Orlando Furioso

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Orlando Furioso

(1532)

An epic poem written by Ludovico Ariosto.

Italian.


Canto 33

Arguement

While soaring through the world, the English knight

Arrives in Nubia's distant realm, and here

Driving the Harpies from the royal board,

Hunts to the mouth of hell that impious horde.


C

'Twixt Atlas' shaggy ridges and the shore,

He viewed each regions in his spacious round;

He turned his back upon Carena hoar,

And skimmed above the Cyrenaean ground;

Passing the sandy desert of the Moor,

In Albajada, reached the Nubian's bound;

Left Battus' tomb behind him on the plain,

And Ammon's, now dilapidated, fane.


CI

To other Tremizen he posts, where bred

As well the people are in Mahound's style;

For other Aethiops then his pinions spread,

Which face the first, and lie beyond the Nile.

Between Coallee and Dobada sped,

Bound for the Nubian city's royal pile;

Threading the two, where, ranged on either land,

Moslems and Christians watch, with arms in hand.


CII

In Aethiopia's realm Senapus reigns,

Whose sceptre is the cross; of cities brave,

Of men, of gold possest, and broad domains,

Which the Red Sea's extremest waters lave.

A faith well nigh like ours that king maintains,

Which man from his primaeval doom may save.

Here, save I err in what their rites require,

The swarthy people are baptized with fire.


CIII

Astolpho lighted in the spacious court,

Intending on the Nubian king to wait.

Less strong than sumptuous is the wealthy fort,

Wherein the royal Aethiop keeps his state,

The chains that serve the drawbridge to support,

The bolts, the bars, the hinges of the gate,

And finally whatever we behold

Here wrought in iron, there is wrought in gold.


CIV

High prized withal, albeit it so abound,

Is that best metal; lodges built in air

Which on all sides the wealthy pile surround,

Clear colonnades with crystal shafts upbear.

Of green, white, crimson, blue and yellow ground,

A frieze extends below those galleries fair.

Here at due intervals rich gems combine,

And topaz, sapphire, emerald, ruby shine.


CV

In wall and roof and pavement scattered are

Full many a pearl, full many a costly stone.

Here thrives the balm; the plants were ever rare,

Compared with these, which were in Jewry grown,

The musk which we possess from thence we bear,

In fine those products from this clime are brought,

Which in our regions are so prized and sought.


CVI

The sultan, king of the Egyptian land,

Pays tribute to this sovereign, as his head,

They say, since having Nile at his command

He may divert the stream to other bed.

Hence, with its district upon either hand,

Forthwith might Cairo lack its daily bread.

Senapus him his Nubian tribes proclaim;

We Priest and Prester John the sovereign name.


CVII

Of all those Aethiop monarchs, beyond measure,

The first was this, for riches and for might;

But he with all his puissance, all his treasure,

Alas! had miserably lost his sight.

And yet was this the monarch's least displeasure;

Vexed by a direr and a worse despite;

Harassed, though richest of those Nubian kings,

By a perpetual hunger's cruel stings.


CVIII

Whene'er to eat or drink the wretched man

Prepared, by that resistless need pursued,

Forthwith -- infernal and avenging clan --

Appeared the monstrous Harpies' craving brood;

Which, armed with beak and talons, overran

Vessel and board, and preyed upon the food;

And what their wombs suffice not to receive

Foul and defiled the loathsome monsters leave.


CIX

And this, because upborn by such a tide

Of full blown honours, in his unripe age,

For he excelled in heart and nerve, beside

The riches of his royal heritage,

Like Lucifer, the monarch waxed in pride,

And war upon his maker thought to wage.

He with his host against the mountain went,

Where Egypt's mighty river finds a vent.


CX

Upon this hill which well-nigh kissed the skies,

Piercing the clouds, the king had heard recite,

Was seated the terrestrial paradise,

Where our first parents flourished in delight.

