by Ludovico Ariosto
Lurcanio, by a false report abused,
Deemed by Geneura's fault his brother dead,
Weening the faithless duke, whom she refused,
Was taken by the damsel to her bed;
And her before the king and peers accused:
But to the session Ariodantes led,
Strives with his brother in disguise. In season
Rinaldo comes to venge the secret treason.
Among all other animals who prey
On earth, or who unite in friendly wise,
Whether they mix in peace or moody fray,
No male offends his mate. In safety hies
The she bear, matched with hers, through forest gray:
The lioness beside the lion lies:
Wolves, male and female, live in loving cheer;
Nor gentle heifer dreads the wilful steer.
What Fury, what abominable Pest
Such poison in the human heart has shed,
That still 'twixt man and wife, with rage possessed,
Injurious words and foul reproach are said?
And blows and outrage hase their peace molest,
And bitter tears still wash the genial bed;
Not only watered by the tearful flood,
But often bathed by senseless ire with blood?
Not simply a rank sinner, he appears
To outrage nature, and his God to dare,
Who his foul hand against a woman rears,
Or of her head would harm a single hair.
But who what drug the burning entrail sears,
Or who for her would knife or noose prepare,
No man appears to me, though such to sight
He seem, but rather some infernal sprite.
Such, and no other were those ruffians two,
Whom good Rinaldo from the damsel scared,
Conducted to these valleys out of view,
That none might wot of her so foully snared.
I ended where the damsel, fair of hue,
To tell the occasion of her scathe prepared,
To the good Paladin, who brought release;
And in conclusion thus my story piece.
"Of direr deed than ever yet was done,"
The gentle dame began, "Sir cavalier,
In Thebes, Mycene, Argos, or upon
Other more savage soil, prepare to hear;
And I believe, that if the circling sun
To these our Scottish shores approach less near
Than other land, 'tis that he would eschew
A foul ferocious race that shocks his view.
"All times have shown that man has still pursued
With hair, in every clime, his natural foe;
But to deal death to those who seek our good
Does from too ill and foul a nature flow.
Now, that the truth be better understood,
I shall from first to last the occasion show,
Why in my tender years, against all right,
Those caitiffs would have dome me foul despite.
" 'Tis fitting you should know, that in the spring
Of life, I to the palace made resort;
There served long time the daughter of the king,
And grew with her in growth, well placed in court.
When cruel love, my fortune envying,
Willed I should be his follower and his sport;
And made, beyond each Scottish lord and knight,
Albany's duke find favour in my sight.
"And for he seemed to cherish me above
All mean; his love a love as ardent bred.
We hear, indeed, and see, but do not prove
Man's faith, nor is his bosom's purpose read.
Believing still, and yielding to my love,
I ceased not till I took him to my bed;
Nor, of all chambers, in that evil hour,
Marked I was in Geneura's priviest bower.
"Where, hoarded, she with careful privacy
Preserved whatever she esteemed most rare;
There many times she slept. A gallery
From thence projected into the open air.
Here oft I made my lover climb to me,
And (what he was to mount) a hempen stair,
When him I to my longing arms would call,
From the projecting balcony let fall.
"For here my passion I as often fed
As good Geneura's absence made me bold;
Who with the varying season changed her bed,
To shun the burning heat or pinching cold,
And Albany, unseen and safely sped;
For, fronting a dismantled street, and old,
Was built that portion of the palace bright;
Nor any went that way by day or night.
"So was for many days and months maintained
By us, in secrecy, the amorous game;
Still grew by love, and such new vigour gained,
I in my inmost bosom felt the flame;
And that he little loved, and deeply feigned
Weened not, so was I blinded to my shame:
Though, in a thousand certain signs betrayed,
The faithless knight his base deceit bewrayed.
"After some days, of fair Geneura he
A suitor showed himself; I cannot say
If this began before he sighed for me,
Or, after, of this love he made assay:
But judge, alas! with what supremacy
He ruled my heart, how absolute his sway!
Since this he owned, and thought no shame to move
Me to assist him in his second love.
"Unlike what he bore me, he said, indeed,
That was not true which he for her displayed;
But so pretending love, he hoped to speed,
And celebrate due spousals with the maid.
