Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato

Book I: Canto XII: The Tale of Tisbina, Iroldo, and Prasildo

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

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Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato: Book I, Canto XII

Book I: Canto XII: 1-4: Fiordelisa retells a story

Now, I have told you of that savage fight,

The sound of which yet echoes in my head,

Twixt Sacripante, that most fearless knight,

And Agricane, whom we’ve learned to dread.

Yet those violent strains I must put to flight,

And sweetly sing of gentle love instead.

Return in thought, my lords, then, to that place

Where I left the brave Rinaldo for a space.

Fiordelisa descended, and then sought

To see the brave knight mount astride her steed.

Rinaldo cried: ‘You do me wrong, in short,

To invite me to so villainous a deed.’

She replied a knight should ride, as he ought,

While she could walk quite as well, at need.

At last, to be brief about the matter,

He took the saddle, and she the crupper.

The lady rode along, somewhat fearful

That her honour might, in some manner, prove

To be at risk, but when an uneventful

Day had passed, and he’d uttered naught of love,

Reassured, she said: ‘Sir knight, a dreadful

Expanse we must traverse, trees, rocks and moss,

And the whole is a hundred leagues across.

So, to render the road less tedious

As we journey through the waste on either hand,

I shall tell you a tale most curious,

A history, and if you would demand

Further proof, if you think it spurious,  

Then go to Babylon, that far-off land;

Tis well-known there, all I shall tell to you,

And they will confirm the thing is true.

Book I: Canto XII: 5-8: Of Iroldo, his lady Tisbina, and the Lord Prasildo

There was a knight; Iroldo was his name;

And he had a lady called Tisbina,

And he was loved as deeply by that same

As Tristan was by Iseult his lover.

And he too kept for her a constant flame.

From morning, to night he thought about her,

From dusk to dawn, she was in his mind,

While to all others but her he was blind.

Now, a nobleman dwelt not far away,

Thought to be the greatest in Babylon,

And he was worthy of his rank alway

For he was a courteous man, and none

Were braver there, and all the wealth, that lay

In his well-filled coffers, he spent upon

All manner of things that brought him honour;

A fine guest, bold knight, jouster and lover;

And the name of this lord was Prasildo.

He was present in a garden, one day,

Where Tisbina and her friends would go,

And he joined in a game they used to play;

Unfamiliar to him, twas ordered so:

One had to hide their face in her lap, I say,

And hold out an outstretched palm, behind,

Then guess who tapped it (of those she assigned)

Prasildo watched the game, till Tisbina

Selected him to touch the person’s hand,

And then he took his place (as a stranger,

His name was quickly guessed, you understand).

One his head was in her lap, however,

A sudden flame his hot heart did command,

And he hoped he’d not guess who next did tap,

Afraid he’d then be forced to quit her lap.

Book I: Canto XII: 9-12: Prasildo falls in love with the lady

When the game was over, the party done,

The flame still remained within his heart.

It troubled him by day, beneath the sun,

And at night a greater heat would impart.

Troubled thoughts filled his mind, and every one

Made the colour from his visage depart,

And deprived him of sleep; ever-burning,

They left Prasildo tossing and turning.

His feather pillow seemed as hard as stone,

While the ache in his heart grew more intense,

It pierced far deeper than any he’d known

Clouded his mind, and robbed him of sense.

Day and night, he was wont to sigh and groan,

Indescribable his longing; though immense,

Love cannot be conveyed, its pain, delight,

To those whose loveless hearts feel not its might.  

The handsome courser, or the eager hound,

The employment of which had brought pleasure,

Were almost absent from his thoughts, he found.

Sweet company, entertained at leisure

Was his great joy; his banquets were renowned;

He recited poems, or sang a measure;

Or some rich tourney, to display his steed

All adorned with fine trappings, he decreed.

Though he had been courteous before,

He was at least a hundred times more so,

Since virtue strengthens, ever waxes more

In the man who is in love; this I know,

For in all my life, on whatever shore,

I’ve ne’er seen love’s good turn to evil; though

Prasildo was drowned deep in love, in brief,

His courtesy was nigh beyond belief.

Book I: Canto XII: 13-17: He employs a go-between without success

He found a loyal go-between, a maid;

She was a close friend of this Tisbina,  

One that might speak to her, all unafraid,

On his behalf, and would praise him ever,

With small effect; scant attention was paid,

By one unmoved by pity for a suitor,

As oft happens, denying him success;

Beauty is oft allied with haughtiness.

