paynims purchased at the cost
Of more good princes and bold barons lost.
So bloody was the price of victory,
Small ground was left them triumphs to prepare;
And if, unconquered Duke Alphonso, we
May modern things with ancient deeds compare,
The battle, whose illustrious palm may be
Well worthily assigned to you to wear,
At whose remembrance sad Ravenna trembles,
And aye shall weep her loss, this field resembles.
When the Calesians and the Picards yielding,
And troops of Normandy and Aquitaine,
You, with your valiant arms their squadrons shielding,
Stormed the almost victorious flags of Spain;
And those bold youths their trenchant weapons wielding,
Through parted squadrons, followed in your train;
Who on that day deserved you should accord,
For honoured gifts, the gilded spur and sword.
You, with such glorious hearts, who were not slow
To follow, nor far off, the gorgeous oak
Seized, and shook down the golden acorns so,
And so the red and yellow truncheon broke,
That we to you our festive laurels owe,
And the fair lily, rescued from its stroke;
Another wreath may round your temples bloom,
In that Fabricius you preserved to Rome.
Rome’s mighty column, by your valiant hand
Taken and kept entire, more praise has shed
On you, than if the predatory band
Had routed by your single valour bled,
Of all who flocked to fat Ravenna’s land,
Or masterless, without a banner fled,
Of Arragon, Castile, or of Navarre;
When vain was lance or cannon’s thundering car.
This dear-bought victory brought more relief
Than joy, by its event too much outweighed,
The loss of that French captain and our chief,
Whom dead we on the fatal field surveyed;
And swallowed in one storm, for further grief,
So many glorious princes, who, arrayed
For safeguard of their own, or neighbouring lands,
Had poured through, frozen Alps their friendly bands.
Our present safety, and life held in fear,
We see assured us by this victory,
That saved us from the wintry tempest drear,
Which would have whelmed us from Jove’s angry sky.
But ill can we rejoice, while yet the tear
Is standing in full many a widow’s eye,
Who weeping and attired in sable, vents,
Throughout all grieving France, her loud laments.
’Tis meet King Lewis should find new supplies
Of chiefs by whom his troops may be arrayed,
Who for the lilies’ honour shall chastise
The hands which so rapaciously have preyed;
Who brethren, black and white, in shameful wise,
Have outraged, sister, mother, wife, and maid,
And cast on earth Christ’s sacrament divine,
With the intent to thieve his silver shrine.
Hadst thou not made resistance to thy foe,
Better, Ravenna, had it been for thee,
And thou been warned by Brescia’s fate, than so
Thine should Faenza warn and Rimini.
O Lewis, bid good old Trivulzio go
With thine, and to thy bands example be,
And tell what ills such license still has bred,
Heaping our ample Italy with dead.
As the illustrious King of France has need
Of captains to supply his leaders lost,
So the two kings who Spain and Afric lead,
To give new order to the double host,
Resolve their bands should muster on the mead,
From winter lodgings moved and various post;
That they may furnish, as their wants demand,
A guide and government to every band.
Marsilius first, and after Agramant,
Passing it troop by troop their army scan.
The Catalonians, who their captain vaunt
In Doriphoebus, muster in the van;
And next, without their monarch Fulvirant,
Erst killed by good Rinaldo, comes the clan
Of bold Navarre; whose guideless band to steer
The King of Spain appoints Sir Isolier.
With Balugantes Leon’s race comes on,
The Algarbi governed by Grandonio wheel.
The brother of Marsilius, Falsiron,
Brings up with him the power of Less Castile.
They follow Madarasso’s gonfalon,
Who have left Malaga and fair Seville,
‘Twixt fruitful Cordova and Cadiz-bay,
Where through green banks the Betis winds its way.
Stordilane, Tessira, and Baricond,
After each other, next their forces stirred;
This in Grenada, that in Lisbon crowned;
Majorca was obedient to the third.
Larbino had Lisbon ruled, whose golden round
Was at his death on Tessira conferred;
His kinsman he: Gallicia came in guide
Or Serpentine, who Mericold supplied.
They of Toledo and of Calatrave,
Who erst with Sinnagon’s broad banner spread,
Marched, and the multitude who drink and lave
Their limbs in chrystal Guadiana’s bed,
Came thither, under Matalista brave;
Beneath Bianzardin, their common head,
Astorga, Salamanca, Placenza,
With Avila, Zamorra, and Palenza.
The household-troops which guard Marsilius’ state,
And Saragossa’s men, Ferrau commands;
And in this force, well-sheathed in mail and plate,
Bold Malgarine and Balinverno stands;
Morgant and Malzarise, whom common fate
Had both condemned to dwell in foreign lands,
Who, when dethroned, had to Marsilius’ court
(There hospitably harboured) made resort.
Follicon, Kind Marsilius’ bastard, hies
With valiant Doricont; amid this horde,
Bavartes, Analard, and Argalise,
And Archidantes, the Saguntine lord.
Here, Malagur, in ready cunning wise,
And Ammirant and Langhiran the sword
Unsheath, and march; of whom I shall endite,
When it is time, their prowess to recite.
When so had filed the warlike host of Spain
In fair review before King Agramant,
Appeared King Oran with his martial train,
Who might almost a giant’s stature vaunt;
Next they who weep their Martasino, slain
By the avenging sword of Bradamant,
King of the Garamantes, and lament
That woman triumphs in their monarch spent.