He with her royal sire might well succeed,
Were she consenting to the boon he prayed;
For after our good king, for wealth and birth
In all the realm, was none of equal worth.
"Me he persuades, if through my ministry
He the king's son-in-law elected were,
For I must know he next the king would be
Advanced as high, as subject could repair,
The merit should be mine, and ever he
So great a benefit in mind would bear;
And he would cherish me above his bride,
And more than every other dame beside.
"I, who to please him was entirely bent,
Who never could or would gainsay his will,
Upon those days alone enjoy content,
When I find means his wishes to fulfil:
And snatch at all occasions which present
A mode, his praise and merits to instil:
And for my lover with all labour strain,
And industry, Geneura's love to gain.
"With all my heart, in furtherance of his suit,
I wrought what could be done, God truly knows;
But with Geneura this produced no friut,
Nor her to grace my duke could I dispose.
For that another love had taken root
In her, whose every fond affection flows
Towards a gentle knight of courteous lore,
Who sought our Scotland from a distant shore:
"And with a brother, then right young, to stay
In our king's court, came out of Italy:
And there of knightly arms made such assay,
Was none in Britain more approved than he;
Prized by the king, who (no ignoble pay),
Rewarding him like his nobility,
Bestowed upon the youth, with liberal hand,
Burghs, baronies, and castles, woods and land.
"Dear to the monarch, to the daughter still
This lord was dearer, Ariodantes hight.
Her with affection might his valour fill;
But knowledge of his love brought more delight.
Nor old Vesuvius, nor Sicilia's hill,
Nor Troy-town, ever, with a blaze so bright,
Flamed, as with all his heart, the damsel learned,
For love of her young Ariodantes burned.
"The passion which she bore the lord, preferred
And loved with perfect truth and all her heart,
Was the occassion I was still unheard;
Nor hopeful answer would she e'er impart:
And still the more my lover's suit I stirred,
And to obtain his guerdon strove with art,
Him she would censure still, and ever more
Was strengthened in the hate she nursed before.
"My wayward lover often I excite
So vain and bootless an emprize to quit;
Nor idly hope to turn her stedfast sprite,
Too deeply with another passion smit;
And make apparent to the Scottish knight,
Ariodantes such a flame had lit
In the young damsel's breast, that seas in flood
Would not have cooled one whit her boiling blood.
"This Polinesso many times had heard
From me (for such the Scottish baron's name)
Well warranted by sight as well as word,
How ill his love was cherished by the dame.
To see another to himself preferred
Not only quenched the haughty warrior's flame,
But the fond love, which in his bosom burned
Into despiteful rage and hatred turned.
"Between Geneura and her faithful knight
Such discord and ill will he schemed to shed,
And put betwixt the pair such foul despite.
No time should heal the quarrel he had bred;
Bringing such scandal on that damsel bright,
The stain should cleave to her, alive or dead:
Nor, bent to wreck her on this fatal shelf,
Counselled with me, or other but himself.
" `Dalinda mine,' he said, his project brewed,
(Dalinda is my name) `you needs must know,
That from the root although the trunk be hewed,
Successive suckers many times will grow.
Thus my unhappy passion is renewed,
Tenacious still of life, and buds; although
Cut off by ill success, with new increase:
Nor, till I compass my desire, will cease.
" `Nor hope of pleasure this so much has wrought,
As that to compass my design would please;
And, if not in effect, at least in thought
To thrive, would interpose some little ease.
Then every time your bower by me is sought,
When in her bed Geneura slumbers, seize
What she puts off, and be it still your care
To dress yourself in all her daily wear.
" `Dispose your locks and deck yourself as she
Goes decked; and, as you can, with cunning heed,
Imitate her; then to the gallery
You, furnished with the corded stair, shall speed:
I shall ascend it in the phantasy
That you are she, of whom you wear the weed:
And hope, that putting on myself this cheat,
I in short time shall quench my amorous heat.'
"So said the knight; and I, who was distraught,
And all beside myself, was not aware
That the design, in which he help besought,
Was manifestly but too foul a snare;
And in Geneura's clothes disguised, as taught,
Let down (so oft I used) the corded stair.
