Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato

Book III: Canto VI: Seeking Durindana

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Boiardo: Orlando Innamorato: Book III, Canto VI

Book III: Canto VI: 1-6: Ruggiero and Bradamante fight the Saracen kings

My lords, if you have ever loved, conceive

Of the deeds that in battle they will do,

That pair, each heart destined to receive

The other, and create one heart not two.

Heaven’s angry lightning you may believe

Could not part them for long; bound anew,

Merciless Fortune, even Death, Man’s lot,

Could not destroy such love, untie the knot.

Noble Ruggiero had, as I have said,

Cracked Pinadoro’s helm, and plucked his crest,

By hammering on that king’s royal head,

The blow nigh unsaddling him, I attest.

Elsewhere Martasino, rousing dread,

Was matched in fiery battle by the best,

For the lady cried: ‘Hearken well to me,

There’s a helm upon my head now, you see!’

And, with that, she dealt a two-handed blow,

A tremendous, and fear-inducing thing,

That knocked him backwards, her ill-meaning foe;

And to the ground he’d have dropped, that king,

Had not Mordante now chosen to show

His recklessness, by entering the ring,

Charging from the side, his backhand stroke

Designed to fell her; the force of it no joke.

To her aid, at speed, rode Ruggiero,

For he had kept an eye on Bradamante,

And, although engaged with Pinadoro,

Quit that duel to support her, swiftly.

Like a tempest, at sea, he struck the foe,

Splitting the shield grasped tight by Mordante,

Slicing his steel breastplate through and through,

Piercing his chain mail, and the bare flesh too.

Pinadoro had pursued Ruggiero,

And, on his neck, he struck the valiant knight,

Piercing the collar, a full inch below,

Though his iron mail blocked the sword outright.

Ruggiero wheeled his steed, Frontino,

And, bounding forward, recommenced their fight,

Striking at Pinadoro’s head, I say,

As Martasino, charging, sped his way.

While the battle was raging thus, to and fro,

Came Daniforte, his troop thirty strong,

Armed with shield and lances, in full flow,

And dressed as are the Moors, if I’m not wrong,

For Bradamante raised her brows at the show,

Wondering at the neatness of that throng,

For those were woven cloths, and silks, they wore,

That, severed, through the air like sails do soar.

Book III: Canto VI: 7-14: Bradamante aids Ruggiero and slays Martasino

The maid spurred her steed, and struck a Moor

That rode a jennet; his mount white in hue,

Its mane and tail dyed with henna; once more

She sliced him on the back and flank, then flew,

Ere he had fallen to the earth, to score

A like hit gainst an Arab; her attack

Piercing again the left side, and the back.

That pair of victims nigh died together,

One fell here, one slumped, there, to the ground,

For, as the one reached Hell’s gate, the other

Arrived, and at the former’s side was found.

Daniforte charged the maiden-warrior,

Then wheeled away, like lightning, at a bound,

Neither encouraged, nor inclined to stay,

Whenever Bradamante turned his way.

Bold Daniforte rode a Moorish mare,

Its coat grey like a rat, its head dark black,

So swift it never landed, I would swear,

On all four feet; so quick in the attack.

The king but little armour chose to wear,

Neither steel-plate nor mail, to front or back,

But bore a scimitar slung o’er his chest,

A lance, a shield; his silk turban his crest.  

Armed as I’ve described, the Saracen

Was ever seeking to provoke the maid,

Drawing near to her and, now and again,

Jabbing hard, at her face, with his lance-blade.

Lo! She caught sight of Martasino then;

A blow gainst Ruggiero he’d essayed,

By striking him on the back, from behind;

To unseat him from his mount, twas designed.

But Bradamante arrived as the knight,

Ruggiero, I mean, was dealt the blow.

To his brave charger’s neck, he now held tight;

Barely conscious he seemed, nigh-on brought low.

Swift aid, in time, she brought him, in that fight,

For he might well have died, and gone below,

Had she not pounced, like a goshawk, there,

That pounces on a partridge from the air.

Martasino attacked her; Mordante,

And bold Pinadoro, charged to the fight.

Many more came to aid Daniforte,

To fore and rear of our valiant knight.

She, disdaining the rest, a treasury

Of subtle martial skills, fixed her sight

Above all, on the dread Martasino,

Scorning all the others amongst the foe.

