Gryphon is venged. Sir Mandricardo goes
In search of Argier’s king. Charles wins the fight.
Marphisa Norandino’s men o’erthrows.
Due pains Martano’s cowardice requite.
A favouring wind Marphisa’s gallery blows,
For France with Gryphon bound and many a knight.
The field Medoro and Cloridano tread,
And find their monarch Dardinello dead.
High minded lord! your actions evermore
I have with reason lauded, and still laud;
Though I with style inapt, and rustic lore,
You of large portion of your praise defraud:
But, of your many virtues, one before
All others I with heart and tongue applaud,
— That, if each man a gracious audience finds,
No easy faith your equal judgment blinds.
Often, to shield the absent one from blame,
I hear you this, or other, thing adduce;
Or him you let, at least, an audience claim,
Where still one ear is open to excuse:
And before dooming men to scaith and shame,
To see and hear them ever is your use;
And ere you judge another, many a day,
And month, and year, your sentence to delay.
Had Norandine been with your care endued,
What he by Gryphon did, he had not done.
Profit and fame have from your rule accrued:
A stain more black than pitch he cast upon
His name: through him, his people were pursued
And put to death by Olivero’s son;
Who at ten cuts or thrusts, in fury made,
Some thirty dead about the waggon laid.
Whither fear drives, in rout, the others all,
Some scattered here, some there, on every side,
Fill road and field; to gain the city-wall
Some strive, and smothered in the mighty tide,
One on another, in the gateway fall.
Gryphon, all thought of pity laid aside,
Threats not nor speaks, but whirls his sword about,
Well venging on the crowd their every flout.
Of those who to the portal foremost fleed,
The readiest of the crowd their feet to ply,
Part, more intent upon their proper need
Than their friends’ peril, raise the draw-bridge high:
Part, weeping and with deathlike visage, speed,
Nor turn their eyes behind them as they fly:
While, through the ample city, outcry loud,
And noise, and tumult rises from the crowd.
Two nimble Gryphon seizes, mid the train,
When to their woe the bridge is raised; of one,
Upon the field the warrior strews the brain,
Which he bears out on a hard grinding stone;
Seized by the breast, the other of the twain
Over the city-wall by him is thrown,
Fear chills the townsmen’s marrow, when they spy
The luckless wretch descending from the sky.
Many there were who feared in their alarms,
Lest o’er the wall Sir Gryphon would have vaulted;
Nor greater panic seized upon those swarms,
Than if the soldan had the town assaulted.
The sound of running up and down, of arms,
Of cry of Muezzins, on high exalted;
Of drums and trumpets, heaven, ‘twould seem, rebounded,
And, that the world was by the noise confounded.
But I will to another time delay,
What chanced on this occasion, to recount.
’Tis meet I follow Charles upon his way,
Hurrying in search of furious Rodomont,
Who did the monarch’s suffering people slay.
I said, with him, the danger to affront,
Went Namus, Oliver, the Danish peer,
Avino, Avolio, Otho and Berlinghier.
Eight lances’ shock, that eight such warriors guide,
Which all at once against the king they rest,
Endured the stout and scaly serpent’s hide,
In which the cruel Moor his limbs had drest.
As a barque rights itself, — the sheet untied,
Which held its sail, — by growing wind opprest;
So speedily Sir Rodomont arose,
Though a hill had been uprooted by the blows.
Rainier and Guido, Richard, Salomon,
Ivan, Ughetto, Turpin, and the twain —
Angiolin, Angelier — false Ganellon,
And Mark and Matthew from St. Michael’s plain,
With the eight of whom I spake, all set upon
The foe, with Edward and Sir Arimane;
Who leading succours from the English shore,
Had lodged them in the town short time before.
Not so, well-keyed into the solid stone,
Groans upon Alpine height the castle good,
When by rude Boreas’ rage or Eurus’ strown,
Uptorn are ash and fir in mountain wood,
As groans Sir Rodomont, with pride o’erblown,
Inflamed with anger and with thirst of blood:
And, as the thunder and the lightning’s fire
Fly coupled, such his vengeance and his ire.
He at his head took aim who stood most nigh;
Ughetto was the miserable wight,
Whom to the teeth he clove, and left to die;
Though of good temper was his helmet bright.
As well the others many strokes let fly
At him, himself; which all the warrior smite,
But harm (so hard the dragon’s hide) no more,
Than needle can the solid anvil score.
All the defences, round, abandoned are,
The unpeopled city is abandoned all;
For, where the danger is the greater, there
The many give their aid, at Charles’ call:
Through every street they hurry to the square,
Since flying nought avails, from work and wall.
Their bosoms so the monarch’s presence warms,
That each again takes courage, each takes arms.
As when within the closely-fastened cage
Of an old lioness, well used to fight,
An untamed bull is prisoned, to engage
The savage monster, for the mob’s delight;
The cubs, who see him cresting in his rage,
And round the den loud-bellowing, to the sight
Of the huge beast’s enormous horns unused,
Cower at a distance, timid and confused;
But if the mother spring at him, and hang,
Fixing her cruel tusks into his ear,
Her whelps as well will blood their greedy fang,
And, bold in her defence, assail the steer:
One bites his paunch, and one his back: so sprang
That band upon the paynim cavalier.
From roof and window, and from place more nigh,
Poured in a ceaseless shower, the weapons fly.
Of cavaliers and footmen such the squeeze,
That hardly can the place the press contain:
They cluster there as thick as swarming bees,
Who thither from each passage troop amain.
So that, were they unarmed, and with more ease
Than stalks or turnips he could cleave the train,
Ill Rodomont in twenty days would clear
The gathering crowd, united far and near.
Unknowing how himself from thence to free,
The paynim by this game is angered sore,
Who little thins the gathering rabblery,
Staining the ground with thousands slain or more;
And all the while, in his extremity,
Finds that his breath comes thicker than before;
And sees he cannot pierce the hostile round,
Unless he thence escape while strong and sound.
The monarch rolls about his horrid eyes,
And sees that foes all outlets barricade;
But, at the cost of countless enemies,
A path shall quickly by his hand be made.
Where Fury calls him, lo! the felon hies,
And brandishes on high his trenchant blade,
To assail the newly entered British band,
Which Edward and Sir Ariman command.
He who has seen the fence, in well-thonged square,
(Against whose stakes the eddying crowd is born)
By wild bull broken, that has had to bear,
Through the long day, dogs, blows, and ceaseless scorn;
Who hunts the scattered people here and there,
And this, or that, now hoists upon his horn;
Let him as such, or fiercer yet, account,
When he breaks forth, the cruel Rodomont.
At one cross-blow fifteen or twenty foes
He hews, as many leaves without a bead,
At cross or downright-stroke; as if he rows
Trashes in vineyard or in willow-bed,
At last all smeared with blood the paynim goes,
Safe from the place, which he has heaped with dead;
And wheresoe’er he turns his steps, are left
Heads, arms, and other members, maimed and cleft.
He from the square retires in such a mode,
None can perceive that danger him appals;
But, during this, what were the safest road,
By which to sally, he to thought recals.
He comes at last to where the river flowed
Below the isle, and past without the walls.
In daring men at arms and mob increase,
Who press him sore, nor let him part in peace.
As the high-couraged beast, whom hunters start
In the wild Nomade or Massilian chace,
Who, even in flying, shows his noble heart,
And threatening seeks his lair with sluggish pace;
From that strange wood of sword, and spear, and dart,
Turns Rodomont, with action nothing base;
And still impeded by the galling foe,
Makes for the river with long steps and slow.
He turned upon the rabble-rout who bayed
Behind him, thrice or more, by anger driven,
And stained anew his falchion, by whose blade
More than a hundred deadly wounds were given.