Nor I the traitor's foul deceit perceived,
Until the deadly mischief was achieved.
"The duke, this while, to Ariodantes' ears
Had these, or other words like these, addressed;
(For leagued in friendship were the cavaliers,
Till, rivals, they pursued this common quest)
"I marvel, since you are of all my peers
He, whom I must have honoured and caressed,
And held in high regard, and cherished still,
You should my benefits repay so ill.
" `I am assured you comprehend and know
Mine and Geneura's love, and old accord;
And, in legitimate espousal, how
I am about to claim her from my lord:
Then why disturb my suit, and why bestow
Your heart on her who offers no reward?
By Heaven, I should respect your claim and place,
Were your condition mine, and mine your case.'
" `And I,' cried Ariodantes, `marvel more'
(In answer to the Scottish lord) `at you,
Since I of her enamoured was, before
That gentle damsel ever met your view;
And know, you are assured how evermore
We two have loved; — was never love more true —
Are certain she alone would share my lot;
And are as well assured she loves you not.
" `Why have not I from you the same respect,
To which, for friendship past, you would pretend
From me; and I should bear you in effect,
If your hope stood more fair to gain its end?
No less than you, to wed her I expect;
And if your fortunes here my wealth transcend,
As favoured of the king, as you, above
You, am I happy in his daughter's love.'
" `Of what a strange mistake,' (to him replied
The duke) `your foolish passion is the root!
You think yourself beloved; I, on my side,
Believe the same; this try we by the fruit.
You of your own proceeding nothing hide,
And I will tell the secrets of my suit:
And let the man who proves least favoured, yield,
Provide himself elsewhere, and quit the field.
" `I am prepared, if such your wish, to swear
Nothing of what is told me to reveal;
And will that you assure me, for your share,
You shall what I recount as well conceal.'
Uniting in the pact, the rival pair
Their solemn vows upon the Bible seal:
And when they had the mutual promise plighted,
Ariodantes first his tale recited.
"Then plainly, and by simple facts averred,
How with Geneura stood his suit, avows;
And how, engaged by writing and by word,
She swore she would not be another's spouse.
How, if to him the Scottish king demurred,
Virgin austerity she ever vows;
And other bridal bond for aye eschewed,
To pass her days in barren solitude.
"Then added, how he hoped by worth, which he
Had more than once avouched, with knightly brand,
And yet might vouch, to the prosperity
And honour of the king, and of his land,
To please so well that monarch, as to be
By him accounted worthy of the hand
Of his fair child, espoused with his consent:
Since he in this her wishes would content.
"Then so concludes — `I stand upon this ground,
Nor I intruder fear, encroaching nigh;
Nor seek I more; 'tis here my hopes I bound;
Nor, striving for Geneura's love, would I
Seek surer sign of it than what is found,
By God allowed, in wedlock's lawful tie;
And other suit were hopeless, am I sure,
So excellent she is, and passing pure.'
"When Ariodantes had, with honest mind,
Told what reward he hoped should quit his pain,
False Polinesso, who before designed
To make Geneura hateful to her swain,
Began — `Alas! you yet are far behind
My hopes, and shall confess your own are vain;
And say, as I the root shall manifest
Of my good fortune, I alone am blest.
" `With you Geneura feigns, nor pays nor prizes
Your passion, which with hopes and words is fed;
And, more than this, your foolish love despises:
And this to me the damsel oft has said,
Of hers I am assured; of no surmises,
Vain, worthless words, or idle promise bred.
And I to you the fact in trust reveal,
Though this I should in better faith conceal.
" `There passes not a month, but in that space
Three nights, four, six, and often ten, the fair
Receives me with that joy in her embrace,
Which seems to second so the warmth we share.
This you may witness, and shall judge the case;
If empty hopes can with my bliss compare.
Then since my happier fortune is above
Your wishes, yield, and seek another love.'
" `This will I not believe,' in answer cried
Ariodantes, `well assured you lie,
And that you have this string of falsehoods tied,
To scare me from the dear emprize I try.
But charge, so passing foul, you shall abide,
And vouch what you have said in arms; for I
Not only on your tale place no reliance;
But as a traitor hurl you my defiance.'