Time after time, the maid said: “Fair lady

Recognise the hour of fortune; this lord

Loves you far more than himself, and then he

Has those looks only Heaven may afford.

You’ll regret the lost opportunity;

Happy days are soon gone, and ne’er restored.

Seek happiness, while you’re yet in your prime,

Lose not delight, use well the passing time.

Oh, our years of youth are the years of joy,

And should be spent in pleasure, Heaven knows,

For, howe’er our sweet springtime we employ,

The years vanish in the sun, like passing snows,

Or like the hues, that fleeting hours destroy

Rendering pale and wan the crimson rose.

Youth is gone, in the twinkling of an eye,

Can’t be grasped, lacking reins to seize it by.”

Tisbina was assailed by this and more,

But the maiden’s fair speech was all in vain.

As the frost, on wintry days, cold and hoar

Turns a bank of violets pale, or as, again,

Panes of ice in the sun their droplets pour,

So that noble lord paled, dissolved in pain,

Reduced, poor man, to such a wretched state

He longed for cruel death to ease his fate.

He had been one to feast, but no longer.

He was pallid and thin; his face was gaunt;

He hated himself, all thoughts of pleasure,

Scenes of merriment, instead, would haunt

Places far from the city, hours would measure

Walking where none might meet him, or vaunt

Their overt happiness; he’d find some grove,

And there lament his own unhappy love.

Book I: Canto XII: 18-23: His lament is overheard by Tisbina and Iroldo

Now, it chanced that, as the day was dawning,

Iroldo was out hunting o’er his land,

And Tisbina was at his side that morning,

And they both heard, from a place close at hand,

A sorrowful voice, sighing and moaning.

Twas Prasildo’s lament, you understand,

In such sweet words, pierced by many a groan,

Twould, it seems, have wrung pity from a stone.

“O trees and flowers of the forest, hear me,”

He cried, “Since that cruel one listens not.

Give ear to my misfortune, and show mercy,

O sun, for whom the stars are swift forgot;

O bright stars, O moon departing swiftly,

Cast your gaze on the harshness of my lot.

These my last words, on darkness I attend;

By dying my cruel martyrdom I’ll end.

Then she may rest content, that other,

She that my poor life so little pleases.

Heaven above a harsh heart did cover,

With a pleasing form, thus to deceive us.

She delights in seeing some fond lover

Perish; denies pity that might ease us,

And so, I shall die, to grant her pleasure,

To yield her delight in greatest measure.

But, may my corpse, for God’s sake, be concealed,

Amidst these woods, nor the truth be known

That by love my unhappy fate was sealed,  

May no trace of my sorrows e’er be shown.

Let the cause of my death ne’er be revealed,

To the lady; to no blame must she own.

I was wrong to adore that cruel one so,

Yet I love her still, though to death I go.”

In that same sad voice, he yet lamented,

As from out its sheath he drew his blade.

His face turned pale, to death he consented,

Yet called aloud through the forest glade,

To name his Tisbina; half-demented,   

He felt, thereby, his deep love was displayed;

Paradise was his, it seemed, so close was death,

In naming her he loved with his last breath.

Tisbina and Iroldo heard his plaint,

His sorrowful lament, his pain-filled cry.

Iroldo felt such pity and constraint,

Tears covered his whole face, he gave a sigh,

Then he made his lady swiftly acquaint

With a plan but now conceived, one whereby

They might aid the man; thus, he hid from sight,

While his wife feigned to chance upon the knight.

Book I: Canto XII: 24-28: They conspire to set Prasildo a challenge

She gave no sign of having heard his cry,

Nor that he called her cruel in his lament,

But seeing him, upon the grass, nearby,

She stopped, as if upon a thought intent,

And said: “Prasildo, if for me you sigh,

As you seem to do, and on love are bent,

Abandon me not, in my present plight,

For if you do, I’ll not survive, sir knight.

And were I not, now, in the very throes

Of losing both my life and my honour,

I would never the sad fact to you disclose.

Indeed, there is no greater shame ever,

Than asking help of, seeking to propose

A challenge to, the one we’ve made suffer.

You showed me love, and I proved merciless;

Yet, soon, you shall win greater success.

For I swear, by my faith, you may be sure

Of my love, should you fulfil my request.

