Part 20 out of 25
"An ancient woman, seized with her whilere,
And left, withal, obeyed Drusilla, who
That beldam called and whispered in her ear,
So as that none beside could hear the two --
A poison of quick power for me prepare,
Such as, I know, thou knowest how to brew;
And bottle it; for I have found a way
The traitorous son of Marganor to slay;
" `And me and thee no less can save,' (she said,)
`And this at better leisure will explain.'
The woman went her ways, the potion made,
And to the palace bent her steps again:
A flask of Candian sweet wine she purveyed,
Wherewith Drusilla sheathed that deadly bane;
And kept the beverage for the nuptial day;
For now had ceased all hindrance and delay.
"On the fixt day she seeks the temple, dight
With precious jewels and with goodly gear;
Where her lord's tomb, befitting such a knight,
Built by her order, two fair pillars rear.
The holy office there, with solemn rite,
Is sung, which men and women troop to hear;
And -- gay, beyond his usage -- with his heir,
Begirt by friends, Sir Marganor is there.
"When the holy obsequies at last were o'er,
And by the priest was blest the poisoned draught,
He into a fair golden cup did pour
The wine, as by Drusilla had been taught,
She drank what sorted with her sex; nor more
Than would effect the purpose which she sought:
Then to the bridegroom, with a jocund eye,
Handed the draught, who drained the goblet dry.
"The cup returned -- Tanacro, blithe and gay,
Opened his arms Drusilla to embrace.
Then altered was her sweet and winning way,
And to a tempest that long calm gave place.
She thrust him back, she motioned him away;
She seemed to kindle in her eyes and face;
And to the youth, with broken voice and dread,
-- `Traitor, stand off,' -- the furious lady said; --
" `Shalt thou then joy and solace have from me,
I tears from thee, and punishment and woe?
Now these mine hands shall make an end of thee.
This, if thou know'st it not, for poison know.
Much grieve I that thou should'st too honoured be
By the executioner who deals the blow;
Should'st die a death too easy: since I wot,
For thee too shameful hand or pain is not.
" `In seeing this thy death, it gives me pain,
My sacrifice should be completed ill;
For could I do by thee as I were fain,
Nothing should lack that purpose to fulfill.
May my sweet consort not the work disdain,
And for the imperfect deed accept the will!
That, without power to compass what I would,
I have been fain to slay thee as I could!
" `And that deserved punishment, which I
Cannot, as I desire, on thee bestow,
I hope thy soul shall have; hope to be nigh,
To see thee suffer, in the realms of woe.'
Her turbid eyes then raising to the sky,
With joyous face all over in a glow,
(She cried) `Olindro, take this victim's life,
With the good will of thine avenging wife;
" `And of our lord for me the grace obtain,
To be this day in paradise with thee,
If he reply, none cometh to your reign,
Without desert; say such I bring with me,
Who this fell impious monster, in his fane,
Offer, as my first-fruits; and what can be
A greater merit than to have supprest
Such loathsome and abominable pest?'
"Her life, together with her speech, was spent;
And, even dead, her face appeared to glow
With joy, at having dealt such punishment
To him, that laid her cherished husband low.
If fierce Tanacro's spirit did prevent,
Of follow hers, I wiss not; but, I trow,
Prevented, for on him that venom rank
Yet faster wrought, because he deeper drank.
"Marganor, who beheld his only son
Fall and expire, his outstretched arms between,
Well nigh had with Tanacro died, o'erthrown
By that so sudden grief and unforeseen.
Two sons he had, and now was left alone;
Brought to that pass he by two wives had been;
This was the cause one spent his vital breath
With her own hand, that dealt the other death.
"Love, pity, sorrow, anger, and desire
Of death and vengeance, all together rend
And rack the childless and unhappy sire,
Who groans like sea, when wind and waves contend:
Towards the dame, with vengeful thoughts afire,
He goes, but sees that life is at an end;
And, goaded by his rage and hatred hot,
Seeks to offend her corse that feels it not.
"As serpent, by the pointed spear pinned down,
Fixes his teeth in it, with fruitless spire;
Or as the mastiff runs towards a stone,
Which has been flung by some wayfaring wight,
And gnaws it in his rage, nor will be gone
Until he venge himself; 'tis so the knight,
Than any mastiff, any serpent, worse
Offends Drusilla's cold and lifeless corse.
"And, for he venteth not, nor slakes his mood,
By foul abuse upon the carcase done,
Among the women, a large multitude,
He springs, and there shows mercy unto none.
Mown are we with his impious sword, as strewed
Is grass with scythe, when dried by summer sun.
There is no 'scape; for straightways of our train
Are full a hundred maimed, and thirty slain.
"He of his vassals is so held in dread,
There is no man who dares to lift his eyes:
The women with the meaner sort are fled,
And whosoever can, the temple flies.
His friends against the furious fit make head,
At last, with kind constraint and suppliant cries;
And, leaving every thing in tears below,
Him in his castle on the rock bestow.
"His wrath enduring still, to send away
The wretch determines all the female band:
In that, his will us utterly to slay
His people and his friends, with prayer, withstand;
And he bids punish, on that very day,
An order for us all to leave his land;
Placed such his pleasures on these confines: woe
To them that nearer to his castle go!
"Thus husbands from their wives divided are,
Mothers from sons: if hither to resort,
Despite that order, any one should dare,
Let none know this, who might the deed report!
For sorely mulcted for the transgression were
Many, and many slain in cruel sort.
A statute for his town next made the peer:
Of fouler law we neither read nor hear.
"It wills, all women found within the vale,
(For thither even yet will some descend,)
His men with rods shall on the shoulders whale,
And into exile from those countries send;
But first their gowns shall clip, and parts unveil
That decency and natural shame offend;
And if with escort of an armed knight
Any wend thither, they are slain outright.
"Those that an armed warrior's escort have,
By this ill man, to piety a foe,
Are dragged as victims to his children's grave,
Where his own hand inflicts the murderous blow.
Stript ignominiously of armour, glaive,
And steed, their champions to his prisons go;
And this can he compel; for, night and day,
A thousand men the tyrant's hest obey.
"And I will add, moreover, 'tis his will,
Does he free any one, he first shall swear
Upon the holy wafer, that he still
To woman, while he lives, will hatred bear.
If then these ladies and yourself to spill
Seem good to you, to yonder walls repair;
And put to proof withal, if prowess more
Or cruelty prevails in Marganor."
So saying, in those maids of martial might
First she such pity moved and then disdain,
That they (had it been day instead of night)
Would then have gone against that castellain.
There rest the troop; and when Aurora's light
Serves as a signal to the starry train,
That they should all before the sun recede,
They don the cuirass and remount the steed:
And now, in act to go, that company
Behind them hear the stony road resound
With a long trample, when those warlike three
Look down the vale and roll their eyes around;
And they from thence, a stone's-throw distant, see
A troop, which through a narrow pathway wound:
A score they are perhaps in number, who
On horseback, or on foot, their way pursue.
They with them on a horse a woman haul,
(Whom stricken sore in years her visage shows,)
In guise wherein some doleful criminal
Condemned to gallows, fire, or prison goes;
Who, notwithstanding that wide interval,
Is by her features known, as well as clothes:
They of the village, mid the cavalcade,
Know her for fair Drusilla's chamber maid.
The chamber wench, made prisoner with his prize,
By the rapacious stripling, as I shewed,
Who being trusted with that ill emprize,
The poisoned draught of foul effect had brewed.
From the others she and those solemnites
Had kept away, suspecting what ensued:
Yea, this while, from that lordship had she fled,
Where she in safety hoped to hide her head.
News being after to her foeman brought,
That she retired in Ostericche lay,
He, with intent to burn the woman, sought
To have her in his power by every way;
And finally unhappy Avarice, bought
By costly presents, and by proffered pay,
Wrought on a lord, assured upon whose lands
The beldam lived, to put her in his hands.
