Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato
Book II: Canto IV: Falerina's Garden
Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2022, All Rights Reserved.
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- Book II: Canto IV: 1-3: Boiardo on the power of Love
- Book II: Canto IV: 4-9: The lady gives Orlando a book which describes the garden
- Book II: Canto IV: 10-13: Orrigille steals Brigliador and his sword Durindana
- Book II: Canto IV: 14-19: Orlando reaches the eastern gate and slays the dragon
- Book II: Canto IV: 20-25: He follows a stream, to reach the palace
- Book II: Canto IV: 26-30: And captures a maid dressed in white (Falerina)
- Book II: Canto IV: 31-39: He encounters and slays a Siren
- Book II: Canto IV: 40-45: And then the wild bull at the south door
- Book II: Canto IV: 46-47: He consults the book and heads west
- Book II: Canto IV: 48-55: He encounter and slays a Harpy
- Book II: Canto IV: 56-61: And then the wild ass, guarding the western door
- Book II: Canto IV: 62-65: The northern gate is guarded by a giant
- Book II: Canto IV: 66-67: He reaches a dale with a fount, and tables set for a feast
- Book II: Canto IV: 68-70: He encounters and kills a Lamia
- Book II: Canto IV: 71-74: He slays the giant, then faces another two
- Book II: Canto IV: 75-81: He overcomes, but stops short of killing, them
- Book II: Canto IV: 82-86: Binds them with chain, and exits the garden
Book II: Canto IV: 1-3: Boiardo on the power of Love
Light of my eyes, heart of my own heart,
For whom I first learned to sing, so sweetly,
My poems of love, wrought with subtle art,
To this tale I render now, inspire me.
You alone, brought honour, set me apart,
From others when I sang of you, purely;
For Love grants voice and intellect to those,
That tell of you, your virtues to disclose.
Love, it was, first invented rhyme and verse,
Sound, and song, and every melody.
To distant strangers Love doth yet rehearse
Its tunes; unites them in sweet company.
Delight, and pleasure, lost, all would prove worse
If Love held not the throne, and mastery;
Vicious hatred, war’s cruel banners unfurled,
If Love were not, would rule all the world.
Love banishes all wrath and avarice,
Urging the heart to valiant enterprise;
So, Orlando wrought more wondrously in this
Brave season, when Love made him wise-unwise.
If you recall, I left him, following that kiss,
And the fair lady’s arrival; likewise,
I remember, and will speak of that affair,
For the pleasure of those with time to spare.
Book II: Canto IV: 4-9: The lady gives Orlando a book which describes the garden
The lady, who’d dismounted, now addressed
The Count, saying: ‘I’d grant you aid, sir knight,
In the garden, by my faith, were it my quest,
But, tis as a messenger I alight,
And cannot linger, spite of your request,
While I have far to go, ere it be night.
Yet listen to my words, if such you crave;
For you must seek to be both wise and brave.
If you’d not fall prey to that vile dragon,
And be consumed as other folk have been,
Ensure you’re chaste for three days, whereupon,
You may attempt the venture, for, I ween,
You’ll not survive otherwise; this dragon,
As the first test, at the first gate, is seen;
And I shall give you a book that shows all
The garden within that encircling wall,
And that creature that slays many a knight,
And the nature of the other marvels there,
And the fair palace, which the queen, last night,
Entered, a strange enchantment to prepare;
For the witch seeks to forge, while hid from sight,
Through incantation, and the pressed juice of rare
Herbs and roots, a sword, whose gleaming blade
Will conquer all that magic charms now aid.
The enchantress may toil to such an end
Only beneath a slender waning moon;
And the purpose for which she doth intend
This weapon, that she tempers late and soon,
I’ll explain; there’s a knight who can contend
With any foe and, charmed, he is immune
To assault; and such strength he doth employ
That she foresees her garden he’ll destroy.
In Europe dwells that knight, and, as I say,
His enchanted flesh defies every harm;
He’s fought and killed full many on a day.
And so, the vile enchantress works a charm
To forge a blade that such a one might slay,
For his very existence doth alarm
This dark lady, and she still prophesies
That her garden he’ll raze, before her eyes.
Yet, while I speak, precious time slips away
And I’ve not said what you most need to know.
None can enter but at the break of day,
As the sun is rising; now, I must go,
The task is done, I can no more delay,
Though I regret that I must leave you so.