"To him rejoined the duke, 'I ween 'twere ill
To take the battle upon either part,
Since surer mean our purpose may fulfill;
And if it please, my proof I can impart.'
Ariodantes trembled, and a chill
Went through his inmost bones; and sick at heart,
Had he in full believed his rival's boast,
Would on the spot have yielded up the ghost.
"With wounded heart, and faltering voice, pale face,
And mouth of gall, he answered, 'When I see
Proofs of thy rare adventure, and the grace
With which the fair Geneura honours thee,
I promise to forego the fruitless chase
Of one, to thee so kind, so cold to me.
But think not that thy story shall avail,
Unless my very eyes confirm the tale.'
" `To warn in due time shall be my care.'
(Said Polinesso) and so went his way.
Two nights were scarecly passed, ere his repair
To the known bower was fixed for the assay.
And, ready now to spring his secret snare,
He sought his rival on the appointed day,
And him to hide, the night ensuing, prayed
I' the street, which none their habitation made.
"And to the youth a station over-right
The balcony, to which he clambered, shows.
Ariodantes weened, this while, the knight
Would him to seek that hidden place dispose,
As one well suited to his fell despite,
And, bent to take his life, this ambush chose,
Under the false pretence to make him see
What seemed a sheer impossibility.
"To go the peer resolved, but in such guise,
He should not be with vantage overlaid;
And should he be assaulted by surprise,
He need not be by fear of death dismay'd.
He had a noble brother, bold and wise,
First of the court in arms; and on his aid,
Lurcanio hight, relied with better heart
Than if ten others fought upon his part.
"He called him to his side, and willed him take
His arms; and to the place at evening led:
Yet not his secret purpose would be break;
Nor this to him, or other would have read:
Him a stone's throw removed he placed, and spake:
` — Come if thou hearest he cry,' the warrior said;
`But as thou lovest me (whatsoe'er befall)
Come not and move not, brother, till I call.'
" `Doubt not' (the valiant brother said) `but go';
And thither went that baron silently,
And hid within the lonely house, and low,
Over against my secret gallery.
On the other side approached the fraudful foe,
So pleased to work Geneura's infamy;
And, while I nothing of the cheat divine,
Beneath my bower renews the wonted sign.
"And I in costly robe, in which were set
Fair stripes of gold upon a snowy ground,
My tresses gathered in a golden net,
Shaded with tassels of vermillion round,
Mimicking fashions, which were only met
In fair Geneura, at the accustomed sound,
The gallery mount, constructed in such mode,
As upon every side my person showed.
"This while Lurcanio, either with a view
To snares which might beset his brother's feet,
Or with the common passion to pursue,
And play the spy on other, where the street
Was darkest, and its deepest shadows threw,
Followed him softly to his dim retreat:
And not ten paces from the knight aloof,
Bestowed himself beneath the self same roof.
"Suspecting nought, I seek the balcony,
In the same habits which I mentioned, dressed;
As more than once or twice (still happily)
I did before; meanwhile the goodly vest
Was in the moonlight clearly seen, and I,
In aspect not unlike her, in the rest
Resembling much Geneura's shape and cheer,
One visage well another might appear.
"So much the more, that there was ample space
Between the palace and the ruined row:
Hence the two brothers, posted in that place,
Were lightly cheated by the lying show.
Now put yourself in his unhappy case,
And figure what the wretched lover's woe,
When Polinesso climbed the stair, which I
Cast down to him, and scaled the gallery.
"Arrived, my arms about his neck I throw,
Weening that we unseen of others meet,
And kiss his lips and face with loving show,
As him I hitherto was wont to greet;
And he assayed, with more than wonted glow,
Me to caress, to mask his hollow cheat.
Led to the shameful spectacle, aghast,
That other, from afar, viewed all that passed,
"And fell into such fit of deep despair,
He there resolved to die; and, to that end,
Planted the pommel of his falchion bare
I' the ground, its point against his breast to bend.
Lurcanio, who with marvel by that stair,
Saw Polinesso to my bower ascend,
But knew not who the wight, with ready speed
Sprang forward, when he saw his brother's deed.
