Part 18 out of 25
As an ill-nourished lamp or taper wanes,
For want of wax or oil, with flickering ray.
Lo! the king leaves his sons in Spanish chains,
And home returns, his own domain to sway.
Lo! while in Italy he leads his band,
Another wars upon his native land.
"In every part you see how Rome is woe,
Mid ruthless rapine, murder, fire, and rape.
See all to wasting rack and ruin go,
And nothing human or divine escape.
The league's men hear the shrieks, behold the glow
Of hostile fires, and lo! they backward shape
Their course, where they should hurry on their way,
And leave the pontiff to his foes a prey.
"Lautrec the monarch sends with other bands;
Yet not anew to war on Lombardy;
But to deliver from rapacious hands
The Church's head and limbs, already free,
So slowly he performs the king's commands.
Next, overrun by him the kingdom see,
And his strong arms against the city turned,
Wherein the Syren's body lies inurned.
"Lo! the imperial squadrons thither steer,
Aid to the leaguered city to convey;
And lo! burnt, sunk, destroyed, they disappear,
Encountered by the Doria in mid-way.
Behold! how Fortune light does shift and veer,
So friendly to the Frenchman till this day!
Who slays their host with fever, not with lance;
Nor of a thousand one returns to France.
These histories and more the pictures shew,
(For to tell all would ask too long a strain)
In beauteous colours and of different hue;
Since such that hall, it these could well contain.
The painting twice and thrice those guests review,
Nor how to leave them knows the lingering train,
'Twould seem; perusing oft what they behold
Inscribed below the beauteous work in gold.
When with these pictures they their sight had fed,
And talked long while -- these ladies and the rest --
They to their chambers by that Lord were led,
Wont much to worship every worthy guest.
Already all were sleeping, when her bed
At last Duke Aymon's beauteous daughter prest.
She here, she there, her restless body throws,
Now right, now left, but vainly seeks repose:
Yet slumber toward dawn, and in a dream
The form of her Rogero seems to view.
The vision cries: "Why vex yourself, and deem
Things real which are hollow and untrue?
Backwards shall sooner flow the mountainstream
Than I to other turn my thought from you.
When you I love not, then unloved by me
This heart, these apples of mine eyes, will be.
"Hither have I repaired (it seemed he said)
To be baptized and do as I professed.
If I have lingered, I have been delaid,
By other wound than that of Love opprest."
With that he vanished from the martial maid,
And with the vision broken was her rest.
New floods of tears the awakened damsel shed,
And to herself in this sad fashion said:
"What pleased was but a dream; alas! a sheer
Reality is this my waking bane;
My joy a dream and prompt to disappear,
No dream my cruel and tormenting pain.
Ah! wherefore what I seemed to see and hear,
Cannot I, waking, see and hear again?
What ails ye, wretched eyes, that closed ye show
Unreal good, and open but on woe?
"Sweet sleep with promised peace my soul did buoy,
But I to bitter warfare wake anew;
Sweet sleep but brought with it fallacious joy,
But -- sure and bitter -- waking ills ensue.
If falsehood so delight and truth annoy,
Never more may I see or hear what's true!
If sleeping brings me weal, and watching woe,
The pains of waking may I never know!
"Blest animals that sleep through half the year,
Nor ope your heavy eyelids, night nor day!
For if such tedious sleep like death appear,
Such watching is like life, I will not say,
Since -- such my lot, beyond all wont, severe --
I death in watching, life in sleep assay.
But oh! if death such sleep resemble, Death,
Even now I pray three stop my fleeting breath!"
The clouds were gone, the horizon overspread
With glowing crimson by the new-born sun,
And in these signs, unlike the past, was read
A better promise of the day begun:
When Bradamant upstarted from her bed,
And armed her for the journey to be done,
Her thanks first rendered to the courteous lord,
For his kind of cheer and hospitable board.
And found, the lady messenger, with maid
And squire, had issued from the castled hold,
And was a-field, where her arrival stayed
Those three good warriors, those the damsel bold
The eve before had on the champaign laid,
Cast from their horses by her lance of gold;
And who had suffered, to their mighty pain,
All night, the freezing wind and pattering rain.
Add to such ill, that, hungering sore for food,
They and their horses, through the livelong night,
Trampling the mire, with chattering teeth, had stood:
But (what well-nigh engendered more despite
-- Say not well nigh -- more moved the warrior's mood)
Was that they knew the damsel would recite
How they had been unhorsed by hostile lance
In the first course which they had run in France;
And -- each resolved to die or else his name
Forthwith in new encounter to retrieve --
That Ulany, the message-bearing dame,
(Whose style no longer I unmentioned leave),
A fairer notion of their knightly fame
Than heretofore, might haply now conceive,
Bold Bradamant anew to fight defied,
When of the drawbridge clear they her descried;
Not thinking, howsoe'er, she was a maid,
Who in no look or act the maid confest;
Duke Aymon's daughter, loth to be delaid,
Refuses, as a traveller that is pressed.
But they so often and so sorely prayed,
That she could ill refuse the kings' request.
Her lance she levels, at three strokes extends
All three on earth, and thus the warfare ends:
For Bradamant no more her courser wheeled,
But turned her back upon the foes o'erthrown.
They, that intent to gain the golden shield,
Had sought a land so distant from their own,
Rising in sullen silence from the field
(For speech with all their hardihood was gone)
Appeared as stupefied by their surprise,
Nor to Ulania dared to lift their eyes.
For they, as thither they their course addrest,
Had vaunted to the maid in boasting vein,
No paladin or knight with lance in rest,
Against the worst his saddle could maintain.
To make them vail yet more their haughty crest,
And look upon the world with less disdain,
She tells them, by no paladin or peer
Were they unhorsed, but by a woman's spear.
"Now what of Roland's and Rinaldo's might,
Not without reason held in such renown,
Ought you to think (she said) when thus in fight
Ye by a female hand are overthrown?
Say, if the buckler one of these requite,
-- Better than by a woman ye have done,
Will ye by those redoubted warriors do?
So think not I, nor haply think so you.
"This may suffice you all; and need in none
A clearer proof of prowess to display;
And who desires, if rashly any one
Desires, again his valour to assay,
Would add but scathe to shame, now made his own;
Now; and the same to-day as yesterday.
Unless perchance he thinks it praise and gain,
By such illustrious warriors to be slain."
When they by Ulany were certified
A woman's hand had caused their overthrow,
Who with a deeper black than pitch had dyed
Their honour, heretofore so fair of show;
And more than ten her story testified,
Where one sufficed -- with such o'erwhelming woe
Were they possest, they with such fury burned,
They well nigh on themselves their weapons turned.
What arms they had upon them, they unbound,
And cast them, strung by rage and fury sore,
Into the moat which girt that castle round,
Nor even kept the faulchions which they wore;
And, since a woman them had cast to ground,
O'erwhelmed with rage and shame, the warriors swore,
Themselves of such a crying shame to clear,
They, without bearing arms, would pass a year;
And that they evermore afoot would fare
Up hill or down, by mountain or by plain,
Nor, when the year was ended, would they wear
The knightly mail or climb the steed again;
Save that from other they by force should bear,
In battle, other steeds and other chain.
So, without arms, to punish their misdeeds,
These wend a-foot, those others on their steeds.
Lodged in a township at the fall of night,
Duke Aymon's daughter, journeying Paris-ward,
Hears how King Agramant was foiled in fight.
Good harbourage withal of bed and board,
She in her hostel found; but small delight
This and all comforts else to her afford.
For the sad damsel meat and sleep foregoes,
Nor finds a resting place; far less repose.
But so I will not on her story dwell,
As not to seek anew the valiant twain;
Who, by consent, beside a lonely well,
Had tied their goodly coursers by the rein.
I of their war to you somedeal will tell,
A war not waged for empire or domain,
But that the best should buckle to his side
Good Durindana, and Baiardo ride.
