Part 15 out of 25
Than Sacripant at need moves foot or hand,
And shifts now here, now there his restless stand.
But Serpentine and Ferrau interfere:
They with drawn swords the twain asunder bore;
With them Grandonio was and Isolier,
And many other leaders of the Moor,
This was the tumult which was heard whilere
In the other tent, what time they laboured sore,
Rogero vainly to a peace to bring
With Tartary's and Sericana's king.
This while some voice to Agramant the news
Reports aright, that Ulien's might seed,
With Sacripant, Circassia's king, pursues
A fierce and furious quarrel for the steed.
Agramant, whom so many jars confuse,
Exclaims to King Marsilius: "Take thou heed
That no worse evil mid these knights betide,
While for this new disorder I provide."
Rodomont reined his anger, and retired
Some deal, at his approaching sovereign's view;
Nor less respect in Sacripant inspired
The Moorish monarch; of the furious two,
He with grave voice and royal mien inquired
What cause of strife such deadly discord blew;
And having searched their quarrel to the root,
Would fain accord them; but with little fruit.
Circassia's monarch would not, on his side,
Longer his horse to Argier's lord allow,
Save humbly Rodomont to him applied,
That steed for this occasion to bestow.
To him Sir Rodomont, with wonted pride,
Returned for answer: "Neither Heaven nor thou
Shall make me recognize as gift or loan
What I with this good hand can make mine own."
The king bade Sacripant explain his right,
And how that horse was taken from him sought;
And this from first to last Circassia's knight
Rehearsed, and reddened as the tale he taught,
Relating to the king the robber's sleight;
Who had surprised him overwhelmed with thought,
Upon four spears his courser's saddle stayed,
And from beneath the naked horse conveyed.
Marphisa, whom these cries, mid others, bring,
When of the robbery of the horse advised,
In visage is disturbed, remembering
How on that day her faulchion was surprised;
And when that courser (which equipt with wing
Appeared when flying her) she recognized;
And recognized as well -- at first unknown --
The valiant king who filled Circassia's throne.
The others who stood round her, wont to hear
Brunello often boast of the deceit,
'Gan turn towards that wretch, and made appear
By open signs they knew him for the Cheat.
Marphisa who the subtle knave whilere
Suspected as the author of that feat,
Now questions this, now that, who all accord
In saying 'twas Brunello stole her sword;
Who, well deserving as a fitting pain
To dangle from the gallows-tree in air,
By Agramant the crown of Tingitane
(An ill example) was preferred to wear.
This fires anew Marphisa's old disdain,
Nor she from instant vengeance will forbear,
For this, as well as other shame and scorn
She on her road had from that caitiff born.
A squire laced on her helmet, at her hest;
She wore the remnant of her armour sheen;
Nor without martial cuirass on her breast,
Find I, that she ten times was ever seen,
Even from the day when first that iron vest
Braced on her limbs the passing-valiant queen:
With helm on head, where, mid the highest rows,
Brunello sits among the first, she goes.
Him by mid breast Marphisa griped amain,
And lifted up the losel from the ground;
As is rapacious eagle wont to strain
The pullet, in her talons circled round;
And bore him where the sons of King Troyane
Heard the two knights their jarring claims propound.
He who perceives himself in evil hands,
Aye weeps, and mercy of that maid demands.
Above the universal noise and shout,
Which rose nigh equally on either side,
Brunello, who from all the crowd about
For pity now, and now for succour, cried,
So loud was heard, that of that ample rout
He gathered round himself the pressing tide.
Arrived before the Moorish army's head,
To him with haughty mien Marphisa said:
"This thief (said she), thy vassal, will I slay,
And with this hand of mine will knot the cord
About his neck; because the very day
He stole this courser, he purloined my sword.
But is there any one who deems I say
Amiss, let him stand forth and speak the word;
For I on him will prove, before thine eyes,
I have done right, and who gainsays me, lies.
"But because haply some one may pretend
I have till such a time of strife delayed
My vengeance, when such famous knights contend,
For three days shall the wretch's doom be stayed;
In the mean time let him who would defend
That caitiff, come himself, or send him aid.
For afterwards, if none the deed prevent,
His carcass shall a thousand birds content.
"I hence to yonder tower, which distant nigh
Three leagues, o'erlooks a little copse, repair,
But with one varlet in my company,
And with one waiting-maid; if any dare
Rescue the thief, let him come thither; I
Wait the approach of his defenders there."
Thus she; and thither quickly wends her ways
Whither was said, nor any answer stays.
Held on the pommel grappled by his hair,
Brunello on Marphisa's courser lies:
The caitiff weeps, and shrieking in despair,
On all in whom he hopes, for succour cries.
In such confusion is Troyano's heir,
He sees no way through these perplexities;
And, that Marphisa thence Brunello bore
In such a guise, yet grieved the monarch more.
Not that he loved the losel or esteemed,
Rather to him some time had borne despite;
And often had to hand the caitiff schemed,
Since he had forfeited the ring of might.
But here his honour touched the monarch deemed,
So that his visage reddened at the slight:
He would, in person, follow her at speed,
And to his utmost power avenge the deed.
But the wise king, Sobrino, who was by,
Him from the quest endeavoured to dissuade,
And that with his exalted majesty
Such enterprize were ill assorted said:
Although firm hope, nay full security,
He had to overcome that martial maid,
If he with pain subdued a woman, shame,
Rather than honour, would pursue his name.
Small profit and much peril would succeed
From any fight he should with her maintain,
(And he advised him) as the better deed,
To leave that wretched caitiff to his pain;
And albeit but a simple nod should need
To free him, from that nod he should refrain.
In that the monarch would do ill to force
Even-handed Justice from her destined course.
"Thou to the fierce Marphisa may'st apply
To leave his trial (he pursued) to thee,
With promise, her in this to satisfy
And to suspend him from the gallows-tree:
And even should the maid thy prayer deny,
Let her in every wish contented be:
And rather than that she desert thy side,
Let her hang him and every thief beside."
Right willingly King Agramant gave way
To King Sobrino's counsel sage and staid;
And let renowned Marphisa wend her way,
Nor scathed he, nor let scathe, that martial maid,
Neither endured that any her should pray;
And heaven knows with what courage he obeyed
That wise advice, to calm such ruder strife
And quarrel, as throughout his camp were rife.
At this mad Discord laughed, no more in fear
That any truce or treaty should ensue;
And scowered the place of combat there and here,
Nor could stand still, for pleasure at the view.
Pride gamboled and rejoiced with her compeer,
And on the fire fresh food and fuel threw,
And shouted so that Michael in the sky
Knew the glad sign of conquest in that cry.
Paris-town rocked, and turbid ran the flood
Of Seine at that loud voice, that horrid roar;
And, so it echo rang in Arden's wood,
Beasts left their caverns in that forest hoar.
Alp and Cevenne's mountain-solitude,
And Blois, and Arles, and Rouen's distant shore,
Rhine, Rhone, and Saone, and Garonne, heard the pest;
Scared mothers hugged their children to their breast.
Five have set up their rest, resolved to be
The first their different quarrels to conclude:
And tangled so is one with other plea,
That ill Apollo's self could judge the feud.
To unravel that first cause of enmity
The king began -- the strife which had ensued,
Because of beauteous Doralice, between
The king of Scythia and her Algerine.
King Agramant oft moved, between the pair,
Now here now there, to bring them to accord;
Now there now here, admonishing that pair,
Like faithful brother and like righteous lord:
But when he found that neither would forbear,
Deaf and rebellious to his royal word,
Nor would consent that lady to forego,
The cause of strife, in favour of his foe,
As his best lore, at length the monarch said,
And to obey his sentence both were fain;
That he who was by her preferred, should wed
The beauteous daughter of King Stordilane:
And that what was established on his head
Should not be changed, to either's loss or gain.