With camels, elephants, and footmen hies

Thither that king, confiding in his might;

With huge desire if peopled be the land

To bring its nations under his command.


CXI

God marred the rash emprise, and from on high

Sent down an angel, whose destroying sword

A hundred thousand of that chivalry

Slew, and to endless night condemned their lord.

Emerging, next, from hellish caverns, fly

These horrid harpies and assault his board;

Which still pollute or waste the royal meat,

Nor leave the monarch aught to drink or eat.


CXII

And him had plunged in uttermost despair

One that to him here while had prophesied

The loathsome Harpies should his daily fare

Leave unpolluted only, when astride

Of winged horse, arriving through the air,

An armed cavalier should be descried.

And, for impossible appears the thing,

Devoid of hope remains the mournful king.


CXIII

Now that with wonderment his followers spy

The English cavalier so make his way,

O'er every wall, o'er every turret high,

Some swiftly to the king the news convey.

Who calls to mind that ancient prophecy,

And heedless of the staff, his wonted stay,

Through joy, with outstretched arms and tottering feet,

Comes forth, the flying cavalier to meet.


CXIV

Within the castle court Astolpho flew,

And there, with spacious wheels, on earth descended;

The king, conducted by his courtly crew,

Before the warrior knelt, with arms extended,

And cried: "Thou angel send of God, thou new

Messiah, if too sore I have offended,

For mercy, yet, bethink thee, 'tis our bent

To sin, and thine to pardon who repent.


CXV

"Knowing my sin, I ask not, I, to be

-- Such grace I dare not ask -- restored to light;

For well I seen such power resides in thee,

As Being accepted in thy Maker's sight.

Let it suffice, that I no longer see,

Nor let me with perpetual hunger fight.

At least, expel the harpies' loathsome horde,

Nor let them more pollute my ravaged board;


CXVI

"And I to build thee, in my royal hold,

A holy temple, made of marble, swear,

With all its portals and its roof of gold,

And decked, within and out, with jewels rare.

Here shall thy mighty miracle be told

In sculpture, and thy name the dome shall bear."

So spake the sightless king of Nubia's reign,

And sought to kiss the stranger's feet in vain.


CXVII

"Nor angel" -- good Astolpho made reply --

"Nor new Messiah, I from heaven descend;

No less a mortal and a sinner I,

To such high grace unworthy to pretend.

To slay the monsters I all means will try,

Or drive them from the realm which they offend.

If I shall prosper, be thy praises paid

To God alone, who sent me to thine aid.


CXVIII

"Offer these vows to God, to him well due;

To him thy churches build, thine altars rear."

Discoursing so, together wend the two,

'Mid barons bold, that king and cavalier.

The Nubian prince commands the menial crew

Forthwith to bring the hospitable cheer;

And hopes that now the foul, rapacious band,

Will not dare snatch the victual from his hand.


CXIX

Forthwith a solemn banquet they prepare

Within the gorgeous palace of the king.

Seated alone here guest and sovereign are,

And the attendant troop the viands bring.

Behold! a whizzing sound is heard in air,

Which echoes with the beat of savage wing.

Behold! the band of harpies thither flies,

Lured by the scent of victual from the skies.


CXX

All bear a female face of pallid dye,

And seven in number are the horrid band;

Emaciated with hunger, lean, and dry;

Fouler than death; the pinions they expand

Ragged, and huge, and shapeless to the eye;

The talon crook'd; rapacious is the hand;

Fetid and large the paunch; in many a fold,

Like snake's, their long and knotted tails are rolled.


CXXI

The fowls are heard in air; then swoops amain

The covey well nigh in that instant, rends

The food, o'erturns the vessels, and a rain

Of noisome ordure on the board descends.

To stop their nostrils king and duke are fain;

Such an insufferable stench offends.

Against the greedy birds, as wrath excites,

Astolpho with his brandished faulchion smites.


