Orlando Furioso Canto 15 - Poem by Ludovico Ariosto
Round about Paris every where are spread
The assailing hosts of Africa and Spain.
Astolpho home by Logistilla sped,
Binds first Caligorantes with his chain;
Next from Orrilo's trunk divides the head;
With whom Sir Aquilant had warred in vain,
And Gryphon bold: next Sansonet discerns,
Ill tidings of his lady Gryphon learns.
Though Conquest fruit of skill or fortune be,
To conquer always is a glorious thing.
'Tis true, indeed, a bloody victory
Is to a chief less honour wont to bring;
And that fair field is famed eternally,
And he who wins it merits worshipping,
Who, saving from all harm his own, without
Loss to his followers, puts the foe to rout.
You, sir, earned worthy praise, when you o'erbore
The lion of such might by sea, and so
Did by him, where he guarded either shore
From Francolino to the mouth of Po,
That I, though yet again I heard him roar,
If you were present, should my fear forego.
How fields are fitly won was then made plain;
For we were rescued, and your foemen slain.
This was the Paynim little skilled to do,
Who was but daring to his proper loss;
And to the moat impelled his meiny, who
One and all perished in the burning fosse.
The mighty gulf had not contained the crew,
But that, devouring those who sought to cross,
Them into dust the flame reduced, that room
Might be for all within the crowded tomb.
Of twenty thousand warriors thither sent,
Died nineteen thousand in the fiery pit;
Who to the fosse descended, ill content;
But so their leader willed, of little wit:
Extinguished amid such a blaze, and spent
By the devouring flame the Christians lit.
And Rodomont, occasion of their woes,
Exempted from the mighty mischief goes:
For he to the inner bank, by foes possest,
Across the ditch had vaulted wonderously:
Had he within it been, among the rest,
It sure had been his last assault. His eye
He turns, and when the wild-fires, which infest
The infernal vale, he sees ascend so high,
And hears his people's moan and dying screams,
With imprecations dread he Heaven blasphemes.
This while a band King Agramant had brought,
To make a fierce assault upon a gate:
For while the cruel battle here was fought,
Wherein so many sufferers met their fate,
This haply unprovided had he thought
With fitting guard. Upon the monarch wait
King Bambirago, 'mid his knights of price,
And Baliverso, sink of every vice.
And Corineus of Mulga, Prusion,
The wealthy monarch of the blessed isles;
Malabuferzo, he who fills the throne
Of Fez, where a perpetual summer smiles;
And other noble lords, and many a one
Well-armed and tried; and others 'mid their files,
Naked, and base, whose hearts in martial fields
Had found no shelter from a thousand shields.
But all things counter to the hopes ensue
Of Agramant upon his side; within,
In person, girded by a gallant crew,
Is Charlemagne, with many a paladin:
Ogier the Duke, King Salamon, the two
Guidos are seen, and either Angelin;
Bavaria's duke, and Ganelon are here,
Avino, Avolio, Otho, and Berlinghier.
And of inferior count withal, a horde
Of Lombards, French, and Germans, without end;
Who, every one, in presence of his lord,
To rank among the valiantest contend,
This will I in another place record;
Who here a mighty duke perforce attend,
Who signs to me from far, and prays that I
Will not omit him in my history.
'Tis time that I should measure back my way
Thither, where I Astolpho left of yore;
Who, in long exile, loathing more to stay,
Burnt with desire to tread his native shore;
As hopes to him had given the sober fay,
Who quelled Alcina by her better lore,
She with all care would send the warrior back
By the securest and the freest track.
And thus by her a barque is fitted out;
- A better galley never ploughed the sea;
And Logistilla wills, for aye in doubt
Of hinderance from Alcina's treachery,
That good Andronica, with squadron stout,
And chaste Sophrosina, with him shall be,
Till to the Arabian Sea, beneath their care,
Or to the Persian Gulf he safe repair.
By Scyth and Indian she prefers the peer
Should coast, and by the Nabataean reign;
Content he, after such a round, should veer
For Persian gulf, or Erithraean main,
Rather than for that Boreal palace steer,
Where angry winds aye vex the rude domain:
So ill, at seasons, favoured by the sun,
That there, for months together, light is none.
