Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato

Book II: Canto XIV: Rinaldo Returns to France

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 XIV

Book II: Canto XIV: 1-8: Alcina conjures up a storm

With strange enchantments I’ve been occupied,

Those wrought by Morgana and Alcina.

Not a sword-stroke will my readers have spied,

Not one shower of arrows, not a lance-splinter.

Yet now o’er earth my air-borne steed must ride,

And blood must flow o’er saddle, and armour,

For, if I err not, by this canto’s close

There’ll be fire and flame enough, steel and blows.

Rinaldo will meet with Rodomonte

At the border, and in fierce encounter,

Rank on rank, their weapons men will ready;

Yet wait awhile; those knights I’d recover

Immersed in the sea, and swimming slowly,

(Or at least their steeds are, you’ll remember).

If I mistake not, Dudon and Rinaldo,

Had plunged therein, following Astolfo.

The English Duke, borne onwards by the whale,

Through Alcina’s magic arts, was far ahead.

Bold Dudon ploughed his way, without a sail,

Through the waves behind Rinaldo, who led,

So far out now, his steed’s strength began to fail,

(Dudon’s that is) now like to drown instead.

His horse floundering, the knight cried aloud,

As he sank to the depths, though brave and proud.

For, as he sank, he had the wit to shout,

As he crossed himself: ‘Our Lady, aid me!’

At this, Rinaldo turned his steed about,

His comrade well-nigh lost beneath the sea.

He was left for an instant in grave doubt,

(Though only for an instant, certainly)

For Astolfo was vanishing, o’er the wave,

Yet Dudon he was forced to seek, then save.

And naught else but Dudon’s mortal distress

Could have made Rinaldo turn Baiardo.

The steed was swimming like a fish, no less,

And slicing through every foaming billow.

When he reached Dudon, now in great duress,

Finding his end was near, mighty Rinaldo,

With Dudon scarcely able to draw a breath,

And finding the sea a path to briny death,

Snatched the knight from the saddle, in a trice,

And carried him to shore, now safe and sound.

Having rescued the lad, he ne’er thought twice,

But took up the chase, again, though he found

That the whale could not be caught at any price,

While a storm-wind now swept the cloud around.

As endless distance hid the whale from view,

Through darkening air, that icy tempest blew.

Prasildo and Iroldo, who were there,

(Being still in Rinaldo’s company)

With Dudon, cried out to him to repair

To the shore, till he, in tears, quit the sea.

He stood upon the sand in deep despair,

Doomed to feel that whate’er must be must be:

His cousin lost; the waters hurled on high,

As gusts of icy rain poured from the sky.

Now, you should know that this ruinous blast,

That swallowed half the world it would seem,

Was roused by a spell fair Alcina cast,

To deter the knight from his valiant scheme

Of reaching their strange vessel at the last.

She and the Duke I must leave there; my theme,

(Though of that knight I’ve much to tell) once more,

Must be Rinaldo, weeping on the shore.

Book II: Canto XIV: 9-15: Rinaldo’s journey to Provençe

When he’d lamented awhile, on the strand,

Standing, bare-headed, in the pouring rain,

With nary a hut or shed on either hand,

Since he knew little of the empty plain,

Never having travelled o’er that far land,

And wishing a safe passage thence to gain,

He hugged the shore, where the waves did play,

And journeyed westward, for many a day.

He left the realm of the Atarberi,

And passed the heights of Mount Corubio,

Reaching the River Don through Tartary.

Bishop Turpin asserts that none do know

His deeds there. To Transylvania, safely,

He came, and crossed the Danube there, below

Orsova, reaching Hungary, to find

Men in arms, war in France, in their mind.

A host was gathering with sword and lance,

An army strong and bold, second to none,

Mustering to march westwards and aid France,

Led by Otachier, King Philip’s son.

Concerned by Agramante’s swift advance,

Charlemagne had requested this be done,

So, the king, aged and infirm, had said

That Otachier should lead, in his stead.