Take the book now, and read the text with care.
God grant you aid, and all good-fortune, there.’
Book II: Canto IV: 10-13: Orrigille steals Brigliador and his sword Durindana
She placed the book then in Orlando’s hand
Mounted her steed, and bade the Count farewell.
He thanked the messenger, a while did stand
And watched as she rode away, for a spell.
Then, recalling her very last command,
He thought to rest, till the sun should dispel
The shadows, and to his task he might go,
Recalling he must be chaste ere he did so.
Love and desire now caused him pain;
Orrigille, whose life he’d saved, was there.
Yet the Count was determined to refrain,
Though he longed for the maid, and she was fair.
A crescent moon, the starry heights did gain;
He lay down in the field, his mind elsewhere,
Clad in armour, his shield beneath his head,
The maid at his side, on that grassy bed.
Orlando was asleep, and snoring loudly,
Free of his cares for now, while the maid,
Deciding she should follow her Grifone,
Being full of malice, that ill trait displayed;
For, prepared to slay the Count, and silently
Pondering it in her mind, quite unafraid,
She drew closer to his side, to afford
Access to his belt, then purloined his sword.
Since Orlando was still clad in armour,
She was, though, all uncertain what to do,
Having second thoughts about his murder,
Unsure if she’d the strength to pierce him through.
So, she sought for Brigliador, at pasture,
And mounted the steed, ere the day was new;
Then, to distance them both from his owner,
Rode forth, noiselessly, with Durindana.
Book II: Canto IV: 14-19: Orlando reaches the eastern gate and slays the dragon
Orlando woke, close to dawn, that morning
To discover he’d neither sword nor steed.
Think of his wretchedness on realising
His loss; he felt he’d die of shame indeed.
Yet he was still intent on entering
Orgagna’s garden, so departed, at speed,
For though he’d lost his horse, and his sharp blade,
The daring knight felt strong, and unafraid.
The Count, forging ahead, courageously,
Set out towards the garden; on the road,
He broke a stout branch from a tall elm-tree,
Then, grasping it like a cudgel, on he strode;
Soon, the morning sun was rising brightly
As he approached the dragon’s fell abode.
His eager pace slowed almost to a crawl,
As he gazed about him, at the gleaming wall.
It formed a barrier, of polished stone,
Curving around, in an unbroken ring;
And soaring upwards (the height of it unknown,
But half a mile at least), encircling
The garden, and pierced by one gate alone,
Towards the East; there, a dragon, beating
Its wings, lashed its tail, and hissed, so loud,
The ill noise seemed the whole world to enshroud,
Orlando approached, with no sign of fear,
His club gripped tight, his shield on his arm.
The dragon at the gate watched him draw near,
And stood its guard, ready to do him harm.
Its jaws were open wide to tear, and shear,
And, then, devour him, at the least alarm.
The Count, used to such duels, soon lashed out
With his club, and struck the beast on the snout.
The serpent-dragon was enraged by the blow,
And charged at the Count, in maddened fury,
While, with his green elm bough, Orlando,
Countered the wild attack, striking fiercely.
And then, he climbed its back, to its great woe,
Gripped tight, and rode it to and fro, cruelly
Pounding with both hands, like a storm of hail
On its head, as he sought thus to prevail.
He cracked its skull; from the shattered pate
The brains poured forth; the savage beast fell dead.
Behind him, the wall, once pierced by the gate,
Had sealed itself; now none that way could tread.
He scarce knew what to do, hemmed in by fate,
Yet he turned, to seek some clear path ahead.
He gazed around, unsure which way to go,
Having, at least, rid himself of his fierce foe.
Book II: Canto IV: 20-25: He follows a stream, to reach the palace
On Orlando’s right, he espied a fount,
That sprinkled sparkling drops all around;
On top a stone statue, on a mount,
Spilled clear water from its breast to the ground,
And there, written on its forehead, the Count
Read: ‘This pleasant stream leads, it will be found,
To the palace.’ To cool his hands and face,
He approached and bathed them, charmed by the place.
The fountain stood amidst the green verdure,
And on each side were little groves of trees,
While from it splashed a sweet stream of water,
So pure and clear the sight could not but please.
It ran on, amidst the flowers, thereafter,
On a course the Count could follow with ease,
Twas described on the scroll that he had read;
So, he chose to follow where its babbling led.
