by Ludovico Ariosto
A hermit parts, by means of hollow sprite,
The two redoubted rivals' dangerous play;
Rinaldo goes where Love and Hope invite,
But is dispatched by Charles another way;
Bradamont, seeking her devoted knight,
The good Rogero, nigh becomes the prey
Of Pinabel, who drops the damsel brave
Into the dungeon of a living grave.
Injurious love, why still to mar accord
Between desires has been thy favourite feat?
Why does it please thee so, perfidious lord,
Two hearts should with a different measure beat?
Thou wilt not let me take the certain ford,
Dragging me where the stream is deep and fleet.
Her I abandon who my love desires,
While she who hates, respect and love inspires.
Thou to Rinaldo show'st the damsel fair,
While he seems hideous to that gentle dame;
And he, who when the lady's pride and care,
Paid back with deepest hate her amorous flame,
Now pines, himself, the victim of despair,
Scorned in his turn, and his reward the same.
By the changed damsel in such sort abhorred,
She would choose death before that hated lord.
He to the Pagan cries: "Forego thy theft,
And down, false felon, from that pilfer'd steed;
I am not wont to let my own be reft.
And he who seeks it dearly pays the deed.
More — I shall take from thee yon lovely weft;
To leave thee such a prize were foul misdeed;
And horse and maid, whose worth outstrips belief,
Were ill, methinks, relinquished to a thief."
"Thou liest," the haughty Saracen retorts,
As proud, and burning with as fierce a flame,
"A thief thyself, if Fame the truth reports:
But let good deeds decide our dubious claim,
With whom the steed or damsel fair assorts:
Best proved by valiant deeds: though, for the dame,
That nothing is so precious, I with thee
(Search the wide world throughout) may well agree."
As two fierce dogs will somtimes stand at gaze,
Whom hate or other springs of strife inspire,
And grind their teeth, while each his foe surveys
With sidelong glance and eyes more red than fire,
Then either falls to bites, and hoarsely bays,
While their stiff bristles stand on end with ire:
So from reproach and menace to the sword
Pass Sacripant and Clermont's angry lord.
Thus kindling into wrath the knights engage:
One is on foot, the other on his horse:
Small gain to this; for inexperienced page
Would better rein his charger in the course.
For such Baiardo's sense, he will not wage
War with his master, or put out his force.
For voice, nor hand, nor manage, will he stir,
Rebellious to the rein or goading spur.
He, when the king would urge him, takes the rest,
Or, when he curbs him, runs in giddy rings;
And drops his head beneath his spreading chest,
And plays his spine, and runs an-end and flings.
And now the furious Saracen distressed,
Sees 'tis no time to tame the beast, and springs,
With one hand on the pummel, to the ground;
Clear of the restless courser at a bound.
As soon as Sacripant, with well-timed leap,
Is from the fury of Bayardo freed,
You may believe the battle does not sleep
Between those champions, matched in heart and deed.
Their sounding blades such changeful measure keep,
The hammer-strokes of Vulcan with less speed
Descend in that dim cavern, where he heats,
And Jove's red thunders on his anvil beats.
Sometimes they lunge, then feign the thrust and parry:
Deep masters of the desperate game they play;
Or rise upon the furious stroke, and carry
Their swords aloft, or stoop and stand at bay.
Again they close, again exhausted tarry;
Now hide, now show themselves, and now give way,
And where one knight an inch of ground has granted,
His foeman's foot upon that inch is planted.
When, lo! Rinaldo, now impatient grown,
Strikes full at Sacripant with lifted blade;
And he puts forth his buckler made of bone,
And well with strong and stubborn steel inlaid:
Though passing thick, Fusberta cleaves it: groan
Greenwood, and covert close, and sunny glade.
The paynim's arm rings senseless with the blow,
And steel and bone, like ice, in shivers go.
When the fair damsel saw, with timid eye,
Such ruin follow from the faulchion's sway,
She, like the criminal, whose doom is nigh,
Changed her fair countenance through sore dismay,
And deemed that little time was left to fly
If she would not be that Rinaldo's prey,
Rinaldo loathed by her as much, as he
Doats on the scornful damsel miserably.
