Orlando Furioso, by Lodovico Ariosto

Canto 43


Rinaldo from his courteous landlord hears

What folly had destroyed his every good;

Next learns another story, as he steers

Toward Ravenna with the falling flood:

Then last arrives where, conqueror o’er his foes

Orlando was, but in no joyful mood.

He, that the Child a Christian made whilere,

Christens Sobrino, and heals Olivier.


O Execrable avarice! O vile thirst

Of sordid gold! it doth not me astound

So easily thou seizest soul, immersed

In baseness, or with other taint unsound;

But that thy chain should bind, amid the worst,

And that thy talon should strike down and wound

One that for loftiness of mind would be

Worthy all praise, if he avoided thee.


Some earth and sea and heaven above us square,

Know Nature’s causes, works, and properties;

What her beginnings, what her endings are;

And soar till Heaven is open to their eyes:

Yet have no steadier aim, no better care,

Stung by thy venom, than, in sordid wise,

To gather treasure: such their single scope,

Their every comfort, and their every hope.


Armies by him are broken in his pride,

And gates of warlike towns in triumph past:

The foremost he to breast the furious tide

Of fearful battle; to retire the last;

Yet cannot save himself from being stied

Till death, in thy dark dungeon prisoned fast.

Of others that would shine thou dimm’st the praise;

Whom other studies, other arts would raise.


What shall of high and beauteous dames be said?

Who (from their lovers’ worth and charms secure)

Against long service, I behold, more staid,

More motionless, than marble shafts, endure:

Then Avarice comes, who so her spells hath laid,

I see them stoop directly to her lure.

— Who could believe? — unloving, in a day

They fall some elder’s, fall some monster’s prey.


Not without reason here I raise this cry:

— Read me who can, I read myself — nor so

I from the beaten pathway tread awry,

Nor thus the matter of my song forego.

Not more to what is shown do I apply

My saying, than to what I have to show.

But now return we to the paladine,

Who was about to taste the enchanted wine.


Fain would he think awhile, of whom I speak,

(As said) ere to his lips the vase he bore;

He thought; then thus: “When finding what we seek

Displeases, this ’tis folly to explore,

My wife’s a woman; every woman’s weak.

Then let me hold the faith I held before.

Faith still has brought, and yet contentment brings.

From proof itself what better profit springs?


“From this small good, much evil I foresee:

For tempting God moves sometimes his disdain.

I know not if it wise or foolish be,

But to know more than needs, I am not fain.

Now put away the enchanted cup from me;

I neither will, nor would, the goblet drain;

Which is with Heaven’s command as much at strife,

As Adam’s deed who robbed the tree of life.


“For as our sire who tasted of that tree,

And God’s own word, by eating, disobeyed,

Fell into sorrow from felicity,

And was by misery evermore o’erlaid;

The husband so, that all would know and see;

Whatever by his wife is done and said;

Passes from happiness to grief and pain,

Nor ever can uplift his head again.”


Meanwhile the good Rinaldo saying so,

And pushing from himself the cup abhorred,

Beheld of tears a plenteous fountain flow

From the full eyes of that fair mansion’s lord;

Who cried, now having somewhat calmed his woe,

“Accursed be he, persuaded by whose word,

Alas! I of the fortune made assay,

Whereby my cherished wife was reft away!


“Wherefore ten years ago wast thou not known,

So that I counselled might have been of thee?

Before the sorrows and the grief begun,

That have nigh quenched my eyes; but raised shall be

The curtain from the scene, that thou upon

My pain mayst look, and mayst lament with me;

And I to thee of mine unheard-of woe

The argument and very head will show.


“Above, was left a neighbouring city, pent

Within a limpid stream that forms a lake;

Which widens, and wherein Po finds a vent.

Their way the waters from Benacus take.

Built was the city, when to ruin went

Walls founded by the Agenorean snake.

Here me of gentle line my mother bore,

But of small means, in humble home and poor.


“If Fortune’s care I was not, who denied

To me upon my birth a wealthy boon,

Nature that went with graceful form supplied;

So that in beauty rival had I none.

Enamoured of me in youth’s early tide

Erewhile was dame and damsel more than one:

For I with beauty coupled winning ways;

Though it becomes not man himself to praise.


“A sage within our city dwelled, a wight,

Beyond belief, in every science great;

Who, when he closed his eyes on Phoebus’ light,

Numbered one hundred years, one score and eight:

A savage life he led and out of sight,

Until impelled by love, the senior late

By dint of gifts obtained a matron fair,

Who secretly to him a daughter bare;


“And to prevent the child from being won,

As was erewhile the mother, that for gain

Bartered her chastity, whose worth alone

Excels what gold earth’s ample veins contain,

With her he from the ways of man is gone,

And where he spies the loneliest place, his train

Of demons forces, in enchantment skilled,

This dome so spacious, fair, and rich, to build.


“By ancient and chaste dames he there made rear

This daughter, that in sovereign beauty grew;

Nor suffered her to see or even hear

A man beside himself; and, for her view,

— Lest lights should lack, whereby her course to steer —

The senior every modest lady, who

E’er on unlawful love the barrier shut,

Made limn in picture, or in sculpture cut.


“Nor he alone those virtuous dames, who, sage

And chaste, had so adorned antiquity,

Whose fame, preserved by the historic page,

Is never doomed its dying day to see;

But those as well that will in future age

Everywhere beautify fair Italy,

Made fashion in their well-known form and mien;

As eight that round this fount by thee are seen.


“What time the damsel ripe for husband shows,

So that the fruit may now be gathered, I

(Did chance or my misfortune so dispose?)

Am worthiest found; and those broad lands that lie

Without the walls which that fair town enclose,

— The fishy flat no less than upland dry —

Extending twenty miles about that water,

He gives me for a dowry, with his daughter.


“She was so mannered, was so fair of hue,

None could desire she other gifts should bring;

So well to broider was she taught, and sew,

Minerva knew not better; did she sing,

Or play, or walk, to those that hear and view,

She seems a heavenly, and no mortal thing;

And in the liberal arts was skilled as well

As her own sire, or scarce behind him fell.


“With genius high and beauty no less bright,

Which might have served the very stones to move,

Such love, such sweetness did the maid unite,

Thinking thereof meseems my heart is clove.

She had no greater pleasure or delight

Than being with me, did I rest or rove.

Twas long ere we had any strife; in fine

We quarrelled; and the fault, alas! was mine.


“Five years my consort’s father had been dead,

Since to that yoke I stooped, and pledged my vow;

When in short time (the manner shall be said)

Began the sorrows that I feel even now.

While me with all his pinions overspread

Love of the dame, whose praises thus I blow,

A noble townswoman with love of me

Was smit; more sorely smitten none could be.


“She, in all magic versed, was of such skill

As never was enchantress; by her say

Moved solid earth, and made the sun stand still,

Illumined gloomy night and darkened day:

Yet never could she work upon my will,

With salve I could not give, except with scathe

Of her to whom erewhile I pledged my faith.


“Not because she right gentle was and bright,

Nor because I believed her love so true,

Nor for large gift, nor promise often plight,

Nor yet because she never ceased to sue,

Could she from me obtain one spark of light

From that first flame my gentle consort blew:

So mates and masters every will in me

The knowledge of my wife’s fidelity.


“I in the hope, belief, and certitude

My wife to me was faithful evermore,

Should with contempt the beauty have eschewed

Of that famed daughter which fair Leda bore;

And all the wit and wealth wherewith was wooed

The illustrious shepherd upon Ida hoar.

But no repulse withal with her avails,

Who me, for ever at my side, assails.


“One day that me beyond my palace sees

That weird enchantress, who Melissa hight,

And where she can discourse with me at ease,

She finds a way whereby my peace to blight;

And, goading me with evil jealousies,

The faith I nursed at heart, she puts to flight.

She ‘gan commending my intent to be

Faithful to her who faithful was to me.