The compromise was liked on either side,
Since either hoped she would for him decide.
The mighty king of Sarza, who long space
Before the Tartar, had loved Doralice,
(Who had preferred that sovereign to such grace
As modest lady may, nor do amiss)
Believed, when she past sentence on the case,
She must pronounce what would ensure his bliss.
Nor thus alone King Rodomont conceived,
But all the Moorish host with him believed.
All know what exploits wrought by him had been
For her in joust and war; they all unsound
And weak King Mandricardo's judgment ween;
But he, who oft was with her on their round,
And oftener private with the youthful queen,
What time the tell-tale sun was under ground,
He, knowing well how sure he was to speed,
Laughed at the silly rabble's idle creed.
They, after, ratify the king's award,
Between his hands, and next the suitors twain
Before that damsel go, that on the sward
Fixing her downcast eyes, in modest vein,
Avows her preference of the Tartar lord;
At which sore wondering stand the paynim train;
And Rodomont remains so sore astound,
He cannot raise his visage from the ground.
But wonted anger chasing shame which dyed
The Sarzan's face all over, he arraigned
The damsel's sentence, of the faulchion, tied
About his manly waist, the handle strained,
And in the king's and others' hearing cried:
"By this the question shall be lost or gained;
And not by faithless woman's fickle thought,
Which thither still inclines, where least it ought."
Kind Mandricardo on his feet once more,
Exclaims, "And be it as it pleases thee."
So that ere yet the vessel made the shore
Unploughed remained a mighty space of sea;
But that this king reproved the Sarzan sore,
Ruling that to appeal upon that plea
No more with Mandricardo could avail,
And made the moody Sarzan strike his sail.
Branded with double scorn, before those peers,
By noble Agramant, whose sovereign sway
He, as in loyal duty bound, reveres,
And by his lady on the selfsame day,
There will no more the monarch of Algiers
Abide, but of his band -- a large array --
Two serjeants only for his service takes,
And with that pair the paynim camp forsakes.
As the afflicted bull who has foregone
His heifer, nor can longer warfare wage,
Seeks out the greenwood-holt and stream most lone,
Or sands at distance from his pasturage;
There ceases not, in sun or shade to moan;
Yet not for that exhales his amorous rage:
So parts, constrained his lady to forego,
The king of Argier, overwhelmed with woe.
Rogero moved, his courser to regain,
And had already donned his warlike gear,
Then recollecting, that on listed plain
At Mandricardo he must couch the spear,
Followed not Rodomont, but turned his rein,
To end his quarrel with the Tartar, ere
He met in combat Sericana's lord
Within close barriers, for Orlando's sword.
To have Frontino ravished in his sight,
And be unable to forbid the deed,
He sorely grieves; but, when he shall that fight
Have done, resolves he will regain the steed;
But Sacripant, whom, like the youthful knight,
No quarrels in the Moor's pursuit impede,
And who was unengaged in other quest,
Upon the Sarzan's footsteps quickly prest;
And would have quickly joined him that was gone,
But for the chance of an adventure rare;
Which him detained until the day was done,
And made him lose the track of Ulien's heir:
A woman who had fallen into the Saone,
And who without his help had perished there,
The warrior drowning in that water found,
And stemmed the stream and dragged the dame aground.
When afterwards he would remount the sell,
From him his restless charger broke astray,
Who fled before his lord till evening fell,
Nor lightly did the king that courser stay.
At last he caught him; but no more could spell
Where he had wandered from the beaten way:
Two hundred miles he roved, 'twist hill and plain,
Ere he came up with Rodomont again.
How he by Sacripant was overtaken,
And fought by him, to his discomfit sore,
And how he lost his courser, how was taken,
I say not now, who have to say before,
With what disdain and with what anger shaken,
Against his liege and love, the Sarzan Moor
Forth from the Saracen cantonments sped,
And what he of the one and other said.
Wherever that afflicted paynim goes,
He fills the kindling air with sighs that burn;
And Echo oft, for pity of his woes,
With him from hollow rock is heard to mourn:
"O female mind! how lightly ebbs and flows
Your fickle mood," (he cries,) "aye prone to turn!
Object most opposite to kindly faith!
Lost, wretched man, who trusts you to his scathe!
"Neither my love nor length of servitude,
Though by a thousand proofs to you made clear,
Had power even so to fix your faithless mood,
That you at least so lightly should not veer:
Nor am I quitted, because less endued
With worth than Mandricardo I appear;
Nor for your conduct cause can I declare,
Save this alone, that you a woman are.
"I think that nature and an angry God
Produced thee to the world, thou wicked sex,
To be to man a plague, a chastening rod;
Happy, wert thou not present to perplex.
So serpent creeps along the grassy sod;
So bear and ravening wolf the forest vex;
Wasp, fly, and gad-fly buzz in liquid air,
And the rich grain lies tangled with the tare.
"Why has not bounteous Nature willed that man
Should be produced without the aid of thee,
As we the pippin, pear, and service can
Engraft by art on one another's tree?
But she directs not all by certain plan;
Rather, upon a nearer view, I see,
In naming her, she ill can act aright,
Since Nature is herself a female hight.
"Yet be not therefore proud and full of scorn
Women, because man issues from your seed;
For roses also blossom on the thorn,
And the fair lily springs from loathsome weed.
Despiteous, proud, importunate, and lorn
Of love, of faith, of counsel, rash in deed,
With that, ungrateful, cruel and perverse,
And born to be the world's eternal curse!"
These plaints and countless others to the wind
Poured forth the paynim knight, to fury stirred;
Now easing in low tone his troubled mind,
And now in sounds which were at distance heard,
In shame and in reproach of womankind;
Yet certes he from sober reason erred:
For we may deem a hundred good abound,
Where one or two perchance are evil found.
Though none for whom I hitherto have sighed
-- Of those so many -- have kept faith with me,
All with ingratitude, or falsehood dyed
I deem not, I accuse my destiny.
Many there are, and have been more beside
Unmeriting reproach: but if there be,
'Mid hundreds, one or two of evil way,
My fortune wills that I should be their prey.
Yet will I make such search before I die,
Rather before my hair shall wax more white,
That haply on some future day, even I
Shall say, "That one has kept her promise plight."
And should not the event my trust belie,
(Nor am I hopeless) I with all my might
Will with unwearied pain her praise rehearse
With pen and ink and voice, in prose and verse.
The Saracen, whom rage no less profound
Against his sovereign lord than lady swayed,
And who of reason thus o'erpast the bound,
And ill of one and of the other said,
Would fain behold that monarch's kingdom drowned
With such a tempest, with such scathe o'erlaid,
As should in Africk every house aggrieve,
Nor one stone standing on another leave.
And would that from his realm, in want and woe,
King Agramant a mendicant should wend;
That through his means the monarch, brought thus low,
His fathers' ancient seat might reascend:
And thus he might the fruit of fealty show,
And make his sovereign see, a real friend
Was aye to be preferred in wrong or right,
Although the world against him should unite;
And thus the Saracen pours forth his moan,
With rage against his liege and love possest;
And on his way is by long journeys gone,
Giving himself and courser little rest.
The following day or next, upon the Saone
He finds himself, who has his course addrest
Towards the coast of Provence, with design
To his African domain to cross the brine.
From bank to bank the stream was covered o'er
With boat of little burden, which conveyed,
For the supply of the invading Moor,
Victual, from many places round purveyed:
Since even from Paris to the pleasant shore
Of Acquamorta, all his rule obeyed;
And -- fronting Spain -- whate'er of level land
Was seen, extending on the better hand.
The victual, disembarked from loaded barge,
Was laid on sumpter-horse or ready wain;
And sent, with escort to protect the charge,
Where barges could not come; about the plain,
Fat herds were feeding on the double marge,
Brought thither from the march of either reign;
And, by the river-side, at close of day,
In different homesteads lodged, the drovers lay.
