Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato

Book I: Canto XXII: The Twin Sisters

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

This work may be freely reproduced, stored and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose.
Conditions and Exceptions apply.


Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato: Book I, Canto XXII

Book I: Canto XXII: 1-6: Fiordelisa escapes the hermit

Those three entered upon the sombre trail,

As I’ve related and, once amidst the trees,

Looked, and listened hard, but to no avail,

For that Fiordelisa, whom (to reprise)

The wicked hermit had sought to assail.

He’d used a root, and borne her off with ease,

Though she had woken, and had begged and prayed,

And had cried aloud, though in vain, for aid.

Her Brandimarte was nowhere in sight,

And unable, in truth, to help the maid;

Instead, he was engaged in fierce fight

With those two giants in that forest glade,

Oridante, and Marfusto, while the knight

Was supported by Orlando, whose aid

Disposed of Ranchiera, as you know;

Twas told to you, in a previous canto.

Without succour, therefore, the poor maiden

Filled all the woods around with her cries,

And never ceased; while, now and again,

Beating her lovely face in grievous wise.  

The old hermit, swiftly, sought to attain

His gloomy cave, afraid lest her allies

Should follow them, nor thought himself secure

Till he’d arrived at his dark, stony door.

The treacherous rogue plunged deep within,

The damsel screaming loudly all the while,

Till he was sure he could conceal his sin,

Vent his lust, and the lovely maid defile.

But a lion had concealed itself, therein,

(Huge, and fierce, and terrible) meanwhile,

And when it heard her cries of woe and fear,

The creature chose that moment to appear.

The hermit met the lion face to face;

Tis no wonder the fellow was afraid.

He turned pale, and then exited the place,

Leaving behind the sad and fearful maid,

Who believed she must vanish without trace,

Die of fright, and yet chance came to her aid,  

For the lion left her, to chase the man,

Pursuing him, though like a deer he ran.

Pouncing, amidst the woods, it gave a roar,  

Then tore the vile enchanter, limb from limb.

The lady, quite as frightened as before,

Crept downwards, on a path, dark and dim,

Along the hill-slope, from the hermit’s door,

Glad to flee from the lion, and from him,

And pressed onwards until she reached the plain,

Where she met with a deal of woe again.  

Book I: Canto XXII: 7-8: Only to be captured by a savage

She encountered a monstrous savage there,

Huge, with straggling locks, and a long beard,

All covered from head to toe in hair,

Naught viler has e’er to maid appeared.

An enormous wooden shield he did bear,  

And a ponderous mace, that he reared.

He lacked a man’s intellect and speech;

An accursed thing beyond human reach.

On finding the maiden in the meadow,

He seized her in his arms, and sped away.

And, reaching a nearby oak, with willow

(Cords of twisted bark) tied her, lest she stray.

Then he listened to the maid’s cries of woe,  

As, not far off, upon the grass he lay.

She wept as she prayed her life be ended,

Though the savage scarcely comprehended.

Book I: Canto XXII: 9-11: Leodilla continues her tale

Let us leave the cries of that helpless maid,

Who had fallen from one ill to another,

Tied with willow-cord, in the woodland glade,

To the oak-tree, mourning her lost lover,

And let us turn to the trio who now made

A search of the woods: fair Leodilla,

Brandimarte and Orlando, those two

That had saved her from the monstrous crew.

The Count had lifted her to the crupper

Of his steed, and requested her to tell

The rest of the tale, as they rode further,

Whose beginning she’d related so well.

She gave a little sigh: ‘Should you ever

Hear of some trick that was played, to rebel

Against an aged husband, deem it not

A mere tale; for tis e’er their rightful lot.

Since I’ve heard of many a spouse deceived,

And in many a strange and varied way,

I’ve no vestige of shame that I conceived

A means to trick my husband, on a day.

No, I’m joyful that I myself achieved

The like, and that I duped that old and grey

Husband of mine, and in most subtle guise,

A man whom all the world considered wise.

Book I: Canto XXII: 12-19: Of Folderico’s jealousy

As I’ve said before, beside the fountain,

The old fool erred badly, in wedding me.

I cursed at Fortune and railed at Heaven,

But he would yet prove the sadder party.

