Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato

Book I: Canto XXIX: The Tale of Orrigille

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

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Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato: Book I, Canto XXIX

Book I: Canto XXIX: 1-5: Uldarno begins his tale

In the last, I told you how Orlando

Saw a tall pine-tree o’er the river,

From which a maiden hung, her cries of woe

Fit to melt the heart of any creature.

And while the warrior gazed upon her so,

That other knight, arrogant by nature,

Shouted at him: ‘My friend, be on your way,

Aid not the woman, for I say you nay!

For tis what she deserves, hung by the hair,

To twist about, in the breeze, like a leaf,

Since she’s ever earned a dance in the air,

Being born to do so, tis my belief.

She’s tormented lovers, more than her share,

With empty hopes, and a burden of grief.

In the manner she’s now twisted around

Her promises were twisted, on the ground.’

The Count replied: ‘I hate to contemplate,

Indeed, can scarcely credit, such cruelty.

I’d rescue one doomed to so vile a fate,

No matter the cost; where lies your pity?

I think you’ll not choose to remonstrate

With me, if I show the woman mercy.

If you’ve been harmed, and tis revenge you seek,

Such deeds are wrought only by the weak.’

‘This vile woman’, the mounted knight replied,

‘Was ever cruel herself, and merciless,

So vain and empty, yet so full of pride,

Tis right that she’s condemned to nothing less.

Perchance a stranger to this countryside,

You know not the tale of her wickedness,

Thus, you seek to save one, out of pity,

Who’s worse than a she-bear for cruelty.

Hark to me, and I’ll tell you, all the tale,

And show why, rightly and lawfully,

She dangles from this pine. Justice, prevail!

Born in the place I lived, of her beauty

She was vainer than a peacock of its tail,

Fanning out its feathers, pridefully,

Strutting neath the sun’s glittering rays,

For women to envy, and men to praise.

Book I: Canto XXIX: 6-8: Of his, and Locrino’s, love for Orrigille

Her name is Orrigille, and the place

Where both of us were born is called Bactra.

From my earliest days, her lovely face

I adored; twas my ill-fate to love her.

Now with disdain, now with a show of grace,

Now promising, and then refusing later,

By and by, she kindled so fierce a flame

In me, I was on fire at her mere name.

Another young man loved her, a knight,

Not more than I (such indeed could not be),

Yet he wept over her (e’en at the sight

Of the maid) till he seemed dying slowly.

His name was Locrino; day and night

He suffered such torment, felt such cruelty,

In his longing, that eve and morn he’d cry

For Death to bring him aid, that he might die.

She held us both captive in her net,

With fair words (yet many an ill deed done)

In winter could be sweet as a violet,

And then, in summer, ice beneath the sun.

But though we knew that she deceived us, yet

It happened, as it does to many a one,

That neither ceased to love and to adore,

For each of us believed she loved him more.

Book I: Canto XXIX: 9-19: How she set out to deceive him

I presented myself full oft before her,

While rehearsing loving words in my heart,

Yet could never say those fair words to her,

For in her presence, tongue-tied, all my art

Vanished; I’d forget them altogether,

And lose my voice, and sense, ere I could start;

Not one rational phrase could I advance,

But sounded like a madman in a trance.

At last Love made me bold enough to speak,

In such words as these: “Sweet hope of mine,

If you believe that I was born to seek

Such suffering, and dust to gold refine,

Or that these consuming flames, that wreak

Such havoc in my heart, will not consign

Me to my grave, you must such thoughts defy;

For, lacking your loving aid, I must die.

I swear tis true, and seek not to deceive.

That any lover would endure fierce pain

Rather than hurt the one he loves (believe

It in your heart) yet, if he should sustain

Torment because his love seeks to deceive,

Grieves worse than aught; tis but to die again,

Though any anguish must, indeed, prove less

Than to experience mere hopelessness.

God knows, I have no hope of aught elsewhere,

For you are the woman that I love the most.

Yet this state of being I can scarcely bear.

Mercy, I beg of you, in this utmost

Extreme of pain; honour will be your share,

For I’ll do you service; if, lost almost,

I gain not your aid, I must surely die,

And you forego a loyal heart, thereby.”

Nor were my words mere dissimulation;  

Indeed, from my heart’s root they arose,

But, the fickle woman, to this oration,

(For cunning are such full oft, I suppose)

Offered this false reply (mere incantation!)

To gain my heart completely, thus she chose:

“Uldarno,” (tis my name) “more than my eyes,

My soul, my life, I love yourself likewise.

If only I could prove the thing to you,

As easily as I can say your name;

For nothing moves my loving heart, tis true,

But your passion, indeed, I’d serve that same,

Could the way and means be found, so to do;

And, thereby, might satisfy your love’s claim.

I am prepared at any hour to favour

Your suit, if both can protect our honour.

