Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato

Book II: Canto VIII: Faery Treasure

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

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Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato: Book II, Canto VIII

Book II: Canto VIII: 1-3: In praise of famous lovers

When the world is verdant and in flower,

The sky at its most pleasant and serene,

Then the nightingale’s song, many an hour,

Fills the shadowy grove, midst the leaves’ green.

That sweet season now grants me the power

To pursue my delightful song, unseen,

And praise the renown and mighty honour

Won by those who are both knight and lover.

Fair ladies and glorious lords, draw near,

That grace this court with your nobility;

Bring your chairs closer, and my story hear,

Of knights of old and their high chivalry,

Whose renown will endure many a year:

You know of Tristan and Iseult, surely,

Of Guinevere and King Ban’s Lancelot,

Yet Count Orlando must not be forgot.

Twas he, that, for Angelica the Fair,

Wrought many a bold and marvellous deed,

Thus, in song he’s well-nigh beyond compare.

I described how he was forced to concede

His ground, in that most treacherous affair

Where we saw fierce Aridano succeed

In grasping him, and plunging in the deep.

Now hear the facts in full, of that vile leap.

Book II: Canto VIII: 4-7: The Count and Aridano, beneath the lake, continue their duel

Falling with a mighty splash from the bank,

Those two vanished in the murky water.

Aridano and the Count swiftly sank,

And were soon a mile down, locked together,

Heading for the lake-bed, dark and dank,

When the shadows cleared, and all seemed purer,

And then to a strange new region they won,

And found a brighter land, another sun.

It was as if a new world had been born,

For they found themselves amidst a meadow,

While overhead, as if lit by the dawn,

Clear water shone; and midst that bright morrow,

All seemed there to enjoy a fairer morn.

Twas enclosed within a marble grotto,

Formed of fine, and brightly gleaming, stone,

Within its walls, green countryside there shown.

At the foot of a slope this grotto lay,

In extent it was three full miles around.

Now I’ll tell of the Count, as best I may:

In the giant’s embrace, he fell to the ground.

Clasped tight together, face to face, were they,

And though he tried to free himself, he found

That he fought, and he struggled, all in vain,

For six times his force his foe could attain.

Neither wrestler could win free from his foe,

As they rolled about, o’er the flowery field.

Aridano sought to strip Orlando

Of his armour, thinking him about to yield,

Being dazed; and, thus, he let the other go;

But Orlando now raised his sword and shield,

Once he’d, foolishly, relaxed his guard,

And struck him a blow; twas both good and hard.

Book II: Canto VIII: 8-13: Orlando slays Aridano

So, the bitter fight now began once more,

All that cruel and most pitiless affair.

The Saracen his mighty club yet bore,

That could lay a forest or a mountain bare,

At a blow, while the Count’s sword would ensure

By its magic, that he must conquer there;

For all that the fierce blade met it would cleave,

Naught could that weapon fail in, I believe.

As soon as he’d escaped the other’s hold,

Orlando swung at him, to lay him low.

The Saracen’s bright helm he cracked, I’m told,

(His face, though, left intact) with one swift blow.

Aridano ground his teeth, his words yet bold:

‘Tis the way you swat flies, and off they go,

Tis the way you fan your nose, no doubt,

But you’ll pay, for I’ll give you such a clout!’

And, so saying, he took a mighty swing,

Although he failed to strike the Count as planned,

Or he’d certainly have sent him flying,

And wounded him, or slain him out of hand.

Now battle raged, their moves astounding,

One strength, the other courage, did command,

As each man sought to gain the victory,

For none e’er fought harder, or more fiercely.  

Though the giant dealt many a fearsome blow,

He failed to harm Orlando in the least.

For to right and left his cudgel did go,

While Orlando, skilled in warfare, ne’er ceased

To strike deftly at him, above, below,

Caught him thrice, and sorely wounded the beast,

In the head, and the belly, and the thigh,

Releasing fierce streams of blood thereby.

And, not to keep you here till dead of night,

The final blow the Count dealt the fellow,

Sliced him in two, at the waist, outright,

And thus, from him, life, with the blood, did flow.

The man was dead. No other was in sight;

The empty slope had merely stone to show,

And the green of sundry bushes and trees.

Orlando gazed around, and felt the breeze.

