Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato

Book II: Canto XII: Disguise and Deceit

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

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Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato: Book II, Canto XII

Book II: Canto XII: 1-5: Of Love and War

Star of Love, you that governs the third sphere,

You Venus, and red Mars, the fifth splendour,

That orbits in but two years, bright and clear,

Constraining the world to warlike labour,

Shed both virtue and grace upon us here;

Inspire my song, enhance, adorn it, ever.

Let your influence add worth, as before,

And strength, to my fair tale of love and war.

Tis both love and war exercise the young,

Enemies to peace, while courting sorrow,

Suiting those noble knights, by either stung,

That welcome toil, and grave perils follow.

They grant the spirit vigour, and so are sung

By brave poets, though, unlike long ago,

These days, I’d say, tis better just to speak

Of arms and armour than such things to seek,

For, since the noble art of chivalry

Has been debased, tis but a common thing,

While Love’s works go unpraised; they are merely

Viewed as the fruits of vain imagining,

Composed not of delight, but hollow only,

Aroused by a glance, and a fair seeming:

‘For as he knows that’s ever been in love,

Fair women do but seldom constant prove.’

Ah! Lovely ladies look not with disdain,

On one who but reports what others say.

You war neath diverse banners, I maintain;

One maid loyal, while another will betray.

And I, by she who has my heart in train,

Beg mercy of the rest, and peace this day.

Aught that the verse above brought to your ear,

Was meant for those false maids of yesteryear,

Such as Orrigille, the deceiver,

Who, through the love she bore for Grifone,

(Her fierce longing much like to a fever),

Sought an audience with Monodante.

She told him, the moment he’d receive her,

Of what the Count had told her privately,

Of how he’d free the knights, and all the plan,

Feigning, the while, to be some other man.

Book II: Canto XII: 6-9: King Monodante captures Orlando and Brandimarte

When the king found his guest was Orlando,

Twas a greater pleasure than he’d e’er known.

His delight banished every thought of woe,

For the seeds of his son’s release were sown.

Yet he mused on the Count’s strength also,

His skill, the courage he was said to own.

For the monarch was troubled, and foresaw,

That a more than awkward task lay in store.

He turned Grifone over to the maid,

As he had promised her, but the former

Resistance and unwillingness displayed,

Till the king agreed to free his brother,

Aquilante. That concession was made,

On the understanding they’d depart, forever,

From that realm, and no longer linger there.

Twas agreed; and on their way they did fare.

The trio left at night, in the darkness;

I shall speak of their journey in due course.

While the king, wary of the known prowess

Of the Count, pondered o’er the use of force.

Doubtful of the chances of swift success,

He obtained a drug, from an arcane source,

That rendered all who drank it as if dead;

With dulled senses, to deep slumber they were led.

The knights, suspecting nothing, drank their fill

Of doctored wine, when at dinner that night,

And were later seized, once robbed of their will,

Being dragged from their beds, without a fight.

The drug, I mentioned, rendered them so still,

They could be borne, silently, out of sight,

And imprisoned, long ere the light of dawn,

Not waking, indeed, till the early morn.

Book II: Canto XII: 10-14: Orlando converts Brandimarte to Christianity

Bound tightly, and then carried there, unseen

They were lodged in the castle’s depths below,

And on waking the Count realised he’d been

Betrayed by Orrigille; she, his foe.

‘O King of the Heavens, O Virgin Queen,

He prayed, ‘desert me not, your mercy show!’

And he called on all the saints he adored,

All the heavenly host that served the Lord.

He recalled statues he had seen, in France,

And Rome, and other realms; paintings too.

In fear and reverence, he sought to advance

A fitting vow, with respect to each he knew:

He’d fast, or he’d execute some penance.

He knew the Scriptures by heart, could review

Every psalm and prayer, and recited many

Which were overheard by Brandimarte.  

Now Brandimarte, born a Saracen,

Was ignorant, his mind almost untaught,

For he’d been raised among fighting men,

And twas arms and horsemanship he’d sought.

On hearing Count Orlando, once again,

In prayer, who’d been nurtured at the court,

Calling loudly to God, and every saint,

He asked to know the substance of his plaint.

