Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato
Book II: Canto XXIII: The Siege of Montalbano
Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2022, All Rights Reserved.
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- Book II: Canto XXIII: 1-4: Ferrau and Rodomonte are welcomed by Marsilio
- Book II: Canto XXIII: 5-10: The warriors of Marsilio’s court
- Book II: Canto XXIII: 11-14: Rodomonte and Doralice
- Book II: Canto XXIII: 15-17: Charlemagne prompts Rinaldo and the Count to vie for Angelica’s hand
- Book II: Canto XXIII: 18-26: King Salamone’s troops encounter those of Balugante
- Book II: Canto XXIII: 27-28: Charlemagne gives Bradamante an assignment
- Book II: Canto XXIII: 29-31: Balugante slays Iachetto
- Book II: Canto XXIII: 32-33: Then fights Uggiero the Dane
- Book II: Canto XXIII: 34-36: Oliviero and Grandonio show their skill
- Book II: Canto XXIII: 37-45: Oliviero fights and wounds Grandonio
- Book II: Canto XXIII: 46-49: Uggiero fights Serpentino, as the Moors gather for an attack
- Book II: Canto XXIII: 50-53: Charlemagne sends forth Orlando and Rinaldo
- Book II: Canto XXIII: 54-56: Rinaldo slays Larbino
- Book II: Canto XXIII: 57-61: Orlando kills Calabrun and Maricoldo
- Book II: Canto XXIII: 62-63: Then attacks Stordilano, Baricondo and Maradasso
- Book II: Canto XXIII: 64-65: Rinaldo slays Marigano
- Book II: Canto XXIII: 66-69: He downs Alanardo, Dorifebo, the Caliph, Folicone and Morgante
- Book II: Canto XXIII: 70-72: King Marsilio launches a mass attack
- Book II: Canto XXIII: 73-75: The Moorish ladies encourage their menfolk
- Book II: Canto XXIII: 76-78: Rodomonte and Ferrau champion the Moorish cause
Book II: Canto XXIII: 1-4: Ferrau and Rodomonte are welcomed by Marsilio
The dire battle with the demons, that horror
Which I related, so fearsome in its way,
So pleased me (if that’s not a mortal error),
That I truly wish I’d been there that day.
Then I’d know if every ugly feature
Of the Devil is as foul as they say,
Differently portrayed in every place,
Larger horns here, longer tail there, viler face.
Yet I have little fear of the Devil,
He only harms sad, foolish, sinful men,
And I think he’ll ne’er convert to evil
One who crosses himself (now and again!)
I choose to leave them, simmering there still
Midst the infernal fires, that grant them pain.
And return (to delight you, not bring woe)
To the tale pursued in the last canto.
I told you Ferrau and Rodomonte
Were upon the road to Montalbano,
Leading there the captive Malagisi,
And the equally captive Viviano.
They now came upon that vast company,
Of men, and knights, and noblemen also,
Whose tents hid its hills and plain from view,
Kings and counts, dukes and marquises, too.
Ferau, to seek his monarch, now did go,
And, finding him, the knight knelt on the ground;
And told how he’d captured Viviano,
And Malagisi (both still tightly bound),
And praised Rodomonte. Marsilio
Who loved him like a son, his love profound,
Embraced him, and kissed him and, moreover,
He welcomed Rodomonte with honour.
Book II: Canto XXIII: 5-10: The warriors of Marsilio’s court
Balugante, and bold Falsirone,
The king’s brothers had arrived also,
From Castile and Léon, respectively,
With Andalusia’s king, Maradasso,
And, from Calatrava, Sinagone,
And, from Volterna, King Grandonio,
That later slaughtered many a Christian
(All Morocco was ruled by that madman).
Galicia’s king, named Maricoldo,
Arrived on foot, since he owned no steed,
He came bearing his club. King Alfonso
Ruled Biscaglia, a Christian whose seed,
His true scions, would light, with their bright glow,
Not merely Spain, but all the world indeed.
Known as a valiant knight against the foe,
He would not aid the Moor, Marsilio.
I’ve not heard, nor read in the histories,
Nor think that there exists a nobler line.
Sardinia’s proof, the Two Sicilies,
And parts of Barbary. Not only mine,
Is that defensible opinion which sees
A Gothic origin for their bloodline.
