Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato

Book III: Canto III: Princess Lucina

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

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Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato: Book III, Canto III

Book III: Canto III: 1-4: The fight against Orrilo resumes

There, amidst the roses, crimson and white,

Midst fields bright with many a fair flower,

Midst fresh herbs, and those sweet scents that delight,

That issue forth from many a leafy bower,

I sang the deeds of more than one brave knight,

Renowned of old, to fill the present hour;

Cavaliers so bold and fierce they overcame

Every vile thing on Earth, and slew those same.

Then it entered my mind that such treasure

Enjoyed alone is ever incomplete.

So, my lords and ladies, at your leisure,

I bring you fresh delight, in measures sweet,

For I believe it may give you pleasure

To hear of the monstrous creature’s defeat,

I mean that which was fighting Aquilante,

And Grifone, when I paused my story.

I told you how the Crocodile crawled out

Of Orrilo’s tower, a beast most wondrous.

Long-lived it was, and huge, from tail to snout,

Growing, while alive, till it was monstrous.

It swam in the Nile, and also crawled about

On land, seeking prey (twas adventurous).

Some kind of giant lizard, it did seem;

Of a size unequalled even in dream.

Its length was a good thirty feet or more,

Its back was spotted, a mottled yellow.

It could open full wide its upper jaw,

A move that few other beasts could follow.

While its stomach, a vast larder, could store

A cow or two, whatever it could swallow;

And then its teeth were a foot long, I’m sure,

On Earth there was no stranger carnivore.

Book III: Canto III: 5-10: Grifone attacks the Crocodile

Grifone who watched its thunderous advance,

Slow but sure, as I’ve sought to indicate,

Attacked it boldly now, with lowered lance,

As it neared his brother, ere twas too late.

No finer thrust was made and, not by chance

On the brow, twixt the eyes, fell its full weight.

The spear was large, sharp its tip of iron,

But naught that availed; the heavy weapon

Bent like a slender reed, as home it struck,

And did scant damage to the vicious beast,

Whose hide was impenetrable; it took

The blow, its thick and calloused skin uncreased.

Once again, bold Grifone, tried his luck,

As the violence of their battle increased.

The creatured oped it jaws, in fierce anger,

And might have swallowed knight and charger,

Had not Aquilante reached the scene,

(Having sliced the vile Orrilo in two)

And found his brother, in grave peril I ween,

Nigh on his way to vanishing from view.

With all his strength he swung his strong and keen

Blade of steel (an enchanted blade, tis true)

And hit the beast on its uplifted snout,

Though twas impervious, inside and out.

The Crocodile turned on Aquilante,

Arousing such terror in his charger,

The latter veered aside, bolting swiftly,

Not waiting for the oncoming creature,

Which would scarce have eaten them slowly,

But swallowed them whole, such was its nature,

Caparison and armour, horse and knight,

Not touched by its vile teeth, but gulped outright.

As I said, his valiant steed, much dismayed

Leapt aside, and fled, like a speeding dart,

While that horrendous monster quickly made

A move to catch it, snapping, for its part,

At the horse’s rump, which it almost flayed,

Within an inch of Aquilante, whose heart

Gave a tremor, for Orrilo, whole and sound,

Now advanced, cudgel raised, o’er the ground.

Meanwhile, dismounting, bold Grifone

Leapt upon the Crocodile, from behind,

And ran up its tail and spine full swiftly,

To the back of its head, while it was blind

To his intent; it reared, but, gripping tightly,

The knight levered up its snout, ere it dined,

And with both hands rode the monster so;

No stranger a sight did the world e’er show.

Book III: Canto III: 11-14: Aquilante again attacks Orrilo

For their part, Aquilante and Orrilo

Were now engaged in cruel battle once more,

As fierce a duel as ever, blow for blow.

Orrilo’s mail and armour struck the floor

In a shower of fragments, and then his foe

Hit him on the shoulder, the stroke was sure,

For Aquilante, seeking to do harm,

Sliced away that whole shoulder and the arm.

It fell, with the weighty club, to the ground;

But Aquilante, now wise to the game,

Paused not, having previously found

The binding spell must soon restore that same.