Thus, the palace was the goal he pursued,
For some noble adventure there he sought,
Striding along the bank, in joyful mood,
While gazing at the scene, afraid of naught.
It was the month of May, and all he viewed
Was blossoming and flowering, and, in short,
There floated through the air a fragrant scent,
Enough to make the saddest heart content.
Sweet meadows and pleasant hills he saw,
With verdant groves of splendid pine and fir,
That tuneful birds within their branches bore,
Singing brightly, midst the trees’ soft murmur.
While antlered stags strayed o’er the woodland floor,
And conies scampered in and out its cover;
And there, too, passed many a hare in flight,
All rendering that garden scene a delight.
Orlando journeyed on, beside the stream,
And, having travelled far through that fair zone,
Where a hill-slope met the shore, it would seem,
He saw a palace, carved of polished stone.
At first, he knew it by a sudden gleam
From its walls, for it stood not there alone,
But ringed with trees, and then as he drew near
Midst the grove he could see it, shining clear.
Not only walls of marble met his eye,
The which he had glimpsed amidst the trees;
Bright enamels, gold-leaf, he did espy,
Set in the surface, and designed to please,
Adorning the stone glowing there on high.
The entrance gate was finer than all these;
Some thirty feet tall, and fifteen feet wide,
With emeralds and rubies there allied.
Book II: Canto IV: 26-30: And captures a maid dressed in white (Falerina)
The drawbridge lay open, and thus the knight
Could pass within, which he did, being bold,
And there he saw a maiden, dressed in white,
And wearing a diadem wrought of gold.
She bore a sword which gleamed in the light,
And mirrored there she could herself behold.
As soon as she perceived the Count draw near
She took to flight, as if possessed by fear.
She fled the palace courtyard for the plain,
With the Count, in pursuit, in full armour,
Two hundred paces, and they met again,
When he swiftly grasped the sword to disarm her.
Twas the weapon forged that he might be slain,
Designed, treacherously, for his own murder,
Thus, the blade had been cast to do him harm,
Its virtue to dispel each hostile charm.
Orlando grasped the maiden by her hair,
Which the breeze, o’er her shoulders, had spread,
And he threatened her with death and despair,
With fierce torments to fill the heart with dread,
Unless she showed him a way forth to fare,
Yet, though he grasped her tight by the head,
And she shook with terror, she’d not relent,
Refused to answer, and denied consent.
Despite his menaces, and her own fear,
She refused Count Orlando a reply,
Nor would she deign to grant one, that was clear.
He tried to coax her now, and gave a sigh,
Yet she grew more obstinate, twould appear.
Though he thought to persuade her, by and by,
His attempts at sweeter speech gained no more
Than his threats; she was silent, as before.
Orlando was distressed, at heart, saying:
‘There’s naught left for me to do but use force;
Yours is the hurt, mine the shame; this thing
I can’t evade, there is no other course.’
Then, he led her to a beech-tree, tying
Her tightly to its trunk (he had recourse
To slender twigs, entwined with subtle art)
And then asked to know how he might depart.
Book II: Canto IV: 31-39: He encounters and slays a Siren
When the stubborn maid still offered no reply,
Choosing rather, it would seem, to suffer,
‘False and fraudulent, are you!’ was his cry,
‘In your despite, some means I’ll discover;
For I’ll consult the book that I have nigh,
I believe a clear answer it may offer;
At the least some new thought it may yield.’
Forth from his breast, where it lay concealed,
He drew the tome, describing the garden
Both within and without, and there he read
There was a door to the south, which lay open
If one could conquer a wild-bull; it said
The beast possessed one horn made of iron,
Rooted in the bony crown of its head,
And one wreathed in flame; and the former
Every kind of plate and mail could sunder;
And he’d find that, before the door, there lay
A lake that was most difficult to cross,
Because of something strange sent to delay
A brave knight’s passage o’er the fosse,
Of which I’ll tell you; yet the book did say
How to escape its influence; because
He was obliged to go, he left the maid,
Tied to the tree; departing from the glade,
He made his way over the fragrant grass,
And then a wise precaution he took,
For he stuffed both his ears, as he did pass,
With rose-petals (for so advised the book).
Since wild roses filled the glade, en masse,
He stuffed his helm’s ear-pieces, every nook;
Then strained to hear the birds on every side,
Their song lost, though their beaks were open wide.