CXXII

At croup or collar now he aims his blow,

Now strikes at neck or pinion; but on all,

As if he smote upon a bag of tow,

The strokes without effect and languid fall.

This while nor dish nor goblet they forego;

Nor void those ravening fowls the regal hall,

Till they have feasted full, and left the food

Waste or polluted by their rapine rude.


CXXIII

That king had firmly hoped the cavalier

Would from his royal seat the harpies scare.

He now, that hope foregone, with nought to cheer,

Laments, and sighs, and groans in his despair.

Of his good horn remembers him the peer,

Whose clangours helpful aye in peril are,

And deems his bugle were the fittest mean

To free the monarch from those birds unclean;


CXXIV

And first to fill their ears, to king and train,

With melted wax, Astolpho gives command;

That every one who hears the deafening strain

May not in panic terror fly the land.

He takes the reins, his courser backs again,

Grasps the enchanted bugle in his hand;

And to the sewer next signs to have the board

Anew with hospitable victual stored.


CXXV

The meats he to an open galley bears,

And other banquet spreads on other ground.

Behold, as wont, the harpy-squad appears;

Astolpho quickly lifts the bugle's round;

And (for unguarded are their harassed ears)

The harpies are not proof against the sound;

In terror form the royal dome they speed,

Nor meat nor aught beside the monsters heed.


CXXVI

After them spurs in haste the valiant peer:

And on the winged courser forth is flown,

Leaving beneath him, in his swift career,

The royal castle and the crowded town;

The bugle ever pealing, far and near.

The harpies fly toward the torrid zone;

Nor light until they reach that loftiest mountain

Where springs, if anywhere, Nile's secret fountain.


CXXVII

Almost at that aerial mountain's feet,

Deep under earth, extends a gloomy cell.

The surest pass for him, as they repeat,

That would at any time descend to hell.

Hither the predatory troop retreat,

As a safe refuge from the deafening yell.

As far, and farther than Cocytus' shore

Descending, till that horn is heard no more.


CXXVIII

At that dark hellish inlet, which a way

Opens to him who would abandon light,

The terrifying bugle ceased to bray;

-- The courser furled his wings and stopt his flight.

But, ere Astolpho further I convey,

-- Not to depart from my accustomed rite --

Since on all sides the paper overflows,

I shall conclude my canto and repose.


CANTO 34


ARGUMENT

In the infernal pit Astolpho hears

Of Lydia's woe, by smoke well-nigh opprest.

He mounts anew, and him his courser bears

To the terrestrial paradise addrest.

By John advised in all, to heaven he steers;

Of some of his lost sense here repossest,

Orlando's wasted wit as well he takes,

Sees the Fates spin their threads, and earthward makes.


I

O fierce and hungry harpies, that on blind

And erring Italy so full have fed!

Whom, for the scourge of ancient sins designed,

Haply just Heaven to every board has sped.

Innocent children, pious mothers, pined

With hunger, die, and see their daily bread,

-- The orphan's and the widow's scanty food --

Feed for a single feast that filthy brood.


II

Too foul a fault was his, who did unclose

That cave long shut, and made the passage free,

From whence that greediness, that filth arose,

Our Italy's infection doomed to be.

Then was good life extinguished, and repose

So banished, that with strife and poverty,

With fear and trouble, is she still perplext,

And shall for many a future year be vext:


III

Till she her sons has shaken by the hair,

And from Lethaean sloth to life restored;

Exclaiming, "Will none imitate that pair,

Zethes and Calais, with avenging sword

Rescue from claws and stench our goodly fare,

And cleanse and glad anew the genial board.

As they king Phineus from those fowls released,

And England's peer restored the Nubian's feast?"


CANTO 38

ARGUMENT

To Arles the Child, to Charles Marphisa wends,

To be baptized, with Bradamant for guide.

Astolpho from the holy realm descends;

Through whom with sight the Nubian is supplied:

Agramant's land he with his troop offends;

But he is of his Africk realm so wide,

With Charles he bargains, that, on either side,

Two knights by strife their quarrel should decide.

