Part 13 out of 25
"As well I render thanks, that Isabel
I see restored to thee, I know not how,
Of whom, by reason of that traitor fell,
I deemed thou never more should'st tidings know."
In silence prince Zerbino hears him tell
His story, gazing upon Odoric's brow,
In pity, more than hate, as he perpends
How foully such a goodly friendship ends.
After Almonio had his tale suspended,
Astounded for a while the prince stood by;
Wondering, that he who least should have offended,
Had him requited with such treachery:
But, his long fit of admiration ended,
Waking from his amazement with a sigh,
Questioned the prisoner in the horsemen's hold,
It that was true the cavalier had told.
The faithless man alighted, and down fell
Upon his bended knees, and answered: "Sir,
All people that on middle earth do dwell,
Through weakness of their nature, sin and err.
One thing alone distinguishes the well
And evil doer; this, at every stir
Of least desire, submits, without a blow;
That arms, but yields as well to stronger foe.
"Had I been charged some castle to maintain,
And, without contest, on the first assault,
Hoisted the banners of the hostile train,
-- For cowardice, or treason, fouler fault --
Upon my eyes (a well deserved pain)
Thou might'st have justly closed the darksome vault;
But, yielding to superior force, I read
I should not merit blame, but praise and meed.
"The stronger is the enemy, the more
Easily is the vanquished side excused:
I could but faith maintain as, girded sore,
The leaguered fort to keep her faith is used;
Even so, with all the sense, with all the lore
By sovereign wisdom into me infused,
This I essayed to keep; but in the end,
To o'ermastering assault was forced to bend."
So said Sir Odoric; and after showed
(Though 'twere too tedious to recount his suit)
Him no light cause had stirred, but puissant goad.
-- If ever earnestness of prayer could boot
To melt a heart that with resentment glowed,
-- If e'er humility produced good fruit,
It well might here avail; since all that best
Moves a hard heart, Sir Odoric now exprest.
Whether or no to venge such infamy,
Youthful Zerbino doubted: the review
Of faithless Odorico's treachery
Moved him to death the felon to pursue;
The recollection of the amity
So long maintained between them, with the dew
Of pity cooled the fury in his mind,
And him to mercy towards the wretch inclined.
While Scotland's prince is doubting in such wise
To keep him captive, or to loose his chain;
Or to remove him from before his eyes,
By dooming him to die, or live in pain;
Loud neighing, thitherward the palfrey hies
From which the Tartar king had stript the rein;
And the old harridan, who had before
Nigh caused Zerbino's death, among them bore.
The horse, that had the others of that band
Heard at a distance, thither her conveyed.
Sore weeping came the old woman, and demand
For succour, in her trouble, vainly made.
Zerbino, when he saw her, raised his hand
To heaven, that had to him such grace displayed,
Giving him to decide that couple's fate;
The only two that had deserved his hate.
The wicked hag is kept, so bids the peer,
Until he is determined what to do:
He to cut off her nose and either ear
Now thought, and her as an example shew.
Next, 'twere far better, deemed the cavalier,
If to the vultures he her carcase threw:
He diverse punishments awhile revolved,
And thus the warrior finally resolved.
He to his comrades turned him round, and said:
"To let the traitour live I am content,
Who, if full grace he has not merited,
Yet merits not to be so foully shent.
I, as I find his fault of Love was bred,
To give him life and liberty consent;
And easily we all excuses own,
When on commanding Love the blame is thrown.
"Often has Love turned upside down a brain
Of sounder wit than that to him assigned,
And led to mischief of far deeper stain,
Than has so outraged us. Let Odoric find
Pardon his offences; I the pain
Of these should justly suffer, who was blind;
Blind when I gave him such a trust, nor saw
How easily the fire consumes the straw."
"Then gazing upon Odoric, 'gan say:
"This is the penance I enjoin to thee;
That thou a year shalt with the beldam stay,
Nor ever leave this while her company;
But, roving or at rest, by night or day,
Shalt never for an hour without her be;
And her shall even unto death maintain
Against whoever threatens her with pain.
"I will, if so this woman shall command,
With whosoe'er he be, thou battle do.
I will this while that thou all France's land,
From city shalt to city, wander through."
So says he: for as Odoric at his hand
Well merits death, for his foul trespass due,
This is a pitfall for his feet to shape,
Which it will be rare fortune if he 'scape.
So many women, many men betrayed,
And wronged by her, have been so many more,
Not without strife by knight shall he be stayed,
Who was beneath his care the beldam hoar.
So, for their crimes, shall both alike be paid;
She for her evil actions done before,
And he who wrongfully shall her defraud;
Nor far can go before he finds an end.
To keep the pact Zerbino makes him swear
A mighty oath, under this penalty,
That should he break his faith, and anywhere
Into his presence led by fortune be,
Without more mercy, without time for prayer,
A cruel death shall wait him, as his fee.
Next by his comrades (so their lord commands)
Sir Odoric is unpinioned from his bands.
Corebo frees the traitor in the end,
Almonio yielding, yet as ill content:
For much Zerbino's mercies both offend,
Which thus their so desired revenge prevent.
Thence, he disloyal to his prince and friend,
In company with that curst woman went.
What these befel Sir Turpin has not said,
But more I once in other author read.
This author vouches (I declare not who)
That hence they had not one day's journey wended,
When Odoric, to all pact, all faith, untrue,
For riddance of the pest to him commended,
About Gabrina's neck a halter threw,
And left her to a neighbouring elm suspended;
And in a year (the place he does not name)
Almonio by the traitor did the same.
Zerbino, who the Paladin pursues,
And loath would be to lose the cavalier,
To his Scottish squadron of himself sends news,
Which for its captain well might stand in fear;
Almonio sends, and many matters shews,
Too long at full to be recited here;
Almonio sends, Corebo next; nor stayed
Other with him, besides the royal maid.
So mighty is the love Zerbino bore,
Nor less than his the love which Isabel
Nursed for the valorous Paladin, so sore
He longed to know if that bold infidel
The Count had found, who in the duel tore
Him from his horse, together with the sell,
That he to Charles's camp, till the third day
Be ended, will not measure back his way.
This was the term for which Orlando said
He should wait him, who yet no faulchion wears;
Nor is there place the Count has visited,
But thither in his search Zerbino fares.
Last to those trees, upon whose bark was read
The ungrateful lady's writing, he repairs,
Little beside the road; and there finds all
In strange disorder, rock and water-fall.
Far off, he saw that something shining lay,
And spied Orlando's corslet on the ground;
And next his helm; but not that head-piece gay
Which whilom African Almontes crowned:
He in the thicket heard a courser neigh,
And, lifting up his visage at the sound,
Saw Brigliadoro the green herbage browze,
With rein yet hanging at his saddle-bows.
For Durindane, he sought the greenwood, round,
Which separate from the scabbard met his view;
And next the surcoat, but in tatters, found;
That, in a hundred rags, the champaign strew.
Zerbino and Isabel, in grief profound,
Stood looking on, nor what to think they knew:
They of all matters else might think, besides
The fury which the wretched Count misguides.
Had but the lovers seen a drop of blood,
They might have well believed Orlando dead:
This while the pair, beside the neighbouring flood,
Beheld a shepherd coming, pale with dread.
He just before, as on a rock he stood,
Had seen the wretch's fury; how he shed
His arms about the forest, tore his clothes,
Slew hinds, and caused a thousand other woes.
Questioned by good Zerbino, him the swain
Of all which there had chanced, informed aright.
Zerbino marvelled, and believed with pain,
Although the proofs were clear: This as it might,
He from his horse dismounted on the plain,
Full of compassion, in afflicted plight;
And went about, collecting from the ground
The various relics which were scattered round.
Isabel lights as well; and, where they lie
Dispersed, the various arms uniting goes.
Lo! them a damsel joins, who frequent sigh
Heaves from her heart, and doleful visage shows.