No signal they, no trumpet they attend,
To blow them to the lists, no master who
Should teach them when to foin and when to fend,
Or wake their sleeping wrath; their swords they drew:
Then, one against the other, boldly wend,
With lifted blades, the quick and dextrous two.
Already 'gan the champions' fury heat,
And fast and hard their swords were heard to beat.
None e'er by proof two other faulchions chose
For sound and solid, able to endure
Three strokes alone of such conflicting foes,
Passing all means and measure; but so pure,
So perfect was their temper, from all blows
By such repeated trial so secure,
They in a thousand strokes might clash on high,
-- Nay more, nor yet the solid metal fly.
With mickle industry, with mighty pain
And art, Rinaldo, shifting here and there,
Avoids the deadly dint of Durindane,
Well knowing how 'tis wont to cleave and tear.
Gradasso struck with greater might and main,
But well nigh all his strokes were spent in air;
Of, if he sometimes smote, he smote on part,
Where Durindana wrought less harm than smart.
Rinaldo with more skill his blade inclined,
And stunned the arm of Sericana's lord.
Him oft he reached where casque and coat confined,
And often raked his haunches with the sword:
But adamantine was his corslet's rind,
Nor link the restless faulchion broke or bored.
If so impassive was the paynim's scale,
Know, charmed by magic was the stubborn mail.
Without reposing they long time had been,
Upon their deadly battle so intent,
That, save on one another's troubled mien,
Their angry eyes the warriors had not bent.
When such despiteous war and deadly spleen,
Diverted by another strife, were spent,
Hearing a mighty noise, both champions turn,
And good Baiardo, sore bested, discern.
They good Baiardo by a monster view,
-- A bird, and bigger than that courser -- prest.
Above three yards in length appeared to view
The monster's beak; a bat in all the rest.
Equipt with feathers, black as ink in hue,
And piercing talons was the winged pest;
An eye of fire it had, a cruel look,
And, like ship-sails, two spreading pinions shook.
Perhaps it was a bird; but when or where
Another bird resembling this was seen
I know not, I, nor have I any where,
Except in Turpin, heard that such has been.
Hence that it was a fiend, to upper air
Evoked from depths of nether hell I ween;
Which Malagigi raised by magic sleight,
That so he might disturb the champions' fight.
So deemed Rinaldo too: and contest sore
'Twixt him and Malagigi hence begun;
But he would not confess the charge; nay swore,
Even by the light which lights the glorious sun,
That he might clear him of the blame he bore,
He had not that which was imputed done.
Whether a fiend or fowl, the pest descends,
And good Baiardo with his talons rends.
Quickly the steed, possessed of mickle might,
Breaks loose, and, in his fury and despair,
Against the monster strives with kick and bite;
But swiftly he retires and soars in air:
He thence returning, prompt to wheel and smite,
Circles and beats the courser, here and there.
Wholly unskilled in fence, and sore bested,
Baiardo swiftly from the monster fled.
Baiardo to the neighbouring forest flies,
Seeking the closest shade and thickest spray;
Above the feathered monster flaps, with eyes
Intent to mark where widest is the way.
But that good horse the greenwood threads, and lies
At last within a grot, concealed from day.
When the winged beast has lost Baiardo's traces.
He soars aloft, and other quarry chases.
Rinaldo and Gradasso, who descried
Baiardo's flight, the conqueror's destined meed,
The battle to suspend, on either side,
Till they regained the goodly horse, agreed,
Saved from that fowl which chased him, far and wide;
Conditioning whichever found the steed,
With him anew should to that fountain wend,
Beside whose brim their battle they should end.
Quitting the fount, they follow, where they view
New prints upon the forest greensward made:
By much Baiardo distances the two,
Whose tardy feet their wishes ill obeyed.
Himself the king on his Alfana threw,
That near at hand was tethered in the glade,
Leaving his foe behind in evil plight;
-- Never more malcontent and vext in sprite.
Rinaldo ceased in little time to spy
Baiardo's traces, who strange course had run;
And made for thorny thicket, wet or dry,
Tree, rock, or river, with design to shun
Those cruel claws, which, pouncing from the sky,
To him such outrage and such scathe had done.
Rinaldo, after labour vain and sore
To await him at the fount returned once more;
In case, as erst concerted by the twain,
The king should thither with the steed resort;
But having sought him there with little gain,
Fared to his camp afoot, with piteous port.
Return we now to him of Sericane,
He that had sped withal in other sort,
Who, not by judgement, guided to his prey,
But his rare fortune, heard Baiardo neigh;
And found him shrowded in his caverned lair,
So sore moreover by his fright opprest,
He feared to issue into open air.
Thus of that horse himself the king possest.
Well he remembered their conditions were
To bring him to the fount; but little pressed
Now was that knight to keep the promise made,
And thus within himself in secret said:
"Win him who will, in war and strife, I more
Desire in peace to make the steed my own:
From the world's further side, did I of yore
Wend hitherward, and for this end alone.
Having the courser, he mistakes me sore,
That thinks the prize by me will be foregone.
Him would Rinaldo conquer, let him fare
To Ind, as I to France have made repair.
"For him no less secure is Sericane,
Than twice for me has been his France," he said,
And pricked for Arles, along the road most plain,
And in its haven found the fleet arrayed.
Freighted with him, the steed and Durindane,
A well-rigged galley from that harbour weighed.
Of these hereafter! -- I, at other call,
Now quit Rinaldo, king, and France, and all.
Astolpho in his flight will I pursue,
That made his hippogryph like palfrey flee,
With reins and sell, so quick the welkin through;
That hawk and eagle soar a course less free.
O'er the wide land of Gaul the warrior flew
From Pyrenees to Rhine, from sea to sea.
He westward to the mountains turned aside,
Which France's fertile land from Spain divide.
To Arragon he past out of Navarre,
-- They who beheld, sore wondering at the sight --
Then, leaves he Tarragon behind him far,
Upon his left, Biscay upon his right:
Traversed Castile, Gallicia, Lisbon, are
Seville and Cordova, with rapid flight;
Nor city on sea-shore, nor inland plain,
Is unexplored throughout the realm of Spain.
Beneath him Cadiz and the strait he spied,
Where whilom good Alcides closed the way;
From the Atlantic to the further side
Of Egypt, bent o'er Africa, to stray;
The famous Balearic isles descried,
And Ivica, that in his passage lay;
Toward Arzilla then he turned the rein,
Above the sea that severs it from Spain.
Morocco, Fez, and Oran, looking down,
Hippona, Argier, he, and Bugia told,
Which from all cities bear away the crown,
No palm or parsley wreath, but crown of gold;
Noble Biserta next and Tunis-town,
Capys, Alzerba's isle, the warrior bold,
Tripoli, Berniche, Ptolomitta viewed,
And into Asia's land the Nile pursued.
'Twixt Atlas' shaggy ridges and the shore,
He viewed each regions in his spacious round;
He turned his back upon Carena hoar,
And skimmed above the Cyrenaean ground;
Passing the sandy desert of the Moor,
In Albajada, reached the Nubian's bound;
Left Battus' tomb behind him on the plain,
And Ammon's, now dilapidated, fane.
To other Tremizen he posts, where bred
As well the people are in Mahound's style;
For other Aethiops then his pinions spread,
Which face the first, and lie beyond the Nile.
Between Coallee and Dobada sped,
Bound for the Nubian city's royal pile;
Threading the two, where, ranged on either land,
Moslems and Christians watch, with arms in hand.
In Aethiopia's realm Senapus reigns,
Whose sceptre is the cross; of cities brave,
Of men, of gold possest, and broad domains,
Which the Red Sea's extremest waters lave.
A faith well nigh like ours that king maintains,
Which man from his primaeval doom may save.
Here, save I err in what their rites require,
The swarthy people are baptized with fire.
Astolpho lighted in the spacious court,
Intending on the Nubian king to wait.