Come, serve me now, your aid I thus implore,

Nor is what I ask of you too harsh a test.

Beyond the forests, past Barbary’s shore,

Lies a garden, with iron walls tis blessed,

And strong gates, through which one may enter;

Of these Life guards one, and Death another,

Poverty the third; the fourth Wealth doth hold.

Choose a gate; by its opposite depart.  

Within there is a tree with boughs of gold,

Its crown as high as you can send a dart,

Shot from the bow; it grants riches untold;

When in bloom, rich pearls from its flowers start,

Emeralds are its fruit, fair beyond measure.

The name it bears is the Tree of Treasure.

I must have a branch from that same tree

Or I shall find myself in dreadful plight.

If you perform the task, for love of me,

I shall know your heart indeed, sir knight,

And greater than your love, my own shall be,

And you shall come to me, then, in the night,

For, with my body, I’ll reward your deed,

And this I swear is true, by our fair creed.”

Book I: Canto XII: 29-31: Prasildo sets out on his quest

Once hope had been offered Lord Prasildo

Of gaining a love that matched his desire,

Filled with ardour, he swore that he would go

Devoid of fear, his heart and soul on fire.

He’d have promised, for he loved her so,

To win the stars, and all the globe entire,

The Earth, its countless lands, the air, the seas;  

For doubtless he’d have promised all of these.

After he’d dressed himself in pilgrim’s gear,

He departed from her presence, the next day.

Know this, Iroldo and his wife, his dear,

Had sent the Lord Prasildo, on his way

To Medusa’s Orchard, their object clear,

That with the passage of time, day by day,

He’d put the fair Tisbina from his mind,

While, if he reached the garden, he’d find

That, there, Medusa dwelt, who sat below

The boughs of the lovely Tree of Treasure,

Midst the pool of shade it casts. Those who go

To that place, and view her, at their leisure,

Forget why they have come, in doing so.

Those who speak to her, or seek their pleasure

By her side, or touch her, lose every trace

Of memory, which her presence doth efface.

Book I: Canto XII: 32-36: An aged pilgrim in Syria (Mount Barsa) speaks of Medusa

He rode forth alone, that ardent lover,

Though truly Love went with him at his side.

The Red Sea, under sail, he crossed over,

The rest of Egypt, and then Syria beside.

When he reached the foothills of Mount Barsa,

A white-haired aged pilgrim he espied,

And, in conversation with that time-worn man,

He told him of his journey and his plan.

“Good fortune led you to speak with me,”

The old pilgrim said: “for I shall aid you.

I’ll help you win that branch from the tree,

Hearken now, for what I tell you is true.

Take care to be alone on your entry

To the garden, though you’ll have much to do.

Shun the Gates of Life and Death completely;

For Medusa, take the Gate of Poverty.

You seem to know naught of that lady,

At least you’ve failed to say aught about her,

But she’s the one that doth ever glory

In guarding the golden Tree of Treasure.

Whoe’er sees it loses their memory,

And remains confused in mind thereafter;

Yet if she should view her own fair face,

She’ll forget her riches and quit that place.

Therefore, you’ll need a mirror for a shield,

So, she may gaze therein, at her beauty,

But go unarmed, your limbs bare, to the field,

For you must pass the Gate of Poverty.

That portal’s cruel aspect stands revealed,

Harsher than aught on Earth the eye might see,

For all ills, there, with Poverty reside,  

And the worst is: worth there is cast aside.

But, at the gate by which you must depart,

The portal opposite, there Wealth is found,

Hated, though none say it for their part;

Though she cares not, mocking all around.

A branch, a twig, pleases her harsh heart,

And then you may pass by her, safe and sound,

For Avarice sits silent by her side,

E’er seeks more, though with Wealth she doth abide.”

Book I: Canto XII: 37-43: He enters her garden, achieves his task, and returns

Having learnt of the garden, Prasildo,

Thanked the aged man, and went on his way.

He crossed the wastes, in thirty days or so,

And found the valley where the garden lay.

Through the Gate of Poverty, he did go,

The pilgrim’s counsel led him not astray;

That same path all are urged to enter on

For the Gate of Poverty is closed to none.

That garden seemed a flowering Paradise,

Filled with blossoming trees and greenery.

Behind a mirror he concealed his eyes,

So, Medusa might admire her beauty,

(Doing as he was counselled, being wise)

And, by good chance, he found the golden tree.