"And hindered him in that fell agony
From turning his own hand against his breast.
Had the good youth been later, or less nigh,
To his assistance he had vainly pressed.
Then, `Wretched brother, what insanity.'
(He cried) `your better sense has dispossessed?
Die for a woman! rather let her kind
Be scattered like the mist before the wind!
" `Compass her death! 'tis well deserved; your own
Reserve, as due to more illustrious fate.
'Twas well to love, before her fraud was shown,
But she, once loved, now more deserves your hate:
Since, witnessed by your eyes, to you is known
A wanton of what sort you worshipped late.
Her fault before the Scottish king to attest,
Reserve those arms you turn against your breast.'
"Ariodantes, so surprised, forewent,
Joined by his brother, the design in show;
But resolute to die, in his intent
Was little shaken: Rising thence to go,
He bears away a heart not simply rent,
But dead and withered with excess of woe:
Yet better comfort to Lurcanio feigns,
As if the rage were spent which fired his veins.
"The morn ensuing, without further say
To his good brother, or to man beside,
He from the city took his reckless way
With deadly desperation for his guide;
Nor, save the duke and knight, for many a day
Was there who knew what moved the youth to ride:
And in the palace, touching this event,
And in the realm, was various sentiment.
"But eight days past or more, to Scotland's court
A traveller came, and to Geneura he
Related tidings of disastrous sort;
That Ariodantes perished in the sea:
Drowned of his own free will was the report,
No wind to blame for the calamity!
Since from a rock, which over ocean hung,
Into the raging waves he headlong sprung;
" `Who said, before he reached that frowning crest,
To me, whom he encountered by the way,
Come with me, that your tongue may manifest,
And what betides me to Geneura say;
And tell her, too, the occasion of the rest,
Which you shall witness without more delay;
In having seen too much, the occasion lies;
Happy had I been born without these eyes!"
" `By chance, upon a promontory we
Were standing, overright the Irish shore;
When, speaking thus on that high headland, he
Plunged from a rock amid the watery roar.
I saw him leap, and left him in the sea;
And, hurrying thence, to you the tidings bore.'
Geneura stood amazed, her colour fled,
And, at the fearful tale, remained half dead.
"O God! what said, what did she, when alone,
She on her faithful pillow layed her head!
She beat her bosom, and she tore her gown,
And in despite her golden tresses shed;
Repeating often, in bewildered tone,
The last sad words which Ariodantes said; —
That the sole source of such despair, and such
Disaster, was that he had seen too much.
"Wide was the rumour scattered that the peer
Had slain himself for grief; nor was the cry
By courtly dame, or courtly cavalier,
Or by the monarch, heard with tearless eye.
But, above all the rest, his brother dear
Was whelmed with sorrow of so deep a dye,
That, bent to follow him, he well nigh turned
His hand against himself, like him he mourned.
"And many times repeating in his thought,
It was Geneura who his brother slew,
Who was to self-destruction moved by nought
But her ill deed, which he was doomed to view,
So on his mind the thirst of vengeance wrought,
And so his grief his season overthrew;
That he thought little, graced of each estate,
To encounter king and people's common hate;
"And, when the throng was fullest in the hall,
Stood up before the Scottish king, and said,
`Of having marred my brother's wits withal,
Sir king, and him to his destruction led,
Your daughter only can I guilty call:
For in his inmost soul such sorrow bred
The having seen her little chastity,
He loathed existence, and preferred to die.
" `He was her lover; and for his intent
Was honest, this I seek not, I, to veil;
And to deserve her by his valour meant
Of thee, if faithful service might avail;
But while he stood aloof, and dared but scent
The blossoms, he beheld another scale,
Scale the forbidden tree with happier boot,
And bear away from him the wished-for fruit.'
"Then added, how into the gallery came
Geneura, and how dropped the corded stair;
And how into the chamber of the dame
Had climbed a leman of that lady fair;
Who, for disguise (he knew not hence his name),
Had changed his habits, and concealed his hair;
And, in conclusion, vowed that every word
So said, he would avouch with lance and sword.
