Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato

Book II: Canto XVI: The Tourney at Mount Carena

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Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato: Book II, Canto XVI

Book II: Canto XVI: 1-7: Marfisa pursuing Brunello meets a lady and a knight

This fair history I relate in song,

Will prove far more delightful to the ear

When Count Orlando reaches France, ere long,

And Agramante and his troops appear.

But to a later canto they belong;  

Tis enough to deal with Brunello here,  

Brunello, that rascal of evil race,

Still on the run, Marfisa giving chase.

He’d stolen Orlando’s horn that morning,

As you’ve heard before, and Balisardo,

That charmed blade of Falerina’s forging.

And, as I’ve explained in the last canto,

He was in and out the taverns stealing

From every kitchen, every host his foe,

Not waiting to seek an invitation;

Helping himself to some rich collation.

When he’d quaffed his drink, he’d purloin the cup,

And would then declare the bill had been paid,

Calling out: ‘Luck, be with you, when you sup!’

As his swift steed the whip and spur obeyed.

Marfisa swore she’d string the rascal up,

If ever that cunning fellow were delayed.

He’d stop; when she thought she had him pinned,

He’d be off again, fleeing like the wind.

The angry maid chased him for fifteen days

As I’ve said, growing weaker as she went,

For she’d but grass and leaves to eat always,

While upon that furious mission intent,

Though she was ever steadfast, to her praise,

And would seize the rogue yet ere she was spent.

Yet twas no easy thing to stay the course,

Since she was on foot, he astride a horse.

Her own steed had perished on the way;

On the sixth eve the beast had upped and died;

So, she now employed her legs, night and day.

Though still clad in full armour, out of pride,

So swift was she, a greyhound, I would say,

Off the leash, an arrow, or some sharp-eyed

Falcon, swooping, from the sky to the vale,

She’d have left far behind her, without fail.


But, debilitated, tiring of the chase,

She soon found her armour a heavy weight,

And, proof against Brunello, upped her pace

By doffing all, thereby easing her state.

She ran so fiercely, with threatening face

Free of that burden, and at such a rate,

That she gave Brunello many a fright,

Though his steed sped on, like the breeze in flight.

Oft, she came so near she thought to mount

His horse’s crupper, while he upped his speed,

Racing furiously, on his own account,

Spurring the heaving flanks of his fine steed.

The steadfast queen, deterred by no amount

Of trickery on his part, would ne’er concede.

Yet, suddenly, she faced a fresh distraction,

Who’d have died ere leaving off the action.

For the chase led towards a maid in white,

She was travelling slowly o’er the plain,

Of wondrous beauty, while a handsome knight

Rode beside her; fair indeed were the twain.

Their story I’ll tell later, if I might,

For I must hunt Brunello, once again,

Who sped o’er hill and dale, in a fever,

Thinking he still fled the bold Marfisa.

Book II: Canto XVI: 8-15: Brunello reaches Bizerte (Hippo), and tells his tale to Agramante

She remained behind, and there caused trouble,

Of which I’ll tell you, when I’ve time to spare,

Though the conflict failed to lead to a battle.

Brunello, meanwhile, far from that affair,

Rode his swift steed, clad in gleaming metal,

(The steed that is; a mount, beyond compare)

Reached the coast, boarded ship, as he had planned,

And sailed for Africa, his native land.

He landed at Bizerte where his king,

Agramante, eager to fight the foe,

Fretted that none would think of leaving

Till they’d discovered young Ruggiero,

A fair knight whom a wizard was hiding,

(The enchanter, wise Atlante), and so

Could not be found, or seen you understand,

Till fair Angelica’s ring came to hand.

Brunello, the thief, arrived and, smiling,

Went off to seek a royal audience.

Once done, he doffed his cap to the king,

And, speaking in many a fine sentence.

The lords and princes, swiftly gathering,

Heard him tell (beside a deal of nonsense)

How he’d gained the ring from Angelica,

(Though he paused oft, to indulge his laughter).

