Canto 28 & Canto 29
Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #10a
CANTO 28 ARGUMENT To whatsoever evil tongue can tell Of womankind King Rodomont gives ear; Then journeys homeward; but that infidel Finds by the way a place he holds more dear. Here him new love inflames for Isabel; But so the wishes of the cavalier A friar impedes, who with that damsel wends, Him by a cruel death the felon ends. I Ladies, and all of you that ladies prize, Afford not, for the love of heaven, an ear To this, the landlord's tale, replete with lies, In shame and scorn of womankind; though ne'er Was praise or fame conveyed in that which flies From such a caitiff's tongue; and still we hear The sottish rabble all things rashly brand, And question most what least they understand. II Omit this canto, and -- the tale untold -- My story will as clear and perfect be; I tell it, since by Turpin it is told, And not in malice or in rivalry: Besides, that never did my tongue withhold Your praises, how you are beloved by me To you I by a thousand proofs have shown, Vouching I am, and can but be, your own. III Let him who will, three leaves or four pass-by, Nor read a line; or let him, who will read, As little of that landlord's history, As of a tale or fiction, make his creed. But to my story: -- When his auditory He saw were waiting for him to proceed, And that a place was yielded him, o'eright The cavalier, he 'gan his tale recite: IV "Astolpho that the Lombard sceptre swayed, Who was King Monacho, his brother's heir, By nature with such graces was purveyed, Few e'er with him in beauty could compare: Such scarce Apelles' pencil had pourtrayed, Zeuxis', or worthier yet, if worthier were: Beauteous he was, and so by all was deemed, But far more beauteous he himself esteemed. V "He not so much rejoiced that he in height Of grandeur was exalted o'er the rest, And that, for riches, subjects, and for might, Of all the neighbouring kings he was the best, As that, superior to each other wight, He beauty was throughout the world confest. This pleased the monarch, who the praise conferred, As that wherein he most delighted, heard. VI "Faustus Latinus, one of his array, Who pleased the king, a Roman cavalier, Hearing ofttimes Astolpho now display The beauties of his hand, now of his cheer, And, questioned by that monarch, on a day, If ever in his lifetime, far or near, He any of such beauty had espied, To him thus unexpectedly replied: VII "Faustus to him replied: `By what I see, And what I hear, is said by every one, Few are there that in beauty rival thee; And rather I those few confine to one: Jocundo is that one, my brother he; And well I ween that, saving him alone, Thou leavest all in beauty far behind; But I in him thy peer and better find.' VIII "Impossible Astolpho deemed the thing, Who hitherto had thought the palm his own; And such a longing seized the Lombard king To know that youth whose praises so were blown, He prest, till Faustus promised him to bring The brother praised by him, before his throne, Though 'twould be much if thither he repaired, (The courier added) and the cause declared: IX "Because the youth had ne'er been known to measure, In all his life, a single pace from Rome; But, on what Fortune gave him, lived at leisure, Contented in his own paternal dome; Nor had diminished nor encreased the treasure, Wherewith his father had endowed that home; And he more distant would Paris deem Than Tanais another would esteem; X "And that a greater difficulty were To tear Jocundo from his consort; who Was by such love united to that fair, No other will but hers the husband knew: Yet at his sovereign's hest he would repair To seek the stripling, and his utmost do. The suit with offers and with gifts was crowned, Which for that youth's refusal left no ground. XI "Faustus set forth, and, after few days' ride, Reached Rome, and his paternal mansion gained: There with entreaties so the brother plied, He to that journey his consent obtained; And wrought so well (though difficult to guide) Silent even young Jocundo's wife remained; He showing her what good would thence ensue, Besides what gratitude would be her due. XII "Jocundo names a time to wend his way, And servingmen meanwhile purveys and steeds; And a provision makes of fair array; For beauty borrows grace from glorious weeds. Beside him or about him, night and day, Aye weeping, to her lord the lady reads; She knows not how she ever can sustain So long an absence, and not die with pain. XIII "For the mere thought produced such misery, It seemed from her was ravished her heart's core. -- `Alas! my love (Jocundo cried) let be Thy sorrows' -- weeping with her evermore -- `So may this journey prosper! as to thee Will I return ere yet two months are o'er; Nor by a day o'erpass the term prescribed, Though me the king with half his kingdom bribed.' XIV "This brought his troubled consort small content: She that the period was too distant said, And that 'twould be a mighty wonderment, If her, at his return, he found not dead. The grief which, day and night, her bosom rent, Was such, that lady neither slept nor fed: So that for pity oft the youth repented He to his brother's wishes had consented. XV "She from her neck unloosed a costly chain That a gemmed cross and holy reliques bore; Which one, a pilgrim of Bohemia's reign, Had gathered upon many a distant shore; Him did her sire in sickness entertain, Returning from Jerusalem of yore; And hence was made that dying pilgrim's heir: This she undoes, and gives her lord to wear; XVI "And round his neck entreats him, for her sake, That chain in memory of herself to wind: Her gift the husband is well pleased to take; Not that a token needs his love to bind: For neither time, nor absence, e'er will shake, Nor whatsoever fortune is behind, Her memory, which, rooted fast and deep, He still has kept, and after death will keep. XVII "The night before that morning streaked the sky, Fixt for his journey, to his sore dismay, Her husband deemed that in his arms would die The wife from whom he was to wend his way. She slumbered not: to her a last goodbye He bade, while yet it lacked an hour of day, Mounted his nag, and on his journey sped; While his afflicted spouse returned to bed. XVIII "Jocundo was not two miles on his road, When he that jewelled cross recalled to mind; Which he beneath his pillow had bestowed, And, through forgetfulness, had left behind. `Alas! (the youth bethought him) in what mode Shall I excuse for my omission find, So that from this my consort shall not deem I little her unbounded love esteem? XIX "He pondered an excuse; then weened' twould be Of little value, if it were exprest By page or other -- save his embassy He did himself; his brother he addrest; ` -- Now to Baccano ride you leisurely, And there at the first inn set-up your rest; For I must back to Rome without delay; But trust to overtake you by the way. XX " `No other but myself my need could do. Doubt not but I shall speedily be back.' -- No servant took he, but, with an adieu, Jocundo, at a trot, wheeled round his hack, And when that cavalier the stream was through, The