"You may divine how grieves the sire, distraught
With woe, when he the accusation hears:
As well that what he never could have thought,
He of his daughter learns with wondering ears,
As that he knows, if succour be not brought
By cavalier, that in her cause appears,
Who may upon Lurcanio prove the lie,
He cannot choose, but doom the maid to die.
"I do not think our Scottish law to you
Is yet unknown, which sentences to fire
The miserable dame, or damsel, who
Grants other than her wedded lord's desire.
She dies, unless a champion, good and true,
Arm on her side before a month expire;
And her against the accuser base maintain
Unmeriting such death, and free from stain.
"The king has made proclaim by town and tower,
(For he believes her wronged, his child to free)
Her he shall have to wife, with ample dower,
Who saves the royal maid from infamy.
But each to the other looks, and to this hour
No champion yet, 'tis said, appears: for he,
Lurcanio, is esteemed so fierce in fight,
It seems as he were feared of every knight.
"And evil Fate has willed her brother dear,
Zerbino, is not here the foe to face;
Since many months has roved the cavalier,
Proving his matchless worth with spear and mace;
For if the valiant champion were more near,
(Such is his courage) or in any place,
Whither in time the news might be conveyed,
He would not fail to bear his sister aid.
"The king, mean time, who would the quest pursue,
And by more certain proof than combat, try
If the accuser's tale be false or true,
And she deserve, or merit not, to die,
Arrests some ladies of her retinue,
That, as he weens, the fact can verify.
Whence I foresaw, that if I taken were,
Too certain risque the duke and I must share.
"That very night I from the palace flee,
And to the duke repair, escaped from court;
And, were I taken, make him plainly see
How much it either's safety would import:
He praised, and bade me of good courage be,
And, for his comfort, prayed me to resort
To a strong castle which he held hard by;
And gave me two to bear me company.
"With what full proofs, sir stranger, you have heard,
I of my love assured the Scottish peer;
And clearly can discern, if so preferred,
That lord was justly bound to hold me dear.
Mark, in conclusion, what was my reward;
The glorious meed of my great merit hear!
And say if woman can expect to earn,
However well she love, her love's return.
"For this perfidious, foul, ungrateful man,
At length suspicious of my faith and zeal,
And apprehending that his wily plan,
In course of time, I haply might reveal,
Feigned that meanwhile the monarch's anger ran
Too high, he would withdraw me, and conceal
Within a fortress of his own, where I
(Such was his real end) was doomed to die.
"For secretly the duke enjoined the guide,
Who with me through the gloomy forest went,
The worthy guerdon of a faith so tried,
To slay me; and had compassed his intent,
But for your ready succour, when I cried.
Behold! what wages love's poor slaves content."
Thus to Rinaldo did Dalinda say,
As they together still pursued their way.
Above all other fortune, to the knight
Was welcome to have found the gentle maid,
Who the whole story of Geneura bright,
And her unblemished innocence displayed;
And, if he hoped, although accused with right,
To furnish the afflicted damsel aid,
Persuaded of the calumny's disproof,
He with more courage warred in her behoof.
And for St. Andrew's town, with eager speed,
Where was the king with all his family,
And where the single fight, in listed mead,
Upon his daughter's quarrel, was to be,
The good Rinaldo pricked, nor spared his steed,
Until, within an easy distance, he
Now near the city, met a squire who brought
More recent tidings than the damsel taught:
That thither had repaired a stranger knight,
To combat in Geneura's quarrel bent,
With ensigns strange, not known of living wight,
Since ever close concealed the warrior went;
Not, since he had been there, had bared to sight
His visage, aye within his helmet pent:
And that the very squire who with him came,
Swore that he knew not what the stranger's name.
Not far they ride before the walls appear,
And now before the gate their coursers stand.
To advance the sad Dalinda was in fear,
Yet followed, trusting in Rinaldo's brand.
The gate was shut, and to the porter near,
What this implies Rinaldo makes demand:
To him was said, the people, one and all,
Were trooped to see a fight without the wall:
Beyond the city, fought upon accord,
Between Lurcanio and a stranger knight;
Where, on a spacious meadow's level sward,
The pair already had begun the fight.
The porter opened to Mount Alban's lord,
And straight behind the peer the portal hight.