XXIV

The duke descended from the lucid round,

On this our earthly planet's loftiest height.

Wither he with that blessed vase was bound,

Which was the mighty champion's brain to right.

A herb of sovereign virtue on that ground

The apostle shows, and with it bids the knight

The Nubian's eyeballs touch, when him anew

He visits, and restore that sovereign's view.


XXV

That he, for this and for his first desert,

May give him bands, Biserta to assail;

And shows him how that people inexpert

He may to battle train, in plate and mail;

And how to pass the deserts, without hurt,

Where men are dazzled by the sandy gale.

The order that throughout should be maintained

From point to point, the sainted sire explained;


XXVI

Then made him that plumed beast again bestride,

Rogero's and Atlantes' steed whilere.

By sainted John dismist, his reverend guide,

Those holy regions left the cavalier;

And coasting Nile, on one or the other side,

Saw Nubia's realm before him soon appear;

And there, in its chief city, to the ground

Descended, and anew Senapus found.


XXVII

Great was the joy, and great was the delight,

Wherewith that king received the English lord;

Who well remembered how the gentle knight

Had from the loathsome harpies freed his board.

But when the humour, that obscured his sight,

Valiant Astolpho scaled, and now restored

Was the blind sovereign's eyesight as before,

He would that warrior as a god adore.


XXVIII

So that not only those whom he demands

For the Bisertine war, he gives in aid;

But adds a hundred thousand from his bands,

And offer of his royal person made.

Scarce on the open plain embattled stands,

-- All foot -- the Nubian host, for war arraid.

For few the horses which that region bore;

Of elephants and camels a large store.


XXIX

The night before the day, when on its road

The Nubian force should march, Astolpho rose,

And his winged hippogryph again bestrode:

Then, hurrying ever south, in fury goes

To a high hill, the southern wind's abode;

Whence he towards the Bears in fury blows:

There finds a cave, through whose strait entrance breaks

The fell and furious Auster, when he wakes.


XXX

He, as his master erst instruction gave,

With him an empty bladder had conveyed;

Which, at the vent of that dim Alpine cave,

Wherein reposed the wearied wind, was laid

Quaintly and softly by the baron brave;

And so unlooked for was the ambuscade,

That, issuing forth at morn, to sweep the plains,

Auster imprisoned in the skin remains.


XXXI

To Nubia he, rejoicing in his prey,

Returns; and with that very light the peer,

With the black host, sets out upon his way,

And lets the victual follow in his rear.

Towards Mount Atlas with his whole array

In safety goes the glorious cavalier.

Through shifting plains of powdery sand he past,

Nor dreaded danger from the sultry blast;


XXXII

And having gained the mountain's hither side,

Whence are discerned the plain, and distant brine,

He chooses from the swarm he has to guide

The noblest and most fit for discipline;

And makes them, here and there, in troops divide,

At a hill's foot, wherewith the plains confine;

Then leaves his host and climbs the hill's ascent,

Like one that is on lofty thoughts intent.


XXXIII

After he, lowly kneeling in the dust,

His holy master had implored, in true

Assurance he was heard, he downward thrust

A heap of stones. O what things may he do

That in the Saviour wholly puts his trust!

The stones beyond the use of nature grew;

Which rolling to the sandy plain below,

Next, neck and muzzle, legs and belly show.


XXXIV

They, neighing shrill, down narrow paths repair,

With lusty leaps; and lighting on the plain,

Uplift the croup, like coursers as they are,

Some bay, some roan, and some of dapple stain.

The crowds that waiting in the valleys were,

Layed hands on them, and seized them by the rein.

Thus in a thought each soldier had his horse,

Born ready reined and saddled for the course.


XXXV

He fourscore thousand of his Nubian power,

One hundred and two footmen, in a day

To horsemen changes, who wide Afric scour,

And, upon every side, sack, burn, and slay.

