Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato

Book I: Canto XXI: Leodilla's Tale

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

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Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato: Book I, Canto XXI

Book I: Canto XXI: 1-6: Rinaldo challenges the knights defending the keep

As I related, in my previous canto,

I left Rinaldo seated on his steed,

Challenging that vile king, Truffaldino.

He shouted many an insult indeed,

At the canto’s end; so, did that fierce foe,

Sacripante who had lately been freed;

Though, having refused to serve the king,

He had then been forced into fleeing.

Now bold Rinaldo blew his horn once more,

And shouted, as the echoes did resound:

‘You champions, who thus attempt to shore

The defences of a traitor, choose your ground;

For, hear this, lords; tis chivalry’s true law,

And in every true heart it should resound:

Those who fail to punish crimes of treason,

Are but accomplices; it stands to reason

That those who should do so, but do not

Share the fault; for every nobleman

Is obliged by chivalry (tis his true lot)

To oppose it, while each true gentleman,

Should ne’er allow the law to be forgot,

And should avenge such evils if he can.

Yet you disdain this same, for you are free

Of all honour, shame, and nobility.

How dare you house a vile assassin so;

A false dog, a devil cursed of Allah?

I mean Baghdad’s King Truffaldino,

An ill-conceived and murderous traitor.

Hear me, both great and small; come, view your foe,

While I challenge you to take the field, and suffer

For I wait upon you here, sword in hand,

To prove you villains, should you flee or stand.’

With these and other threats, Amone’s son

Menaced the knights aiding Truffaldino.

They scanned each other’s faces, every one

Smarting at that message from Rinaldo,

Aware of the course they were launched upon,

In supporting one who should be their foe,

For they themselves thought that king a traitor,

Unjust and evil; in no way their master.

But the promise they had made, the sworn vow

Forced them to issue, armed, from the gate,

And though brave men, and difficult to cow,

Who for honour would embrace any fate,

They were fearful of the consequences now,

And not a knight but feared to contemplate

An encounter with the furious Rinaldo,

And felt his flesh grow cold, from head to toe.

Book I: Canto XXI: 7-12: Grifone and Aquilante attempt to deter Rinaldo

Six knights now issued from the keep, slowly,

And descended from the cliff to the plain:

Grifone, his brother Aquilante,

(Enchanted steeds and armour had those twain)

Hadrian, Oberto, Chiarone,

With the vile Truffaldino in their train.

Once they had reached the open ground below,

Grifone acknowledged Lord Rinaldo,

Then turned to speak with Aquilante:

‘Brother, there’s the Lord of Montalbano.

Twould be a wise deed, so it seems to me,

To address him sweetly, not as a foe,

And find if we might end this peacefully.

For it troubles me to fight with Rinaldo,

If I’m truthful; our cause is less than strong,

And tis ill to contend when in the wrong.’

‘I was unsure if it were he,’ said Aquilante,

‘For the steed he rides is not Baiardo,

But, indeed, it is that warrior, and we

Should approach as you say, not as the foe,

But as friends, and speak most courteously

And seek peace, an end to conflict and woe.

Talk to him then, as it seems meet to you,

Whether truce or not, peace or war, ensue.’

They rode on as they talked, in this manner,

And met Rinaldo, and greeted the knight,

And went aside, after this first encounter,

To discuss the reason why they must fight,

The what, why, and wherefore, of the matter,

But the conversation brought scant delight,

Since they could establish no clear reason

Why their promises they should abandon.

Though of Mongrana and Chiaramonte,

Two noble clans, and by blood related,

Now, for others, and for causes wholly

Alien to them, these three seemed fated

To meet but to die. Now, courteously,

Yet boldly, Grifone their case stated:

‘Ah, sir knight, twill be a sorry matter

Should you defy us all in this manner;

For seven knights, and all of high renown,

All praised in battle, are sworn to defend

That Truffaldino, who yet wears a crown;

And so are bound to do so till the end.

Dear cousin, you see my troubled frown,

It shows my thoughts; your death I apprehend,

Slain in the field, for upon you we shall fall,

One by one; nor can one man counter all.’

