Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato

Book I: Canto XX: Brandimarte and Marfisa in Action

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

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Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato: Book I, Canto XX

Book I: Canto XX: 1-8: Fiordelisa is abducted by the enchanter

My good lords, I believe you may recall

The pleasure that the lovers savoured there,

Where they lay, in that meadow, blind to all

But the sweet delights that they chose to share

Beside the fount within that verdant hall,

While, above, a malign old man did glare,

From the entrance to his hillside cavern,

On the shaded grove, below, I mention.

That aged man was a vile enchanter,

Full of malice and of an evil seed,

One, of Mohammed’s flock, that ever

Sought to reach true Paradise, such his creed.

He was learned in herb-lore, and clever

In the use of powerful gems and, at need,

Could halt a stream or river in in its flight,

Or move a towering mountain overnight.

Now, while praying to Allah, he had seen,

Our two lovers dallying within the glade,

And, while they embraced upon the green,

He was tempted to watch, his book down-laid.

There he pondered a means by which, unseen

By the knight, he might carry off the maid.

Choosing a powerful root, the enchanter

Sped down the hill, to their hidden arbour.

The innate virtue of that root (culled fresh)

Was to render a person unconscious

When it was touched to the naked flesh

That flesh concealed from the light, among us.

In its net it would that person enmesh,

Yet it was harmless if not employed thus;

For if touched to the head, neck, or hand,

Twas applied all in vain, you understand.

When the hermit reached the open glade,

And took a good look at Brandimarte,

And saw how strong he seemed, and well-made,

He fell back a dozen feet, fearfully,

And, regretting being there, sought the shade,

Unsure of what to do, being cowardly.

He nonetheless took heart, approached the maid,

And, lifting her gown, her limbs displayed.

The enchanter scarce dared to breathe, for fear

Lest the sleeping Brandimarte might stir.

The maiden’s flesh pale marble did appear,

Polished smooth, or like ivory, all over,

Now exposed to view, as I’ve made clear,

By that evil old man, the false enchanter.

He bent down, took the root and, by and by,

Pressed it, silently, to the maiden’s thigh.

She was rendered unconscious for an hour

In this manner, and he, without delay,

Having the girl now within his power,

Scooped her up, and went swiftly on his way;

Climbing the hill, though turning back to scour

The view, lest Brandimarte might display

Signs of waking, and then follow in pursuit,

For he’d not dared to touch him with the root.

The enchanter carried of the maiden,

And took her deep among the forest trees,

Long and far enough for her to waken

With a shock, feeling desperate unease.

Although it might seem she was forsaken,

I’ll explain (a little later, if you please)

How she was freed; meanwhile, suddenly,

The sound of cries awoke Brandimarte.

Book I: Canto XX: 9-11: Brandimarte wakes and encounters three giants

On opening his eyes, he was horrified,

For he not only heard those sounds of woe

But his love was no longer at his side,

And he thought to die, on finding it so.

He armed and loosed his steed, and then applied

The spurs and towards the noise did go,

For it seemed to him that the cries he heard

Were hers, without distinguishing a word.

When he arrived, he found three giants there

With a string of camels, amidst the trail.

One led a lady with dishevelled hair,

Seated high upon a beast; sad and pale,

Was her face, yet the maid seemed young and fair,

And, from a distance, hearing her wail,

He thought twas Fiordelisa who did cry

Begging Allah, above, that she might die.

Brandimarte himself cared not to live

If the maiden, whom he thought his, was lost.

He vowed to Allah he would ne’er forgive

Any harm to her, nor would he count the cost

Of a fight; yet if Allah did not give

Prompt assistance, when he sought to accost

These huge and hideous giants he would die.

Now, two, on seeing the knight, gave a cry:

Book I: Canto XX: 12-16: He attacks them, thinking to rescue Fiordelisa

‘Where go you, wretch! Throw down your useless blade’,

The pair called loudly, ‘or you’re like to die!’

Brandimarte, angered, no answer made,

But attacked them outright, his sword on high.

One giant a vast and monstrous club displayed,

Strong, iron-bound, and weighty, and let fly,

Swinging it fiercely, at Brandimarte,

Who, with skill and timing, evaded neatly,

For his courser flew upwards like a bird,

While he, untouched, let the club swing by.

The other a much greater blow conferred

Thinking to strike him dead, but his eye

Being in, ere any danger he incurred,

He, as he’d done before, soared to the sky;

From one side to the other, leapt his steed

As if equipped with wings, at lightning speed.

He struck the first giant with his blade,

Before he could swing his club again,

Slicing away his armour; he displayed

A great gash in his thigh, and howled with pain.

