Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato

Book I: Canto XXV: Orlando at Albracca

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

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Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato: Book I, Canto XXV

Book I: Canto XXV: 1-3: The White Hound

I left the Count, in the previous canto,

About to sound that magic instrument,

That he might put an end, by doing so,

To his labours, ere he was wholly spent.

He sought no rest, the brave Orlando,

Until the horn revealed the full extent

Of the mysteries it conjured; so, he blew

A strident note, that capped the other two.

The valiant knight blew so hard, indeed,

That of the task he wearied; yet perceived

Nothing new, till the light to eve did cede

Its reign, believing he had been deceived

In some way; when a hound of noble breed,

Pure white (and by enchantment conceived),

Entered the flowering meadow, baying,

At which Orlando gazed, quietly praying:

‘God bring me now some high adventure!

Pain and toil enough I’ve suffered, surely?

Tis a little late to regret the labour

Required to reveal this hound, but truly,

Am I to be rewarded with this creature?

Is this the prize promised by the lady;

To delight and content me, if I blew

Thrice on this magic horn, and then proved true?’

Book I: Canto XXV: 4-8: Morgana the Fay

With that he turned away in deep disdain,

And readied himself to depart the scene,

While hurling the horn to the grassy plain,

In more than a mere token show of spleen.

But the lady cried: ‘Wait, my lord, maintain

Your place, no emperor has ever been

Upon this earth, no king, that ever found

Fairer fortune than is brought by the hound.

Listen a moment, and I shall tell you,

The wondrous purpose of this fine creature.

There is an isle not far beyond our view,

Which contains, and is named for, its treasure.

There dwells Morgana the enchantress, who

Bestows gold on people, at her pleasure;

And all that’s spread, throughout every land,

Was once a gift received from her fair hand.

There it lies buried deep, neath high mountains,

From which tis laboriously mined,  

Or panned from rivers, and bubbling fountains;

While in India, too, ants the seams do find.

Two quite separate ores she thus obtains,

And two breeds of fish feed on the refined

Metal; one is the Timavo sculpin;

The other a carp, with a gilded fin;

And both kinds, with pure gold, the Fay sustains.

But let me now continue my tale:

O’er gold and silver ore Morgana reigns,

And will fulfil the promise, without fail.

By this means, your happiness she ordains,

Since you sounded her horn here, in the vale,

For a third time; thus, she sends her creature

To grant you a life of joy and pleasure.

No other knight in this world has ever

Twice blown the horn, though many men have tried.

While seeking rare and noble adventure,

A host, despite their bravery, have died.

But perish such ill thoughts, bold warrior,

And listen to my tale; come, quench your pride,

And comprehend the wonder of it all;

I tell of the hound, that came to your call.

Book I: Canto XXV: 9-12: The secret of the white stag and the white brach

Wise Morgana, of whom I have told you,

(She is the queen of all things rich and fair)

Created that white stag, so fine to view,   

With its antlers of gold, and hide so rare.

Fashioned by a magic spell, it must pursue

An errant course, straying here and there,

Left to roam; and a wondrous turn of speed

It shows to those that would catch it; indeed,

It can ne’er be trapped by force, but only

With the aid of the hound can it be caught,

For the brach knows how to find it quickly,

And she bays, as the stag by her is sought.

You must follow her by ear, and swiftly

Pursue, for, as if from a bow pulled taught,

She flies, quick as an arrow, and will race

After the white stag and, for six days, trace

Its passage, yet on the seventh will meet

With the quarry, which will plunge into a fount,

And there it may be caught; and, to complete

The adventure, gold, in wondrous amount

Rewards the hunter, golden antlers greet

The eye, that do its noble brow surmount.

Of thirty points, they moult six times a day,

And each branched horn a hundred pounds must weigh.

And such great treasure you will then possess,

Once you have caught the enchanted deer,

That you will garner pleasure to excess,

Should riches lead to happiness down here.   

Perchance she’ll love you, that enchantress,

I mean the Fay, whom any might hold dear,

Morgana, brighter than the sun at noon,  

Her face as lovely as the clear full-moon.’

