Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato

Book III: Canto IV: Retreat to Paris

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

This work may be freely reproduced, stored and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose.
Conditions and Exceptions apply.


Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato: Book III, Canto IV

Book III: Canto IV: 1-7: Tibiano’s ship makes shore

My lords, if twas in your power to find

A man that never knew the taste of fear,

And perchance you had the thought, in your mind,

Of frightening one, who doubtless would appear

Wholly secure, then have the man consigned

To a ship, in a storm, when winter’s here.

If he’s not scared, or troubled, then, I say

He’s mad, not bold; with death an inch away.

An angry sea is a quite dreadful thing,

And much better spoken of, than seen;

Nor need you sail, to prove all that I sing,

Merely heed the word of a man who’s been

In distress on the waves; the tale I bring

To your ears, simply hark to that, I mean.

Tibiano’s ship, pounded stern to prow,

Took in water, and shed caulk anyhow.  

Lucina and her father, Tibiano,

Clung on, as the waves roared in the deep,

Likewise, Gradasso and Mandricardo.

The breakers looked much like a flock of sheep,

A snow-white flock, grazing there, although

They kept sighing, and collapsing in a heap.

The rigging sang, the vessel groaned away

Far within, as if from pain and dismay.

Now the wind blew this way, now another,

The sailors scarcely knowing what to do.

The ship scraped the sea-bed neath the water;

And then on high, to touch the clouds, it flew.

It seemed to have passed through every danger,

Till a huge wave struck the mainmast, anew,

And almost tipped the vessel on its side,

While to God, for His aid, the travellers cried.

For two miles or more the ship was driven,

Heeled over on its side, nigh upside down,

Now in some trough, now scraping heaven.

All aboard thought themselves about to drown,

When, suddenly, the aid they sought was given,

A crosswind nearly turned the ship around,

But tipped the vessel back the other way,

As, unheard midst the roar, they sought to pray.

The wind swung about constantly,

Striking now the gunwales, now the bow,

Till a vicious gust, confounding the sea,

One blowing from the east, I’d avow,

Struck the stern, and a good two or three

Rods, neath the towering waves, drove the prow,

Deeper than the diving birds ever go,

As far, it felt, as the dart from a bow;

Then the prow rose again, quite as fast

As an arrow from a cross-bow will fly,

And from that hour, until the night was past,

And from next morn, while the long day went by,

The vessel fled onwards, before the blast,

Until she came to land, as eve was nigh,

Beyond Aigues-Mortes; there, from the level plain,

Rose the Pyrenees, where fair France meets Spain.

Book III: Canto IV: 8-10: The company journey to Montalbano

They willingly disembarked on the strand,

Near a cape that is named La Oruna,

Though they scarcely believed they’d reached dry land,

Fortune had treated them with such anger.

The darkness and the storm-wind, hand in hand,

Departed, and the dawn brought fair weather,

And with the clear light of a bright new day,

They determined to proceed on their way.

Having ascertained where upon that coast

They’d landed, they unloaded the cargo.

The company many a fine steed did boast,

And they armed, and set out for Montalbano,

And twas not many days, five at the most,

Before they heard many a trumpet blow,

The sounds of many a war-horn, and drum,

And battle-cries that made the heavens hum.

Bold Gradasso and Mandricardo

Delayed not, but rode on, with a will,

Leaving Lucina with Tibiano,

And so reached the tall summit of a hill,

Where they could overlook the plain below,

And saw two armies that the field did fill,

Who faced each other, in their battle lines,

Beneath their pennants, standards, and ensigns.

Book III: Canto IV: 11-13: Where the battle between Charlemagne and Agramante continues

You’ll recall that there, on the level plain,

Fierce war was being made, by Agramante,

Upon the forces of King Charlemagne,

And no battle was so cruel. Balugante

And the bold King Marsilio of Spain,

Had led many a knight, troops a-plenty,

To support the African, on that stage

Where the greatest fight of all men did wage.

Orlando was not present on that day,

Nor was bold Ferrau who, as I’ve stated,

Sought for his helmet that had gone astray,

Fallen to the flood’s depths, as was fated.

The Count’s situation, I may say,

Was stranger than any I’ve related,

For he who’d conquered every other foe

Was enthralled, by fair maidens, neath the flow.