“ ‘But that she faithful is, ye cannot say,

Save of her faith ye have assurance true;

If she fails not withal, where fail she may,

She faithful, modest may be deemed by you:

But is she never from your side away,

Is not permitted other man to view,

How does this boldness come, that you would be

The warrant of her untried modesty?


“ ‘Go forth awhile; go forth come from home alone;

And be the bruit in town and village spread

That she remains behind, and you are gone;

Let lovers and let couriers have their head:

If, unpersuaded still by prayer and boon,

She does no outrage to the marriage bed;

Though doing so she deem herself unseen,

Then faithful you the dame may justly ween.’


“I with such words and such-like words was plied,

Till so on me the shrewd enchantress wrought,

I wished to see my consort’s virtue tried

By certain proof, and to the touchstone brought.

— ‘Now grant we (I to that witch-lady cried)

She prove what cannot by myself be thought,

How by some certain token can I read

If she will merit punishment or meed?’


“ ‘A drinking-cup will I for that assay

Give you (she said) of virtue strange and rare:

Such was for Arthur made by Morgue the fay,

To make him of Genevra’s fault aware.

The chaste wife’s lord thereof may drink; but they

Drink not, whose wedded partners wanton are:

For, when they would the cordial beverage sup,

Into their bosom overflows the cup.


“ ‘Below departing, you the test shall try,

And, to my thinking, now shall you drink clean;

For clean as yet I think your consort, I:

The event however shall by you be seen.

Yet will I warrant not your bosom dry,

Should you repeat the proof; for if, between

The cup and lip, the liquor be not shed,

You are the happiest wight that ever wed.’


“The offer I accept, the vase to me

Is given, and trial made with full success;

For hitherto (as hoped) confirmed I see

My gentle consort’s worth and faithfulness.

‘Leave her awhile (Melissa said), and be

A month or twain a truant, more or less:

Then homeward wend; again the goblet fill;

And prove if you the beverage drink or spill.’


“I thought it hard to leave my consort’s side;

Not as so much about her truth in pain,

As that I could nor for two days abide,

Nay, not an hour without her could remain.

‘— You in another way (Melissa cried)

Guided by me, the truth shall ascertain;

Voice, vesture shall you change; and to her sight

Present yourself, disguised like other wight.’


“Sir, a fair city nigh at hand, defends

Twixt fierce and threatening horns the foaming Po;

Whose jurisdiction to the shore extends,

Where the sea’s briny waters come and go:

This yields in ancientry, but well contends

With neighbouring towns in rich and gorgeous show:

A Trojan remnant its foundations placed,

Which scaped from Attila’s destructive waste.


“A rich, a youthful, and a handsome knight

Bridles this city with his sovereign sway;

Who, following a lost falcon in its flight,

Entering by chance my dwelling on a day,

Beheld my wife, who pleased him so at sight,

He bore her impress in his heart away;

Nor ceased to practise on her, with intent

To incline the matron to his evil bent.


“So often she repels the cavalier

That finally his courtship is foregone;

But her fair image graved by Love will ne’er

Be razed from memory; me Melissa won

(So well she soothed and flattered) of that peer

The face and figure to the sight to don;

And changed me — nor well how can I declare —

In voice and visage and in eyes and hair.


“I, having to my lady made a show

As eastward bound and gone, — like him that wooed,

Her rich and youthful lover, altered so,

His semblance, attended by Melissa, go,

Into a page upon her side transmewed;

Who the most costly jewels with her bore

E’er brought form Ind, or Erithraean shore.


“I enter safely, that my palace knew,

And with me wends Melissa; and there I

So wholly at her ease Madonna view,

No woman or attendant squire is by.

To her with suppliant prayer forthwith I sue,

And next those goads to evil deed apply;

Show emerald, ruby, diamond, that might serve;

To make the firmest heart from honour swerve;


“And I declare to her the gift is small

To that, which she may hope to make her own;

Then of the vantage speak, that from his hall

Her husband at the present time is gone;

And I how long it was to her recall,

Since, as she knew, to her my love was shown;

And that my loving with such faith, in the end

Might worthily to some reward pretend.


“At first she was somedeal disturbed; became

Like scarlet; nor would listen to my say;

But seeing those bright jewels flash like flame,

Her stubborn heart was softened, and gave way;

And in brief speech and feeble said the dame

What to remember takes my life away:

She with my wishes, said, she would comply,

If sure to be unseen of watchful eye.


“Me my wife’s words like poisoned weapon thrill,

And pierce my suffering spirit through and through:

Through bones and veins there went a deadly chill;

My tongue clave to my throat: The witch withdrew

With that the magic mantle, and at will

Transformed me to mine ancient shape anew.

— Bethink thee of what hue my wife became,

Taken by me in such notorious shame!


“Of deadly hue we both of us remain;

We both stand silent; both with downcast eye.

So feeble is my tongue, that I with pain,

So faint my voice, that I with pain can cry;

‘Thou wouldst betray me then, O wife, for gain,

If there was one that would my honour buy!’

She nought replies; nor save by tears she speaks,

Which furrow, as they fall, her woeful cheeks.


“Shame stings her sore, but yet in sorer wise

Wrath at the outrage I to her had done;

And so without restraint it multiplies,

And into rage and cruel hate is run,

To fly from me forthwith does she devise;

And, what time from his car dismounts the sun,

Runs to the shore, aboard her pinnace wends,

And all that night the stream in haste descends;


“And she at morn presents herself before

Him that had loved her once, the cavalier,

Whose semblance and whose borrowed face I wore

When, to my shame, I tempted her whilere.

To him that loved, and loves her evermore,

Her coming, it may be believed, is dear.

From thence she bade me never entertain

The hope she’d love me or be mine again.


“Alas! with him she swells in mickle glee

Even from that day, and makes of me a jest;

And of that evil which I brought on me

I languish yet, and find no place of rest.

Justly this growing ill my death will be,

Of little remnant now of life possest.

I well believe I in a year had died,

But that a single comfort aid supplied.


“That comfort was; of all which harboured were

Here for ten years (for still to every guest

Beneath my roof I bade the vessel bear)

Was none but with the wine had bathed his breast.

To have so many comrades in my care,

Some little soothes the griefs that so molest.

Thou only of so many hast been wise,

Who wouldst forbear the perilous emprize.


“My wish, o’erpassing every fitting bound,

To know what husband of his wife should know,

Is cause, by me no quiet will be found,

Whether my death be speedy of be slow.

Thereat at first Melissa joys; but drowned

Forthwith is her light mirth; for of my woe

Esteeming her the cause, that dame so sore

I hated, I would not behold her more.


“Impatient to be treated with disdain

By me, — of her more loved than life, she said —

Where she forthwith as mistress to remain

Had hoped, when thence the other was conveyed,

— Not to behold such present, cause of pain,

Her own departure little she delayed;

And went so far away, no further word

By me was ever of that woman heard.”


His tale the mournful cavalier so taught;

And when he now had closed his history,

With pity touched, somewhile immersed in thought

Rinaldo mused, and after made reply:

“Right ill advice to thee Melissa brought,

Who moved three thus to anger wasps; and I

Perceive in thee small wisdom, that wouldst sound

A thing which thou wouldst gladly not have found.


“If she, thy wife, by avarice was inclined

To break her faith and be to thee untrue,

Muse not: nor first nor last of womankind,

She, worsted, from such cruel war withdrew;

And by a meaner bribe yet firmer mind

Is even tempted fouler deed to do.

Of men, of how many we hear, that sold

Their patrons and their friends for sordid gold?


“With such fierce arms thou ill didst her assail,

If to behold a brave defence thou sought.

Knowst thou not, against gold of no avail

Is stone, or steel to hardest temper wrought?

Meseems that thou in tempting her didst fail

More than herself, that was so quickly caught.

I know not, had she tempted thee as much,

If thou, thyself, hadst better stood the touch.”