rising sun 'gan chase the dusky rack. At home he lighted, sought his bed, and found The consort he had quitted sleeping sound. XXI "He, without saying aught, the curtains drew, And, what he least believed, within espied; For he beneath the quilt, his consort true And chaste, saw sleeping at a stripling's side. Forthwith Jocundo that adulterer knew, By practice, of his features certified, In that he was a footboy in his train, Nourished by him, and come of humble strain. XXII "To imagine his distress and wonderment, And warrant it, that other may believe, Is better than to make the experiment, And, like this wretch, the cruel proof receive: By anger stirred, it was his first intent To draw his sword, and both of life bereave; But love, which spite himself, he entertained For that ungrateful woman, him restrained. XXIII "You see if like a vassal he obeyed This ribald Love, who left him not the force To wake her, lest to know her guilt surveyed, Should in his consort's bosom move remorse. As best he could, he forth in silence made, The stair descended, and regained his horse. Goaded by Love, he goads his steed again, And ere they reach their inn rejoins his train. XXIV "His change of mien to all was manifest; All saw his heart was heavy; yet not one, Mid these, in any sort, the reason guessed, Nor read the secret woe which caused his moan; All thought he had to Rome his steps addrest, Woe to the town, surnamed of horns, had gone. That Love has caused the mischief all surmise, Though none of them conjectures in what wise. XXV "His brother weened he was in grief immersed For his deserted wife: he, on his side, For other reason, inly chafed and cursed, -- That she was but too well accompanied. Meanwhile, with swelling lips and forehead pursed, The ground that melancholy stripling eyed. Faustus, who vainly would apply relief, Ill cheered him, witless what had caused his grief. XXVI "He for his sore an evil salve had found, And, where he should retire, encreased his woes; Who, with the mention of his wife, that wound Inflamed and opened, which he sought to close. He rests not night nor day, in sorrow drowned; His appetite is gone, with his repose, Ne'er to return; and (whilom of such fame) His lovely visage seems no more the same. XXVII "His eye-balls seem deep-buried in his head, His nose seems grown -- his cheeks are pined so sore -- Nor even remains (his beauty so is fled) Enough to warrant what he was before. Such fever burns him, of his sorrow bred, He halts on Arbia's and on Arno's shore; And, if a charm is left, 'tis faded soon, And withered like a rose-bud plucked at noon. XXVIII "Besides that Faustus sorrowed to descry Him so bested; worse cause for sorrowing Was to that courtier to appear to lie Before Astolpho; he was pledged to bring One that was fairest deemed in every eye, Who must appear the foulest to that king; Yet he continued on his way to wend, And brought him to Pavia in the end. XXIX "Not that forthwith he lets the youth be seen, Lest him the king of little wit arraign; He first by his dispatches lets him ween, That thither he Jocundo brings with pain: Saying, that of his beauteous air and mien Some secret cause of grief had been the bane, Accompanied by a distemper sore: So that he seemed not what he was before. XXX "Glad was the monarch, of his coming taught, As of a friend's arrival he could be; Since in the universal world was nought, That he so much desired as him to see: Nor was the Lombard's king displeased in ought To mark his guest's inferiority; Though, but for his misfortune, it was clear, He his superior would have been or peer. XXXI "Lodged by him in his palace, every day And every hour, the stranger youth he sees, Studious to honour him, and bids purvey Store of provision for his better ease. While still his thoughts to his ill consort stray, Jocundo languishes; nor pastimes please That melancholy man; nor music's strain One jot diminishes his ceaseless pain. XXXII "Above his chambers, on the upper floor, Nearest the roof, there was an ancient hall: Thither, in solitary mood, (for sore Pastime and company, the stripling gall,) He aye betakes himself; while evermore Sad thoughts some newer cause of grief recall. He here (who would believe the story?) found A remedy unhoped, which made him sound. XXXIII "At that hall's farther end, more feebly lighted, (For windows ever closed shut out the day) Where one wall with another ill united, He, through the chink, beheld a brighter ray: There laid his eye, and saw, what he had slighted As hard to credit, were it but hearsay: He hears it not, but this himself descries; Yet hardly can believe his very eyes. XXXIV "He of the Queen's apartment here was sight, Her choicest and her priviest chamber, where Was never introduced whatever wight, Save he most faithful was esteemed: he there, As he was peeping, saw an uncouth fight; A dwarf was wrestling with the royal fair; And such that champion's skill, though undergrown, He in the strife his opposite had thrown. XXXV "As in a dream, Jocundo stood, beside Himself, awhile of sober sense bereaved; Nor, but when of the matter certified, And sure it was no dream, his sight believed. -- `A scorned and crooked monster,' (then he cried,) `Is, as her conqueror, by a dame received, Wife of the comeliest, of the curtiest wight, And greatest monarch; Oh! what appetite!' XXXVI "And he the consort to whom he was wed, Her he most used to blame, recalled to mind, And, for the stripling taken to her bed, To deem the dame less culpable inclined: Less of herself than sex the fault he read, Which to one man could never be confined: And thought, if in one taint all women shared, At least his had not with a monster paired. XXXVII "To the same place Jocundo made return, At the same hour, upon the following day; And, putting on the king the self-same scorn, Again beheld that dwarf and dame at play: And so upon the next and following morn; For -- to conclude -- they made no holiday: While she (what most Jocundo's wonder moved) The pigmy for his little love reproved. XXXVIII "One day, amid the rest, the youth surveyed The dame disordered and opprest with gloom; Having twice summoned, by her waiting-maid, The favoured dwarf, who yet delayed to come; A third time by the lady sent, she said: -- `Engaged at play, Madonna, is the groom, Nor, lest he lose a doit, his paltry stake, Will that discourteous churl his game forsake.' XXXIX "At such strange spectacle, the Roman knight Cleared up his brow, his visage and his eyes; He jocund, as in name, became in sprite, And changed his tears for smiles; with altered guise, He waxed ruddy, gay, and plump in plight, And seems a cherubim of Paradise. So that such change with wonderment all see, Brother and king, and royal family. XL "If from the youth Astolpho wished to know From whence this sudden light of comfort came, No less Jocundo this desired to show, And to the king such injury proclaim: But willed that like himself he should forego Revenge upon the author of that shame. Hence, that he might discern her guilt, yet spare, He made him on the Agnus Dei swear. XLI "He made him swear that