Rinaldo entered Budapest, and there

Was recognised and honoured by the king,

As one whose valour was known everywhere,

And whose praises many a man did sing.

Otachier, heartened, swore he would dare,

With Rinaldo at his side, everything

That a knight should, to earn them victory.

With this, Rinaldo joined their company.

The council named him captain of the host,

And all were content that it should be so,

The white and crimson arms (that they yet boast)

Upon their fluttering pennants now did show.

Philip ordered them to do their utmost,

Entrusting his son to brave Rinaldo,

Thus, neath the royal standard, together,

They led the army into Austria.

They rode beside the Danube to Vienna,

And, seeking to reach the Italian plain,

Crossed the cold Alps, via Carinthia.

The Ticino’s banks, later, they did gain,

And learned that but four days earlier

Desiderio, with his troops in train,

Had departed Lombardy, and that further

He and his men were now in Savona.

Otachier and Rinaldo then chose

To follow the path of the Lombard king.

They had thirty thousand men, I’d suppose,

And every one eager for the fighting,

For none were unwilling, Heaven knows,

To meet the Saracens. Boldly marching,

They crossed the plain and hills, till they saw

Fair Genoa, and Liguria’s shore.

Book II: Canto XIV: 16-23: We reprise Rodomonte’s attack so far

Travelling on, for several days, they came

To the borders of fair Provençe, and there

Admired the hills and gave their acclaim

To the cedars, palms, and orange-trees, aware

Of the noise, beyond those very same

Sweet groves, of trumpet-blasts that rent the air,

And many a distant martial cry, as well,

As if the world warred at the gates of Hell.

Leaving the host, Rinaldo quickly sped

With Otachier and Dudon to spy,

From the hilltop the vale to which it led,

Where Rodomonte’s bold forces did lie,

And the army of Lombardy now shed

Its mortal blood neath the sounding sky.

Twas our first defeat inflicted by the foe,

While Duke Namus felt the heaviest blow.

The Bavarian’s four brave sons lay dead

Upon that blood-drenched field; with no way

To mend their fate, their father now had fled,

A broken man, his troops in disarray,

While Rodomonte’s army forged ahead,

Scattering the French, and set to gain the day.

The noble dukes of Savoy and Lorraine

That madman had left, dying, on the plain.

Amone’s bold daughter, Bradamante,

Felt her valiant steed tumbling to the ground.

More men were slain there by Rodomonte

Than in any earlier war, I’ll be bound.

All this I’ve told you, if my memory

Deceives me not; and how the pagan found

Fresh anger when he saw his standard fall,

Outraged, roused to a wrath beyond recall.

The heart of that gold and crimson banner,

Finely embroidered with much labour,

Showed a lion, and the Maid of Granada,

Doralice; twas his greatest treasure

That brave standard; naught to him was dearer,

Sarza’s king, or gave him greater pleasure

For the one that he loved was pictured there,

And his hopes rested on that maiden fair.

Rodomonte grieved the fall of that same

Brave standard, quite beside himself with woe.

His eyebrows bristled, while as red as flame

His eyes themselves appeared. He faced the foe,

In the manner of a wild boar set to maim

The hunters and the boarhounds, ranged below,

Trampling the stakes, its tusks striking blind;

Pity the fate of those that lag behind!

In such a manner Rodomonte charged,

And hurled himself at those of Lombardy.

The mounds of dead he constantly enlarged,

Till the plain around was well-nigh empty.

Despite the arrows, endlessly discharged,

He hacked at soldiers, and weapons, fiercely.

The sky rang, as, upon that bitter field,

The king smote plate and mail, helm and shield.

Meanwhile the army close behind him grew,

And his men, who had fled in fear before,

Cried: ‘Turn!’ and then faced the Christian crew,

And gathered to their king upon the shore,

While our armies were astounded to view

That bold Saracen, his strength worth a score,

Who, everywhere he went, brought pain and woe,

And scarcely rested, dealing blow on blow.

