Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato

Book I: Canto X: The First Battle of Albracca

Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2022, All Rights Reserved.

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Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato: Book I, Canto X

Book I: Canto X: 1-6: Brandimarte drinks the water, and loses his memory

Orlando followed Astolfo, at speed.

He spurred hard, but his efforts seemed in vain

For still Baiardo proved the swifter steed.

And, as if winged, his distance did maintain.

The duke continued eastwards, sad indeed

That he’d left Brandimarte there; twas plain

He would, now, though his comrade for a time,

Suffer worse than one prisoned for a crime;

Yet he himself feared Durindana so,

He’d thus have abandoned his own brother.

When, chasing him in vain, Count Orlando,

Felt that he’d pursued the fleeing other

Through the woods as far as he should go,

(On the flat he’d fall behind e’en further)

With a sigh, he reined in his steed hard, then

Returned, at the gallop, to the garden.

There the conflict was still raging fiercely,

For Brandimarte had clung to his saddle,

And was facing Ballano and Chiarone,

While both hammered at his armour’s metal.

His weeping maid begged him, piteously,

To quit that vile and impious battle,

To make peace with the two knights he fought,

And do what Dragontina willed of her court.

For he could not maintain his life intact

Unless he drank that enchanted water,

He must lose his memory by that act,

Yet should wait till she returned thereafter,

For she would bring the help that he lacked;

Then, without delaying any further,

She turned her palfrey towards the plain,

Until the gloomy woodland she did gain.

At that moment, the sound of fighting ceased,

Twas the end of that whole cruel tourney.

Dragontina took her cup, and was pleased

To offer a draught to Brandimarte,

Drawn from the river; all dismay it eased,

All memory erased; he knew naught, simply

Forgetting how he’d come there; by her art

She’d formed that stream, that changed the very heart.

Twas a sweet and felicitous liquor

That could, thus, draw memory from the mind.

Brandimarte forgot the love, that ever

Made him suffer such pain; for left behind

Were his hopes, all his fears lost forever

Of dispraise or shame; all such he resigned.

All his thoughts now were of Dragontina,

For he remembered naught ere he’d seen her.

Book I: Canto X: 7-16: Astolfo at the muster of Agricane’s army

Meanwhile Orlando, on his return, paid

Homage to Dragontina and, humbly,

Every excuse that he could find he made

As to why he’d failed, so miserably,

To capture his foe; and well-nigh displayed

The aspect of a child, he spoke so meekly.

We must turn though, once more, to Astolfo,

Who thought himself pursued by Orlando,

For he galloped ceaselessly, night and day,

And saw nothing in that cruel, barren land.

Twas unwelcoming, all that round him lay,

Inhospitable that place, on every hand.

But on the second morn, as he plied his way,

He found an army encamped, a mighty band,

And, meeting a herald, he sought to know  

What folk were there assembled, friend or foe?

The herald pointed out a wide banner,

Sited in the midst of the encampment,

And said: ‘There lodges a great warrior;

Agricane, King of Tartary, tis his tent.

His ensign, as you see, is black moreover,

Yet the work overall most opulent,

For, on its field, a white horse you behold,

And tis bordered with gems, and pearls, and gold.

Now, that white banner with a golden sun

Is Saritrone’s; he’s Mongolia’s king,

And a most free, and most courageous one.

The white lion on a green field, fluttering,

Is Radamanto’s, a mighty champion,

For twenty feet in height is he, ruling

Realms in the north, that mighty foe,

King of Moscow the Great, and Comano.

That red ensign, with the moons in gold,

Is Poliferno’s, he’s king of Orgagna,

Who a wealth of lands and treasures doth hold;

In the field, he’s a mighty warrior.

I tell you of all these flags you behold,

So, you will know them from every other,

And may point them out, you understand,

Should you view them in another land.

That one marks the great king of Gotia,

Pandragon is the puissant monarch’s name,

And there you see King Argante’s banner,

Russia’s giant emperor, well known to fame,

Lurcone’s, and Santaria’s (the former

Bears Norway’s crown, the other, next that same,

A second crown, of Sweden) while nearby

The banner of Normana’s king, doth fly,

The name of that monarch is Brontino,

A heart his emblem, on a field of green;

His neighbour is the Danish king Uldano

One of the boldest warriors e’er seen.

To India all these great lords now go.

Commanded to adorn the warlike scene,

By this king who leads them, Agricane,

They go to fight, and punish, Galafrone.