Book I: Canto XXV: 13-17: Orlando spurns riches, desiring only his lady, Angelica

Orlando listened quietly, with a smile,

But scarce allowed her to complete her tale,

Disdainful of its promise; all the while,

Certain her speech was wrought to no avail.

‘Fair lady,’ he answered, ‘many a trial

I’ve run, like to these, and did e’er prevail,

For great perils, and fine deeds, are the lot

Of he who’d win fame, and ne’er be forgot.

Yet I would never, for mere gold or silver,

Unsheathe my sword, since any man

Will find, in that chase, an endless labour,

That sets his sights on riches; such a plan

Yields but deeper discontent the greater

His wealth; the more he has, the less he can

Find satisfaction; for yet more he’ll yearn;

Naught that quest will gain him, he must learn.

The path is infinitely unrewarding,

A road barren of honour or delight.

Who goes that way is forever struggling

Yet the end they desire is ne’er in sight.

Rather than that foolish course pursuing,

I prefer to live as a wandering knight.

Let me be clear; now, hark to what I say:

I’ll hunt the stag not this, nor any day.

Take up the horn, grant it to another,

To one who ventures after gold and gain,

For I am not now, nor was I ever,

One that did not his honour e’er maintain;

A man’s but a vile and barbarous lover,

That loves not his lady twice as much again

As his own self. I know mine waits for me,

Now, meseems, she calls my name, lovingly.’

Then speaking to himself, with troubled face,

The Count said: ‘I left her, I remember,

Besieged by war in a treacherous place.

Now, the outcome I must needs discover.

I quit the field, Agricane to chase,  

With each side still battling the other,

And know not which army won the day;

Best then that I go swiftly on my way.’

Book I: Canto XXV: 18-19: He sets out for Albracca, and encounters Ordauro

He lifted the maid to his steed again,

Though she mounted somewhat unwillingly,

Left the lady standing there, in the plain,

And gave Baiardo the rein, silently.

Soon a bridge o’er a river they did gain,

And met a lord, who glared at him fiercely,

Though the Count, ever gracious on meeting

A valiant knight, gave him courteous greeting.

Now that lord recognised her instantly,

As his Leodilla (for he was her Ordauro!)

Fairest daughter of King Manodante,

And issued a challenge to Orlando,

Threatening the Count, most arrogantly:

‘The maid belongs with me; I’d have you know.

You’ve stolen her; come free her now, say I,

And swiftly too, or swiftly you must die!’

Book I: Canto XXV: 20-22: To whom he conveys Leodilla

‘Is she’s your lady, then yours shall she be!’

Said the Count, ‘I’ll not quarrel over her.

‘Come, take her, by God, and that swiftly,

For I must be gone, that seek another.

Since it seems she likes not my company,

For your courtesy, I’ll thank you, moreover.

Let the pair of you go where’er you please,

And I may, then, pursue my way, at ease.’

Ordauro, when he heard the Count’s reply,

A speech that seemed strangely cowardly

For a man who seemed so fierce to the eye,

Was much surprised; nonetheless, silently,

Took up the maid; and the three, by and by,

Departed; the two steeds, separately,

Cantering forth, the one east to Albracca;

Westwards, to Circassia, the other.

Twas thus the Count relinquished the fair maid,

Happy now to be with her Ordauro.

Naught in the way of valour he’d displayed,

(The latter, I mean) for brave Orlando

Had chosen not to fight so naught delayed

His journey, for his thoughts were all aglow

With Angelica; each hour seemed a year

Ere to Angelica the Count drew near.

Book I: Canto XXV: 23-24: We return to the three duels, before Albracca

We’ll leave Orlando to his weary way,

And return to the three duels, that had grown

In fury, so merciless a display

They appeared among the cruellest known.

Marfisa could be seen; the queen, that day,

Whirled here and there, all her wildness shown,

As on one side she fought Aquilante,

On the other his brother, Grifone.

Rinaldo, the brave son of Amone,

Having twice been badly wounded, pursued

King Hadrian and bold Chiarone;

While a long and dreadful fight had ensued

Twixt the brave Oberto dal Leone

And Torindo the Turk; the whole thing viewed

By Truffaldino; now I’ll convey

All my previous canto failed to say.