If any ask me who the dame, and why
She mourns, and with such sorrow overflows;
I say 'twas Flordelice, who, bound in trace
Of her lost lover's footsteps, sought that place.
Her Brandimart had left disconsolate
Without farewell, i' the court of Charlemagne:
Who there expected him six months or eight; --
And lastly, since he came not there again,
From sea to sea, had sought her absent mate,
Through Alpine and through Pyrenean chain:
In every place had sought the warrior, save
Within the palace of Atlantes' grave.
If she had been in that enchanted hold,
She might before have seen the cavalier
Wandering with Bradamant, Rogero bold,
Gradasso and Ferrau and Brava's peer.
But, when Astolpho chased the wizard old,
With the loud bugle, horrible to hear,
To Paris he returned; but nought of this
As yet was known to faithful Flordelice.
To Flordelice were known the arms and sword
(Who, as I say, by chance so joined the twain),
And Brigliadoro, left without his lord,
Yet bearing at the saddle-bow his rein:
She with her eyes the unhappy signs explored,
And she had heard the tidings of the swain,
Who had alike related, how he viewed
Orlando running frantic, in his mood.
Here prince Zerbino all the arms unites,
And hangs, like a fair trophy, on a pine.
And, to preserve them safe from errant knights,
Natives or foreigners, in one short line
Upon the sapling's verdant surface writes,
ORLANDO'S ARMS, KING CHARLES'S PALADINE.
As he would say, `Let none this harness move,
Who cannot with its lord his prowess prove!'
Zerbino having done the pious deed,
Is bowning him to climb his horse; when, lo!
The Tartar king arrives upon the mead.
He, at the trophied pine-tree's gorgeous show,
Beseeches him the cause of this to read;
Who lets him (as rehearsed) the story know.
When, without further pause, the paynim lord
Hastes gladly to the pine, and takes the sword.
"None can (he said) the action reprehend,
Nor first I make the faulchion mine today;
And to its just possession I pretend
Where'er I find it, be it where it may.
Orlando, this not daring to defend,
Has feigned him mad, and cast the sword away;
But if the champion so excuse his shame,
This is no cause I should forego my claim.
"Take it not thence," to him Zerbino cried,
"Nor think to make it thine without a fight:
If so thou tookest Hector's arms of pride,
By theft thou hadst them, rather than by right."
Without more parley spurred upon each side.
Well matched in soul and valour, either knight.
Already echoed are a thousand blows;
Nor yet well entered are the encountering foes.
In scaping Durindane, a flame in show
(He shifts so quickly) is the Scottish lord.
He leaps about his courser like a doe,
Where'er the road best footing does afford.
And well it is that he should not forego
An inch of vantage; who, if once that sword
Smite him, will join the enamoured ghosts, which rove
Amid the mazes of the myrtle grove.
As the swift-footed dog, who does espy
Swine severed from his fellows, hunts him hard,
And circles round about; but he lies by
Till once the restless foe neglect his guard;
So, while the sword descends, or hangs on high,
Zerbino stands, attentive how to ward,
How to save life and honour from surprise;
And keeps a wary eye, and smites and flies.
On the other side, where'er the foe is seen
To threaten stroke in vain, or make good,
He seems an Alpine wind, two hills between,
That in the month of March shakes leafy wood;
Which to the ground now bends the forest green.
Now whirls the broken boughs, at random strewed.
Although the prince wards many, in the end
One mighty stroke he cannot scape or fend.
In the end he cannot scape one downright blow,
Which enters, between sword and shield, his breast,
As perfect was the plate and corslet, so
Thick was the steel wherein his paunch was drest:
But the destructive weapon, falling low,
Equally opened either iron vest;
And cleft whate'er it swept in its descent,
And to the saddle-bow, through cuirass, went.
And, but that somewhat short the blow descends,
It would Zerbino like a cane divide;
But him so little in the quick offends,
This scarce beyond the skin is scarified.
More than a span in length the wound extends;
Of little depth: of blood a tepid tide
To his feet descending, with a crimson line,
Stains the bright arms which on the warrior shine.
'Tis so, I sometimes have been wont to view
A hand, more white than alabaster, part
The silver cloth, with ribbon red of hue;
A hand I often feel divide my heart.
Here little vantage young Zerbino drew
From strength and greater daring, and from art;
For in the temper of his arms and might,
Too much the Tartar king excelled the knight.
The fearful stroke was mightier in show,
Than in effect, by which the Prince was prest;
So that poor Isabel, distraught with woe,
Felt her heart severed in her frozen breast.
The Scottish prince, all over in a glow,
With anger and resentment was possest,
And putting all his strength in either hand,
Smote full the Tartar's helmet with his brand.
Almost on his steed's neck the Tartar fell,
Bent by the weighty blow Zerbino sped;
And, had the helmet been unfenced by spell,
The biting faulchion would have cleft his head.
The king, without delay, avenged him well,
"Nor I for you till other season," said,
"Will keep this gift"; and levelled at his crest,
Hoping to part Zerbino to the chest.
Zerbino, on the watch, whose eager eye
Waits on his wit, wheels quickly to the right;
But not withal so quickly, as to fly
The trenchant sword, which smote the shield outright,
And cleft from top to bottom equally;
Shearing the sleeve beneath it, and the knight
Smote on his arm; and next the harness rended,
And even to the champion's thigh descended.
Zerbino, here and there, seeks every way
By which to wound, nor yet his end obtains;
For, while he smites upon that armour gay,
Not even a feeble dint the coat retains.
On the other hand, the Tartar in the fray
Such vantage o'er the Scottish prince obtains,
Him he has wounded in seven parts or eight,
And reft his shield and half his helmet's plate.
He ever wastes his blood; his energies
Fail, though he feels it not, as 't would appear;
Unharmed, the vigorous heart new force supplies
To the weak body of the cavalier.
His lady, during this, whose crimson dyes
Where chased by dread, to Doralice drew near,
And for the love of Heaven, the damsel wooed
To stop that evil and disastrous feud.
Doralice, who as courteous was as fair,
And ill-assured withal, how it would end,
Willingly granted Isabella's prayer,
And straight to truce and peace disposed her friend,
As well Zerbino, by the other's care,
Was brought his vengeful anger to suspend;
And, wending where she willed, the Scottish lord
Left unachieved the adventure of the sword.
Fair Flordelice, who ill maintained descries
The goodly sword of the unhappy count,
In secret garden, and so laments the prize
Foregone, she weeps for rage, and smite her front:
She would move Brandimart to this emprize;
And, should she find him, and the fact recount,
Weens, for short season will the Tartar foe
Exulting in the ravished faulchion go.
Seeking him morn and evening, but in vain,
Flordelice after Brandimart did fare;
And widely wandered from him, who again
Already had to Paris made repair.
So far the damsel pricked by hill and plain,
She reached the passage of a river, where
She saw the wretched count; but what befel
The Scottish prince, Zerbino, let me tell.
For to leave Durindana such misdeed
To him appeared, it past all other woes;
Though he could hardly sit upon his steed,
Though mighty loss of life-blood, which yet flows.
Now, when his anger and his heat secede,
After short interval, his anguish grows;
His anguish grows, with such impetuous pains,
He feels that life is ebbing from his veins.
For weakness can the prince no further hie,
And so beside a fount is forced to stay:
Him to assist the pitying maid would try,
But knows not what to do, not what to say.
For lack of comfort she beholds him die;
Since every city is too far away,
Where in this need she could resort to leech,
Whose succour she might purchase or beseech.
She, blaming Fortune, and the cruel sky,
Can only utter fond complaints and vain.
"Why sank I not in ocean, (was her cry,)
When first I reared my sail upon the main?"
Zerbino, who on her his languid eye
Had fixt, as she bemoaned her, felt more pain
Than that enduring and strong anguish bred,
Through which the suffering youth was well-nigh dead.
