Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato

Book II: Canto XX: The Tournament in Cyprus

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

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Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato: Book II, Canto XX

Book II: Canto XX: 1-3: Norandino, Orlando and Angelica journey to the Cyprus tourney

In that season (when the sky’s most serene)

That adorns the trees with their fresh verdure,

And fair flowers, and love, fill all the scene,

While the birds flaunt their amorous nature

In sweet song, I too am led, midst the green,

To sing of love, aroused like every creature,

And speak of deeds the chivalrous approve,

That Orlando once wrought, urged on by Love.

I suspended my tale as Norandino

Secured his assistance for the tourney,

And, longing to set forth, thus, Orlando

Boarded ship, with Angelica, gladly.

This was the season when such winds do blow,

North-easterlies, as drive vessels, swiftly,

To Cyprus, o’er the sea, where a host

Of knights had gathered to that pleasant coast.

Greeks and Saracens came for the tourney,

From neighbouring lands, and from far away,

Many a lord and knight, in company,

Armed for the joust, in their finest array.

But of them all, the flower of chivalry,

Midst those who had assembled, all did say,

Were two named Basaldo and Morbeco,

Both Turks, and the Greek king, Costanzo.

Book II: Canto XX: 4-8: Costanzo of Greece arrives, with Grifone and Aquilante

Costanzo’s sire was Avatorone,

Who’d ruled the Greek kingdom, previously,

While the Turks possessing realms, equally,

In Anatolia held sovereignty.

Costanzo had brought with him, Grifone,

And his worthy brother Aquilante,

And tis possible you’ve already heard,

Of how those two were raised. In a word,

The Black Fay sent the young Aquilante,

To Costanzo’s court, having set him free

From the claws of a fierce bird that surely

Would have slain the lad, though twas not to be;

And no doubt you know all their history,

How Aquilante was raised there, Grifone

In Spain; you’ll have heard all this before,

So, as to their youth, I’ll say nothing more.

Freed by King Monodante, they’d set sail

From the Distant Isle, and had journeyed on,

Past far-off lands, blown my many a gale,

Until at last their vessel touched upon

Constantinople’s shores (so runs the tale),

At Blachernae’s harbour, whereupon

They were greeted, warmly, by Costanzo,

And by the Emperor equally so.

Now, Costanzo was keen to join the tourney,

And so welcomed the arrival of the pair,

Knowing them for brave knights who, clearly

Could but gain his court honour over there.

Grifone though was grieved that Orrigille

(Who’d swayed Monodante in that affair)

Had fallen ill, her health such, in a breath,

As to have brought her to the point of death.

Once she’d improved a little, he left her,

Though it tormented Grifone so to do,

And, in tears, boarded ship, with his brother

And Costanzo, and o’er the sea they flew,

To the Xanthus’ mouth, and from that harbour

They made Cyprus, when an easterly blew.

The company on board were well-supplied

For the tourney, with fine coursers to ride.

Book II: Canto XX: 9-11: Norandino enters Nicosia

Many another whom I shall not name,

Lords and ladies, and many a fair knight,

To Cyprus, in all their splendour came,

Their clothes, and arms, and steeds, a wondrous sight,

Norandino the finest, for that same

Looked so handsome, his armour gleaming bright,

So richly adorned, there, and so well-dressed,

He was hailed and praised, above all the rest.

His ship docked in Famagusta’s harbour,

And he then rode forth to Nicosia,

The royal city where Lucina’s father,

King Tibiano, held his court that year.

The King of Damascus, in full armour,

Entered with great pomp, to many a cheer,

While the trumpets announced his retinue,

With barons, counts, and dukes, and knights in view.

His shield revealed a mountain wreathed in flame,

His helmet crest displayed that emblem too,

And the surcoats of all that with him came

Bore the like, and their numbers were not few.

With due ceremony, worthy of his name,

He was received, admired, and praised anew,

Above all by Lucina; at first sight,

Far more than her own life, she loved the knight.

Book II: Canto XX: 12-16: The tournament begins

Time passed; the day arrived for the tourney,

And, at three in the afternoon, it began,

When all the knights, in one vast company,

There displayed, ere ever a joust they ran,

Their arms, steeds, and gear, in all their beauty,

For marvellously dressed was every man.