Book I: Canto XXV: 25-30: Rinaldo proposes they end the fight next day

I shall tell you how the fighting progressed,

And the events that unfolded on the field.

Truffaldino stood and merely watched the rest,

As I’ve said, all his cowardice revealed.

When Chiarone and Hadrian, oppressed,

Yielded ground to Rinaldo, he sealed

His treachery, as one with much to fear,

And vanished to the fortress in the rear.

He’d escaped, quite unseen by Rinaldo,

Or he’d surely not have reached his goal,

For he’d have been caught by Rabicano;

Yet, in the heat of the action, he stole

From the scene, unobserved; Truffaldino

Fled, and so reached the gate, still whole.

Twas there Rinaldo saw him, and cried:

‘Lo, the traitor can run but he can’t hide!’

To the others he shouted: ‘Hear me now!

Do as I ask if you’d not die today.

I’ll kill you, in a trice, unless you vow

To bring one who would all the world betray,

That wretch Truffaldino, I care not how,

Tomorrow, to the field, without delay.

Let us rest this moment from the fight,

And, return to resolve this, at first light.

All you here who would defend that creature,

Truffaldino, your splendid lord and king,

When the sun rises, ensure your treasure

Of a master, and the devil’s offspring,

Takes to the field and we’ll run a measure,

Renew our battle, and conclude the thing

With his death; or truly, I myself must die,

Should God support the wrong, and right deny.’

These bold words, and others, Rinaldo cried,

And to his offer all the knights agreed

Except Marfisa who, as ever full of pride,

Was but little disposed to pay him heed.

Her heart was yet ablaze, and she decried

The need for rest, and all that he decreed,

Till Grifone and Aquilante swore

That at dawn they’d continue as before;

And would fight her, then, from the break of day

Till the sun sank to the ocean in the west.

Then the defenders, weary of the fray,

Retreated to the fortress, to seek rest,

With not a piece of armour, I might say,

Untouched and unbloodied; I’d suggest

The state of those outside was no better,

Rinaldo, Torindo and Marfisa.

Book I: Canto XXV: 31-34: Astolfo joins Rinaldo’s company

Each of them tended, conscientiously,

To their armour, and needs. All in the keep

Save Aquilante and Grifone,

Felt fear, yet talked of war till they found sleep.

Astolfo said: ‘Tis Orlando, who, clearly,

Is in disguise, and treats you all like sheep;

In that fashion, he puts you all to scorn,  

And tomorrow, at daybreak, you’ll be shorn!’

‘No, no, you’re wrong.’ Aquilante replied;

Their leader is the Lord of Montalbano.

I, and Grifone spoke with him aside,

And requested that he not prove our foe,

But he refused, not solely out of pride.

Fierce and ardent is he, and tomorrow

We shall fight again and he, or we two,

Will die in the action; that much is true.’

‘Then you must lose the war’, mocked Astolfo,

‘For I shall seek to join his company.

I’ll ride, this very night, to find Rinaldo,

And when, in the field, you meet with me,

Trust me, you’ll wish I had ne’er done so.

Yet none of you will flaunt your bravery

Or go a foot beyond these solid walls,

For the knight encountering me ever falls.’

Aquilante knew him for a boaster,

And retorted: ‘Then, good luck to you!

If that’s how it is, then we must suffer!’

Astolfo his new thought did then pursue;

He left the keep, confident as ever;

Night was falling, the sky a lurid hue,

When he found his cousin, brave Rinaldo,

And embraced that Lord of Montalbano.

Book I: Canto XXV: 35-39: Orlando arrives at Albracca

Let us leave them thus, in their pavilion

Where they will rest till the crack of dawn,

And return to the Count, Milone’ son,

Who rode so hard, by brave Baiardo borne,

That, ere the sun dipped neath the horizon,

He attained Albracca, wearied and worn.

At eve then, the warrior passed the gate,

In a somewhat dilapidated state.

Twas clear that he came not from the dance,

His breastplate was split, his crest was gone,

His helmet scorched; he clearly lacked a lance,

His shield had vanished with his weapon,

And yet he showed his usual arrogance,

Or rather pride; who viewed him, sat upon

Brave Baiardo, clad in his dented armour,

Could but cry: ‘Behold, the flower of valour!’

