To Arles the Child, to Charles Marphisa wends,
To be baptized, with Bradamant for guide.
Astolpho from the holy realm descends;
Through whom with sight the Nubian is supplied:
Agramant’s land he with his troop offends;
But he is of his Africk realm so wide,
With Charles he bargains, that, on either side,
Two knights by strife their quarrel should decide.
Ye courteous ladies, who unto my strain
Kind audience lend — I read it in your cheer —
That good Rogero should depart again
So suddenly, from her that held him dear,
Displeases ye, and scarce inflicts less pain
Than that which Bradamant endured whilere:
I read you also argue, to his shame,
That feebly burned in him the amorous flame.
If from her side for other cause had gone,
Against that lady’s will, the youthful lord;
Though in the hope more treasure to have won
Than swelled rich Croesus’ or rich Crassus’ hoard,
I too should deem the dart, by Cupid thrown,
Had not the heart-core of Rogero gored.
For such a sovereign joy, a prize so high
No silver and no gold could ever buy.
Yet to preserve our honour not alone
Deserves excuse, it also merits praise:
This to preserve, I say, when to have done
In other wise, might shame and scandal raise;
And had fair Bradamant reluctance shown,
And obstinately interposed delays,
This, as a certain sign, had served to prove
That lady’s little wit or little love.
For if his life, whom gentle woman loves,
As her own life she values, or before;
(I speak of one at whom young Cupid roves
With arrows which beneath the mantle gore)
His honour to his pleasure it behoves
That woman to prefer, by so much more,
As man beyond his life his honour treasures,
Esteemed by him above all other pleasures.
His duty good Rogero satisfied,
Following the royal lord with whom he came;
For having no fair cause to quit his side,
He could not leave the Paynim without shame;
And, if his sire had by Almontes died,
In this, King Agramant was not to blame;
Who for his parents’ every past offence
Had made Rogero mighty recompense.
He will perform his duty to repair
To his liege-lord; so did that martial maid;
Who had not with reiterated prayer
(As so she might have done) Rogero stayed.
The stripling may appay the warlike fair
In other season, if not now appaid;
But twice two hundred years will not atone
The crying sin of honour once foregone.
To Arles-town whither had his king conveyed
His remnant of a host, he pricked anew;
While they that, since their kindred was displayed,
Had a close friendship formed — the damsels two —
Thither together go where Charles had made
His mightiest effort, with the Christian crew;
Hoping by siege or fight to break the foe,
And free his kingdom form so long a woe.
Bradamant, when she in the camp appeared,
Was greeted with a welcome warm and kind.
On all sides was she hailed, by all was cheered;
And she in this or that her head inclined.
Rinaldo, when he of her coming heard,
Met her; nor young Richardo stayed behind;
Nor Richardet; nor others of her race;
And all received the maid with joyful face.
When next ’tis known, the second of the twain
Is that Marphisa, so in arms renowned,
Who from Catay unto the bounds of Spain
Had journeyed, with a thousand laurels crowned,
Nor rich nor poor within their tents remain:
The curious crowd, encompassing them round,
Press, harm, and heave each other here and there,
In the sole wish to see so bright a pair.
By them was Charles saluted reverently,
And the first day was this (has Turpin shown)
Marphisa had been seen to bend her knee:
For Pepin’s royal son to her, alone,
Deserving of such duty seemed to be,
Mid emperors or kings that filled a throne,
Baptized or infidel, of all those named
For mighty riches, or for valour famed.
Her kindly Charlemagne received, and wide
Of the pavilions met, in open view;
And, above king, and prince, and peer, beside
Himself the monarch placed that damsel true.
Who go not, are dismist; so none abide
In little time, except the good and few.
The Paladins and lords remain; without,
Is left the unrespected rabble-rout.
Marphisa first began in grateful strain:
“Unconquered Caesar, glorious and august,
Who, to Alcides’ strait from Indian main,
Mak’st Scythian’s pale and Aethiop’s race adust
Revere thy Christian cross of snowy grain,
— Of earthly monarchs thou most sage and just —
Hither thy glory, which no limits bound,
Has brought me from the world’s extremest ground;
“And (to avow the truth) in jealous mood
Alone I came, alone with thee to fight;
Because I grudged that king so puissant shou’d
Exist on earth, save he observed my rite.