Pressing close, to view all, an eager crowd

Filled the square, as horns and drums echoed loud.

At one end, a tall platform had been raised,

Erected for the queens and ladies; there,

Lucina sat, dressed regally, much praised,

As were the maids by her side, young and fair;

Though but few (you will surely be amazed)

Showed a face free of art, for most did share

A need to paint and tint (I but relay

What Turpin says, yet some do so today).

Angelica was fairest midst the rest;

Among a host of stars, a risen sun,

All in white, adorned with gold, she was dressed,

The flower of maidens, surpassed by none.

Tibiano sat, neath the royal crest,

With his council, on a stage, where silk-spun

Drapes, and cloth-of-gold, adorned the scene,

Opposite the ladies, that king was seen.

The knights began to enter, each man shone,

In his rich surcoat, sporting arms and crest.

Each showed confidence, in his own fashion,

And spurred his courser on, to join the rest

Of his martial team; on this occasion,

The captains of the sides (each was a guest),

Were the Greek monarch, noble Costanzo,

And the Syrian king, Norandino.

Trumpet and castanet, shrill horn and drum,

Echoed o’er the heaving square. All around,

The high heavens trembled, the crowd struck dumb,

Hell shivered, and the earth quaked, at the sound.

All the maids turned pale as doves, at the thrum

Of the horses’ hooves thudding o’er the ground,

As the knights, yelling, rode to the attack,

Head-to-head, and at full speed, the reins slack.

Book II: Canto XX: 17-21: Norandino unseats the Turks, Morbeco and Basaldo

One knight, there, could scarcely see another

As they charged onward, for each valiant steed

Snorted dense steam, that commenced to hover

Over all; great clouds filled the air, indeed;

While their hooves sent up a dusty cover

Of fine sand, that sifted down, to impede

The knights’ view of their enemies, whereby

Each was led to attack some man close by.

But, once the action had calmed somewhat,

They were able to see the man they fought,

And the square was a show (the intent forgot),

Of merciless strokes, scarcely dealt in sport.

From one end to other, in every spot,

Knights fell as some vicious blow they caught,

Tumbling from their saddles, fierce the fight,

While those trapped by their steed bemoaned their plight.

Keeping apart from the throng, Orlando,

Observed what was passing o’er that field,

Meanwhile that most skilful Turk, Morbeco,

Well-versed in tourneys with lance and shield,

Ventured, on his steel-clad mount, midst the foe,

And, soon, his wide experience revealed;

Earning praise for his deeds with spear and sword,

Scorning all, no matter whom, knight or lord.

He downed six, who followed Norandino,

And, never pausing, sped about the square,

Causing such destruction, this Morbeco,

It made King Norandino’s temper flare.

He spurred his valiant steed against the foe,

With loose rein, and then aimed his lance with care,

In the Turk’s direction; his mark he found,

And toppled the warrior to the ground.

Close behind Morbeco, came Basaldo;

A two-handed blow felled him outright,

Which struck his helm; against Norandino,

His plate and mail seemed but flimsy and light.

The young king struck, and downed, every foe

That he fought, till none would confront the knight,

While Lucina’s happiness seemed complete,

As she watched her love perform each brave feat.

Book II: Canto XX: 22-26: Orlando downs King Costanzo

The Greek king, Costanzo, saw the downfall

Of his men, conquered by the Syrian,

And, his anger mounting beyond recall,

Upon Norandino an attack began,

Charging, sword in hand, to chop and maul,

Each blow counting, dealt fiercely, man to man,

Till with a stroke, better aimed than the rest,

Costanzo felled the young king’s fiery crest.

That fine blow drove him back on the crupper,

And was followed by a second, without pause,

For Costanzo struck his helm and much further

He’d have fallen, thus abandoning his cause,

Had not the Count moved to block the other,

So, saving, well within the tourney’s laws,  

And propping up, the king, he’d thus rescued,

Till, taking breath, the king’s strength seemed renewed.