Marmonda’s men next past the royal Moor,
Who left Argosto dead on Gascon meads;
And this unguided band, like that before,
As well as the fourth troop, a captain needs.
Although King Agramant has little store
Of chiefs, he feigns a choice, and thinks; next speeds
Buraldo, Ormida, and Arganio tried,
Where needing, the unordered troops to guide.
He give Arganio charge of Libicane,
Who wept the sable Dudrinasso dead.
Brunello guides the men of Tingitane,
With cloudy countenance and drooping head;
Who since he in the wooded mountain-chain
(Nigh where Atlantes dwelt), to her he led,
Fair Bradamant, had lost the virtuous ring,
Had lived in the displeasure of his king;
And but that Ferrau’s brother Isolier,
Who fastened to a stem had found him there,
Made to King Agramant the truth appear,
He from the gallows-tree had swung in air:
Already fastened was the noose, and near
The caitiff’s fate, when at the many’s prayer
The king bade loose him; but reprieving, swore,
For his first fault to hang, offending more.
Thus, not without a cause, Brunello pined,
And showed a mournful face, and hung his head.
Next Farurantes; to whose care consigned,
Maurina’s valiant horse and footmen tread.
The new-made king Libanio comes behind,
By whom are Constatina’s people led:
Since Agramant the crown and staff of gold,
Once Pinador’s, had given to him to hold.
Hesperia’s people come with Soridan,
With Dorilon the men of Setta ride;
The Nasamonians troop with Pulian,
And Agricaltes is Ammonia’s guide.
Malabupherso rules o’er Fezzan’s clan,
And Finaduro leads the band supplied
By the Canary Islands and Morocco:
Balastro fills the place of king Tardocco.
Next Mulga and Arzilla’s legions two.
The first beneath their ancient captains wend;
The second troop without a leader, who
Are given to Corineus, the sovereign’s friend.
So (late Tanphirion’s) Almonsilla’s crew,
To a new monarch in Caichus bend.
Goetulia is bestowed on Rhimedont,
And Cosca comes in charge of Balinfront.
Ruled by Clarindo, Bolga’s people go,
Who fills the valiant Mirabaldo’s post:
Him Baliverso, whom I’d have you know
For the worst ribald in that ample host,
Succeeded next. I think not, ‘mid that show,
The bannered camp a firmer troop could boast
Than that which followed in Sobrino’s care;
Nor Saracen than him more wise and ware.
Gualciotto dead, Bellamarina’s crew,
(His vassals) serve, the sovereign of Algiers,
King Rodomont, of Sarza; that anew
Brought up a band of foot and cavaliers:
Whom, when the cloudy sun his rays withdrew
Beneath the Centaur and the Goat, his spears
There to recruit, was sent to the Afric shore
By Agramant, returned three days before.
There was no Saracen of bolder strain,
Of all the chiefs who Moorish squadrons led;
And Paris-town (nor is the terror vain)
More of the puissant warrior stands in dread
Than of King Agramant and all the train,
Which he, or the renowned Marsilius head;
And amid all that mighty muster, more
Than others, hatred to our faith he bore.
Prusion is the Alvaracchia’s king: below
King Dardinello’s flag Zumara’s power
Is ranged. I wot not, I, if owl or crow,
Or other bird ill-omened, which from tower
Or tree croaks future evil, did foreshow
To one or to the other, that the hour
Was fixed in heaven, when on the following day
Either should perish in this deadly fray.
Noritia’s men and Tremisene’s alone
Were wanting to complete the paynim host;
But in the martial muster sign was none,
Nor tale, nor tiding of the squadrons lost;
To wondering Agramant alike unknown,
What kept the slothful warriors from their post,
When of King Tremisene’s a squire was brought
Before him, who at large the mischief taught;
— Who taught how Manilardo was laid low,
Alzirdo, and many others, on the plain.
— “Sir,” said the bearer of the news, “the foe
Who slew our troop, would all thy camp have slain,
If thine assembled host had been more slow
Than me, who, as it was, escaped with pain.
This man slays horse and foot, as in the cote,
The wolf makes easy waste of sheep and goat.”
Where the bold Africans their standards plant,
A warrior had arrived some days before;
Nor was there in the west, or whole Levant,
A knight, with heart or prowess gifted more.
To him much grace was done by Agramant,
As successor of Agrican, who wore
The crown of Tartary, a warrior wight;
The son the famous Mandricardo hight.
Renowned he was for many a glorious quest
Atchieved, and through the world his fame was blown.
But him had glorified above the rest
Worth in the Syrian fairy’s castle shown:
Where mail, which cased the Trojan Hector’s breast
A thousand years before, he made his own.
And finished that adventure, strange and fell;
A story which breeds terror but to tell.
When the squire told his news amid that show
Of troops, was present Agrican’s bold son,
Who raised his daring face, resolved to go
And find the warrior who the deed had done;
But the design he hatched, forebore to show;
As making small account of any one,
Or fearing lest, should he reveal his thought,
The quest by other champion might be sought.
He of the squire demanded what the vest
And bearings, which the valiant stranger wore;
Who answered that he went without a crest,
And sable shield and sable surcoat bore.
— And, sir, ’twas true; for so was Roland drest;
The old device renounced he had before:
For as he mourned within, so he without,
The symbols of his grief would bear about.
Marsilius had to Mandricardo sped,
As gift, a courser of a chestnut stain,
Whose legs and mane were sable; he was bred
Between a Friesland mare and nag of Spain.