Book I: Canto XXI: 13-15: He rejects their attempt

Rinaldo replied: ‘Upon my honour,

To fight with you weighs heavily with me;

I say that not out of fear, however,

For, indeed, I’ll unseat you, readily.

Since you all appear so proud in manner,

Fit to challenge all the world, as I see,

There’s naught to wonder at, gentlemen,

Should I seek to fight a mere seven men!

Yet we spend too long here, in vain debate;

I’d rather not linger in full armour.

All who fight for Truffaldino, I state,

Have earned my defiance. On your honour,

Take the field, and I’ll surely demonstrate,

Ere the sun moves from that hill, moreover,

As I overcome you all, knight by knight,

That tis you who assail the just and right.’

With this, he wheeled Rabicano around,

And withdrew to a distance, head held high,

Then turned and, having chosen his ground,

Halted, lance in hand, their cause to defy.

His opponents now saw that they were bound

To fight, and blood their swords neath the sky,

Rinaldo having closed his mind to aught

But the battle, to which they now gave thought:

Book I: Canto XXI: 16-19: Then disposes of Oberto

Since twas shameful for all to charge together:

Oberto dal Leone would go first;

King Hadrian would then make another

If Oberto, in attacking, had the worst

Of the joust; Grifone; then, his brother,

That the former’s loss might be reversed;

And, if all that failed, their one and only

Recourse would be the brave Chiarone.

The mighty Oberto, in swift advance,

(No worthier knight could there be)

Spurred his great courser, and gripped his lance.

No joust was ever run so furiously,

For never had two of such arrogance,

Though to despatch each other so swiftly.

They met, yet gained but slight advantage so,

Though what there was accrued to Rinaldo.

Each returned, with a bared, flickering, blade,

Like two snakes resolved that one should die,

Striking desperately, strength and skill displayed

In attack, landing great blows from on high.

Deep slashes in each other’s plate they made,

Their shields split, their breastplates all awry;

Though Rinaldo’s abilities were such

He gained ground with every single touch,

And, while dealing many a potent blow,

Awaited a clear opportunity,

And when he saw an error from Oberto

Struck him on the helm, viciously.

Fusberta shattered the visor below

And the cheek-plates, and smote him cruelly

In the face, with such measureless force,

The dazed Oberto was swept from his horse.

Book I: Canto XXI: 20-21: And King Hadrian

At this, King Hadrian made his advance,

Having waited, fully armed, to bring aid,

And, bearing his vast and weighty lance,

Not a sign of hesitation now betrayed.

Bold Rinaldo, lance-less through happenstance,

Could only respond with his naked blade,

Yet revealed no inclination to yield,

And took the blow on the boss of his shield.

Hadrian’s spear sent splinters to the sky,

While Rinaldo held fast like solid rock.

They both turned and re-engaged, by and by,

And sped together; while, stunned by the shock

As the two coursers met, at chest and thigh,

The king’s steed fell, like a leaden block.

Then Grifone, who was next in the field,

Sallied forth to the fray with sword and shield,

Book I: Canto XXI: 22-30: Grifone is the next to fight Rinaldo

The renowned Grifone chose not to bear

A lance, ashamed indeed to join the fight,

Thinking Rinaldo tired beyond compare;

Yet he gripped his trenchant sword good and tight.

His arms and steed were enchanted, the pair,

Nor was he possessed by doubt, that knight,

Except in knowing he would surely kill

The brave Rinaldo, counter to his will.

So, he implored that lord to end the war.

Rinaldo simply cried: ‘Preach not to me!

Defend yourself, or trouble me no more;

Turn your steed instead, dear cousin and flee!’

Grifone, aflame, angered to the core,

His eyes blazing, spurred on, furiously,

Crying loudly: ‘I never turn and fly;

Nay, for that show of scorn, I’ll see you die!’

With this he fiercely attacked Rinaldo

And struck him so fiercely that the knight,

Knew not, momently, if twere day or no,

Or if twas the moon or sun glared so bright.