Hence reek they ravaged fields with Christian blood;
And yet with greater rancour and despite,
Like cruel foe, I purposed to offend,
But that it chanced, one changed me to a friend.
“When to worst harm and scaith thy bands I doom,
I find (as at my leisure I will show)
Rogero of Risa was my father, whom
An evil brother traitorously laid low.
Me my sad mother carried in her womb
Beyond the sea, and bore in want and woe.
Till my seventh year by wizard nourished, I
Was stolen from him by thieves of Araby.
“They to a king in Persia vended me,
That after died beneath my faulchion, who
Would fain have taken my virginity.
When grown, that king and all his court I slew;
Chased his ill race, and seized his royalty;
And — such my fortune — by a month or two,
I eithteen years had not o’erpast, before
I added to my realm six kingdoms more;
“And, moved by envy of thy glorious fame
I in my heart resolved (as thou hast heard)
To abate the grandeur of they mighty name:
I haply so had done; I haply erred.
But now a chance has served that will to tame,
And clip my fury’s wings; the having heard
Since I arrived in Christendom, how we
Are bound by ties of consanguinity;
“And, for my father thee, as kinsman, served,
So thou a kin and servant hast in me;
And I that envy, that fierce hate, which nerved
Mine arm whilere, now blot from memory.
Nay, these for evil Agramant reserved,
And for his sire’s and uncle’s kin shall be;
They who were whilom guilty of the death
Of that unhappy pair, who gave me breath.”
She adds, the Christian faith she will receive,
And, after having spent king Agramant,
Will home return, with royal Charles’s leave,
Her kingdom to baptize in the Levant,
And war upon whatever nation cleave
To cheating Mahound or to Termagant;
Promising that whate’er her arms obtain
Shall be the Christian faith’s and empire’s gain.
Charles, no less eloquent upon his side,
Than bold in deed and prudent in design,
Much that illustrious lady magnified,
And much her father, much her noble line:
He courteously to every point replied;
And of his heart his open front was sign.
As his last words, that he received the maid
As kinswoman and child, the monarch said.
Then rose and locked her in a new embrace,
And kissed her, like a daughter, on the brow.
Morgana and Clermont’s kin, with joyful face,
All thither troop; ’twere tedious to tell how
Rinaldo did the gentle damsel grace;
For he had oftentimes espied ere now
Her martial prowess, tried by goodly test,
When they with girding siege Albracca pressed.
’Twere long to tell how, with those worthies met,
Guido rejoiced to see Marphisa there;
Gryphon and Aquilant, and Sansonet,
That with her in the cruel city were;
Vivian, and Malagigi, and Richardet;
Who, when Maganza’s traitors made repair,
With those ill purchasers of Spain to trade,
Found such a faithful comrade in the maid.
They deck the ground for the ensuing day;
And Charlemagne takes care himself to see
That they the place shall sumptuously array,
Wherein Marphisa’s baptism is to be.
Bishops are gathered, learned clerks, and they
Who ken the laws of Christianity;
That taught in all its doctrine by their care
And holy skill may be that martial fair.
In sacred stole, pontifical, arraid,
Her the archbishop Turpin did baptize;
Charlemagne from the healthful font the maid
Uplifted with befitting ceremonies.
But it is time the witless head to aid
With that, which treasured in the phial lies,
Wherewith Astolpho, from the lowest star,
Descended in Elias’ fiery car.
The duke descended from the lucid round,
On this our earthly planet’s loftiest height.
Wither he with that blessed vase was bound,
Which was the mighty champion’s brain to right.
A herb of sovereign virtue on that ground
The apostle shows, and with it bids the knight
The Nubian’s eyeballs touch, when him anew
He visits, and restore that sovereign’s view.
That he, for this and for his first desert,
May give him bands, Biserta to assail;
And shows him how that people inexpert
He may to battle train, in plate and mail;
And how to pass the deserts, without hurt,
Where men are dazzled by the sandy gale.
