Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato

Book I: Canto XXVI: The Death of Truffaldino

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

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Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato: Book I, Canto XXVI

Book I: Canto XXVI: 1-6: Orlando and Rinaldo issue their challenges

I’ve told you of the cruel and dreadful fight

Between those two opposing companies

Their measureless attacks, knight on knight.

Now I must rise to greater heights, to please

You, with the duel twixt two valiant parties,

A battle that nigh makes my blood to freeze.

Lords, give ear, if you’d listen to the tale

Of two fiery hearts, seeking to prevail.

I’ve told you of how brave Count Orlando

Waited, alone, for daylight to appear;

Fulminating, as he paced to and fro;  

Biting his fingernails, yet not in fear;

Waving Durindana (as if his foe

Agolante, King of Africa, drew near,

Or the most valiant Troiano, his son),

Swinging the sharpened blade, ere twas begun.

The story says: before him stood an idol,

A statue of immeasurable size,

A work of the finest gleaming marble,

And that, on seeing it before his eyes,

The Count assailed it, as if in battle,

Fiercely, with his sword, beat his prize,

And struck at it, flailing the blade around,

Till his ‘foe’ lay in pieces on the ground.

While Orlando, thus, in unconcealed

Rage, passed the time waiting for the morn,

Bold Rinaldo, whose tent stood in the field,

Was no less restless ere the break of dawn;

For he too was armed, his sword did wield,

(Brave Fusberta) and, like a madman born,

He stormed around, striking rocks and trees,

Longing for fierce battle to bring him ease.

Twas in the dark of night, no sign of day,

When Lord Rinaldo mounted, fearlessly,

And raised up his great war-horn; at its bray,

The mountains shook, the plain quaked endlessly.

Rinaldo blew so loud a blast, I say,

That Orlando on hearing it, knew plainly,

That it was his cousin’s summons, his intent

Made clear by the power of that instrument.

Then the Count’s heart was so consumed by fire,

And by anger, he could brook no delay.

He lifted his own horn, and filled with ire,

Issued his answer; followed, on its way,

By threats and menaces: ‘Rise from the mire,

Traitorous hound, and face the light of day!

In a moment, you’ll meet me on the plain,

And repent of it, in time, with woe and pain!’

Book I: Canto XXVI: 7-13: Orlando rides forth

Little by little, the darkness dissipated,

A crimson dawn now graced the peaceful sky;

The stars had yielded to a belated

Sunrise, when the Count, issued his reply,

Gritting his teeth, in wrath, as if fated

To enter the blazing fire where one might die;

Shook his head, laced his helm and, thereupon,

Mounted his steed, Baiardo, and was gone;

Yet was in such a mighty haste to start

The encounter, that, full of arrogance,

He well-nigh forgot the warrior’s part,

And left behind him his good shield and lance.

He reached the barred gate, eager to depart,

(Which was shut tight, at evening’s advance,

As they raised the drawbridge, there to stay

Till the sun rose, on the following day),

And would have beaten down the solid gate

Had his lady not seen him, and drawn near,

With that kindly look she’d shown him of late,

And stopped him, as he thought to disappear.

Upon seeing her angelic face, his state

Was such that he nigh dropped his sword in fear,

Leapt from his saddle, rose with a bound,

Then knelt humbly before her, on the ground.

She embraced the valiant warrior, and cried:

‘My lord, where go you? Surely you have sworn

To be my knight, and promised me beside

To serve me, and to fight for me, this dawn.

Your love for me you should not seek to hide,

So, wear this helmet crest, to greet the morn,

Bear this painted shield, and so think ever

On she who gives it; show your best for her.’

And, with that, the helmet-crest she revealed,

The form of which displayed a naked boy,

Winged, with bow and quiver; then the shield

That a finely painted emblem did employ;

Twas a white ermine on a golden field,

And Orlando, gazing on her in pure joy,

(He who often seemed cold) felt such desire

He thought he’d die; his soul was so afire.

Grifone joined him, as they were speaking,

Prepared for battle, fully armed, and then

Aquilante and Grifone, seeking

Their revenge, and Hadrian, fit again

For war; but not Oberto, suffering,

As he yet was, from the painful swelling

Of his wounded face, that, through lack of care,

Hurt the more, and did his actions impair,

He stayed behind; but here was Truffaldino,

For whom the fight was at first proclaimed.

His face was pallid, but, despite his woe,

He could find no excuse (for he’d been named)

Not to ride with them to the plain below,  

On that ill path, that might see him maimed.

