Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato

Book I: Canto XIX: The Death of Agricane

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

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Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato: Book I, Canto XIX

Book I: Canto XIX: 1-11: Orlando is stunned by a blow, but fatally wounds Agricane

All you who are in love, lord, or lady,

Or maiden, both gracious and courteous,

Pray come now, and listen to my story

Of high adventure, and the amorous

Deeds that knights of old wrought for glory.

Full many were splendid and courageous,

But Orlando, above all, and Agricane,

Performed, for love, things noble and mighty.

As I was saying (in the last canto),

Each man made a fierce and cruel attack

On the other, to win the maiden so.

The moon shone fitfully, the night was black,

Each was forced to be wary of his foe,

And guard himself, at both front and back,

And to left and right, and above, on high,

Far more than if the sun were in the sky.

Though the king fought with greater fury,

The Count saved his strength, being wise.

They’d fought for five hours (such the story)

And the dawn glow had touched the eastern skies,

As they battled hard for life and glory,

When Agricane, feeling that the prize

Was now slipping from his grasp, struck his foe,

Upon the left, with a despairing blow.

That desperate stroke swept from side to side,

And cut Orlando’s shield as if twere straw.

He was charmed, thus his flesh the blade denied,

But it cracked the plate and mail, and full sore

The brave Count was bruised, and winded beside,

And, though Tranchera did nothing more,

The blow was so mighty the force alone

Numbed the arm, and shook the Count to the bone.

Nonetheless the Count was not dismayed,

Rather he struck back with greater force,

Piercing Agricane’s shield with his blade.

His sword tore plate and mail in its course,

And so great was the opening that it made,

The blow as weighty as the kick of a horse,

That it broke three ribs in the monarch’s chest,

Ripped off half his shield, and tore the rest.

As a lion roars in wrath, midst the sand,

When the hunter’s wounded it with his spear,

So Agricane roared, where he did stand,

Then swung with greater force, it would appear,

For upon his foe’s helm the blade did land,

And flew so swiftly in its brief career,

And so stunned the man, that Count Orlando

Knew not if he still had his head, or no.

Naught could he see, his ears were ringing,

His charging courser was so terrified

It carried him about the field, careering

Till he near lost his seat in that wild ride,

And would, in truth, have been sent tumbling,

If he’d remained half-conscious; side to side

He swayed, but, when just about to fall,

He awoke in time, though close was the call.

Once he’d revived, he felt a sense of shame,

Realising he’d been well-nigh overcome.

‘How can you hope Angelica to claim,

If you’re deaf and blind, half-dead and numb?’

He cried, dismayed, ‘recall you not that same,

That fair maid who sought you as her champion?

He who’s asked, but is slow in obeying,

Though he serves, his reward goes a-begging.

Nearly two whole days I’ve wasted, here,

Attempting to defeat a single knight,

And yet I am no nearer, twould appear,

Than at the start, to ending this good fight!

If I can’t win within an hour, I fear

I must forgo the shield and lance outright,

Become a monk, and be damned indeed,

If I seek to wear a sword or ride a steed.’

These words of his could barely be heard,

For he ground his teeth, in a furious manner,

And he nigh-on spewed flame at every word,

So hot, and so fiery, was his anger.

His steed gainst Agricane he now spurred,

And, with both hands, he whirled Durindana,

And, with a backwards stroke, he struck the king

On the shoulder, with power behind the swing.

The cruel blade sliced deep along his chest,

Splitting the breastplate, and the mail below

Though close-wrought of fine steel links, and progressed

To the hip, a bitter ruin to bestow.

Never was greater seen; twas like to rest

On the saddlebow, yet such was the blow

It cut through, though it was bone, iron-bound,

Sending both horn and pommel to the ground.

Book I: Canto XIX: 12-15: The monarch wishes to be baptised at the fount

From the shoulder to the groin, Agricane

Was all one wound, but yet did death defy.

His face was pallid, his sight but murky,

He knew himself a man about to die.

Though his spirit was failing, he called, clearly,

To Orlando, then gazed up into his eye,

Said calmly, ‘I believe’, and gently sighed,

‘In your God, who was scourged and crucified.

Baptise me at the fountain there, sir knight,

Before I lose the power to speak again.

If my life has been sinful in God’s sight,

May I not lose His grace, and may He deign,

He who came to save humankind outright,

To receive my soul, and so end my pain.