He on a sumpter horse the prisoner sent
To Constance-town, like merchandise addrest;
Fastened and bound in manner to prevent
The use of speech, and prisoned in a chest.
From whence that rabble, his ill instrument,
Who has all pity banished from his breast,
Had hither brought her, that his impious rage
That cruel man might on the hag assuage.
As the flood, swoln with Vesulo's thick snows,
The farther that it foams upon its way,
And, with Ticino and Lambra, seaward goes,
Ada, and other streams that tribute pay,
So much more haughty and impetuous flows;
Rogero so, the more he hears display
Marganor's guilt, and so that gentle pair
Of damsels filled with fiercer choler are.
Them with such hatred, them with such disdain
Against the wretch so many crimes incense,
That they will punish him, despite the train
Or armed men arraid in his defence:
But speedy death appears too kind a pain,
And insufficient for such foul offence.
Better they deem, mid pangs prolonged and slow,
He all the bitterness of death should know.
But first 'tis right that woman to unchain,
She whom the hangman-crew to death escort;
And the quick rowel and the loosened rein
Made the quick coursers make that labour short.
Never had those assaulted to sustain
Encounter of so fell and fierce a sort;
Who held it for a grace, with loss of shield,
Harness and captive dame, to quit the field;
Even as the wolf, who, laden with his prey,
Is homeward to his secret cavern bound,
And, when he deems that safest is the way,
Beholds it crost by hunter and by hound,
Flings down his load, and swiftly darts away,
Where most o'ergrown with brushwood is the ground.
Nor quicker are that band to void the vale,
Than those bold three are quicker to assail.
Not only they the dame and martial gear,
But many horses they as well forsook;
And, as the surest refuge in their fear,
Cast themselves down from bank and caverned nook:
Which pleased the damsels and the youthful peer;
Who three of those forsaken horses took,
To mount those three, whom, through the day before,
Upon their croups the three good coursers bore.
Thence, lightened thus, their way they thither bend,
Where that despiteous, shameful, lordship lies;
Resolved the beldam in their band shall wend,
To see Drusilla venged; in vain denies
That woman, who misdoubts the adventure's end,
And grieves, and shrieks, and weeps in piteous wise:
For flinging her upon Frontino's croup,
Rogero bears her off amid the troop.
They reached a summit, and from thence espied
A town with many houses, large and rich;
With nought to stop the way on any side,
As neither compassed round by wall or ditch.
A rock was in the middle, fortified
With a tall tower, upon its topmost pitch.
Fearlessly thither pricked the warriors, who
Marganor's mansion in that fortress knew.
As soon as in the town that cavalcade
Arrived, some footmen, who kept watch and ward,
Behind those warriors closed a barricade;
While that, before, they found already barred.
And lo! Sir Marganor, with men arraid,
Some foot, some horsemen! armed was all the guard;
Who to the strangers, in few words, but bold,
The wicked custom of his lordship told.
Marphisa, who had planned the thing whilere
With Aymon's daughter and the youthful knight,
For answer, spurred against the cavalier;
And, valiant as she was and full of might,
Not putting in the rest her puissant spear,
Or baring that good sword, so famed in fight,
So smote him with her fist upon the head,
That on his horse's neck he fell half dead.
The maid of France is with Marphisa gone,
Nor in the rear it seen Rogero's crest;
Who with those two his course so bravely run,
That, though his lance he raised not from the rest,
Six men he slew; transfixed the paunch of one,
Another's head, of four the neck or breast;
I' the sixth he broke it, whom in flight he speared:
It pierced his spine and at his paps appeared.
As many as are touched, so many lie
On earth, by Bradamant's gold lance o'erthrown;
She seems a bolt, dismist form burning sky,
Which, in its fury, shivers and beats down
Whatever it encounters, far and nigh.
Some fly to plain, or castle from the town,
Others to sheltering church and house repair;
And none, save dead, are seen in street or square.
Meanwhile the hands of Marganor, behind
His back, the fierce Marphisa had made fast,
And to Drusilla's maid the wretch consigned,
Well pleased that such a care on her was cast.
To burn the town 'twas afterwards designed,
Save it repented of its errors past,
Repealed the statute Marganor had made,
And a new law, imposed by her, obeyed.
Such end to compass is no hard assay;
For, besides fearing lest Marphisa yearn
To execute more vengeance, -- lest she say,
-- She one and all will slaughter and will burn, --
The townsmen all were advised to the sway
And cruel statute of that tyrant stern;
But did, as others mostly do, that best
Obey the master whom they most detest.
Since none dares trust another, nor his will,
-- Out of suspicion -- to his comrades break,
They let him banish one, another kill,
From this his substance, that his honour take.
But the heart cries to Heaven, that here is still,
Till God and saints at length to vengeance wake:
Who, albeit they due punishment suspend,
By mighty pain the long delay amend.
The rabble, full of rage and enmity,
Now seeks the wretch with word and deed to grieve;
As, it is said, all strip the fallen tree,
Which from its roots and wintry winds upheave:
Let rulers in his sad example see,
Ill doers in the end shall ill receive.
To view fell Marganor's disastrous fall,
Fit penance for his sins, pleased great and small.
Many, of whom the sister had been slain,
The mother, or the daughter, or the wife,
Seeking no more their rebel wrath to rein,
Hurry, with their own hands to take his life;
And young Rogero and the damsels twain
Can scarce defend the felon in that strife;
Whom those illustrious three had doomed to die,
Mid trouble, fear, and lengthened agony.
To the hag, who bore such hatred to that wight,
As woman to an enemy can bear,
They give their prisoner naked, bound so tight,
He will not at one shake the cordage tear;
And she, her pains and sorrow to requite,
Crimsons the wretch's body, here and there,
With a sharp goad, which, mid that village band,
A peasant churl had put into her hand.
Nor she the courier maid, nor they that ride
With her, aye mindful how they had been shent,
Now let their hands hang idle by their side;
No less than that old crone on vengeance bent:
Such was their fierce desire, it nullified
The power to harm; but rage must have its vent.,
Him one with stones, another with her nails,
This with her teeth, with needles that, assails.
As torrent one while foams in haughty tide,
When fed with mighty rain or melted snow;
And, rending form the mountain's rugged side
Tree, rock, and crop and field, the waters go:
Then comes a season when its crested pride
Is vanished, and its vigour wasted so,
A child, a woman, everywhere may tread,
And often dry-shod cross, its rugged bed.
So Marganor whilere each bound and bourn
Made tremble, whereso'er his name was heard:
Now one is come to bruise the tyrant's horn;
And now his prowess is so little feared,
That even the little children work him scorn:
Some pluck his hair and others pluck his beard.
Thence young Rogero and the damsels twain
Towards his rock-built castle turn the rein.
This without contest its possessors yield,
And the rich goods preserved in that repair.
These the friends partly spoiled, and partly dealed
To Ulany and that attendant pair.
With them, recovered was the golden shield,
And those three monarchs that were prisoned there;
Who, without arms, afoot, towards that hold
Had wended, as meseems whilere was told.
For from the day that they were overthrown
By Bradamant, afoot, they evermore,
Unarmed, in company with her had gone,
That hither came from her so distant shore.
I know not, I, if it was better done
Or worse, by her, that they their arms forbore;
Worse, touching her defence; but better far,
If they were losers in the doubtful war.
For she would have been dragged, -- like others, whom
Armed men had thither brought beneath their guide,
(Unhappy women) to the brothers' tomb, --
And by the sacrifice knife have died.
Death, sure, is worse, and more disastrous doom
Than showing that which modesty would hide;
And they who can to force ascribe the blame,
Extinguish this and every other shame.
Before they hence depart, the martial twain
Assemble the inhabitants, to swear,
They to their wives the rule of that domain
Will leave, as well as every other care;
And that they will chastise, with heavy pain,
Whoever to oppose this law shall dare.