"So be thou pleased, my heart," (Zerbino cried,)
"To love me yet, when I am dead and gone,
As to abandon thee without a guide,
And not to die, distresses me alone.
For did it me in place secure betide
To end my days, this earthly journey done,
I cheerful, and content, and fully blest
Would die, since I should die upon thy breast.
"But since to abandon thee, to whom a prize
I know not, my sad fate compels, I swear,
My Isabella, by that mouth, those eyes,
By what enchained me first, that lovely hair;
My spirit, troubled and despairing, hies
Into hell's deep and gloomy bottom; where
To think, thou wert abandoned so by me,
Of all its woes the heaviest pain will be."
At this the sorrowing Isabel, declining
Her mournful face, which with her tears o'erflows,
Towards the sufferer, and her mouth conjoining
To her Zerbino's, languid as a rose;
Rose gathered out of season, and which, pining
Fades where it on the shadowy hedgerow grows,
Exclaims, "Without me think not so, my heart,
On this your last, long, journey to depart.
"Of this, my heart, conceive not any fear,
For I will follow thee to heaven or hell;
It fits our souls together quit this sphere,
Together go, for aye together dwell.
No sooner closed thine eyelids shall appear
Than either me internal grief will quell,
Or, has it not such power, I here protest,
I with this sword to-day will pierce my breast.
"I of our bodies cherish hope not light,
That they shall have a happier fate when dead:
Together to entomb them, may some wight,
Haply by pity moved, be hither led."
She the poor remnants of his vital sprite
Went on collecting, as these words she said;
And while yet aught remains, with mournful lips,
The last faint breath of life devoutly sips.
'Twas here his feeble voice Zerbino manned,
Crying. "My deity, I beg and pray,
By that love witnessed, when thy father's land
Thou quittedst for my sake; and, if I may
In any thing command thee, I command,
That, with God's pleasure, thou live-out thy day;
Nor ever banish from thy memory,
That, well as man can love, have I loved thee.
"God haply will provide thee with good aid,
To free thee from each churlish deed I fear;
As, when in the dark cavern thou wast stayed,
He sent, to rescue thee, Anglante's peer;
So he (grammercy!) succoured thee dismaid
At sea, and from the wicked Biscayneer.
And, if thou must choose death, in place of worse,
Then only choose it, as a lesser curse."
I think not these last words of Scotland's knight
Were so exprest, that he was understood:
With these, he finished, like a feeble light,
Which needs supply of was, or other food.
-- Who is there, that has power to tell aright
The gentle Isabella's doleful mood?
When stiff, her loved Zerbino, with pale face,
And cold as ice, remained in her embrace.
On the ensanguined corse, in sorrow drowned,
The damsel throws herself, in her despair,
And shrieks so lout that wood and plain resound
For many miles about; nor does she spare
Bosom or cheek; but still, with cruel wound,
One and the other smites the afflicted fair;
And wrongs her curling lock of golden grain,
Aye calling on the well-loved youth in vain.
She with such rage, such fury, was possest,
That, in her transport, she Zerbino's glaive
Would easily have turned against her breast,
Ill keeping the command her lover gave;
But that a hermit, from his neighbouring rest,
Accustomed oft to seek the fountain-wave,
His flagon at the cooling stream to fill,
Opposed him to the damsel's evil will.
The reverend father, who with natural sense
Abundant goodness happily combined,
And, with ensamples fraught and eloquence,
Was full of charity towards mankind,
With efficacious reasons her did fence,
And to endurance Isabel inclined;
Placing, from ancient Testament and new,
Women, as in a mirror, for her view.
The holy man next made the damsel see,
That save in God there was no true content,
And proved all other hope was transitory,
Fleeting, of little worth, and quickly spent;
And urged withal so earnestly his plea,
He changed her ill and obstinate intent;
And made her, for the rest of life, desire
To live devoted to her heavenly sire.
Not that she would her mighty love forbear,
For her dead lord, nor yet his relics slight;
These, did she halt or journey, every where
Would Isabel have with her, day and night.
The hermit therefore seconding her care,
Who, for his age, was sound and full of might,
They on his mournful horse Zerbino placed,
And traversed many a day that woodland waste.
The cautious elder would not bear away
Thus all alone with him that damsel bland
Thither, where in a cave, concealed from day,
His solitary cell hard by did stand:
Within himself exclaiming: "I convey
With peril fire and fuel in one hand."
Nor in such bold experiments the sage
Wisely would trust to prudence or to age.
He thought to bear her to Provence, where, near
The city of Marseilles a borough stood,
Which had a sumptuous monastery; here
Of ladies was a holy sisterhood;
And, hither to transport the cavalier,
They stowed his body in a chest of wood,
Made in a town by the way-side; and which
Was long and roomy, and well closed with pitch.
So, compassing a mighty round, they fare
Through wildest parts, for many and many a day;
Because, the war extending every where,
They seek to hide themselves as best they may:
At length a cavalier arrests the pair,
That with foul scorn and outrage bars their way;
Of whom you more in fitting time shall learn,
But to the Tartar king I now return.
After the fight between the two was done,
Already told by me, the king withdrew
To a cooling shade and river from the sun,
His horse's reins and saddle to undo;
Letting the courser at his pleasure run,
Browsing the tender grass the pasture through:
But he reposed short time ere he descried
An errant knight descend the mountain's side.
Him Doralice, as soon as he his front
Uplifted, knew; and showed him to her knight:
Saying: "Behold! the haughty Rodomont,
Unless the distance has deceived my sight.
To combat with thee, he descends the mount:
Now it behoves thee put forth all thy might.
To lose me, his betrothed, a mighty cross
The monarch deems, and comes to venge his loss."
As a good hawk, who duck or woodcock shy,
Partridge or pigeon, or such other prey,
Seeing towards her from a distance fly,
Raises her head, and shows her blithe and gay;
So Mandricardo, in security
Of crushing Rodomont in that affray,
Gladly his courser seized, bestrode the seat,
Reined him, and in the stirrups fixt his feet.
When the two hostile warriors were so near,
That words could be exchanged between the twain,
Loudly began the monarch of Argier
To threat with head and hand, in haughty strain,
That to repentance he will bring the peer
Who lightly for a pleasure, rash and vain,
Had scrupled not his anger to excite
Who dearly will the offered scorn requite.
When Mandricardo: "He but vainly tries
To fright, who threatens me -- by words unscared.
Woman, or child, or him he terrifies,
Witless of warfare; not me, who regard
With more delight than rest, which others prize,
The stirring battle; and who am prepared
My foeman in the lists or field to meet;
Armed or unarmed, on horse or on my feet."
They pass to outrage, shout, and ire, unsheath
The brand; and loudly smites each cruel foe;
Like winds, which scarce at first appear to breathe,
Next shake the oak and ash-tree as they blow;
Then to the skies upwhirl the dusty wreath,
Then level forests, and lay houses low,
And bear the storm abroad, o'er land and main,
By which the flocks in greenwood-holt are slain.
Of those two infidels, unmatched in worth,
The valiant heart and strength, which thus exceed,
To such a warfare and such blows give birth,
As suits with warrior of so bold a seed.
At the loud sound and horrid, trembles earth,
When the swords cross; and to the stroke succeed
Quick sparks; or rather, flashing to the sky,
Bright flames by thousands and by thousands fly.
Without once gathering breath, without repose,
The champions one another still assail;
Striving, now here, now there, with deadly blows,
To rive the plate, or penetrate the mail.
Nor this one gains, nor the other ground foregoes;
But, as if girded in by fosse or pale,
Or, as too dearly sold they deem an inch,
Ne'er from their close and narrow circle flinch.
Mid thousand blows, so, with two-handed swing,
On his foe's forehead smote the Tartar knight,
He made him see, revolving in a ring,
Myriads of fiery balls and sparks of light.