Next, when she all in readiness espied,
Her license to depart the prudent fay
Accorded to the duke, first fortified
With counsel as to things too long to say;
And that he might no more by charms be stayed
In place from whence he could not wend his way,
Him with a useful book and fair purveyed,
And ever for her love to wear it prayed.
How man should guard himself from magic cheats
The book instructed, which the fay bestowed;
At the end or the beginning, where it treats
Of such, an index and appendix showed.
Another gift, which in its goodly feats
All other gifts excelled, to her he owed;
This was a horn, which made whatever wight
Should hear its clang betake himself to flight.
I say, the horn is of such horrid sound,
That, wheresoe'er 'tis heard, all fly for fear;
Nor in the world is one of heart so sound
That would not fly, should he the bugle hear.
Wind, thunder, and the shock which rives the ground,
Come not, in aught, the hideous clangour near.
With thanks did the good Englishman receive
The gift, and of the fairy took his leave.
Quitting the port and smoother waves, they stand
To sea, with favouring wind which blows astern;
And (coasting) round the rich and populous land
Of odoriferous Ind the vessels turn,
Opening a thousand isles on either hand,
Scattered about that sea, till they discern
The land of Thomas; here the pilot veers
His ready tiller, and more northward steers.
Astolpho, furrowing that ocean hoar,
Marks, as he coasts, the wealthy land at ease.
Ganges amid the whitening waters roar,
Nigh skirting now the golden Chersonese;
Taprobana with Cori next, and sees
The frith which chafes against its double shore;
Makes distant Cochin, and with favouring wind
Issues beyond the boundaries of Ind.
Scouring at large broad ocean, with a guide
So faithful and secure, the cavalier
Questions Andronica, if from that side
Named from the westering sun, of this our sphere,
Bark, which with oars or canvas stemmed the tide,
On eastern sea was wonted to appear;
- And could a wight, who loosed from Indian strand,
Reach France or Britain, without touching land.
Andronica to England's duke replies:
'Know that this earth is girt about with seas,
And all to one another yield supplies,
Whether the circling waters boil or freeze:
But, since the Aethiops' land before us lies,
Extending southward many long degrees.
Across his waters, some one has supposed
A barrier here to Neptune interposed.
'Hence bark from this Levant of Ind is none
Which weighs, to shape her course for Europe's shore;
Nor navigates from Europe any one,
Our Oriental regions to explore;
Fain to retrace alike the course begun
By the mid land, extending wide before:
Weening (its limits of such length appear)
That it must join another hemisphere.
'But in the course of circling years I view
From farthest lands which catch the western ray,
New Argonauts put forth, and Tiphys new
Opening, till now an undiscovered way.
Others I see coast Afric, and pursue
So far the negroes' burning shore, that they
Pass the far sign, from whence, on his return,
The sun moves hither, leaving Capricorn;
'And find the limit of this length of land,
Which makes a single sea appear as two;
Who, scouring in their frigates every strand,
Pass Ind and Arab isles, or Persian through:
Others I see who leave, on either hand,
The banks, which stout Alcides cleft in two,
And in the manner of the circling sun,
To seek new lands and new creations run.
'The imperial flags and holy cross I know,
Fixed on the verdant shore; see some upon
The shattered barks keep guard, and others go
A-field, by whom new countries will be won;
Ten chase a thousand of the flying foe,
Realms beyond Ind subdued by Arragon;
And see all, wheresoe'er the warriors wend,
To the fifth Charles' triumphant captains bend.
'That this way should be hidden was God's will
Of old, and ere 'twas known long time should run;
Nor will he suffer its discovery, till
The sixth and seventh century be done.
And he delays his purpose to fulfil,
In that he would subject the world to one,
The justest and most fraught with prudent lore
Or emperors, since Augustus, or before.
'Of Arragon and Austria's blood I see
On the left bank of Rhine a monarch bred;
No sovereign is so famed in history,
Of all whose goodly deeds are heard or read.
Astraea reinthroned by him will be, -
Rather restored to life, long seeming dead;
And Virtues with her into exile sent,
By him shall be recalled from banishment.
'For such desert, Heaven's bounty not alone
Designs he should the imperial garland bear, -
Augustus', Trajan's, Mark's, Severus', crown;
But that of every farthest land should wear,
Which here and there extends, as yet unknown,
Yielding no passage to the sun and year;
And wills that in his time Christ's scattered sheep
Should be one flock, beneath one Shepherd's keep.
