Canto 24 & Canto 25
Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #10a
CANTO 24 ARGUMENT Odorico's and Gabrina's guilt repaid, Youthful Zerbino sets at large the train; He in defence of good Orlando's blade, Is afterwards by Mandricardo slain. Isabel weeps; by Rodomont is made War on the Tartar king, and truce again, To succour Agramant and his array; Who to the lilies are well-nigh a prey. I Let him make haste his feet to disengage, Nor lime his wings, whom Love has made a prize; For love, in fine, is nought but phrensied rage, By universal suffrage of the wise: And albeit some may show themselves more sage Than Roland, they but sin in other guise. For, what proves folly more than on this shelf, Thus, for another, to destroy oneself? II Various are love's effects; but from one source All issue, though they lead a different way. He is, as 'twere, a forest, where parforce Who enter its recess go astray; And here and there pursue their devious course: In sum, to you I, for conclusion, say; He who grows old in love, besides all pain Which waits such passion, well deserves a chain. III One here may well reproach me: "Brother, thou Seest not thy faults, while thou dost others fit." -- I answer that I see mine plain enow, In this my lucid interval of wit; And strive and hope withal I shall forego This dance of folly; but yet cannot quit, As quickly as I would, the faults I own; For my disease has reached the very bone. IV I in the other canto said before, Orlando, furious and insensate wight, Having torn off the arms and vest he wore, And cast away from him his faulchion bright, And up-torn trees, and made the forest hoar And hollow cave resound, and rocky height, Towards the noise some shepherds, on that side, Their heavy sins or evil planets guide. V Viewing the madman's wonderous feats more near, The frighted band of rustics turned and fled; But they, in their disorder, knew not where, As happens oftentimes in sudden dread. The madman in a thought is in their rear, Seizes a shepherd, and plucks off his head; And this as easily as one might take Apple from tree, or blossom from the brake. VI He by one leg the heavy trunk in air Upheaved, and made a mace the rest to bray. Astounded, upon earth he stretched one pair, Who haply may awake at the last day. The rest, who well awake at the last day. The rest, who well advised and nimble are, At once desert the field and scour away: Nor had the madman their pursuit deferred, Had he not turned already on their herd. VII By such examples warned, the rustic crew Abandoned in the fields pick, scythe, and plough, And to the roof of house and temple flew, (For ill secure was elm or willow's bough,) From hence the maniac's horrid rage they view; Who, dealing kick, and bite, and scratch, and blow, Horses and oxen slew, his helpless prey; And well the courser ran who 'scaped that day. VIII Already might'st thou hear how loudly ring The hubbub and the din, from neighbouring farms, Outcry and horn, and rustic trumpeting; And faster sound of bells; with various arms By thousands, with spontoon, bow, spit, and sling. Lo! from the hills the rough militia swarms. As many peasants from the vale below, To make rude war upon the madman go, IX As beats the wave upon the salt-sea shore, Sportive at first, which southern wind has stirred, When the next, bigger than what went before, And bigger than the second, breaks the third; And the vext water waxes evermore, And louder on the beach the surf is heard: The crowd, increasing so, the count assail, And drop from mountain and ascend from dale. X Twice he ten peasants slaughtered in his mood, Who, charging him in disarray, were slain; And this experiment right clearly showed To stand aloof was safest for the train. Was none who from his body could draw blood; For iron smote the impassive skin in vain. So had heaven's King preserved the count from scathe, To make him guardian of his holy faith. XI He would have been in peril on that day, Had he been made of vulnerable mould; And might have learned was 'twas to cast away His sword, and, weaponless, so play the bold. The rustic troop retreated from the fray, Seeing no stroke upon the madman told. Since him no other enemy attends, Orlando to a neighbouring township wends. XII Since every one had left the place for dread, No wight he found within it, small or great: But here was homely food in plenty spread, Victual, well sorting with the pastoral state. Here, acorns undistinguishing from bread, By tedious fast and fury driven to sate His hunger, he employed his hand and jaw On what he first discovered, cooked or raw. XIII Thence, repossest with the desire to rove, He, through the land, did man and beast pursue; And scowering, in his phrensy, wood and grove, Took sometimes goat or doe of dappled hue: Often with bear and with wild boar he strove, And with his naked hand the brutes o'erthrew; And gorging oftentimes the savage fare, Swallowed the prey with all its skin and hair. XIV Now right, now left, he wandered, far and wide, Throughout all France, and reached a bridge one day; Beneath which ran an ample water's tide, Of steep and broken banks: a turret gray Was builded by the spacious river's side, Discerned, from far and near, and every way. What here he did I shall relate elsewhere, Who first must make the Scottish prince my care. XV When Roland had departed on his quest, Zerbino paused some deal; then, in his rear, Slowly his steed by the same path addrest, Which had been taken by Anglantes' peer; Nor two miles on his way, I think, had prest, When he beheld a captive cavalier, Upon a sorry, little, hackney tied, And by armed horseman watched on either side. XVI Zerbino speedily the prisoner knew, And Isabel, as soon, when nigh surveyed. This was Sir Odoric, the Biscayan, who, Like wolf, the guardian of a lamb was made: To whom, of all his friends esteemed most true, Zerbino Isabella had conveyed; Hoping, one hitherto by him found just, Would now, as ever, have approved his trust. XVII Even then how all had chanced, with punctual lore, Was Isabel relating to the knight; How in the pinnace she was saved, before The broken vessel sank at sea outright; Odoric's assault; and next, how bandits bore Her to the cavern, in a mountain dight. Nor Isabella yet her tale has told, When bound the malefactor they behold. XVIII The two that had Sir Odoric in their ward, The royal damsel Isabella knew; And deemed he was her lover and her lord, That pricked beside the lady, fair of hue. More; that the bearings on his shield record The honours of the stem from which he grew; And found, as better they observed his cheer, They had judged rightly of the cavalier. XIX Lighting, with open arms and hurried pace, They make towards Zerbino eagerly, And, kneeling, with bare head, the prince embrace, Where lord is clipt by one of less degree. Zerbino, looking either in the face, Knows one Corebo of Biscay to be, And Sir Almonio, his co-mate; the pair Charged, under Odoric, with the galley's care. XX Almonio cried, "Since God is pleased in the end, Grammercy! Isabel should be with you; My lord, I very clearly comprehend I should deliver tidings, nothing new, If I should now inform you why I wend With this offender, whom with me you view. Since she, who at his hands has suffered worst, The story of his crimes will have rehearsed. XXI "How me that traitour duped thou hast not to learn, What time he rid himself of me, nor how Corebo, who would have avenged the scorn, Intended to the damsel, was laid low; But that which followed, upon my return, By her unseen or heard, she cannot know, So as to thee the story to have told; The sequel of it then will I unfold. XXII "I seaward from the city, with a store Of nags, collected in a hurry, fare; Aye watchful, if the trace I can explore Of those left far behind me; I repair Thitherward; I arrive upon the shore, The place where they were left; look everywhere; Nor sign of them perceive upon that strand, Except some steps, new-printed on the sand. XXIII "The steps I traced into the forest drear; Nor far within the greenwood had I wound, When guided by a noise which smote my ear, I saw my comrade bleeding on the ground: Of Isabel I asked the cavalier, Of Odoric, and what hand had dealt his wound; And thence departed, when the thing I knew, Seeking the wretch these precipices through. XXIV "Wide circling still I go, and through that day I find no other sign of him that fled; At length return to where Corebo lay, Who had the ground about him dyed so red, That he, had I made little more delay, A grave would have required, and, more than bed And succour of the leech, to make him sound, Craved priest and friar to lay him in the ground. XXV "I had him to the neighbouring city brought, And boarded with a friendly host; and there Corebo's cure in little time was wrought, Beneath an old chirurgeon's skilful care. This finished, having arms and horses brought, We thence together to the court repair Of King Alphonso of Biscay; where I Find out the traitor, and to fight defy. XXVI "The monarch's justice, who fair field and free Allowed us for the duel, and my right, And Destiny to boot (for Destiny Oftener makes conquest where she listeth, light) So backed my arms, that felon was by me Worsted, and made a prisoner in the fight. Alphonso, having heard his guilt confessed, Bade me dispose of him as liked me best. XXVII "Him would I neither loose, nor yet have slain, But, as thou seest, in bonds to thee convey: That whether he should be condemned to pain, Or death, it should be thine his doom to say. I, hearing thou wert with King Charlemagne, Thither, in hope to find thee, took my way. I thank my God, that thee upon this ground, Where I least hoped to meet thee, I have found. XXVIII "As well I render thanks, that Isabel I see restored to thee, I know not how, Of whom, by reason of that traitor fell, I deemed thou never more should'st tidings know." In silence prince Zerbino hears him tell His story, gazing upon Odoric's brow, In pity, more than hate, as he perpends How foully such a goodly friendship ends. XXIX After Almonio had his tale suspended, Astounded for a while the prince stood by; Wondering, that he who least should have offended, Had him requited with such treachery: But, his long fit of admiration ended, Waking from his amazement with a sigh, Questioned the prisoner in the horsemen's hold, It that was true the cavalier had told. XXX The faithless man alighted, and down fell Upon his bended knees, and answered: "Sir, All people that on middle earth do dwell, Through weakness of their nature, sin and err. One thing alone distinguishes the well And evil doer; this, at every stir Of least desire, submits, without a blow; That arms, but yields as well to stronger foe. XXXI "Had I been charged some castle to maintain, And, without contest, on the first assault, Hoisted the banners of the hostile train, -- For cowardice, or treason, fouler fault -- Upon my eyes (a well deserved pain) Thou might'st have justly closed the darksome vault; But, yielding to superior force, I read I should not merit blame, but praise and meed. XXXII "The stronger is the enemy, the more Easily is the vanquished side excused: I could but faith maintain as, girded sore, The leaguered fort to keep her faith is used; Even so, with all the sense, with all the lore By sovereign wisdom into me infused, This I essayed to keep; but in the end, To o'ermastering assault was forced to bend." XXXIII So said Sir Odoric; and after showed (Though 'twere too tedious to recount his suit) Him no light cause had stirred, but puissant goad. -- If ever earnestness of prayer could boot To melt a heart that with resentment glowed, -- If e'er humility produced good fruit, It well might here avail; since all that best Moves a hard heart, Sir Odoric now exprest. XXXIV Whether or no to venge such infamy, Youthful Zerbino doubted: the review Of faithless Odorico's treachery Moved him to death the felon to pursue; The recollection of the amity So long maintained between them, with the dew Of pity cooled the fury in his mind, And him to mercy towards the wretch inclined. XXXV While Scotland's prince is doubting in such wise To keep him captive, or to loose his chain; Or to remove him from before his eyes, By dooming him to die, or live in pain; Loud neighing, thitherward the palfrey hies From which the Tartar king had stript the rein; And the old harridan, who had before Nigh caused Zerbino's death, among them bore. XXXVI The horse, that had the others of that band Heard at a distance, thither her conveyed. Sore weeping came the old woman, and demand For succour, in her trouble, vainly made. Zerbino, when he saw her, raised his hand To heaven, that had to him such grace displayed, Giving him to decide that couple's fate; The only two that had deserved his hate. XXXVII The wicked hag is kept, so bids the peer, Until he is determined what to do: He to cut off her nose and either ear Now thought, and her as an example shew. Next, 'twere far better, deemed the cavalier, If to the vultures he her carcase threw: He diverse punishments awhile revolved, And thus the warrior finally resolved. XXXVIII He to his comrades turned him round, and said: "To let the traitour live I am content, Who, if full grace he has not merited, Yet merits not to be so foully shent. I, as I find his fault of Love was bred, To give him life and liberty consent; And easily we all excuses own, When on commanding Love the blame is thrown. XXXIX "Often has Love turned upside down a brain Of sounder wit than that to him assigned, And led to mischief of far deeper stain, Than has so outraged us. Let Odoric find Pardon his offences; I the pain Of these should justly suffer, who was blind; Blind when I gave him such a trust, nor saw How easily the fire consumes the straw." XL "Then gazing upon Odoric, 'gan say: "This is the penance I enjoin to thee; That thou a year shalt with the beldam stay, Nor ever leave this while her company; But, roving or at rest, by night or day, Shalt never for an hour without her be; And her shall even unto death maintain Against whoever threatens her with pain. XLI "I will, if so this woman shall command, With whosoe'er he be, thou battle do. I will this while that thou all France's land, From city shalt to city, wander through." So says he: for as Odoric at his hand Well merits death, for his foul trespass due, This is a pitfall for his feet to shape, Which it will be rare fortune if he 'scape. XLII So many women, many men betrayed, And wronged by her, have been so many more, Not without strife by knight shall he be stayed, Who was beneath his care the beldam hoar. So, for their crimes, shall both alike be paid; She for her evil actions done before, And he who wrongfully shall her defraud; Nor far can go before he finds an end. XLIII To keep the pact Zerbino makes him swear A mighty oath, under this penalty, That should he break his faith, and anywhere Into his presence led by fortune be, Without more mercy, without time for prayer, A cruel death shall wait him, as his fee. Next by his comrades (so their lord commands) Sir Odoric is unpinioned from his bands. XLIV Corebo frees the traitor in the end, Almonio yielding, yet as ill content: For much Zerbino's mercies both offend, Which thus their so desired revenge prevent. Thence, he disloyal to his prince and friend, In company with that curst woman went. What these befel Sir Turpin has not said, But more I once in other author read. XLV This author vouches (I declare not who) That hence they had not one day's journey wended, When Odoric, to all pact, all faith, untrue, For riddance of the pest to him commended, About Gabrina's neck a halter threw, And left her to a neighbouring elm suspended; And in a year (the place he does not name) Almonio by the traitor did the same. XLVI Zerbino, who the Paladin pursues, And loath would be to lose the cavalier, To his Scottish squadron of himself sends news, Which for its captain well might stand in fear; Almonio sends, and many matters shews, Too long at full to be recited here; Almonio sends, Corebo next; nor stayed Other with him, besides the royal maid. XLVII So mighty is the love Zerbino bore, Nor less than his the love which Isabel Nursed for the valorous Paladin, so sore He longed to know if that bold infidel The Count had found, who in the duel tore Him from his horse, together with the sell, That he to Charles's camp, till the third day Be ended, will not measure back his way. XLVIII This was the term for which Orlando said He should wait him, who yet no faulchion wears; Nor is there place the Count has visited, But thither in his search Zerbino fares. Last to those trees, upon whose bark was read The ungrateful lady's writing, he repairs, Little beside the road; and there finds all In strange disorder, rock and water-fall. XLIX Far off, he saw that something shining lay, And spied Orlando's corslet on the ground; And next his helm; but not that head-piece gay Which whilom African Almontes crowned: He in the thicket heard a courser neigh, And, lifting up his visage at the sound, Saw Brigliadoro the green herbage browze, With rein yet hanging at his saddle-bows. L For Durindane, he sought the greenwood, round, Which separate from the scabbard met his view; And next the surcoat, but in tatters, found; That, in a hundred rags, the champaign strew. Zerbino and Isabel, in grief profound, Stood looking on, nor what to think they knew: They of all matters else might think, besides The fury which the wretched Count misguides. LI Had but the lovers seen a drop of blood, They might have well believed Orlando dead: This while the pair, beside the neighbouring flood, Beheld a shepherd coming, pale with dread. He just before, as on a rock he stood, Had seen the wretch's fury; how he shed His arms about the forest, tore his clothes, Slew hinds, and caused a thousand other woes. LII Questioned by good Zerbino, him the swain Of all which there had chanced, informed aright. Zerbino marvelled, and believed with pain, Although the proofs were