King Mandricardo, armed from foot to head,
Leapt on the steed and galloped o’er the plain,
And swore upon the camp to turn his back
Till he should find the champion clad in black.
The king encounters many of the crew
Whom good Orlando’s arm had put to flight;
And some a son, and some a brother rue,
Who in the rout had perished in their sight;
And in the coward’s cheek of pallid hue
Is yet pourtrayed the sad and craven sprite:
— Yet, through the fear endured, they far and nigh,
Pallid, and silent, and insensate fly.
Nor he long was had rode, ere he descried
A passing-cruel spectacle and sore;
But which the wonderous feats well testified,
That were recounted Agramant before.
Now on this hand, now that, the dead he eyed,
Measured their wounds, and turned their bodies o’er;
Moved by strange envy of the knight whose hand
Had strown the champaign with the slaughtered band.
As wolf or mastiff-dog, who comes the last
Where the remains of slaughtered bullock lie,
And finds but horn and bones, where rich repast
Had fed the ravening hound and vulture night,
Glares vainly on the scull, unsmacked; so passed
The barbarous Tartar king those bodies by;
And grudged, lamenting, like the hungry beast,
To have come too late for such a sumptuous feast.
That day, and half the next, in search he strayed
Of him who wore the sable vest and shield.
When lo! he saw a mead, o’ertopt with shade,
Where a deep river wound about the field,
With narrow space between the turns it made,
Where’er from side to side the water wheeled.
Even such a spot as this with circling waves
Below Otricoli the Tyber laves.
Where this deep stream was fordable, he scanned
A crowd of cavaliers that armour bore:
And these the paynim questioned who had manned,
With such a troop, and to what end, the shore?
To him replied the captain of the band,
Moved by his lordly air, and arms he wore,
Glittering with gold and jewels, — costly gear,
Which showed him an illustrious cavalier.
“In charge” (he said) “we of the daughter go
Of him our king, who fills Granada’s throne,
Espoused by Rodomont of Sarza, though
To fame the tidings are as yet unknown.
And we, departing when the sun is low,
And the cicala hushed, which now alone
Is heard, shall bring her where her father keeps
I’ the Spanish camp; meanwhile the lady sleeps.”
He who for scorn had daffed the world aside,
Designs to see at once, how able were
Those horsemen to defend the royal bride,
Committed by their sovereign to their care.
“The maid, by what I hear, is fair” (he cried).
“Fain would I now be certified, how fair:
Then me to her, or her to me convey,
For I must quickly wend another way.”
“Thou needs art raving mad,” replied in few
The chief, — nor more. But with his lance in rest,
The Tartar monarch at the speaker flew,
And with the levelled spear transfixed his breast.
For the point pierced the yielding corslet through,
And lifeless he, perforce, the champaign prest.
The son of Agrican his lance regained,
Who weaponless without the spear remained.
Now sword nor club the warlike Tartar bore,
Since, when the Trojan Hector’s plate and chain
He gained, because the faulchion lacked, he swore
(To this obliged), nor swore the king in vain,
That save he won the blade Orlando wore,
He would no other grasp, — that Durindane.
Held in high value by Almontes bold,
Which Roland bears, and Hector bore of old.
Great is the Tartar monarch’s daring, those
At such a disadvantage to assay,
He pricks, with levelled lance, among his foes,
Shouting, in fury, — “Who shall bar my way?” —
Round and about him suddenly they close;
These draw the faulchion, and those others lay
The spear in rest: a multitude he slew,
Before his lance was broke upon the crew.
When this he saw was broke, the truncheon sound
And yet entire, he took, both hands between,
And with so many bodies strewed the ground,
That direr havoc never yet was seen:
And as with that jaw bone, by hazard found,
The Hebrew Samson slew the Philistine,
Crushed helm and shield; and often side by side,
Slain by the truncheon, horse and rider died.
In running to their death the wretches vie,
Nor cease because their comrades perish near:
Yet bitterer in such a mode to die,
Than death itself, does to the troop appear.
They grudge to forfeit precious life, and lie
Crushed by the fragment of a broken spear;
And think foul scorn beneath the pounding stake
Strangely to die the death of frog or snake.
But after they at their expense had read
That it was ill to die in any way,
And near two thirds were now already dead,
The rest began to fly in disarray.
As if with what was his the vanquished fled,
The cruel paynim, cheated of his prey,
Ill bore that any, from the murderous strife
Of that scared rabble, should escape with life.
As in the well-dried fen or stubble-land,
Short time the stalk endures, or stridulous reed,
Against the flames, which careful rustic’s hand
Scatters when Boreas blows the fires to feed;
What time they take, and by the north-wind fanned.
Crackle and snap, and through the furrow speed;
No otherwise, with little profit, those
King Mandricardo’s kindled wrath oppose.
When afterwards he marks the entrance free,
Left ill-secured, and without sentinel.
He, following prints (which had been recently
Marked on the mead), proceeds, amid the swell
Of loud laments, Granada’s dame to see,
If she as beauteous were as what they tell.
He wound his way ‘mid corpses, where the wave,
Winding from side to side, a passage gave:
And in the middle of the mead surveyed
Doralice (such the gentle lady’s name),
Who, at the root of an old ash tree laid,
Bemoaned her: fast her lamentations came.
And tears, like plenteous vein of water, strayed
Into the beauteous bosom of the dame;
Who, (so it from her lovely face appeared,)
For others mourned, while for herself she feared.
