Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato

Book II: Canto XXVII: Brandimarte's Marriage

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

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Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato: Book II, Canto XXVII

Book II: Canto XXVII: 1-2: Boiardo’s wish to please

A young singer named Arion who dwelt

On the shores of the Sicilian Sea,

Had a voice of such sweetness, fit to melt

The listener’s heart, that dolphins, and tunny,

Came to listen, such rare pleasure they felt.

His art was of admiration worthy,

Yet, my own lyre, in truth, more grace affords,

Since it lures you to lend an ear, my lords.

Such grace, I believe, is heaven-sent,

And so, I set my mind and intellect,

To singing, that you all may feel content

With an art that e’er delights the elect.

I hope to please, for such is my intent,

(Though I’m sometimes led to doubt the effect,

By your glances!) now I resume my tale,

That many a day has sought to unveil.

Book II: Canto XXVII: 3-7: Fugiforca tells his story

I paused, earlier, as Fugiforca,

Who’d been arrested by Brandimarte,

Hearing he was to die, in his terror,

Fell at the latter’s feet, crying loudly,

Shedding many a tear, sighing ever,

And begging the valiant knight for mercy,

Praying he might not be dragged to Liza,

Where the king would subject him to torture.

‘If you take me to Liza, my brave lord,

They’ll torment me, and tis with good reason.

Though I deserve it, pity yet afford

For the very stones will show compassion!

Not that I think my sins should be ignored,

Nor that I should now attain my freedom,

Since indeed, for those errors, I must pay;

Yet let me die but the one death, I pray.

For, there, they’ll seek to punish me with more

Painful tortures than any man has known.

My death won’t content the king, I’m sure,

Since I’ve caused a deal of harm to the throne.

Yet, perchance, fate will lead me to that shore,

For as the proverb says, and oft is shown

To be true, by bitter experience:

“Past sins e’er provoke present penitence.”

It so happened, on a day, near the shore,

King Dolistone, and Perodia,

His queen, as they had often done before,

Were dining, not too far from the water.

I joined the crowd, meaning to explore

A purse or two, but seized their daughter,

Whom I sold for two thousand in silver,

To the Count of Castle Wild, its master.

None, not the king, would ever find her,

For I’d borne her secretly to that place.

In that noble household, I’d dwelt ever

Since birth, and was thus a familiar face.

After that, since none did e’er discover

My crime, I’ve ever courted this disgrace,

For I’ve stripped the very shirt from men’s backs,

Subjecting travellers to bold attacks.’

Book II: Canto XXVII: 8-12: They reach Liza which is under siege

Brandimarte, musing on all he’d said,

Was content to hear his explanation,

Yet he told the thief: ‘Be it on your head.

Tis a matter for the king’s jurisdiction,

And so not for me to judge in his stead;

He shall punish you, and with good reason.’

With that he bound him, all the tighter,

To a steed, which was led by Doristella.

The thief spoke not a word; he went in fear

Of Brandimarte. Thus, they came to Liza,

Where, on the field before it, did appear

A band of armed men. As they drew nearer,

Doristella wept, and sighed: ‘Alas, tis clear

An evil plight has beset my father,

For these forces lay siege to the city,

And will show the likes of us scant pity!’

Meanwhile a band of men, and many a knight,

Rode towards them suddenly, and cried:

‘You’re our prisoners, now; at once, alight!’

Brandimarte, in a mighty voice, replied:

‘As fiercely as you speak, you’ll need to fight;

Many who sought to capture me have died!’

With that he drew Tranchera, his sharp blade,

And a swift attack upon the man he made.

At a stroke, he nigh sliced him quite in two.

That huge soldier bore a bill-hook, and wore

Plate and mail, but the stroke was good and true;

Tranchera sent him tumbling to the floor.

None mightier e’er was dealt, in my view,

For at that blow the victim was no more,

He lost an arm, his body lacked a head,  

And the pieces flew to their gory bed.

He did the like to the rest of that band,

And more (if Turpin is to be believed),

Or at least to those there who sought to stand,

Not run; happy the man who first conceived

The idea of flight, and quit that command,

The one in front, I mean; while none there grieved

Another’s loss but fled, at speed, randomly,

Never ceasing until they reached the sea.