Here ends Rinaldo, and — the parley done —

Rises and to his rest desires to go:

Awhile will he repose; and then be gone,

An hour or two before the daylight show.

But little time has Aymon’s warlike son;

Nor idly will that little time bestow.

To him the mansion’s master made reply,

He in his house might at his pleasure lie.


For bed and bower, within, were ready dight;

But — would he take his counsel for his guide —

In comfort might he sleep throughout the night.

And yet advance some miles; “For thou,” he cried,

“Shalt have a pinnace, that with rapid flight

And without risque shall with the current glide.

Therein shalt thou all night pursue thy way,

And on thy journey gain withal a day.”


Good seemed that proffer in Rinaldo’s eyes,

And to the courteous host large thanks he paid;

Then for the pinnace which that lord supplies,

That waits him with her crew, the warrior made.

Here, at full ease reclined, Rinaldo lies,

While with the stream his frigate is conveyed;

Which, by six oars impelled, flies fast and fair,

And cleaves the water, as a bird the air.


As soon as he reclines his weary head,

Asleep is Mount Albano’s cavalier;

Having erewhile that they shall wake him, said,

As soon as they Ferrara’s city near.

Melara lies left of that river’s bed,

Sermide to the right; they in their rear

Next leave Stellata and Figarolo,

Where his two horns are lowered by angry Po.


Of those two horns that which t’ward Venice goes

Rinaldo’s pilot left, and took the right;

Then the Bodeno past. Already shows

Faintly the eastern blue, and fades from sight;

For now Aurora from her basket throws

All her rich flowers, and paints it red and white;

When viewing the two castles of Tealdo,

Again his head uplifts the good Rinaldo.


“O happy town! whereof” (the warrior cried)

“Spake Malagigi, having, far and near,

The fixt and wandering fires of heaven espied,

And forced some subject spirit to appear,

To me foretelling that in future tide,

— What time with him I took his way whilere —

Even to such pitch thy glorious fame should rise,

Thou from all Italy wouldst bear the prize.”


So saying, in his barge he all this while

Hurries, as if the bark with pinions flew,

Scowering the king of rivers, to that isle

Nearest the town; and, though it not to view

(Deserted and neglected then) doth smile,

This yet rejoices to behold anew;

Nor makes small mirth thereat; because aware

Hereafter how adorned ’twill be and fair.


Before when he with him that way had gone,

From Malagigi, his cousin, did he hear

That when seven hundred times his course had run,

Circling the heaven in Aries, the fourth sphere,

Of islands this should be the fairest one

In sea, or pool, or river, far and near,

So that who this beheld, would brook no more

To hear that praised which fair Nausicaa bore.


He heard, it in fair mansions would outdo

That island which Tiberius held so dear;

And trees that in Hesperian gardens grew

Would yield to what this beauteous place should bear;

— So rare its race of beasts — no fairer shew

Herded or housed erewhile by Circe were;

Venus with Loves and Graces there should sport,

Nor more in Gnide and Cyprus keep her court;


And so would flourish through his study and care,

Who will with knowledge and with power should blend;

And who so safely should that bright repair

With circling wall and sheltering dyke defend,

The united world’s assault it well might dare,

Nor call on foreign power its aid to lend;

And that Duke Hercules’ sire and Hercules’ son

Was he by whom this marvel should be done.


So wends the warrior summing in his mind

What erst to him had told his cousin wise;

What time the sage of future things divined,

Whereof with him he often wont devize;

And aye contemplating that city blind,

“How can it ever be,” Rinaldo cries,

“That in all liberal and all worthy arts

Shall flourish so these waste and watery parts?


“And that to city of such amplitude

And beauty such a petty burgh should grow,

And where but marsh and miry pool is viewed,

Henceforth should full and fruitful harvests glow?

Even now I rise, to hail the gentle blood,

The love, the courtesy thy lords shall show,

O thou fair city, in succeeding years;

Thy burghers’ honours and thy cavaliers’.


“The grace ineffable of powers above,

Thy princes’ wisdom and their love of right,

Shall with perpetual peace, perpetual love

Preserve thee in abundance and delight;

And a defence from all the fury prove

Of such as hate thee; and unmask their spite.

Be thy content thy neighbours’ wide annoy,

Rather than thou shouldst envy other’s joy!”


While thus Rinaldo speaks, so swiftly borne

By the quick current flies that nimble yawl;

Not to the lure more swiftly makes return

The falcon, hurrying at his lord’s recall.

Thenceforth the right-hand branch of the right horn

Rinaldo takes; and hid are roof and wall:

St. George recedes; recede from that swift boat

The turrets OF GAIBANA and OF THE MOAT.


Montalban’s martial lord (as it befell,

That thought moved thought, which others moved again)

In memory chances on the knight to dwell,

That him at supper late did entertain;

That, through this city’s cause, the truth to tell,

Hath reason evermore to be in pain;

And of the magic vessel him bethinks

Which shows his consort’s guilt to him that drinks;


And him bethinks therewith of what the knight

Related; how of all that he had tried,

Who of his goblet drank, there was no wight

But split the wine he to his lips would guide.

Now he repents him; now, “’Tis my delight,”

(Mutters) “that I the proof would not abide:

Succeeding I should prove but what I thought;

And not succeeding, to what pass am brought!


“This my belief I deem a certainty;

And faith could have but small increase in me:

So, if I this should by the touchstone try,

My present good would little bettered be:

But small the evil would not prove, if I

Saw of my Clarice what I would not see.

This were a thousand against one to stake;

To hazard much where I could nothing take.”


The knight of Clermont buried in this mood,

Who lifted not his visage from the floor,

A mariner with much attention viewed,

That overright was seated at his oar;

And, for he deemed he fully understood

The thought that prest the cavalier so sore,

Made him (well-spoken was the man and bold)

Wake from his muse, some talk with him to hold.


The substance of the talk between the two

Was, that the husband little wit possest,

Who, wishing to assay if she was true,

Had tried his wife by too severe a test:

For woman, proof to gold and silver, who,

Armed but with modesty, defends her breast,

This from a thousand faulchions will defend

More surely, and through burning fires will wend.


The mariner subjoined: “Thou saidest well;

With gifts so rich he should not her have prest;

For, these assaults, these charges, to repel,

Not good alike is every human breast.

I know not if of wife thou has heard tell

(For haply not with us the tale may rest)

That in the very sin her husband spied,

For which she by his sentence should have died.


“My lord should have remembered, gold and meed

Have upon every hardest matter wrought:

But he forgot this truth in time of need;

And so upon his head this ruin brought,

Ah! would that he in proof, like me, a deed

Done in this neighbouring city had been taught,

His country and mine own; which lake and fen,

Brimming with Mincius’ prisoned waters, pen.


“I of Adonio speak, that in a hound

A treasure on the judge’s wife conferred.”

“Thereof,” replied the paladin, “the sound

Hath not o’erpast the Alps; for never word

Of this neighbouring France, nor in my round

Through far and foreign countries have I heard:

So tell, if telling irks not,” said the peer,

“What willingly I bown myself to hear.


The boatman then: “Erewhile was of this town

One Anselm, that of worthy lineage came;

A wight that spent his youth in flowing gown,

Studying his Ulpian: he of honest fame,

Beauty, and state assorting with his own,

A consort sought, and one of noble name:

Nor vainly; in a neighbouring city, crowned

With superhuman beauty, one he found.


“She such fair manners and so graceful shows,

She seems all love and beauty; and much more

Perchance than maketh for her lord’s repose;

Then well befits the reverend charge he bore.

He, wedded, strait in jealousy outgoes

All jealous men that ever were before:

Yet she affords not other cause for care

But that she is too witty and too fair.



“In the same city dwelt a cavalier,

Numbered that old and honoured race among,

Sprung from the haughty lineage, which whilere

Out of the jaw-bone of a serpent sprung:

Whence Manto, doomed my native walls to rear,

Descended, and with her a kindred throng.

