Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato

Book II: Canto XVIII: The Fall of Albracca

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

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Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato: Book II, Canto XVIII

Book II: Canto XVIII: 1-3: Love as the source of glory

Britain was once the land of love and glory,

Famous for its knights, and many a lover;

Whence her name is still honoured in story.

Tis why King Arthur’s fame resounds ever,

From those times, when, in all their vainglory,

With their ladies, his lords sought adventure,

And their worth, in many a fight, to display;

Brave men, whose deeds are spoken of today.

And later, Charlemagne held court in France,

It bearing scant semblance to the other,

Though twas strong enough, and proof against chance,

Owning Rinaldo, and the Count, moreover;

Yet the cause of Love, it failed to advance,

And Holy War became its sole endeavour,

No longer could it boast the worth and fame

That the former, King Arthur’s court, could claim.

For tis Love that grants us glory; Amor

Adds worth and honour to our mortal span.

Love gains the victory, for Love is sure

To add ardour to the heart of every man.

Hence, I’ll speak of Orlando’s love, once more,

And thus, take up the tale, as I began,

And turn to where I left Sacripante,

In the last canto, wearied from his journey.

Book II: Canto XVIII: 4-5: Orlando reaches Albracca

Once Sacripante had told Orlando

Of the nature of his quest; how, in fear,

Angelica had ordered him to go,

And seek aid, for no other would appear,

Orlando gave a sigh, of gentle woe,

On hearing of that lady, he held dear,

Quit Isolier and Calidora,

And set out for the walls of Albracca.

Meanwhile Sacripante donned his mantle,

Grasped his wallet, and took his staff in hand,

And went to seek Gradasso’s aid in battle,

By journeying to that king’s distant land.

One morn, the Count approached the citadel,

Brandimarte in his wake, yet his planned

Entry to Albracca was now denied,

So vast the host besieging those inside.

Book II: Canto XVIII: 6-11: He tells Angelica of his adventures  

Torindo, the king of the Turks, was there;

Caramano, king of Santaria;

And Menadarbo, the Sultan, his care

All the lands of Egypt and Syria.

Many a tent the open plain did share,

For the host was greater now than ever,

And all those warriors their might displayed

To bring suffering and death to one fair maid.

This for one, that for another injury,

Was present to besiege strong Albracca.

The Turkish king, Torindo, was angry

That Truffaldino once gained his capture;

The Sultan, Menadarbo, was completely

Enamoured of the fair Angelica,

Yet by her had been rejected and scorned,

A situation which, at first, he’d mourned,

But later hatred had replaced his love,

And he attended there to cause her pain.

Orlando had viewed the host from above,

And closer to, camped on the hills and plain.

And though their valour in battle he’d prove,

Willingly, he would see his love again,

And so, he sought, in peace, to circumvent

The force; to reach the maid his sole intent.

He therefore hid within a grove nearby,

Until the dark of night, then made his way,

Since the place was familiar to his eye,

To the citadel, avoiding all affray.

Seeing him the maid gave a joyful cry,

And felt her fears and cares melt away.

Ask not if she was pleased and relieved,

For that the Count had been slain, she’d believed.

Warm were her caresses and her greeting,

On his return; their speech open-hearted,

For Orlando told her of everything,

That had occurred, from the day they’d parted

Till that moment: the Count spoke of finding

Marfisa, and how his horn had departed,

How Orrigille had sought the occasion

To trick him, and of Monodante’s prison,

And of how Rinaldo had left for France,

With Dudon, and England’s Duke Astolfo.

From first to last he gave each circumstance,

Every detail, while pacing to and fro.

When she’d heard all his tale of fate and chance,

And had learned that the noble Rinaldo,

Was once again upon his native shore,

She burned to see that handsome knight once more.

Book II: Canto XVIII: 12-16: They flee the citadel

So, she began to work upon Orlando,

Offering him a thousand reasons why

They should look to France, and escape the foe.

Their stores would be depleted by and by,

And there was little to be gained below.

The citadel could not survive; they’d die;

Thus, some new remedy they now must seek,

To escape from the siege; the future bleak.

She would ride with him, in company,

To any place to which he chose to go.

She said naught with which he could disagree,

(Though he gave it scant thought, he loved her so),

And that very night they prepared to flee.