The croupe, with head reversed, the Sarzan king
Now smote, as if deprived of all his might,
The stirrups lost; and in her sight, so well
Beloved, appeared about to quit the sell.
But as steel arbalest that's loaded sore,
By how much is the engine charged and strained,
By lever or by crane, with so much more
Fury returns, its ancient bent regained,
And, in discharging its destructive store,
Inflicts worse evil than itself sustained;
So rose that African with ready blade,
And straight with double force the stroke repaid.
Rodomont smites, and in the very place
Where he was smit, the Tartar in return;
But cannot wound the Sarzan in the face,
Because his Trojan arms the weapon turn;
Yes so astounds, he leaves him not in case,
If it be morn or evening to discern.
Rodomont stopt not, but in fury sped
A second blow, still aiming at his head.
King Mandricardo's courser, who abhorred
The whistling of the steel which round him flew,
Saved, with sore mischief to himself, his lord;
In that he backed the faulchion to eschew:
Aimed at his master, not at him, the sword
Smote him across the head, and cleft it through.
No Trojan helm defends the wretched horse,
Like Mandricardo, and he dies parforce.
He falls, and Mandricardo on the plain
No more astound, slides down upon his feet,
And whirls his sword; to see his courser slain
He storms all over fired with angry heat.
At him the Sarzan monarch drives amain;
Who stands as firm as rock which billows beat.
And so it happened, that the courser good
Fell in the charge, while fast the footman stood.
The African, who feels his horse give way,
The stirrups quits, and lightly from the sell
Is freed, and springs on earth: for the assay
Hence matched anew, stands either infidel.
Worse than before the battle boils, while they
With pride and anger, and with hatred swell,
About to close; but that, with flowing rein,
A messenger arrives to part the twain.
A messenger arrives, that from the Moor,
With many others, news through France conveyed;
Who word to simple knight and captain bore,
To join the troops, beneath their flags arrayed.
For he, the emperor, who the lilies wore,
Siege to their quarters had already laid;
And, save quick succour thither was addrest,
He read, their army's scathe was manifest.
The Moorish messenger not only knows,
By ensigns and by vest, the warlike pair,
But by the circling blades, and furious blows,
With which no other hands could wound the air;
Hence dared not 'twixt champions interpose,
Nor deemed his orders an assurance were
From such impetuous fury, nor the saw,
Which says embassadors are safe by law:
But to fair Doralice approached, and said
Marsilius, Agramant, and Stordilane,
Within weak works, with scanty troops to aid,
Were close beleaguered by the Christian train.
And, having told his tale, the damsel prayed,
That this she to the warriors would explain;
And would accord the pair, and to their post
Dispatch, for rescue of the Moorish host.
The lady, with bold heart, 'twixt either foe
Threw herself, and exclaimed: "I you command,
By the large love you hear me, as I know,
That you to better use reserve the brand;
And that you instantly in succour go
Of our host, menaced by the Christian band;
Which now, besieged within its camp, attends
Ruin or speedy succour from its friends.
The messenger rehearsed, when she had done,
Fully the peril of the paynim train;
And said that he bore letters to the son
Of Ulien, from the son of King Troyane.
The message ended, every grudge foregone,
'Twas finally resolved between the twain,
They should conclude a truce, and till the day
The Moorish siege was raised, their strife delay.
Intending, when from siege their Chivalry
Shall be relieved -- the one and the other knight --
No longer to remain in company,
But bandy cruel war was with fell despite,
Until determined by their arms shall be
To whom the royal dame belongs of right.
And she, between whose hands their solemn troth
They plighted, was security for both.
DISCORD, at hearing this, impatient grew;
With any truce or treaty ill content:
And that such fair agreement should ensue,
PRIDE, who was present, could as ill consent:
But LOVE was there, more puissant than the two,
Equalled of none in lofty hardiment;
And launching from his bow his shafts of proof,
With these, made PRIDE and DISCORD stand aloof.
To keep the truce the rival warriors swore;
Since so it pleased her well, who either swayed.
One of their coursers lacked: for on the moor
Lifeless King Mandricardo's had been laid:
Hence, thither, in good time, came Brigliador,
Who, feeding, by the river's margin strayed.
But here I find me at my canto's end;
So, with your licence, shall the tale suspend.
Rogero Richardetto from the pains
Of fire preserves, doomed by Marsilius dead:
He to Rogero afterwards explains
Fully the cause while he to death was led.
Them mournful Aldigier next entertains,
And with them the ensuing morning sped,
Vivian and Malagigi to set free;
To Bertolagi sold for hire and fee.
Oh! mighty springs of war in youthful breast,
Impetuous force of love, and thirst of praise!
Nor yet which most avails is known aright:
For each by turns its opposite outweighs.
Within the bosom here of either knight,
Honour, be sure, and duty strongly sways:
For the amorous strife between them is delayed,
Till to the Moorish camp they furnish aid.
Yet love sways more; for, save that the command
Was laid upon them by their lady gay,
Neither would in that battle sheathe the brand,
Till he was crowned with the victorious bay;
And Agramant might vainly with his band,
For either knight's expected succour, stay.
Then Love is not of evil nature still;
-- He can at times do good, if often ill.
'Twas now, suspending all their hostile rage,
One and the other paynim cavalier,
The Moorish host from siege to disengage,
For Paris, with the gentle lady, steer;
And with them goes as well that dwarfish page,
Who tracked the footsteps of the Tartar peer,
Till he had brought the warrior front to front,
In presence with the jealous Rodomont.
They at a mead arrived, where, in disport,
Knights were reposing by a stream, one pair
Disarmed, another casqued in martial sort;
And with them was a dame of visage fair.
Of these in other place I shall report,
Not now; for first Rogero is my care,
That good Rogero, who, as I have shown,
Into a well the magic shield had thrown.
He from that well a mile is hardly gone
Ere he a courier sees arrive at speed,
Of those dispatched by King Troyano's son
To knights whom he awaited in his need;
From him Rogero hears that so foredone
By Charles are those who hold the paynim creed,
They will, save quickly succoured in the strife,
As quickly forfeit liberty and life.
Rogero stood awhile in pensive case,
Whom many warring thoughts at once opprest;
But neither fitted was the time nor place
To make his choice, or judge what promised best.
The courier he dismist, and turned his face
Whither he with the damsel was addrest;
Whom aye the Child so hurried on her way,
He left her not a moment for delay.
Pursuing thence their ancient road again,
They reached a city, with the westering sun;
Which, in the midst of France, from Charlemagne
Marsilius had in that long warfare won:
Nor them to interrupt or to detain,
At drawbridge or at gate, was any one:
Though in the fosse, and round the palisade,
Stood many men, and piles of arms were laid.
Because the troop about that fortress see
Accompanying him, the well-known dame,
They to Rogero leave the passage free,
Nor even question him from whence he came.
Reaching the square, of evil company
He finds it full, and bright with ruddy flame;
And, in the midst, is manifest to view
The youth condemned, with face of pallid hue.
As on the stripling's face he turns his eyes,
Which hangs declined and wet with frequent tear,
Rogero thinks he Bradamant descries;
So much the youth resembles her in cheer:
More sure the more intently he espies
Her face and shape: when thus the cavalier:
"Or this is Bradamant, or I no more
Am the Rogero which I was before.
"She hath adventured with too daring will,
In rescue of the youth condemned to die;
And, for the enterprise had ended ill,
Hath there been taken, as I see. Ah! why
Was she so hot her purpose to fulfil,
That she must hither unattended hie!
-- But I thank Heaven, that hither have I made:
Since I am yet in time to lend her aid."
He drew his falchion without more delay,
(His lance was broken at the other town),
And, though the unarmed people making way,
Wounding flank, paunch, and bosom, bore them down.