So, the Count, though lost in rapt devotion,

Broke off to save that lost soul, and quoted

The Old Testament; then, with emotion,

Explained why the Gospels were promoted,

And how Jesus Christ had set in motion

Acceptance of the New, which denoted

God’s altered creed, until Brandimarte,

Converted to the Faith, grasped it wholly.

Though he could not be baptised in that place,

He received a firm grounding in the lore,

And after musing, with a thoughtful face

Addressed the Count, his voice firm and sure:

‘You sought to save my soul, and brought me grace,

I, in turn, would save your life; therefore,

Though I may risk my own, come, hear me now,

For I’ll explain the where, and when, and how.

Book II: Canto XII: 15-19: Brandimarte suggests they exchange identities

You know, as well as I, we’re prisoned here

Because of who you are; you terrify

The Saracens, and ever will appear,

Christianity’s strong shield. What, if I,

Were to assume your name, while you adhere

To mine, since we’re unknown to the eye

Of the guards about us; and, feigning so,

I shall be held; and you, perchance, let go!

I will insist that I am Count Orlando,

While you must claim to be Brandimarte.

Hold strictly to my name, your own forego,

Or the plan will be exposed, instantly.

If you’re released, recall me here below,

And search, then, for some way to set me free;

Or if I must die, in this darksome place,

Pray for my soul, you soldier of true grace.’

Well-nigh weeping, that brave companion

Ended his speech in the manner I’ve told.

The Count, graciously, gave his opinion,

Saying: ‘The Lord wills not, that things unfold

So; while Christians welcome their dominion

Heaven’s King’s and the Virgin’s and, of old,

We live in hope. Of mercy, He will free,

Us both; I’ll go, if you can leave with me.

Yet if they release you, I’ll stay, gladly,

As long as you promise not to betray,

Through prayer, threat, fear of your enemy,

Or aught else, the faith you embrace this day.

Our life is dust, that in the wind doth flee,

Nor should be deemed of such great worth, I say,

That to lengthen that life we should aspire;  

Such condemns the soul to eternal fire.’

Brandimarte replied: ‘Brave paladin,

Full many a time have I heard it said

That those who serve will oft commit the sin

Of asking more than they deserve; instead,

I but seek, by God’s passion, thus to win

Your consent to His plan to which I’m led,

And if you will not, you’ll give me reason

To embrace, once more, my old religion.’

Book II: Canto XII: 20-25: Feigning to be Orlando, he is led to the king

The Count, not wishing to say yea or nay,

Made no reply; twas then that, suddenly,

Soldiers, armed with halberds, made their way

Into their cell; the corporal spoke sharply:

‘Whichever is the Count must come away

With us; so, exchange your farewells swiftly.  

We’re commanded to rouse him, and bring,

That bold Christian champion to the king.’

Brandimarte answered him, instantly,

Ere Orlando could speak, who only sighed,

And was obliged to look on, silently,

And, as the men drew nearer, move aside.

That he might not resist, Brandimarte,

Was kept in chains, his free movement denied,

And in that manner, the corporal leading,

Was taken up, and brought before the king.

Monodante was a civil soul by nature,

And addressed ‘Orlando’ with courtesy:

‘Strange circumstances, and misadventure,

Force me to treat you less than generously.

Though you’re a Christian, and must feature

In any list, of mine, as an enemy,

I know of your true virtue, and your worth,

And grieve to harm a man of noble birth.

But affection overcomes my chivalry;

Pure compassion for my own flesh and bone,

My youngest son; such that I must, sadly,

Demand you take his troubles for your own.

To be brief, ill chance and cruel destiny,

Have robbed me of my sons; I’m left alone.

A mere eighteen years the one doth enjoy;

Beneath her lake, Morgana holds the boy.

The Treasure Fay is she, this Morgana,

And because, it seems, you disdained one day

To hunt her stag (of pure gold each antler),

Yet destroyed her creatures, to her dismay,

Those dark enchantments (you will remember

All you wrought; that tale I need not relay)

She has searched for signs of you, everywhere,

Likewise demands you be sent to her, there.  

I must exchange you for my son, that he

May be released from vile imprisonment.

And tis why I’ve had you seized, privily,

That I may see the Fay once more content.

Knowing she may do you harm, it grieves me;

I blush, you see, from sheer embarrassment,

For I would treat you more honourably,

Yet know no other means to set him free.’

