Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato

Book II: Canto XXII: The Catalogue of Kings

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

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Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato: Book II, Canto XXII

Book II: Canto XXII: 1-3: Boiardo on the power of Fame

If those who upon this Earth win glory,

Such as Caesar, or renowned Alexander,

Who both gained victory on victory,

From the shores of our sea to the farther

Bounds of Ocean, were lost from memory,

In vain had flowered all their strength and valour.

All their ardour, and intellect, and power

Would have fled, in the passing of an hour.

Fame, you that emperors do follow,

Nymph that sings of mighty deeds, in sweet verse,

You honour folk whom vile death has brought low;

Yet live on in the praise that you rehearse.

What is your role now? Once, great love to show,

Or warring Giants, for better or for worse

Such was your task, such the world in your day,

Which seeks virtue and renown, no more, I say.

Leave the green verdure of Parnassus,

Since the path is lost that once soared so high,

And below, with me, sing the glorious

Tale of Agramante, proud neath the sky,

Who boasted that he would come among us,

And seize King Charlemagne, or have him die.

His ships the sea, his men the land, did cover;

Thirty-two kings he called to Bizerte.

Book II: Canto XXII: 4-33: The roll-call of Agramante’s thirty-two subject kings

Once Ruggiero had been found, the flower

Of beauty and daring, kings and lords vied

To be the first to sail, and show their power;

Such commotion had ne’er before been eyed.

Now let King Charlemagne beware the hour,

For a mighty storm approaches with the tide;

All the names, and prowess, I shall now advance,

Of those summoned there, to sail for France.

From Libicana came King Dudrinasso,

With his dark-skinned troops, a giant of a man.

Unarmoured in battle, fierce against the foe,

Curly-haired haired were they. An Arabian,

His fine charger, was all clad in steel though,

From head to tail, its height many a span.

The emblem that this king bore on his shield

Was a naked boy upon a crimson field.

Sorridano was the second that I name,

And his realm the distant Hesperides,

For well-nigh at the Earth’s end lay that same.

His men too were as swarthy as you please.

His lips were full, his eyes red; he came

Riding an Arab steed, with skill and ease,

Like the first, and behind him rode a third,

Cruel and fierce his every deed and word.

Tanfirone of Almasilla, he

Was known more widely as the Desert King,

Boasting not a house or hut in his country,

For his subjects roamed the land. Could I sing

With the Sybilline art of prophecy

To inspire my song, and was asked to bring

Before you the finest of his mighty host,

I could not; of scant courage could they boast.

Marvel not then that, jostling one another,

The retreated before Orlando’s sword,

And that the Count marred their flesh all over.

They fought almost naked, like their lord.

More enjoyable the chase we discover,

When the quarry is free to flee abroad;

But I stray too far from my subject; forth

Went the third; the next dwelt in the north,

King Manilardo of Noritia,

(A thousand miles from Ceuta it lies)

Whose wealth was in goats and sheep, as ever

His vast army seemed the like to comprise.

They lacked coinage, abjured gold and silver,

Yet no wonder tis they chose to despise

Such things, for the bulls and rams that graze here

Seem likewise to scorn riches, twould appear.

The fifth mighty king was Mirabaldo,

Lord of Bolga, far distant from the sea.

Scorching hot was his land, and there the foe

Were vicious snakes not men. His folk lived free,

Neath the sun all day, and at night did go

To their tents, closed gainst every enemy.

They lived on grass, tis Bishop Turpin’s claim,

And, at times, on locusts, declares that same.

The sixth monarch came from Fez, King Folvo,

There was scarce a band of troops worse than they,

They would hide from the burning sun’s noon glow,

Cursing its maker, and the light of day.

Those dregs of the earth emerged, to the woe

Of the emperor Charlemagne, men did say.

(Advance, you wretches! Every Christian

Will seize and bind a hundred, man by man).

Next Puliano of Nasamona

Led forth his subjects, though you’d scarcely see

A single man among them wearing armour,

Some carried stakes, some a mace, as did he,

A leader possessed of strength and valour.

