Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato

Book II: Canto XIX: Barigaccio the Robber

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

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Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato: Book II, Canto XIX

Book II: Canto XIX: 1-3: Boiardo humbly addresses his audience

I found myself one fair morning, in May,

In a meadow, decked with many a flower,

On a brave headland, where the breeze did play

Upon the waves, displaying their bright power.

And, midst briar-roses, in the grass, that day,

Singing of love, a maiden passed the hour,

Moving her lips so sweetly there, to fill

The air, the sweetness moves my poor heart still.

My heart it stirs, prompts me to remember

The great delight that I found in listening.

And could I but some fair means discover

To produce that sweetness in my singing,

Then my verses, to you, I’d gladly offer,

Rather than upon your wish attending,

When, aware of my small worth, I must still

Sing for your pleasure, though against my will.

But whate’er I am worth, little or much,

Such as it is, tis all at your command;

So, with greater will and pleasure, I’ll now touch

On the splendid history I have to hand,

Which, if I have it still within my clutch,

I left, as Brandimarte scoured the land,

With the fair Fiordelisa, beauty’s fount,

In his efforts to locate and free the Count.

Book II: Canto XIX: 4-7: Brandimarte and Fiordelisa meet Marfisa and Brunello

That bold knight, Brandimarte, rode ahead

Of Fiordelisa, and at noon they met

A dwarfish rider, fleeing, in some dread,

From a dishevelled maid (lest we forget

That pair!) and at a goodly speed he fled,

Faster than a bow sent any arrow yet,  

Or crossbow its bolt; so swift down the track,

To either dart he’d but have shown his back.

Pursuing him on foot, the warrior-maid

Was still, as yet, a fair distance away.

The knight rode to encounter them, and bade,

Fiordelisa ride beside him, lest she stray.

The pursuer, on seeing her, displayed

Great anger ‘Treacherous whore, this day

Your escort will prove little use to you,

For you must die, and here receive your due!’

Fiordelisa dropped the reins, in a fever,

And, anticipating death, in cruel pain,

Wrung her hands; she’d recognised Marfisa!

That fierce maid was yet pursuing, in vain,

(The details of the chase you’ll remember)

The insolent Brunello, o’er the plain.

Determined still to catch him, when she met

The mounted pair, and shouted out her threat.

Indeed, Brunello was the horseman who fled.

Spurring his steed again, in headlong flight,

He raced on, and was soon so far ahead,

They could barely keep the rascal in sight.

Marfisa turned, her serpent’s eyes dark red

With grief and wrath, upon the valiant knight

And his lady, and, wounded to the heart,

A vicious glance at both of them did dart.

Book II: Canto XIX: 8-11: Brunello flees; Marfisa seeks to slay Fiordelisa

She threatened Fiordelisa as before,

And, though she’d doffed her suit of armour,

And neither her stout shield nor sword she bore,

Nor was mounted on a warlike courser,

While Brandimarte arms and armour wore,

Her courage was such that she drew closer

And challenged brave Brandimarte to fight,

Though she drew scant response from the knight;

He thought it shameful, twould be deep disgrace,

To strike at a defenceless maiden so.

Marfisa saw a vast rock, in that place,

On the plain o’er which had fled Brunello,

Twas three hundred feet, at least, round the base,  

And ninety feet high, while its face did show,

A kind of broken stair where one might climb,

Lacking wings to soar to such heights sublime.

The angry maiden gave it but a glance,

And paused not an instant for further thought,

But on Fiordelisa made a swift advance,

Dragged her from her palfrey, and then sought

The rock, quick as the breeze, seized her chance

To float upwards like a bird, fearing naught,

And outpaced Brandimarte who pursued,

Yet lost ground (his weight of armour he rued).

The rock-strewn stairway grew so steep

That Brandimarte, clad in plate and mail,

Could scarce ascend, nor his charger keep

Its footing, their attempt was bound to fail.

He began to pile his arms in a heap,

While Marfisa up the rough path did sail,

Bearing Fiordelisa, to the very top,

Ready to despatch her, and there did stop.