That I have sinned greatly I confess,

Yet He may grant me mercy, nonetheless.’

The king, who had been so fierce before,

Now wept and raised his face to the sky,

Saying: ‘You have gained from me far more

Than a steed, yet this charger here, say I,

Is the best to be found from shore to shore,

The greatest ever bred, none could deny.

I took him from a prisoner of mine,

A valiant lord in my camp; yet, in fine,

Since I can scarcely breathe, of your good grace

Come, lift me from the saddle to the ground.

Let not my soul be lost; before the face

Of God, baptise me; for the grave I’m bound.

Leave me, and a sorry path you’ll trace,

One of pain and distress, the way unsound.’

All this the king said, and a little more,

As the Count grieved, and did his death deplore.

Book I: Canto XIX: 16-18: He is baptised, and then dies

Orlando’s eyes were filled with tears as he

Dismounted, and then hastened to the king,

Caught him up, in his arms, and, tenderly,

Laid him down on the marble surrounding

The fountain, and wept with him, quietly,

While the king asked pardon for ill-doing.

He baptised him with water from the fount,

Joined his hands, and prayed for him. Then, the Count

Finding the monarch’s face grow cold, likewise

The body, knew his spirit must have passed.

He lingered not, closed Agricane’s eyes,

And left the king, sword in hand to the last,

In shattered armour, yet in regal guise,

For his crown he still wore. Orlando cast

His gaze upon the horse: twas Baiardo,

He believed; yet where then was Rinaldo?

Not quite certain it was so, for indeed,

Its caparison concealed the creature,

From neck to fetlock draping all the steed,

But for the head, hiding every feature.

‘I would the secret of this business read,’

Thought Orlando, ‘tis him by his stature.

Yet, if he’s Baiardo, I can but wonder

As to the whereabouts of his master.’

Book I: Canto XIX: 19-22: Riding Baiardo, leading Brigliador, Orlando hears a noise

Orlando now wished to know for sure,

And began to approach the horse, quietly,

But the steed knew the Count from before,

Greeting him with a neigh, as formerly.

‘Tell me, brave steed,’ he said, ‘that ever bore

Rinaldo to the fight, where then is he?

Tell me no lie.’ So spoke Orlando,

Though the steed gave no reply for, although

He was born of enchantment, yet he lacked

A human voice, and so could utter naught.

Orlando, who had ridden him, in fact,

Many a time before, mounted, then caught

His Brigliador’s reins, and o’er the tract

Of meadowland, with both steeds, he sought

The depths of the forest, where, as he rode,

Hearing warlike sounds, in a trice, he slowed,

Then tethered Brigliador to a tree

(It was a mighty oak quite close at hand).

Now I would have you know that here were three

Great giants, bearing treasure o’er the land,

Leading a maid on a camel, for she

Had been snatched away, you should understand,

From the Distant Isle; and a valiant knight

Was engaging these three in furious fight.

The knight, whose strength was great, was battling

To free the maiden, and he fought with two

Of the giants, while the third was guarding

The lady. All the tale I’ll tell to you,

For I’ll resume, with the Count advancing,

But first I must relate a deed or two.

Be patient, and all things will be revealed,

But now I tell of slaughter on the field.

Book I: Canto XIX: 23-26: Galafrone and Angelica free the captives

That field where the Tartar army, I mean,

Was scattering in a thousand directions.

No more disastrous rout was ever seen.

Death was everywhere, in countless actions,

Nor could I describe that blood-drenched scene.

Hadrian’s and Brandimarte’s factions

Pursued the foe; from the river and the sky,

Sounded many a loud and dreadful cry.

Agricane’s troops, lacking their master,

Since that great lord of theirs was slain, and they

Would see such a king returning never,

Ran in noisy flight, for lost was the day;

While a host died, damned in Hell forever.

The aged Galafrone, did display

Not a trace of mercy for that fleeing horde,

For all that were caught he put to the sword,

He desired that none should escape the field,

Viewing their swift slaughter as he rode by,

To reach the king’s tent, where he’d concealed

His captives, hidden there from human eye;

And Astolfo, tight-bound, was thus revealed,

While King Ballano, there, one could espy,

Still full of vigour, and, midst many more,

There lay Albarossia’s Antifor.

Still in their chains, they were dragged before

The fair Angelica, who set them free,

For she knew these brave knights, and therefore

Honoured and praised them now, courteously;

With sweet words, their suffering did deplore,

And, in a fine speech, gave thanks, profusely,

For their valiant deeds wrought in her honour,

And their bold attempts to bring her succour.

