Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato

Book I: Canto XIII: The Tale of Albarosa

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

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Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato: Book I, Canto XIII

Book I: Canto XIII: 1-5: Rinaldo encounters the giant guarding Argalia’s steed

I have told you of the terrifying roar

That Fiordelisa and Rinaldo had heard.

The latter, unafraid, leapt to the floor

And left his steed to her, with a word

Of comfort; she was fearful as before.

He gripped his shield, and moved ahead.

Twas the howl of a giant caused her dread,

There he stood, obstructing the narrow lane,

Before an opening, cavernous and deep.

The giant was vast in size, with tangled mane.

Fierce to behold, a monster seen in sleep.

Rinaldo was undaunted, such he’d slain,

Fearlessly, all his life; he gave a sweep

Of his sword, advanced, and flourished the blade,

Though the giant, in turn, seemed undismayed;

He was covered in a strong suit of mail,

And he gripped an iron club in his hand.

On each side, a gryphon with a lion’s tail,

Sat chained to the cliff, by an iron band.

If you’d know why he was there, then the tale,

I’ll tell you: twas his place, you understand,

To take care of and to guard the courser,

That splendid steed owned by Argalia.

The horse was created by enchantment.

Its mother was an insubstantial creature,

A mare of fire and flame, that, by intent,

Was fashioned beyond the bounds of nature.

She bore the foal; fast as the wind he went,

For indeed the storm-wind was his father.

And the foal grazed on neither oats nor grass,

But ate the air, wherever it did pass.

When Ferrau released it (as you’ll recall)

The steed had returned to this very place,

Where it was birthed, and ever had its stall

Till it was fully grown, and for a space

Was enclosed; then Argalia forth did call

It from the cave, by a spell, to outpace

All others, and be his, till his last morn.

It had returned, now, to where it was born.

Book I: Canto XIII: 6-11: He wounds the giant, who frees a pair of gryphons

The giant remained there, as its guardian,

His aspect cruel, stubborn, full of pride.

He’d chained the gryphons there, sharp of talon,

Fierce, rapacious creatures, on either side,

Fastening them both in subtle fashion;

They could be freed, if he did so decide.

Each of those beasts was so strong in flight

It could easily snatch away a knight.

Rinaldo now approached him, cautiously,

Glancing all around, with close attention,

Yet think not that he did so fearfully,

Though his pace was slow, I might mention.

This fellow seemed, to the giant certainly,

A knight with some dubious intention,

Brave not weak, for such things he could tell,

As he had slain a thousand, strong and fell.

That place was white with dry bones, all around,

The remains of all those the giant had killed.

The arduous fight began; each held his ground,

Silently (each was stalwart and well-skilled).

As they let the blows from their weapons sound,

Neither smiled nor was idle, anger filled

Their hearts; both knew they must, without fail,

Lest they die, slay the other, and prevail.

Rinaldo was the first to land a blow,

Striking the giant fiercely on the head,

But the latter wore a solid helm, and so

It had scant effect; it roused him instead.

With pride and anger, he struck Rinaldo,

Who swiftly raised his shield, in sudden dread;

It was shattered by that club from on high,

And that bitter blow saw steel fragments fly;

Though it did little damage otherwise,

While Rinaldo hit back with great valour,

Dealing a cruel and vicious blow, likewise,

Which wounded the left flank of the other,

Near his heart. Rinaldo, scenting the prize,

Seemed to put on wings, and with another

Fiercer swing that pierced the giant’s mail,

Sliced the right flank, and did the guts impale.

At this, the giant was anguished and undone,

For he knew, from the wound, that he must die.

The pain was such, although a breath he won,

That he could hardly stand, yet, with a sigh,

He drew another breath, then a third one,

And, seeking Rinaldo’s death, painfully

Loosed the gryphons’ chains, and, so, set them free.