-- In fine, man's privileges, whatsoe'er,
They swear, shall be conferred on woman here:
Then make them promise never to bestow
Harbourage on whosoever thither sped,
Footman or cavalier, nor even allow
Any beneath a roof to hide his head,
Unless he swore by God and saints, or vow
Yet stronger made -- if stronger could be said --
That he the sex's cause would aye defend,
Foe to their foes, and woman's faithful friend;
And, if he then were wived, or ever were
-- Sooner or later -- linked in nuptial noose,
Still to his wife he would allegiance bear,
Nor e'er compliance with her will refuse.
Marphisa says, within the year, she there
Will be, and ere the trees their foliage lose;
And, save she find her statute in effect,
That borough fire and ruin may expect.
Nor hence they part ill from the filthy place,
Wherein it lay, Drusilla's corse is borne;
Her with her lord they in a tomb encase,
And, with what means the town supplies, adorn.
Drusilla's ancient woman, in this space,
Marganor's body with her goad has torn.
Who only grieves she has not wind enow,
No respite to his torture to allow.
Beside a church, the martial damsels twain
Behold a pillar, standing in the square;
Whereon the wicked lord of the domain
Had graved that mad and cruel law; the pair,
In imitation, his helm, plate, and chain,
And shield, in guise of trophy fasten there;
And afterwards upon the pillar trace
That law they had enacted for the place.
Within the town the troop set up their rest,
Until the law is graved, of different frame
From that before upon the stone imprest,
Which every woman doom'd to death and shame.
With the intention to replace her vest,
Here from that band divides the Islandick dame;
Who deems, at court 'twere shameful to appear,
Unless adorned and mantled as whilere.
Here Ulany remained, and in her power
Remained the wicked tyrant Marganor:
She, lest he any how, in evil hour,
Should break his bonds and injure damsel more,
Made him, one day, leap headlong from a tower,
Who never took so still a leap before.
No more of her and hers! I of the crew
That journey toward Arles, the tale pursue.
Throughout all that and the succeeding day,
Till the forenoon, proceed those banded friends;
And, where the main-road branches, and one way
Towards the camp, to Arles the other tends,
Again embrace the lovers, and oft say
A last farewell, which evermore offends.
The damsels seek the camp; to Arles is gone
Rogero; and my canto I have done.
To Arles the Child, to Charles Marphisa wends,
To be baptized, with Bradamant for guide.
Astolpho from the holy realm descends;
Through whom with sight the Nubian is supplied:
Agramant's land he with his troop offends;
But he is of his Africk realm so wide,
With Charles he bargains, that, on either side,
Two knights by strife their quarrel should decide.
Ye courteous ladies, who unto my strain
Kind audience lend -- I read it in your cheer --
That good Rogero should depart again
So suddenly, from her that held him dear,
Displeases ye, and scarce inflicts less pain
Than that which Bradamant endured whilere:
I read you also argue, to his shame,
That feebly burned in him the amorous flame.
If from her side for other cause had gone,
Against that lady's will, the youthful lord;
Though in the hope more treasure to have won
Than swelled rich Croesus' or rich Crassus' hoard,
I too should deem the dart, by Cupid thrown,
Had not the heart-core of Rogero gored.
For such a sovereign joy, a prize so high
No silver and no gold could ever buy.
Yet to preserve our honour not alone
Deserves excuse, it also merits praise:
This to preserve, I say, when to have done
In other wise, might shame and scandal raise;
And had fair Bradamant reluctance shown,
And obstinately interposed delays,
This, as a certain sign, had served to prove
That lady's little wit or little love.
For if his life, whom gentle woman loves,
As her own life she values, or before;
(I speak of one at whom young Cupid roves
With arrows which beneath the mantle gore)
His honour to his pleasure it behoves
That woman to prefer, by so much more,
As man beyond his life his honour treasures,
Esteemed by him above all other pleasures.
His duty good Rogero satisfied,
Following the royal lord with whom he came;
For having no fair cause to quit his side,
He could not leave the Paynim without shame;
And, if his sire had by Almontes died,
In this, King Agramant was not to blame;
Who for his parents' every past offence
Had made Rogero mighty recompense.
He will perform his duty to repair
To his liege-lord; so did that martial maid;
Who had not with reiterated prayer
(As so she might have done) Rogero stayed.
The stripling may appay the warlike fair
In other season, if not now appaid;
But twice two hundred years will not atone
The crying sin of honour once foregone.
To Arles-town whither had his king conveyed
His remnant of a host, he pricked anew;
While they that, since their kindred was displayed,
Had a close friendship formed -- the damsels two --
Thither together go where Charles had made
His mightiest effort, with the Christian crew;
Hoping by siege or fight to break the foe,
And free his kingdom form so long a woe.
Bradamant, when she in the camp appeared,
Was greeted with a welcome warm and kind.
On all sides was she hailed, by all was cheered;
And she in this or that her head inclined.
Rinaldo, when he of her coming heard,
Met her; nor young Richardo stayed behind;
Nor Richardet; nor others of her race;
And all received the maid with joyful face.
When next 'tis known, the second of the twain
Is that Marphisa, so in arms renowned,
Who from Catay unto the bounds of Spain
Had journeyed, with a thousand laurels crowned,
Nor rich nor poor within their tents remain:
The curious crowd, encompassing them round,
Press, harm, and heave each other here and there,
In the sole wish to see so bright a pair.
By them was Charles saluted reverently,
And the first day was this (has Turpin shown)
Marphisa had been seen to bend her knee:
For Pepin's royal son to her, alone,
Deserving of such duty seemed to be,
Mid emperors or kings that filled a throne,
Baptized or infidel, of all those named
For mighty riches, or for valour famed.
Her kindly Charlemagne received, and wide
Of the pavilions met, in open view;
And, above king, and prince, and peer, beside
Himself the monarch placed that damsel true.
Who go not, are dismist; so none abide
In little time, except the good and few.
The Paladins and lords remain; without,
Is left the unrespected rabble-rout.
Marphisa first began in grateful strain:
"Unconquered Caesar, glorious and august,
Who, to Alcides' strait from Indian main,
Mak'st Scythian's pale and Aethiop's race adust
Revere thy Christian cross of snowy grain,
-- Of earthly monarchs thou most sage and just --
Hither thy glory, which no limits bound,
Has brought me from the world's extremest ground;
"And (to avow the truth) in jealous mood
Alone I came, alone with thee to fight;
Because I grudged that king so puissant shou'd
Exist on earth, save he observed my rite.
Hence reek they ravaged fields with Christian blood;
And yet with greater rancour and despite,
Like cruel foe, I purposed to offend,
But that it chanced, one changed me to a friend.
"When to worst harm and scaith thy bands I doom,
I find (as at my leisure I will show)
Rogero of Risa was my father, whom
An evil brother traitorously laid low.
Me my sad mother carried in her womb
Beyond the sea, and bore in want and woe.
Till my seventh year by wizard nourished, I
Was stolen from him by thieves of Araby.
"They to a king in Persia vended me,
That after died beneath my faulchion, who
Would fain have taken my virginity.
When grown, that king and all his court I slew;
Chased his ill race, and seized his royalty;
And -- such my fortune -- by a month or two,
I eithteen years had not o'erpast, before
I added to my realm six kingdoms more;
"And, moved by envy of thy glorious fame
I in my heart resolved (as thou hast heard)
To abate the grandeur of they mighty name:
I haply so had done; I haply erred.
But now a chance has served that will to tame,
And clip my fury's wings; the having heard
Since I arrived in Christendom, how we
Are bound by ties of consanguinity;
"And, for my father thee, as kinsman, served,
So thou a kin and servant hast in me;
And I that envy, that fierce hate, which nerved
Mine arm whilere, now blot from memory.
Nay, these for evil Agramant reserved,
And for his sire's and uncle's kin shall be;
They who were whilom guilty of the death
Of that unhappy pair, who gave me breath."