Her fear increased when she approaching spied
Him foul with blood, and marked his felon cheer;
And piercing shrieks the very sky divide
Raised by herself and followers, in their fear.
For over and above the troop who guide
The fair infanta, squire and cavalier,
Came ancient men and matrons in her train,
And maids, the fairest of Granada’s reign.
When that fair face by him of Tartary
Is seen, which has no paragon in Spain,
Where amid tears (in laughter what were she?)
Is twisted Love’s inextricable chain.
He knows not if in heaven or earth he be;
Nor from his victory reaps other gain,
Than yielding up himself a thrall to her,
(He knows not why) who was his prisoner.
Yet not so far his courtesy he strained,
That he would lose his labour’s fruit, although
The royal damsel showed, who sorely plained,
Such grief as women in despair can show.
He, who the hope within him entertained
To turn to sovereign joy her present woe,
Would wholly bear her off; whom having placed
On a white jennet, he his way retraced.
He dames, maids, ancient men, and others, who
Had from Granada with the damsel fared,
Kindly dismissed, their journey to pursue;
Saying, “My care suffices; I of guard,
Of guide, of handmaid will the office do,
To serve her in her every need prepared.
Farewell!” and thus unable to withstand
The wrong, with tears and sighs withdrew the band,
Saying, “How woe-begone will be her sire,
When he the miserable case shall hear!
What grief will be the bridegroom’s! what his ire!
How dread the vengeance of that cavalier!
When so the lady’s needs such help require.
Alas! and why is not the champion near,
To save the illustrious blood of Stordilane,
Ere the thief bears her farther hence, from stain?”
The Tartar, joying in the prize possest,
Which he by chance and valour won and wore;
To find the warrior of the sable vest
Seemed not to have the haste he had before,
And stopp’d and loitered, where he whilom prest;
And cast about and studied evermore
To find some fitting shelter; with desire,
In quiet to exhale such amorous fire.
Doralice he consoled this while, whose eyes
And cheek were wetted with the frequent tear,
And many matters feigned and flattering lies;
— How, known by fame, he long had held her dear,
And how his country and glad realm, whose size
Shamed others, praised for grandeur far and near,
He quitted, not for sight of France or Spain;
But to behold that cheek of lovely grain.
“If a man merits love by loving, I
Yours by my love deserve; if it is won
By birth, — who boasts a genealogy
Like me, the puissant Agricano’s son?
By riches, — who with me in wealth can vie.
That in dominion yield to God alone?
By courage, — I today (I ween) have proved
That I for courage merit to be loved.”
These words, and many others on his part,
Love frames and dictates to the Tartar knight,
Which sweetly tend to cheer the afflicted heart
Of the unhappy maid, disturbed with fright.
By these fear first was laid, and next the smart
Sheathed of that woe, which had nigh pierced her sprite;
And with more patience thence the maid began
To hear, and her new lover’s reasons scan.
Next much more affable, with courteous lore
Seasoning her answers to his suit, replies;
Nor looking at the king, sometimes forbore
To fix upon his face her pitying eyes.
The paynim thence, whom Love had smote before,
Not hopeful now, but certain, of his prize,
Deemed that the lovely damsel would not still,
As late, be found rebellious to his will.
Riding in her glad company a-field,
Which so rejoiced his soul, so satisfied;
And being near the time, when to their bield,
Warned by the chilly night, all creatures hied,
Seeing the sun now low and half concealed,
The warrior ‘gan in greater hurry ride;
Until he heard reed-pipe and whistle sound,
And next saw farm and cabin smoking round.
Pastoral lodgings were the dwellings near,
Less formed for show, than for conveniency;
And the young damsel and the cavalier
The herdsman welcomed with such courtesy,
That both were pleasured by his kindly cheer.
For not alone dwells Hospitality
In court and city; but ofttimes we find
In loft and cottage men of gentle kind.
What afterwards was done at close of day
Between the damsel and the Tartar lord,
I will not take upon myself to say;
So leave to each, at pleasure, to award.
But as they rose the following morn more gay,
It would appear they were of fair accord:
And on the swain who them such honour showed,
Her thanks at parting Doralice bestowed.
Thence from one place to the other wandering, they
Find themselves by a river, as they go.
Which to the sea in silence winds its way,
And ill could be pronounced to stand or flow,
So clear and limpid, that the cheerful day,
With nought to intercept it, pierced below.
Upon its bank, beneath a cooling shade,
They found two warriors and a damsel laid.
Now lofty Fancy, which one course to run
Permits not, calls me hence in sudden wise;
And thither I return, where paynims stun
Fair France with hosile din and angry cries,
About the tent, wherein Troyano’s son
They holy empire in his wrath defies,
And boastful Rodomont, with vengeful doom,
Gives Paris to the flames, and levels Rome.
Tidings had reached the Moorish sovereign’s ear
That the English had already passed the sea;
And he bade Garbo’s aged king appear,
Marsilius, and his heads of chivalry:
Who all advised the monarch to prepare
For the assault of Paris. They may be
Assured they in the storm will never thrive,
Unless ’tis made before the aids arrive.
Innumerable ladders for the scale
Had been collected upon every hand,
And plank and beam, and hurdle’s twisted mail,
For different uses, at the king’s command;
And bridge and boat; and, what might more avail
Than all the rest, a first and second band
For the assault (so bids the monarch) form;
Who will himself go forth with them that storm.