Book II: Canto XIV: 24-28: He downs Rigonzone

Now, in the Lombard camp there was a knight

Out of Parma, named Rigonzone,

Strong past belief, by nature born to fight,

As regards sense or reason, lacking any;

For his concern for life or death was slight,

Thus, where peril and ruin loomed, there he

Preferred to prove himself, or where escape

Was scarce an option; ever in some scrape.

Watching the bold Saracen charge around,

The violent battlefield, with lowered lance

He rode to meet him, seeking to astound

One whom he scorned, with a swift advance.

He cried: ‘I come to fell you to the ground!’

As Rodomonte looked at him askance.

Rigonzone broke his spear, and cast it down,

As he passed Sarza’s king, who gave a frown.

Undaunted, the knight now wheeled his charger,

And drove towards the monarch at full speed,

Convinced he’d swiftly down the latter

But Rodomonte grasped the reins of his steed,

And with his mighty strength stopped the charger,

In its furious course; despite the deed,

Rigonzone never paused, his lance was gone,

So, he drew his sharp blade, and laboured on.

He dropped his reins, and quickly dealt the king

A two-handed blow, scorned by the Saracen.

Twas little use to strike that warrior, seeing

That his dragon’s skin, proof against mere men,

Fuelled disdain for every mortal being,

For it turned every blade. The knight, again

Swung his sword, yet, at once, Rodomonte

Drove his horse aside, and downed him swiftly.

His strength was such the steed, nigh in the air,

Was hurled into a ditch, where it landed

With Rigonzone, half-stunned in that affair,

Trapped beneath its weight, and so left stranded.

We’ll leave him still alive (and kicking) there,

And turn to the Saracen, who demanded

That the whole Italian army they surmount,

And who now confronted Cremona’s count.

Book II: Canto XIV: 29-30: And wounds and unseats Arcimbaldo

Arcimbaldo, Desiderio’s son,

Approached the warrior, brandishing his sword.

Young and bold, and regal in his person,

He was fit for deeds suited to a lord.

I attribute little shame to him, for one,

Though he failed this sternest test, and was floored,

For the fierce Saracen’s strength was so great

None could stand against him; cruel fate

Saw Arcimbaldo wounded in the head.

Then, unseated, he tumbled to the ground.

Here our ruin began; heaped high, the dead

From that final attack, lay all around.

As both men and horses fell, rousing dread,

The Saracen’s sharp blade fresh victims found,

Swinging close to earth, falling from the sky.

Such a battle’s rarely seen by human eye.

Book II: Canto XIV: 31-35: Rodomonte routs the Lombards and the French

Rinaldo reached a hill above the field,

With Otachier and Dudon; there below,

He observed, his wonder scarcely concealed,

The sore effect of the king’s every blow.

The need for his prompt aid was revealed,

He dared not risk delay, for, you must know,

Hope had vanished on our side, filled with dread,

The Lombards were routed, the Frenchmen fled.

Rinaldo saw their tattered banners fall,

Torn to shreds, left on the blood-stained soil.

The furious Rodomonte, midst it all,

Raged like a storm-wind, that the sea doth roil,

Wielding that wondrous sword, if you recall,

That Nimrod saw forged, with endless toil,

That mighty giant who once, in Thessaly,

Sought to challenge God, in his enmity.

That proud man, in his vast arrogance,

Ordered the Tower of Babel built on high.

Hoping that to Heaven he might advance,

And then, upon fair Earth, hurl down the sky.

His faith in his own strength (such was his stance),

He had the blade so tempered that, thereby,

(The heat so intense, the steel thus so strong)

No armour could resist its fury long.

Born of that ancient House, Rodomonte

Wore the weapon, and to the battle bore

That blade no warrior but him could bear;

For ne’er, till that day, had it gone to war.

His father Ulieno, who would dare

Many a bold deed, owning it before,

Though he knew its worth, would leave it behind;

It burdened him too much, that king did find.

