Part 25 out of 25
Than half a league, they reached an abbey hoar:
Wherein what of that day was yet unworn
They past, the morrow, and succeeding day;
Until the warrior of the unicorn
His vigour had recruited by the stay.
He, Leo, and Melissa then return
To Charles's royal residence; where lay
An embassy, arrived the eve before,
Which from the Bulgars' land a message bore.
Since they that had for king proclaimed the knight
Besought Rogero thither to repair
Through these their envoys deeming they would light
On him in Charles's court, where they should swear
Fidelity, and yield to him his right;
And he from them the crown receive and wear.
Rogero's squire who served this band to steer
Has published tidings of the cavalier.
He of the fight has told which at Belgrade
Erewhile Rogero for the Bulgars won;
How Leo and his sire were overlaid,
And all their army slaughtered and undone;
Wherefore the Bulgars him their king had made;
Their royal line excluding from the throne:
Then how Ungiardo took the warrior brave,
And him to cruel Theodora gave.
He speaks with that of certain news, which say
How good Rogero's jailer was found dead,
The prison broke and prisoner away:
Of what became of him was nothing said.
-- Towards the city by a secret way
(Nor was his visage seen) Rogero sped.
He, on the following morning, and his friend,
Leo, to Charles's court together wend.
To Charles' court he wends; the bird he bore
Of gold with its two heads -- of crimson hue
Its field -- and that same vest and ensigns wore,
As was erewhile devised between the two;
And such as in the listed fight before
His bruised and battered armour was in shew.
So that they quickly knew the cavalier
From him that strove with Bradamant whilere.
In royal ornaments and costly gown,
Unarmed, beside him doth young Leo fare.
A worthy following and of high renown
Before, behind him, and about him are.
He bowed to Charlemagne, who from his throne
Had risen to do honour to the pair:
Then holding still Rogero by the hand,
So spake, while all that warrior closely scanned.
"Behold the champion good, that did maintain
From dawn till fall of day the furious fight;
And since by Bradamant nor taken, slain,
Nor forced beyond the barriers was the knight,
He is assured his victory is plain,
Dread sir, if he your edict reads aright;
And he hath won the lady for his wife:
So comes to claim the guerdon of the strife.
"Besides that by your edict's tenor none
But him can to the damsel lift his eyes,
-- Is she deserved by deeds of valour done,
What other is so worthy of the prize?
-- Should she by him that loves her best be won,
None passes him, nor with the warrior vies;
And he is here to fight against all foes
That would in arms his right in her oppose."
King Charlemagne and all his peerage stand
Amazed, who well believed the Grecian peer
With Bradamant had striven with lifted brand
In fight, and not that unknown cavalier.
Marphisa, thither borne amid the band,
That crowded round the royal chair to hear,
Hardly till Leo made an ending staid;
Then prest before the listening troop, and said:
"Since here Rogero is not, to contest
The bride's possession with the stranger knight,
Lest he, as undefended, be opprest,
And forfeit so without dispute his right,
On his behalf I undertake this quest,
-- His sister I -- against whatever wight
Shall here assert a claim to Bradamant,
Or more desert than good Rogero vaunt."
She spake this with such anger and disdain,
Many surmised amid the assistant crew,
That, without waiting leave from Charlemagne,
What she had threatened she forthwith would do.
No longer Leo deemed it time to feign;
And from Rogero's head the helm withdrew;
And to Marphisa, "For himself to speak,
Behold him here and ready!" cried the Greek.
As looked old Aegeus at the accursed board,
Seeing it was his son to whom -- so willed
His wicked consort -- that Athenian lord
Had given the juice from deadly drugs distilled;
Whom he, if he had recognized his sword
Though but a little later, would have killed;
So looked Marphisa when, disclosed to view,
She in the stranger knight Rogero knew;
And ran forthwith to clip the cavalier;
Nor could unclasp her arms: with loving show
Charlemagne, Roland, and Rinaldo, here
And there, fix friendly kisses on his brow.
Nor him Sir Dudon, nor Sir Olivier,
Nor King Sobrino can caress enow:
Nor paladin nor peer, amid the crew,
Wearies of welcoming that warrior true.