He was unsure what to do, now he was free

Of that wretch; the white marble all around

Preventing him ascending, certainly,

Though the fairest flowers adorned the ground,

Yet, to the west, a portal gleamed royally,

There, where a smooth sheer cliff was to be found;

Carved by chisels, twas tall, and open wide,

Ne’er its like was seen, nor the realm inside.

Book II: Canto VIII: 14-17: He views a depiction of the Labyrinth

Orlando, gazing round him, as I said,

Saw the open doorway and drew near.

He faced the entrance looming ahead.

Around its arch, a carved frieze did appear,

Beyond the door he deemed a pathway led.

The frieze portrayed a tale, incised and clear,

Yet all adorned with precious gems, and gold,

And pearls, and fine enamels, wrought of old.

It showed a maze; a hundred walls he saw,

That enclosed its centre, all high and strong.

Twas the Labyrinth, with many a subtle door,

To its hundred circuits, to send folk wrong;

Its plan made clear, as if drawn on the floor.

And there were scenes of true knights slain among

Its windings, for none, that its depths did dare,

Found their escape; all doomed to wander there.

To the entrance not one could e’er return,

But there within it they must stray and die,

Or, led by Fortune to the centre, earn,

As cruel and painful, yet swift, a death thereby.

The Minotaur they met, at that last turn,

Half man, half savage bull, with horns on high.

No crueller a monster e’er was born.

It consumed all who wandered there forlorn.

And portrayed, on the one side, was a maid,

Whose heart was enamoured of her lover,

And she had taught him, so the tale conveyed,

How to follow a clue, to re-join her,

Having slain the beast; the Count displayed

Little care for such things then, however,

For he left those scenes behind, entered in,

And then followed the gloomy path within.

Book II: Canto VIII: 18-22: He reaches a bridge to Morgana’s treasure-court

Fearlessly, the Count strode through the grotto,

Without light, the path harsh and perilous,

And had travelled about three miles or so,

When he came upon something marvellous.

Twas a stone, from which issued a strange glow.

Of pure fire it seemed, amidst the cavernous

Space ahead, and shone brighter than the moon,

Or e’en the sun in the sky, at high noon.

It lit a stream in front, athwart the way;

Twenty yards wide it was, or slightly less,

And the light o’er a field of gems did play,

Beyond it, which to tell of, I confess,

Would, truly, take forever and a day.

So many stars the night sky ne’er did bless,

Nor so many flowers the Spring’s fair face,

As did the pearls and precious gems that place.

The stream I spoke of, by some subtle plan,

Was crossed by a bridge, long and narrow;

Indeed, its width was scarcely half a span.

At each end, a tall statue caught the glow,

In the shape of an armoured, iron man;

While a large courtyard lay beyond the flow,

And twas there Morgana stored her treasure.

Now hark to a thing strange beyond measure.

The Count had scarcely placed his foot upon

The narrow bridge when the metal statue,

Fabricated with great art, thereupon,

Raised a mighty cudgel head-high; tis true

That Orlando had his magic falchion,

Fit to parry whate’er might now ensue,  

And yet he needed it not, for the blow,

Struck the bridge, and made it sink in the flow.

The Count watched closely as it disappeared,

And marvelled at it, greatly, in his mind

For gradually the bridge once more appeared,

Rising slowly where it had at first declined.

The Count approached it boldly, since he feared

Naught at all, and yet was chagrined to find,

That the statue struck the bridge ere he crossed,

As ordained, and, again, the thing was lost.

Book II: Canto VIII: 23-28: Then leaps the stream, and enters the courtyard

He marvelled at the stream and bridge once more,

Then mused: ‘Were this same stream full ten miles wide,

I could leap it, and reach the other shore;

By this rivulet, I’ll not be denied!’

And with that he leapt, although, to be sure,

He took a run at it, to gain the other side,  

Knowing he was clad in heavy armour;

Yet, with a bound, flew across the river.

Once on the further bank, where Morgana

Stored her treasure, Orlando now perceived

Statues of a king, and many another,

His council; this her magic had achieved.

He was enthroned, the rest sat together,

And all the forms were of gold he believed,

Yet adorned with jewels glowing brightly,

Many a diamond, emerald, and ruby.  

It seemed all there were honouring the king.