The king of Argier (for the dusky air
Of night began upon the world to close)
Here listened to a village-landlord's prayer,
That in his inn besought him to repose.
-- His courser stalled -- the board with plenteous fare
Is heaped, and Corsic wine and Grecian flows;
For, in all else a Moor, the Sarzan drank
Of the forbidden vintage like a Frank.
To warlike Rodomont, with goodly cheer
And kindlier mien, the landlord honour paid;
For he the port of an illustrious peer
In his guest's lofty presence saw pourtrayed.
But, sore beside himself, the cavalier
Had scarce his heart within him, which had strayed
To her -- whilere his own -- in his despite;
Nor word escaped the melancholy knight.
Mine host, most diligent in his vocation
Of all the trade who throughout France were known,
(In that he had, 'mid strange and hostile nation,
And every chance of warfare, kept his own)
-- Prompt to assist him in his occupation,
Some of his kin had called; whereof was none
Who dared before the warrior speak of aught,
Seeing that paynim mute and lost in thought.
From thought to thought the Sarzan's fancy flies,
Himself removed from thence a mighty space,
Who sits so bent, and with such downcast eyes,
He never once looks any in the face.
Next, after silence long, and many sighs,
As if deep slumber had but then given place,
His spirits he recalls, his eyelids raises,
And on the family and landlord gazes.
Then silence broke, and with a milder air,
And visage somewhat less disturbed, applied
To him, the host, and those by-standers there,
To know if any to a wife were tied;
And landlord and attendants, -- that all were,
To Sarza's moody cavalier replied:
He asked what each conceited of his spouse,
And if he deemed her faithful to her vows.
Except mine host, those others were agreed
That chaste and good their consorts they believed.
-- "Think each man as he will, but well I read,"
(The landlord said,) "You fondly are deceived:
Your rash replies to one conclusion lead,
That you are all of common sense bereaved;
And so too must believe this noble knight,
Unless he would persuade us black is white.
"Because, as single is that precious bird
The phoenix, and on earth there is but one,
So, in this ample world, it is averred,
One only can a woman's treason shun.
Each hopes alike to be that wight preferred,
The victor who that single palm has won.
-- How is it possible that what can fall
To one alone, should be the lot of all?
"Erewhile I made the same mistake as you,
And that more dames than one were virtuous thought,
Until a gentleman of Venice, who,
For my good fortune, to this inn was brought,
My ignorance by his examples true
So ably schooled, he better wisdom taught.
Valerio was the name that stranger bore;
A name I shall remember evermore.
"Of wives and mistresses the treachery
Was known to him, with all their cunning lore.
He, both from old and modern history,
And from his own, was ready with such store,
As plainly showed that none to modesty
Could make pretension, whether rich or poor;
And that, if one appeared of purer strain,
'Twas that she better hid her wanton vein.
"He of his many tales, among the rest,
(Whereof a third is from my memory gone)
So well one story in my head imprest,
It could not be more firmly graved in stone:
And what I thought and think, would be professed
For that ill sex, I ween by every one
Who heard; and, Sir -- if pleased to lend an ear --
To their confusion yon that tale shall hear."
"What could'st thou offer which could better please
At present" (made reply the paynim knight)
"Than sample, chosen from thine histories,
Which hits the opinion that I hold, aright?
That I may hear thee speak with better ease
Sit so, that I may have thee in my sight."
But in the following canto I unfold
What to King Rodomont the landlord told.
To whatsoever evil tongue can tell
Of womankind King Rodomont gives ear;
Then journeys homeward; but that infidel
Finds by the way a place he holds more dear.
Here him new love inflames for Isabel;
But so the wishes of the cavalier
A friar impedes, who with that damsel wends,
Him by a cruel death the felon ends.
Ladies, and all of you that ladies prize,
Afford not, for the love of heaven, an ear
To this, the landlord's tale, replete with lies,
In shame and scorn of womankind; though ne'er
Was praise or fame conveyed in that which flies
From such a caitiff's tongue; and still we hear
The sottish rabble all things rashly brand,
And question most what least they understand.
Omit this canto, and -- the tale untold --
My story will as clear and perfect be;
I tell it, since by Turpin it is told,
And not in malice or in rivalry:
Besides, that never did my tongue withhold
Your praises, how you are beloved by me
To you I by a thousand proofs have shown,
Vouching I am, and can but be, your own.
Let him who will, three leaves or four pass-by,
Nor read a line; or let him, who will read,
As little of that landlord's history,
As of a tale or fiction, make his creed.
But to my story: -- When his auditory
He saw were waiting for him to proceed,
And that a place was yielded him, o'eright
The cavalier, he 'gan his tale recite:
"Astolpho that the Lombard sceptre swayed,
Who was King Monacho, his brother's heir,
By nature with such graces was purveyed,
Few e'er with him in beauty could compare:
Such scarce Apelles' pencil had pourtrayed,
Zeuxis', or worthier yet, if worthier were:
Beauteous he was, and so by all was deemed,
But far more beauteous he himself esteemed.
"He not so much rejoiced that he in height
Of grandeur was exalted o'er the rest,
And that, for riches, subjects, and for might,
Of all the neighbouring kings he was the best,
As that, superior to each other wight,
He beauty was throughout the world confest.
This pleased the monarch, who the praise conferred,
As that wherein he most delighted, heard.
"Faustus Latinus, one of his array,
Who pleased the king, a Roman cavalier,
Hearing ofttimes Astolpho now display
The beauties of his hand, now of his cheer,
And, questioned by that monarch, on a day,
If ever in his lifetime, far or near,
He any of such beauty had espied,
To him thus unexpectedly replied:
"Faustus to him replied: `By what I see,
And what I hear, is said by every one,
Few are there that in beauty rival thee;
And rather I those few confine to one:
Jocundo is that one, my brother he;
And well I ween that, saving him alone,
Thou leavest all in beauty far behind;
But I in him thy peer and better find.'
"Impossible Astolpho deemed the thing,
Who hitherto had thought the palm his own;
And such a longing seized the Lombard king
To know that youth whose praises so were blown,
He prest, till Faustus promised him to bring
The brother praised by him, before his throne,
Though 'twould be much if thither he repaired,
(The courier added) and the cause declared:
"Because the youth had ne'er been known to measure,
In all his life, a single pace from Rome;
But, on what Fortune gave him, lived at leisure,
Contented in his own paternal dome;
Nor had diminished nor encreased the treasure,
Wherewith his father had endowed that home;
And he more distant would Paris deem
Than Tanais another would esteem;
"And that a greater difficulty were
To tear Jocundo from his consort; who
Was by such love united to that fair,
No other will but hers the husband knew:
Yet at his sovereign's hest he would repair
To seek the stripling, and his utmost do.
The suit with offers and with gifts was crowned,
Which for that youth's refusal left no ground.
"Faustus set forth, and, after few days' ride,
Reached Rome, and his paternal mansion gained:
There with entreaties so the brother plied,
He to that journey his consent obtained;
And wrought so well (though difficult to guide)
Silent even young Jocundo's wife remained;
He showing her what good would thence ensue,
Besides what gratitude would be her due.
"Jocundo names a time to wend his way,
And servingmen meanwhile purveys and steeds;
And a provision makes of fair array;
For beauty borrows grace from glorious weeds.
Beside him or about him, night and day,
Aye weeping, to her lord the lady reads;
She knows not how she ever can sustain
So long an absence, and not die with pain.
"For the mere thought produced such misery,
It seemed from her was ravished her heart's core.
-- `Alas! my love (Jocundo cried) let be
Thy sorrows' -- weeping with her evermore --
`So may this journey prosper! as to thee
Will I return ere yet two months are o'er;
Nor by a day o'erpass the term prescribed,
Though me the king with half his kingdom bribed.'