I’ll tell you more, later, of Orlando,

For he as yet was absent from the plain.

Yet Rinaldo was there, as was Guido,

Ricardo, Oliviero, and the Dane,

When, as I’ve stated, from Ruggiero

Such a violent attack we did sustain,

Like a tempest, driving on o’er the field,

That our men could do naught but die or yield.  

Book III: Canto IV: 14-19: Ruggiero sweeps all before him

As when one breaks a poppy-head apart,

Or a lupin-pod, in a summer garden,

So, Ruggiero, with the warrior’s art,

Had crushed our troops where’er he’d ridden.

He’d inverted Turpin forced to depart

His mount, and Uberto, of a sudden,

Avino, Belengiero, Ottone,

Avorio, and King Salamone.

Gualtieri felt a blow to the head,

And blood spurted forth, from his mouth and nose,

He choked, and plunged to the ground, like lead.

Ruggiero one or another chose,

And left his beaten victims stunned or dead.

None could describe the power of his blows.

He charged that great noble, Duke Ricardo,

And sent him, wounded, to the earth below;

For he shattered Ricardo’s solid shield,  

Lance and pennant emerging at his back,

Though the shaft, as he thrust, was forced to yield,

And split along its length in that attack.

He left Ricardo helpless on the field,

Then drew his sword, turning in his track;

That weapon was forged by Falerina,

Than all other blades, finer and keener.

A fierce and bloody battle then ensued,

That made all seem but a game until then,

Where Ruggiero like lightning pursued

One group, and another, of fleeing men,

In fiery guise, then, e’er the fight renewed,

Appearing everywhere, wheeling again

And again, speeding, as if winged, to strike

Our troops, downing horse and foot alike.

Our men retreated, scattered far and wide.

Ask me not if they were filled with dread!

Ruggiero swung his blade and soldiers died;

His violent rage but greater violence bred.

Holland’s Sinibaldo, pierced in the side,

Slashed from chest to waist, he left for dead,

And then Daniberto, the Frisian king,

Cleft, to the saddle, with a mighty swing.

And Duke Aigualdo, so great in stature,

Begot of Irish giants, like to his kind,

Was pounced upon, in no short measure,

And then cut about, before and behind.

The Marquis of Vienne, brave by nature,

Yet remained, as others ran like a hind;

Alone that great lord, Oliviero,

Turned to face the rampant Ruggiero.

Book III: Canto IV: 20-25: He wounds Oliviero, and is attacked by Grifone

A most furious duel now began,

Though this bout of theirs differed from the rest,

For each left a mark on the other man

Their two blades being of the very best.

Next Uggiero fought the youth for a span,

And then brave Rinaldo upon him pressed,  

Their fight raising so much dust, in the air,

That its clouds filled the field everywhere.

Ruggiero, whose men had fled the foe,

Fell again like an arrow from the sky,

As he once more faced Oliviero,

Swinging that mighty blade of his, on high,

But, as God pleased, ere he landed the blow,

The weapon turned in his two hands, whereby

The flat struck the helm, which cracked like glass.

Oliviero, in a pretty pass,

Half-dead, fell from his steed, to the ground,

His face flushed, helmet gone, and in distress.

Ruggiero, when he saw the stroke had found

Some weak point, and that blood, to excess,

Flowed forth from that sorry wound, with a bound

Leapt to the field, moved by pity no less,

And took the Marquis in his arms, to bear

Him to a surgeon, who could grant him care.  

While he was on this errand of mercy,

And, therefore, occupied in seeking aid,

His youthful face bathed in tears of pity,

As towards his own ranks his way he made,

Grifone attacked him, treacherously,

From behind, where cowards wield their blade.

And as, with his burden, he made advance,

The Maganzese struck him with his lance.

Between his shoulder-blades, the spear struck,

And flung Ruggiero high in the air,

But the knight, with the greatest of good luck,

Fell on his feet (a somersault, past compare!)

Then spun and found Grifone, dealt a look

Of anger towards him, a wrathful glare,

And since his lance had split, drew his blade,

In a trice, and then faced him, unafraid.