As for a feast, the table there was laid

With various foods of subtle devising,

Worked in enamel, that their form displayed,

While, above the royal head, was hanging

A menacing sword, with glittering blade,

That threatened death to the monarch below;

While an archer, to his left, aimed his bow.

At his side stood his twin; every feature

Was identical, it seemed, twixt the two,

Though a scroll in the hands of the latter

Held an inscription high, for all to view:

‘Power, and status, and the world’s treasure,

Owned in fear, prove worthless to pursue.

For naught can grant us joy, or bring delight,

If it pains the anxious mind, day and night.’

The king looked sad; and twas for that reason.

Seated nobly, yet he gazed, from his throne,

At all he saw, with profound suspicion.

On the table, there rose a precious stone

From a gold lotus-flower, its position

Such that, by the glow it shed, all was known;

For light that diamond to the court supplied,

That stretched five hundred yards, on every side,

With solid flagstones that square court was laid,

Its walls the living rock; in each a door,

That gave ingress and egress, richly made;

Like the portals of a palace, were all four.

Lacking windows, no light within it strayed,

But the diamond lit all the walls and floor,

Shining with such splendour, that the sun,

At noon, could not a better job have done.

Book II: Canto VIII: 29-33: He takes a diamond, for a guiding light

The Count was not tempted by the gem.

He chose to try the nearest door, but found,

That all was dark within, and each of them

Oped in turn, was by a like darkness bound.

Each was dim, gloomy, such the stratagem

Of her that had formed them, and not a sound

Emerged from the space behind those doors;

The Count tried each of them, without a pause.

He stood but for a moment, lost in thought,

Then returned to the diamond, and its light,

For that marvellous brightness he now sought,

And he hastened to seize the gem outright;

But the statue of the archer, his bow taut,

Loosed the arrow; not at the speeding knight,

But at the diamond, which it pierced, when, lo,

Its fire was doused, while all the floor, below,

Quaked and shook, with a noise like thunder.

On all sides, the hollow cavern gave a roar.

Never was there a commotion greater,

As the earth trembled neath the courtyard floor.

Halting, the Count took not a step further,

Though he was quite as unafraid as before.

Behold! The diamond swift regained its light,

And, o’er the walls around it, shone as bright.

Orlando tried to grasp the gem once more,

But as he reached his hand towards it, lo,

The statue, closest the king, its aim sure,

Sent a second golden arrow from its bow.

The cavern shook again, with a vast roar;

That quake rumbled for an hour or so;

But, when it ceased, the light, at full power,

Shone, from the gem atop the lotus-flower.

Now, the Count of Anglante thought again.

Firmly determined to achieve his end,

He grasped his shield, held it high, and when

The archer his swift dart once more did send

Towards the gem, deflected it, and then

Grasped at the diamond, though forced to defend

Himself, from a further well-aimed arrow;

The shield proving mightier than the bow.

Book II: Canto VIII: 34-38: And, by its glow, descends a marble stairway

And then, with Fortune guiding him, each door

He tried again, with the diamond in his hand,

Wisely, examining the walls and floor,

And, with that source of light at his command,

Descended to the left, the path secure,

(Rather than ascending, you understand,

By the other roads). Now there, far below,

Dudon was imprisoned and Rinaldo;

In that place, there shone neither moon nor sun,

Return, from those depths, was fraught with danger.

There Brandimarte was held, with many a one,

Knights and ladies, seventy in number,

While escape, from thence, was open to none,

Nor was granted them hope of it ever,

For a strange and dreadful spell held them all,

And they thought themselves lost, in its thrall.

Yet know that the bold Brandimarte

Was not caught and held by force, like the rest,

But Morgana, with her vile sorcery,

Had wielded power o’er the heart in his breast;

For she had inflamed it, treacherously,

And he’d followed her ever, without rest,

For many a glance, and caress, he did reap,

Till he plunged to that prison in the deep.


The brave Count of Brava, as I have told,

Descended by a left-hand path that led

Down a marble stair, gleaming now, yet cold,

After more than a mile to where outspread

Lay a level plain; though the Count was bold,

Without the gem, in vain would he have sped

Down that steep flight, broken, and winding;

Erred thus a thousand times, and died trying.

When, by means of the light, he attained

That level ground, Orlando thought he saw

A distant fissure in the wall; maintained

His course, and in a hundred yards or more,

Walking the strange path that fate ordained,

He perceived the cavern ended at a door,

An opening, that revealed the light of day,

Granting him exit from that sunless way.