Less strong than sumptuous is the wealthy fort,
Wherein the royal Aethiop keeps his state,
The chains that serve the drawbridge to support,
The bolts, the bars, the hinges of the gate,
And finally whatever we behold
Herewrought in iron, there is wrought in gold.
High prized withal, albeit it so abound,
Is that best metal; lodges built in air
Which on all sides the wealthy pile surround,
Clear colonnades with crystal shafts upbear.
Of green, white, crimson, blue and yellow ground,
A frieze extends below those galleries fair.
Here at due intervals rich gems combine,
And topaz, sapphire, emerald, ruby shine.
In wall and roof and pavement scattered are
Full many a pearl, full many a costly stone.
Here thrives the balm; the plants were ever rare,
Compared with these, which were in Jewry grown,
The musk which we possess from thence we bear,
In fine those products from this clime are brought,
Which in our regions are so prized and sought.
The soldan, king of the Egyptian land,
Pays tribute to this sovereign, as his head,
They say, since having Nile at his command
He may divert the stream to other bed.
Hence, with its district upon either hand,
Forthwith might Cairo lack its daily bread.
Senapus him his Nubian tribes proclaim;
We Priest and Prester John the sovereign name.
Of all those Aethiop monarchs, beyond measure,
The first was this, for riches and for might;
But he with all his puissance, all his treasure,
Alas! had miserably lost his sight.
And yet was this the monarch's least displeasure;
Vexed by a direr and a worse despite;
Harassed, though richest of those Nubian kings,
By a perpetual hunger's cruel stings.
Whene'er to eat or drink the wretched man
Prepared, by that resistless need pursued,
Forthwith -- infernal and avenging clan --
Appeared the monstrous Harpies' craving brood;
Which, armed with beak and talons, overran
Vessel and board, and preyed upon the food;
And what their wombs suffice not to receive
Foul and defiled the loathsome monsters leave.
And this, because upborn by such a tide
Of full blown honours, in his unripe age,
For he excelled in heart and nerve, beside
The riches of his royal heritage,
Like Lucifer, the monarch waxed in pride,
And war upon his maker thought to wage.
He with his host against the mountain went,
Where Egypt's mighty river finds a vent.
Upon this hill which well-nigh kissed the skies,
Piercing the clouds, the king had heard recite,
Was seated the terrestrial paradise,
Where our first parents flourished in delight.
With camels, elephants, and footmen hies
Thither that king, confiding in his might;
With huge desire if peopled be the land
To bring its nations under his command.
God marred the rash emprise, and from on high
Sent down an angel, whose destroying sword
A hundred thousand of that chivalry
Slew, and to endless night condemned their lord.
Emerging, next, from hellish caverns, fly
These horrid harpies and assault his board;
Which still pollute or waste the royal meat,
Nor leave the monarch aught to drink or eat.
And him had plunged in uttermost despair
One that to him erewhile had prophesied
The loathsome Harpies should his daily fare
Leave unpolluted only, when astride
Of winged horse, arriving through the air,
An armed cavalier should be descried.
And, for impossible appears the thing,
Devoid of hope remains the mournful king.
Now that with wonderment his followers spy
The English cavalier so make his way,
O'er every wall, o'er every turret high,
Some swiftly to the king the news convey.
Who calls to mind that ancient prophecy,
And heedless of the staff, his wonted stay,
Through joy, with outstretched arms and tottering feet,
Comes forth, the flying cavalier to meet.
Within the castle court Astolpho flew,
And there, with spacious wheels, on earth descended;
The king, conducted by his courtly crew,
Before the warrior knelt, with arms extended,
And cried: "Thou angel send of God, thou new
Messiah, if too sore I have offended,
For mercy, yet, bethink thee, 'tis our bent
To sin, and thine to pardon who repent.
"Knowing my sin, I ask not, I, to be
-- Such grace I dare not ask -- restored to light;
For well I ween such power resides in thee,
As Being accepted in thy Maker's sight.
Let it suffice, that I no longer see,
Nor let me with perpetual hunger fight.
At least, expel the harpies' loathsome horde,
Nor let them more pollute my ravaged board;
"And I to build thee, in my royal hold,
A holy temple, made of marble, swear,
With all its portals and its roof of gold,
And decked, within and out, with jewels rare.
Here shall thy mighty miracle be told
In sculpture, and thy name the dome shall bear."
So spake the sightless king of Nubia's reign,
And sought to kiss the stranger's feet in vain.
"Nor angel" -- good Astolpho made reply --
"Nor new Messiah, I from heaven descend;
No less a mortal and a sinner I,
To such high grace unworthy to pretend.
To slay the monsters I all means will try,
Or drive them from the realm which they offend.
If I shall prosper, be thy praises paid
To God alone, who sent me to thine aid.
"Offer these vows to God, to him well due;
To him thy churches build, thine altars rear."
Discoursing so, together wend the two,
'Mid barons bold, that king and cavalier.
The Nubian prince commands the menial crew
Forthwith to bring the hospitable cheer;
And hopes that now the foul, rapacious band,
Will not dare snatch the victual from his hand.
Forthwith a solemn banquet they prepare
Within the gorgeous palace of the king.
Seated alone here guest and sovereign are,
And the attendant troop the viands bring.
Behold! a whizzing sound is heard in air,
Which echoes with the beat of savage wing.
Behold! the band of harpies thither flies,
Lured by the scent of victual from the skies.
All bear a female face of pallid dye,
And seven in number are the horrid band;
Emaciated with hunger, lean, and dry;
Fouler than death; the pinions they expand
Ragged, and huge, and shapeless to the eye;
The talon crook'd; rapacious is the hand;
Fetid and large the paunch; in many a fold,
Like snake's, their long and knotted tails are rolled.
The fowls are heard in air; then swoops amain
The covey well nigh in that instant, rends
The food, o'erturns the vessels, and a rain
Of noisome ordure on the board descends.
To stop their nostrils king and duke are fain;
Such an insufferable stench offends.
Against the greedy birds, as wrath excites,
Astolpho with his brandished faulchion smites.
At croup or collar now he aims his blow,
Now strikes at neck or pinion; but on all,
As if he smote upon a bag of tow,
The strokes without effect and languid fall.
This while nor dish nor goblet they forego;
Nor void those ravening fowls the regal hall,
Till they have feasted full, and left the food
Waste or polluted by their rapine rude.
That king had firmly hoped the cavalier
Would from his royal seat the harpies scare.
He now, that hope foregone, with nought to cheer,
Laments, and sighs, and groans in his despair.
Of his good horn remembers him the peer,
Whose clangours helpful aye in peril are,
And deems his bugle were the fittest mean
To free the monarch from those birds unclean;
And first to fill their ears, to king and train,
With melted wax, Astolpho gives command;
That every one who hears the deafening strain
May not in panic terror fly the land.
He takes the reins, his courser backs again,
Grasps the enchanted bugle in his hand;
And to the sewer next signs to have the board
Anew with hospitable victual stored.
The meats he to an open galley bears,
And other banquet spreads on other ground.
Behold, as wont, the harpy-squad appears;
Astolpho quickly lifts the bugle's round;
And (for unguarded are their harassed ears)
The harpies are not proof against the sound;
In terror form the royal dome they speed,
Nor meat nor aught beside the monsters heed.
After them spurs in haste the valiant peer:
And on the winged courser forth is flown,
Leaving beneath him, in his swift career,
The royal castle and the crowded town;
The bugle ever pealing, far and near.
The harpies fly toward the torrid zone;
Nor light until they reach that loftiest mountain
Where springs, if anywhere, Nile's secret fountain.
Almost at that aerial mountain's feet,
Deep under earth, extends a gloomy cell.
The surest pass for him, as they repeat,
That would at any time descend to hell.
Hither the predatory troop retreat,
As a safe refuge from the deafening yell.
As far, and farther than Cocytus' shore
Descending, till that horn is heard no more.