Myself, I can only see one certain way

(That will both preserve my reputation,

And your name and honour, as I say)

By which we may achieve satisfaction.

Ill-fortune as you know, upon a day,

Caused mortal strife between the faction

Of that cruel, inhuman knight, Oringo,

And my brother the valiant Corbino.

That young man (of Corbino I speak),

Lay dead upon the field; most unjustly,

For he was unskilled, as yet quite weak

In knowledge of arms, the other, rightly,

Was well-renowned; my father now doth seek

A brave knight, to right the wrong, and richly

Will he be rewarded; even now, I know,

He’s found the man, or shortly must do so.

Imitate Oringo’s arms and armour,

Show his emblem on your shield, wear his crest,

Then, beyond the town, where my father

Ordains the contest, seek to do your best.

When you’ve both tilted once, however,

Let yourself be captured; thus, I attest,

You may seek to achieve your dearest wish,

If you but follow my counsel in this.

You will of course be led here under guard,

(As Oringo) when taken by the knight.

You’ll be bound, but though the gate be barred,

Fear not, for I’ll e’er keep you in sight,

And watch over you, that naught be marred;

And though a burning anger is alight

Within my father’s breast, and he will seek

Harsh vengeance for his son’s death to wreak,

Be assured I’ve already found a way, I might,

Spend sweet hours with you, then make it seem

That you’ve somehow escaped, and taken flight.”

I swiftly pursued her deceptive scheme,

Following all this liar claimed, outright,

And careless of the risk, for twas my dream

To be alone with her; I loved this same,

And I’d have crossed, for her, a sea of flame.

Book I: Canto XXIX: 20-24: And deceived Locrino in similar manner

I dressed in Oringo’s arms and armour,

And adopted his insignia and crest,

But once I’d left her, upon my honour,

She chose to mock the folly of my quest;

For she’s cruel and perfidious, this traitor,

And, midst false deceivers, of the best!

Once I’d left, as I said, she sought another,

Summoning Locrino, who did love her.

This Locrino, whom I mentioned before,

He was every bit as foolish as I;

She possessed of cunning tricks a store,

But deceived him with a similar lie,

Saying that if he wished to see her more,

And sought to attain her love thereby,

He must be her champion against the foe,

And take or slay, for her, this Oringo.

Then, she sent Locrino to where I’d gone,

A place beyond the city, and, like me,

Twas false insignia that he had on,

Imitating another’s blazonry.

A field of green his shield bore, and thereon

Was the emblem, two golden horns, and he

Wore a surcoat and crest, that showed the same,

Though another knight those arms did claim.

He was a lord, his name Ariante,  

And he bore those twin horns as his device;

A man bold, and powerful, and lusty,

Made for battle, with a grip like a vice.

Now this knight also loved Orrigille,

And sought to win the maid, at any price,

And he had made a pact with her father

To conquer Oringo and, then, wed her.

He was to bring that knight from the field

Alive or dead, and so obtain the maid.

But, to be brief, so all might be revealed,

The true Ariante, bearing his blade,

Came to where I waited with sword and shield.

A token resistance I displayed,

Expecting that I’d be taken to her;

Conceded, and yielded to my capture.

Book I: Canto XXIX: 25-27: With Uldarno captured, Locrino defeats Oringo

At the same time, the young knight Locrino

Met the true Oringo, in encounter,

They fought not for their amusement though,

Love fired the one, and anger the other.

Now, Locrino was wounded by a blow

To the chest; one to the head, one other

To the ribs, sorely hurt the wrathful lord;

Half-dead, they scarce a further could afford.

But, in the end, twas Locrino won the fight,

For the amorous heart will conquer all.

Her old and cruel father, day and night

Kept vigil for, whate’er else might befall,

He was determined to uphold the right.

Set on vengeance, and seated in his hall,

He waited for the moment when his knight

Would drag this Oringo before his sight

Came ‘Ariante’, with that errant lord,

For the latter knight held no shield or blade,

And seemed a captive, tightly secured.

Twas no lie, and pale and shaking, he made

(The father) a swift approach, once assured

Twas his foe, to see loss by vengeance paid.  

Yet the unhelmed victor seemed Locrino

By his looks, not Ariante; and twas so.

Book I: Canto XXIX: 28-30: The twin deceptions are revealed

Now he knew Locrino loved his daughter

And long had done so, therefore he said:

“I swear that if you’ll yield your prisoner

To me, it will stand you in good stead;

For what you desire the most, I’ll offer,

The fairest delight the world has bred,

If you love Orrigille, and prove true,

Then you shall wed the maiden, tis your due.”

Locrino, mad with love, at once agreed,

Though his honour was harmed by doing so,

Yet Love spurred him on to yield and, indeed,

He’d have given half his heart, with his foe.