No horns or trumpets announced his army,

But his troops were well-equipped and well-fed,

While he, strong and ardent, rode on ahead.

From Alvaracchie came Prusione;

The Fortunate Isles his kingdom was named,

Though, amongst the ancients, his fair country

Caused much confusion, variously claimed

To be here or there; he led his men boldly

That went naked, without armour, all untamed,

Each bearing a great long staff in his hand,

And a pelt o’er his back; such his rough band.

Arigalte came from Amonia,

Amidst the desert dust, his kingdom lay,

And many a fierce head followed after,

On which the lice hid from the light of day.

Behind him, the King of Garamanta,

Martasino, led his men on their way,

With no better weapons than all the rest,

For never a lance or sword they possessed.

After the old King of Garamanta

Had died, Agramante gave the country

Held by that sorcerer and enchanter,

To Martasino, whom he loved dearly.

Now, beside him, marched the King of Ceuta,

With a stronger squadron, Dorilone,

Whose sheltered bay and harbour brought him trade.

In ordered ranks, a valiant sight they made.

Then Argosto of Marmonda with his host,

Arrived, a king much esteemed in war,

His waters great shoals of fish could boast;

His border stretched along the ocean shore,

Then bore away towards the northern coast.

On his right, Arzila’s king led score on score,

Bambirago his name, his men the hue

Of charcoal when the fire’s no longer new.

Grifaldo I’ve neglected to mention,

Unnoticed midst those of Getulia,  

His hot realm, in an inland direction,

Held sad folk, all poor as one another.

Bardulasto having died in action,

A new lord, as fiery as the other,

Now led in the bold troops of Alcazar;

For none their passage would be like to bar.

Tis true they had no iron-ore to hand

In their country, so they used dragon-bone;

Lion-heads for helms they wore, that band,

And every man there bore a sharpened stone.

Strange and wondrously his host was manned,

And all would die in France, all overthrown.

Their arms and legs were bare, every last man,

While scarce a face in their ranks seemed human.

Their new master was named Bucifaro,

The third in prowess neath Agramante,

And behind him came Baliverzo,

King of Normandia, bold and weighty.

The strangest but for those of Brunello,

The king (as we know) of Tingitana,

The folk he led; for to the deaf and lame,

And one-eyed, Brunello had laid claim.

None uglier were ever wrought by Nature,

Who’d set each at the world’s end, as was right,

Since all who came upon such a creature,

In the dark, were quite like to die of fright;

While their king, loathsome in every feature,

Was that swarthy dwarfish fellow, the knight

Whom I’ve spoken of enough; I’ll pass by,

(Or rather he will!) and say no more, for I,

Must turn now towards the western shore

Where the lands appeared more civilised,

Though the warriors there were scarcely more

In height, nor more handsome, nor had devised

Better weapons, while their dress was as poor.

Maurina’s Farurante, I’m advised,

Their king, led in his men; following on

Came Alzirdo, the King of Tremizon;  

His warriors held spears and shields, and bows.

From Oran, King Marbalusto, brought more;

That accursed soul’s ranks were filled with those

Blaspheming folk, that ever spat and swore.

Their king had informed them (I suppose

To inspire their courage, or rouse it more)

That they’d have France as their reward, for they

Marched willingly, like mad things, on their way.

Gualciotto of Bellamarina,

Ready, with his well-armed band, for battle,

Whose realm Marbalusto’s land did neighbour,

Was strong in arms, and most wise in council.

King Pinadoro of Constantina,

Ruled that city sited high on a hill,

Named for Constantine the Great, long before,

When rebuilt, after being razed in war.

My lords, has all this not proved sufficient

To weary, each new kingdom and its king?

Tis never-ending? I’m not yet content!

Behold Sobrino, who his men did bring

From Garbo, war and victory his intent.

Of no wiser Saracen might poet sing.

Tardoco, King of Djerba, was the next;

And three more were summoned (so reads the text).

The troops of Rodomonte (still in France),

Were there, that valiant King of Sarza,

None on earth could match with shield and lance,

Or sword, it seems; then came Bugia’s ruler,

His fine troops, with spear and targe, did advance,

Branzardo was that ancient warrior.