They left bright torches burning, high and low,

On towers and spires, so the foe might believe

The fortress was guarded, ere they did leave.

They fled through the dark and shadowy air,

And so passed unhindered amidst the host;

But when the stars dimmed, and the sudden flare

Of light, that heralds dawn, the sky did boast,

They halted, briefly, to re-order the affair,

Ere onwards, and in safety, they might post.

Their band was composed of well-nigh twenty

Ladies, knights, and sergeants, in company.

Orlando thought to go a separate way,

The rest chose their own paths; Angelica

Rode next the Count, in the clear light of day,

With Brandimarte, and Fiordelisa;

The quartet advanced, brooking no delay,

And journeyed till mid-afternoon, never

A soul in sight to hinder their swift flight,

Quite free of impediment, to their delight.

The air by then was warm, the weather fine,

And they descended from their mounts awhile,

To rest in a fair meadow, neath a pine.

The knights, though heated from many a mile,

Retained their weighty armour, by design.

Thus, unafraid of harm, in pleasant style,

They spoke of love, seated, at their ease,

Till sounds came to them, carried on the breeze.  

Book II: Canto XVIII: 17-21: Brandimarte seeks to delay their pursuers

They rose, and viewed, some distance away,

A band of riders in tight formation,

Galloping o’er the plain (and not in play!),

With banners flying, keeping close station.

Twas Menadarbo, the Sultan, who’d repay

The maid’s scorn, and, of the Turkish nation,

The king, Torindo; their troops had seized

And burnt Albracca, entering as they pleased.

For, at dawn, they found they’d been deceived,

And, realising none were left within,

Twas but a simple thing, and soon achieved,

To ope the gates, and that great fortress win.

Menadarbo swore, by all that he believed,

He’d have the maid; and did the chase begin,

And was swiftly followed by Torindo,

And the rest, among them Caramano.

The Count was disconcerted to behold,

That armed squadron galloping o’er the plain.

For though valiant himself, and ever bold,

To protect the two ladies, he was fain;

Yet Brandimarte, quite unworried, told

Orlando not to fret: ‘Ride on, again,

And leave the rest to me; this rabble here

Are worth not a straw, there’s naught to fear.

I own, as you can see, a valiant steed;

He’s as good as any horse in the East.

And there’s not a knight amongst them, indeed,

That could trouble my defence, in the least.

Let me remain behind, if we’re agreed,

And then your chances will be much increased,

For, by word or by deed, I’ll find a way

To offer our foes diversion, and delay.’

Though the Count was persuaded, in the end,

That Brandimarte’s plan was good and sound,

He was nonetheless loathe to leave his friend,

By honour, and long association, bound.

Yet, at last, his hand to him he did extend;

They all mounted, prepared to change their ground,

And, twixt the ladies, Orlando rode away,

Yet left bold Brandimarte still in play.

Book II: Canto XVIII: 22-30: He deals with the Sultan and the kings

Towards the knight, advanced that hostile band,

Unaware of his presence, o’er the plain.

According to their horse’s speed, unplanned

Each man, now, his progression did maintain,

Satalia’s king was closest to hand,

Marigotto he was called, bound to gain

On the others, since his great, dappled steed

Flew like an arrow, e’er granting him the lead.

As if shot from a bow, the courser ran,

Bearing the king on, while Brandimarte,

Observing him, was thinking: ‘That bold man

Is keen to die; he’ll pay his debts full swiftly.’

He waited, for delay was still his plan,

Till he came close enough to see him clearly,

Then hunched his shoulders, and lowered his lance,

Spurred his steed, and began his own advance.

Marigotto responded, as on he came,

And charged full speed at Brandimarte

Whose sharp lance drove savagely through that same,

Piercing front to back, skewering him neatly;

While his steed the better of the joust did claim,

(Brandimarte’s steed I mean) full heavily,

It struck the other, and so downed the pair,

Marigotto, neath his mount, floundering there.

Brandimarte had quickly drawn his blade,

And now swung it, right and left, ceaselessly,

Scattering the knights, leaving men dismayed,

Or carving them to pieces, ruthlessly.

Those to the front now wished that they’d delayed,

On viewing the cost of arriving early,

Halting nervously, showing scant concern,

If others, there before them, took first turn.