I’ll not trace here, their genealogy,
But the earth knows, and the encircling sea.
The claims of Truth, and honest sentiment,
Have led me some distance from my theme,
So, I’ll return now to my first intent.
To tell the names of those (such is my scheme)
The king had summoned. Larbino was present,
Of Portugal, and he who ruled supreme
In Granada, I speak of Stordilano.
There too was Majorca’s Baricondo.
Such was the court of King Marsilio,
Much esteemed for its worth and chivalry.
He ‘of the Star’ was there, Serpentino,
And the king’s bastard son Folicone,
Almeria’s count, and Isoliero,
From Pamplona; these last two only
Seemed, midst the other Spaniards, out of place,
One’s hair was blonde, the other pale of face.
Yet why should I linger here to display
Their names and provinces? For, in the war,
You will hear them all again, as I relay
Their noble deeds, midst those of many more.
King Charlemagne would soon arrive, I say,
And they’d all have much to do, such is sure,
But since none, as yet, expected him there,
Joy and delight that company did share.
Book II: Canto XXIII: 11-14: Rodomonte and Doralice
Midst the pagan kings twas customary,
And it remains the custom to this day,
For a lord to bring to court his lady
When summoned to fight, near or far away.
I know not what prompted it, for surely
Embers mix not well with straw, many say,
Yet, on the other hand, Love, for his part,
Swells the warrior’s courage, gives him heart.
And so, the queens and princesses were there,
In the king’s camp, from almost all of Spain.
One beyond all the others, though, was fair,
The finest flower that country did maintain;
Doralice. As the rose, midst the air,
Shines among the leaves, and the thorns (our bane!)
So, amongst the other ladies shone this maid,
In face and form a goddess; divinely made.
Now Rodomonte loved her so deeply,
He performed impressive deeds for her, each day.
He jousted or duelled, fighting fiercely,
And fresh robes and turban did e’er display,
While Ferrau sought her favour, equally;
Though it seemed no other, I may say,
Could match the skill of Rodomonte,
Whose strength was great, and his agility.
To honour him, the king, Marsilio,
Ordered many a triumphal feast,
And Rodomonte, celebrated so,
Was favoured by the ladies not the least.
So, it continued till, one morning, lo,
Ere the sound of the blaring trumpets ceased,
They heard the shouts of their fierce enemy,
Come to relieve the siege, a vast army.
Book II: Canto XXIII: 15-17: Charlemagne prompts Rinaldo and the Count to vie for Angelica’s hand
King Charlemagne descended on that field,
Bringing the very flower of Christendom,
The best that France and Hungary could yield;
Of knights of Germany, a goodly sum.
Yet ere he went abroad, with sword and shield,
Against the men of Spain, and Pagandom,
He informed Rinaldo that Angelica
Would not be won by the Count thereafter,
If he, Rinaldo, confirmed, in the fight,
That he, indeed, deserved the lady more,
And of the two men was the better knight.
But then he called on Orlando, and swore
In private to him, he would own the right
To wed Angelica, if in that war,
He fought so well that the king could say
Rinaldo was the lesser man that day.
Those two lords, therefore, were set to compete.
And prove who was the finer in the field,
Ah, the wretched Saracens they would meet!
What could such poor victims do but yield?
That pair would wreak a havoc so complete
There ne’er was greater with lance and shield.
Now silence, my lords! Come, cease your prattle,
While I describe that great and bitter battle.
Book II: Canto XXIII: 18-26: King Salamone’s troops encounter those of Balugante
His troops were ordered by Charlemagne
With close regard to each leader’s status.
These I’ll name as they enter on the plain,
And tell of flags and emblems various.
Salamone was the first that field to gain,
The wise King of Brittany, his deeds famous.
With him rode many a valiant knight,
For, with banners chequered black and white,
Came the Norman troops, led by Ricardo,
And those forces were strengthened moreover
By those under Guido and Iachetto,
Lords of Monfort, and the Riviera.
Thirty-six thousand men gainst the foe
Went this host, fierce and daring as ever,
Throwing up the dust, like the Greeks at Troy,
That Saracen camp to seize and destroy.