he, for nothing said, Or seen, which might to him displeasing be, (Though he, in what he should discover, read An outrage offered to his majesty,) Would, now or ever, venge him on his head: Moreover him he bound to secrecy; That the ill doer ne'er, through deed or word, Might guess his injured king that case had heard. XLII "The monarch, who to every thing beside Could better have given credit, freely swore: To him the cause Jocundo signified, Why he had many days lamenting sore; -- Because he had his evil wife espied In the embraces of a serjeant poor; And vowed he should in fine have died of grief, If he for longer time had lacked relief. XLIII "But that within his highness' palace said, He had witnessed what had much appeased his woe; For, if foul shame had fallen upon his head, At least he was not single; saying so, He to that chink the Lombard monarch led, Who spied the mannikin of hideous show. (Lines 7 & 8 untranslated by Rose) XLIV "You may believe he shameless deemed that act, Without my swearing it; he, at the sight, It seemed, would go distraught, -- with fury racked, He against every wall his head would smite -- Would cry aloud -- would break the solemn pact, Yet kept parforce the promise he had plight; And gulped his anger down and bitter scorn; Since on the holy water he had sworn. XLV "Then to Jocundo: `What remains to me To do in this misfortune, brother, speak; Since vengeance with more noted cruelty Thou wilt not let me on the sinners wreak.' (Jocundo answered) `Let these ingrates be; And try we if all women are as weak; And if the wives of others can be won To do what others by our own have done. XLVI " `Both fair and youthful, measured by this scale, Nor easily our equals shall we find; What woman but to us shall strike her sail, If even to the ugly these are kind? At least, if neither youth nor grace avail, The money may, with which our bags are lined; Nor will I that we homeward more return, Ere the chief spoils we from a thousand earn. XLVII " `Long absence, seeing with a distant part, Converse with different women, oft allay, As it would seem, the troubles of a heart, Whereof Love's angry passions make their prey.' The king is pleased to hear the youth impart This counsel, nor his journey will delay: Thence on their road, with but two squires beside, He and the Roman knight together ride. XLVIII "Disguised they go through France and Italy, They Flanders next and England scower, and where A woman they of lovely visage spy, Aye find the dame complaint with their prayer. They upon some bestow what others buy, And oft replaced their squandered treasures are. Our travellers to the wives of many sued, And by as many other dames were wooed. XLIX "By solid proof those comrades ascertain, Here tarrying for a month, and there for two, That their own wives are of no other vein Than those of others, and as chast and true. After some season, wearied are the twain With ever running after something new: For, without risk of death, thus evermore The intruders ill could enter other's door. L "-- 'Twere best to find a girl whose natural bent And face to both of us should pleasing be; A girl, that us in common might content, Nor we in her find cause for jealousy; And wherefore wouldst thou that I should lament More than with other, to go halves with thee?' (Exclaimed Astolpho) `well I know is none, Of all the female sex, content with one. LI " `One damsel that in nought shall us constrain, -- Then only, when disposed to please the fair -- Will we in peace and pleasure entertain, Nor we, about her, have dispute or care. Nor, deem I, she with reason could complain: For if two fell to every other's share, Better than one might she keep faith with two; Nor haply we such frequent discord view.' LII "Much seems the king's proposal to content The Roman youth; and thus it is, the twain, To execute Astolpho's project bent, Journey by many a hill and many a plain; And find at last, well fitting their intent, The daughter of a publican of Spain, Of presence and of manners framed to win; Whose father at Valencia kept his inn. LIII As yet, upon the bloom of spring, the maid Was a fresh flower that scarce began to blow: Her sire with many children was o'erlaid, And was to poverty a mortal foe. Hence 'tis an easy matter to persuade Mine host his buxom daughter to forego, And let them, where they will the damsel bear; In that to treat her well the travellers swear. LIV (Lines 1-6 untranslated by Rose) They to Zattiva come upon the day That from Valencia they had bent their way. LV "The travellers from their inn to street and square And places, public and divine, resort; Who, wheresoever they had made repair, Themselves were so accustomed to disport, The girl is with the valets left in care, Who make the beds, and wearied hackneys sort: While others in the hostel-kitchen dight The meal against their lords' return at night. LVI "As groom, a stripling in the hostel plied, Who in the other landlord's house had been: He, from her childhood at the damsel's side, Had joyed her love: they, without change of mien, On meeting, closely one another eyed, Since either apprehended to be seen: But when alone -- now left together -- raised Their eyelids and on one another gazed. LVII "The stripling asked her whitherward they sped, And of the two which claimed her as his right; This, point by point, to him Flammetta read; Flammetta she, the Greek that boy was hight. ` -- When I had hoped the time was coming,' said The Greek -- `that I should live with thee, my light, Flammetta, thou, alas! art lost to me, Nor know I if I more thy face shall see. LVIII " `I to the bitter dregs the cup must drain Of promised sweets; since thou art others' prey. 'Twas my design, having with mickle pain And labour sore, some money put away, Which I had hoarded out of frequent gain From parting guests, and from my yearly pay, To seek again Valencia, and demand Thee from thy sire in lawful wedlock's band. LIX "The damsel shrugs her shoulders, and complains; And -- that he is too late -- is her reply. The Greek laments and sobs, and partly feigns: ` -- Wilt thou (he answered her) thus let me die? Let me, at least, exhale my amorous pains! Let me, but once, in thine embrace lie! For every moment in thy presence spent, Ere thou depart, will make me die content.' LX "To him the damsel, full of pity, cries: `Believe, I covet this no less than thee; But here, surrounded by so many eyes, Is neither time nor opportunity.' ` -- I feel assured' (to her that youth replied) `Were I beloved by you, as you by me, This very night you would find out a place Wherein to solace us some little space.' LXI (Stanza LXI untranslated by Rose) LXII "She bade him come -- when she awhile had thought -- When he believed that all asleep were laid; And how by him her chamber should be sought, And how he should return, at full, displaid. The cautious stripling did as he was taught, And, when he found all silent, thither made: He pushed, till it gave way, the chamber-door, And, upon tiptoes, softly paced the floor. LXIII - LXX (Stanzas LXIII - LXX untranslated by Rose) LXXI "Gazing on one another, with