Now Menadarbo arrived, filled with anger,

That one knight should stall so many men;

Clasping his lance to his side, no stranger

To such fierce encounters, he paused, and then

Spurred his courser, seeking not to linger,

Struck Brandimarte’s ribs, and turned again.

Yet the former scarcely moved in his seat,

The broken lance fell; once more they did meet.

Brandimarte raised his bared sword on high,

With both hands he dealt the other a blow,

Helm and shield sought to block that reply,

Yet neither protected Menadarbo.

Shield and helm were severed; with a sigh

The Sultan fell, dying, to the earth, below,

Wounded in the head; that death struck fear

In all of his company, their caution clear.

They still circled about Brandimarte,

Threatening from afar, with extended lance.

But our knight charged the squad, fearlessly,

And scattered them all, with his swift advance.

He chased now this, now that, relentlessly,

While granting not a one the slightest chance.

King Torindo then engaged in the fight,

With Caramano, who wheeled about the knight.

Torindo chose to charge with lowered spear,

And struck Brandimarte on the shield;

The lance was shattered, our knight saw clear

To cut at the king’s shoulder, and revealed

The flesh neath the armour; the blade fell sheer

And sliced him to the belly; to the field

He fell, while, when King Caramano saw

That stroke, the latter fled. His courser bore

Him swiftly, yet his speed had proved in vain,

Though his steed had soared like a bird in flight,

Had evening shadows not fallen o’er the plain;

Our knight had fought some hours, and now the bright

Sun declined; twas late the chase to maintain.

Caramano escaped and, in the night,

Swam a river, in his fear, till, midst the trees

Of a dark wood, at last, his flight did cease.

Book II: Canto XVIII: 31-33: He hears the cry of a damsel in distress

Brandimarte, who had sought to pursue

Caramano, till he saw the king had fled,

With no urge to capture him, turned anew

To seek the path deep in the forest that led

To the field of conflict, now lost from view.

Yet he’d lost his way, so swiftly had he sped

Through the dense uncharted glades, while the light

Had faded, shadows darkening all in sight.

He rode amidst the trees, for a mile or so,

Yet found no route that revealed the sky,

So, he halted, having failed to find the foe,

Dismounted, and upon the ground did lie,

There to sleep, and was slumbering when, lo,

His rest was troubled by a sudden cry

Not far away; a woman’s cry it seemed,

Calling on God for aid, unless he dreamed.

Who was that damsel in such sore distress?

If you’ll but wait and listen, you shall hear.

For I’ve talked of Brandimarte to excess,

And must seek Orlando whether far or near.

He had journeyed westwards, more or less,

(Having left Brandimarte) twould appear,

And yet had scarcely gone six miles or so,

Ere he found further trouble, pain and woe.

Book II: Canto XVIII: 34-40: Orlando is captured by the Lestrigioni

Orlando had entered a deep valley,

The sun now declining towards evening.

Midst its rocks dwelt the Lestrigioni,

Fierce, and cruel, and pitiless, possessing

The talons and fangs of lions, yet simply

Giants otherwise, with beards adorning

Their faces, and noses a span in length:

From human flesh and blood, they gained their strength.

In the vale, he saw them seated round a board

Set with plates of silver and cups of gold

Containing food and drink (to be abhorred,

If he’d but known it!) The Count, being bold,

Immediately, pricked his horse toward

The table and its banqueters, and told

The ladies (suffering from thirst and hunger)

To keep close to him, and follow after.

All three trotted on to seek their dinner,

(Of which they’d soon enough have had their fill!)

Orlando, his face serene as ever,

Hailed the villains, that there did gorge and swill:

‘Your good health! Since Fortune brings us hither,

We would dine here, if such should be your will.

For some payment, or of your courtesy,

We request that we may join your company.’

Lo, the king of these Lestrigioni,

Antropofagon, at this, raised his snout.

His eyes, like some vile dragon’s, burned redly,

While a beard adorned his face, all about.

To see another die, amused him greatly,

And twas his custom, day in and day out,

To murder folk, and drink their blood while fresh,

And feast later, at table, on their flesh.

Noting that Orlando seemed well-armed,

And was mounted on a fine steed, he feared,

Should he seize him, he himself might be harmed,

And so, requested he dismount, and cleared

A space for him (he might, thus, be disarmed).