Leo, who well can play the spokesman, now
That warlike band hath ceased to clip the knight,
Tells before Charles and all that audience, how
Rogero's daring, how Rogero's might,
-- Albeit to his good squadron's scathe and woe --
Which at Belgrade he witnessed in that fight,
So moved him that they overweighed all harms
Inflicted on him by the warrior's arms.
So that to her Rogero being brought,
Who would all havoc of the youth have made,
He setting all his family at nought,
Had out of durance vile the knight conveyed;
And how Rogero, that the rescue wrought
By Leo might be worthily repaid,
Did that high courtesy; which can by none,
That ever were or e'er will be, outdone;
And he from point to point continuing, said
That which Rogero had for him achieved;
And after, how by sorrow sore bested,
In that to leave his cherished wife he grieved,
He had resolved to die, and, almost dead,
Was only by his timely aid relieved;
And this he told so movingly, no eye
Remained, amid those martial many, dry.
So efficaciously he after prayed
To the obstinate Duke Aymon, not alone
The stubborn sire of Bradamant he swayed,
And to forego his settled purpose won;
But that proud lord in person did persuade
To beg Rogero's pardon, and his son
And son-in-law to be beseech the knight;
And thus to him his Bradamant was plight.
To her, where, of her feeble life in doubt,
She in a secret chamber made lament,
Through many a messenger, with joyful shout
And mickle haste, the happy tidings went.
Hence the warm blood, that stagnated about
Her heart, by her first sorrow thither sent,
Ebbed at this notice in so full a tide,
Well nigh for sudden joy the damsel died.
Of all her vigour is she so foregone,
She cannot on her feeble feet rely:
Yet what her force must needs to you be known,
And what the damsel's magnanimity.
None doomed to prison, wheel or halter, none
Condemned some other evil death to die,
About whose brows the sable band is tied,
Rejoices more to hear his pardon cried.
Joys Clermont's, joys Mongrana's noble house,
Those kindred branches that fresh know to view.
With equal grief Count Anselm overflows,
Gan, Falcon, Gini and Ginami's crew:
Yet they meanwhile beneath contented brows
Conceal the dark and envious thoughts they brew.
As the fox waits the motions of the hare,
They wait their time for vengeance, and forbear.
Besides that oftentimes before the rage
Of Roland and Rinaldo on them fell,
Though they were calmed by Charles's counsel sage,
And common danger from the infidel,
They had new cause for grief in Bertolage
Slain by their foemen and Sir Pinnabel:
But they concealed their hatred, and endured
Those griefs, as of the matter ill assured.
Those envoys of the Bulgars that had made
For Charles's court (as hath erewhile been shown),
Hoping to find the knight, whose shield pourtrayed
The unicorn, elected to their throne,
Bless the good fortune which their hope repayed,
Seeing that valiant warrior, and fall down
Before his feet, and him in humble speech
Again to seek their Bulgary beseech;
Where kept for him in Adrianople are
The sceptre and the crown, his royal due:
But let him succour to his kingdom bear;
For -- to their further scathe -- advices shew
Constantine doth a mighty host prepare,
And thitherward in person moves anew;
And they -- of their elected king possest --
Hope the Greek empire from his hands to wrest.
He accepts the realm, by their entreaties won;
And, to afford them aid against their foes,
Will went to Bulgary when three months are done;
Save Fortune otherwise of him dispose.
When this is heard by that Greek emperor's son,
He bids Rogero on his faith repose;
For since by him the Bulgar's realm is swayed,
Peace between them and Constantine is made;
Nor needeth he depart in haste, to guide
His Bulgar bands against the Grecian foe;
For all that he had conquered far and wide,
He will persuade his father to forego.
None of the virtues, in Rogero spied,
Moved Bradamant's ambitious mother so,
Or so to endear her son-in-law availed,
As hearing now that son a sovereign hailed.
The rich and royal nuptials they prepare
As well befits him, by whose care 'tis done,
'Tis done by Charles; and with such cost and care
As if 'twere for a daughter of his own.
For such the merits of the damsel are,
And such had all her martial kindred shown,
Charles would not think he should exceed due measure
If spent for her was half his kingdom's treasure.
He a free court bids cry; whither his way
Securely every one that wills may wend;
And offers open lists till the ninth day
To whosoever would in arms contend;
And bids build bowers afield, and interlay
Green boughs therein, and flowers and foliage blend;
And make those bowers so gay with silk and gold,
No fairer place this ample world doth hold.