Book I: Canto XIX: 27-32: Astolfo boasts of his prowess and takes the field

Astolfo cried: ‘Here, shall I not remain,

But rather take revenge upon the foe,

That band of traitors, fleeing o’er the plain,

Who knocked me flat, and from behind, and so,

Drove me from the ground I would maintain,

Where I’d have slain a hundred more, you know,

But was tricked by that vile Agricane,

Whom I’ll slay yet, midst his scattered army;

Though armour I must borrow, and a steed,

That I may hasten now unto the field,

I, whose first stroke will see a wondrous deed,  

For I’ll cut a score to pieces, ere they yield.

And I’ll capture Agricane, hear him plead

For mercy, though his fate is firmly sealed,

For, whirled about my head, he’ll rise so high,

That he’ll take three full days to fall and die.’

Antifor and Ballano heard this claim.

Unaware that he was prone to boasting,

Or that he was otherwise known to fame,

And thought him a fool, and merely raving,

But being brave, and possessing a name

For valour, they also set to arming,

For the fortress was well-stocked with supplies,

And they were soon clad in martial guise.

All three mounted, and rode to the fight,

Astolfo first, who blew upon his horn,

The very image of a fearless knight,

Joyful and handsome, and most nobly born.

Now hear of the encounter God, outright,

Had ordained for him that self-same morn,

For he came across a fleeing soldier,

Bearing away his lance, and his armour.

This latter was worth a fortune, all told,

And as a spoil had fallen to the Tartar,

The shield and lance, which was adorned with gold,

Had once belonged to young Argalia.

Astolfo, in his anger waxing bold,

Struck the soldier down (a simple matter)

Piercing between his shoulders six palms through,

Then dismounted, and claimed the spoils anew.

Clad now in that armour, he took up his lance,

And did deeds valiant beyond measure,

(Though none could resist his swift advance

Since the lance slew the foe at his pleasure).

The Tartar ranks now grasped at every chance

To flee, but were chased and slain at leisure;

Though a different fight raged by the river,

Where Rinaldo battled brave Marfisa.

Book I: Canto XIX: 33-34: Marfisa battles with Rinaldo

The two of them had jousted all that morn

Yet neither had progressed a single jot.

Rinaldo’s armour was cracked, his mail torn,

His shield and helm dented in every spot.

The shame he felt could scarcely be borne,

Surely scorn and disgrace must be his lot,

For twas the maid led him a merry dance;

He yielded what he gained, to her advance.

On her part, too, Marfisa felt dismay,

But showed it more than did Rinaldo.

She wished she’d never seen the light of day,

Since she’d singularly failed to down her foe.

Her shield was torn, her blade shorn away,

Her arms, legs, and body, weary also.

The maid was quite unscathed, however,

Protected by her enchanted armour.

Book I: Canto XIX: 35-38: Galafrone recognises Argalia’s steed, Rabicano

As those two fought with one another,

With small advantage to either party,

The Tartars that fled along the river

Were overtaken by King Galafrone.

His heart filled with rage, his mind with anger,

The king, though in pursuit of their army,

Halted to observe the vicious fight,

Recognising Marfisa at first sight.

He knew not the Lord of Montalbano,

Who fought so fiercely against her,

But thought he seemed a most worthy foe,

And mighty, judging from his blade’s power.

But then he caught sight of Rabicano,

The steed owned by his son, Argalia,

The knight whom, in France, Ferrau had slain,

Midst the Ardennes, and his helm had ta’en.

The aged father wept to see that same,

For he recognised the horse, Rabicano,

And shouted out Argalia’s name,

And cried: ‘O star of virtue, here below,

O fair flower of chivalry and fame!

More than my own self, I loved you so!

Is this the traitor; that, through treachery,

Stole your life, and brought me misery?

Now, quarter my flesh, feed me to the pack,

Grind my body to dust, if this foul traitor

Shall boast more of his pitiless attack

Upon my son, next that foreign river!’

And with this, he gripped his sword and drew back,

Then charged at Rinaldo, in pure anger,

Striking the knight, and to such good effect,

The latter, stunned, his courser’s neck now decked.

Book I: Canto XIX: 39-43: Marfisa unseats Antifor and Brandimarte

Marfisa, witnessing the aged knight

Interfere in a duel that was her own,

Was affronted, and felt it only right

To avenge the contempt thereby shown.