At that dark hellish inlet, which a way
Opens to him who would abandon light,
The terrifying bugle ceased to bray;
-- The courser furled his wings and stopt his flight.
But, ere Astolpho further I convey,
-- Not to depart from my accustomed rite --
Since on all sides the paper overflows,
I shall conclude my canto and repose.
In the infernal pit Astolpho hears
Of Lydia's woe, by smoke well-nigh opprest.
He mounts anew, and him his courser bears
To the terrestrial paradise addrest.
By John advised in all, to heaven he steers;
Of some of his lost sense here repossest,
Orlando's wasted wit as well he takes,
Sees the Fates spin their threads, and earthward makes.
O fierce and hungry harpies, that on blind
And erring Italy so full have fed!
Whom, for the scourge of ancient sins designed,
Haply just Heaven to every board has sped.
Innocent children, pious mothers, pined
With hunger, die, and see their daily bread,
-- The orphan's and the widow's scanty food --
Feed for a single feast that filthy brood.
Too foul a fault was his, who did unclose
That cave long shut, and made the passage free,
From whence that greediness, that filth arose,
Our Italy's infection doomed to be.
Then was good life extinguished, and repose
So banished, that with strife and poverty,
With fear and trouble, is she still perplext,
And shall for many a future year be vext:
Till she her sons has shaken by the hair,
And from Lethaean sloth to life restored;
Exclaiming, "Will none imitate that pair,
Zethes and Calais, with avenging sword
Rescue from claws and stench our goodly fare,
And cleanse and glad anew the genial board.
As they king Phineus from those fowls released,
And England's peer restored the Nubian's feast?"
Hunting those hideous birds, that cavalier
Aye scared them with the bugle's horrid sound;
Till at the mountain-cave his long career
He closed, and ran the monstrous troop to ground:
Attentive to the vent he held his ear,
And in that troubled cavern heard rebound,
Weeping and wailing, and eternal yell;
Proof certain that its entrance led to hell.
Astolpho doubts if he within shall wend,
And see those wretched ones expelled from day;
Into the central pit of earth descend,
And the infernal gulfs around survey.
"Why should I fear, that on my horn depend
For certain succour?" (did the warrior say)
"Satan and Pluto so will I confound,
And drive before me their three-headed hound."
He speedily his winged horse forsook;
(Him to a sapling near at hand he ties)
The cavern entered next; but first he took
His horn, whereon the knight in all relies.
Not far has he advanced before a smoke,
Obscure and foul, offends his nose and eyes.
Ranker than pitch and sulphur is the stench,
Yet not thereat does good Astolpho blench.
But as he more descends into that lair,
So much he finds the smoke and vapour worse;
And it appears he can no further fare;
Nay, backward must retrace his way parforce.
Lo! something (what he knows not) he in air
Espies, that seems in motion, like a corse,
Upon whose wasted form long time had beat
The winter's rain and summers scorching heat.
In that dim cavern was so little light,
-- Yea, well-nigh might be said that light was none --
Nought sees or comprehends the English knight
What wavers so, above that vapour dun:
For surer proof, a stroke or two would smite
With his good faulchion Otho's valiant son:
Then deemed that duke it was a spirit, whom
He seemed to strike amid the misty gloom.
When him a melancholy voice addressed;
"Ah! without harming other, downward wend.
Me but too sore the sable fumes molest,
Which hither form the hellish fires ascend."
Thereat the duke, amazed, his steps represt,
And to the spirit cried: "So may Heaven send
A respite from the vapours that exhale,
As thou shalt deign to tell thy mournful tale!
"And to be known on earth shouldst thou be fain,
Thee will I satisfy." To him the sprite:
So sweet it seems to me, in fame again
Thus to return into the glorious light,
My huge desire such favour to obtain,
Forces my words from me in my despite,
Constraining me to tell the things ye seek;
Though 'tis annoyance and fatigue to speak.
"Lydia, the child of Lydia's king, am I,
To proud estate and princely honours born,
Condemned by righteous doom of God on high
In murky smoke eternally to mourn:
Because a kindly lover's constancy
I, while I lived, repaid with spite and scorn.
With countless others swarm these grots below,
For the same sin, condemned to the same woe.
"Yet lower down, harsh Anaxarete
Suffers worse pain where thicker fumes arise;
Heaven changed her flesh to stone, and here to be
Tormented, her afflicted spirit sties:
In that unmoved she, hung in air, could see
A lover vest by her barbarities.
Here Daphne learns how rashly she had done
In having given Apollo such a run."
"Of hosts of ingrate women in this cell
Confined, it would be tedious to recite,
If, one by one, I upon these should dwell;
So many, their amount is infinite.
'Twould be more tedious of the men to tell,
Whose base ingratitude due pains requite;
And whom, in a more dismal prison pent,
Smoke blinds, and everlasting fires torment.
"Since to belief soft woman is more prone,
He that deceives her, merits heavier pain;
To Theseus and to Jason this is known,
And him that vexed of old the Latian reign,
And him that of his brother Absalon
Erewhile provoked the pestilent disdain,
Because of Thamar; countless is the horde
Of those who left a wife or wedded lord.
"But, rather of my state than theirs to shew,
And sin which brought me hither: -- I was fair,
But so much haughtier was than fair of hue,
I know not if I ever equalled were:
Nor which was most excessive of the two,
My pride of beauty, could to thee declare.
Though it is certain, Pride but took its rise
In that rare loveliness which pleased all eyes.
"There lived a Thracian knight, for warlike skill
And prowess, upon earth without a peer;
Who, voiced by many a worthy witness still,
The praises of my matchless charms did hear.
So that, of forethought and his own free will,
Fixed all his love on me that cavalier;
Weening this wife that I, upon my part,
Should for his valour duly prize his heart.
"He came to Lydia, and by faster tie
Was fettered at my sight; and there enrolled
Amid my royal father's chivalry,
In mickle fame increased that baron bold.
His feats of many a sort, and valour high
Would make a tale too tedious to be told;
With what his boundless merit had deserved,
If a more grateful master he had served.
"Pamphylia, Caria, and Cilicia's reign,
Through him, my father brought beneath his sway,
Who never moved a-field his martial train,
But when that warrior pointed out the way:
He, when he deemed he had deserved such gain,
Pressed close the Lydian king, upon a day,
And craved me from the monarch as his wife,
As meed of all that booty made in strife.
"Rejected of the monarch was the peer,
Who was resolved his child should highly wed;
Not him who was a simple cavalier;
Who, saving valour, was with nought bested.
For on my father, bent on gain and gear
And avarice, of all vice the fountain-head,
Manners and merit for as little pass,
As the lute's music on the lumpish ass.
"Alcestes, he of whom I speak (so hight
That warrior), when he sees his suit denied,
Repulsed by one, by whom he had most right
To think that he should most be gratified,
Craves his discharge, and threatens he this slight
Will make the Lydian monarch dear abide.
The Armenian, an old rival of my sire,
And mortal for, he sought with this desire;
"And so the monarch urged, he made him rear
His banner, and attack my sire; and, through
His famous feats, that Thracian cavalier
Was named the captain of the invading crew.
For the Armenian sovereign, far and near,
All things (so said the knight) he would subdue;
But claiming as his share, when all was won,
My sovereign beauties for the service done.
"I ill to you the mischief could express
Alcestes did us in that war; o'erthrown
By him four armies were, and he in less
Than one short twelvemonth left us neither town,
Not tower, save one, where cliffs forbade access:
'Twas here my sire, amid those of his own
Whom most he loved, took refuge, in his need,
With all the wealth he could collect with speed.
"Us in this fortilage the knight attacked,
And shortly to such desperation drave,
That gladly would the king have made a pact,
To yield me for his consort, yea his slave,
With half our realm, if certain by that act
Himself from every other loss to save;
Right sure he otherwise should forfeit all,
And, after, die in bonds, a captive thrall.
"Before this happened, to try every way
Of remedy the Lydian king was bent;
And thither, where Alcestes' army lay,
Me, the first cause of all the mischief, sent.