'And that this be accomplished with more ease,
Writ in the skies from all eternity,
Captains, invincible by lands and seas,
Shall heavenly Providence to him supply.
I mark Hernando Cortez bring, 'mid these,
New cities under Caesar's dynasty,
And kingdoms in the Orient so remote,
That we of these in India have no note.
'With Prospero Colonna, puissant peer,
A marquis of Pescara I behold; -
A youth of Guasto next, who render dear
Hesperia to the flower-de-luce of gold;
I see prepared to enter the career
This third, who shall the laurel win and hold;
As a good horse before the rest will dart,
And first attain the goal, though last to start.
'I see such faith, such valour in the deeds
Of young Alphonso (such his name) confest,
He in his unripe age, - nor he exceeds
His sixth and twentieth year, - at Caesar's hest,
(A mighty trust) the imperial army leads:
Saving which, Caesar not alone the rest
Of his fair empire saves, but may the world
Reduce, with ensigns by this chief unfurled.
'As with these captains, where the way by land
Is free, he spreads the ancient empire's sway,
So on the sea, which severs Europe's strand
From Afric, open to the southern day,
When with good Doria linked in friendly band,
Victorious he shall prove in every fray.
This is that Andrew Doria who will sweep
From pirates, on all sides, your midland deep.
'Pompey, though he chased rovers everywhere,
Was not his peer; for ill the thievish brood
Vanquished by him, in puissance, could compare
With the most mighty realm that ever stood.
But Doria singly will of the corsair
With his own forces purge the briny flood:
So that I see each continent and isle
Quake at his name, from Calpe to the Nile.
'Beneath the faith, beneath the warrantry
Of the redoubted chief, of whom I say,
I see Charles enter fertile Italy,
To which this captain clears the monarch's way;
But on his country, not himself, that fee
Shall he bestow, which is his labour's pay;
And beg her freedom, where himself perchance
Another would to sovereign rule advance.
'The pious love he bears his native land
Honours him more than any battle's gain
Which Julius ever won on Afric's strand,
Or in thine isle, France, Thessaly, or Spain.
Nor great Octavius does more praise command,
Nor Anthony who jousted for the reign,
With equal arms: in that the wrong outweighs
- Done to their native land - their every praise.
'Let these, and every other wight who tries
To subject a free country, blush for shame,
Nor dare in face of man to lift his eyes,
Where he hears Andrew Doria's honoured name!
To him I see Charles other meed supplies;
For he beside his leaders' common claim,
Bestows upon the chief the sumptuous state,
Whence Norman bands their power in Puglia date.
'Not only to this captain courtesy
Shall Charles display, still liberal of his store;
But to all those who for the empery
In his emprizes have not spared their gore.
Him to bestow a town, - a realm - I see,
Upon a faithful friend, rejoicing more,
And on all such as have good service done,
Than in new kingdom and new empire won.'
Thus of the victories, by land and main,
Which, when long course of years shall be complete,
Charles' worthy captains for their lord will gain,
Andronica did with Astolpho treat.
This while, now loosening, tightening now, the rein
On the eastern winds, which blow upon their feet,
Making this serve or that, her comrade stands;
While the blasts rise or sink as she commands.
This while they saw, as for their port they made,
How wide the Persian sea extends to sight;
Whence in few days the squadron was conveyed
Nigh the famed gulf from ancient Magi hight;
Here they found harbourage; and here were stayed
Their wandering barks, which stern to shore were dight.
Secure from danger from Alcina's wrath,
The duke by land continued hence his path.
He pricks through many a field and forest blind,
By many a vale and many a mountain gray;
Where robbers, now before and now behind,
Oft threat the peer by night or open day;
Lion and dragon oft of poisonous kind,
And other savage monsters cross his way:
But he no sooner has his bugle wound,
Than these are scared and scattered by the sound.
Through Araby the blest he fares, where grow
Thickets of myrrh, and gums odorous ooze,
Where the sole phoenix makes her nest, although
The world is all before her where to choose;
And to the avenging sea which whelmed the foe
Of Israel, his way the duke pursues;
In which King Pharaoh and his host were lost:
From whence he to the land of heroes crost.