Next, he told how, unseen, he’d snatched a steed

From beneath the King of Circassia,

And stolen a mighty sword; for that deed,

Being chased by the furious Marfisa,

Yet had escaped, by a rare turn of speed,

(All this he told the king, so I gather),

And how, ere that, he’d gained a sword and horn

From some fine knight or other, in the morn.

Once the thief had completed his story,

He gave the horn to King Agramante,

Whereupon twas recognised, instantly,

As borne in Africa, by Almonte,  

And then owned by Orlando, thus every

Prince and lord there marvelled, greatly,

Speaking, among themselves, of chance and fate;

Though the thief Brunello could not wait

To place the ring in Agramante’s hand,

That little ring endowed with such power,

In its presence, no enchantment could stand.

The king rose; came now Brunello’s hour:

On his head the king set the royal band

Of Tingitana, for twas in his dower,

All that realm, and all that it contained,

The castles, and the people it maintained,

Which country was on the western border,

And inhabited by a dark-skinned race.

With the ring, the court was in a fervour;

Agramante and his men left apace.

Brunello, newly-crowned as a ruler,

Rode beside them. All hoped Allah would grace

Them with a sight of young Ruggiero;

O’er the sands to Carena they would go.

Book II: Canto XVI: 16-20: Agramante and company reach Mount Carena

Immeasurably vast is Mount Carena

And its summit almost touches the sky.

On the top a goodly plateau, with a cover

Of leafy shrubs and trees, extends, on high,

For a hundred miles, border to border.

O’er this plain, runs a stream, that, by and by,

Descends the steep slopes, to the coast below,

Forming a natural harbour, with its flow.

On the plain, I’ve described, by the river,

Rose a mighty rock, a good mile in height,

Which a wall of glass circled, and never

A pathway could be seen there, nor a flight

Of stairs, or none the eyes could discover,

For naught but sheer cliffs rose towards the light.

Yet, if one looked through the crystal, one saw,

A lovely park, with a green and wooded floor.

On the mountain summit, in this garden,

Grew leafy palms, and verdant cedar-trees.

Mulabuferso, versed in that kingdom,

Said he’d never seen the rock, if you please,

And, therefore, twas wrought by incantation,

A work of necromancy, built to please

The mage Atlante, who’d hid it from all eyes.

The ring had revealed it, to his surprise,

The ring that abolished all enchantment.

Then all were certain that Ruggiero

Dwelt upon that summit; with discontent,

The cunning old Atlante gazed below,

And, divining Agramante’s intent

His thoughts were sad, his heart filled with woe,

For he knew that he might lose the young knight,

Whom he had hoped to keep from their sight.

He paced about, unsure what he could do

To keep that sovereign youth from their eyes.

He wept, while begging him to hide from view,

And not descend from the heights, in any wise.

Agramante realised, unless they flew

To the summit, like birds amidst the skies,

There was naught that he could do or say

That would serve his purpose, in any way.

Book II: Canto XVI: 21-24: Brunello calls for a tournament, to draw Ruggiero forth

Brunello, now King of Tingitana,

Since his efforts to climb had proved in vain,

(Though he’d tried his spidery skills, as ever,

He’d found the glass too smooth) upon the plain,

Sat, and pondered, seeking to discover,

Some pathway to success; he rose again,

Full of calm self-assurance: ‘God be praised!’

He cried: ‘I’ve found the means! Be ye amazed!

But everyone must give a helping hand,

And obey the instructions I’ll supply.

A hundred of you knights, I now command

To start a pleasant tourney, by and by.

Show that you are the finest in the land,

Let your valour and your ardour, rise on high.

Charge at each other, as you’ve done before,

Sound the trumpets and horns, as if in war.’

The knights replied: ‘Well, that’s easily done!’

Though not a lord there understood his plan.

They spread out next the stream, everyone

Beneath his own banner, ere, they began.

