Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato

Book II: Canto XIII: In the Realms of Morgana and Alcina

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

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Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato: Book II, Canto XIII

Book II: Canto XIII: 1-8: The two maidens

Many and various are folk’s desires:

One takes up arms, another tends the sheep,

One is obsessed with all that wealth acquires,

One likes to hunt, while one love’s fruits would reap,

One sails the seas and distant lands admires,

This man must preach, and that one fish the deep.

This one, the gossip of the court betrays,

That, joyous, ever dances, sings, and plays,

While you delight in many a noble deed

Wrought by knights of renown, in days of old.

Of your pleasure, chivalry is the seed.

You care for valour, and to such do hold.

They prize it not, that virtue’s voice ne’er heed,

But you, who honour actions fine and bold,

Deck valour and virtue in true glory.

Tis you at whom I aim my pleasant story.

I’ll resume, then, from where I left the tale,

And turn back once more, to identify

The pair of maidens, one whose skiff did sail

Upon the lake then sink, one riding by.

For indeed, ignorance would long prevail,

If you heard not their names. I’ll clarify

The matter; both the maids I’ll dwell upon;

Twas Morgana embraced the dead dragon,

While the second was fair Fiordelisa,

The maiden so loved by Brandimarte.

I shall turn, first, to the Fay, Morgana,

And, thereafter, tell the other’s story.

The Faery was treacherous by nature,

And, by that lake where Aridano lately

Had perished, wrought a further enchantment,

Without which she could scarcely rest content.

With the juice of roots and herbs, collected

From the hills when the moon was in the sky,

And coiled stones, from the bared cliffs ejected,

To aid her, as she chanted there on high,

At dead of night, her arts she directed

To an evil end, transforming, by and by,

The youth, Ziliante, to a dragon shape,

To guard the bridge, that none, there, might escape.

She sought, thus, to change his form, utterly,

So that his dreadful aspect would strike fear

In all who approached the bridge, but sadly,

Through some error in her chant, twould appear,

Or some limit to her necromancy,

The youth was harmed, the outcome most severe,

For as soon as he assumed a dragon’s hide,

He gave a mighty cry, lay down, and died.  

Whence the Fay, who had loved him truly,

Thought that she herself would fail from grief,

Weeping o’er the dragon’s corpse, piteously,

As I’ve described; next, seeking some relief,

She bore him in her skiff, and sank, deeply,

Beneath the lake to inter him; from that brief

Tale of seeming disaster, I’ll turn now  

To fair Fiordelisa, and speak of how,

On seeing Orlando, the maiden cried:

‘The Lord of Heaven, in His mercy,

My fervent hope and prayer has not denied,

But has sent you to this place to aid me.

Brave baron, take position at my side.

You must reveal your fearless chivalry,

And, so that you may know what you must do,

Hark to me! I’ll reveal your task to you.

Book II: Canto XIII: 9-15: Fiordelisa’s tale of Brandimarte

Once I had departed from Albracca,

The which may yet be besieged, I say,

With great care, and wearisome labour,

I searched for Brandimarte, night and day;

And yet could gain no news of him, ever.

I returned to that place, and on the way

I found this man, who attends me now,

And a strange tale, to me, he did avow.

Mid-way on the road I met this Bardino,

Who journeys, as my sergeant, as you see,

And, by chance, he revealed that long ago

He had kidnapped a son of royalty,

(Twas Brandimarte, as his tale did show)

And had borne the lad away o’er the sea.

From the Distant Isle he stole the child,

And sold him to the Count of Castle Wild.

After doing so, he joined the household there.

And, when the lad was full-grown, his valour

Was great, and there was naught he would not dare,

For his strength too was such none would offer

To oppose him. Now, the Count lacked an heir;

His wife had died, he’d nor son nor daughter;

Thus, he adopted Brandimarte; fate

Saw him dead; the lad acquired his estate.

Brandimarte now toured the world around,

O’er hill and plain seeking bold adventure,

And left Bardino there, one seen as sound,

To rule the land, in his place, as governor.

But another lord coveted that ground,  

One cruel, inhumane, and full of anger,

Who was Brandimarte’s most bitter foe;

And the name of that lord is Rupardo.

He’s laid siege to Castle Wild, it would seem,

With his vassals, and a host of fighting men,

And refuses to desist from his bold scheme

Till he’s razed it to the ground, then again,

He cries: ‘Brandimarte, for sins extreme,

Has been led to where Morgana doth reign,

And thus, I come to take possession, here.

