To her that does for her Rogero stay,
Tidings are brought which irk the damsel sore,
That fair Marphisa caused the youth’s delay;
She bent to slay her, grieving evermore,
Departs, and overtakes, upon the way,
Ullania with the three kings who rode before.
These she o’ercomes, and had o’ercome that maid,
But that an evil law she disobeyed.
I recollect that I was bound to sing
(I promised so, but it escaped my mind)
Of a suspicion, fraught with suffering
To Bradamant of more displeasing kind,
And made by keener and more venomed sting
Than caused that other wound, wherewith she pined,
Which, hearing Richardet his news impart,
Had pierced her breast and preyed upon her heart.
So was I bound to sing, but I begun
Another song, Rinaldo crossed my way,
And then those deeds by savage Guido done,
Kept me employed and caused no small delay;
And so from subject I to subject run,
That I forgot of Bradamant to say.
I now remember, and will tell you, ere
You of Rinaldo or Gradasso hear.
But it behoves, ere more of these be said,
I should awhile of Agramant discourse,
Who had from that night’s raging fire conveyed
To Arles, the remnant of his scattered force:
Since to unite his troops, and furnish aid
And victual, ’twas a place of much resource,
Seated upon a river, nigh the shore,
With Spain in front and Africa before.
With horse and foot, of good or evil sort,
Marsilius throughout Spain their loss repairs;
And each armed back in Barcellona’s port,
Furnished through love or fear, for sea prepares.
The Moor to council daily calls his court;
Nor care nor cost the watchful monarch spares:
Meanwhile sore taxes and repeated cess,
All Africa’s o’erburdened towns oppress.
He offers Rodomont, if to his side
He will return, but offers him in vain,
Renowned Almontes’ daughter, as a bride;
His cousin she, her portion Oran’s reign.
He lures not from his bridge that knight of pride,
Who has so many sells, such plate and chain
Collected there, from cavaliers o’erthrown,
As serve to hide the monumental stone.
Marphisa would not such a course pursue:
Nay, the redoubted damsel hearing said
That Agramant, subdued by Charles’s crew,
— His choicest warriors taken, chased, or dead —
In Arles was sheltered with his broken few,
Thither, unbidden by the monarch, sped,
Prompt to assist him with her friendly blade;
And proffered purse and person in his aid.
As a free gift to him the martial fair
Brunello bore, nor had she done him wrong.
He, for ten days and nights, to swing in air,
Had sorely feared, from lofty gallows hung:
But seeing him unhelped by force or prayer
Of any one amid the paynim throng,
She thought foul scorn to stain her generous hands
With such base blood, and loosed the losel’s bands.
She pardoned every ancient injury,
And him to Agramant in Arles conveyed.
Well may you fancy with what joy and glee
The monarch greeted her who brought him aid;
He in Brunello’s fate wills all shall see
In what esteem he holds that warlike maid;
For he in earnest does upon her foe
What fierce Marphisa menaced but in show.
The hangman hung his corpse in desert field,
The craving vulture and the crow to feed.
Rogero, that erewhile had been his shield,
And from the noose that caitiff would have freed,
Heaven’s justice willed, now lay with wound unhealed,
Nor could assist the craven in his need;
And when the news were known, the knot was tied;
So that Brunello, unassisted, died.
This while does good duke Aymon’s daughter mourn,
Because those twenty days so slowly trail:
— Which term elapsed — Rogero should return,
And be received into her church’s pale.
Time halts not more with him to foreign bourne
Exiled, with prisoner pent in noisome jail,
Pines the poor wretch for liberty and light,
Or his loved land, desired and gladsome sight!
Aye sick with hope deferred, the expecting maid,
That Phoebus’ steeds were foundered one while deemed;
Then that his wheels were out of frame, so stayed,
Beyond the wonted term, his chariot seemed.
Yet longer than that day when Faith delayed
The sun, which on the righteous Hebrew beamed,
Or than that night Alcides was conceived,
She every day and every night believed.
How oft of dormouse, badger, or of bear,
The heavy slumber would she fain partake!
For she that time in sleep would waste and wear;
Nor such prolonged repose desired to break;
Nor wished the damsel any sound to hear,
Until Rogero’s voice should her awake:
But not alone is this beyond her power;
She cannot close her eyes one single hour.
She here and there, throughout the livelong night,
Tosses and turns, nor ever finds repose;
And still, impatient for the dawn of light,
From time to time she to her window goes,
To see if Tithon’s spouse the lily white
Yet scatters mingled with the crimson rose.