When he reached the citadel, on high,

And the lovely Angelica appeared,

From his steed, the Count did fairly fly.

She greeted him warmly, as he neared,

Removed his helm, and kissed him, by and by.

Ask me not if by this the Count was cheered.

When he felt her lips touch his lips and eyes,

He though himself snatched up to Paradise.

The fair maiden had a hot bath prepared,

Fine and noble, and perfumed most sweetly,

And then she herself his bruised body bared,

Kissing the knight full oft, and ardently.

She salved his flesh with balm, no part was spared,

To ease the bruises, handling him gently,

For when a man is tired with riding long,

His vigour such restores; he’s rendered strong.

The Count was quiet, modesty was his name,

While the maiden massaged him, here and there,

Full of joyful contentment was that same

Bold warrior, though he never thought to share

His pleasure with her; modestly, he came

To the scented bath, and washed himself with care,

And, as soon he was dry, took great delight,

In resting a while; for his heart was light.

Book I: Canto XXV: 40-43: Angelica asks him to do her a service

And then Angelica led him by the hand

To a fine and richly-furnished chamber,

Where a pleasant meal the lady had planned,

And Orlando ate a hearty dinner.

Then the maid his attention did demand,

Clasping him about the neck, moreover,

And, gazing sweetly, asked him politely

If he’d do her a service, saying, brightly:

‘Tis but a small thing, dear Count, I ask,

 Do not refuse me, but give your promise,

If you would win me with a single task.

I’ll repay you most fondly for your service,

If in the light of your favour I might bask.

Nor am I so discourteous as to speak

Of aught you cannot give; all that I seek

Is that you show your prowess for a day,

Reveal your best; I’ll look on, and admire;

If you are bold, my eyes will never stray

From your person (such is my sole desire)

Till you’ve emerged triumphant from the fray,

And piled the foe’s torn banners on the pyre.

I know ‘tis all within your power, too,

For, I’ve heard, before, of all you can do.

There’s a fierce Arabian warrior-maid

Who came with my father to defend me;

She rebelled, without cause, and has displayed

Ill-will and rancour; she fights with fury,

Attacks my company with lance and blade,

And if you don’t aid me willingly,

I’ll be captured by one who hates me so

She’ll torment me, then despatch me below.’

Book I: Canto XXV: 44-46: Orlando agrees to oppose Marfisa

So spoke the maid, and wept copiously,

Bathing Orlando’s troubled face with tears.

He could scarce refrain from, instantly,

Donning his armour to allay her fears,

And though he spoke not, alarmingly,

His eyes rolled, like a maddened steer’s;

When his rage had decreased a little,

He gazed at her, as if prepared for battle.

She could scarcely bear to see his face,

So terrible a look it now displayed.

‘Lady,’ replied the Count, ‘tis Heaven’s grace

Has sent me this great task; be not afraid,

For this woman you speak of I will chase,

Capture, and slay, this same warrior-maid.

Should all the world in arms support her,

I will yet oppose them all, and conquer.’

Angelica, with this, was most content,

For she well-knew his prowess in the field,

And his offer now strengthened her intent.

Sweetmeats and varied fruits were revealed,

And every effort upon the Count she spent,

Then left him, the promise signed and sealed,

To Aquilante and Grifone, who

Embraced Orlando, greeting him anew.

Book I: Canto XXV: 47-50: He learns he will encounter his cousin Rinaldo

Angelica rejoiced at having won

The Count’s agreement, and that he would fight,

Proud (since the man loved her) of all she’d done,

Unworried by Marfisa, whom the knight

Would certainly defeat. When she had gone,

Aquilante told Orlando: ‘You’ll have sight

Tomorrow of Montalbano’s lord,

You’ll need all your skill with lance and sword.

I know not why he came here, but I deem

He’s lost his wits, in challenging us all;

Crying shame, shows not a one here esteem,

No, not a single knight, within the wall.

I and Grifone challenged his extreme

Opinion, and for compromise did call,

But he defied all reason, we were forced

To contend with him; my brother he unhorsed.’