Guested within fair Paris cannot be
The countless foreign bands that thither fare;
Who, rich and poor, of high and low degree,
And Greeks and Latins and Barbarians are.
There is no end of lord and embassy
That thither from all ends of earth repair;
All lodged conveniently, to their content,
Beneath pavilion, booth, and bower and tent.
The weird Melissa against the coming night
With singular and matchless ornament
Had for that pair the nuptial chamber dight;
Whereon long time before she had been bent:
Long time before desirous of the rite
Had been that dame, presageful of the event;
Presageful of futurity, she knew
What goodly fruit should from their stems ensue.
She had prepared the genial, fruitful bed,
Under a broad pavilion; one more rich,
Adorned, and jocund, never overhead
(Did this for peace or war its master pitch)
Was in the world, before or after, spread;
And this from Thracian strand had borne the witch.
The costly prize from Constantine she bore,
Who for disport was tented on that shore.
She with young Leo's leave, or rather so
The Grecian's admiration to obtain,
And a rare token of that art to show,
Which on Hell's mighty dragon puts the rein,
And at her pleasure rules that impious foe
Of Heaven, together with his evil train,
Bade demons the pavilion through mid air
To Paris from Constantinople bear.
From Constantine that lay therein, who swayed
The Grecian empire's sceptre, at mid-day
This with its cordage, shaft whereby 'twas stayed,
And all within and out, she bore away;
And of the costly tent, through air conveyed,
For young Rogero made a lodging gay.
The bridal ended, this her demon crew
Thither, from whence 'twas brought, conveyed anew.
Two thousand tedious years were nigh complete,
Since this fair work was fashioned by the lore
Of Trojan maid, warmed with prophetic heat;
Who, 'mid long labour and 'mid vigil sore,
With her own fingers all the storied sheet
Of the pavilion had embroidered o'er;
Cassandra hight; that maid to Hector brave
(Her brother he) this costly present gave.
The curtiest cavalier, the kindliest shoot
That ever from her brother's stock should grow
(Albeit she knew far distant from its root,
With many a branch between, should be that bough)
In silk and gold upon the gorgeous suit
Of hangings had she wrought in goodly show.
Much prized that gift, while living, Priam's son,
For its rare work and her by whom 'twas done.
But when by treachery perished Priam's heir,
And Greeks the Trojans scathed in cruel sort,
When her gates opened by false Sinon were,
And direr ill was done than tales report,
This plunder fell to Menelaus' share,
Wherewith to Egypt's land he made resort;
There left it to King Proteus, Egypt's lord,
In ransom for his prisoned wife restored;
She Helen hight: her Menelaus to free,
To Proteus the pavilion gave away;
Which, passing through the line of Ptolemy,
To Cleopatra fell; from her in fray
Agrippa's band on the Leucadian sea
Bore off the treasure, amid other prey.
Augustus and Tiberius heired the loom,
Kept till the time of Constantine in Rome:
That Constantine, whom thou shall ever rue
Fair Italy, while the heavens above are rolled.
Constantine to Byzantium, when he grew
Weary of Tyber, bore the tent of old.
Melissa from his namesake this withdrew,
Its pole of ivory and its cord of gold,
And all its cloth with beauteous figures fraught;
Fairer Apelles' pencil never wrought.
Here the three Graces in gay vesture gowned
Assisted the delivery of a queen.
Not in four ages in this earthly round
Was ever born a boy so fair of mien.
Jove, Venus, Mars, and Mercury renowned
For fluent speech, about the child are seen:
Him have they strewed, and stew with heaven's perfume,
Ambrosial odours and aetherial bloom.
Hippolytus a little label said,
Inscribed upon the baby's swaddling clothes.
By the hand him Fortune leads in age more staid;
And Valour as a guide before him goes.
An unknown band in sweeping vest arraid,
With long descending locks, the tapestry shows,
Deputed by Corvinus to desire
The tender infant from his princely sire.
He reverently parts from Hercules' side,
From her, his lady mother, Eleanor;
And to the Danube wends; where far and wide
They meet the boy, and as a god adore.
The prudent king of Hungary is descried,
Who does due honour to his ripened lore,
In yet unripe, yea, raw and tender years,
And ranks the stripling above all his peers.
