Bradamant sees in picture future fight
There, where she gained admission by the spear.
From combat cease, upon Baiardo’s flight,
Gradasso and Montalban’s cavalier.
While soaring through the world, the English knight
Arrives in Nubia’s distant realm, and here
Driving the Harpies from the royal board,
Hunts to the mouth of hell that impious horde.
Timagoras, Parrhasius, Polygnote,
Protogenes, renowned Apollodore,
Timanthes, and Apelles, first of note,
Zeuxis and others, famed heretofore,
Whose memory down the stream of Time will float,
While we their wreck and labours lost deplore,
Whose fame will flourish still in Fate’s despite,
(Grammercy authors!) while men read and write.
And those, yet living or of earlier day,
Mantegna, Leonardo, Gian Belline,
The Dossi, and, skilled to carve or to pourtray,
Michael, less man than angel and divine,
Bastiano, Raphael, Titian, who (as they
Urbino and Venice) makes Cadoro shine;
With more, whose works resemble what he hear
And credit of those spirits, famed whilere;
The painters we have seen, and others, who
Thousands of years ago in honour stood,
Things which had been with matchless pencil drew,
Some working upon wall, and some on wood.
But never, amid masters old or new,
Have ye of pictures heard or pictures viewed
Of things to come; yet such have been pourtrayed
Before the deeds were done which they displayed.
Yet let not artist whether new or old,
Boast of his skill such wondrous works to make;
But leave this feat to spell, wherewith controlled
The spirits of the infernal bottom quake.
The hall, whereof in other strain I told,
With volume sacred to Avernus’ lake,
Or Norsine grot, throught subject Demons’ might,
Was made by Merlin in a single night.
That art, whereby those ancient erst pourtrayed
Such wonders, is extinguished in our day.
But to the troop, by whom will be surveyed
The painted chamber, I return, and say;
A squire attendant on a signal made,
Bore thither lighted torches, by whose ray
Were scattered from that hall the shades of night,
Nor this in open day had shown more bright.
When thus the castle’s lord addressed that crew:
“Know, of adventures in this chamber wrought,
Up to our days, have yet been witnessed few;
A warfare storied, but its fields unfought.
Who limned the battles, these as well foreknew.
Here of defeats to come and victories taught,
Whate’er in Italy our host befalls
You may discern as painted on these walls.
“The wars, wherein French armies should appear,
Beyond the Alps, of foul event or fair,
Even from his days until the thousandth year,
By the prophetic Merlin painted were.
Hither Great Britain’s monarch sent the seer,
To him, that of King Marcomir was heir:
Why hither sent, and why this hall was made,
At the same time to you shall be displayed.
“King Pharamond, the first of those that passed
The Rhine, amid his Franks’ victorious train,
When Gaul was won, bethought him how to cast
On restive Italy the curbing rein;
And this; that evermore he wasting fast
Beheld the Roman empire’s feeble reign;
And (for both reigned at once) would make accord,
To compass his design, with Britain’s lord.
“The royal Arthur, by whom nought was done
Without the ripe advice of Merlin sage,
(Merlin, I say, the Devils mighty son,
Well versed in what should chance in future age,)
Knowing through him, to Pharamond made known,
He would in many woes his host engage,
Entering that region, which, with rugged mound,
Apennine parts, and Alp and sea surround.
“To him sage Merlin shows, that well nigh all
Those other monarchs that in France will reign,
By murderous steel will see their people fall,
Consumed by famine, or by fever slain;
And that short joy, long sorrow, profit small,
And boundless ill shall recompense their pain;
Since vainly will the lily seek to shoot
In the Italian fields its withered root.
“King Pharamond so trusted to the seer
That he resolved to turn his arms elsewhere;
And Merlin, who beheld with sight as clear
The things to be, as things that whilom were,
’Tis said, was brought by magic art to rear
The painted chamber at the monarch’s prayer;
Wherein whatever deeds the Franks shall do,
As if already done, are plain to view.
“That king who should succeed, might comprehend,
As he renown and victory would obtain,
Whene’er his friendly squadrons should defend
From all barbarians else the Italian reign;
So, if to damage her he should descend,
Thinking to bind her with the griding chain,
— Might comprehend, I say, and read his doom —
How he beyond these hills should find a tomb.”
So said, he leads the listening ladies where
Those pictured histories begin; to show
How Sigisbert his arms will southward bear
For what imperial Maurice shall bestow.
“Behold him from the Mount of Jove repair
Thither where Ambra and Ticino flow!
Eutar behold, who not alone repels,
But puts the foe to flight, and routs and quells.
“Where they with Clovis tread the mountain way,
More than a hundred thousand warriors trace;
See Benevento’s duke the monarch stay,
Whose thinner files his hostile army face.
Lo! these who feign retreat an ambush lay.
Lo! where through danger, havoc, and disgrace,
The Franks, who to the Lombard wine-fat hie,
Drugged by the bait, like poisoned mullets die.
“Where Childibert the boundary hills has crost,
Heading what bands of France and captains, see;
Yet shall no more than baffled Clovis boast
The conquest or the spoil of Lombardy.
Heaven’s sword descends so heavy on his host.
Choked with their bodies every road shall be;
So pined with watery flux and withering sun,
That, out of ten, unharmed returns not one.”