Against its trunk the lady was leaning,

She looked up, into the mirror’s gleaming.

How she wondered, when she gazed therein!

For she found herself other than she’d thought.

The white and crimson of the face within

A wreath of fierce and writhing snakes did sport.

Her dread image bade her swift flight to win,

And, in fear, a passage through the air she sought.

Prasildo, once he’d heard the maid depart,

Raised the mirror from his eyes, for his part.

Now that Medusa, the false enchantress

Afraid of her own reflection, had fled,

Abandoning her wealth, in her distress,

Bold Prasildo grasped a branch overhead

Tore it away and, pleased at his success,

Turned about, and then traced the path that led

To the fair Gate of Wealth, who guards the way,

And cares naught for virtue, only for display.

That gate was adamantine, closed and barred,

And only opened with a mighty noise;

(Tis tight shut, most of the time, under guard,

Unless fraud or great effort one employs;

Sometimes, by chance, one fortunately-starred,

Finds it open, one that endless luck enjoys!)

Prasildo passed on through the gate that day,

By yielding half his branch, along the way.

He left, and retraced his prior journey.

Just imagine, my lords, his happiness!

He longed for his home, his love, and surely

Each day seemed like a century, no less.

He passed through Nubia completely,

Crossed the Sea of Araby, with success,

Then, day and night, Prasildo hastened on,

Till he entered the gates of Babylon.

One there, he swiftly informed the lady

That he’d carried out the task that she had set.

When did she wish to see the branch, but lately,

Plucked from the golden tree, and with him yet?

She’d but to name the place and time; while she

Might recall the need to discharge her debt,

For if she chose her promise to deny,

She needs be aware he must surely die.

Book I: Canto XII: 44-47: Tisbina’s lament

She felt great heartache, and a weight of pain,

When she heard that he’d returned from his quest,

Took to her bed, like not to smile again,

And wept hard, both day and night, sore distressed.

“Woe is me, why was I born?” she’d complain,

“That my grave was my cradle, had been best.

Death answers every ill yet, it proves strange,

One feature of mine, death could not change.

For if I killed myself, and broke my word,

I could not erase, through that, my deceit.

How foolish that I seemed not to have heard

Love conquers all; true Love knows no defeat.

Wisdom and courage are on those conferred

That love; the world’s forever at their feet.

Prasildo faced Medusa, and made good;

Yet whoever would have thought that he could?

Unhappy Iroldo, what will you do;

When your poor Tisbina is dead and gone?

Yet you have caused the error I now rue,

You set me on the course that I am on,

And drown me in this wretched sea I view.

Say, why did my foolish tongue dwell thereon?

Why could I not have taken back once more,

Or mangled, twisted, those ill words I swore?

Iroldo was witness to her lament,

For he’d arrived unnoticed. On listening,

To her woes, and expressions of intent,

He approached her, silently regretting

That promise, of which both did now repent,

Clasped her, and held her, deeply grieving,

While neither spoke a word; they could but sigh,

And, there, embraced, as if about to die.

Book I: Canto XII: 48-51: Iroldo maintains she must keep her promise

They seemed two icicles beneath the sun,

So many tears flowed down from their eyes.

No words came forth, no, not a single one,

Till at last Iroldo uttered, midst his sighs:

“What grieves my heart, indeed, I have done

To myself; though both must pay for our lies;

You can do naught that works in my despite,

Nor harm me, who are ever my delight.

Though you well know, my dear, being wise

And understanding, that no greater pain

Is there than that which jealousy supplies,

No greater passion can the mind so strain,

Yet I have brought this woe, I realise,

Upon us both; tis my fault, I maintain;

Alone I made you promise, mine the blame,

And, alone, should, thus, lament that same.

Alone, I should endure the pain; twas I

That made you swear all against your will,

Yet I pray you by your gentle face, and by

The love you bear for me, to honour still

The promise made, though both, indeed, must sigh.

Grant Prasildo his reward; your oath fulfil.

Great peril he’s undergone, for your sake,

At your request; your word you may not break.

Yet wait until I work my death; delay;

For I must slay myself ere it is done.

Let false Fortune do with me as she may,

But yet not shame me before everyone.

To the world below I’ll go, this very day;

My solace is that you, alone, I won.

If I heard you’d been taken from me,

I’d die a second time, if such could be.”