Book II: Canto XIX: 12-15: Marfisa frees her in exchange for Brandimarte’s steed and armour

When Fiordelisa saw that she was close

To a most dreadful death, she called aloud,

While Brandimarte’s cries likewise arose,

Of grief and anger, then his head he bowed,

For his armour did yet his frame enclose,

And he’d no means to rescue her, that proud

Lover, for if he climbed twould be in vain,

She would still be hurled downwards to the plain.

So, with tears and sweet pleas, Brandimarte

Commenced to beseech the fierce Marfisa,

To be kind, and not act so spitefully,

Offering himself instead to her anger,

The proud warrior-maid smiled, mockingly,

And said: ‘Come leave off all this chatter:

If you’d rescue the lady, then you’ll need

To grant me your weapons, and your steed.’

This the pair now agreed, without delay,

Since each would be better for the trade.

Brandimarte thought it fair, in its way,

For he’d have given his heart for the maid.

Marfisa kept her word, yet won the day,

For she took both his arms and horse, and paid

By returning the lady she’d taken.

A fine bargain, if I’m not mistaken!

She armed, then mounted swiftly, and was gone,

Like one forever minded to advance,

And, galloping o’er the plain, came upon,  

Two well-mounted, equipped with shield and lance.

Of bold Marfisa, you’ll hear more anon,

For those two will guide the warrior to France;

But Bishop Turpin’s tale now speaks further

Of Brandimarte and Fiordelisa.

Book II: Canto XIX: 16-21: Brandimarte deals with a gang of robbers

Brandimarte mounted on the palfrey,

And set Fiordelisa on the crupper,

And thus, they rode through the country, slowly,

Till they came to a stream and a poplar.

From its summit, a lookout cried loudly:

‘On, Malcompagno, Spinamacchia!

On brave fellows, strike a fruitful blow,

There are travellers to rob, here, below!’

The knight, who was fluent in their tongue,

Halted at once, uncertain what to do.

The lookout was a robber, who now hung

Midst the branches, Brandimarte knew.

Since they rode but a palfrey, now among
These thieves, and were nigh defenceless too,

For he lacked his sword and shield, plate and mail,

He thought to fight would prove of small avail.

For at once, seven men or more appeared,

Some came on foot, and some astride a steed.

‘No need to wait for them; tis as I feared!’

Brandimarte thought, departing at speed,

Riding swiftly through the trees, as they neared.

Yet they proved a menace, and, in their greed,

Shouted: ‘Stand, and deliver!’ threateningly,

Till the two were chased by more than thirty.

Oh, the shame that oppressed our valiant knight,

As, before that scurvy crew, the palfrey ran!

If he’d had his horse and arms, in that plight,

He’d ne’er have thought to retreat half a span.

Now, as they rode, they reached, in their flight

(Down that narrow path, devoid of any plan).

A fair meadow, surrounded by a wood,

Where, to one side, a lofty pine-tree stood.

The knight, who fled most unwillingly,

As I said, both discontented and dismayed,

Saw a king, by a fountain, near the tree,

Clad in armour, who lay dead amidst the glade.

Brandimarte paused, but only briefly,

Then towards the armed monarch’s corpse he made,

Leapt from his mount, and seized the naked sword

And then turned to face the advancing horde.

Our knight wrapped his left arm in his mantle,  

And ran to meet the brigands with his blade.

Ne’er was there a man of finer mettle;

He sliced one, pierced another, then displayed

His skill, struck a chest, a side; the battle,

Scarcely lasted much longer; I’ve conveyed

The gist of it; he laboured with his sword,

Till all that crowd lay dead upon the sward.

Book II: Canto XIX: 22-28: He takes the arms of the dead King Agricane

All but for one unfortunate survivor

(Already doomed, not long escaping fate)

Who fled, wounded in the thigh, for cover,

Minus an arm, and in a dreadful state.

He sped to the hideout where his master

The savage Barigaccio dwelt, of late,

Offspring of Taridone, the corsair;

The son a brigand, this his secret lair.

Barigaccio was bigger than his sire,

And strong and fearsome; the wounded robber,

In his dread, ran to him, his suffering dire,

And told him of the band’s fatal error,

In copious detail, ready to expire.

Indeed, he could barely speak thereafter,

And, with blood pouring from every vein,

Collapsed to the ground, ne’er to rise again.

The savage Barigaccio, swelled with anger,

To a wondrous degree; seized his weapon,

A weighty club; donned his leather armour,

And then to his steed, Batoldo, he was gone.