‘More than a white horse, against the foe,

And fine armour you need for a fight,’

Cried Rinaldo, ‘you need the swordsman’s art,

A modicum of strength, and a brave heart!’

But Grifone, taunted by the warrior,

Riled, beyond measure, by his sheer disdain,

Gripped his sword, with both hands clasped together,

And struck the other’s shining helm again.

Though he could scarcely harm its armour,

(For twas charmed, as you’ve heard me explain)

The falling blade stunned the brave Rinaldo

And rattled his brains, so harsh was the blow.

Yet Grifone paused not, but swung once more,

More viciously than ever, and the knight

Felt a sharper pain than he had done before,

As the helm’s crest was torn away outright.

‘I’ll show you,’ cried Grifone, ‘you sad boor,

‘If I own naught but a white horse; now fight

And find if I’ve strength and courage, or no!’

While the other, for an instant, bowed low.

That third blow had proved even fiercer,

Was so swiftly dealt, and so venomous,

Rinaldo had scarcely felt a greater;

Nor could evade it, twas so furious.

Yet as the Lord willed (the true Creator)

It had struck that helm, charmed and wondrous,

And if the binding spell had proved less strong,

That brave contest would scarce have lasted long,

For Grifone would have sliced the helm away,

Yet its steel had withstood his mighty blow,

Though he was angered more than one can say.

He’d never been more riled, yet, even so,

Conceive Rinaldo’s ire: he’d make him pay

For those three knocks; he glared hard at his foe.

Not Etna nor Vesuvius e’er burned hotter

Than Montalbano’s lord, while the warrior

Seemed to send from his lips a storm, a gale,

And his eyes were like wells of glittering flame.

He gripped Fusberta, of both hands did avail

Himself, and the next bold stroke did claim,

So great that seven thicknesses of mail,

Could, I vow, scarcely have defied that same,

Yet his enchanted armour was so strong

It saved Grifone’s life, though all along

His charger’s neck he hung, while Rinaldo,

Struck at him time and again, violently,

Ere he recovered his wits; blow on blow,

Landed on the stunned and mazed Grifone.

Yet the young lord was fit and strong, and so,

Soon regained his senses, rising swiftly,

And, furnished with such armour, taking heart,

Gave a fresh display of the swordsman’s art.

Book I: Canto XXI: 31-36: They each seek aid from on high

They commenced so furious a duel there,

None other was as cruel; yet neither man

Sought to rest, or appeared to give a care,

Fighting fiercely from the moment it began.

Their faces were inflamed, while both did share

A wrath that rendered vain the slightest plan.

A looker-on, as the swords rose higher,

Might have thought the pair of knights wreathed in fire,

Nor advantage to either would have seen,

Though Grifone wore the finer armour.

The unending conflict was still as keen,

Though a good five hours had passed, or longer.

Rinaldo cried: ‘O Christ above, serene,

I, here, defend the right, by my honour;

Let me not be forced to make amends, now,

For past sins; but a moment’s grace, allow.

That my present cause is just, Lord, you know,

For you view the truth of every matter.

Grifone fights for a Muslim here, while I,

A Christian, seek to end that traitor.

The evil king he defends, I defy;

The man is cruel and inhuman ever.

Show, Heaven’s King, to this poor knight

That you e’er defend justice and the right.’

So, Rinaldo prayed, while bold Grifone,

Who never paused a moment from the fray,

Looked to the skies, and spoke devotedly:

‘O Virgin, Heaven’s noble Queen, I pray

Look down upon a sinner, and have pity;

Disdain not my worthless soul, this day.

For though my errors I can scarcely hide,

In this, I claim, the right lies on my side.

For I sought only peace with Rinaldo,

While he has used me but scornfully.

I like not this ill contest, here below;

Against my will, I fight; his villainy,

His scornful words, his vast pride have so

Riled me he himself provokes this folly.

Ah, I long, Lady, for your aid indeed,

You that succour bring to all in need.’