"This brought his troubled consort small content:
She that the period was too distant said,
And that 'twould be a mighty wonderment,
If her, at his return, he found not dead.
The grief which, day and night, her bosom rent,
Was such, that lady neither slept nor fed:
So that for pity oft the youth repented
He to his brother's wishes had consented.
"She from her neck unloosed a costly chain
That a gemmed cross and holy reliques bore;
Which one, a pilgrim of Bohemia's reign,
Had gathered upon many a distant shore;
Him did her sire in sickness entertain,
Returning from Jerusalem of yore;
And hence was made that dying pilgrim's heir:
This she undoes, and gives her lord to wear;
"And round his neck entreats him, for her sake,
That chain in memory of herself to wind:
Her gift the husband is well pleased to take;
Not that a token needs his love to bind:
For neither time, nor absence, e'er will shake,
Nor whatsoever fortune is behind,
Her memory, which, rooted fast and deep,
He still has kept, and after death will keep.
"The night before that morning streaked the sky,
Fixt for his journey, to his sore dismay,
Her husband deemed that in his arms would die
The wife from whom he was to wend his way.
She slumbered not: to her a last goodbye
He bade, while yet it lacked an hour of day,
Mounted his nag, and on his journey sped;
While his afflicted spouse returned to bed.
"Jocundo was not two miles on his road,
When he that jewelled cross recalled to mind;
Which he beneath his pillow had bestowed,
And, through forgetfulness, had left behind.
`Alas! (the youth bethought him) in what mode
Shall I excuse for my omission find,
So that from this my consort shall not deem
I little her unbounded love esteem?
"He pondered an excuse; then weened' twould be
Of little value, if it were exprest
By page or other -- save his embassy
He did himself; his brother he addrest;
` -- Now to Baccano ride you leisurely,
And there at the first inn set-up your rest;
For I must back to Rome without delay;
But trust to overtake you by the way.
" `No other but myself my need could do.
Doubt not but I shall speedily be back.'
-- No servant took he, but, with an adieu,
Jocundo, at a trot, wheeled round his hack,
And when that cavalier the stream was through,
The rising sun 'gan chase the dusky rack.
At home he lighted, sought his bed, and found
The consort he had quitted sleeping sound.
"He, without saying aught, the curtains drew,
And, what he least believed, within espied;
For he beneath the quilt, his consort true
And chaste, saw sleeping at a stripling's side.
Forthwith Jocundo that adulterer knew,
By practice, of his features certified,
In that he was a footboy in his train,
Nourished by him, and come of humble strain.
"To imagine his distress and wonderment,
And warrant it, that other may believe,
Is better than to make the experiment,
And, like this wretch, the cruel proof receive:
By anger stirred, it was his first intent
To draw his sword, and both of life bereave;
But love, which spite himself, he entertained
For that ungrateful woman, him restrained.
"You see if like a vassal he obeyed
This ribald Love, who left him not the force
To wake her, lest to know her guilt surveyed,
Should in his consort's bosom move remorse.
As best he could, he forth in silence made,
The stair descended, and regained his horse.
Goaded by Love, he goads his steed again,
And ere they reach their inn rejoins his train.
"His change of mien to all was manifest;
All saw his heart was heavy; yet not one,
Mid these, in any sort, the reason guessed,
Nor read the secret woe which caused his moan;
All thought he had to Rome his steps addrest,
Woe to the town, surnamed of horns, had gone.
That Love has caused the mischief all surmise,
Though none of them conjectures in what wise.
"His brother weened he was in grief immersed
For his deserted wife: he, on his side,
For other reason, inly chafed and cursed,
-- That she was but too well accompanied.
Meanwhile, with swelling lips and forehead pursed,
The ground that melancholy stripling eyed.
Faustus, who vainly would apply relief,
Ill cheered him, witless what had caused his grief.
"He for his sore an evil salve had found,
And, where he should retire, encreased his woes;
Who, with the mention of his wife, that wound
Inflamed and opened, which he sought to close.
He rests not night nor day, in sorrow drowned;
His appetite is gone, with his repose,
Ne'er to return; and (whilom of such fame)
His lovely visage seems no more the same.
"His eye-balls seem deep-buried in his head,
His nose seems grown -- his cheeks are pined so sore --
Nor even remains (his beauty so is fled)
Enough to warrant what he was before.
Such fever burns him, of his sorrow bred,
He halts on Arbia's and on Arno's shore;
And, if a charm is left, 'tis faded soon,
And withered like a rose-bud plucked at noon.
"Besides that Faustus sorrowed to descry
Him so bested; worse cause for sorrowing
Was to that courtier to appear to lie
Before Astolpho; he was pledged to bring
One that was fairest deemed in every eye,
Who must appear the foulest to that king;
Yet he continued on his way to wend,
And brought him to Pavia in the end.
"Not that forthwith he lets the youth be seen,
Lest him the king of little wit arraign;
He first by his dispatches lets him ween,
That thither he Jocundo brings with pain:
Saying, that of his beauteous air and mien
Some secret cause of grief had been the bane,
Accompanied by a distemper sore:
So that he seemed not what he was before.
"Glad was the monarch, of his coming taught,
As of a friend's arrival he could be;
Since in the universal world was nought,
That he so much desired as him to see:
Nor was the Lombard's king displeased in ought
To mark his guest's inferiority;
Though, but for his misfortune, it was clear,
He his superior would have been or peer.
"Lodged by him in his palace, every day
And every hour, the stranger youth he sees,
Studious to honour him, and bids purvey
Store of provision for his better ease.
While still his thoughts to his ill consort stray,
Jocundo languishes; nor pastimes please
That melancholy man; nor music's strain
One jot diminishes his ceaseless pain.
"Above his chambers, on the upper floor,
Nearest the roof, there was an ancient hall:
Thither, in solitary mood, (for sore
Pastime and company, the stripling gall,)
He aye betakes himself; while evermore
Sad thoughts some newer cause of grief recall.
He here (who would believe the story?) found
A remedy unhoped, which made him sound.
"At that hall's farther end, more feebly lighted,
(For windows ever closed shut out the day)
Where one wall with another ill united,
He, through the chink, beheld a brighter ray:
There laid his eye, and saw, what he had slighted
As hard to credit, were it but hearsay:
He hears it not, but this himself descries;
Yet hardly can believe his very eyes.
"He of the Queen's apartment here was sight,
Her choicest and her priviest chamber, where
Was never introduced whatever wight,
Save he most faithful was esteemed: he there,
As he was peeping, saw an uncouth fight;
A dwarf was wrestling with the royal fair;
And such that champion's skill, though undergrown,
He in the strife his opposite had thrown.
"As in a dream, Jocundo stood, beside
Himself, awhile of sober sense bereaved;
Nor, but when of the matter certified,
And sure it was no dream, his sight believed.
-- `A scorned and crooked monster,' (then he cried,)
`Is, as her conqueror, by a dame received,
Wife of the comeliest, of the curtiest wight,
And greatest monarch; Oh! what appetite!'
"And he the consort to whom he was wed,
Her he most used to blame, recalled to mind,
And, for the stripling taken to her bed,
To deem the dame less culpable inclined:
Less of herself than sex the fault he read,
Which to one man could never be confined:
And thought, if in one taint all women shared,
At least his had not with a monster paired.
"To the same place Jocundo made return,
At the same hour, upon the following day;
And, putting on the king the self-same scorn,
Again beheld that dwarf and dame at play:
And so upon the next and following morn;
For -- to conclude -- they made no holiday:
While she (what most Jocundo's wonder moved)
The pigmy for his little love reproved.