He shows King Pepin, shows King Charlemagne;
How into Italy their march they bend;
And one and the other fair success obtain,
Because her land they came not to offend.
But Stephen one, the other Adriane,
And, after, injured Leo, would defend.
This quells Astolpho, and that takes his heir,
And re-establishes the papal chair.
A youthful Pepin of the royal line
He after shows; who seemed to spread his host,
Even from THE KILNS to the Isle of Palestine;
And with a bridge, achieved at mighty cost,
At Malamocco, to bestride the brine,
And on Rialto’s shore his battle post.
Then fly and leave his drowning bands behind,
His bridge destroyed by wasting waves and wind.
“Burgundian Lewis ye behold descend
Thither with his invading squadrons, where,
Vanquishing and taken, nevermore to offend
With hostile arms, he is compelled to swear.
Behold! he slights his solemn oath — to wend,
Anew, with reckless steps, into the snare.
Lo! there he leaves his eyes; and his array,
Blind as the moldwarp, hence their lord convey.
“You see him named from Arles, victorious Hugh,
From Italy the Berengari chase!
Whom, quelled and broken twice and thrice, anew
Now the Bavarians, now the Huns, replace.
O’ermatched, he then for peace is fain to sue;
Nor long survives, nor he who fills his place;
To Berengarius yielding his domains,
Who, repossest of all his kingdom, reigns.
“You see, her goodly pastor to sustain,
Another Charles set fire to Italy;
Who has two kings in two fierce battles slain,
Manfred and Conradine, and after see
His bands, who seem to vex the new-won reign
With many wrongs, and who dispersedly
— Some here, some there — in different cities dwell.
Slain on the rolling of the vesper-bell.”
He shows them next (but after interval,
‘Twould seem, of many and many an age, not years)
How through the Alps, a captain out of Gaul,
To war upon the great Viscontis, steers;
And seems to straiten Alexandria’s wall,
Girt with his forces, foot and cavaliers:
A garrison within, an ambuscade
Without the works, the warlike duke has laid;
And the French host, decoyed in cunning wise
Thither where the surrounding toils are spread,
Conducted on that evil enterprise
By Armagnac, the Gallic squadron’s head,
Slaughtered throughout the spacious champaign lies,
Or is to Alexandria captive led:
While, swoln not more with water than with blood,
Tanarus purples wide Po’s ample flood.
Successively that castellain displayed
One hight of Marca, of the Anjouites three.
How “Marsi, Daunians, Salentines,” (he said)
“And Bruci, these shall oft molest, you see:
Yet not by Frank or Latian’s friendly aid
Shall one delivered from destruction be.
Lo! from the realm, as oft as they attack,
Alphonso and Gonsalvo beat them back.
“You see the eighth Charles, amid his martial train,
The flower of France, through Alpine pass has pressed.
Who Liris fords, and takes all Naples’ reign,
Yet draws not sword nor lays a lance in rest:
All, save that rock which — Typheus’ endless pain —
Lies on the giant’s belly, arms, and breast:
By Inigo del Guasto here withstood,
Derived from Avalo’s illustrious blood.”
The warder of the castle, who makes clear
To beauteous Bradamant that history,
Says, having shown her Ischia’s island, “Ere
I lead you further other things to see,
I’ll tell what my great-grandfather whilere
— I then a child — was wont to tell to me.
Which in like manner (that great-grandsire said),
As well to him his father whilome read;
“And his from sire or grandsire heard recite;
So son from sire; even to that baron, who
Heard it related by the very wight,
That these fair pictures without pencil drew,
Which you see painted azure, red, and white.
He when to Pharamond (as now to you)
Was shown the castle on the rocky mount,
Heard him relate the things I now recount.
“Heard him relate, how in that fortilage
From that good knight should spring, who, ‘twould appear,
Guards it so well, he scorns the fires that rage,
Even to the Pharo, flaming far and near,
Then, or within short space, and in that age,
(And named the week and day, as well as year,)
A noble warrior, unexcelled in worth
By other, that has yet appeared on earth.
“Nereus less fair, Achilles was less strong,
Less was Ulysses famed for daring feat;
Nestor, that knew so much and lived so long,
Less prudent; nimble Ladas was less fleet;
Less liberal and less prompt to pardon wrong,
Caesar, whose praises ancient tales repeat.
So that, compared with him, in Ischia born,
Each might appear of vaunted virtues shorn;
“And if illustrious Crete rejoiced of old
In giving birth to Coelus’ godlike heir;
If Thebes in Hercules and Bacchus bold,
If Delos boasted of her heavenly pair,
Nought should as well this happy isle withhold
From lifting high her glorious head in air,
When that great Marquis shall in her be born,
Whom with its every grace shall Heaven adorn.
“Sage Merlin said — and oft renewed that say —
He was reserved to flourish in an age,
When most opprest the Roman empire lay,
That he might free that holy heritage:
But as some deeds of his I must display
Hereafter, these I will not now presage.
So spake that wizard, and renewed the story,
Which told of Charlemagne’s predestined glory.
“Lewis, (so learned Merlin said,) is woe
To have brought to Italy King Charlemagne,
Whom he called in to harass, not o’erthrow
That ancient rival of his goodly reign;
At his return declares himself his foe,
And, leagued with Venice, would the king detain.