Thus did those brave warriors, as they fought,

Lift up their heads, devotedly, to pray,

While their glittering blades stopped for naught,

As they fiercely set blow on blow in play.

Neither showed an ounce of fear, but sought,

Being skilful and bold, to win the day,

For each with lance and sword, on horse

Or foot, was equal to the other’s force.

Book I: Canto XXI: 37-42: We return to Brandimarte, who is healed by the maiden

But the end of that furious tourney

I’ll wait, till a later time, to relate,

For of Orlando and Brandimarte

I would speak, that, from an evil fate,

Had bravely rescued the captive lady,

Slaying those three giants, at the forest gate.

No doubt tis still fresh in your memory.

So let me, now, advance their history.

Brandimarte lay there in the meadow,

As I told you; all bloody from the fight.

His shield shattered, from Marfusto’s blow,

And his helm in pieces. That gracious knight,

Orlando, took him in his arms, in woe,

Feeling pity for him in his sorry plight,

While from the camel’s back the lady

Soon descended, and then hastened, swiftly,

To the spring amidst the flowery field,

Cupped her hands, and brought a little water

From its depths, her gratitude so revealed,

And o’er the knight’s face the drops did scatter,

To revive him; then, that he might be healed,

She told the Count a fresh herb she must gather.

That she’d seen not far behind; twas a cure,

That would his body, and his spirit, restore.

She started searching, nigh the forest trail,

Among the trees, that circled them around,

And it seemed but moments till she did hail

That herb of peerless virtue, which, when found,

Seemed to gleam like gold; in the daylight, pale,

While at night it shone gently o’er the ground.

The flower of this wondrous plant was red,

Its root like silver, when plucked from its bed.

Now the knight’s head was wounded by a blow,

As you have heard, but, in the wound, the maid

Placed the herb and sealed it above, below,

Her fingers o’er the gash the blow had made.

At once it healed, with not a scar to show,

As if he’d ne’er been touched by the blade.

When he came to, and his mind grew clear,

Brandimarte asked for her, and she drew near.

‘See, here she is, the one,’ the Count replied,

‘That, alone, has saved your life,’ (he knew not

Her name or origin) ‘who would have died,

For surely death were otherwise your lot!’

Yet Brandimarte gazed on her, and sighed,

For this was not his love, the ne’er-forgot,

And his heart was filled with such deep distress

That death itself would have pained him less.

Book I: Canto XXI: 43-47: His complaint at having lost Fiordelisa

He turned his tearful gaze upon the sky:

‘Why was I saved, from that mortal blow,

To suffer a far greater pain, say I?

Was it not better that I sank below?

Sad shades, and you souls, death doth deny,

While yet you suffer living death in woe,

Take pity on my boundless misery,

That now must seek your mournful company.

I would not wish to live without her love,

For she’s my only comfort, my delight,

While, if I live, a thousand deaths I’ll prove.

Harsh Fortune, beholding my sad plight,

You were wrong the last threat to remove.

Who will amuse you when I seek the night,

And end your power by dying? Cruel one,

Who will you torture then beneath the sun?

Twas you that took me from my native land,

For since my youth you have but hated me!

Snatched from my royal home, out of hand,

And sold as a slave, to bow in misery.

I forget my father, I no more command

My country’s name, for naught is left to me,

But my mother’s, that remains in my heart,

Fixed firm within me by memory’s art.

Pitiless Fortune, strange, iniquitous,

You made me the servant of another,

Yet seem benign the better to torment us,

For he was Count of Rocca Silvana;

And, like a father, kind and generous,

Granted me freedom, and since he’d never

Been possessed of a child, made me his heir,

And left me his castle and possessions, there.

Fortune, that I might think you kind of heart

You granted me the love of a fair maid;

Yet, now, take back that gift, split us apart,

Pain me cruelly, and drive home the blade.

Deceitful creature, malice fuels your art,

And though I cannot harm you thus, dismayed,

Yet for eternity you’ll bear the blame,  

As in Hell I weep, whom you wound and maim.’