Book II: Canto XXVII: 13-15: The ladies and the thief are captured by Teodoro’s men

From the camp, a sudden noise rose, loudly;

And, ‘To arms!’ ‘To arms!’ the soldiers cried.

Then they attacked Brandimarte, fiercely,

Swarming to the fray, from every side.

The knight conducted himself most bravely,

But found little joy, his labours denied,

And despite his defence, saw Doristella

Captured, and then, his own Fiordelisa.

And Fugiforca too, that vile robber,

They led away, hands tied behind his back,

While Brandimarte, valiant as ever,

Though hope seemed lost, mounted an attack.

He wrought such destruction, from his charger,

That of blood and gore there was scarce a lack;

While Batoldo could scarce a course maintain,

For all the heaps of victims that he’d slain.

Yet he failed to rescue the maids that day;

Both were lost to him, that valiant knight.

Let us leave him and, brooking no delay,

Follow those who had led them from the fight.

They were brought to where Teodoro lay,

Who clasped his Doristella with delight,

And the maid embraced her lover too,

Which is hardly a surprise to me or you.

Book II: Canto XXVII: 16-18: Teodoro and Doristella are reunited

For each of them loved the other so,

That none but the other filled their heart;

And the world holds no greater cure for woe

Than the meeting of lovers kept apart.

Kisses they exchanged, as you might know,

Hot with passion, and more vigour than art,

While all those around them died of envy,

Watching that scene, that knew their story.

Teodoro explained to Doristella

Why he was besieging the city,

And, thus, fighting Dolistone, her father.

He said: ‘In despair, I blamed him wholly

Thinking him the reason why that other,

That wretch, Usbego, held you, securely,

Where none knew. God curse his treachery!

There was not a sign of where you might be.’

The maid set Teodoro’s mind at ease,

And answered all his questions, as she told

Him the tale, nor for an instant did cease,

Ere the point where Brandimarte the Bold,

Slew Usbego, in the court, which did please

Teodoro greatly, then she thought to hold

His two hands, and begged him to save the knight,

Since attacked, and outnumbered in the fight.

Book II: Canto XXVII: 19-23: Teodoro seeks peace with Dolistone

She prayed that he might act, there and then,

And, prompted by his sense of chivalry,

He chose a herald from amongst his men,

And a trumpeter, and dispatched them quickly,

To the place where fighting hotly against ten

Or more, they found the fierce Brandimarte,

Hotter still, in that twas revenge he sought,

Although, on hearing the call, he stopped short.

Once he’d greeted the herald, politely,

He sought the royal tent (Teodoro

Was now King of Armenia, you see;

His father dying naturally, though)

And, halfway there, coincidentally,

Met the king who, with triumphant show,

Rode between two of the fairest ever,

Fiordelisa, and his Doristella.

Teodoro received him with honour,

And told Brandimarte the whole story

Of his love, all the tale of his ardour,

From its true commencement to that very

Moment; while sending an ambassador,

To Perodia and Dolistone,

Seeking peace with them, thus to make amends,

And to wed Doristella, among friends.

All happened with such speed, as you know,

And such confusion, that Fugiforca,

Remained bound on a horse, and full of woe,

As such criminals are dealt with ever.

His hands were tied behind him; to and fro

He was led, so all could view the robber.

And Brandimarte now asked, politely,

That he be confined, and guarded closely.

So, at Brandimarte’s request, the king,

Had that cruel villain placed in custody,

His arms and legs chained to an iron ring,

Since all loathed the man for his villainy.

The ambassador welcome news did bring:

He had been received by Dolistone,

And Perodia, his queen, and they had heard

The message he had brought, every word.

Book II: Canto XXVII: 24-27: Fugiforca is questioned as to the stolen child

Thus, he returned clasping an olive wreath,

The sign of peace, as it was e’er of old,

Saying all was well, much to the relief

Of Doristella, whose joy it now foretold.

They entered Liza, all but the thief

That unwilling was a sad sight to behold,

Filled with delight. He rode, that Devil’s tool,

Amidst the baggage, and astride a mule.

Once in the city, he was scorned by all,

Showered with foul abuse from every side,

None has ever met with so swift a fall.

‘Allah defend me!’ the sad villain cried.

Brandimarte dragged him to the king’s hall,

And told of the crime. The monarch sighed,

As he gazed at the man, with grief and anger,

That had cruelly snatched away his daughter.