For he would have grief, and I’d get even;

Despite all his wisdom he had, clearly,

No idea what girls may do, what may befall

Those who should take old wives, or none at all.

He led me home, with solemn courtesy,

A deal of pomp, and a triumphant air,

To Altamura’s castle; twas the city

Where he hid away his treasure, and once there,

Quite consumed, from the first, by jealousy,

He locked me in the keep, sparse and bare,

In a chamber far worse than any prison,

Fearing what, indeed, would shortly happen.

I was held there, deprived of all delight,

Gazing sadly on the fields and the sea,

Locked in a turret (and quite out of sight)

Built on a barren shore, of features free.

None, unless they had the power of flight,

Could scale its stony heights, to visit me;

While its door a path to all but him denied;

Which a narrow stair led to, on one side.

Twas encircled by seven rings of stone,

Each with a single portal, and its door

Bound with iron bands, and there, alone,

Surrounded by those walls, and held secure,

I was a prisoner, left to grieve and moan;

And, of death, night and day, to implore

An end to my misery and sore distress,

Hoping for naught but the grave’s peacefulness.

With jewels, gold, and such useless treasure

I was well-provided, and many a needful thing,

Except the joys of love, and loving pleasure,

Which I desired far more than wealth may bring.

The old man was suspicious beyond measure,

While, at his belt, hung his keys, on a ring;

So possessed by jealousy, none could conceive

The depths of it, or such mistrust believe.

On entry to my chamber, he would sweep

From his outer clothing, in mad jealousy,

Every insect he’d borne to my stony keep,

While envying even the smallest flea;

And sulk all day, if he saw a spider leap,

Or viewed a fly’s descent, and summon me:

“Is this a male now, or a female fly?

Say tis the former, for tis born to die.”

Though I was prisoned, dogged by suspicion,

Guarded ever, and without hope of aid,

Ordauro made it his frequent mission

To visit the place; about the walls he strayed;

And tried every means to gain admission

In secret, to the keep, though e’er dismayed.

Yet Love, who is ever Hope’s faithful friend,

Fostered his boldness, and new aid did lend.

Now Ordauro was rich in his own right,

(Brains without riches are not worth a bean).

With his store of gold, he purchased, outright,

A palace from which my tower could be seen;

Less than two miles away, a brief crow’s-flight.

Ask not how Folderico viewed the scene.

Ever upon that residence he spied,

More jealous still, and more preoccupied.

Book I: Canto XXII: 20-23: Ordauro constructs a tunnel

He was suspicious of the breeze that blew

From the place where Ordauro was dwelling,

The very rays of sunlight that shone true,

And with care, and diligence, and cunning,

He had the walls and doors all sealed anew,

And never left his fortress, morn or evening;

And if he saw a cloud, a passing crow,

Was convinced that it hid bold Ordauro.

Oft, distressed, he’d climb to my chamber,

And, finding me alone there, would cry:

“I fear you’re rendering me a fool; whoever

Knows what, or who, to this tower can fly?

Yet though I feel the hurt and shame, I never

Dare say a word, and must all things deny,

For the husband who guards what’s his, these days,

Is called jealous, earning scorn, rarely praise.”

Such his words; then he’d walk upon the shore,

Consumed by his jealousy and anger.

And, once, to view Ordauro, furthermore,

He went to his palace, met the other

And, in conversation, said: ‘To be sure,

One early swallow makes not a summer.

Folk scorn the man who wishes to be wise,

But the last act repays, and justifies.’

And then went away, like things muttering

Between his teeth, thus showing his disdain.

Ordauro, though his words seemed threatening,

Paid no heed, but gave loving thought again

To his mission, and built a tunnel running

Deep underground, whereby he might attain

The tower secretly; and so, one night,

Crept neath Altamura’s walls, hid from sight.

Book I: Canto XXII: 24-27: The lovers enjoy each other

Though his visit was most unexpected,

(For I’d known nothing of his secret plan)

You may believe that he, scarcely rejected,

Found a warmer welcome than the other man.

I ever seem to Paradise elected

Recalling kissing him, how we began

Our dalliance with loving care and art;

The sweetness of it still assails my heart.