The cavalier (Adonio was he named)

Was with the beauties of the dame inflamed;


“And for the furtherance of his amorous quest,

To grace himself, began his wealth to spend,

Without restraint, in banquet and in vest,

And what might most a cavalier commend:

If he Tiberius’ treasure had possest,

He of his riches would have made an end.

I well believe two winters were not done,

Ere his paternal fortune was outrun.


“The house erewhile, frequented by a horde

— Morning and evening — of so many friends,

Is solitary; since no more his board

Beneath the partridge, quail, and pheasant bends.

Of that once noble troop upon the lord,

Save beggars, hardly any one attends.

Ruined, at length he thinks he will begone

To other country, where he is unknown.


“He leaves his native land with this intent,

Nor letteth any his departure know;

And coasts, in tears and making sad lament,

The marshes that about his city go:

He his heart’s queen, amid his discontent,

Meanwhile forgets not, for this second woe.

Lo! him another accident that falls,

From sovereign woe to sovereign bliss recalls!


“He saw a peasant who with heavy stake

Smote mid some sapling trunks on every side:

Adonio stopt, and wherefore so he strake,

Asked of the rustic, that in answer cried,

Within that clump a passing ancient snake,

Amid the tangled stems he had espied:

A longer serpent and more thick to view

He never saw, nor thought to see anew;


“And that from thence he would not wend his way

Until the reptile he had found and slain,

When so Adonio heard the peasant say,

He scarce his speech with patience could sustain,

Aye reverence to the serpent wont to pay,

The honoured ensign of his ancient strain;

In memory that their primal race had grown

Erewhile from serpent’s teeth by Cadmus sown;


“And by the churl the offended knight so said,

And did withal, he made him quit the emprize;

Leaving the hunted serpent neither dead,

Nor injured, nor pursued in further wise.

Thither, where he believes would least have spread

The story of his woe, Adonio hies;

And in discomfort and in sorrow wears,

Far from his native land, seven weary years.


“Neither for distance nor for straitened cheer,

Which will not let Thought run its restless round,

Ceased Love, so wont to rein the cavalier,

Aye to inflame his heart, aye vex his wound:

At length those beauties, to his eyes so dear,

Parforce must he revisit, homeward bound.

Unshorn, afflicted, he, in poor array,

Thither returns, from whence he went his way.


“My city, at the time whereof I tell,

To Rome was fain to send an embassy;

That sometime near his holiness should dwell;

And for how long a time could none foresee.

Upon our judge the lot of envoy fell:

O day, that ever wept by him will be!

To be excused, Anselmo promised, prayed,

And bribed; but at the last parforce obeyed.


“As no less cruel and less hard to abide

He deemed a woe which caused such piteous smart,

Than had he seen a hostile hand his side

Lay bare, and from his bosom pluck his heart:

Dead-white with jealous fear his cheek is dyed,

Through doubt of his fair consort while apart;

And in the mode he deems may best avail,

He supplicates her not in faith to fail,


“Nor beauty, to his wife the husband cries,

Nor noble blood, nor fortune, are enow

To make a woman to true honour rise,

Save chaste in name and deed; subjoining how

The virtue that mankind most highly prize

Is that which triumphs after strife; and now

Through his long absense, a fair field and wide

Is opened where that virtue may be tried.


“With such persuasions, and with many more

Anselm exhorts the lady to be true.

His going doth his woful wife deplore.

O heaven, what tears, what loud complaints ensue!

Immersed in her despair, that lady swore,

Sooner the sun bedimmed the world should view

Than she would break her faith; she would expire

Sooner than she would cherish such desire.


“Though to the lady’s promise and protest

He lent belief, and somewhat calmed his fears,

Until he further hear he will not rest;

And till he can find matter for his tears,

A soothsayer he among his friends possest,

Prized for his knowledge, as the first of seers;

Who of all witchery and of magic art

Had read the whole, or read the greater part.


“To him before departing does he pray,

To take the charge upon himself to see

If true would be Argia while away

(So name his consort), or the contrary.

Won by his prayers, he takes the time o’ the day;

Figures the heavens as they appear to be.

Anselmo left him at his work, and came

His answer on the following day to claim.


“The astrologer is silent, loath to expose

A matter that will work the doctor woe;

And would excuse himself with many a gloze:

But when he sees, he would the evil know,

Argia will break faith with him, he shows,

As soon as he shall from his threshold go.

Nor prayer shall soften her, nor beauty fire:

Corrupted will she be by gain and hire.


“When to Anselmo’s early doubt and fear

Are joined the threatnings of the signs above,

How stands his heart may well to thee appear,

If thou hast known the accidents of love;

And worse than every woe, wherewith whilere

The afflicted spirits of that husband strove,

Is that it by the prophet is foretold,

Argais’ honour will be bought and sold.


“Now to support his wife, as best he may,

From falling into such an evil deed.

For man, alas, will sometimes disarray

The altar, when he finds himself in need,

What gold and gems the judge had put away,

(A plenteous store) he leaves; and field and mead,

Rents, fruits, and all possessions whatsoe’er

Leaves to his consort; all his worldly gear:


“ ‘With power,’ he said, ‘not only without measure,

These, as thou needest, to enjoy and spend,

But do with them according to thy pleasure,

Consume and fling away, and give and vend:

Other account I ask not of my treasure,

If such as now I find thee in the end;

But such as now remain; — at thy command

(Even shouldst thou squander both) are house and land.’


“Unless she heard he thither made repair,

He prayed that she would dwell not in the town;

But would a farm of his inhabit, where

She might with all convenience live alone.

And this besought he of his consort fair,

As thinking, that the rustics, which on down

Pasture their flocks, or fruitful fallows till,

Could ne’er contaminate her honest will.


“Her fearful husband still embracing close,

Her arms about his neck Argia threw:

A burst of tears her visage overflows:

For from her eyes two streams their way pursue.

She grieves, he guilty should his wife suppose;

As if she hath already been untrue:

For his suspicion to its source she traced;

That in her faith no faith Anselmo placed.


“Citing their long farewell, I should exceed.

‘— To thee at length,’ he so the dame addrest,

‘I recommend my honour’; — and indeed

Took leave, and on his road in earnest prest;

And truly felt, on wheeling round his steed,

As if his heart was issuing from his breast.

She follows him as long as she can follow

With eyes whose tears her furrowed visage hollow.


“Poor, pale, unshorn, and wretched (as whilere

To you in former strain by me was said),

Homeward meanwhile the wandering cavalier,

Hoping he there should be unknown, had made.

Beside the lake that pilgrim journeyed, near

The city, where he gave the serpent aid,

In that thick brake besieged by village swain,

Who with his staff the reptile would have slain.


“Arriving here, upon the dawn of light,

For yet some stars were glimmering in the skies,

Approaching him, in foreign vesture dight,

Along the shore, a damsel he espies.

Though neither squire nor waiting wench in sight

Appears, yet noble is the lady’s guise.

With pleasing visage she Adonio boards,

And then breaks silence in the following words.


“Albeit thou know’st me not, O cavalier

I am thy kin, and greatly bound to thee:

I am thy kin; for of the lineage clear

Derived of haughty Cadmus’ seed are we.

I am the fairy Manto, that whilere

Laid the first stone of this rude villagery;

And (as thou haply mayst have heard it famed)

Mantua from me the rising town was named.


“ ‘O’ the fairies am I one: with that to show

Our fatal state, and what it doth import;

We to all other kinds of ill below

Are subject by our natal influence, short

Of death; but with immortal being such woe

Is coupled, death is not of direr sort.

For every seventh day we all must take

By certain law, the form of spotted snake.


“ ‘So sad it is that loathsome coil to fill,

And prone, at length, upon the ground to crawl;

Equal to this here is no worldly ill;

So that immortal life is cursed by all.

And thou the debt I owe thee (for my will

Is to inform thee of its cause withal)

Shalt know as well; how on that fatal day

Of change we are to countless ills a prey.