Now, the Count had decided, as he neared,

To join the feast, if invited so to do,

Or else take what he needed ere he flew.

So, the Count slid from his steed to the ground,

And waited, standing, for the ladies to draw near,

Who had started after him; while, all around,

Rose a murmur of voices; with a leer,

One muttered: ‘Tasty morsels, I’ll be bound!’

Another rogue replied: ‘So twould appear,

Though a bite or two yields more certainty;

Let’s wait until they’re cooked. and then we’ll see.’

Orlando gave their talk scant attention,

Looking to attend on the ladies closely.

Meanwhile, Antropofagon took action,

Rising from the table, well-nigh silently,

And setting an enormous club in motion

Behind Orlando’s back, two-handedly,

Striking the Count fiercely on the head,

And knocking him to the ground, as if half-dead.

Book II: Canto XVIII: 41-44: The two ladies flee, and Orlando escapes

Many of the rest now took a pace toward

The maidens, filled with anticipation,

Longing, to see their flesh upon the board,

Tastily cooked for their delectation.

The ladies wheeled their mounts, with one accord,

Disturbed by those looks of expectation,

And fled, one this way and one that, quite blind

To their course, while the villains chased behind.

Lamenting loudly, they both went their way

Weeping and fearful, through that unknown land,

Till in the darkening woods they went astray.

Meanwhile the Count, unconscious on the sand,

Antropofagon stripped, where he lay,

Removing all his armour, as he’d planned,

Ere the knight had recovered from the blow

That, landing on his head, had laid him low.

The cruel king prodded him with a talon,

And said to the rest: ‘He’s all skin and bone!

There’s scarce enough for me to feed upon,

And what’s there’s not worth the trouble, I’d own.’

Orlando felt that claw; ere it was gone,

He’d revived, leapt to his feet, and then flown

In haste, thus escaping, as God had willed,

Being served up for dinner, freshly-killed!

The king chased after him, and demanded

That the Lestrigioni block his way.

Some grasped clubs, while others, as commanded,

Threw rocks, though he kept them all at bay.

He was trapped in that valley; all were banded

Against him; what might have been, who can say?

But, Durindana, unsheathed, he now saw,

That, once seized, the king had cast to the floor.

Book II: Canto XVIII: 45-49: He seizes Durindana, and slays the throng

He ran amidst the throng, and grasped the blade.

Conceive his joy, that weapon in his hand!

Where the dale-foot the open plain displayed,

A hundred of those villains took their stand.

Unarmoured, and in savage clothes arrayed,

Without shields, or swords, that treacherous band

Yet held their massive clubs; the skins they wore

Were the worn pelts and hides of bear and boar.

Charging amongst them, Count Orlando,

Swung Durindana; many a man he slew.

With each blow, fore or back-handed, the foe,

Side to side, or lengthwise, were sliced in two.

Their clubs or arms severed, even so,

Many were so stubborn midst that crew,

That, with hands and feet lost, like dogs they bit,

And chewed him badly, ere he ended it.

He turned, and spun about, in his course,

As they clawed at him from every side.

Their king struck with the greatest force;

While the heaviest club, that villain plied.

Bark covered him all over, thick and coarse.

Spume from his beard sprayed far and wide,  

While the drool from his mouth wet the ground

Like the foaming spittle of a rabid hound.

Two feet taller than the rest, the king stood,

A malicious creature, as I’ve explained.

The Count took a swing, as if chopping wood,

Struck him fiercely on the head, and brained

The fellow, his blade ending him for good,

While Durindana its path yet maintained,

And split the man in half, amidst a fount

Of blood; none there could now escape the Count.

In a brief while, Orlando wrought such harm

To that vile, and accursed, company,

That, though some had tried to flee in alarm,

Not a one remained alive that he could see.

Pity those that lingered; now, cool and calm,

The Count worked his blade ceaselessly,

Slicing and cutting, so precise his blows

Not one piece was left larger than a nose.

Book II: Canto XVIII: 50-52: Then searches for Angelica and Fiordelisa

He was quite alone in that empty vale,

And the fair light of day had almost fled.

He donned his armour, left lying in the dale,

Then to the abandoned board turned his head.

The sight appalled him (he well-nigh turned pale)

For the feast, on which that vile crew had fed,

Consisted of the heads, and arms, and feet

Of human victims, baked or broiled complete.