Book I: Canto XII: 52-56: She proposes they both die once it is fulfilled

He would have uttered a longer lament,

But his voice failed, stifled by his sorrow.

He stood dumb, and devoid of sentiment,

As if his heart had fled the breast below.

Tisbina suffered to no less extent,

Her face as pallid as a ghost’s did show,

But, as he now turned his gaze upon her,

In troubled speech she gave him answer:

“Think you that if you, who yet are mine,

Were no more, I could live on without you?

Where is the love you bore for me, in fine;

And the passion that made you claim as true

That if you ruled Venus’ sphere, or all nine,

You’d dwell with me there, as one not two?

Do you seek to sink below; and leave me here,

To lament eternally, my only dear?

I was, and am, while yet alive, your own,

And, after I am dead, still yours shall be.

If love exists beyond the flesh and bone,

If the soul retains its earthly memory,

Let none e’er say or write (such I disown)

‘Tisbina bore Iroldo’s death but lightly.”

Though, indeed, tis true I’ll scarcely mourn,

For soon, to the grave, I too will be borne.

I must delay my end till I fulfil

The promise that I made to Prasildo,

The oath that means that, despite my will,

I must yield to him, ere death I may know.

Into the other world, to love you still,

Our bodies resting in one tomb, I’d go.

I pray you now, as if with my last breath,

Come, let us embrace, as one, our death.

A phial of poison will achieve our aim,

And let the dose be tempered with such art,

That our spirits will be led to the same

Sweet place; in five hours, thus, from life, we’ll part.

Ere that, Prasildo his reward may claim,

And all will be fulfilled; be still my heart,

For death will see an end to life’s short lease,

And quench the ills that have so marred our peace.”

Book I: Canto XII: 57-60: They drink of the same potion

Thus, their own death that loving pair ordained;

And, faithful in misfortune, leant together,

Gazing at the other’s face, and so maintained

Their lament, more choked with tears than ever.

They wondered how to part, as they complained,

Tightly clasped, fond lover bound to lover.

Then Tisbina, despite their deep emotion,

Had one she knew brew the fatal potion.

Learned in medicine, he served her wish,

Gave a tempered cup, and asked no question.

Iroldo then, seemingly with relish,

Cried: “We lack the means, in our condition,

Other than this path, not wholly selfish,

To ease the soul, gainst Fate’s opposition;

For only death can overcome her power,

Conquer that proud one, and our woes devour.”

Yet, once he had swallowed half the potion

Without a qualm, he jibbed at handing it to

Tisbina, with his hand made a motion

Of despair, not at his own death tis true,

But he was sore dismayed by the notion

That she must die; his face be-teared with dew,

He gave the cup to her, cast down his eye,

Afraid that very moment he might die,

And not from the potion, but from his grief,

Which might indeed complete the potion’s work.

Tisbina, chilled at heart (tis my belief),

Took the cup with trembling hands, nor did shirk

Her task; but Love, she cursed, and Fate, the thief

That had brought them to that end; death must lurk

Within the liquid, yet she raised her eye,

Gazed at the vessel, and then drank it dry.

Book I: Canto XII: 61-67: Tisbina meets Prasildo and confesses all

Iroldo chose then his eyes to cover,

Not wishing to see his dear one leave.

Tisbina, whose trials as a fond lover

Were scarcely done with, began to grieve.

To die seemed naught to her; twas another

Matter to seek this lord; without reprieve

Now in sight, that deep anguish surpassed all

The fears of death that pain us and appal.

Obliged to act as promised, secretly,

She took herself to Prasildo’s dwelling,

And asked to speak with him, privately,

For twas day, and he was now receiving.

Prasildo scarce expected her, and he

Met her in the hallway upon entering.

As fair a welcome, as he knew, he gave,

Ashamed now, and unsure how to behave.

But once they were completely alone,

In a private place, softly and quietly

She addressed him, his courtesy did own,

In speech as pleasing as hers could be,

Accompanied by a smile, in gentle tone,

Although her eyes shed tears openly.

He though that Tisbina wept for shame,

Not yet knowing of death’s prior claim.

At last, Prasildo conjured her to say

By all she loved on Earth, what pained her so,

And what upon her heart now did weigh;

For indeed he saw the depth of her woe,

While he himself was troubled, and did pray

Her to believe that, for her sake, he’d go

Through fire and water, unafraid to die;

Yet was astonished by her calm reply.