Evern though he saw him die, safe and sound

He’d return, no doubt; so, as on he came,

He severed his shield-arm at the shoulder,

And, dismounting, threw both limbs in the water.

Half a mile he hurled them (wide as a sea

The Nile extends at that place) then he cried:

‘Advance, I’m not stopping you, feel free

To do your worst, and a little more beside.

Why, you couldn’t swat a fly, it seems to me,

Or crack and eat a lobster, if you tried.

You wretched deceiver; you, and your spell,

Have wasted my precious time all too well.’

But Orrilo sped away like an arrow,

And, in a trice, had reached the flowing Nile,

Where the rogue leapt from the bank, plunged below,

And failed to reappear for quite some while.

Aquilante, deprived thus of his foe,

Since his brother still gripped the Crocodile

By the nose, paused not a moment, but rode

To Grifone, whose weariness now showed.

Book III: Canto III: 15-16: And then slays the Crocodile

As I told you earlier, the brave Grifone

Had gripped that vile monster by the nose,

Bending its jaws back firmly, while, boldly,

Pressing hard on its head with heels and toes.

And so, he still remained, as Aquilante

Dismounted (full swiftly you may suppose)

And seized his lance, that lay upon the ground,

For which but scant employment had been found.

Then he leapt forward, with that spear in hand,

And drove it full length between those jaws,

With whatever strength he could yet command.

The lance journeyed on, without a pause,

Thus, avoiding the ribs, you understand,

Emerging through the gut, despite the roars

Of the beast (for the weak spot in its hide

Lay beneath the legs, on the underside).

Book III: Canto III: 17-22: Orrilo emerges intact from the Nile

That thrust, I would say, pleased Grifone

More than any had in his life before,

For his waning strength was ebbing quickly.

Lo, Orrilo, re-emerged, close to shore,

Swimming with both arms, seeming wholly

Restored, as towards the bank he bore,

While Aquilante wondered how on earth,

He’d found his limbs, and achieved re-birth!

Orrilo used both his arms together,

And cleft the flood in most vigorous style,

Swimming like a frog through the water,

Till he reached the sloping bank of the Nile.

Grifone said, turning to his brother:

‘All we’ve left to show, for our long trial,

Is one dead monster, which was hard to kill;

If it’s truly dead, not just lying still!’

Said Aquilante: ‘I can’t say I’m sure

That such an adventure leads to honour.

Nor know I how we could have laboured more

In seeking to slay that other creature;

He’s as whole and enchanted as before.

Barely an hour of daylight, moreover,

Remains. And when tis night, what shall we do?

He’ll drag to Hell the likes of me and you.’

Grifone answered: ‘Ere the light has gone,

Before the sun sinks down behind the hill,

We’ve yet time for sword-play.’ Whereupon,

He turned about, and laid on with a will,

For, as he wheeled, Orrilo, rushing on,

Met him with his cudgel, warring still.

Then with deeds, not mere threats, face to face,

That pair fought; the blade pitted gainst the mace.

With plenty of work to do on each side.

One struck the other, then their roles reversed.

Grifone, well-armoured, thus replied

To the cudgel, which he scorned, and rehearsed

Many a mighty blow; twas then they spied

A knight in armour, one who seemed well-versed

In such ventures, for a giant on a chain

He dragged behind him. Later, I’ll explain

That whole matter, as I e’er seek to do,

For I’ll tell you all about that enterprise,

But when a tale has veiled all else from view

It should give way. I have, before my eyes,

Mandricardo and Gradasso; those two

Are on their way to France, and time flies;

While, before they attain that fair country,

Of toil, on land and sea, they’ll have plenty.

Book III: Canto III: 23-26: Mandricardo and Gradasso see a maiden chained to a rock

Those warriors had parted from the Fay,

In whose palace Hector’s arms had been kept,

And through Syria the pair had made their way,

To attain fair Damascus, where they slept;

Then had journeyed on, to reach, on a day,

A lodging-place, to which they slowly crept

Near the shore, there to rest; the hour was late.

It seemed empty, with none to guard the gate.

Gradasso, looking down upon the shore,

Towards a rugged cliff of broken stone,

Above the shallows, where the waves did roar,

Saw a naked maiden chained there, alone,

Her hair dishevelled; and, weeping full sore,

O’ercome by deep despair, and making moan,

‘Come Death, O Death, and aid me now,’ she cried,

‘For every other hope in me has died.’