Agramant had intrusted town and tower,

Till his return, to king Branzardo's sway,

To Fersa's king, and him of the Algaziers;

And these against Astolpho lead their spears.


XXXVI

Erewhile a nimble bark, with sail and oar,

They had dispatched, which, stirring feet and wings,

News of the Nubian monarch's outrage bore

To Agramant from his vicegerent kings,

That rests not, night nor day, till to the shore

Of Provence she her doleful tiding brings;

And finds her monarch half subdued in Arles,

For camped within a mile was conquering Charles.


XXXVII

Agramant, hearing in what peril lies

His realm, through his attack on Pepin's reign,

Him in this pressing peril to advise,

Calls kings and princes of the paynim train;

And when he once or twice has turned his eyes

On sage Sobrino and the king of Spain,

-- Eldest and wisest they those lords among --

The monarch so bespeaks the assembled throng:


XXXVIII

"Albeit if fits not captain, as I know,

To say, `on this I thought not,' this I say;

Because when from a quarter comes the blow,

From every human forethought far away,

'Tis for such fault a fair excuse, I trow;

And here all hinges; I did ill to lay

Unfurnished Africk open to attack,

If there was ground to fear the Nubian sack.


XXXIX

"But who could think, save only God on high

Prescient of all which is to be below,

That, from land, beneath such distant sky,

Such mighty host would come, to work us woe?

'Twixt shifting sands, which restless whirlwinds blow:

Yet they their camp have round Biserta placed,

And laid the better part of Africk waste.


XL

"I now on this, O peers! your counsel crave.

If, bootless, homeward I should wend my way,

Or should not such a fair adventure wave,

Till Charles with me a prisoner I convey;

Or how I may as well our Africk save,

And ruin this redoubted empire, say.

Who can advise, is prayed his lore to shew,

That we may learn the best, and that pursue."


XLI

He said; and on Marsilius seated nigh

Next turned his eyes, who in the signal read,

That it belonged to him to make reply

To what the king of Africa had said.

The Spaniard rose, and bending reverently

To Agramant the knee as well as head,

Again his honoured seat in council prest,

And in these words the Moorish king addrest:


XLII

"My liege, does Rumour good or ill report,

It still increases them; hence shall I ne'er,

Under despondence, lack for due support,

Nor bolder course than is befitting steer,

For what may chance, of good or evil sort;

Weighing in even balance hope and fear,

O'errated still; and which we should not mete

By what I hear so many tongues repeat;


XLIII

"Which should so much more doubtfully be viewed,

As it seems less with likelihood to stand.

Now it is seen, if there be likelihood,

That king who reigns in so remote a land,

Followed by such a mighty multitude,

Should set his foot on warlike Africk's strand;

Traversing sands, to which in evil hour

Cambyses trusted his ill-omened power.


XLIV

"I well believe, that from some neighbouring hill

The Arabs have poured down, to waste the plain;

Who, for the country was defended ill,

Have taken, burnt, destroyed and sacked and slain;

And that Branzardo, who your place doth fill,

As viceroy and lieutenant of the reign,

Has set down thousands, where he tens should write;

The better to excuse him in your sight.


XLV

"The Nubian squadrons, I will even yield,

Have been rained down on Africk from the skies;

Or haply they have come, in clouds concealed,

In that their march was hidden from all eyes:

Think you, because unaided in the field,

Your Africk from such host in peril lies?

Your garrisons were sure of coward vein,

If they were scared by such a craven train.


XLVI

"But will you send some frigates, albeit few,

(Provided that unfurled your standards be)

No sooner shall they loose from hence, that crew

Of spoilers shall within their confines flee;

-- Nubians are they, or idle Arabs -- who,

Knowing that you are severed by the sea

From your own realm, and warring with our band,

Have taken courage to assail your land.