Then Agramante chose his company, none

But monarchs, dukes, and barons to a man,

Trained in war; fifty champions he found,

And their steeds’ caparisons swept the ground.

Sobrino King of Garbo; Gualciotto,

Bellamarina’s king; then Arzila’s

Bambirago; Oran’s Marbalusto;

Constantine’s Pinadoro; and Bolga’s

Mirabaldo; with the king of Fizano,

Mulabuferso; all those warriors,

Charged at Agramante, brave and bold;

While there were fifty noble knights all told.

Book II: Canto XVI: 25-29: Agramante downs Malabuferso, Mirabaldo and Gualciotto

The two ranks met with a wondrous crash;

They drove together with a noise like thunder;

The cries, the war-horns, the almighty clash

Of steeds and armour, split the sky asunder.

Agramante’s squadron, perchance too rash,

Had the worst of that very first encounter;

Twenty of his champions were grounded,

With only seven of their foes confounded.

Agramante nearly lost the royal banner,

Carried just ahead of that valiant king.

The battle, conducted with such fervour,

Scarcely seemed the careless and playful thing,

Intended. Sobrino, fierce as ever,

King of Garbo, large of limb, there did bring,

His ensign, a tongue of fire; and, though old

And grey, fought like a lion, strong and bold.

Agramante, his surcoat blue and gold,

Bearing a quartered shield, rode Sisifalto,

His great steed and, like a wolf in the fold,

Moved furiously against the humbler foe,

And there he downed Fizano’s king, knocked cold.

Struck by the king’s mount, Mulabuferso,

Was halted, by the impact, in his course,  

And tumbled to the ground, beneath his horse.

Agramante, with scarcely a delay,

Wheeled his charger and struck Mirabaldo,

Likewise unseating him, for down he lay,

Bolga’s noble king; he, you should know,

Showed a ram on his ensign; night and day

That emblem o’er his castle’s walls did blow,

For the banner, on a white field, did unfold

A ram as black as coal, with horns of gold.

Yet he fell, while Agramante raged on,

Swinging his mighty blade, and filled with ire,

Gualciotto in a moment was gone

To ground, Bellamarina his empire,

Struck by a single-sword blow, whereupon

He dropped like a stone, tumbled in the mire.

His black shield, and crest, bore a dove in white,

An olive-branch in its beak; woe the knight!

Book II: Canto XVI: 30-33: And many others, including Arzila’s Bambirago

Agramante wrought many a wondrous deed,

And, though he rode amidst valiant men,

None equalled him in strength, all there agreed.

Tremizon’s king, Alzirdo, was then

At his side (his shield, on a golden mead

Showed a crimson rose) and, worth any ten

Other knights, Folvo, King of Fez, was there,

A gold bar, o’er azure, his flag did bear.

Many more were in that fight I’ll not name;

I would rather wait and give, at leisure

All the details of how, to France, they came,

Their arms, their titles, and take their measure,

At that time; for now, I’ll defer the same,

And return to the tourney (fought for pleasure!)

Where the Saracens charged at each other,

And Agramante sought to show his valour.

He turned his steed about, to left and right,

Struck this man, sent another to the field;

Spurred his horse and won clear, seized a knight

By the wrist, by the helm; forced both to yield.

His comrades regrouped, that is, ceased to fight,

And quit him, so his prowess was revealed;

He engaged in battle, striking men at will,

Showing his strength, his chivalry, his skill,

Bambirago of Arzila’s crest, he seized,

(That monarch was unseated to his shame),

Overjoyed, and yet, in a sense, displeased,

To find no man his equal at that game.

From the rock young Ruggiero was pleased

To gaze upon the scene, and view that same;

Beside Atlante, by whom he’d been raised.

The ardent youth, in wonder, stood and gazed.

Book II: Canto XVI: 34-38: Ruggiero begs to view the tournament more closely

The field seemed small, from that distant height.

Watching the knights perform their tournament,

Ruggiero was restless, his eyes alight,

His hands twitching, his eager gaze intent;

Admiring the encounters, knight on knight,

While kicking his feet about in discontent.

