Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato

Book II: Canto XI: Brandimarte to the Rescue

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

This work may be freely reproduced, stored and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose.
Conditions and Exceptions apply.


Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato: Book II, Canto XI

Book II: Canto XI: 1-5: Marfisa pursues the thief Brunello

You, gentle folk, that here are gathered round,

Solely to listen to my flowing verse,

God, grant you joy; may good-fortune abound

Where’er you are, and may He reimburse

Your kindness with His grace; I now shall sound

My voice once more, for better or for worse,

And begin where I left the fair Marfisa

Chasing Brunello, who aimed to tease her.

She was hunting the wicked thief, I mean,

Whom Agramante sent to take the ring

From Angelica. Ere he’d quit the scene,

Having done so, the robber thought to cling

To more than he’d been asked; stole, unseen,

The brave steed of the Circassian king,

(How and when, you know) and, from her hand,

Marfisa’s sword; the latter deed unplanned.

The warrior-maid was wondrously proud,

As we’ve witnessed several times before,

And she’d chased him o’er the ploughed, and unploughed,

Fields and meadows, that fine weapon to restore,

Though in vain, as yet, cursing him aloud,

Her heart full of indignation and, more,

Her head full of his scorn and mockery,

Till she burned to punish such effrontery.

He fled her, and was seemingly afraid,

Keeping out in front, not too far away,

But, now and then, a sudden turn he made,

And sped behind, the better to display,

When he passed again, as if on parade,

(Listen well!) his naked rear, to broad day,

Having hoicked his jerkin o’er his head,

To show her just how much he went in dread

Of all her threats. The Count watched in delight

Having recognised the proud Marfisa

Before Brandimarte; he, and that knight,

Now laughed at the antics of the robber.

The angry queen, though baffled by his flight,

Was still out to catch the thief, however,

And make him pay for all that he done,

While he fled, swift as a dart, neath the sun.

Book II: Canto XI: 6-10: He steals Orlando’s sword and war-horn

As the thief sped away, he turned his head,

Wiggled his eyebrows, and stuck out his tongue,

In mockery; passed the Count as he fled;

And noted the latter’s sword where it hung

At his side, that thing of wonder and dread

Wrought by Falerina, which he had swung

To such effect. Twas forged in Orgagna,

In that garden; none could match its temper.

Of rarest beauty, twas adorned with gold,

And pearls and diamonds, thus a robber

Could scarcely pass it by, not one so bold

As Brunello, who, without a flicker

Of hesitation, now had it in his hold,

Mocking his victim, as he did ever:

For, riding on, he shouted out in scorn:

‘Stay, sir knight; and I’ll be back for your horn!’

Now, since his war-horn was, thus, under threat,

Orlando failed to miss the stolen blade.

The horn was ivory (lest I forget),

From a tusk Almonte gained, it was made.

At Aspromonte he lost it, where he met

Orlando, beside the spring in the glade,

Who, there, had won the steed Brigliador,

And the sword Durindana, he once bore.

The Count held that war-horn very dear,

So, he grasped the thing, tightly, in his hand,

And yet that proved but a poor defence here,

Against the African, you understand,

He a thief beyond compare; tis unclear

How the war-horn he, shortly, did command,

But, I swear, tis no falsehood I recount,

He stole it, blew it, and fled from the Count.

And though Marfisa, irate, still gave chase,

He escaped with both the blade and the horn,

Leaving Count Orlando red in the face,

Wondering at how deftly he’d been shorn

Of them both. The thief departed apace.

As the Count stood there seeming quite forlorn,

Brandimarte at his side; lost to sight,

The queen hunted the rogue, now in full flight.

Book II: Canto XI: 11-14: Orlando and Brandimarte meet Orrigille

Since they were on foot and could not follow,

Cursing their bad luck, they journeyed on,

Both clad in full armour, to their sorrow,

Plodding slowly, and somewhat woebegone.

O’er the plain they went, o’er hill and hollow,

Till they came to a river, whereupon,

They spied a damsel, riding a courser,

Through a pretty meadow o’er the water.