The cavaliers instantly descended

And galloped to the cliff, o’er the strand,

To learn who or what had thus offended

The maid, and if the cause was yet to hand.

She wept, as if her grief could ne’er be ended,

Enough to wring tears from that stony land,

And then cried to the knights: ‘Oh, show pity!

Draw your swords, and slay me, of your mercy.

If God, or Ill-Fortune, would have me die,

Then by human hands let the deed be done,

Rather than that vile creature, by and by;

Tis worse than death to fall to such a one.’

The knights would know her tale, though her reply

Was nigh stifled in her throat, and yet she won

Sufficient breath, despite her tears, to relay

The substance of the thing; this she did say:

Book III: Canto III: 27-36: Lucina tells them of the Ogre

‘If I’m sadder, and grieve more than I can show,

I’ve good reason. If there’s time, I’ll explain.

What woman in the world felt greater woe?

An Ogre dwells beneath that cliff; my bane.

Whether of such vile creatures you know,

I know not; yet if, my lords, you were fain

To view his face, tis so dreadful, in a trice,

The blood within your veins would turn to ice.

I can scarcely bear to speak of the creature,

The heart in my poor breast trembles so.

He’s short, fat as six, with hair all over,

And a curly beard o’er his chest doth flow.

Two dull bony spheres, not eyes, moreover,

Occupy the sockets where eyes should go.

There Nature did well, for if he could see

He’d already have ruined all this country.

He can’t be overcome, although he’s blind,

For that vile monster lacks eyes, as I’ve said.

I’ve seen him (oh, you’ll think I’ve lost my mind!)

Tear up oaks like fennel shoots; then he fed

Upon the flesh of three giants, not his kind,

Whom he squashed like frogs, till the giants bled.

He tore away here a thigh, there a chest,

Boiled some pieces, and then roasted the rest.

Human flesh is all he chooses to eat,

And then, he drinks from a bowl of fresh blood.

Twere best if you both admitted defeat,

Ere he finds that you’re in his neighbourhood.

At the moment he’s sleeping there, replete,

Deep in his den but, be it understood,

If he wakes, he’ll smell you, instantly,

Sensitive to the scent of man, you see.  

He can scent your trail, like a well-trained hound,

While all defence is in vain, as is flight.

A hundred miles he’ll run, chase you to ground,

And end your life before the fall of night.

Depart therefore, I pray, lest you be found

Aiding me. Go! Leave me here in my sad plight.

But there’s a favour I ask: if, on your quest,

(I beg you, my lords, grant this last request!)

You happen to meet King Norandino,

Lord of Damascus (you may know his name)

Tell him of my death, and of my woe,

And say (he’s bound to weep at that same,

For he and I do love each other so,

And then my hand in marriage he would claim):

“Your lady, while she lived, loved you dearly.

She loves you yet, and shall, most sincerely.”

But take care not to err in what you say.

Tell him not that I live, nor of my pain;

For he loves me and would brook no delay

In seeking my rescue; the strongest chain

Would fail to hold him back, and yet I pray

He does not so, for then I would sustain

Far greater harm, know deeper misery  

Than death itself, were he to die with me.

So, tell him you buried me on the shore.

He will ask in what land lies his Lucina.

Say that you know its name not, ne’er before

Visited the place, were here no longer

Than a single day, and could return no more,

Driven here by chance, stormbound, in error.

Then grant him solace, so his tears abate,

And he may prove accepting of my fate.’

Thus, she spoke, the maid, in her wretchedness,

As she wept and the tears ran down her face.

Gradasso well-nigh wept himself, no less

Moved than she, and drew his sword apace,

To cut the chain, and free her from distress,

But the maiden cried: ‘Do not, of your grace!

For if you seek to free me you will fail;

You yourself will die; twill prove of no avail!

The chain (alas and woe!) runs through the stone,

And leads, from where I am, to his foul lair,

And if twere severed then that act alone

Would rouse the Ogre, for a bell sounds there;

And once awake, and once my flight was known,

He would seek and pursue us everywhere;

He would sniff out our trail o’er shore and strand,

Hill and dale, and then slay us where we stand.’