clear: This as it might, He from his horse dismounted on the plain, Full of compassion, in afflicted plight; And went about, collecting from the ground The various relics which were scattered round. LIII Isabel lights as well; and, where they lie Dispersed, the various arms uniting goes. Lo! them a damsel joins, who frequent sigh Heaves from her heart, and doleful visage shows. If any ask me who the dame, and why She mourns, and with such sorrow overflows; I say 'twas Flordelice, who, bound in trace Of her lost lover's footsteps, sought that place. LIV Her Brandimart had left disconsolate Without farewell, i' the court of Charlemagne: Who there expected him six months or eight; -- And lastly, since he came not there again, From sea to sea, had sought her absent mate, Through Alpine and through Pyrenean chain: In every place had sought the warrior, save Within the palace of Atlantes' grave. LV If she had been in that enchanted hold, She might before have seen the cavalier Wandering with Bradamant, Rogero bold, Gradasso and Ferrau and Brava's peer. But, when Astolpho chased the wizard old, With the loud bugle, horrible to hear, To Paris he returned; but nought of this As yet was known to faithful Flordelice. LVI To Flordelice were known the arms and sword (Who, as I say, by chance so joined the twain), And Brigliadoro, left without his lord, Yet bearing at the saddle-bow his rein: She with her eyes the unhappy signs explored, And she had heard the tidings of the swain, Who had alike related, how he viewed Orlando running frantic, in his mood. LVII Here prince Zerbino all the arms unites, And hangs, like a fair trophy, on a pine. And, to preserve them safe from errant knights, Natives or foreigners, in one short line Upon the sapling's verdant surface writes, ORLANDO'S ARMS, KING CHARLES'S PALADINE. As he would say, `Let none this harness move, Who cannot with its lord his prowess prove!' LVIII Zerbino having done the pious deed, Is bowning him to climb his horse; when, lo! The Tartar king arrives upon the mead. He, at the trophied pine-tree's gorgeous show, Beseeches him the cause of this to read; Who lets him (as rehearsed) the story know. When, without further pause, the paynim lord Hastes gladly to the pine, and takes the sword. LIX "None can (he said) the action reprehend, Nor first I make the faulchion mine today; And to its just possession I pretend Where'er I find it, be it where it may. Orlando, this not daring to defend, Has feigned him mad, and cast the sword away; But if the champion so excuse his shame, This is no cause I should forego my claim. LX "Take it not thence," to him Zerbino cried, "Nor think to make it thine without a fight: If so thou tookest Hector's arms of pride, By theft thou hadst them, rather than by right." Without more parley spurred upon each side. Well matched in soul and valour, either knight. Already echoed are a thousand blows; Nor yet well entered are the encountering foes. LXI In scaping Durindane, a flame in show (He shifts so quickly) is the Scottish lord. He leaps about his courser like a doe, Where'er the road best footing does afford. And well it is that he should not forego An inch of vantage; who, if once that sword Smite him, will join the enamoured ghosts, which rove Amid the mazes of the myrtle grove. LXII As the swift-footed dog, who does espy Swine severed from his fellows, hunts him hard, And circles round about; but he lies by Till once the restless foe neglect his guard; So, while the sword descends, or hangs on high, Zerbino stands, attentive how to ward, How to save life and honour from surprise; And keeps a wary eye, and smites and flies. LXIII On the other side, where'er the foe is seen To threaten stroke in vain, or make good, He seems an Alpine wind, two hills between, That in the month of March shakes leafy wood; Which to the ground now bends the forest green. Now whirls the broken boughs, at random strewed. Although the prince wards many, in the end One mighty stroke he cannot scape or fend. LXIV In the end he cannot scape one downright blow, Which enters, between sword and shield, his breast, As perfect was the plate and corslet, so Thick was the steel wherein his paunch was drest: But the destructive weapon, falling low, Equally opened either iron vest; And cleft whate'er it swept in its descent, And to the saddle-bow, through cuirass, went. LXV And, but that somewhat short the blow descends, It would Zerbino like a cane divide; But him so little in the quick offends, This scarce beyond the skin is scarified. More than a span in length the wound extends; Of little depth: of blood a tepid tide To his feet descending, with a crimson line, Stains the bright arms which on the warrior shine. LXVI 'Tis so, I sometimes have been wont to view A hand, more white than alabaster, part The silver cloth, with ribbon red of hue; A hand I often feel divide my heart. Here little vantage young Zerbino drew From strength and greater daring, and from art; For in the temper of his arms and might, Too much the Tartar king excelled the knight. LXVII The fearful stroke was mightier in show, Than in effect, by which the Prince was prest; So that poor Isabel, distraught with woe, Felt her heart severed in her frozen breast. The Scottish prince, all over in a glow, With anger and resentment was possest, And putting all his strength in either hand, Smote full the Tartar's helmet with his brand. LXVIII Almost on his steed's neck the Tartar fell, Bent by the weighty blow Zerbino sped; And, had the helmet been unfenced by spell, The biting faulchion would have cleft his head. The king, without delay, avenged him well, "Nor I for you till other season," said, "Will keep this gift"; and levelled at his crest, Hoping to part Zerbino to the chest. LXIX Zerbino, on the watch, whose eager eye Waits on his wit, wheels quickly to the right; But not withal so quickly, as to fly The trenchant sword, which smote the shield outright, And cleft from top to bottom equally; Shearing the sleeve beneath it, and the knight Smote on his arm; and next the harness rended, And even to the champion's thigh descended. LXX Zerbino, here and there, seeks every way By which to wound, nor yet his end obtains; For, while he smites upon that armour gay, Not even a feeble dint the coat retains. On the other hand, the Tartar in the fray Such vantage o'er the Scottish prince obtains, Him he has wounded in seven parts or eight, And reft his shield and half his helmet's plate. LXXI He ever wastes his blood; his energies Fail, though he feels it not, as 't would appear; Unharmed, the vigorous heart new force supplies To the weak body of the cavalier. His lady, during this, whose crimson dyes Where chased by dread, to Doralice drew near, And for the love of Heaven, the damsel wooed To stop that evil and disastrous feud. LXXII Doralice, who as courteous was as fair, And ill-assured withal, how it would end, Willingly granted Isabella's prayer, And straight to truce and peace disposed her friend, As well Zerbino, by the other's care, Was brought his vengeful anger to suspend; And, wending where she willed, the Scottish lord Left unachieved the adventure of the sword. LXXIII Fair Flordelice, who ill maintained descries The goodly sword of the unhappy count, In secret garden, and so laments the prize Foregone, she weeps for rage, and smite her front: She would move Brandimart to this emprize; And, should she find him, and the fact recount, Weens, for short season will the Tartar foe Exulting in the ravished faulchion go. LXXIV Seeking him morn and evening, but in vain, Flordelice after Brandimart did fare; And widely wandered from him, who again Already had to Paris made repair. So far the damsel pricked by hill and plain, She reached the passage of a river, where She saw the wretched count; but what befel The Scottish prince, Zerbino, let me tell. LXXV For to leave Durindana such misdeed To him appeared, it past all other woes; Though he could hardly sit upon his steed, Though mighty loss of life-blood, which yet flows. Now, when his anger and his heat secede, After short interval, his anguish grows; His anguish grows, with such impetuous pains, He feels that life is ebbing from his veins. LXXVI For weakness can the prince no further hie, And so beside a fount is forced to stay: Him to assist the pitying maid would try, But knows not what to do, not what to say. For lack of comfort she beholds him die; Since every city is too far away, Where in this need she could resort to leech, Whose succour she might purchase or beseech. LXXVII She, blaming Fortune, and the cruel sky, Can only utter fond complaints and vain. "Why sank I not in ocean, (was her cry,) When first I reared my sail upon the main?" Zerbino, who on her his languid eye Had fixt, as she bemoaned her, felt more pain Than that enduring and strong anguish bred, Through which the suffering youth was well-nigh dead. LXXVIII "So be thou pleased, my heart," (Zerbino cried,) "To love me yet, when I am dead and gone, As to abandon thee without a