This giant, fierce, and powerfully made,

Was named Oridante, I should explain,

While the second was called Ranchiera,

Uglier than the first, and crueller.

Ranchiera swung the like club he bore,

Across Brandimarte’s front, at speed, but found

That the latter’s mount yet again did soar

Through the air, and the blow but met the ground.

Oridante’s stroke was harder to ignore,

For he hit the steed’s crupper, with a sound

Like a bough cracking, so great was the force

Its backbone snapped, and earthwards went the horse.

And yet the valiant knight sprang to his feet,

Though his courser lay dead upon the earth.

Determined never to concede defeat,

He parried and lunged, for all he was worth,

And yet was sure a speedy death to meet,  

Unless Allah to deliverance gave birth

For, the giants hemmed him in, by and by,

And at the next blow he seemed bound to die.

Book I: Canto XX: 17-22: Orlando appears, Brandimarte fights Oridante

At that dread moment, Orlando appeared.

I’ve said (I know not if you remember)

How he’d entered the forest and had neared

That very place, once his duel was over

With Agricane; and had eyed those feared

Giants, the camels and the maid; moreover,

He saw they would soon slay Brandimarte,

Whose plight affected him most deeply,

For he’d recognised the knight, in a trice,

From the arms, and insignia, he bore,

And needed not to gaze upon him twice,

Ere he spurred brave Baiardo on to war.

Ranchiera, that monstrous well of vice,

Perceived the Count and, with a mighty roar,

Ran at him while the valiant Brandimarte,

As the clamour grew, battled Oridante.

Their contest was much fiercer than before,

Progressing in a quite different manner.

Oridante’s thigh poured blood all the more,

While he sought revenge upon the other;

Count Orlando, meanwhile, landed a score

Of blows on the vicious Ranchiera.

The air seemed on fire, the heavens rang,

And the forest echoed to their weapons’ clang.

The third giant stood there guarding the maid,

And the gold they’d stolen by force and guile

From a great lord, in a malicious raid,

On that place that they called the Distant Isle.

Now hear the progress Brandimarte made

In his duel with Oridante this while;

Since now he was aided by Orlando,

He scorned the evil giant’s every blow.

Brandimarte’s blade struck the monster hard,

And caught his hip on the left-hand side,

And sliced the plate that was his stomach-guard,

And left a gash in his right flank beside

And travelled through the air another yard.

Brandimarte, now, swiftly leapt aside,

As the giant raised his club to the sky,

Then, roaring, swung it down, from on high.

The knight had, thus, deftly dodged the blow,

But their confrontation continued still,

While Oridante, weakened by the flow

Of fresh blood, sought his enemy to kill,

And, angered, ignored the wound, although

His great strength was ebbing, if not his will.

The knight, with more experience of war,

Circled round him, cautiously, as before.

Book I: Canto XX: 23-30: Orlando slays Ranchiera

Not far away, there raged the greater fight,

Between Ranchiera and Orlando.

The fierce giant swung his club at the knight;

He, with his gleaming sword, answered the foe.

The pair fought for hours with all their might

Each landing, on the other, blow on blow,

Till bold Ranchiera threw down his shield,

Raised his club, and his monstrous power revealed.

For, at Orlando, he launched a mighty swing,

And, had it been despatched with truer aim,

None could have imagined how the thing

Could have failed to kill or sorely maim,

Yet it struck a tree, against the trunk did ring,

And, from crown to foot, the club split that same,  

Smashed the roots, and was buried in the ground.

None ever heard so thunderous a sound.

The Count had witnessed the astounding force

The brute possessed, a power beyond belief;

Yet he feared only for his valiant horse,

So, he quit Baiardo, lest he come to grief.

When Ranchiera saw him thus change course,

And watched him tread the ground, in brief

He was joyful. ‘Trivigante, be praised!

He’ll not escape me now!’ he cried, amazed.

‘Before you mount again in that saddle,

You’ll wish you were a thousand miles from here.

You fool! What counsel makes you seek battle

On foot? For sheer madness it must appear.

You hardly reach my waist, e’en astraddle

Your horse, you ugly dwarf, one now, I fear,

With my foot in your face, fated to fly

Above the earth, a hundred yards on high!’

Thus, he spoke to Orlando, arrogantly,

Who answered not a word, but swung his blade,

And cut away the other’s armour, slowly,

Piece by piece, all he could reach, as he made

Attack upon attack, and pressed him closely.

One swung his club, the other man displayed

Durindana’s worth, though both, constrained,

Could do little and scarce a wound sustained.

The giant towered high above Orlando,

Whose head, indeed, but reached the other’s waist;

Yet the Count was far braver, even so,

(None sell courage by the yard!) for he faced

The giant, and then grasped his massive foe;

On the other’s haunches, his hands he placed,

Gripped hard, and raised the giant in the air,

Seeking to change the odds in that affair.