Astolpho along Trajan's channel goes,
Upon that horse which has no earthly peer,
And moves so lightly, that the soft sand shows
No token of the passing cavalier;
Who prints not grass, prints not the driven snows,
- Who dry-shod would the briny billows clear,
And strains so nimbly in the course, he wind
And thunderbolt and arrow leaves behind: -
Erst Argalia's courser, which was born
From a close union of the wind and flame,
And, nourished not by hay or heartening corn,
Fed on pure air, and Rabican his name.
His way the bearer of the magic horn
Following, where Nile received that river, came;
But ere he at its outlet could arrive,
Towards him saw a pinnace swiftly drive.
A hermit in the poop the bark did guide
With snowy beard descending to mid breast;
Who when from far the Paladin be spied,
Him to ascend his ready pinnace prest.
'My son, unless thou loathest life, (he cried)
And wouldst that Death to-day thy course arrest,
Content thee in my bark to cross the water;
For yonder path conducts thee straight to slaughter.
'Within six miles, no further, shalt thou light
(Pursued the hermit) on the bloody seat,
Where dwells a giant, horrible to sight,
Exceeding every stature by eight feet.
From him wayfaring man or errant knight
Would vainly hope with life to make retreat;
For some the felon quarters, some he flays,
And some he swallows quick, and some he slays.
'He, 'mid the cruel horrors he intends,
Takes pleasure in a net, by cunning hands
Contrived, which near his mansion he extends;
So well concealed beneath the crumbling sands,
That whoso uninstructed thither wends,
Nought of the subtle mischief understands;
And so the giant scares him with his cries,
That he within the toils in terror flies;
'Whom with loud laughter, to his seat hard by
He drags along, enveloped in his snare;
And knight and damsel views with equal eye,
And for his prisoners' worth has little care.
Then, having sucked their brains and life-blood dry,
Casts forth their bones upon the desert lair;
And round about his griesly palace pins,
For horrid ornament, their bloody skins.
'Take this, - my son, oh! take this other way,
Which thee will to the sea in safety guide.'
'I thank thee, holy father, for thy say,
(To him the fearless cavalier replied)
But cannot peril against honour weigh,
Far dearer than my life. To the other side
Me vainly dost thou move to pass the wave;
Rather for this I seek the giant's cave.
'I with dishonour life to flight may owe;
But worse than death loath thus to save my head.
The worst that can befall me if I go,
Is I my blood shall with the others shed:
But if on me such mercy God bestow,
That I remain alive, the giant dead,
Secure for thousands shall I make the ways;
So that the greater good the risque o'erpays.
'I peril but the single life of one
Against safety of the countless rest.'
- 'Go then in peace,' (the other said). 'my son,
And to thy succour, form among the blest,
May God dispatch the Archangel Michael down.'
- And him, with that, the simple hermit blest.
Astolpho pricks along Nile's rosy strand,
More in his horn confiding than his brand.
Between the mighty river and the fen,
A path upon the sandy shore doth lie,
Barred by the giant's solitary den
Cut off from converse with humanity.
About it heads and naked limbs of men
Were fixed, the victims of his cruelty.
Window or battlements was not, whence strung
Might not be seen some wretched prisoner hung.
As in hill-farm or castle, fenced with moat,
The hunter, mindful what his dangers were,
Aye fastens on his door the shaggy coat
And horrid paws and monstrous head of bear;
So showed the giant those of greatest note,
Who, thither brought, had perished in his snare.
The bones of countless others wide were spread,
And every ditch with human blood was red.
Caligorant was standing at the gate
(For so was the despiteous monster hight);
Who decked his house with corpses, as for state
Some theirs with cloth of gold and scarlet dight.
He scarce contained himself for joy, so great
His pleasure, when the duke appeared in sight;
For 'twas two months complete, a third was near,
Since by that road had past a cavalier.
Towards the marish, where green rushes grow,
He hastes, intending from that covert blind
To double on his unsuspecting foe,
And issue on the cavalier behind:
For him to drive into the net, below
The sand, the griesly giant had designed;
As others trapt he had been wont to see,
Brought thither by their evil destiny.