One is there that in his green age and new
Places Strigonia's crozier in his hand.
Him ever at Corvinus' side we view;
Whether he doth in court or camp command,
Whether against the Turk, or German crew
The puissant monarch leads his martial band,
Watchful Hippolytus is at his side,
And gathers virtue from his generous guide.
There is it seen, how he his blooming age
Divides mid arts and wholesome discipline:
The secret spirit of the ancient page
There Fuscus well instructs him to divine:
"This must thou shun, that follow" -- seems the sage
To say -- "if thou immortally wouldst shine."
Fashioned withal with so much skill and care
By her who wrought that work, their gestures were.
A cardinal he next is seen, though young
In years, at council in the Vatican;
Where for deep wisdom graced by eloquent tongue,
With wonder him the assembled conclave scan.
"What will he be" -- they seem to say among
Themselves -- "when he is ripened into man?
Oh! if on him St. Peter's mantle fall,
What a blest aera! what a happy call!"
That brave youth's liberal pastimes are designed
In other place; on Alpine mountain hoar
Here he affronts the bear of rugged kind;
And there in rushy bottom bays the boar:
Now on his jennet he outgoes the wind,
And drives some goat or gallant hind before;
Which falls o'ertaken on the dusty plain,
By his descending faulchion cleft in twain.
He is descried, amid a fair array
Of poets and philosophers elsewhere
This pricks for him the wandering planets' way;
These earth, these heaven for his instruction square.
Some chant sad elegies, some verses gay
Lays lyric or heroic; singers there
He with rich music hears; nor moves a pace
But what in every step is sovereign grace.
The first part of the storied walls pourtraied
That noble prince's gentle infancy.
Cassandra all beside had overlaid
With fears of justice, prudence, modesty,
Valour, and that fifty virtue, which hath made
With those fair sisters closest amity;
I speak of her that gives and that bestows.
With all these virtues gilt, the stripling glows.
In this part is the princely youth espied
With that unhappy duke, the Insubri's head;
In peace they sit in council at his side,
Together armed, the serpent-banner spread.
The youth by one unchanging faith is tied
To him for ever, well or ill bested;
His followers still in flight before the foe,
His guide in peril, his support in woe.
Him in another quarter you descry,
For his Ferrara and her duke in fear,
Who by strange proofs doth sift, and certify
To his just brother, vouched by tokens clear,
The close device of that ill treachery,
Hatched by those kinsmen whom he held most dear;
Hence justly he becomes that title's heir,
Which Rome yet free bade righteous Tully bear.
Elsewhere in martial panoply he shone,
Hasting to help the church with lifted blade;
With scanty and tumultuous levy gone
Against well-ordered host in arms arraid:
And lo! the coming of that chief alone
Affords the priestly band such present aid,
Extinguished are the fires before they spread.
He came, he saw, he conquered, may be said.
Elsewhere he stands upon his native strand,
Fighting against the mightiest armament,
That whensoever against Argive land,
Or Turkish, from Venetian harbour went;
Scatters and overthrows the hostile band,
And -- spoil and prisoners to his brother sent --
Nothing reserves save that unfading bay;
The only prize he cannot give away.
Upon those figures gazed the courtly crew,
But read no meaning in the storied wall:
Because there was not any one to shew
That these were things hereafter to befall.
Those fair and quaintly fashioned forms they view
With pleasure, and peruse the scrolls withal:
But Bradamant, to whom the whole was known,
By wise Melissa taught, rejoiced alone.
Though not instructed in that history
Like gentle Bradamant, the affianced knight
Remembers how amid his progeny
Atlantes often praised this Hippolyte.
-- Who faithfully could verse such courtesy,
As Charlemagne vouchsafed to every wight?
With various games that solemn feast was cheered,
And charged with viands aye the board appeared.
Who is a valiant knight, is here descried;
For daily broke a thousand lances lay:
Singly to combat or in troops they ride;
On horseback or afoot, they mix in fray.
Worthiest of all Rogero is espied,
Who always conquers, jousting night and day;
And so, in wrestling, dance, and every deed,
Still from its rivals bears away the meed.