He whirled his weapon, and, amid the array,
Smote some across the gullet, cheek, or crown.
Screaming, the dissipated rabble fled;
The most with cloven limbs or broken head.
As while at feed, in full security,
A troop of fowl along the marish wend,
If suddenly a falcon from the sky
Swoop mid the crowd, and one surprise and rend,
The rest dispersing, leave their mate to die,
And only to their own escape attend;
So scattering hadst thou seen the frighted throng,
When young Rogero pricked that crowd among.
Rogero smites the head from six or four,
Who in escaping from the field are slow.
He to the breast divides as many more,
And countless to the eyes and teeth below.
I grant no helmets on their heads they wore,
But there were shining iron caps enow;
And, if fine helmets did their temples press,
His sword would cut as deep, or little less.
Such good Rogero's force and valour are,
As never now-a-days in warrior dwell;
Nor yet in rampant lion, nor in bear,
Nor (whether home or foreign) beast more fell.
Haply with him the earthquake might compare,
Or haply the great devil -- not he of hell --
But he who is my lord's, who moves in fire,
And parts heaven, earth, and ocean in his ire.
At every stroke he never less o'erthrew
Than one, and oftener two, upon the plain;
And four, at once, and even five he slew;
So that a hundred in a thought were slain.
The sword Rogero from his girdle drew
As knife cuts curd, divides their plate and chain.
Falerina in Orgagna's garden made,
To deal Orlando death, that cruel blade.
But to have forged that falchion sorely rued,
Who saw her garden wasted by the brand.
What wreck, what ruin then must have ensued,
From this when wielded by such warrior's hand?
If e'er Rogero force, e'er fury shewed,
If e'er his mighty valour well was scanned,
'Twas here; 'twas here employed; 'twas here displayed;
In the desire to give his lady aid.
As hare from hound unslipt, that helpless train
Defends itself against the cavalier.
Many lay dead upon the cumbered plain,
And numberless were they who fled in fear.
Meanwhile the damsel had unloosed the chain
From the youth's hands, and him in martial gear
Was hastening, with what speed she might, to deck,
With sword in hand and shield about his neck.
He, who was angered sore, as best he cou'd,
Sought to avenge him of that evil crew;
And gave such signal proofs of hardihood,
As stamped him for a warrior good and true.
The sun already in the western flood
Had dipt his gilded wheels, what time the two,
Valiant Rogero and his young compeer,
Victorious issued, of the city clear.
When now Rogero and the stranger knight,
Clear of the city-gates, the champaigne reach,
The youth repays, with praises infinite,
Rogero in kind mode and cunning speech,
Who him, although unknown, had sought to right,
At risk of life, and prays his name to teach
That he may know to whom his thanks he owed
For such a mighty benefit bestowed.
"The visage of Bradamant I see,
The beauteous features and the beauteous cheer."
Rogero said; "and yet the suavity
I of her well-known accents do not hear:
Nor such return of thanks appears to be
In place towards her faithful cavalier.
And if in very sooth it is the same,
How has the maid so soon forgot my name?"
In wary wise, intent the truth to find,
Rogero said, "You have I seen elsewhere;
And have again, and yet again, divined,
Yet know I not, nor can remember where.
Say it, yourself, if it returns to mind,
And, I beseech, your name as well declare:
Which I would gladly hear, in the desire
To know whom I have rescued from the fire."
" -- Me, it is possible you may have seen,
I know not when nor where (the youth replied);
For I too range the world, in armour sheen,
Seeking adventure strange on every side;
Or haply it a sister may have been,
Who to her waist the knightly sword has tied;
Born with me at a birth; so like to view,
The family discerns not who is who.
"You not first, second, or even fourth will be,
Who have in this their error had to learn;
Nor father, brother, nor even mother me
From her (such our resemblance) can discern.
'Tis true, this hair, which short and loose you see,
In many guise, and hers, with many a turn,
And in long tresses wound about her brow,
Wide difference made between us two till now.
"But since the day, that, wounded by a Moor
In the head (a story tedious to recite)
A holy man, to heal the damsel's sore,
Cut short to the mid-ear her tresses bright,
Excepting sex and name, there is no more
One from the other to distinguish; hight
I Richardetto am, Bradamant she;
Rinaldo's brother and his sister we.
"And to displease you were I not afraid,
You with a wonder would I entertain,
Which chanced from my resemblance to the maid;
Begun in pleasure, finishing in pain."
He to whom nought more pleasing could be said,
And to whose ears there was no sweeter strain
That what in some sort on his lady ran,
Besought the stripling so, that he began.
"It so fell out, that as my sister through
The neighbouring wood pursued her path, a wound
Was dealt the damsel by a paynim crew,
Which her by chance without a helmet found.
And she was fain to trim the locks which grew
Clustering about the gash, to maker her sound
Of that ill cut which in her head she bore:
Hence, shorn, she wandered through the forest hoar.
"Ranging, she wandered to a shady font;
Where, worn and troubled, she, in weary wise,
Lit from her courser and disarmed her front,
And, couched upon the greenwood, closed her eyes.
A tale more pleasing than what I recount
In story there is none, I well surmise:
Thither repaired young Flordespine of Spain,
Who in that wood was hunting with her train.
"And, when she found my sister in the shade,
Covered, except her face, with martial gear,
-- In place of spindle, furnished with the blade --
Believed that she beheld a cavalier:
The face and manly semblance she surveyed,
Till conquered was her heart: with courteous cheer
She wooed the maid to hunt with her, and past
With her alone into that hold at last.
"When now she had her, fearless of surprise,
Safe in a solitary place, that dame,
By slow degrees, in words and amorous wise,
Showed her deep-wounded heart; with sighs of flame,
Breathed from her inmost breast, with burning eyes,
She spake her soul sick with desire; became
Now pale, now red; nor longer self-controlled,
Ravished a kiss, she waxed so passing bold.
"My sister was assured the huntress maid
Falsely conceited her a man to be;
Nor in that need could she afford her aid;
And found herself in sore perplexity.
` 'Tis better that I now dispel (she said)
The foolish thought she feeds, and that in me
The damsel should a gentle woman scan,
Rather than take me for a craven man.'
"And she said well: for cravenhood it were
Befitting man of straw, not warrior true,
With whom so bright a lady deigned to pair,
So wonderous sweet and full of nectarous dew,
To clack like a poor cuckow to the fair,
Hanging his coward wing, when he should woo,
Shaping her speech to this in wary mode,
My sister that she was a damsel, showed;
"That, like Camilla and like Hyppolite,
Sought fame in battle-field, and near the sea,
In Afric, in Arzilla, saw the light;
To shield and spear enured from infancy.
A spark this quenched not; nor yet burned less bright
The enamoured damsel's kindled phantasy.
Too tardy came the salve to ease the smart:
So deep had Love already driven his dart.
"Nor yet less fair to her my sister's face
Appeared, less fair her ways, less fair her guise;
Nor yet the heart returned into its place,
Which joyed itself within those dear-loved eyes.
Flordespine deems the damsel's iron case
To her desire some hope of ease supplies;
And when she thinks she is indeed a maid,
Laments and sobs, with mighty woe downweighed.
"He who had marked her sorrow and lament,
That day, himself had sorrowed with the fair.
`What pains (she said) did ever wight torment,
So cruel, but that mine more cruel were?
I need not to accomplish my intent,
In other love, impure or pure, despair;
The rose I well might gather from the thorn:
My longing only is of hope forlorn.
" `It 'twas thy pleasure, Love, to have me shent,
Because by glad estate thine anger stirred,
Thou with some torture might'st have been content
On other lovers used; but never word
Have I found written of a female bent
On love of female, mid mankind or herd.
Woman to woman's beauty still is blind;
Nor ewe delights in ewe, nor hind in hind.
" `Tis only I, on earth, in air, or sea,
Who suffer at thy hands such cruel pain;
And this thou hast ordained, that I may be
The first and last example in thy reign.