Behold that valiant monarch couch his spear,
And in his foes’ despite a passage clear.
“But his new kingdom leaving to his band,
Far other destiny awaits that throng:
For, with the Mantuan’s friendly succour manned,
Gonsalvo to the war returns so strong,
He leaves not in few months, by sea or land,
One living head, his slaughtered troops among.
But then, because of one by treason spent,
In him appears the joy of triumph shent.”
So saying, to his guests the cavalier
Alphonso, of Pescara hight, displayed:
“Who in a thousand feats will shine more clear
Than the resplendent carbuncle,” he said.
“Behold, deceived by faithless treaty, here,
Mid snares by the malignant Aethiop laid,
Transfixt with deadly dart the warrior lies,
In whom the age’s worthiest champion dies.”
Under Italian escort next they see
Where the twelfth Lewis o’er the hills is gone;
Has by its roots uptorn the mulberry,
And in Viscontis’ land the lilies sown:
“Treading in Charles’s steps, by him shall be
Bridges athwart the Garigliano thrown.
Yet after shall he mourn his army’s slaughter,
Dispersed and drowning in that fatal water.”
(The lord pursues) “with no less overthrow,
Broken in Puglia, see the Gallic train.
In him who twice entraps the routed foe,
Gonslavo you behold, the pride of Spain.
Fortune to Lewis a fair face shall show,
As late a troubled mien, upon that plain,
Which even to where vext Adria pours her tides,
Po, between Alp and Apennine, divides.”
The host reproved himself, while so he said,
And pieced his tale, as having left untold
Things first in order; next to them displayed
A royal castle by its warder sold.
A prisoner by the faithless Switzer made,
He shows the lord who hired him with his gold:
Which double treason, without couching lance,
Has given the victory to the king of France.
That warder then shows Caesar Borgia, grown
Puissant in Italy, through this king’s grace;
For all Rome’s peerage, and all lords that own
Her sway, he into exile seems to chase:
Then shows the king, that will the saw take down,
And papal acorns in Bologna place:
Then Genoa’s burghers, by this monarch broke,
And rebel city stooping to his yoke.
“You see,” (pursued that warder,) “how with dead
Covered is Ghiaradada’s green champaign.
It seems each city opes her gates through dread;
And Venice scarce her freedom can maintain.
You see he suffers not the Church’s head,
Passing the narrow confines of Romagne,
Modena from Ferrara’s duke to reave;
Who would not to that prince a remnant leave.
“Nay he Bologna rescues from his sway;
Whither the Bentivogli them betake.
You next see Lewis siege to Brescia lay,
And the close-straitened city storm and take;
Felsina almost at the same time stay
With succour, and the papal army break;
And next, ‘twoud seem, that either hostile band
Lies tented upon Chassis’ level strand.
“On this side France, upon the other Spain,
Extend their files, and battle rages high;
Fast fall the men at arms in either train,
And the green earth is tinged with crimson dye.
Flooded with human gore seems every drain;
Mars doubts to whom to give the victory;
When through Alphonso’s worth the Spaniards yield,
And the victorious Franks maintain the field;
“And, for Ravenna sacked and ravaged lies,
The Roman pastor bites his lips through woe;
Called by him, from the hills, in tempest’s guise,
Swoop the fierce Germans on the fields below.
It seems each Frenchman unresisting flies,
Chased by their bands beyond the mountain snow,
And that they set the mulberry’s thriving shoot
There, whence they plucked the golden lily’s root.
“Behold the Frank returns, and here behold
Is broken, by the faithless Swiss betrayed,
He, that his royal father seized and sold,
Whose succour dearly by the youth is paid.
Those over whom false Fortune’s wheel had rolled,
Erewhile, beneath another king arraid,
You here behold, preparing to efface
With vengeful deed Novara’s late disgrace;
“And see with better auspices return
The valiant Francis, foremost of his train,
Who so shall break the haughty Switzer’s horn,
That little short of spent their bands remain;
And them shall nevermore the style adorn,
Usurped by that foul troop of churlish vein,
Of scourge of princes, and the faith’s defence,
To which those rustics rude shall make pretence.
“Lo! he takes Milan, in the league’s despite:
Lo! with the youthful Sforza makes accord:
Lo! Bourbon the fair city keeps, in right
Of Francis, from the furious German horde:
Lo! while in other high emprize and fight
Elsewhere is occupied his royal lord,
Nor knows the pride and license of his host,
Through these the city shall anew be lost.
“Lo! other French who his grandsire’s vein
Inherits, not his generous name alone!
Who by the Church’s favour will regain
— The Gaul expelled — a land which was his own.
France too returns, but keeps a tighter rein,
Nor over Italy, as wont, has flown:
For Mantua’s noble duke the foe shall stay,
And, at Ticino’s passage, bar his way.
“Though on his cheek youth’s blossoms scarce appear,
Worthy immortal glory, Frederick shines;
And well that praise deserves, since by his spear,
But more by care and skill, Pavia’s lines
Against the French defends that cavalier,
And frustrates the sea-lion’s bold designs.
You see two marquises, Italia’s boast,
And both, alike the terror of our host.
“Both of one blood and of one nest they are;
The foremost is the bold Alphonso’s seed,
Whom, led by that false black into the snare,
You late beheld in purple torrent bleed.