But reason, finally, his fury stayed
Before the bloody carnage stank to heaven;
And he, with better counsel, from the side
Cast himself down into Seine’s foaming tide.
Athwart the current swam, with arms and all,
As if by corks upborn, the cavalier.
Though thou Antaeus bred’st, and Hannibal,
O Africa! thou never bred’st his peer! —
When now across the stream, without the wall,
He turned, and saw the royal town appear,
— To have traversed all the city moved his ire,
Leaving it undestroyed by sword or fire;
And him so sorely anger stung and pride,
Thither he thought a second time to go;
And from his inmost bosom groaned and sighed,
Nor would depart until he laid it low.
But he saw one along the river-side
Approach, who made him rage and hate forego;
Strait shall you hear who ’twas, approached the king,
But first I have to say of other thing.
I have of haughty Discord now to say,
To whom the archangel Michael gave command,
To heat to enmity and fierce affray
The best of Agramant’s besieging band.
She went that evening from the abbey gray,
Her task committing to another’s hand;
— Left it to Fraud to feed, till her return,
The war, and make the fires she kindled burn;
And she believed, that she with greater power
Should go, did Pride with her as well repair;
And she (for all were guested in one bower)
In search of her had little way to fare.
Pride went with her; but, that in hall or tower,
A vicar too her charge might duly bear,
She for those days she absent thought to be,
For her lieutenant left Hypocrisy.
The implacable Discord went, and with the dame,
(Companion of the enterprise, was Pride)
Upon her road; and found that, by the same,
Was journeying to the paynim camp, beside,
Comfortless Jealousy, with whom there came
A little dwarf, attending as a guide;
Who erst had been sent forward with advice
To Sarza’s king, by beauteous Doralice.
When she fell into Mandricardo’s hand,
(I have before recounted when and where)
She had in secret given the dwarf command,
He to the king should with the tidings fare;
By whom she hoped not vainly would be scanned
The tale her messenger was charged to bear,
But wonderous deeds be done for her relief,
With sad and signal vengeance on the thief.
Jealousy had that little dwarf espied,
And kenned the reason of his mission too,
And joined him, journeying with him side by side,
Deeming that she therein a part might do.
Discord, with pleasure, Jealousy decried,
But with more joy, when she the occasion knew
Which thither brought the dame, who much (she wist)
Might in the task she had in hand assist.
Of means to embroil the Sarzan and the son
Of Agrican, she deems herself possest.
A certain mode to enrage these two is won;
And other means may work upon the rest.
She thither with the dwarfish page is gone,
Where the fierce Pagan in his clutch had prest
Proud Paris, and they reached the river strand,
Exactly as the felon swam to land.
As soon as the redoubted Rodomont
Knew in the dwarf the courier of his dame,
He all his rage extinguished, cleared his front,
And felt his courage brighten into flame.
All else he deems the courier may recount,
Save that a wight had wrought him scaith and shame,
And cries (encountering him with chearful brow)
“How fares our lady? wither sent art thou?”
“Nor mine nor thine that lady will I say,
Who is another’s thrall,” the dwarf replied.
“We, on our road, encountered yesterday
A knight, who seized and bore away the bride.”
Jealousy, upon this, took up the play,
And, cold as asp, embraced the king: her guide
Pursued his tale, relating how the train,
Their mistress taken, by one man were slain.
Her flint and steel, fell Discord, as he said,
Took forth, and somewhile hammered on the stone.
Pride, underneath, the ready tinder spread,
And the quick fire was in a moment blown:
This on the paynim’s soul so fiercely fed,
He could not find a resting place: ‘mid groan
And sob he storms, with horrid face and eye,
Which threat the elements and ample sky.
As tiger rages, who in vain descends
Into her den, and finds herself alone,
And, circling all the cavern, comprehends,
At last, that her beloved young are gone;
To ire, to rage like hers his wrath extends:
Nor night the king regards, nor rock, nor stone,
Nor stream:— Nor length of way nor storm arrest
The speed with which he on the plunderer prest.
So raging, to the pigmy dwarf who bore
The news, exclaimed the king, “Now hence away!”
Nor horse he waits, nor carriage, nor, before
Departing, deigns to his a word to say.
He hurries with such speed, that not with more
The lizard darts at noon across the way.
Horse had he none, but be he whose he might,
Would make his own the first which came in sight.
Discord at this, who read his secret thought,
Exclaimed, as she looked smilingly on Pride,
Through her he to a courser should be brought,
By which new cause of strife should be supplied;
And, that by him no other might be caught,
She from his path would keep all steeds beside;
And knew already where the prize to seek.
— But her I leave, again of Charles to speak.
When, on the Saracen’s departure, spent,
About King Charles, was the consuming flame,
He ranged his troops anew: some warriors went
To strengthen feeble posts which succours claim;
The rest against the Saracens are sent,
To give the foe checkmate and end the game;
And from St. German’s to Saint Victor’s gates,
He pours the host, which on his signal waits.
He these at Saint Marcellus’ gate, where lay,
Outstretched a large circumference of plain,
Bade one another wait, in one array,
To reunite against the paynim train.
Inflaming every one to smite and slay,
In guise, that for a record should remain,
He made the various troops fall in below
Their banners, and the battle-signal blow.
Agramant has remounted in his sell,
While this is doing in his foe’s despite,
And with the stripling who loved Isabel,
Is waging perilous and fearful fight.
Lurcanio with Sobrino strives as well;
Rinaldo a troop encounters, whom the knight,
With Valour and with Fortune for his guide,
Charges, and breaks, and routs on every side.
While so the battle stands, king Charlemagne
Falls on the rear guard of the paynim foe,
Where bold Marsilius halts the flower of Spain,
And forms the host, his royal flag below.
On these king Charlemagne impels his train,
Who, foot with horse to flank, against them go.
While so the deafening drum and trumpet sounds,
‘Twould seem the spacious world the din rebounds.
The Saracenic squadrons had begun
To bend, and all the army of the Moor
Had turned, disordered, broken, and undone,
Never to be arrayed or rallied more,
But that Grandonio stood, and Falsiron,
Tried oftentimes in greater ill before,
With Serpentine and Balugantes proud,
And the renowned Ferrau, who cried aloud:
“O valiant men,” he — “O companions,” cries,
“O brethren, stand, and yet your place maintain;
Like cobweb-threads our cruel enemies
Will find their works, if we our part sustain.
What this day Fortune offers to our eyes,
If now we conquer, see the praise, the gain! —
If conquered, see the utter loss and shame
Which will for ever wait upon your name!”
He in this time a mighty lance had spanned,
And spurred at once against Sir Berlinghier,
Who Argaliffa guided with his hand,
And broke his helmet’s frontal with the spear,
Cast him on earth, and with the cruel brand
Unhorsed perhaps eight other warriors near.
His mighty strokes discharging, at each blow,
He ever laid at least one horseman low.
In other part, Rinaldo, in his mood,
Has slain more enemies than I can say,
Before the warlike knight no order stood;
You might have seen the ample camp give way.
No less Zerbino and Lurcanio good
Do deeds, which will be told in every day;
This, with a thrust, has bold Balastro slain,
That Finaduro’s helm has cleft in twain.
The first was of the Alzerban army head,
Ruled by Tardocco some short time before;
The other one the valiant squadrons led
Of Saphi, and Morocco, and Zamor.
“Where, ‘mid the paynims,” might to me be said,
“Is knight whose sword can cleave or lance can gore?”
But step by step I go, and as I wind
My way, leave none who merits praise behind.
Zumara’s king is not forgotten here,
Dardinel, who Sir Dulphin of the mount,
Claude of the wood, and Hubert, with the spear,
(Of Mirford he) and Elio did dismount,
And, with the faulchion, Stamford’s cavalier,
Sir Anselm, Raymond and Sir Pinnamont
From London-town; though valiant were the twain;
Two stunned, one wounded, the four others slain.