Book III: Canto III: 37-41: Gradasso fights the Ogre and is captured

Mandricardo desired to break the chain,

And hear the bell sound, for the knight feared naught,

And when the maiden fell silent again

He cut it with his blade, without a thought.

The bell clanged in the Ogre’s dark domain,

Like a peal of thunder; the maiden, fraught,

Nigh to fainting, her face pale with dread,

Cried: ‘Alas! My life is done; we are dead;

Soon you’ll behold that evil creature.

Oh, my whole body is by fear oppressed!’

And behold, that thing of evil nature

His goitre hanging down o’er his chest,

His boar-like tusks a hideous feature,

Now appeared, his vile jaws, like all the rest

Of his ugly face, foul with blood and gore.

His eyebrows were six inches long or more;

The thickness of a leg was each finger,

And the villain’s long nails were black with dirt.

The bold Gradasso feared him not, however,

And against him all his strength did exert,

Swinging his sharp blade, with wondrous power;

And yet the monstrous thing seemed unhurt.

For the Ogre grasped his shield, in a trice,

Tore it from him, and shattered it like ice.    

Had the Ogre gripped Gradasso’s head,

He’d have cracked and crushed his helmet outright,

The monarch’s life would have hung by a thread.

As tender little nuts are shelled, the knight

Would have ended, by ill-fortune misled,

His neck snapped like a lily stalk, as might

Be done by some storm, his head plucked, entire,

Like a mushroom, and then ground in the mire.

The blind Ogre, lacking the means to see

What his hand had seized upon by chance,

Gave the shield a tug, and so strong was he

That Gradasso fell. In his eyeless advance,

The Ogre stumbled o’er him, then, swiftly,

Picked him up (the result of circumstance)

And bore him to his cave. Struggling in vain,

Gradasso was then bound with iron chain.

Book III: Canto III: 42-49: The Ogre falls into a chasm while chasing Mandricardo

As soon as the Ogre had chained the king,

He emerged from his noisome den once more,

To where brave Mandricardo was grieving,

Having lost his companion. The knight bore

No sword, for so he had vowed, on leaving

His realm, and twas a sacred oath he swore,

Not to wield a sword unless twere that blade

Orlando wore; such was the pledge he’d made.

But he bent down, and grasped a heavy stone,

With both hands, full thirty pounds in weight,

And with all the skill and strength he did own,

Hurled it at the Ogre’s chest; its force was great,

But the beast seemed not made of flesh and bone,

Nor did his monstrous rage and scorn abate.

He merely rubbed the place, angered sore,

While he frothed at the mouth, like a wild boar.

He set himself to hunting Mandricardo,  

Tracking the knight by his scent, like a hound.

But the other lingered not for his foe,

And, being quick and agile, with a bound,

He swiftly scaled the cliff, then gazed below,

And, tearing a large boulder from the ground,

Took as fair an aim as time would allow,

Hurled it, and hit the Ogre on the brow.

Into a thousand splinters the rock flew,

Yet it scarcely hurt the Ogre at all,

And, indeed, not a drop of blood it drew,

Not for an instant did the monster fall,

But sought Mandricardo’s scent to pursue,

Who climbed, with all his might, the rocky wall,

Traversing, and ascending, till he came

To the top, though the Ogre did the same,

And almost reached it first. The warrior

Knew not how to save himself; at his back,

Came the beast, up every slope, and o’er

Every broken pathway, or rugged track.

He could think of naught, as onwards he tore,

That could serve for defence; as to attack,

He ripped up stones, and many a gnarled tree,

But the thing rushed on, precipitately.

Running back towards the lower valley,

While looking about him, all the while;

Behold, the mount was cleft, vertically,

From top to bottom; twas a deep defile,

And the knight, now convinced he would surely

Be slain, leapt out across the gap, in style,

And, despite his full armour’s heavy weight,  

Flew wildly through the air, tempting fate.

The leap was full forty feet or more,

Or so it seems he guessed the leap to be,

Thereafter; the Ogre, blind as before,

Now tumbled o’er the edge and, falling free,

Like a lump of lead, to the distant floor,

Struck the rocky ground below, presently,

With a crash, as if the sky had fallen in,

His arrival made such a thunderous din.

