Part 11 out of 25
Marphisa, Dudo, Sansonet, and all
The knights or footmen harboured in that hall.
Hence to descend towards the sea or port
The way across the place of combat lies;
Nor was there other passage, long or short.
Sir Guido so to his companions cries:
And having ceased his comrades to exhort,
To do their best set forth in silent wise,
And in the place appeared, amid the throng,
Head of a squad above a hundred strong.
Toward the other gate Sir Guido went,
Hurrying his band, but, gathered far and nigh
The mighty multitude, for aye intent
To smite, and clad in arms, when they descry
The comrades whom he leads, perceive his bent,
And truly deem he is about to fly.
All in a thought betake them to their bows,
And at the portal part the knight oppose.
Sir Guido and the cavaliers who go
Beneath that champion's guidance, and before
The others bold Marphisa, were not slow
To strike, and laboured hard to force the door.
But such a storm of darts from ready bow,
Dealing on all sides death or wounding sore,
Was rained in fury on the troop forlorn,
They feared at last to encounter skaith and scorn.
Of proof the corslet was each warrior wore,
Who without this would have had worse to fear:
Sansonnet's horse was slain, and that which bore
Marphisa: to himself the English peer
Exclaimed, "Why wait I longer? As if more
My horn could ever succour me than here.
Since the sword steads not, I will make assay
If with my bugle I can clear the way."
As he was customed in extremity,
He to his mouth applied the bugle's round;
The wide world seemed to tremble, earth and sky,
As he in air discharged the horrid sound.
Such terror smote the dames, that bent to fly,
When in their ears the deafening horn was wound,
Not only they the gate unguarded left,
But from the circus reeled, of wit bereft.
As family, awaked in sudden wise,
Leaps from the windows and from lofty height,
Periling life and limb, when in surprise
They see, now near, the fire's encircling light,
Which had, while slumber sealed their heavy eyes,
By little and by little waxed at night:
Reckless of life, thus each, impelled by dread,
At sound of that appalling bugle fled.
Above, below, and here and there, the rout
Rise in confusion and attempt to fly.
At once, above a thousand swarm about
Each entrance, to each other's lett, and lie
In heaps: from window these, or stage without,
Leap headlong; in the press these smothered die.
Broken is many an arm, and many a head;
And one lies crippled, and another dead.
Amid the mighty ruin which ensued,
Cries pierce the very heavens on every part.
Where'er the sound is heard, the multitude,
In panic at the deafening echo, start.
When you are told that without hardihood
Appear the rabble, and of feeble heart,
This need not more your marvel; for by nature
The hare is evermore a timid creature.
But of Marphisa what will be your thought,
And Guido late so furious? -- of the two
Young sons of Olivier, that lately wrought
Such deeds in honour of their lineage? who
Lately a hundred thousand held as nought,
And now, deprived of courage, basely flew,
As ring-doves flutter and as coneys fly,
Who hear some mighty noise resounding nigh.
For so to friend as stranger, noxious are
The powers that in the enchanted horn reside.
Sansonet, Guido, follow, with the pair
Or brethren bold, Marphisa terrified.
Nor flying, can they to such distance fare,
But that their ears are dinned. On every side
Astolpho, on his foaming courser borne,
Lends louder breath to his enchanted horn.
One sought the sea, and one the mountain-top,
One fled the hide herself in forest hoar;
And this, who turned not once nor made a stop,
Not for ten days her headlong flight forbore:
These from the bridge in that dread moment drop,
Never to climb the river's margin more.
So temple, house and square and street were drained,
That nigh unpeopled the wide town remained.
Marphisa, Guido, and the brethren two,
With Sansonetto, pale and trembling, hie
Towards the sea, and behind these the crew
Of frighted mariners and merchants fly;
And 'twixt the forts, in bark, prepared with view
To their escape, discover Alery;
Who in sore haste receives the warriors pale,
And bids them ply their oars and make all sail.
The duke within and out the town had bear
From the surrounding hills to the sea-side,
And of its people emptied every street.
All fly before the deafening sound, and hide:
Many in panic, seeking a retreat,
Lurk, in some place obscure and filthy stied;
Many, not knowing whither to repair,
Plunge in the neighbouring sea, and perish there.
The duke arrives, seeking the friendly band,
Whom he had hoped to find upon the quay;
He turns and gazes round the desert strand,
And none is there -- directs along the bay
His eyes, and now, far distant from the land,
Beholds the parting frigate under way.
So that the paladin, for his escape --
The vessel gone -- must other project shape.
Let him depart! nor let it trouble you
That he so long a road must beat alone;
Where, never without fear, man journeys through
Wild paynim countries: danger is there none,
But what he with his bugle may eschew,
Whose dread effect the English duke has shown;
And let his late companions be our care,
Who trembling to the beach had made repair.
They from that cruel and ensanguined ground
To seaward, under all their canvas, bore;
And having gained such offing, that the sound
Of that alarming horn was heard no more,
Unwonted shame inflicted such a wound,
That all a face of burning crimson wore.
One dares not eye the other, and they stand
With downcast looks, a mute and mournful band.
Fixed on his course, the pilot passes by
Cyprus and Rhodes, and ploughs the Aegean sea:
Beholds a hundred islands from him fly,
And Malea's fearful headland; fanned by free
And constant wind, sees vanish from the eye
The Greek Morea; rounding Sicily,
Into the Tuscan sea his frigate veers,
And, coasting Italy's fair region, steers:
Last rises Luna, where his family
Is waiting his return, the patron hoar
Gives thanks to God at having passed the sea
Without more harm, and makes the well-known shore.
Here, offering passage to their company,
They find a master, ready to unmoor
For France, and that same day his pinnace climb;
Thence wafted to Marseilles in little time.
There was not Bradamant, who used to sway
The land, and had that city in her care,
And who (if present there) to make some stay
Would have compelled them by her courteous prayer.
They disembarked; and that same hour away
Did bold Marphisa at a venture fare;
Bidding adieu to salvage Guido's wife,
And to the four, her comrades in the strife:
Saying she deems unfitting for a knight
To fare in like great fellowship; that so
The starlings and the doves in flock unite,
And every beast who fears -- the stag and doe;
But hawk and eagle, that in other's might
Put not their trust, for ever singly go;
And lion, bear, and tyger, roam alone,
Who fear no prowess greater than their own.
But none with her opine, and, in the lack
Of a companion, singly must she fare,
So then, alone and friendless, she a track
Uncouth pursues, and through a wooded lair.
Gryphon the white and Aquilant the black
Take road more beaten with the other pair;
And on the following day a castle see,
Within which they are harboured courteously.
Courteously I, in outward show, would say;
For soon the contrary was made appear.
Since he, the castellain, who with display
Of kindness sheltered them and courteous cheer,
The night ensuing took them as they lay
Couched in their beds, secure and void of fear.
Nor from the snare would he his prisoners loose,
Till they had sworn to observe an evil use.
But I will first pursue the martial maid,
Ere more of these, fair sir, I shall proclaim.
Beyond the Durence, Rhone, and Saone she strayed,
And to the foot of sunny mountain came;
And there approaching in black gown arrayed,
Beside a torrent, saw an ancient dame;
Who with long journey weak, and wearied sore,
Appeared, but pined by melancholy more.
This was the beldam who had wont to ply
Serving the robbers in the caverned mount;
Whither stern Justice sent (that they might die
By that good paladin) Anglante's count.
The aged harridan, for cause which I
To you shall in another place recount,
Now many days by path obscure had flown,
Still fearing lest her visage should be known.
The semblance now of foreign cavalier
She in Marphisa saw, in arms and vest;
And hence she flies not her, though wont to fear,
(As being natives of that land) the rest;
-- Nay, with security and open cheer,
Stops at the ford the damsel to arrest:
Stops at the ford -- where that old beldam meets
Marphisa, and with fair encounter greets.