Marsilio ordered Balugante,
His brother, to delay the foe’s attack,
So that his scattered forces might swiftly
Gather, and drive the charging Christians back.
The Amirant (the Emir) and his army,
And Serpentino followed on his track,
And King Grandonio, that fiery spirit,
Galloped onwards with them, to begin it.
The trumpets sounded; with many a cry,
The two sides hastened to the encounter,
Lowering their sharp lances from on high,
And with a vast noise crashing together.
Harsh the conflict, splinters rose to the sky
From those spears; like hail in fierce weather
They fell again, while shields and weapons clashed,
For with vicious thrusts those opponents clashed.
At first, but a spectacle it had seemed,
Armour, and lance-tips, shining brightly,
Steeds in their carapaces, crests that gleamed
But once Guido, and then Salamone,
Commenced the fight, beside the esteemed
Band of knights led by Ricardo swiftly
To the fray, and those of bold Iachetto,
That pleasant stage turned to a scene of woe.
Horses and riders wounded now, or slain,
Turned the blood-drenched field a crimson hue.
Now helms, without crests, littered all the plain,
And shattered armour; a melancholy view.
Torn horse-cloths, men stumbling to gain
A footing, caked with blood and dust (no few),
The noise, the tumult, many a cry and yell,
Might have amazed a devil out of Hell.
Ricardo was the first of ours to charge;
Upon his helm was set an eagle’s nest
As emblem; Salamone was at large,
In a moment, midst the foe, then the rest,
Iachetto’s and Guido’s men, to discharge
Their duty and win honour, fought with zest,
But then they met the Emir and Grandone,
Serpentino, and the bold Balugante.
The Saracens did our men outnumber,
That should have had the worst of the fight,
For the foe possessed both strength and valour,
And seemed to more than match us, knight for knight.
Some Christian soldiers fled, in dishonour,
And at that painful, and most woeful, sight,
Oliviero was sent, by Charlemagne,
To their aid, with Namus, Gano, and the Dane.
Brave Avino, with Belengiero,
And Ottone, and (though rated lower)
Avorio, rode forth to meet the foe;
While Bishop Turpin followed the latter.
Then the wild skirmishing, toe to toe,
Steed to steed, began again, only fiercer.
While naught could be heard but trumpet and fife,
As lances snapped, and each fought for their life.
Book II: Canto XXIII: 27-28: Charlemagne gives Bradamante an assignment
Charlemagne called Bradamante aside,
(The very flower of warrior-maids was she)
And Gualtier, a man of worth and pride.
The king addressed the lady: ‘Do you see,
That hill before us? I would have you hide,
With Gualtieri, and brave knights a-plenty,
In the denser woods there, and stay concealed,
Till I command your forces be revealed.’
Bradamante led them there, while the fray
Close-fought, engaged the foes; twas crueller,
Than e’er the human mind and tongue could say,
The Moors and their allies proving fiercer,
Than the Christians had expected that day.
Oliviero was fearsome, as ever,
Slaying left and right, but the foe held, still,
As another squadron charged, at the king’s will.
Book II: Canto XXIII: 29-31: Balugante slays Iachetto
Stordilano replied, and Baricondo,
With Malgarino, and Sinagone,
While close behind them rode Maradasso;
Those five were led by King Falsirone,
(A pine-tree, as his emblem, he did show,
All its trunk and branches burning fiercely)
That mighty host akin to pouring rain,
As they countered the knights of Charlemagne.
That fiery spirit, bold Grandonio,
Who as yet had scarce entered on the fray,
Sought to protect his soldiers from the foe,
As they re-deployed; he sent on its way
His great charger, aiming his lance low,
At King Salamone, to wound or slay,
And striking the latter upon his shield,
He hurled that monarch backwards to the field.
King Serpentino, meanwhile, downed Guido,
(The Count of Montfort I mean, and not Guy
Of Burgundy, a peer at court also;
King Arthur’s court) and thus made Guido sigh.
While his father, Balugante, with one blow
Killed brave Iachetto, as he passed him by.
He pierced the latter’s side, and laid him low,
Nevermore to fight boldly gainst the foe.