Book I: Canto XIII: 12-16: He beats one away, but is attacked by the other

One of the two grasped the giant in its claws,

And flew so high that it was lost to sight;

The other sprang upon him, without pause,

As if it sought to carry off the knight.

Though a thing alien to Nature’s laws,

It beat the air with eagle’s wings in flight,

Swooped upon Rinaldo, talons outspread,

While he scythed with Fusberta, in his dread.

He made no error with his next great blow,

Slicing both the gryphon’s limbs away,

Bringing that strange bird both pain and woe,

For it took to the air without delay.

Yet, a piercing cry met his ears, below,

For the second gryphon now joined the fray,

And dropped the giant, who was like to die,

For he fell nine thousand feet from the sky.

With a rush of air, the giant downwards sped;

Rinaldo thought the heavens were falling.

The mass appeared to be aimed at his head,

And to die in such a way seemed most galling,

For death felt near (the giant dropped like lead)

Yet to fall in war his proper calling.

Whether he ran here and there, or stood still,

That was the place the corpse was like to fill.

Faster and faster, it approached the ground,

And then it landed, a mere foot away,

From where Rinaldo stood, and gazed spellbound,

As that mass of flesh and bone struck the clay.

The giant’s skull split, with a dreadful sound,

The earth shook, and dust hid the light of day.

And then the threat had vanished like a dream,

Though, God help Rinaldo, he heard a scream,

As the gryphon stooped, with folded wing.

Such its power the air seemed to tremble,

The sun’s splendour, in an instant dimming,

While the scene mere twilight did resemble,

The woods and fields about him darkening.

Naught greater did Nature e’er assemble,

Than that creature (Bishop Turpin’s my guide)

For its wingspan was full twenty yards wide!

Book I: Canto XIII: 17-24: Though he eventually slays it

Rinaldo, standing firm to meet the beast,

But little time was granted to prepare;

Like a lightning-bolt, suddenly released,

The gryphon stooped upon him from the air.

He struck it ere its downward passage ceased,

On the throat, and slightly wounded it there,  

Robbing it of breath and, ere it could rest,

He struck a backhanded blow at its chest,  

Which landed awkwardly, with scant effect,

For the thing flapped its wings and retreated,

While its vicious assault he’d barely checked,

For it wheeled and returned, undefeated.

His helmet’s crown it chose to select

For its next attack, the helm, well-seated,

Resisted the claws of his monstrous foe,

For, charmed, it once was owned by Mambrino.

It soared again, and revisited the fight,

Nor could Rinaldo divine its track;

It landed a single blow on the knight,

While Fiordelisa, watching the attack,

Felt that she was like to die of fright.

All concern for her safety she did lack,

Her thought was for Rinaldo and his cause,

His beleaguered form, and the gryphon’s claws.

The light grew dim, with oncoming night,

And yet the battle still continued fiercely.

Rinaldo had but one fear, that in its flight

The creature might deceive him utterly.

Thus, he sought an end, ere they lost the light.

Yet the means eluded him, entirely,

For, unless he could soar himself, he knew

He quite lacked a winning course to pursue.

At last, he fell down flat upon the ground,

As if he’d collapsed; and then played dead.

The gryphon was upon him like a hound,

Not perceiving his state, which it misread,

And, swooping, clasped its talons all around

The knight, but to its horror found, instead

Of a body, the error it had made,

For the knight struck it fiercely with his blade.

As over his shoulder he swung the sword,

Keen Fusberta sliced through tendon and bone,

And cut a wing away; the beast was floored,

And yet held our knight fast, as it lay prone.

It gripped his trunk tight, with its claws, and scored

His breastplate, tore his mail; he gave a groan,

For each talon clasped so fiercely, he thought

He must surely die, and so he thrust and fought,

Piercing the beast in its belly and side,

And, working free, continued his attack,

Wounding the creature till it writhed and died.