And next implored the maid, she of her grace
Would bear her on the croupe to the other shore.
Marphisa, who was come of gentle race,
The hag with her across the torrent bore;
And is content to bear, till she can place
In a securer road the beldam hoar,
Clear of a spacious marish: as its end
They see a cavalier towards them wend.
In shining armour and in fair array,
The warrior rode on saddle richly wrought
Towards the river, and upon his way
With him a single squire and damsel brought.
Of passing beauty was the lady gay,
But little pleasing was her semblance haught;
All overblown with insolence and pride,
Worthy the cavalier who was her guide.
He of Maganza was a count, who bore
The lady with him (Pinabello hight):
The same who Bradamant, some months before,
Had plunged into a hollow cave in spite.
Those many sobs, those burning sighs and sore,
Those tears which had nigh quenched the warrior's sight, --
All for the damsel were, now at his side;
And then by that false necromancer stied.
But when the magic tower upon the hill
Was razed, the dwelling of Atlantes hoar,
And every one was free to rove at will,
Through Bradamant's good deed and virtuous lore,
The damsel, who had been compliant still
With the desires of Pinabel before,
Rejoined him, and now journeying in a round
With him, from castle was to castle bound.
As wanton and ill-customed, when she spies
Marphisa's aged charge approaching near,
She cannot rein her saucy tongue, but plies
Here, in her petulance, with laugh and jeer.
Marphisa haught, unwont in any wise
Outrage from whatsoever part to hear,
Makes answer to the dame, in angry tone,
That handsomer than her she deems the crone.
And that she this would prove upon her knight
With pact that she might strip the bonnibell
Of gown and palfrey, if, o'erthrown in fight,
Her champion from his goodly courser fell.
-- In silence to have overpast the slight
Would have been sin and shame in Pinabel,
Who for short answer seized his shield and spear,
And wheeled, and drove at her in fierce career.
Marphisa grasped a mighty lance, and thrust,
Encountering him, at Pinabello's eyes;
And stretched him so astounded in the dust,
That motionless an hour the warrior lies.
Marphisa, now victorious in the just,
Gave orders to strip off the glorious guise
And ornaments wherewith the maid was drest,
And with the spoils her ancient crone invest;
And willed that she should don the youthful weed,
Bedizened at the haughty damsel's cost;
And took away as well the goodly steed
Which her had thither borne, and -- bent to post
On her old track -- with her the hag will speed,
Who seems most hideous when adorned the most.
Three days the tedious road the couple beat,
Without adventure needful to repeat.
On the fourth day they met a cavalier,
Who came in fury galloping alone.
If you the stranger's name desire to hear,
I tell you 'twas Zerbino, a king's son,
Of beauty and of worth example rare,
Now grieved and angered, as unvenged of one,
Who a great act of courtesy, which fain
The warrior would have done, had rendered vain.
Vainly the young Zerbino, through the glade,
Had chased that man of his, who this despite
Had done him, who himself so well conveyed
Away and took such 'vantage in his flight,
So hid by wood and mist, which overlaid
The horizon and bedimmed the morning-light,
That he escaped Zerbino's grasp, and lay
Concealed until his wrath was past away.
Zerbino laughed parforce, when he descried
That beldam's face, though he was full of rage;
For too ill-sorted seemed her vest of pride
With her foul visage, more deformed by age;
And to the proud Marphisa, at her side
The prince, exclaimed, "Sir warrior, you are sage,
In having chosen damsel of a sort,
Whom none, I ween, will grudge you should escort."
Older than Sibyl seemed the beldam hoar,
(As far as from her wrinkles one might guess),
And in the youthful ornaments she wore,
Looked like an ape which men in mockery dress;
And now appears more foul, as angered sore,
While rage and wrath her kindled eyes express.
For none can do a woman worse despite
Than to proclaim her old and foul to sight.
To have sport of him -- as she had -- an air
Of wrath the maid assumed upon her part,
And to the prince, "By Heaven, more passing fair
Is this my lady than thou courteous art,"
Exclaimed in answer; "though I am aware
What thou hast uttered comes not from thy heart.
Thou wilt not own her beauty; a device
Put on to masque thy sovereign cowardice.
"And of what stamp would be that cavalier
Who found such fair and youthful dame alone,
Without protection, in the forest drear,
Nor sought to make the lovely weft his own?"
-- "So well she sorts with thee," replied the peer,
" `Twere ill that she were claimed by any one:
Nor I of her would thee in any wise
Deprive; God rest thee merry with thy prize!
"But would thou prove what is my chivalry,
On other ground I to thy wish incline;
Yet deem me not of such perversity
As to tilt with thee for this prize of thine.
Or fair or foul, let her remain thy fee;
I would not, I, such amity disjoin.
Well are ye paired, and safely would I swear
That thou as valiant art as she is fair."
To him Marphisa, "Thou in thy despite
Shalt try to bear from me the dame away.
I will not suffer that so fair a sight
Thou shouldst behold, nor seek to gain the prey."
To her the prince, "I know not wherefore wight
Should suffer pain and peril in affray,
Striving for victory, where, for his pains,
The victor losses, and the vanquished gains."
"If this condition please not, other course
Which ill thou canst refuse, I offer thee,"
(Marphisa cried): "If thou shalt me unhorse
In this our tourney, she remains with me:
But if I win, I give her thee parforce.
Then prove we now who shall without her be.
Premised, if loser, thou shalt be her guide,
Wherever it may please the dame to ride."
"And be it so," Zerbino cried, and wheeled
Swiftly his foaming courser for the shock,
And rising in his stirrups scowered the field,
Firm in his seat, and smote, with levelled stock,
For surer aim, the damsel in mid-shield;
But she sate stedfast as a metal rock,
And at the warrior's morion thrust so well,
She clean out-bore him senseless from the sell.
Much grieved the prince, to whom in other fray
The like misfortune had not chanced before,
Who had unhorsed some thousands in his day:
Now shamed, he thought for ever. Troubled sore,
And mute long space upon the ground he lay,
And, when 'twas recollected, grieved the more,
That he had promised, and that he was bound,
To accompany the hag where'er she wound.
Turning about to him the victoress cried,
Laughing, "This lady I to thee present,
And the more beauty is in her descried,
The more that she is thine I am content,
Now in my place her champion and her guide.
But do not thou thy plighted faith repent,
So that thou fail, as promised, to attend
The dame, wherever she may please to wend."
Without awaiting answer, to career
She spurred her horse, and vanished in the wood.
Zerbino, deeming her a cavalier,
Cried to the crone, "By whom am I subdued?"
And, knowing 'twould be poison to his ear,
And that it would inflame his angered blood,
She in reply, "It was a damsel's blow
Which from thy lofty saddle laid thee low.
"She, for her matchless force, deservedly
Usurps from cavalier the sword and lance;
And even from the east is come to try
Her strength against the paladins of France."
Not only was his cheek of crimson dye,
Such shame Zerbino felt as his mischance,
Little was wanting (so his blushes spread)
But all the arms he wore had glowed as red.
He mounts, and blames himself in angry wise,
In that he had no better kept his seat.
Within herself the beldam laughs, and tries
The Scottish warrior more to sting and heat.
To him for promised convoy she applies;
And he, who knows that there is no retreat,
Stands like tired courser, who in pensive fit,
Hangs down his ears, controlled by spur and bit.
And, sighing deeply, cries, in his despair,
"Fell Fortune, with what change dost thou repay
My loss! she who was fairest of the fair,
Who should be mine, by thee is snatched away!
And thinkest thou the evil to repair
With her whom thou hast given to me this day?
Rather than make like ill exchange, less cross
It were to undergo a total loss.