‘Death to you, foul traitor!’ the young knight cried,

Though the villainous Grifone waited not,

A coward, who, seeing himself denied

An easy victory, all thought of such forgot,

Spurred his charger on, to reach his own side,

Where he now sought to vanish on the spot,

Plunging among them, too afraid to face

Ruggiero who, on foot, had given chase.

Book III: Canto IV: 26-29: Whom he pursues, on foot, till they reach Rinaldo

Ruggiero, at his horse’s heels, pursued,

Crying that he’d gut him like a villain.

Grifone, lest that very thing ensued,

Fled, till he reached Rinaldo’s position,

Who’d used his blade with such attitude,

And with such skilful art and precision,

That blood had drenched all the ground below.

No man e’er fought so well gainst the foe.

‘For God’s sake, aid me!’ Grifone cried,

‘Aid me, by God, for I can do no more.

That Saracen, possessed of evil pride,

Comes behind, and seeks to slay me, for sure!’

At his words, Rinaldo, mounted astride  

The brave Baiardo, wet with blood and gore,

Charged, at the gallop, towards the knight,

But finding the youth on foot, stopped outright.

You should know, the knight had left his steed

Where he’d dismounted, and near the place

Where Bishop Turpin fought, then much in need

Of a mount, with the foe before his face.

He, when he saw the horse, ran, at full speed,

(Though, at no greater than a bishop’s pace!)

Towards the creature, and seized the bridle,

And, in an instant, was in the saddle.

He then returned to the fight, that bold priest!

Grifone, meanwhile, swiftly disappeared,

While Ruggiero, not dismayed in the least,

Faced Montalbano’s lord, who now neared,

Though he swiftly reined in his valiant beast,  

Since it was less than chivalrous, he feared,

To attack a knight on foot; to the field,

He leapt, gripping Fusberta, and his shield.

Book III: Canto IV: 30-35: He duels with Rinaldo, as Charlemagne despairs of the battle

So fierce was the battle they now began,

All there marvelled, watching on in silence.

Rinaldo showed no fatigue, though the man

Had warred all day, ere they started to fence.

Both swung wildly, with no sign of a plan,

Scarce seeking to maintain a good defence.

Twas a wonder neither fell, for their blows

Might have razed a mountain peak, by the close.

As their cruel and bitter duel progressed,

Lo! King Agramante, with sword and shield,

The mob of fleeing Christians addressed,

That ran as fast as fire o’er a stubble field.

Charlemagne, confounded midst the rest,

Could see naught but to retreat or yield,

Before that host, whose dust darkened the sun,

Arming ten men, or more, where he armed one.

At the head of their ranks rode Martasino,

The merciless king of Garamante,

He cried aloud, as he charged gainst the foe,

That he’d capture Charlemagne full swiftly.

The noise was such, the earth shook below,

With the passage of their numbers. Briskly,

Flights of arrows flew, to cover their attack,

Rising high, and turning the heavens black.

Our folk took to their heels on every side,

And any that stumbled died where they fell.

On came Sobrino, old, yet fit to ride,

Sporting a crest of flame, and fighting well;

Balifronte, on his camel, rode the tide,

Swinging his scimitar, amidst the swell,

As Christians fled before Alzirdo,

Fierce Barigano, and Dardinello.

Oh! Any that had seen King Charlemagne

Gazing, mutely, at the over-arching sky,

Would, like the very stones, have felt his pain,

And been moved to tears, in pity, thereby.

‘Save yourself!’ to Amone, and, again,

‘Save yourselves!’ to Namus, Gano, his cry

Arose. ‘Save yourselves! Abandon me!

I would purge myself, and of sin be free.

If God, our Lord above, would see me die,

Then His will be done, for I am ready.

My only grief is that men baptised, hereby

Must perish at the hands of Allah’s army.

O my Sovereign Lord,’ he said with a sigh,

‘King of Heaven, if tis vengeance, truly,

That you seek for our sins, let me atone,

And bear the pain, and perish: I, alone!’

Book III: Canto IV: 36-40: The Christians are routed; Rinaldo pursues his steed Baiardo

Those lords and knights that heard King Charlemagne

Cry out thus, wept, and were rendered silent.

The sovereign’s ranks scattered o’er the plain,

The wounded and the sound, their sole intent

A swift escape, nor order did maintain,

Pressing upon the place, as on they went,

Where Ruggiero and Rinaldo fought,

That saw them not, but only honour sought.