Then he rose to his feet, deep in its back

Planted his sword in triumph, and sighed,

Giving thanks to God; the maid sought the track,

Retrieved her palfrey and prepared to go,

Thinking the whole affair done with; but no,  

For Rinaldo now went towards the cave,

(In which the wondrous steed had its stall)

For he longed to look within that enclave

Disinclined to pass by that gloomy hall.

The cavern was a trial for e’en the brave,

For its depths were as if made to apall,

Yet he entered and, in a hundred feet,

Came to a marble doorway, carved complete.

Book I: Canto XIII: 25-29: The secrets of the giant’s cave

The door set there was glazed with enamel,

Decked with pearls and emeralds untold,

(Such concentrated riches no mortal

Had ever seen) while above, dead and cold,

A maiden’s corpse, hung from the portal,

And, beneath, a sign, its letters all in gold:

‘He that passes herein, shall not live long,

Unless he has sworn to avenge my wrong;

Though, if he swears that vengeance he will take,

For I was, indeed, wretchedly betrayed,

He may own the steed within, for my sake,

For tis swift as the wind; and be repaid.’

Rinaldo his stride did scarcely break,  

He swore to God he would avenge the maid,

Nor an ounce of strength or life would deny

To the cause of one wrongly doomed to die.

He passed the portal then, and saw the steed,

Tethered to the rock by a golden chain,

And all equipped to serve its master’s need,

Caparisoned in silk, white, without stain.

The horse was black as coal (of charmed breed,

As I have told you) though with white, again,

Dappling the coat near the tail, twixt the eyes,

And adorning the left hind leg, lengthwise.

No horse on earth e’er equalled it, indeed,

Without exception, not e’en Baiardo,

Sung of throughout the world, I will concede,

Quick, and strong, and brave, yet, even so,

That strange courser was of no mortal seed,

So swift it flew faster than an arrow,

A spear, a stone, a falcon on the wing,

Or any other sight-deceiving thing.

Lord Rinaldo was delighted to have found

His way to so noble an adventure.

And now he came upon a book, richly bound,

Its pages writ in blood not ink, moreover.

It was tied fast to a chain, set in the ground,

And declared, when read beyond its cover,

The secret history of that poor maid,

Of her murder, and how she was betrayed.

Book I: Canto XIII: 30-34: The Castle of Montefalcone

The text within spoke of Truffaldino,

Baghdad’s false, and accursed, king,

Whose neighbour was a count, Orrisello,

Brave and true, and excellent in everything.

He was praised by all about, high and low,

Such that he aroused the monarch’s loathing.

The count held a fortress, kept it nobly;

The castle’s name was Montefalcone.

Then, he had a sister, Albarosa,

One that brought honour to every lady.

Her face and her form were fair, moreover,

Filled with delicacy, grace and beauty.

She was perfect, beyond every other,

And this peerless lady loved, most deeply,

A noble knight, who that same love did share;

He was handsome and brave, beyond compare.

The bright sun as it shone upon the Earth,

Had never seen a pair to equal these,

So lovely, praised, and renowned from birth.

One heart, one will, saw their love increase,

Every hour of the day, in scope and worth.

Now Truffaldino battled without cease

To take that keep of Montefalcone,

So strong it could be held against any.

On a stony cliff, a mile above the vale,

There ran a track, a narrow path, that led

To its mighty walls; and none could prevail

Who assailed it, for a moat, dark and dread,

Encircled that great keep, so runs the tale,

And barbicans, triple-towered overhead,

Protected the gates, from direct attack,

And defended the stronghold at their back.

Thus, Orrisello had taken every care

For his safety, for King Truffaldino

So hated him, that he would often dare

To assault the place, yet that cruel foe

Had forever been repulsed from there.

However, the monarch came to know

Of the love that Orrisello’s sister

Held for Polindo, past any other.

Book I: Canto XIII: 35-40: Truffaldino’s treachery

Polindo was the name of that brave knight

I spoke of who, in turn, loved the lady,

And he and Albarosa, day and night,

Both longed for one another, equally.