"Her, who for virtue and for beauteous form
Was never equalled, nor will ever be,
Thou on the rocks hast wrecked, in wintry storm,
As food for fowls and fishes of the sea;
And her who should have fed the earth-bred worm
Preserved beyond her date, some ten or score
Of years, to harass and torment me more."
So spake Zerbino, and like grief displaid,
In his despairing words and woful mien,
For such an odious acquisition made,
As he had suffered when he lost his queen.
The aged woman now, from what he said,
Though she before Zerbino had not seen,
Perceived 'twas him of whom, in the thieves' hold,
Isabel of Gallicia erst had told.
If you remember what was said before,
This was the hag who 'scaped out of the cave,
Where Isabella, who had wounded sore
Zerbino's heart, was long detained a slave;
Who oft had told how she her native shore
Had left, and, launching upon ocean's wave
Her frigate, had been wrecked by wind and swell
Upon the rocky shallows near Rochelle.
And she to her Zerbino's goodly cheer
And gentle features had pourtrayed so well,
That the hag hearing him, and now more near,
Letter her eyes upon his visage dwell,
Discerned it was the youth for whom, whilere,
Had grieved at heart the prisoned Isabel;
Whose loss she in the cavern more deplored,
Than being captive to the murderous horde.
The beldam, hearing what in rage and grief
Zerbino vents, perceives the youth to be
Deceived, and cheated by the false belief
That Isabel had perished in the sea;
And though she might have given the prince relief,
Knowing the truth, in her perversity
What would have made him joyful she concealed,
And only what would cause him grief revealed.
"Hear, you that are so proud," (the hag pursues)
"And flout me with such insolence and scorn,
You would entreat me fair to have the news
I know of her whose timeless death you mourn;
But to be strangled would I rather choose,
And be into a thousand pieces torn.
Whereas if you had made me kinder cheer,
Haply from me the secret might you hear."
As the dog's rage is quickly overblown,
Who flies the approaching robber to arrest,
If the thief proffer piece of bread or bone,
Of offer other lure which likes him best;
As readily Zerbino to the crone
Humbled himself, and burned to know the rest;
Who, in the hints of the old woman, read
That she had news of her he mourned as dead.
And with more winning mien to her applied,
And her did supplicate, entreat, conjure,
By men and gods, the truth no more to hide,
Did she benign or evil lot endure.
The hard and pertinacious crone replied,
"Nought shalt thou hear, thy comfort to assure.
Isabel has not yielded up her breath,
But lives a life she would exchange for death.
"She, since thou heardest of her destiny,
Within few days, has fallen into the power
Of more than twenty. If restored to thee,
Think now, if thou hast hope to crop her flower."
-- "Curst hag, how well thou shapest thy history,
Yet knowest it is false! Her virgin dower
Secure from brutal wrong, would none invade,
Though in the power of twenty were the maid."
Questioning of the maid, he when and where
She saw her, vainly asked the beldam hoar,
Who, ever restive to Zerbino's prayer,
To what she had rehearsed would add no more.
The prince in the beginning spoke her fair,
And next to cut her throat in fury swore.
But prayers and menaces alike were weak;
Nor could he make the hideous beldam speak.
At length Zerbino to his tongue gave rest,
Since speaking to the woman booted nought;
Scarcely his heart found room within his breast,
Such dread suspicion had her story wrought.
He to find Isabella was so pressed,
Her in the midst of fire he would have sought;
But could not hurry more than was allowed
By her his convoy, since he so had vowed.
They hence, by strange and solitary way,
Rove, as the beldam does her will betoken,
Nor climbing, nor descending hill, survey
Each other's face, nor any word is spoken.
But when the sun upon the middle day
Had turned his back, their silence first was broken
By cavalier encountered in their way:
What followed the ensuing strain will say.
Zerbino for Gabrina, who a heart
Of asp appears to bear, contends. O'erthrown,
The Fleming falls upon the other part,
Through cause of that despised and odious crone,
He wounded sore, and writhing with the smart,
The beldam's treason to the prince makes known,
Whose scorn and hatred hence derive new force.
Towards loud cries Zerbino spurs his horse.
No cord I well believe is wound so tight
Round chest, nor nails the plank so fastly hold,
As Faith enwraps an honourable sprite
In its secure, inextricable, fold;
Nor holy Faith, it seems, except in white
Was mantled over in the days of old;
So by the ancient limner ever painted,
As by one speck, one single blemish tainted.
Faith should be kept unbroken evermore,
With one or with a thousand men united;
As well if given in grot or forest hoar,
Remote from town and hamlet, as if plighted
Amid a crowd of witnesses, before
Tribunal, and in act and deed recited:
Nor needs the solemn sanction of an oath:
It is sufficient that we pledge our troth.
And this maintains as it maintained should be,
In each emprize the Scottish cavalier,
And gives good proof of his fidelity,
Quitting his road with that old crone to steer;
Although this breeds the youth such misery,
As 'twould to have Disease itself as near,
Or even Death; but with him heavier weighed
That his desire the promise he had made.
Of him I told who felt at heart such load,
Reflecting she beneath his charge must go,
He spake no word; and thus in silent mode
Both fared: so sullen was Zerbino's woe.
I said how vexed their silence, as they rode,
Was broke, when Sol his hindmost wheels did show,
By an adventurous errant cavalier,
Who in mid pathway met the crone and peer.
The hag, who the approaching warrior knew,
(Hermonides of Holland he was hight)
That bore upon a field of sable hue
A bar of vermeil tint, transversely dight,
Did humbly now to good Zerbino sue,
-- Her pride abased, and look of haught despite --
And him reminded of the promise made,
When her Marphisa to his care conveyed.
Because as foe to her and hers she knew
The knight they were encountering, who had slain
Her only brother and her father true;
And was advised, the traitor would be fain
By her, the remnant of her race, to do
What he had perpetrated on the twain.
"Woman, while guarded by my arm (he said)
I will not thou shouldst any danger dread."
As nearer now, the stranger knight espied
That face, which was so hateful in his sight,
With menacing and savage voice he cried,
"Either with me prepare thyself to fight,
Or arm thee not on that old woman's side,
Who by my hand shall perish, as is right.
If thou contendest for her, thou art slain;
For such their portion is who wrong maintain."
Him young Zerbino answered courteously,
Twas sign of evil and ungenerous will,
And corresponded not with chivalry,
That he a woman should desire to kill;
Yet if the knight persists, he will not flee --
But bids him well consider first how ill
'Twould sound, that he, a gentle knight and good,
Should wish to dip his hand in woman's blood.
This and yet more he vainly says; nor stand
They idle long; from word they pass to deed;
And having compassed on the level land
Enough of ground, encounter on the mead.
Not fired in some rejoicing, from the hand
Discharged, so fast the whistling rockets speed,
As the two coursers bear the cavaliers
To hurtle in mid space with rested spears.
Hermonides of Holland levelled low,
And for the youth's left flank the stroke intended;
But his weak lance was shivered by the blow,
And little the opposing Scot offended:
But vain was not the spear-thrust of his foe,
Who bored his opposite's good shield, and rended
His shoulder, by the lance pierced through and through,
And good Hermonides on earth o'erthrew.
Thinking him slain who only lay amazed,
By pity prest, Zerbino leapt to ground,
And from his deathlike face the vizor raised;
And he, as wakened out of sleep profound,
In silence, hard upon Zerbino gazed;
Then cried, "It does not me, in truth, confound,
To think that I am overthrown by thee,
Who seem'st the flower of errant chivalry.
"But it with reason grieves me this is done
Upon account of a false woman's spite;
Whose wicked cause I know not why you own,
An office ill according with your might:
And when to you the occasion shall be known
Which urges me her wickedness to quite,
Whene'er you think on it, you will repent
How she by you was saved, and I was shent.