She said: ‘That which you’ve worked so hard to gain

Will be yours for but four brief hours longer.

Though the pledge that I made I will maintain,

I lose my life, and have lost my honour,

And what is more, what brings the deepest pain

Is to leave him I love, lost forever

From this world, while you, you who love me so,

Will behold me no more; to death I go.

If I had been free to love you in return,

And you had loved me as you say you do,

Shame and discourtesy were mine in turn

Had I not shown affection for you too.

But I could not, nor such was my concern.

One cannot be the faithful wife of two.

I bore not love for you, sir, though, indeed,

I felt compassion, knowing your great need.

My pity for you, when I viewed your fate,

Has brought upon me all this wretchedness.

For I was pained to see your woeful state,

When I heard your lament, saw your distress,

In that grove; now is my sorrow great,

For death ere evening shall this frame possess.”

Then Tisbina told him of their action;

How with Iroldo she’d drained the potion.

Book I: Canto XII: 68-72: Prasildo releases her from her promise

At this, Prasildo’s heart was wounded so,

Pierced to the depths, by all that she had said,

He stood in silence, quite stunned by sorrow,

Having dreamed of happiness, and instead

Found misfortune was his, and endless woe.

She whose face and form his hopes had fed,

Whose sweet glance was his life, his very breath,

Here, in his presence, was yet doomed to death.

“Tisbina,” he cried, “neither God nor you

Should have tested my love and courage so.

Now shall our age Love’s cruel actions view,

How joy and ardour may yet turn to woe.

And yet the death of lovers is not new

To this world, where all oft turns to sorrow;

Now three, together, to vile death must go,

And seek their place among the shades below.

Oh, you of little faith, why did you not

Ask me to release you from your promise?

You say that you felt pity for my lot,

When you heard my lament; and is this,

In truth, your pity? Know that I cannot

Remain alive; all now are robbed of bliss;

You might at least have slain but me alone,

Deprived me, thus, of life, yet spared your own.

Did my love so displease you, cruel one,

That you have sought out death, to fly from me?

God knows I could not cast off the burden

Of love and passion, ease my misery.

There, in that grove, you should not have spoken,

If you grieved at the thought of loving me.

What made you offer, in a moment’s breath,

That prize, and thereby led us both to death?

I had no wish to displease you ever,

No more do I wish to displease you now.

I wished you to love me, as a lover,

Nor did I seek for more than that, I vow.

If it seemed that I asked something other,

Then learn the truth for here, to fate, I bow.

I release you from your promise; now stay

If you so choose, or simply go your way.”

Book I: Canto XII: 73-77: She returns to Iroldo, and falls into a deep sleep

Tisbina heard his speech with many a sigh,

“Your courtesy has conquered me”, she said.

“And, for your sake alone, I would not die,

But Fate, it seems, prefers to see me dead.

I may not stay long with you, time slips by,

Brief are the hours, and are swiftly sped;

Though I have little time in which to live,

Yet I’ll give to you, now, what I may give.”

Prasildo, grieved that all had gone amiss,

Determined upon death, in his deep woe,

Understood her to mean a parting kiss,

His mind quite numbed by misery, and so

Freed her from her promise; twas his wish

Not to see her burdened with more sorrow,

And then they parted, she to go her way,

While, weeping hard, upon his bed he lay.

Tisbina sought out Iroldo swiftly,

On her return, and found him in despair.

She told him of Prasildo’s courtesy,

And how but a single kiss they did share.

Iroldo rose from his bed and, humbly,

Knelt, and lifted up his face in prayer,

And asked for God’s pity, and His mercy,

Overcome by that true act of chivalry.

He prayed the Lord would reward Prasildo

For his graciousness and his charity,

But while engaged in the task of doing so

Tisbina fell to the floor, and swiftly

Sleep seemed to overtake her; the slow

Progress of the potion worked more quickly

On the wife it appeared, perchance the heart

Of a woman was more swayed by its art.

Iroldo felt a chill creep o’er his face,

When he saw her fall, helpless, to the ground.

Her eyes were veiled, in some darksome place,

And yet it was not death; her slumber sound.

He called God cruel, Heaven without grace,

To torment him so, and small comfort found.

Fortune he called harsh; harsh Love’s deeds also,

That he was yet alive, filled thus with woe.