So turned her horse into the gloomy chase,
And drove him through rough path and tangled ally
And oftentimes bent back her bloodless face,
And saw Rinaldo from each thicket sally.
Nor flying long had urged the frantic race,
Before she met a hermit in a valley.
Devotion in his aspect was expressed,
And his long beard descended on his breast.
Wasted he was as much by fasts as age,
And on an ass was mounted, slow and sure;
His visage warranted that never sage
Had conscience more precise or passing pure.
Though in his arteries time had stilled the rage
Of blood, and spake him feeble and demure,
At sight of the delighted damsel, he
Was inly stirred for very charity.
The lady prayed that kindly friar, that he
Would straight conduct her to some haven near,
For that she from the land of France might flee,
And never more of loathed Rinaldo hear.
The hermit, who was skilled in sorcery,
Ceased not to soothe the gentle damsel's fear.
And with the promise of deliverance, shook
His pocket, and drew forth a secret book.
This opened, quick and mighty marvel wrought;
For not a leaf is finished by the sage,
Before a spirit, by his bidding brought,
Waits his command in likeness of a page:
He, by the magic writ constrained and taught,
Hastes where the warriors face to face engage,
In the cool shade — but not in cool disport —
And steps between, and stops their battle short.
"In courtesy," he cried, "let either show
What his foe's death to either can avail,
And what the guerdon conquest will bestow
On him who in the battle shall prevail,
If Roland, though he has not struck a blow,
Or snapt in fight a single link of mail,
To Paris-town conveys the damsel gay,
Who has engaged you in this bitter fray.
"Within an easy mile I saw the peer
Pricking to Paris with that lady bright;
Riding, in merry mood, with laugh and jeer,
And mocking at your fierce and fruitless fight.
Sure it were better, while they yet are near,
To follow peer and damsel in their flight:
For should he once in Paris place his prize
The lady never more shall meet your eyes."
You might have seen those angry cavaliers
Change at the demon's tale for rage and shame;
And curse themselves as wanting eyes and ears,
To let their rival cheat them of the dame.
Towards his horse the good Rinaldo steers,
Breathing forth piteous sighs which seem of flame;
And, if he joins Orlando — ere they part —
Swears in his fury he will have his heart.
So, passing where the prompt Bayardo stood,
Leaps on his back, and leaves, as swift as wind,
Without farewell, his rival in the wood;
Much less invites him to a seat behind.
The goaded charger, in his heat of blood,
Forces whate'er his eager course confined,
Ditch, river, tangled thorn, or marble block;
He swims the river, and he clears the rock.
Let it not, sir, sound strangely in your ear
Rinaldo took the steed thus readily,
So long and vainly followed far and near;
For he, endued with reasoning faculty,
Had not in vice lured on the following peer,
But fled before his cherished lord, that he
Might guide him whither went the gentle dame,
For whom, as he had heard, he nursed a flame.
For when Angelica, in random dread,
From the pavilion winged her rapid flight,
Bayardo marked the damsel as she fled,
His saddle lightened of Mount Alban's knight;
Who then on foot an equal combat sped,
Matched with a baron of no meaner might;
And chased the maid by woods, and floods, and strands,
In hopes to place her in the warrior's hands.
And, with desire to bring him to the maid,
Gallopped before him still with rampant play;
But would not let his master mount, afraid
That he might make him take another way.
So luring on Rinaldo through the shade,
Twice brought him to his unexpected prey;
Twice foiled in his endeavour: once by bold
Ferrau; then Sacripant, as lately told.
Now good Bayardo had believed the tiding
Of that fair damsel, which produced the accord;
And in the devil's cunning tale confiding,
Renewed his wonted service to his lord.
Behold Rinaldo then in fury riding,
And pushing still his courser Paris-ward!
Though he fly fast, the champion's wishes go
Faster; and wind itself had seemed too slow.
At night Rinaldo rests his steed, with pain
To meet Anglante's lord he burned so sore;
And lent such credit to the tidings vain
Of the false courier of that wizard hoar:
And that day and the next, with flowing rein,
Rode, till the royal city rose before
His eyes; where Charlemagne had taken post,
With the sad remnant of his broken host.
He, for he fears the Afric king's pursuit,
And sap and siege, upon his vassals calls
To gather in fresh victual, and recruit
And cleanse their ditches, and repair their walls.