The order that throughout should be maintained
From point to point, the sainted sire explained;
Then made him that plumed beast again bestride,
Rogero’s and Atlantes’ steed whilere.
By sainted John dismist, his reverend guide,
Those holy regions left the cavalier;
And coasting Nile, on one or the other side,
Saw Nubia’s realm before him soon appear;
And there, in its chief city, to the ground
Descended, and anew Senapus found.
Great was the joy, and great was the delight,
Wherewith that king received the English lord;
Who well remembered how the gentle knight
Had from the loathsome harpies freed his board.
But when the humour, that obscured his sight,
Valiant Astolpho scaled, and now restored
Was the blind sovereign’s eyesight as before,
He would that warrior as a god adore.
So that not only those whom he demands
For the Bisertine war, he gives in aid;
But adds a hundred thousand from his bands,
And offer of his royal person made.
Scarce on the open plain embattled stands,
— All foot — the Nubian host, for war arraid.
For few the horses which that region bore;
Of elephants and camels a large store.
The night before the day, when on its road
The Nubian force should march, Astolpho rose,
And his winged hippogryph again bestrode:
Then, hurrying ever south, in fury goes
To a high hill, the southern wind’s abode;
Whence he towards the Bears in fury blows:
There finds a cave, through whose strait entrance breaks
The fell and furious Auster, when he wakes.
He, as his master erst instruction gave,
With him an empty bladder had conveyed;
Which, at the vent of that dim Alpine cave,
Wherein reposed the wearied wind, was laid
Quaintly and softly by the baron brave;
And so unlooked for was the ambuscade,
That, issuing forth at morn, to sweep the plains,
Auster imprisoned in the skin remains.
To Nubia he, rejoicing in his prey,
Returns; and with that very light the peer,
With the black host, sets out upon his way,
And lets the victual follow in his rear.
Towards Mount Atlas with his whole array
In safety goes the glorious cavalier.
Through shifting plains of powdery sand he past,
Nor dreaded danger from the sultry blast;
And having gained the mountain’s hither side,
Whence are discerned the plain, and distant brine,
He chooses from the swarm he has to guide
The noblest and most fit for discipline;
And makes them, here and there, in troops divide,
At a hill’s foot, wherewith the plains confine;
Then leaves his host and climbs the hill’s ascent,
Like one that is on lofty thoughts intent.
After he, lowly kneeling in the dust,
His holy master had implored, in true
Assurance he was heard, he downward thrust
A heap of stones. O what things may he do
That in the Saviour wholly puts his trust!
The stones beyond the use of nature grew;
Which rolling to the sandy plain below,
Next, neck and muzzle, legs and belly show.
They, neighing shrill, down narrow paths repair,
With lusty leaps; and lighting on the plain,
Uplift the croup, like coursers as they are,
Some bay, some roan, and some of dapple stain.
The crowds that waiting in the valleys were,
Layed hands on them, and seized them by the rein.
Thus in a thought each soldier had his horse,
Born ready reined and saddled for the course.
He fourscore thousand of his Nubian power,
One hundred and two footmen, in a day
To horsemen changes, who wide Afric scour,
And, upon every side, sack, burn, and slay.
Agramant had intrusted town and tower,
Till his return, to king Branzardo’s sway,
To Fersa’s king, and him of the Algaziers;
And these against Astolpho lead their spears.
Erewhile a nimble bark, with sail and oar,
They had dispatched, which, stirring feet and wings,
News of the Nubian monarch’s outrage bore
To Agramant from his vicegerent kings,
That rests not, night nor day, till to the shore
Of Provence she her doleful tiding brings;
And finds her monarch half subdued in Arles,
For camped within a mile was conquering Charles.
Agramant, hearing in what peril lies
His realm, through his attack on Pepin’s reign,
Him in this pressing peril to advise,
Calls kings and princes of the paynim train;
And when he once or twice has turned his eyes
On sage Sobrino and the king of Spain,
— Eldest and wisest they those lords among —
The monarch so bespeaks the assembled throng:
“Albeit if fits not captain, as I know,
To say, ‘on this I thought not,’ this I say;
Because when from a quarter comes the blow,
From every human forethought far away,
’Tis for such fault a fair excuse, I trow;
And here all hinges; I did ill to lay
Unfurnished Africk open to attack,
If there was ground to fear the Nubian sack.