He asked to descend to witness it, in vain;

Longed to be nearer, and so asked again.

‘Ah, my dear son!’ Atlante now replied,

‘A sinful game it is you gaze on here!

Calm yourself, let the impulse be denied

To go amongst these warriors, for I fear

Ascendant planets may not be defied.

If astrology’s art speaks true, then clear

Warning it yields, and of this I am sure,

That you will be betrayed, and die in war.’

The youth replied: ‘I do believe the skies

Influence our lives; but if what is to be

Must be, what safety in denial lies?

Gainst destiny there is no remedy.

And if, by use of force, your will denies

Me satisfaction, that same destiny

Shall yet be fulfilled, some day and hour,

If your art, and your skill therein, have power.

Therefore, I beg of you, sir, let me go,

For I long to see the joust more clearly;

Or I’ll hurl myself to the depths below,

And so, defeat the claims of prophecy.

For the longer I view this martial show,

And the more I see of this chivalry,

The greater my hope of dwelling, thereby,

Midst those great warriors, though I may die.’

When the old wizard realised that his ward

Would descend, whether he wished it or no,

He crossed the garden, to avoid discord,

And unlocked a little door that led below,

Then, through a long tunnel that would afford

Access to the plain, led the youth, and so

They came to an exit beside the stream,

Where Brunello was waiting, it would seem.

Book II: Canto XVI: 39-48: Brunello tempts him with the steed Frontalate

He was alone there, close to the water,

When Atlante and the youth came in view.

And, watching the lad approach the river,

Knew he was Ruggiero; they spoke true,

Who told of his noble looks and manner,

And handsome form; but a swift review,

Assured Brunello he had found the boy,

And that he might, therefore, his tricks employ.

He was astride his courser Frontalate,

And now his mount’s agility displayed,

By having the creature leap, wondrously,

In great long arcs, that ease and power conveyed.

Young Ruggiero watched, admiringly.

So deep an impression those antics made,

He was seized by such longing for the steed,

He’d have traded his blood for it, indeed.

He begged his guardian, Atalante,

To acquire the horse for him if he could.

I’ll not keep you in suspense, unduly,

But give you the conclusion, as I should.

Though the mage was opposed to it, wholly,

And gave him many reasons, ill and good,

As to why a wretched fate would ensue,

Why steeds and weapons he had kept from view,

Ruggiero, of his speech, heard no more

Than the ground beneath his feet, I’d say;

Yet he felt a deep pang of woe and, more,

His whole visage now turned a deathly grey.

The old mage yielded up his ground, therefore,

And when the thief repeated his display,

(Though a king, now!) he sought to buy the steed,

With its saddle and trappings, if agreed,

For any sum Brunello might mention.

He, cunning past belief, saw his plan

Was maturing, and said: ‘My intention

Is not to sell this horse to any man.

Our king is soon launching an invasion,

And every knight who’d win renown, and can,

Will join him, and thereby gain fresh honour;

For, there, all may show their skill, and valour.

And now, the time, indeed, has drawn near

That every man of courage must desire,

When, in their own true colours, folk appear;

Some men will hide, others will rise higher,

For the heart of every knight will show clear.

Some will prove brave, as others flee the fire,

While those who stay behind will reap but shame,

Scorned by little boys in some warlike game.

Because King Agramante now would sail

O’er the sea, to face Charlemagne in France,

The sea is filled with ships, our armies hail

His preparations for a swift advance.

The time has come, if victory shall prevail,

For men to show their skill with sword and lance.

Every true knight, his banner once unfurled,

May hear his deeds proclaimed, o’er all the world.’

While this brave speech flowed from King Brunello,

Ruggiero listened, most attentively,

His expression ever-changing, while the glow

Of his brave martial thoughts shone forth, brightly.

His heart pounded, he felt each hammer-blow,

As the thief spoke on, his manner sprightly:

‘More men are gathering, on land and shore,

Than e’er seen in such vast numbers before.