And what may best annoy the foes, and suit
For safety, without more delay forestalls;
And plans an embassy to England, thence
To gather fresher forces for defence.
For he is bent again to try the fate
Of arms in tented field, though lately shamed;
And send Rinaldo to the neighbouring state
Of Britain, which was after England named.
Ill liked the Paladin to cross the strait;
Not that the people or the land he blamed,
But that King Charles was sudden; nor a day
Would grant the valiant envoy for delay.
Rinaldo never executed thing
Less willingly, prevented in his quest
Of that fair visage he was following,
Whose charms his heart had ravished from his breast.
Yet, in obediance to the christian king,
Prepared himself to do the royal hest.
To Calais the good envoy wends with speed,
And the same day embarks himself and steed.
And there, in scorn of cautious pilot's skill
(Such his impatience to regain his home),
Launched on the doubtful sea, which boded ill,
And rolled its heavy billows, white with foam.
The wind, enraged that he opposed his will,
Stirred up the waves; and, 'mid the gathering gloom,
So the loud storm and tempest's fury grew,
That topmast-high the flashing waters flew.
The watchful mariners, in wary sort,
Haul down the mainsail, and attempt to wear;
And would put back in panic to the port,
Whence, in ill hour, they loosed with little care.
— "Not so," exclaims the wind, and stops them short,
"So poor a penance will not pay the dare."
And when they fain would veer, with fiercer roar
Pelts back their reeling prow and blusters more.
Starboard and larboard bears the fitful gale,
And never for a thought its ire assuages;
While the strained vessel drives with humble sail
Before the billows, as the tempest rages.
But I, who still pursue a varying tale,
Must leave awhile the Paladin, who wages
A weary warfare with the wind and flood;
To follow a fair virgin of his blood.
I speak of that famed damsel, by whose spear
O'erthrown, King Sacripant on earth was flung;
The worthy sister of the valiant peer,
From Beatrix and good Duke Aymon sprung.
By daring deeds and puissance no less dear
To Charlemagne and France: Since proved among
The first, her prowess, tried by many a test,
Equal to good Rinaldo's shone confessed.
A cavalier was suitor to the dame,
Who out of Afric passed with Agramant;
Rogero was his valiant father's name,
His mother was the child of Agolant.
And she, who not of bear or lion came,
Disdained not on the Child her love to plant,
Though cruel Fortune, ill their wishes meeting,
Had granted to the pair a single greeting.
Alone thenceforth she sought her lover (he
Was named of him to whom he owed his birth),
And roved as safe as if in company
Of thousands, trusting in her single worth.
She having made the king of Circassy
Salute the visage of old mother earth,
Traversed a wood, and that wood past, a mountain;
And stopt at length beside a lovely fountain.
Through a delicious mead the fountain-rill,
By ancient trees o'ershaded, glides away;
And him whose ear its pleasing murmurs fill,
Invites to drink, and on its banks to stay;
On the left side a cultivated hill
Excludes the fervors of the middle day.
As first the damsel thither turns her eyes,
A youthful cavalier she seated spies;
A cavalier, who underneath the shade,
Seems lost, as in a melancholy dream;
And on the bank, which gaudy flowers displayed,
Reposing, overhangs the crystal stream.
His horse beneath a spreading beech is laid,
And from a bough the shield and helmet gleam.
While his moist eyes, and sad and downcast air,
Speak him the broken victim of despair.
Urged by the passion lodged in every breast,
A restless curiosity to know
Of others' cares, the gentle maid addressed
The knight, and sought the occasion of his woe.
And he to her his secret grief confessed,
Won by her gentle speech and courteous show,
And by that gallant bearing, which at sight,
Prepared who saw her for nimble knight.
"Fair sir, a band of horse and foot," he said,
"I brought to Charlemagne; and thither pressed,
Where he an ambush for Marsilius spread,
Descending from the Pyrenean crest;
And in my company a damsel led,
Whose charms with fervid love had fired my breast.
When, as we journey by Rhone's current, I
A rider on a winged courser spy.