However hard he tried to discern the sound,
Naught could he hear for the roses filled
His aural cavities, and all around
Had fallen silent; the world mute and stilled.
Further on a calm and pleasant lake he found
(Though its dark depths many a knight had chilled)
Which welcomed him, its waves full of joy,
That with its banks, along the shore, did toy.
The Count had scarcely reached the margin there,
When the water began to churn, and then,
A Siren rose, revealing to the air
The sweet form of a seductive maiden.
(While beneath was all a fish-like affair,
Invisible, since her loins were hidden
Beneath the surface, while she was so placed
As to disclose the maid, above the waist)
And she began to sing melodiously,
Such that every creature flocked to hear,
Birds and beasts; yet its sweetness, suddenly,
Drowned them in sleep, the instant they drew near.
The Count heard naught at all, but cunningly
Feigned to do so, as a sleeper did appear,
For, as the book had instructed, down he lay,
In the grass by the lake, and snored away.
And loud he sounded, seemingly asleep,
Yet set to deceive that subtle creature;
She came ashore, a sly watch he did keep,
And grasped at her hair, ere she drew closer,
(Or close enough to draw him to the deep).
As he seemed not to hear, she sang louder,
Since twas all she could do, but all in vain,
Rose-petals muted her tuneful refrain.
Gripping her by her tresses, Orlando
Dragged her from the water to the shore,
And cut her head off with a single blow
Of the magic sword (the book did so implore)
And with her blood, the which did overflow,
He stained his armour, behind and before.
O’er his surcoat that liquid he did pour,
Then the petals, from his helm, to the floor.
Book II: Canto IV: 40-45: And then the wild bull at the south door
In this manner, he stained his plate and mail,
Since, otherwise, his fine suit of armour
Must be destroyed, and naught would him avail,
When facing that strange enchanted creature,
That with horns, one flame, one iron, would prevail,
That wild bull so fiery in its nature
That all who faced it must burn like dry wood,
Without this sole defence, the Siren’s blood.
That wild bull has been described before,
The fierce guardian of the southern gate.
Count Orlando at last approached the door,
After wandering the plain, to meet his fate.
The moment he arrived, the brave knight saw
That bronze door of the garden change its state,
It unlocked, swung wide and, black as night,
That savage bull charged forth, into the light.
It emerged, bellowing to the encounter,
Tossing its horns, one of iron, one afire,
That were set to pierce the finest armour,
Steel-plate and mail fast trampled in the mire.
The Count, his bright blade charmed however,
Attacked its brow, and ere it could retire,
Sliced away the horn of iron, at a bound
And sent it flying, cleanly, to the ground.
Still the cruel battle ne’er ceased its course,
For wielding its other horn, that of flame,
The wild bull swung towards him, with such force,
He could barely keep his feet, to his shame.
He’d have been scorched from head to toe, perforce,
Were he not drenched in blood, e’er he came,
For that coating repelled the fiery horn,
Wrought to put the finest armour to scorn.
Orlando fought on courageously,
A warrior unaccustomed to fear.
With a two-handed grip, in his fury,
He swung that gleaming blade, then danced clear;
The sword’s magic power (so tells the story)
Such that its blows cost the dumb creature dear.
The Count struck at the hump, and head, and back,
Till the bull collapsed, ending its attack.
The Count sliced through its legs and neck, and so,
With a last mighty heave, the task was done,
While all the parts of that bull now sank below
The earth, and left the ground bare to the sun.
Yet the wall, that an opening once did show,
Now sealed itself, till all was joined as one;
Both the bull and the door no more were seen;
Nor a trace left to show where they had been.
Book II: Canto IV: 46-47: He consults the book and heads west
The Count was unsure what he should do
Now the door had vanished, so he addressed
The book once more, and then pondered anew,
Knowing he must move towards the west,
And, while he kept the mighty wall in view,
Follow a river to fulfil his quest,
That ran, from the east, to a jewelled gate,
Guarded by a wild-ass, in armour-plate.
Soon I’ll tell you the nature of that beast,
For its form was most marvellous indeed.
(God aid the Count, travelling from the east,
Along that river-bank, as fate decreed!)
Off he went, running quickly, nor decreased
His pace, as in his mind, spurred by need,
He devised a plan, for the book revealed:
Ere he arrived his course a task would yield.