She charged the king, advancing in full flight

Upon Rinaldo, as, to aid the throne,

Brandimarte appeared with Antifor,

Neither knowing aught of the maid before.

They imagined that she must be some knight

Of Agricane’s, who had sought the foe;

And, seeing her so valiant in the fight,

They thought to involve themselves also.

The proud warrior-maid, with rage alight,

Had unhorsed Galafrone, and the blow

Had slain him if her sword had been intact;

For the point would have pierced him; tis a fact,

That Galafrone would have died, though he

Was merely toppled by the warrior-maid,

And might have died yet, had Brandimarte

And Antifor not arrived, bringing aid.

In truth, their involvement cost them dearly,

For, Antifor a swift descent now made,

Marfisa striking that lord so fiercely

He lay silent on the ground, stunned wholly;

Now, though Brandimarte would task her more,

Since he well-nigh equalled her in skill,

And was practised in all the arts of war,

She possessed the greater strength of will.

As they were infidels, beyond God’s law,

Rinaldo drew aside, for the thought did fill

His mind that, as both warriors lacked His aid,

Fate favoured neither knight nor warrior-maid.

And watching that bold and furious fight

To see who hammered best with the sword,

He judged them both worthy, as of right,

But that she did the greater skill afford.

Antifor arose, upon his mount did light,

And, quite recovered now, that noble lord,

Attacked Marfisa, as did Galafrone

Who drew his blade once more, and charged, fiercely.

Book I: Canto XIX: 44-46: She fights Galafrone’s knights en masse

He was joined by Oberto dal Leone,

And by the mighty King Ballano;

Then by Hadrian, and Chiarone.

Those four thus united gainst the foe,

In swift support of King Galafrone.

Three kings then, and three lords, opposed her so,

That bold warrior, that glorious maid,

Lunging at Brandimarte, unafraid.

Like to a wild-boar the mastiffs assail,

That circles round, while arching its forehead,

As the pale foam wets its tusks, nor turns tail,

Its tiny eyes like hot coals, fiery red,

Its bristles risen, seeking to prevail,

And swivels, lightning-fast, its fierce head,

And so, charges the pack, with burst on burst

Of speed, the nearest hound suffering worst,

So, thus, and not otherwise, the lady

With many a thrust, and backhanded blow,

Did battle, most fiercely and cruelly,

While striking fear in more than one bold foe.

By now, a large group, of more than thirty,

Had chosen to attack her, to her woe;

Many were they, yet she fought ruthlessly,  

And dealt with them, indeed, courageously.

Book I: Canto XIX: 47-50: Rinaldo joins her in defying the attackers

As he looked on, it seemed to Rinaldo,

That the lady was wronged, most perversely,

So, he called out: ‘I’ll aid you, even though

I may die for it!’ then joined her swiftly.

This, Marfisa was much comforted to know,

And in reply called out to him, loudly:

‘Brave knight, though it be but you and I,

Together the whole world we might defy!’

And with that, the furious warrior-maid

Advanced, and struck hard at bold Oberto,

Beating hard on his helm until he swayed;

Then sent the halves of his shield, at a blow,

Left and right of his saddle; she delayed

But a moment, before gripping Ballano

By his helmet; his prowess was no aid,

For flat, upon the hard ground, he was laid.

Many a fine deed Amone’s son wrought,

Though I’ve little to say about those same,

For of all the opponents that he fought

Bishop Turpin knew not a single name.

He wounded five in the body, in short,

And cut away the heads (such is the claim)

From seven, and sore bruised a dozen more.

All feared this master of the art of war.

Many another was drawn to the fight;

More joined, as each passing moment sped by,

For those behind lacked a view of the knight

And the wounds those at the front won thereby.

‘You’ll not shift us, for we are in the right!’

Twas Marfisa who uttered that fierce cry.

‘All my land and fortune I’ll leave to you,

Should you gain a yard, or are like to do!’

Book I: Canto XIX: 51-52: Marfisa’s men arrive in support

Now, a strong force swept along the river,

With the power to bring death and destruction,

(The broken crown, their queen’s insignia,

Adorned their shields) and then joined the action.

Marfisa’s men were they (and bore her banner)

In numbers that must change the direction

Of the contest; they had feared, in the strife,

Lest she was captured, or might lose her life.

An even fiercer battle then commenced;

None more savage was to be seen that day.