Expect no aid; he’ll not return, tis clear.’

Bardino then, sore afraid he would die,

If Rupardo captured him (and concerned

That his lord might still appear, by and by,

And grant him the punishment he’d earned)

Through the diviner’s art, sought to descry

His master’s fate, and from its practice learned

That Rupardo’s news was free of mistake:

Brandimarte is prisoned neath this lake.

I pray you, Count, if any lady ever

Was graced with your favour, grant me aid,

And do what must be done to deliver

Him, from this ill place where he was waylaid,  

And may Angelica thus grant her lover,

Whatever he desires, true love repaid,

And Love himself fulfil your every dream;

Your fame and glory e’er the poet’s theme.’

Book II: Canto XIII: 16-19: Orlando re-enters Morgana’s realm

Orlando, briefly, told her all he knew

Of Brandimarte, all that had occurred;

All their scheme, and the aim he had in view,

Young Ziliante’s rescue, in a word;

And that he must seek out that realm, anew,

Where the unhappy lad remained interred.

Returning the lad to Monodante,

He’d then win freedom for Brandimarte.

With this fair Fiordelisa was content,

And so, she dismounted from the palfrey,

And kneeling on the river bank, she sent

Her prayers up to the sky, most fervently,

And prayed that the Lord grant His consent

To Orlando’s mission, and end it swiftly

And happily. The Count now sought the door

That he knew, having entered once before.

The portal was set there, above the ground,

But concealed in the cliff, midst banks of thorn.

Orlando descended, without a sound,

Till he reached the stairway’s end, nigh unworn

By human feet, then walked a mile, and found

Beyond that marble floor, the treasure-bourne,

That chamber carved from out the rock, of old,

Where sat the monarch wrought of gems and gold.

He saw the chair Rinaldo sought to steal,

But had carried no further than the door,

(I’ve told you quite enough of that, I feel,

So much so, I shall speak of it no more.)

The Count went swiftly, time was at his heel,

To reach the magic garden, as before,

Where Morgana dwelt; a swift review

Showed the crystal wall splitting it in two.

Book II: Canto XIII: 20-23: He finds Morgana, and the restored Ziliante

Near to that wall of glass where was a fount

As I’ve described, there he saw Morgana,

Close by the spring, and, wondering, the Count

Found she’d revived, resurrected rather,

Young Ziliante; he, on no account,

Was other than human; no longer

In dragon-form did that fair youth appear,

Though he seemed not a little faint, from fear.

The Fay, Morgana, was combing his hair,

While often kissing him, most tenderly.

Ne’er was painted, by any brush, so fair

A vision as the young Ziliante.

Of beauty and grace, he owned full share,

His face revealed his true nobility,

While his clothes were both delicate and fine,

His speech courteous, his aspect divine.

No wonder that the Faery took delight

In gazing at that face, as in a mirror.

With him in her embrace, she felt the light

Of Paradise itself shone about her.

She idled there, unaware of the knight,

Who suddenly appeared in full armour,

And since he had played this game before,

Lost not a breath in seizing her once more,

Grasping the lock of blonde hair at her brow,

And holding tight. That deceitful maiden,

Most fair, yet with a vulpine visage, now,

With sweet looks, and ready words, again,

Asked pardon of him if he could avow

She’d ever shamed him or shown disdain;

And then, to recompense him for his labour,

Promised him great riches, and vast treasure.

Book II: Canto XIII: 24-30: The Count leaves with the youth, Fiordelisa, and Bardino

She vowed that he would gain all he desired,

If he would but leave her beloved there,

But twas to Ziliante’s rescue he aspired,

And naught else to him was worth a hair.

Now who could tell of all the sighs suspired,

The tears, the woe, Morgana sought to share,

To influence the Count, yet all in vain.

He would not hear, and showed her but disdain.

He had taken Ziliante by the hand,

To lead him from the garden; while the knight

Feared not the faery’s spells, you understand,

Because, as yet, he gripped her forelock tight.

She lamented, dragged along, at his command,

But he showed little pity for her plight;

She fawned, and begged, and threatened with intent,

Yet, silently, towards the square, he went.

They crossed the court, and started to ascend,

Climbing the stair, the Fay held by a tress,

And when they reached the portal at its end,

And were about to make a swift egress,

Orlando turned, and told her to attend:

‘Morgana, come, your master now address:

For I’d have you swear by Demogorgon

Mighty ruler of the Faery kingdom,

That you will never harm or hinder me.’