You see defeated by his counsel ware,
How oft the Franks from Italy recede.
The next, of visage so benign and bright,
Is lord of Guasto and Alphonso hight;
“This is that goodly knight, whose praise you heard
When rugged Ischia’s island I displayed,
Of whom sage Merlin, with prophetic word,
To Pharamond such mighty matters said;
Whose birth should to that season be deferred,
When more than ever such a champion’s aid,
Against the barbarous enemy’s attack,
Vext Italy, and Church, and Empire lack.
“He in his cousin of Pescara’s rear,
— Prosper Colonna, chief of that emprize —
Makes the rude Switzer pay Bicocca dear,
Paid by the Frenchman in yet dearer wise.
Behold where France prepares for fresh career,
And to repair her many losses tries
Behold one host on Lombardy descend!
Behold that other against Naples wend!
“Bust she, that moves us like the dust which flies
Before the restless wind, which whirls it round,
Lifts if aloft awhile, and from the skies
Blows back anew the rising cloud to ground,
To a hundred thousand swells, in Francis’ eyes,
The soldiers who Pavia’s walls surround.
The monarch sees but that which he commands,
Nor marks how wax or waste his leaguering bands.
“ ’Tis thus that, through the greedy servant’s sin,
And easy sovereign’s goodness, on his side,
The files beneath his banners muster thin,
When in his midnight camp, ‘to arms,’ is cried,
For by the wary Spaniards charged within
His ramparts is he; foes that with the guide
Of Avalo’s fair lineage, would assay
To make to heaven or hell their desperate way.
“You see the best of the nobility
Of all fair France extinguished on the field;
How many swords, how many lances, see
The Spaniards round the valiant monarch wield.
Behold! his horse falls under him; yet he
Will neither own himself subdued, or yield;
Though to assault him from all sides is run
By wrathful bands, and succour there is none.
“The monarch well defends him from the foe,
All over bathed with blood of hostile vein.
But valour stoops at last to numbers; lo!
The king is taken, is conveyed to Spain;
And all upon Pescara’s lord bestow
And him of that inseparable twain —
Of Guasto hight — the praise and prime renown
For that great king captived and host o’erthrown.
“This host o’erthrown upon Pavia’s plains,
That, bound for Naples, halts upon its way:
As an ill-nourished lamp or taper wanes,
For want of wax or oil, with flickering ray.
Lo! the king leaves his sons in Spanish chains,
And home returns, his own domain to sway.
Lo! while in Italy he leads his band,
Another wars upon his native land.
“In every part you see how Rome is woe,
Mid ruthless rapine, murder, fire, and rape.
See all to wasting rack and ruin go,
And nothing human or divine escape.
The league’s men hear the shrieks, behold the glow
Of hostile fires, and lo! they backward shape
Their course, where they should hurry on their way,
And leave the pontiff to his foes a prey.
“Lautrec the monarch sends with other bands;
Yet not anew to war on Lombardy;
But to deliver from rapacious hands
The Church’s head and limbs, already free,
So slowly he performs the king’s commands.
Next, overrun by him the kingdom see,
And his strong arms against the city turned,
Wherein the Syren’s body lies inurned.
“Lo! the imperial squadrons thither steer,
Aid to the leaguered city to convey;
And lo! burnt, sunk, destroyed, they disappear,
Encountered by the Doria in mid-way.
Behold! how Fortune light does shift and veer,
So friendly to the Frenchman till this day!
Who slays their host with fever, not with lance;
Nor of a thousand one returns to France.
These histories and more the pictures shew,
(For to tell all would ask too long a strain)
In beauteous colours and of different hue;
Since such that hall, it these could well contain.
The painting twice and thrice those guests review,
Nor how to leave them knows the lingering train,
‘Twould seem; perusing oft what they behold
Inscribed below the beauteous work in gold.
When with these pictures they their sight had fed,
And talked long while — these ladies and the rest —
They to their chambers by that Lord were led,
Wont much to worship every worthy guest.
Already all were sleeping, when her bed
At last Duke Aymon’s beauteous daughter prest.
She here, she there, her restless body throws,
Now right, now left, but vainly seeks repose:
Yet slumber toward dawn, and in a dream
The form of her Rogero seems to view.
The vision cries: “Why vex yourself, and deem
Things real which are hollow and untrue?
Backwards shall sooner flow the mountainstream
Than I to other turn my thought from you.
When you I love not, then unloved by me
This heart, these apples of mine eyes, will be.
“Hither have I repaired (it seemed he said)
To be baptized and do as I professed.
If I have lingered, I have been delaid,
By other wound than that of Love opprest.”
With that he vanished from the martial maid,
And with the vision broken was her rest.
New floods of tears the awakened damsel shed,
And to herself in this sad fashion said:
“What pleased was but a dream; alas! a sheer
Reality is this my waking bane;
My joy a dream and prompt to disappear,
No dream my cruel and tormenting pain.
Ah! wherefore what I seemed to see and hear,
Cannot I, waking, see and hear again?
What ails ye, wretched eyes, that closed ye show
Unreal good, and open but on woe?
“Sweet sleep with promised peace my soul did buoy,
But I to bitter warfare wake anew;
Sweet sleep but brought with it fallacious joy,
But — sure and bitter — waking ills ensue.
If falsehood so delight and truth annoy,
Never more may I see or hear what’s true!