Now, this warrior oft hoped to alight

On some adventure, born of chivalry,

And he roamed throughout the realm, as he sought,

And so arrived at Truffaldino’s court.

That malevolent and treacherous king,

One who knew well how to dissimulate,

Showed him honour, and was right welcoming,

With fine words, and gifts of worth and weight,

And promised him his aid in obtaining

Albarosa, for his power was great.

Love’s truly strange, and easily undone;

Fearing all, it yet trusts in everyone!

Who, would have believed, but Polindo,

In that man; a king, whom all folk knew

As perfidious, and cruel, and their foe?

Yet the foolish knight thought the promise true,

Eager to accept the help to follow,

Looking to the hour when he might view

The fair Albarosa, and embrace her,

And giving not a thought to aught other.

As the lady could not be persuaded

To allow entry to her brother’s fortress,

She made him a promise that, unaided,

She would come to him, nonetheless,

And from this she could not be dissuaded,

By descending the cliff, to his distress,

And would elope, do his will, all her life

Obey him – he, that she would be his wife.  

This plan they performed, Truffaldino

Having offered Polindo previously,

A castle on a rock, where they might go,

A day’s distance from Montefalcone.

There the knight, unsuspecting of his foe,

And free from every care, brought his lady;

There they joyed, with many a fond caress,

Yet Truffaldino marred their happiness.

O Fortune, that to joy e’er sets a bound,

Changing ever with your wheel’s rise and fall!

He came, like a snake, from underground,

For a tunnel ran beneath that castle wall.

The evil wretch, long before, had found

Its use, twas why he’d gifted them that hall.

They were dining, the love-light in their eyes,

When he appeared, and took them, by surprise.

Book I: Canto XIII: 41-45: The sad fate of the lovers

Polindo, fearing lest the maid be slain,

Dared not speak, and yet he seethed with anger,

And a desperate silence did then maintain.

The king would have her write to her brother,

Telling him to come to her; and explain

That to the woods Polindo had led her,

And that she was now confined there by force,

While he himself was now her sole recourse.

She was to say: three of Polindo’s men

Now guarded her full closely, but that he

Might come upon them in their cavern

And overpower them, and thus set her free.

He would learn why she’d left, as and when;

She would speak, once she gained her liberty,

But twas enough for him to understand

She’d saved him from Truffaldino’s hand.

Yet Albarosa claimed she’d rather die

Than act so as to harm her own brother,

And despite every threat would not lie,

Or take the pen and write, as he’d discover.

The king gave his commands, by and by,

And his men brought instruments of torture,

Heated irons, cruel tongs to tear the flesh;

He gripped her face, and threatened her afresh.

She refused to do as he demanded,

With fiery pincers he tormented the maid,

And other means of torture he commanded,

Though she uttered naught, but silently prayed.

Polindo fell to the ground, as if branded

Himself now by her pain, all trust betrayed;

For, though firm and courageous for his part,

He could not bear the anguish in his heart.

Of all these cruel events, the pages told,

In detail and at length, in many a word,

Speaking, with pity, of those deeds of old,

And in a sweet tone that full oft was heard

From loving lips, now silent and grown cold.

For twas writ that Polindo’s heart was stirred

Far more by grief for her, than his own state,

While she likewise but mourned her lover’s fate.

Book I: Canto XIII: 46-51: Fiordelisa desires Rinaldo

The knight read all that bitter history,

And many a tear glided from his eye;

His face was a portrait of true pity,

And, as he read, he gave many a sigh;

Then he swore on the book again that he

Would avenge Albarosa or would die,

And then he left the cavern, full of woe,

Leading forth the steed, named Rabicano.

The warrior then mounted, and rode on;

Fiordelisa journeying at his side.