Where folk disembarked by the shore,

The maid dismounted, to argue fiercely

With another maid, midst the flood, they saw,

Who sailed the ferry; of vile treachery

She accused the other, and scorn did pour

Upon that maid, denouncing her loudly:

‘False deceiver’ she cried, ‘Why then did you

Bear me to this prison; an act you’ll rue!’

Other words passed between them, harsh and clear,

As the maidens abused one another,

And, while they argued, Orlando drew near

To the shore on his side, across the water.

The horse was Brigliador, it did appear;

And so, it was; seized, if you remember,

By that false maid, for Orrigille was she,

Who’d acquired the mount through treachery.

She’d been hung from a pine-bough overhead,

Twisting in the wind, and pinned by her hair,

Yet was saved by our paladin, instead

Of perishing; she stole the Count’s steed there,

And, not long after, from Orgagna sped,

And its enchanted garden; for his care,

Repaying him, by stealing the courser,

Yet again, and his sword, Durindana.

Book II: Canto XI: 15-18: The Count forgives her for betraying him

Now, Orlando had found the maid once more,

Quarrelling, as I’ve said, with the other.

Know, fair lords, the river, mentioned before,

Was the same that Rinaldo had sailed over

To reach that bridge, close to the sea-shore,

With his three brave companions, thereafter

To be lured to Balisardo’s ship, and caught,

Then prisoned aboard, when it sailed from port.

When the Count espied the maid, o’er the stream,

On his horse, Brigliador, love again

Smote Orlando, who, as if in a dream,

Forgot the sly deceit she’d used to gain

Both the courser and his sword, twould seem.

He loved her even more, I’d maintain,

And called to the maid aboard the ferry

To bear him o’er the river, full swiftly.

Orrigille was convinced she would die,

When she saw Count Orlando on his way,

Turned a shade of pale, and cast down her eye,

Embarrassed, for she knew not what to say.

No bridge or ford was there, o’er which to fly;

Yet her fear was unfounded, for betray

The Count a thousand times he’d still love her.

Twas a love beyond belief. O’er the river,

Came the Count, and proved that it was so;

Speaking to her in the kindest manner,

While she wept, or pretended to deep woe,

As cunning maids are prone to do, ever.

She then sought forgiveness from Orlando,

While twisting stems and violets together,

Like one used to twisting words; she looked pale,

And found every excuse for her betrayal.

Book II: Canto XI: 19-22: He sets off for the bridge, as had Rinaldo

Twas while they were making conversation,

In the meadow, with the river running by,

That they heard a horn, and a commotion,

From the castle on the hill that stood nigh.

Then they saw the drawbridge set in motion,

And the castellan descended, by and by,

An old man, mounted, without a weapon,

But with many a well-armed companion.

Reaching them, he addressed Count Orlando,

Greeting the paladin with courtesy.

Then as was his way, let the warrior know,

Of the custom there, the deed of chivalry

He must attempt against Balisardo,

Or perish there; in its entirety,

He told the tale of the false enchanter,

He’d relayed to Rinaldo, earlier.

Without prolonging the conversation,

The Count then expressed his intent,

He’d go at once, if, for the duration,

The keeper housed his steed; and, once content,

Had the maid set the ferry in motion,

And down the flowing stream the vessel went,

With himself, the wary Brandimarte,

The ferry-maid, and fair Orrigille.

They soon reached the point where the flow

Passed beneath the bridge to join the sea.

Balisardo gazed down on those below,

And tall as the towers upon it, was he.

A fierce fight was at hand, for this foe

Would be aided, in due course, infernally,

While Orlando was so valiant and strong,

That none could oppose his blade for long.

Book II: Canto XI: 23-30: He fights Balisardo who takes on demon form

You will, my noble lords, recall to mind,

How the bridge linked the twin keeps together.

The Count disembarked where the bank inclined,

And, mounting the slope, sought out the other;

Yet none, guarding the entrance, could he find,

The gates stood wide; naught did he discover

To thwart him; he passed through, to seek his foe,

While, upon the bridge, there stood Balisardo.