The emperor, on the vigil of the day
Of battle, within Paris, everywhere,
By priest and friar of orders black and gray,
And white, bade celebrate mass-rite and prayer;
And those who had confessed, a fair array,
And from the Stygian demons rescued were,
Communicated in such fashions, all,
As if they were the ensuing day to fall.
At the high church, he, girt with paladine
And preachers of the word, and barons brave,
With much devotion at those acts divine
Assisted, and a fair example gave;
And there with folded hands and face supine,
Exclaimed, “O Lord! although my sins be grave,
Permit not, that, in this their utmost need,
Thy people suffer for their king’s misdeed!
“And if that they should suffer is thy will,
And that they should due penance undergo,
At least delay thy purpose to fulfil;
So that thine enemies deal not the blow.
For, when ’tis given him in his wrath to kill
Us who are deemed thy friends, the paynim foe,
That thou art without power to save, will cry,
Because thou lett’st thy faithful people die:
“And, for one faithless found, against thy sway
A hundred shall throughout the world rebel;
So that false Babel’s law will have its way,
And thus thy blessed faith put down and quell.
Defend thy suffering people, who are they
That purged thy tomb from heathen hounds and fell.
And many times and oft, by foes offended,
Thy holy church and vicars have defended.
“That our deserts unfitting are to place
I’ the scale against our mighty debt, I know;
Nor pardon can we hope, if we retrace
Our sinful lives; but if thou shouldst bestow
In aid, the gift of they redeeming grace,
The account is quit and balanced, that we owe;
Nor can we of thy succour, Lord, despair,
While we in mind thy saving mercy bear.”
So spake the holy emperor aloud,
In humbleness of heart and deep contrition;
And added other prayers withal, and vowed
What fitted his great needs and high condition.
Now was his supplication disallowed;
For his good genius hears the king’s petition,
Best of the seraphs he; who spreads his wings,
And to the Saviour’s feet this offering brings.
Infinite other prayers as well preferred,
Were, by like couriers, to the Godhead’s ear
So borne; which when the blessed spirits heard,
They all together gazed, with pitying cheer,
On their eternal, loving Lord, and, stirred
With one desire, besought that he would hear
The just petition, to his ears conveyed,
Of this his Christian people, seeking aid.
And the ineffable Goodness, who in vain
Was never sought by faithful heart, an eye,
Full of compassion, raised; and from the train
Waved Michael, and to the arch-angel: “Hie,
To seek the Christian host that crost the main,
And lately furled their sails in Picardy:
These so conduct to Paris, that their tramp
And noise be heard not in the hostile camp.
“Find Silence first, and bid him, on my part,
On this emprize attend thee, at thy side:
Since he for such a quest, with happiest art
Will know what is most fitting to provide.
Next, where she sojourns, instantly impart
To Discord my command, that she, supplied
With steel and tinder, ‘mid the paynims go,
And fire and flame in their encampment blow;
“And throughout those among them, who are said
To be the mightiest, spread such strife, that they
Together may contend, and that some dead
Remain, some hurt, some taken in the fray;
And some to leave the camp, by wrath, be led;
So that they yield their sovereign little stay.”
Nothing the blessed winged-one replies,
But swoops descending from the starry skies.
Where’er the angel Michael turns his wing,
The clouds are scattered and the sky turns bright;
About his person forms a golden ring,
As we see summer lightning gleam at night.
This while the courier of the heavenly king
Thinks, on his way, where he may best alight,
With the intent to find that foe to speech,
To whom he first his high behest would teach.
Upon the thought the posting angel brooded,
Where he, for whom he sought was used to dwell,
Who after thinking much, at last concluded
Him he should find in church or convent cell;
Where social speech is in such mode excluded,
That SILENCE, where the cloistered brethren swell
Their anthems, where they sleep, and where they sit
At meat; and everywhere in fine is writ.
Weening that he shall find him here, he plies
With greater speed his plumes of gilded scale,
And deems as well that Peace, here guested, lies,
And Charity and Quiet, without fail.
But finds he is deceived in his surmise,
As soon as he has past the cloister’s pale.
Here Silence is not; nor (’tis said) is found
Longer, except in writing, on this ground.
Nor here he Love, nor here he Peace surveys,
Piety, Quiet, or Humility.
Here dwelt they once; but ’twas in ancient days;
Chased hence by Avarice, Anger, Gluttony,
Pride, Envy, Sloth, and Cruelty. In amaze
The angel mused upon such novelty:
He narrowly the hideous squadron eyed,
And Discord too amid the rest espied;
Even her, to whom the eternal Sire as well,
Having found Silence, bade him to repair.
He had believed he to Avernus’ cell,
Where she was harboured with the damned, must fare,
And now discerned her in this other hell
(Who would believe it?) amid mass and prayer.
Strange Michael thought to see her there enshrined,
Whom he believed he must go far to find.
Her by her party-coloured vest he knew.
Unequal strips and many formed the gown,
Which, opening with her walk, or wind that blew,
Now showed, now hid her; for they were unsown.
Her hair appeared to be at strife; in hue
Like silver and like gold, and black and brown;
Part in a tress, in riband part comprest,
Some on her shoulders flowed, some on her breast.
Examinations, summons, and a store
Of writs and letters of attorney, she,
And hearings, in her hands and bosom bore,
And consultation, and authority:
Weapons, from which the substance of the poor
Can never safe in walled city be.