"One day, amid the rest, the youth surveyed
The dame disordered and opprest with gloom;
Having twice summoned, by her waiting-maid,
The favoured dwarf, who yet delayed to come;
A third time by the lady sent, she said:
-- `Engaged at play, Madonna, is the groom,
Nor, lest he lose a doit, his paltry stake,
Will that discourteous churl his game forsake.'
"At such strange spectacle, the Roman knight
Cleared up his brow, his visage and his eyes;
He jocund, as in name, became in sprite,
And changed his tears for smiles; with altered guise,
He waxed ruddy, gay, and plump in plight,
And seems a cherubim of Paradise.
So that such change with wonderment all see,
Brother and king, and royal family.
"If from the youth Astolpho wished to know
From whence this sudden light of comfort came,
No less Jocundo this desired to show,
And to the king such injury proclaim:
But willed that like himself he should forego
Revenge upon the author of that shame.
Hence, that he might discern her guilt, yet spare,
He made him on the Agnus Dei swear.
"He made him swear that he, for nothing said,
Or seen, which might to him displeasing be,
(Though he, in what he should discover, read
An outrage offered to his majesty,)
Would, now or ever, venge him on his head:
Moreover him he bound to secrecy;
That the ill doer ne'er, through deed or word,
Might guess his injured king that case had heard.
"The monarch, who to every thing beside
Could better have given credit, freely swore:
To him the cause Jocundo signified,
Why he had many days lamenting sore;
-- Because he had his evil wife espied
In the embraces of a serjeant poor;
And vowed he should in fine have died of grief,
If he for longer time had lacked relief.
"But that within his highness' palace said,
He had witnessed what had much appeased his woe;
For, if foul shame had fallen upon his head,
At least he was not single; saying so,
He to that chink the Lombard monarch led,
Who spied the mannikin of hideous show.
(Lines 7 & 8 untranslated by Rose)
"You may believe he shameless deemed that act,
Without my swearing it; he, at the sight,
It seemed, would go distraught, -- with fury racked,
He against every wall his head would smite --
Would cry aloud -- would break the solemn pact,
Yet kept parforce the promise he had plight;
And gulped his anger down and bitter scorn;
Since on the holy water he had sworn.
"Then to Jocundo: `What remains to me
To do in this misfortune, brother, speak;
Since vengeance with more noted cruelty
Thou wilt not let me on the sinners wreak.'
(Jocundo answered) `Let these ingrates be;
And try we if all women are as weak;
And if the wives of others can be won
To do what others by our own have done.
" `Both fair and youthful, measured by this scale,
Nor easily our equals shall we find;
What woman but to us shall strike her sail,
If even to the ugly these are kind?
At least, if neither youth nor grace avail,
The money may, with which our bags are lined;
Nor will I that we homeward more return,
Ere the chief spoils we from a thousand earn.
" `Long absence, seeing with a distant part,
Converse with different women, oft allay,
As it would seem, the troubles of a heart,
Whereof Love's angry passions make their prey.'
The king is pleased to hear the youth impart
This counsel, nor his journey will delay:
Thence on their road, with but two squires beside,
He and the Roman knight together ride.
"Disguised they go through France and Italy,
They Flanders next and England scower, and where
A woman they of lovely visage spy,
Aye find the dame complaint with their prayer.
They upon some bestow what others buy,
And oft replaced their squandered treasures are.
Our travellers to the wives of many sued,
And by as many other dames were wooed.
"By solid proof those comrades ascertain,
Here tarrying for a month, and there for two,
That their own wives are of no other vein
Than those of others, and as chast and true.
After some season, wearied are the twain
With ever running after something new:
For, without risk of death, thus evermore
The intruders ill could enter other's door.
"-- 'Twere best to find a girl whose natural bent
And face to both of us should pleasing be;
A girl, that us in common might content,
Nor we in her find cause for jealousy;
And wherefore wouldst thou that I should lament
More than with other, to go halves with thee?'
(Exclaimed Astolpho) `well I know is none,
Of all the female sex, content with one.
" `One damsel that in nought shall us constrain,
-- Then only, when disposed to please the fair --
Will we in peace and pleasure entertain,
Nor we, about her, have dispute or care.
Nor, deem I, she with reason could complain:
For if two fell to every other's share,
Better than one might she keep faith with two;
Nor haply we such frequent discord view.'
"Much seems the king's proposal to content
The Roman youth; and thus it is, the twain,
To execute Astolpho's project bent,
Journey by many a hill and many a plain;
And find at last, well fitting their intent,
The daughter of a publican of Spain,
Of presence and of manners framed to win;
Whose father at Valencia kept his inn.
As yet, upon the bloom of spring, the maid
Was a fresh flower that scarce began to blow:
Her sire with many children was o'erlaid,
And was to poverty a mortal foe.
Hence 'tis an easy matter to persuade
Mine host his buxom daughter to forego,
And let them, where they will the damsel bear;
In that to treat her well the travellers swear.
(Lines 1-6 untranslated by Rose)
They to Zattiva come upon the day
That from Valencia they had bent their way.
"The travellers from their inn to street and square
And places, public and divine, resort;
Who, wheresoever they had made repair,
Themselves were so accustomed to disport,
The girl is with the valets left in care,
Who make the beds, and wearied hackneys sort:
While others in the hostel-kitchen dight
The meal against their lords' return at night.
"As groom, a stripling in the hostel plied,
Who in the other landlord's house had been:
He, from her childhood at the damsel's side,
Had joyed her love: they, without change of mien,
On meeting, closely one another eyed,
Since either apprehended to be seen:
But when alone -- now left together -- raised
Their eyelids and on one another gazed.
"The stripling asked her whitherward they sped,
And of the two which claimed her as his right;
This, point by point, to him Flammetta read;
Flammetta she, the Greek that boy was hight.
` -- When I had hoped the time was coming,' said
The Greek -- `that I should live with thee, my light,
Flammetta, thou, alas! art lost to me,
Nor know I if I more thy face shall see.
" `I to the bitter dregs the cup must drain
Of promised sweets; since thou art others' prey.
'Twas my design, having with mickle pain
And labour sore, some money put away,
Which I had hoarded out of frequent gain
From parting guests, and from my yearly pay,
To seek again Valencia, and demand
Thee from thy sire in lawful wedlock's band.
"The damsel shrugs her shoulders, and complains;
And -- that he is too late -- is her reply.
The Greek laments and sobs, and partly feigns:
` -- Wilt thou (he answered her) thus let me die?
Let me, at least, exhale my amorous pains!
Let me, but once, in thine embrace lie!
For every moment in thy presence spent,
Ere thou depart, will make me die content.'
"To him the damsel, full of pity, cries:
`Believe, I covet this no less than thee;
But here, surrounded by so many eyes,
Is neither time nor opportunity.'
` -- I feel assured' (to her that youth replied)
`Were I beloved by you, as you by me,
This very night you would find out a place
Wherein to solace us some little space.'
(Stanza LXI untranslated by Rose)
"She bade him come -- when she awhile had thought --
When he believed that all asleep were laid;
And how by him her chamber should be sought,
And how he should return, at full, displaid.
The cautious stripling did as he was taught,
And, when he found all silent, thither made:
He pushed, till it gave way, the chamber-door,
And, upon tiptoes, softly paced the floor.
LXIII - LXX
(Stanzas LXIII - LXX untranslated by Rose)
"Gazing on one another, with surprise,
The monarch and Jocundo are confused;
Nor even to have heard a case surmise
Of two, that ever thus had been abused:
Then laughed so, that they sate with winking eyes,
And open mouth, and lungs which breath refused;
And, wearied with the mirth her tale had bred,
Fell backwards, both, exhausted on the bed.
"When they had laughed so loud a laugh, the dew
Stood in their eyes, and each with aching breast
Remained, the pair exclaimed: `What shall we do
In order not to be a woman's jest?
