Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato

Book I: Canto XXIII: Rinaldo at Bay

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

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Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato: Book I, Canto XXIII

Book I: Canto XXIII: 1-6: Brandimarte finds Fiordelisa

To resume, noble gentlemen, our tale:

Brandimarte had left Orlando’s side,

Had lost the stag, spent the night in the vale,

And, on awaking, now away did ride

To find his friend, yet, from a nearby dale,

He thought he heard a voice that loudly cried.

It seemed some maid was calling in distress,

And so, the knight towards the sound did press.

He listened as he rode, and sought the source

Of those cries, and when he’d gone a goodly way,

And had drawn nearer to them in due course,

Gazed round, cautiously, lest he go astray.

In this manner he reached a patch of gorse,

And saw the maid, in tears and disarray,

Her arms bound to an oak-tree in a field.

She, as she turned to him, her face revealed.

He saw that it was his Fiordelisa,

His whole existence, the joy of his heart.

Conceive, if you can, his change of colour,

His emotions at odds, for he was part

Filled with happiness, part with anger,

As opposing thoughts through his mind did dart;

Filled with happiness that she was found,

Angered that she was captive there, and bound.

In a moment, he had leapt from his steed,

Swiftly tied Brigliador to a tree,

And hastened to her so she might be freed;

But that savage, lacking all humanity,

Seemingly of a strange and cruel breed,

As Brandimarte approached, instantly

Emerged from the woods, where he lay concealed,

Toting his heavy club, hefting his shield.

That shield, whose solid wood the bark retained,

Was wrought to survive the heaviest blow.

Being a foot thick, at least, and close-grained,

It would not warp or bend. This mighty foe

Was strong as a giant, though quite untrained

In any form of martial skill, even so,  

He looked to be a match for any knight,

Unskilled, but equipped to stand and fight.

Amidst the greenwood he dwelt, this creature,

Ate nuts and fruit, and drank from the river,

While folk said, of this strange child of nature,

That he wept great tears, in the tragic manner,

Dreading a sudden change, in fine weather,

For fear he might lose the sun forever;

Yet, when it rained and the sky was stormy,

Hoping the sky would clear, he was happy.

Book I: Canto XXIII: 7-15: He fights the savage who carries him off

The savage now drew closer to the knight,

Not knowing the fine art of chivalry,  

But waving the club, gripping the shield tight.

He approached Brandimarte, silently,

From the rear, but nonetheless in clear sight

Of the maiden, still fastened to the tree.

He’d have caught the warrior by surprise,

If the maiden had failed to use her eyes,

Though he was unseen by Brandimarte,

The ardent girl cried out as he drew near:

‘Beware, my lord, look behind you swiftly!’

Brandimarte felt no dismay or fear,

The lady was more anxious than he,

Not for her own danger, to be clear,

But simply his; she loved with all her heart,

Ignored herself, and took her lover’s part.

The spirited knight turned about promptly,

And adopted a proper fighting stance,

But when he saw the creature, he scarcely

Stirred, and merely watched its slow advance.

Unsure if it was human entirely,

Or some infernal spirit, perchance,

Nonetheless he remained quite unafraid,

Regardless of what powers it obeyed.

As he made towards him, the wild creature

Raised his great club, and struck at the knight’s shield,

Which solidly resisted the encounter,

And left him unharmed, while he revealed

That in duelling he was e’er a master,

And sent the club-head flying to the field.

With a swing of his blade, though the other

Clasped him tightly, ere he could recover

His stance, and drew him in so closely

Brandimarte was scarcely free to fight,

Though the latter struggled long and fiercely

Exerting his considerable might;

Yet he appeared but a new-born baby

In those great arms that held him good and tight,

With a strength so extreme, Brandimarte

Was restrained by that savage completely,

He bore the warrior off with great ease,

As a wolf does a lamb from the meadow.

If one might have heard the maiden’s pleas,

As she cried to Heaven in her sorrow,

Naming God, and His saints of all degrees,

(Some of her new faith, some she did borrow)

One would have felt true pity for her tears,

Possessed as she was by her doubts and fears.

Snatched away by the savage, the brave knight

Gripped by those arms, struggled to win free,

Spurred on by anger, shame, pride; his might

Insufficient to gain his liberty,

For the savage was nigh a giant in height,

And nigh as strong, and held Brandimarte

High above the ground, and never slowed

As he sped onwards with his heavy load.  

Grasping the knight, towards a cliff he raced,

Rising, sheer, from the river far below,

Which a winding course through the valley traced,

Having worn away the hillside long ago.