Book II: Canto XII: 26-30: Orlando is released to free the king’s son Ziliante

The monarch’s head hung down in bitter shame,

His speech well-nigh reduced the man to tears.

The knight replied: ‘My words would be the same

Were I a thousand miles from here; your fears,

I would allay, serve you, and swell your fame.

Though I am your prisoner, it appears,

You may command me as you wish, for I

Would wish to win your praise; on that rely.

Yet, I beg you, by the mercy shown on high,

That if, as I believe, there is a way

To achieve your son’s rescue, by and by,

Without sending me there, that you delay.

But hear me, and my plea you’ll scarce deny.

Set free my friend; and from this very day,

Allow him one full month to save your son.

I’ll remain, as pledge for my companion.

And, as long as that knight, in chains yet bound,

Is freed at once, if, in the time I say,

Your son is not returned here, safe and sound,

Why then, upon the gallows let me sway.

For the knight has, before, an entrance found

To that place where one’s prisoned by the Fay.

And, upon my faith, I swear that he will go,

Enter boldly, and return, and ease your woe.’

So, brave Brandimarte spoke, and offered

Assurances I’ll not expand on here.

He was eloquent, and ever proffered

Cogent arguments, his mind swift and clear.

At last, the king was convinced, he said,

Though the month demanded would seem a year

Ere he could embrace his dear son once more;

Nonetheless, he agreed, and so he swore.

Bold Brandimarte, upon bended knee,

Thanked the king profusely, then was led

Away, while Count Orlando was set free.

Who can recount the loving words there said,

The fond farewells exchanged, most tenderly,

Twixt those friends? Yet, the time was swiftly sped.

And the Count obliged to go; both were grieved,

And wept, as may be readily conceived.

Book II: Canto XII: 31-36: The captive Astolfo hears of the quest

Count Orlando recalled the terms expressed,

He must return in one month, as agreed;

So, to board ship, and sail upon his quest,

He repaired to the harbour, with all speed.

In a week or so, at the Count’s behest,

He was landed, with all that he might need,

On a shore he knew, then travelled the strand

Until he reached the Fey’s enchanted land.

What he did there, I’ll relate in due course,

If you’ll kindly lend an ear to my tale;

But now to Monodante’s court, perforce,

I return, where upon a lavish scale

The king feasted. All his folk had recourse

To dance and song, preparing soon to hail

His son’s return, pledging, perfumes, silver,

Cows and sheep, and aught that they could offer.

The absent youth’s name was Ziliante;

(I made mention of the fact a while ago).

Anticipating they would see him shortly,

They rejoiced; while the town was all aglow,

For, on every tower, torches shone brightly,

For their pleasure and delight, while below

Loud the drums, and horns, and trumpets sounded;

Earth seemed ablaze; the heavens confounded.

Astolfo, Otho of England’s bold son,

Was held, with many another, as you’ve heard,

Within the castle, in a deep dungeon,

Though even there the prisoners had word

From the guards, of the outer commotion,

And asked them of its cause as they conferred.

One replied: ‘In a month you’ll all be freed,

If all comes to pass as the king’s agreed.

I’ll tell the tale, in its entirety

So, you’ll not have to ask the like again.

His need to hold knights in captivity,

By your exchange his son’s release to gain,

Will then no longer prove necessary.

The knight, Orlando, is here, I should explain,

Whom the king can now barter for his son.

He’s as fair as a lily is that one,

And so named Ziliante; yet, it seems,

A Saracen, in the knight’s company,

Has been freed by Monodante, who dreams

He’ll return, as sworn, with Ziliante,

In a month. I suspect the villain schemes

To do no such thing; yet tis naught to me,

And the king can exchange this Orlando

If the quest fails, and see his son freed so.’

Book II: Canto XII: 37-41: He asks to see Orlando

Astolfo’s gaze was troubled, and his heart

More so when he heard of Orlando’s plight.

He pleaded with the guard: ‘Use all your art,

My brother, that I may see this brave knight.

Bear a message to the king, take my part,

Say I seek, of his courtesy, as is right,

To speak with this Orlando, if I can.

He’s a peer, and well-nigh my countryman!’

Most men took a liking to Astolfo,

I need not tell you all the reasons why.