In India, Galafrone holds power

Over a mighty land, they call Cathay,

And he has a fair daughter, at this hour,

That is fresher than is the rose in May.

Agricane longs for that sweet flower;

Such is the ache that pains his heart, I say,

That he desires to win that maiden fair,

For crowns and kingdoms doth no longer care.

Last night the aged Galafrone

Sent his ambassador to the king,

To explain that the former was wholly

Unable to yield his daughter, seeing

That she had fled to, and seized, a city

Of his in which she now was dwelling,

Fair Albracca, and had proclaimed beside

Within its walls she’d remain, till she died.

Now this host will lay siege to Albracca,

And subject the place to prolonged assault,

Though that his daughter loathes the attacker,

Agricane, is scarce the father’s fault.

But I would judge the truth of the matter

Is that his campaign she’ll find hard to halt;

She scarce can match him in a lengthy war,

And twere best that she yielded long before.’

Book I: Canto X: 17-21: He goes to the aid of Angelica

Once Astolfo had learned the reason why

This army had gathered in vast array,

He mounted his courser that stood nearby,

Took to the road, and spurred hard each day,

Until he reached Albracca, where did lie

The fair Angelica and, I may say,

When she first caught sight of Astolfo’s face,

She greeted the knight with a warm embrace.

‘Welcome, a thousand times, sir knight!’ she cried,

You bring me aid, and thus my hopes renew;

Would that brave Rinaldo were at your side.

I’d forfeit this keep, and the whole realm too,

Without a thought, if forth the knight would ride;

For that lord is so excellent, and true,

That I’d have not a care in all the world,

If, in my sight, his banner was unfurled.’

Said Astolfo: ‘Lady, I can’t deny,

That Rinaldo is a mighty warrior.

Yet I’d have you remember that my

Own record in combat’s superior.

And we have fought together, he and I,

In contests where indeed I pressed him sore,

For the man was drenched with sweat to the bone,

And heard him cry: ‘I yield, to you alone!’

And I may say the same of Orlando,

He that bears the banner of gallantry;

But take his steed from the Lord Rinaldo,

Durindana, from the Count and, trust me,

That neither, boasting, through the world would go,

Thinking themselves the flower of chivalry.

They are not so to me; in every battle

I’ve downed them, and heard their armour rattle!’

The lady challenged not his assertion,

Knowing him for a jester, after all,

Nor defended from his accusation

Rinaldo; nay, on deaf ears it did fall,

Since she had learned the name and condition

Of every knight, and she could well recall

Having seen that pair in Paris, and knew

Of the deeds and high renown of those two.

Book I: Canto X: 22-26: Astolfo goes forth to fight

The lady showed Astolfo great honour,

And lodged him within the citadel.

It was now there rose a sudden rumour,

For a messenger had arrived, to tell

Of dire news, whom dust and sweat did cover,

News of war. ‘To arms! To arms!’ rose the yell.

As the bells rang out, those in the city

Seized weapons, and armed, in fear and fury.

Three thousand well-armed knights there were inside

The fortress, and a thousand infantry,

A strong force, assembled from far and wide,

And the lady in consultation, swiftly,

With Astolfo, and her lords, did now decide

How best those troops might defend the city.

Its walls were high, their strength admirable,

And, under threat, well-nigh impregnable.

They felt the place was sound, and had in store,

Weapons and supplies for many a year.

Astolfo said: ‘I’d rather die than endure

A single day, cowering here in fear,

Without challenging the enemy in war.

Let those kings all, one by one, now appear.

And let me be plunged straight to Hell,

If I linger, armed, here in this citadel.’

With that, well-armed indeed, on Baiardo,

He spurred to meet the foe upon the field,

Where he uttered cries of such bravado

All were amazed, their wonder unconcealed.

‘I’ll soon make you strike your tents and go,

And do so alone!’ Loud his challenge pealed.

‘None shall survive, all die, at my command

 I’ll slay every knight here with my own hand.’

Twenty-two hundred thousand knights in all,

Such was King Agricane’s fighting force,

(So, Bishop Turpin writes) beneath the wall

At Albracca, where Astolfo sat his horse,

Disdainfully. ‘Pride goes before a fall,’

They say; and the duke learned so, in due course,

Such that he somewhat altered his opinion,

And was well-nigh ruled by sense and reason.

Book I: Canto X: 27-31: He defeats Emperor Argante of Russia, and another

But now he challenged both Radamanto

And Saritrone, and summoned Argante,

And then called for Poliferno, Brontino,

And brave Pandragon, mocking them loudly,

Treacherous Lurcone, and Uldano,

And scorned their leader King Agricane.