"And if enough of breath, although I fear
The contrary, is left me to expound
Her evil actions, I shall make appear
She in all guilt transgresses every bound.
I had a brother once: the youthful peer
Set out from Holland's isle, our natal ground,
To serve Heraclius, 'mid his knights arrayed,
Who then the Grecian empire's sceptre swayed.
"Brother in arms and bosom-friend installed
Here was he by a baron of that court,
Who, in a pleasant site, and strongly walled,
On Servia's distant frontier had a fort.
Argaeus he of whom I tell was called,
Husband of that ill hag, whom in such sort
He loved, as passed all mean, and misbecame
One of his worth and honourable fame.
"But she, more volatile than leaf, when breeze
Of autumn most its natural moisture dries,
And strips the fluttering foliage from the trees,
Which, blown about, before its fury flies,
Changes her humour, and her husband sees,
Whom she some time had loved, with other eyes,
And in her every wish and every thought
Schemes how my brother's love may best be bought.
"But not Acroceraunus fronts the brine,
-- Ill-famed -- against whose base the billow heaves,
Nor against Boreas stands the mountain pine,
That has a hundred times renewed its leaves,
And towering high on Alp or Apennine,
With its fast root the rock as deeply cleaves,
So firmly as the youth resists the will
Of that foul woman, sink of every ill.
"Now, as it oft befalls a cavalier
Who seeks and finds adventure, high and low,
It happened that my gentle brother near
His comrade's fort was wounded by a foe;
Where often, uninvited by the peer,
He guested, was his host with him or no;
And thither he resorted from the field,
There to repose until his wounds were healed.
"While there he wounded lay, upon some need
It chanced Argaeus was compelled to ride.
Quickly that wanton, from his presence freed,
As was her use, my brother's fealty tried.
But he, as one unstained in thought and deed,
So fell a goad no longer would abide;
And to preserve his faith, as lures increased,
Of many evils chose what seemed the least.
"To break communion with the cavalier,
To him -- of many -- seemed the lightest ill,
And go so far, that wanton should not hear
More of his name: this purpose to fulfil
Was honester (though quitting one so dear
Was hard) than to content her evil will,
Of her foul wishes to her lord impart,
Who cherished her as fondly as his heart.
"And though yet smarting with his wounds and pined,
He dons his arms, and from the tower departs;
And wanders thence with firm and constant mind,
Ne'er to return again into those parts.
But nought availed the purpose he designed;
His projects Fortune baffled with new arts.
This while, behold! the castellain returned,
And bathed in bitter tears the wife discerned.
"And with flushed face, and hair in disarray,
He asks of her what had disturbed her mood;
Who, ere she in reply a word will say,
Is vainly more than once to answer wooed;
And all the while is thinking in what way
The knight can best with vengeance be pursued.
And well it suited with her fickle vein,
Lightly to change her love into disdain.
" `Ah! why should I conceal (in fine she cried)
The fault committed while you were away?
For though I it from all the world should hide,
This would my conscience to myself bewray.
The soul, which is with secret evil dyed,
Does with such penitence its fault appay,
As every corporal sufferance exceeds
That thou couldst deal me for my evil deeds;
" `If evil be the deed, when done parforce.
But, be it what it may, the mischief know;
Then, with my sword from this polluted corse,
Delivered, let my spotless spirit go;
And quench these wretched eyes, which in remorse,
I, if I lived, on earth must ever throw,
As the least penance of so foul a blame,
And, look on whom they may, must blush for shame.
" `My honour has been ruined by thy mate,
Who to this body violence has done,
And fearing lest I all to thee relate,
Without farewell the graceless churl is gone.'
She by this story made her husband hate
The youth, than whom before was dearer none.
Argaeus credits all, without delay
Arms him, and, breathing vengeance, posts away.
"In knowledge of that country not to seek,
He overtook the knight in little space;
For my poor brother, yet diseased and weak,
Rode, unsuspicious, at an easy pace;
Argaeus, eager his revenge to wreak,
Assailed him straight in a sequestered place.
My brother would excuse him if he might,
But his indignant host insists on fight.
"This one was sound and full of new disdain,
That weak and friendly, as aye wont to be:
My brother was ill fitted to sustain
His altered comrade's new-born enmity.
Philander, then unmeriting such pain,
(So was the stripling named, described by me)
Not gifted with the power to undergo
Such fierce assault, was taken by the foe.
" `Forbid it, Heaven! I should be led astray
So by just wrath and thy iniquity,
(To him Argaeus cried) as thee to slay,
Who loved thee once, and certes thou lovedst me,
Though in the end thou ill didst this display,
I yet desire this ample world may see
That, measured by my deeds, I rank above
Thyself in hate as highly as in love.
" `In other mode shall I chastise the deed,
Than spilling more of thine ill blood.' The peer,
This said, commands his followers, on a steed,
Of verdant boughs composed to place a bier,
And with the knight half-lifeless homeward speed,
And in a tower enclose the cavalier;
There dooms the guiltless stripling to remain,
And suffer prisonment's perpetual pain.
"Yet nothing but his former liberty
Thence to depart was wanting to the knight;
In all the rest, as one at large and free,
He ordered, and was still obeyed aright.
But that ill dame her former phantasy
Pursuing ever with unwearied sprite,
Having the keys, repaired nigh every day
To the close turret where the prisoner lay.
"And evermore my brother she assailed,
And with more boldness prest her former suit.
`Mark what to thee fidelity availed!'
(She cries) `which all mere perfidy repute.
With what triumphant joy shalt thou be hailed!
What noble spoils are thine, what happy fruit!
Oh what a worthy guerdon is thy meed!
Branded by all men for a traitor's deed!
" `How well thou mightst have given, and without stain
Of thine own honour, what I sought of thee!
Now of so rigorous mood the worthy gain
Have and enjoy. In close captivity
Thou art; nor ever hope to break thy chain,
Unless thou soften thy obduracy.
But, if compliant, I a mean can frame
To render thee thy liberty and fame.'
" `No, no; have thou no hope,' (replied the knight,)
`That my true faith shall ever change, although
It thus should happen that, against all right,
I should so hard a sentence undergo.
Let the world blame. Enough that in HIS sight
-- Who sees and judges every thing below,
And in HIS grace divine my fame can clear --
My innocence unsullied shall appear.
" `Does not Argaeus deem enough to sty
Me in his prison, let him take away
This noisome life. Nor yet may Heaven deny
Its meed, though ill the world my work appay.
And yet he who condemns me may, when I
Am parted from this tenement of clay,
Perceive that he has wronged me in the end,
And shall bewail when dead his faithful friend.'
"Thus oftentimes that shameless woman prest
The good Philander, but obtained no fruit.
Nursing her blind desires, which knew not rest
In seeking what her wicked love may boot,
She her old vices, in her inmost breast,
Ransacks for what may best the occasion suit,
And sifts them all: then, having overrun
A thousand evil thoughts, resolved on one.
"Six months she waited ere again she sought
The prisoner's tower, as she was wont before:
From which the sad Philander hoped and thought
That love to him the dame no longer bore.
Lo! Fortune for her an occasion wrought,
(To evil deed propitious evermore)
To give effect, with memorable ill,
To her irrational and evil will.
"The husband had an ancient feud with one
Who was by name Morando hight the fair;
Who even within the fort would often run
In its lord's absence; but the knight's repair
At the wide distance of ten miles would shun,
Was he assured the castellain was there:
Who now, to lure him thither, bruited how
He for Jerusalem was bound by vow.