When him the wary paladin espied,
He stopt his courser, not without great heed,
Lest he into the covert snare might tide,
Forewarned of this by the good hermit's rede.
Here to his horn for succour he applied,
Nor failed its wonted virtue in this need:
It smote the giant's heart with such affright,
That he turned back, and homeward fled outright.
Astolpho blew, still watchful of surprise,
Weening to see the engine sprung: fast flew
The giant, - as if heart as well as eyes
The thief had lost, - nor whitherward he knew:
Such is his fear, he kens not as he flies,
How is own covert mischief to eschew:
He runs into the net, which closing round,
Hampers the wretch, and drags him to the ground.
Astolpho, who beholds his bulky prey
Fall bodily, drives thither at full speed,
Secure himself, and, bent - to make him pay
The price of slaughtered thousands - quits his steed.
Yet after, deems a helpless wight to slay
No valour were, but rather foul misdeed:
For him, arms, neck, and feet, so closely tied,
He could not shake himself, the warrior spied.
With subtle thread of steel had Vulcan wrought
The net of old, and with such cunning pain,
He, who to break its weakest mesh had sought,
Would have bestowed his time and toil in vain.
It was with this he Mars and Venus caught,
Who, hands and feet, were fettered by the chain:
Nor did the jealous husband weave the thread
For aught, but to surprise that pair in bed.
Mercury from the smith conveyed the prize,
Wanting to take young Chloris in the snare;
Sweet Chloris, who behind Aurora flies,
At rise of sun, through fields of liquid air,
And from her gathered garment, through the skies,
Scatters the violet, rose, and lily fair.
He for this nymph his toils so deftly set,
One day, in air he took her with the net.
The nymph (it seems) was taken as she flew,
Where the great Aethiop river meets the brine:
The net was treasured in Canopus, through
Successive ages, in Anubis' shrine.
After three thousand years, Caligorant drew
The sacred relict from the palace divine:
Whence with the net the impious thief returned,
Who robbed the temple and the city burned,
He fixed it here, beneath the sandy plain,
In mode, that all the travellers whom he chased
Ran into it, and the engine was with pain
Touched, ere it arms, and feet, and neck embraced.
From this the good Astolpho took a chain,
And with the gyve his hands behind him laced:
His arms and breast he swaddled in such guise,
He could not loose himself; then let him rise.
After, his other knots unfastening,
(For he was turned more gentle than a maid)
Astolpho, as a show, the thief would bring,
By city, borough-town, and farm conveyed;
The net as well; than which no quainter thing
Was ever by the file and hammer made.
On him, like sumpter-nag he laid the load,
In triumph led, behind him, on his road.
Him helm and shield he gives alike to bear,
As to a valet; hence proceeds the peer,
Gladdening the fearful pilgrim every where,
Who joys to think, henceforth his way is clear.
So far an end does bold Astolpho fare,
He is to Memphis' tombs already near, -
Memphis renowned for pyramids; in sight,
He marks the populous Cairo opposite.
Ran all the people in tumultuous tide,
To see him drag the unmeasured wight along.
'How can it be,' (each to his fellow cried)
'That one so weak could master one so strong?'
Scarce can Astolpho put the press aside,
So close from every part their numbers throng;
While all admire him as a cavalier
Of mighty worth, and make him goodly cheer.
Then Cairo was not such, as common cry
Pronounces in our age that costly seat;
- That eighteen thousand districts ill supply
Lodging to those who in her markets meet;
- And though the houses are three stories high,
Numbers are forced to sleep in the open street;
And that the soldan has a palace there
Of wonderous size, and passing rich and fair;
And therein (Christian renegadoes all)
Keeps fifteen thousand vassals, for his needs,
Beneath one roof supplied with bower and stall,
Themselves, and wives, and families, and steeds.
The duke desired to see the river's fall,
And how far Nile into the sea proceeds.
At Damietta; where wayfaring wight,
He heard, was prisoner made or slain outright.
For at Nile's outlet there, beside his bed,
A sturdy thief was sheltered in a tower,
Alike the native's and the stranger's dread,
Wont even to Cairo's gate the road to scower.
Him no one could resist, and, it was said,
That man to slay the felon had no power.
A hundred thousand wounds he had in strife
Received, yet none could ever take his life.