Canto 39

XXIII

Him under Monaco, upon the shore,

In his first passage, Sarza's monarch took.

Thenceforth had been a prisoner evermore

Dudon, who was derived of Danish stock.

The paladin against the royal Moor

Branzardo thought, in this distress, to truck;

And knowing through sure spy, Astolpho led

The Nubians, to that chief the offer sped.


LXXVII

Not in Biserta's port his host to land

Was the sage king of Africa's intent,

Who had sure news that shore by Nubia's band

Was held, but he so far above it meant

To steer his Moorish squadron, that the strand

Should not be steep or rugged for descent:

There would he disembark, and thence would aid

Forthwith his people, broken and dismaid.


Canto 40

XVI

The Nubian king is charged by England's peer,

With sling and arrow so the Moors to gall,

That none upon the works shall dare appear;

And that, protected by the ceaseless fall

Of stone and dart, in safety cavalier

And footman may approach the very wall;

Who loaded, some with plank, with rock-stone some,

And some with beam, or weightier burden, come.


XVII

This and that other thing the Nubians bore,

And by degrees filled-up that channel wide,

Whose waters were cut off the day before,

So that in many parts the ooze was spied.

Filled is the ditch in haste from shore to shore,

And forms a level to the further side.

Cheering the footmen on the works to mount,

Stand Olivier, Astolpho, and the Count.


XVIII

The Nubian upon hope of gain intent,

Impatient of delay, nor heeding how

With pressing perils they were compassed, went

Protected by the sheltering boar and sow.

With battering ram, and other instrument,

To break the gate and make the turret bow,

Speedily to the city wall they post,

Nor unprovided find the paynim host.


XIX

For steel, and fire, and roof, and turret there,

In guise of tempest on the Nubians fell,

Which plank and beam from those dread engines tear,

Made for annoyance of the infidel.

In the ill beginning, and while dim the air,

Much injury the christened host befell;

But when the sun from his rich mansion breaks,

Fortune the faction of the Moor forsakes.


XLIX

"I, for your love, will undertake the quest,

The Count in single combat to appear;

He vainly would, I wot, with me contest,

If wholly made of copper or of steel.

I rate the Christian church, were he at rest,

As wolf rates lambs, when hungering for his meal.

Next have I thought how of the Nubian band

-- A brief and easy task -- to free your land.


L

"I will make other Nubians, they that hold

Another faith, divided by Nile's course,

And Arabs and Macrobians (rich in gold

And men are these, and those in herds of horse),

Chaldaean, Perse, and many more, controlled

By my good sceptre, in such mighty force,

Will make them war upon the Nubians' reign,

Those reavers shall not in your land remain."


LI

Gradasso's second offer seemed to be

Most opportune to King Troyano's son;

And much he blest the chances of the sea,

Which him upon that desert isle had thrown:

Yet would not upon any pact agree,

-- Nay, not to repossess Biserta's town --

Gradasso should for him in fight contend;

Deeming too sore his honour 'twoud offend.


LII

"If Roland is to be defied, more due

The battle is to me (that king replies)

I am prepared for it; and let God do

His will by me, in good or evil wise."

" -- Follow my mode; another mode and new,

Which comes into my mind" (Gradasso cries),

"Let both of us together wage this fight

Against Orlando and another knight."


LIII

"So not left out, I care not, if I be

The first or last (said Agramant): I know

In arms no better can I find than thee,

Though I should seek a comrade, high or low,

And what (Sobrino cried) becomes of me?

I should be more expert if old in show;

And evermore in peril it is good,

Force should have Counsel in his neighbourhood."


LIV

Stricken in years, yet vigorous was the sage,

And well had proved himself with sword and spear;

And said, he found himself in gray old age,

Such as in green and supple youth whilere.

They own his claim, and for an embassage

Forthwith a courier find, then bid him steer

For Africa, where camped the Christians lie,

And Count Orlando on their part defy;


LV

With equal number of armed knights to be,

Matching his foes, on Lampedosa's shore;

Where on all quarters that circumfluent sea,

By which they are inisled, is heard to roar.