surprise, The monarch and Jocundo are confused; Nor even to have heard a case surmise Of two, that ever thus had been abused: Then laughed so, that they sate with winking eyes, And open mouth, and lungs which breath refused; And, wearied with the mirth her tale had bred, Fell backwards, both, exhausted on the bed. LXXII "When they had laughed so loud a laugh, the dew Stood in their eyes, and each with aching breast Remained, the pair exclaimed: `What shall we do In order not to be a woman's jest? Since we, with all our heed, between us two, Could not preserve the one by us possest, A husband, furnished with more eyes than hair, Perforce must be betrayed with all his care. LXXIII " `A thousand, beauteous all, have we found kind, Nor one of those so many has stood fast. If tried, all women we by proof should find Like these; but be the experiment our last. Then we may deem our own not worse inclined Than are the wives of others, and as chaste: And, if like others we our own discern, I hold it best that we to them return.' LXXIV "When they have come to this resolve, they, through Flammetta, call the youth into their bower; And with the girl her leman, in the view Of many, gift, and add a fitting dower. They mount, and to the east their way pursue, Accustomed westward hitherto to scower; To their deserted wives again repair, Nor of their after deeds take farther care." LXXV Here paused mine host; to whom on every side His audience had with careful heed attended. Rodomont listened, nor a word replied, Until the landlord's story was suspended. Then -- "Fully I believe," that paynim cried, "The tale of women's frauds would ne'er be ended; Nor could that man in any volume note The thousandth part, who would their treasons quote." LXXVI Of sounder judgement, 'mid that company, There was an elder, one more wise and bold; That undefended so the sex to see, Was inly wroth, and could no longer hold: To the relater of that history He turned; and, "Many things we have been told" (Exclaimed that ancient) "wherein truth is none, And of such matters is thy fable one. LXXVII "Him I believe not, that told this truth to you, Though in all else he gospel-truths exprest; As less by his experience, than untrue Conceit respecting women prepossest. The malice which he bears to one or two, Makes him unjustly hate and blame the rest. But you shall hear him, if his wrath o'erblow, Yet greater praise than blame on these bestow. LXXVIII "And he a larger field for speaking well Will find, than blaming womankind withal; And of a hundred worthy fame may tell, For one whose evil deeds for censure call. He should exalt the many that excel, Culled from the multitude, not rail at all, If otherwise your friend Valerio said, He was by wrath, and not by reason, led. LXXIX - LXXXIII (Stanzas LXXIX - LXXXIII untranslated by Rose) LXXXIV So reasoning, that just elder and sincere, With ready instances, supports his creed; Showing there many women are who ne'er Sinned against chastity, in word or deed: But him with impious visage and severe The paynim scared, ill pleased the truth to read. So that, through fear, he further speech forbore, But changed not therefore aught his former lore. LXXXV Having stopt further question in this wise, The paynim monarch from the table rose: Then lays him on his bed, till from the skies The dusky shades depart, and morning glows: But spends a larger part of night in sighs At his liege-lady's sin, than in repose. Rodomont thence departs at dawn of day, Resolved by water to pursue his way. LXXXVI For with such care for his good horse's plight, As is becoming a good cavalier, The courser fair and good, made his in spite Of young Rogero and Circassia's peer; Seeing he, for two days, that horse's might Had taxed too hardly in his long career, -- As well he for his ease embarked the steed, As to pursue his way with better speed. LXXXVII He straight makes launch the vessel from the marge, And bids put forth the oars from either side: Nor big nor deeply laden, she, at large, Descends the Saone, transported by the tide. Care never quits him, though the shifting barge The king ascend, or nimble horse bestride: This he encounters aye on prow or poop, And bears behind him on his courser's croup; LXXXVIII Rather within his head or heart always Care sits; whence every comfort is o'erthrown: No remedy the wretched man surveys, In that his enemies are in the town. From others hope is none; since they who raise This fearful war against him, are his own: Vext by that cruel one, aye night and day, Whom he might hope to find his natural stay. LXXXIX Rodomont navigates the day and night Ensuing, aye by heavy thoughts opprest; Nor can he ever banish the despite, Suffered from King and Lady, from his breast. The self-same grief sate heavy on his sprite Aboard the bark, as when his steed he prest. Such fire was not by water to be drowned, Nor he his nature changed by changing ground. XC As the sick man who with a fever grows, And, weak and weary, shifts his place in vain, Whether he right or left himself bestows, And hopes in turning some relief to gain, Finds neither on this side nor that repose, But everywhere encounters equal pain; The pagan monarch so found small relief, By land or water, for his secret grief. XCI Rodomont brooked no more aboard to stay, But bade them land him, and by Lyons hied; By Vienne and Valence next took his way, And the rich bridge in Avignon descried. For these and more, which 'twixt the river lay And Celtiberian hills upon that side, (Theirs, from the day they conquered the champaigne) Obeyed the kings of Afric and of Spain. XCII To pass to Afric straight, the cavalier Kept to the right, towards Acquamorta's shore, And lighted on a stream and hamlet, dear To Ceres and to Bacchus, which that Moor Found quitted by the peasants, in their fear, As often by the soldier harried sore. The beach upon one side broad ocean laved, And on the other yellow harvests waved. XCIII Here, newly built upon a hillock's crest, A little church the Saracen espied; Abandoned by its priesthood, like the rest, For war was flaming upon every side. Rodomont of this place himself possest; Which, from its site, as well as lying wide Of fields, from whence he tidings loathed to hear, So pleased him, he for it renounced Argier. XCIV He changed his scheme of seeking Afric's land, (So this fair spot seemed fit for his behoof!) And here housed carriages, and steed, and band, Together with himself, beneath one roof, At few leagues' distance, did Montpelier stand, And other wealthy towns, not far aloof. The village was upon a river's side, So that its every need might be supplied. XCV Here standing, full of thought, upon a day, (Such was his common wont) the paynim spied, Advancing by a narrow path, which lay Through a green meadow, from the adverse side, A lovely damsel, that upon her way Was by a bearded monk accompanied; And these behind them led a lusty steed, Who bore a burden, trapt with sable weed. XCVI Who that attendant monk and damsel were, And what that burden, will to you be clear, Remembering Isabella is the fair, Charged with the corse