Yet will his squadron not so firmly stand,
Maugre the valour which his deeds display,
So firmly, as to wait the Christian band,
In number less, but steadier in array,
More used to joust and manage of the brand,
And all things appertaining to the gray.
Setta and Morocco turned, and, seized with dread,
Zumara and Canaries’ islesmen fled.
But faster than the rest Alzerba flies,
Whom Dardinel opposed, and now with sore
Reproach, and now with prayer he moves, and tries
What best he deems their courage may restore.
“If good Almontes has deserved,” he cries,
“That you should by his memory set such store,
Now shall be seen — be seen, if you will me,
His son, abandon in such jeopardy.
“For sake of my green youth, I pray you stand,
That youth whereon your hopes were wont to feed,
And suffer not that, scattered by the brand,
To Africa be lost our noble seed.
Save you united go, be sure the land
Is shut against you, wheresoe’er you speed.
Too high a wall to climb is mountain-steep,
The yawning sea a ditch too wide to leap.
“Far better ’tis to perish than to be
Torn by these dogs, or lie at their control.
Since vain is every other remedy,
Wait, friends, for love of Heaven, the advancing shoal:
They are not gifted with more lives than we;
Have but one pair of hands, have but one soul.”
So saying, the bold youth, amid the crew
Of enemies, the Earl of Huntley slew.
Almontes’ memory, through the Moorish bands,
Makes every bosom with such ardour glow,
They deem ’tis better to use arms and hands
In fight, than turn their backs upon the foe.
Taller than all William of Burnwich stands,
An Englishman, whom Dardinel brings low,
And equals with the rest; then smites upon,
And cleaves, the head of Cornish Aramon.
Down fell this Aramon, and to afford
Him succour, thitherward his brother made;
But from the shoulder him Zumara’s lord
Cleft to the fork, with his descending blade;
Next Bogio de Vergalla’s belly gored,
And from his debt absolved (the forfeit paid)
Who to return within six months, if life
Were granted him, had promised to his wife.
Lurcanio next met Dardinello’s eye;
He upon earth Dorchino had laid low,
Pierced through the throat, and hapless Gardo nigh
Cleft to the teeth; at him, as all too slow,
He from Altheus vainly seeks to fly,
Whom as his heart Lurcanio loves, a blow
Upon his head behind the Scotchman speeds;
And. slaughtered by the stroke, the warrior bleeds.
Dardinel, to avenge him, took a spear,
And, should he lay the fierce Lurcanio dead,
Vowed to his Mahomet, if he could hear,
The mosque should have his empty arms; this said,
Ranging the field in haste, that cavalier
He in the flank, with thrust so full and dread,
Encountered, that it went through either side:
And he to his to strip the baron cried.
From me it sure were needless to demand,
If Ariodantes, when his brother fell,
Was grieved; if he with his avenging hand
Among the damned would send Sir Dardinell;
But all access the circling troops withstand
And bar, no less baptized than infidel:
Yet would he venge himself, and with his blade,
Now here, now there, an open passage made.
He charges, chases, breaks, and overthrows
Whoever cross him on the crowded plain;
And Dardinello, who his object knows,
Would fain the wish content; but him the train
Impedes as well, which round about him flows,
And renders aye his every purpose vain.
If one on all sides thins the Moorish rank,
The other slays Scot, Englishman, and Frank.
Fortune still blocked their path throughout the day,
So that they met not, ‘mid that chivalry,
And kept one as a mightier champion’s prey;
For rarely man escapes his destiny.
Behold the good Rinaldo turns that way!
That, for this one no refuge there might be.
Lo! good Rinaldo comes: him Fortune guides,
And for his sword King Dardinel provides.
But here enough for this one while is shown
Of their illustrious doings in the west;
’Tis time I seek Sir Gryphon, and make known
How he, with fury burning in his breast,
That rabble-rout had broke and overthrown,
Struck with more fear than ever men possest.
Thither speeds Norandine on that alarm,
And for his guard above a thousand arm.
King Norandine, girt with peer and knight,
Seeing on every side the people fly,
Rides to the gates, with squadron duly dight,
And at his hest the portals open fly.
Meanwhile Sir Gryphon, having put to flight
The weak and worthless rabble far and nigh,
The scorned arms (to keep him from that train),
Such as they were, took up and donned again.
And nigh a temple strongly walled, and round
Whose base a moat for its protection goes,
Upon a little bridge takes up his ground,
That him his enemies may not enclose.
Lo! loudly shouting, and with threatening sound,
A mighty squadron through the gateway flows.
The valiant Gryphon changes not his place,
And shows how small his fear by act and face.
But when, approaching near, he saw the band,
He sallied forth to meet them by the way;
And wielding still his sword in either hand,
Made cruel havoc in the close array.
Then on the narrow bridge resumed his stand,
Nor there his hunters only held at bay:
Anew he sallied, and returned anew,
Aye leaving bloody signs when he withdrew.
Fore-stroke and back he deals, and on the ground
Horsemen and foot o’erthrows on every side:
This while the ample mob the knight surround,
And more and more the warfare rages wide.
At length Sir Gryphon fears he shall be drowned,
(So waxed their numbers) in the increasing tide;
And hurt in the left shoulder, through his mail,
And thigh, his wind as well begins to fail.
But Valour, who so oft befriends her own,
Makes him find grace in Norandino’s eyes;
Who, while alarmed, he hurries there, o’erthrown
So many men, such heaps of dead espies,
While he views wounds, which Hector’s hand alone
He weens could deal, — to him all testifies
That he had put an undeserved shame
Upon a cavalier of mighty name.
Next seeing him more near, whose falchion’s sweep
Had dealt such deaths amid his chivalry,
And raised about himself that horrid heap,
And stained the water with that bloody dye,
He thought that he beheld Horatius keep,
Singly, the bridge against all Tuscany;
And vext, and anxious to remove the stain,
Recalled his men, and that with little pain.
And, lifting his bare hand, in sign affied,
From ancient times, of treaty and of truce,
Repenting him, he to Sir Gryphon cried,
“It grieves me sorely, and I cannot choose
But own my sin: let counsels which misguide,
And my own little wit, such fault excuse.
What by the vilest knight I thought to do,
I to the best on earth have done in you.
“And though the bitter injuries and shame
That have to thee through ignorance been done,
Are equalled, and all cancelled by thy fame,
And merged, in truth, in glory thou hast won;
Whatever satisfaction thou canst claim,
Within my power or knowledge, count upon,
When I know how atonement may be made,
By city, castle, or by money paid.
“Demand of me this kingdom’s moiety,
And from this day thou its possessor art,
Since not alone thy worth deserves this fee,
But merits, I with this should give my heart;
Then, pledge of faith and lasting love, to me,
In the meanwhile, thy friendly hand impart.”
So saying, from his horse the king descended,
And towards Gryphon his right-hand extended.
When he beheld the monarch’s altered cheer,
Who bent to clasp his neck, towards him paced,
His sword and rancour laid aside, the peer
Him humbly underneath the hips embraced.
King Norandine, who saw the sanguine smear
Of his two wounds, bade seek a leech in haste;
And bade them softly with the knight resort
Towards the town, and lodge him in his court.
Here, wounded, he remained some days before
He could bear arms: but him, in the design
Of seeking out Sir Aquilant once more,
And good Astolpho, left in Palestine,
I quit; they vainly did his path explore,
After Sir Gryphon left the holy shrine,
Through Solyma in every place of note,
And many, from the Holy Land remote.
One and the other are alike to seek
In the inquiry where the knight may use;
But they encounter with the pilgrim-Greek,
Who of false Origilla gives them news;
Relating, as of her he haps to speak,
That towards Antioch she her way pursues,
By a new leman of that city charmed,
Who her with fierce and sudden flame had warmed.