To see if he could break the thread which tied
The felon's life, upon his way the knight
Set forward, and to Damietta hied,
To find Orrilo, so the thief was hight;
Thence to the river's outlet past, and spied
The sturdy castle on the margin dight;
Harboured in which the enchanted demon lay,
The fruit of a hobgoblin and a fay.
He here Orrilo and two knights in mail
Found at fierce strife: the two ill held their own
Against him; so Orrilo did assail
The warlike pair, although himself alone;
And how much either might in arms avail,
Fame through the universal world had blown.
Of Oliviero's seed was either plant;
Gryphon the white, and sable Aquilant.
The necromancer had this while (to say
The truth) with vantage on his side, begun
The fight, who brought a monster to the fray,
Found only in those parts, and wont to won
Ashore or under water, and to prey,
For food, on human bodies; feeding on
Poor mariners and travelling men, who fare,
Of the impending danger, unaware.
The monster, slaughtered by the brethren two,
Upon the sand beside the haven lies;
And hence no wrong they to Orrilo do,
Assailing him together in this guise.
Him they dismembered often and not slew:
Now he, - because dismembered, - ever dies;
For he replaces leg or hand like wax,
Which the good faulchion from his body hacks.
Gryphon and Aquilant by turns divide,
Now to the teeth, now breast, the enchanted wight.
The fruitless blow Orrilo does deride,
While the two baffled warriors rage for spite.
Let him who falling silver has espied
(Which mercury by alchymists is hight)
Scatter, and reunite each broken member,
Hearing my tale, what he has seen remember.
If the thief's head be severed by the pair,
He lights and staggers till he finds it; now
Uptaken by the nose or by the hair,
And fastened to the neck, I know not how.
This sometimes Gryphon takes, and whirled through air,
Whelms in the stream; but bootless is the throw:
For like a fish can fierce Orrilo swim;
And safely, with the head, regains the brim.
Two ladies, meetly clad in fair array,
One damsel was in black and one in white,
And who had been the occasion of that fray,
Stood by to gaze upon the cruel fight:
Either of these was a benignant fay,
Whose care had nourished one and the other knight,
Oliver's children; when the babes forlorn
They from the claws of two huge birds had torn.
Since, from Gismonda they had these conveyed,
Borne to a distance from their native sky.
But more to say were needless, since displaid
To the whole world has been their history.
Though the author has the father's name mis-said;
One for another (how I know not, I)
Mistaking. Now this fearful strife the pair
Of warriors waged at both the ladies' prayer.
Though it was noon in the happy islands, day
Had vanished in this clime, displaced by night;
And, underneath the moon's uncertain ray,
And ill-discerned, were all things hid from sight;
When to the fort Orrilo took his way.
Since both the sable sister and the white
Were pleased the furious battle to defer,
Till a new sun should in the horizon stir.
The duke, who by their ensigns, and yet more
Had by the sight of many a vigorous blow,
Gryphon and Aquilant long time before
Agnized, to greet the brethren was not slow:
And they, who in the peer, victorious o'er
The giant, whom he led a captive, know
The BARON OF THE PARD, (so styled at court)
Him to salute, with no less love resort.
The ladies to repose the warriors led
To a fair palace near, their sumptuous seat:
Thence issuing courtly squire and damsel sped,
Them with lit torches in mid-way to meet.
Their goodly steeds they quit, there well bested,
Put off their arms, and in a garden sweet
Discern the ready supper duly laid
Fast by, where a refreshing fountain played.
Here they bid bind the giant on the green,
Fast-tethered by a strong and weighty chain
To a tough oak, whose ancient trunk they ween
May well be proof against a single strain;
With that, by ten good serjeants overseen,
Lest he by night get loose, and so the train
Assault and haply harm; while careless they
Without a guard and unsuspecting lay.
At the abundant and most sumptuous board,
With costly viands (its least pleasure) fraught,
The longest topic for discourse afford
Orrilo's prowess, and the marvel wrought;
For head or arm dissevered by the sword,
They (who upon the recent wonder thought)
Might think a dream to see him re-unite,
And but return more furious to the fight.
Astolpho in his book had found exprest
(That which prescribed a remedy for spell)
How he who of one hair deprived the pest
Only could him in battle hope to quell:
But this plucked out or sheared, he from his breast
Parforce the felon's spirit would expell.