She adds, the Christian faith she will receive,
And, after having spent king Agramant,
Will home return, with royal Charles's leave,
Her kingdom to baptize in the Levant,
And war upon whatever nation cleave
To cheating Mahound or to Termagant;
Promising that whate'er her arms obtain
Shall be the Christian faith's and empire's gain.
Charles, no less eloquent upon his side,
Than bold in deed and prudent in design,
Much that illustrious lady magnified,
And much her father, much her noble line:
He courteously to every point replied;
And of his heart his open front was sign.
As his last words, that he received the maid
As kinswoman and child, the monarch said.
Then rose and locked her in a new embrace,
And kissed her, like a daughter, on the brow.
Morgana and Clermont's kin, with joyful face,
All thither troop; 'twere tedious to tell how
Rinaldo did the gentle damsel grace;
For he had oftentimes espied ere now
Her martial prowess, tried by goodly test,
When they with girding siege Albracca pressed.
'Twere long to tell how, with those worthies met,
Guido rejoiced to see Marphisa there;
Gryphon and Aquilant, and Sansonet,
That with her in the cruel city were;
Vivian, and Malagigi, and Richardet;
Who, when Maganza's traitors made repair,
With those ill purchasers of Spain to trade,
Found such a faithful comrade in the maid.
They deck the ground for the ensuing day;
And Charlemagne takes care himself to see
That they the place shall sumptuously array,
Wherein Marphisa's baptism is to be.
Bishops are gathered, learned clerks, and they
Who ken the laws of Christianity;
That taught in all its doctrine by their care
And holy skill may be that martial fair.
In sacred stole, pontifical, arraid,
Her the archbishop Turpin did baptize;
Charlemagne from the healthful font the maid
Uplifted with befitting ceremonies.
But it is time the witless head to aid
With that, which treasured in the phial lies,
Wherewith Astolpho, from the lowest star,
Descended in Elias' fiery car.
The duke descended from the lucid round,
On this our earthly planet's loftiest height.
Wither he with that blessed vase was bound,
Which was the mighty champion's brain to right.
A herb of sovereign virtue on that ground
The apostle shows, and with it bids the knight
The Nubian's eyeballs touch, when him anew
He visits, and restore that sovereign's view.
That he, for this and for his first desert,
May give him bands, Biserta to assail;
And shows him how that people inexpert
He may to battle train, in plate and mail;
And how to pass the deserts, without hurt,
Where men are dazzled by the sandy gale.
The order that throughout should be maintained
From point to point, the sainted sire explained;
Then made him that plumed beast again bestride,
Rogero's and Atlantes' steed whilere.
By sainted John dismist, his reverend guide,
Those holy regions left the cavalier;
And coasting Nile, on one or the other side,
Saw Nubia's realm before him soon appear;
And there, in its chief city, to the ground
Descended, and anew Senapus found.
Great was the joy, and great was the delight,
Wherewith that king received the English lord;
Who well remembered how the gentle knight
Had from the loathsome harpies freed his board.
But when the humour, that obscured his sight,
Valiant Astolpho scaled, and now restored
Was the blind sovereign's eyesight as before,
He would that warrior as a god adore.
So that not only those whom he demands
For the Bisertine war, he gives in aid;
But adds a hundred thousand from his bands,
And offer of his royal person made.
Scarce on the open plain embattled stands,
-- All foot -- the Nubian host, for war arraid.
For few the horses which that region bore;
Of elephants and camels a large store.
The night before the day, when on its road
The Nubian force should march, Astolpho rose,
And his winged hippogryph again bestrode:
Then, hurrying ever south, in fury goes
To a high hill, the southern wind's abode;
Whence he towards the Bears in fury blows:
There finds a cave, through whose strait entrance breaks
The fell and furious Auster, when he wakes.
He, as his master erst instruction gave,
With him an empty bladder had conveyed;
Which, at the vent of that dim Alpine cave,
Wherein reposed the wearied wind, was laid
Quaintly and softly by the baron brave;
And so unlooked for was the ambuscade,
That, issuing forth at morn, to sweep the plains,
Auster imprisoned in the skin remains.
To Nubia he, rejoicing in his prey,
Returns; and with that very light the peer,
With the black host, sets out upon his way,
And lets the victual follow in his rear.
Towards Mount Atlas with his whole array
In safety goes the glorious cavalier.
Through shifting plains of powdery sand he past,
Nor dreaded danger from the sultry blast;
And having gained the mountain's hither side,
Whence are discerned the plain, and distant brine,
He chooses from the swarm he has to guide
The noblest and most fit for discipline;
And makes them, here and there, in troops divide,
At a hill's foot, wherewith the plains confine;
Then leaves his host and climbs the hill's ascent,
Like one that is on lofty thoughts intent.
After he, lowly kneeling in the dust,
His holy master had implored, in true
Assurance he was heard, he downward thrust
A heap of stones. O what things may he do
That in the Saviour wholly puts his trust!
The stones beyond the use of nature grew;
Which rolling to the sandy plain below,
Next, neck and muzzle, legs and belly show.
They, neighing shrill, down narrow paths repair,
With lusty leaps; and lighting on the plain,
Uplift the croup, like coursers as they are,
Some bay, some roan, and some of dapple stain.
The crowds that waiting in the valleys were,
Layed hands on them, and seized them by the rein.
Thus in a thought each soldier had his horse,
Born ready reined and saddled for the course.
He fourscore thousand of his Nubian power,
One hundred and two footmen, in a day
To horsemen changes, who wide Afric scour,
And, upon every side, sack, burn, and slay.
Agramant had intrusted town and tower,
Till his return, to king Branzardo's sway,
To Fersa's king, and him of the Algaziers;
And these against Astolpho lead their spears.
Erewhile a nimble bark, with sail and oar,
They had dispatched, which, stirring feet and wings,
News of the Nubian monarch's outrage bore
To Agramant from his vicegerent kings,
That rests not, night nor day, till to the shore
Of Provence she her doleful tiding brings;
And finds her monarch half subdued in Arles,
For camped within a mile was conquering Charles.
Agramant, hearing in what peril lies
His realm, through his attack on Pepin's reign,
Him in this pressing peril to advise,
Calls kings and princes of the paynim train;
And when he once or twice has turned his eyes
On sage Sobrino and the king of Spain,
-- Eldest and wisest they those lords among --
The monarch so bespeaks the assembled throng:
"Albeit if fits not captain, as I know,
To say, `on this I thought not,' this I say;
Because when from a quarter comes the blow,
From every human forethought far away,
'Tis for such fault a fair excuse, I trow;
And here all hinges; I did ill to lay
Unfurnished Africk open to attack,
If there was ground to fear the Nubian sack.
"But who could think, save only God on high
Prescient of all which is to be below,
That, from land, beneath such distant sky,
Such mighty host would come, to work us woe?
'Twixt shifting sands, which restless whirlwinds blow:
Yet they their camp have round Biserta placed,
And laid the better part of Africk waste.
"I now on this, O peers! your counsel crave.
If, bootless, homeward I should wend my way,
Or should not such a fair adventure wave,
Till Charles with me a prisoner I convey;
Or how I may as well our Africk save,
And ruin this redoubted empire, say.
Who can advise, is prayed his lore to shew,
That we may learn the best, and that pursue."
He said; and on Marsilius seated nigh
Next turned his eyes, who in the signal read,
That it belonged to him to make reply
To what the king of Africa had said.
The Spaniard rose, and bending reverently
To Agramant the knee as well as head,
Again his honoured seat in council prest,
And in these words the Moorish king addrest:
"My liege, does Rumour good or ill report,
It still increases them; hence shall I ne'er,
Under despondence, lack for due support,
Nor bolder course than is befitting steer,
For what may chance, of good or evil sort;
Weighing in even balance hope and fear,
O'errated still; and which we should not mete
By what I hear so many tongues repeat;
"Which should so much more doubtfully be viewed,
As it seems less with likelihood to stand.