Aquilant asked him, if he had possest
Sir Gryphon of the news to them conveyed,
Who, hearing that he had, surmised the rest, —
Where he was gone, and by what motive swayed:
He followed Origille, was manifest,
And had in quest of her for Antioch made,
To take her from his rival, and with view
On him some memorable scathe to do.
Aquilant brooked not Gryphon such a feat,
Without him, and alone, should thus assay,
And took his armour and pursued his beat;
But first besought the duke he would delay
To visit France and his paternal seat,
Till he from Antioch measured back his way.
At Joppa he embarks, who deems by sea
The better and securer way to be.
From the south-east up-sprung so strong a breeze,
And which for Gryphon’s galley blew so right,
That the third day he Tyre’s famed city sees,
And lesser Joppa quick succeeds to sight.
By Zibellotto and Baruti flees,
(Cyprus to larboard left) the galley light;
From Tripoli to Tortosa shapes her way,
And so to Lizza and Lajazzo’s bay.
From thence, towards the east the pilot veered
Her ready tiller, prompt his course to scan;
And straightway for the wide Orontes steered,
And watched his time, and for the harbour ran.
Aquilant, when his bark the margin neared,
Bade lower the bridge, and issued, horse and man,
It armour, and along the river wended,
Up-stream, till he his way at Antioch ended.
To inform himself of that Martano bent;
And heard that he to Antioch was addrest,
With Origilla, where a tournament
Was to be solemnized by royal hest.
To track whom Aquilant was so intent,
Assured that Gryphon had pursued his quest,
He Antioch left again that very day,
But not by sea again would take his way.
He towards Lidia and Larissa goes,
— At rich Aleppo makes a longer stay.
God, to make plain that he, even here, bestows
On evil and on good their fitting pay,
At a league’s distance from Mamuga, throws
Martano in the avenging brother’s way,
Martano travelling with the tourney’s prize,
Displayed before his horse in showy wise.
Sir Aquilant believed, at the first show,
His brother he in vile Martano spied.
For arms and vest, more white than virgin snow,
The coward in the warrior’s sight belied,
And sprang towards him, with that joyful “Oh!”
By which delight is ever signified;
But changed his look and tone, when, nearer brought
He sees that he is not the wight he sought:
And through that evil woman’s treachery,
Deemed Gryphon murdered by the cavalier;
And, “Tell me,” he exclaimed, “thou, who must be
Traitor and thief — both written in thy cheer —
Whence are these arms? and wherefore do I thee
View on the courser of my brother dear?
Say is my brother slaughtered or alive?
How didst thou him of horse and arms deprive?”
When Origille hears him, in affright
She turns her palfrey, and for flight prepares:
But Aquilant, more quick, in her despite,
Arrests the traitress, ere she further fares.
At the loud threats of that all furious knight,
By whom he so was taken unawares,
Martan’ turns pale and trembles like a leaf,
Nor how to act or answer knows the thief.
Aquilant thundered still, and, to his dread,
A falchion, pointed at his gullet, shewed,
And swore with angry menaces, the head
From him and Origille should be hewed,
Save in all points the very truth be said.
Awhile on this ill-starred Martano chewed,
Revolving still what pretext he might try
To lessen his grave fault, then made reply:
“Know, sir, you see my sister in this dame,
And one of good and virtuous parents born,
Though she has lately led a life of shame,
And been by Gryphon foully brought to scorn;
And, for I loathed such blot upon our name,
Yet weened that she could ill by force be torn
From such a puissant wight, I laid a scheme
Her by address and cunning to redeem.
“With her I planned the means, who in her breast
Nursed the desire a better life to prove,
That she, when Gryphon was retired to rest,
In silence from the warrior should remove.
This done: lest he should follow on our quest,
And so undo the web we vainly wove,
Him we deprived of horse and arm, and we
Are hither come together, as you see.”
His cunning might have proved of good avail,
For Aquilant believed him easily;
And, save in taking Gryphon’s horse and mail,
He to the knight had done no injury;
But that he wrought so high the specious tale,
As manifested plainly, ’twas a lie.
In all ’twas perfect, save that he the dame
Had for his sister vouched with whom he came.
Aquilant had in Antioch chanced to know
She was his concubine, — well certified
Of this by many, — and in furious glow
Exclaimed; “Thou falsest robber, thou hast lied!”
And dealt, with that, the recreant such a blow,
He drove two grinders down his throat; then tied
(Not sought Martano with his foe to cope)
The caitiff’s arms behind him with a rope.
And, though she for excuse tried many wiles,
Did thus as well by Origille untrue;
And till he reached Damascus’ lofty piles,
Them by town, street, or farm, behind him drew:
And will a thousand times a thousand miles,
With sorrow and with suffering, drag the two,
Till he his brother find; who, at his pleasure,
May vengeance to the guilty couple measure.
Sir Aquilant made squires and beasts as well
Return with him, and to Damascus came;
And heard Renown, throughout the city, swell,
Plying her ample wings, Sir Gryphon’s name.
Here, great and little — every one, could tell
’Twas he that in the tourney won such fame,
And had, by one that ill deserved his trust,
Been cheated of the honours of the just.
Pointing him out to one another’s sight,
The hostile people all Martano bayed;
“And is not this (they cried) that ribald wight
Who in another’s spoils himself arrayed,
And who the valour of a sleeping knight,
With his own shame and infamy o’erlaid?
And this the woman of ungrateful mood,
Who aids the wicked and betrays the good?”
Others exclaimed, “How fittingly combined,
Marked with one stamp, and of one race are they!”
Some loudly cursed them, and some raved behind,
While others shouted, “Hang, burn, quarter, slay!”
The throng to view them prest, with fury blind,
And to the square before them made its way.
The monarch of the tidings was advised,
And these above another kingdom prized.
Attended with few squires the Syrian king,
As then he chanced to be, came forth with speed,
And with Sir Aquilant encountering,
Who Gryphon had avenged with worthy deed,
Him honoured with fair cheer, and home would bring,
And in his palace lodged, as fitting meed;
Having the prisoned pair, with his consent,
First in the bottom of a turret pent.
Thither they go, where Gryphon from his bed
Has not as yet, since he was wounded, stirred;
Who at his brother’s coming waxes red,
Surmising well he of his case has heard:
And after Aquilant his say had said,
And him somedeal reproached, the three conferred
As to what penance to the wicked two,
So fallen into their hands, was justly due.
’Tis Aquilant’s, ’tis Norandino’s will
A thousand tortures shall their guerdon be:
But Gryphon, who the dame alone can ill
Excuse, entreats for both impunity;
And many matters urges with much skill.
But well is answered: and ’tis ruled, to flea
Martano’s body with the hangman’s scourge,
And only short of death his penance urge.
Bound is the wretch, but not ‘mid grass and flower,
Whose limbs beneath the hangman’s lashes burn
All the next morn: they prison in the tower
Origille, till Lucina shall return;
To whom the counselling lords reserve the power
To speak the woman’s sentence, mild or stern.
Harboured, till Gryphon can bear arms, at court,
Aquilant fleets the time in fair disport.
The valiant Norandino could not choose
(Made by such error temperate and wise),
But full of penitence and sorrow, muse,
With downcast spirit, and in mournful guise,
On having bid his men a knight misuse,
Whom all should worthily reward and prize;
So that he, night and morning, in his thought,
How to content the injured warrior sought.
And he determined, in the public sight
O’ the city, guilty of that injury,
With all such honour as to perfect knight
Could by a puissant monarch rendered be,
Him with the glorious guerdon to requite,
Which had been ravished by such treachery:
And hence, within a month, proclaimed the intent
To hold another solemn tournament.
For which he made what stately preparation
Was possible to make by sceptered king.