Before, behind her, and about her, wait
Attorney, notary, and advocate.
Her Michael calls to him, and give command
That she among the strongest paynims go;
And find occasion whence amid the band
Warfare and memorable scathe may grow.
He next from her of Silence makes demand,
Who of his motions easily might know;
As one who from one land to the other hied,
Kindling and scattering fire on either side.
“I recollect not ever to have viewed
Him anywhere,” quoth Discord in reply;
“But oft have heard him mentioned, and for shrewd
Greatly commended by the general cry:
But Fraud, who makes one of this multitude,
And who has sometimes kept him company,
I think, can furnish news of him to thee,
And” (pointing with her finger) “that is she.”
With pleasing mien, grave walk, and decent vest,
Fraud rolled her eye-balls humbly in her head;
And such benign and modest speech possest,
She might a Gabriel seem who Ave said.
Foul was she and deformed, in all the rest;
But with a mantle long and widely spread,
Concealed her hideous parts; and evermore
Beneath the stole a poisoned dagger wore.
Of her the good archangel made demand
What way in search of Silence to pursue:
Who said; “He with the Virtues once was scanned
Nor dwelt elsewhere; aye guested by the crew
Of Benedict, or blest Elias’ band,
When abbeys and when convent-cells were new;
And whilom in the schools long time did pass,
With sage Archytas and Pythagorus.
“But those philosophers and saints of yore
Extinguished, who had been his former stay,
From the good habits he had used before
He passed to evil ones; began to stray,
Changing his life, at night with lovers, bore
Thieves company, and sinned in every way:
He oftentimes consorts with Treason; further,
I even have beheld him leagued with Murther.
“With coiners him you oftentimes may see
Harbour in some obscure and close repair.
So oft he changes home and company,
To light on him would be a fortune rare:
Yet have I hope to point him out to thee;
If to Sleep’s house thou wilt at midnight fare,
Him wilt thou surely find; for to repose
At night he ever to that harbour goes.”
Though Fraud was alway wont to deal in lies,
So like the simple truth appears her say,
The angel yields the tale belief; and flies
Forth from the monastery without delay,
Tempers his speed, and schemes withal in wise
To finish at the appointed time his way,
That at the house of Sleep (the mansion blind
Full well he knew) this Silence he may find.
In blest Arabia lies a pleasant vale,
Removed from village and from city’s reach.
By two fair hills o’ershadowed is the dale,
And full of ancient fir and sturdy beech.
Thither the circling sun without avail
Conveys the cheerful daylight: for no breach
The rays can make through boughs spread thickly round;
And it is here a cave runs under ground.
Beneath the shadow of this forest deep,
Into the rock there runs a grotto wide.
Here widely wandering, ivy-suckers creep,
About the cavern’s entrance multiplied.
Harboured within this grot lies heavy Sleep,
Ease, corpulent and gross, upon this side,
Upon that, Sloth, on earth has made her seat;
Who cannot go, and hardly keeps her feet.
Mindless Oblivion at the gate is found,
Who lets none enter, and agnizes none;
Nor message hears or bears, and from that ground
Without distinction chases every one;
While Silence plays the scout and walks his round,
Equipt with shoes of felt and mantle brown,
And motions from a distance all who meet
Him on his circuit, from the dim retreat.
The angel him approaches quietly,
And, “ ’Tis God’s bidding” (whispers in his ear)
“That thou Rinaldo and his company,
Brought in his sovereign’s aid, to Paris steer:
But that thou do the deed so silently,
That not a Saracen their cry shall hear;
So that their army come upon the foe,
Ere he from Fame of their arrival know.”
Silence to him no otherwise replied
Than signing with his head that he obeyed:
(And took his post behind the heavenly guide)
Both at one flight to Picardy conveyed.
The angel moved those bands of valour tried,
And short to them a tedious distance made:
Whom he to Paris safe transports; while none
Is conscious that a miracle is done.
Silence the advancing troop kept skirting round,
In front, and flank, and rear of the array;
Above the band he spread a mist profound,
And everywhere beside ’twas lightsome day;
Nor through the impeding fog the shrilling sound
Of horn was heard, without, or trumpet’s bray.
He next the hostile paynims went to find,
And with I know not what made deaf and blind.
While with such haste his band Rinaldo led,
That him an angel well might seem to guide,
And in such silence moved, that nought was said
Or heard of this upon the paynim side;
King Agramant his infantry had spread
Throughout fair Paris’ suburbs, and beside
The foss, and underneath the walls; that day
To make upon the place his worst assay.
He who the Moorish monarch’s force would tell,
Which Charlemagne this day will have to meet,
In wooded Apennine might count as well
The trees upon its back, or waves that beat
(What time the troubled waters highest swell)
Against the Mauritanian Atlas’ feet;
Or watch at midnight with how many eyes
The furtive works of lovers Heaven espies.
The larum-bells, loud-sounding through the air,
Stricken with frequent blows, the town affray;
And in the crowded temples every where
Movement of lips and hands upraised to pray
Are seen: if treasure seemed to God so fair
As to our foolish thoughts, upon this day
The holy consistory had bid mould
Their every statue upon earth in gold.
Lamenting may be heard the aged just,
In that they were reserved for such a woe;
Calling those happy that in sacred dust
Were buried many and many a year ago.
But the bold youths who, valiant and robust,
Small thought upon the approaching ills bestow,
Scorning their elders’ counsel, here and there
Hurrying, in fury, to the walls repair.