This horse of his was strong beyond measure,

Its eyes were crimson red; with fire they shone;

Its hide was black as Nature would allow,

Coal-black, but for a white spot on its brow.

Barigaccio, once astride his mount,

Never ceased to spur on fierce Batoldo.

Brandimarte had returned to the fount,

After slaying all the thieves, every last foe,

And knew the dead king by his shield; the Count

Had slain him; twas Agricane. As you know,

Orlando had killed him beside the spring,   

For, of that deed, I’ve told you everything.

His royal crown was yet upon his head.

Twas of gold, set with many a fine gem;

But Brandimarte ever honoured the dead,

And refrained from touching that diadem;

He took the armour (the surcoat, instead,

He replaced, and smoothed it then, from neck to hem)

Then he kissed the king’s face, respectfully:

Saying: ‘I could do naught else, pardon me!

I take your armour not for fear I might die,

But I could not bear the death of my lady;

Tis impossible to stand idly by,

When at hand lie the means for remedy.

If you could hear me, assured am I,

That you would demonstrate the chivalry

For which you e’er were famed, were I to pray

For your aid, knowing my need this day.’

So, the knight spoke, with pity in his heart,

To the dead king, still fair and undecayed,

As if twere but three hours since he did part

From this life, and naught there did lapse and fade.

As Brandimarte pondered there, apart,

He heard a mighty trampling in the glade;

Twas Barigaccio, that lord of thieves,

Tormenting the branches and the leaves.

Book II: Canto XIX: 29-37: And then fights Barigaccio, leader of the robbers

Swiftly, our knight donned the dead king’s armour:

Plate, mail, and that helm Solomon had wrought,

Then grasped in his hand the sword, Tranchera,

Fresh from its previous fight, and, in short,

Was scarcely done, when the savage robber

Reached the killing-place that he had sought;

Where, everywhere upon the meadow, lay

His comrades, slaughtered in that brief affray.

Barigaccio paused but a moment,

Crying: ‘The Devil take you, foolish swine!

Your loss scarce brings me discontent,

If but a single sword could thus consign

You all to death. Better that it has sent

(Allah be my witness!) this dross of mine,

To feed the worms. I aim to hang the knight

And you, you sorry fellows, in plain sight!’

And, with that, he rode towards the pine-tree,

Where Brandimarte, on foot, was waiting.

The thief, approaching, dismounted swiftly,

From his valiant steed, and left it standing,

Not in some display of chivalry,

Twas rather he loved the creature dearly,

And was concerned that the knight might slay

His horse, once their weapons were in play.

He made no further threat; as he drew near,

Brandimarte viewed his mighty frame.

He was a giant in stature, that was clear;

All in scaly leather was clad that same.

With a shield made of bone, and a sphere

Of iron on a shaft (his club), he came.

Without a word, the rogue charged at the knight;

He, equally, now hastened to the fight.

The robber’s blow struck Brandimarte’s shield,

Dealt two-handedly, and, where it fell,

A shattered fragment tumbled to the field,

Much like a piece of gourd; thus, it was well

That the knight all his strength and skill revealed,

And cleft the shaft, like a reed, to compel

The other to retreat, his cudgel lost.

Barigaccio scarce counted the cost,

But leaping back, six feet or so, in scorn,

Drew his sword in a moment, threatening,

The ‘damned’ knight, who’d ‘wish he’d ne’er been born’,

Or so he claimed, while swearing and cursing.

With the weapon that Solomon had borne,

Brandimarte charged him, both exchanging

Many a stroke and thrust, above, below,

Varying their attacks, with blow on blow.

Brandimarte was quite amazed to find

A mere brigand possessed of such rare skill.

He’d ne’er in all his life been so confined

To defending, while the other struck at will;

Yet he responded, and the two combined

To slice at each other’s cladding, until

They well-nigh fought without; neither gave way,

As more and more fierce grew their affray.

The violent duel had increased in force;

Endless the dire and dreadful blows that fell.

Barigaccio, the Cruel, stayed the course,

Grieved that the warrior endured so well.

Brandimarte swung Tranchera, a source

Of strength, and swung wildly, for a spell,

Destroying the last of his foe’s ‘armour’;

He, in turn, destroyed the knight’s, however.