of her Zerbino dear: I left her, where from Provence, in the care Of that good sire, she bowned herself to steer, By whom persuaded, had the lady given The remnant of her virtuous life to heaven. XCVII Although in her pale face and troubled guise, The sorrow of that dame is manifest, Although two fountains are her streaming eyes, And sobs aye issue from her burning breast, And more beside of suffering testifies, With what a load of grief she is opprest, Yet, in her faded cheek such beauties meet, Love and the Graces there might fix their seat. XCVIII As soon as he of Sarza saw appear The beauteous dame, he laid the thought aside Of hatred to that gentle race and dear, By whom alone the world is glorified; And best by Isabel the cavalier Believed his former love would be supplied, And one love by another be effaced, As bolt by bolt in timber is displaced. XCIX Her with the kindest mien and mildest tone That he could fashion, met the Sarzan knight; To whom the dame her every thought made known; And said, when she was questioned of her plight, She would with holy works -- this world forgone -- Seek favour in her Heavenly Father's sight. Loud laughed that godless paynim at the thought, Who every faith and worship held at nought; C And said that she from reason wandered wide, And termed her project sudden and unsound; Nor deemed her less to blame than those who hide, Through greediness, their treasure under ground, And keep it from the use of all beside, Though hence no profit to themselves redound. Rightly were prisoned lion, snake, and bear, But ill whate'er is innocent and fair. CI The monk, that to this talk has lent an ear, Prompt with advice that mournful dame to stay, And lest she quit her course, prepared to steer His bark, like practised pilot, on her way, A sumptuous table, rich in spiritual cheer, Had speedily bestirred him to array; But, born with evil taste, that paynim rude No sooner tasted, than he loathed, the food. CII And having interrupted him in vain, Nor having power to make him stint his lore, That paynim, stirred to fury, broke the rein Of patience, and assailed the preacher hoar. But haply wearisome might seem the strain, If I upon this theme dilated more: So here I close, nor words will idly spend, Admonished by that ancient's evil end. CANTO 29 ARGUMENT Isabel makes the paynim take her head, Rather than he his wicked will should gain; Who, having his unhappy error read, Seeks to appease his wounded spirit in vain. He builds a bridge, and strips those thither led; But falls from it with Roland the insane; Who thence, of him regardless, endlong speeds, And by the road achieves prodigious deeds. I O feeble and unstable minds of men! How quickly our intentions fluctuate! All thoughts we lightly change, but mostly when These from some lover's quarrel take their date. But now, so wroth I saw that Saracen With woman, so outrageous in his hate, I weened not only he would ill assuage, But never more would calm, his amorous rage. II That which he rashly uttered to your blame, Ye gentle dames, does so my spirit grieve, Till I his error teach him, to his shame, He shall no quarter at my hands receive; So him with pen and page will I proclaim, That, whosoever reads me, shall believe He had better held -- aye, better bit, his tongue, Than ever have your sex with slander stung. III But that in this the witless infidel Spake as a fool, the event demonstrates clear: Even now, with dagger drawn, that paynim fell In fury on all women whomsoe'er. Next him so touched one look of Isabel, She quickly made his fickle purpose veer; For her, scarce seen, and to that warrior strange, He would his Doralice already change; IV And, as new love the king did heat and goad, He moved some arguments of small avail, To shake her stedfast spirit, which abode Wholly with God; but he, her shield and mail, That hermit, lest she from the better road Should wander, and her chaste intention fail, With stronger arguments with him contended, And still, as best he could, the dame defended. V The king, who long had taxed himself to bear The monk's bold sermon to his sore displeasure, And vainly bade him to his cell repair Anew, without that damsel, at his leisure, Yet seeing he would still his patience dare, Nor peace with him would keep, nor any measure, Upon that preacher's chin his right-hand laid, And whatsoe'er he grasped, as rudely flayed. VI And (so his fury waxed) that, as it were With tongs, he griped his neck, and after he Had whirled him once or twice about in air, Dismist him form his hand towards the sea. I say not -- know not, what befel him there: Many the rumours are, and disagree. One says he burst upon a rock's rude bed, And lay one shapeless jelly, heels and head. VII He fell into the sea, by one is said, Distant three miles and more; and, in that sound, He having prayer, and Ave vainly made, Because he knew not how to swim, was drowned. Others report a Saint bestowed his aid, And dragged him with a visible hand aground. Whichever be the reading of this mystery, Of him I speak no further in mine history. VIII Cruel King Rodomont, when from his side He had removed the prating eremite, With visage less disturbed, again applied To that sad lady, heartless with affright; And, in the language used by lovers, cried, She was his very heart, his life, his light, She was his comfort, and his dearest hope; With all such words as have that common scope. IX And now, so temperate showed that infidel, 'Twould seem that he no violence designed, The gentle semblance of fair Isabel, Enamoured him, so tamed his haughty mind; And, though he might that goodly kernel shell, The paynim would not pass beyond the rhind, Who that its favour would be lost, believed, Unless 'twere as a gift from her received; X And by degrees so thought to mould the dame To his desires. She in that lone retreat And savage, open to his evil aim, And like a mouse, beneath Grimalkin's feet, Had liefer found herself i' the midst of flame; And ever on one thought her fancy beat: If any mode, if any way, remained To scape that wilful man, untouched, unstained. XI Sad Isabella in her mind is bent To slay herself with her own hand, before That fell barbarian compass his intent; And be the means to make her wrong so sore That cavalier, by cruel Fortune spent, Within her loving arms, to whom she swore With mind to him devoted, his to be, Vowing to Heaven perpetual chastity. XII She sees that paynim monarch's passion blind Increasing still, nor what to do she knows; Well knows what foul intention is behind, Which she is all too feeble to oppose: Yet moving many matters in her mind, Finds out at last a refuge for her woes, And means to save her chastity from shame, (How I shall say) with clear and lasting fame. XIII She cried unto that paynim, foul to see, Already threatening her with word and act, And now devoid of all that courtesy, Which he in the beginning did enact, "If thou mine honour wilt ensure to me, Beyond suspicion, I, upon this pact, Will upon thee bestow what shall o'erpay, By much, that honour thou wouldst take away. XIV "For pleasure, which endures so brief