Rodomonte, as I said, bore it now,

And, thus, wrought ruin o’er the battlefield,

Destroying more valiant men, I would avow,

Than there are fish in seas and streams concealed.

The rest, o’er hill and dale, escaped somehow,

Careless of where they fled, afraid to yield,

Content, as they fled through unknown country,

To be far from the fierce Rodomonte.

Book II: Canto XIV: 36-40: Rinaldo prepares to enter the fray

Rinaldo, as I’ve said, from the mountain,

Gazed down, now, upon the rout below,

Where the dead were heaped high, and beaten men

Turned their backs, to flee the exultant foe.

Disconsolate, he grieved aloud: ‘Lost, then,

Is my content, alas; all here’s but woe.

Surely my lord lies dead upon the field,

For would my valiant king have sought to yield?

What might I do, abandoned and forlorn?

Can it be great Charlemagne has met his end?

Many a battle have I seen, the ranks war-torn,

But ne’er this ruin no man can amend.

The king is dead, if he fought here this morn;

And Amone, on that we may depend,

For e’er such faithful love he bore the king

He’d be there in death, as in everything.

Where is Oliviero, where the Dane?

Where Bavaria’s duke, Brittany’s king?

Where is that Maganza, proud and vain,

So deceitful, and so often missing?

No flag of ours is flying o’er the plain,

No warrior of ours it seems left standing.

All are dead, tis true; in the field they lie;

And I would join them there, that all may die.

I know not that African who has slain

So many valiant knights, unless it be

Troiano’s son, Bizerte’s king, our bane,

Bold Agramante; yet, if it be he,

I must oppose him, counter his disdain,

And punish his insolence. Friends, hear me!

Otachier, Dudon, hold back your men,

Preserve the army, so we may fight again.

I will descend, e’en from desperation,  

For I can scarce think, or feel, in this place.

O you, my God, in the highest Heaven,

Humble in your presence but grant me grace!

Greatly I’ve sinned, I confess, yet, even

Now, I’d stand penitent before your face.

May my faith avail me, as oft before;

For I, without your aid, am weak as straw.’

Book II: Canto XIV: 41-51: Rinaldo unseats Rodomonte, and they fight on foot

While he spoke, Rinaldo wept bitterly,

Then he set his spurs to brave Baiardo,

And, grinding his teeth, furiously,

He galloped down the slope to meet the foe.

His two companions retreated, swiftly,

To deploy along the ridge, while, below,

Rinaldo sped towards the battlefield,

As he lowered his lance, and gripped his shield.

He charged straight towards Rodomonte,

Ever the easiest to recognise,

Being taller than those in his army.

He showed a pair of serpent-like eyes,

In a face both fearsome and full of fury.

Rinaldo sought to take him by surprise,

Bearing his heavy lance, so dense and long,

It could penetrate a wall, however strong.

Rinaldo’s steed bore him on so swiftly

The force of his charge could shatter stone,

And he struck Rodomonte’s hip, sharply,

And left him on the ground; flesh and bone

Striking the earth just as if some mighty

Tower, or mountain-summit, were down-thrown;

Such was the crash, making the earth resound,

When wrathful Rodomonte struck the ground.

With a noise beyond description, his armour

Rang with his fall; and, as far as the shore,

The battlefield shook, so great the tremor

As his giant frame tumbled to the floor.

At that the Saracens, filled with rancour,

Attacked Rinaldo, as one; more and more

Sped to their fallen leader’s aid, not slow

To thwart all further action from his foe.

The knight now drew Fusberta from its sheath,

And swung the blade at soldiers he disdained,

Downing men, though they were armed to the teeth.

Whoe’er they were, death or wounds they sustained;

For, as I say, without respect, above, beneath

Their armour, his sharp blade its arc maintained.

Helms he shattered, legs he sliced, with scant grace,

And, about him, carved out an empty space.  