I say to you now, for it is true,

That I was yet a virgin, ere that night,

For old Folderico could nothing do,

And I was innocent of love’s delight.

He’d deceived me with words, sad and untrue,

Claiming a kiss on the cheek, poor and slight,

Or a moment’s embrace, was all the joy

That a lover could expect, or employ.

Now I learned the emptiness of his lies,

And found a pleasure that enslaved my heart.

Hand in hand, we attained the loving prize,

Ordauro strong, and impatient for his part,   

While it seemed strange to me, the surprise

Of it, like a sour apple at the start,   

To the taste, and yet so sweet in the end,

That heavenwards I thought I did ascend.

The sweetness of it made me melt and die,

And, from that moment on, I cared for naught

But that; let others seek for wealth, say I,

Or power, or fame, at some great prince’s court.

The wise seek their pleasure, and pass by

Such things, and live a happiness well-sought.

Those who sweat for riches find but dross,

True joy eludes them; and theirs be the loss.

Book I: Canto XXII: 28-38: Leodilla feigns to be her twin sister

Many a time we returned to our sweet game,

And on each occasion the pleasure grew,

But trapped in that chamber ever the same,

I was oft annoyed and troubled anew.

Too brief the hours of joy; for that I blame

That cursed fool, jealous through and through,

Who came so often to converse with me,

He made my life a constant misery.

In the end Ordauro and I conceived

A plan, by which we might be together;

Though he’d not readily be deceived

That maddening spouse of mine, who was ever

Haunting the tower, and endlessly believed

That I might be (as I was) with my lover.

But Love gave good counsel in the end;

To loving hearts and minds e’er a friend.

Ordauro sought out old Folderico,

And asked my spouse to his palace, feigning

That he was but newly married, and so

Wished all to feast his bride, while explaining

That his wife was my sister, he should know.

The old fool locked the keep, complaining,

And full of strange dread, he knew not why,

And went to the marriage feast, by and by.

Before he could arrive, I had hastened

Through the tunnel, beneath the castle wall,

And then dressed myself as a newly-wed,

In the privacy of Ordauro’s hall.

When Folderico to that place was led,

He gazed at me, and seemed about to fall

Down dead, and then cried: “As I suspected,

A vile plot, and yet not unexpected.

You prove a cruel enemy to me,

That never slew your kinsfolk, nor has burned

Your castle to the ground; an enemy

That fills my life with suffering, unearned.

Oh, Allah, view Folderico’s misery!

Wise men, beware where women are concerned!

Go hang, at my own cost, all you old men

That would seek to guard young wives; think again!”

While he was exclaiming, in this manner,

Fierce with anger, and yet filled with shame,

Ordauro showed sympathy; however

He feigned not to understand that same.

Ho swore by sun and moon I was my sister,

That, in truth, he felt he could rightly claim

That, as ever, my good spouse could expect

From him but honour and, indeed, respect.

Folderico screamed, in desperation:

“Is this your respect! Is this your honour!

To lure me here, for a wicked reason,

Having stolen my wife, my dear treasure,

The pretext being this fair occasion,

You liar, base thief, and vicious traitor,

So, I might plumb the very depths of woe,

Feel endless shame, and die of sorrow so!”

Ordauro gazed, and feigned astonishment,

And then said: ‘Allah, you who rule the skies,

Why have you imposed such punishment;

By maddening a man once thought so wise?

All sense lost, his wits completely absent,  

It seems he lacks the use of his own eyes!

Look here, Folderico, this is my wife,

That you never saw before in all your life.

She is the daughter of King Monodante,

That rules the Distant Isle (tis far away);

Perhaps tis her looks have fooled you wholly;

Your wife and she are perfect twins, they say,

So alike that their mother failed entirely

To distinguish them from the very day

She bore them, nor their father, thereafter,

Could tell the one from the other daughter.

Go view your own wife, and judge aright,

Before you further compound your error.

Tis scarce my fault that you baulk at the sight

Of my fair wife, or show such unjust anger.”

The old man cried: ‘Don’t tell me black is white!

I see well enough. Do I not know her?

There is my wife; yet I’m no stubborn mule,

I’ll go, but I’ll be back; then who’s the fool?

If she’s not in the tower, why, then I swear

You’ll have not a moment’s peace from me.