"The robber, whether he were man or shade,
Or goblin damned to everlasting woe,
As soon as he beheld my dear-loved maid,
Like falcon, who, descending, aims its blow,
Sank in a thought and rose; and soaring, laid
Hands on his prize, and snatched her from below.
So quick the rape, that all appeared a dream,
Until I heard in air the damsel's scream.
"The ravening kite so swoops and plunders, when
Hovering above the shelterd yard, she spies
A helpless chicken near unwatchful hen,
Who vainly dins the thief with after cries.
I cannot reach the mountain-robber's den,
Compassed with cliffs, or follow one who flies.
Besides, way-foundered is my weary steed,
Who 'mid these rocks has wasted wind and speed.
"But I, like one who from his bleeding side
Would liefer far have seen his heart out-torn,
Left my good squadrons masterless, to ride
Along the cliffs, and passes least forlorn;
And took the way (love served me for a guide)
Where it appeared the ruthless thief had born,
Ascending to his den, the lovely prey,
What time he snatched my hope and peace away.
"Six days I rode, from morn to setting sun,
By horrid cliff, by bottom dark and drear;
And giddy precipice, where path was none,
Nor sign, nor vestiges of man were near.
At last a dark and barren vale I won,
Where caverned mountains and rude cliffs appear;
Where in the middle rose a rugged block,
With a fair castle planted on the rock.
"From far it shone like flame, and seemed not dight
Of marble or of brick; and in my eye
More wonderful the work, more fair to sight
The walls appeared, as I approached more nigh.
I, after, learned that it was built by sprite
Whom potent fumes had raised and sorcery:
Who on this rock its towers of steel did fix,
Case-hardened in the stream and fire of Styx.
"Each polished turret shines with such a ray
That it defies the mouldering rust and rain:
The robber scours the country night and day,
And after harbours in this sure domain.
Nothing is safe which he would bear away;
Pursued with curses and with threats in vain.
There (fruitless every hope to foil his art)
The felon keeps my love, oh! say my heart.
"Alas! what more is left me but to eye
Her prison on that cliff's aerial crest?
Like the she-fox, who hears her offspring cry,
Standing beneath the ravening eagle's nest;
And since she has not wings to rise and fly,
Runs round the rugged rock with hopeless quest.
So inaccessible the wild dominion
To whatsoever has not plume and pinion.
"While I so lingered where those rocks aspire,
I saw a dwarf guide two of goodly strain;
Whose coming added hope to my desire
(Alas! desire and hope alike were vain)
Both barons bold, and fearful in their ire:
The one Gradasso, King of Sericane,
The next, of youthful vigour, was a knight,
Prized in the Moorish court, Rogero hight.
"The dwarf exclaimed, `These champions will assay
Their force with him who dwells on yonder steep,
And by such strange and unattempted way
Spurs the winged courser from his mountain-keep.'
And I to the approaching warriors say,
`Pity, fair sirs, the cruel loss I weep,
And, as I trust, yon daring spoiler slain,
Give my lost lady to my arms again.'
"Then how my love was ravished I make known,
Vouching with bitter tears my deep distress.
They proffer aid, and down the path of stone
Which winds about the craggy mountain, press.
While I, upon the summit left alone,
Look on, and pray to God for their success.
Beneath the wily wizard's castle strong
Extends a little plain, two bow-shots long.
"Arrived beneath the craggy keep, the two
Contend which warrior shall begin the fight.
When, whether the first lot Gradasso drew,
Or young Rogero held the honor light,
The King of Sericane his bugle blew,
And the rock rang and fortress on the height;
And, lo! apparelled for the fearful course,
The cavalier upon his winged horse!
"Upwards, by little and by little, springs
The winged courser, as the pilgrim crane
Finds not at first his balance and his wings,
Running and scarcely rising from the plain;
But when the flock is launched and scattered, flings
His pinions to the wind, and soars amain.
So straight the necromancer's upward flight,
The eagle scarce attempts so bold a height.
"When it seems fit, he wheels his courser round,
Who shuts his wings, and falling from the sky,
Shoots like a well trained falcon to the ground,
Who sees the quarry, duck or pigeon, fly:
So, through the parting air, with whizzing sound,
With rested lance, he darted from on high;
And while Gradasso scarcely marks the foe
He hears him swooping near, and feels the blow.