Though Brandimarte had sought to fight first,

Orlando had refused him his consent.

He challenged the giant to do his worst,

And drew Durindana (given his intent,

Orrigille had returned it, uncoerced)

Upon his foe’s annihilation bent.

And so, a vicious duel now began

Upon that bridge neath which the river ran.

If you had witnessed the destruction

Wrought upon ringing helms and armour,

With the giant’s enormous club in action,

And Orlando wielding Durindana,

And seen good steel-plate, of sound construction,

And solid links of mail, break and shatter,

You’d say that no heart could be so brave,

As, chancing all, such fierce conflict to crave.

Their helmet crests were severed, in a trice,

Their breastplates fell, in pieces, to the floor,

Their shields were quartered, by many a slice

Of the blade, or falling club; I’ll say no more

Of the power of their blows; the Count had twice

The desire and will, and strength in store,

Of the other, who soon was breathing hard;

His foe’s lack of speed gained the Count a yard.

Balisardo was wounded here and there,

While a cut across the ribs pained him so

The enchanter to his spells made repair,

And so changed his shape as to thwart his foe.

His armour gaped, while thick smoke filled the air,

As the cracks emitted fire and steam, the glow,

And the vapour, enveloping Orlando,

As the bridge shook, and everything below.

Balisardo now took on a demon’s shape,

With a serpent’s scaly skin covered o’er.

Fresh flames from odd places did escape,

While, above each ear, a sharp horn he bore.

His limbs were changed, wide his jaws did gape.

Though limbs, and mouth, were where they were before,

His face was such as might have yet dismayed

The bravest man, and rendered him afraid.

The mage had great batlike wings, which hung loose,  

Hands with hooked talons, fit to pierce strong mail,

Legs like a bird, the feet webbed like a goose,  

And sported a baboon’s long, curving tail.

He’d a trident in his hands, for warlike use,

With which he sought Orlando to impale,

Gnashing his teeth, and breathing gouts of fire,

While his screams and cries rose ever higher.  

Orlando merely crossed himself, and smiled:

‘I’d conceived the devil as much uglier

And far fiercer; you’d scarce frighten a child.

Back to Hell with you, and join the other

Damned souls, amidst the fires below exiled;

Bake in the eternal flames; however,

If you’d fight, let’s see what tricks you know,

As a demon, or as Balisardo.’

Book II: Canto XI: 31-35: The enchanter gains his ship and Orlando is captured

Then the two commenced to struggle anew,

Neither one nor the other retreating.

The Count swung Durindana, and sliced through

Balisardo’s trident; he, realising

That his magic art twas vain to pursue,

Turned, and headed for the shore, while beating

Those wings upon his back, as if to soar,

And sought to reach the harbour as before.

Orlando followed, staying close behind,

Using every ounce of strength, he possessed;

While the mage raced ahead, for in his mind

His life was lost if he should fail the test.

He raised his tail high, as he fled, to blind

The Count, blowing foul smoke and the rest,

Breathing hard, in fear, while, as if in drouth,

Ten inches of tongue hung from his mouth.

Brandimarte pursued them, to be there

For the end of the duel, as Balisardo

Sped swiftly to the harbour, through the air,

While chased, on the ground, by brave Orlando.

That vessel wrought for prisoners to share,

Was moored close by the quay, and his vile foe

Leapt to the deck as Orlando drew near,

And scarcely paused to breathe so great his fear.

Over the hidden snare, the wizard leapt,

Shrewdly prepared for just such a flight;

While Orlando into that trap had stepped

Before he knew; it tripped and caught the knight.

Once fallen to the deck, for he’d been swept

From his feet, the crew perceiving his ill plight,

Ran to pin him down, led by the master,

Crying: ‘Struggle not, you’re our prisoner!’

He twisted, and turned, and writhed about,

Ashamed to be caught by such as these,

Lice-ridden, naked, half-starved, whom to rout

Should have been a task performed with ease.