“But who could think, save only God on high
Prescient of all which is to be below,
That, from land, beneath such distant sky,
Such mighty host would come, to work us woe?
‘Twixt shifting sands, which restless whirlwinds blow:
Yet they their camp have round Biserta placed,
And laid the better part of Africk waste.
“I now on this, O peers! your counsel crave.
If, bootless, homeward I should wend my way,
Or should not such a fair adventure wave,
Till Charles with me a prisoner I convey;
Or how I may as well our Africk save,
And ruin this redoubted empire, say.
Who can advise, is prayed his lore to shew,
That we may learn the best, and that pursue.”
He said; and on Marsilius seated nigh
Next turned his eyes, who in the signal read,
That it belonged to him to make reply
To what the king of Africa had said.
The Spaniard rose, and bending reverently
To Agramant the knee as well as head,
Again his honoured seat in council prest,
And in these words the Moorish king addrest:
“My liege, does Rumour good or ill report,
It still increases them; hence shall I ne’er,
Under despondence, lack for due support,
Nor bolder course than is befitting steer,
For what may chance, of good or evil sort;
Weighing in even balance hope and fear,
O’errated still; and which we should not mete
By what I hear so many tongues repeat;
“Which should so much more doubtfully be viewed,
As it seems less with likelihood to stand.
Now it is seen, if there be likelihood,
That king who reigns in so remote a land,
Followed by such a mighty multitude,
Should set his foot on warlike Africk’s strand;
Traversing sands, to which in evil hour
Cambyses trusted his ill-omened power.
“I well believe, that from some neighbouring hill
The Arabs have poured down, to waste the plain;
Who, for the country was defended ill,
Have taken, burnt, destroyed and sacked and slain;
And that Branzardo, who your place doth fill,
As viceroy and lieutenant of the reign,
Has set down thousands, where he tens should write;
The better to excuse him in your sight.
“The Nubian squadrons, I will even yield,
Have been rained down on Africk from the skies;
Or haply they have come, in clouds concealed,
In that their march was hidden from all eyes:
Think you, because unaided in the field,
Your Africk from such host in peril lies?
Your garrisons were sure of coward vein,
If they were scared by such a craven train.
“But will you send some frigates, albeit few,
(Provided that unfurled your standards be)
No sooner shall they loose from hence, that crew
Of spoilers shall within their confines flee;
— Nubians are they, or idle Arabs — who,
Knowing that you are severed by the sea
From your own realm, and warring with our band,
Have taken courage to assail your land.
“Now take your time for vengeance, when the son
Of Pepin is without his nephew’s aid.
Since bold Orlando is away, by none
Of the hostile sect resistance can be made.
If, through neglect or blindness, be foregone
The glorious Fortune, which for you has stayed,
She her bald front, as now her hair, will show,
To our long infamy and mighty woe.”
Thus warily the Spanish king replied,
Proving by this and other argument,
The Moorish squadrons should in France abide,
Till Charlemagne was into exile sent.
But King Sobrino, he that plainly spied
The scope whereon Marsilius was intent,
To public good preferring private gain,
So spake in answer to the king of Spain:
“My liege, when I to peace exhorted you,
Would that my prophecy had proved less just!
Of, if I was to prove a prophet true,
Ye in Sobrino had reposed more trust,
Than in King Rodomont and in that crew,
Alzirdo, Martasine and Marbalust!
Whom I would here see gladly, front to front;
But see most gladly boastful Rodomont.
“To twit that warrior with his threat to do
By France, what by the brittle glass is done;
And throughout heaven and hell your course pursue,
Yea (as the monarch said) your course outrun.
Yet lapt in foul and loathsome ease, while you
So need his help, lies Ulien’s lazy son;
And I, that as a coward was decried
For my true prophecy, am at your side;
“And ever will be while this life I bear;
Which, albeit ’tis with yours sore laden, still
Daily for you is risked with them that are
The best of France; and — be he who he will —
There is not mortal living, who will dare
To say Sobrino’s deeds were ever ill:
Yea, many who vaunt more, amid your host,
Have not so much, nay lighter, cause for boast.