For I’ll pursue you, vile hound, everywhere;

By our true God, I’ll hunt you, endlessly.

Yet, if she’s there, by Allah, I’ll declare

That I’ve offended you; do this for me,

Watch your wife, see she stays in that spot,

While I go, and prove if she is mine, or not.”

Book I: Canto XXII: 39-43: And succeeds in hoodwinking Folderico

With that, he sped off towards the tower,

But I passed underground with greater speed,

Changed, and waited till he came to my bower,

Where I sat, head on arms, woeful indeed,

As if I’d spent a melancholy hour,

Without him, and to naught else had paid heed.

When he arrived, he viewed me with wonder,

And cried: “Allah aid me! What a blunder!

Yet who’d credit such a marvel as this;

Or believe that Nature possessed such art?

These sisters are alike, every blemish,

Is the same, none could tell the two apart.

In looks, proportion, manner, naught’s amiss,

Yet a strange suspicion still irks my heart,

For, though there seems but little cause, I fear,

That the lady there was the one who’s here.”

I conjure you,” he cried, “by every comfort

That you might hope to have, to tell me true,

Were you beyond these walls in any sort?

Did any ope the gate? Who aided you?

Tell me no lie, nor deceive me in naught;

You’ll earn no punishment where none is due;

But lie to me, and when I prove them lies,

A world of tears will greet your sorry eyes.”

Now conceive how convincingly I swore,

By every planet in the skies above.

Allah smiles at such oaths, for tis his law

To countenance the sin that’s done from love.  

Nor did I hesitate to claim, what’s more,

And on the holy Koran, that I could prove

That, since I’d been confined in that sad place,

I’d never ventured forth, nor shown my face.

Folderico, not knowing what to say,

Locked all the doors and returned again,

The while I sallied forth, without delay,

And passed through the tunnel, to maintain

The deceit, changed my clothes straight away,

And my place in the palace did attain.  

I arrived the first: “By Allah,” he swore,

“Tis the maid I left standing here before.”

Book I: Canto XXII: 44-48: She and Ordauro leave the city but are pursued

And after quite a few like occasions,

When I appeared to him in this way,

He wholly abandoned his suspicions,

And called me “sister-in-law”, I might say.

Twas simple to create the conditions,

After this, to depart and, one fine day,

Ordauro penned a note to Folderico,

Claiming the coastal air annoyed him so,

That he had not passed a healthy hour

Since he’d settled in the place, and must leave,

And travel, while it still was in his power.

To his own land, three days distant. Conceive!

Folderico, though grieved to quit his tower,

Volunteered (we smiled his news to receive)

To escort us some way beyond the city,

And then return; thus, we left that country.

He rode perhaps six miles with us, and then

Turned round, in haste, and retraced his journey.

No doubt he was amazed, once home again,

To find I’d vanished, for he cursed greatly,

So, I’m told, and tore at his beard, in pain;

Then promised to find and catch me, swiftly,

And, having sworn, a stratagem devised

By which his promise might be realised.

Owning neither the strength nor daring

To take me from bold Ordauro by force,

He followed us, with a display of cunning

Of which he’d plenty, and pursued our course.

We were both content, the road traversing,

Ordauro and I, quite free of all remorse.

With my sweet love, I rode without a care.

We were a company of thirty there,  

We’d grooms and maids, with us on our travels,

And went unarmed, ambling quietly along.

While behind us followed a string of camels,

Bearing treasure, for all that did belong

To my spouse we’d stolen, precious metals,

Gems and such, and Ordauro, being strong,

Through the tunnel had borne many a load,

Which those creatures now carried on the road.

Book I: Canto XXII: 49-53: Ordauro is lured away and Leodilla captured

Now, we had been travelling all the day,

Without impediment of any kind.

By my side, my love was singing away;

In his full armour he rode, while behind

Came a groom who led a steed (a bay)

That bore the helm, and lance, and shield assigned

To him by his good master, who beside

His plate, and mail, wore his sword at his side.

A youth on horseback suddenly sped by,

Who, as he galloped past, cried: “Woe is me!