Foully did Ninus' wife and impiously
For her own son a passion entertain;
Loved was Pasiphae's bull and Myrrha's sire;
But mine is madder than their worst desire.
" `Here female upon male had set her will;
Had hope; and, as I hear, was satisfied.
Pasiphae the wooden cow did fill:
Others, in other mode, their want supplied.
But, had he flown to me, -- with all his skill,
Dan Daedalus had not the noose untied:
For one too diligent hath wreathed these strings;
Even Nature's self, the puissantest of things.'
"So grieves the maid, so goads herself and wears,
And shows no haste her sorrowing to forego;
Sometimes her face, sometimes her tresses tears,
And levels at herself the vengeful blow.
In pity, Bradamant the sorrow shares,
And is constrained to hear the tale of woe,
She studies to divert, with fruitless pain,
The strange and mad desire; but speaks in vain.
"She, who requires assistance, not support,
Still more laments herself, with grief opprest.
By this the waning day was growing short,
For the low sun was crimsoning the west;
A fitting hour for those to seek a port,
Who would not in the wood set up their rest.
When to this city, near her sylvan haunt,
Young Flordespine invited Bradament.
"My sister the request could ill deny;
And so they came together to the place,
Where, but for you, by that ill squadron I
Had been compelled the cruel flame to face:
There Flordespina made her family
Caress and do my sister no small grace;
And, having in a female robe arraid,
Past her on all beholders for a maid.
"Because perceiving vantage there was none
In the male cheer by which she was misled,
The damsel held it wise, reproach to shun,
Which might by any carping tongue be said.
And this the rather: that the ill, which one
Of the two garments in her mind had bred,
Now with the other which revealed the cheat,
She would assay to drive from her conceit.
"The ladies share one common bed that night,
Their bed the same, but different their repose.
One sleeps, one groans and weeps in piteous plight,
Because her wild desire more fiercely glows;
And on her wearied eyes should slumber light,
All is deceitful that brief slumber shows.
To her it seems, as if relenting Heaven
A better sex to Bradamant is given.
"As the sick man with burning thirst distrest,
If he should sleep, -- ere he that wish fulfil, --
Aye in his troubled, interrupted rest,
Remembers him of every once-seen rill:
So is the damsel's fancy still possest,
In sleep, with images which glad her will.
Then from the empty dreams which crowd her brain,
She wakes, and, waking, finds the vision vain.
"What vows she vowed, how oft that night she prayed,
To all her gods and Mahound, in despair!
-- That they, by open miracle, the maid
Would change, and give her other sex to wear.
But all the lady's vows were ill appaid,
And haply Heaven as well might mock the prayer;
Night fades, and Phoebus raises from the main
His yellow head, and lights the world again.
"On issueing from their bed when day is broken,
The wretched Flordespina's woes augment:
For of departing Bradamant had spoken,
Anxious to scape from that embarrassment.
The princess a prime jennet, as a token,
Forced on my parting sister, when she went;
And gilded housings, and a surcoat brave,
Which her own hand had richly broidered, gave.
"Her Flordespine accompanied some way,
Then, weeping, to her castle made return.
So fast my sister pricked, she reached that day
Mount Alban; we who for her absence mourn,
Mother and brother, greet the martial may,
And her arrival with much joy discern:
For hearing nought, we feared that she was dead,
And had remained in cruel doubt and dread.
"Unhelmed, we wondered at her hair, which passed
In braids about her brow, she whilom wore;
Nor less we wondered at the foreign cast
Of the embroidered surcoat which she wore:
And she to us rehearsed, from first to last,
The story I was telling you before;
How she was wounded in the wood, and how,
For cure, were shorn the tresses from her brow;
"And next how came on her, with labour spent,
-- As by the stream she slept -- that huntress bright;
And how, with all her false semblance well content,
She from the train withdrew her out of sight.
Nor left she any thing of her lament
Untold; which touched with pity every wight;
Told how the maid had harboured her, and all
Which past, till she revisited her Hall.
"Of Flordespine I knew: and I had seen
In Saragossa and in France the maid;
To whose bewitching eyes and lovely mien
My youthful appetite had often strayed:
Yet her I would not make my fancy's queen;
For hopeless love is but a dream and shade:
Now I this proffered in such substance view,
Straitway the ancient flame breaks forth anew.
"Love, with this hope, constructs his subtle ties;
Who other threads for me would vainly weave.
'Tis thus he took me, and explained the guise
In which I might the long-sought boon achieve.
Easy it were the damsel to surprise;
For as the likeness others could deceive,
Which I to Bradamant, my sister, bear,
This haply might as well the maid ensnare.
"Whether I speed or no, I hold it wise,
Aye to pursue whatever give delight.
I with no other of my plan devise,
Nor any seek to counsel me aright.
Well knowing where the suit of armour lies
My sister doffed, I thither go at night;
Her armour and her steed to boot I take,
Nor stand expecting until daylight break.
"I rode all night -- Love served me as a guide --
To seek the home of beauteous Flordespine;
And there arrived, before in ocean's tide
The western sun had hid his orbit sheen.
A happy man was he who fastest hied
To tell my coming to the youthful queen;
Expecting from that lady, for his pain,
Favour and goodly guerdon to obtain.
"For Bradamant the guests mistake me all,
-- As you yourself but now -- so much the more,
That I have both the courser and the pall
With which she left them but the day before.
Flordespine comes at little interval,
With such festivity and courteous lore,
And with a face, so jocund and so gay,
She could not, for her life, more joy display.
"Her beauteous arms about my neck she throws,
And fondly clasping me, my mouth she kist.
If to my inmost heart the arrow goes,
Which Love directs, may well by you be wist.
She leads me to her chamber of repose
In haste, not suffers others to assist
In taking off my panoply of steel;
Disarming me herself from head to heel.
"Then, ordering from her store a costly vest,
She spread it, and -- as I a woman were --
The lady me in that rich garment drest,
And in a golden net confined my hair.
I gravely moved my eye-balls, nor confest,
By gesture or by look, the sex I bear.
My voice, which might discover the deceit,
I tuned so well that none perceived the cheat.
"Next to the hall, where dame and cavalier
In crowds are gathered, we united go;
Who make to us such court and goodly cheer,
As men to queen or high-born lady show.
Here oft I laughed at some, with secret jeer,
Who, knowing not the sex concealed below
My flowing robe of feminine array,
Wooed me with wishful eyes in wanton way.
"When more advanced in now the festive night,
And the rich board -- board plenteously purveyed
With what in season was most exquisite --
Has been some time removed, the royal maid
Expects not till I of myself recite
The cause, which thither me anew conveyed:
By her own courtesy and kindness led,
That lady prays me to partake her bed.
"Damsels and dames withdrawn -- with all the rest --
Pages and chamberlains, when now we lay,
One and the other, in our bed undrest,
With kindled torches, counterfeiting day;
`Marvel not, lady,' (her I thus addrest,)
`That I return after such short delay;
For, haply, thou imagined, that again
Thou shouldst not see me until Heaven knows when.
" `The reason I departed from thy side,
And next of my return, explained shall be.
Could I unto thy fever have applied,
By longer sojourn here, a remedy,
I in thy service would have lived and died,
Nor would have been an hour away from thee:
But seeing how my stay increased thy woe,
I, who could do no better, fixed to go.
" `Into the middle of a wood profound
By chance I from the beaten pathway strayed:
Where near me plaintive cries I hear resound,
As of a woman who intreated aid.
To a lake of crystal I pursue the sound,
And, there, amid the waves, a naked maid
Caught on the fish-hook of a Faun, survey,
Who would devour alive his helpless prey.
" `Upon the losel, sword in hand, I ran,
And, for I could not aid in other wise,
Bereft of life that evil fisherman.
She in an instant to the water flies.