guide, And not to die, distresses me alone. For did it me in place secure betide To end my days, this earthly journey done, I cheerful, and content, and fully blest Would die, since I should die upon thy breast. LXXIX "But since to abandon thee, to whom a prize I know not, my sad fate compels, I swear, My Isabella, by that mouth, those eyes, By what enchained me first, that lovely hair; My spirit, troubled and despairing, hies Into hell's deep and gloomy bottom; where To think, thou wert abandoned so by me, Of all its woes the heaviest pain will be." LXXX At this the sorrowing Isabel, declining Her mournful face, which with her tears o'erflows, Towards the sufferer, and her mouth conjoining To her Zerbino's, languid as a rose; Rose gathered out of season, and which, pining Fades where it on the shadowy hedgerow grows, Exclaims, "Without me think not so, my heart, On this your last, long, journey to depart. LXXXI "Of this, my heart, conceive not any fear, For I will follow thee to heaven or hell; It fits our souls together quit this sphere, Together go, for aye together dwell. No sooner closed thine eyelids shall appear Than either me internal grief will quell, Or, has it not such power, I here protest, I with this sword to-day will pierce my breast. LXXXII "I of our bodies cherish hope not light, That they shall have a happier fate when dead: Together to entomb them, may some wight, Haply by pity moved, be hither led." She the poor remnants of his vital sprite Went on collecting, as these words she said; And while yet aught remains, with mournful lips, The last faint breath of life devoutly sips. LXXXIII 'Twas here his feeble voice Zerbino manned, Crying. "My deity, I beg and pray, By that love witnessed, when thy father's land Thou quittedst for my sake; and, if I may In any thing command thee, I command, That, with God's pleasure, thou live-out thy day; Nor ever banish from thy memory, That, well as man can love, have I loved thee. LXXXIV "God haply will provide thee with good aid, To free thee from each churlish deed I fear; As, when in the dark cavern thou wast stayed, He sent, to rescue thee, Anglante's peer; So he (grammercy!) succoured thee dismaid At sea, and from the wicked Biscayneer. And, if thou must choose death, in place of worse, Then only choose it, as a lesser curse." LXXXV I think not these last words of Scotland's knight Were so exprest, that he was understood: With these, he finished, like a feeble light, Which needs supply of was, or other food. -- Who is there, that has power to tell aright The gentle Isabella's doleful mood? When stiff, her loved Zerbino, with pale face, And cold as ice, remained in her embrace. LXXXVI On the ensanguined corse, in sorrow drowned, The damsel throws herself, in her despair, And shrieks so lout that wood and plain resound For many miles about; nor does she spare Bosom or cheek; but still, with cruel wound, One and the other smites the afflicted fair; And wrongs her curling lock of golden grain, Aye calling on the well-loved youth in vain. LXXXVII She with such rage, such fury, was possest, That, in her transport, she Zerbino's glaive Would easily have turned against her breast, Ill keeping the command her lover gave; But that a hermit, from his neighbouring rest, Accustomed oft to seek the fountain-wave, His flagon at the cooling stream to fill, Opposed him to the damsel's evil will. LXXXVIII The reverend father, who with natural sense Abundant goodness happily combined, And, with ensamples fraught and eloquence, Was full of charity towards mankind, With efficacious reasons her did fence, And to endurance Isabel inclined; Placing, from ancient Testament and new, Women, as in a mirror, for her view. LXXXIX The holy man next made the damsel see, That save in God there was no true content, And proved all other hope was transitory, Fleeting, of little worth, and quickly spent; And urged withal so earnestly his plea, He changed her ill and obstinate intent; And made her, for the rest of life, desire To live devoted to her heavenly sire. XC Not that she would her mighty love forbear, For her dead lord, nor yet his relics slight; These, did she halt or journey, every where Would Isabel have with her, day and night. The hermit therefore seconding her care, Who, for his age, was sound and full of might, They on his mournful horse Zerbino placed, And traversed many a day that woodland waste. XCI The cautious elder would not bear away Thus all alone with him that damsel bland Thither, where in a cave, concealed from day, His solitary cell hard by did stand: Within himself exclaiming: "I convey With peril fire and fuel in one hand." Nor in such bold experiments the sage Wisely would trust to prudence or to age. XCII He thought to bear her to Provence, where, near The city of Marseilles a borough stood, Which had a sumptuous monastery; here Of ladies was a holy sisterhood; And, hither to transport the cavalier, They stowed his body in a chest of wood, Made in a town by the way-side; and which Was long and roomy, and well closed with pitch. XCIII So, compassing a mighty round, they fare Through wildest parts, for many and many a day; Because, the war extending every where, They seek to hide themselves as best they may: At length a cavalier arrests the pair, That with foul scorn and outrage bars their way; Of whom you more in fitting time shall learn, But to the Tartar king I now return. XCIV After the fight between the two was done, Already told by me, the king withdrew To a cooling shade and river from the sun, His horse's reins and saddle to undo; Letting the courser at his pleasure run, Browsing the tender grass the pasture through: But he reposed short time ere he descried An errant knight descend the mountain's side. XCV Him Doralice, as soon as he his front Uplifted, knew; and showed him to her knight: Saying: "Behold! the haughty Rodomont, Unless the distance has deceived my sight. To combat with thee, he descends the mount: Now it behoves thee put forth all thy might. To lose me, his betrothed, a mighty cross The monarch deems, and comes to venge his loss." XCVI As a good hawk, who duck or woodcock shy, Partridge or pigeon, or such other prey, Seeing towards her from a distance fly, Raises her head, and shows her blithe and gay; So Mandricardo, in security Of crushing Rodomont in that affray, Gladly his courser seized, bestrode the seat, Reined him, and in the stirrups fixt his feet. XCVII When the two hostile warriors were so near, That words could be exchanged between the twain, Loudly began the monarch of Argier To threat with head and hand, in haughty strain, That to repentance he will bring the peer Who lightly for a pleasure, rash and vain, Had scrupled not his anger to excite Who dearly will the offered scorn requite. XCVIII When Mandricardo: "He but vainly tries To fright, who threatens me -- by words unscared. Woman, or child, or him he terrifies, Witless of warfare; not me, who regard With more delight than rest, which others prize, The stirring battle; and who am prepared My foeman in the lists or field to meet; Armed or unarmed, on horse or on my feet." XCIX They pass to outrage, shout, and ire, unsheath The brand; and loudly smites each cruel foe; Like winds, which scarce at first appear to breathe, Next shake the oak and ash-tree as they blow; Then to the skies upwhirl the dusty wreath, Then level forests, and lay houses low, And bear the storm abroad, o'er land and main, By which the flocks in greenwood-holt are slain. C Of those two infidels, unmatched in worth, The valiant heart and strength, which thus exceed, To such a warfare and such blows give birth, As suits with warrior of so bold a seed. At the loud sound and horrid, trembles earth, When the swords cross; and to the stroke succeed Quick sparks; or rather, flashing to the sky, Bright flames by thousands and by thousands fly. CI Without once gathering breath, without repose, The champions one another still assail; Striving, now here, now there, with deadly blows, To rive the plate, or penetrate the mail. Nor this one gains, nor the other ground foregoes; But, as if girded in by fosse or pale, Or, as too dearly sold they deem an inch, Ne'er from their close and narrow circle flinch. CII Mid thousand blows, so, with two-handed swing, On his foe's forehead smote the Tartar knight, He made him see, revolving in a ring, Myriads of fiery balls and sparks of light. The croupe, with head reversed, the Sarzan king Now smote, as if deprived of all his might, The stirrups lost; and in her sight, so well Beloved, appeared about to quit the sell. CIII But as steel arbalest that's loaded sore, By how much is the engine charged and strained, By lever or by crane, with so much more Fury returns, its ancient bent regained, And, in discharging its destructive store, Inflicts worse evil than itself sustained; So rose that African with ready blade, And straight with double force the stroke repaid. CIV Rodomont smites, and in the very place Where he was smit, the Tartar in return; But cannot