Book II: Canto XXIII: 32-33: Then fights Uggiero the Dane
When Uggiero the Dane saw the manner
In which Balugante had slain Iachetto,
His visage revealed his bitter anger,
And he spurred his great charger gainst the foe,
Whose elephant’s-tusk crest, now, to utter
Ruin fell, as he destroyed the helm below;
And if Uggiero’s aim had proved straight,
Twould have cleft head and chest, and sealed his fate.
But his vigorous sword-stroke went awry,
Merely grazing Balugante’s beard and cheek,
Striking his shoulder, after passing by,
Cutting through plate and mail where they were weak.
His bone-shield failed that fierce blade to defy,
Which sliced at the bare flesh it seemed to seek,
While inflicting a wound so deep and wide
That, from the harm it wrought, he almost died.
Book II: Canto XXIII: 34-36: Oliviero and Grandonio show their skill
Balugante, however, wheeled his steed,
And, kicking hard with his spurs, he rode on,
Till he reached Marsilio, in sore need
Of swift aid; I’ll say more of that anon.
Oliviero launched a fierce blow indeed
At Sinagone’s helm, and thereupon
Sliced through his head, down to the teeth below,
Then turned to pursue bold Malgarino.
The latter was so afeared he did not wait,
On seeing Sinagone cruelly slain,
But had the sense to flee, and not tempt fate.
Grandonio, like a snake, struck again,
Hitting young Avino, the blow full straight,
Such that the youth landed on the plain,
And next his brothers: Belengiero,
Then brave Ottone, and Avorio.
Serpentino, elsewhere, charged Ricardo,
That courageous and valiant paladin,
Knocked him from his saddle, at a blow,
And then, he encountered Bishop Turpin,
Whom, though he prayed to avoid the foe,
The Saracen unseated (for some sin!),
And threw the bishop’s troops in disarray;
Some retreated, and some he chased away.
Book II: Canto XXIII: 37-45: Oliviero fights and wounds Grandonio
Grandonio of Volterna seemed
Supreme in the field, Oliviero
Now thought; for a paragon he deemed
That warrior, blood-drenched from head to toe.
Oliviero cried: ‘Midst the redeemed,
Eternal Lord above, I fain would go,
So, grant me strength against this enemy,
To defend the Creed, and its sanctity.’
He grasped a second lance as he rode by,
And then to the charge he spurred his valiant steed,
Yet I know not if he’d have won thereby,
For the Count of Maganza struck, at speed,
Launching a sudden sword-stroke from on high,
That wounded the pagan deeply indeed,
(Perchance Grandonio saw not the Count)
Pierced his side, and swept him from his mount.
Ask me not if fierce Grandonio
Chewed at the bit, when he was unhorsed.
He rose and gripped his shield, and gainst the foe
He swung his blade, while Gano now was forced
To retreat; wheeled his steed, and dodged the blow.
Grandonio mounted, then he coursed
O’er the field, with drawn sword, amidst the host,
And, though wounded, of many a stroke could boast.
No Saracen was e’er as fierce as he,
Some men he slew, some he knocked to the ground,
But that blade of his, midst the enemy,
Many a helpless victim, swiftly, found.
Oliviero struck Falsirone,
Split his helmet and shield, both now unsound;
But Grandonio hastened to his aid,
Ere Ferrau’s valiant father’s debt was paid.
Grandonio reached him (well, he did so,
Since Falsirone could scarcely survive
Further wounds) and faced Oliviero
Who left the other, more dead than alive,
And the pair exchanged blow after blow.
The Saracen was strong; though both did strive,
Oliviero had the greater skill,
Was quick, and agile, and unwounded still.
The Marquis was struck, by Grandonio,
Under the lower edge of his stout shield,
Where the armour beneath the targe did show.
Plate and mail, with a crash, were forced to yield,
And the sword-blade then grazed the thigh below.
I’ll let you conceive of the strength revealed
In that fierce blow, since it struck the saddle,
Cleft the bow, and hit the steed he did straddle.
It caught the charger on the left shoulder,
And drenched all about in crimson blood.
Oliviero gripped, all the tighter,
And then swung, his sword, as hard he could,
With both hands, battering at the other,
Till his foe’s shield was splintered in the mud,
While not a plate of his hauberk was unmarred;
And then struck his flesh, evading his guard.