Now it is seen, if there be likelihood,
That king who reigns in so remote a land,
Followed by such a mighty multitude,
Should set his foot on warlike Africk's strand;
Traversing sands, to which in evil hour
Cambyses trusted his ill-omened power.
"I well believe, that from some neighbouring hill
The Arabs have poured down, to waste the plain;
Who, for the country was defended ill,
Have taken, burnt, destroyed and sacked and slain;
And that Branzardo, who your place doth fill,
As viceroy and lieutenant of the reign,
Has set down thousands, where he tens should write;
The better to excuse him in your sight.
"The Nubian squadrons, I will even yield,
Have been rained down on Africk from the skies;
Or haply they have come, in clouds concealed,
In that their march was hidden from all eyes:
Think you, because unaided in the field,
Your Africk from such host in peril lies?
Your garrisons were sure of coward vein,
If they were scared by such a craven train.
"But will you send some frigates, albeit few,
(Provided that unfurled your standards be)
No sooner shall they loose from hence, that crew
Of spoilers shall within their confines flee;
-- Nubians are they, or idle Arabs -- who,
Knowing that you are severed by the sea
From your own realm, and warring with our band,
Have taken courage to assail your land.
"Now take your time for vengeance, when the son
Of Pepin is without his nephew's aid.
Since bold Orlando is away, by none
Of the hostile sect resistance can be made.
If, through neglect or blindness, be foregone
The glorious Fortune, which for you has stayed,
She her bald front, as now her hair, will show,
To our long infamy and mighty woe."
Thus warily the Spanish king replied,
Proving by this and other argument,
The Moorish squadrons should in France abide,
Till Charlemagne was into exile sent.
But King Sobrino, he that plainly spied
The scope whereon Marsilius was intent,
To public good preferring private gain,
So spake in answer to the king of Spain:
"My liege, when I to peace exhorted you,
Would that my prophecy had proved less just!
Of, if I was to prove a prophet true,
Ye in Sobrino had reposed more trust,
Than in King Rodomont and in that crew,
Alzirdo, Martasine and Marbalust!
Whom I would here see gladly, front to front;
But see most gladly boastful Rodomont.
"To twit that warrior with his threat to do
By France, what by the brittle glass is done;
And throughout heaven and hell your course pursue,
Yea (as the monarch said) your course outrun.
Yet lapt in foul and loathsome ease, while you
So need his help, lies Ulien's lazy son;
And I, that as a coward was decried
For my true prophecy, am at your side;
"And ever will be while this life I bear;
Which, albeit 'tis with yours sore laden, still
Daily for you is risked with them that are
The best of France; and -- be he who he will --
There is not mortal living, who will dare
To say Sobrino's deeds were ever ill:
Yea, many who vaunt more, amid your host,
Have not so much, nay lighter, cause for boast.
"I speak, these words to show that what whilere
I said and say again, has neither sprung
From evil heart, nor is the fruit of fear;
But that true love and duty move my tongue.
You homeward with what haste you may to steer,
I counsel, your assembled bands among;
For little is the wisdom of that wight,
Who risks his own to gain another's right.
"If there be gain, ye know, Late thirty-two,
Your vassal kings, with you our sails we spread;
Now, if we pause to sum the account anew,
Hardly a third survives; the rest are dead.
May it please Heaven no further loss ensue!
But if you will pursue your quest, I dread
Lest not a fourth nor fifth will soon remain;
And wholly spent will be your wretched train.
"Orlando's absence so far aids, that where
Our troops are few, there haply none would be;
But not through this removed our perils are,
Though it prolongs our evil destiny.
Behold Rinaldo! whom his deeds declare
No less than bold Orlando; of his tree
There are the shoots; with paladin and peer,
Our baffled Saracens' eternal fear;
"And the other Mars (albeit against my heart
It goes to waste my praise upon a foe);
I speak of the redoubted Brandimart,
Whose feats no less than fierce Orlando's show;
Whose mighty prowess I have proved in part,
In part, at others' cost I see and know.
Then many days Orlando has been gone;
Yet we have lost more fields than we have won.
"I fear, if heretofore our band has lost,
A heavier forfeit will henceforth be paid.
Blotted is Mandricardo from our host;
Martial Gradasso hath withdrawn his aid;
Marphisa, at our worst, has left her post;
So Argier's lord; of whom it may be said,
Where he as true as strong, we should not need
Gradasso and the Tartar king, to speed.
"While aids like these are lost to our array,
While on our side such slaughtered thousands lie,
Those looked-for are arrived, nor on her way
Is any vessel fraught with new supply --
Charles has been joined by four, that, as they say,
Might with Orlando or Rinaldo vie;
With reasons, for from hence to Bactrian shore,
Ill would you hope to find such other four.
"I know not if you know who Guido are,
Sansonet, and the sons of Olivier.
For these I more respect, more fear I bear,
Than any warlike duke or cavalier,
Of Almayn's or of other lineage fair,
Who for the Roman empire rests the spear,
Though I misrate not those of newer stamp,
That, to our scathe, are gathered in their camp.
"As often as ye issue on the plain,
Worsted so oft, or broken, shall you be.
If oft united Africa and Spain
Were losers, when sixteen to eight were we,
What will ensue, when banded with Almayn
Are England, Scotland, France, and Italy?
When with our six twice six their weapons cross,
What else can we expect but shame and loss?
"You lose your people here, and there your reign,
If you in this emprize are obstinate;
-- Returning -- us, the remnant of your train,
You save, together with your royal state.
It were ill done to leave the king of Spain,
Since all for this would hold you sore ingrate;
Yet there's a remedy in peace; which, so
It pleases but yourself, will please the foe.
"But, if, as first defeated, on your part
It seems a shame to offer peace, and ye
Have war and wasteful battle more at heart,
Waged hitherto with what success you see,
At least to gain the victory use art,
Which may be yours, if you are ruled by me.
Lay all our quarrel's trial on one peer,
And let Rogero be that cavalier.
"Such our Rogero is, ye know and I,
That -- pitted one to one in listed fight --
Not Roland, not Rinaldo stands more high,
Nor whatsoever other Christian knight.
But would ye kindle warfare far and nigh,
Though superhuman be that champion's might,
The warrior is but one mid many spears,
Matched singly with a host of martial peers.
"Meseemeth, if to you it seemeth good,
Ye should propose to Charles the war to end;
And that, to spare the constant waste of blood,
Which his, and countless of your warriors spend,
He -- by a knight of yours to be withstood --
A champion, chosen from his best should send;
And those two all the warfare wage alone,
Till one prevails, and one is overthrown;
"On pact the king, whose champion in the just
Is loser, tribute to that other pay.
Nor will this pact displease King Charles, I trust,
Though his was the advantage in the fray.
Then of his arms Rogero so robust
I deem, that he will surely win the day;
Who would prevail (so certain is our right)
Though Mars himself should be his opposite."
With these and other sayings yet more sound,
So wrought Sobrino, he his end obtained;
And on that day interpreters were found,
And they that day to Charles their charge explained.
Charles, whom such matchless cavaliers surround.
Believes the battle is already gained;
And chooses good Rinaldo for the just,
Next to Orlando in his sovereign's trust.
In this accord like cause for pleasure find,
As well the Christian as the paynim foe:
For, harassed sore in body and in mind,
Those warriors all were weary, all were woe.
Each in repose and quietude designed
To pass what time remained to him below:
Each cursed the senseless anger and the hate
Which stirred their hearts to discord and debate.
Rinaldo felt himself much magnified,
That Charles, for what in him so strong weighed,
More trusted him than all his court beside,
And glad the honoured enterprise assayed:
Rogero he esteemed not in his pride,
And thought he ill could keep him from his blade.