Yet what Fortune willed, pertained, no doubt,

And, his face beetroot red, by degrees

He was subdued and, grasped by brawny arms,

Borne away, without use of magic charms.

Book II: Canto XI: 36-43: Brandimarte slays Balisardo and frees Orlando

When Brandimarte reached the harbour wall,

Racing after them, as I said before,

He heard Orlando’s voice (loud was his call),

And sped to the rescue, leaping from shore

To the slippery deck, careful not to fall,

And so terrified the captors with his roar,

The men abandoned the Count, one and all,

And, granting Brandimarte victory,

Fled to the stern, or leapt into the sea.

And, indeed, they were right to feel afraid

For, in Bishop Turpin’s book, I have read

That Brandimarte, wielding his sharp blade,

Halved one man at the waist, then, from his head

Downwards, sliced another, and so put paid

To their antics. Watching on, filled with dread,

Trembling and sore dismayed, men leapt for shore.

Then Balisardo appeared on deck, once more.

The giant emerged from beneath the poop,

In his proper shape, with a scurvy gang,

At his back and beside him; a sad troop,

Their weapons rusted, barefoot, fit to hang,

Some crippled; the crew now sought to re-group,  

With the fearful still feeling many a pang

Of dread; yet those sailors knew how to wield,

Their cross-bows, fire sharp darts, and use a shield.

They were braver with Balisardo there,

Shouting, as one, till the cry was louder

Than any yet; but, rising to the affair,

Brandimarte raised his bright blade higher

Counting them as but straw; without a care

It seemed, he faced them all together,

And backhand, forehand, whipped to and fro,

His sharp sword, till blood stained the sea below.

So, Brandimarte fought, with bravery,

Piercing a head, a paunch, and when he saw

Balisardo, like an armoured tower (for he

Stood a foot above the rest, or even more,

And thus, was not only quite plain to see

But, just as impossible to ignore)

Brandimarte hastened to the encounter,

And aimed a fierce blow at the enchanter.

He aimed at his waist but tis not easy

To predict where a sword-blow may fall.

He chopped of the mage’s legs; suddenly

The villain dropped, and o’er the deck did sprawl,

Such that the vessel rocked, alarmingly,

While his severed limbs, gone beyond recall,

Tumbled to the water, his arts in vain,

As Brandimarte stabbed him, once and again.

He called to his demons, Libicocco,

Aliel, and the fierce Calcabrina,

But Brandimarte beheaded his foe,

And hurled the head to the blood-stained water.

Now a deathly game began, to and fro,

Ran the crew, forsaken by their master.

They leapt into the sea, or down the hold,

Or climbed to the masthead; none seemed bold.  

All the wretched folk, abandoned there,

Were scattered or slain, as I’ve portrayed.

None were visible, for the deck was bare

Except the Count, on whom the chains yet weighed.

Balisardo was dead, none left to spare,

Brandimarte coolly sheathing his blade,

When the captain, who had hidden out of sight,

Revealed himself, and knelt before the knight.

Book II: Canto XI: 44-52: King Monodante’s misfortune

The wretched man cried endlessly for mercy,

And, of pity, was pardoned, as was right,

And then Brandimarte hastened, swiftly,

To Orlando enchained, and freed the knight.

Next, they both spoke to the captain, quietly.

He summoned forth all those who’d hid from sight;

They brooded not o’er what was done and gone;

The dead were dead, and no man dwelt thereon.

Once all were reconciled, the captain said:

‘My lords, I know you must be wondering,

About this wondrous vessel, and the dead

Enchanter, he whom you were chasing,

That changed himself, by magic, ere he sped

On board the ship; he’s done with conjuring,

That vile wretch (his name was Balisardo),

Transformed forever, and despatched below.

That you may clearly understand the tale,

I’ll speak plainly, if you’ll attend to me.

King Monodante, old, yet strong and hale,

Holds court at Damogir far o’er the sea.