The paynim messenger unceasingly,

Like one in needful haste, used sail and oar,

Till he found Roland in Biserta, where

The host beneath his eye their plunder share.


LVI

From those three monarchs to the cavalier

The invitation was in public told;

So pleasing to Anglante's valiant peer,

To the herald he was liberal of his gold:

From his companions had he heard whilere

That Durindane was in Gradasso's hold:

Hence, to retrieve that faulchion from the foe,

To India had the Count resolved to go:


LVII

Deeming he should not find that king elsewhere,

Who, so he heard, had sailed from the French shore.

A nearer place is offered now; and there

He hopes Gradasso shall his prize restore;

Moved also by Almontes' bugle rare,

To accept the challenge which the herald bore;

Nor less by Brigliadoro; since he knew

In Agramant's possession were the two.


LVIII

He chose for his companions in the fight

The faithful Brandimart and Olivier:

Well has he proved the one and the other's might;

Knows he alike to both is passing dear.

Good horses and good armour seeks the knight

And goodly swords and lances, far and near,

For him and his; meseems to you is known

How none of those three warriors had his own.


LIX

Orlando (as I oft have certified)

In fury, his had scattered wide and far;

Rodomont took the others', which beside

The river, locked in that high turret are.

Few throughout Africa could they provide;

As well because to France, in that long war,

King Agramant had born away the best,

As because Africa but few possest.


LX

What could be had of armour, rusted o'er

And brown with age, Orlando bids unite;

Meanwhile with his companions on the shore,

He walks, discoursing on the future fight.

So wandering from their camp three miles and more,

It chanced that, turning towards the sea their sight,

Under full sail approaching, they descried

A helmless barque, with nought her course to guide.


LXI

She, without pilot, without crew, alone,

As wind and fortune ordered it, was bound:

The vessel neared the shore, with sails full-blown,

Furrowing the waves, until she took the ground.

But ere of these three warriors more be shown,

The love wherewith I to the Child am bound,

To his story brings me back, and bids record

What past 'twixt him and Clermont's warlike lord.


LXII

I spake of that good pair of warriors, who

Had both retreated from the martial fray,

Beholding pact and treaty broken through,

And every troop and band in disarray.

Which leader to his oath was first untrue,

And was occasion of such evil, they

Study to learn of all the passing train;

King Agramant or the Emperor Charlemagne.


LXIII

Meanwhile a servant of the Child's, at hand,

-- Faithful, expert and wary was the wight,

Nor in the shock of either furious band,

Had ever of his warlike lord lost sight --

To bold Rogero bore his horse and brand,

That he might aid his comrades now in flight.

Rogero backed the steed and grasped the sword;

But not in battle mixed that martial lord.


LXIV

Thence he departed; but he first renewed

His compact with Montalban's knight -- that so

His Agramant convinced of perjury stood --

Him and his evil sect he would forego.

That day no further feats of hardihood

Rogero will perform against the foe:

He but demands of all that make for Arles,

Who first broke faith, King Agramant or Charles?


LXV

From all he hears repeated, far and near,

That Agramant had broke the promise plight:

He loves that king, and from his side to veer,

For this, believes would be no error light.

The Moors were broke and scattered (this whilere

Has been rehearsed) and from the giddy height

Of Her revolving wheel were downward hurled,

Who at her pleasure rolls this nether world.


LXVI

Rogero ponders if he should remain,

Or rather should his sovereign lord attend:

Love for his lady fits him with a rein

And bit, which lets him not to Africk wend;

Wheels him, and to a counter course again

Spurs him, and threats his restive mood to shend,

Save he maintains the treaty, and the troth

Pledged to the paladin with solemn oath.


LXVII

A wakeful, stinging care, on the other side

Scourges and goads no less the cavalier;

Lest, if he now from Agramant divide,

He should be taxed with baseness or with fear.