For Marfisa hacked and cut, lunged and fenced,

Whirling round in fury, no more at bay,

While Rinaldo many a blow dispensed,

Destroying all those lingering in his way,

Sending arms and heads flying through the air,

While his opponents sent up many a prayer.

Book I: Canto XIX: 53-58: Fiordelisa seeks Brandimarte on the field

Meanwhile bold Iroldo and Prasildo

Gave an ear, with the fair Fiordelisa,

(Two miles from the battlefield or so)

To the serving-maid and squire to Marfisa.

She informed the three of the ebb and flow

Of the conflict, and of how, earlier,

She had watched her lady face many a knight,

And of how she had performed in that fight.

Fiordelisa, terrified for Brandimarte

Lest he sought to try Marfisa’s skill,

On hearing this, departed hurriedly,

And sped to where the knights were fighting still.

There she found the remnants of an army,

Retreating now towards the lofty hill

Where stood the mighty keep; and none were slow

To fly from the Lord of Montalbano.

But twas Brandimarte alone she sought,

The others were of no concern to her.

She roamed about the field till she caught

Sight of him, apart from every other;

For he’d quickly withdrawn from where they fought,

When the fight began, reluctant to suffer

The shameful sight of a warrior-maiden

Under attack from so many noblemen.

And had therefore waited, and looked on,

With oft a crimson stain on his face,

Though not for himself, but some companion

Fighting there, he felt the shame and disgrace.

Yet Fiordelisa he now saw, and, thereupon,

He hastened to clasp her in his embrace,

For he had not viewed her for many a day,

And had thought her lost, and gone astray.

He felt such great and sudden happiness,

That all else vanished from his mind,

Forgot Rinaldo, Marfisa no less,

To the distant battle instantly blind.

He set aside shield and helm, to caress

His maid a thousand times; they entwined,

And kissed and embraced, till, by and by,

The lovely maid gave a protesting cry.

For she was modest, this Fiordelisa,

And liked not to be open to display,

And so, with sweet words, begged her lover,

To hide a little from the light of day,

In a glade, upon its grassy cover,

At the edge of the woods not far away,

Where, on a bank of violets, they might

Untouched by war or woe, take their delight.

He agreed and, after riding for a while,

They halted within a flowering grove,

On a meadow formed as if to beguile;

A pretty bower, a many-hued alcove,

Betwixt two hills; and, through that verdant isle,

Midst its shade, many a cool stream did rove.

There, the ardent warrior and his lass

Swiftly dismounted on the glowing grass.

The maiden, with a sweet gaze, began

To remove the armour that clad her knight,

Though she’d a thousand kisses from the man

Ere a single piece did on the turf alight.

He embraced her before her pretty plan

Was complete, impatient at the sight

Of her loveliness, and, still in his mail,

He drew her down to the grass, in the dale.

That pair of lovers were entwined so close,

Not a breath of breeze could pass between.

Each clasped the other till, you might suppose,

None could part them (though, indeed, none was seen);

And how they groaned and sighed, Heaven knows,

With delight I can’t describe, sweet the scene)

Let them say; they may tell you all the rest,

Each being of two tongues there possessed.

Their first encounter was as nothing,

For it all happened with far too much haste.

But, a second occasion venturing,

They attained to pleasures that few do taste,

Till, little by little, gently recovering,

Sighing with love, they eased the pace,

And lay there with their faces pressed tight

Together, breathing mutual delight.

Then they eagerly returned to the dance,

Before their passion was entirely spent,

And talked softly afterwards; every glance

Still of love, though they spoke of past torment,

The cool streams, in their glittering advance

O’er the grass, murmuring, as if intent

On beckoning them to rest, while the breeze

Stirred the leaves midst the concealing trees.

By a sparkling spring that crossed the meadow

Brandimarte lay, exhausted from his labour,

And fell asleep to its babbling, soft and low,

With those thoughts that a lover’s dreams favour,

While beside the knight lay Fiordelisa, so

Enamoured not a moment passed by her

Without her gazing gently on his face,

Until she too slept, lulled by that fair place.

High on a hill (two, I say, flanked the vale)

Stood a hermit, and may God grant him ill!

He did Brandimarte wrong (such the tale)

All through working his malevolent will.

Yet this canto’s long enough; I’ll regale

You with far more, if you’ll but listen still,

Another day, to my history; till then,

God preserve you, fair lords and gentlemen.

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

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