On the last day, when at their festive cheer
Was seated solemnly the assembled band,
Where at Charles' left was placed the wedded peer,
And Bradamant upon his better hand,
Across the fields an armed cavalier,
Of semblance haughty, and of stature grand,
Was seen to ride towards the royal table;
Himself and courser wholly clothed in sable.
The King of Argier he; that for the scorn
Received from her, when on the bridge he fell,
Never to clothe himself in arms had sworn,
Nor draw the faulchion nor bestride the sell,
Till he had like an anchoret outworn
A year and month and day in lowly cell.
So to chastise themselves for such like crimes
Were cavaliers accustomed in those times.
Albeit of Charles and Agramant the Moor
Had heard the several fortunes while away,
Not to foreswear himself, he armed no more
Than if in nought concerned in that affray:
But when the year and month were wholly o'er,
And wholly past was the succeeding day,
With other courser, harness, sword, and lance,
The king betook him to the court of France.
He neither lighted from his horse, nor bowed
His head; and, without sign of reverence due,
His scorn for Charlemagne by gestures showed,
And the high presence of so fair a crew.
Astound and full of wonder stood the crowd,
Such license in that haughty man to view.
All leave their meat, all leave their talk, to hear
The purpose of the stranger cavalier.
To Charles and to Rogero opposite,
With a loud voice, and in proud accent, "I
Am Rodomont of Sarza," said the knight,
"Who thee, Rogero, to the field defy;
And here, before the sun withdraws his light,
Will prove on thee thine infidelity;
And that thou, as a traitor to thy lord,
Deserv'st not any honour at this board.
"Albeit thy felony be plain and clear,
Which thou, as christened, canst not disavow;
Nathless to make it yet more plain appear,
This will I prove upon thee; and, if thou
Canst find a knight to combat for thee here,
Him will accept; -- if one be not enow --
Will four, nay six accept; and will maintain
My words against them all in listed plain."
Rogero, with the leave of Pepin's son,
Uprose at that appeal, and thus replied:
That he -- nor he alone -- but every one,
Who thus impeached him as a traitor, lied;
That so he by his king had ever done,
Him none could justly blame; and on his side,
He was prepared in listed field to shew
He evermore by him had done his due.
He can defend himself; nor need he crave
Another warrior's help that course to run;
And 'tis his hope to show him he would have
Enough, perhaps would have too much, of one.
Thither Orlando and Rinaldo, brave
Olivier, and his white and sable son,
Thither good Dudon and Marphisa wend;
Who fain with that fierce paynim will contend.
They tell Rogero that, as newly wed
The combat he in person should refuse.
"Take ye no further pains," the warrior said,
"For such would be for me a foul excuse."
The Tartar's arms were brought, which cut the thread
Of more delay and of all further truce:
With spurs Orlando deck'd the youthful lord,
King Charlemagne begirt him with the sword.
Marphisa and Bradamant in corslet case
His breast, and clothe him in his other gear.
Astolpho led his horse of noble race:
Sir Dudon held his stirrup: far and near
Rinaldo and Namus made the mob give place,
Assisted by the Marquis Olivier.
All from the crowded lists they drive with speed,
Evermore kept in order for such need.
The pale-faced dames and damsels troop, in guise
Of pigeons round the lists, a timid show;
When, homeward bound, from fruitful field they rise,
Scared by wide-sweeping winds, which loudly blow,
Mid flash and clap; and when the sable skies
Threat hail and rain, the harvest's waste and woe:
A timid troop, they for Rogero fear,
Ill matched they deem with that fierce cavalier.
So him deemed all the rabble; and so most
Of those bold cavalier and barons thought;
In that they had not yet the memory lost
Of what that paynim had in Paris wrought,
When singly fire and sword the warrior tost,
And much of that fair town to ruin brought;
Whose signs remained, and yet will long remain:
Nor ever greater havoc plagued that reign.
Bradamant's heart above those others' beat:
Not that she deemed the Saracen in might,
Or valour which in the heart-core hath its seat,
Was of more prowess than the youthful knight;
Nor (what oft gives success in martial feat
That with the paynim was the better right.
Yet cannot she her some ill misgivings quell.
But upon those that love such fear sits well.
Oh! in her fear for him, how willingly
She battle for Rogero would have done!
If lifeless on the listed field to lie
Surer than sure, -- in fight with Ulien's son.