Hence Fame divulged the royal proclamation
Throughout all Syria’s land, with nimble wing,
Phoenicia and Palestine; till the relation
Of this in good Astolpho’s ears did ring;
Who, with the lord who ruled that land in trust,
Resolved he would be present at the just.
For a renowned and valiant cavalier
Has the true history vaunted, Sansonnet,
By Roland christened, Charles (I said), the peer
Over the Holy Land as ruler set:
He with the duke takes up his load, to steer
Thither, where Rumour speaks the champions met.
So that his ears, on all sides in the journey,
Are filled with tidings of Damascus’ tourney.
Thither the twain their way those countries through,
By easy stages and by slow, addrest,
That fresh upon the day of joust the two
Might in Damascus-town set up their rest.
When at the meeting of cross-ways they view
A person, who, in movement and in vest,
Appears to be a man, but is a maid;
And marvellously fierce, in martial raid.
Marphisa was the warlike virgin’s name,
And such her worth, she oft with naked brand
Had pressed Orlando sore in martial game,
And him who had Mount Alban in command;
And ever, night and day, the armed dame
Scowered, here and there, by hill and plain, the land;
Hoping with errant cavalier to meet,
And win immortal fame by glorious feat.
When Sansonnetto and the English knight
She sees approaching her, in warlike weed,
Who seem two valiant warriors in her sight,
As of large bone, and nerved for doughty deed,
On them she fain would prove her martial might,
And to defy the pair has moved her steed.
When, eyeing the two warriors, now more near,
Marphisa recognized the duke and peer.
His pleasing ways she did in mind retrace,
When arms in far Catay with her he bore
Called him by name, nor would in iron case;
Retain her hand, upraised the casque she wore,
And him, advanced, to meet with glad embrace,
Though, of all living dames and those of yore,
The proudest, she; nor with less courteous mien
The paladin salutes the martial queen.
They questioned one another of their way;
And when the duke has said (who first replied)
That he Damascus seeks, where to assay
Their virtuous deeds, all knights of valour tried
The Syrian king invites, in martial play, —
The bold Marphisa, at his hearing cried,
(Ever to prove her warlike prowess bent)
“I will be with you at this tournament.”
To have such a comrade either cavalier
Is much rejoiced. They to Damascus go,
And in a suburb, of the city clear,
Are lodged, upon the day before the show;
And, till her aged lover, once so dear,
Aurora roused, their humble roof below,
In greater ease the weary warriors rested
Than had they been in costly palace guested.
And when the clear and lucid sun again
Its shining glories all abroad had spread,
The beauteous lady armed, and warriors twain,
Having first couriers to the city sped,
Who, when ’twas time, reported to the train,
That, to see truncheons split in contest dread,
King Norandine had come into the square
In which the cruel games appointed were.
Straight to the city ride the martial band,
And, through the high-street, to the crowded place;
Where, waiting for the royal signal, stand,
Ranged here and there, the knights of gentle race.
The guerdons destined to the conqueror’s hand,
In that day’s tourney, were a tuck and mace
Richly adorned, and, with them, such a steed
As to the winning lord were fitting meed.
Norandine, sure that, in the martial game,
Both prizes destined for the conquering knight,
As well as one and the other tourney’s fame,
Must be obtained by Gryphon, named the white,
To give him all that valiant man could claim,
Nor could he give the warrior less, with right,
The armour, guerdon of this final course
Placed with the tuck and mace and noble horse.
The arms which in the former joust the due
Of valiant Gryphon were, who all had gained,
(With evil profit, by the wretch untrue,
Martan’ usurped, who Gryphon’s bearing feigned)
To be hung up on high in public view
With the rich-flourished tuck, the king ordained,
And fastened at the saddle of the steed
The mace, that Gryphon might win either meed.
But from effecting what he had intended
He was prevented by the warlike maid;
Who late into the crowded square had wended,
With Sansonnet and England’s duke arrayed,
Seeing the arms of which I spoke suspended,
She straight agnized the harness she surveyed,
Once hers, and dear to her; as matters are
Esteemed by us as excellent and rare;
Though, as a hindrance, she upon the road
Had left the arms, when, to retrieve her sword,
She from her shoulders slipt the ponderous load,
And chased Brunello, worthy of the cord.
More to relate were labour ill bestowed,
I deem, nor further of the tale record.
Enough for me, by you ’tis understood,
How here she found anew her armour good.
You shall take with you, when by manifest
And certain tokens they by her were known,
She, for no earthly thing, the iron vest
And weapons for a day would have foregone.
She thinks not if this mode or that be best
To have them, anxious to regain her own;
But t’wards the arms with hand extended hies,
And without more regard takes down the prize.
And throwing some on earth, it chanced that more
Than was her own she in her hurry took.
The Syrian king, who was offended sore,
Raised war against her with a single look.
For ill the wrong his angered people bore,
And, to avenge him, lance and falchion shook;
Remembering not, on other day, how dear
They paid for scathing errant cavalier.
No wishful child more joyfully, ‘mid all
The flowers of spring-tide, yellow, blue, and red,
Finds itself, nor at concert or at ball
Dame beauteous and adorned, than ‘mid the tread
Of warlike steeds, and din of arms, and fall
Of darts, and push of spears. — where blood is shed,
And death is dealt, in the tumultuous throng, —
SHE finds herself beyond all credence strong.
She spurred her courser, and with lance in rest,
Imperious at the foolish rabble made,
And — through the neck impaled or through the breast, —
Some pierced, some prostrate at the encounter layed.
Next this or that she with the falchion prest;
The head from one she severed with the blade,
And from that other cleft: another sank,
Short of right arm or left, or pierced in flank.
Bold Sansonnetto and Astolpho near,
Who had, with her, their limbs in harness dight,
Though they for other end in arms appear,
Seeing the maid and crowd engaged in fight,
First lower the helmet’s vizor, next the spear,
And with their lances charge the mob outright:
Then bare their falchions, and, amid the crew,
A passage with the trenchant weapons hew.
The errant cavaliers who to that stage,
To joust, from different lands had made resort,
Seeing them warfare with such fury wage,
And into mourning changed the expected sport,
Because all knew not what had moved the rage
Of the infuriate people in that sort,
Nor what the insult offered to the king,
Suspended stood in doubt and wondering.
Of these, some will the crowded rabble’s band
(Too late repentant of the feat) befriend:
Those, favouring not the natives of the land
More than the foreigners, to part them wend.
Others more wary, with their reins in hand,
Sit watching how the mischief is to end.
Gryphon and Aquilant are of the throng
Which hurry forward to avenge the wrong.
The pair of warlike brethren witnessing
The monarch’s drunken eyes with venom fraught,
And having heard from many in the ring
The occasion which the furious strife had wrought,
Himself no whit less injured than the king
Of Syria’s land, offended Gryphon thought.
Each knight, in haste, supplied himself with spear,
And thundering vengeance drove in full career.
On Rabican, pricked forth before his hand,
Valiant Astolpho, from the other bound,
With the enchanted lance of gold in hand,
Which at the first encounter bore to ground
What knights he smote with it; and on the sand
Laid Gryphon first; next Aquilant he found,
And scarcely touched the border of his shield,
Ere he reversed the warrior on the field.
From lofty saddle Sansonnet o’erthrew,
Famous for price and prowess, many a knight.
To the outlet of the square the mob withdrew;
The monarch raged with anger and despite.
Meanwhile, of the first cuirass and the new
Possest, as well as either helmet bright,
Marphisa, when she all in flight discerned,
Conqueror towards her suburb-inn returned.
Sansonnet and Astolpho are not slow
In following t’wards the gate the martial maid,
(The mob dividing all to let them go)
And halt when they have reached the barricade.
Gryphon and Aquilant, who saw with woe
Themselves on earth at one encounter laid,
Their drooping heads, opprest with shame, decline,
Nor dare appear before King Norandine.