If many deem it well he should abide,

To many and many it would ill appear:

Many would say, that oaths unbinding are,

Which 'tis unlawful and unjust to swear.


LXVIII

He all that day and the ensuing night

Remains alone, and so the following day;

Forever sifting in his doubtful sprite,

If it be better to depart or stay:

Lastly for Agramant decides the knight;

To him in Africk will he wend his way:

Moved by his love for his liege-lady sore,

But moved by honour and by duty more.


LXIX

He made for Arles, where yet he hoped would ride

The fleet which him to Africa might bear;

Nor in the port nor offing ships espied,

Nor Saracens save dead beheld he there.

For Agramant had swept the roadstead wide,

And burnt what vessels in the haven were.

Rogero takes the road, when his hope fails,

Along the sea-beat shore toward Marseilles.


LXX

Upon some boat he hoped to lay his hand,

Which him for love or force should thence convey.

Already Ogier's son had made the land,

With the barbarians' fleet, his captive prey.

You could not there have cast a grain of sand

Between those vessels; moored closely lay

The mighty squadrons to that harbour brought,

With conquerors these, and those with prisoners fraught.


LXXI

The vessels of the Moor that were not made

The food of fire and water on that night

(Saving some few that fled) were all conveyed

Safe to Marseilles by the victorious knight

Seven of those kings, that Moorish sceptres swayed,

Who, having seen their squadron put to flight,

With their seven ships had yielded to the foe,

Stood mute and weeping, overwhelmed with woe.


LXXII

Dudon had issued forth upon dry land,

Bent to find Charlemagne that very day;

And of the Moorish spoil and captive band

Made in triumphal pomp a long display.

The prisoners all were ranged upon the strand,

And round them stood their Nubian victors gay;

Who, shouting in his praise, with loud acclaim,

Made all that region ring with Dudon's name.


LXXIII

Rogero, when from far the ships he spied,

Believed they were the fleet of Agramant,

And, to know further, pricked his courser's side;

Then, nearer, mid those knights of mickle vaunt,

Nasamon's king a prisoner he desired,

Agricalt, Bambirago, Farurant,

Balastro, Manilardo, and Rimedont;

Who stood with weeping eyes and drooping front.


LXXIV

In their unhappy state to leave that crew

The Child, who loved those monarchs, cannot bear;

That useless is the empty hand he knew;

That where force is not, little profits prayer.

He couched his lance, their keeper overthrew,

Then proved his wonted might with faulchion bare;

And in a moment stretched upon the strand

Above a hundred of the Nubian band.


Canto 44

XXI

Home, horse and foot, the Nubian host arraid

By squadrons, all, from wasted Africk go;

But to their king, first, thanks Astolpho paid,

And said, he an eternal debt should owe;

In that he had in person given him aid

With all his might and main against the foe.

The skins Astolpho gave them, which confined

The turbid and tempestuous southern wind.


XXII

I say, enclosed in skins that wind he gave,

Which in such fury blows at noon, on high

I moves the shifting plain in many a wave,

And fills the eddying sand the troubled sky,

To carry with them, and from scathe to save

Their squadrons, lest the dusty whirlwind fly;

And bids them, when arrived at home, unnoose

The bladder's vent, and let their prisoners loose.


XXIII

When they have lofty Atlas passes won,

The horses that the Nubian riders bear,

Turpin relates, are changed at once to stone;

So that the steeds return to what they were.

But it is time the Duke to France was gone;

Who having thus provided, in his care,

For the main places in the Moorish land,

Made the hippogryph anew his wings expand;


Selected editions

Lodovico Ariosto, Orlando Furioso, trans. W. S. Rose (London: 1823).

Ludovico Ariosto, Orlando Furioso. Translated into English herotical verse by Sir John Harington (1591), ed. R. McNulty (Oxford: 1972).