To yield my person to him as a prey
I with intention to Alcestes went;
To bid him take what portion of our reign
He pleased, and pacify his fierce disdain.
"When of my coming that good knight does know,
Me he encounters pale and trembling sore:
'Twould seem a vanquished man's a prisoner's brow,
He, rather than a victor's semblance, bore.
I who perceive he loves, address not now
The warrior as I was resolved before.
My vantage I descry, and shift my ground,
To fit the state wherein that knight was found.
"To curse the warrior's passion I begun,
And of his crying cruelty complained,
Since foully by my father had he done,
And me would have by violence constrained;
Who with more grace my person would have won,
Nor waited many days, had he maintained
His course of courtship, as begun whilere.
To king and all of us so passing dear;
"And if the honest suit he hoped to gain
Had been at first rejected by my sire,
'Twas, he was somedeal of a churlish vein,
Nor ever yielded to a first desire;
He should not therefore, restive to the rein,
Have left his goodly task, so prompt to ire;
Sure, passing aye from good to better deed,
In little time to win the wished-for meed;
"And if my father would not have been won,
To him I would so earnestly have prayed,
That he my lover should have made his son;
Nay, had my royal sire my suit gainsayed,
For him in secret that I would have done,
Wherewith he should have deemed himself appaid:
But since, it seemed, he other means designed,
Never to love him had I fixed my mind;
"And, though I sought him, at my father's hest,
And pious love for him had been my guide,
He might be sure, not long should be possest
The bliss that I, in my despite, supplied;
For the red blood should issue from my breast
As soon as his ill will was satisfied
On this my wretched person, which alone
He so by brutal force should make his own.
"With these, and words like these, I moved the peer,
When I such puissance in myself espied;
And him so contrite made, in desert drear,
Was never seen a saint more mortified.
Before my feet the doleful cavalier
Fell down, and snatched a poniard from his side;
Which, he protested, I parforce should take,
And for so foul a sin my vengeance slake.
"To push my mighty victory to an end
I scheme, when him I see in such distress,
And give him hopes he may even yet pretend
That I deservedly his love should bless,
If he his ancient error will amend,
Will of his realm my father repossess,
And will in future time deserve my charms
By love and service, not by force of arms.
"So promised he to do; and set me free,
And let me, as I came, untouched, depart;
Nor even to kiss my lips he ventured; see
If he is yoked securely, if his heart
Love has well touched with the desire of me,
If he for him need feather other dart!
He seeks the Armenian, why by pact should take
Whatever spoil the conquering armies make;
"And him, as best he might, would fain persuade
To leave to Lydia's monarch his domain,
Upon whose wasted lands his host had preyed,
And rest content with his Armenian reign.
-- He would not hear of this (the monarch said,
With cheers with fury swolen) nor would refrain
From pressing Lydia's king with armed band,
So long as he possessed a palm of land;
"And if the knight, when a vile woman sues,
His purpose shift, let him the evil bear:
He will not, for the warrior's asking, lose
What he has hardly conquered in a year.
Alcestes to the king his suit renews,
And next complains, that he rejects his prayer.
At length the Thracian fires, and threatens high,
By love or force the monarch shall comply.
"So kindling anger waxed between the two,
It urged them from ill words to worser deed:
Upon the king his sword Alcestes drew;
Though thousands aid the monarch in his need,
And, in despite of all, their sovereign slew;
And made that day as well the Armenian bleed,
Backed by the Thracians' and Cilicians' aid
And other followers, by the warrior paid.
"His conquest he pursued, and, at his cost,
Without expense to us, in less than one
Short month, the kingdom by my father lost
Restored; and, to repair the mischief done,
(Beside spoil given) he conquered with his host,
-- Taxing or taking what his arms had won --
Armenia and Cappadocia which confine;
And scowered Hyrcania to the distant brine.
"Him not to greet with triumphs, but to slay,
Returning from that warfare, we intend;
But, fearing failure, our design delay
In that we find too many him befriend.
Feeding him aye with hope from day to day,
I for the Thracian warrior love pretend:
But first declare my will that he oppose
And prove his valour on our other foes;
"And him, now sole, now ill accompanied,
On strange and perilous emprize I speed;
Wherein a thousand knights might well have died;
But all things happily with him succeed:
For Victory was ever on his side;
And oft with horrid foes of monstrous breed,
With Giants and with Lestrigons, who brought
Damage in our domains, the warrior fought.
Nor Juno, nor Eurystheus, in such chase
Ever renowned Alcides vext so sore,
In Erymanth, Nemaea, Lerna, Thrace,
Aetolia, Africa, by Tyber's shore,
By Ebro's sunny bank, or other place,
As (hiding murderous hate, while I implore)
I exercise my lover still in strife,
With the same fell design upon his life.
"Unable to achieve my first intent,
I on a scheme of no less mischief fall:
Through me, all deemed his friends by him are shent,
Who thus bring down on him the hate of all.
The Thracian leader never more content
Than to obey, whatever be the call,
Is at my bidding ever prompt to smite,
Without regarding who or what the wight.
"When I perceive that, through the warrior's mean,
Extinguished is my father's every foe;
And, conquered by himself, that knight is seen
-- Friendless, through us -- I now the masque forego;
What I, from him, beneath a flattering mien,
Had hitherto concealed, I plainly show;
-- What deep and deadly hate by bosom fired,
And that I but to work his death desired.
"Then, thinking if such course I should pursue,
That public shame would still the deed attend,
(For men too well my obligations knew,
And would be prompt my cruelty to shend.)
Meseemed enough to drive him from my view,
So that he should no more my eyes offend:
Nor would I more address or see the peer,
Nor letter would receive or message hear.
"This my ingratitude in him such pain
At length produced, that mastered by his woe,
After entreating mercy long in vain,
He sickened sore and sank beneath the blow.
For pain which fits my sin, dark fumes now stain
My cheek, and with salt rheum mine eyes o'erflow.
Thus in eternal torment shall I dwell;
For saving mercy helpeth not in hell."
Since wretched Lydia spake no more, the peer
Would fain discern if more in torment lay;
But, those false ingrates' curse, the darkness drear
So waxed before him, and obscured the way,
That not one inch advanced the cavalier;
Nay, back parforce returns that warrior; nay,
Himself from that increasing smoke to save,
Makes for the mouth of the disastrous cave.
The motion of his quickly shifting feet
More savours of a run than walk or trot.
Thus mounting the ascent in swift retreat,
Astolpho sees the outlet of the grot;
Where, through the darkness of that dismal seat
And those foul fumes, a dawn of daylight shot;
He from the cavern, sorely pained and pined,
Issues at last, and leaves the smoke behind;
And next to bar the way against that band,
Whose greedy bellies so for victual crave,
Picks stones, and trees lays level with his brand,
Which charged with pepper or amomum wave;
And what might seem a hedge, with busy hand,
As best he can, constructs before the cave;
And so succeeds in blocking that repair,
The harpies shall no more revisit air.
While in that cave Astolpho did remain,
The fumes that from the sable pitch arose,
Not only what appeared to sight did stain;
But even so searched the flesh beneath his clothes,
He sought some cleansing stream, long sought in vain;
But found at length a limpid till, which rose
Out of a living rock, within that wood,
And bathed himself all over in the flood.
Then backed the griffin-horse, and soared a flight
Whereby to reach that mountain's top he schemes,
Which little distant, with its haughty height,
From the moon's circle good Astolpho deems;
And, such desire to see it warms the knight,
That he aspires to heaven, nor earth esteems.
Through air so more and more the warrior strains,
That he at last the mountain-summit gains.
Here sapphire, ruby, gold, and topaz glow,
Pearl, jacinth, chrysolite and diamond lie,
Which well might pass for natural flowers which blow,
Catching their colour from that kindly sky.
So green the grass! could we have such below,
We should prefer it to our emerald's dye.