Seizing their steeds and mounting, either son
Of Oliver to seek their foemen went:
With many of his vassals too is gone
The king; on death or vengeance all intent.
The foolish rabble cry, “Lay on, lay on.”
And stand at distance and await the event.
Gryphon arrived where the three friends had gained
A bridge, and facing round the post maintained.
He, at the first approach, Astolpho knew,
For still the same device had been his wear,
Even from the day he charmed Orrilo slew,
His horse, his arms the same: him not with care
Sir Gryphon had remarked, nor stedfast view,
When late he jousted with him in the square:
He knows him here and greets; next prays him show
Who the companions are that with him go;
And why they had those arms, without the fear
Of Syria’s king, pulled down, and to his slight.
Of his champions England’s cavalier,
Sir Gryphon courteously informed aright.
But little of those arms, pursued the peer,
He knew, which were the occasion of the fight;
But (for he thither with Marphisa came
And Sansonnet) had armed to aid the dame.
While he and Gryphon stood in colloquy,
Aquilant came, and knew Astolpho good,
Whom he heard speaking with his brother nigh,
And, though of evil purpose, changed his mood.
Of Norandine’s trooped many, these to spy;
But came not nigh the warriors where they stood:
And seeing them in conference, stood clear,
Listening, in silence, and intent to hear.
Some one who hears Marphisa hold is there,
Famed, through the world, for matchless bravery,
His courser turns, and bids the king have care,
Save he would lose his Syrian chivalry,
To snatch his court, before all slaughtered are,
From the hand of Death and of Tisiphone:
For that ’twas verily Marphisa, who
Had borne away the arms in public view.
As Norandine is told that name of dread,
Through the Levant so feared on every side,
Whose mention made the hair on many a head
Bristle, though she was often distant wide.
He fears the ill may happen which is said,
Unless against the mischief he provide;
And hence his meiny, who have changed their ire
Already into fear, he bids retire.
The sons of Oliver, on the other hand,
With Sansonnetto and the English knight,
So supplicate Marphisa, she her brand
Puts up, and terminates the cruel fight;
And to the monarch next, amid his brand,
Cries, proudly, “Sir, I know not by what right
Thou wouldst this armour, not thine own, present
To him who conquers in thy tournament.
“Mine are these arms, which I, upon a day,
Left on the road which leads from Armeny,
Because, parforce a-foot, I sought to stay
A robber, who had sore offended me.
The truth of this my ensign may display.
Which here is seen, if it be known to thee.”
With that she on the plate which sheathed the breast
(Cleft in three places) showed a crown imprest.
“To me this an Armenian merchant gave,
’Tis true,” replied the king, “some days ago;
And had you raised your voice, the arms to crave,
You should have had them, whether yours or no.
For, notwithstanding I to Gryphon gave
The armour, I so well his nature know,
He freely would resign the gift he earned,
That it by me to you might be returned.
“Your allegation needs not to persuade
These arms are yours — that they your impress bear;
Your word suffices me, by me more weighed
Than all that other witness could declare.
To grant them yours is but a tribute paid
To Virtue, worthy better prize to wear.
Now have the arms, and let us make accord;
And let some fairer gift the knight reward.”
Gryphon, who little had those arms at heart,
But much to satisfy the king was bent,
Replied: “You recompense enough impart,
Teaching me how your wishes to content.”
— “Here is my honour all at sake,” apart,
“Meseemeth,” said Marphisa, and forewent
Her claim for Gryphon’s sake, with courteous cheer;
And, as his gift, in fine received the gear.
To the city, their rejoicings to renew,
In love and peace they measured back their way.
Next came the joust, of which the honour due,
And prize was Sansonnet’s; since from the fray
Abstained Astolpho and the brethren two,
And bold Marphisa, best of that array,
Like faithful friends and good companions; fain
That Sansonnet the tourney’s meed should gain.
Eight days or ten in joy and triumph dwell
The knights with Norandine; but with such strong
Desire of France the warriors’ bosoms swell,
Which will not let them thence be absent long,
They take their leave. Marphisa, who as well
Thither would go, departs the troop among.
Marphisa had long time, with sword and lance,
Desired to prove the paladins of France;
And make experiment, if they indeed
Such worth as is by Rumour voiced display.
Sansonnet leaves another, in his stead,
The city of Jerusalem to sway,
And now these five, in chosen squadron speed,
Who have few peers in prowess, on their way.
Dismist by Norandine, to Tripoli
They wend, and to the neighbouring haven hie.
And there a carack find, about to steer
For western countries, taking in her store:
They, with the patron, for themselves and gear,
And horses, make accord; a seaman hoar
Of Luna he: the heavens, on all sides clear,
Vouch many days’ fair weather. From the shore
They loose, with sky serene, and every sail
Of the yare vessel stretched by favouring gale.
The island of the amorous deity
Breathed upon them an air, in her first port,
Which not alone to man does injury,
But moulders iron, and here life is short;
— A marsh the cause, — and Nature certainly
Wrongs Famagosta, poisoning, in such sort,
That city with Constantia’s fen malign,
To all the rest of Cyprus so benign.
The noxious scents that from the marish spring,
After short sojourn there, compel their flight.
The barque to a south-easter every wing
Extends, and circles Cyprus to the right,
Makes Paphos’ island next, and, anchoring,
The crew and warriors on the beach alight;
Those to ship merchandize, and these, at leisure,
To view the laughing land of Love and Pleasure.
Inland six miles or seven from thence, a way
Scales, with an easy rise, a pleasant hill;
Which myrtle, orange, cedar-tree, and bay,
And other perfumed plants by thousands fill;
Thyme, marjoram, crocus, rose, and lily gay
From odoriferous leaf such sweets distill,
That they who sail the sea the fragrance bland,
Scent in each genial gale which blows from land.
A fruitful rill, by limpid fountain fed,
Waters, all round about, the fertile space.
The land of Venus truly may be said
That passing joyous and delightful place:
For every maid and wife, who there is bred,
Is through the world beside, unmatched in grace:
And Venus wills, till their last hour be tolled,
That Love should warm their bosoms, young and old.
’Twas here they heard the same which they before
Of the orc and of Lucina, erst had heard
In Syria; how she to return once more
In Nicosia, to her lord prepared.
Thence (a fair wind now blowing from the shore)
His bark for sea the ready Patron cleared,
Hawled up his anchor, westward turned the head
Of the good ship, and all his canvas spread.
To the north wind, which blew upon their right,
Stretching to seaward, they their sails untie:
When lo! a south-south-wester, which seemed light,
In the beginning, while the sun was high,
And afterwards increased in force t’wards night,
Raised up the sea against them mountains high;
With such dread flashes, and loud peals of thunder,
As Heaven, to swallow all in fire, would sunder.
The clouds their gloomy veil above them strain,
Nor suffer sun or star to cheer the view.
Above the welkin roared, beneath the main;
On every side the wind and tempest grew;
Which, with sharp piercing cold and blinding rain,
Afflicted sore the miserable crew.
While aye descending night, with deeper shade,
The vext and fearful billows overlayed.
The sailors, in this war of wind and flood,
Were prompt to manifest their vaunted art.
One blowing through the shrilling whistle stood,
And with the signal taught the rest their part.
One clears the best bower anchor: one is good
To lower, this other to hawl home or start
The braces; one from deck the lumber cast,
And this secured the tiller, that the mast.
The cruel wind increased throughout the night,
Which grew more dismal and more dark than hell.
The wary Patron stood to sea outright,
Where he believed less broken was the swell;
And turned his prow to meet, with ready sleight,
The buffets of the dreadful waves which fell;
Never without some hope, that at day-break
The storm might lull, or else its fury slake.