If sleeping brings me weal, and watching woe,
The pains of waking may I never know!
“Blest animals that sleep through half the year,
Nor ope your heavy eyelids, night nor day!
For if such tedious sleep like death appear,
Such watching is like life, I will not say,
Since — such my lot, beyond all wont, severe —
I death in watching, life in sleep assay.
But oh! if death such sleep resemble, Death,
Even now I pray three stop my fleeting breath!”
The clouds were gone, the horizon overspread
With glowing crimson by the new-born sun,
And in these signs, unlike the past, was read
A better promise of the day begun:
When Bradamant upstarted from her bed,
And armed her for the journey to be done,
Her thanks first rendered to the courteous lord,
For his kind of cheer and hospitable board.
And found, the lady messenger, with maid
And squire, had issued from the castled hold,
And was a-field, where her arrival stayed
Those three good warriors, those the damsel bold
The eve before had on the champaign laid,
Cast from their horses by her lance of gold;
And who had suffered, to their mighty pain,
All night, the freezing wind and pattering rain.
Add to such ill, that, hungering sore for food,
They and their horses, through the livelong night,
Trampling the mire, with chattering teeth, had stood:
But (what well-nigh engendered more despite
— Say not well nigh — more moved the warrior’s mood)
Was that they knew the damsel would recite
How they had been unhorsed by hostile lance
In the first course which they had run in France;
And — each resolved to die or else his name
Forthwith in new encounter to retrieve —
That Ulany, the message-bearing dame,
(Whose style no longer I unmentioned leave),
A fairer notion of their knightly fame
Than heretofore, might haply now conceive,
Bold Bradamant anew to fight defied,
When of the drawbridge clear they her descried;
Not thinking, howsoe’er, she was a maid,
Who in no look or act the maid confest;
Duke Aymon’s daughter, loth to be delaid,
Refuses, as a traveller that is pressed.
But they so often and so sorely prayed,
That she could ill refuse the kings’ request.
Her lance she levels, at three strokes extends
All three on earth, and thus the warfare ends:
For Bradamant no more her courser wheeled,
But turned her back upon the foes o’erthrown.
They, that intent to gain the golden shield,
Had sought a land so distant from their own,
Rising in sullen silence from the field
(For speech with all their hardihood was gone)
Appeared as stupefied by their surprise,
Nor to Ulania dared to lift their eyes.
For they, as thither they their course addrest,
Had vaunted to the maid in boasting vein,
No paladin or knight with lance in rest,
Against the worst his saddle could maintain.
To make them vail yet more their haughty crest,
And look upon the world with less disdain,
She tells them, by no paladin or peer
Were they unhorsed, but by a woman’s spear.
“Now what of Roland’s and Rinaldo’s might,
Not without reason held in such renown,
Ought you to think (she said) when thus in fight
Ye by a female hand are overthrown?
Say, if the buckler one of these requite,
— Better than by a woman ye have done,
Will ye by those redoubted warriors do?
So think not I, nor haply think so you.
“This may suffice you all; and need in none
A clearer proof of prowess to display;
And who desires, if rashly any one
Desires, again his valour to assay,
Would add but scathe to shame, now made his own;
Now; and the same today as yesterday.
Unless perchance he thinks it praise and gain,
By such illustrious warriors to be slain.”
When they by Ulany were certified
A woman’s hand had caused their overthrow,
Who with a deeper black than pitch had dyed
Their honour, heretofore so fair of show;
And more than ten her story testified,
Where one sufficed — with such o’erwhelming woe
Were they possest, they with such fury burned,
They well nigh on themselves their weapons turned.
What arms they had upon them, they unbound,
And cast them, strung by rage and fury sore,
Into the moat which girt that castle round,
Nor even kept the faulchions which they wore;
And, since a woman them had cast to ground,
O’erwhelmed with rage and shame, the warriors swore,
Themselves of such a crying shame to clear,
They, without bearing arms, would pass a year;
And that they evermore afoot would fare
Up hill or down, by mountain or by plain,
Nor, when the year was ended, would they wear
The knightly mail or climb the steed again;
Save that from other they by force should bear,
In battle, other steeds and other chain.
So, without arms, to punish their misdeeds,
These wend a-foot, those others on their steeds.
Lodged in a township at the fall of night,
Duke Aymon’s daughter, journeying Paris-ward,
Hears how King Agramant was foiled in fight.
Good harbourage withal of bed and board,
She in her hostel found; but small delight
This and all comforts else to her afford.
For the sad damsel meat and sleep foregoes,
Nor finds a resting place; far less repose.
But so I will not on her story dwell,
As not to seek anew the valiant twain;
Who, by consent, beside a lonely well,
Had tied their goodly coursers by the rein.
I of their war to you somedeal will tell,
A war not waged for empire or domain,
But that the best should buckle to his side
Good Durindana, and Baiardo ride.
No signal they, no trumpet they attend,
To blow them to the lists, no master who
Should teach them when to foin and when to fend,
Or wake their sleeping wrath; their swords they drew:
Then, one against the other, boldly wend,
With lifted blades, the quick and dextrous two.
Already ‘gan the champions’ fury heat,
And fast and hard their swords were heard to beat.