Yet Rodomonte, that fiery spirit,

Had risen to his feet, his fierce anger

So great that his fury knew no limit,

Grieved now by the shame, and now the slaughter;

For the warriors he led all sought to quit

The field, routed by Rinaldo’s fervour;

But that proud African restrained their flight,

And to Rinaldo’s force opposed his might.

King Rodomonte, at once, aimed a blow

At Baiardo’s legs, while the valiant steed

Was scarce in time to avoid pain and woe.

He leapt high, or he’d have fallen, indeed.

Then Rodomonte swung again at his foe,

The blade delivered fiercely, and at speed,

In his wrath, sans regard to man or horse,

He lashed out, careless of the weapon’s course.

‘Ah, false Saracen!’ brave Rinaldo cried,

‘It seems you were not born of noble race;

Unashamed, a mad fool, devoid of pride,

To wave your sword at a steed full of grace!

Where mindless villains such as you abide,

In those hot barren lands, that find no place

For worth or virtue, tis the rule, perchance,

To strike a horse; well, tis not so in France!’

In the king’s native tongue he spoke, and so

The latter understood, and gave him answer:

‘I’m not known as false or a villain, though

You call me such, in my realm of Sarza,

And with my sword, I’ve dealt many a blow,

To those that the earth about us cover,

Enough to show I’m of no lowly race,

Yet it seems tis not enough; and disgrace,

Indeed, twould be, if I failed to leave you,

Severed at a blow, to grace this plain.

If I do not, I’ll be but shamed anew,

Nor fit to be viewed on this Earth again.

But, as to rule and custom, why, tis true,

I’ll not spare your horse, for I maintain

Scant concern for what you may do in France,

I do my worst, my own cause to advance.’

As Rodomonte ceased, he aimed a blow,

Swinging his blade, with such a turn of speed,

That, if his sworn enemy had proved slow,

His vengeance had been satisfied indeed.

But Rinaldo rode, an arrow’s flight or so,

Towards the mountain slope, reigned in his steed,

Dismounted and, leaving Baiardo there,

Returned on foot, a further round to dare.

Book II: Canto XIV: 52-58: Rodomonte routs the Hungarians

The king, seeing him without the horse,

That, being fleet of foot, kept him at bay,

Was sure he would slay him, in due course;

But now, upon the ridge, in close array

Dudon and Otachier, with their force

Of steel-clad Hungarians made their way

Towards them, with lance, and bow, and shield,

Their pennants fluttering, to take the field.

They descended the slope, with a great cry,

Like some storm-wind, full of martial ardour.

When valiant Rodomonte cast an eye

On their feathered crests, and gleaming armour,

He leapt in the air for joy, for by and by

He deemed he would grip them tight forever.

He whirled his sword about, on every side,

Slicing the air, in an idle show of pride.

Then he advanced, with the very motion

That a lion shows as it pads o’er the ground,

To reach a herd of deer, in expectation

That there a goodly meal will soon be found.

Just so that fierce, serpent-hearted pagan

Forgetting Rinaldo, paced towards the sound

Of arms and armour, scornful, unafraid,

Ready to see their shining ranks dismayed.

His valour rendered his own soldiers bold,

They followed him, fresh courage thus revealed,

Till the two sides met, a sight to behold

As they charged together, o’er the flowering field.

No greater noise was ever heard (I’m told,

By the good Bishop) as lance struck on shield;

A feast for the eyes, as the ranks compressed,

Bright helm against helm, and breast against breast.

Trumpet and warlike cry, horn and drum,

Sounded loud; Christian nor African

Could move a single step, the earth did hum,

With trampling feet, but the fierce Saracen,

Rodomonte King of Sarza, venturesome

Despite that crush, hacked at man after man,

Till he had cleared a space on every side,

Like a sickle that through the grass doth glide.

None has ever seen men so filled with dread

As those who faced the fierce king, in that war.

As a tempest, in the mountains overhead,

Topples great beech-trees to the woodland floor,

So that bold Saracen, to warfare bred,

On foot, through the brave mounted squadrons tore,

Rating them less than a bear does the pack.