“ ‘So hated as the serpent beast is none;

And we that wear its evil form, alarm,

Outrage, and war endure from every one:

For all that see us, hunt and do us harm:

Unless we can to ground for shelter run,

We feel how heavy falls man’s furious arm.

Happier it were to die, than languish — broke,

Battered, and crippled by the cruel stroke.


“ ‘My mighty obligation due to thee

Is that, when once thou didst this greenwood thread,

Thou from a rustic’s fury rescuedst me,

By whose ill handling was I sore bested.

But for thine aid, I should not have got free,

Without a broken spine or battered head:

With body crooked and crushed I should have lain,

Albeit I could not by his arm be slain.


“ ‘Because thou hast to know upon the day

We sprang from earth with scales of dragon dight,

— Subject to us at other times — to obey

The heavens refuse; and we are void of might:

At other seasons, at our simple say

The circling sun stands still, and dims its light:

Fixt earth is moved, and in a circle wheels:

Ice at our word takes fire, and fire congeals.


“ ‘Now here, prepared to render thee the meed

Of benefit then done to me, I stand;

For now, dismantled of my dragon weed,

Vainly no grace of me wilt thou demand.

Even now, thrice richer art thou by my deed,

Than when thou heirdst erewhile thy father’s land:

Now will I that henceforth thou shalt be poor;

But wealth, the more ’tis spent, augment the more:


“ ‘And because with that ancient knot thou still,

I know, art tangled, which by Love was tied,

The mode and order, how thou mayst fulfil

Thy wishes, shall by me be signified.

Now that her lord is absent, ’tis my will

My scheme without delay by thee be tried;

Go forth the lady at her farm to find,

Without the town; nor will I say behind.’


“She her discourse continuing, ‘gan advise

What form he to that lady’s eyes should take:

I say, what vesture wear, and in what wise

Should speak, how tempt her; what entreaties make:

And said, how she her figure would disguise;

For, save the day wherein she was a snake,

Upon all others went the fairy drest

In whatsoever figure pleased her best.


“She in a pilgrim’s habit clothed the knight,

Such as from door to door our alms entreat:

Into a dog she changed herself to sight;

The smallest ever seen, of aspect sweet,

Long hair, than ermine’s fur more snowy white;

And skilled withal in many a wondrous feat.

Towards Agria’s villa, so transmewed,

The fairy and the knight their way pursued;


“And at the labourer’s cabins in his round

The stripling halts, before he stops elsewhere;

And certain rustic reeds begins to sound;

His dog is up, and dances to the air.

The dame, that hears the voice and cry rebound,

Is by the rumour moved to see the pair.

Into her court she has the pilgrim brought,

As Anselm’s evil destiny had wrought:


“And here Adonio gives the dog command;

And here by that obedient dog is shown

Dance of our country and of foreign land,

With paces, graces, fashions of his own;

And finally he does, amid that band,

With winning ways what else is to be done,

With such attention of the admiring crew,

None winked their eyes, their breath they scarcely drew.


“Great marvel in the dame, then longing, bred

That gentle dog: she one that her had nursed

With no mean offer to his master sped.

— ‘If all the riches for which women thirst’

(To her embassadress in answer said

The wary pilgrim) ‘in my bags were pursued,

There is not in that treasure what would boot

To purchase of my dog one single foot’:


“And he, the truth of his discourse to show,

Into a corner took the beldam old,

And bade the dog in courtesy bestow

Upon that messanger a mark of gold.

The dog obeyed, and shook himself; and lo!

The treasure! which he bade her have and hold:

Thereto he added, ‘Thinkest thou by ought

A dog so fair and useful can be bought?


“ ‘For whatsoever I of him demand,

I empty-handed never go away;

Now pearl, now ring will he shake from him, and

Now gift me with some rich and fair array.

Yet tell madonna he is at her command;

But not for gold; for him no gold can pay;

But if I for one night her arms may fill,

Him may she take and do with him her will.’


“So said, a gem, new-dropt, on her he prest,

And bade her to the lady bear the boon.

That in the costly produce she possest

Ten, twenty ducats’ value deemed the crone.

She bore the message to the dame addressed,

And after wrought on her till she was won

To buy the beauteous dog, who might be bought

By payment of a prize which costeth nought.


“Argia somewhat coy at first appears;

Partly that she her faith will not forego;

Partly that she believes not all she hears

That beldam of the dog and pilgrim show.

The nurse insists, and dins into her ears,

That seldom such a chance occurs below;

And makes her fix another day to see

That dog, when fewer eyes on her shall be.


“The next appearance which Adonio made

Was ruin to the doctor; for the hound

Doubloons, by dozens and by dozens, braid

Of pearl, and costly jewels scattered round.

So that Argia’s pride of heart was laid;

And so much less the dame maintained her ground,

When she in him, who made the proffer, viewed

The Mantuan cavalier that whilom wooed.


“The harlot nurse’s evil oratory,

The prayer and presence of the suitor lord,

The occasion to acquire that mighty fee,

Which wretched Anselm’s absence would afford,

The hope that none would her accuser be,

So vanquish her chaste thoughts, she makes the accord —

Accepts the wondrous dog; and, as his pay,

To her leman yields herself a willing prey.


The fruits of love long culled that cavalier

With his lady fair; unto whom the fay

Took such affection, whom she held so dear,

That she obliged herself with her to stay.

Through all the signs the sun had travelled, ere

The judge had leave to wend his homeward way.

He finally returned; but sore afraid

Through what the astrologer erewhile had said.


“Arrived, his first employment is to run

To that astrologer’s abode, and crave,

If shame and evil to his wife be done;

Of if she yet her faith and honor save.

The heavens he figured; and to every one

Of the seven planets its due station gave;

Then to the judge replied that it had been

Even as he feared, and as it was foreseen.


“By richest presents tempted to forego

Her faith, a prey was she to other wight.

This to the doctor’s heart was such a blow;

Nor lance, nor spear, I deem, so sorely smite.

To be more certified he wends (although

He is too well assured the seer is right)

To that old nurse; and, drawing her apart,

To learn the truth employs his every art.


“He in wide circles doth about her wind,

Hoping now here, now there, to spy some trace:

But nought in the beginning can he find,

With whatsoever care he sifts the case.

For she, as not unpractised in that kind,

Denies, and fronts him with untroubled face;

And, as well taught, above a month stands out,

Holding the judge ‘twixt certainty and doubt.


“How blest would doubt appear, had he that wound

Foreseen, which would be given by certainty!

When out of that false nurse at last he found

He could not fish the truth by prayer or fee,

Touching no chord but yielded a false sound,

He shrewdly waits his time till there should be

Discord between the beldam and his wife:

For whereso women are, is stir and strife.


“And even that Anselmo waited, so

Befell; since, angered by the first despite,

Unsought of him, to him that nurse did go,

To tell the whole; and nothing hid from sight.

How sank his heart beneath that cruel blow,

’Twere long to say; how prostrate lay his sprite.

So was the wretched judge with grief opprest,

He of his wits well-nigh was dispossest;


“And finally resolved to die, so burned

His rage, but first would kill the faithless dame;

And he with one destructive faulchion yearned

To free himself from woe and her from shame.

Stung by such blind and furious thoughts, returned

Anselmo to the city, in a flame;

And to the farm despatched a follower true,

Charged with the bidding he was bound to do.


“He bids the servant to the villa go,

And to Argia in his name pretend,

He by a fever is reduced so low,

She hardly can arrive before his end.

Hence without waiting escort — would she show

Her love — she with his man must backward wend,

(Wend with him will she surely, nor delay)

And bids him cut her throat upon the way.


“The serving man to call his lady went

Prepared his lord’s command on her to do.

Having her little dog at starting hent,

She mounted and began her journey, through

The dog advised of Anselm’s ill intent,

But bid no less her purpose to pursue;

For he had taken thought for her; and aid

Should in the time of peril be purveyed.