So says the volume; but instructs not where,
'Mid locks so thickly set, to find the hair.
The duke no less with hope of conquest glows
Than if the palm he has already won;
As he that hopes with small expense of blows
To pluck the hair, the wizard-wight undone.
Hence does he to the youthful pair propose
The burden of that enterprize upon
Himself to take: Orrilo will he slay,
If the two brethren nought the intent gainsay,
But willingly to him these yield the emprize,
Assured his toil will be bestowed in vain;
And now a new Aurora climbs the skies,
And from his walls Orrilo on the plain
Drops, - and the strife begins - Orrilo plies
The mace, the duke the sword; he 'mid a rain
Of strokes would from the body at one blow
Divorce the spirit of the enchanted foe:
Together with the mace he lops the fist;
And now this arm, now the other falls to ground;
Sometimes he cleaves the corslet's iron twist,
And piecemeal shares and maims the felon round.
Orrilo re-unites the portions missed,
Found on the champagne, and again is sound:
And, though into a hundred fragments hewed,
Astolpho sees him, in a thought, renewed.
After a thousand blows, Astolpho sped
One stroke, above the shoulders and below
The chin, which lopt away both helm and head:
Nor lights the duke less swiftly than his foe.
Then grasps the hair defiled with gore and red,
Springs in a moment on his horse, and lo!
Up-stream with it along Nile's margin hies,
So that the thief cannot retake the prize.
That fool, who had not marked the warrior's feat,
Was searching in the dust to find his head;
But when he heard the charger in retreat,
Who through the forest with the plunder fled,
Leapt quickly into his own courser's seat,
And in pursuit of bold Astolpho sped.
Fain had Orrilo shouted 'Hola! stay!'
But that the duke had borne his mouth away:
Yet pleased Astolpho had not in like guise
Borne off his heels, pursues with flowing rein.
Him Rabican, who marvellously flies,
Distances by a mighty length of plain.
This while the wizard's head Astolpho eyes
From poll to front, above the eyebrows twain,
Searching, in haste, if he the hair can see
Which makes Orrilo's immortality.
Amid innumerable locks, no hair
Straiter or crisper than the rest was seen.
How then should good Astolpho, in his care
To slay the thief, so many choose between?
'To cut them all (he said) it better were.'
And since he scissors lacked and razor keen,
He wanting these, resorted to his glaive,
Which cut so well, it might be said to shave.
And, holding, by the nose, the severed head,
Close-sheared it all, behind and eke before.
He found, among the rest, the fatal thread.
Then pale became the visage, changing sore,
Turned up its eyes, and signals sore and dread
Of the last agony of nature wore;
And the headless body seated in the sell,
Shuddered its last, and from the courser fell.
The duke returns where he the champions two
And dames had left, the trophy in his hand,
Which manifests of death the tokens true;
And shows the distant body on the sand.
I know not if they this with pleasure view,
Though him they welcome with demeanour bland:
For the intercepted victory might pain
Perchance inflict upon the envying twain.
Nor do I think that either gentle fay
With pleasure could that battle's issue see:
Since those kind dames, because they would delay
The doleful fate which shortly was to be
In France the brethren's lot, had in that fray
With fierce Orrilo matched the warriors free;
And so to occupy the pair had cast,
Till the sad influence of the skies were past.
When to the castellan was certified
In Damietta, that the thief was dead,
He loosed a carrier pigeon, having tied
Beneath her wing a letter by a thread.
She went to Cairo; and, to scatter wide
The news, another from that town was sped
(Such is the usage there); so, Egypt through,
In a few hours the joyful tidings flew.
As he had brought the adventure to an end,
The duke now sought the noble youths to stir,
(Though of themselves that way their wishes tend,
Nor they to whet that purpose need the spur)
That they the Church from outrage to defend,
And rights of Charles, the Roman Emperor,
Would cease to war upon that Eastern strand,
And would seek honour in their native land.
Gryphon and Aquilant thus bid adieu,
One and the other, to his lady fair;
Who, though it sorely troubled them, ill knew
How to resist the wishes of the pair.
The duke, together with the warlike two,
Turns to the right, resolved to worship, where
God erst incarnate dwelt, the holy places,
Ere he to cherished France his way retraces.