They’d only just decided to proceed

In this way, when confusion came, for lo,

Ariante arrived (not quite the plan!)

And he, and I, approached that fierce old man.

Now the whole matter was exposed to view.

Recall I wore Oringo’s arms and crest,

He now reproached me; Ariante too

Berated Locrino, who wore his vest;

And fierce fighting well-nigh broke out anew,

The true knights against two falsely-dressed,

For the former knights were scarcely charmed

That we’d imitated them, fully armed.

Book I: Canto XXIX: 31-34: All four knights are sentenced to death

In our land, the law is clearly expressed:

That if a knight seeks to usurp the name

Of another, and bears his arms and crest,

He’ll be dishonoured, and so put to shame,

And if not pardoned, at the king’s behest,

Must swiftly lose his head. Although that same

Law may seem cruel, in that the punishment

Exceeds the crime, tis of ancient descent.

This matter, then, was brought before the king.

He, learning that the maiden was the cause

Of all that had occurred, who, by deceiving

We two, had consigned us, both, to the jaws

Of fate, bearing false arms; and consulting

The legal guides, and all the various laws,

Ruled that we had all done wrong thereby,

And all four of us, for our sins, must die.

Oringo, though of rank and martial fame,

Had slain Corbino, who was but a lad,

While Ariante, with eyes upon the dame,

Like an assassin, though in armour clad,

Had promised her father to slay that same

Oringo, if needs be (and well-nigh had!)

Locrino was doomed, equally, to die,

For wearing false arms and crest, as was I.

Being a capital offence, we four,

Were sworn not to stray too far away,

Till the sentence could be served, and, what’s more,

The wrathful king drew lots that very day,

To choose who would lead her to the shore

Of this river (the maid I mean), there to pay

For her crime in, thus, provoking us two.

A torment worse than death was now her due.

Book I: Canto XXIX: 35-37: Uldarno is chosen to guard the bridge

She is pinned to that bough, as you can see,

And is kept alive on bread and water,

Swinging in the wind, from this lofty tree,

Hanging by a hair’s breadth o’er the river.

The first lot drawn was mine, so tis for me

To keep her from every friend or stranger

Who’d grant her aid, and for three days I’ve fought

Any man who would thus defy the court.  

And seven brave cavaliers I have slain,

Whose names I’ll not repeat here and now.

You may view their emblems, and hence obtain

Knowledge of those knights, for on that bough

I’ve hung their painted shields, and there again

Their helms and horns are pinned, to show how

A luckless man’s lost arms will be displayed

If he seeks to liberate this wicked maid.

And, should it chance, that I myself should die,

Oringo will guard her, then Locrino,

Then Ariante, all fiercer than I.

Therefore, sir knight, backwards you should go,

Nor should seek, I counsel you, to pass by,

For you’ll fight me then, or a stronger foe.

All those who halt not at the bridge must fight,

You have no choice; for I’ll maintain the right.’

Book I: Canto XXIX: 38-43: Orlando slays the four knights, and frees the maid

Orlando listened to the knight’s long tale,

While, yet, the maiden, hanging from the pine,

Shed many a tear, voiced many a wail,

And cried, as about the rope she did twine,

That he was a liar, a villain, then did flail

Her arms and legs, called him an evil swine,

Who tortured her from spite, in devilry,

Hanging her thus, defenceless, from a tree.

She claimed the seven knights had been slain

By treachery, and not by martial skill;

Twas to frighten passers-by he did maintain

That display of arms that the bough did fill.

And then she wept, and then she wailed again,

Begging brave Orlando to save her still,

Praying God, and the Count, to show mercy,

Not abandon her, thus, to cruelty.

Not delaying to reflect, Orlando,

Found himself, filled with pity, stirred outright.

He shouted his command to Uldarno,

‘Cut the maiden free, or prepare to fight!’

After trading challenges, twas blow on blow

They sought, and wheeled their mounts, and were in flight.

Aiming true, twas the Count his target found,

Toppling this Uldarno to the ground.

As soon as the knight tumbled to the field

Orlando hastened swiftly to the tree,

But a tower on the bridge now revealed

A dwarf who sounded a war-horn, loudly,

And, as he did so, a knight, there concealed,

(Twas Oringo) shouted threateningly

That he would kill the Count unless he stayed

At least twenty yards distant from the maid.

Count Orlando’s lance was still unbroken,

So, he wheeled about, lowered it, then sped

To the joust, with a blow (twas no mere token),

Grounding his foe, who landed on his head.

The dwarf blew his great horn; as if awoken

From trance a knight (Locrino) spurred ahead,

But on arrival, like the other two he found

His match, and was tumbled to the ground.

Once more, the dwarf blew upon his horn;

The fourth knight (Ariante) came in view.

The Count spurred towards him, breathing scorn,

And stretched him flat, with a blow, straight and true.