None e’er by proof two other faulchions chose
For sound and solid, able to endure
Three strokes alone of such conflicting foes,
Passing all means and measure; but so pure,
So perfect was their temper, from all blows
By such repeated trial so secure,
They in a thousand strokes might clash on high,
— Nay more, nor yet the solid metal fly.
With mickle industry, with mighty pain
And art, Rinaldo, shifting here and there,
Avoids the deadly dint of Durindane,
Well knowing how ’tis wont to cleave and tear.
Gradasso struck with greater might and main,
But well nigh all his strokes were spent in air;
Of, if he sometimes smote, he smote on part,
Where Durindana wrought less harm than smart.
Rinaldo with more skill his blade inclined,
And stunned the arm of Sericana’s lord.
Him oft he reached where casque and coat confined,
And often raked his haunches with the sword:
But adamantine was his corslet’s rind,
Nor link the restless faulchion broke or bored.
If so impassive was the paynim’s scale,
Know, charmed by magic was the stubborn mail.
Without reposing they long time had been,
Upon their deadly battle so intent,
That, save on one another’s troubled mien,
Their angry eyes the warriors had not bent.
When such despiteous war and deadly spleen,
Diverted by another strife, were spent,
Hearing a mighty noise, both champions turn,
And good Baiardo, sore bested, discern.
They good Baiardo by a monster view,
— A bird, and bigger than that courser — prest.
Above three yards in length appeared to view
The monster’s beak; a bat in all the rest.
Equipt with feathers, black as ink in hue,
And piercing talons was the winged pest;
An eye of fire it had, a cruel look,
And, like ship-sails, two spreading pinions shook.
Perhaps it was a bird; but when or where
Another bird resembling this was seen
I know not, I, nor have I any where,
Except in Turpin, heard that such has been.
Hence that it was a fiend, to upper air
Evoked from depths of nether hell I ween;
Which Malagigi raised by magic sleight,
That so he might disturb the champions’ fight.
So deemed Rinaldo too: and contest sore
‘Twixt him and Malagigi hence begun;
But he would not confess the charge; nay swore,
Even by the light which lights the glorious sun,
That he might clear him of the blame he bore,
He had not that which was imputed done.
Whether a fiend or fowl, the pest descends,
And good Baiardo with his talons rends.
Quickly the steed, possessed of mickle might,
Breaks loose, and, in his fury and despair,
Against the monster strives with kick and bite;
But swiftly he retires and soars in air:
He thence returning, prompt to wheel and smite,
Circles and beats the courser, here and there.
Wholly unskilled in fence, and sore bested,
Baiardo swiftly from the monster fled.
Baiardo to the neighbouring forest flies,
Seeking the closest shade and thickest spray;
Above the feathered monster flaps, with eyes
Intent to mark where widest is the way.
But that good horse the greenwood threads, and lies
At last within a grot, concealed from day.
When the winged beast has lost Baiardo’s traces.
He soars aloft, and other quarry chases.
Rinaldo and Gradasso, who descried
Baiardo’s flight, the conqueror’s destined meed,
The battle to suspend, on either side,
Till they regained the goodly horse, agreed,
Saved from that fowl which chased him, far and wide;
Conditioning whichever found the steed,
With him anew should to that fountain wend,
Beside whose brim their battle they should end.
Quitting the fount, they follow, where they view
New prints upon the forest greensward made:
By much Baiardo distances the two,
Whose tardy feet their wishes ill obeyed.
Himself the king on his Alfana threw,
That near at hand was tethered in the glade,
Leaving his foe behind in evil plight;
— Never more malcontent and vext in sprite.
Rinaldo ceased in little time to spy
Baiardo’s traces, who strange course had run;
And made for thorny thicket, wet or dry,
Tree, rock, or river, with design to shun
Those cruel claws, which, pouncing from the sky,
To him such outrage and such scathe had done.
Rinaldo, after labour vain and sore
To await him at the fount returned once more;
In case, as erst concerted by the twain,
The king should thither with the steed resort;
But having sought him there with little gain,
Fared to his camp afoot, with piteous port.
Return we now to him of Sericane,
He that had sped withal in other sort,
Who, not by judgement, guided to his prey,
But his rare fortune, heard Baiardo neigh;
And found him shrowded in his caverned lair,
So sore moreover by his fright opprest,
He feared to issue into open air.
Thus of that horse himself the king possest.
Well he remembered their conditions were
To bring him to the fount; but little pressed
Now was that knight to keep the promise made,
And thus within himself in secret said:
“Win him who will, in war and strife, I more
Desire in peace to make the steed my own:
From the world’s further side, did I of yore
Wend hitherward, and for this end alone.
Having the courser, he mistakes me sore,
That thinks the prize by me will be foregone.
Him would Rinaldo conquer, let him fare
To Ind, as I to France have made repair.
“For him no less secure is Sericane,
Than twice for me has been his France,” he said,
And pricked for Arles, along the road most plain,
And in its haven found the fleet arrayed.
Freighted with him, the steed and Durindane,
A well-rigged galley from that harbour weighed.
Of these hereafter! — I, at other call,
Now quit Rinaldo, king, and France, and all.
Astolpho in his flight will I pursue,
That made his hippogryph like palfrey flee,
With reins and sell, so quick the welkin through;
That hawk and eagle soar a course less free.
O’er the wide land of Gaul the warrior flew
From Pyrenees to Rhine, from sea to sea.