It lulls not, nor its fury slakes, but grown
Wilder, shows worse by day, — if this be day,
Which but by reckoning of the hours is known,
And not by any cheering light or ray.
Now, with more fear (his weaker hope o’erthrown).
The sorrowing Patron to the wind gives way,
He veers his barque before the cruel gale,
And scowers the foaming sea with humble sail.
While Fortune on the sea annoys this crew,
She grants those others small repose by land,
Those left in France, who one another slew, —
The men of England and the paynim band.
These bold Rinaldo broke and overthrew;
Nor troops nor banners spread before him stand:
I speak of him, who his Baiardo fleet
Had spurred the gallant Dardinel to meet.
The shield, of which Almontes’ son was vain,
That of the quarters, good Rinaldo spied;
And deemed him bold, and of a valiant strain,
Who with Orlando’s ensign dared to ride.
Approaching nearer, this appeared more plain,
When heaps of slaughtered men he round him eyed.
“Better it were,” he cried, “to overthrow
This evil plant, before it shoot and grow.”
Each to retreat betook him, where the peer
His face directed, and large passage made.
Nor less the Saracens than faithful, clear
The way, so reverenced is Fusberta’s blade.
Save Dardinel, Mount Alban’s cavalier,
Saw none, nor he to chase his prey delayed.
To whom, “He cast upon thee mickle care,
Poor child, who of that buckler left thee heir.
“I seek thee out to prove (if thou attend
My coming) how thou keep’st the red and white,
For thou, save this from me thou canst defend,
Canst ill defend it from Orlando’s might.”
To him the king: “Now clearly comprehend,
I what I bear, as well defend in fight;
And I more honour hope than trouble dread
From my paternal quartering, white and red.
“Have thou no hope to make me fly, or yield
To thee my quarters, though a child I be;
My life shalt thou take from me, if my shield;
But I, in God, well hope the contrary.
— This as it may! — shall none, in fighting field,
Say that I ever shamed my ancestry.”
So said, and grasping in his hand the sword,
The youthful king assailed Mount Alban’s lord.
Upon all parts, a freezing fear goes through
The heart blood of each trembling paynim nigh,
When they amazed the fierce Rinaldo view;
Who charged the monarch with such enmity,
As might a lion, which a bullock, new
To stings of love, should in a meadow spy.
The Moor smote first, but fruitless was his task,
Who beat in vain upon Mambrino’s casque.
Rinaldo smiled, and said: “I’d have thee know
If I am better skilled to find the vein.”
He spurs, and lets with that the bridle go,
And a thrust pushes with such might and main,
— A thrust against the bosom of his foe,
That at his back the blade appears again.
Forth issued blood and soul, and from his sell
Lifeless and cold the reeling body fell.
As languishes the flower of purple hue,
Which levelled by the passing ploughshare lies;
Or as the poppy, overcharged with dew,
In garden droops its head in piteous wise:
From life the leader of Zumara’s crew
So past, his visage losing all its dyes;
So passed from life; and perished with their king,
The heart and hope of all his following.
As waters will sometime their course delay,
Stagnant, and penned in pool by human skill,
Which, when the opposing dyke is broke away,
Fall, and with mighty noise the country fill:
’Twas so the Africans, who had some stay,
While Dardinello valour did instil,
Fled here and there, dismayed on every side,
When they him hurtling form his sell descried.
Letting the flyers fly, of those who stand
Firm in their place, Rinaldo breaks the array;
Ariodantes kills on every hand;
Who ranks well nigh Rinaldo on that day.
These Leonetto’s, those Zerbino’s brand
O’erturns, all rivals in the glorious fray.
Well Charles and Oliver their parts have done,
Turpin and Ogier, Guido and Salomon.
In peril were the Moors, that none again
Should visit Heatheness, that day opprest:
But that the wise and wary king of Spain,
Gathered, and from the field bore off the rest:
To sit down with his loss he better gain
Esteemed, that here to hazard purse and vest:
Better some remnant of the host to save,
Than bid whole squadrons stand and find a grave.
He bids forthwith the Moorish ensigns be
Borne to the camp, which fosse and rampart span.
With the bold monarch of Andology,
The valiant Portuguese, and Stordilan.
He sends to pray the king of Barbary,
To endeavour to retire, as best be can;
Who will no little praise that day deserve,
If he his person and his place preserve.
That king, who deemed himself in desperate case,
Nor ever more Biserta hoped to see;
For, with so horrible and foul a face
He never Fortune had beheld, with glee
Heard that Marsilius had contrived to place
Part of his host in full security;
And faced about his banners and bade beat
Throughout his broken squadrons a retreat.
But the best portion neither signal knew,
Nor listened to the drum or trumpet’s sound.
So scared, so crowded is the wretched crew,
That many in Seine’s neighbouring stream are drowned,
Agramant, who would form the band anew,
(With him Sobrino) scowers the squadrons round;
And with them every leader good combines
To bring the routed host within their lines.
But nought by sovereign or Sobrino done,
Who, toiling, them with prayer or menace stirred,
To march, where their ill-followed flags are gone.
Can bring (I say not all) not even a third.
Slaughtered or put to flight are two for one
Who ‘scapes, — nor he unharmed: among that herd,
Wounded is this behind, and that before,
And wearied, one and all, and harassed sore.
And even within their lines, in panic sore,
They by the Christian bands are held in chase;
And of all needful matters little store
Was made there, for provisioning the place.
Charlemagne wisely by the lock before
Would grapple Fortune, when she turned her face,
But that dark night upon the field descended,
And hushed all earthly matters and suspended:
By the Creator haply hastened, who
Was moved to pity for the works he made.
The blood in torrents ran the country through,
Flooding the roads: while on the champaign laid
Were eighty thousand of the paynim crew,
Cut off that day by the destroying blade:
Last trooped from caverns, at the midnight hour,
Villain and wolf to spoil them and devour.
King Charles returns no more within the town,
But camps without the city, opposite
The Moor’s cantonments, and bids up and down,
And round, high-piled and frequent watch-fires light.
The paynim fashions ditch and bastion,
Rampart and mine, and all things requisite;
Visits his outposts and his guards alarms,
Nor all the livelong night puts off his arms.
That livelong night the foes, throughout their tents,
As insecure and with their scathe deprest,
Poured tears, and uttered murmurs and laments;
But, as they could, their sounds of woe supprest.
One grief for slaughtered friends or kindred vents;
Some are by sorrows of their own distrest,
As wounded or as ill at ease; but more
Tremble at mischief which they deem in store.
Two Moors amid the paynim army were,
From stock obscure in Ptolomita grown;
Of whom the story, an example rare
Of constant love, is worthy to be known:
Medoro and Cloridan were named the pair;
Who, whether Fortune pleased to smile or frown,
Served Dardinello with fidelity,
And late with him to France had crost the sea.
Of nimble frame and strong was Cloridane,
Throughout his life a follower of the chase.
A cheek of white, suffused with crimson grain,
Medoro had, in youth a pleasing grace.
Nor bound on that emprize, ‘mid all the train,
Was there a fairer or more jocund face.
Crisp hair he had of gold, and jet-black eyes:
And seemed an angel lighted from the skies.
These two were posted on a rampart’s height,
With more to guard the encampment from surprise,
When ‘mid the equal intervals, at night,
Medoro gazed on heaven with sleepy eyes.
In all his talk, the stripling, woful wight,
Here cannot choose, but of his lord devise,
The royal Dardinel; and evermore
Him, left unhonoured on the field, deplore.
Then, turning to his mate, cries: “Cloridane,
I cannot tell thee what a cause of woe
It is to me, my lord upon the plain
Should lie, unworthy food for wolf or crow!
Thinking how still to me he was humane,
Meseems, if in his honour I forego
This life of mine, for favours so immense
I shall but make a feeble recompense.