And next taunted Santaria, Sweden’s king,

Berating them all, shouting and jeering,

Until the whole camp had armed in fury.

Never was viewed so threatening a scene

As that angry host, roused completely,

By one knight’s taunts, mocking or obscene.

So loud was the outcry, and so mighty,

The hills echoed and the plain between.

Ten kings unfurled their banners there, on high,

And rode to battle neath the sounding sky.

Yet, meeting with but the lone Astolfo,

They felt it shameful to attack together.

Twas Emperor Argante, that harsh foe,

That was the first to rise to the encounter.

The ugly dog had beady eyes, although

He was six palm-widths across the shoulder,

And no head was ever so large and fat;

His chin was pointed, while his nose was flat.

He rode a sorrel steed, its neck outstretched,

As he galloped forth to challenge Astolfo.

The bold duke with his magic lance soon fetched

Him from the saddle, with a skilful blow,

While on every face, amazement was etched.

A bold cousin of the Dane, Uldano,

A noble lord, strong and brave, was next

To lower his lance (so says Turpin’s text).

Astolfo merely touched him with his spear,

And, thus, he sent him head-first to the ground.

The sovereigns marvelled, eager to appear

More durable, and now their voices found,

A cry they gave, as one, and not of fear:

‘On! On!’ echoed from the skies around.

A single band, they sounded the advance,

And charged together gainst Astolfo’s lance.

Book I: Canto X: 32-35: But is unhorsed and taken captive

Astolfo held his ground, and faced the foe,

Awaiting them, firm as a castle wall,

Set to perform great deeds, on Baiardo,

As from the sky dark clouds of dust did fall,

Raised by the flying hooves, while there below

Those fearsome knights willed the man to fall,

As they charged: Pandragon, Saritrone,

Radamanto, and King Agricane.

Saritrone reached him first, and was downed,

Hard hit, his feet uplifted to the sky,

But Radamanto, as the king struck the ground,

Caught the duke in the ribs, while, close nearby,

Agricane’s lance the other flank soon found;

Pendragon’s sword descended from on high,

And struck Astolfo’s helm; and those three blows

Unhorsed him; while, adding to his woes,

Their force was such he lay there unconscious,

A moment, for all three were fiercely dealt.

Radamanto, first of the victorious

Royal trio to dismount, swiftly knelt,

And took Astolfo captive, delirious

With joy at a success most deeply felt,  

Though Agricane used his wits aright,

And seized Baiardo, ere the steed took flight.

I know not, my lords, why that courser

Was not fiercer amidst those pagan foes,

Now that he had lost his former master;

The unknown terrain, I might suppose,

Discouraged him from fleeing, thereafter;

Like a gelding he was led by the nose,

And the king, with the voice of command,

Had that wondrous steed, instantly in hand.

Book I: Canto X: 36-41: Sacripante’s army now arrives before Albracca

Now Astolfo had been captured, and lost

His gold lance, his armour, and Baiardo,

Those in Albracca, having viewed the cost

Of boldness, felt no urge to fight the foe,

For they raised the mighty drawbridge that crossed

The moat, barred the gates, and high and low

Manned the ramparts and walls, until one day

A second army came, in vast array.

If you would seek to know what troops those were,

They fought for Circassia’s mighty lord,

Those soldiers that so great a noise did stir;

Sacripante had brought that endless horde.

With seven kings in council he did confer,

And an emperor, all skilled with the sword

And the lance; there to aid Angelica,

And I will tell you their names, in order.

The first one had been raised a Christian,

But had become a heretic thereafter,

Varano, a brave and vigorous man;

And that monarch ruled in Armenia.

Thirty thousand men he led, in the van,

Neath his ensign, and each a skilled archer.

The second host that marched to the war,

Was led by Trebizond’s great emperor,

Brunaldo by name, and neath his banner

Came twenty-six thousand fighting men.

The third of Roaso’s crown was bearer,

And another fifty thousand again

He brought to the field, to show his power.

Next came a pair of kings worth any ten,

For each held a swathe of territory,

One governed Media, and one Turkey.

Media’s king was named Savarone,

With thirty thousand troops at his call,

Torindo was the ruler of Turkey,

With another forty thousand overall.

You’ve heard of Baghdad, of a surety,

And Babylon the Great, and its high wall,

And from that region came a host also,

Led by the treacherous Truffaldino.