And last of all came Malabuferso,

Who’d marched the furthest, King of Fizano.

Dardinello, had already joined the court,

Born of noble blood, of the royal line.

This young man was Almonte’s son, in short,

As if winged, his martial skills seemed divine,

He was handsome, courteous, and well-taught,

Agramante loved him, did to him incline,

And, preferring him to many another,

Made him lord and monarch of Zumara.

Twill be the dark of night I am sure

Before I finish naming them entire,

Since never neath the moon, on any shore,

Have so many kings, at one man’s desire,

Gathered thus, to promote the cause of war.  

Cardorano to their ranks did aspire;

Who can remember them all? Not the least

Came Balifronte, he too from the East;

For the first, Cardorano, reigned in Cosca,

And, in Mulga, Balifronte ordered all.

Now all the mighty host of Africa,

Stretched round Bizerte’s defensive wall,

Varied in their language, they did differ

In face and dress, on diverse arms did call,

And were so many one could sooner count,

The stars, or grains of sand in vast amount.

The kings had been lodged by Agramante,

So that they might ready themselves for war,

In Bizerte, resting there gratefully,

While their men caused a suitable uproar,

With dance, and song, and endless revelry,

Each crowd noisier than the one next door.

Trumpets sounded, weapons rang, the horses neighed,

And each hour there entered a new parade

Of knights, from Tolometta, Tripoli,

Or Bernica or wherever; knights aplenty,

The elite and well-mounted cavalry

From every place, ten, a dozen, twenty,

In gleaming armour. Further royalty,

The Canaries’ king, the cognoscenti

Expected; his name was Bardarico,

Such his stature, he struck fear in the foe;

His troops used no metal in their spears,

Goat’s horn tipped their lances, and not iron.

Now whenever have such men, in past years,

Met for such a venture as I dwell upon,

And with such diversity as now appears?

Land and sea, thus, they clothed, whereupon,

King Agramante felt overweening pride,

To have such valiant monarchs at his side.

He might command, yet not all might obey;

King Gordanetto’s Arabs for example.

They lived as wild creatures do alway,

With neither house nor hut, the desert ample

For their needs, and quite lawless in their way;

None could read the stars, or show a sample

Of their writings; they threatened many lands,

Gaining spoils, then vanishing midst the sands.

Those who sought to follow, did so in vain,

Their time and trouble wasted; for they knew

How to live on dried dates and thus maintain

Their bodies; their requirements being few.

In chasing them, there was little to gain

But harm, naught but starvation one’s due.

And for fear of all this King Agramante

Left them alone, shunning them completely.

Book II: Canto XXII: 34-37: Rodomonte and Ferrau are still engaged in their duel

While he himself was resting in Bizerte,

As I have said, in comfort, and at ease,

Word was brought to him, by a messenger,

Of vessels mooring now, from overseas;

Rodomonte’s ships; of him, however,

They brought scant news, rather naught that did please,

Knowing not if he was alive or dead.

One Dudon was their prisoner, they said.

The king wept, thinking Rodomonte lost;

Yet I shall leave him to lament a while,

For in distant Provençe, the waves once crossed,

I’ll seek two knights, duelling in fine style,

With strength and valour, ne’er counting the cost.

Not those two that each other sought to rile,

The Count and Rinaldo, fighting fiercely;

I speak of Ferrau and Rodomonte.

No pair of Saracens e’er showed such force,

Such vigour, as those two lords in affray,

For they had waged, and were still on course

To wage, cruel war, all their skills on display,

Till one was slain, their own will to enforce.

The ground was littered; neither I may say,

Knew the other’s name (clad in full armour)

Yet swore he’d ne’er met a finer warrior.

Ferrau was much the shorter in stature,

Yet the knight would not yield an inch of ground;

For, like many a small man, by nature

He was ardent and bold; such oft is found,

With reason too, for their limbs are nearer

To the heart, the body compact, if sound.

Nonetheless, should he lack courage within,

A little dog, if fierce, needs the thicker skin!