wound the Sarzan in the face, Because his Trojan arms the weapon turn; Yes so astounds, he leaves him not in case, If it be morn or evening to discern. Rodomont stopt not, but in fury sped A second blow, still aiming at his head. CV King Mandricardo's courser, who abhorred The whistling of the steel which round him flew, Saved, with sore mischief to himself, his lord; In that he backed the faulchion to eschew: Aimed at his master, not at him, the sword Smote him across the head, and cleft it through. No Trojan helm defends the wretched horse, Like Mandricardo, and he dies parforce. CVI He falls, and Mandricardo on the plain No more astound, slides down upon his feet, And whirls his sword; to see his courser slain He storms all over fired with angry heat. At him the Sarzan monarch drives amain; Who stands as firm as rock which billows beat. And so it happened, that the courser good Fell in the charge, while fast the footman stood. CVII The African, who feels his horse give way, The stirrups quits, and lightly from the sell Is freed, and springs on earth: for the assay Hence matched anew, stands either infidel. Worse than before the battle boils, while they With pride and anger, and with hatred swell, About to close; but that, with flowing rein, A messenger arrives to part the twain. CVIII A messenger arrives, that from the Moor, With many others, news through France conveyed; Who word to simple knight and captain bore, To join the troops, beneath their flags arrayed. For he, the emperor, who the lilies wore, Siege to their quarters had already laid; And, save quick succour thither was addrest, He read, their army's scathe was manifest. CIX The Moorish messenger not only knows, By ensigns and by vest, the warlike pair, But by the circling blades, and furious blows, With which no other hands could wound the air; Hence dared not 'twixt champions interpose, Nor deemed his orders an assurance were From such impetuous fury, nor the saw, Which says embassadors are safe by law: CX But to fair Doralice approached, and said Marsilius, Agramant, and Stordilane, Within weak works, with scanty troops to aid, Were close beleaguered by the Christian train. And, having told his tale, the damsel prayed, That this she to the warriors would explain; And would accord the pair, and to their post Dispatch, for rescue of the Moorish host. CXI The lady, with bold heart, 'twixt either foe Threw herself, and exclaimed: "I you command, By the large love you hear me, as I know, That you to better use reserve the brand; And that you instantly in succour go Of our host, menaced by the Christian band; Which now, besieged within its camp, attends Ruin or speedy succour from its friends. CXII The messenger rehearsed, when she had done, Fully the peril of the paynim train; And said that he bore letters to the son Of Ulien, from the son of King Troyane. The message ended, every grudge foregone, 'Twas finally resolved between the twain, They should conclude a truce, and till the day The Moorish siege was raised, their strife delay. CXIII Intending, when from siege their Chivalry Shall be relieved -- the one and the other knight -- No longer to remain in company, But bandy cruel war was with fell despite, Until determined by their arms shall be To whom the royal dame belongs of right. And she, between whose hands their solemn troth They plighted, was security for both. CXIV DISCORD, at hearing this, impatient grew; With any truce or treaty ill content: And that such fair agreement should ensue, PRIDE, who was present, could as ill consent: But LOVE was there, more puissant than the two, Equalled of none in lofty hardiment; And launching from his bow his shafts of proof, With these, made PRIDE and DISCORD stand aloof. CXV To keep the truce the rival warriors swore; Since so it pleased her well, who either swayed. One of their coursers lacked: for on the moor Lifeless King Mandricardo's had been laid: Hence, thither, in good time, came Brigliador, Who, feeding, by the river's margin strayed. But here I find me at my canto's end; So, with your licence, shall the tale suspend. CANTO 25 ARGUMENT Rogero Richardetto from the pains Of fire preserves, doomed by Marsilius dead: He to Rogero afterwards explains Fully the cause while he to death was led. Them mournful Aldigier next entertains, And with them the ensuing morning sped, Vivian and Malagigi to set free; To Bertolagi sold for hire and fee. I Oh! mighty springs of war in youthful breast, Impetuous force of love, and thirst of praise! Nor yet which most avails is known aright: For each by turns its opposite outweighs. Within the bosom here of either knight, Honour, be sure, and duty strongly sways: For the amorous strife between them is delayed, Till to the Moorish camp they furnish aid. II Yet love sways more; for, save that the command Was laid upon them by their lady gay, Neither would in that battle sheathe the brand, Till he was crowned with the victorious bay; And Agramant might vainly with his band, For either knight's expected succour, stay. Then Love is not of evil nature still; -- He can at times do good, if often ill. III 'Twas now, suspending all their hostile rage, One and the other paynim cavalier, The Moorish host from siege to disengage, For Paris, with the gentle lady, steer; And with them goes as well that dwarfish page, Who tracked the footsteps of the Tartar peer, Till he had brought the warrior front to front, In presence with the jealous Rodomont. IV They at a mead arrived, where, in disport, Knights were reposing by a stream, one pair Disarmed, another casqued in martial sort; And with them was a dame of visage fair. Of these in other place I shall report, Not now; for first Rogero is my care, That good Rogero, who, as I have shown, Into a well the magic shield had thrown. V He from that well a mile is hardly gone Ere he a courier sees arrive at speed, Of those dispatched by King Troyano's son To knights whom he awaited in his need; From him Rogero hears that so foredone By Charles are those who hold the paynim creed, They will, save quickly succoured in the strife, As quickly forfeit liberty and life. VI Rogero stood awhile in pensive case, Whom many warring thoughts at once opprest; But neither fitted was the time nor place To make his choice, or judge what promised best. The courier he dismist, and turned his face Whither he with the damsel was addrest; Whom aye the Child so hurried on her way, He left her not a moment for delay. VII Pursuing thence their ancient road again, They reached a city, with the westering sun; Which, in the midst of France, from Charlemagne Marsilius had in that long warfare won: Nor them to interrupt or to detain, At drawbridge or at gate, was any one: Though in the fosse, and round the palisade, Stood many men, and piles of arms were laid. VIII Because the troop about that fortress see Accompanying him, the well-known dame, They to Rogero leave the passage free, Nor even question him from whence he came. Reaching the square, of evil company He finds it full, and bright with ruddy flame; And, in the midst, is manifest to view The youth condemned, with face of pallid hue. IX As on the stripling's face he turns his eyes, Which hangs declined and wet with frequent tear, Rogero thinks he Bradamant descries; So much the youth resembles her in cheer: More sure the more intently he espies Her face and shape: when thus the cavalier: "Or this is Bradamant, or I no more Am the Rogero which I was before. X "She hath adventured with too daring will, In rescue of the youth condemned to die; And, for the enterprise had ended ill, Hath there been taken, as I see. Ah! why Was she so hot her purpose to fulfil, That she must hither unattended hie! -- But I thank Heaven, that hither have I made: Since I am yet in time to lend her aid." XI He drew his falchion without more delay, (His lance was broken at the other town), And, though the unarmed people making way, Wounding flank, paunch, and bosom, bore them down. He whirled his weapon, and, amid the array, Smote some across the gullet, cheek, or crown. Screaming, the dissipated rabble fled; The most with cloven limbs or broken head. XII As while at feed, in full security, A troop of fowl along the marish wend, If suddenly a falcon from the sky Swoop mid the crowd, and one surprise and rend, The rest dispersing, leave their mate to die, And only to their own escape attend; So scattering hadst thou seen the frighted throng, When young Rogero pricked that crowd among. XIII Rogero smites the head from six or four, Who in escaping from the field are slow. He to the breast divides as many more, And countless to the eyes and teeth below. I grant no helmets on their heads they wore, But there were shining iron caps enow; And, if fine helmets did their temples press, His sword would cut as deep, or little less. XIV Such good Rogero's force and valour are, As never now-a-days in warrior dwell; Nor yet in rampant lion, nor in bear, Nor (whether home or foreign) beast more fell. Haply with him the earthquake might