Nor less desires the damsel, when ’tis morn,
To see the golden stars the heaven adorn.
When, saving some four days, the term was ended,
Appointed for the youthful warrior’s stay,
She, full of hope, the messenger attended
From hour to hour, that should arrive, and say,
“Behold Rogero comes”; and oft ascended
A turret, from whose top she might survey
Gay champaign, wood, and, mid the wide expanse,
A portion of the road, that led to France.
When shining arms at distance she perceives,
Or any thing that speaks a cavalier,
’Tis her desired Rogero, she believes;
And her fair eyes and brows are seen to clear.
If footman, or unarmed, the maid conceives,
It is a courier from the youthful peer;
And, though fallacious every hope she feeds,
Another and another aye succeeds.
And then she arms, and will the warrior meet;
And from the hill descends into the plain:
She finds him not, and to Montalban’s seat
Hopes he by other road his way has ta’en.
In the design, wherewith she moved her feet
From thence, she to her fort returns in vain;
Nor finds him here nor there; meanwhile expired
The period whose approach she so desired.
— The period so prefixt o’erpast by one,
By two, three, six, by eight, by twenty days —
She seeing not her spouse, and tidings none
Receiving of the youth, laments ‘gan raise,
Which had from snake-haired Furies pity won,
In those dark realms that Rhadamanthus sways.
She smote her eyes divine, and bosoms fair;
She rent the tresses of her golden hair.
“Can it be true?” — (she cried) — “Shall I be fain
To follow one, that strives to hide and fly?
Esteem a man that has me in disdain?
Pray him that never hears my suppliant cry?
Suffer who hates me o’er my heart to reign?
One that his lofty virtues holds so high,
’Twere need some heaven-born goddess should descend
From realms above, his stubborn heart to bend?
“Proud youth! he knows my worship and my love,
Nor me will have for lover or for slave.
The cruel stripling knows what pangs I prove,
Yet will not aid me till I am in my grave.
Nor let me tell my sorrows, lest they move
Him his perverse and evil will to wave;
Shunning me like malignant asp, that fears
To change his mood, if he the charmer hears.
“Ah! Love, arrest this wight who runs so free,
Outstripping my slow feet, or me install
In the condition whence thou tookest me,
Such as I was, ere thine or other’s thrall.
— Alas! how vain the hope! that thou shouldst be
Ever to pity moved by suppliant call,
Who sport, yea feed and live, in streams that rise
From the distracted lover’s brimming eyes.
“But, woe is me, alas! and, what can I
Save my irrational desire lament?
Which makes me soar a pitch so passing high,
I reach a region, where my plumes are brent;
Then, unsustained, fall headlong from the sky;
Nor ends my woe; on other flight intent,
Again I imp my wings, again I soar;
To flame and fall, tormented evermore.
“Yea; rather of myself should I complain,
Than the desire, to which I bared my breast
Whereby was Reason hunted from her reign,
And all my powers by stronger force opprest.
Thus borne from bad to worse, without a rein,
I cannot the unbridled beast arrest;
Who makes me see I to destruction haste,
That I more bitterness in death may taste.
“Yet, ah! why blame myself? Wherein have I
Ever offended, save in loving thee?
What wonder was it then that suddenly
A woman’s feeble sense opprest should be?
Why fence and guard myself, lest bearing high,
Wise words, and beauty rare should pleasure me?
Most wretched is the mortal that would shun
To look upon the visage of the sun.
“Besides that me my destiny entrained,
Words, worthy credence, moved me much, that drew
A picture of rare happiness, ordained
As meed of this fair unless to ensue.
If these persuasive words were false and feigned,
If famous Merlin’s counsel was untrue,
Wrath at the wizard may I well profess;
But cannot therefore love Rogero less.
“Both Merlin and Melissa have I need
To blame, and shall for ever blame the twain,
That, to exhibit suckers of my seed,
Conjured up spirits from infernal reign,
Who with this empty hope my fancy feed,
Me in perpetual bondage to detain.
Nor other cause for this can I suppose,
Save that they grudge me safe and sweet repose.”
Sorrow the maid so wholly occupies,
Room has she none for comfort or for rest.
Yet, maugre her affliction, Hope will rise,
And form a lodgement in her harassed breast;
And to the damsel’s memory still supplies
Rogero’s parting words to her addrest;
So makes her, in all seeming facts’ despite,
Await from hour to hour the youthful knight.
For a month’s space beyond those twenty days
This hope affords fair Bradamant content:
Hence sorrow not on her so heavy weighs
As it would else her harassed soul have shent.