Since we, with all our heed, between us two,
Could not preserve the one by us possest,
A husband, furnished with more eyes than hair,
Perforce must be betrayed with all his care.
" `A thousand, beauteous all, have we found kind,
Nor one of those so many has stood fast.
If tried, all women we by proof should find
Like these; but be the experiment our last.
Then we may deem our own not worse inclined
Than are the wives of others, and as chaste:
And, if like others we our own discern,
I hold it best that we to them return.'
"When they have come to this resolve, they, through
Flammetta, call the youth into their bower;
And with the girl her leman, in the view
Of many, gift, and add a fitting dower.
They mount, and to the east their way pursue,
Accustomed westward hitherto to scower;
To their deserted wives again repair,
Nor of their after deeds take farther care."
Here paused mine host; to whom on every side
His audience had with careful heed attended.
Rodomont listened, nor a word replied,
Until the landlord's story was suspended.
Then -- "Fully I believe," that paynim cried,
"The tale of women's frauds would ne'er be ended;
Nor could that man in any volume note
The thousandth part, who would their treasons quote."
Of sounder judgement, 'mid that company,
There was an elder, one more wise and bold;
That undefended so the sex to see,
Was inly wroth, and could no longer hold:
To the relater of that history
He turned; and, "Many things we have been told"
(Exclaimed that ancient) "wherein truth is none,
And of such matters is thy fable one.
"Him I believe not, that told this truth to you,
Though in all else he gospel-truths exprest;
As less by his experience, than untrue
Conceit respecting women prepossest.
The malice which he bears to one or two,
Makes him unjustly hate and blame the rest.
But you shall hear him, if his wrath o'erblow,
Yet greater praise than blame on these bestow.
"And he a larger field for speaking well
Will find, than blaming womankind withal;
And of a hundred worthy fame may tell,
For one whose evil deeds for censure call.
He should exalt the many that excel,
Culled from the multitude, not rail at all,
If otherwise your friend Valerio said,
He was by wrath, and not by reason, led.
LXXIX - LXXXIII
(Stanzas LXXIX - LXXXIII untranslated by Rose)
So reasoning, that just elder and sincere,
With ready instances, supports his creed;
Showing there many women are who ne'er
Sinned against chastity, in word or deed:
But him with impious visage and severe
The paynim scared, ill pleased the truth to read.
So that, through fear, he further speech forbore,
But changed not therefore aught his former lore.
Having stopt further question in this wise,
The paynim monarch from the table rose:
Then lays him on his bed, till from the skies
The dusky shades depart, and morning glows:
But spends a larger part of night in sighs
At his liege-lady's sin, than in repose.
Rodomont thence departs at dawn of day,
Resolved by water to pursue his way.
For with such care for his good horse's plight,
As is becoming a good cavalier,
The courser fair and good, made his in spite
Of young Rogero and Circassia's peer;
Seeing he, for two days, that horse's might
Had taxed too hardly in his long career,
-- As well he for his ease embarked the steed,
As to pursue his way with better speed.
He straight makes launch the vessel from the marge,
And bids put forth the oars from either side:
Nor big nor deeply laden, she, at large,
Descends the Saone, transported by the tide.
Care never quits him, though the shifting barge
The king ascend, or nimble horse bestride:
This he encounters aye on prow or poop,
And bears behind him on his courser's croup;
Rather within his head or heart always
Care sits; whence every comfort is o'erthrown:
No remedy the wretched man surveys,
In that his enemies are in the town.
From others hope is none; since they who raise
This fearful war against him, are his own:
Vext by that cruel one, aye night and day,
Whom he might hope to find his natural stay.
Rodomont navigates the day and night
Ensuing, aye by heavy thoughts opprest;
Nor can he ever banish the despite,
Suffered from King and Lady, from his breast.
The self-same grief sate heavy on his sprite
Aboard the bark, as when his steed he prest.
Such fire was not by water to be drowned,
Nor he his nature changed by changing ground.
As the sick man who with a fever grows,
And, weak and weary, shifts his place in vain,
Whether he right or left himself bestows,
And hopes in turning some relief to gain,
Finds neither on this side nor that repose,
But everywhere encounters equal pain;
The pagan monarch so found small relief,
By land or water, for his secret grief.
Rodomont brooked no more aboard to stay,
But bade them land him, and by Lyons hied;
By Vienne and Valence next took his way,
And the rich bridge in Avignon descried.
For these and more, which 'twixt the river lay
And Celtiberian hills upon that side,
(Theirs, from the day they conquered the champaigne)
Obeyed the kings of Afric and of Spain.
To pass to Afric straight, the cavalier
Kept to the right, towards Acquamorta's shore,
And lighted on a stream and hamlet, dear
To Ceres and to Bacchus, which that Moor
Found quitted by the peasants, in their fear,
As often by the soldier harried sore.
The beach upon one side broad ocean laved,
And on the other yellow harvests waved.
Here, newly built upon a hillock's crest,
A little church the Saracen espied;
Abandoned by its priesthood, like the rest,
For war was flaming upon every side.
Rodomont of this place himself possest;
Which, from its site, as well as lying wide
Of fields, from whence he tidings loathed to hear,
So pleased him, he for it renounced Argier.
He changed his scheme of seeking Afric's land,
(So this fair spot seemed fit for his behoof!)
And here housed carriages, and steed, and band,
Together with himself, beneath one roof,
At few leagues' distance, did Montpelier stand,
And other wealthy towns, not far aloof.
The village was upon a river's side,
So that its every need might be supplied.
Here standing, full of thought, upon a day,
(Such was his common wont) the paynim spied,
Advancing by a narrow path, which lay
Through a green meadow, from the adverse side,
A lovely damsel, that upon her way
Was by a bearded monk accompanied;
And these behind them led a lusty steed,
Who bore a burden, trapt with sable weed.
Who that attendant monk and damsel were,
And what that burden, will to you be clear,
Remembering Isabella is the fair,
Charged with the corse of her Zerbino dear:
I left her, where from Provence, in the care
Of that good sire, she bowned herself to steer,
By whom persuaded, had the lady given
The remnant of her virtuous life to heaven.
Although in her pale face and troubled guise,
The sorrow of that dame is manifest,
Although two fountains are her streaming eyes,
And sobs aye issue from her burning breast,
And more beside of suffering testifies,
With what a load of grief she is opprest,
Yet, in her faded cheek such beauties meet,
Love and the Graces there might fix their seat.
As soon as he of Sarza saw appear
The beauteous dame, he laid the thought aside
Of hatred to that gentle race and dear,
By whom alone the world is glorified;
And best by Isabel the cavalier
Believed his former love would be supplied,
And one love by another be effaced,
As bolt by bolt in timber is displaced.
Her with the kindest mien and mildest tone
That he could fashion, met the Sarzan knight;
To whom the dame her every thought made known;
And said, when she was questioned of her plight,
She would with holy works -- this world forgone --
Seek favour in her Heavenly Father's sight.
Loud laughed that godless paynim at the thought,
Who every faith and worship held at nought;
And said that she from reason wandered wide,
And termed her project sudden and unsound;
Nor deemed her less to blame than those who hide,
Through greediness, their treasure under ground,
And keep it from the use of all beside,
Though hence no profit to themselves redound.
Rightly were prisoned lion, snake, and bear,
But ill whate'er is innocent and fair.
The monk, that to this talk has lent an ear,
Prompt with advice that mournful dame to stay,
And lest she quit her course, prepared to steer
His bark, like practised pilot, on her way,
A sumptuous table, rich in spiritual cheer,
Had speedily bestirred him to array;
But, born with evil taste, that paynim rude
No sooner tasted, than he loathed, the food.