She was possessed by such deep anger

That she almost slew the Saracen king,

Whose strength helped but little in the matter,

His chest pierced, his helm split; his ring

Of companions were of scant use either.

She had set her heart on ending the thing,

And, no matter what, sending him below,

As she circled, seeking the mortal blow.

At last, in vexation, she dropped her shield,

Exposing her side and, two-handedly,

Dealt a fierce stroke that his bare head revealed,

While her weapon, still descending swiftly,

Sank to his waist; the monarch’s fate was sealed,

By a well-sharpened sword, wielded bravely.

Ere the king was struck, Ruggiero came to,

All that wondrous deed within his view.  

Book III: Canto VI: 15-20: She pursues Daniforte who feigns flight

Young Ruggiero now returned to the fray,

His face crimson, such that it shone like flame.

Pagans, beware; Death haunts your steps this day!

The die is cast, and mortal is the game!

Daniforte, saw no course but delay,

For Martasino, a monarch known to fame,

And Barigano, were dead; while on the plain

Lay forty or more, dying there, or slain.

He, and Mordante, and Pinadoro,

And some eight or so other knights remained.

The maiden was beheading her next foe,

Swift victory o’er the rest having gained.

Consulting together, whether bold or no

Twas Daniforte that they then ordained

To attack the maid, then feign a retreat,

While the rest sought Ruggiero’s defeat.

When that young warrior renewed the dance,

His first partner was on horseback; indeed,

Strange was the ball, for in his swift advance,

He sliced him to the saddle on his steed.

No armour had the man, by circumstance:

Though Genoese, he dressed as was agreed

Among the Moorish ranks; thus, his weapon

And gear he’d changed with his religion.

Ruggiero slew him, and a knight nearby.

Brave Bradamante, too, pursued the war;

While Daniforte hung back, cautiously,

And now and then attacked her, as before.

At last, he struck at her hauberk, fiercely,

Though it did little damage, to be sure,

For the hesitant ne’er strike hard enough.

Bradamante turned, his assault to rebuff.

Disinclined to stay, the rogue took to flight.

She spurred hard at her charger, and pursued,

Wishing to slay the irritant outright,

Though twas a curious thing now ensued,

For he, who should have sped out of sight,

Lingered, and feigned injury, to delude

The warrior-maid. That piece of carrion,

Moaning aloud, deceitfully, cantered on.

Pinadoro, Mordante, and the rest,

(The half dozen that remained of the pack)

Ruggiero’s stout defence now addressed,

With blows to the warrior’s front and back,

And, using all their skills, upon him pressed.

But I must leave them, and hasten to track

Fair Bradamante, who had chosen to ride

After Daniforte, and chase him, though she died.

Book III: Canto VI: 21-28: Bradamante slays him, and then wanders alone

The villain often stopped to await her,

Let her approach him, and then spurred away,

Galloping, for a while, on his courser,

Then cantering, until she’d made headway.

He drew her steadily, farther and farther,

From the battleground, where they’d fought that day,

Which was ringed by mountains on every side;

Crossing the plain, which was long and wide.

Then he climbed the mountain slopes ahead,

And descended to a more distant plain,

While Bradamante pursued him, as I’ve said,

Determined that the wretch be caught and slain.

Her steed was weary now, yet onwards sped,

Despite the labours it had long maintained,

But, when commanded to leap o’er a ditch,

Fell short, and thus, into the fosse did pitch.

When Daniforte realised her mischance,

He turned, seemingly free of injury,

And called out: ‘That fall should slow your advance,

My Christian friend; stay now, and wait for me!’

But she, untroubled by the circumstance,

Pushing the steed aside, rising swiftly,

Replied: ‘False Saracen, no friend am I;

Naught holds me here; haste to me, and die!’

Daniforte now circled her, and sought

To strike by stealth, oft feigning an attack

Then retreating, as if it were some sport

Or other, wounding her on breast and back.

Blood now stained her amour, and she thought

She might breathe the last breath of all: ‘Alack!’

She cried, ‘I’m losing strength, and will be slain,

If I use not his trick, and weakness feign.’

This she murmured, then employed his deceit,

And feigned that she was falling to the ground,

Although scarcely requiring that conceit,

For she scattered drops of blood all around,

Slowly turning the earth crimson at her feet.

At the last, she seemed to fall, her steps unsound;

Done so convincingly, it must be said,

Looking on, one would have sworn she was dead.