He held him high above his chest, and squeezed

So tightly that he broke both plate and mail.

His eyes seemed fiery coals; as he pleased,

He swung the giant round (so runs the tale)

And then letting go, as swiftly as he’d seized

That monstrous form, allowed the giant to sail

Through the air, and then strike the ground like lead.

Ranchiera simply lay there, as if dead.

The giant wore a sturdy helm while he warred,

But that was small defence against the knight.

He swung the pommel of his mighty sword,

And shattered both the helm and skull outright;

From mouth and nose, the blood and brains now poured.

Two souls departed for infernal night,

For Oridante, enfeebled, soon fell,

And his blood served the pool of gore to swell.  

Book I: Canto XX: 31-34: The third giant, Marfusto, fells Brandimarte

Brandimarte severed head from body,

And left the corpse lying on the ground,

Then hastened to the Count eagerly,

To thank him, for a true help he had found.

The third giant (the fiercest one was he,

And was named Marfusto) now swung around,

And left the maiden, to attack the pair,

Brandimarte asked to lead this affair.

Marfusto cried: ‘Though it be Allah’s wish

That you survive, you’ll soon grace the pot.

I’ll simply gut your comrade like a fish,

Then trim you like a gelding; tis your lot

To die; hand me your sword; a tasty dish

You’ll make, indeed, whether you fight or not;

Though if you do, I’ll roast you o’er the fire

When I’ve caught you, and eat you both, entire’

Brandimarte to this gave no reply,

But advanced upon him boldly, sword in hand,

Behind his solid targe, upraised on high,

That defence and attack he might command.

Marfusto’s swinging club fell from the sky

And, where he’d aimed it, the weapon did land;

His two-handed blow struck the warrior’s shield,

Destroyed his helm, and half his head revealed.

Brandimarte, shaken, dropped to the ground,

And from his ruined visor blood ran down.

The Count sobbed aloud, and made a bound,

(On viewing Brandimarte’s blood-stained crown)

Towards the giant, once his voice he’d found:

‘Villainous wretch,’ he cried, ‘I’ll see you drown

In Hell’s fiery stream, for the wrong done here;

Death in this world; the flames below, that sear!’

Book I: Canto XX: 35-37: But is slain by Orlando, who revives the knight

Shouting aloud, he ran towards the foe,

Drew Durindana, and gripped his shield tight,

The giant seeing his face and features glow

His eyes afire, his angry brow alight,

Gazed upon him, filled with fear and woe,

Then turned his back and fled from the knight,

But Orlando swiftly caught him as he ran,

And with his weapon disembowelled the man.

In a moment the monstrous giant was dead,

The hot blood pouring from him to the ground.

Let us leave the villain there, and turn, instead,

To the Count who, hastening to him, had found

That Brandimarte lived; he bathed his head,

Splashed his face, till the warrior came round,

And his colour returned that thence had fled,

And his mind was quite clear, and naught to dread.

I’ll tell you later how the captive maid

Tended that knight, once free, and in what way;

For he sought death, being sore dismayed

In thinking Fiordelisa lost that day.

Now, I’ll turn to the tale, from which I strayed,

Of Marfisa, embroiled yet in the affray,

Leading Rinaldo, and the forces with her,

Slaying Galafrone’s men, beside the river.

Book I: Canto XX: 38-42: Marfisa routs Galafrone’s army

The Drada swollen, ran with blood that day,

Its banks filled with those who fled, in pain,

Before Marfisa’s fury; every bay

Trampled by horses; while, far o’er the plain,

She scoured the field, clearing a bloody way

Before her steed; King Galafrone’s bane

Was she, cleaving a space around, in ire,

As through the bone-dry stubble speeds the fire.

Elsewhere Amone’s brave son, Rinaldo,

Struck down those wretched fugitives, at will,

Seeking to escape from this deadly foe,

Alone; in groups; like swallows from the kill,

When the falcon stoops on its prey below.

Galafrone led the flight towards the hill,

With Hadrian, Antifor, Ballano,

Spurring on to the keep, beside Oberto.

I know not why they all lost heart and fled,

But twas a rout indeed; Astolfo too,

That, in such situations, kept his head,

Was among the first to disappear from view.

Chiarone turned his back, and well-nigh led

The charge to safety, eager to pursue

The coward’s course with many another,

Till they reached the gate, and there found cover.

Those lord and knights entered, in a throng,

Then the drawbridge was raised, while the rest,

The stragglers, fierce Marfisa rode among,

And slew by the moat, her anger expressed

That Galafrone, who had done her wrong,

Had yet escaped her; fury swelled her chest.