She, one day that along the road she strays,
By which she oft to meet Rogero went,
Hears tidings, that of Hope — last comfort left —
(Like every other good) her breast bereft.
Bound homeward from the hostile camp, where lay
King Agramant, she met a Gascon knight,
A prisoner to those paynims, from the day,
That fought nigh Paris was the famous fight.
The damsel prest him all he knew to say:
Then to the point she covets led the knight:
Asks of Rogero, on that theme abides,
Listens to that, not aught inquires besides.
Of him a full account did he afford,
As well acquainted with the court; he said
How, matched with Mandricardo, strove that lord,
And layed the martial king in combat dead.
And how, sore wounded by the Tartar’s sword,
Above a month the stripling kept his bed:
And had the stranger here but closed his news,
Well might his tale the missing knight excuse.
But then subjoins the Gascon cavalier
How in the Moorish camp a damsel lies,
By name Marphisa hight, of beauteous cheer,
Bold and as skilled in arms of every guise,
Who loves Rogero and to him is dear;
And then the host so rarely sundered spies,
That every one, throughout the paynim train,
Deems that betrothed in wedlock are the twain.
And hope, when healed shall be the youthful knight,
The marriage of those lovers will succeed;
(For sure) with pleasure and sincere delight,
Those tidings paynim prince and monarch read:
Since, knowing either’s superhuman might,
They augur, from their loins will spring a breed,
In little season, which shall pass in worth
The mightiest race that ever was on earth.
What he rehearsed, the Gascon knight believed,
Nor without cause believed the news he bore,
A rumour universally received
And bruited through the squadrons of the Moor;
Who had that notion of their love conceived
From signs of kindness witnessed evermore.
For — good or bad — though from one mouth it flows,
Fame to a boundless torrent quickly grows.
That she with him had brought the Paynim aid,
And ne’er was seen without the cavalier,
The first foundation of the rumour layed:
But what confirmed that fame in every ear,
Was, that she, having from the camp conveyed
The thief Brunello (as I sang whilere)
As if alone to see Rogero brought,
Had to the camp returned, uncalled, unsought.
She solely to the camp had ta’en her way,
To visit him that on a sick-bed smarted;
Nor once alone; but often all the day
There passed that maid, and but at eve departed:
Who gave yet greater cause of her to say,
That — known as one so haughty and hard-hearted,
Who all the world despised — she now was grown
Benign and humble to the Child alone.
When Bradamant the Gascon’s story heard,
That lady suffered such tormenting pain,
Such cruel woe her inmost bosom stirred,
From falling she preserved herself with pain.
She turned her courser round, without a word,
Inflamed with jealousy and fierce disdain:
From her all hope the wretched damsel spurns,
And to her chamber breathing wrath returns.
Turned on her face, her body on the bed,
Armed as she is, th6e grieving damsel throws,
And that the sad lament by sorrow bred,
May be unheard of any, bites the clothes;
And so, repeating what the stranger said,
To such a pitcher her smothered anguish grows,
Her plaints no longer able to restrain,
So vents the maid parforce her piteous pain:
“Who ever can be trusted? woe is me!
All false and cruel well may be esteemed,
If thou, Rogero, false and cruel be,
That I so pious and so faithful deemed.
What foul and felon act, what treachery,
Was ever yet by tragic poet dreamed,
But will fall short of thine, if thou wilt set
The sum of my desert, against thy debts?
“Wherefore, Rogero, since no cavalier
Mates thee in beauteous form and daring feat,
Since thou in matchless valour hast no peer,
And none with thee in gentleness compete,
Why cannot we, ‘mid godlike gifts and clear,
Allow thee truth, thy graces to complete?
The praise of spotless truth to thee allow,
To which all other virtues yield and bow?
“Knowest thou not, without it, worthless are
All gentle bearing and all martial might?
As there is nothing, howsoever fair,
That can be seen without the aid of light.
Easily mightest thou a maid ensnare,
Lord as thou was, and idol in her sight.
Her with thy honied words thou might’st have won,
To deem that cold and darksome was the sun.
“Cruel, what sin can trouble thee, if thou
Do’st not her murder who loved thee repent?
If held so lightly be a breach of vow —
Beneath what burden will thy heart be bent?
What treatment will thine adversary know,
If one who loves like me thou so torment?
Justice is none in heaven, I well may say,
If Heaven its vengeance for my wrongs delay.