Book II: Canto XXII: 38-42: They hear of the siege of Montalbano

While still engaged in this most cruel fight,

Landing vicious strokes, fearsome to behold,

A mounted messenger now came in sight,

Who stopped, a moment, and the tale he told

Was this: ‘If either is a loyal knight

Of King Charlemagne’s court, then know that bold

Marsilio, the pagan lord of Spain,

Is besieging Montalbano, and fain

To take the fortress; for Duke Amone,

Defeated, has now fled within the wall,

With his sons, and Angelieri, and Ivone,

Though Alardo, indeed, was seen to fall.

He’s dead or captive. That stretch of country

The Spaniards have stripped, burning all.

This I have seen, and haste to ask the king

For aid; destruction and death they bring.’

The man declined to wait, spoke, and rode on.

Fierce Ferrau was dismayed that he might miss

Joining in the siege; and when he was gone,

He brooded on the fact. Was aught amiss?

Asked Rodomonte, as he mused thereon.

Was he involved, in some way, with this?

For unless a partner to that affair,

It need not be such as required his care.

Bold Ferrau replied that Marsilio

Was in truth his uncle. Of courtesy,

He asked a favour of his valiant foe,

Seeking a swift truce with Rodomonte.

He swore the daughter of Stordilano,

Doralice, he’d renounce, instantly;

Not that he was daunted by the knight,

But he desired to join the larger fight.

Rodomonte who admired his boldness

And his ardour, answered him politely,

Agreeing, and then wished him all success.

The martial pair embraced, chivalrously,

And swore an oath of brotherhood no less,

To bind themselves, true friends eternally,

The affection shown equal to, or more

Than, the warmest such men e’er showed before.

Book II: Canto XXII: 43-50: They meet Viviano, and his brother Malagisi the wizard

Having sworn they would ne’er quit each other

While they yet lived on Earth, the path they sought

That led to Montalbano; together

They rode, travelling with no other thought;

But met Viviano, and his brother

Malagisi, who were journeying to court.

They too were seeking aid from Charlemagne

To counter those Saracens out of Spain,

For twas their own Montalbano, indeed,

That was besieged, as I’ve explained to you.

Malagisi begged his brother to give heed,

And draw aside, as the pair came in view,

Saying, softly: ‘By God, if you’re agreed,

I would know the names and ranks of those two,’

Then, entering a grove that stood nearby,

Drew a circle on the ground, and, by and by,

He took his book and opened it, and found

The pages he desired, and cast a spell.

The grove filled with a rustling sound,

As two hundred fierce demons, out of Hell,

Rose from every page, and swirled around.

Yet the wizard could control them, as well,

Holding them there, awaiting his command,

While of one, Scarapino, he made demand.

This Scarapino, was one of the fiercest

Of the devils below, small but gluttonous,

Full of malice, yet far fatter than the rest.

In taverns, where his kind dwell among us,

And wherever the wine was of the best,  

Where folk gambled, and the food was plenteous,

He lived, in the fumes from roasting meat,

And laboured hard to tempt the indiscreet.

Malagisi demanded, of him, the names

Of the two travellers, which the imp supplied.

The mage decided, then, to play his games,

And seize them both and, not to be denied,

Summoned his demons, born amidst the flames,

And turned them into warriors fit to ride

Brave steeds, with banner, crested helm, and lance;

Thus, a thousand fierce troops made their advance.

Amidst the tumult, he and Viviano,

Taking separate ways, departed the glade.

Ferrau cried: ‘Brother, hear the storm-wind blow,

For no greater noise than this e’er was made,

King Charlemagne is riding gainst his foe,

I deem; now our valour shall be displayed.

While I’ll follow your lead, and willingly,

I’ve but little inclination to flee.’  

‘Flee from the wretches?’ cried Rodomonte,

‘Is that your true opinion of my worth?’

I’d fight alone, whoe’er these folk may be;

Charlemagne and every Christian on Earth,

Or the warriors of Spain; tis naught to me.

If to Mohammed this plain had given birth,

And all of Paradise and Hell entire,

I’d not run from such, to escape the fire.’