Book II: Canto VIII: 39-45: He reaches a meadow, and finds Morgana sleeping by a fount

On the craggy cornice, o’er that portal,

The letters of these words were carved, on high:

‘Knight or maiden, creature frail and mortal,  

Know you may enter, easily, hereby,

Yet not ascend so fast, should that immortal

Fay, elude you, that from your arms will fly.

She may not rest; she ever flees, you’ll find,

While hair upon her head she lacks, behind.’

This claim was scarce heeded by Orlando,

For the bold adventurer straight entered in,

And then descended further to a meadow,

And gazed at the grass and flowers therein,

Filled with delight, for none that he did know

Had e’er found that green field, and walked within,

Nor seen a place in all the world as fair,

So noble, pleasing, as that pasture there.

The cloudless sky shone there, so serenely

No sapphire could surpass its shade of blue,

And groves of trees clothed the meadow sweetly,

Bearing fruit, and yet buds and flowers too.

A mile or so beyond the door, or nearly,

A towering wall split the whole field in two;

Twas fashioned of stone, transparent, and clear,

Through which a lovely garden did appear.

Orlando left the portal far behind,

And then, as o’er the grass he made his way,

A fount, wondrously adorned, he did find,

Set with gold, gems and pearls, beside which lay,

With her lovely face towards the sky inclined,

The sleeping Morgana, that cunning Fay;

One so beautiful and sweet, twould appear,

That sight of her the saddest heart must cheer.

‘If you fail to seize her, ere she should wake,

O paladin,’ a voice behind him cried,

‘You’ll pay with weariness for your mistake  

Pursuing her, on ill paths, far and wide.

Your dusty feet, your tired mind shall so ache,

Ere a tress you can catch (a host have tried)

Of her hair; a true saint of earthly life

You’ll be thought, in peace to endure such strife.’

These words came but softly to Orlando

As he gazed, intently, at the sleeping Fay,

So, he turned back, and walked, his paces slow,

Listening, silently, as he made his way

Towards the voice; in thirty yards or so,

He reached the lofty wall, as bright as day,

Of solid crystal, transparent and clear;

And, since naught obscured his view, he drew near.

Book II: Canto VIII: 46-50: He speaks with Dudon, Rinaldo, and Brandimarte through the wall

Thus, Orlando found the voice was mortal,

Of the one who had spoken previously,

Prisoned strangely, there, behind the crystal,

For he recognised those features instantly.

It was his brave Dudon, that man of mettle,

And it seemed they were separated merely

By three feet of solid wall, more or less.

Imagine, then, their pain, and their distress.

They spread their hands, in vain, against the glass

Each knight seeking to embrace the other.

To Dudon, Orlando said: ‘Naught can pass;

It seems I cannot reach you, there, my brother!’

Meanwhile Rinaldo faced the same impasse.

He and Brandimarte, approached together,

Not thinking to behold the Count once more.

They joyed on doing so, yet wept full sore.

Then Rinaldo said: ‘His sword is at his side,

There’s armour on his back, he’ll save us all!

By God, his courage will ne’er be denied;

And yet our former quarrel I recall,

And know not if his fury’ (here, he sighed)

‘Is yet extinguished, for it cast a pall

Over our friendship; mine was the error,

Who almost died, battling him in anger.

Never should I have disagreed with one

That is my elder, for so slight a reason.

He deserves my respect; I showed him none.’

Yet Brandimarte told Amone’s son:

‘You are kinsmen, when all is said and done,

Have no fear; for once our freedom’s won,

And the Count has saved us, as God is true,

I shall make peace between the pair of you.’

The two of them were conversing so,

As I’ve sought to display, somewhat sadly,  

When, having been perceived by Orlando,

And both recognised by him, instantly,

Sighing and weeping, in a voice of woe,

Speaking now both plaintively, and gently,

He asked: for how long, and in what manner,

Enchantment had prisoned them together.

Book II: Canto VIII: 51-56: A captive lady instructs Orlando

And when he’d understood their sad mischance,

Which each of them recounted, while weeping,

His heart felt pain, as if pierced as by a lance,

For vain seemed all his great strength and cunning,

To overcome the parlous circumstance

In which they found themselves, and, grieving,

Our Count Orlando was all the more distraught,

For, though seeing them, yet he could do naught.