So, off, with his message, went the fellow,

And twas relayed to the king, by and by.

Now Brandimarte had a chamber below

The King’s apartments, and there he did lie.

Though unarmed, he was guarded night and day,  

All the month his companion was away.

To this chamber went King Monodante,

And asked, courteously, about Astolfo,

The which greatly troubled Brandimarte,

Who answered not, and yet no fear did show

Though he realised he was ruined utterly,

If Astolfo acknowledged him, and so

Revealed his true identity; thereby,

He would be exposed, and condemned to die.

At last, so as not to rouse suspicion,

He said: ‘I recollect one called Astolfo;

I think I saw a knave whose condition

Was most ill, and I think they named him so

In France, of a foolish disposition,

At least, at court, all sane men thought him so,

Deeming him quite mad, a lord of misrule,

Thus, they entitled him the English Fool.

He was large and blonde, noble in seeming,

Pale of face and dark-eyed, a comely knight,

At first glance, but then his wits were lacking,

And whene’er a waning moon lit the night,

He would run through the halls, raging, cursing,

Knowing not a single courtier on sight,

Nor to pleasure or ease could he aspire,

While all fled him, like the plague, or a fire.’

Book II: Canto XII: 42-58: Brandimarte’s deceit is exposed

‘Tis the man,’ replied King Monodante,

‘I would listen to his madman’s chatter.’

And, so saying, he sent a servant swiftly

To find Astolfo, and bring him thither,

Who did so, taunting that knight, mockingly,

Saying the king ever loved a jester,

And so Astolfo, one learned in that school,

Would, no doubt, be lauded there, as a fool.

That he was such, he said, one Orlando

A fellow Christian, had told the king.

Astolfo angered instantly, swift to follow

The servant, joined the royal gathering,

And though the courtiers, standing in a row,

Stared in horror, he advanced, shouting:

‘Where’s that coward Orlando, where is he?

Where’s that rascal, that dares slander me?

Where hides that vain and fearful creature?

I’ll pay a thousand ounces of pure gold

For a club to mar his every feature;

He’s a whoreson, and a liar, ever bold,

False by practice, and e’er false by nature!’

The king and Brandimarte heard him scold,

And swear, and revile Count Orlando,

As he loudly cursed his now-absent foe.

Brandimarte felt relief; thus, the king

He counselled: ‘Let the fellow well alone,

For the man himself is quite annoying

Enough, then, he’s a fool, as all men own.

His wits are gone, the moon must be waning,

Strong reason for such madness, as is known.

I’ve seen him thus, before; I know the signs;

Pity those who are duped by his designs.’

Monodante replied: ‘See that he’s bound,

And tightly so, ere he attends the court.

From lunacy I’d remain safe and sound.’

By then, Astolfo their chamber had sought.

As he climbed the stairs, then leapt around,

The courtiers demanded he be caught,

And from the room their angry voices cried:

‘The king commands this fool be roped and tied!’

When Astolfo found himself thus constrained,

Like a madman, he reigned in his anger,

And, though against his bonds he yet strained,

He calmed his tongue, and called out no longer.

He was brought before the king who maintained

A calm and quiet demeanour as ever:

‘You are cruel in your language, I must say,

You Englishmen; Brava’s not far away,

From your country, and he’s the Count thereof.’

But Astolfo glanced about everywhere,

Saying: ‘Where is he then, who would prove

That I’m a fool, when his scant estate there,

Scarce earns a third of mine; I’d not approve

Him as a groom for my horse; and beware,

He slanders me for sport, he’ll e’er behave

So, to one who deems him less than a slave.

Where are you, you bastard? Show your face,

You cross-eyed villain; come, I’ll punish you.’

The king cried out: ‘Poor wretch, but give him space,

Let him breathe, he is but a fool, tis true,

For here’s Orlando, that our court doth grace,

And yet he fails to know him.’ Then, anew,

Astolfo searched the room, but saw him not:

‘Were he here, I’d unmask him on the spot;

Yet, of these, I know but Brandimarte;

There’s not a sign of Count Orlando.’

Monodante, amazed, cried: ‘Lord, help me,

Is not this man the Count, your seeming foe?