Book I: Canto XII: 78-84: Prasildo learns of the potion’s nature

But let us leave the desperate man to suffer,

For you can well imagine how he grieved,

Meanwhile Prasildo, locked in his chamber,

Wept profusely over being, thus, deceived:

“Had true lover such misfortune ever:”

He cried: “or ever such sad news received?”

Should I seek to join my lady in death

I have but a moment, ere her last breath,

How joyful, pitiless one, you must be,

That are so bitter, and whom we call Love!

Come, take pleasure in my misery,

In this deep anguish, that you e’er approve!

And yet, despite your actions, I’ll win free,

For naught more painful shall my poor heart move.

The suffering is far less in Hell below,

Than in your lawless realm of lies and woe.”

Now while that loving lord moaned and sighed,

Behold, he arrived who’d mixed the potion.

He asked to see Prasildo; when denied

Entry by the doorman, with emotion,

“I must speak with him now;” the man replied,

“He’ll gain from it; there’s a plot in motion,

If I do not, then your master must die,

This very night; indeed, I tell no lie.”

The chamberlain, sensing the gravity

Of the situation, unlocked the door

(For, of his master’s room, he kept a key;

He could readily come and go, therefore);

And begged Prasildo, eloquently,

To hear the fellow’s news; then, once more,

Despite the resistance he encountered,

Returned, and led him swiftly to the bed.

The man declared: “Lord, I’ve ever loved you,

And revere you, and now suspect, nay fear,

That you’re betrayed, and by a woman too;

Oft they show jealousy, prove insincere,

Are fickle in their passions, change anew,

Without rhyme or reason, and thus they

Are easily induced to go astray.

I say all this because, this very morn,

I was asked to mix a certain potion.

Tisbina’s chambermaid sought me, at dawn,

Most secretly, and such was her mission.

Her lady you may know; I come to warn

You, my lord, to guard yourself from poison.

Forsake the sex, my scorn they ever earn;

Forget them all, and let the witches burn;

But be assured, the potion that I brewed

Contained no poison; yet if, by some chance,

You swallowed some, no ill has e’er ensued

By doing so; your sleep it would advance;

Five hours or so you’d slumber; tis imbued

With such a virtue, rest it doth enhance.

That woman should be drowned, all treated so!

One’s good, a hundred wicked, here below.”

Book I: Canto XII: 85-87: Iroldo insists the pledge must be honoured

Once Prasildo understood the matter,

The welcome news revived his failing heart.

As violets, after wintry rain, recover,

As roses, and such, through Nature’s art,

Bent low beneath a swift summer shower,

Glow afresh, as the bright sun plays his part,

So Prasildo, as at some act of grace,

Smiled once more, and showed a joyful face.

He thanked the man profusely, then he went

To Tisbina’s home, and found Iroldo

In despair, of this knowledge innocent,

And told him all that he had come to know.

Conceive Iroldo’s joy; yet his intent

Was to insist that the promise, even so,

Should be fulfilled; the other should attain

She whom he loved, and his reward obtain.

Prasildo raised many an objection,

Yet could not deny she was his passion,

But still he questioned such a decision;

Each of them was stubborn in his fashion.

Iroldo held firm to his position,

Arguing, although his hue was ashen,

That Prasildo had a right to his prize;

A man of honour (and yet scarcely wise).

Book I: Canto XII: 88-90: And abides by his harsh decision

He chose to leave Babylon, would never,

Return again, in all his life, he declared.

When Tisbina woke, and found her lover

Had thus departed, she once more despaired.

For many an hour she was wont to suffer,

Stunned by the decision he had made;

Yet she understood there was no cure,

The thing was done; her marriage was no more.

Women are oft softer and more tender

Than a man, in mind, and body also.

Like the frost such melt in warmer weather,

Like flowers scarce endure the winter’s snow.

Tisbina was no different to another,

Wished not to fight against an absent foe.

She yielded swiftly to Prasildo’s wooing,

And they were wed, in the month ensuing.’

So, ended Fiordelisa’s tale; a cry

Sounded, suddenly, from amidst the trees.  

That loud and piercing roar, so close nearby,

Made the lady tremble, in great unease,

Though Rinaldo declared, she need not sigh.

Long is this canto; those it may displease,

By seeming overlong, I would suggest,

Are free to read but part, and leave the rest!

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

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