‘Are you sure tis he?’ enquired Orlando,

‘Have you mistaken some other knight,

For Rinaldo?’ ‘God save me, I say no;

I viewed his face, ere he chose to fight,’

Aquilante replied: ‘Did I not know

That warrior of renown, at first sight?

Am I robbed of intellect and reason,

Not to recognise brave Almone’s son?’

Grifone gave the very same account,

Knew twas Rinaldo, without question,

And when he had heard him out, the Count,

Convinced, wore a sourer expression,

Jealous now, having drunk from the fount

Of knowledge, fearing Rinaldo’s mission

Might to be to woo the fair Angelica;

And it struck at his heart, like a hammer.

Book I: Canto XXV: 51-58: Orlando’s soliloquy

He parted from the brothers and swiftly

Retired to his chamber; there, alone,

He paced about, wringing his hands, fiercely,

Disdain and scorn upon his visage shown.

Lamenting then, and grieving insanely,

He threw himself upon his bed to groan,

Still fully clothed and there he sighed and wept,

Uttered words like to these, and never slept:

‘Ah, human life, so sad and sorrowful,

In which no pleasure lasts more than a day!

Just as the world of light, so colourful,

Eclipsed by the night, vanishes away.

Such that there never was a joyful

Time that fate or chance did not betray.

All delight is but brief, and swiftly past,

Grief endures, and forever holds us fast.

All of this applies to my sorry case.

With honour and delight, I was received,

By that maid, so divinely sweet of face.

All my sorrows had ended, I believed,

Yet this news dispels all thought of grace,

My pain grows; perchance I am deceived,

Tis greater grief to lose what we acquired,

Than never to win what the heart desired.

From the ends of the earth I came, I say,

Thus, to attempt to win a lady’s love,

And I have had such joy of her this day,

No greater could the living soul so move.

Fate decrees no other such shall come my way,

For Rinaldo now an obstacle must prove.

God knows he does wrong in coming here

And one of us must perish, such is clear.

I always did my best to win him favour

At the emperor’s court; when, in disgrace,

The man was banned, seemingly forever,

I restored him to the king’s benign grace.

Yet he never loved me, nor showed me other

Than disdain, since mine is the higher place.

He calls a minor keep, and town, his home,

While I’m a count, and senator of Rome.

He lacks all love for me and reverence.

Yet thinking he might curb that ill disdain,

I have sought to show but slight offence,

Thinking my prudence would his ire contain.

Yet, indeed, the fellow tests my patience,

One dish will not two valiant men maintain,

And I’m determined there shall be but one;

Rulers and lovers brook no companion.

Should he win free, he’s so malicious

He’ll seek to deprive me of my life,

He knows all the tricks employed among us

To tempt women, a demon bringing strife;

While if I were even so licentious

As to touch a lady’s hair, like a knife

Twould cut me; I’d not know where to start

Or end, did I not first command her heart.

What! Am I saying I must break the tie;

Scorn friendship, and the bonds of family

That our ancestors maintained, and thereby

Do wrong? Ill were that, yet it must be,

For Love prevents me doing right, say I.

Let us, with naked blades, in enmity,

Sever those ancient ties, the bond of blood,

And woo the maid as martial lovers should!’

Book I: Canto XXV: 59-61: He prepares to fight

Thus, reflecting, with troubled mind, the knight

Revealed the sorrows of an ardent heart.

He slept not at all, longing for the light,

Tossing from side to side, and, for his part,

Felt time was scarcely passing and the night,

Its moon and stars, reluctant to depart,

So slow were they to vanish with the morn,

And concede to the glowing light of dawn.

Three long hours ere the sun rose in the sky,

The Count was pacing up and down his room;

A great lord of France, with his weapons nigh,

Clad in full armour, fretting at the gloom.

He donned Almone’s helm, and gave a sigh,

Caught up Durindana, that blade of doom;

Down to the stable-yard Orlando went,

To greet Baiardo; till the night was spent,

He was ever glancing at the sombre sky,

Hoping to see the first clear sign of day

Chewing his fingernails, as time crawled by,

Scarce able to endure the long delay.

Now, gentlemen, good luck to you, say I,

For we must part, and you go on your way;

I’ll reserve to the ensuing canto,

Orlando’s encounter with Rinaldo.

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

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