The warriors to the left-hand might incline,
As plainer and more full of pleasant cheer,
Where still along the sea extends their line;
But take the right-hand path, abrupt and drear;
Since the chief city of all Palestine,
By six days' journey, is, through this, more near.
Water there is along this rugged track,
And grass; all other needful matters lack.
So that, before they enter on their road,
All that is needful they collect, and lay
Upon the giant's back the bulky load,
Who could a tower upon his neck convey.
The Holy Land a mountain-summit showed,
At finishing their rough and salvage way;
Where HEAVENLY LOVE a willing offering stood,
And washed away our errors with his blood.
They, at the entrance of the city, view
A gentle stripling; and in him the three
Agnize Sir Sansonet of Mecca, who
Was, in youth's flower, for sovereign chivalry,
For sovereign goodness, famed the country through,
And wise beyond his years: from paganry
Converted by Orlando to the truth,
Who had, with his own hands, baptized the youth.
Designing there a fortilage, in front
Of Egypt's caliph they the warrior found;
And with a wall two miles in length, the mount
Of Calvary intending to surround.
Received with such a countenance, as is wont
To be of inward love the surest ground,
Them he conducted to his royal home,
And, with all comfort, harboured in the dome.
As deputy, the sainted land he swayed,
Conferred on him by Charlemagne, in trust,
To him the English duke a present made
Of that so sturdy and unmeasured beast,
That it ten draught horse burdens had conveyed;
So monstrous was the giant, and next gave
The net, in which he took the unwieldy slave.
In quittance, Sansonet, his sword to bear,
Gave a rich girdle to Astolpho bold,
And spurs for either heel, a costly pair,
With bucklers and with rowels made of gold;
Which ('twas believed) the warrior's relicts were,
Who freed the damsel from that dragon old;
Spoils, which Sir Sansonet, with many more,
From Joppa, when he took the city, bore
Cleansed of their errors in a monastery,
From whence the odour of good works upwent,
They of Christ's passion every mystery
Contemplating, through all the churches went;
Which now, to our eternal infamy,
Foul Moor usurp; what time on strife intent,
All Europe rings with arms and martial deeds,
And war is everywhere but where it needs.
While grace the warlike three devoutly sought,
Intent on pardon and on pious lore,
A Grecian pilgrim, known to Gryphon, brought
Tidings, which ill the afflicted champion bore,
From his long-cherished vow and former thought,
Too foreign, too remote; and these so sore
Inflamed his troubled breast, and bred such care,
They wholly turned aside his mind from prayer.
For his misfortune, one of lovely feature
Sir Gryphon worshipped, Origilla hight.
Of fairer visage and of better stature,
Not one among a thousand meets the sight:
But faithless, and of such an evil nature,
That thou mightst town and city search outright,
And continent and island, far and near,
Yet, never, as I think, wouldst find her peer.
In Constantine's imperial city, burned
With a fierce fever, he had left the fair;
And hoped to find her, to that place returned,
Lovelier than ever; and enjoy her there.
But she to Antioch (as the warrior learned)
Had with another leman made repair;
Thinking, while such fresh youth was yet her own,
'Twere not a thing to brook - to sleep alone.
Sir Gryphon, from the time he heard the news
Had evermore bemoaned him, day or night:
Whatever pleasure other wight pursues
Seems but the more to vex his troubled sprite.
Let each reflect, who to his mischief woos,
How keenly tempered are Love's darts of might,
And, heavier than all ills, the torment fell,
In that he was ashamed his grief to tell.
This: for that Aquilant had oft before
Reproved him for the passion which he nursed,
And sought to banish her from his heart's core;
- Her, who of all bad women is the worst,
He still had censured, in his wiser lore,
If by his brother Aquilant accurst,
Her Gryphon, in his partial love, excuses,
For mostly self-conceit our sense abuses.
It therefore is his purpose, without say
To Aquilant, alone to take the quest
As far as Antioch, and bear her away,
Who had borne off his heart-core from his breast:
To find him, who had made the dame his prey,
And take such vengeance of him, ere he rest,
As shall for aye be told. My next will tell
How he effected this, and what befell.
Comments about Orlando Furioso Canto 15 by Ludovico Ariosto
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