“The servant from his pathway turns aside,

And through bye-roads and solitary goes;

Purposely lighting on a stream, whose tide

From Apennine into our river flows;

Where, both of farm and busy city wide,

A holt, and dark and dismal greenwood grows.

Silent appeared the gloomy place, and one

Fitting the cruel deed which should be done.


“He drew his sword on her, and signified

The mandate by her angry husband given;

That so she might entreat, before she died,

Forgiveness of her every sin from Heaven.

I know not how; she vanished from his side,

When through her flank the blade he would have driven.

Vainly long time he seeks her, then remains

Foiled and outscorned, for guerdon of his pains.


“He all astound and with bewildered face,

And full of shame, to seek his lord returns;

Who from the servant that unwonted case,

Unweeting how the thing had happened, learns;

Nor knows the fairy Manto fills a place

About Argia, prompt to serve her turns.

Because the nurse, that all the rest revealed

(I know not wherefore, I), had this concealed.


“He knows not what to do: the outrage sore

Avenged he has not, nor his pain allaid:

What was a mote is now a beam; so sore

It prest him; on his heart so heavy weighed.

So plain is what was little known before,

He fears that it will shortly be displaid.

At first, he haply might have hid his woe;

Which Rumour now throughout the world will blow.


“Full well he wots, that since his evil vein

He to his wife, unhappy wretch! hath shown,

Not to be subject to his yoke again,

She to some strong protector will have flown;

Who to his ignominy will maintain,

And utter scorn, the lady as his own:

And haply may she to some losel flee,

Who will her paramour and pander be.


“For remedy, he sends in haste a band

Of messengers, with letters far and nigh.

Some of Argia here, some there demand;

Nor town unsearched is left in Lombardy.

Next he in person goes; nor any land

Leaves unexamined by himself or spy.

Yet cannot he discover means or way

For learning where concealed his consort lay.


“The servant last he called on whom was laid

The ill hest, but who had served not his despite;

And thither by his guidance was conveyed,

Where (as ’twas said) she vanished from his sight;

Who haply lurked by day in greenwood-shade,

And to some friendly roof retired at night.

He thither guided, where but forest-trees

He thinks to find, a sumptuous palace sees.


“This while for bright Argia in that part

The fay had made with speedy toil prepare

An alabaster palace by her art,

Gilded within, without, and everywhere.

So wonderful, no tongue could tell, no heart

Conceive, how rich within, without how fair:

That, which thou deemed so fair, my master’s home,

Is but a cottage to that costly dome.


“Curtain and cloth of arras deck the wall,

Sumptuously woven and in different wise,

In vaulted cellar and in littered stall;

Not only spread in latticed galleries,

Not only spread in lordly bower and hall.

Vase, gold and silver, gems of many dyes,

Carved into cup and charger, blue, red, green,

And countless cloths of silk and gold are seen.


“He chanced upon the costly dome (as I

To you was in my story making known)

When he expected not a hut to spy,

And but a weary waste of woodland lone.

As he beheld the dome with wondering eye,

Anselmo thought his intellects were gone:

That he was drunk, or dreamed that wondrous sight

He weened, of that his wits had taken flight.


“An Aethiop woman posted at the door,

With blubber lip and nostril, he descries.

Nor will he see again, nor e’er before

Had seen a visage of such loathsome guise:

Ill-favoured — such was Aesop feigned of yore:

If there, she would have saddened Paradise.

Greasy and foul and beggarly her vest;

Nor half her hideousness have I exprest.


“Anselm, who saw no other wight beside

To tell who was that mansion’s lord, drew nigh

To the Aethiopian, and to her applied;

And she: ‘The owner of this house am I.’

The judge was well assured the negress lied,

And made that answer but in mockery:

But with repeated oaths the negress swears;

’Tis hers, and none with her the mansions shares;


“And would he see the palace, him invites

To view it at his ease; and recommends

If there be ought within which him delights,

To take it for himself or for his friends.

Anselmo hears, and from his horse alights,

Gives it his man; and o’er the threshold wends;

And by the hag conducted, mounts from hall

Below to bower above, admiring all.


“Form, site, and sumptuous work doth he behold,

And royal ornament and fair device;

And oft repeats, not all this wide world’s gold

To buy the egregious mansion wound suffice.

To him in answer said that negress old:

‘And yet this dome, like others, hath its prize;

If not in gold and silver, price less high

Than gold and silver will the palace buy’:


“And she to him prefers the same request,

Which erst Adonio to Argia made.

A fool he deemed the woman and possest,

Who for a boon so foul and filthy prayed.

Yet ceased she not, though more than thrice represt;

And strove so well Anselmo to persuade,

Proffering, for his reward, the palace still,

She wrought on him to do her evil will.


“The wife Argia, that is hid fast by,

When in such sin her husband she descries,

Of doctor, that was deemed so passing wise,

Springs forth and saith: ‘Ah! worthy deed! which I

Found in such foul and filthy work, espy!’

Bethink thee, if his kindling blushes rise;

If he stands mute! why opens not thy hollow

And central womb, O earth, the wretch to swallow?


“To clear herself and shame him, doth she stun

Anselmo, never ceasing to upbraid.

‘What pain should by thyself be undergone

For this so filthy deed, (Argia said)

If thou would’st take my life for having done

What Nature prompted and a lover prayed;

One that was fair and gentle, and who brought

A gift, compared wherewith, this dome is nought?


“ ‘If worthy of one death thou deemest me,

Worthy art thou a hundred deaths to die:

And, though my pleasure might I do on thee,

So passing puissant in this place am I,

No other or worse vengeance done shall be

Upon my side, on thy delinquency.

The give against the take, O husband, place;

And, as ’twas granted thee, so grant me grace:


“ ‘And be there peace between us, and accord

That all be to forgetfulness consigned;

Nor thee I of thy fault by deed or word,

Nor me of mine, henceforward thou remind!’

This seemed a goodly bargain to her lord;

Nor to such pardon was he disinclined.

Thus peace and concord they at home restore,

And love each other dearly evermore.”


So said the mariner, and some brief fit

Of laughter in Montalban’s master stirred;

And made his visage burn, as if ’twas lit

With fire, when of Anselmo’s shame he heard.

Rinaldo greatly praised Argia’s wit,

Who by such quaint device had trapped that bird;

Who fell into the net wherein the dame

Herself erewhile had fallen, but with less shame.


When the sun climbed a steeper road, the knight

Ordered the board with food to be supplied,

Which the good Mantuan landlord overnight

Took care with largest plenty to provide;

While the fair town, upon the left, from sight

Retired, and on the right that marish wide.

Argenta is come and gone, with circling walls

And stream into whose bed Santerno falls.


Then was not fair Bastia built, deem I,

Which little cause of boast affords to Spain

(That there her banner has been raised on high),

And causes deeper sorrow to Romagne.

Thence in strait line their bark, that seems to fly,

To the right shore the boatmen drive amain:

Next through a stagnant channel make, that near

Ravenna brings by noon the cavalier.


Though oft of money he had small supply,

Then was the knight so well bested, he made

The weary rowers, in his courtesy,

A parting present, ere farewell was said.

Here changing horse and guide, to Rimini

Rinaldo rode that very eye, nor stayed

In Montefiore till the night was done;

And well nigh reached Urbino with the sun.


Then Frederick was not there of gentle lore,

Nor was Elizabeth nor Guido good;

Francis Maria nor sage Leonore;

Who would in courteous, not in haughty mood,

Have forced so famed a paladin for more

Than one short eye, with them to make abode;

As they long did, and do unto this day,

By dames and cavaliers who pass that way.


Since here none takes his rein, Rinaldo bends

His course an-end to Cagli; o’er the height,

Rifted by Gaurus and Metaurus, wends

Past Apennine, no longer on his right,

Umbri and Tuscans; and at Rome descends.

From Rome to Ostia goes Montalban’s knight:

Thence to the city sails; wherein a grave

His pious son to old Anchises gave.