This Demogorgon (you may be aware)

Commands and judges the realm of Faery,

And he does as he wishes with all there.

At nightfall, o’er the mountains and the sea,

He rides, on a giant ram, through the air,

And the phantom, and the witch, and the fay,

He lashes, with live snakes, at break of day;

For if such are seen on earth, in dawn light,

When they are all forbidden neath the sky,

He whips them, furiously, with all his might,

So that they truly wish that they could die.

Now he chains them neath the sea, far from sight,

Now barefoot on the wind they walk on high,

Now he leads them through the fiery blaze,

Tormenting them, in these and other ways.

And so, Orlando made the Faery swear

By Demogorgon, who was her master,

Threatening the Fay, till she did not dare

Do aught but what he said; she, thereafter,

Swiftly fled, midst the shadows, to her lair,

Hiding deep beneath the lake, to recover,

While the Count and Ziliante, at their ease,

Returned to Fiordelisa, on her knees

In prayer, who, on seeing them once more,

Rendered fervent thanks to the Lord on high.

Then they walked, as one, to the nearby shore,

And boarded ship, and sailed beneath the sky.

Blown by a fresh breeze, onward thus they bore,

Their course north-easterly, till, by and by,

Having journeyed, for many a long sea-mile,

They made port, on reaching the Distant Isle.

Book II: Canto XIII: 31-35: Their vessel reaches the Distant Isle

To Damogir, the capital, they’d come,

Where twin towers flanked a noble harbour.

When the young prince was seen, midst the hum

Of the port, folk shouted in their ardour,

Raising mighty cries of love and welcome,

For they’d thought the fair youth lost forever.

Both great and small sang aloud, as word spread,

That Ziliante had returned from the dead.

The city was alive with the rumour,

When Monodante heard the joyous sound.

Clad in his gown, he hastened to the harbour,

Free of both his cloak and crown, where he found

A multitude, all crowding together.  

All from crone to maid were there, all had downed

Their work; their arts, their crafts, were set aside,

As young and old their exultation cried.

Such was the heaving crowd’s density,

It hid the marble paving there from show.

First to disembark was Ziliante,

Then Fiordelisa, then Count Orlando,

While her sergeant came next, and full loudly,

When they saw him, many cried: ‘Bardino!

Tis Bardino! The king may learn the fate

Of his eldest son, and his rank and state.’

Parting the crowd, Orlando forged ahead

To reach Monodante, and greet the king.

He paid his respects, and bowed his head;

Then he asked for Brandimarte, seeking

Him amidst the courtiers; with some dread,

The monarch responded to him, feeling

A pang of shame, while embracing his son,

At how he’d dealt with the Count’s companion,

Claiming Brandimarte was, safe and sound,

Though, embarrassed, he was blushing visibly.

He grasped Orlando’s hand, then glanced around;

Bardino, close behind, he chanced to see,

And cried aloud: ‘Say now, you worthless hound,

Where is my boy; the lad you reft from me?’

And then he cried: ‘Arrest him, bind the man

That stole my eldest son, then upped and ran!’

Book II: Canto XIII: 36-41: Bardino tells the tale of Brandimarte’s abduction

In a trice, Bardino was seized, but then

Requested only that he might be heard,

And so was brought before the king again,

And swore to confess the truth, every word.

He told them how he’d fled, and how and when

He’d reached land, and how he’d conferred

A new name on the lad, whom men would know

As Brandimarte, not Bramadoro.

Called Bramadoro, as a little child,

This Brandimarte, now a prisoner,

Was indeed, that fair prince, though long exiled,

Unknowingly, from his land and father.

Bardino claimed that, beaten and reviled,

(I know not whether justly or in anger)

By the king, he’d despaired and, in his woe,

Had fled, with the infant Bramadoro.

He’d sold him to the Count of Castle Wilde

(As I have said) and yet had repented

Of the crime, and so had stayed with the child,

To protect him, and dwelt there, contented.

The lad matured, while he was reconciled

To never leaving that realm, and consented

When the Count died, to be the guardian

Of the castle, and thus Brandimarte’s man.  

Now, Bardino told the tale to its end,

Narrating all the history of the son,

But the monarch (on this you may depend)

Was grieved, long before, at what he’d done,

In that he’d had him taken, and penned

In the deepest and the coldest dungeon,

Of the tower, bold Brandimarte I mean,

And there his son lay, naked and unclean.

Though he’d commanded he be freed, before,

Now, weeping constantly from affection,

At the Count’s wish he ordered it, once more,

Stunned, as yet, by this twin resurrection.