"Said he would go; and went. Thus each who spies
His outset, of his journey spreads the fame:
Nor he, who only on his wife relies,
Trusts any with his purpose but the dame,
And home returned when dusky waxed the skies;
Nor ever, save at evening, thither came;
And with changed ensigns, at the dawn of day,
Unseen of any, always went his way.
"He now on this side, now on the other side,
Roved round his castle but to ascertain
If credulous Morando, who to ride
Thither was wonted, would return again.
All day he in the forest used to hide,
And, when he saw the sun beneath the main,
Came to the tower, and, through a secret gate,
Was there admitted by his faithless mate.
"Thus every one, except his consort ill,
Argaeus many miles away suppose:
She, when 'tis time her errand to fulfil,
Hatching new mischief, to my brother goes.
Of tears she has a ready shower at will,
Which from her eyes into her bosom flows,
` -- Where shall I succour find, now needed most,
So that my honour be not wholly lost,
" `And, with my own, my wedded lord's?' (she cries;)
`I should feel no alarm, if he were here.
Thou knowst Morando, know if deities
Or men he in Argaeus' absence fear.
He at this time tries all extremities;
Nor servant have I but by threat or prayer
He him to further his desire has swayed;
Nor know I whither to recur for aid.
" `Of my lord's absence hearing the report,
And that he would not quickly homeward fare,
He had the insolence within my court,
Upon no other pretext to repair;
Who, were my absent lord within his fort,
So bold a deer not only would not dare,
But would not deem himself secure withal,
By Heaven! at three miles' distance from his wall.
" `And what he erst by messenger had sought,
From me to-day has sued for face to face;
And in such manner that long time I thought
Dishonour must have followed and disgrace;
And if I had not humbly him besought,
And feigned to yield to him with ready grace,
He haply would have ravished that by force,
Which he expects to win by milder course.
" `I promise, not designing to comply,
For void is contract made in fear; alone
From his ill purpose would I put him by,
And what he then parforce would else have done.
So stands the case: the single remedy
Lies in yourself: my honour else is gone,
And that of my Argaeus; which as dear,
Or more so, than your own you vowed whilere.
" `If you refuse me, I shall say, you show
That you have not the faith which you pretended,
But that in cruelty you said me no,
When vainly were my tears on you expended,
And no wise for Argaeus' sake, although
With this pretext you have yourself defended.
Our loves bad been concealed and free from blame;
But here I stand exposed to certain shame.'
" `To me such preface needs not (said anew
The good Philander), bound by amity
To my Argaeus still; thy pleasure shew:
I what I ever was will be, and I,
Although from him I bear such ill undue,
Accuse him not; for him would I defy
Even death itself; and let the world, allied
With my ill destiny, against me side!'
"The impious woman answered, ` 'Tis my will
Thou slay him who would do us foul despite;
Nor apprehend to encounter any ill:
For I the certain mean will tell aright.
He will return, his purpose to fulfil,
At the third hour, when darkest is the night;
And, at a preconcerted signal made,
Be without noise by me within conveyed.
" `Let it not irk thee to await the peer
Within my chamber, where no light will be;
Till I shall make him doff his warlike gear,
And, almost naked, yield him up to thee.'
So did his wife into that quicksand steer
Her hapless husband (it appears to me)
If wife she rightly could be called; more fell
And cruel than a fury sprung from hell.
"She drew my brother forth, that guilty night,
With his good arms in hand, and him again
Secreted in the chamber without light,
Till thither came the wretched castellain.
As it was ordered, all fell out aright,
For seldom ill design is schemed in vain.
So fell Argaeus by Philander's sword,
Who for Morando took the castle's lord.
"One blow divided head and neck; for nought
Was there of helm, the warrior to defend.
Without a struggle was Argaeus brought
To his unhappy life's disastrous end,
And he who slew him never had such thought,
Nor this would have believed: to aid his friend
Intent, (strange chance!) he wrought him in that blow
The worst that could be done by mortal foe.
"When now, unknown, on earth Argaeus lay,
My brother to Gabrina gave the blade,
(So was she named) who lived but to betray.
She, who discovery had till then delayed,
Wills that Philander with a light survey
The man whom he on earth has lifeless laid,
And she, with the assistance of the light,
Shows him Argaeus in the murdered wight.
"And threatens, save he with desires comply
To which her bosom had been long a prey,
What he would be unable to deny
She to the assembled household will display,
And he like traitor and assassin die,
Upon her tale, in ignominious way:
And minds him fame is not to be despised,
Albeit so little life by him be prized.
"Philander stood oppressed with grief and fear,
When his mistake to him the woman showed,
And to have slain her in his wrath went near,
And long be doubted, so his choler glowed;
And, but that Reason whispered in his ear
That he was in an enemy's abode,
For lack of faulchion in his empty sheath,
He would have torn her piece-meal with his teeth.
"As sometimes vessel by two winds which blow
From different points is vext upon the main,
And now one speeds the bark an-end, and now
Another squall impels her back again;
Still on her poop assailed, or on her prow,
Till she before the strongest flies amain:
Philander, so distraught by two designs,
Takes what he pregnant with least ill opines.
"Reason demonstrates with what peril fraught
His case, not more with death than lasting stain,
If in the castle were that murder taught;
Nor any time has he to sift his brain.
Will he or nill he, in conclusion nought
Is left him but the bitter cup to drain.
Thus in his troubled heart prevailing more,
His fear his resolution overbore.
"The fear of shameful punishment's pursuit
Made him with many protestations swear
To grant in every thing Gabrina's suit,
If from the fortilage they safely fare.
So plucks that impious dame, parforce, the fruit
Of her desires, and thence retreat the pair.
Thus home again the young Philander came,
Leaving behind him a polluted name;
"And deeply graven in his bosom bore
The image of his friend so rashly slain;
By this to purchase, to his torment sore,
A Progne, a Medea; impious gain!
-- And but his knightly faith, and oaths he swore,
Were to his fury as a curbing rein,
From him when safe she would have met her fate;
But lived subjected to his bitterest hate.
"Thenceforth he nevermore was seen to smile:
All his discourse was sad, and still ensued
Sobs from his breast; afflicted in the style
Of vext Orestes, when he in his mood
Had slain his mother and Aegysthus vile;
By vengeful furies for the deed pursued.
Till broken by the ceaseless grief he fed,
He sickened and betook himself to bed.
"Now in the harlot, when she had discerned
This other set by her so little store,
The former amorous flame was quickly turned
Into despiteous rage and hatred sore;
Nor with less wrath she towards my brother burned
Than for Argaeus she had felt before;
And she disposed herself, in treasons versed,
To slay her second husband like the first.
"Of a deceitful leech she made assay,
Well fitted for the work she had in hand,
Who better knew what deadly poisons slay
Than he the force of healing syrup scanned;
And promised him his service to repay
With a reward exceeding his demand,
When he should, with some drink of deadly might,
Of her detested husband rid her sight.
"In presence of myself and more beside,
The wicked elder, with his deadly dole,
Approaching my unhappy brother, cried,
`It was a sovereign drink to make him whole.'
But here a new device Gabrina tried,
And, ere the sickly man could taste the bowl,
To rid her of accomplice in the deed,
Or to defraud him of his promised meed;
"Seized on his hand, the instant he presented
The poison to my brother. `Ill my fear,
(Exclaimed the dame) by you would be resented,
Excited for a spouse I hold so dear.
I, that the beverage has not been fermented
With evil drug and poisonous, will be clear;
Nor deem it meet that you to him convey
The proffered bowl, unless you take the say.'
"In what condition think you, sir, remained
The wretched elder by his fears opprest?
Thus by the woman's suddenness constrained,
He had no time for thinking what were best.
He, lest more doubt of him be entertained,
Tastes of the chalice, at Gabrina's hest;
And the sick man, emboldened so, drinks up
All the remainder of the poisoned cup.