He westward to the mountains turned aside,
Which France’s fertile land from Spain divide.
To Arragon he past out of Navarre,
— They who beheld, sore wondering at the sight —
Then, leaves he Tarragon behind him far,
Upon his left, Biscay upon his right:
Traversed Castile, Gallicia, Lisbon, are
Seville and Cordova, with rapid flight;
Nor city on sea-shore, nor inland plain,
Is unexplored throughout the realm of Spain.
Beneath him Cadiz and the strait he spied,
Where whilom good Alcides closed the way;
From the Atlantic to the further side
Of Egypt, bent o’er Africa, to stray;
The famous Balearic isles descried,
And Ivica, that in his passage lay;
Toward Arzilla then he turned the rein,
Above the sea that severs it from Spain.
Morocco, Fez, and Oran, looking down,
Hippona, Argier, he, and Bugia told,
Which from all cities bear away the crown,
No palm or parsley wreath, but crown of gold;
Noble Biserta next and Tunis-town,
Capys, Alzerba’s isle, the warrior bold,
Tripoli, Berniche, Ptolomitta viewed,
And into Asia’s land the Nile pursued.
‘Twixt Atlas’ shaggy ridges and the shore,
He viewed each regions in his spacious round;
He turned his back upon Carena hoar,
And skimmed above the Cyrenaean ground;
Passing the sandy desert of the Moor,
In Albajada, reached the Nubian’s bound;
Left Battus’ tomb behind him on the plain,
And Ammon’s, now dilapidated, fane.
To other Tremizen he posts, where bred
As well the people are in Mahound’s style;
For other Aethiops then his pinions spread,
Which face the first, and lie beyond the Nile.
Between Coallee and Dobada sped,
Bound for the Nubian city’s royal pile;
Threading the two, where, ranged on either land,
Moslems and Christians watch, with arms in hand.
In Aethiopia’s realm Senapus reigns,
Whose sceptre is the cross; of cities brave,
Of men, of gold possest, and broad domains,
Which the Red Sea’s extremest waters lave.
A faith well nigh like ours that king maintains,
Which man from his primaeval doom may save.
Here, save I err in what their rites require,
The swarthy people are baptized with fire.
Astolpho lighted in the spacious court,
Intending on the Nubian king to wait.
Less strong than sumptuous is the wealthy fort,
Wherein the royal Aethiop keeps his state,
The chains that serve the drawbridge to support,
The bolts, the bars, the hinges of the gate,
And finally whatever we behold
Herewrought in iron, there is wrought in gold.
High prized withal, albeit it so abound,
Is that best metal; lodges built in air
Which on all sides the wealthy pile surround,
Clear colonnades with crystal shafts upbear.
Of green, white, crimson, blue and yellow ground,
A frieze extends below those galleries fair.
Here at due intervals rich gems combine,
And topaz, sapphire, emerald, ruby shine.
In wall and roof and pavement scattered are
Full many a pearl, full many a costly stone.
Here thrives the balm; the plants were ever rare,
Compared with these, which were in Jewry grown,
The musk which we possess from thence we bear,
In fine those products from this clime are brought,
Which in our regions are so prized and sought.
The soldan, king of the Egyptian land,
Pays tribute to this sovereign, as his head,
They say, since having Nile at his command
He may divert the stream to other bed.
Hence, with its district upon either hand,
Forthwith might Cairo lack its daily bread.
Senapus him his Nubian tribes proclaim;
We Priest and Prester John the sovereign name.
Of all those Aethiop monarchs, beyond measure,
The first was this, for riches and for might;
But he with all his puissance, all his treasure,
Alas! had miserably lost his sight.
And yet was this the monarch’s least displeasure;
Vexed by a direr and a worse despite;
Harassed, though richest of those Nubian kings,
By a perpetual hunger’s cruel stings.
Whene’er to eat or drink the wretched man
Prepared, by that resistless need pursued,
Forthwith — infernal and avenging clan —
Appeared the monstrous Harpies’ craving brood;
Which, armed with beak and talons, overran
Vessel and board, and preyed upon the food;
And what their wombs suffice not to receive
Foul and defiled the loathsome monsters leave.
And this, because upborn by such a tide
Of full blown honours, in his unripe age,
For he excelled in heart and nerve, beside
The riches of his royal heritage,
Like Lucifer, the monarch waxed in pride,
And war upon his maker thought to wage.
He with his host against the mountain went,
Where Egypt’s mighty river finds a vent.
Upon this hill which well-nigh kissed the skies,
Piercing the clouds, the king had heard recite,
Was seated the terrestrial paradise,
Where our first parents flourished in delight.
With camels, elephants, and footmen hies
Thither that king, confiding in his might;
With huge desire if peopled be the land
To bring its nations under his command.
God marred the rash emprise, and from on high
Sent down an angel, whose destroying sword
A hundred thousand of that chivalry
Slew, and to endless night condemned their lord.
Emerging, next, from hellish caverns, fly
These horrid harpies and assault his board;
Which still pollute or waste the royal meat,
Nor leave the monarch aught to drink or eat.
And him had plunged in uttermost despair
One that to him erewhile had prophesied
The loathsome Harpies should his daily fare
Leave unpolluted only, when astride
Of winged horse, arriving through the air,
An armed cavalier should be descried.