compare, Or haply the great devil -- not he of hell -- But he who is my lord's, who moves in fire, And parts heaven, earth, and ocean in his ire. XV At every stroke he never less o'erthrew Than one, and oftener two, upon the plain; And four, at once, and even five he slew; So that a hundred in a thought were slain. The sword Rogero from his girdle drew As knife cuts curd, divides their plate and chain. Falerina in Orgagna's garden made, To deal Orlando death, that cruel blade. XVI But to have forged that falchion sorely rued, Who saw her garden wasted by the brand. What wreck, what ruin then must have ensued, From this when wielded by such warrior's hand? If e'er Rogero force, e'er fury shewed, If e'er his mighty valour well was scanned, 'Twas here; 'twas here employed; 'twas here displayed; In the desire to give his lady aid. XVII As hare from hound unslipt, that helpless train Defends itself against the cavalier. Many lay dead upon the cumbered plain, And numberless were they who fled in fear. Meanwhile the damsel had unloosed the chain From the youth's hands, and him in martial gear Was hastening, with what speed she might, to deck, With sword in hand and shield about his neck. XVIII He, who was angered sore, as best he cou'd, Sought to avenge him of that evil crew; And gave such signal proofs of hardihood, As stamped him for a warrior good and true. The sun already in the western flood Had dipt his gilded wheels, what time the two, Valiant Rogero and his young compeer, Victorious issued, of the city clear. XIX When now Rogero and the stranger knight, Clear of the city-gates, the champaigne reach, The youth repays, with praises infinite, Rogero in kind mode and cunning speech, Who him, although unknown, had sought to right, At risk of life, and prays his name to teach That he may know to whom his thanks he owed For such a mighty benefit bestowed. XX "The visage of Bradamant I see, The beauteous features and the beauteous cheer." Rogero said; "and yet the suavity I of her well-known accents do not hear: Nor such return of thanks appears to be In place towards her faithful cavalier. And if in very sooth it is the same, How has the maid so soon forgot my name?" XXI In wary wise, intent the truth to find, Rogero said, "You have I seen elsewhere; And have again, and yet again, divined, Yet know I not, nor can remember where. Say it, yourself, if it returns to mind, And, I beseech, your name as well declare: Which I would gladly hear, in the desire To know whom I have rescued from the fire." XXII " -- Me, it is possible you may have seen, I know not when nor where (the youth replied); For I too range the world, in armour sheen, Seeking adventure strange on every side; Or haply it a sister may have been, Who to her waist the knightly sword has tied; Born with me at a birth; so like to view, The family discerns not who is who. XXIII "You not first, second, or even fourth will be, Who have in this their error had to learn; Nor father, brother, nor even mother me From her (such our resemblance) can discern. 'Tis true, this hair, which short and loose you see, In many guise, and hers, with many a turn, And in long tresses wound about her brow, Wide difference made between us two till now. XXIV "But since the day, that, wounded by a Moor In the head (a story tedious to recite) A holy man, to heal the damsel's sore, Cut short to the mid-ear her tresses bright, Excepting sex and name, there is no more One from the other to distinguish; hight I Richardetto am, Bradamant she; Rinaldo's brother and his sister we. XXV "And to displease you were I not afraid, You with a wonder would I entertain, Which chanced from my resemblance to the maid; Begun in pleasure, finishing in pain." He to whom nought more pleasing could be said, And to whose ears there was no sweeter strain That what in some sort on his lady ran, Besought the stripling so, that he began. XXVI "It so fell out, that as my sister through The neighbouring wood pursued her path, a wound Was dealt the damsel by a paynim crew, Which her by chance without a helmet found. And she was fain to trim the locks which grew Clustering about the gash, to maker her sound Of that ill cut which in her head she bore: Hence, shorn, she wandered through the forest hoar. XXVII "Ranging, she wandered to a shady font; Where, worn and troubled, she, in weary wise, Lit from her courser and disarmed her front, And, couched upon the greenwood, closed her eyes. A tale more pleasing than what I recount In story there is none, I well surmise: Thither repaired young Flordespine of Spain, Who in that wood was hunting with her train. XXVIII "And, when she found my sister in the shade, Covered, except her face, with martial gear, -- In place of spindle, furnished with the blade -- Believed that she beheld a cavalier: The face and manly semblance she surveyed, Till conquered was her heart: with courteous cheer She wooed the maid to hunt with her, and past With her alone into that hold at last. XXIX "When now she had her, fearless of surprise, Safe in a solitary place, that dame, By slow degrees, in words and amorous wise, Showed her deep-wounded heart; with sighs of flame, Breathed from her inmost breast, with burning eyes, She spake her soul sick with desire; became Now pale, now red; nor longer self-controlled, Ravished a kiss, she waxed so passing bold. XXX "My sister was assured the huntress maid Falsely conceited her a man to be; Nor in that need could she afford her aid; And found herself in sore perplexity. ` 'Tis better that I now dispel (she said) The foolish thought she feeds, and that in me The damsel should a gentle woman scan, Rather than take me for a craven man.' XXXI "And she said well: for cravenhood it were Befitting man of straw, not warrior true, With whom so bright a lady deigned to pair, So wonderous sweet and full of nectarous dew, To clack like a poor cuckow to the fair, Hanging his coward wing, when he should woo, Shaping her speech to this in wary mode, My sister that she was a damsel, showed; XXXII "That, like Camilla and like Hyppolite, Sought fame in battle-field, and near the sea, In Afric, in Arzilla, saw the light; To shield and spear enured from infancy. A spark this quenched not; nor yet burned less bright The enamoured damsel's kindled phantasy. Too tardy came the salve to ease the smart: So deep had Love already driven his dart. XXXIII "Nor yet less fair to her my sister's face Appeared, less fair her ways, less fair her guise; Nor yet the heart returned into its place, Which joyed itself within those dear-loved eyes. Flordespine deems the damsel's iron case To her desire some hope of ease supplies; And when she thinks she is indeed a maid, Laments and sobs, with mighty woe downweighed. XXXIV "He who had marked her sorrow and lament, That day, himself had sorrowed with the fair. `What pains (she said) did ever wight torment, So cruel, but that mine more cruel were? I need not to accomplish my intent, In other love, impure or pure, despair; The rose I well might gather from the thorn: My longing only is of hope forlorn. XXXV " `It 'twas thy pleasure, Love, to have me shent, Because by glad estate thine anger stirred, Thou with some torture might'st have been content On other lovers used; but never word Have I found written of a female bent On love of female, mid mankind or herd. Woman to woman's beauty still is blind; Nor ewe delights in ewe, nor hind in hind. XXXVI " `Tis only I, on earth, in air, or sea, Who suffer at thy hands such cruel pain; And this thou hast ordained, that I may be The first and last example in thy reign. Foully did Ninus' wife and impiously For her own son a passion entertain; Loved was Pasiphae's bull and Myrrha's sire; But mine is madder than their worst desire. XXXVII " `Here female upon male had set her will; Had hope; and, as I hear, was satisfied. Pasiphae the wooden cow did fill: Others, in other mode, their want supplied. But, had he flown to me, -- with all his skill, Dan Daedalus had not the noose untied: For one too diligent hath wreathed these strings; Even Nature's self, the puissantest of things.' XXXVIII "So grieves the maid, so goads herself and wears, And shows no haste her sorrowing to forego; Sometimes her face, sometimes her tresses tears, And levels at herself the vengeful blow. In pity, Bradamant the sorrow shares, And is constrained to hear the tale of woe, She studies to divert, with fruitless pain, The strange and mad desire; but speaks in vain. XXXIX "She, who requires assistance, not support, Still more laments herself, with grief opprest. By this the waning day was growing short, For the low sun was crimsoning the west; A fitting hour for those to seek a port, Who would not in the wood set up their rest. When to this city, near her sylvan haunt, Young Flordespine invited Bradament. XL "My sister the request could ill deny; And so they came together to the place, Where, but for you, by that ill squadron I Had been compelled the cruel flame to face: There Flordespina made her family Caress and