And having interrupted him in vain,
Nor having power to make him stint his lore,
That paynim, stirred to fury, broke the rein
Of patience, and assailed the preacher hoar.
But haply wearisome might seem the strain,
If I upon this theme dilated more:
So here I close, nor words will idly spend,
Admonished by that ancient's evil end.
Isabel makes the paynim take her head,
Rather than he his wicked will should gain;
Who, having his unhappy error read,
Seeks to appease his wounded spirit in vain.
He builds a bridge, and strips those thither led;
But falls from it with Roland the insane;
Who thence, of him regardless, endlong speeds,
And by the road achieves prodigious deeds.
O feeble and unstable minds of men!
How quickly our intentions fluctuate!
All thoughts we lightly change, but mostly when
These from some lover's quarrel take their date.
But now, so wroth I saw that Saracen
With woman, so outrageous in his hate,
I weened not only he would ill assuage,
But never more would calm, his amorous rage.
That which he rashly uttered to your blame,
Ye gentle dames, does so my spirit grieve,
Till I his error teach him, to his shame,
He shall no quarter at my hands receive;
So him with pen and page will I proclaim,
That, whosoever reads me, shall believe
He had better held -- aye, better bit, his tongue,
Than ever have your sex with slander stung.
But that in this the witless infidel
Spake as a fool, the event demonstrates clear:
Even now, with dagger drawn, that paynim fell
In fury on all women whomsoe'er.
Next him so touched one look of Isabel,
She quickly made his fickle purpose veer;
For her, scarce seen, and to that warrior strange,
He would his Doralice already change;
And, as new love the king did heat and goad,
He moved some arguments of small avail,
To shake her stedfast spirit, which abode
Wholly with God; but he, her shield and mail,
That hermit, lest she from the better road
Should wander, and her chaste intention fail,
With stronger arguments with him contended,
And still, as best he could, the dame defended.
The king, who long had taxed himself to bear
The monk's bold sermon to his sore displeasure,
And vainly bade him to his cell repair
Anew, without that damsel, at his leisure,
Yet seeing he would still his patience dare,
Nor peace with him would keep, nor any measure,
Upon that preacher's chin his right-hand laid,
And whatsoe'er he grasped, as rudely flayed.
And (so his fury waxed) that, as it were
With tongs, he griped his neck, and after he
Had whirled him once or twice about in air,
Dismist him form his hand towards the sea.
I say not -- know not, what befel him there:
Many the rumours are, and disagree.
One says he burst upon a rock's rude bed,
And lay one shapeless jelly, heels and head.
He fell into the sea, by one is said,
Distant three miles and more; and, in that sound,
He having prayer, and Ave vainly made,
Because he knew not how to swim, was drowned.
Others report a Saint bestowed his aid,
And dragged him with a visible hand aground.
Whichever be the reading of this mystery,
Of him I speak no further in mine history.
Cruel King Rodomont, when from his side
He had removed the prating eremite,
With visage less disturbed, again applied
To that sad lady, heartless with affright;
And, in the language used by lovers, cried,
She was his very heart, his life, his light,
She was his comfort, and his dearest hope;
With all such words as have that common scope.
And now, so temperate showed that infidel,
'Twould seem that he no violence designed,
The gentle semblance of fair Isabel,
Enamoured him, so tamed his haughty mind;
And, though he might that goodly kernel shell,
The paynim would not pass beyond the rhind,
Who that its favour would be lost, believed,
Unless 'twere as a gift from her received;
And by degrees so thought to mould the dame
To his desires. She in that lone retreat
And savage, open to his evil aim,
And like a mouse, beneath Grimalkin's feet,
Had liefer found herself i' the midst of flame;
And ever on one thought her fancy beat:
If any mode, if any way, remained
To scape that wilful man, untouched, unstained.
Sad Isabella in her mind is bent
To slay herself with her own hand, before
That fell barbarian compass his intent;
And be the means to make her wrong so sore
That cavalier, by cruel Fortune spent,
Within her loving arms, to whom she swore
With mind to him devoted, his to be,
Vowing to Heaven perpetual chastity.
She sees that paynim monarch's passion blind
Increasing still, nor what to do she knows;
Well knows what foul intention is behind,
Which she is all too feeble to oppose:
Yet moving many matters in her mind,
Finds out at last a refuge for her woes,
And means to save her chastity from shame,
(How I shall say) with clear and lasting fame.
She cried unto that paynim, foul to see,
Already threatening her with word and act,
And now devoid of all that courtesy,
Which he in the beginning did enact,
"If thou mine honour wilt ensure to me,
Beyond suspicion, I, upon this pact,
Will upon thee bestow what shall o'erpay,
By much, that honour thou wouldst take away.
"For pleasure, which endures so brief a space,
Wherewith this ample world does so o'errun,
Reject not lightly a perpetual grace,
A real joy, to be postponed to none.
Of women everywhere of pleasing face
A hundred and a thousand may be won;
But none beside me, or few others, live
Who can bestow the boon which I can give.
"I know, and on my way a herb did view,
And nearly know where I on this could light,
Which, being boiled with ivy and with rue,
Over a fire with wood of cypress dight,
And squeezed, when taken from the caldron, through
Innocent hands, affords a juice of might,
Wherewith whoever thrice his body laves,
Destructive steel or fire securely braves.
"If thrice therewith he bathe himself, I say,
His flesh no weapon for a month shall score:
He once a month must to his body lay
Mine unction, for its virtue lasts not more:
This liquor can I make, and will to-day,
And thou to-day shalt also prove my lore:
And well, I trust, thou shalt more grateful be,
Than were all Europe won to-day by thee.
"In guerdon for this present, I request
That thou to me upon thy faith wilt swear,
Thou never wilt my chastity molest
In word or deed." So spake that damsel fair;
And Rodomont who heard, again represt
His evil will: for so he longed to bear
A charmed life, that readily he more
Than Isabel of him demanded swore;
And will maintain his promise, till the fact
Vouched of that wondrous water shall appear;
And force himself, meanwhile, to do no act,
To show no sign of violence; but the peer
Resolves he will not after keep the pact,
As one who holds not God or saint in fear;
And to that king, regardless of his oath,
All lying Afric yields in breach of troth.
Argier's perfidious king to Isabel
More than a thousand times assurance swore,
In case that water rendered him what fell
Achilles and what Cygnus were of yore.
She, aye by beetling cliff and darksome dell,
Away from city and from farm, a store
Of herbs collected, nor this while e'er
Abandoned by the paynim cavalier.
When herbs enow by them in many a beat,
With or without their roots, collected were,
At a late hour, the twain to their retreat
Betook them; and, throughout night's remnant, there,
That paragon of continence did heat
What simples she had culled, with mickle care,
While to those mysteries and her every deed
The pagan, present still, gave curious heed;
Who, wearing out the weary night in sport,
-- He and those followers that with him remained --
Had suffered thirst in such a grievous sort,
From the fierce fire in that small cave contained,
That drinking round, in measure full or short,
Of Graecian wine two barrels had they drained;
A booty which those squires who served the Moor,
From travellers seized a day or two before.
To Argier's warlike king, unused to wine,
(Cursed, and forbidden by his law, esteemed)
The liquor, tasted once, appeared divine,
Sweeter than nectar or than manna seemed:
He, quaffing largely, now of Ishmael's line
The sober use deserving censure deemed.
So fast their cups with that good wine they fill,
Each reveller's head is whirling like a mill.
Meanwhile that lady from the fire does lift
The pot, wherein she cooked those herbs, and cries
To Rodomont: "In proof I not adrift
Have launched the words I spake, in random guise,
-- By that, which can the truth form falsehood sift,
Experience, which can make the foolish wise,
Even now the thing shall to thyself be shown,
Not on another's body, but my own.