There changes back; and thence in haste he goes

Bound towards Lampedosa’s island-shore,

That place of combat chosen by the foes,

And where they had encountered Frank and Moor.

Rinaldo grants his boatmen no repose;

That do what can be done by sail and oar.

But with ill wind and strong the warrior strives;

And, though by little, there too late arrives.


Thither he came what time Anglante’s peer

The useful and the glorious deed had done;

Had slain those paynim kings in the career,

But had a hard and bloody conquest won:

Dead was Sir Brandimart; and Olivier,

Dangerously hurt and sore, sate woe-begone,

Somedeal apart, upon the sandy ground,

Martyred and crippled by his cruel wound.


From tears could not the mournful Count refrain,

When brave Rinaldo he embraced, and said,

How in the battle Brandimart was slain.

Such love, such faith endeared the warrior dead.

Nor less Rinaldo’s tears his visage stain

When he so cleft beholds their comrade’s head.

Thence to embrace bold Oliviero, where

He sits with wounded foot, he makes repair.


All comfort that he could he gave; though none

Could good Rinaldo to himself afford;

Because he came but when the feast was done;

Yea after the removal of the board.

The servants wend to the demolished town,

There hide the bones of either paynim lord

Beneath Biserta’s ruined domes, and nigh

And far, the fearful tidings certify.


At the fair conquest won by Roland’s blade,

Sansonet and Astolpho make great cheer;

Yet other mirth whose warriors would have made

Had Brandimart not perished; when they hear

That he is dead, their joy is so allayed

They can no more the troubled visage clear.

Which of them now the tidings of such woe

To the unhappy Flordelice shall show?


The night preceding that ill-omened day

Flordelice dreamed the vest of sable grain

That she had made, her husband to array,

And woven with her hand and worked with pain,

Before her eyes all sprinkled-over lay

With ruddy drops, in guise of pattering rain.

That she had worked it so the lady thought;

And then was grieved at seeing what was wrought.


And seemed to say, “Yet from my lord have I

Command to make it all of sable hue;

Now wherefore it is stained with other dye

Against his will, in mode so strange to view?”

She from that dream draws evil augury;

And thither on that eve the tidings flew:

But these concealed Astolpho from the dame

Till he to her with Sansonetto came.


When they are entered, and she sees no show

Of joyful triumphs, she, without a word,

Without a hint to indicate that woe,

Knows that no longer living is her lord.

With that her gentle heart was riven so,

And so her harassed eyes the light abhorred,

And so was every other sense astound,

That, like one dead, she sank upon the ground.


She in her hair, when life returns again,

Fastens her hand; and on her lovely cheeks,

Repeating the beloved name in vain,

With all her force her scorn and fury wreaks;

Uproots and tears, her locks, and in her pain

Like woman, smit by evil demon, shrieks,

Or, as Bacchante at the horn’s rude sound,

Erewhile was seen to run her restless round.


Now to the one, to the other now her prayer

She made for knife, wherewith her heart to smite;

Now she aboard the pinnace would repair

That brought the corse of either paynim knight,

And would on either, lifeless as they were,

Do cruel scathe, and vent her fierce despite.

Now would she seek her lord, till at his side

She rested from her weary search, and died.


“Ah! wherefore, Brandimart, did I let thee

Without me wend on such a dire emprize?

She ne’er before did thy departure see,

But Flordelice aye followed thee,” she cries:

“Well aided mightest thou have been by me;

For I on thee should still have kept my eyes;

And when Gradasso came behind thee, I

Thee might have succoured with a single cry;


“And haply I so nimbly might have made

Between you, that the stroke I might have caught,

And with my head, as with a buckler, stayed:

For little ill my dying would have wrought.

Anyhow I shall die; and — that debt paid —

My melancholy death will profit nought:

When, had I died, defending thee in strife,

I could not better have bestowed my life.


“Even is averse had been hard Destiny,

And all heaven’s host, when thee I sought to aid,

At least my tears had bathed thy visage, I

Should the last kiss thereon, at least, have laid;

And, ere amid the blessed hierarchy

Thy spirit mixt, ‘Depart’ — I should have said —

‘In peace, and wait me in thy rest; for there,

Where’er thou art, I swiftly shall repair.’


“Is this, O Brandimart, is this the reign,

Whose honoured sceptre thou wast now to take?

With thee to Dommogire, thy fair domain,

Thus went I; me thus welcome dost thou make?

Alas! what hope today thou renderest vain!

Ah! what designs, fell Fortune, dost thou break!

Ah! wherefore fear I, since a lot so blest,

Is lost, to lose as well the worthless rest?”


Repeating this and other plaint, so spite

And fury waxed, that she in her despair

Made new assault upon her tresses bright,

As if the fault was wholly in her hair:

Wildly her hands together doth she smite,

And gnaw; with nails her lip and bosom tear.

But I return to Roland and his peers;

While she bemoans herself and melts in tears.


Roland with Olivier, who much requires

Such leech’s care, his anguish to allay;

And who, himself, some worthy place desires

As much, wherein Sir Brandimart to lay,

Steers for the lofty mountain, that with fires

Brightens the night, with smoke obscures the day.

The wind blows fair, and on the starboard hand,

Not widely distant from them, lies that land.


With a fresh wind, that in their favour blows,

They loose their hawser at the close of day:

In heaven above the silent goddess shows

Her shining horn, to guide them on their way;

And on the following morn before them rose

The pleasant shores that round Girgenti lay.

Here Roland orders for the ensuing night

All that is needful for the funeral rite.


He, when he saw his order duly done,

And now the westering sun’s fair light was spent.

With many nobles, who from neighbouring town,

At his invital, to Girgenti went,

— The shore with torches blazing up and down,

And sounding wide with cries and loud lament, —

Thither returned where late, of life bereft,

His friends, beloved in life and death, was left.


There stands Bardino, weeping o’er the bier,

Who under Age’s heavy burden bows;

Who, in the tears on shipboard shed whilere.

Might well have wept away his eyes and brows:

Upbraiding skies and stars, the cavalier,

Like lion, in whose veins a fever glows,

Roars as he wreathes his wayward hands within

His hoary hair, and rends his wrinkled skin.


Upon the paladin’s return the cry

Redoubled, and the mourning louder grew

Orlando to the corse approached more nigh,

And speechless stood awhile, his friends to view,

Pale, as at eve is the acanthus’ dye

Or lily’s, which were plucked at morn: he drew

A heavy sigh, and on the warrior dead

Fixing his stedfast eyes, the County said:


“O comrade bold and true, there here liest slain,

And who dost live in heaven above, I know,

Rewarded with a life, thy glorious gain,

Which neither heat nor cold can take, my woe

Forgive, if thou beholdest me complain:

Because I sorrow to remain below,

And not to share in such delights with thee;

Not that thou art not left behind with me.


“Alone, without thee, there is nought I may

Ever possess, without thee, that can please.

If still with thee in tempest and affray,

Ah wherefore not with thee in calm and ease?

Right sore must be my trespass, since this clay

Will not to follow thee my soul release.

If in thy troubles still I bore a burden,

Why am I not a partner of thy guerdon?


“Thine is the guerdon; mine the loss; thy gain

Is single; but not single is my woe:

Partners with me in sorrow are Almayne,

And grieving France and Italy; and oh!

How will my lord and uncle, Charlemagne,

How will his paladins lament the blow!

How will the Christian church and empire moan,

Whose best defence in thee is overthrown!


“Oh! how thy foes will by the death of thee

Be freed henceforward from alarm and fear!

Alas! how strengthened paynimry will be!

What hardiment will now be theirs! what cheer!

What of thy consort will become? I see

Even here her mourning, and her outcries hear.

Me she accuses, haply hates, I know;

In that, through me, her every hope lies low.


“Yet by one comfort, Flordelice, is followed

His loss, for us that reft of him remain:

His death, with such surpassing glory hallowed,

To die all living warriors should be fain.