“If of all human sins of deepest dye
Be fell ingratitude; if doomed to smart
For this, the fairest angel of the sky
Was banished into foul and darksome part;
If mighty sins for mighty vengeance cry,
Where due atonement cleanses not the heart;
Beware lest thou beneath such vengeance groan,
Ingrate! that wouldest not thy sin atone.
“Cruel Rogero, I of theft, beside
All other sins, may justly thee arraign.
That thou my heart has ravished form my side,
— Of this offence I will not, I complain —
But, having made it mine, that thou defied
All right, and took away thy gift again.
Restore it; well thou know’st what pains requite
His sin, who keeps what is another’s right.
“Thou hast left me, Rogero; thee to leave,
Alas! I neither will nor power possess.
But will and power have I my life to reave,
To scape from this o’erwhelming wretchedness.
To die at strife with thee alone I grieve:
For, had the gods so pleased my lot to bless,
As to require my life, when loved of thee,
Never so welcome had been death to me.”
Resolved to die, ’twas so the damsel cried;
And starting from her bed, by passion warmed,
To her left breast her naked sword applied;
Then recollected she was wholly armed.
Meanwhile her better Spirit, at her side,
With these persuasive words her fury charmed:
“O lady, born to such illustrious name!
Would’st thou conclude thy life with such foul shame?
“Were it not better to the field to go,
Where aye thy breath with glory may be spent?
There, should Rogero chance to lay thee low,
He to have slain thee haply may repent;
But, should his faulchion deal the mortal blow,
What death could ever yield thee more content?
Reason it were thou should’st by him be slain,
Who dooms thee living to such passing pain.
“Haply of that Marphisa, too, before
Thou die, thou yet may deadly vengeance take,
Who with dishonest love and treacherous lore
Did thy beloved Rogero’s fealty shake.”
This seemed to please the mournful lady more
Than her first thought; and she forthwith bade make
A mantle for her arms, which should imply
Her desperation and desire to die.
The vest is of that colour which is spied
In leaf, when gray and yellow are at strife;
When it is gathered from the branch, or dried
Is the green blood, that was it’s parent’s life.
Embroidered is the surcoat’s outer side
With stems of cypress which disdain the knife;
Which shoot not, when by biting steel laid low.
A habit well according with her woe.
She took the courser that was wont to bear
Astolpho, and with him the lance of gold,
By whose sole touch unhorsed all champions were.
Needless anew I deem it to unfold
Why by Astolpho given, and when and where,
Or how that spear obtained the warrior bold.
The lady took the lance, but nothing guessed
Of the stupendous virtue it possessed.
Without attendants, without squire, alone,
The hill descending by the nearest way,
Toward Paris is the mournful damsel gone,
Where camped erewhile the Moorish forces lay;
For yet to her the tidings were unknown,
That good Rinaldo and his bold array
Had raised, with Charles’ and Malagigi’s aid,
The siege the paynims had to Paris laid.
— Cadurci, and Cahors city left behind —
Bradamant sees the mountain, far and near,
Whence Dordogne’s waters to the valley wind;
And Montferrant’s and Clermont’s towers appear:
When she, a lady fair, of semblance kind,
Beholds, by that same road, towards her steer.
Three knights were nigh, and — at the pommel hung —
A buckler from the damsel’s saddle swung.
Before the lady and behind her ride
More squires and maids, a numerous company.
Fair Bradamant of one that past beside
Demanded who the stranger dame might be?
“That lady to the king of France” (replied
The squire) “is sent upon an embassy
From THE LOST ISLE, which lies mid seas that roll
Their restless waves beyond the northern pole.
“Some THE LOST ISLE, some Iceland call the reign
Whereof a royal lady fills the throne;
Whose charms (before those charms all beauties wane)
Are such as Heaven had dealt to her alone.
The shield you see she sends to Charlemagne,
But with the pact and purpose plainly shown,
He should confer it on the knight, whose worth
Is, in his judgment, fairest upon earth.
“She, as she deems herself (and it is true
She is the fairest of all womankind),
A cavalier, that should in heart and thew
Surpass all other warriors, fain would find;
Resolved, should her a hundred thousand woo,
None shall unfix the purpose of her mind;
— But he, held worthiest by the world’s accord,
Alone shall be her lover and her lord.
“In France, in royal Charles’s famous court,
The damsel hopes to find the cavalier,
Who in a thousand feats of high report
Has shown that he excels each puissant peer.
All three are monarchy who the dame escort,
And what their kingdoms ye as well shall hear.
One Sweden rules, one Gothland, Norway one;
Surpast in martial praise by few or none.