A lump of stone, from the summit displaced,

Would have had half a mile or so to go,

Ere it landed; and, there, upon the steep,

The savage hurled his foe into the deep,

Or almost did so; for his effort failed,

And left space for the knight to touch the ground,

Ere he fell; clinging on, he then availed

Himself of his grip to rise; with a bound,

The angry creature he, once more, assailed.

He’d retained his sword, as the savage found,

And, brandishing the weapon in his hand,

He yelled, and sought a further blow to land.

Book I: Canto XXIII: 16-21: He kills the wild man, and frees Fiordelisa

Possessing, now, neither club nor shield,

The one cleft in two, the other left behind,

The savage ran to an elm, in the field,

But failed to break a branch, as he designed,  

Ere Brandimarte his sharp blade did wield.

The blow though imperfectly aligned,

Wounded his hip; pride he brought to the fight,

For he let go the branch, and faced the knight.

As he turned to reply, most furiously,

A great leap, towards the warrior, he made,

Though as he did so, the latter, instantly,

Sliced away a hairy arm, with his blade,

And pierced the enormous trunk, cleanly,

Such that the sword, in a lengthy glissade,

Swept down from the rib cage to the belly,

Eviscerating his foe, entirely.

The savage was undone, he screamed and fell,

And uttered, lacking speech, cry after cry,

Strange sounds as from the very depths of Hell,

Dreadful but meaningless, and so did die.

The knight left him there; now, all was well,

And, joyful, having swiftly passed him by,

He returned to rescue his fair lady,

Set her free, and embrace her, in safety.

He was so elated, when he reached her,

The warrior scarcely knew what to do.

He hugged her silently, with great fervour,

Unable to speak, next, clasped her anew,

Then, to make but brief work of the matter,

He released her, without too much ado,

And placed her on his courser, and mounted.

As they rode on, their tales they recounted.

Fiordelisa spoke of the enchanter

How he’d borne her off, through the gloomy wood,

And how the fierce lion had, thereafter,

Ended all his malicious deeds for good.

Brandimarte told her of his encounter

With the giant trio, their fate sealed in blood,

How he’d fought near the fount in the meadow,

And of the maid he’d left with Orlando.

While he told of his fears and sore travail,

He looked about for the Count, but, ever,

Found not a trace of him, midst hill and dale,

For, indeed, he’d met with fresh adventure,

And, in due course, I’ll tell you all the tale;

But I’d have us return, now, to the matter

Of Rinaldo’s duel with Grifone,

Which had continued long and fiercely.

Book I: Canto XXIII: 22-27: We return to Rinaldo, duelling with Grifone

I know not, gentlemen, if you recall

The state in which I left that whole affair;

How those two knights did strike and maul

Each other; in the depths of battle, there,

Gave no thought to their survival at all,

Exposed to blows, to wounds gave not a care,

Never hid themselves, struggling without rest,

And ever giving of their very best.

All gathered round, each soldier, every knight,

Pressed together in their efforts to see,

Thus, little space remained to watch the fight,

While friend and stranger there kept company.

Marfisa, at the front, observed the sight,

Her eyes alight, for she followed closely

Every move, and behold, as she did so,

Rinaldo landed an enormous blow.

It stuck Grifone’s helm, which, as you’ve heard,

Was enchanted; it might have downed a tower

Had it struck a castle wall, or have stirred

An earthquake underground; but the power

Invested in it, by some arcane word,

Saved Grifone from sudden death that hour,

Though it rattled all the brains in his head,

And left the knight half-alive and half-dead.

He had lost his stirrups, had dropped the rein,

And, dangling from his courser’s right-hand side,

Now dragged his sword, through the dust, o’er the plain.

The weapon, chained to his wrist, yet defied

The battering it received; that he’d been slain,

His brother Aquilante thought, whose pride,

And despair, and anger sent him coursing,

Mad with ire and sorrow, at the princeling.

Aquilante was Oliviero’s son,

And by the same mother as Grifone.

Every bit as fierce as the other one,

He, also, bore enchanted weaponry,

His steed and armour second to none.

Yet their shields distinguished them, certainly,

For his was painted black, his brother’s white.

Each was a noble, and a splendid knight.

And thus, this second duel was no less

Vicious or furious, but crueller still;

Aquilante’s intent proved merciless,

Thoughts of his brother fuelled his fierce will,

His strokes against Rinaldo pitiless,

Two-handed blows, yet dealt with measured skill,

As he sought for swift vengeance; in a breath,

Wishing to hasten him towards his death.