Before his eyes, he perceived Rinaldo,

And the others, whom he loved equally,

And so, consumed by both anger and woe,

He raised his sword to strike the wall, fiercely;

But the captives all gave a shout: ‘No, no!

Forbear to use your blade; for, instantly,

Were the crystal to be riven, we must fall

Into a deep, dark dungeon, one and all!’

Then a lady, nearby, took up the tale,

A look of deathly anguish on her face,

Still beautiful, e’en though she was so pale,

And she counselled Orlando, for a space:

‘Sir knight, if you would free us all from gaol,

You must seek the gate, to enter this vile place,

That seems wrought of emerald and diamond

For there’s no other way to pass beyond

The wall; tis not by force, or by cunning,

By threats, sweet eloquence, or bravery,

That you can enter that jewelled opening,

If Morgana will not yield you the key.

First, she’ll seek to elude you by fleeing,

Till you think no worse torment could there be

Than to pursue her through the wasteland so,

Led on, there, by false hope, to certain woe.

Yet virtue, in the end, will conquer all;

He that endures shall win, if virtuous.

The only hope, for all those neath her pall,

Of life, is that you’ll prove victorious.

Full many here into this realm did fall,

Through force, all wretched and inglorious.

Only you, prized above all other men,

Come fully armed to the enchantress’ den.

And therefore, Hope gives comfort that you may

Gain high honour yet, in this vile affair,

And ope the sad portal, this very day,

That keeps us prisoned in her evil lair.

Delay no more, for, perchance, the Fay

Knows not of your presence. Seek her there,

Fair knight; upon the fountain cast your eye,

And, perchance, you’ll yet find Morgana nigh.’

Book II: Canto VIII: 57-63: He pursues Morgana the Fay

The Count, who greatly desired to enter,

Ran to the fount, and found Morgana there,

Who danced all about and, dancing ever,

Sang most sweetly. Less lightly, in the air,

Twirls a wind-blown leaf, ceasing never,

Than did she, seemingly without a care,

Gazing now upon the Sun, now on the Earth,

And these the words to which her song gave birth:

‘Whoever in this world seeks for treasure,

For honour, or for rank, or for delight,

May, to win good-fortune in full measure,

The golden tresses, o’er my brow, grip tight.

Bliss shall be theirs, for I’ll grant them pleasure;

Yet let them not delay, by day or night;

Time passes, nor returns, nor comes again;

And I shall twirl about, and leave but pain.’

So did the beautiful enchantress sing,

As she watched Orlando race to the fount,

Dancing ever about that cool, fresh spring,

And then, she turned her back upon the Count.

Abandoning the meadow, and fleeing,

She ran straight toward the slopes of that mount

Above her little vale, and sped away;

Chased by the Count, fled Morgana the Fay.

Orlando, thus, pursued her o’er the ground,

Determined to seize her, if he could,

Keeping on the witch’s heels, till he found

He’d reached a wasteland, the path less than good;

(To be truthful, none was worse) all around

Lay stony tracts; beneath a sky like blood,

He passed now high, now low, along the hill,

That tangled briars with vicious thorns did fill.

Orlando was scarce troubled by his course,

For hard labour but nourishes the bold.

The sky grew dark, the wind now blew with force,

Deep shadows hid the path; twas icy cold.

Rain and harsh hail fell, from some evil source,

Beating down, the hills and dales to enfold.

The sun had vanished now, naught there gave light

Except when lightning split the seeming night,

Bolts and forks of flame, with peals of thunder,

Rain, and cloud, a tempest, filled the sky,

As, now and then, the heavens broke asunder

And lit the slopes, and all the ground nearby.

The endless storm increased, e’en out from under

The shaken earth the snakes, disturbed thereby,

Foxes and conies, from their holes did sail,

All drenched now, and defenceless gainst the gale.

We’ll leave Orlando there to drown or freeze;

Yet be not troubled by his evil fate,

All you that listen, seated at your ease;

Flee from what’s ill, ere breath and life abate.

He’ll find the path again, and Fortune seize,

For valiant knights will conquer soon or late.

Let those who can escape the foul weather.

Fair folk, may the Lord preserve you ever!

The End of Book II: Canto VIII of ‘Orlando Innamorato’