More than one death would she consent to die,
If she withal could suffer more than one,
Rather than she in that unhappy strife
Would see her cherished consort risk his life.
But prayer availed not on the damsel's part
To make Rogero leave to her the quest:
She then with mournful face and beating heart
Stood by to view that pair to fight addrest.
From right and left the peer and paynim start,
And at each other run with lance in rest.
The spears seem ice, as they in shivers fly.
The fragments birds, that mount through middle sky.
Rodomont's lance which smote in the career
Upon mid-shield, yet harmed it little; so
Perfect was famous Hector's iron gear,
Hardened by Vulcan's hand, and safe from blow.
As well against the shield his levelled spear
Rogero guides, and that good buckler -- though
Well steeled within and out, with bone between,
And nigh a palm in thickness -- pierces clean;
And -- but his lance resists not that fierce shock,
And at the first assault its splinters fly,
And bits and fragments of the shivered stock
Seem fledged with feathers they ascend so high;
Were his arms hewn from adamantine rock,
The spear would pierce the paynim's panoply;
And end that battle: but it breaks withal,
And on their croups both staggering coursers fall.
With bridle and with spur the martial pair
Raise their proud horses nimbly from the ground;
And having broke their spears, with faulchions bare
Return, to bandy fierce and cruel wound.
Wheeling with wondrous mastery, here and there,
The bold and ready coursers in a round,
The warriors with their biting swords begin
To try where either's armour is most thin.
Rodomont had not that hard dragon-hide
Which heretofore had cased the warrior's breast;
Nor Nimrod's trenchant sword was at his side;
Nor the accustomed helm his temples prest.
For on that bridge which spanned the narrow tide,
A loser to Dordona's lady, vest
And arms suspended from the votive stone
He left; as I, meseems, erewhile have shown.
Clad was the king in other goodly mail;
Yet not like that first panoply secure:
But neither this, nor that, nor harder scale
Could Balisarda's deadly dint endure;
Against which neither workmanship avail,
Enchantment, temper, nor prime steel and pure.
So here so there Rogero plied his sword,
He more than once the paynim's armour bored.
When Rodomont beholds in that fierce close
His widely crimsoned arms, nor can restrain
The greater portion of those griding blows
From biting to the quick, through plate and chain,
He with more fury, with more rage o'erflows,
Than in mid winter the tempestrous main
Flings down his shield, and with both hands outright
Lays at Rogero's helm with all his might.
With that excessive force, wherewith the gin,
Erected in two barges upon Po,
And raised by men and wheels, with deafening din
Descends upon the sharpened piles below,
With all his might he smote the paladin
With either hand; was never direr blow:
Him the charmed helmet helped, or -- such its force --
The stroke would have divided man and horse.
As if about to fall, the youthful lord
Twice nodded, opening legs and arms; anew
Rodomont smote, in that he would afford
His foe no time his spirits to renew:
Then threatened other stroke; but that fine sword
Bore not such hammering, and in shivers flew;
And the bold Saracen, bereft of brand
Was in the combat left with unarmed hand.
But not for this doth Rodomont refrain:
He swoops upon the Child, unheeding aught:
So sore astounded is Rogero's brain;
So wholly overclouded is his thought.
But him the paynim well awakes again,
Whom by the neck he with strong arm has caught,
And gripes and grapples with such mighty force,
He falls on earth, pulled headlong from his horse.
Yet leaps from earth as nimbly, moved by spleen
Far less than shame; for on his gentle bride
He turned his eyes, and that fair face serene
Now troubled the disdainful warrior spied.
She in sore doubt her champion's fall had seen;
And well nigh at that sight the lady died.
Rogero, quickly to revenge the affront,
Clutches his sword and faces Rodomont.
He at Rogero rode, who that rude shock
Shunned warily, retiring from his ground,
And, as he past, the paynim's bridle took
With his left had, and turned his courser round;
While with his right he at his rider struck,
Whom he in belly, flank and breast would wound;
And twice sore anguish felt the monarch, gored
In flank and thigh, by good Rogero's sword.
Rodomont, grasping still in that close fight
The hilt and pommel of his broken blade,
Layed at Rogero's helmet with such might,
That him another stroke might have dismaid:
But good Rogero, who should win of right,
Seizing his arm, the king so rudely swayed,
Bringing his left his better hand to speed,
That he pulled down the paynim from his steed.