"The wizard on Gradasso breaks his spear,
He wounds the empty air, with fury vain.
This in the feathered monster breeds no fear;
Who to a distance shifts, and swoops again.
While that encounter made the Alfana rear,
Thrown back upon her haunches, on the plain.
The Alfana that the Indian monarch rode,
The fairest was that ever man bestrode.
"Up to the starry sphere with swift ascent
The wizard soars, then pounces from the sky,
And strikes the young Rogero, who, intent
Upon Gradasso, deems no danger nigh.
Beneath the wizard's blow the warrior bent,
Which made some deal his generous courser ply;
And when to smite the shifting foe he turned,
Him in the sky, and out of reach discerned.
"His blows Rogero, now Gradasso, bruise
On forehead, bosom, back, or flanks, between;
While he the warrior's empty blows eschews,
Shifting so quickly that he scarce is seen.
Now this, now that, the wizard seems to choose,
The monster makes such spacious rings and clean,
While the enchanter so deceives the knights,
They view him not, and know not whence he smites.
"Between the two on earth and him o' the sky,
Until that hour the warfare lasted there,
Which, spreading wide its veil of dusky dye,
Throughout the world, discolours all things fair.
What I beheld, I say; I add not, I,
A tittle to the tale; yet scarcely dare
To tell to other what I stood and saw;
So strange it seems, so passing Nature's law.
"Well covered in a goodly silken case,
He, the celestial warrior, bore his shield;
But why delayed the mantle to displace
I know not, and its lucid orb concealed.
Since this no sooner blazes in his face,
Than his foe tumbles dazzled on the field;
And while he, like a lifeless body, lies,
Becomes the necromancer's helpless prize.
"LIke carbuncle, the magic buckler blazed,
No glare was ever seen which shone so bright:
Nor could the warriors choose but fall, amazed
And blinded by the clear and dazzling light.
I, too, that from a distant mountain gazed,
Fell senseless; and when I regained my sight,
After long time, saw neither knights nor page,
Nor aught beside a dark and empty stage.
"This while the fell enchanter, I supposed,
Dragged both the warriors to his prison-cell;
And by strange virtue of the shield disclosed,
I from my hope and they from freedom fell:
And thus I to the turrets, which enclosed
My heart, departing, bade a last farewell.
Now sum my griefs, and say if love combine
Other distress or grief to match with mine."
The knight relapsed into his first disease,
After his melancholy tale was done.
This was Count Pinabel, the Maganzese,
Anselmo d'Altaripa's faithless son.
He, where the blood ran foul through all degrees,
Disdained to be the only virtuous one;
Nor played a simple part among the base,
Passing in vice the villains of his race.
With aspect changing still, the beauteous dame
Hears what the mournful Maganzese narrates;
And, at first mention of Rogero's name,
Her radiant face with eager joy dilates.
But, full of pity, kindles into flame
As Pinabel his cruel durance states.
Nor finds she, though twice told, the story stale;
But makes him oft repeat and piece his tale.
And, after, when she deemed that all was clear,
Cried to the knight, "Repose upon my say.
To thee may my arrival well be dear,
And thou as fortunate account this day.
Straight wend me to the keep, sir cavalier,
Which holds a jewel of so rich a ray:
Nor shalt thou grudge thy labour and thy care,
If envious Fortune do but play me fair."
The knight replied, "Then nought to me remains
But that I yonder mountain-passes show;
And sure 'tis little loss to lose my pains,
Where every thing is lost I prize below.
But you would climb yon cliffs, and for your gains
Will find a prison-house, and be it so!
Whate'er betide you, blame yourself alone;
You go forewarned to meet a fate foreshown."
So said, the cavalier remounts his horse,
And serves the gallant damsel as a guide;
Who is prepared Rogero's gaol to force,
Or to be slain, or in his prison stied.
When lo! a messenger, in furious course,
Called to the dame to stay, and rode and cried.
This was the post who told Circassa's lord
What valiant hand had stretched him on the sward.
The courier, who so plied his restless heel,
News of Narbonne and of Montpelier bore:
How both had raised the standard of Castile,
All Acquamorta siding with the Moor;
And how Marseilles' disheartened men appeal
To her, who should protect her straightened shore;
And how, through him, her citizens demand
Counsel and comfort at their captain's hand.