The Count’s swift action angered Costanzo,

And he threatened to land a telling stroke,

While the Count, unconcerned by his foe,

As if bound to his seat, thought him a joke;

Yet when he felt he’d nursed Norandino

Quite long enough, his own temper awoke,  

And he turned to meet the bold warrior,

Striking hard, at the steel of his visor.

One blow like that, and no man asks for more,

He who waits for a second must be mad.

Costanzo fell, and struck the earthen floor,

Leaving his saddle empty; I might add

That Orlando shouted: ‘That’s for you, you boor,

For troubling me, as I aided the lad.

Rise up now, if you wish, and we’ll duel,

Tis a pleasure, ever, to instruct a fool.’

Constanzo answered not, he’d fallen flat,

Struck his head, and lay prostrate on the ground.

Orlando turned elsewhere, since that was that,

And sent another flying, skywards bound.

Grifone, tangled in a distant spat,  

And Aquilante who likewise could be found

Afar, knew nothing of the king’s defeat,

As yet, or that he’d tumbled from his seat.

Book II: Canto XX: 27-33: And fights Aquilante and then Grifone

Grifone was the first to turn, on hearing

The shouts of those nearer to Costanzo,

And, from his own bout swiftly retreating,

Sped to where the Count had downed his foe.

Knowing naught of the matter, on arriving

He perceived his leader, and Norandino,

And so, wrathfully, spurred on his courser,

Aiming to wreak revenge on the latter.

From the other side came Aquilante,

And seeing King Costanzo on the floor

His anger roused, he looked about swiftly

And found Orlando (the culprit, he was sure).

He now charged at the Lord of Anglante,

His sharp sword against the Count he bore,

Without knowing that he faced Orlando

Wearing the emblems of Norandino.

Nor did the Count recognise the other;

Aquilante wore those of Costanzo.

Now, my lords, I’ll not ask you to offer

A view on whether they fought well or no,

Such was the damage done to their armour

And such the whistling sound at every blow.

Their fierce contest exceeded every bound,

Yet neither man a clear advantage found.

Aquilante was the wilder; in fact,

He often showed the greater force, and strength,

But as things grew more heated, what he lacked

In power the Count replaced with skill; at length,

The blows rained down, as both the pair attacked,

Until it seemed that the world, by a tenth,

Of those blows might be destroyed, with ease;

While the final strokes on each side were these:

Aquilante struck Orlando on the brow,

And sent him backwards on his steed’s crupper,

Yet the latter replied, I will allow,

With a mighty blow that made all wonder,

So fierce a stroke that Aquilante now

Lost strength and courage, spirit and ardour,

Rocked to and fro on his mount, legs stretched wide,

Then almost fell, as he swayed from side to side.

He was as helpless as a child, and surely

Must have fallen, were it not for the fact

That he was swiftly aided by Grifone,

Though that left Norandino still intact.

The Syrian king, responding weakly,

Might have swiftly been thwarted in the act

Of defending himself; to his brother

Grifone now turned, and left the other.

He spurred his steed to reach Orlando,

At full gallop, the reins slack in his hand.

Grifone and the Count fought, blow by blow,

A duel beyond all others, o’er the sand,

It lasted till dark shadows hid each foe,

Only ending at the heralds’ command,

That now blew their horns, ending the first day

Of that tourney, in Cyprus, by the bay.

Book II: Canto XX: 34-36: Grifone tells Costanzo that his foe was Orlando

At dusk they returned to their lodging.

They talked, there, of the deeds each had wrought;

And Grifone gave this news to the king:

‘I saw, amidst the ladies of the court,

Angelica the Fair, seated, watching,

If twas she, then the warrior you fought,

The one who well-nigh slew you in the field,

Would be Orlando, his true arms concealed.

I felt that twas he, in our encounter,

For he grew much stronger near the end;

I’d advise you to leave, ere you suffer,

He’ll prove too powerful for you, my friend.

I say, as one true knight to another,

None can outlast those blows, that descend

Like lightning; spare your own embarrassment;

This hurt and shame; and quit the tournament.’

Costanzo replied: ‘Would it give you heart,

And help you win renown, with lance and shield,

If I ensured this cavalier would depart,

While you deployed my banner, in the field?’