do my sister no small grace; And, having in a female robe arraid, Past her on all beholders for a maid. XLI "Because perceiving vantage there was none In the male cheer by which she was misled, The damsel held it wise, reproach to shun, Which might by any carping tongue be said. And this the rather: that the ill, which one Of the two garments in her mind had bred, Now with the other which revealed the cheat, She would assay to drive from her conceit. XLII "The ladies share one common bed that night, Their bed the same, but different their repose. One sleeps, one groans and weeps in piteous plight, Because her wild desire more fiercely glows; And on her wearied eyes should slumber light, All is deceitful that brief slumber shows. To her it seems, as if relenting Heaven A better sex to Bradamant is given. XLIII "As the sick man with burning thirst distrest, If he should sleep, -- ere he that wish fulfil, -- Aye in his troubled, interrupted rest, Remembers him of every once-seen rill: So is the damsel's fancy still possest, In sleep, with images which glad her will. Then from the empty dreams which crowd her brain, She wakes, and, waking, finds the vision vain. XLIV "What vows she vowed, how oft that night she prayed, To all her gods and Mahound, in despair! -- That they, by open miracle, the maid Would change, and give her other sex to wear. But all the lady's vows were ill appaid, And haply Heaven as well might mock the prayer; Night fades, and Phoebus raises from the main His yellow head, and lights the world again. XLV "On issueing from their bed when day is broken, The wretched Flordespina's woes augment: For of departing Bradamant had spoken, Anxious to scape from that embarrassment. The princess a prime jennet, as a token, Forced on my parting sister, when she went; And gilded housings, and a surcoat brave, Which her own hand had richly broidered, gave. XLVI "Her Flordespine accompanied some way, Then, weeping, to her castle made return. So fast my sister pricked, she reached that day Mount Alban; we who for her absence mourn, Mother and brother, greet the martial may, And her arrival with much joy discern: For hearing nought, we feared that she was dead, And had remained in cruel doubt and dread. XLVII "Unhelmed, we wondered at her hair, which passed In braids about her brow, she whilom wore; Nor less we wondered at the foreign cast Of the embroidered surcoat which she wore: And she to us rehearsed, from first to last, The story I was telling you before; How she was wounded in the wood, and how, For cure, were shorn the tresses from her brow; XLVIII "And next how came on her, with labour spent, -- As by the stream she slept -- that huntress bright; And how, with all her false semblance well content, She from the train withdrew her out of sight. Nor left she any thing of her lament Untold; which touched with pity every wight; Told how the maid had harboured her, and all Which past, till she revisited her Hall. XLIX "Of Flordespine I knew: and I had seen In Saragossa and in France the maid; To whose bewitching eyes and lovely mien My youthful appetite had often strayed: Yet her I would not make my fancy's queen; For hopeless love is but a dream and shade: Now I this proffered in such substance view, Straitway the ancient flame breaks forth anew. L "Love, with this hope, constructs his subtle ties; Who other threads for me would vainly weave. 'Tis thus he took me, and explained the guise In which I might the long-sought boon achieve. Easy it were the damsel to surprise; For as the likeness others could deceive, Which I to Bradamant, my sister, bear, This haply might as well the maid ensnare. LI "Whether I speed or no, I hold it wise, Aye to pursue whatever give delight. I with no other of my plan devise, Nor any seek to counsel me aright. Well knowing where the suit of armour lies My sister doffed, I thither go at night; Her armour and her steed to boot I take, Nor stand expecting until daylight break. LII "I rode all night -- Love served me as a guide -- To seek the home of beauteous Flordespine; And there arrived, before in ocean's tide The western sun had hid his orbit sheen. A happy man was he who fastest hied To tell my coming to the youthful queen; Expecting from that lady, for his pain, Favour and goodly guerdon to obtain. LIII "For Bradamant the guests mistake me all, -- As you yourself but now -- so much the more, That I have both the courser and the pall With which she left them but the day before. Flordespine comes at little interval, With such festivity and courteous lore, And with a face, so jocund and so gay, She could not, for her life, more joy display. LIV "Her beauteous arms about my neck she throws, And fondly clasping me, my mouth she kist. If to my inmost heart the arrow goes, Which Love directs, may well by you be wist. She leads me to her chamber of repose In haste, not suffers others to assist In taking off my panoply of steel; Disarming me herself from head to heel. LV "Then, ordering from her store a costly vest, She spread it, and -- as I a woman were -- The lady me in that rich garment drest, And in a golden net confined my hair. I gravely moved my eye-balls, nor confest, By gesture or by look, the sex I bear. My voice, which might discover the deceit, I tuned so well that none perceived the cheat. LVI "Next to the hall, where dame and cavalier In crowds are gathered, we united go; Who make to us such court and goodly cheer, As men to queen or high-born lady show. Here oft I laughed at some, with secret jeer, Who, knowing not the sex concealed below My flowing robe of feminine array, Wooed me with wishful eyes in wanton way. LVII "When more advanced in now the festive night, And the rich board -- board plenteously purveyed With what in season was most exquisite -- Has been some time removed, the royal maid Expects not till I of myself recite The cause, which thither me anew conveyed: By her own courtesy and kindness led, That lady prays me to partake her bed. LVIII "Damsels and dames withdrawn -- with all the rest -- Pages and chamberlains, when now we lay, One and the other, in our bed undrest, With kindled torches, counterfeiting day; `Marvel not, lady,' (her I thus addrest,) `That I return after such short delay; For, haply, thou imagined, that again Thou shouldst not see me until Heaven knows when. LIX " `The reason I departed from thy side, And next of my return, explained shall be. Could I unto thy fever have applied, By longer sojourn here, a remedy, I in thy service would have lived and died, Nor would have been an hour away from thee: But seeing how my stay increased thy woe, I, who could do no better, fixed to go. LX " `Into the middle of a wood profound By chance I from the beaten pathway strayed: Where near me plaintive cries I hear resound, As of a woman who intreated aid. To a lake of crystal I pursue the sound, And, there, amid the waves, a naked maid Caught on the fish-hook of a Faun, survey, Who would devour alive his helpless prey. LXI " `Upon the losel, sword in hand, I ran, And, for I could not aid in other wise, Bereft of life that evil fisherman. She in an instant to the water flies. -- `Me hast thou helped not vainly,' (she began) And well shalt be rewarded -- with what prize Thou canst demand -- for know I am a nymph, And have my dwelling in this crystal lymph; LXII " `And power is mine to work portentous ends; Nature and Elements I force: thy prayer Shape to the scope to which my strength extends, And leave its satisfaction to my care. Charmed by my song the moon from Heaven descends; Fire can I freeze, and harden liquid air; And I at times have stopt the sun, and stirred This earth beneath me by a simple word.' LXIII "Treasure I covet not, nor yet aspire O'er land or people to hold sovereign sway; Nor greater strength nor valour would acquire, Nor fame in every warfare bear away; But only to accomplish thy desire, Entreat the damsel she will show some way. Nor one nor other method I forestall; But to her choice refer me, all in all. LXIV "Scarce my demand was made, before mine eye Beneath the lymph engulphed that lady viewed: Nor answered she my prayer, but, for reply, Me with the enchanted element bedewed; Which has no sooner touched my face than I, I know not how, am utterly transmewed: I see, I feel -- yet doubting what I scan -- Feel, I am changed from woman into man. LXV - LXIX (Stazas LXV - LXIX untranslated by Rose) LXX "The thing remained concealed between us two; So that our bliss endured some months; at last We were espied; and, as I sorely rue, The tidings to the Spanish monarch past. Thou that whilere preserved'st me from the crew, Which me into the flames designed to cast, By this mayst fully comprehend the rest; But God alone can read my sorrowing breast." LXXI So Richardetto spake, and by his say Made the dark path they trod less irksome be. Up a small height this while their journey lay, Girded with cliff and cavern, drear to see. Bristling with rocks, a steep and narrow way Was to that rugged hill the stubborn key; A