He’d known of the thief, by reputation

Agile and astute, and pleased he’d been caught,

Now threatened to put him to the question

If he hid aught that he knew from the court.

Fugiforca gave a full confession,

Said he’d sold her but, beyond that, knew naught,

For, having done so, from that far country

He’d returned, and long had proved the journey.

He said: ‘For a goodly price I sold her,

To the Count of Castle Wild; and his land

Is a thousand miles away, or further,

Beyond fair Bukhara, and Samarkand.’

Brandimarte asked the troubled father,

Once the king’s attention he could command,

If there was any way to recognise her,

This child; answer came from Perodia.

Book II: Canto XXVII: 28-30: Who is recognised in Fiordelisa

For, on hearing Brandimarte’s question,

She interrupted, ere the king replied.

‘If she lives,’ she said, with deep emotion,

‘She may be known,’ and she, momently, sighed,

‘By a mulberry stain, that no lotion,

Or aught else, could remove,’ and here, she cried.

‘Carrying her, I craved such,’ she confessed,

‘Thence, perchance, came that mark, beneath her breast.

When she was born, she possessed that dark stain,

Naught affected it.’ The queen fell silent.

But Brandimarte took up the thing again,

(Fiordelisa had granted her consent

To his speaking) and went on, to explain

That the maid recalled her mother, which lent

Credence to his view that Fiordelisa,

Who’d likewise been stolen, was their daughter.

He asked the queen to confirm, privately,

The stain was there, and of the very form

She recalled, and this the queen did swiftly;

And, thus, no more was needed to inform

The royal pair of the claim’s verity.

This sweet revelation worked to transform

Perodia’s tears to joy; all did seem

Like the mind’s release from an evil dream.

Book II: Canto XXVII: 31-33: The two pairs of lovers marry

Every eye was now filled with joyful tears,

And all those present wept with tenderness,

The mother and this daughter, lost for years,

Embraced and kissed each other, to excess.

The vile thief was pardoned, despite his fears,

Reprieved, to mark their future happiness,

And everywhere the bells rang out; the cries,

Trumpet calls, and horn-blasts, rose to the skies.

The news was proclaimed through all the land,

And throughout every neighbouring country;

Soon marriage preparations were in hand,

For Fiordelisa was wed to Brandimarte,

While, at the altar, Doristella did stand

Beside her Teodoro, there to marry,

Ere they joined the triumphal parades.

I doubt that they were virgin brides, those maids,

For few husbands can boast wives of that sort;

One may sooner find a crow that’s snow white.

And those two maids (if you’ve remembered aught!)

Knew how to mount a steed, and then alight,

In the tourneys where love’s battles are fought.

Such was the custom, then considered right;

Though not today, where every maid’s intact;

Who believes not, go seek, and prove the fact!

Book II: Canto XXVII: 34-35: The new brides convert Armenia to Christianity

These two sisters, whose stories I have told,

Were Christians, true Catholics indeed,

The laws of Allah left such ladies cold,

And both were hostile to the Muslim creed.

They went to see their father, being bold,

And wooed him, with soft words, till he agreed

To turn to the ‘one truth faith’, for, by God’s grace,

The king could ne’er refuse a pretty face.

Their mother was as easily persuaded,

And led to embrace their sacred belief.

Then the court and city were converted

To their religion with but little grief.

Need I say more? The faith, once asserted,

Was embraced by the people; to be brief,

Everywhere, from the mountain to the sea,

All Armenia did, to this new lore, agree.

Book II: Canto XXVII: 36-39: Brandimarte and Fiordelisa sail to seek Orlando

And need I tell of the festivities,

Which waxed more joyful day by day?

Here were jousts, and there were full-scale tourneys,

With the song and dance of love e’er in play.

Yet Brandimarte now sought to journey,

To follow the Count, sadly loathe to stay,

And, one morning, spoke to Dolistone,

And, with him, agreed the matter swiftly.

He explained that he’d well-nigh decided,

To follow the path of Count Orlando.

The monarch replied: ‘If you’d be guided

By my good counsel, you’d not leave us so,

Yet such a course should not be derided,  

And you have my consent, if you must go.

I need not hear your reasons; as you wish,

Sail, or remain, I yield to you in this.’

The king provided our knight with stores,

And provisions, to fill a splendid galley,

A royal vessel fit for foreign shores,

With gold about its stern, adorned richly.