"As the trained hawk of crooked talon who
Clutches the partridge, when about to eat,
Is by the dog, she deems her comrade true,
O'ertaken and defrauded of the meat;
So on ill gain intent, the leech, in lieu
Of the expected aid, received defeat.
Hear, thus, what sovereign wickedness will dare,
And be like fate each greedy miscreant's share!
"This past and done, the leech would homeward speed,
That he, to counteract the pest he bore
Within his bowels, in this fearful need,
Might use some secret of his cunning lore;
But this the wicked dame would not concede,
Forbidding him to issue thence before
His patient's stomach should the juice digest,
And its restoring power be manifest.
"No prayer will move, nor offered price will buy
The woman's leave to let him thence depart.
The desperate man who saw that death was nigh,
And sure to follow, quickly changed his part;
And told the story to the standers-by;
Nor could she cover it with all her art.
Thus what he wont to do by many a one,
That goodly doctor by himself has done;
"And follows with his soul my brother true,
That hence, already freed, was gone before.
We, the assistants, that the matter knew
From the old man who lingered little more,
Took that abominable monster, who
More cruel was than beast in forest hoar,
And, prisoned in a darksome place, reserved
To perish in the fire, as she deserved."
So said Hermonides, and had pursued
His tale, and told how she from prison fled;
But suffered from his wound a pang so shrewd,
He fell reversed upon his grassy bed.
Meanwhile two squires, who served him in the wood,
A rustic bier of sturdy branches spread.
Their master upon this the servants lay,
Who could not thence be borne in other way.
Zerbino, in excuse, assured the peer,
He grieved so good a knight to have offended;
But, as was still the use of cavalier,
Had guarded her who in his guidance wended;
Nor had he else preserved his honour clear:
For when the dame was to his care commended,
Her to defend his promise he had plight
From all men, to the utmost of his might.
He, if he might, is any thing beside,
Would readily assist him in his need.
-- His only wish, (the cavalier replied,)
Was, he might be from ill Gabrina freed,
Ere him some mighty mischief should betide,
Of future penitence the bitter seed.
Gabrina keeps on earth her downcast eye;
For ill the simple truth admits reply.
Zerbino thence, upon the promised way,
With the old woman in his escort, went,
And inly cursed her all the livelong day,
That in her cause that baron he had shent.
And having heard the knight her guilt display,
Who was instructed in her evil bent,
He -- if before he had her at despite --
So loathed her, she was poison to his sight.
Well read in young Zerbino's hate, the dame
Would not by him in malice be outdone,
Nor bated him an inch, but in that game
Of deadly hatred set him two for one.
Her face was with the venom in a flame
Wherewith her swelling bosom overrun.
'Twas thus in such concord as I say,
These through the ancient wood pursued their way.
When, lo! as it is now nigh eventide,
They a mixt sound of blows and outcries hear,
Which seem a sign of battle fiercely plied,
And (as the deafening noise demonstrates) near.
To mark what this might be, towards that side
Whence came the tumult, moved the Scottish peer;
Nor is in following him Gabrina slow:
What chanced in other canto you shall know.
Atlantes' magic towers Astolpho wight
Destroys, and frees his thralls from prison-cell.
Bradamant finds Rogero, who in fight
O'erthrows four barons from the warlike sell,
When on their way to save an errant knight
Doomed to devouring fire: the four who fell
For impious Pinnabel maintained the strife,
Whom, after, Bradamant deprives of life.
Ye courteous dames, and to your lovers dear,
You that are with one single love content;
Though, 'mid so many and many, it is clear
Right few of you are of such constant bent;
Be not displeased at what I said whilere,
When I so bitterly Gabrina shent,
Nor if I yet expend some other verse
In censure of the beldam's mind perverse.
Such was she; and I hide not what is true;
So was enjoined me for a task by one
Whose will is law; therefore is honour due
To constant heart throughout my story done.
He who betrayed his master to the Jew
For thirty pence, nor Peter wronged, nor John,
Nor less renowned is Hypermnestra's fame,
For her so many wicked sisters' shame.
For one I dare to censure in my lays,
For so the story wills which I recite,
On the other hand, a hundred will I praise,
And make their virtue dim the sun's fair light;
But turning to the various pile I raise,
(Gramercy! dear to many) of the knight
Of Scotland I was telling, who hard-by
Had heard, as was rehearsed, a piercing cry.
He entered, 'twixt two hills, a narrow way,
From whence was heard the cry; nor far had hied,
Ere to a vale he came shut out from day,
Where he before him a dead knight espied.
Who I shall tell; but first I must away
From France, in the Levant to wander wide,
Till I the paladin Astolpho find,
Who westward had his course from thence inclined.
I in the cruel city left the peer,
Whence, with the formidable bugle's roar,
He had chased the unfaithful people in their fear,
And has preserved himself from peril sore;
And with the sound had made his comrades rear
Then sail, and fly with noted scorn that shore.
Now following him, I say, the warrior took
The Armenian road, and so that land forsook.
He, after some few days, in Natoly
Finds himself, and towards Brusa goes his ways;
Hence wending, on the hither side o' the sea,
Makes Thrace; through Hungary by the Danube lays
His course, and as his horse had wings to flee,
Traverses in less time than twenty days
Both the Moravian and Bohemian line;
Threaded Franconia next, and crost the Rhine.
To Aix-la-Chapelle thence, through Arden's wood,
Came and embarked upon the Flemish strand.
To sea, with southern breeze his vessel stood;
And, so the favouring wind her canvas fanned,
That he, at little distance, Albion viewed
By noon, and disembarked upon her land.
He backed his horse, and so the rowels plied,
In London he arrived by even-tide.
Here, learning afterwards that Otho old
Has lain for many months in Paris-town,
And that anew nigh every baron bold
Has after his renowned example done,
He straightway does for France his sails unfold,
And to the mouth of Thames again is gone.
Whence issuing forth, with all his canvas spread,
For Calais he directs the galley's head.
A breeze which, from the starboard blowing light,
Had tempted forth Astolpho's bark to sea,
By little and by little, waxed in might,
And so at last obtains the mastery,
The pilot is constrained to veer outright,
Lest by the billows swampt his frigate be,
And he, departing from his first design,
Keeps the bark straight before the cresting brine.
Now to the right, now to the other hand,
Sped by the tempest, through the foaming main,
The vessel ran; she took the happy land
At last nigh Rouen; and forthwith, in chain
And plate Astolpho cased, and girt with brand,
Bade put the saddle upon Rabicane;
Departed thence, and (what availed him more
Than thousands armed) with him his bugle bore;
And traversing a forest, at the feet
Of a fair hill, arrived beside a font,
What time the sheep foregoes his grassy meat,
Penned in the cabin or the hollow mount;
And, overcome by feverish thirst and heat,
Lifted the weighty morion from his front;
Tethered his courser in the thickest wood,
And, with intent to drink, approached the flood.
His lips he had not wetted in its bed
Before a youthful rustic, ambushed near,
Sprang from a copse, backed Rabican, and fled
With the good courser of the cavalier.
Astolpho hears the noise and lifts his head,
And, when he sees his mighty loss so clear,
Satiate, although he had not drunk, upstarts,
And after the young churl in fury darts.
That robber did not let the courser strain
At speed, or he had from the warrior shot;
But loosening now and tightening now the rein,
Fled at a gallop or a steady trot.
From the deep forest issued forth the twain,
After long round, and reached in fine the spot
Where so many illustrious lords were shent:
Worse prisoners they than if in prison pent!
On Rabican, who with the wind might race,
The villain sped, within the enchanter's won.
Impeded by his shield and iron case,
Parforce Astolpho far behind him run;
Yet there arrives as well, but every trace
Of what the warrior had pursued is gone.