Here might you paladin and baron ken,
King, duke, and marquis, count and chivalry,
And soldier, foreigner or citizen,
Ready for honour and for Christ to die;
Who, eager to assail the Saracen,
On Charlemagne to lower the bridges cry.
He witnesses with joy their martial beat,
But to permit their sally deems not meet.
And them he ordered in convenient post,
The advance of the barbarians to impede:
For this would ill suffice a numerous host,
To that he was content that few should speed.
Some worked at the machines, some wild-fire tost,
All ranged according to the separate need.
Charles, never in one place, with restless care
Provides defence and succour every where.
Paris is seated on a spacious plain,
I’ the midst — the heart of France, more justly say.
A stream flows into it, and forth again;
But first, the passing waters, as they stray,
An island form, and so secure the main
And better part, dividing on their way.
The other two (three separate quarters note).
Within the river girds, without the moat.
The town, whose walls for miles in circuit run,
Might well have been attacked from many a side;
Yet, for he would assail it but on one,
Nor willingly his scattered troops divide,
Westward beyond the stream Troyano’s son
Retired, from thence the assailing bands to guide.
In that, he neither city had nor plain
Behind, but what was his, as far as Spain.
Where’er the walls of Paris wound about,
Large ammunition had king Charles purveyed;
Strengthening with dyke each quarter held in doubt;
And had within trench, drain, and casemate made:
And where the river entered and went out,
Had thickest chains across the channel laid.
But most of all, his prudent cares appear
Where there is greatest cause for present fear.
With eyes of Argus, Pepin’s valiant son,
Where Agramant was bent to storm foresaw,
And every thing forestalled, ere yet begun
By the bold followers of Mahound’s law.
With Isolier, Grandonio, Falsiron,
Serpentin, Balugantes, and Ferrau,
And what beside he out of Spain had led,
Marsilius was in arms, their valiant head.
With old Sobrino, on the left of Seine,
Pulian and Dardinel d’Almontes meet,
With Oran’s giant king, to swell the train:
Six cubits is the prince, from head to feet.
But why move I my pen with greater pain
Than these men move their arms? for in his heat
King Rodomont exclaims, blaspheming sore,
Nor can contain his furious spirit more.
As swarming to assail the pastoral bowl,
With sound of stridulous wing, through summer sky,
Or relics of a feast, their luscious dole,
Repair the ready numbers of the fly;
As starlings to the vineyard’s crimsoning pole
With the ripe clusters charged, — heaven’s concave high
Filling, as they advanced, with noise and shout,
Fast hurried to the storm the Moorish rout.
Upon their walls the Christians in array,
With lance, sword, axe, and wild-fire tost,
The assaulted city guard without dismay,
And little reck the proud barbarian’s boast:
Nor when death snatches this or that away,
Does any one in fear refuse his post.
Into the fosse below the paynim foes
Return, amid a storm of strokes and blows.
Nor in this was is iron plied alone,
But mighty masses and whole bulwarks fall,
And top of tower, huge piece of bastion,
And with much toil disrupted, solid wall;
While streams of boiling water pouring down,
Insufferably the advancing paynims gall:
An ill-resisted rain, which, in despite
Of helmet, makes its way, and blinds the sight.
And this than iron spear offended more:
Then how much more the mist of lime-dust fine!
Then how the emptied vessel, burning sore
With nitre, sulphur, pitch, and turpentine!
Nor idle lie the fiery hoops in store,
Which, wreathed about with flaming tresses, shine.
These at the foemen scaled, upon all hands,
Form cruel garlands for the paynim bands.
Meanwhile, up to the walls the second crew
Fierce Sarza’s king was driven, accompanied
By bold Orlando and Buraldo, who
The Garamantes and Marmonda guide;
Clarindo and Loridano; nor from view,
It seems, will Setta’s valiant monarch hide:
Morocco’s king and he of Cosco go
With these, that men their martial worth may know.
With crimson Rodomont his banner stains,
And in the vermeil field a lion shows;
Who, bitted by a maid, to curb and reins
His savage mouth disdains not to unclose.
Himself in the submissive lion feigns
The haughty Rodomont, and would suppose
In her who curbs him with the bit and string,
Doralice, daughter to Grenada’s king;
Whom Mandricardo took, as I before
Related, and from whom, and in what wise.
Even she it was, whom Sarza’s monarch more
Loved than his realm, — beyond his very eyes:
And valour showed for her and courteous lore,
Not knowing yet she was another’s prize.
If he had, — then, — then, first, — the story known,
Even what he did that day, he would have done.
At once the foes a thousand ladders rear.
Against the wall by the assailants shored,
Two mannered each round; the second, in the rear,
Urged on by the first; the third the second gored.
One mounts the wall through valour, one through fear,
And all attempt perforce the dangerous ford;
For cruel Rodomont of Argier slays
Or smites the wretched laggard who delays.
’Tis thus, ‘mid fire and ruin, all assay
To mount the wall; but others to assure
Themselves, some safer passage seek, where they
Will have least pain and peril to endure.
Rodomont only scorns by any way
To wend, except by what is least secure;
And in that desperate case, where others made
Their offerings, cursed the god to whom they prayed.
He in a cuirass, hard and strong, was drest;
A dragon-skin it was with scaly quilt,
Which erst secured the manly back and breast
Of his bold ancestor, that Babel built;
Who hoped the rule of heaven from God to wrest,
And him would from his golden dome have split.