Nor deemed the Child could equal him in fight,
Albeit he slew in strife the Tartar knight.
Rogero, though much honoured, on his part,
That him his king has chosen from the rest,
To whom a trust so weighty to impart,
As of his many martial lords the best,
Yet shows a troubled face; not that the heart
Of that good knight unworthy fears molest;
Not only none Rinaldo would have bred;
Him, with Orlando leagued, he would not dread --
But because sister of the Christian knight
(He knows) is she, his consort true and dear;
That to the stripling evermore did write,
As one sore injured by that cavalier.
Now, if to ancient sins he should unite
A mortal combat with Montalban's peer,
Her, although loving, will he anger so,
Not lightly she her hatred will forego.
If silently Rogero made lament
That he in his despite must battle do;
In sobs his consort dear to hers gave vent,
When shortly to her ears the tidings flew.
She beat her breast, her golden tresses rent:
Fast, scalding tears her innocent cheeks bedew:
She taxes young Rogero as ingrate,
And aye cries out upon her cruel fate.
Nought can result to Bradamant but pain,
Whatever is the doubtful combat's end.
She will not think Rogero can be slain;
For this, 'twould seem, her very heart would rend;
And should our Lord the fall of France ordain,
That kingdom for more sins than one to amend,
The gentle maid, beside a brother's loss,
Would have to weep a worse and bitterer cross.
For, without shame and scorn, she never may,
Not without hatred of her kin combined,
To her loved lord return in such a way
As that it may be known of all mankind;
As, thinking upon this by night and day,
She oftentimes had purposed in her mind;
And so by promise both were tied withal,
Room for repentance and retreat was small.
But she, that ever, when things adverse were,
With faithful succour Bradamant had stayed,
I say the weird Melissa, could not bear
To hear the wailings of the woeful maid;
She hurried to console her in her care,
And proffered succour in due time and said,
She would disturb that duel 'twixt the twain,
The occasion of such grief and cruel pain.
Meanwhile their weapons for the future fray
Rogero and Duke Aymon's son prepared;
The choice whereof with that good warrior lay,
The Roman empire's knight by Charles declared;
And he, like one that ever from the day
He lost his goodly steed afoot had fared,
Made choice, afoot and fenced with plate and mail,
His foe with axe and dagger to assail.
Whether Chance moved Mountalban's martial lord,
Or Malagigi, provident and sage,
That knew how young Rogero's charmed sword
Cleft helm and hauberk in its greedy rage,
One and the other warrior made accord,
(As said) without their faulchions to engage.
The place of combat chosen by that twain
Was near old Arles, upon a spacious plain.
Watchful Aurora hardly from the bower
Of old Tithonus hath put forth her head,
To give beginning to the day and hour
Prefixed and ordered for that duel dread,
When deputies from either hostile power,
On this side and on that forth issuing, spread
Tents at each entrance of the lists; and near
The two pavillions, both, an altar rear.
After short pause, was seen upon the plain
The paynim host in different squadrons dight.
Rich in barbarick pomp, amid that train,
Rode Africk's monarch, ready armed for fight:
Bay was the steed he backed, with sable mane;
Two of his legs were pied, his forehead white
Fast beside Agramant, Rogero came,
And him to serve Marsilius thought no shame.
The casque that he from Mandricardo wrung
In single combat with such travel sore,
The casque that (as in loftier strain is sung)
Cased Hector's head, a thousand years before,
Marsilius carried, by his side, among
Princes and lords, that severally bore
The other harness of Rogero bold,
Enriched with precious pearls and rough with gold.
On the other part, without his camp appears
Charles, with his men at arms in squadrons dight;
Who in such order led his cavaliers,
As they would keep, if marshalled for the fight.
Fenced is the monarch with his famous peers,
And with him wends, all armed, Montalban's knight,
Armed, save his helmet, erst Mambrino's casque;
To carry which is Danish Ogier's task;
And, of two axes, hath Duke Namus one,
King Salamon the other: Charlemagne
Is to this side, with all his following, gone,
To that wend those of Africk and of Spain.
In the mid space between the hosts is none;
Empty remains large portion of the plain;
For he is doomed to death who thither goes,
By joint proclaim, except the chosen foes.
After the second choice of arms was made
By him, the champion of the paynim clan,
Thither two priests of either sect conveyed
Two books; that, carried by one holy man,
-- Him of our law -- Christ's perfect life displayed;
Those others' volume was their Alcoran.
The emperor in his hands the Gospel took,
The king of Africa that other book.
Charlemagne, at his altar, to the sky
Lifted his hands, "O God, that for our sake"
(Exclaimed the monarch) "wast content to die,
Thyself a ransom for our sins to make;
-- O thou that found such favour in his eye,
That God from thee the flesh of man did take,
Borne for nine months within thy holy womb,
While aye thy virgin flower preserved its bloom,
"Hear, and be witnesses of what I say,
For me and those that after me shall reign,
To Agramant and those that heir his sway,
I twenty loads of gold of perfect grain
Will every year deliver, if to-day
My champion vanquished in the lists remain;
And vow I will straightway from warfare cease,
And from henceforth maintain perpetual peace;
"And may your joint and fearful wrath descend
On me forthwith, if I my word forego!
And may it me and mine alone offend,
And none beside, amid this numerous show!
That all in briefest time may comprehend,
My breach of promise has brought down the woe."
So saying, in his hand the holy book
Charles held, and fixed on heaven his earnest look.
This done, they seek that altar, sumptuously
Decked for the purpose, by the pagan train;
Where their king swears, that he will pass the sea,
With all his army, to his Moorish reign,
And to King Charles will tributary be;
If vanquished, young Rogero shall remain;
And will observe the truce for evermore
Upon the pact declared by Charles before;
And like him, nor in under tone, he swears,
Calling on Mahound to attest his oath;
And on the volume which his pontiff bears,
To observe what he has promised plights his troth.
Then to his side each hastily repairs;
And mid their several powers are harboured both.
Next these, to swear arrive the champions twain;
And this the promise which their oaths contain.
Rogero pledges first his knightly word,
Should his king mar, or send to mar, the fray,
He him no more as leader or as lord
Will serve, but wholly Charlemagne obey.
-- Rinaldo -- if in breach of their accord,
Him from the field King Charles would bear away,
Till one or the other is subdued in fight,
That he will be the Moorish monarch's knight.
When ended are the ceremonies, here
And there, to seek their camps the two divide.
Nor long, therein delayed; when trumpets clear
The time for their encounter signified:
Now to the charge advanced each cavalier,
Measuring with cautious care his every stride.
Lo! the assault begins; now low, now high,
That pair the sounding steel in circles ply.
Now with the axe's blade, now with its heel
Their strokes they at the head or foot address;
And these so skilfully and nimbly deal,
As needs must shock all credence to express.
The Child, that at her brother aims the steel,
Who doth his miserable soul possess,
Evermore with such caution strikes his blow,
That he is deemed less vigorous than his foe.
Rather to parry then to smite intent,
He know not what to wish; that low should lie
Rinaldo, would Rogero ill content,
Nor willingly the Child by him would die.
But here I am at my full line's extent,
Where I must needs defer my history.
In other canto shall the rest appear,
If you that other canto please to hear.
Agramant breaks the pact, is overthrown,
And forced fair France for Afric to forego.
Meanwhile Astolpho in Biserta's town
Having with numerous host besieged the foe,
By hazard there arrives bold Milo's son,
To whom the duke, instructed how to do,
Restores his wits. At sea does Dudon meet
King Agramant, and sore annoys his fleet.
Than that fell woe which on Rogero weighs
Harder, and bitterer pain forsooth is none,
Which upon flesh and more on spirit preys:
For of two deaths there is no scaping one.
Him, if in strife o'erlaid, Rinaldo slays,
Bradamant, if Rinaldo is outdone:
For if he killed her brother, well he knew
Her hate, than death more hateful, would ensue.