The king had fled and gained the fortress wall,

Ere the bridge was raised, safe there from the maul;

And so, she circled round the citadel,

Threatening to raze the place to the ground,

Calling out that she’d send them all to Hell;

Scarce worth her blade, mere cowards there were found.

Many another scornful cry, as well,

Came from her lips, yet, when nary a sound

Was uttered in reply, she turned again,

And rode down from the gate in deep disdain.

Book I: Canto XX: 43-49: Rinaldo agrees to defeat Truffaldino

Reaching the plain, she spoke to Rinaldo:

‘Sir knight, within these lofty walls, there dwells

A vicious and depraved witch, my foe,

Versed in enchantments and evil spells.

And a wicked traitor lies within, also,

Whose deceits and crimes know no parallels;

One whose very existence brings men woe,

And that villain’s name is Truffaldino.

The maid is called Angelica though she

Is ill-described in bearing such a name,

For she’s lacking in faith and piety.

My intent is that neither of those same,

Neither Truffaldino nor this vile lady

That safety behind those walls do claim,

Shall escape my wrath; for I’ll take that keep,

Then all the world to war I’ll stir from sleep.

First Gradasso I’ll defeat, he is the king

Of that great land they call Sericana;

Then Agricane to his death I’ll bring,

Who is the lord of Tartary; the other

Will lead to my westwards journeying,

For, in France, Charlemagne, the emperor,

I shall seek; and not remove plate or mail

Till over those three rulers I prevail.

For I’ve sworn an oath, by Trivigante,

Never to doff this, my armour, till I

Have captured every land, every country,

Every town and castle that meets my eye.

Come, promise to be of my company,

Or speak your farewells, and pass on by;

For I tell you, most clearly and plainly,

He must be my foe that fails to aid me.’

Thus, Rinaldo learned he’d found Angelica,

And the worthless traitor Truffaldino,

And, truly, there were none that he’d rather

Have within his power; the last was his foe

And, as for the lady (Heaven scorn her!)

She was but a cause of grief and sorrow.

It was true indeed that he had loved her,

But twas mere enchantment caused that error.

You know the way of it, and the manner,

So, I’ve no need to tell it all again.

The knight said, in reply to Marfisa:

‘I’m well-content to follow in your train,

And fight neath your ensign and your banner,

Till Truffaldino’s capture we obtain;

But to no other action I’ll consent

Till time and place both match my own intent.’

This agreed, Marfisa ordered her men,

To make camp, and attempt no more that day.

Naught occurred, till the next dawn broke, but then

Rinaldo armed himself for the affray,

And blew upon his horn, loud and often,

Calling Truffaldino from where he lay,

To answer the charge that he was ever

A renegade; a vile, worthless traitor.

When Truffaldino heard the war-horn sound,

Summoning him to battle there below,

He left the battlements, and swiftly found

The knights; his champions against the foe;

Reminding them that they were honour bound

To defend him (his face was full of woe,

And somewhat pale) for they’d sworn, one and all,

To do so, ere he’d let them pass the wall.

Book I: Canto XX: 52-55: Torindo leaves the keep and joins them

Angelica was with Galafrone,

In council, discussing Sacripante,

And brave Torindo, as to whether she

Should release the pair from captivity.

All the arguments were heard, and every

Knight and lord there was minded to agree

That they should be freed, allowed to go,

Whether or not they’d serve Truffaldino.

The matter was then resolved in this way:

That Angelica would address the two.

Sacripante, who had loved her alway,

Consented to all she’d have him do,

But Torindo, the bold Turk, he said nay.

Nonetheless, since to their word they held true,

He was told to leave the fortress, swiftly,

Lest he prove a threat to them, once free,

And to ensure that dissent might not grow,

Was instructed he must arm on the plain.

So, loudly threatening Truffaldino,

(A disloyal wretch, he would e’er maintain)

They watched the departure of Torindo.

He hastened down the slope, and was fain

To bite his thumb and to swear, by Allah,

He’d repay that miserable traitor.

He joined Marfisa’s camp and, angrily,

Related how they’d forced him to concede.

But swore to her that, by Trivigante,

He’d make Angelica repent the deed.

He’d been held in close captivity,

Though he’d risked his life for her, at need,

And his only reward was now to find her

Granting her vile betrayer shelter!

Torindo spoke of this with Marfisa

Then armed himself, promising his aid,  

While Rinaldo yet challenged the other,

Taunting Truffaldino, the base renegade.

And now the evil battle drew closer,

In which Rinaldo suffered, neath the blade,

Which granted him much distress and woe,

As you’ll hear, in the very next canto.

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

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