As fair the foliage of those pleasant bowers!
Whose trees are ever filled with fruit and flowers.
Warble the wanton birds in verdant brake,
Azure, and red, and yellow, green and white.
The quavering rivulet and quiet lake
In limpid hue surpass the crystal bright.
A breeze, which with one breath appears to shake,
Aye, without fill or fall, the foliage light,
To the quick air such lively motion lends,
That Day's oppressive noon in nought offends;
And this, mid fruit and flower and verdure there,
Evermore stealing divers odours, went;
And made of those mixt sweets a medley rare,
Which filled the spirit with a calm content.
In the mid plain arose a palace fair,
Which seemed as if with living flames it brent.
Such passing splendour and such glorious light
Shot from those walls, beyond all usage bright.
Thither where those transparent walls appear,
Which cover more than thirty miles in measure,
At ease and slowly moved the cavalier,
And viewed the lovely region at his leisure;
And deemed -- compared with this -- that sad and drear,
And seen by heaven and nature with displeasure,
Was the foul world, wherein we dwell below:
So jocund this, so sweet and fair in show!
Astound with wonder, paused the adventurous knight,
When to that shining palace he was nigh,
For, than the carbuncle more crimson bright,
It seemed one polished stone of sanguine dye.
O mighty wonder! O Daedalian sleight!
What fabric upon earth with this can vie?
Let them henceforth be silent, that in story
Exalt the world's seven wonders to such glory!
An elder, in the shining entrance-hall
Of that glad house, towards Astolpho prest;
Crimson his waistcoat was, and white his pall;
Vermillion seemed the mantle, milk the vest:
White was that ancient's hair, and white withal
The bushy beard descending to his breast;
And from his reverend face such glory beamed,
Of the elect of Paradise he seemed.
He, with glad visage, to the paladin,
Who humbly, from his sell had lighted, cries:
"O gentle baron, that by will divine
Have soared to this terrestrial paradise!
Albeit nor you the cause of your design,
Nor you the scope of your desire surmise,
Believe, you not without high mystery steer
Hitherward, from your arctic hemisphere.
"You for instruction, how to furnish aid
To Charles and to the Church in utmost need,
With me to counsel, hither are conveyed,
Who without counsel from such distance speed.
But, son, ascribe not you the journey made
To wit or worth; nor through your winged steed,
Nor through your virtuous bugle had ye thriven,
But that such helping grace from God was given.
"We will discourse at better leisure more,
And you what must be done shall after hear;
But you that, through long fast, must hunger sore,
First brace your strength with us, with genial cheer."
Continuing his discourse, that elder hoar
Raised mighty wonder in the cavalier,
When he avouched, as he his name disclosed,
That he THE HOLY GOSPEL, had composed;
He of our Lord so loved, the blessed John;
Of whom a speech among the brethren went,
He never should see death, and hence the Son
Of God with this rebuke St. Peter shent;
In saying, "What is it to thee, if one
Tarry on earth, till I anew be sent?"
Albeit he said not that he should not die,
That so he meant to say we plain descry.
Translated thither, he found company,
The patriarch Enoch, and the mighty seer
Elias; nor as yet those sainted three
Have seen corruption, but in garden, clear
Of earth's foul air, will joy eternity
Of spring, till they angelic trumpets hear,
Sounding through heaven and earth, proclaim aloud
Christ's second advent on the silvery cloud.
The holy ancients to a chamber lead,
With welcome kind, the adventurous cavalier;
And in another then his flying steed
Sufficiently with goodly forage cheer.
Astolpho they with fruits of Eden feed,
So rich, that in his judgment 'twould appear,
In some sort might our parents be excused
If, for such fruits, obedience they refused.
When with that daily payment which man owes,
Nature had been contented by the peer,
As well of due refreshment as repose,
(For all and every comfort found he here)
And now Aurora left her ancient spouse,
Not for his many years to her less dear,
Rising from bed, Astolpho at his side
The apostle, so beloved of God, espied.
Much that not lawfully could here be shown,
Taking him by the hand, to him he read.
"To you, though come from France, may be unknown
What there hath happened," next the apostle said;
"Learn, your Orlando, for he hath foregone
The way wherein he was enjoined to tread,
Is visited of God, that ever shends
Him whom he loveth best, when he offends:
"He, your Orlando, at his birth endowed
With sovereign daring and with sovereign might,
On whom, beyond all usage, God bestowed
The grace, that weapon him should vainly smite,
Because he was selected from the crowd
To be defender of his Church's right.
As he elected Sampson, called whilere
The Jew against the Philistine to cheer;
"He, your Orlando, for such gifts has made
Unto his heavenly Lord an ill return:
Who left his people, when most needing aid,
Then most abandoned to the heathens' scorn.
Incestuous love for a fair paynim maid
Had blinded so that knight, of grace forlorn,
That twice and more in fell and impious strife
The count has sought his faithful cousin's life.
"Hence God hath made him mad, and, in this vein,
Belly, and breast, and naked flesh expose;
And so diseased and troubled is his brain,
That none, and least himself, the champion knows,
Nebuchadnezzar whilom to such pain
God in his vengeance doomed, as story shows;
Sent, for seven years, of savage fury full,
To feed on grass and hay, like slavering bull.
"But yet, because the Christian paladine
Has sinned against his heavenly Maker less,
He only for three months, by will divine,
Is doomed to cleanse himself of his excess.
Nor yet with other scope did your design
Of wending hither the Redeemer bless,
But that through us the mode you should explore,
Orlando's missing senses to restore.
" `Tis true to journey further ye will need,
And wholly must you leave this nether sphere;
To the moon's circle you I have to lead,
Of all the planets to our world most near,
Because the medicine, that is fit to speed
Insane Orlando's cure, is treasured here.
This night will we away, when over head
Her downward rays the silver moon shall shed."
In talk the blest apostle is diffuse
On this and that, until the day is worn:
But when the sun is sunk i' the salt sea ooze,
And overhead the moon uplifts her horn,
A chariot is prepared, erewhile in use
To scower the heavens, wherein of old was borne
From Jewry's misty mountains to the sky,
Sainted Elias, rapt from mortal eye.
Four goodly coursers next, and redder far
Than flame, to that fair chariot yokes the sire;
Who, when the knight and he well seated are,
Collects the reins; and heavenward they aspire.
In airy circles swiftly rose the car,
And reached the region of eternal fire;
Whose heat the saint by miracle suspends,
While through the parted air the pair ascends.
The chariot, towering, threads the fiery sphere,
And rises thence into the lunar reign.
This, in its larger part they find as clear
As polished steel, when undefiled by stain;
And such it seems, or little less, when near,
As what the limits of our earth contain:
Such as our earth, the last of globes below,
Including seas, which round about it flow.
Here doubly waxed the paladin's surprize,
To see that place so large, when viewed at hand;
Resembling that a little hoop in size,
When from the globe surveyed whereon we stand,
And that he both his eyes behoved to strain,
If he would view Earth's circling seas and land;
In that, by reason of the lack of light,
Their images attained to little height.
Here other river, lake, and rich champaign
Are seen, than those which are below descried;
Here other valley, other hill and plain,
With towns and cities of their own supplied;
Which mansions of such mighty size contain,
Such never he before of after spied.
Here spacious hold and lonely forest lay,
Where nymphs for ever chased the panting prey.
He, that with other scope had thither soared,
Pauses not all these wonder to peruse:
But led by the disciple of our Lord,
His way towards a spacious vale pursues;
A place wherein is wonderfully stored
Whatever on our earth below we lose.
Collected there are all things whatsoe'er,
Lost through time, chance, or our own folly, here.
Nor here alone of realm and wealthy dower,
O'er which aye turns the restless wheel, I say:
I speak of what it is not in the power
Of Fortune to bestow, or take away.
Much fame is here, whereon Time and the Hour,
Like wasting moth, in this our planet prey.