He felt twas all an outrage, and he, wronged;

He looked half-dead; one that for safety longed.

Book I: Canto XXVI: 14-20: Rinaldo and his company await him

Let us leave them, as the gate is opened wide,

And the drawbridge lowered, and let us turn

To the prince; he’d heard all the Count had cried,

But twas the latter’s presence brought concern,

For though he felt the right was on his side,

Twas a fight he’d have felt inclined to spurn,

For he loved his cousin with all his heart,

As if he were a brother, for his part.

He was troubled in mind by the thought,

That he’d sworn Truffaldino must die,

And now the Count, for that villain, fought,

And would all others’ weapons now defy.

As he was musing thus, Astolfo sought

His company; Marfisa, by and by,

Joined them with Iroldo, Prasildo,

And Turkey’s mighty monarch, Torindo.

As the warriors gathered to the spot

Bold Astolfo cried: ‘Come, let’s not delay!

But, rather, beat the iron while it’s hot.’

‘More haste less speed might serve to gain the day,’

The prince replied, ‘fair cousin, we are not

Facing whom you think; armed for the fray

Anglante’s count approaches, tis Orlando,

One that is ever the most fearsome foe.’

Marfisa raised her eyebrows, unconcerned,

And, well-nigh laughing, asked Rinaldo:

‘Who then has such a reputation earned  

That, ere the man arrives, you fear him so?

I’d tremble not; not even if I learned

That he had sent Almonte down below,

With all his knights; this Count Anglante,

His very name means less than naught to me.’

Rinaldo offered the maid no reply,

For other things now occupied his mind;

Six knights upon the slope he did spy,

Descending from the citadel, behind

Their leader Orlando, who, to the eye,

Was fierce of aspect, and to war inclined.

Marfisa marked the Count, and said: ‘The knight,

That rides before them, makes a pretty sight.’

Astolfo said: ‘Be not concerned, for though

Your other fights but were a jest ere this,

And he the stronger and the bolder foe,

He’s no master, I say, and naught’s amiss;

Rinaldo will handle him, but you may go

First to the fray, and do so, if you wish,

And I’ll go third, in case you two both fall;

Fear not, for I’ll be there to save us all.’

Marfisa laughed: ‘I regret, most deeply,

That I’ve not time to battle gainst that boy,

For there’s another promise commands me,

But, by my faith, all my wits I’ll employ

On avoiding death, or capture; swiftly,

I’ll return, and I’ll bring the fellow joy.’

So, they conversed; yet her design proved vain,

For Orlando had descended to the plain.

Book I: Canto XXVI: 21-24: Astolfo is unhorsed

The Count reached the border of the meadow,

And then lowered his long and weighty lance.

Aquilante, on the right, his lead did follow,

While Grifone on the left, made sure advance.

Truffaldino, with a face white as dough,

Rode beside King Hadrian, of upright stance,

And there too Chiarone, free of fear,

Urged his courser onwards, and gripped his spear.

Marfisa now sped swiftly to the fight,

Lance lowered; beside her rode Rinaldo,

Iroldo, and Prasildo, men of might,

With the bold Torindo, and Astolfo

Bearing heavy lances, to left and right.

Their encounter began, with blow on blow,

Harsh and violent; and I will tell you all

Those brave foes wrought, and what did there befall.

Marfisa first charged at Aquilante;

Each seemed a pillar made of solid rock,  

For they both were strong, and seated firmly,

And neither pitched backward at the shock;

With lances shattered, recovering swiftly.

Meanwhile Astolfo, from the starting block,

Had aimed himself and his golden spear

At Truffaldino who, as the knight came near,

Swerved, for every trick there was he knew,

(As Bishop Turpin tells us in his book)

Then approached Astolfo, somewhat askew,

And, from the side, a wicked lance-blow struck,

(While the other could but his course pursue)

And such force it had, less by skill than luck,

That Astolfo’s strength and art was all in vain,

For he landed, heavily, upon the plain.

Book I: Canto XXVI: 25-29: The companies engage, Rinaldo encounters Orlando

Let us leave Astolfo there, on the ground,

For I would follow the fierce battle’s progress,

And relate the whole tale of that renowned

Encounter; bold Prasildo sought success

Gainst Hadrian, while Chiarone found

Iroldo nigh him, whom he did address.

Nor could the eye discern, in that advance,

Which had the best of it; all broke a lance.

Torindo meanwhile engaged Grifone;

He was toppled cleanly from his steed.