“These three, whose kingdoms at some distance lie,
Yet the least distant lie from the LOST ISLE,
(Because few mariners its shore descry,
As little known, that island so they style),
Wooed and yet woo her for a wife, and vie
In valour, and, to win the lady’s smile,
Illustrious deeds have done, which Fame shall sound,
While Heaven shall circle in its wonted round.
“Yet she not these will wed, nor cavalier
That does not, as she deems, all else excell.
— ‘Lightly I hold your proof of valour here,’
(Those northern monarchs was she wont to tell)
‘And if, like sun amid the stars, one peer
Outshines his fellows, him I honour well:
But therefore hold him not, in fierce alarms,
Of living men the bravest knight at arms.
“ ‘To Charlemagne, whom I esteem and hold
As wisest among reigning kings, by me
Shall be dispatched a costly shield of gold,
On pact and on condition, that it be
Bestowed on him, deemed boldest of the bold,
Amid the martial ranks of chivalry.
Serves the king Charlemagne or other lord,
I will be governed by that king’s award.
“ ‘If when King Charles the buckler shall receive
And give to one so stout, that best among
All others he that warrior shall believe,
Do they to his or other court belong.
For me the golden buckler shall retrieve
One of you three, in his own virtue strong;
My every love and thought shall he possess;
Him for my spouse and lord will I confess.’
“Moved by these stirring speeches, hither hie
From that wide-distant sea, those monarchs bold,
Resolved to win the buckler, or to die
Beneath his hand who has that shield of gold.”
Bradamant ponders much the squire’s reply:
He give his horse the head — his story told —
And plies him so with restless heel and hand,
He overtakes the damsel’s distant band.
After him gallops not, nor hurries ought,
Bradamant, who pursues her road at ease:
Much evermore evolving in her thought
Things that may chance, she finally foresees
That through the buckler by that damsel brought,
Will follow strife and boundless enmities,
Amid king Charles’s peerage and the rest,
If with that shield he shall reward the best.
This grieved the damsel’s heart, but far above
That grief, the former fear her heard did goad;
That young Rogero had withdrawn his love
From her, and on the warlike queen bestowed.
So buried in the thoughts wherewith she strove,
Was Bradamant, she heeded nor her road,
Nor took she care where, at the close of light,
To find befitting shelter for the night.
As when from squall, or other chance, a barge
Drives from the river-side, where late it lay,
Under no mariner or pilot’s charge,
The winds and waves at will transport their prey;
So Rabican with Bradamant, at large,
— She musing on Rogero — wends his way.
For thence, by many miles, was distant wide
That mind which should her courser’s bridle guide.
She raised her eyes at last, and saw the sun
Had turned his back on Bocchus’ towers and wall;
Then, like a cormorant, his journey done,
Into his nurse’s lap beheld him fall,
Beyond Marocco; and for her to run
To tree, for shelter from the rising squall,
Had been a foolish thought; for now ‘gan blow
A blustering wind, which threatened rain or snow.
To better speed fair Bradamant aroused
Her courser, yet but little way did ride,
When with his flock, which on the champaign browsed,
Leaving the fields, a shepherd she espied.
To him where, well or ill, she might be housed,
— With many instances the maid applied —
For never house could such ill shelter yield,
But that in rain ’twere worse to lodge afield.
To her the shepherd said, “I know of none
Whereto I could direct you, near at hand.
At least six leagues are distant all, but one,
Named TRISTRAM’S TOWER, throughout the neighbouring land.
But not to all men is the door undone;
For it behoves that they, with lance in hand,
Achieve their footing first and the defend,
Who to be lodged within its walls pretend.
“If there be room within, to stranger knight
The castellain gives kindly welcome there:
But is a lodging claimed by other wight,
To joust with all new comers makes him swear:
If none, he need not move; but arms and fight
He must what stranger thither shall repair;
And he that worst his warlike arms shall ply,
Must wander forth beneath the naked sky.
“If two. three, four, or more, seek shelter, they
That first arrive, in peace their quarters take.
Who follows, has a harder game to play;
For war upon those many must he make.
So, if one only in that mansion stay,
He with those two, or more, a lance must break.
Then with as many others as succeed:
Thus he what strength he has shall sorely need.
“As well, if wife or maid seek that repair,
(Is she alone, is she accompanied),
And afterwards another, the most fair
Is housed; that other must without abide.”
Bradamant asked the kindly shepherd where
That castle stood; and he with signs replied
As well as words, and pointed with his hand
Where, five or six miles wide, the tower did stand.