Those Decii; Curtius, in Rome’s forum swallowed;

Cordus, so vaunted by the Grecian train;

Not with more honour to themselves, with more

Profit to others, went to death of yore.”


These sad laments and more Orlando made;

And all this while white friars, and black, and gray,

With other clerks, by two and two arrayed,

Behind in long procession took their way;

And they to God for the departed prayed,

That he would to his rest his soul convey.

Before and all about were torches reared,

And changed to day the sable night appeared.


They raise the warrior’s bier, and ranged to bear

By turns that honoured weight were earl and knight.

The pall was purple silk, with broidery rare

Of gold, and pearls in costly circles dight.

Thereon, of lordly work and no less fair,

Cushions were laid, with jewels shining bright.

On which was stretched the lifeless knight in view,

Arrayed in vest of like device and hue.


A hundred men had past before the rest,

All taken from the poorest of the town;

And in one fashion equally were drest

Those beadsmen all, in black and trailing gown.

A hundred pages followed them, who prest

A hundred puissant steeds, for warfare bown;

And by those pages backed, the portly steeds

Went, sweeping wide the ground with sable weeds.


Banners in front and banners borne in rear,

Whose fields with diverse ensignry is stained,

Unfurled accompany the funeral bier;

Which from a thousand vanquished bands were gained,

For Caesar and for Peter’s church whilere,

By that rare force, which now extinct remained.

Bucklers by other followers carried are,

Won from good warriors, whose device they bear.


By hundreds and by hundreds followed more,

Ordained for different tasks, the steps of those;

Who burning torches like those others bore.

Mantled, say rather closely muffled, goes

Roland in sables next, and evermore

His eyes suffused and red with weeping shows.

Nor wears a gladder face Montalban’s peer.

At home his wound detains Sir Olivier.


The ceremonies would be long to say

In verse, wherewith Sir Brandimart was mourned;

The mantles, black or purple, given away;

The many torches which that eve were burned.

Wending to the cathedral, where the array

Past on its road, were no dry eyes discerned:

All sexes, ages, ranks, in pitying mood

Gazed upon him so youthful, fair, and good.


He in the church was placed; and, when with vain

Lament the women had bemoaned the dead,

And Kyrie Eleison, by the priestly train,

And other holy orisons were said,

In a fair ark, upraised on columns twain,

Was reared, with sumptuous cloth of gold o’erspread.

So willed Orlando; till he could be laid

In sepulchre of costlier matter made:


Nor out of Sicily the Count departs,

Till porphyries he procures and alabasters,

And fair designs; and in their several arts

Has with large hire engaged the primest masters.

Next Flordelice, arriving in those parts,

Raises the quarried slabs and rich pilasters;

Who, good Orlando being gone before,

Is hither wafted from the Africk shore.


She, seeing that her tears unceasing flow,

And that of long lament she never tires;

Nor she, for mass or service said, her woe

Can ease, or satisfy her sad desires,

Vows in her heart she thence will never go

Till from the wearied corse her soul expires;

And builds in that fair sepulchre a cell;

There shuts herself; therein for life will dwell.


Thither in person, having courier sent

And letter, Roland goes, her thence to take;

Her, would she wend to France, with goodly rent

Would gift, and Galerana’s inmate make;

As far as Lizza convoy her, if bent

On journeying to her father; for her sake

If wholly she to serve her God was willed,

A monastery would the warrior build.


Still in that sepulchre she dwelt, and worn

By weary penance, praying night and day,

It was not long, ere by the Parcae shorn

Was her life’s thread: already on their way

Were the three Christian warriors, homeward borne,

Sorrowing and afflicted sore in mind

For their fourth comrade who remained behind.


They would not go without a leech, whose skill

Might ease the wound of warlike Olivier;

Which, as in the beginning it could ill

Be salved, is hard to heal. Meanwhile they hear

The champion so complain, his outcries fill

Orlando and all that company with fear.

While they discoursed thereon, the skipper, moved

By a new notion, said what all approved.


A hermit not far distance hence, he said

A lonely rock inhabits in this sea;

Whose isle none, seeking succour, vainly tread,

Whether for counsel or for aid it be:

Who hath done superhuman deeds; the dead

Restores to life; and makes the blind to see;

Hushes the winds; and with a sign o’ the cross

Lulls the loud billows when they highest toss;


And adds they need not doubt, if they will go

To seek that holy man to God so dear,

But he on Olivier will health bestow;

Having his virtue proved by signs more clear.

This counsel pleases good Orlando so,

That for the holy place he bids him steer;

Who never swerving from his course, espies

The lonely rock, upon Aurora’s rise.


Worked by good mariners, the bark was laid

Safely beside the rugged rock and fell:

The marquis there, with crew and servants’ aid,

They lowered into their boat; and through the swell

And foaming waters in that shallop made

For the rude isle; thence sought the holy cell;

The holy cell of that same hermit hoar,

By whom Rogero was baptized before.


The servant of the Lord of Paradise

Receives Orlando and the rest on land;

Blesses the company in cheerful wise;

And after of their errand makes demand;

Though he already had received advice

From angels of the coming of that band.

That they were thither bound in search of aid

For Oliviero’s hurt, Orlando said;


Who, warring for the Christian faith, in fight

To perilous pass was brought by evil wound.

All dismal fear relieved that eremite,

And promised he would make him wholly sound.

In that no unguents hath the holy wight,

Nor is in other human medicine found,

His church he seeks, his knee to Jesus bows,

And issues from the fane with cheerful brows;


And in the name of those eternal Three,

The Father, and the Son, and Holy Ghost,

On Oliviero bade his blessing be.

Oh! grace vouchsafed to faith! his sainted host

From every pain the paladin did free;

And to his foot restored its vigour lost.

He moved more nimble than before, and sure;

And present was Sobrino at the cure.


Sobrino, so diseased that he described

How worse with each succeeding day he grew,

As soon as he that holy monk espied

The manifest and mighty marvel do,

Disposed himself to cast Mahound aside,

And own in Christ a living God and true.

He, full of faith, with contrite heart demands

Our holy rite of baptism at his hands.


So him baptized the hermit; and as well

That monarch made as vigorous as whilere.

At this conversion no less gladness fell

On Roland and each Christian cavalier,

Than when, restored from deadly wound, and well

The friendly troop beheld Sir Olivier.

Rogero more rejoiced than all that crew;

And still in faith and grace the warrior grew.


Rogero from the day he swam ashore

Upon that islet, there had ever been.

That band is counselled by the hermit hoar,

Who stands, benign, those warlike knights between,

Eschewing in their passage mire and moor,

To wade withal through that dead water, clean,

Which men call life; wherein so fools delight;

And evermore on heaven to fix their sight.


Roland on shipboard sends one from his throng,

Who fetches hence good wine, hams, cheese, and bread;

And makes the sage, who had forgotten long

All taste of partridge since on fruits he fed,

Even do for love, what others did, among

Those social guests for whom the board was spread.

They, when their strength by food was reinforced,

Of many things amid themselves discoursed;


And as in talk it often doth befall

That one thing from another takes its rise,

Roland and Olivier Rogero call

To mind for that Rogero, in such wise

Renowned in arms; whose valour is of all

Lauded and echoed with accordant cries.

Not even had Rinaldo known the knight

For him whose prowess he had proved in fight.


Him well Sobrino recognized whilere,

As soon as with that aged man espied;

But he at first kept silence; for in fear

Of some mistake the monarch’s tongue was tied.

But when those others knew the cavalier

For that Rogero, famous far and wide,

Whose courtesy, whose might and daring through

The universal world loud Rumor blew,


All, for they know he is a Christian, stand

About him with serene and joyful face:

All press upon the knight; one grasps his hand;

Another locks him fast in his embrace:

Yet more than all the others of that band

Him would Montalban’s lord caress and grace:

Why more than all the others will appear

In other strain, if you that strain will hear.



Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:50