So great was the mighty rout, so confused

The mass of those fleeing, those chased behind,

Stumbling, falling, with fear and dread infused,

Driving forward, driven back, their actions blind,

That those two knights stood awhile bemused,

Ceasing their strokes, their action now confined,

Till driven, midst that press, from each other,

The pair could contest their ground no longer.

Forced apart, full weary, caught midst the rout,

Both were left ill-content, robbed of the prize,

Having landed blows, turn and turn, about,

The final outcome they could but surmise.

Rinaldo, angered, gave a mighty shout:

‘O Lord, above, what sight now meets my eyes?

Deserting the field, they flee, on every side;

How then shall a man, on foot, stem the tide?’

And with this, he began to gaze around,

And, not too far away, saw Baiardo.

But whene’er he’d covered sufficient ground,

The horse would wheel, and away twould go.

Rinaldo, as the steed now made a bound,

And ran ahead of the knight, cried: ‘No, no,

Tis no time for games; stay, stay there, I say!’

But the creature, once more, was on its way.

Rinaldo was obliged to chase the steed

Through a dark wood; and there, amidst the trees,

We must leave him awhile, though there, indeed,

He will find high adventure, little ease.

I must turn to Ruggiero, in great need

Of his mount, Frontino. Here, if you please,

Came Bishop Turpin, on that very horse,

And chanced to pass Ruggiero in his course.

Book III: Canto IV: 41-45: Ruggiero recovers his mount, Frontino, from Bishop Turpin

You’ll recall Turpin had lost his charger,

And while on foot, surrounded by the foe,  

Had mounted Frontino in a lather,

When Grifone unhorsed Ruggiero.

The priest was heading for a vale below

When the youth saw him pass, in full flow,

Before his eyes. Imagine his delight,

As the warrior viewed that welcome sight!

Though on foot he set himself to follow,

And called aloud: ‘Stop, stop, the horse is mine!’

The good bishop, seeing all flee the foe,

Was not inclined to halt, and gave no sign

Of having heard, though much delayed also

By the Saracens advancing, line on line,

On the Christians, who so blocked the way

He was forced to avoid the fierce affray.

Bishop Turpin fled, pursued by the knight,

Till they reached the depths of a narrow pass

Between two hills, where Turpin in his flight

Tumbling down from the charger, rolled, alas,

Towards a foul, marshy place, in full sight

Of Ruggiero, who viewed the hapless mass

Speeding towards the swamp’s stagnant water,

Which soon held him fast, and sucked him under.

Ruggiero, laughing, hastened down the hill,

To aid the drowning priest, and drag him free.

He pulled him forth, straining, with a will,

Caught Frontino, and of his courtesy,

As the bishop recovered from his spill,

Offered him to the latter, cheerfully.

‘God help me!’ Turpin cried, ‘Why, tis clear,

That I am met with no Saracen here;

For I scarce believe a Saracen by nature

Owns to such courtesy as you, my friend.

Nay, take the steed; though tis a fine creature,

Base would I prove should I seek to defend

My riding him, or accept your offer.’

With that the priest, not wishing to offend,

Sped off, on foot, and once upon the plain,

Slew a pagan, and, thus, a mount did gain.

Book III: Canto IV: 46-49: Who joins the Christians’ retreat to Paris

He rode so swiftly that he reached, again,

The host of Christians in swift retreat;

For all that could not flee were quickly slain,

The field forsaken, and the rout complete.

Sixteen days they marched, o’er hill and plain,

Driven back on Paris, chased, in their defeat,

Through her very gates, deserting the dead.

Of greater loss has no man heard or read.

Only the valiant Dane, Uggiero,

Midst those Christians, upheld his honour.

The royal banner he kept from the foe,

While doing deeds worthy of his valour.

Captured were Marquis Oliviero,

England’s Otho, and many another,

Duke Ricardo, and King Salamone,

And Desiderio of Lombardy;

While so many were taken then or slain,

I cannot name, or e’en recall them all.

Countless valiant knights had toiled in vain,

And then been captured, or been seen to fall.

Who can describe the sorrow and the pain?

The grief that darkened Paris like a pall?

For all believed then, in their woe and dread,

That both Rinaldo and the Count were dead.