Rinaldo, unimpeded by such thought,
Strove in all ways Rogero to o'erthrow;
Fierce and despiteous whirled his axe, and sought
Now in the arms, now head, to wound the foe.
Rogero circled here and there, and caught
Upon his weapon's shaft the coming blow;
And, if ever smote, aye strove to smite
Where he should injure least Montalban's knight.
To most of them that led the paynim bands,
But too unequal seemed the fierce assay.
Too slowly young Rogero plied his hands;
Too well Rinaldo kept the Child at bay.
With troubled face the king of Afric stands:
He sighed, and breathless gazed upon the fray;
And all the blame of that ill counsel flung
On King Sobrino's head, from whom it sprung.
Meanwhile the weird Melissa, she -- the font
Of all that wizards or enchanters know --
Had by her art transformed her female front,
And taken Argier's mighty shape; in show
And gesture she appeared as Rodomont,
And seemed, like him, in dragon's hide to go:
Such was her belied sword and such her shield;
Nor aught was wanting which he wore afield.
She towards Troyano's mournful son did guide,
In form of courser, a familiar sprite,
And with a troubled visage loudly cried,
"My liege, this is too foul an oversight,
A stripling boy in peril yet untried,
Against a Gaul, so stout and famed in fight,
Your champion in so fierce a strife to make;
Where Afric's realm and honour are at stake.
"Let not this battle be pursued, my lord,
In that 'twould cost our Moorish cause too dear.
Let sin of broken faith and forfeit word
Fall upon Rodomont! take thou no fear!
Let each now show the metal of his sword,
Each for a hundred stands when I am here."
So upon Agramant this counsel wrought,
That king pressed forward without further thought.
He, thinking that the monarch of Algiers
Is with him, of the pact has little care;
And would not rate a thousand cavaliers
So high, if handed in his aid they were.
Hence steeds reined-in and spurred, hence levelled spears
Are seen in one short instant here and there.
Melissa, when the hosts are mixed in fight
By her false phantoms, vanishes from sight.
The champions two, that, against all accord,
Against all faith, disturbed their duel see,
No longer strive in fight, but pledge their word
-- Yea, put aside all hostile injury --
That they, on neither part, will draw the sword,
Until they better certified shall be
Who broke the pact, established by that twain,
Young Agramant, or aged Charlemagne.
They sweat anew, the king who had o'erthrown
That truce, and broken faith, as foe to treat.
The field of combat is turned upside down;
Some hurry to the charge, and some retreat.
Who most deserved disgrace, who most renown,
Was seen, on both hands, in the selfsame feat;
All ran alike: but, 'mid that wild affray,
These ran to meet the foe, those ran away.
As greyhound in the slip, that the fleet hare
Scowering about and circling him discerns,
Nor with the other dogs a part can bear
(For him the hunter holds), with anger burns;
Torments himself and mourns in his despair,
And whines, and strives against the leash, by turns;
Such till that moment had the fury been
Of Aymon's daughter and the martial queen.
They till that hour upon the spacious plain,
Had watched so rich a prize throughout the day;
And, as obliged by treaty to refrain
From laying hands upon the costly prey,
Had sore lamented and had grieved in vain,
Gazing with longing eyes on that array.
Now seeing truce and treaty broke, among
The Moorish squadrons they rejoicing sprung.
Marphisa piercing her first victim's breast,
(Two yards beyond his back the lance did pass)
In briefer time than 'tis by me exprest,
Broke with her sword four helms which flew like glass;
No less did Bradamant upon the rest;
But them her spear reduced to other pass.
All touched by that gold lance she overthrew;
Doubling Marphisa's score; yet none she slew.
They witness to each others' exploits are,
(Those maids to one another are so near)
Then, whither fury drives, the martial pair,
Dividing, through the Moorish ranks career.
Who could each several warrior's name declare,
Stretched on the champaign by that golden spear?
Or reckon every head Marphisa left
Divided by her horrid sword, or cleft?
As when benigner winds more swiftly blow,
And Apennine his shaggy back lays bare,
Two turbid torrents with like fury flow,
Which, in their fall, two separate channels wear,
Uproot hard rocks, and mighty trees which grow
On their steep banks, and field and harvest bear
Into the vale, and seem as if they vied
Which should do mightiest damage on its side:
So those high-minded virgin warriors two,
Scowering the field in separate courses, made
Huge havock of the Moors; whom they pursue
One with couched lance, and one with lifted blade.
Hardly King Agramant his Africk crew
From flight, beneath his royal banners stayed:
In search of Rodomont, he vainly turned;
Nor tidings of the missing warrior learned.
He at his exhortation (so he trowed)
Had broke the treaty made in solemn wise,
To witness which the gods were called aloud;
Who then so quick vanished from his eyes:
Nor sees he King Sobrino; disavowed
By King Sobrino is the deed, who flies
To Arles, and deems that day some vengeance dread
Will fall on Agramant's devoted head.
Marsilius too is fled into the town:
So has that monarch holy faith at heart.
'Tis hence, that feebly King Troyano's son
Resists the crew, that war on Charles's part,
Italians, English, Germans; of renown
Are all; and, scattered upon every part,
Are mixed the paladins, those barons bold,
Glittering like jewels on a cloth of gold;
And, with those peers, is more than one confest
As perfect as is earthly cavalier,
Guide the savage, that intrepid breast,
And those two famous sons of Olivier.
I will not now repeat what I exprest
Of that fierce, daring female twain whilere;
Who on the field so many Moors extend,
No number is there to the slain or end.
But, putting this affray some while aside,
Without a pinnace will I pass the sea.
To them of France so fast I am not tied,
But that Astolpho should remembered be:
Of the grace given him by his holy guide
I told erewhile, and told (it seems to me)
Branzardo and the king of Algaziers
Against the duke had mustered all their spears.
Such as the monarchs could in haste engage,
Raked from all Africa, that host contained;
Whether of fitting or of feeble age:
Scarce from impressing women they refrained,
Resolved his thirst of vengeance to assuage,
Agramant twice his Africa had drained.
Few people in the land were left, and they
A feeble and dispirited array.
So proved they; for the foe was scarce in view,
Before that levy broke in panic dread:
Like sheep, their quailing bands Astolpho slew,
Charging at his more martial squadrons' head;
And with the slain filled all that champaign; few
Into Biserta from the carnage fled.
A prisoner valiant Bucifar remained;
The town in safety King Branzardo gained;
More grieved as Bucifaro's loss alone,
Than had he lost the rest in arms arrayed.
Wide and in want of ramparts is the town;
And these could ill be raised without his aid.
While fain to ransom him, he thinks upon
The means, and stands afflicted and dismayed,
He recollects him how the paladin,
Dudon, has many a month his prisoner been.
Him under Monaco, upon the shore,
In his first passage, Sarza's monarch took.
Thenceforth had been a prisoner evermore
Dudon, who was derived of Danish stock.
The paladin against the royal Moor
Branzardo thought, in this distress, to truck;
And knowing through sure spy, Astolpho led
The Nubians, to that chief the offer sped.
A paladin himself, Astolpho knows
He gladly ought a paladin to free;
And when that case the Moorish envoy shows,
To King Branzardo's offer does agree.
Dudon from prison loosed, his thanks bestows;
And whatsoe'er pertains to land or sea,
Bestirs him to accomplish, in accord
With his illustrious chief, the English lord.
Astolpho leading such a countless band
As might have well seven Africas opprest,
And recollecting 'twas the saint's command,
Who upon him whilere imposed the quest,
That fair Provence and Aquamorta's strand
He from the reaving Saracen should wrest,
Made through his numerous host a second draught
Of such as least inapt for sea he thought;
And filling next as full as they could be
His hands with many different sorts of leaves,
Plucked from palm, olive, bay and cedar tree,
Approached the shore, and cast them on the waves.
Oh blessed souls! Oh great felicity!