Here countless vows, here prayers unnumbered lie,
Made by us sinful men to God on high:
The lover's tears and sighs; what time in pleasure
And play we here unprofitably spend;
To this, of ignorant men the eternal leisure,
And vain designs, aye frustrate of their end.
Empty desires so far exceed all measure,
They o'er that valley's better part extend.
There wilt thou find, if thou wilt thither post,
Whatever thou on earth beneath hast lost.
He, passing by those heaps, on either hand,
Of this and now of that the meaning sought;
Formed of swollen bladders here a hill did stand,
Whence he heard cries and tumults, as he thought.
These were old crowns of the Assyrian land
And Lydian -- as that paladin was taught --
Grecian and Persian, all of ancient fame;
And now, alas! well-nigh without a name.
Golden and silver hooks to sight succeed,
Heaped in a mass, the gifts which courtiers bear,
-- Hoping thereby to purchase future meed --
To greedy prince and patron; many a snare,
Concealed in garlands, did the warrior heed,
Who heard, these signs of adulation were;
And in cicalas, which their lungs had burst,
Saw fulsome lays by venal poets versed.
Loves of unhappy end in imagery
Of gold or jewelled bands he saw exprest;
Then eagles' talons, the authority
With which great lords their delegates invest:
Bellows filled every nook, the fume and fee
Wherein the favourites of kings are blest:
Given to those Ganymedes that have their hour,
And reft, when faded is their vernal flower.
O'erturned, here ruined town and castle lies,
With all their wealth: "The symbols" (said his guide)
"Of treaties and of those conspiracies,
Which their conductors seemed so ill to hide."
Serpents with female faces, felonies
Of coiners and of robbers, he descried;
Next broken bottles saw of many sorts,
The types of servitude in sorry courts.
He marks mighty pool of porridge spilled,
And asks what in that symbol should be read,
And hears 'twas charity, by sick men willed
For distribution, after they were dead.
He passed a heap of flowers, that erst distilled
Sweet savours, and now noisome odours shed;
The gift (if it may lawfully be said)
Which Constantine to good Sylvester made.
A large provision, next, of twigs and lime
-- Your witcheries, O women! -- he explored.
The things he witnessed, to recount in rhyme
Too tedious were; were myriads on record,
To sum the remnant ill should I have time.
'Tis here that all infirmities are stored,
Save only Madness, seen not here at all,
Which dwells below, nor leaves this earthly ball.
He turns him back, upon some days and deeds
To look again, which he had lost of yore;
But, save the interpreter the lesson reads,
Would know them not, such different form they wore.
He next saw that which man so little needs,
-- As it appears -- none pray to Heaven for more;
I speak of sense, whereof a lofty mount
Alone surpast all else which I recount.
It was as 'twere a liquor soft and thin,
Which, save well corked, would from the vase have drained;
Laid up, and treasured various flasks within,
Larger or lesser, to that use ordained.
That largest was which of the paladin,
Anglantes' lord, the mighty sense contained;
And from those others was discerned, since writ
Upon the vessel was ORLANDO'S WIT.
The names of those whose wits therein were pent
He thus on all those other flasks espied.
Much of his own, but with more wonderment,
The sense of many others he descried,
Who, he believed, no dram of theirs had spent;
But here, by tokens clear was satisfied,
That scantily therewith were they purveyed;
So large the quantity he here surveyed.
Some waste on love, some seeking honour, lose
Their wits, some, scowering seas, for merchandise,
Some, that on wealthy lords their hope repose,
And some, befooled by silly sorceries;
These upon pictures, upon jewels those;
These on whatever else they highest prize.
Astrologers' and sophists' wits mid these,
And many a poet's too, Astolpho sees.
Since his consent the apostle signified
Who wrote the obscure Apocalypse, his own
He took, and only to his nose applied,
When (it appeared) it to its place was gone;
And henceforth, has Sir Turpin certified,
That long time sagely lived king Otho's son;
Till other error (as he says) again
Deprived the gentle baron of his brain.
The fullest vessel and of amplest round
Which held the wit Orlando erst possessed,
Astolpho took; nor this so light he found,
As it appeared, when piled among the rest.
Before, from those bright spheres, now earthward bound,
His course is to our lower orb addressed,
Him to a spacious palace, by whose side
A river ran, conducts his holy guide.
Filled full of fleeces all its chambers were,
Of wool, silk, linen, cotton, in their hue,
Of diverse dyes and colours, foul and fair.
Yarns to her reel from all those fleeces drew,
In the outer porch, a dame of hoary hair.
On summer-day thus village wife we view,
When the new silk is reeled, its filmy twine
Wind from the worm, and soak the slender line.
A second dame replaced the work when done
With other; and one bore it off elsewhere;
A third selected from the fleeces spun,
And mingled by that second, foul from fair.
"What is this labour?" said the peer to John;
And the disciple answered Otho's heir,
"Know that the Parcae are those ancient wives,
That in this fashion spin your feeble lives.
"As long as one fleece lasts, life in such wise
Endureth, nor outlasts it by a thought.
For Death and Nature have their watchful eyes
On the hour when each should to his end be brought.
The choicest threads are culled for Paradise,
And, after, for its ornaments are wrought;
And fashioned from the strands of foulest show
Are galling fetters for the damned below."
On all the fleeces that erewhile were laid
Upon the reel, and culled for other care,
The names were graved on little plates, which made
Of silver, or of gold, or iron, were,
These piled in many heaps he next surveyed;
Whence an old man some skins was seen to bear,
Who, seemingly unwearied, hurried sore,
His restless way retracing evermore.
That elder is so nimble and so prest,
That he seems born to run; he bears away
Out of those heaps by lapfulls in his vest
The tickets that the different names display.
Wherefore and whither he his steps addrest,
To you I shall in other canto say,
If you, in sign of pleasure, will attend,
With that kind audience ye are wont to lend.
The apostle praises authors to the peer.
Duke Aymon's martial daughter in affray,
Conquers the giant monarch of Argier,
And of the good Frontino makes a prey.
She next from Arles defies her cavalier,
And, while he marvels who would him assay,
Grandonio and Ferrau she with her hand
And Serpentine unhorses on the strand.
Madonna, who will scale the high ascent
Of heaven, to me my judgment to restore,
Which, since from your bright eyes the weapon went,
That pierced my heart, is wasting evermore?
Yet will not I such mighty loss lament,
So that it drain no faster than before;
But -- ebbing further -- I should fear to be
Such as Orlando is described by me.
To have anew that judgment, through the skies,
I deem there is no need for me to fly
To the moon's circle, or to Paradise;
For, I believe, mine is not lodged so high.
On your bright visage, on your beauteous eyes,
Alabastrine neck, and paps of ivory,
Wander my wits, and I with busy lip,
If I may have them back, these fain would sip.
Astolpho wandered through that palace wide,
Observing al the future lives around:
When those already woven he had spied
Upon the fatal wheel for finish wound,
He a fair fleece discerned that far outvied
Fine gold, whose wondrous lustre jewels ground,
Could these into a thread be drawn by art,
Would never equal by the thousandth part.
The beauteous fleece he saw with wondrous glee
Equalled by none amid that countless store;
And when and whose such glorious life should be,
Longed sore to know. "This," (said the apostle hoar,
Concealing nothing of its history,)
"Shall have existence twenty years before,
Dating from THE INCARNATE WORD, the year
Shall marked my men with M and D appear;
"And, as for splendor and for substance fair,
This fleece shall have no like or equal, so
Shall the blest age wherein it shall appear
Be singular in this our world below;
Because all graces, excellent and rare,
Which Nature or which Study can bestow,
Or bounteous Fortune upon men can shower,
Shall be its certain and eternal dower.
"Between the king of rivers' horns," (he cries,)
"Stands what is now a small and humble town.
Before it runs the Po, behind it lies
A misty pool of marsh; this -- looking down
The stream of future years -- I recognize
First of Italian cities of renown;
Not only famed for wall and palace rare,
But noble ways of life and studies fair.