Rinaldo through the empty city rode,
But in a hostel first the dame bestowed:
And will that she (he will not long delay
To seek her there) till his return repose;
And quickly to the lists pursued his way,
Where the two made that fell exchange of blows,
And strove and struggled yet in bloody fray.
Lurcanio's heart with vengeful hatred glows
Against Geneura; while that other knight
As well maintains the quarrel for her right.
Six knights on foot within the palisade
Stand covered with the corslet's iron case;
Beneath the Duke of Albany arrayed,
Borne on a puissant steed of noble race:
Who there, as lord high-constable obeyed,
Was keeper of the field and of the place,
And joyed Geneura's peril to espy
With swelling bosom and exulting eye.
Rinaldo pierces through the parted swarm,
(So wide is felt the good Bayardo's sway,)
And he who hears the courser come in storm,
Halts not, in his desire to make him way:
Above is seen Rinaldo's lofty form,
The flower of those who mix in martial fray.
He stops his horse before the monarch's chair,
While all to hear the paladin repair.
"Dread sir," to him the good Rinaldo said,
"Let not the pair this combat longer ply;
Since whichsoever of the two falls dead,
Know, that you let him perish wrongfully:
This thinks that he is right, and is misled,
Vouches the false, and knows not 'tis a lie:
Since that which brought his brother to his end,
Moves him in causeless battle contend.
"That, in pure gentleness, with little care
If what he here maintains be wrong or right,
Because he would preserve a maid so fair,
Perils his person in the furious fight.
To injured innocence I safety bear,
And to the evil man its opposite.
But first, for love of God, the battle stay;
Then list, sir king, to what I shall display."
So moved the king the grave authority
Of one who seemed so worthy, by his cheer,
That he made sign the battle should not be
Further continued then with sword or spear:
To whom, together with his chivalry,
And barons of the realm and others near
Rinaldo all the treacherous plot displayed,
Which Polinesso for Geneura layed.
Next that he there in arms would testify
The truth of what he vouched, the warrior cried.
False Polinesso, called, with troubled eye,
Stood forth, but daringly the tale denied.
To him the good Rinaldo in reply;
"By deeds be now the doubtful quarrel tried."
The field was cleared, and, ready armed, the foes,
Without more let, in deadly duel close.
How was the hope to king and people dear,
The proof might show Geneura innocent!
All trust that God will make the treason clear,
And show she was accused with foul intent:
For Polinesso, greedy and severe,
And proud was held, and false and fraudulent.
So that none there, of all assembled, deemed
It marvel, if the knight such fraud had schemed.
False Polinesso, with a mien distressed,
A pallid cheek, and heart which thickly beat,
At the third trumpet, laid his lance in rest;
As well Rinaldo spurred the knight to meet,
And levelled at his evil foeman's breast,
Eager to finish at a single heat.
Nor counter to his wish was the event;
Since through the warrior half his weapon went.
Him, through his breast, impaled upon the spear,
More than six yards beyond his horse he bore.
With speed alighted Mount Albano's peer,
And, ere he rose, unlaced the helm he wore:
But he for mercy prayed with humble cheer,
Unfit to strive in joust or warfare more:
And, before king and court, with faltering breath,
Confessed the fraud which brought him to his death.
He brings not his confession to a close,
And pangs of death the failing accents drown:
The prince, who ended saw his daughter's woes,
Redeemed from death and scorn, her virtue shown,
With more delight and rapture overflows,
Than if he, having lost his kingly crown,
Then saw it first upon his head replaced;
So that he good Rinaldo singly graced.
And when, through his uplifted casque displaid,
Features, well known before, the king descried,
His thanks to God with lifted hands he paid,
That he had deigned such succour to provide.
That other cavalier, who bared his blade,
Unknown of all, upon Geneura's side,
And thither came from far, his aid to impart,
Looked upon all that passed, and stood apart.
Him the good king entreated to declare
His name, or, at the least, his visage shew;
That he might grace him with such guerdon fair,
As to his good intent was justly due.
The stranger, after long and earnest prayer,
Lifted to covering casque, and bared to view
What in the ensuing canto will appear,
If you are fain the history to hear.
Last updated September 05, 2017