Hungarians, Wallachians, his attack

Dismantled; and, once routed, naught sufficed

To stem the tide, and make them turn, and fight,

Though Otachier tried, as with death he diced.

Faced with the Saracen, they took to flight,

While Rodomonte, all advantage sacrificed,

Scattered them here and there, knight by knight,

O’er the slopes, halfway up the mountainside.

None could stand against him, while hundreds died.

Book II: Canto XIV: 59-61: And wounds and unseats Otachier

Otachier, Philip’s son, thought he too

Must die of shame, as his men fled the foe.

The brave Dudon was no longer in view,

Fighting fiercely, elsewhere, while Rinaldo,

As I mentioned, was too tardy to pursue

Rodomonte, having thought to save Baiardo.

Thus, neither could provide the aid he sought,

For himself or his men, yet on he fought.

Desperate, he lowered his gleaming lance,

And charged the Saracen, true his aim,

But his lance broke, in that swift advance,

While he tumbled to earth, though not to blame,

For he was wounded in the head, by chance,

As giant Rodomonte struck, that same

Pounding hard on his helmet as he swayed,

And despatching him to the ground, dismayed.

Dudon, now closer to him, saw his fall,

And thought, perchance, Otachier was dead.

Loving him like a brother, a dark pall

His fate cast o’er his mind but, nobly bred,

He set his heart on vengeance, bitter gall

Though it brought to his mouth, so he sped

After Rodomonte, swearing, without fail,

He’d die with his friend, could he not prevail.

Book II: Canto XIV: 62-68: Before capturing and binding Dudon

This young knight, Dudon, rarely used a lance,

Or so Turpin, the good bishop, has said.

A weighty iron-bound club, wrought in France,

Plate and mail, a shield, a helm on his head,

With these he met the cursed king’s advance,

And, as if aflame with anger, in its stead,

He drove his body at the pagan knight,

And swung his heavy mace with all his might.

His two-handed blow struck Rodomonte

On the helmet, which though strongly made

Split; of the crown (its crest) not one ruby

Or pearl remained; proof against a blade

Nonetheless, the visor opened, widely,

At the mace-blow; the Saracen, dismayed,

Fell to his knees; his comrades helped him stand;

Indeed, the king required that helping hand.  

They shouted a warning, shielding their lord,

And protecting him, while Dudon, in his rage,

With two-handed blows, challenged the horde,

Still seeking, though unwisely, to engage.

Whether great or small (their rank he ignored)

He swung at those who sought to hold the stage,

Striking and hammering at the foe, intently,

While hoping to carve a path to Rodomonte.

But he had risen to his feet once more,

And whirling his sword about his head,

Broke valiant Dudon’s shield, then, with a roar,

Cleft plate and mail; onwards the sharp blade sped

Baring the left side; wielding, as before,

That steel, Dudon’s life hung by a thread,

But Rodomonte’s strokes did little harm,

Though again and again he raised his arm.

Seeking now, to avoid a mortal blow,

Dudon, though outmatched, when he saw

That the Saracen was near, seized his foe

In both arms; the pair were strong, to be sure,

And tall and hefty, their movements slow,

Thus, they struggled on; but, to the floor,

Rodomonte threw the lad, when he tired,

And bound him, tightly, as was required.

Now, as God above, or Fate, decided,

At this juncture, Rinaldo joined the fray

And, since the struggle was so one-sided,

Mad with rage, he his mighty sword did weigh,

Gripped Fusberta, then gave undivided

Attention to the king, filled with dismay

At bold Dudon’s capture; thus he, wildly,

Threw himself, in a trice, at Rodomonte.

Rinaldo was on foot, for, as you know,

He’d left Boiardo on the hillside there.

Both were so valorous, as foe met foe,

Who can say who fought best in that affair?

My present canto’s nigh on finished though,

And, since Rinaldo so late did repair

To the battle, it cannot end today.

Return tomorrow, when perchance it may.

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

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