Cries of joy echoed now beyond the door,

Great the noise roused by the tale’s reception.

It rose from turret, roof, and balcony.

With flaming torches folk ran, festively;

Men played on harp, lute or tambourine,

And every other instrument in sight;

For their king (much the happiest I ween)

Had found his sons again; in their delight

They filled the city square, and there was seen

Such dancing to the music; while a flight

Of roses and lilies fell, a sweet cascade

Thrown high by many an amorous maid.

Book II: Canto XIII: 42-49: Brandimarte is united with Ziliante and Leodilla

Now, amid all this joy and happiness,

Brandimarte appeared before the king.

He’d lain naked in prison; come success,

And, his rank thus restored, fair in seeming,

He bowed, while all wept with joy’s excess.

The king asked his mother’s name; recalling

That distant face, he replied: ‘Albina,

I believe, though I know not my father.’

Monodante wept now, without restraint,

And said: ‘My dear son, dear son of mine,

What can I, that decreed your close constraint,

Say in penitence; to God I resign

All judgement, of naught can I complain.

What he wishes is our will, we should consign

The past to the past.’ He wept endless tears

Clasping his son, lost for so many years.

And then they both embraced Ziliante;

All could see the likeness twixt the two,

For the youth resembled Brandimarte

Though their ages differed. And not a few

Kisses passed between the latter, surely,

And Fiordelisa, whom he clasped anew.

Then, as all rejoiced (fled was all woe),

The king pardoned the contrite Bardino.

They walked to the palace, of a richness

Unequalled in all this wide world below,

To celebrate, and all their joy express.

Brandimarte, eloquently, sought to show

How the Christian faith the land would bless,

And his father, and the court, believing so,

The Count baptised them, all that family,

And the lords, labouring assiduously.

Those were released who’d been imprisoned,

Astolfo and Rinaldo and the rest,

In rich mantles they were caparisoned,

Treated royally, and courteously addressed.

A maid entered, from the chamber beyond,

Tender-eyed, and with ample beauty blessed.

She wore so many jewels in their honour,

The hall was illumined by her splendour.

The knights scanned her bright face, but Orlando,

And Brandimarte, alone, knew the maid,

For they’d seen her elsewhere, long ago,

Leodilla, who a cunning game had played,

And had cheated her aged husband so,

She whom, by the golden apples delayed,

He’d won by means of that subtle device.

Yet she’d had her revenge, not once but twice,

By having Ordauro tunnel underground.

Tis an amusing tale but, since you know

The story in full, here twill not be found.

Tis mentioned but to say, with many a blow,

Brandimarte had freed her, safe and sound,

That time when he with Count Orlando

Slew Oridante and Ranchiera,

Though, then, he knew not she was his sister.

He knew it now, and with joy, and delight,

They embraced, and he reminded her how she

Had, with a sovereign herb, healed him outright,

Salving his head, when twas wounded sorely,

Nigh the spring, by Marfusto, in their fight;

And thus had restored him, most completely.

They spoke of many another thing beside

Which I shall not tell here, and laughed and cried.

Book II: Canto XIII: 50-53: Rinaldo heads for France; Orlando retrieves Brigliador

When many a day has passed in song and dance,

Dudon called the others to a chamber,

And spoke of Agramante’s bold advance,

And of the armies he’d amassed, in anger,

To sail the sea, and fall upon fair France.

A host of warriors he’d clad in armour,

Drawn from half the world, it seemed, to lay low

The Christians, and Charlemagne his foe.

Rinaldo and Astolfo pledged to fight

For Christianity, their faith, and its law.

Each man upon his honour as a knight,

To do so while yet life was his, now swore.

But Orlando, though it might seem but right,

Would not join with them; why, I am unsure.

I deem twas his love for Angelica

Deterred him from his true path, as ever.

Yet they sailed as one, o’er the foaming sea,

And, once they’d safely landed, Rinaldo,

Once more, mounted Baiardo, cheerfully,

While Astolfo reclaimed his Rabicano.

But the Count now implored Brandimarte,

And Ziliante to return, for should they go

To the war, they could but harm their father

That might not, at his age, live much longer.

The Count failed to convince the elder son,

But the younger of the two, Ziliante,

Was so persuaded, and swiftly was gone

Back to Damogir, while Brandimarte

Swore that he would never thus abandon

Count Orlando; the pair rode cross country

To the keep where Brigliador had been left;

Lacking his steed, the Count yet felt bereft.