Thirty-two monarchs meet, with great display,

Each leading an army, from his realm, to war.

Even old men and boys bear arms this day,

And well-nigh shame the women at their door.

Therefore, be not surprised by what I say,

That I’ll not sell my steed, you may be sure,

For all the treasure on Earth; one so bold,

So swift; the creature’s worth his weight in gold!

Yet if I thought, fair youth, that you must stay,

For lack of a horse, and be left behind,

I promise you, I’d give the steed away,

With all its trappings; all to you consigned.

Tis in good faith, I swear it, not in play,

For such a purpose fate may have designed;

While neither Rinaldo nor Orlando

With such a mount, or sword, will meet the foe.’

Book II: Canto XVI: 49-52: Ruggiero asks it as a gift

They youth was scarcely slow in his reply,

Not waiting for permission from Atlante.

He felt a thousand years must pass by

Ere he could mount the courser, thus, swiftly,

He made answer: ‘Grant me the steed, and I

Will walk through the fire for you; I, simply,

Request, above all else, this one favour,

Do what you will, sooner, and not later.

For I watched the men fighting on the plain,

From the heights, as they proved themselves below,

And every moment seemed a day, I maintain,

Till I could ride, sword in hand, gainst the foe.

Your oath, if you care for my life, sustain;

Grant me the arms, and the steed, and know,

If I receive them now, to me they’ll lend

The strength to win fame, or a worthy end.’

With a little smile, Brunello replied,

‘Fear not, none here ride to destruction.

Those, that you see, by Allah’s law abide;

We are Africans, and all of that religion,

The tourney but a game, on either side.

Harsh penalties forbid the use, in action,

Of the point of the weapon, while the sword

Only blows with the flat may, here, afford.’

‘Grant me the armour, swiftly, and the steed,’

Ruggiero cried, ‘be not concerned, for I

Promise you I shall learn the game, with speed,

And play my part amongst them all, thereby.

You’ll keep me here till nightfall, and indeed,

I’ll ne’er reach the field (here, he made to sigh),

Tis ill to hold back, yet ne’er count the cost,

For a gift that’s too late is a gift that’s lost.’

Book II: Canto XVI: 53-57: He receives the steed and arms from Brunello

Old Atlante, who was standing close by,

Now cursed every star and planet, loudly,

Saying: ‘Fate, and the high heavens, hereby

Wish Allah above, and fierce Trivigante,

To lose this light amongst lords; he will die,

Betrayed, in woe, perishing evilly.

Well, whate’er must be must be; tis his fate,

And what must be, will happen, soon or late.’

Weeping, as he spoke, the necromancer

Called (his voice breaking) to Ruggiero:

‘My son, to Allah I commend you, ever!’

Then vanishing, midst the thorns, he did go.

Ruggiero took the sword, donned the armour,

And seized the mane of his horse, not slow

To mount; and, with a leap to the saddle,

Youth and steed were, in a trice, fit for battle.  

The world ne’er possessed a horse so fine,

As I’ve said, in praise of his mount, before.

And with Ruggiero astride, I would opine,

No finer sight was e’er seen, shore to shore.

Twould have proved hard, I think, to divine

By gazing at the steed, and him it bore,

If they were painted or alive, such the grace,

And elegance, that, there, the eye could trace.

The horse, as I’ve said, was from Granada,

For I’ve described its qualities before.

Sacripante lost it at Albracca,

When Frontalate was the name it bore.  

But Ruggiero, ever called that charger

Frontino, from the moment that he saw

Its white forehead, and hocks, blond tail and mane;

From its pale brow the title it did gain.

To tell the deeds of the youth, on that steed,

And how he disturbed the tournament,

Just as soon as he’d reached the level mead,

Arriving swiftly, and with martial intent,

A much longer space of time I would need,

Than this canto offers, tis almost spent;

I’ll end it here, and leave the next to express

All that occurred there, neither more nor less.

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

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