"Such exaltation, reached so suddenly,
Is not fortuitous nor wrought in vain;
But that is may his worthy cradle be,
Whereof I speak, shall so the heaven ordain.
For where men look for fruit they graff the tree,
And study still the rising plant to train;
And artist uses to refine the gold
Designed by him the precious gem to hold.
"Nor ever, in terrestrial realm, so fine
And fair a raiment spirit did invest,
And rarely soul so great from realms divine
Has been, or will be, thitherward addrest,
As that whereof THE ETERNAL had design
To fashion good Hippolytus of Este:
Hippolytus of Este shall he be hight,
On whom so rich a gift of God shall light.
"All those fair graces, that, on many spent,
Would have served many wholly to array,
Are all united for his ornament,
Of whom thou hast entreated me to say.
To prop the arts, the virtues is he sent;
And should I seek his merits to display,
So long a time would last my tedious strain,
Orlando might expect his wits in vain."
'Twas so Christ's servant with the cavalier
Discoursed; they having satisfied their view
With sight of that fair mansion, far and near,
That whence conveyed were human lives, the two
Issued upon the stream, whose waves appear
Turbid with sand and of discoloured hue;
And found that ancient man upon the shore,
Who names, engraved on metal, thither bore.
I know not if you recollect; of him
I speak, whose story I erewhile suspended,
Ancient of visage, and so swift of limb,
That faster far than forest stag he wended.
With names he filled his mantle to the brim,
Aye thinned the pile, but ne'er his labour ended;
And in that stream, hight Lethe, next bestowed,
Yea, rather cast away, his costly load.
I say, that when upon the river side
Arrives that ancient, of his store profuse,
He all those names into the turbid tide
Discharges, as he shakes his mantle loose.
A countless shoal, they in the stream subside;
Nor henceforth are they fit for any use;
And, out of mighty myriads, hardly one
Is saved of those which waves and sand o'errun.
Along that river and around it fly
Vile crows and ravening vultures, and a crew
Of choughs, and more, that with discordant cry
And deafening din their airy flight pursue;
And to the prey all hurry, when from high
Those ample riches they so scattered view;
And with their beak or talon seize the prey:
Yet little distance they their prize convey.
When they would raise themselves in upward flight,
They have not strength the burden to sustain;
So that parforce in Lethe's water light
The worthy names, which lasting praise should gain.
Two swans there are amid those birds, as white,
My lord, as is your banner's snowy grain;
Who catch what names they can, and evermore
With these return securely to the shore.
Thus, counter to that ancient's will malign,
Who them to the devouring river dooms,
Some names are rescued by the birds benign;
Wasteful Oblivion all the rest consumes.
Now swim about the stream those swans divine,
Now beat the buxom air with nimble plumes,
Till, near that impious river's bank, they gain
A hill, and on that hill a hallowed fane.
To Immortality 'tis sacred; there
A lovely nymph, that from the hill descends,
To the Lethean river makes repair;
Takes from those swans their burden, and suspends
The names about an image, raised in air
Upon a shaft, which in mid fane ascends;
There consecrates and fixes them so fast,
That all throughout eternity shall last.
Of that old sire, and why he would dispense
Idly, all those fair names, as 'twould appear,
And of the birds and holy place, from whence
The nymph was to the river seen to steer,
The solemn mystery, and the secret sense,
Astolpho, marvelling, desired to hear;
And prayed the man of God would these unfold,
Who to the warrior thus their meaning told.
"There moves no leaf beneath, thou hast to know,
But here above some sign thereof we trace;
Since all, in Heaven above or Earth below,
Must correspond, though with a different face.
That ancient, with his sweeping beard of snow,
By nought impeded and so swift of pace,
Works the same end and purpose in our clime,
As are on earth below performed by Time.
"The life of man its final close attains,
When on the wheel is wound the fatal twine;
There fame, and here above the mark remains;
For both would be immortal and divine,
But for that bearded sire's unwearied pains,
And his below, that for their wreck combine.
One drowns them, as thou seest, mid sand and surges.
And one in long forgetfulness immerges.
"And even, as here above, the raven, daw,
Vulture, and divers other birds of air,
All from the turbid water seek to draw
The names, which in their sight appear most fair;
Even thus below, pimps, flatterers, men of straw,
Buffoons, informers, minions, all who there
Flourish in courts, and in far better guise
And better odour, than the good and wise;
"And by the crowd are gentle courtiers hight,
Because they imitate the ass and swine:
When the just Parcae or (to speak aright)
Venus and Bacchus cut their master's twine,
-- These base and sluggish dullards, whom I cite --
Born but to blow themselves with bread and wine,
In their vile mouths awhile such names convey,
Then drop the load, which is Oblivion's prey.
"But as the joyful swans, that, singing sweet,
Convey the medals safely to the fane,
So they whose praises poets well repeat,
Are rescued from oblivion, direr pain
Than death. O Princes, wary and discreet,
That wisely tread in Caesar's steps, and gain
Authors for friends! They, doubt it not, shall save
Your noble names from Lethe's laxy wave.
"Rare as those gentle swans are poets too,
That well the poet's name have merited,
As well because it is Heaven's will, that few
Great rulers should the paths of glory tread,
As through foul fault of sordid lordlings, who
Let sacred Genius beg his daily bread;
Who putting down the Virtues, raise the tribe
Of Vices, and the liberal arts proscribe.
"Believe it, that these ignorant men should be
Blind and deprived of judgment, is God's doom;
Who makes them loathe the light of poetry,
That envious Death may wholly them consume.
Besides that Song can quicken and set free
Him that is prisoned in the darkness tomb,
Though foul his name, if Cirrha him befriend.
Its savour myrrh and spikenard shall transcend.
"Aeneas not so pious, nor of arm
So strong Achilles, Hector not so bold,
Was, as 'tis famed; and mid the nameless swarm,
Thousands and thousands higher rank might hold:
But gift of palace and of plenteous farm,
Bestowed by heirs of them, whose deeds they told,
Have moved the poet with his honoured hand,
To place them upon Glory's highest stand.
"Augustus not so holy and benign
Was as great Virgil's trumpet sounds his name,
Because he savoured the harmonious line.
His foul proscription passes without blame.
That Nero was unjust would none divine,
Nor haply would he suffer in his fame,
Though Heaven and Earth were hostile, had he known
The means to make the tuneful tribe his own.
"Homer a conqueror Agamemnon shows,
And makes the Trojan seem of coward vein,
And from the suitors, faithful to her vows,
Penelope a thousand wrongs sustain:
Yet -- would'st thou I the secret should expose? --
By contraries throughout the tale explain:
That from the Trojan bands the Grecian ran;
And deem Penelope a courtezan.
"What fame Eliza, she so chaste of sprite,
On the other hand, has left behind her, hear!
Who widely is a wanton baggage hight,
Solely that she to Maro was not dear,
Marvel not this should cause me sore despite,
And if my speech diffusive should appear.
Authors I love, and pay the debt I owe,
Speaking their praise; an author I below!
"There earned I, above all men, what no more
Time nor yet Death from me shall take away;
And it behoved our Lord, of whom I bore
Such testimony, so my paints to pay.
It grieves me much for them, on whom her door
Courtesy closes on a stormy day;
Who meagre, pale, and worn with hopeless suit,
Knock night and day, and ever without fruit.
Henceforth with that apostle let the peer
Remain; for I have now to make a spring
As far as 'tis from heaven to earth; for here
I cannot hang for ever on the wing.
I to the dame return, who was whilere
Wounded by jealousy with cruel sting.
I left her where, successively o'erthrown,
Three kings she quickly upon earth had strown;
And afterwards arriving in a town,
At eve, which on the road to Paris lay,
Heard tidings of Rinaldo's victory blown;
And how in Arles the vanquished paynim lay.
-- Sure, her Rogero with the king is gone --
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