Grifone answered: he would play his part,

Out of love for Costanzo, and not yield.

All that he could do, all that, he would do;

And e’en hold his ground against any two.

Book II: Canto XX: 37-40: Costanzo deceives the Count, who leaves the tourney

Now the Greek, who was cunning in his way,

(As many are, by nurture and nature)

When the setting sun stole the light of day,

In the darkness, like a furtive creature,

Left his lodgings and, by its parting ray,

Went to seek Orlando, on his courser,

And when he found him, drew the Count aside,

And spoke to him, as one with naught to hide.

He warned him that the king, Tibiano,

Was secretly arming his followers

Because of a message from Count Gano

To hold the Count midst his prisoners.

And if he, Costanzo, were Orlando,

He’d leave ere those unwelcome visitors

Appeared. He’d thought it best to so advise;

He’d help him depart, if he thought it wise.

His armed sloop was anchored by the shore,  

And concealed in an inlet, that could fly

O’er the waves, and carry him once more

To France or some other coast nearby.

The Greek was so persuasive (he foresaw

All objections, and the means to set them by)

That the Count believed everything he said,

And thanked him, being courteous and well-bred.

The Count had Angelica don a veil,

And travelled with her to the place assigned.

King Costanzo met them there, without fail,

And brought them to the sloop, as he’d designed.

The captain, who’d asked where he should sail,

Had been told that where’er they were inclined

To go, twas there he should transport the pair.

They departed, swiftly, for the wind was fair.

Book II: Canto XX: 41-43: Orlando endures a storm, and lands in Provençe

What befell Norandino thereafter,

Or befell King Costanzo, I know not,

(Bishop Turpin’s silent on the matter)

But as to Count Orlando, and his lot,

Journeying, on that sloop, o’er the water,

I can give you the gist, and the upshot,

Fortune left him at risk of dying soon,

For seven days he saw nor sun nor moon.

Driven by ill gales through darksome air,

He endured it (there was naught else to do),

Patiently, mere wind and waves everywhere,

Till, in time, a favourable breeze blew,  

And they reached, at last, Provençe the fair.

It seemed a thousand years must then ensue

Ere he could reach Paris, where Orlando

Might present his compliments to Gano.

There, I promise, he’d have used the fellow

In the manner that wicked cur deserved,

Had it pleased the Devil that he did so,

(The ill master, whom this Count Gano served).

For the miscreant would have been laid low,

Five months or more, only from death preserved

By Lucifer, who’d have guarded his bed;

But, now, gave the Count a fresh task, instead.

Book II: Canto XX: 44-46: Angelica drinks at Merlin’s fount, and now hates Rinaldo

It so came about that, on his journey,

Midst the mighty Ardennes Forest, the Count,

By mere chance, or guided by destiny,  

Came, one day, to the site of Merlin’s Fount.

I’ll not speak again (lest you should weary),

Of its purpose, of which I gave account,

Except to say its creator, Merlin,

Wrought it so love or hatred lay within.

Thus, Orlando, and fair Angelica,

Reached its twin streams one day, as I have said,

And she, far thirstier than the other,

Dismounted and towards the water sped.

Drinking of the Stream of Loathing rather

Than the Stream of Love, in her heart it bred

Hatred of Rinaldo, and quenched the fire;

Unenamoured, she was freed from desire.

She recalled the stubborn pride and disdain

That he had shown, and his features seemed,

In her memory, less handsome, even plain,

That, enamoured, she had once so esteemed.

And he, who’d had power o’er joy or pain,

Whom noble, and most worthy, she had deemed,

Montalbano’s lord, seemed slight and small,

And of worthless men, the basest of all.

Book II: Canto XX: 47-51: Rinaldo appears, and addresses Angelica  

It was soon cool enough for them to leave,

The fierce sun having declined somewhat;

Yet, ere they started, the pair did perceive

A well-armed knight. Now, lest you have forgot,

(Though I’ve explained this before, I believe)

Twas Rinaldo, who had come upon the spot,

Having chased Rodomonte through the wood,

And drawn near to where Merlin’s Fountain stood.

He’d not reached it, but had drunk of the stream

That caused, by so doing, love and longing.