Surely you are mad!’ Speaking boldly,

Brandimarte, though dismayed, naught did show,

And, concealing his fears, said to the king:

‘Why, tis how he is; the moon is waning.

Did I not say he seems as one insane?

If you recall, his wits are oft astray

When that orb’s light is dim; you see it plain,

For we view him by the broad light of day.’

Now Astolfo began to heave and strain:

‘You, heathen dog! Vile wretch, I’ll make you pay!

I’ll kick you so hard I’ll leave my mark

On your innards. Come dog, let’s hear you bark!’

The king replied: ‘Now, hold the madman tight,

For his malady grows worse, his mind’s a maze!’

Astolfo’s wrath increased, so raged the knight

That twas expressed in various odd ways,

He threatened to pull down the roof outright,

And then to set all Pagandom ablaze,

He’d burn, he cried, five hundred miles of land

And raze the villages on every hand.

The king commanded he be taken down;

Whereupon Astolfo, as a last resort,

Though he’d been named a madman and a clown,

Displayed a firm grasp of rational thought.

He spoke quietly and, addressing the crown,

Begged that they not dismiss him, out of court,

For he could show that, cruelly deceived,

Twas a phantom in which the king believed;

And, if the king but sent word to the gaol,

And had the corporal bring Rinaldo there,

Or even young Dudon then, without fail,

He would learn the truth; all would be laid bare.

He wished to stay and listen, as if on bail,

And, if he lied, the monarch need not spare

The whip, but have him flayed for doing so:

There, stood Brandimarte, not Orlando!

The king, fearful he’d been duped, now gazed

At Brandimarte, who seemed much distraught,

Provoking strong suspicion, his eyes glazed,

Standing there, anxiously, and lost in thought.

Now cornered, though, at first, he seemed but dazed,

He revived, and confessed, to all the court,

How he’d devised his plan to save the Count,

Whose liberty he’d viewed as paramount.

Monodante rent his royal cloak in grief,

And tore great lumps of hair from his beard,

For he loved his son; now, twas his belief

That he would ne’er return; his death he feared.

In the town and palace, there was scant relief

From cries and weeping; on the streets appeared

Many that of their senses seemed deprived,

Shouting: ‘Quarter him, that this plot contrived!’   

Brandimarte was arrested and, chained

From head to foot, was shut in the tower,

Confined in the condemned cell, while none deigned

To call the prisoner living, from that hour.

And if the Lord’s mercy were not gained

In time, and he be freed by God’s power,

Brandimarte would die. Now, Astolfo

Regretted he had brought about such woe,

And would have sought to aid him, willingly,

Performing all he could in word and deed,

Yet his help was too late for Brandimarte,

His idle tongue had injured him, indeed.

For he’d condemned that noble knight, by simply

Opening his mouth, when there was little need.

Here I’ll quit their tale, and seek Orlando,

That, from the heights, could see the lake below.

Book II: Canto XII: 59-62: The lady and the dragon

Morgana’s lake, I mean; there lay the river

And the bridge, which the noble Orlando

Now viewed with satisfaction, moreover,

Since twas free of the vile Aridano.

He saw a maiden, on drawing nearer,

Her face a portrait of grief and sorrow,

For she mourned a dead dragon that lay there,

As if her love was lost; in deep despair.

Orlando wondered at so strange a sight,

And halted to observe the grieving maid,

Her cheeks like roses in a snowy light.

Now hear a thing most strange: the maiden laid

The dragon in her arms, and climbed outright

Into a little skiff, that rocked and swayed,

Then drifted, with the flow of the river,

And sank to the depths, at the lake’s centre.

Who could wonder that Orlando now sought,

To witness the end of this adventure,

For, at once, another maid that moment brought,

Riding a palfrey, a most gentle creature,

O’er the meadow. She, while pausing for naught,

Called out: ‘Orlando, fearless warrior,

The Lord of Paradise, to whom I prayed,

Has sent you here, to render me your aid.’  

She who had just appeared, the fair lady

Riding the palfrey, I mentioned above,

Had but one lone servant for company.

I’ll tell her story, in full, if you approve,

Though not quite yet; for of the other she,

I would speak, that embraced her dragon-love,

And sank into the lake. I’ll halt here though,

For I’ve reached the end of this fair canto.

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

Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato: Book II, Canto XII - End