“That he may lack not sepulture, will I
Go forth, and seek him out among the slain;
And haply God may will that none shall spy
Where Charles’s camp lies hushed. Do thou remain;
That, if my death be written in the sky,
Thou may’st the deed be able to explain.
So that if Fortune foil so fear a feat,
The world, through Fame, my loving heart may weet.”
Amazed was Cloridan a child should show
Such heart, such love, and such fair loyalty;
And fain would make the youth his though forego,
Whom he held passing dear; but fruitlessly
Would move his stedfast purpose; for such woe
Will neither comforted nor altered be.
Medoro is disposed to meet his doom,
Or to enclose his master in the tomb.
Seeing that nought would bend him, nought would move,
“I too will go,” was Cloridan’s reply,
“In such a glorious act myself will prove;
As well such famous death I cover, I:
What other thing is left me, here above,
Deprived of thee, Medoro mine? To die
With thee in arms is better, on the plain,
Than afterwards of grief, should’st thou be slain.”
And thus resolved, disposing in their place
Their guard’s relief, depart the youthful pair,
Leave fosse and palisade, and, in small space,
Are among ours, who watch with little care:
Who, for they little fear the paynim race,
Slumber with fires extinguished everywhere.
‘Mid carriages and arms, they lie supine
Up to the eyes, immersed in sleep and wine.
A moment Cloridano stopt and cried:
“Not to be lost are opportunities.
This troop, by whom my master’s blood was shed,
Medoro, ought not I to sacrifice?
Do thou, lest any one this way be led,
Watch everywhere about, with ears and eyes.
For a wide way, amid the hostile horde,
I offer here to make thee with my sword.”
So said he, and his talk cut quickly short,
Coming where learned Alpheus slumbered nigh;
Who had the year before sought Charles’s court,
In medicine, magic, and astrology
Well versed; but now in art found small-support,
Or rather found that it was all a lie.
He had foreseen, that he his long-drawn life
Should finish in the bosom of his wife.
And now the Saracen with wary view
Has pierced his weasand with the pointed sword.
Four others he neat that Diviner, slew,
Nor gave the wretches time to say a word.
Sir Turpin in his story tells not who,
And Time had of their names effaced record.
Palidon of Moncalier next he speeds;
One who securely sleeps between two steeds.
Next came the warrior where, with limbs outspread,
Pillowed on barrel, lay the wretched Gryll:
This he had drained, and undisturbed by dread,
Hoped to enjoy a peaceful sleep and still.
The daring Saracen lopt off his head,
Blood issues from the tap-hole, with a rill
Of wine; and he, well drenched with many a can,
Dreams that he drinks, dispatched by Cloridan.
Next Gryll, Andropono and Conrad hight,
A Greek and German, at two thrusts he gored,
Who in the air had past large part of night
With dice and goblet; blest it at that board
They still had watched, till, clothed in amber light,
The radiant sun had traversed Indus’ ford!
But mortals Destiny would set at nought
If every wight futurity were taught.
As, in full fold, a lion long unfed,
Whom wasting famine had made lean and spare,
Devours and rends, and swallows, and lays dead
The feeble flock, which at his mercy are;
So, in their sleep, the cruel paynim bled
Our host, and made wide slaughter everywhere:
Nor blunted was the young Medoro’s sword,
But he disdained to smite the ignoble horde.
He to Labretto’s duke, leaving those dead,
Had come, who slumbered with a gentle mate,
Each clasping each so closely in their bed,
That air between them could not penetrate.
From both Medoro cleanly lopt the head.
Oh! blessed way of death! oh! happy fate!
For ’tis my trust, that as their bodies, so
Their souls embracing to their bourne shall go.
Malindo, with Andalico, he slew,
His brother, sons to the earl of Flanders they:
To whom has bearings (each to arms was new)
Charles had the lilies given; because that day
The monarch had beheld the valiant two
With crimsoned staves, returning from the fray;
And them with lands in Flanders vowed to glad;
And would, but that Medoro this forbad.
Rearing the insidious blade, the pair are near
The place, where round King Charles’ pavilion
Are tented warlike paladin and peer,
Guarding the side that each is camped upon.
When in good time the paynims backward steer,
And sheathe their swords, the impious slaughter done;
Deeming impossible, in such a number,
But they must light on one who does not slumber.
And though they might escape well charged with prey,
To save themselves they think sufficient gain.
Thither by what he deems the safest way
(Medoro following him) went Cloridane
Where, in the field, ‘mid bow and falchion, lay,
And shield and spear, in pool of purple stain,
Wealthy and poor, the king and vassal’s corse,
And overthrown the rider and his horse.
The horrid mixture of the bodies there
Which heaped the plain where roved these comrades sworn,
Might well have rendered vain their faithful care
Amid the mighty piles, till break of morn,
Had not the moon, at young Medoro’s prayer,
Out of a gloomy cloud put forth her horn.
Medoro to the heavens upturns his eyes
Towards the moon, and thus devoutly cries:
“O holy goddess! whom our fathers well
Have styled as of a triple form, and who
Thy sovereign beauty dost in heaven, and hell,
And earth, in many forms reveal; and through
The greenwood holt, of beast and monster fell,
— A huntress bold — the flying steps pursue,
Show where my king, amid so many lies,
Who did, alive, thy holy studies prize.”
At the youth’s prayer from parted cloud outshone
(Were it the work of faith or accident)
The moon, as fair, as when Endymion
She circled in her naked arms: with tent,
Christian or Saracen, was Paris-town
Seen in that gleam, and hill and plain’s extent.
With these Mount Martyr and Mount Levy’s height,
This on the left, and that upon the right.
The silvery splendor glistened yet more clear,
There where renowned Almontes’ son lay dead.
Faithful Medoro mourned his master dear,
Who well agnized the quartering white and red,
With visage bathed in many a bitter tear
(For he a rill from either eyelid shed),
And piteous act and moan, that might have whist
The winds, his melancholy plaint to list;
But with a voice supprest: not that he aught
Regards if any one the noise should hear,
Because he of his life takes any thought;
Of which loathed burden he would fain be clear;
But, lest his being heard should bring to nought
The pious purpose which has brought them here.
The youths the king upon their shoulders stowed;
And so between themselves divide the load.
Hurrying their steps, they hastened, as they might,
Under the cherished burden they conveyed;
And now approaching was the lord of light,
To sweep from heaven the stars, from earth the shade.
When good Zerbino, he, whose valiant sprite
Was ne’er in time of need by sleep down-weighed,
From chasing Moors all night, his homeward way
Was taking to the camp at dawn of day.
He has with him some horsemen in his train,
That from afar the two companions spy.
Expecting thus some spoil or prize to gain,
They, every one, towards that quarter hie.
“Brother, behoves us,” cried young Cloridane,
“To cast away the load we bear, and fly:
For ’twere a foolish thought (might well be said)
To lose two living men, to save one dead:
And dropt the burden, weening his Medore
Had done the same by it, upon his side:
But that poor boy, who loved his master more,
His shoulders to the weight, alone, applied;
Cloridan hurrying with all haste before,
Deeming him close behind him or beside;
Who, did he know his danger, him to save
A thousand deaths, instead of one, would brave.
Those horsemen, with intent to make the two
Yield themselves prisoners to their band, or die,
Some here, some there, disperse the champaign through,
And every pass and outlet occupy.
The captain, little distant from his crew,
Is keener than the rest the chase to ply;
And, when he sees them hurrying in such guise,
Is certain that the twain are enemies.
Of old an ancient forest clothed that lair,
Of trees and underwood a tangled maze;
Of salvage beasts alone the wild repair,
And, like a labyrinth, full of narrow ways:
Here from the boughs such shelter hope the pair
As may conceal them well from hostile gaze.
But him I shall expect who loves the rhyme,
To listen to my tale some other time.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:50