Indeed, twas no feather bed he landed on,

For the gorge was high, and its depths stony,

While three ribs in his chest broke thereon,

And his landing left the rocks all gory,

Mandricardo, in his joy, cried: ‘Be gone!

With one’s nose to the trail, one leaps badly.

You may hunt there, for ever and a day!’

Said Mandricardo, and chose not to stay.

Book III: Canto III: 50-54: King Tibiano’s ship appears

He descended, hoping the beast was dead,

Soon regained the shore and, seeking the cave,

Came upon an arm, and a severed head,

And a hand gnawed away; one look he gave

At the rocks where sad mangled forms still bled,

Legs, and shoulders of folk too late to save,

And odd chunks of flesh, variously hued,

Like those that wolves, or savage dogs, have chewed.

He hurried to the entrance in the rock.

The cavern, deep within, was vast and high,

And filled with much treasure, as if to mock

Those human fragments left beneath the sky.

Gradasso, he unchained from a stony block,

And they freed the naked maid, by and by;

While all the three were soon clad in fine gear,

Bejewelled, that lay scattered, far and near.

They all mounted, and sped along the sand,

The two brave knights, and the lovely lady,

And, as they galloped o’er that empty strand,

The saw a ship, far off, upon the sea.

When the vessel drew closer to the land,

King Tibiano’s flag, the maid could see;

He was the father of this precious maid,

Whom cruel Fortune had so sadly mislaid.

Tibiano was king of that sweet isle

Of Cyprus, and he ruled in Rhodes also,

And he had journeyed many a sea-mile

Seeking his fair daughter, filled full of woe,

And anxious, and desperate, all the while,

Weeping at her loss, nigh a mortal blow.

The lady smiled his ensign to behold,

And then she wept many a tear untold.

They soon could see the vessel clearly,

And all the folk aboard her; so, the maid

Waved a kerchief as a signal, and, shortly,

Not to prolong the tale, the company made

A fair sight, smiling and weeping freely,

O’er the deck, all their happiness displayed;

For, e’er, tears of joy must appertain,  

Where a child that was lost is found again.

Book III: Canto III: 55-60: The Ogre reappears, and they are caught in a gale

As the vessel now prepared to come about,

While the yards were being hoisted on high,

The Ogre appeared, with a mighty shout,

Upon the cliff, and outlined gainst the sky.

The sailors moved swiftly, without a doubt!

For they knew not what the creature might try,

And a host of them ran to the rudder

And strove hard as the ship gave a shudder.

The Ogre soon descended to the shore,

They could see all his blood-soaked beard, and chest,

And a vast piece of cliff the monster bore,

For thorn trees, broken stumps, roots, and the rest

It yet held. A dozen oxen or more

Could not have lifted the weight it possessed.

Into the waves the blind creature paced,

Till the water was a high as his waist.

Then he swam like some great toad, with his snout

Above the flood, while his feet trod the sand,

At the sound of oars, turned his head about

And hurled the missile, far from the land.

It missed the ship, but they all gave a shout,

For it threw up water, quite close to hand,

And had his arm been a little stronger

The ship would have sailed the sea no longer.

I need not tell of the fear felt by all.

Indeed, the very bravest of the crew

Were much afraid. Just then, a sudden squall

Arose, and dense cloud covered o’er the blue.

Waves drove from the east, the wind did maul

The vessel, and the waters changed their hue.

The breakers crashed, the sky and sea did roar,

As it drove them from the Ogre, and the shore.

They no longer feared the monster, their dread

Was lest they were wrecked, ere they could flee.

The heavens turned the colour of the dead,

And the wind’s force increased, endlessly.

Sharp hail and rain lanced down, from overhead,

The lightning flashed, it thundered ceaselessly,

And with scarcely a space between each crash,

As the waves mounted, and the wind did lash.

A host of dolphins leapt from out the sea,

Ever Ill-Fortune’s sign of woe to come.

The waves rebelled, seeking to run free,

And filled the vessel, work for all, in sum,

As they bailed, with the shore upon their lee.

But I fear, my lords lest you’re overcome,

So, here, I shall end the present canto,

For tis good to pause midst a tale of woe.

The End of Book III: Canto III of ‘Orlando Innamorato’