While Orlando and the son of Amone,

Bold Rinaldo, met, violently indeed,

Each thinking he had, of a certainty,

Unhorsed the other; but, my lords, give heed;

For, strange but true, the faithful Baiardo,

Recognised his master in Rinaldo.

The Count, if you recall, had gained the horse,

When he took the life of Agricane;

Now, possessed of intelligence, its course

It altered, despite the Count’s wish, clearly

Opposed to any show of martial force,

Against Rinaldo, swerving suddenly,

So that Orlando’s aim went all awry,

While Rinaldo’s lance bruised hip and thigh,

And well-nigh sent him flying through the air.

Not one who saw Orlando then could gauge

The height of his vast fury; the lightning-flare,

Striking earth, the ocean-storm in mighty rage

Howling loudest, the earthquake’s roar, compare

But faintly to the ire, the wild rampage,

The Count indulged in; the boundless anger,

That possessed the man; such that, thereafter,

He was blind with fury, and yet his eyes

Blazed brightly, and glowed with living flame;

He ground his teeth so hard, in fierce surprise,

That the sound sped far and wide of that same,

It seemed he breathed out fire, and furnace-wise  

Great blasts of heat forth from his nostrils came.

Need I describe his dread appearance further?

He drove his spurs deep into his courser.

Book I: Canto XXVI: 30-34: Rinaldo admonishes him

As Orlando did so, he yanked the rein,

Thinking to set Baiardo’s course once more,

But the horse showed reluctance, balked again,

And stopped, as if to graze the grassy floor.

Rinaldo, viewing this with some disdain,

Cried to the Count: ‘Noble cousin, be sure,

That all injustice and ill deeds displease

The Lord above, who, ever, our error sees.

Where is that pure and honourable mind,

That noble spirit, you possessed in France;

Defender of the right and true, assigned

To be fraud’s enemy, and good advance?

My dear Count, I fear you’ve sadly declined

In chivalry, and turned your sword and lance

To sinful deeds; a meretricious witch

Has seized your heart, and hurled it in the ditch.

Would you have it known, at the emperor’s court,

That you defended a vile and wretched traitor?

Twere better an honourable death you sought,

Than live dishonoured, in shame, hereafter.

Quit Truffaldino (for the man’s worth naught),

And the false delights of this Angelica;  

For in truth, and I’ll ne’er tell you a lie,

Which is the more shameful, I know not, I.’

Orlando answered: ‘Here’s the altar thief

Who has turned to a preacher in the night!

The flock can sleep secure, and feel no grief,

For the wolf is kindly keeping them in sight!

You counsel me, tis your fond belief,

I should forgo Angelica outright,

For no good reason. Look to your own sin,

Ere upon the faults of others you begin.

I come not to bandy words with you,

Tis not my forte, and discomforts me.

Do me the very worst that you can do,

For the day will not end before you see

Much suffering; pain and woe here ensue

For those who speak so discourteously,

And in such terms, of my thrice-lovely maid,

As you have done; all such shall be repaid.’

Book I: Canto XXVI: 35-41: Then pursues Truffaldino, despite being attacked

Twas thus, they spoke, each man astride his steed,

For Orlando was afraid to dismount,

Lest bold Baiardo departed at speed,

Seeming set on abandoning the Count.

As they conversed, for both men seemed agreed

That common courtesy was paramount,

Rinaldo had a chance to look around,

And Truffaldino’s steed, and person, found.

The king had knocked Astolfo from his seat,

Though the latter had risen, sword in hand,

And parried every blow, his footwork fleet.

Rinaldo sped to where he’d made his stand,

Observed by Truffaldino, that complete

Child of sin, whose soul bore the Devil’s brand;

He fled the Lord of Montalbano’s sight

As a pigeon flees the hawk’s stooping flight.

Truffaldino, as he did so, called for aid:

‘Help me, now, my band of brave cavaliers!’

For he held them to the promise they’d made,

And was, surely, not misled by his fears,

For the prince was on his heels, and displayed

A pretty turn of speed, while his brave peers,

Now his foes, abandoned each their own fight,

To halt that hot pursuit, and foil the knight.

The only man who did not was Orlando,

Quite unable, as I mentioned before,

To control Rinaldo’s steed, Baiardo.

But Grifone, master of the art of war,

Reached the king in time, although Rinaldo

When the knight’s swift intervention he saw,

Turned at once, and struck Grifone a blow

That stunned him, and nearly laid him low.

Then once more he chased after Truffaldino,

Who ne’er ceased from his flight o’er the plain,

Though the prince was borne by Rabicano,

Thus, the traitor’s desperate course proved in vain.