Though Rabican’s good paces merit praise,
To hurry him the damsel had no skill,
By those so passing foul and broken ways,
(By season somewhat rainy rendered ill)
So, as to reach the tower, ere Night o’erlays
The world, whose every nook dark shadows fill.
Arrived, that lady finds the portal barred,
And that she seeks a lodging tells the guard.
He answers that the place is occupied
By dame and knight already housed, who, met
About the fire, in that chill evening-tide,
Wait till their supper be before them set.
To him that maid: “The board is not supplied,
I deem, for them, unless the meal be eat.
Now, say I wait their coming.” (she pursues,)
Who know and will observe your castle’s use.”
The guard his message bore, where at their ease
Reposed the weary cavaliers; his tale
Not overlikely was those kings to please;
For cold and peevish blew the wintry gale,
And now fast fell the rain; yet, forced to seize
Their arms, they slowly don the martial mail.
The rest remain within; while they proceed
Against the damsel, but with little speed.
Three cavaliers they were, of might so tried,
Few champions but to them in prowess yield,
The same that she that very day, beside
The courier maid, encountered in the field,
They that in Iceland boasted, in their pride,
To bear away from France the golden shield:
Who (for they had the martial maid outrode)
Arrived before her at that lord’s abode.
In feats of arms few warriors were more stout;
But she besure will be among those few,
She, that on no account will wait without,
Fasting and wet, night’s weary watches through.
Within from window and from lodge, the rout
Look forth, and will the joust by moonlight view,
Which streams from underneath a covering cloud;
Albeit the furious rain beats fast and loud.
Such transport as the longing gallant cheers,
About to seize the stolen fruits of love,
When, after long delay, the listener hears
The bold within its socket softly move,
Such transport cheered her, of those cavaliers
The prowess and the pith a-fire to prove,
When now the opened portals she descried,
And drawbridge dropt, and issuing knights espied.
When she beheld, how, of the drawbridge clear
Those knights, together or scarce sundered, came,
She took her ground; and next in fierce career,
With flowing bridle, drove the furious dame,
Levelling against those kings that virtuous spear,
Her cousin’s gift, which never missed its aim;
Whose touch each warrior must unseat parforce;
Yea Mars, should Mars contend in mortal course.
The king of Sweden, foremost of those knights,
In falling too is foremost of the train;
With such surpassing force his helmet smites
That spear, which never yet was couched in vain.
Gothland’s good king next meets the maid, and lights
With feet in air, at distance on the plain.
The third (unhorsed by Aymon’s beauteous daughter)
Half buried lies in mire and marshy water.
When at three strokes she had unhorsed them all,
Lighting with head on earth and heels in air,
Retiring from the field, she sought the Hall,
In search of lodging; but, ere harboured there,
To issue forth, at whosoever’s call,
Is, by the warder’s hest, obliged to swear.
That lord who well had weighed her famous feats,
The damsel with surpassing honour greets.
So does by her the lady, that erewhile
Had thither journeyed, with those monarchs three,
As I related, sent from the LOST ISLE
To France’s king, upon an embassy.
Kind as she is and affable of style,
She renders back the stranger’s courtesy;
Rises to welcome her with smiling air,
And to the fire conducts that warlike fair.
As Bradamant unarms, and first her shield,
And after puts her polished casque away,
A caul of shining gold, wherein concealed
And clustering close, her prisoned tresses lay,
She with the helmet doffs; and now revealed,
(While the long locks about her shoulders play,)
A lovely damsel by that band is seen,
No fiercer in affray than fair of mien.
As when the stage’s curtain is uprolled,
Mid thousand lamps, appears the mimic scene,
Adorned with arch and palace, pictures, gold,
And statues; or, as limpid and serene
The sun his visage, glorious to behold,
Unveils, emerging from a cloudy screen;
So when the lady doffs her iron case,
All paradise seems opened in her face.
Already so well-grown and widely spread
Were the bright tresses which the hermit shore,
These, gathered in a knot, behind her head,
Though shorter than their wont, the damsel wore;
And he, that castle’s master, plainly read,
(Who often had beheld her face before)
That this was Bradamant; and now he paid
Yet higher honours to the martial maid.
With modest and with mirthful talk this while,
Seated about the fire, they feed the ear;
And in this way the weary time beguile
Till they are heartened with more solid cheer.
If new or ancient were his castle’s style,
(Bradamant asks the courteous cavalier)
By whom begun, and how it took its rise?
And thus that castellain to her replies.