He neither Rabican nor thief can meet,
And vainly rolls his eyes and plies his feet.
He plies his feet, and searches still in vain
Throughout the house, hall, bower, or galleried rows:
Yet labours evermore, with fruitless pain
And care, to find the treacherous churl; nor knows
Where he can have secreted Rabicane,
Who every other animal outgoes:
And vainly searches all day the dome about,
Above, below, within it, and without.
He, wearied and confused with wandering wide,
Perceived the place was by enchantment wrought,
And of the book he carried at his side,
By Logistilla given in India, thought;
Bestowed, should new enchantment him betide,
That needful succour might therein be sought.
He to the index turns, and quickly sees
What pages show the proper remedies.
I' the book, of that enchanted house at large
Was written, and in this was taught the way
To foil the enchanter, and to set at large
The different prisoners, subject to his sway.
Of these illusions and these frauds in charge,
A spirit pent beneath the threshold lay;
And the stone raised which kept him fast below,
With him the palace into smoke would go.
Astolpho with desire to bring to end
An enterprise so passing fair, delays
No more, but to the task his force does bend,
And prove how much the heavy marble weighs.
As old Atlantes sees the knight intend
To bring to scorn his art and evil ways,
Suspicious of the ill which may ensue,
He moves to assail him with enchantments new.
He, with his spells and shapes of devilish kind,
Makes the duke different from his wont appear;
To one a giant, and to one a hind,
To other an ill-visaged cavalier;
Each, in the form which in the thicket blind
The false enchanter wore, beholds the peer.
So that they all, with purpose to have back
What the magician took, the duke attack.
The Child, Gradasso, Iroldo, Bradamant,
Prasildo, Brandimart, and many more,
All, cheated by this new illusion, pant
To slay the English baron, angered sore;
But he abased their pride and haughty vaunt,
Who straight bethought him of the horn be bore.
But for the succour of its echo dread,
They, without fail, had laid Astolpho dead.
But he no sooner has the bugle wound
And poured a horrid larum, than in guise
Of pigeons at the musquet's scaring sound,
The troop of cavaliers affrighted flies.
No less the necromancer starts astound,
No less he from his den in panic hies;
Troubled and pale, and hurrying evermore
Till out of hearing of the horrid roar
The warder fled; with him his prisoned train,
And many steeds as well are fled and gone;
(These more than rope is needed to restrain)
Who after their astounded masters run,
Scared by the sound; nor cat nor mouse remain,
Who seem to hear in it, "Lay on, lay on."
Rabican with the rest had broke his bands,
But that he fell into Astolpho's hands.
He, having chased the enchanter Moor away,
Upraised the heavy threshold from the ground;
Beneath which, figures and more matters lay,
That I omit; desirous to confound
The spell which did the magic dome upstay,
The duke made havock of whate'er he found,
As him the book he carried taught to do:
And into mist and smoke all past from view.
There he found fastened by a golden chain
Rogero's famous courser, him I say
Given by the wizard, that to the domain
Of false Alcina him he might convey:
On which, equipt with Logistilla's rein,
To France Rogero had retraced his way,
And had from Ind to England rounded all
The right-hand side of the terrestrial ball.
I know not if you recollect how tied
To a tree Rogero left his rein, the day
Galaphron's naked daughter from his side
Vanished, and him did with that scorn appay.
The courser, to his wonder who espied,
Returned to him whom he was used to obey;
Beneath the old enchanter's care to dwell,
And stayed with him till broken was the spell.
At nought Astolpho could more joyous be
Than this; of all things fortunate the best:
In that the hippogryph so happily
Offered himself; that he might scower the rest,
(As much he coveted) of land and sea,
And in few days the ample world invest.
Him well he knew, how fit for his behoof;
For of his feats he had elsewhere made proof.
Him he that day in India proved, when sped
He was by sage Melissa, from the reign
Of that ill woman who him, sore bested,
Had changed from man to myrtle on the plain;
Had marked and noted how his giddy head
Was formed by Logistilla to the rein;
And saw how well instructed by her care
Rogero was, to guide him every where.
Minded to take the hippogryph, he flung
The saddle on him, which lay near, and bitted
The steed, by choosing, all the reins among,
This part or that, until his mouth was fitted:
For in that place were many bridles hung,
Belonging to the coursers which flitted.
And now alone, intent upon his flight,
The thought of Rabicane detained the knight.
Good cause he had to love that Rabicane,
For better horse was not to run with lance,
And him had he from the remotest reign
Of India ridden even into France:
After much thought, he to some friend would fain
Present him, rather than so, left to chance,
Abandon there the courser, as a prey,
To the first stranger who should pass that way.
He stood upon the watch if he could view
Some hunter in the forest, or some hind,
To whom he might commit the charge, and who
Might to some city lead the horse behind.
He waited all that day and till the new
Had dawned, when, while the twilight yet was blind,
He thought he saw, as he expecting stood,
A cavalier approaching through the wood.
But it behoves that, ere the rest I say,
I Bradamant and good Rogero find.
After the horn had ceased, and, far away,
The beauteous pair had left the dome behind,
Rogero looked, and knew what till that day
He had seen not, by Atlantes rendered blind.
Atlantes had effected by his power,
They should not know each other till that hour.
Rogero looks on Bradamant, and she
Looks on Rogero in profound surprise
That for so many days that witchery
Had so obscurred her altered mind and eyes.
Rejoiced, Rogero clasps his lady free,
Crimsoning with deeper than the rose's dyes,
And his fair love's first blossoms, while he clips
The gentle damsel, gathers from her lips.
A thousand times they their embrace renew,
And closely each is by the other prest;
While so delighted are those lovers two,
Their joys are ill contained within their breast.
Deluded by enchantments, much they rue
That while they were within the wizard's rest,
They should not e'er have one another known,
And have so many happy days foregone.
The gentle Bradamant, who was i' the vein
To grant whatever prudent virgin might,
To solace her desiring lover's pain,
So that her honour should receive no slight;
-- If the last fruits he of her love would gain,
Nor find her ever stubborn, bade the knight,
Her of Duke Aymon through fair mean demand;
But be baptized before he claimed her hand.
Rogero good, who not alone to be
A Christian for the love of her were fain,
As his good sire had been, and anciently
His grandsire and his whole illustrious strain,
But for her pleasure would immediately
Resign whatever did of life remain,
Says, "I not only, if 'tis thy desire,
Will be baptized by water, but by fire."
Then on his way to be baptized he hied,
That he might next espouse the martial may,
With Bradamant; who served him as a guide
To Vallombrosa's fane, an abbey gray,
Rich, fair, nor less religious, and beside,
Courteous to whosoever passed that way;
And they encountered, issuing from the chase,
A woman, with a passing woful face.
Rogero, as still courteous, still humane
To all, but woman most, when he discerned
Her dainty visage furrowed by a rain
Of lovely tears, sore pitied her, and burned
With the desire to know her grievous pain;
And having to the mournful lady turned,
Besought her, after fair salute, to show
What cause had made her eyes thus overflow.
And she, uplifting their moist rays and bright,
Most kindly to the inquiring Child replied;
And of the cause of her unhappy plight,
Him, since he sought it, fully satisfied.
"Thou hast to understand, O gentle knight,
My visage is so bathed with tears," she cried,
"In pity to a youth condemned to die
This very day, within a town hard by.
"Loving a gentle lady and a gay,
The daughter of Marsilius, king of Spain,
And feigning, veiled in feminine array,
The modest roll of eye and girlish strain,
With her each night the amorous stripling lay,
Nor any had suspicion of the twain:
But nought so hidden is, but searching eye
In the long run the secret will espy.