Book I: Canto XXIII: 28-32: Aquilante, the brother, seeks vengeance

For his part, it seemed to bold Rinaldo,

That the pair had wronged him terribly,

And so, he fought more fiercely, gainst the foe,

Than ever, stung to a greater fury.

He felt himself alone, and doomed to woe,

But for Fusberta, and his bravery,

Yet fought on, with anger in his heart,

Not only shrewdly, but with warlike art.

‘Lay on,’ he cried aloud, ‘you worthless cur;

From those wretches behind you, summon aid

To end your blind assault, wrought in dishonour,

Or charge together, gainst my single blade.

Less than a straw I rate you, like your brother!

How dared he raise his eyes, who prayer made,

To Heaven, when disgrace and shame were his?

How could he fight in such a cause as this?’

Aquilante said naught, though he had heard

That proud speech, but merely clenched his teeth,

Then, with all his strength, and nary a word,

He struck Rinaldo’s helm; his head beneath

Set ringing from the blow, his vision blurred,

He raised his hands, as if he might bequeath

His spirit to the air, so fierce the pain

And woe, that well-nigh addled his poor brain.

And if his trenchant sword had not been bound

By a chain to his right wrist, as ever,

It would have travelled swiftly to the ground.

Yet he let fall the reins of his courser,

And Rabicano leapt away with a bound,

For Rinaldo had lost all sense, moreover,

Of where he was, convulsed in agony,

His heart, nigh stopped; his eyes could barely see.

Aquilante, full of pride and anger,  

Followed Rabicano’s flight o’er the plain,

Venom in his heart; as bent on murder

As if Rinaldo were a hound of Spain,

A mere infidel; yet he found the other

Was as swiftly in his right wits again,

And, now recovered, was once more ready

To deal with this upstart Aquilante.

Book I: Canto XXIII: 33-36: Rinaldo downs Aquilante, but is attacked by Chiarone

He gripped his sword again, and turned his steed

Towards the knight, roused to utter fury,

And struck his helm, so violently, indeed,

That he needed neither judge nor jury

To determine that the blow could but lead

To Aquilante’s fall, whose bravery

And enchanted armour was all in vain,

That could nor sense nor consciousness maintain.

Nor did Rinaldo delay a moment,

Ere he cut the laces of the dented helm,

And slowly raised his sword arm, now intent

On despatching him to the other realm.

But Chiarone, in a fresh encounter, meant

To surprise Rinaldo, and so overwhelm

The knight, unnoticed, made a swift advance,

Charged from the side, and struck him with his lance.

Plate and mail proved now of little use,

For the lance-blow had caught him on the hip,

Chiarone his spear broken, the reins loose,

Could but cling to his saddle, and let slip

The steed, while Grifone, spite the abuse

He’d suffered, woke, his sword yet in his grip;

And once he’d shaken off his confusion,

He set his mighty courser in motion.

He roused, as I said, just as Chiarone

Was galloping away, and so knew not

That he, and his own brother, Aquilante,

Had been fighting Rinaldo on that spot,

Or he’d have kept from the battle, surely.

But the cause of his woe he’d not forgot,

And his wits now regained, no more astray,

Striking at Rinaldo, he made his play.

Book I: Canto XXIII: 37-40: And then by Grifone, and duels with both

The Lord of Montalbano, was, as yet,

Not quite firmly seated; that cruel blow

From Chiarone had well-nigh unset

The warrior, downed him, and laid him low,

But he roused, and Grifone’s charge he met,

While, sword in hand, the latter, to his woe,

Thought him unprepared, and struck at the knight.

Who reared up, like a snake, in sudden spite,

As that creature will, when caught by the tail,

Swollen with venom, opening wide its jaw;

So, Rinaldo, full of rage, in deep travail,

Turned, wickedly, on Grifone, as before,

And would have downed the latter, without fail,

So fiercely he swung his blade, yet once more,

Chiarone attacked; he’d turned, incensed,

And so disturbed the game that they’d commenced.

The warrior arrived without warning;

He struck a blow at Rinaldo’s right arm,

Which jarred it so greatly in landing

The knight well-nigh dropped his sword, in alarm.

Conceive his fierce anger; my attempting

To describe it would but fail; such was the harm

He cried aloud, then swore, by God above,

His cause was right, the which he’d surely prove.

Then he turned to battle Chiarone,

Fully intending the latter should die,

But Grifone was upon him swiftly;

He’d little time to breathe, and then let fly,

Ere he was assailed by Aquilante,

Who’d recovered from his swoon by and by,

Though not entirely, it seems, for, tis true,

He had scarcely perceived the other two.