“I speak, these words to show that what whilere
I said and say again, has neither sprung
From evil heart, nor is the fruit of fear;
But that true love and duty move my tongue.
You homeward with what haste you may to steer,
I counsel, your assembled bands among;
For little is the wisdom of that wight,
Who risks his own to gain another’s right.
“If there be gain, ye know, Late thirty-two,
Your vassal kings, with you our sails we spread;
Now, if we pause to sum the account anew,
Hardly a third survives; the rest are dead.
May it please Heaven no further loss ensue!
But if you will pursue your quest, I dread
Lest not a fourth nor fifth will soon remain;
And wholly spent will be your wretched train.
“Orlando’s absence so far aids, that where
Our troops are few, there haply none would be;
But not through this removed our perils are,
Though it prolongs our evil destiny.
Behold Rinaldo! whom his deeds declare
No less than bold Orlando; of his tree
There are the shoots; with paladin and peer,
Our baffled Saracens’ eternal fear;
“And the other Mars (albeit against my heart
It goes to waste my praise upon a foe);
I speak of the redoubted Brandimart,
Whose feats no less than fierce Orlando’s show;
Whose mighty prowess I have proved in part,
In part, at others’ cost I see and know.
Then many days Orlando has been gone;
Yet we have lost more fields than we have won.
“I fear, if heretofore our band has lost,
A heavier forfeit will henceforth be paid.
Blotted is Mandricardo from our host;
Martial Gradasso hath withdrawn his aid;
Marphisa, at our worst, has left her post;
So Argier’s lord; of whom it may be said,
Where he as true as strong, we should not need
Gradasso and the Tartar king, to speed.
“While aids like these are lost to our array,
While on our side such slaughtered thousands lie,
Those looked-for are arrived, nor on her way
Is any vessel fraught with new supply —
Charles has been joined by four, that, as they say,
Might with Orlando or Rinaldo vie;
With reasons, for from hence to Bactrian shore,
Ill would you hope to find such other four.
“I know not if you know who Guido are,
Sansonet, and the sons of Olivier.
For these I more respect, more fear I bear,
Than any warlike duke or cavalier,
Of Almayn’s or of other lineage fair,
Who for the Roman empire rests the spear,
Though I misrate not those of newer stamp,
That, to our scathe, are gathered in their camp.
“As often as ye issue on the plain,
Worsted so oft, or broken, shall you be.
If oft united Africa and Spain
Were losers, when sixteen to eight were we,
What will ensue, when banded with Almayn
Are England, Scotland, France, and Italy?
When with our six twice six their weapons cross,
What else can we expect but shame and loss?
“You lose your people here, and there your reign,
If you in this emprize are obstinate;
— Returning — us, the remnant of your train,
You save, together with your royal state.
It were ill done to leave the king of Spain,
Since all for this would hold you sore ingrate;
Yet there’s a remedy in peace; which, so
It pleases but yourself, will please the foe.
“But, if, as first defeated, on your part
It seems a shame to offer peace, and ye
Have war and wasteful battle more at heart,
Waged hitherto with what success you see,
At least to gain the victory use art,
Which may be yours, if you are ruled by me.
Lay all our quarrel’s trial on one peer,
And let Rogero be that cavalier.
“Such our Rogero is, ye know and I,
That — pitted one to one in listed fight —
Not Roland, not Rinaldo stands more high,
Nor whatsoever other Christian knight.
But would ye kindle warfare far and nigh,
Though superhuman be that champion’s might,
The warrior is but one mid many spears,
Matched singly with a host of martial peers.
“Meseemeth, if to you it seemeth good,
Ye should propose to Charles the war to end;
And that, to spare the constant waste of blood,
Which his, and countless of your warriors spend,
He — by a knight of yours to be withstood —
A champion, chosen from his best should send;
And those two all the warfare wage alone,
Till one prevails, and one is overthrown;
“On pact the king, whose champion in the just
Is loser, tribute to that other pay.
Nor will this pact displease King Charles, I trust,
Though his was the advantage in the fray.