"I first will trial make" (that lady said)
"Of this choice liquor with rare virtue blest;
Lest haply thou shouldst harbour any dread
That mortal poison form these herbs be prest.
With this will I anoint myself, from head
Downwards below the naked neck and breast.
Then prove on me thy faulchion and thine arm,
And prove if one can smite, the other harm."
She washed, as said, and gladly did decline
Her neck to that unthinking pagan's brand;
Unthinking, and perhaps o'ercome by wine,
Which neither helm, nor mail, nor shield withstand,
That brutish man believed her, and, in sign
Of faith, so struck with cruel steel and hand,
That her fair head, erewhile Love's place of rest,
He severed from the snowy neck and breast.
This made three bounds, and thence in accents clear
Was heard a voice which spake Zerbino's name,
To follow whom, escaping Sarza's peer,
So rare a way was taken by the dame.
Spirit! which nobly didst esteem more dear
Thy plighted faith, and chaste and holy name,
(Things hardly known, and foreign to our time)
Than thine own life and thine own blooming prime!
Depart in peace, O spirit blest and fair!
-- So had my verses power! as evermore
I would assay, with all that happy care,
Which so adorns and points poetic lore!
And, as renowned should be thy story rare,
Thousands and thousands of long years and more!
-- Depart in peace to radiant realms above,
And leave to earth the example of thy love!
His eyes from heaven did the Creator bend,
At the stupendous and unequalled feat,
And said: "I thee above that dame commend.
Whose death drove Tarquin from his royal seat;
And I to register a law intend,
'Mid those which ages change not as they fleet,
Which -- I attest the inviolable river --
Unchanged through future times, shall last for ever.
"I will that all, in every future age,
Who bear thy name, be blest with genius high;
Be courteous, gentle, beautiful, and sage,
And to the real pitch of honour fly.
That to their glory the historic page
They may with worthy argument supply;
So that for aye Parnassus' hill and well
Shall ring with Isabel and Isabel."
So spake the Sire; and cleared the ambient air,
And hushed beyond its wont the heaving main.
To the third heaven her chaste soul made repair,
And in Zerbino's arms was locked again.
On earth, with shame and sorrow for his share,
That second Breuse sans pity did remain;
Who, when digested was the maddening bowl,
Lamented sore his error, sad at soul.
That placated, or in some content,
The sainted soul of Isabel might be;
That, if to death that damsel he had shent,
He might at least revive her memory,
He, as a means to compass his intent,
Would turn into a tomb that church, where he
Inhabited, and where she buried lies;
To you shall be related in what wise.
In all parts round about this chosen site,
For love or fear, he master-masons found;
And, making full six thousand men unite,
Stript of their heavy stones the mountains round,
And raised a fabric ninety yards in height,
From its extremest summit to the ground;
And he within its walls the church enclosed;
Wherein entombed the lovers twain reposed.
This nearly imitates that pile beside
Old Tyber's stream, by Adrian built; and nigh
The sepulchre, will he a tower provide,
Wherein he purposes some time to lie.
A narrow bridge, and only two yards wide,
He flung across the stream which rolled fast by.
Long, but so scanty is that bridge, with pain
The narrow pass two coursers can contain;
Two coursers, that abreast have thither made,
Or else, encountering, on that causeway meet:
Nor any where was ledge or barricade,
To stay the horses's fall, who lost his feet.
He wills that bridge's toll be dearly paid
By Christian or by Moor, who pass his seat;
For with a thousand trophies, arms, and vest,
That damsel's tomb is destined to be drest.
Within ten days, or shorter time, was placed
The bridge, whose arch across the stream was dight;
But not that pile and tower with equal haste
Were so conducted to their destined height.
Yet was the last so high, a sentry paced
Its top, who, whensoever any knight
Approached the bridge, was wont his lord to warn,
Sounding a signal on his bugle-horn.
Whereat he armed, and issued for the stower,
Now upon one and now the other side:
For when a warrior pricked towards the tower,
Him from the adverse bank that king defied:
The bridge affords the field their steeds must scour;
And, should one but a little swerve aside,
(Peril unparalleled!) the horse will go
Into the deep and dangerous stream below.
The pagan had imagined, as a pain,
That, risking oft to tumble in the course,
Head-first into that stream, where he must drain
Huge draughts of water in his fall, parforce,
He would assoil and cleanse him from that stain,
Whereof excess in wine had been the source;
As if what ill wine prompts to do or say,
Water, as well as wine, could wash away.
Soon thitherward flocked many a cavalier;
Some who pursued the beaten road and plain;
Since for way-faring men, who southward steer,
No straighter lay for Italy or Spain:
Their courage and their honour, held more dear
Than life, excited others of the train;
And all, where they had hoped the meed of strife,
Had lost their arms, and many arms and life.
If those he conquers are of pagan strain,
He is content to take their arms and vest:
And of those first arrived the titles plain
Are written, and their arms suspended rest.
But he in prison pens the christened train,
('Twould seem) to be to Argier's realm addrest.
Not yet was brought that building to a head
When thitherward the crazed Orlando sped.
It chanced Orlando, in his furious mood,
Came thither where that foaming river ran;
Where Rodomont beside the mighty flood
Was hurrying on his work; nor yet were done
The tower and tomb, the bridge, scarce finished, stood:
Here -- save his casque was open -- Ulien's son
Steeled cap-a-pee, stood ready armed for fight,
When to the bridge approached Anglantes' knight.
Orlando running thus his wild career,
The barrier tops, and o'er the bridge would fly,
But sullen Rodomont, with troubled cheer,
Afoot, as he that tower is standing nigh,
For he disdains to brandish sword or spear,
Shouts to him from afar with threatening cry,
"Halt! thou intrusive churl and indiscreet,
Rash, meddling, saucy villain, stay thy feet!
"Only for lord and cavalier was made,
And not for thee, dull slave, that bridge was meant."
To this no heed insane Orlando paid,
But, fixt upon his purpose, forward went.
"This madman must I school," the paynim said,
And was approaching with the fell intent
Him into that deep river to dispatch,
Nor deeming in such foe to find his match.
This while, a gentle damsel sought the place
That towards that bridge across the river rode,
Richly arraid and beautiful of face,
Who sage reserve in her demeanor showed.
'Tis she that, of her Brandimart in chase,
(If you remember, sir,) through every road
And place her lover seeks in anxious wise,
Excepting Paris, where the warrior lies.
When Flordelice that bridge and tower was near,
(So was by name the wandering damsel hight)
Grappling with Roland stood the Sarzan peer,
And would into that river pitch the knight.
She, conversant with Brava's cavalier,
The miserable county knew aright;
And mighty marvel in that dame it raised
To see him rove, a naked man and crazed.
She stopt, the issue of that strife to know,
Wherein those two so puissant warriors vied.
His opposite by might and main to throw,
Into the stream each doughty champion tried.
"How can a fool such mighty prowess show?"
Between his teeth, the furious paynim cried.
And, shifting here and there, was seen to strain,
Brimfull of pride, and anger, and disdain.
This hand and now that other he puts out,
To take new hold, where he his vantage spies;
Now within Roland's legs, and now without,
Locks his right foot or left, in skilful wise;
And thus resembles, in that wrestling bout,
The stupid bear, who in his fury tries
The tree, from whence he tumbled, to o'erthrow;
Deeming it sole occasion of his woe.
Roland, whose better wit was lost withal,
I know no where, and who used force alone;
That utmost force, to which this earthly ball
Haply affords few paragons, or none,
Let himself backwards in that struggle fall,
Embracing as he stood with Ulien's son.
Together in the foaming stream they sank;
High flashed the wave, and groaned the echoing bank.
Quickly the stream asunder bore the pair.
Roland was naked, and like fish could swim,
Here shot his feet, his arms extended there,
And gained the bank; nor, when upon the brim,
Halted to mark if his adventure were
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