"One first perceived it, and then spoke with two,
Those two with more, till to the king 'twas said;
Of whom but yesterday a follower true
Gave order to surprise the pair in bed,
And in the citadel the prisoners new,
To separate dungeons in that fortress led;
Nor think I that enough of day remains
To save the lover from his cruel pains.
"I fled, not to behold such cruelty,
For they alive the wretched youth will burn;
Nor think I aught could more afflicting be
Than such fair stripling's torment to discern,
Or that hereafter thing can pleasure me
So much, but that it will to trouble turn,
If memory retrace the cruel flame
Which preyed upon his fair and dainty frame."
Touched deeply, Bradamant his danger hears,
In heart sore troubled at the story shown;
As anxious for the lover, it appears,
As if he were a brother of her own:
Nor certes wholly causeless are her fears,
As in an after verse will be made known,
Then, to Rogero: "Him to keep from harms,
Meseems we worthily should turn our arms."
And to that melancholy damsel said:
"Place us but once within the walls, and I,
So that the youth be not already dead,
Will be your warrant that he shall not die."
Rogero, who the kindly bosom read
Of Bradamant, still full of piety,
Felt himself but all over with desire
To snatch the unhappy stripling from the fire.
And to the maid, whose troubled face apears
Bathed with a briny flood, "Why wait we? -- need
Is here of speedy succour, not of tears.
Do you but where the youth is prisoned lead;
Him from a thousand swords, a thousand spears,
We vow to save; so it be done with speed.
But haste you, lest too tardy be our aid,
And he be burnt, which succour is delayed."
The haughty semblance and the lofty say
Of these, who with such wondrous daring glowed,
That hope, which long had ceased to be her stay,
Again upon the grieving dame bestowed:
But, for she less the distance of the way
Dreaded, than interruption of the road,
Lest they, through this, should take that path in vain,
The damsel stood suspended and in pain.
Then said: "If to the place our journey lay
By the highroad, which is both straight and plain,
That we in time might reach it, I should say,
Before the fire was lit; but we must strain
By path so foul and crooked, that a day
To reach the city would suffice with pain;
And when, alas! we thither shall have sped,
I fear that we shall find the stripling dead."
"And wherefore take we not the way most near?"
Rogero answers; and the dame replies,
"Because fast by where we our course should steer,
A castle of the Count of Poictiers lies:
Where Pinnabel for dame and cavalier
Did, three days past, a shameful law devise;
Than whom more worthless living wight is none,
The Count Anselmo d'Altaripa's son.
"No cavalier or lady by that rest
Without some noted scorn and injury goes;
Both of their coursers here are dispossest,
And knight his arms and dame her gown foregoes.
No better cavaliers lay lance in rest,
Nor have for years in France against their foes,
Than four, who for Sir Pinnabel have plight
Their promise to maintain the castle's right.
"Whence first arose the usage, which began
But three days since, you now, sir knight, shall hear;
And shall the cause, if right or evil, scan,
Which moved the banded cavaliers to swear.
So ill a lady has the Castellan,
So wayward, that she is without a peer:
Who, on a day, as with the count she went,
I know not whither, by a knight was shent.
"This knight, as flouted by that bonnibel,
For carrying on his croup an ancient dame,
Encountered with her champion Pinnabel,
Of overweening pride and little fame:
Him he o'erturned, made alight as well,
And put her to the proof, if sound or lame;
-- Left her on foot, and had that woman old
In the dismounted damsel's garment stoled.
"She, who remained on foot, in fell despite,
Greedy of vengeance, and athirst for ill,
Leagued with the faithless Pinnabel, a wight
All evil prompt to further and fulfil,
Says she shall never rest by day nor night,
Nor ever know a happy hour, until
A thousand knights and dames are dispossest
Of courser, and of armour, and of vest.
"Four puissant knights arrived that very day
It happened, at a place of his, and who
Had all of them from regions far away
Come lately to those parts: so many true
And valiant warriors, skilled in martial play,
Our age has seen not. These the goodly crew:
Guido the savage, but a stripling yet,
Gryphon, and Aquilant, and Sansonet!
"Them at the fortilage, of which I told,
Sir Pinnabel received with semblance fair,
Next seized the ensuing night the warriors bold
In bed, nor loosed, till he had made them swear
That (he such period fixt) they in his hold
Should be his faithful champions for a year
And month; and of his horse and arms deprive
Whatever cavalier should there arrive.
"And any damsel whom the stranger bore
With him, dismount, and strip her of her vest.
So, thus surprised, the warlike prisoners swore;
So were constrained to observe the cruel hest,
Though grieved and troubled: nor against the four,
It seems, can any joust, but vails his crest.
Knight infinite have come, but one and all,
Afoot and without arms have left that Hall.
"Their order is, who from the castle hies,
The first by lot, shall meet the foe alone,
But if he find a champion of such guise
As keeps the sell, while he himself is thrown,
The rest must undertake the enterprise,
Even to the death, against that single one,
Ranged in a band. If such each single knight,
Imagine the assembled warriors' might!
"Nor stands it with our haste, which all delay,
All let forbids, that you beside that tower
Be forced to stop and mingle in the fray:
For grant that you be conquerors in the stower,
(And as your presence warrants well, you may,)
'Tis not a thing concluded in an hour.
And if all day he wait our succour, I
Much fear the stripling in the fire will die."
"Regard we not this hindrance of our quest,"
Rogero cried, "But do we what we may!
Let HIM who rules the heavens ordain the rest,
Or Fortune, if he leave it in her sway;
To you shall by this joust be manifest
If we can aid the youth; for whom to-day
They on a ground so causeless and so slight,
As you to us rehearsed, the fire will light."
Rogero ceased; and in the nearest way
The damsel put the pair without reply:
Nor these beyond three miles had fared, when they
Reached bridge and gate, the place of forfeitry,
Of horse and arms and feminine array,
With peril sore of life. On turret high,
Upon first sight of them, a sentinel
Beat twice upon the castle's larum-bell.
And lo, in eager hurry from the gate
An elder trotting on hackney made!
And he approaching cried, "Await, await!
-- Hola! halt, sirs, for here a fine is paid:
And I to you the usage shall relate,
If this has not to you before been said."
And to the three forthwith began to tell
The use established there by Pinnabel.
He next proceeds, as he had wont before
To counsel other errant cavalier.
"Unrobe the lady," (said the elder hoar,)
"My sons, and leave your steeds and martial geer;
Nor put yourselves in peril, and with four
Such matchless champions hazard the career.
Clothes, arms, and coursers every where are rife;
But not to be repaired is loss of life."
" -- No more!" (Rogero said) "No more! for I
Am well informed of all, and hither speed
With the intention, here by proof to try
If, what my heart has vouched, I am in deed.
For sign or threat I yield not panoply,
If nought beside I hear, nor vest nor steed.
And this my comrade, I as surely know,
These for mere words as little will forego.
"But let me face to face, by Heaven, espy
Those who would take my horse and arms away;
For we have yet beyond that hill to hie,
And little time can here afford to stay."
"Behold the man," that ancient made reply,
"Clear of the bridge!" -- Nor did in this missay;
For thence a warrior pricked, who, powdered o'er
With snowy flowers, a crimson surcoat wore.
Bradamant for long time with earnest prayer,
For courtesy the good Rogero prest,
To let her from his sell the warrior bear,
Who with white flowers had purfled o'er his vest.
But moved him not; and to Rogero's share
Must leave, and do herself, what liked him best.
He willed the whole emprize his own should be,
And Bradamant should stand apart to see.
The Child demanded of that elder, who
Was he that from the gate first took his way,
And he, " 'Tis Sansonet; of crimson hue,
I know his surcoat, with white flowers gay."
Without a word exchanged, the warlike two
Divide the ground, and short is the delay.
For they against each other, levelling low
Their spears, and hurrying sore their coursers, go.
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