Book II: Canto IV: 48-55: He encounter and slays a Harpy
This he knew; as he ran beside the stream,
He saw a tree, tall beyond all measure,
No beech or pine, except perchance in dream,
E’er possessed such mighty boughs and stature.
Full of leaf to its crown, its trunk did gleam
From afar, and he recognised each feature
As described in the book, so could prepare
For his next task, before arriving there.
Thus, Orlando stopped beside the water,
And from his helmet he detached the crest,
Then tied his shield tight, so as to cover
His brow and eyes (his armour clothed the rest).
He then proceeded to follow the river,
Gazing down at his feet, as he progressed,
And, though moving blindly, he drew near
To the tree, and by memory did steer,
(For he’d marked the thing’s position before,
And so walked directly to its base)
When a mighty bird, from a bough did soar.
A Harpy it was, with a human face,
Like some mortal queen, and a crown it bore.
Its hair was blonde; gold and red he could trace
O’er the neck-feathers, the rest, to his view,
Were coloured, and flecked with every hue.
Its tail was all green, and crimson, and gold,
While bright peacock-eyes showed upon each wing.
Its great talons, designed to clasp and hold,
Like huge grappling hooks, to its prey would cling.
Woe to the warrior who, overbold,
Was grasped by that ill-met, voracious thing!
And the creature left a foul trail behind,
That, if it touched the open eyes, would blind.
That giant bird clattered from the tree,
And flew, in a trice, towards Orlando,
Who was nearing it, painfully slowly,
Shield e’er face, gazing at the ground below.
As he drew close, the Harpy screamed loudly,
Then wheeled about his head, a fearsome foe
That, as he paced blindly, clamoured above,
And like some monstrous eagle nigh did prove.
Often, he wished to gaze at it outright,
But then recalled the book’s admonition,
And, behind his shield, kept the thing from sight,
While the vile monster, from its position
In the sky, poured down poison on the knight,
That struck his helm, and like a foul unction,
Ran down his chest, hissing like burning oil,
Though his eyes were saved by his swift recoil.
Orlando feigned a collapse to the ground,
Then like a blind man groped at the tree,
At which the Harpy swooped, made a bound,
And clasped him in her talons, cruelly,
But Orlando swung his sword blade around,
With a backhanded blow slicing neatly
Through the neck, and severed it, side to side,
Such that (and I’ll be brief) the creature died.
After he’d gazed awhile at that vile pest,
He left it dead in the shade of the tree,
Fixing upon his helm his feathered crest,
And quitting the location joyfully.
Then he sped, along the bank, to the west,
Where the wild ass was stationed, and barely
Had he gone a mile that swift stream beside
When he came to a portal, open wide.
Book II: Canto IV: 56-61: And then the wild ass, guarding the western door
Nowhere was such fine work to be seen
As adorned that door’s bright exterior,
Covered with rich gems, red, blue, and green.
Twas defended not with the sword, however,
But by a wild-ass, its hide one golden sheen,
While its great ears four feet long did measure,
And, like two serpent-tails, could coil and wind,
Seize and squeeze, as e’er it wished, and so bind.
Twas clad with golden plates or scales, I say,
And none could pass that evil creature by.
Its tail cut like a sword, and naught could stay
Its passage; armour, mail could ne’er deny
That blade; and when the beast began to bray,
It shook the land around it, and the sky.
The Count was drawing near to this gate,
When the thing charged. Leaving naught to fate,
Orlando struck its body, viciously.
Its charmed and scaly hide proved no defence;
He flayed its flank, laid it bare, utterly,
For his blade’s power, you recall, was immense,
And negated all enchantments, easily.
With its ears, created solely for offense,
It seized his shield, which it thrashed to and fro,
Dragged from his arm, and stamped upon below.
Consumed now by boundless rage, Orlando
Attacked those ears, and cut them both away,
For they were unprotected, naught did show
Of the golden scales that served, in an affray,
To defend its flesh; it screamed at the foe,
Swung its rump, and set its sharp tail in play,
Which sliced and hewed at the Count’s thick armour;
He, with a charmed hide, it scarce did bother.
The bold Count a mighty blow did deal,
That landed on the right haunch, and cut through,
Pierced the left thigh, most of the flank did steal,
And, thus, the death of the beast it did pursue.