He left all four for dead, with none to mourn

Their swift demise, and o’er the bridge he flew,

Neared the pine, dismounted, and climbed the tree,

So as to cut the rope, and set her free.  

Book I: Canto XXIX: 44-48: He takes her with him, and she stirs his passion

Down through the branches, in his close embrace,

He bore the maid, and set her on the ground.

She begged him then to bear her from that place,

For she’d be harshly punished were she found.

The Count calmed her, assured her, of his grace,

That he’d protect her from all foes around,

And having, in that manner, eased her mind,

Mounted, setting her on his steed, behind.

Now, she was indeed of a rare beauty,

But malicious in intent, and full of lies.

She’d a wealth of tears on hand, that lady,

A well-nigh boundless fount, I would surmise.

She ever gazed upon a lover sweetly,

But ne’er kept a promise, batting her eyes;

And had she a thousand lovers a day,

Her smile would have fooled them all, I say.

As you’ve heard, the Count rode off with the maid,

And having parted from that evil place,

Many a sweet and winsome speech she made,

Till, little by little, love found a space

In his heart, which his glances now betrayed,

For he’d oft turn to view her form and face,

That spurred his desire, and pleasure begot,

Such that Angelica was nigh forgot.

This she knew, of course; such a woman

Being sharply aware of his attention,

Though the Count was unaware of her plan,

To execute which, she stoked his passion.

Her honeyed words, and her smile, fired the man,

And drew him into close conversation.

The Count, who was unused to such, I deem,

Talked of love like a person lost in dream.

The darkness seemed a thousand leagues away,

That might offer him a chance of success;

For, though ignorant of what he should say,

He hoped to win her favour, nonetheless.

And so, frustrated by that endless day,

He cursed the sun; the shadows would address,

They’d not embarrass him, as did the light;

And thought that he’d ne’er see the fall of night.

Book I: Canto XXIX: 49-50: They reach a standing-stone, and she deceives him

And they rode on thus, his wish ill-concealed,

While talking of many things, till they came,

Upon a towering rock, amidst a field.

Inscribed with golden letters was that same.

A flight of thirty steps the top did yield

Of that standing-stone; it seemed all aflame.

The stairs that led from the ground to the height,  

Had been carved with skill, the eye to delight.

The maiden said: ‘I assure you, sir knight,

If you’re as skilful as you seem to be,

Rare adventure awaits you; climb the flight,

And, once there, you shall see what you shall see.

Ascend the stone, and stand upon its height,

Tis open like a well beneath; quickly,

Lean in, look deep inside, and feast your eyes,

For you will see both Hell and Paradise.’

Book I: Canto XXIX: 51-54: She steals his horse, and leaves him behind

The Count had no other expectation

Than that he’d find God, and the Devil, there.

He left his charger with her, and was gone,

Climbing the thirty steps of that high stair.

She saw him reach the top and, thereupon,

Cried out: ‘Sir knight, I know not if you care

To walk the roads, but that’s what you must do,

For, I must now depart, with: God speed you!’

And so, the fair deceiver turned away,

Crossed the field, and vanished o’er the plain.

The Count, quite stunned, and filled with dismay,

Called himself but a fool; yet, I maintain,

Any man may be deceived along the way,

Believe in one he loves, and reap the pain.

Yet Count Orlando blamed himself alone,  

And believed himself a dunce, dull as stone.

Of what to do next, he was uncertain,

Having lost his fine steed, Brigliador.

He turned to gaze down at the stone again,

And read the golden letters that it bore.

Twas the tomb of Ninus (all writ there, plain),

Who once the sceptre of that kingdom bore,

And built fair Nineveh, a three-days’ ride

In extent, if one traversed every side.

But he cared little for that fact; indeed,

He descended from the tomb full of woe,

And, since he’d clearly lost his wondrous steed

Set out to walk the plain, his pace but slow.

Twilight was creeping in, thus fate decreed,

When, in the distance, to his sight did show

A band of travellers (so twould appear),

Though arms and armour gleamed, as they drew near.

Book I: Canto XXIX: 55-56: Boiardo’s pledge to return to the tale

I’ll tell you later all that, then, occurred,

And whom he met, as he walked o’er the plain;

And it will please you, lords, most every word,

And pass the time; the sequel I’ll explain.

Yet, after the tale of love that you’ve heard,

We must turn to brave tales of war again,

And to great Charlemagne, the emperor,

And speak of matters on a distant shore.

Ne’er was such a tale of might, and glory,

E’er writ, nor one that offers such delight;

For I will sing of one, now famed in story,

Blessed with all virtues, a most perfect knight,

Ruggiero, unmatched in old and hoary

Myths, by such heroes as they bring to sight.

My lords, I trust you all will fill a place;

I aim to please, if God yet grants me grace.

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

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