Had he been starving, he’d have spurned that meal,

Lacked all appetite for that most cruel fare,

Wrought by such folk as ne’er did pity feel.

He mounted his steed, resolved not to despair,

But to search, till the forest might reveal

Some trace of the maidens, vanished there.

Twas his sole thought; ‘Too great the cost,

If my lady amidst these woods be lost!

Who will grant me aid or courage then?

Vain would be the deaths of that monstrous crew.

If I find her not, I’ll wish them here again

To slay me with their clubs; twould be my due.

Eternal Father, Heaven’s King, maintain

My strength and valour, comfort me anew!

Help me to find her, Virgin in Paradise,

Mother of God, so merciful, so wise!’

Book II: Canto XVIII: 53-56: He rescues Angelica

Orlando was weeping now, as he spoke.

He journeyed through the forest all that night,

Wandering here and there, till the sun awoke,

Yet of the maids had neither sound nor sight.

He heard a voice cry out, as morning broke

And through the leaves fell the dawning light:

‘There! Go there! She’ll not escape the pass.

Tis a steep climb, and there we’ll catch the lass!’

Orlando rode, at speed, towards the sound,

And, in a little while, perceived its source.

The vile Lestrigioni he had found,

Who’d run from him in fear, yet in their course,

Pursued Angelica, o’er all that ground,

And driven her, for they were there in force,

Towards a narrow pass where she must yield

Or plunge six hundred feet, to the field.

Ask me not if the Count raged at the sight.

His face turned red, seeing her in danger.

Well-nigh crimson, once he realised her plight,

Close to, it seemed afire. Filled with anger,

He urged on his bold steed, and then the knight

Drew his sword, and whirled it ever higher,

And left there many a sign so all might see

That no surgeon such blows could remedy.

I would imagine no less than forty,

Of those villains, had trapped her at the pass,

Yet not a single man of those many

Remained unharmed, to tread upon the grass,

And claim he’d escaped; for all paid fully.

Had there been twice the number, en masse,

All would have borne his mark, on head or face,

While severed limbs adorned many a place.  

Book II: Canto XVIII: 57-61: Fiordelisa is saved by Brandimarte

Now Angelica had fled towards the west,

And was rescued from those who had chased her,

But Fiordelisa rode eastward, and the rest

Of those vile scoundrels had followed after.

All night by their pursuit she was oppressed,

Till the sun rose, and the scene grew lighter.

She thought her body would be eaten whole,

And prayed to the Good Lord to save her soul.

The morning sun, as I’ve said, now lit the sky;

All the heavens were clear, the day was bright.

And there, in the flowering grass nearby,

Lay fair Brandimarte, that valiant knight.

He awoke from deep sleep, and oped his eye,

And so perceived the weeping maid outright,

Hunted by the cruel Lestrigioni,

Terrified, and fleeing on her palfrey.

He mounted his courser, spurred the steed,

And rode towards them at a fearsome pace,

His blade drawn, to work some handsome deed,

And struck the leading villain in the face.

He spared not an inch of the rogue, indeed,

Chopped him down, without a moment’s grace,

And not lingering to see the rascal fall,

Sliced another’s chest, scarce pausing at all.

There were thirty cannibals there, or so,

(Perchance a few less, if the truth be told)

And all were pointing their clubs at the foe,

And even hurling stones, if they felt bold,

While Brandimarte, slicing high and low,

Severed heads and legs. Away they rolled

Those brainless orbs, his blows strong and sure,

Until his sword grew heavy with the gore.

Book II: Canto XVIII: 62-63: She tells him that she saw Orlando fall

When at last he believed the scene was free

Of every accursed and brutish creature,

And none was hiding there behind a tree,

He ran to clasp his fair Fiordelisa.

For half an hour, they embraced, silently,

Ere they could say a word, then his lover

Told the knight she had seen Count Orlando

Lying dead on the ground, and shared her woe.

This she said having seen Orlando fall,

Prostrate, amidst the Lestrigioni.

While, Brandimarte, whom the news did apall,

Rode away, to the Count’s aid, full swiftly.

But the end of my canto’s here; now, all

You lords and ladies that gave ear, kindly,

To my words, God keep you well, and ever

Inclined to return, and seek more pleasure.

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