Book I: Canto XXI: 48-53: The maiden, Leodilla, tells her own story

So, he spoke, and so mourned, tis my belief,

That the very stones could have wept for pity.

Orlando too felt a nigh boundless grief,

While the maiden, in human sympathy,

Hoping to bring him comfort and relief,   

Said, gently: ‘I feel for your misery,

And ought, indeed, to display compassion,

For I too grieve, and for a valid reason.

I would have you know, many another

Must learn to bear such strange shifts of fortune.

The King of the Distant Isle, my father,

Gathers earthly treasure, late and soon.

His hands are so full of gold and silver

That none has a greater hoard, neath the moon.

Nor does the sun view riches like to his,

And I was the sole heiress to all this.

But none, in this sad world, can e’er divine

What will best bring them true happiness.

I was fair, and joyful, endless wealth was mine,

And I was the daughter of a king, no less;

Yet all my troubles, by some dark design,

Stem from those riches, all my sore distress.

Learn, if you can, from all the ills they bred,

To count no mortal happy till they’re dead.

It seems that the rumour lately spread abroad,

That my father had a daughter most fair,

And she was heiress to his golden hoard;

The news brought two ardent suitors there,

(Whether true or false, they were in accord;

I was lovely) one sixty, old and spare,

And that lover’s name was Folderico,

The other young, blonde, handsome: Ordauro.

Each was wealthy, and both of noble blood,

But Folderico was thought to be wise,

So subtle an augur that he understood

The heavens, like a god in human guise.

Ordauro was more manly, for he stood

Tall, was strong of limb, fine, to my eyes.

I spurned advice, rejected Reason’s plan;

I scorned the old, and chose the younger man.

The choice was not mine alone, however,

And modesty reigned-in my fond desire,

A party to the matter was my father,

And, therefore, I restrained my inner fire,

Certain that his mind, though, I could alter,

And obtain consent from my loving sire.

Ordauro would be mine, such I believed,

Yet found my expectation was deceived.

Book I: Canto XXI: 54-60: She demands a footrace as a test for her suitors

The proverb in ancient times ran like this:

That women e’er by cunning get their way.

King Solomon says it in that book of his,

Although tis surely not so in our day.

Once my hopes were gone, my dreams of bliss,

I learned, to my regret and deep dismay,

That trusting in my cunning brought but pain,

Losing both what I had and wished to gain.

For, ensuring my eyes looked red and sore,

Adding tears to my seeming modesty,

Speaking sadly, to rouse pity the more,

I knelt before my father, pleadingly.

“Sire,” I said, if obedient to your law,

As your daughter, I’ve ever bowed humbly

To your will, which I set above my own,

Grant me a gift, and let my fate be shown

By this sole trial: I’ll only wed a suitor

That has raced against, and beaten, me,

And that man must be the swiftest runner,

And let this be confirmed by your decree;

Any I defeat must die, however,

Every loser must pay the penalty.

And let this be proclaimed as your command;

He that races not must forego my hand.”

Though the trial I set seemed harsh and cruel,

My father yielded to me, nonetheless,

And had the terms proclaimed, which were dual:

The price of failure, and the prize for success.

I was overjoyed, confident that in a duel,

With any man, I would win the race (or, yes,

Engineer the right result) for indeed

Few living things could match me then, for speed.

I remember how I’d chase and catch a deer,

And many another wild, or tame, creature,

This was near our city of Damogir;

As to running, I was blessed by Nature.

Ordauro sought to race it would appear,

Yet it seemed also Folderico’s pleasure

To compete, though the man was old and grey.

While the other had an angel’s face, I say.

Imagine, knight, how such a one could gain

A young maiden’s amorous attention.

The young man occupied my thoughts, tis plain,

While the older man I scorned to mention.

The day came round; the one who proved my bane,

Yet roused no feelings of apprehension,

Arrived in time; he, on a mule, did ride,

With a weighty purse hanging at his side.

The youth appeared in festive dress upon

A courser he had decked out all in gold,

And jumped to earth, all ready to be gone

On his mission, his manner proud, and bold.