“When Pharamond of France possessed the throne,
His son, prince Clodion, had a mistress rare;
And damsel in that ancient age was none
More graceful, beauteous, or more debonair;
So loved of Pharamond’s enamoured son,
That he lost sight no oftener of the fair
Than Io’s shepherd of his charge whilere:
For jealous as enamoured was the peer.
“Her in this mansion, which his sire bestowed,
He kept, and rarely issued from his rest:
With him were lodged ten cavaliers, allowed
Through France to be the boldest and the best.
Hither, while in this castle he abode,
Sir Tristram and a dame their course addrest:
Whom from a furious giant, in her need,
Short time before that gentle knight had freed.
“Sir Tristram and his lady reached the Hall,
When now the sun had Seville left behind.
They for admission on the porter call,
Since they for ten miles round no shelter find,
But Clodion, that loved much, and was withal
Sore jealous, was determined in his mind
No stranger in his keep should ever inn,
So long as that fair lady lodged therein.
“When, after long entreaties made in vain,
The castellain refused to house the knight,
He said, ‘What supplication cannot gain,
I hope to make thee do in they despite’;
And loudly challenged him, with all his train,
Those ten which he maintained, to bloody fight;
Offering, with levelled lance and lifted glaive,
To prove Sir Clodion a discourteous knave;
“On pact, if he sate fast, and overthrown
Should be the warder, and his warlike rout,
He in that castle should be lodged alone,
And Clodion with his knights remain without.
Against him goes the king of France’s son,
At risque of death, to venge that galling flout;
But falls astound; the rest partake his fate,
And on the losers Tristram bars the gate.
“Entering the tower, he finds her harboured there
Whereof I spake, so dear in Clodion’s eyes;
Whom SHE had equalled with the loveliest fair,
Nature, so niggard of such courtesies.
With her Sir Tristram talks, while fell despair
Aye racks the houseless prince in horrid wise.
Who prays the conquering knight, with suppliant cry,
Not to his arms the damsel to deny.
“Though she small worth in Tristram’s sight possess,
Nor any, saving Yseult, please his sight,
Nor other dame to love or to caress,
The philtre, drunk erewhile, allows the knight;
Yet, for he would that foul discourteousness
Of Clodion with a fit revenge requite,
He cries, ‘I deem it were foul wrong and sore,
If so such beauty I should shut the door.
“ ‘And, should Sir Clodion grieve beneath the tree
To lodge alone, and company demand;
Although less beautiful, I have with me
A fair and youthful damsel, here at hand,
Who, I am well content, his mate shall be,
And do in all things, as he shall command.
But she that is most fair to the most strong,
Meseemeth, in all justice should belong.’
“Shut out all night, the moody Clodion strayed,
Puffing and pacing round his lofty tower,
As if that prince the sentinel had played
On them, that slept at ease in lordly bower:
Him, sorer far than wind and cold dismayed
That lovely lady’s loss in Tristram’s power:
But he, with pity touched, upon the morrow,
Rendered her back, and so relieved his sorrow.
“Because, he said, and made it plain appear,
Such as he found her, he returned the fair;
And though for his discourtesy whilere,
Clodion had every scorn deserved to bear,
He was content with having made the peer
Outwatch the weary night in open air.
Accepting not that cavalier’s excuse,
Who would have thrown on Love his castle’s use.
“For Love should make a churlish nature kind,
And not transform to rude a gentle breast.
When Tristram hence was gone, not long behind
Remained the enamoured prince who changed his rest:
But first he to a cavalier consigned
The tower; whereof that baron he possest,
On pact, that he and his in the domain
Henceforth this usage ever should maintain;
“That cavalier of greater heart and power
Should in this hall be harboured without fail:
They that less worthy were should void the tower,
And seek another inn, by hill or dale.
In fine, that law was fixt, which to this hour
Endures, as you have seen”; while so his tale
To Bradamant recounts that castle’s lord,
The sewer with savoury meats has heaped the board.
In the great hall that plenteous board was laid,
(None fairer was in all the world beside)
Then came where those beauteous ladies stayed,
And them, with torches lit, did thither guide.
On entering, Bradamant the room surveyed,
And she, that other fair, on every side;
Who as they gaze about the gorgeous hall
Filled full of picture, mark each storied wall.
So beauteous are the figures, that instead
Of eating, on the painted walls they stare;
Albeit of meat they have no little need,
Who wearied sore with that day’s labour are.
With grief the sewer, with grief the cook takes heed,
How on the table cools the untasted fare.