Where his sword, Altachiera, landed,
It left the breastplate shattered there, and so,
The keen blade passed on (the blow two-handed)
And, in his flank, wounded Grandonio.
The pair of combatants still commanded
Their weapons, and held to their steeds, although
Both were wounded. Neither yielded an inch,
Nor, at each mighty stroke, did either flinch,
While the bitter conflict grew, and the pain,
As the steel was dented, by blow on blow.
Meanwhile, elsewhere, Uggiero the Dane,
Hunted, o’er the plain, bold Malgarino,
Who would ne’er have escaped, I maintain,
Had he not been helped by Serpentino,
He ‘of the Star’, in enchanted armour,
Young and daring, who now brought him succour.
Book II: Canto XXIII: 46-49: Uggiero fights Serpentino, as the Moors gather for an attack
On reaching him, he saw that Uggiero
Had the Moor, Malgarino, on the rack.
So, he dealt the Dane a thunderous blow,
That struck his helmet, to the left and back.
The steel was strong, but not unduly so,
And left him somewhat open to attack.
Uggiero swung round, full of anger,
And, with good reason, charged the other.
They began a fierce battle, swung their arms,
Now face to face, though Uggiero’s blade,
Curtana, could do naught gainst the charms
That protected Serpentino; dismayed,
He yet fought on. Now came sundry alarms,
Shouts, and cries, as a fresh attack was made.
A Moorish squadron, larger than the last,
Charged down the hill, to the trumpets’ blast.
Ahead of them all rode Folicone;
He was King Marsilio’s bastard son,
And ruled Almeria, and the country
All about that place. Larbino too made one,
Portugal’s king, spurring his steed, proudly,
And beside him and, not to be outdone,
The Caliph; Galicia’s Maricoldo;
And King Morgante sped to meet the foe;
Count Alanardo of Barcelona
Followed, with the fierce Dorifebo,
(He bore the crown of Valencia)
Beside Gerona’s Count Marigano,
While bold King Calabrun made another;
He ruled Aragon, nor was ever slow
To join the fight; the hill now joined the plain
It seemed; onward drove the men of Spain.
Book II: Canto XXIII: 50-53: Charlemagne sends forth Orlando and Rinaldo
Their thunder was so loud, it seemed the sky
Was falling. Charlemagne thought of victory
Alone, and the praise to be won thereby.
He called Rinaldo and the Count. Said he:
‘This day is yours, my sons!’ And, by and by
Sent word to the patient Bradamante
To move, secretly, at the enemy’s back,
And launch, if she could, a surprise attack.
Having sent his message, he turned again
To Orlando and Rinaldo, brave and true,
Saying, affectionately: ‘Now maintain
My honour; Christendom will honour you,
Evermore, for the victory you shall gain.
And, here, I shall learn which of you two
Is the better man. I knighted you both,
And know not whom I’d see win, by my oath!
Ride now, my paladins, to the battle!
Behold the enemy! Keep them in view,
And make me a high-road through that rabble,
So, all the wide world shall remember you.
I hold them all as but straw and stubble,
When I gaze at your fierce faces anew.
For your very look tells me that the foe
Are already vanquished, and sent below.’
Neither hesitated a moment longer,
As Charlemagne’s word now set them free,
But like lightning sped to the encounter,
Or like twin gales combining o’er the sea;
Racing their steeds against one another,
Set to vie in braving the enemy.
Pity the man that met with Rinaldo!
Or the foe that fought against Orlando!
Book II: Canto XXIII: 54-56: Rinaldo slays Larbino
Rinaldo’s charger owned to greater speed,
Thus, he outraced the Count; half-way there,
He lowered his sharp lance, and spurred his steed,
Eager to prove himself in that affair.
Now, the King of Portugal was proud indeed,
Like the rest of his countrymen, I declare.
Seeing Rinaldo, set upon his course,
‘Who is this? he cried, ‘and on so fine a horse?
See how it flies, as if the beast had wings!
And with an armoured buffoon on its back,
Who’ll cost me, indeed, no more than he brings,
Tis scarcely worth one mounting an attack.
Yet since I must (tis the duty of kings)
Hear the fellow cry, alas and alack,
I’ll run him through, ere he begs me no,
Though it be Orlando or Rinaldo.’