a space, Wherewith this ample world does so o'errun, Reject not lightly a perpetual grace, A real joy, to be postponed to none. Of women everywhere of pleasing face A hundred and a thousand may be won; But none beside me, or few others, live Who can bestow the boon which I can give. XV "I know, and on my way a herb did view, And nearly know where I on this could light, Which, being boiled with ivy and with rue, Over a fire with wood of cypress dight, And squeezed, when taken from the caldron, through Innocent hands, affords a juice of might, Wherewith whoever thrice his body laves, Destructive steel or fire securely braves. XVI "If thrice therewith he bathe himself, I say, His flesh no weapon for a month shall score: He once a month must to his body lay Mine unction, for its virtue lasts not more: This liquor can I make, and will to-day, And thou to-day shalt also prove my lore: And well, I trust, thou shalt more grateful be, Than were all Europe won to-day by thee. XVII "In guerdon for this present, I request That thou to me upon thy faith wilt swear, Thou never wilt my chastity molest In word or deed." So spake that damsel fair; And Rodomont who heard, again represt His evil will: for so he longed to bear A charmed life, that readily he more Than Isabel of him demanded swore; XVIII And will maintain his promise, till the fact Vouched of that wondrous water shall appear; And force himself, meanwhile, to do no act, To show no sign of violence; but the peer Resolves he will not after keep the pact, As one who holds not God or saint in fear; And to that king, regardless of his oath, All lying Afric yields in breach of troth. XIX Argier's perfidious king to Isabel More than a thousand times assurance swore, In case that water rendered him what fell Achilles and what Cygnus were of yore. She, aye by beetling cliff and darksome dell, Away from city and from farm, a store Of herbs collected, nor this while e'er Abandoned by the paynim cavalier. XX When herbs enow by them in many a beat, With or without their roots, collected were, At a late hour, the twain to their retreat Betook them; and, throughout night's remnant, there, That paragon of continence did heat What simples she had culled, with mickle care, While to those mysteries and her every deed The pagan, present still, gave curious heed; XXI Who, wearing out the weary night in sport, -- He and those followers that with him remained -- Had suffered thirst in such a grievous sort, From the fierce fire in that small cave contained, That drinking round, in measure full or short, Of Graecian wine two barrels had they drained; A booty which those squires who served the Moor, From travellers seized a day or two before. XXII To Argier's warlike king, unused to wine, (Cursed, and forbidden by his law, esteemed) The liquor, tasted once, appeared divine, Sweeter than nectar or than manna seemed: He, quaffing largely, now of Ishmael's line The sober use deserving censure deemed. So fast their cups with that good wine they fill, Each reveller's head is whirling like a mill. XXIII Meanwhile that lady from the fire does lift The pot, wherein she cooked those herbs, and cries To Rodomont: "In proof I not adrift Have launched the words I spake, in random guise, -- By that, which can the truth form falsehood sift, Experience, which can make the foolish wise, Even now the thing shall to thyself be shown, Not on another's body, but my own. XXIV "I first will trial make" (that lady said) "Of this choice liquor with rare virtue blest; Lest haply thou shouldst harbour any dread That mortal poison form these herbs be prest. With this will I anoint myself, from head Downwards below the naked neck and breast. Then prove on me thy faulchion and thine arm, And prove if one can smite, the other harm." XXV She washed, as said, and gladly did decline Her neck to that unthinking pagan's brand; Unthinking, and perhaps o'ercome by wine, Which neither helm, nor mail, nor shield withstand, That brutish man believed her, and, in sign Of faith, so struck with cruel steel and hand, That her fair head, erewhile Love's place of rest, He severed from the snowy neck and breast. XXVI This made three bounds, and thence in accents clear Was heard a voice which spake Zerbino's name, To follow whom, escaping Sarza's peer, So rare a way was taken by the dame. Spirit! which nobly didst esteem more dear Thy plighted faith, and chaste and holy name, (Things hardly known, and foreign to our time) Than thine own life and thine own blooming prime! XXVII Depart in peace, O spirit blest and fair! -- So had my verses power! as evermore I would assay, with all that happy care, Which so adorns and points poetic lore! And, as renowned should be thy story rare, Thousands and thousands of long years and more! -- Depart in peace to radiant realms above, And leave to earth the example of thy love! XXVIII His eyes from heaven did the Creator bend, At the stupendous and unequalled feat, And said: "I thee above that dame commend. Whose death drove Tarquin from his royal seat; And I to register a law intend, 'Mid those which ages change not as they fleet, Which -- I attest the inviolable river -- Unchanged through future times, shall last for ever. XXIX "I will that all, in every future age, Who bear thy name, be blest with genius high; Be courteous, gentle, beautiful, and sage, And to the real pitch of honour fly. That to their glory the historic page They may with worthy argument supply; So that for aye Parnassus' hill and well Shall ring with Isabel and Isabel." XXX So spake the Sire; and cleared the ambient air, And hushed beyond its wont the heaving main. To the third heaven her chaste soul made repair, And in Zerbino's arms was locked again. On earth, with shame and sorrow for his share, That second Breuse sans pity did remain; Who, when digested was the maddening bowl, Lamented sore his error, sad at soul. XXXI That placated, or in some content, The sainted soul of Isabel might be; That, if to death that damsel he had shent, He might at least revive her memory, He, as a means to compass his intent, Would turn into a tomb that church, where he Inhabited, and where she buried lies; To you shall be related in what wise. XXXII In all parts round about this chosen site, For love or fear, he master-masons found; And, making full six thousand men unite, Stript of their heavy stones the mountains round, And raised a fabric ninety yards in height, From its extremest summit to the ground; And he within its walls the church enclosed; Wherein entombed the lovers twain reposed. XXXIII This nearly imitates that pile beside Old Tyber's stream, by Adrian built; and nigh The sepulchre, will he a tower provide, Wherein he purposes some time to lie. A narrow bridge, and only two yards wide, He flung across the stream which rolled fast by. Long, but so scanty is that bridge, with pain The narrow pass two coursers can contain; XXXIV Two coursers, that abreast have thither made, Or else, encountering, on that causeway meet: Nor any where was ledge or barricade, To stay the horses's fall, who lost his feet. He wills that bridge's toll be dearly