Naught could defend against that charmed steel,
And the enchanted creature screamed anew
As it fell to the ground, a loud howl of fear,
But the Count cared little, it would appear,
For, with a double grip, he swung again,
Despite the wild ass’s tormented cry,
And, with a single stroke, that evil bane
He thus beheaded, or at least well-nigh.
At that the portal shook, and all the plain,
And the earth, opening, rose up to the sky,
Swallowing the beast, with a fearful roar,
Then tumbled back, and all was as before.
Book II: Canto IV: 62-65: The northern gate is guarded by a giant
Orlando now prepared to leave the garden,
And turned his steps towards that ornate door,
But the exit he had seen was now hidden,
For the stone was smooth, the portal no more.
He took up the book, as he’d been bidden,
Of what action to take he was unsure,
Since, despite all his wearying labour,
It had brough his departure no nearer.
Every exit had but disappeared again,
Although he’d risked his life in each venture,
And the text was now at pains to explain
There was little chance, if he went further
And tried the northern gate, that he could gain
Aught so; counsel, there, had naught to offer,
Nor had boldness, intelligence, nor force,
So extreme was the danger of that course.
A giant, immeasurably strong, stood before
That northern portal, with his sword in hand
And, were that one to be slain, then two more,
Born from his blood, stood where he did stand;
Each, if killed, gave rise to another four,
And so on, thus enlarging that vile band,
The number doubling, each time, without end,
Swelling the guards that did the gate defend.
He’d much to do ere he could reach the gate,
The which was fashioned from solid silver,
Needing sense and cunning to negotiate
A course that might defeat its giant porter.
Yet he gave no thought at first to his fate,
But facing it, with customary ardour,
Said to himself (giving his sword a swing),
‘He that endures will conquer everything!’
Book II: Canto IV: 66-67: He reaches a dale with a fount, and tables set for a feast
Musing thus, northwards he took his way,
Atop a slope, and, as the Count drew near,
A flowering dale beneath the hillside lay,
In open view; level it did appear,
And in its centre, where a fount did play,
White tables, set around its waters clear,
Displayed rich golden goblets by each place,
While the finest fare those same boards did grace.
Though he gazed all about, he failed to see,
Either within the vale, or on the hill,
Any person charged with all this luxury,
The tables round the fount, nor set to fill
The cups or eat the food; a mystery
It seemed to the Count and, cautious still,
He first drew out his little book, to read
All it might say, and pondered o’er its screed.
Book II: Canto IV: 68-70: He encounters and kills a Lamia
Scanning the volume’s text, our paladin
Discovered there was danger in the thing.
A host of crimson flowers glowed within
A clump of thorn trees, just beyond the spring,
And a fearsome Lamia hid therein.
Above the waist female in everything,
Its long tresses, its face, neck, and the rest;
Yet a serpent form it otherwise possessed.
This creature held a chain in its hand,
That lay concealed amidst the flowers and grass,
And looped around the fountain; deftly planned,
Such that if, drawn by the feast, one did pass
Within its hidden round, and there did stand,
He’d be caught, and prisoned there alas;
She’d tighten the chain and, by that device,
Drag him to the thorn trees, in a trice.
Orlando all that place now skirted round,
And made his way towards the clump of thorn,
Then approached the Lamia at a bound,
At which she screamed, and slid from her bourne,
Slithering, serpent-like, across the ground,
While the Count, to her destruction now sworn,
Swung his sharp sword and, with a single blow,
Slew the creature, that scant defence did show.
Book II: Canto IV: 71-74: He slays the giant, then faces another two
The Lamia lay dead upon the field,
While the Count continued north to the door;
He saw it from afar, twas not concealed.
A bridge led o’er the stream to the far shore,
Which he crossed; there the giant was revealed,
With helm on head, and shield raised before
His chest, while threatening seemed his gaze.
Clad in full armour, his sword he did raise.
Orlando now approached this mighty foe,
Without a doubt as to his instant success,
For he’d fought many a time, as we know,
And, fearing naught, thought this trial less
Than the others; his opponent though
Stepped forward and upon him did press,
Swinging his sword; the Count avoided harm,
And struck with that blade wrought by subtle charm.
It landed on the giant’s hip and thigh,
Where the plate and mail offered scant defence,
Broke the stomach-plate, and slid on by,
Slicing through the other thigh, and hence
The giant cleft in two, fell from the sky,
With a crashing sound, sudden and immense.
The Count rejoiced, thinking his task was done,
Set to depart through the gate he had won.