No metal could resist that fierce onslaught,

Not steel breastplate, nor coat of gleaming mail,

Nor yet the mountain-goat’s coarse hide, in short,

That the robber wore, in lieu; all such must fail.

It baffled Brandimarte, as they fought,

That brigandry, with all it did entail,

Was this bold robber’s trade; he drew aside,

And addressed him, while yet his blade he plied.

Book II: Canto XIX: 38-43: Pausing the fight, they converse

‘I know not who you are, or why,’ he said,

‘Fortune has led you to your line of work,

But I think you the boldest man e’er bred

Upon this earth, that neath the moon doth lurk.

I see the die is cast, for, head-to-head,

We labour, and neither man will shirk

Till one doth fall, ere eve or dark of night;

I trust twill not be I, who serve the right.

Yet if you wish to leave this life of crime

That you’re engaged in, this brigandry,

I’ll be your knight, and I’ll declare that I’m

Conquered; and honour you, of chivalry.

Come now, have you not thought, from time to time,

That of far more than this you stand worthy?

Leave off your trade, for I’ve little doubt,

That such as you will scarcely go without.’

The brigand answered: ‘Why, all that I do,

Is done by every lord of noble birth.

They kill their enemies, and rob them too,

To enrich the state, and increase their worth.

I steal from half a dozen, end one or two,

While ten thousand corpses litter the earth,

That they slay; unlike myself, in their greed,

They steal that for which they have scant need.’

‘Tis a sin to rob others’, said the knight,

‘So, all the world believes, yet, when tis done

To serve the state, then tis thought to be right,

And is excused; tis thus all spoils are won.’

Replied the brigand: ‘E’er pardoned outright

Is the sinner who confesses; I am one

That accuses himself: make no mistake,

I take, from the weaker, all that I can take.

But to you, who preach so beautifully,

I’ll do less harm than I would otherwise,

If you’ll grant me your arms, and the lady

And what the inside of your purse supplies.

I’ve a certain lack of ready money,

So, you’ll aid me greatly, if you’re wise.

For I’ll let you go, and none the worse,

If we exchange our coats, while we converse.

My own’s now full of holes, as you can see

But you could patch its fabric, by and by.’

Brandimarte, as he listened, silently,

Thought: ‘Sinners can’t reform, if they try.

As long as evil keeps them in plenty.

Whether tis June or December, say I,

Whether tis cold, or the sun’s boiling hot,

The frog will never quit his muddy spot.’

Book II: Canto XIX: 44-46: Brandimarte ultimately slays the brigand

Without deigning to answer the robber,

He gripped his shield, and defied the man.

The contest was more furious than ever;

They struck each other’s targes, and then began

To drench their garments in blood; their fervour

Waxed far greater than before, for a span.

There was no more talk of their agreeing.

Each man’s desire was his own well-being.

Brandimarte with both hands gripped his sword,

Resolved to win himself a little space,

And with a two-handed blow he ensured

It struck Barigaccio, pierced the face

Of his shield, made of bone, and explored

The cloth, and the arm beneath; dealt at pace

It sliced right through the hip, from to back;

Naught could blunt the sheer force of that attack.

Barigaccio toppled to the ground,

And cursed like the very devil, as he fell.

The knight now tried to comfort him, but found

Still fouler oaths commended him to Hell.

Brandimarte would not his sins compound,

By killing him, and bid the man farewell.

He left him lying there, slain in his pride,

For, in a while, Barigaccio died.

Book II: Canto XIX: 47-49: He takes the horse, Batoldo, and he and Fiordelisa depart

Abandoning, thus, the dying fellow,

Brandimarte, leaving with the lady,

Heard, o’er the field, the courser, Batoldo,

Yield a soft whinny, to greet their palfrey.

Since the steed was a fine one, as we know,

The nearby sound prompted Brandimarte

To say to Fiordelisa: ‘With the weight

Of my armour, we two are tempting fate

Sharing the one horse; I propose to take

That steed, as I did the arms and sword.

Twould be foolish, a most unwise mistake,  

To leave behind what Fortune doth afford

As a gift; for, indeed, the dead can make

Scant use of them, who’ve passed beyond the ford,

Where there is naught to fear.’ And, speaking so,

He soon grasped the reins, mounting Batoldo.