paid By Christian or by Moor, who pass his seat; For with a thousand trophies, arms, and vest, That damsel's tomb is destined to be drest. XXXV Within ten days, or shorter time, was placed The bridge, whose arch across the stream was dight; But not that pile and tower with equal haste Were so conducted to their destined height. Yet was the last so high, a sentry paced Its top, who, whensoever any knight Approached the bridge, was wont his lord to warn, Sounding a signal on his bugle-horn. XXXVI Whereat he armed, and issued for the stower, Now upon one and now the other side: For when a warrior pricked towards the tower, Him from the adverse bank that king defied: The bridge affords the field their steeds must scour; And, should one but a little swerve aside, (Peril unparalleled!) the horse will go Into the deep and dangerous stream below. XXXVII The pagan had imagined, as a pain, That, risking oft to tumble in the course, Head-first into that stream, where he must drain Huge draughts of water in his fall, parforce, He would assoil and cleanse him from that stain, Whereof excess in wine had been the source; As if what ill wine prompts to do or say, Water, as well as wine, could wash away. XXXVIII Soon thitherward flocked many a cavalier; Some who pursued the beaten road and plain; Since for way-faring men, who southward steer, No straighter lay for Italy or Spain: Their courage and their honour, held more dear Than life, excited others of the train; And all, where they had hoped the meed of strife, Had lost their arms, and many arms and life. XXXIX If those he conquers are of pagan strain, He is content to take their arms and vest: And of those first arrived the titles plain Are written, and their arms suspended rest. But he in prison pens the christened train, ('Twould seem) to be to Argier's realm addrest. Not yet was brought that building to a head When thitherward the crazed Orlando sped. XL It chanced Orlando, in his furious mood, Came thither where that foaming river ran; Where Rodomont beside the mighty flood Was hurrying on his work; nor yet were done The tower and tomb, the bridge, scarce finished, stood: Here -- save his casque was open -- Ulien's son Steeled cap-a-pee, stood ready armed for fight, When to the bridge approached Anglantes' knight. XLI Orlando running thus his wild career, The barrier tops, and o'er the bridge would fly, But sullen Rodomont, with troubled cheer, Afoot, as he that tower is standing nigh, For he disdains to brandish sword or spear, Shouts to him from afar with threatening cry, "Halt! thou intrusive churl and indiscreet, Rash, meddling, saucy villain, stay thy feet! XLII "Only for lord and cavalier was made, And not for thee, dull slave, that bridge was meant." To this no heed insane Orlando paid, But, fixt upon his purpose, forward went. "This madman must I school," the paynim said, And was approaching with the fell intent Him into that deep river to dispatch, Nor deeming in such foe to find his match. XLIII This while, a gentle damsel sought the place That towards that bridge across the river rode, Richly arraid and beautiful of face, Who sage reserve in her demeanor showed. 'Tis she that, of her Brandimart in chase, (If you remember, sir,) through every road And place her lover seeks in anxious wise, Excepting Paris, where the warrior lies. XLIV When Flordelice that bridge and tower was near, (So was by name the wandering damsel hight) Grappling with Roland stood the Sarzan peer, And would into that river pitch the knight. She, conversant with Brava's cavalier, The miserable county knew aright; And mighty marvel in that dame it raised To see him rove, a naked man and crazed. XLV She stopt, the issue of that strife to know, Wherein those two so puissant warriors vied. His opposite by might and main to throw, Into the stream each doughty champion tried. "How can a fool such mighty prowess show?" Between his teeth, the furious paynim cried. And, shifting here and there, was seen to strain, Brimfull of pride, and anger, and disdain. XLVI This hand and now that other he puts out, To take new hold, where he his vantage spies; Now within Roland's legs, and now without, Locks his right foot or left, in skilful wise; And thus resembles, in that wrestling bout, The stupid bear, who in his fury tries The tree, from whence he tumbled, to o'erthrow; Deeming it sole occasion of his woe. XLVII Roland, whose better wit was lost withal, I know no where, and who used force alone; That utmost force, to which this earthly ball Haply affords few paragons, or none, Let himself backwards in that struggle fall, Embracing as he stood with Ulien's son. Together in the foaming stream they sank; High flashed the wave, and groaned the echoing bank. XLVIII Quickly the stream asunder bore the pair. Roland was naked, and like fish could swim, Here shot his feet, his arms extended there, And gained the bank; nor, when upon the brim, Halted to mark if his adventure were Achieved with praise or shame: in evil trim, The pagan, by his arms impeded sore, With heavier pain and trouble, toiled ashore. XLIX Along the bridge which spanned that foaming tide Did Flordelice meantime securely pace, And, having vainly sought on every side Brandimart's bearing, since nor iron case Nor vest of his she anywhere espied, She hoped to find the knight in other place. But here return we of the count to tell, Who left behind him stream, bridge tower, and cell. L 'Twere phrensy of his every frantic feat To promise the relation, one by one; So many and many, -- should I these repeat, I know not when my story would be done. Yet some of his notorious deeds, and meet For mention in my song, will I make known: Nor will I not that wondrous one recount, Near Thoulouse, on the Pyrenaean Mount. LI Much country had been traversed by the knight, Urged by the furious rage which him misguides: At last he reached the hill whose boundary height Arragonese and neighbouring Frank divides. Thither directing aye his course outright, Where the descending sun his visage hides, He reached a path upon the rugged steep, Which overhung a valley dark and deep. LII Here he by chance encountered in mid road Two youths, that wood men were, and drove before An ass along that pathway, with a load Of logs; they, marking well what scanty store Of brain in poor Orlando's head was stowed, Called to the approaching knight, and threatened sore; Bidding him stand aside, or else go back, Nor to their hindrance block the common track. LIII To this address Orlando answered nought, Save that his foot he to their beast applied, Smote in mid-breast, which, with that vigour fraught, -- That force exceeding every force beside -- Tost him so hight, that the beholders thought It was a bird in air which they descried. The ass upon a mountain-summit fell, Which rose above a mile beyond that dell. LIV Upon those youths next sprang the furious knight. With better luck than wit, one woodman shear From that tall cliff, twice thirty yards in height, Cast himself headlong downward in his fear: Him a moist patch of brambles, in his flight, Received; and, amid grass and bushes, here, From