Through force or skill, so fell the Moorish lord,
He stood his match, I rather ought to say
Fell on his feet; because Rogero's sword
Gave him, 'twas deemed, advantage in the fray.
Rogero stands aloof, with wary ward
As fain to keep the paynim king at bay.
For the wise champion will not let a wight
So talk and bulky close with him in fight;
Rogero flank and thigh dyed red beheld,
And other wounds; and hoped he would have failed
By little and by little, as it welled;
So that he finally should have prevailed.
His hilt and pommel in his fist yet held
The paynim, which with all his might he scaled
At young Rogero; whom he smote so sore,
The stripling never was so stunned before.
In the helmet-cheek and shoulder-bone below
The Child was smit, and left so sore astound,
He, tripping still and staggering to and fro,
Scarce kept himself from falling to the ground.
Rodomont fain would close upon his foe;
But his foot fails him, weakened by the wound,
Which pierced his thigh: he overtasked his might;
And on his kneepan fell the paynim knight.
Rogero lost no time, and with fierce blows
Smote him in face and bosom with his brand;
Hammered, and held the Saracen so close,
To ground he bore that champion with his hand.
But he so stirred himself, again he rose:
He gripes Rogero so, fast locked they stand.
Seconding their huge vigour by address,
They circle one another, shake, and press.
His wounded thigh and gaping flank had sore
Weakened the vigour of the Moorish king:
Rogero had address; had mickle lore;
Was greatly practised in the wrestlers' ring:
He marked his vantage, nor from strife forbore;
And, where he saw the blood most freely spring,
And where most wounded was the warrior, prest
The paynim with his feet, his arms, and breast.
Rodomont filled with spite and rage, his foe
Takes by the neck and shoulders, and now bends
Towards him, and now pushes from him; now
Raises from earth, and on his chest suspends;
Whirls here and there and grapples; and to throw
The stripling sorely in that strife contends.
Collected in himself, Rogero wrought,
To keep his vantage taxing strength and thought.
So shifting oft his hold, about the Moor
His arms the good and bold Rogero wound;
Against his left flank shoved his breast, and sore
Strained him with all his strength engirdled round.
At once he past his better leg before
Rodomont's knees and pushed, and from the ground
Uplifted high in air the Moorish lord;
Then hurled him down head foremost on the sward.
Such was the shock wherewith King Rodomont
With battered head and spine the champion smote,
That, issuing from his wounds as from a font,
Streams of red blood the crimsoned herbage float.
Rogero, holding Fortune by the front,
Lest he should rise, with one hand griped his throat,
With one a dagger at his eyes addrest;
And with his knees the paynim's belly prest.
As sometimes where they work the golden vein
Within Pannonian or Iberian cave,
In unexpected ruin whelm the train
By impious avarice there condemned to slave,
So with the load they lie opprest, with pain
A passage can their prisoned spirit have:
No less opprest the doughty paynim lay,
Pinned to the ground in that disastrous fray.
Rogero at his vizor doth present
His naked poniard's point, with threatening cry,
That he will slay him, save he yields, content
To let him live, if he for grace apply.
But Rodomont, who rather than be shent
For the least deed of shame, preferred to die,
Writhed, struggled, and with all his vigour tried
To pull Rogero down, and nought replied.
As mastiff that below the deer-hound lies,
Fixed by the gullet fast, with holding bite,
Sorely bestirs himself and vainly tries,
With lips besmeared with foam and eyes alight,
And cannot from beneath the conqueror rise,
Who foils his foe by force, and not despite;
So vainly strives the monarch of Argier
To rise from underneath the cavalier.
Yet Rodomont so twists and strives, he gains
The freedom of his better arm anew;
And with the right hand, which his poniard strains,
For he had drawn his deadly dagger too,
Would wound Rogero underneath the reins:
But now the wary youth the error knew
Through which he might have died, by his delay
That impious Saracen forthwith to slay;
And smiting twice or thrice his horrid front,
Raising as high as he could raise in air
His dagger, buried it in Rodomont;
And freed himself withal from further care.
Loosed from the more than icy corse, to font
Of fetid Acheron, and hell's foul repair,
The indignant spirit fled, blaspheming loud;
Erewhile on earth so haughty and so proud.
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