The king was set to meet his mortal foe,

When King Hadrian intervened again,

Though Lord Rinaldo struck him with such force,

He sent Hadrian flying from his horse.

Meanwhile Truffaldino, the vile, had sped

A good half a mile beyond Rinaldo,

Yet, as if he were possessed of wings instead

Of hooves, the faster mount was Rabicano.

Rinaldo reached the traitor, as he fled,

As Aquilante, from the side, did show,

And fought fiercely with him till Rinaldo,

Struck his helm, to leave for dead his foe.

For he’d stunned Aquilante, and the knight

Fell backwards on the crupper of his steed.

The prince had Truffaldino yet in sight,

When Chiarone, he of martial breed,

Took up the duel, to whom the prince, outright,

Delivered a swift blow, so fierce indeed,

It unhorsed him; then chased Truffaldino,

More swiftly than ever sped an arrow.

Book I: Canto XXVI: 42-45: Orlando battles Marfisa; Brandimarte appears with Brigliador

While Rinaldo hunted Truffaldino,

Orlando duelled the brave Marfisa,

Now able to command his mount, Baiardo,

In the absence of its former master.

Both fought effectively, and with no

Apparent advantage, there, to either,

Though Count Orlando was cautious indeed,

As he now placed little trust in the steed.

He shifted ground slowly, fighting wisely,

With every martial skill that he possessed,

Saving his strength; and, full of energy,

Then turned aside, and feigned to call for rest.

As he did so, he spied Brandimarte,

And Orlando’s heart leapt in his breast,

Overjoyed to see the warrior once more,

And that he led behind him Brigliador.

He sped o’er the field to meet the knight;

Each, of his misadventures, told the tale,

Then Brandimarte sought to leave the fight

Since he needed fresh weapons, plate, and mail;

He’d return to the citadel, outright,

And lead Baiardo to safety, without fail.

Meanwhile the Count fit, as he was, for war,

Changing steed, had mounted Brigliador.

Anglante’s lord, feigning rest no longer,

Galloped back to seek the warrior-maid,

His threats and menaces far stronger,

For, now, a mortal challenge he conveyed,

As they drove their chargers at each other,

To kill or conquer, all their ire displayed.

I’ll tell you, shortly, how the duel was fought;

But meanwhile Truffaldino had been caught.

Book I: Canto XXVI: 46-50: The death of Truffaldino

Rinaldo overtook him, near the keep.

He chose not to kill him, then and there,

But bound him, as he lay there in a heap,

Held as tightly as a creature in a snare.

And that he might the battlefield now sweep,

Tied the traitor, head down and legs in air,

To Baiardo, shouting, as he rode around,

‘Where now is his champion to be found?’

Bold Grifone had revived, while Hadrian

And Chiarone, new-mounted, on hearing

That bold challenge, their chase of him began,

As, across the wide plain, he went racing;

But he rode so quickly, dragging the man,

That, while they were swift in pursuing,

Rabicano was still faster, as though

Unhampered by the half-dead Truffaldino.

And, as he passed, Rinaldo cried aloud:

‘Where are you now, all you brave champions,

For whom a single warrior, nay a crowd,

Was scarcely enough for your fine weapons,

But rather the world entire you avowed

To conquer? Here’s your king, you minions!

Will you see him die here, or defend him?

Come, you courtiers, then, and attend him!’

So, the prince challenged them, as he rode,

Dragging poor Truffaldino o’er the field;

He, to every stone, a wound now owed;

His shattered frame a smear of blood did yield,

As Rinaldo galloped on, and never slowed;

While blood-stained fragments that swift course revealed,

Where Truffaldino’s flesh, all cut and torn,

Now adorned every hostile rock and thorn.

The evil king perished in that manner,

And in truth, well-merited a death so vile,

For, as our tale has told, he was ever

False and treacherous, a wretch to revile.

Let’s turn to Orlando and Marfisa,

Whose vicious clash, with naked blades, meanwhile,

Was so savage, as if wrought to appal,  

The Earth and heavens seemed about to fall.

Book I: Canto XXVI: 51-56: Orlando quits Marfisa to chase after Rinaldo

The battle seemed uncommonly bitter,

So fierce to tell of it might stretch belief;

How the queen hacked at Orlando’s armour,

Pressing him, and offering scant relief.

The Count made greater efforts; however

He still failed to pierce her defence, in brief,

Though with such mighty blows the Count did greet

Marfisa, she was oft forced to retreat.

Minute by minute, the duel grew fiercer,

Immeasurable the force of every blow.