other mischief safe, the stripling lit, And for some scratches in his face was quit. LV That other to a jutting fragment clung, Who so to gain the higher steep would strive; Because he hopes, if once those crags among, To keep him from that fool he may contrive; But by the feet Orlando, ere he sprung, Seized him, who will not leave the wretch alive; And stretching them as wide as he could strain, So stretched his arms, he rent his prey in twain. LVI Even in such mode as often we descry Falconer by heron or by puller do; Whose entrails he plucks out, to satisfy Merlin or falcon that the game pursue. How happy was that other not to die! Who risqued his neck in that deep bottom, who Rehearsed the tale so often, Turpin heard, And handed down to us the wondrous word. LVII These and more marvels does the count, who bends His steps across that mountain to the plain; And, seeking long a path, at length descends Towards the south, upon the land of Spain. His way along the beach he after wends, Near Arragon, beside the rumbling main, And, ever prompted by his phrensy rank, Will make himself a dwelling on the bank, LVIII Where he somedeal may shun the noontide ray, With dry and powdery sea-sand covered o'er; And here, while so employed, upon their way Arrives Angelica with her Medore, Who, as you have been told in former lay, Had from the hills descended on that shore. Within a yard or less approached the fair, Ere yet she of his presence was aware. LIX So different from himself was he to sight, Nought of Orlando she in him surveyed: For, from the time that rage possest his sprite, He had gone naked forth in sun and shade. Had he been born on hot Syene's site, Or sands where worship is to Ammon paid, Or nigh those hills, whence Nile's full waters spin, Orlando had not borne a dingier skin. LX Nigh buried in their sockets are his eyes, Spare in his visage, and as dry as bone: Dishevelled is his hair in woeful wise, With frightful beard his cheek is overgrown: No sooner is he seen, than backward flies Angelica, who, trembling sore, is flown: She shrieking loud, all trembling and dismaid, Betakes her to her youthful guide for aid. LXI When crazed Orlando was of her aware, To seize the damsel he upsprang in haste; So pleased the wretched count her visage fair, So quickly was his mood inflamed: effaced In him all ancient recollections are, How she by him was whilom served and graced. Behind her speech the count and hunts that dame, As questing dog pursues the sylvan game. LXII The youth, that sees him chase his love who fled, His courser spurs, and in pursuit is gone. With naked faulchion after him he sped, And cut and thrust at Roland as he run. He from his shoulders hoped to cleave his head, But found the madman's skin as hard as bone; Yea, harder far than steel, nor to be harmed; So good Orlando at his birth was charmed. LXIII When on his back Orlando felt him beat, He turned, and turning on his youthful foe, Smote with clenched fist, and force which nought can meet, -- Smote on his horse's head, a fearful blow; And, with skull smashed like glass, that courser fleet Was by the madman's furious stroke laid low. In the same breath Orlando turned anew, And chased the damsel that before him flew. LXIV At speed Angelica impelled her mare. And whipt and spurred her evermore; whom slow She would esteem, albeit that palfrey were Yet faster than a shaft dismist from bow: Her ring she thought upon, and this the fair Placed in her mouth; nor failed its virtue now; For putting it between her lips, like light Extinguished by a puff, she past from sight. LXV Was it through fear, or was she, while she stript This from her finger, shaken in her seat; Or was it rather, that her palfrey tript, (For neither this nor that I surely weet) Angelica, while 'twixt her lips she slipt The virtuous ring, and hid her visage sweet, Her stirrups lost; and, tumbling form the sell, Reversed upon the sand that lady fell. LXVI If but two inches short had fallen his prey, Upon her would have pounced Orlando near; Who would have crushed her in his furious way, But that kind Fortune saved her from the peer. Let her by other theft herself purvey With other palfrey, as she did whilere; For never will she have this courser more, Who chased by swift Orlando scours the shore. LXVII Doubt not that she another will provide; And follow we in mad Orlando's rear; Whose rage and fury nevermore subside, Wroth that Angelica should disappear: After that beast along the sands he hied, Aye gaining on the mare in this career. Now, now he touches her, and lo! The mane He grasps, and now secures her by the rein. LXVIII Orlando seizes her with that delight That other man might seize a damsel fair; The bit and bridle he adjusts aright, Springs on her back, and o'er the sea-beach bare For many miles impels the palfrey's flight, Without repose or pause, now here, now there: Nor ever sell or bridle be displaced, Nor let her grass or heartening forage taste. LXIX As in this course to o'erleap a ditch he sought, Head over heels, she with her rider went: Nor harmed was he, nor felt that tumble aright; But she, with shoulder slipt, lay foully shent. Long how to bear her thence Orlando thought, And in the end upon his shoulders hent. He from the bottom climbed, thus loaded sore, And carried her three bow-shots' length and more. LXX Next, for he felt that weight too irksome grow, He put her down, to lead her by the rein; Who followed him with limping gait and slow, "Come on," Orlando cried, and cried in vain; And, could the palfrey at a gallop go, This ill would satisfy his mood insane. The halter from her head he last unloosed, Wherewith her hind off-foot the madman noosed. LXXI 'Tis thus he comforts and drags on that mare, That she may follow with more ease, so led; Who whiles despoiled of flesh, and whiles of hair, Is scathed by stones which that ill road o'erspread. At length the misused beast, with wear and tear Of the rude rocks, and suffering sore, lies dead. Orlando nought the slaughtered mare regards, Nor anywise his headlong course retards. LXXII To drag that palfrey ceased he not, though dead, Continuing still his course towards the west, And all this while sacked hamlet, farm, and stead, Whenever he by hunger was distrest; And aye to glut himself with meat, and bread, And fruit, he every one by force opprest. One by his hand was slain, one foully shent; Seldom he stopt, and ever onward went. LXXIII As much, or little less, would do the knight By his own love, did not that damsel hide; Because the wretch discerns not black from white, And harms where he would help. A curse betide The wonder-working ring, and eke the wight Who gave it to that lady, full or pride! Since Roland, but for this, would venge the scorn He and a thousand more from her had borne. LXXIV Would that of her Orlando were possest, And of all women that are above ground! For one and all are ingrates at the best, Nor is in all an ounce of goodness found. But it is meet I let my hearer rest Ere my strained chords return a faltering sound, And that he may less tedious deem the rhyme, Defer my story till another time.