Perfect, and for this end alone, were made
Helmet and shield as well as trenchant blade.
Nor Rodomont to Nimrod yields in might,
Proud and untamed; and who would not forbear
To scale the lofty firmament till night,
Could he in this wide world descry the stair.
He stood not, he, to mark the bulwark’s plight
Nor if the fosse of certain bottom were.
He past, ran, — rather flew across the moat,
Plunging in filth and water to his throat.
Dripping and foul with water and with weeds,
‘Mid fire and stone, and arbalests, and bows,
On drives the chief; as through the marshy reeds,
The wild-swine of our own Mallea goes;
Who makes large day-light wheresoe’er he speeds,
Parting the sedge with breast and tusk and nose.
The paynim, safe in buckler lifted high,
Scorns not the wall alone, but braves the sky.
Rodomont has no sooner gained the shore,
Than on the wooden bartizan he stands,
Within the city walls, a bridge that bore
(Roomy and large) king Charles’s Christian bands.
Here many a scull is riven, here men take more
Than monkish tonsure at the warrior’s hands:
Heads fly and arms; and to the ditch a flood
Runs streaming from the wall of crimson blood.
He drops the shield; and with two-handed sway
Wielding his sword, duke Arnulph he offends.
Who came from whence, into the briny bay,
The water of the rapid Rhine descends.
No better than the sulphur keeps away
The advancing flame, the wretch his life defends.
He his last shudder gives, and tumbles dead;
Cleft downwards, a full palm from neck and head.
At one back-stroke sir Spineloccio true,
Anselmo, Prando, and Oldrado fell;
The narrow place and thickly-swarming crew
Make the wide-circling blow so fully tell.
The first half Flemings were, the residue
Are Normans, who the list of slaughter swell.
Orghetto of Maganza, he from brow
To breast divides, and thence to paunch below.
Down from the wall Andropono and Moschine
He cast into the ditch: a priest the first;
The second, but a worshipper of wine,
Drained, at a draught, whole runlets in his thirst;
Aye wonted simple water to decline,
Like viper’s blood or venom: now immersed
In this, he perishes amid that slaughter;
And, what breeds most affliction, dies by water.
Lewis the Provencal is cleft in two;
Arnold of Thoulouse through the breast before;
Hubert of Tours, sir Dionysius, Hugh,
And Claud, pour forth their ghosts in reeking gore.
Odo, Ambaldo, Satallon ensue,
And Walter next; of Paris are the four —
With others, that by me unmentioned fall,
Who cannot tell the name and land of all.
The crowd, by Rodomont of Sarza led,
The ladders lift, and many places scale.
Here the Parisians make no further head,
Who find their first defense of small avail
Full well they know that danger more to dread
Within awaits the foemen who assail;
Because between the wall and second mound
A fosse descends, wide, horrid, and profound.
Besides, that ours, with those upon the height,
War from below, like valiant men and stout,
New files succeed to those who fall in fight,
Where, on the interior summit, stand the rout,
Who gall with lances, and a whistling flight
Of darts, the mighty multitude without;
Many of whom, I ween, that post would shun,
If it were not for royal Ulien’s son.
But he still heartened some, and chid the rest,
And forced them forward to their sore alarm.
One paynim’s head he cleft, and other’s breast,
Who turned about to fly; and of the swarm
Some shoved and pushed and to the encounter prest,
Close-grappled by the collar, hair, or arm:
And downwards from the wall such numbers threw,
The ditch was all to narrow for the crew.
While so the foes descend, or rather fling
Themselves into the perilous profound;
And thence by many ladders try to spring
Upon the summit of the second mound,
King Rodomont, as if he had a wing
Upon his every member, from the ground
Upraised his weight, and vaulted clean across,
Loaded with all his arms, the yawning fosse.
The moat of thirty feet, not less, he cleared,
As dexterously as leaps the greyhound fleet,
Nor at his lighting louder noise was heard
Than if he had worn felt beneath his feet.
He now of this, now that, the mantle sheared;
As though of pewter, not of iron beat,
Or rather of soft rind their arms had been:
So matchless was his force and sword so keen!
This while, not idle, those of ours had laid
Snares in the inner moat, a well-charged mine:
Where broom and thick fascines, all over paid
With swarthy pitch, in plenty intertwine.
Though they from bank to bank that hollow line,
Filling the bottom well-nigh to the brink;
And countless vessels the defenders sink.
Charged with salt-petre, oil, or sulphur pale,
One and the other, or with such like gear;
While ours, intent the paynims that assail
The town, should pay their daring folly dear,
(Who from the ditch on different parts would scale
The inner bulwark’s platform) when they hear
The appointed signal which their comrades raise,
Set, at fit points, the wildfire in a blaze.
For that the moat was full from side to side,
The scattered flames united into one,
And mounted to such height, they well-nigh dried
The watery bosom of the moon; a dun
And dismal cloud above extending wide,
Dimmed every glimpse of light, and hid the sun:
A fearful crash, with a continued sound,
Like a long peal of thunder, shook the ground.
A horrid concert, a rude harmony
Of deep lament, and yell and shriek, which came
From those poor wretches in extremity,
Perishing through their furious leader’s blame,
Was heard, as in strange concord, to agree
With the fierce crackling of the murderous flame.
No more of this, no more! — Here, sir, I close
My canto, hoarse, and needing short repose.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:05