His treasury’s built on a mighty scale,

For his wealth no mind can grasp readily,

Yet great riches ne’er make a man content,

Good-Fortune is but for a moment lent.

Because of his two sons, possessed of woe

Is that monarch, for the first, in infancy,

Was kidnapped, by a slave, one Bardino;

A deceitful rogue, schooled in treachery.

I’ve seen the man, a vile, pockmarked fellow,

Red of face, his nose broken, while his ugly

Mouth shows but few teeth. He took the child,

And returned him not. A Faery beguiled

The younger son, destined to encounter

Strange misfortune, as, indeed, you shall hear.

For he’s that Faery’s mortal prisoner.

She’s named Morgana, and the youth is dear

To that enchantress, who loves him ever,

For his peerless angelic looks; the fear

That some other might love him, has led her

To keep him far from rescue, forever.

And yet she has promised Monodante

That she will release him, safe and sound,

If he’ll render her that flower of chivalry,

Orlando the Christian, tightly bound;

For works of hers, wrought by necromancy,

Roused by a horn the warrior had found,

Were destroyed, when Orlando broke the spell,

Though the story would take too long to tell.

Therefore, she’d capture him at any cost;

And so, the Faery will, if I am right,

Yet since, ne’er a fair battle, has he lost,

Twill not be easy to secure the knight.

Balisardo, once boasted he’d accost

That warrior and conquer him outright,

Telling Monodante he would beguile

Him through his magic, and bear him to the isle.

Until now he’d had scant success, although

He’d caught a host of brave knights, so many,

I cannot name them all; there’s one, Astolfo,

That tripped the snare, another’s Grifone,

Then there’s a recent captive, Rinaldo,

And Grifone’s brother, Aquilante.

Rinaldo was caught, now I think upon

The matter, with another, called Dudon.

Many a noble knight languishes there,

Whose titles I recall not; though, below,

There’s a register I keep, you may share,

That lists them all, where every name doth show.

A poplar the November winds strip bare,

Loses not so many leaves, when they blow,

As the brave men that Balisardo caught

And, in this ship, to Monodante brought.’

Book II: Canto XI: 53-58: Orlando sets out to deceive the monarch

The captain outlined their situation,

While Orlando’s heart filled with pain and anger,

For the noble knights he thought to mention,

Were of Christendom the very flower.

The Count loved them all, without exception,

And grieved that they’d been taken prisoner,

And so determined he would set them free,

Or sacrifice his life, beyond the sea.

When the captain fell silent, for he

Owned to little more they desired to know,

Orlando conversed with Brandimarte.

He swiftly shared his plan with him, and so,

Displaying a pleasant face, he, shortly,

Asked the captain, whom they’d pardoned, to show

His gratitude and, that they might offer

The king a service, convey them thither.

Thus, with a fair wind, they sailed that day,

Touching, at last, upon the Distant Isle,

Disembarking, to the palace made their way,

And had audience with the king, awhile.

His great hall was adorned with a display

Of gold and silver figures, in strange style,

Showing all on land, and in sea, and sky,

In carved relief, or enamelled on high.

They made their offer to Monodante,

Relating how they’d slain Balisardo,

In self-defence, then sailed to his country;

Swearing they could capture this ‘Orlando’.

And thus, the monarch welcomed them gladly,

And lodged them nigh the palace, midst a row

Of mansions, fine to dwell in, and to see,

In rooms adorned with every luxury.

That deceitful maiden, Orrigille,

Orlando kept ever in his sight;

For, as you’ve heard me relate, the lady

Was false but fair, and thus dear to the knight.

He’d revealed all his plans on the journey,

(How he would trick the king, and then take flight,

Having freed the captives) for tis Love’s art

To extract, and share, the secrets of the heart.

Now, the maid still adored her Grifone,

(As you’ll recall; I wrote of it above)

And she longed to see him, twas her only

Thought, day and night she mused upon her love,

Knowing he was captive there…but, surely,

This canto’s length you’ll, one and all, reprove.

Rest awhile, and wait while you recover,

Ere I choose to grace you with another.

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