O grace! which rarely man from God receives;
O strange and wondrous miracle, which sprung
Out of those leaves upon the waters flung!
They wax in number beyond all esteem;
Becoming crooked and heavy, long, and wide.
Into hard timber turn and solid beam,
The slender veins that branch on either side:
Taper the masts; and, moored in the salt stream,
All in a thought transformed to vessels, ride;
And of as diverse qualities appear,
As are the plants, whereon they grew whilere.
It was a miracle to see them grown
To galliot, galley, frigate ship, and boat;
Wondrous, that they with tackling of their own,
Are found as well as any barks afloat.
Nor lack there men to govern them, when blown
By blustering winds -- from islands not remote --
Sardinia or Corsica, of every rate,
Pilot and patron, mariner and mate.
Twenty-six thousand were the troop that manned
Those ready barks of every sort and kind.
To Dudon's government, by sea or land
A leader sage, the navy was consigned;
Which yet lay anchored off the Moorish strand,
Expecting a more favourable wind,
To put to sea; when, freighted with a load
Of prisoners, lo! a vessel made the road.
She carried those, whom at the bridge of dread,
-- On that so narrow place of battle met --
Rodomont took, as often has been said.
The valiant Olivier was of the set,
Orlando's kin, and, with them, prisoners led,
Were faithful Brandimart and Sansonet,
With more; to tell whereof there is no need;
Of German, Gascon, or Italian seed.
The patron, yet unweeting he should find
Foes in the port, here entered to unload;
Having left Argier many miles behind,
Where he was minded to have made abode;
Because a boisterous, overblowing, wind
Had driven his bark beyond her destined road;
Deeming himself as safe and welcome guest,
As Progne, when she seeks her noisy nest.
But when, arrived, the imperial eagle spread,
And pards and golden lilies he descries,
With countenance as sicklied o'er by dread,
He stands, as one that in unwary guise,
Has chanced on fell and poisonous snake to tread,
Which, in the grass, opprest with slumber lies;
And, pale and startled, hastens to retire
From that ill reptile, swoln with bane and ire.
But no retreat from peril is there here,
Nor can the patron keep his prisoners down:
Him thither Brandimart and Olivier,
Sansonet and those others drag, where known
And greeted are the friends with joyful cheer,
By England's duke and Danish Ogier's son;
Who read that he who brought them to that shore
Should for his pains be sentenced to the oar.
King Otho's son kind welcome did afford
Unto those Christian cavaliers, as said:
Who -- honoured at his hospitable board --
With arms and all things needful were purveyed.
His going, for their sake, the Danish lord
Deferred, who deemed his voyage well delayed,
To parley with those peers, though at the cost
Of one or two good days, in harbour lost.
Of Charles, and in what state, what order are
The affairs of France they gave advices true;
Told where he best could disembark, and where
To most advantage of the Christian crew.
While so the cavaliers their news declare,
A noise is heard; which ever louder grew,
Followed by such a fierce alarm withal,
As to more fears than one gave rise in all.
The duke Astolpho and the goodly throng,
That in discourse with him were occupied,
Armed in a moment, on their coursers sprung,
And hurried where the Nubians loudest cried;
And seeking wherefore that wide larum rung,
Now here, now there -- those warlike lords espied
A savage man, and one so strong of hand,
Naked and sole he troubled all that band.
The naked savage whirled a sapling round,
So hard, so heavy, and so strong of grain,
That every time the weapon went to ground,
Some warrior, more than maimed, opprest the plain.
Above a hundred dead are strewed around;
Nor more defence the routed hands maintain;
Save that a war of distant parts they try;
For there is none will wait the champion nigh.
Astolpho, Brandimart, the Danish knight,
Hastening towards that noise with Olivier,
Remain astounded at the wondrous might
And courage, which in that wild man appear.
When, posting thither on a palfry light,
Is seen a damsel, clad in sable gear.
To Brandimart in haste that lady goes,
And both her arms about the warrior throws.
This was fair Flordelice, whose bosom so
Burned with the love of Monodantes' son,
She, when she left him prisoner to his foe
At that streight bridge, had nigh distracted gone.
From France had she past hither -- given to know --
By that proud paynim, who the deed had done,
How Brandimart, with many cavaliers,
Was prisoner in the city of Algiers.
When now she for that harbour would have weighed,
An eastern vessel in Marseilles she found,
Which thither had an ancient knight conveyed:
Of Monodantes' household; a long round
To seek his Brandimart that lord had made,
By sea, and upon many a distant ground.
For he, upon his way, had heard it told,
How he in France should find the warrior bold.
She knowing old Bardino in that wight,
Bardino who from Monodantes' court
With little Brandimart had taken flight,
And reared his nursling in THE SYLVAN FORT;
Then hearing what had thither brought the knight,
With her had made him loosen from the port;
Relating to that elder, by what chance
Brandimart had to Africk passed from France.
As soon as landed, that Biserta lies
Besieged by good Astolpho's band, they hear;
That Brandimart is with him in the emprize,
They learn, but learn not as a matter clear.
Now in such haste to him the damsel flies,
When she beholds her faithful cavalier,
As plainly shows her joy; which woes o'erblown
Had made the mightiest she had ever known.
The gentle baron no less gladly eyed
His faithful and beloved consort's face;
Her whom he prized above all things beside;
And clipt and welcomed her with loving grace;
Nor his warm wishes would have satisfied
A first, a second, or a third embrace,
But that he spied Bardino, he that came
From France, together with that faithful dame.
He stretched his arms, and would embrace the knight;
And -- wherefore he was come -- would bid him say:
But was prevented by the sudden flight
Of the sacred host, which fled in disarray,
Before the club of that mad, naked wight,
Who with the brandished sapling cleared his way.
Flordelice viewed the furious man in front;
And cried to Brandimart, "Behold the count!"
At the same time, withal, Astolpho bold
That this was good Orlando plainly knew,
By signs, whereof those ancient saints had told,
In the earthly paradise, as tokens true.
None of those others, who the knight behold,
The courteous baron in the madman view;
That from long self-neglect, while wild he ran,
Had in his visage more of beast than man.
With breast and heart transfixed with pity, cried
Valiant Astolpho -- bathed with many a tear --
Turning to Danish Dudon, at this side,
And afterwards to valiant Olivier;
"Behold Orlando!" Him awhile they eyed,
Straining their eyes and lids; then knew the peer;
And, seeing him in such a piteous plight,
Were filled with grief and wonder at the sight.
So grieve and so lament the greater part
Of those good warriors, that their eyes o'erflow.
" `Tis time" (Astolpho cried) "to find some art
To heal him, not indulge in useless woe";
And from his courser sprang: bold Brandimart,
Olivier, Sansonet and Dudon so
All leap to ground, and all together make
At Roland, whom the warriors fain would take.
Seeing the circle round about him grow,
Levels his club that furious paladin,
And makes fierce Dudon feel (who -- couched below
His buckler -- on the madman would break in)
How grievous is that staff's descending blow;
And but that Olivier, Orlando's kin,
Broke in some sort its force, that stake accurst
Had shield and helmet, head and body burst.
It only burst the shield, and in such thunder
Broke on the casque, that Dudon prest the shore:
With that, Sir Sansonet cut clean asunder
The sapling, shorn of two cloth-yards and more,
So vigorous was that warrior's stroke, while under
His bosom, Brandimart girt Roland sore
With sinewy arms about his body flung;
And to the champion's legs Astolpho clung.
Orlando shook himself, and England's knight,
Ten paces off, reversed upon the ground;
Yet loosed not Brandimart, who with more might
And better hold had clasped the madman round.
To Olivier, too forward in that fight,
He dealt so furious and so fell a wound,
With his clenched fist, that pale the marquis fell;
And purple streams from eyes and nostrils well;
And save his morion had been more than good,
Bold Olivier had breathed his last, who lies,
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