Then of his arms Rogero so robust
I deem, that he will surely win the day;
Who would prevail (so certain is our right)
Though Mars himself should be his opposite.”
With these and other sayings yet more sound,
So wrought Sobrino, he his end obtained;
And on that day interpreters were found,
And they that day to Charles their charge explained.
Charles, whom such matchless cavaliers surround.
Believes the battle is already gained;
And chooses good Rinaldo for the just,
Next to Orlando in his sovereign’s trust.
In this accord like cause for pleasure find,
As well the Christian as the paynim foe:
For, harassed sore in body and in mind,
Those warriors all were weary, all were woe.
Each in repose and quietude designed
To pass what time remained to him below:
Each cursed the senseless anger and the hate
Which stirred their hearts to discord and debate.
Rinaldo felt himself much magnified,
That Charles, for what in him so strong weighed,
More trusted him than all his court beside,
And glad the honoured enterprise assayed:
Rogero he esteemed not in his pride,
And thought he ill could keep him from his blade.
Nor deemed the Child could equal him in fight,
Albeit he slew in strife the Tartar knight.
Rogero, though much honoured, on his part,
That him his king has chosen from the rest,
To whom a trust so weighty to impart,
As of his many martial lords the best,
Yet shows a troubled face; not that the heart
Of that good knight unworthy fears molest;
Not only none Rinaldo would have bred;
Him, with Orlando leagued, he would not dread —
But because sister of the Christian knight
(He knows) is she, his consort true and dear;
That to the stripling evermore did write,
As one sore injured by that cavalier.
Now, if to ancient sins he should unite
A mortal combat with Montalban’s peer,
Her, although loving, will he anger so,
Not lightly she her hatred will forego.
If silently Rogero made lament
That he in his despite must battle do;
In sobs his consort dear to hers gave vent,
When shortly to her ears the tidings flew.
She beat her breast, her golden tresses rent:
Fast, scalding tears her innocent cheeks bedew:
She taxes young Rogero as ingrate,
And aye cries out upon her cruel fate.
Nought can result to Bradamant but pain,
Whatever is the doubtful combat’s end.
She will not think Rogero can be slain;
For this, ‘twould seem, her very heart would rend;
And should our Lord the fall of France ordain,
That kingdom for more sins than one to amend,
The gentle maid, beside a brother’s loss,
Would have to weep a worse and bitterer cross.
For, without shame and scorn, she never may,
Not without hatred of her kin combined,
To her loved lord return in such a way
As that it may be known of all mankind;
As, thinking upon this by night and day,
She oftentimes had purposed in her mind;
And so by promise both were tied withal,
Room for repentance and retreat was small.
But she, that ever, when things adverse were,
With faithful succour Bradamant had stayed,
I say the weird Melissa, could not bear
To hear the wailings of the woeful maid;
She hurried to console her in her care,
And proffered succour in due time and said,
She would disturb that duel ‘twixt the twain,
The occasion of such grief and cruel pain.
Meanwhile their weapons for the future fray
Rogero and Duke Aymon’s son prepared;
The choice whereof with that good warrior lay,
The Roman empire’s knight by Charles declared;
And he, like one that ever from the day
He lost his goodly steed afoot had fared,
Made choice, afoot and fenced with plate and mail,
His foe with axe and dagger to assail.
Whether Chance moved Mountalban’s martial lord,
Or Malagigi, provident and sage,
That knew how young Rogero’s charmed sword
Cleft helm and hauberk in its greedy rage,
One and the other warrior made accord,
(As said) without their faulchions to engage.
The place of combat chosen by that twain
Was near old Arles, upon a spacious plain.
Watchful Aurora hardly from the bower
Of old Tithonus hath put forth her head,
To give beginning to the day and hour
Prefixed and ordered for that duel dread,
When deputies from either hostile power,
On this side and on that forth issuing, spread
Tents at each entrance of the lists; and near
The two pavillions, both, an altar rear.
After short pause, was seen upon the plain
The paynim host in different squadrons dight.
Rich in barbarick pomp, amid that train,
Rode Africk’s monarch, ready armed for fight:
Bay was the steed he backed, with sable mane;
Two of his legs were pied, his forehead white
Fast beside Agramant, Rogero came,
And him to serve Marsilius thought no shame.