-- `Me hast thou helped not vainly,' (she began)
And well shalt be rewarded -- with what prize
Thou canst demand -- for know I am a nymph,
And have my dwelling in this crystal lymph;
" `And power is mine to work portentous ends;
Nature and Elements I force: thy prayer
Shape to the scope to which my strength extends,
And leave its satisfaction to my care.
Charmed by my song the moon from Heaven descends;
Fire can I freeze, and harden liquid air;
And I at times have stopt the sun, and stirred
This earth beneath me by a simple word.'
"Treasure I covet not, nor yet aspire
O'er land or people to hold sovereign sway;
Nor greater strength nor valour would acquire,
Nor fame in every warfare bear away;
But only to accomplish thy desire,
Entreat the damsel she will show some way.
Nor one nor other method I forestall;
But to her choice refer me, all in all.
"Scarce my demand was made, before mine eye
Beneath the lymph engulphed that lady viewed:
Nor answered she my prayer, but, for reply,
Me with the enchanted element bedewed;
Which has no sooner touched my face than I,
I know not how, am utterly transmewed:
I see, I feel -- yet doubting what I scan --
Feel, I am changed from woman into man.
LXV - LXIX
(Stazas LXV - LXIX untranslated by Rose)
"The thing remained concealed between us two;
So that our bliss endured some months; at last
We were espied; and, as I sorely rue,
The tidings to the Spanish monarch past.
Thou that whilere preserved'st me from the crew,
Which me into the flames designed to cast,
By this mayst fully comprehend the rest;
But God alone can read my sorrowing breast."
So Richardetto spake, and by his say
Made the dark path they trod less irksome be.
Up a small height this while their journey lay,
Girded with cliff and cavern, drear to see.
Bristling with rocks, a steep and narrow way
Was to that rugged hill the stubborn key;
A town, called Agrismonte, crowned the steep,
Which Aldigier of Clermont had in keep.
Bastard of Buovo, brother to the pair,
Sir Vivian and Sir Malagigi hight:
Who him Gerardo's lawful son declare,
Are witnesses of little worth and light.
-- This, as it may! -- strong, valiant, wise, and ware,
Liberal, humane, and courteous was the knight;
And on the fortress of its absent lord,
By night and day, kept faithful watch and ward.
His cousin Richardetto, as behoved,
Was courteously received by Aldigier;
Who him as dearly as a brother loved,
And made Rogero for his sake good cheer;
But not with wonted welcome; -- inly moved --
He even wore a visage sad and drear:
For he, that day, ill-tidings had received,
And hence in heart and face the warrior grieved.
To Richardetto he exclaims, instead
Of greeting: "Evil news are hither blown.
By a sure messenger, to-day I read
That faithless Bertolagi of Bayonne,
With barbarous Lanfusa has agreed,
And costly spoils makes over to that crone;
Who will consign to him the brethren twain,
Thy Malagigi and thy Viviane;
"These she, since Ferrau took them, aye has stayed
Imprisoned in a dark and evil cell;
Till the discourteous and foul pact was made
With that false Maganzese of whom I tell;
And them to-morrow, to a place conveyed
'Twixt Bayonne and a town of his, will sell
To him, who will be present, to advance
The price of the most precious blood in France.
"One, at a gallop, even now, to report
Tidings to our Rinaldo of the wrong,
I sent; bur fear that he can ill resort
To him in time, the journey is so long.
Men have I not to sally from my fort;
And my power halts where my desire is strong.
The traitor will the knights, if rendered, slay;
Nor know I what to do nor what to say."
Sir Richardetto the ill news displease,
And (as they him) displease in equal wise
Rogero; who, when silent both he sees,
Nor able any counsel to devise,
Exclaims with mickle daring: "Be at ease;
I challenge for myself the whole emprize;
And, to set free your brethren, in my hand
More than a thousand shall avail this brand.
"I ask not men, I ask not aid; my spear
Is, I believe, sufficient to the feat.
I only ask of you a guide to steer
Me to the place where for the exchange they meet:
I even in this place will make you hear
Their cries, who for that evil bargain threat."
He said; nor to one listener of the twain,
That had helped his actions, spake in vain.
The other heard him not, or heard at most
As we great talkers hear, who little do:
But Richardetto took aside their host
And told how him he from the fire withdrew;
And how he was assured, beyond his boast,
He would in time and place his prowess shew.
'Twas now that better audience than before
Aldigier lent, and set by him great store;
And at the feast, where Plenty for the three
Emptied her horn, him honoured as his lord.
Here they conclude they can the brethren free
Without more succour from their gaoler's ward.
This while Sleep seized on lord and family,
Save young Rogero: no repose afford
To him the thoughts, which evermore molest,
And, rankling in his bosom, banish rest.
The siege of Agramant, to him that day
Told by the messenger, he has at heart.
He well discerns that every least delay
Will he dishonour. What a ceaseless smart
Will scorn inflict, what shame will him appay,
If he against his sovereign lord take part?
Oh! what foul cowardice, how foul a crime
His baptism will appear at such a time!
That true religion had the stripling swayed
Men might at any other time conceive:
But now, when needed was the warrior's aid
From siege the Moorish monarch to relieve,
That Fear and Baseness had more largely weighed,
In his designs, would every one believe,
That any preference of a better creed:
This thought makes good Rogero's bosom bleed.
Nor less to quit his Queen, her leave unsought,
Did with Rogero's other griefs combine:
Now this and now that care upon him wrought;
Which diversely his doubtful heart incline:
The unhappy lover fruitlessly had thought
To find her at the abode of Flordespine;
Whither together went (as told whilere)
To succour Richardetto, maid and peer.
He next bethinks him of the promise plight
To meet at Vallombrosa's sanctuary,
Deems her gone thither, and that 'twill excite
Her wonderment himself not there to see.
Could he at least a message send or write,
That he with reason might not censured be,
Because not only he had disobeyed,
But was departing hence, and nothing said!
He, having thought on many things, in the end
Resolves on writing what behoves; and, though
He knows not how his letter he shall send,
In the assurance it will safely go,
This hinders not; he thinks that, as they wend,
Chance in his way some faithful Post may throw;
Nor more delays: up leaps the restless knight,
And calls for pen and paper, ink and light.
That which is needed, in obedience meet,
Aldigier's valets bring, a careful band,
The youth begins to write; and, first, to greet
The maid, as wonted courtesies demand;
Next tells how Agramant has sent to entreat,
In his dispatches, succour at his hand;
And, save he quickly to his comfort goes,
Must needs be slain or taken by his foes.
Then adds, his sovereign being so bested,
And praying him for succour in his pain,
She must perceive what blame upon his head
Would light, if Agramant applied in vain;
And, since with her he is about to wed,
'Tis fitting he should keep him with stain;
For ill he deems a union could endure
Between aught foul and her to passing pure.
And if he erst a name, renowned and clear,
Had laboured to procure by actions fair,
And having gained it thus, he held it dear,
-- If this had sought to keep -- with greater care
He kept it now, -- and with a miser's fear
Guarded the treasure she with him would share;
Who, though distinct in body and in limb,
When wedded, ought to be one soul with him;
And, as he erst by word, he now explained
Anew by writing, that the period o'er,
For which he was to serve his king constrained,
Unless it were his lot to die before,
He would in deed a Christian be ordained,
As in resolve he had been evermore;
And of her kin, Rinaldo and her sire,
Her afterwards in wedlock would require.
"I would," he said, "relieve, with your good will,
My king, besieged by Charlemagne's array,
That the misjudging rabble, prone to ill,
Might never, to my shame and scandal, say:
Rogero, in fair wind and weather, still
Waited upon his sovereign, night and day,
And now that Fortune to King Charles is fled,
Has with that conquering lord his ensign spread.'