Book II: Canto XIII: 54-58: Rinaldo and company reach Alcina’s realm

The castellan paid them both due honour,

And Brigliador was handed to Orlando.

Meanwhile Rinaldo, Dudon, and the other,

(That son of King Otho, Duke Astolfo,

Lance in hand, and clad in golden armour)

Rode all along the coast, their pace but slow,

Until at morn they arrived, one fine day,

At the castle of Alcina the Fay.

Now Alcina was Morgana’s sister.

In the Atarberi’s land, she did dwell,

By the northern sea-shore; they were ever

A wild, and barbarous folk, cruel as well.

She’d created there a garden in flower,

Green with trees, by means of a magic spell,

Within it, a fine keep, small but noble;

From summit to foot, twas wrought of marble.

One morning that fair company rode by,

As I have said, and much admired the sight.

That sweet flowering garden, neath the sky,

Seemed heavenly to the eye, a sheer delight;

And, as they looked about them, by and by,

They spied the Faery, by the waters bright,

Drawing creatures, by her art, from the deep,

Like a shepherdess with her flock of sheep.

There were tunny-fish, there were dolphins there,

Sword-fish, croakers, and many another

Species, large and small, too varied to share

With you the name of each, or its manner;

And monstrous creatures, curious and rare,

Pilot whales, and beaked whales, there did gather,

With huge fin whales, and sperm whales, to that shore,

Writhing sea-serpents, and a thousand more.

Among the whales there was one so mighty

I scarcely dare to tell you of its size.

Bishop Turpin claims (nor says it lightly)

Twas a full two miles in length, tail to eyes.

Its back alone showed clear above the sea,

For eleven yards or more, the thing did rise,

And seemed to any that a watch did keep

Like an isle raised on high from out the deep.

Book II: Canto XIII: 59-66: Astolfo is borne away upon a whale’s back

Now the Faery was fishing, as I said,

Though without the usual net or gear,

Her incantations alone she cast ahead

To make that host of sea-creatures appear.

But suddenly, the fair maid turned her head,

And saw the company towards her veer,

And angry that they’d viewed her witchery,

Had half a mind to drown them in the sea;

And might indeed have fulfilled that thought,

By means of a subtle root she possessed,

And a gem, set in a ring by magic wrought,

With which the very ground might be depressed,

And all that shore submerged, had she not caught

Sight of Astolfo’s face, by beauty blessed,

And was deterred, on seeing that fair vision,

By pity, and an overwhelming passion.

She began to address the company,  

Saying, sweetly: ‘Fair knights, what seek you here?

If you would like to gather fish with me,

Although, indeed, I have no net, I fear,

Then something fine and wondrous you shall see,

Many a rare sea-creature, rising clear

From out the depths, large, small, of every size,

The strangest things that ever met men’s eyes.

For, beyond that isle, you’ll find a Siren,

Cross over to it, if you’d see her there,

She’s a fine fish; I think tis not often,

Perchance ten times, she’s been seen; such is rare.’

Thus, false Alcina, tempted foolish men,

And convinced Astolfo, the young and fair,

To land aboard her whale, that isle so near

He could ride through the shallows twould appear.

Neither brave Dudon nor bold Rinaldo

Were swayed; they viewed the isle with suspicion,

And called to that reckless son of Otho,

But his courser he’d now set in motion.

The Faery knew that she could trap him so;

To toy with him later, was her notion.

And seeing the knight fall for her ploy,

She laughed aloud at him, and danced for joy.

At a few words now chanted by Alcina,

The vast whale began to move out to sea,

While Astolfo uncertain how to counter

Its departure, gazed shoreward, fearfully.

He prayed to God; Death seemed to hover

O’er the waves, while the Fay he failed to see,

Though she was there, upon the whale, concealed

In some place not to human eye revealed.

When Rinaldo saw the knight departing,

Wild with anger, he sought to grant him aid,

Though Astolfo had ignored his warning;

Twas a valiant effort the warrior made.

He drove Baiardo through the waves, shouting,

In desperation, launching a tirade,

And was closely followed by bold Dudon;

He, spurring his courser hard, urged it on.

The whale being ponderous, and vast,

Moved its bulk quite slowly through the water,

And Rinaldo thought he’d catch it, at the last,

As he ploughed the waves on his brave courser.

But, my sweet lords, my voice is fading fast,

Its strength equal to my chant no longer,

And, therefore, I must end this canto here;

Yet, having rested awhile, will re-appear.

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

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