Fingers were pointed at the other one,

They cried: “He’s lost his head, he’s far too old,

His cleverness won’t help him here, he’ll find.

He may be wise, but love has mazed his mind.”

Book I: Canto XXI: 61-64: Folderico deploys golden apples

We rode to a field beyond the city

To race o’er the course, and Folderico

Was wearing his ridiculous and weighty

Purse, though the reason for it none did know.

We reviewed the terms, summarily,

Of our contest; we were agreed, and so

We stood upon our marks, silently,

While all there awaited a count of three.

Came the signal, and we three raced away,

Folderico out in front while, lingering, I

Was bent on teasing him, as if in play;  

But he, when I thought to pass him by,

Took a golden apple, wrought to delay

Me, from that purse of his, and off did fly,

While I, enchanted by the precious fruit,

Chased after it, abandoning my pursuit.

The sight of that metal is so tempting

That it leads astray most of humankind.

The bright polished apple swiftly rolling,

Once I’d caught it, I was further behind.

Yet when I drew near, and was closing,

A finer apple he threw, and I, still blind

To the consequences, chased it, once more

Falling back, though he was tiring, for sure.

I reached him as we neared the winning post,

Of that wearying, that exhausting race.

We could see the finish, that a tent did boast

Where we could rest; I was in second place;

Ordauro, whom he’d tripped, seemed almost

Beyond contention. So, I upped my pace,

Determined not to swerve for glittering gold,

Loathing the thought of wedding one so old.

Book I: Canto XXI: 65-66: And in chasing them Leodilla loses the race

Twas Ordauro I had hoped to run beside

And then, falling back, allow the youth to win.

Let that other have a view of my backside,

That evil grey-haired brute; twould be a sin

To marry such; I longed to be the bride

Of sweet youth, and yet, much to my chagrin,

Not a chance in a thousand years would see

Him reach us, ere I snatched the victory.

All this was in my heart, as I raced on,

And had almost passed that treacherous beast,

When a third apple, finer still, now shone

In his hand, for the race had nearly ceased.

It tempted me (the youth passed by anon);

I chased it while the others’ lead increased,

And, from pursuing that orb, was too slow

To o’er-take the winner, Folderico.

Book I: Canto XXI: 67-69: She determines to cuckold Folderico

Breathing hard, the old man reached the tent

Where his retainers joyed at his success,

While the others, who mocked my discontent,

Cried: “The wily fox cunning doth possess.”

I wept blood in anger, my hair I rent,

How I cursed that vile monster you can guess,

Yet I swore, in my heart: “Let him gloat;

If he’s a fox I’ll change him to a goat,

For no knight at tourney was ever seen

To sport a helmet crest so great and tall

As the horns I’ll crown with him, I ween,

And I’ll ensure they’re visible to all.

He’ll spend his time wondering where I’ve been,

His precautions will fail, his food be gall,

For, though on every finger he’d an eye,

He’d still be deceived; I’ll make him sigh!”

I made my plan and that same did effect…

Yet I perceive other thoughts you pursue,

For you both betray a troubled aspect,

And your gaze wanders; I’ll defer to you,

And so, follow where you lead, though expect

Me still my sad history to pursue,

If it pleases you to hear it. Come, ride on,

For I shall prove a brave companion.’

Book I: Canto XXI: 70-71: The three companions go in search of Fiordelisa

Brandimarte answered her: ‘My fear

Regarding the fate of my fair lady,

Has distracted me so, it may appear

That you’ve lost my attention completely.

I but wish to search for her, far and near,

Tis as if my heart were lost; so badly,

I feel this long delay, in pain and dread,

Though I heard nigh every word that you said.’

The three agreed to seek Fiordelisa,

In the forest, and swore they’d never rest,

Till they had found the truth of the matter.

They rode on, and a leafy way addressed

That passed amidst the dark woodland cover,

Deep, and dense, and by tangled boughs oppressed.

They listened to her tale, as they did go,

Which I’ll give, in the very next canto.

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

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