"I fifteen days or twenty ask, that I
Yet once again may to our army speed;
So that, by me from leaguering enemy
The African cantonments may be freed:
I will some fit and just occasion spy,
Meanwhile, to justify my change of creed,
I for my honour make this sole request;
Then wholly yours for life, in all things, rest."
Rogero is such words his thoughts exposed,
Which never could by me be fully showed;
And added more, nor from his task reposed,
Until the crowded paper overflowed:
He next the letter folded and enclosed,
And sealed it, and within his bosom stowed;
In hopes to meet next morning by the way
One who might covertly that writ convey.
When he had closed the sheet, that amorous knight
His eyelids closed as well, and rest ensued:
For Slumber came and steeped his wearied might
In balmy moisture, from a branch imbued
With Lethe's water; and he slept till -- white
And red -- a rain of flowers the horizon strewed,
Painting the joyous east with colours gay;
When from her golden dwelling broke the day:
And when the greenwood birds 'gan, far and wide,
Greet the returning light with gladsome strain,
Sir Aldigier (who wished to be the guide,
Upon that journey, of the warlike twain,
Who would in succour of those brethren ride,
To rescue them from Bertolagi's chain)
Was first upon his feet; and either peer
Issues as well from bed, when him they hear.
When clad and thoroughly in arms arrayed --
Rogero with the cousins took his way,
Having that pair already warmly prayed
The adventure on himself alone to lay:
But these, by love for those two brethren swayed,
And deeming it discourtesy to obey,
Stood out against his prayer, more stiff than stone,
Nor would consent that he should wend alone.
True to the time and place of change, they hie
Whither Sir Aldigier's advices teach;
And there survey an ample band who lie
Exposed to fierce Apollo's heat; in reach,
Nor myrtle-tree nor laurel they descry,
Nor tapering cypress, ash, nor spreading beech:
But naked gravel with low shrubs discerned,
Undelved by mattock and by share unturned.
Those three adventurous warriors halted where
A path went through the uncultivated plain,
And saw a knight arrive upon the lair,
Who, flourished o'er with gold, wore plate and chain,
And on green field that beauteous bird and rare,
Which longer than an age extends its reign.
No more, my lord: for at my canto's close
I find myself arrived, and crave repose.
Of mighty matters, sculptured in a font,
Does Malagigi to his comrades tell:
On them come Mandricardo and Rodomont,
And forthwith battle follows fierce and fell.
Discord goes scattering quarrel and affront
Amid the crew: but whither, forced by spell,
Fair Doralice upon her palfrey speeds,
The Tartar king, and Sarzan, turn their steeds.
In former ages courteous ladies were,
Who worshipt virtue, and not worldly gear.
Women in this degenerate age are rare,
To whom aught else but sordid gain is dear;
But they who real goodness make their care,
Nor with the avaricious many steer,
In this frail life are worthy to be blest,
-- Held glorious and immortal when at rest.
Bradamant well would deathless praise inherit,
Who nor in wealth nor empire took delight;
But in Rogero's worth, excelling spirit,
In his unbounded gentlesse; and aright
For this did good Duke Aymon's daughter merit
To be beloved of such a valorous knight;
Who, what might be for miracles received,
In future ages, for her sake achieved.
He, with those two of Clermont, as whilere
To you I in the former canto said,
I say with Richardet and Aldigier,
Was gone, to give the prisoned brethren aid:
I told, as well how they a cavalier
Of haughty look approaching had surveyed,
Who bore that noble bird, by fiery birth
Renewed, and ever single upon earth.
When those three of that warrior were espied,
Poised on the wing, as if about to smite,
He fain by proof their prowess would have tried,
And if their semblance tallied with their might.
"Is there, among you, one," the stranger cried,
"Will prove upon me, which is best in fight,
With lance or sword, till one to ground be cast,
While in the sell his foe is seated fast?"
" -- I, at your choice," said Aldigier, "were fain
To flourish faulchion, or to tilt with spear;
But this with feat, which, if you here remain,
Yourself may witness, so would interfere,
That for the present parley time with pain
Suffices, and yet less for the career.
Six hundred men, or more, we here attend,
With whom we must to-day in arms contend.
"Two of our own to rescue from their foes,
And free from chains, us Love and Pity sway."
He to that stranger next the reason shows
Why thus in steel their bodies they array.
"So just is the excuse which you oppose,"
-- He answered -- "that I ill should this gainsay,
And hold you surely for three cavaliers
That seldom upon earth will find their peers.
"With you a lance or two I would have crost
To prove how great your prowess in the field;
But, since 'tis shown me at another's cost,
Forego the joust, and to your reasons yield.
Warmly I pray your leave against that host,
To join with your good arms this helm and shield;
And hope, if suffered of your band to be,
No worthless comrade shall you find in me."
Some one, meseems, may crave the stranger's name,
Who thus the champions on their road delayed,
And so to partnership in arms laid claim
With those three warriors, for the strife arrayed:
SHE -- style no more a man that martial dame --
Marphisa was; that on Zerbino laid
The task to bear about, against his will,
Ribald Gabrina, prone to every ill.
The two of Clermont and their bold compeer
Gladly received her succour in their cause,
Whom certes they believed a cavalier,
And not a damsel, and not what she was.
A banner was espied by Aldigier
And shown the others, after little pause,
Which by the wavering wind was blown about,
And round about it ranged a numerous rout.
And when, now nearer, the advancing crew
Were better marked in Moorish habit stoled,
For Saracens the stranger band they knew;
And they upon two sorry jades behold,
I' the middle of that troop, the prisoners, who
Were to the false Maganza to be sold.
Marphisa cries, "Why is the feast delayed,
When lo! the guests are here, for whom we stayed?"
-- "Not all," Rogero said, "Of the array
Invited, lacks as yet a numerous part:
A solemn festival is held to-day,
And we. to grace it more, use every art:
Yet they can now but little more delay."
While thus they parley, they from other part
Descry the treacherous Maganzese advance;
So all was ready to begin the dance.
They of Maganza from one quarter steer,
And laden mules beneath their convoy go,
Bearing vest, gold, and other costly gear.
On the other side, mid faulchion, spear, and bow,
Approached the captive two with doleful cheer,
Who found themselves awaited by the foe;
And false and impious Bertolagi heard,
As with the Moorish captain he conferred.
Nor Buovo's nor Duke Aymon's valiant son
Can hold, when that false Maganzese they view;
Against him both with rested lances run:
He falls the victim of those furious two,
Through belly and through pummel pierced by one,
And by the other, in mid visage, through
His bleeding cheeks: may like disastrous fate
O'erwhelm all evil doers, soon or late!
Marphisa with Rogero moved her horse
At this, nor waited other trumpet-strain;
Nor broke her lance in her impetuous course,
Till in succession three had prest the plain.
A mark well worthy fierce Rogero's force,
The paynim leader in a thought is slain;
And with him, pierced by the same weapon, go
Two others to the gloomy realms below.
'Twas hence a foul mistake the assaulted made;
It caused their utter loss, and ruined all:
They of Maganza deemed themselves betrayed
By the infidels, upon their leader's fall:
On the other side, so charged with hostile blade,
The Moors those Maganzese assassins call;
And, with fierce slaughter, either angry horde
'Gan bend bow, and brandish lance and sword.
Rogero, charging this, or the other band,
Slays ten or twenty, shifting his career;
No fewer by the warlike damsel's hand
Are slaughtered and extinguished, there and here:
As many men as feel the murderous brand
Are from the saddle seen to disappear:
Before it vanish cuirass, helms and shields,
As the dry wood to fire in forest yields.
If ever you remember to have viewed,
Or heard, -- what time the wasps divided are,
And all the winged college is at feud,
Mustering their swarms for mischief in mid air, --
The greedy swallow swoop amid that brood,
To mangle and devour, and kill, and tear,
You must imagine so, on either part
The bold Rogero and Marphisa dart.
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