The casque that he from Mandricardo wrung
In single combat with such travel sore,
The casque that (as in loftier strain is sung)
Cased Hector’s head, a thousand years before,
Marsilius carried, by his side, among
Princes and lords, that severally bore
The other harness of Rogero bold,
Enriched with precious pearls and rough with gold.
On the other part, without his camp appears
Charles, with his men at arms in squadrons dight;
Who in such order led his cavaliers,
As they would keep, if marshalled for the fight.
Fenced is the monarch with his famous peers,
And with him wends, all armed, Montalban’s knight,
Armed, save his helmet, erst Mambrino’s casque;
To carry which is Danish Ogier’s task;
And, of two axes, hath Duke Namus one,
King Salamon the other: Charlemagne
Is to this side, with all his following, gone,
To that wend those of Africk and of Spain.
In the mid space between the hosts is none;
Empty remains large portion of the plain;
For he is doomed to death who thither goes,
By joint proclaim, except the chosen foes.
After the second choice of arms was made
By him, the champion of the paynim clan,
Thither two priests of either sect conveyed
Two books; that, carried by one holy man,
— Him of our law — Christ’s perfect life displayed;
Those others’ volume was their Alcoran.
The emperor in his hands the Gospel took,
The king of Africa that other book.
Charlemagne, at his altar, to the sky
Lifted his hands, “O God, that for our sake”
(Exclaimed the monarch) “wast content to die,
Thyself a ransom for our sins to make;
— O thou that found such favour in his eye,
That God from thee the flesh of man did take,
Borne for nine months within thy holy womb,
While aye thy virgin flower preserved its bloom,
“Hear, and be witnesses of what I say,
For me and those that after me shall reign,
To Agramant and those that heir his sway,
I twenty loads of gold of perfect grain
Will every year deliver, if today
My champion vanquished in the lists remain;
And vow I will straightway from warfare cease,
And from henceforth maintain perpetual peace;
“And may your joint and fearful wrath descend
On me forthwith, if I my word forego!
And may it me and mine alone offend,
And none beside, amid this numerous show!
That all in briefest time may comprehend,
My breach of promise has brought down the woe.”
So saying, in his hand the holy book
Charles held, and fixed on heaven his earnest look.
This done, they seek that altar, sumptuously
Decked for the purpose, by the pagan train;
Where their king swears, that he will pass the sea,
With all his army, to his Moorish reign,
And to King Charles will tributary be;
If vanquished, young Rogero shall remain;
And will observe the truce for evermore
Upon the pact declared by Charles before;
And like him, nor in under tone, he swears,
Calling on Mahound to attest his oath;
And on the volume which his pontiff bears,
To observe what he has promised plights his troth.
Then to his side each hastily repairs;
And mid their several powers are harboured both.
Next these, to swear arrive the champions twain;
And this the promise which their oaths contain.
Rogero pledges first his knightly word,
Should his king mar, or send to mar, the fray,
He him no more as leader or as lord
Will serve, but wholly Charlemagne obey.
— Rinaldo — if in breach of their accord,
Him from the field King Charles would bear away,
Till one or the other is subdued in fight,
That he will be the Moorish monarch’s knight.
When ended are the ceremonies, here
And there, to seek their camps the two divide.
Nor long, therein delayed; when trumpets clear
The time for their encounter signified:
Now to the charge advanced each cavalier,
Measuring with cautious care his every stride.
Lo! the assault begins; now low, now high,
That pair the sounding steel in circles ply.
Now with the axe’s blade, now with its heel
Their strokes they at the head or foot address;
And these so skilfully and nimbly deal,
As needs must shock all credence to express.
The Child, that at her brother aims the steel,
Who doth his miserable soul possess,
Evermore with such caution strikes his blow,
That he is deemed less vigorous than his foe.
Rather to parry then to smite intent,
He know not what to wish; that low should lie
Rinaldo, would Rogero ill content,
Nor willingly the Child by him would die.
But here I am at my full line’s extent,
Where I must needs defer my history.
In other canto shall the rest appear,
If you that other canto please to hear.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:05