Book II: Canto XXII: 51-59: Rodomonte and Ferrau fight the demons

In these, and like words, the warriors spoke

Of their prowess. Meanwhile, Malagisi

Quit the glade for, swift as a lightning-stroke,

Those demons swarmed the place, so noisily

So thunderously, that all the woods awoke,

And the ground shook, while the heavenly

Reaches were, in a trice, obscured and veiled,

By all the fumes, and vapours they exhaled.

They were led by the evil Draginazzo,

Who rarely dealt with the common crowd,

The haughtiest of the haughty, down below

He preferred to hold court amidst the proud.

He wore a horned helm, disdained to show

A shield, but spear, sword, pennant did allow.

Against Rodomonte he made advance,

And struck him on the forehead with his lance.

Now the iron of that lance-tip was aflame,

And burned through the visor, easily,

Singing the monarch’s eyebrows as it came.

Roused, and amazed, by this, Rodomonte

Cried out: ‘Hold fast awhile, if that’s your game!

Hold there, you rascal, your face is surely

That of the Devil. Let me view it, close by.

It seems his foul mask, indeed, to my eye!’

With that the king swung his mighty sword,

His strength enormous, as was his prowess,

And, with a fierce blow, struck the demon lord,

Which pierced that creature a span deep, no less.

Draginazzo felt the sharp pain, and roared,

Though the stroke was all in vain, I confess.

It sank in but left no trace, while all that crew

Of imps boiled with rage, and round him flew.

They fought the king, but the man was bold,

Think not that he called for help, indeed

He routed all those creatures and, all told,

Dismissed them; they fled away, at speed.

Draginazzo, their lord, was first to fold,

But some others, fighting Ferrau, disagreed

With flight; one amongst them, Malagriffa,

That wielded his iron hook with fervour.

He used it to catch usurers, and then lead

The wretches anywhere he chose to go.

In his power were all such men, whose greed

Was great; he roasted them there, down below.

He hooked many a priest and friar, that breed

Are, full oft, his close followers, as you know.

Now he flourished it to attack the knight,

Though Ferrau was accustomed to a fight.

He struck the imp such a forceful blow

I can tell you his foe chose not to wait;

Then he charged at the others, though the foe

Were close-packed together, and so irate,

Their cries and screams alone nigh brought him low.

Another, bent on sealing Ferrau’s fate,

Came on; Falsetta, full of every vice,

Fraud and deception his, and, in a trice,

He had Ferrau in knots, ne’er drawing near,

But weaving about the brave Saracen,

Tormenting him, then fleeing, as if in fear,

And then returning, to torment him again.

Yet ne’er cut the cloth (twill cost you dear),

If you can’t sew the garment; it was plain,

Falsetta thought his feints and his deceit

Would fool Ferrau, who still was on his feet.

Now, Rodomonte, with a swingeing blow,

Chanced to strike the demon on his head.

The blade fell twixt his horns, then below

It sank, down to his chest; filled with dread,

Falsetta screamed, and gave a howl of woe,

And departed (I know not where he fled)

While Rodomonte attacked those who were left,

With savage blows, and one or two he cleft.

The demons fled, with many a strident cry,

In pain awhile, though they could not be slain.

Thousands about the knights had sought to fly,

Yet but few of them now chose to remain.

Malagisi wished to keep those devils nigh,

As long as he could, there, upon the plain,

But, in the end, was forced to let them go

To seek their place amidst the damned below.

Book II: Canto XXII: 60-61: And capture Viviano and Malagisi

Seeing how ill his plan had gone, he fled

With Viviano, though it brought no good,

For Ferrau caught them; riding as if wed

To his charger that galloped from the wood

And like a winged creature swiftly sped

In pursuit, to overtake them, as it could.

He was quickly joined by Rodomonte,

The cousins thus confounded, completely.

The warriors now bound them to a horse,

And then rode on, to reach Montalbano,

And so, King Marsilio, in due course.

My lords, and all you that such grace now show

Towards me, I must pause my tale, perforce,

Then, with fine verse, fill up the next canto,

To suit the war to which my tale gives birth.

God grant you joy above; but first, on Earth!

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