Speaking thus, that proud and valiant king,
Lowered his enormous, and weighty, lance,
And, as Prince Rinaldo was progressing
Towards him, sought to halt his swift advance.
The one broke his mighty spear in charging,
The other ran him through, and not by chance;
Twas Rinaldo striking home, true and hard,
Whose shaft drove on through his foe, a full yard.
Book II: Canto XXIII: 57-61: Orlando kills Calabrun and Maricoldo
Abandoning his lance, he let him fall;
Then Rinaldo swung Fusberta at the rest.
Meanwhile Calabrun, both strong and tall,
The king in Aragon, Orlando addressed.
For the monarch, who’d proved himself, in all
The battles he’d fought, as among the best,
Saw the Count approaching with lowered lance,
And galloped to meet him in his advance.
Whoever had viewed both kings, Larbino
And Calabrun, would have said the field
Held none prouder. The latter charged Orlando,
And drew sparks aplenty from the Count’s shield,
Twould have been better if some other foe
He had chosen, and his great pride concealed,
For the Count’s spear, piercing him, front to back,
Drove him, dead, from his mount in that attack.
Orlando drew his sword, Durindana,
Since his lance was now lost, and faced the rest.
As a river meets the sea, that flower
Of France, cleft the Spanish ranks four abreast.
Amidst the Moors and Saracens that hour
He showed his strength and courage gainst the best,
Vanquishing every knight that met his eye,
Sending plate and mail soaring to the sky.
He saw a giant on foot among the foe,
Twas Maricoldo of Galicia,
Wreaking such havoc, marching to and fro,
He left his victims dead, or in terror.
Orlando looked askance, as blow on blow
That king landed (it seemed mere slaughter),
Thinking ‘You’re tall enough, my great mooncalf;
Let me trim you by a foot and a half.’
And, with that, he put an end to his sport,
For where the Count had aimed, he sent a blow,
That severed the monarch’s neck, as he’d sought,
And shortened him, by a good foot or so,
Leaving, above his chest, little or naught,
Then returned his attention to the foe
Beyond, destroying them, like to the fire
In the June stubble, that leaps ever higher.
Book II: Canto XXIII: 62-63: Then attacks Stordilano, Baricondo and Maradasso
He soon overcame King Stordilano,
And Baricondo, their steeds in a heap;
Struck one in the face, the other below
In the groin. Like a flock of frightened sheep,
The Moors fled, routed. Next Maradasso
The monarch who held Argina’s keep,
(An Andalusian he, his sign and crest,
An ostrich) he chased amidst the rest.
He pursued, as I say, Maradasso,
(And, thus, chased that same ostrich from the field)
Then he turned to seek a more valiant foe,
Since the king’s haste to leave was unconcealed.
Many a skilful blow to down his prey,
(Who knows how many blows?) the Count revealed,
Cleaving some lengthwise, some men side to side,
(Drenched in blood, head to toe); thus, many died.
Book II: Canto XXIII: 64-65: Rinaldo slays Marigano
Nor was Rinaldo’s tally less in that chase.
He gripped his mighty sword, Fusberta, tight,
And swung it high against the Moorish race,
Cutting to pieces many a valiant knight.
His blade never ceased to strike at chest and face.
Marigano, ever strong in the fight,
Count of Gerona, as you may recall,
Attacked the warrior; he watched him fall.
Mighty Fusberta struck him on the head,
Cracked his helm, and shore away his crest,
Cleft his face, his beard now crimson red,
And descended to mid-way through his chest.
His soul to the infernal regions fled;
His accursed body on the earth did rest.
Abandoning it there, fierce Rinaldo
Now hunted after Count Alanardo.
Book II: Canto XXIII: 66-69: He downs Alanardo, Dorifebo, the Caliph, Folicone and Morgante
Alanardo held sway in Barcelona,
Though Rinaldo knew naught of his power there.
He dealt with every Moorish warrior
In the same manner, and with equal care;
For Dorifebo of Valencia,
Rinaldo also felled, in that affair.
The first, senseless, in a trice was downed,
The other was sent flying o’er the ground.