Before they’d travelled far the light was gone,

And they dismounted; their steeds they tied

To a tree, neath which Rinaldo lay, upon

The ground, the maid nearby, open-eyed.

The enchantments of Merlin’s fountain

Had changed the nature of our paladin,

For though the maiden lay beside the knight,

Yet Rinaldo revealed no emotion.

There was a time, when his passion was alight,

It was thought of as a heaving ocean

Of flame; he’d have laid low, in the night,

High walls, a mountain, in valiant fashion,

To have had her near, and yet now he slept;

To her, I think, twas a strange code he kept.

At last, the air was brightening all around,

The sun had not yet risen, many a star

Still decked the sky; the maiden heard the sound

Of birds amidst the branches, near and far,

Twas neither night nor day; upon the ground

Rinaldo lay, and naught his sleep did mar,

While she breathed, softly, in the half-light,

Viewing the form and features of the knight.

He was still young, and handsome indeed,

Full of life, and strong and sinewy,

Slim-hipped, full-chested, of a noble breed,

With a fledgling beard, soft and curly.

She gazed with delight, prepared to cede

Her heart, and well-nigh stricken mortally

So great the joy, the sweetness, that she found

In that fair sight, and in naught else around;

The maiden felt transported in mind,

As she observed the sleeping warrior.

Now, midst those woods, there roamed, unconfined,

A most fearsome, and ferocious centaur.

His hybrid form was strange, like all his kind,

For he seemed a stallion to the shoulder,

Yet where the neck springs upwards from the chest

A human form (from the waist) topped the rest.

Book I: Canto XIII: 52-56: Rinaldo fights a centaur

He had naught to eat but what he caught

In that vast, strange, uncultivated land,

Where sundry other creatures he sought,

With a shield, spears, and a club, in hand.

He had captured a lion he had fought,

And was bearing it alive, as he’d planned,

Roaring and struggling, while the sound

Had carried to the maid, o’er the ground,

Else they had been taken by surprise,

For he’d have come upon them, suddenly,

And perchance all had ended otherwise,

For Rinaldo, who’d have perished swiftly.

Instead, the maiden woke him with her cries.

‘O celestial Lord, come, aid us quickly!

She called, loudly; the knight rose to his feet

As the centaur appeared, and to complete

His defence, raised his shield overhead,

That the giant had damaged, while the centaur

Threw down the lion, which now lay there dead,

For he’d strangled the life from the creature.

Rinaldo charged; the centaur quickly sped

Some distance away, turned, faced the other,

And then hurled a swift, and a deadly, spear,

As Rinaldo looked on, yet showed no fear,

While the missile failed to strike its target.

When another was hurled, aimed at his skull,

His life was saved by his weighty helmet,

For the aim was true, the length was full,

While a third throw fell short, the weakest yet.

Yet the centaur pawed the earth like a bull,

Grasped his club, then galloped at the knight,

Leaping here and there, to maintain the fight.

He was so swift, and dextrous in action,

Rinaldo found himself in some bother.

He exerted himself, to gain some traction,

But so quickly his foe the ground did cover

He failed to reach his steed; for a fraction

Of a second, he was stunned by the other,

Spun around, and grasped the nearest tree,

Then backed against it, leaving his arms free.

Book I: Canto XIII: 57-58: Who seizes Fiordelisa and bears her away

That strange form of a man pranced about,

Here and there, but the knight stood his ground.

With Fusberta in his hand, he gave a shout,

While the centaur retreated at the sound,

And, of winning the fight, was so in doubt,

For the blade was good and sharp, he had found,

That he turned from the knight, suddenly,

So as to carry off the frightened lady.

Abandoning Rinaldo, he grasped her,

And lifted her to his back, in a trice.

The fair maid felt a deep chill all over,

As if her flesh and bone had turned to ice.

More of this, the next canto will offer,

Here I say no more (lest I say it twice),

Then we’ll turn to the war twixt Agricane

And Circassia’s King Sacripante.

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