Nay, there is one amid the crowd, who cries,
“First fill your bellies, and then feast your eyes.”
The guests were placed, and now about to eat,
When suddenly bethought that castellain,
To house two damsels were a thing unmeet;
One lady must dislodge, and one remain;
The fairest stay, and she least fair retreat.
Where howls the wind, where beats the pattering rain.
Because they separate came, ’tis ordered so:
One lady must remain, one lady go.
The lord some matrons of his household crew
Calls, with two elders, in such judgments wise;
He marks the dames, and bids them of the two
Declare which is most beauteous in their eyes;
And all, upon examination due,
Cry, Aymon’s daughter best deserves the prize,
And vouch as she in might those kings outweighed,
No less in beauty she surpassed the maid.
The warder cries to that Islandic dame,
Who of her sentence has a shrewd suspicion,
“O lady, let it be no cause of blame,
That we observe our usage and condition;
To seek some other rest must be thine aim,
Since, by our universal band’s admission,
Though unadorned that martial maid be seen,
Thou canst not match her charms and lovely mien.”
As in a moment’s time a cloud obscure
Steams from the bottom of some marshy dale,
Which the sun’s visage, late so bright and pure,
Mantles all over with its dingy veil;
So that poor damsel, sentenced to endure,
Without, the pelting shower and blustering gale,
Is seen to change her cheer, and is no more
The fair and mirthful maid she was before.
The maid turns pale, and all her colour flies,
Who dreads so stern a sentence to obey:
But generous Bradamant, in prudent guise,
Who could not bear to see her turned away,
Cried to that baron, “Partial and unwise
Your judgment seems, as well all judgments may,
Wherein the losing party has not room
To plead before the judge pronounces doom.
“I, who this cause take on me to defend,
Say (whether fairer or less fair I be)
I came not as a woman, nor intend
That now mine actions shall be womanly.
But, saving I undress, who shall pretend
To say I am or am not such as she?
Neither should aught be said but what we know,
And least of all what works another woe.
“Many, as well as I, long tresses wear,
Yet are not therefore women; if, as guest,
I have admittance gained to your repair,
Like woman or like man, is manifest:
Then why should I the name of woman bear,
That in my actions stand a man confest?
’Tis ruled that woman should a woman chase;
Nor that a knight a woman should displace.
“Grant we (what I confess not howsoe’er)
That you the woman in my visage read;
But that in beauty I am not her peer:
Not therefore, deem I, of my valour’s meed
Ye would deprive me, though in beauteous cheer
The palm I to that damsel should concede
’Twere hard, before I yield to her in charms,
That I should forfeit what I won in arms.
“And if it be your usage, that the dame
Who yields in beauty, from your tower must wend,
Here to remain I my design to proclaim,
Should my resolve have good or evil game,
Hence I infer, unequal were the game,
If she and I in beauty should contend:
For if such strife ‘twixt her and me ensues,
Nought can the damsel gain, and much may lose;
“And save the gain and loss well balanced be
In every match, the contest is unfair.
So that by right, no less than courtesy,
May she a shelter claim in you repair.
But are there any here that disagree,
And to impugn my equal sentence dare,
Behold my prompt, at such gainsayer’s will,
To prove my judgment right, his judgment ill!”
Bradamant — grieved that maid of gentle kind
Should from that castle wrongfully be sped,
To bide the raging of the rain and wind,
Where sheltering house was none, nor even shed —
With reasons good, in wary speech combined,
Persuades that lord; but mostly what she said
On ending silences the knight; and he
Allows the justice of that damsel’s plea.
As when hot summer sun the soil has rived,
And most the thirsty plant of moisture drains,
The weak and wasting flower, well nigh deprived
Of that quick sap which circled in its veins,
Sucks in the welcome rain, and is revived;
So, when bold Bradamant so well maintains
The courier maid’s defence, her beauteous cheer
And mirth revive, and brighten as whilere.
At length the supper, which had long been dight,
Nor yet was touched, enjoys each hungry guest;
Nor any further news of errant knight
Them, seated at the festive board, molest;
All, saving Bradamant, enjoy, whose sprite,
As wont, is still afflicted and opprest.
For that suspicious fear, that doubt unjust,
Which racked her bosom, marred the damsel’s gust.
The supper done — brought sooner to a close
Haply from their desire to feast their eyes —
First of the set, Duke Aymon’s daughter rose,
And next the courier maid is seen to rise.
With that the warder signs to one, that goes
And many torches fires in nimble wise;
Whose light on storied wall and ceiling fell.
What followed shall another canto tell.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:50