Yet, behold, Rinaldo drove his charger

Close to the fight, as if he wished to show

What he dragged behind him, the remainder

Of Truffaldino’s corpse, that part below

(Borne above!) the traitor’s waist, while the rest

Remained behind: the head, and arms, and chest.

Rinaldo sped past them, in full flight,

Calling loudly, so he was clearly heard:

‘Come defend your noble monarch, sir knight,

For here’s a king, whose virtues, in a word,

Equal yours; nor is he one fit to fight!

Where’s the valiant heart you claimed was stirred

By war, whene’er your banner you unfurled?

Where that boast, of conquering all the world?’

The Count could not but hear the high disdain

In that voice accusing him of cowardice,

He therefore turned to Marfisa, to explain

That the Lord Rinaldo had his promise:

(Her name he’d not managed to obtain)

‘Brave knight, I feel obliged to defer this.

Once I’ve slain him, God willing, I’ll return,

Yet our fight, for a while, we must adjourn.’

Marfisa answered: ‘Sir, you much deceive

Yourself, if you think to slay him quickly.

He’s worth no less than you, I believe,

Since I’ve fought you both; assuredly,

Tis like paying the bill ere you receive

The sum, from the host, it seems to me.

If you can survive the fight, till day’s end,

Then you’ll have earned the right to boast, my friend!

But, go! And I’ll wait here to discover

Which of you two proves the better knight;

Though if your friends should arrive to cover

For your absence, I still intend to fight.

I’ll set myself to chase them all, moreover,

Back to the fortress; yet, do what is right,

And I’ll not prevent your doing so,

Nor follow, by my faith; thus, you may go.’

Book I: Canto XXVI: 57-64: He and Rinaldo quarrel over Baiardo

Orlando barely heard, for he had sped

After Rinaldo, as he galloped by.

‘All your threats are but wasted if you’ve fled;

Show your face not your back!’ sang forth his cry.

‘If you’d strike fear, turn your horse’s head,

Not spout some boastful speech, as you fly.

Now, you are bold! Your mount indeed is fast,

But not so swift the steed cannot be passed.’,

Hearing his call, Rinaldo, in anger,

Turned about, and replied: ‘I want no fight

With you, cousin, though it seems, as ever,

That, believing yourself in the right,

You seek to fight with me; you’ll discover

When my cause is just, my fellow knight,

With none on earth would I, a duel, forego;

But, by God’s truth, I’d not see you, my foe.’

‘No, of that I’m quite sure,’ cried Orlando,

Since I’m no merchant you can rob, you thief;

Some passing stranger you can steal from; so,

Let us not bandy ill words, but be brief.

Whatever valour you possess, now show.

You lack the means, such is my belief.

And I tell you, and in this I speak no lie,

That you must either conquer me, or die.’

Rinaldo answered him: ‘Nay, I’ll not fight!

You are blood kin, and I’ll not duel with you.

Why do you find offence in me, sir knight?

For I’ve done naught for which revenge is due.

Could it be that you feel shame, at the sight

Of Truffaldino’s corpse, that you now view,

Because I slew the traitor? Trouble not,

I’ll confirm you were distant from the spot.’

Orlando now replied: ‘You base spirit,

You give away the secret of your birth.

You’re no son of Amone, far from it;

Treacherous Ginamo, for what it’s worth,

He of Maganza, he lay behind it,

Though you trumpet your lineage, o’er the earth,

Such is your arrogance. Now you must fight,

You cry for mercy, and forego what’s right.’

At this, Rinaldo lost patience, and cast

A fierce look in his cousin’s direction.

‘You deem yourself so great, your pride’s so vast,

You think all dread to meet you in action.

But give me back Baiardo, at long last;

The courser is mine, and that’s no fiction,

Or you’ll discover that I frighten not,

For I think you, my friend, not worth a jot.

Nor do I care how you obtained the steed.

Return the creature, settle your account.

For you failed to manage him, and, indeed,

Sent him from the field; yours a lesser mount.

I’ll win him back, however great the deed

Required; though stone and steel, in vast amount,

Keep him from me, I’ll reach him; ah, come near,

Since you hear not, though I speak loud and clear.’

‘We’ll test the proof of that, and shortly.’

Said the Count, with a little smile, but then

His face showing naught but hostility,

His lips tight-pressed, his eyes blazed again…

Though I’ll complete the tale, as you’ll see,

I must desert you, briefly, gentlemen,

And forgo, for now, sight of that duel,

Than which no other was e’er as cruel.

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

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