And, with wealth enough to support his cause,

Fiordelisa and Brandimarte

Boarded; to her child the queen sent many

A pearl, fine emerald, and rare ruby;

Amongst those stores was a pavilion,

The finest tent e’er wrought in Syria.

An easterly blew; the captain, content

With the weather, warned them that to linger

Could cause them harm given their intent.

They bid Dolistone, and her mother,

And the rest, a fond farewell and, with ease,

Passed Rhodes, then Crete, sailing with the breeze.

Book II: Canto XXVII: 40-45: Caught in a storm, they land near Bizerte

Yet such sea-journeys, much like human life,

Are subject to vast uncertainty;  

Hope in worldly things often ends in strife,

And many a fair breeze lasts but briefly.

Now a gale arose, the wind cut like a knife;

For those who sought to make for Sicily

From Crete, twas an ill northerly that blew;

The air darkened, the waters churned anew.

Said the captain: ‘Heaven works against me,

If I err not, and all things run counter;

For I thought to skim before the easterly,

Yet now the wind’s in the northern quarter.

We’ll not last long amidst so fierce a sea;

We’ll turn to leeward; seek calmer water.

Gainst this gale, no vessel can advance;

Nor have we hope now of attaining France.  

For then, if I’ve read the chart correctly,

Africa will lie on our starboard side,

To which the ship may make directly;

“You win if you lose not,” is e’er my guide.

Perchance the tempest will ease, shortly,

And this endless northerly, thus, subside.

Pray for a warm southerly breeze once more

To carry us to fair Sardinia’s shore.’

But rather the northerly gained in strength,

Dashing the captain’s hopes that such might be,

While the waves grew higher, till, at length,

All, fearing death, sent up plea on plea,

To God above, who answers not a tenth

Of our endless prayers for aid, nor did He

Lend an ear to their cries that they would drown,

But merely turned the waters upside-down.

Tempestuous rain and hail filled the air,

Till it seemed the sky had turned to water.

The waves broke o’er the deck everywhere,

Wrecking all not battened under cover.

The storm’s vast strength was far beyond compare,

The furious gale seemed fierce as ever,

And the wind, as I say, blew ceaselessly,

Till they drew near the coast of Barbary.

They made land near Bizerte, in that bay,

Wherein which Carthage, that mighty city,

Once stood; as great as Rome was, in her day,

And well-nigh her match in power and beauty.

Yet, there, but scattered, broken ruins lay,

A witness to her lost supremacy.

Fortune had, thus, laid low her lofty pride,

And few now knew the name, or how she died.

Book II: Canto XXVII: 46-50: And travel to that city overland

Brandimarte, I say, reached that harbour,

Driven southwards by Fortune, and the gale.

Yet, by decree, any Christian traveller

Who appeared, was to be slain, without fail;

For a prophecy claimed that Africa

Sooner or later, would weaken and fail,

And fall to a prince, out of Italy,

That would set ablaze all that fine country.

Brandimarte knew of this prophecy,

And had no wish for his true name to be known,

Fearful for his wife, and their company,

Rather than anxious for himself alone.

He gave his servants their orders, swiftly,

Then left for shore, where in a civil tone

He explained to the governor, briefly,

That he was the son of Monodante,

And that he came from the Distant Isle,

To visit the court of Agramante,

Whose fame had reached him, o’er many a mile;

Desirous of vaunting his chivalry,

For, among them, his own worth he would trial.

Thus, he sought one who might lead him, safely,

To Bizerte, where such might be displayed;

Indeed, would be most grateful for his aid.

The governor, of his great courtesy,

Said he would willingly escort the pair,

And Fiordelisa then joined them swiftly,

With many another, to journey there.

They took the Bizerte’ road, cheerfully,

And, early one morning, the sight did share

Of a grove on one side of fine and tall

Palm-trees, on the other the city wall.

Our knight gifted silver to his escort,

And then his men made camp among the trees,

Where the ground was verdant, and the grove caught

The passage of a balmy onshore breeze,

That refreshed the countryside, as it sought

To flow inland, and gave them rest and ease.

Beneath the palms, his pavilion was raised.

A thing of beauty, twas by all folk praised.