Thus, he went his way, with Fiordelisa.

A duel, strange and fearful, he’ll witness

That will no doubt cause our warrior

To employ his sword, with great success.

But all that tale I’ll postpone till later,

For I must turn to Orlando who, no less

A knight, has defeated, in our story,

Antropofagon’s Lestrigioni.

Book II: Canto XIX: 50-52: Orlando and Angelica reach Beirut

Having rescued Angelica the Fair,

Count Orlando was content with his lot.

Conversation, on the road, they did share,

But he was cautious, and embraced her not;

For he so loved the lady all his care

Was to show her respect, no matter what.

Bishop Turpin, calls the Count, however,

A baboon, and rightly, as a lover.

Journeying on, in this polite manner,

They traversed all of Persia, day by day,

Then Mesopotamia, its neighbour;

(To the northern side Armenia lay)

And thereby reached the coast of Syria,

A rich and fine realm, where on their way

Not a single battle did they encounter,

Not one fight requiring sword and armour.

They reached the sea, as I said before,

And, at the port of Beirut, found a ship

About to sail from that pleasant shore,

A host of courtiers aboard for the trip,

For a king, and his folk, that vessel bore,

He being bound for Cyprus, in courtship

Of a lady whom he loved for her charms,

There to show his worth, and his skill in arms.

Book II: Canto XIX: 53-54: Norandino of Damascus, and Lucina

This monarch was the King of Damascus,

And the name of the youth, Norandino.

He was noble, handsome, and courageous

As bold as any that his land could show.

Now, you should know, the island of Cyprus,

Was ruled, at that time, by Tibiano,

A Saracen; and his daughter, Lucina,

Was more beautiful than every other.

This young lady was so wondrously fair

That hundreds had sought her hand, in vain,

For her beauty was renowned everywhere,

And many hoped her favour they might gain.

The talk was of her looks (beyond compare),

From the mountain heights to the coastal plain,

And many a suitor on her name did call,

Though Norandino loved her best of all.

Book II: Canto XIX: 55-56: Tibiano, King of Cyprus announces a tourney

Tibiano, possessed of the intent

To see his daughter wed, had this thought,

To arrange a most splendid tournament,

Such as were oft held, at many a court,

To which bold kings, and lords, and knights, all went,

To display their strength, and worth, as they fought.

He invited all the queens and ladies,

From a host of near and far-flung countries.

Many a knight sailed for Cyprus, when they heard.

Some went to prove themselves, on that fair field,

Some journeyed just to watch, and some were stirred

By thoughts of the daughter. With lance and shield,

Norandino hastened, on receiving word,

To cross the waves, his ardour scarce concealed,

Furnished, moreover, with all he might need:

Helm, and armour, and trappings for his steed.

Book II: Canto XIX: 57-58: Norandino invites Orlando to join his company

A score of men, each one a valiant knight,

Went with him, and formed his company,

And the king was on his ship, and in sight,

When Orlando, and his lady, reached the sea.

He in turn saw the Count, and, in forthright

Speech, to his comrades said: ‘It seems to me,

That the flower of chivalry meets our eye,

For such looks, and bold manner, cannot lie.’

He had the captain ask him, politely,

If he would join them at the tournament,

And Count Orlando replied, presently,

That, indeed, he would serve the king, content

To joust, or fight for him in the tourney,

Or in war, if such proved the king’s intent.

As long as he might serve in his own way

He was happy to oblige, and obey.

Book II: Canto XIX: 59-60: The Count, having agreed, gives his name as Rotolante

The king then asked him for his name,

His rank, and condition, and his country.

Count Orlando replied: ‘Unknown to fame,

I come from Circassia to the tourney.

For I’ve lost all I had with me, in that same

Vile land, in war, except for this lady,

And the arms that cruel Fortune has left me.

I am yours to command: Rotolante.’

Norandino, as pleased as he was before

By the Count’s chivalry, was charmed anew,

Welcomed him, and asked about that war,

And of his journey, till a fair wind blew,

Which carried them swiftly from the shore.

Lords, ladies, I commend myself to you;

This canto’s done, yet the next to appear

Will bear far lovelier things to your ear.

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