Tis hard to describe in verse the extreme

Delight he found in their present meeting,

How fortunate he thought himself, his dream

Before him, whom he thought still as loving

Towards him, as he now felt towards her;

For he’d heard so, and seen so, moreover.  

He knew not the armoured knight, who stood by,

And bore the emblem of a fiery mount;

For he’d not have revealed himself, say I,

If he’d known that warrior was the Count.  

As he drew near the maid, he gave a sigh,

Roused to do so by the stream from the fount,

Gave a little smile and said: ‘My lady,

I must speak or die!’ then added, humbly,

‘I know the savage manner I betrayed

In behaving as I did, before you,

And that the villainy I thus displayed

Makes me unworthy to utter anew,

But tis ever kindness you’ve portrayed,

So, forgive my disdain; I shall prove true

To my repentant self; all such was folly,

That I’ll regret forever, my sweet lady.

And, though naught can undo what I have done,

I throw myself at your feet, and pray,

(Knowing that I cannot now, my fair one,

Earn such a love as yours, in any way,

Or by any deed performed neath the sun)

That I may be your servant, of a day,

And let me love you as I have before.

That is my sole request, I seek no more.’

Book II: Canto XX: 52-60: Orlando and Rinaldo quarrel  

Now, the Count stood and heard the thing entire,

Listened, yet failed to bear it patiently.

He cried out: ‘To reveal your whole desire

In this way, before me, shows your folly.

I’d scarcely have believed it of a squire,

If such a base thing had been told to me.

By my faith, I’d have sworn it was untrue,

And yet I hear that very same from you.

I have sought your love and honour, sir knight,

Though you travelled the waves to hinder me,

Yet I cannot now, and still pursue the right.

And you did so, I recall, that you might see

Me pronounced insane, a madman outright,

Deeming me slow, out of some comedy,

Simple; a fool in love; and now I know,

Twas undeserved, yet you did think me so.’

Rinaldo, on finding twas Orlando,

Was torn between two courses of action,

To keep on talking, or to flee his foe.

At last, he said: ‘It was naught but fiction

To think me, though you deem it not so,

Other than yours on every occasion

To command; yet still need not scorn, tis true,

This maiden that, by chance, pleases you.

Think not she’s less fair to some other’s eye,

Than to yours, this sweet and lovely maid.

Understand that others won’t stand idly by,

If they love in the manner you’ve displayed.

You’re a madman indeed if you would try

Your luck in battle with everyone that’s paid

Court to the lady; you must fight the world;

Twere far better to keep your banner furled.

That man is but base who fails to love her.

If you can show some proof of your right

To be her sole suitor, and none other,   

You may silence, and obstruct me, sir knight,

But may my body be drowned in deep water,

And my spirit hurled to the flames outright,

Ere I cease to adore the lovely maid;

For that I cannot do, nor will be swayed.’

Orlando answered him: ‘She is not mine,

Though I would that she was, for hers am I!

Yet to be her sole love is my design,

And that being so, the world I’ll defy,

Good and ill. All courtesy you resign,

When you choose to treat a lord like a spy.

We are cousins, hence I loved you loyally,

But you’ve betrayed me, treacherously.’

Rinaldo replied thus: ‘Well, there, you see,

You’re always calling me a traitor,

And yet you never were betrayed by me,

And any man that claims so is a liar.

We’ll fight, if that’s your wish, certainly,

Anywhere you may choose, or desire,

You may be thought the finest knight, elsewhere,

But I fear you not, nor the arms you bear.’

Twas Orlando’s custom and nature,

To employ the fewest words that he could,

And, his face darkening in every feature,

He merely drew his sword, for ill or good,

And sighed and said: ‘A shameful measure

Is this! What led us to this fatal wood,

Where one must kill, and the other must die?

Yet, let God judge the right of it, say I!’

When Rinaldo saw that Count Orlando

Was prepared for the contest, for he’d drawn

Durindana, he his own blade did show,

Fusberta, and a rare duel thus was born.

I’ll return to speak, in my next canto,

Of that fierce fight, foolish and forlorn,

And of other things, fine and beautiful.

May God preserve you; forever joyful.

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