Book II: Canto XXVII: 51-52: Brandimarte’s pavilion and its prophetic tapestries

For twas a work so splendid and ornate

That it outdid all such that e’er were seen.

A Sybil of Cumae, at some early date,

Had wrought it, and with her own hand I ween,

By the Bay of Naples; her skill was great,

And, richly embroidered, it oft had been

Gifted twixt kings of many a foreign land,

Till Dolistone its fate did command.

I know, my lords, that you are well aware,

That each Sybil possessed prophetic skill.

And she who designed it that power did share,

And adorned it with deeds and tales, at will.

Past, present, and future were pictured there,

Every corner of its cloth they did fill,

Twelve named Alfonso thereon displayed.

More splendid than the last, was each portrayed.

Book II: Canto XXVII: 53-55: Alfonso V of Aragon (1396-1458)

Nine of these twelve, envious Nature

Would bear at Europe’s western edge, in Spain;

So splendid their fire and light however,

That the Orient their bright rays would gain.

Some would seek justice, wisdom honour,

Lead in peace, or war, the right maintain;

The tenth of these great men would, tenfold,

In himself, their host of virtues, enfold;

A triumphant, yet peaceable, soldier,

Generous and pious, just and benign,

And worthy of all that God and Nature

Would grant him, virtues human and divine.

Before him all the realms of Africa,

Would bow the knee, and, of his own design,

He would win a large slice of Italy,

Uniting Naples and fair Sicily.

Like Hercules, who was conquered by love,

And lost his heart to a Lydian maid,

His love for Italy as great would prove,

Causing that for his Spanish realm to fade.

Our people his great valour would approve,

And every virtue, midst us, thus displayed,

That would win acclaim for our fair land,

Would derive from him, scattered from his hand.

Book II: Canto XXVII: 56-57: Alfonso II of Naples (1448-1495)

The young Alfonso, the eleventh of these,

Shown there with wings, like to a Victory,

Looked as if Nature, seeking for her glories

A fair home, had chosen this, most gladly.

Wishing to tell, amidst her many stories,

The tale of his deeds, in their entirety,

It seemed the Sibyl had, with art, unfurled

Bold scenes from every corner of the world.

Embroidered there were deeds of love and war,

Of arms and wisdom; here, fair Italy

He’d defend from the Turks, by valour more

Than by mere strength; twas all shown fully.

And there, a string of battle-scenes it bore,

Showing all the fight at Poggibonsi

(Monte Imperiale), the fortress won,

The fairest keep in all the world undone.

Book II: Canto XXVII: 58-59: Alfonso of Aragon, Duke of Bisceglie (1481-1500)

The twelfth Alfonso was portrayed nearby,

A little child, dressed as the young Apollo,

A Phoebus in triumph, rays of gold on high

Crowning his forehead, winged, and with his bow.

So handsome, glowing there, beneath the sky,

Shining so brightly in his outward show,

That all who viewed him could not but approve

And cry, as one: ‘Here stands the God of Love!’

Before him Fortune knelt, and full of joy

She seemed, her aspect one of happiness,

As if saying: ‘O sweet son, blessed boy,

Here you may see the virtues and success

Of your great ancestors, their deeds enjoy.

Show but their courage, their farsightedness,

Their courtesy, the wisdom of those same,

And you may share their glory, and their fame.’

Book II: Canto XXVII: 60-62: Brandimarte rides to the city wall

Many another feature of that pavilion

Met the eye, inside and out, rich and rare;

For bright gems, and woven gold, gleamed thereon,

Such that it lit the palm-grove everywhere.

While within sapphires, emeralds, crystal shone,

From ornate vessels, all displayed with care,

Enough to buy a kingdom in that age,

Far more than I can picture on my page.

For, truthfully, I lack the power to tell

Of all the noble work that tent contained.

Yet, fair sculpted nymphs met the eye as well,

Works that such glorious beauty attained,

All deserved praise on which the awed gaze fell.

And there too the Sybil’s hand had ordained

Portraits of knights, lifelike in every way,

Though to what end created, none could say.

Once the tent had been raised, Brandimarte,

Swiftly left the scene, mounted on Batoldo,

And made his way, alone, to fair Bizerte,

Armed to encounter either friend or foe.

Once there, he sounded his war-horn bravely.

You will hear the tale, in the next canto,

Of what happened at the joust that befell;

Till then, God and the Virgin keep you well.

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