This goodly town, with many miles of plain,
Which lie 'twixt Var and Rhone, upon the sea,
To her was given by royal Charlemagne:
Such trust he placed in her fidelity.
Still wont with wonder on the tented plain
The prowess of that valiant maid to see.
And now the panting courier, as I said,
Rode from Marseilles to ask the lady's aid.
Whether or not she should the call obey,
The youthful damsel doubts some little space;
Strong in one balance Fame and Duty weigh,
But softer thoughts both Fame and Duty chase:
And she, at length, resolved the emprize to assay,
And free Rogero from the enchanted place:
Or, should her valour in the adventure fail,
Would with the cherished lover share his jail.
And did with such excuse that post appay,
He was contented on her will to wait:
Then turned the bridle to resume her way
With Pinabel, who seemed no whit elate.
Since of that line he knows the damsel gay,
Held in such open and such secret hate;
And future trouble to himself foresees,
Were he detected as a Maganzese.
For 'twixt Maganza's and old Clermont's line
There was an ancient and a deadly feud:
And oft to blows the rival houses came,
And oft in civil blood their hands embrued.
And hence some treason to this gentle dame
In his foul heart, the wicked County brewed;
Or, as the first occasion served, would stray
Out of the road, and leave her by the way.
And so the traitor's troubled fancy rack
Fear, doubt, and his own native, rancorous mood,
That unawares he issued from the track,
And found himself within a gloomy wood:
Where a rough mountain reared its shaggy back,
Whose stony peak above the forest stood;
The daughter of Dodona's duke behind,
Dogging his footsteps through the thicket blind.
He, when he saw himself within the brake,
Thought to abandon his unweeting foe;
And to the dame — " 'Twere better that we make
For shelter ere the gathering darkness grow;
And, yonder mountain past, (save I mistake)
A tower is seated in the vale below.
Do you expect me then, while from the peak
I measure the remembered place I seek."
So said, he pushed his courser up the height
Of that lone mountain; in his evil mind
Revolving, as he went, some scheme or sleight
To rid him of the gentle dame behind.
When lo! a rocky cavern met his sight,
Amid those precipices dark and blind:
Its sides descended thirty yards and more,
Worked smooth, and at the bottom was a door.
A void was at the bottom, where a wide
Portal conducted to an inner room:
From thence a light shone out on every side,
As of a torch illumining the gloom.
Fair Bradamant pursued her faithless guide,
Suspended there, and pondering on her doom:
And came upon the felon where he stood,
Fearing lest she might lose him in the wood.
When her approach the County's first intent
Made vain, the wily traitor sought to mend
His toils, and some new stratagem invent
To rid her thence, or bring her to her end.
And so to meet the approaching lady went,
And showed the cave, and prayed her to ascend;
And said that in its bottom he had seen
A gentle damsel of bewitching mien.
Who, by her lovely semblance and rich vest,
Appeared a lady of no mean degree;
But melancholy, weeping, and distressed,
As one who pined there in captivity:
And that when he towards the entrance pressed,
To learn who that unhappy maid might be,
One on the melancholy damsel flew,
And her within that inner cavern drew.
The beauteous Bradamant, who was more bold
Than wary, gave a ready ear; and, bent
To help the maid, imprisoned in that hold,
Sought but the means to try the deep descent.
Then, looking round, descried an elm-tree old,
Which furnished present means for her intent:
And from the tree, with boughs and foliage stored,
Lopt a long branch, and shaped it with her sword.
The severed end she to the count commended,
Then, grasping it, hung down that entrance steep.
With her feet foremost, by her arms suspended:
When asking if she had the skill to leap,
The traitor, with a laugh, his hands extended.
And plunged his helpless prey into the deep.
"And thus," exclaimed the ruffian, "might I speed
With thee each sucker of thy cursed seed!"
But not, as was the will of Pinabel,
Such cruel lot fair Bradamant assayed;
For striking on the bottom of the cell,
The stout elm-bough so long her weight upstayed,
That, though it split and splintered where it fell,
It broked her fall, and saved the gentle maid.
Some while astounded there the lady lay,
As the ensuing canto will display.
Last updated September 05, 2017