The villain came to see if that were so,

Not daring to dismount, but with his spear

Prodding her here and there, high and low,

To see if signs of life might yet appear.

This she suffered, silently, till her foe

Dismounted, tethered his steed, and drew near.

For as soon as she heard him tread nearby,

She leapt up, and with her weapon let fly.

Now the pagan, on foot, could scarcely flee,

Nor retreat in the way he’d done before,

For the maid beheaded him, instantly,

And left his spirit to wander Hades’ shore.

By now twas evening there, for suddenly

The sky grew dark. Many a wound she bore,

And yet was uncertain which way to ride,

For strange to her was all that countryside.

Amidst the stones and thorns, by wood and dale,

The maid had followed that false Saracen;

Not e’en a hut adorning hill or vale.

She mounted his steed, and rode on again,

Leaving the meadow, as the light did fail,

The reins slack; and, far from the haunts of men,

Yielding to Fortune, wandered ways unknown,

Neath the rising moon, wounded, and alone.

Book III: Canto VI: 29-32: Ruggiero slays Mordante and Pinadoro

We must leave Bradamante, to follow

(I’ll speak more of her adventures later!)

The efforts of the brave Ruggiero,

Battling hard gainst many a warrior.

Monodante, and Pinadoro,

Disregarding the path of honour,

Circled about him, to bring him low,

Dealing the youth many a savage blow.

Oh, but to have seen that ardent knight,

Dividing his efforts between the two!

Yielding not an inch in that fierce fight,

Striking here, then there, facing anew

One then the other, striking with such might

And so swiftly, he was akin, in my view,

To the lightning bolt, with thunder overhead,

That finds the ground, ere a word can be said.

I’ll not draw out the thread of my matter

Rather to tie a knot here’s my intent.

Mordante who’d attacked the warrior

Now fell victim to the strangest event,

His face being sliced across, the upper

Part of his head flew where his helmet went,

Soaring with that fragment through the air,

While his neck the lower half yet did share.

The blow was hardly dealt, ere Ruggiero

Turned to seek Pinadoro, still close by,

And, in turning, landed a further blow,

But Pinadoro, unwounded thereby,

Fled like a greyhound, that, in full flow,

Free of the leash, the hare doth now espy.

Amidst the craggy hills and dales he sped,

Till Ruggiero robbed him of his head.

Book III: Canto VI: 33-38: In search of Bradamante, he encounters two knights

The sun was descending in the west,

When that swift and savage duel ended.

Twas then, the loving youth, his mind oppressed,

To the maiden’s whereabouts, attended.

Though night was falling, searching without rest,

He yet failed to find she who’d defended

Him bravely gainst the foe; no trace at all

Was visible, while, loudly, he did call.

He passed o’er the slopes, down every vale,

And came, by a cliff, upon two cavaliers.

Hope rose in his heart, his face grew pale,

As the sound of horses’ hooves met his ears,

But when those two knights the youth did hail,

Addressing him with courtesy, his fears

Were such that, despite their pleasant greeting,

He scarce could speak a word, on first meeting.

‘A robber, this man here must be,’ they cried,

‘Who’s clad it seems in a dead man’s armour,

And like the corpse says naught!’ The knight replied,

‘You are right in that, upon my honour.

Amor grips my heart’s reins, and here doth ride,  

And has so stolen my wits, moreover,

That I am scarce the man I used to be.

I pray you, for that fault, yet pardon me.’

‘You need offer us no excuse, sir knight,’

Said the one, ‘if Love has you in his thrall,

Since it proves your nobility, outright;

Love visits not the base, as I recall;

And if of our courtesy you’d have sight,

Why, whate’er you may need, upon us call.’

He replied: ‘I languish thus, to my cost,

For a dear companion of mine I’ve lost.

If you’re aware a knight has passed you by,

Then point out to me his path, if you will.

I’d search the world, for I would rather die

Than lose him, and live on without him still.’

So, he spoke, but revealed no more, thereby,

For jealousy his loving heart did fill.

Suspicion, ever, in a noble breast,

Embitters sweet love, though ne’er expressed.

The two knights declared they had not seen,

Or heard of, any that had passed that way,

But both declared themselves more than keen

To aid him in his search that very day.

This he, alone amidst the savage scene,

Accepted willingly, and the like did say;

Adding that the land seemed wild and empty,

And he was but a stranger to that country.