town, called Agrismonte, crowned the steep, Which Aldigier of Clermont had in keep. LXXII Bastard of Buovo, brother to the pair, Sir Vivian and Sir Malagigi hight: Who him Gerardo's lawful son declare, Are witnesses of little worth and light. -- This, as it may! -- strong, valiant, wise, and ware, Liberal, humane, and courteous was the knight; And on the fortress of its absent lord, By night and day, kept faithful watch and ward. LXXIII His cousin Richardetto, as behoved, Was courteously received by Aldigier; Who him as dearly as a brother loved, And made Rogero for his sake good cheer; But not with wonted welcome; -- inly moved -- He even wore a visage sad and drear: For he, that day, ill-tidings had received, And hence in heart and face the warrior grieved. LXXIV To Richardetto he exclaims, instead Of greeting: "Evil news are hither blown. By a sure messenger, to-day I read That faithless Bertolagi of Bayonne, With barbarous Lanfusa has agreed, And costly spoils makes over to that crone; Who will consign to him the brethren twain, Thy Malagigi and thy Viviane; LXXV "These she, since Ferrau took them, aye has stayed Imprisoned in a dark and evil cell; Till the discourteous and foul pact was made With that false Maganzese of whom I tell; And them to-morrow, to a place conveyed 'Twixt Bayonne and a town of his, will sell To him, who will be present, to advance The price of the most precious blood in France. LXXVI "One, at a gallop, even now, to report Tidings to our Rinaldo of the wrong, I sent; bur fear that he can ill resort To him in time, the journey is so long. Men have I not to sally from my fort; And my power halts where my desire is strong. The traitor will the knights, if rendered, slay; Nor know I what to do nor what to say." LXXVII Sir Richardetto the ill news displease, And (as they him) displease in equal wise Rogero; who, when silent both he sees, Nor able any counsel to devise, Exclaims with mickle daring: "Be at ease; I challenge for myself the whole emprize; And, to set free your brethren, in my hand More than a thousand shall avail this brand. LXXVIII "I ask not men, I ask not aid; my spear Is, I believe, sufficient to the feat. I only ask of you a guide to steer Me to the place where for the exchange they meet: I even in this place will make you hear Their cries, who for that evil bargain threat." He said; nor to one listener of the twain, That had helped his actions, spake in vain. LXXIX The other heard him not, or heard at most As we great talkers hear, who little do: But Richardetto took aside their host And told how him he from the fire withdrew; And how he was assured, beyond his boast, He would in time and place his prowess shew. 'Twas now that better audience than before Aldigier lent, and set by him great store; LXXX And at the feast, where Plenty for the three Emptied her horn, him honoured as his lord. Here they conclude they can the brethren free Without more succour from their gaoler's ward. This while Sleep seized on lord and family, Save young Rogero: no repose afford To him the thoughts, which evermore molest, And, rankling in his bosom, banish rest. LXXXI The siege of Agramant, to him that day Told by the messenger, he has at heart. He well discerns that every least delay Will he dishonour. What a ceaseless smart Will scorn inflict, what shame will him appay, If he against his sovereign lord take part? Oh! what foul cowardice, how foul a crime His baptism will appear at such a time! LXXXII That true religion had the stripling swayed Men might at any other time conceive: But now, when needed was the warrior's aid From siege the Moorish monarch to relieve, That Fear and Baseness had more largely weighed, In his designs, would every one believe, That any preference of a better creed: This thought makes good Rogero's bosom bleed. LXXXIII Nor less to quit his Queen, her leave unsought, Did with Rogero's other griefs combine: Now this and now that care upon him wrought; Which diversely his doubtful heart incline: The unhappy lover fruitlessly had thought To find her at the abode of Flordespine; Whither together went (as told whilere) To succour Richardetto, maid and peer. LXXXIV He next bethinks him of the promise plight To meet at Vallombrosa's sanctuary, Deems her gone thither, and that 'twill excite Her wonderment himself not there to see. Could he at least a message send or write, That he with reason might not censured be, Because not only he had disobeyed, But was departing hence, and nothing said! LXXXV He, having thought on many things, in the end Resolves on writing what behoves; and, though He knows not how his letter he shall send, In the assurance it will safely go, This hinders not; he thinks that, as they wend, Chance in his way some faithful Post may throw; Nor more delays: up leaps the restless knight, And calls for pen and paper, ink and light. LXXXVI That which is needed, in obedience meet, Aldigier's valets bring, a careful band, The youth begins to write; and, first, to greet The maid, as wonted courtesies demand; Next tells how Agramant has sent to entreat, In his dispatches, succour at his hand; And, save he quickly to his comfort goes, Must needs be slain or taken by his foes. LXXXVII Then adds, his sovereign being so bested, And praying him for succour in his pain, She must perceive what blame upon his head Would light, if Agramant applied in vain; And, since with her he is about to wed, 'Tis fitting he should keep him with stain; For ill he deems a union could endure Between aught foul and her to passing pure. LXXXVIII And if he erst a name, renowned and clear, Had laboured to procure by actions fair, And having gained it thus, he held it dear, -- If this had sought to keep -- with greater care He kept it now, -- and with a miser's fear Guarded the treasure she with him would share; Who, though distinct in body and in limb, When wedded, ought to be one soul with him; LXXXIX And, as he erst by word, he now explained Anew by writing, that the period o'er, For which he was to serve his king constrained, Unless it were his lot to die before, He would in deed a Christian be ordained, As in resolve he had been evermore; And of her kin, Rinaldo and her sire, Her afterwards in wedlock would require. XC "I would," he said, "relieve, with your good will, My king, besieged by Charlemagne's array, That the misjudging rabble, prone to ill, Might never, to my shame and scandal, say: Rogero, in fair wind and weather, still Waited upon his sovereign, night and day, And now that Fortune to King Charles is fled, Has with that conquering lord his ensign spread.' XCI "I fifteen days or twenty ask, that I Yet once again may to our army speed; So that, by me from leaguering enemy The African cantonments may be freed: I will some fit and just occasion spy, Meanwhile, to justify my change of creed, I for my honour make this sole request; Then wholly yours for life, in all things, rest." XCII Rogero is such words his thoughts exposed, Which never could by me be fully showed; And added more, nor from his task reposed, Until the crowded paper overflowed: He next the letter folded and enclosed, And sealed it, and within his bosom stowed; In hopes to meet next morning by the way One who might covertly that writ convey. XCIII When he had closed the sheet, that amorous knight His eyelids closed as well, and rest ensued: For Slumber came and steeped his wearied might In balmy moisture, from a branch imbued With Lethe's water; and he slept till -- white And red -- a rain of flowers the horizon strewed, Painting the joyous east with colours gay; When from her golden dwelling broke the day: XCIV And when the greenwood birds 'gan, far and wide, Greet the returning light with gladsome strain, Sir Aldigier (who wished to be the guide, Upon that journey, of the warlike twain, Who would in succour of those brethren ride, To rescue them from Bertolagi's chain) Was first upon his feet; and either peer Issues as well from bed, when him they hear. XCV When clad and thoroughly in arms arrayed -- Rogero with the cousins took his way, Having that pair already warmly prayed The adventure on himself alone to lay: But these, by love for those two brethren swayed, And deeming it discourtesy to obey, Stood out against his prayer, more stiff than stone, Nor would consent that he should wend alone. XCVI True to the time and place of change, they hie Whither Sir Aldigier's advices teach; And there survey an ample band who lie Exposed to fierce Apollo's heat; in reach, Nor myrtle-tree nor laurel they descry, Nor tapering cypress, ash, nor spreading beech: But naked gravel with low shrubs discerned, Undelved by mattock and by share unturned. XCVII Those three adventurous warriors halted where A path went through the uncultivated plain, And saw a knight arrive upon the lair, Who, flourished o'er with gold, wore plate and chain, And on green field that beauteous bird and rare, Which longer than an age extends its reign. No more, my lord: for at my canto's close I find myself arrived, and crave repose.