The aged men, the women, children too,

Stood guard upon the city wall that night.

But Paris I must quit, to speak anew

Of Ruggiero, that brave young knight,

For, from the slopes above, he had view

Of a furious duel, a sovereign sight,

There, below, he could see Bradamante

That had fought that day gainst Rodomonte.

Book III: Canto IV: 50-54: Ruggiero views the duel between Bradamante and Rodomonte


In that book of mine, which I completed

Many days ago, I told of their struggle,

And how the Count, seemingly defeated

By Rodomonte, near left the saddle;

Yet the warrior-maid ne’er retreated,

Engaging Algiers’ fierce king in battle.

Her, I sang, the flower of Chiaramonte,

That fought alone; fairest Bradamante.

I’ve told how Count Orlando left the scene,

And later met with strange adventure,

While the maid, tis Bradamante I mean,

Remained to face mortal harm and danger.

None had approached, and sought to intervene,

Ere the youth had arrived on his charger;

And so, in bitter conflict, they’d fought on.  

Twas they that Ruggiero gazed upon.

As he crested the hill, the valiant knight

Could see the duel, yet in play, below,

And paused there, to look on with delight,

At this Christian, who faced a mighty foe.

For, there ne’er was seen a more splendid fight;

And, if about the world you chose to go,

You’d fine few to equal Bradamante,

Or Ulieno’s son, fierce Rodomonte.

They showed as great a skill, as now they fought,

As they had done till then, and e’er would do.

It seemed they’d but begun, for still they sought

To conquer, and both seemed as good as new.

If either struck, the other made retort,

Without a pause, and swiftly followed through.

With their blows, they raised bright sparks of fire,

That seemed to reach the skies above, or higher.

Now, Ruggiero knew not either’s name,

For he’d not met with either one before;

Knew not their arms, but now gazed on those same,

For the pair seemed experienced in war,

Well-matched indeed; for, here was no mere game,

Their strength and skills comparable, he saw.

Christian and Saracen, it was plain,

With valour, sought their honour to maintain.

Book III: Canto IV: 55-57: He tells the Christian of Charlemagne’s retreat

Descending, he drew near, and then did say:

‘If one of you two worships Christ, as lord,

Then cease your fight, and hark to what I say,

For grievous news, to you, I here afford.

Charlemagne is routed, in fierce affray,

And if you would follow him, be assured

You must brook no delay, but go quickly.

He retreats now, by way of Gascony.’

At his words, Bradamante’s face grew pale,

And, in anguish, the reins fell from her hand,

She turned to Rodomonte, saying: ‘Fail

Not, my brother, this plea to understand:

Let me of your courtesy make avail;

Permit me with my king to flee, or stand,

Let me be near him at this time, say I;

Beside him I would be, and there would die!’

But Rodomonte answered, with a sneer,

‘Here’s my reply. I was joined, in fair fight,

With the Count, ere you chose to interfere;

And Orlando had the worst of it, fair knight!

No, no, you shall remain and perish here,

Unless you can defeat me, such is right.

Would you go, ere I’ve fallen to the field?

Come, try me, yet, and see if I will yield!’

Book III: Canto IV: 58-60: Ruggiero takes on the duel with Rodomonte

When Ruggiero heard this fierce reply,

He had a great desire to fight the man,

And answered Rodomonte, with a sigh:

‘How can I not sorrow,’ the youth began,

‘To hear a knight, so fair a plea, deny?

A tree that bears no leaves is better than

Nobility without true courtesy;

A House without issue, or the cruel sea!’

Then, turning to Bradamante: ‘Fair knight,

He cried, ‘Grasp the reins, journey where you please!

If this gentleman would prolong the fight,

Let him battle with me, nor need he cease.’

The warrior-maid, silently, took flight,

While Rodomonte cried: ‘Be at your ease;

It seems you’re a physician by nature,

And so must seek out hurt and pain, ever.

Why die for another? You should be chained

Like a madman. Defend yourself, I say!’

Ruggiero answered not, his look restrained,

But raised his blade and swung, without delay;

The pagan too. Scant advantage was gained,

For each was fierce and strong; either way

Their duel might have gone; what did ensue,

God willing, I will shortly sing for you.

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

Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato: Book III, Canto IV: End