Allah grant me aid!” and then we did spy

The assassin from whom he seemed to flee,

At least the rogue appeared so to the eye,

Armed to the teeth, advancing furiously,

As he, without a glance, scoured o’er the plain,

And now fell back a little, now did gain.

Down a track that led to the woodland shade,

The pair of them had vanished, in a trice.

Ordauro, who was naught if not dismayed,

Afraid for the youth, without thinking twice,

Spurred his courser towards the forest glade.

The other two (whose aim was to entice

Him away) both as swift as birds in flight,

Wore no armour, thus their steeds’ loads were light,

While Ordauro’s steed bore one so laden,

(Its heavy master) with full plate and mail,

That the horse bore at least twice the burden

Of those others, as it galloped down the trail.

He followed the pair without suspicion;

Twas Folderico’s ruse, to the last detail.

He had sent the youth, and the ‘rogue’ behind;

To fool Ordauro, was that scheme designed.

Once he was gone, and vanished to our eyes,

So distant he could grant no protection

To us, unarmed, a troop sent to surprise

Our band, sped from another direction,

While Folderico followed, in disguise.

Our people despite their strong affection

For myself, fled in fear, some here, some there,

Till my swift capture ended the affair.

Book I: Canto XXII: 54-59: Leodilla’s tale is interrupted

You can imagine, sir knight, my distress.

Along an unfrequented path he led me,

Flanked by thorns; I was forced to acquiesce,

Through the woods we journeyed, secretly,

Midst a thousand thickets; flushed with his success,

The coward yet feared Ordauro, clearly,

Lest we be followed, till we reached a vale,

Dark and gloomy, into which ran the trail.

I had been his captive for a good two days,

When we rode deep into that valley’s shade,

I’d ceased not to call, midst those thorny ways,

For aid, while his concern the wretch displayed.

Twas then three giants, from the woodland maze,

Emerged, armed with weighty clubs, and made

To assail us, their leader, with a cry,

Demanding: “Lay your weapons down, or die.”’

She’d have told Count Orlando all her tale,

For she wished him to hear how those three

Evil giants had seized her, midst that vale;

How Folderico had tried, valiantly,

To set her free, although destined to fail,

Doomed to die, with all his men, uselessly;

All the details of her pain and sorrow,

Ere Brandimarte had fought that vile trio,

But at that instant something came to pass,

That interrupted the maiden’s story.

For they saw a stag, midst the verdant grass,

Revealed to them, in all his glory.

All other deer his beauty did surpass,

No other would make as fine a quarry.

Massive antlers of gold he did display,

For he belonged to the Treasure Fay.

He was as white as is the driven snow,

And shed his horns six times a day, at least,

And unless that Fay her aid did bestow,

None that tried could ever capture the beast.

She was rich, and supremely lovely, though

She loved no man, north, west, south, or east,

For they say that beauty and prosperity,

But serve to swell a woman’s vanity.

The stag grazed on, as they passed him by.

Yet Leodilla paused now, in her tale,

For Brandimarte gave a mighty sigh,   

Thinking to hunt the stag, and prevail,

Though Count Orlando but cast a swift eye

O’er the creature, and went on down the trail,

Thinking little of wealth, though garnered so,

And despite being mounted on Baiardo.

Book I: Canto XXII: 60-62: Brandimarte chases after the white stag

Brandimarte was astride Brigliador,

And he spurred, now, in pursuit of the deer,

Leaving Orlando behind, to be sure,

Bent on catching it, as it fled in fear,

Yet it was enchanted, and furthermore

No man though he pursued it for a year,

(Or a thousand!) could do so; o’er the plain

Brandimarte chased it, all day, in vain,

Then lost it, midst the trees, at fall of night;

And seeing his adventure had ended,

For the sun had quite withdrawn its light,

His chase of the creature thus suspended,

For, any chance of finding it, was slight,

In his armour, his body he extended

On the grass, and slept, till in dawn’s cool air

He rose, and mounted; and how he did fare,

In facing that savage who had bound

Fiordelisa fast with ties of willow,

In the next canto all the tale I’ll sound,

And that of the duel, too, twixt Rinaldo

And Grifone, the courageous and renowned.

Return, by God’s grace, to hear me though,

Fair gentlemen, all you who love a fight;

For my song will bring you joy and delight.

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

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