He’d brought an immeasurable army,

A hundred thousand soldiers, and more.

While Damascus had a giant lord, and he

Led twenty thousand neath his flag, to war;

Bordacco was he; while Sacripante

Commanded the rear-guard; strong and sure,

That prudent ruler of Circassia;

And eighty thousand men followed after.

Book I: Canto X: 42-46: Varano leads an attack on Agricane’s camp

They came to Albracca in the morning

Of the day after Astolfo’s capture,

And attacked Agricane, without warning,

Though his host was there in full measure,

In the first hour, as the day was dawning.

They advanced, at first, at their leisure,

But then his mighty army came in play,

In that battle that brought both such dismay.

Who could tell a fifth part of the struggle;

Seen in that perilous and bloody war?

Each wondrous deed, every savage duel,

The plaintive cries, that mercy did implore,

Of those about to die, the deaths so cruel?

Who could describe the wounds, the gore,

The noise of weapons, the foiled advances,

The tattered banners and the broken lances?

That first assault was led by Varano;

The king urged on his men silently,

His command signalled deftly, to and fro,

‘Take no prisoners; slay all, mercilessly!’

He struck, momently, startling the foe;

Some were resting, some seized weapons swiftly,

Cried: ‘To arms!’ and then counter-attacked,

Some hid, some panicked at his sudden act,

But none were required to stand for long,

For the enemy now raced from tent to tent,

As Tartars fell before the sword’s fierce song,

Nor did those Armenian blades relent.

Across the open fields, and all along

The woodland’s edge the fugitives now went,

Overwhelmed by their foes, and sped beyond.

Twas then the might lord of Trebizond,

Entered Agricane’s camp, Brunaldo,

And he was joined by that great champion

And master of warfare, Ungiano.

Many a fleeing Tartar was undone

By bold Savarone, or Torindo,

While Sacripante waited on the sun,

And made Bordacco of Damascus stay,

And Truffaldino, for the light of day.

Book I: Canto X: 47-50: Agricane leads a counter-attack

The battle was a convoluted mass

Of men; near and far, they fled the field.

The dust was raised, the ground was shorn of grass;

None knew whom to fight, or to whom to yield.

Such a state of affairs had come to pass,

That Agricane, possessed of sword and shield,

Saw not how his own strength or bravery

Could prevent his men dying, miserably.

In despair, seeking death amidst the foe,

He rode before his troops, paced up and down,

Calling out his captains’ names, Uldano,

Brave Pandragon, so worthy of renown,  

Argante, Saritrone, Radamanto,

Lurcone, Santaria, Sweden’s crown,

And Brontino, and bold Poliferno;

He summoned all, their prowess, now, to show.

Then, upon Baiardo, went forth the king,

Grasping his lance, leading his brave squadron;

On that mighty steed he went galloping,

Raged o’er the plain, and left no deed undone.

He charged Varano, and sent him sprawling,

Drove his lance through his crown, and then rode on,

Leaving that king to lie there on the ground,

And, likewise, downed every enemy he found.

Poliferno unseated Brunaldo,

While Argante’s lance struck Savarone,

Radamanto unhorsed Ungiano,

In the sand, and twas then Sacripante

On viewing the advances of the foe,

Recognised, and that indeed most clearly,

That unless he himself brought them aid,

His best knights might all be, thus, dismayed.

Book I: Canto X: 51-53: Sacripante saves the situation, to Agricane’s fury

Then he forsook the ranks; filled with valour

He spurred his courser, and lowered his lance,

Toppled Poliferno, then another,

Twas Pandragon, and, in his swift advance,

Brontino and Argante downed with honour;

None could halt his weapon’s lightning dance.

The Tartars when they saw him draw his sword,

Ceased their counter-attack, with one accord.

Agricane meanwhile fought on alone,

Performing wondrous deeds on that field,

But on seeing his men nigh overthrown,

Bound for the hills, and shorn of blade and shield,

He bit his hand in rage, uttered a moan,  

And chased the fugitives; men’s fates were sealed,

For he sliced every last man to the bone,

Whether he was Circassian, or his own.

As, after winter, in more clement weather,

A torrent cuts the snowy mountainside,

Then overflows its banks, altogether

Swollen by thawing snow from every side,

So Agricane raged in like manner,

Gripped by fury, while round him victims died.

Soon a great test that king would undergo,

Of which I’ll tell you, in the next canto.

The End of Book I: Canto X of ‘Orlando Innamorato’

Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato: Book I, Canto X - End