The giant was dead, but blood flowed all around,
And, as it trickled from the bridge, it fell
To form a crimson pool upon the ground,
From which a flame arose, and did swell,
To form a giant shape with helmet crowned,
And clad in armour, as if come from Hell.
A cruel face appeared, the flame shook anew,
And after the first, a second giant now grew.
Book II: Canto IV: 75-81: He overcomes, but stops short of killing, them
They seemed indeed the offspring of fierce fire,
For each was swift and furious, with a gaze
That burned; their eyes were full of heat and ire.
Orlando paused, uncertain, in a daze,
Not seeing, now, how he might aspire
To conquer, though the Count survived always,
For should he fell this vile pair to the earth,
To four more, it seemed, their blood must give birth.
Yet, nonetheless, he chose to battle on,
Though a million more such giants might appear,
And turned towards the gate, whereupon,
The giants manned the portal, as he drew near.
Each held a scimitar, whose bright steel shone,
(Both created with such) to slice and shear.
Despite them the Count, seeking to enter,
Broke the door, scattering many a splinter.
Each seemed more threatening than the other,
As they swung to attack the knight in turn.
But Orlando held scant esteem for either,
For the Count’s hide was charmed as they would learn.
He kept his sharp blade sheathed however,
For, now, another means he could discern,
Of gaining the victory; grasped at one,
Neath the hips, and a solid purchase won.
Both the giants were strong, yet the Count more so;
He raised the fellow up, and swung him round,
All his foe’s strength useless gainst Orlando,
And threw his victim face down on the ground.
The other giant, now furious with his foe,
Never ceased to swing away, and to pound
At the Count, striking him on either side,
High and low, though many a blow fell wide.
Orlando, leaving the first giant half-dead,
Gave all his attention to the other,
Gripped him, tightly, and swung him round his head,
Hurling him to the earth, like his brother.
Meanwhile the sleeper had woken, and sped
Into battle, roused by pain and anger;
So, the Count turned again, and defended,
While the second from the ground ascended.
The conflict was long; the way they fought
There was little hope of it ending soon.
Orlando could scarcely pause for thought,
For fear of being bruised again, unhewn,
For though they toiled for hours, the battle fraught,
The Count’s hide was from piercing immune,
And, in turn, he declined to use his sword,
For slaying one would other foes afford,
And he feared lest this pair should multiply.
He beat them to the ground, yet would not slay
Either giant, though his exit they’d deny.
He wished to leave, and longed to find a way,
And now thought of a method he might try.
He feigned retreat, while keeping them at bay,
Then turning, ran swiftly o’er the meadow,
While, to his surprise, they failed to follow.
Book II: Canto IV: 82-86: Binds them with chain, and exits the garden
The giants returned to the bridge once more,
As if they’d lost interest in Orlando,
While he, as he crossed the valley-floor,
Thought twas from pure fear that they did so;
But, in truth, twas the spell that did ensure
(That formed their nature) all they could know
Was that they were there to guard the shore
Of the river, and the bridge, and the door.
This Orlando clearly failed to realise.
He simply left behind his giant foes,
Proceeded to the thorns, and cast his eyes
All about the grass where the fountain rose,
Where the Lamia had sought to disguise
Her snare for any passer-by that chose
To sample her fine feast, the boards still spread,
To tempt the flesh and blood on which she fed.
He recalled that her noose was iron chain,
As I told you earlier. He dragged it free,
And then pulled it at his back, o’er the plain,
To the bridge, and fastened the end tightly.
He forced one giant to the ground again,
And then bound his arms and legs securely,
So, he was leashed to the bridge, like a hound,
And then dealt with the other, safe and sound.
It took a while, though, for giant number two
Fought him, in a most annoying manner;
Yet he won; then, with a like end in view,
Downed and, with the chain, bound that other.
The portal lay open, he staggered through,
(With nary a giant in sight) to recover.
The Count was thus free to depart, at will,
And, if you’ll return, I’ll speak of him still;
For they say the finest song’s tedious,
If it flows on too long, without a pause,
And I’d wish to delight the curious,
But not with a tale that wearies and bores;
So, if you’ll be patient and indulge us,
I’ll wait a while, and savour your applause,
Ere I sing the end of his strange adventure,
And other things of a wondrous nature.
The End of Book II: Canto IV of ‘Orlando Innamorato’