Book I: Canto XXIII: 41-44: He is wounded by Aquilante, but aided by Marfisa

The pair of them, fierce as each other,

Had drawn closer to assail Rinaldo,

But Aquilante outpaced his brother

And Chiarone, resolved to slay their foe.

He’d spurred to the gallop his great charger,

And now with his sharp sword struck such a blow

One so cruel and merciless it cut through

Rinaldo’s shield, and sliced the thing in two.

Though a wrapping of tough ox-hide was bound

Tight about the metal of the shield’s grip,

And his arm was sleeved in mail, all around,

Still Rinaldo’s flesh was cut; blood did drip

From the wound, and was scattered o’er the ground.

As the hurt seemed great, of companionship,

Marfisa joined the fight; that fierce maiden

Having barely restrained herself, till then.

So, Rinaldo fought alongside the queen;

She, for prowess, in this world, had no peer.

What fierce storm, what tempest was ever seen

That could match her fury? As if in fear,

Mountains sank before her; streams, once serene,

Plunged down to Hell; the heavens would appear

On fire, as lightning, thunder, filled the air,

When Marfisa took the field; as she did there.

Though her rage, so terrible and profound,

Seemed enough to trouble those about her,

Yet Grifone still sufficient courage found

To challenge the maid, as did his brother,

Yet the others were unnerved, though renowned

Warriors themselves, when they first saw her

Join the fight; she who had, but yesterday,

Routed the troop, and sent them on their way.

Book I: Canto XXIII: 45-53: Who tackles the two brothers, and duels with Grifone

The two brothers now attacked Marfisa,

But, gripping their shields, were beaten back,

While Rinaldo, alone, fighting nigh her,

Faced Chiarone’s and Hadrian’s attack.

Torindo and Oberto duelled each other,

Though Oberto was soon taken aback

By a blow to the cheek; Truffaldino

Held apart, as if indifferent to the foe.

I’ll speak of that first contest, since all three

Were in progress at once; indeed, so great

Were the fierce blows, the cries and the fury,

The loud clash of shields, and swords, and steel-plate,

Loud thunder had scarce been heard, or barely.

To commence: in the first duel I’ll relate,

The pair of brothers, mounted, together,

Opposed the warrior-maid Marfisa.

She was like to a savage lioness,

Poised to attack, half-way between two deer,

Who would slay both, nor settle for less,

Yet both at an equal distance do appear,

And bares her teeth, and gazes, pitiless.

So that queen, glaring at the knights, drew near,

Fixing each one in turn with her fierce eye,

Debating which should be the first to die.

There was scant need to think, for Grifone

Soon resolved the matter by attacking.

A two-handed blow, delivered swiftly,

Towards her helm, and almost landing

On its crown, yet missed it completely,

Except that the dragon-emblem standing

Tall at its crest, was cut in two, and fell.

She stirred not; although twas close, she could tell.

Angered, she struck Grifone with the blade

Of her broken sword, but had scarce replied

Ere Aquilante, at her head, a lunge had made,

With such strength it could hardly be denied.

Imagine how she chafed, as she was swayed

To and fro, and felt the blow to her pride;

Not just the sudden pain, but the disgrace,

As her helmet was driven gainst her face.

The blood flowed, swiftly, from her mouth and nose,

A thing that she had never known before.

She straightened though, and cried: ‘For all my woes,

You’ll wish you’d never ridden to this war!

Rabid creature, though none but Heaven knows,

You must die soon at my hand, and, be sure,

Naught above will help you escape my ire,

Bound, as you are, for the eternal fire!’

Yet Grifone, while she gave her scornful cry,

Delayed not, rather summoned all his might.

Thus, a back-handed stroke fell, from the sky,

Upon her brow, although the harm was slight.

Disregarding it, she turned from the knight,

Disdaining to deliver a reply,

And threw herself at Aquilante,

(With a blow whose description eludes me).

In her wrath, she hit the knight so fiercely,

With such a show of force, if his armour

Had not been enchanted, she’d have wholly

Cleft him apart; twas designed to sever,

And to slay. ‘Evil witch!’ cried Grifone,

‘You’ll not boast of killing my dear brother,

As you have sworn to do; tis but a lie,

Mere empty words; for you, alone, shall die!’

And with that, he swung his mighty sword,

Against her helm, with a thunderous blow.

Yet, God save you all, each noble lord,

For I must pause the tale, though you shall know,

On your return (for fresh news I’ll afford),

Of those duels, in the following canto;

And of those ardent warriors you’ll hear,

Delighting us with deeds of yesteryear.

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

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