Sometimes a fire’s set midst the juniper,
So as to flush out the deer and the hare,
The flame leaping higher and higher,
As all the ground it scorches, and lays bare.
So, Rinaldo terrified each warrior,
And drove them o’er the plain, none did he spare;
For, as the fire pursues the hare and deer,
So did our knight the Moors, who fled in fear.
The Caliph was unhorsed, then Folicone,
While King Morgante, too, quit his steed.
The first wounded in the thigh, and deeply,
The second in the chest, the third did bleed
From his face. Rinaldo, moving swiftly,
Drenched in blood, wrought many a bold deed,
What warrior there could escape defeat?
No destruction was ever more complete.
When I say, my lords, that brave Rinaldo
Was drenched in blood, I seek not to say
That he was harmed, though stained from top to toe,
For his flesh was not marred in any way,
And the blood was ever that of some foe.
Yet I must leave him there, and veer away
To Balugante, much hurt, as we know,
Who’d arrived before King Marsilio.
Book II: Canto XXIII: 70-72: King Marsilio launches a mass attack
His head was wounded, his mouth was marred,
His shoulder cut, while his shield was gone,
And he swayed in his saddle, holding hard
To the reins now, while the monarch looked on.
Though he could barely speak, that most ill-starred
Warrior cried: ‘Send help to those, upon
The field, for now this bold King Charlemagne,
Brings defeat to your knights, o’er all the plain!’
When he’d heard the tale, King Marsilio,
With both his hands, beat hard upon his face,
And cursed Allah aloud, who’d brought him woe.
Fists joined he made (to his lasting disgrace),
Foul gestures to the sky; then, gainst the foe,
He sent all his troops. Ferrau led apace,
While Malzarise and Rodomonte
Followed him, with the bold Folvirante.
This last was from the East, and not of Spain,
Though he ruled the fine kingdom of Navarre,
A gift from the monarch, but now again
To be re-earned, on the field where we are;
Fiercely that host descended to the plain,
And looked a million strong seen from afar.
The foe ever seems greater in number
Than one’s own force, at the first encounter.
Book II: Canto XXIII: 73-75: The Moorish ladies encourage their menfolk
Down to the plain they swept, as I say,
And the ground well-nigh sank beneath their feet.
In disordered ranks they sped on their way,
The charge launched ere their order was complete.
King Bovarte was present on that day,
And Languirano, co-rulers of one seat,
With Doricante and Baliverzo,
And the Devil’s servant, old Urgano.
Twas as if earth and sky met one another,
And flowed on. Each man vied to be the first,
While his lady’s sad gaze followed after,
As she grieved, sighed for him, and feared the worst.
The proud queens all clapped their hands together
And called out to those men in warfare versed:
‘For love of us, show bravery this day!’
And praised them, as they saw them on their way.
‘In your strong hands,’ they cried, ‘Allah has placed
Our lives and liberty. Ride on, and fight
Valiantly gainst the foe; be not disgraced!
War that we may be free; defend the right!
Let not those dogs seize us (the true and chaste),
And lead us to dwell in shame’s endless night.
If our persons you would gain, heart and soul,
Let honour for yourselves be ere your goal.’
Book II: Canto XXIII: 76-78: Rodomonte and Ferrau champion the Moorish cause
Not one king or knight, galloping bravely,
But was stirred by what the court ladies cried.
Yet, more than all the rest, Rodomonte,
Could not have endured aught but to ride.
He was grateful the monarch had, promptly,
Sent both he and Ferrau forth, in their pride,
For a messenger had found them, to say
That the king sought their aid, without delay.
So those two brave Saracens descended,
The flower on earth of boldness and valour.
O how many Christians, ill-defended,
They will slay! O grant aid, Holy Mother!
Lead not the latter, ere this be ended,
Into those toils that bind many another.
Orlando and Rinaldo, fire and flame,
Must earn their pay and more, all the same.
As those Saracens rode forth to the plain,
(Famed were they all for strength and bravery)
The world seemed ablaze, the ground, again,
Shook, as if twould split apart completely.
But this canto grows long. Lest you complain
That excess annoys, I’ll end it briefly;
And pause awhile, which may well delight you,
Ere, to the next canto, I invite you.
The End of Book II: Canto XXIII of ‘Orlando Innamorato’