And, for impossible appears the thing,
Devoid of hope remains the mournful king.
Now that with wonderment his followers spy
The English cavalier so make his way,
O’er every wall, o’er every turret high,
Some swiftly to the king the news convey.
Who calls to mind that ancient prophecy,
And heedless of the staff, his wonted stay,
Through joy, with outstretched arms and tottering feet,
Comes forth, the flying cavalier to meet.
Within the castle court Astolpho flew,
And there, with spacious wheels, on earth descended;
The king, conducted by his courtly crew,
Before the warrior knelt, with arms extended,
And cried: “Thou angel send of God, thou new
Messiah, if too sore I have offended,
For mercy, yet, bethink thee, ’tis our bent
To sin, and thine to pardon who repent.
“Knowing my sin, I ask not, I, to be
— Such grace I dare not ask — restored to light;
For well I ween such power resides in thee,
As Being accepted in thy Maker’s sight.
Let it suffice, that I no longer see,
Nor let me with perpetual hunger fight.
At least, expel the harpies’ loathsome horde,
Nor let them more pollute my ravaged board;
“And I to build thee, in my royal hold,
A holy temple, made of marble, swear,
With all its portals and its roof of gold,
And decked, within and out, with jewels rare.
Here shall thy mighty miracle be told
In sculpture, and thy name the dome shall bear.”
So spake the sightless king of Nubia’s reign,
And sought to kiss the stranger’s feet in vain.
“Nor angel” — good Astolpho made reply —
“Nor new Messiah, I from heaven descend;
No less a mortal and a sinner I,
To such high grace unworthy to pretend.
To slay the monsters I all means will try,
Or drive them from the realm which they offend.
If I shall prosper, be thy praises paid
To God alone, who sent me to thine aid.
“Offer these vows to God, to him well due;
To him thy churches build, thine altars rear.”
Discoursing so, together wend the two,
‘Mid barons bold, that king and cavalier.
The Nubian prince commands the menial crew
Forthwith to bring the hospitable cheer;
And hopes that now the foul, rapacious band,
Will not dare snatch the victual from his hand.
Forthwith a solemn banquet they prepare
Within the gorgeous palace of the king.
Seated alone here guest and sovereign are,
And the attendant troop the viands bring.
Behold! a whizzing sound is heard in air,
Which echoes with the beat of savage wing.
Behold! the band of harpies thither flies,
Lured by the scent of victual from the skies.
All bear a female face of pallid dye,
And seven in number are the horrid band;
Emaciated with hunger, lean, and dry;
Fouler than death; the pinions they expand
Ragged, and huge, and shapeless to the eye;
The talon crook’d; rapacious is the hand;
Fetid and large the paunch; in many a fold,
Like snake’s, their long and knotted tails are rolled.
The fowls are heard in air; then swoops amain
The covey well nigh in that instant, rends
The food, o’erturns the vessels, and a rain
Of noisome ordure on the board descends.
To stop their nostrils king and duke are fain;
Such an insufferable stench offends.
Against the greedy birds, as wrath excites,
Astolpho with his brandished faulchion smites.
At croup or collar now he aims his blow,
Now strikes at neck or pinion; but on all,
As if he smote upon a bag of tow,
The strokes without effect and languid fall.
This while nor dish nor goblet they forego;
Nor void those ravening fowls the regal hall,
Till they have feasted full, and left the food
Waste or polluted by their rapine rude.
That king had firmly hoped the cavalier
Would from his royal seat the harpies scare.
He now, that hope foregone, with nought to cheer,
Laments, and sighs, and groans in his despair.
Of his good horn remembers him the peer,
Whose clangours helpful aye in peril are,
And deems his bugle were the fittest mean
To free the monarch from those birds unclean;
And first to fill their ears, to king and train,
With melted wax, Astolpho gives command;
That every one who hears the deafening strain
May not in panic terror fly the land.
He takes the reins, his courser backs again,
Grasps the enchanted bugle in his hand;
And to the sewer next signs to have the board
Anew with hospitable victual stored.
The meats he to an open galley bears,
And other banquet spreads on other ground.
Behold, as wont, the harpy-squad appears;
Astolpho quickly lifts the bugle’s round;
And (for unguarded are their harassed ears)
The harpies are not proof against the sound;
In terror form the royal dome they speed,
Nor meat nor aught beside the monsters heed.
After them spurs in haste the valiant peer:
And on the winged courser forth is flown,
Leaving beneath him, in his swift career,
The royal castle and the crowded town;
The bugle ever pealing, far and near.
The harpies fly toward the torrid zone;
Nor light until they reach that loftiest mountain
Where springs, if anywhere, Nile’s secret fountain.
Almost at that aerial mountain’s feet,
Deep under earth, extends a gloomy cell.
The surest pass for him, as they repeat,
That would at any time descend to hell.
Hither the predatory troop retreat,
As a safe refuge from the deafening yell.
As far, and farther than Cocytus’ shore
Descending, till that horn is heard no more.
At that dark hellish inlet, which a way
Opens to him who would abandon light,
The terrifying bugle ceased to bray;
— The courser furled his wings and stopt his flight.
But, ere Astolpho further I convey,
— Not to depart from my accustomed rite —
Since on all sides the paper overflows,
I shall conclude my canto and repose.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:05