Book III: Canto VI: 39-42: Mandricardo challenges Ruggiero’s right to bear his insignia

And so, the three knights rode on together,

Often pausing to call out ‘Bradamante!’

Searching all that night (fine was the weather),

Yet finding naught; the land indeed was empty.

Dawn was visible, the east the colour

Of the burgeoning rose, when suddenly,

The one stared hard at Ruggiero’s shield,

His surprise and amazement unconcealed.

‘Why, who granted you, sir knight, the licence,

To bear that insignia on your shield?

It signifies such worth and excellence

That, before it, lesser emblems must yield.

I’ll only allow you to bear it hence,

If you’ve sufficient prowess in the field

To gain the honours in a duel with me.

For I have earned, and own, it totally.’

Ruggiero answered: ‘I was not aware

That this was your insignia; indeed,

You are wrong to bear it, unless we share

One ancestry, and are of that same seed.

I beg you, if tis so, come, we’ll compare

Our Houses, and their root, if tis agreed.

Where did you earn that emblem, and how?

Of your name, your family, tell me now.’

The warrior answered, ‘My House is one

That can but be far distant from your own.

I am the Tartar Agricane’s son,

Although, as yet, my name is little known.

Upon strange adventure, by force I won

This shield, in Asia; it is mine alone.

Why offer incense to the dead? I say:

Let he who’s strongest bear the shield away!’

Book III: Canto VI: 43-47: Gradasso challenges Mandricardo over his quest for Durindana

The youth accepted, and circled, warily,

About his bold opponent, and then stared,

For the man lacked weapons, his hands empty,

And so replied to him: ‘You shall be spared!

Lacking both lance and sword, how may we

Contest the thing? With fists, our faces bared?

What kind of joust, sir knight, do you propose?

Not simply one of words, I would suppose.

The warrior replied: ‘Why, never yet

Has Fortune failed a man of true valour,

If I tire not, that shield you may forget,

Since I’ll win it with a cudgel; and no other

Weapon will I bear, till I gain, and whet

Orlando’s blade (Milone’s his father).

That brave sword he holds; tis mine rather;

And the name of that blade is Durindana.’

The knight who spoke was Mandricardo,

But his companion intervened, swiftly.

‘You are sadly deceived’, said Gradasso,

‘You’ll not gain that blade so readily,

Not one that is held by brave Orlando.

You come late to the adventure, believe me,

And your cause is but dishonest at best;

I come before you, in claiming the quest!

A hundred and fifty thousand fine men,

I brought to France from distant Sericana.

And much trouble and pain I’ve seen, again,

In searching for that blade, Durindana.

It seems that to all the market’s open,

If you have plans to trade there, my brother.

Yet long ere you fulfil your brave intent

I’ll give your helm, and your head, a dent.

Don’t think you’ll win the blade without a fight,

By words alone; you first must meet with me!’

Mandricardo, full of wrath, cried outright:

‘Defend yourself, uphold true chivalry,

For I well know, mere talk makes not the knight’

Then, he broke a branch from a tall elm tree,

That grew there in the field, stripped it bare,

And with that weapon commenced the affair.

King Gradasso in turn set down his sword,

And broke a like branch from a lofty pine.

With these, stupendous blows each did afford

His foe; dust to the air they did consign,

From their armour and cudgels, as they scored

Their brave hits. Ruggiero thought it fine,

And smiled: ‘Tis a game, this, for the miller

And his mule; strange grain they grind together!’

Book III: Canto VI: 48-53: Brandimarte and Fiordelisa appear

He sought several times to part the pair,

But they hammered away all the harder.

Behold, a cavalier the road did share

With his lady, riding slowly beside her.

Ruggiero saw them, advancing there,

And, thus, a pleasant greeting did offer,

Smilingly, telling them the reason why

The knights were so engaged; and, with a sigh,

Said: ‘I’ve tried, yet find myself powerless

To separate those two; they wage their fight

Over Orlando’s sword, and thus address

The question as to who has greater right

To the weapon, though neither, I confess,

Owns the sword, nor is likely to, sir knight.

Both seem masters of the wooden blade, though;

I can scarcely bear to watch so fierce a show.

But tell me whence you come; if I err not,

I seem to know you from some other place;

Agramante’s court, I think, the very spot

Where we met.’ ‘Yes, indeed, I know your face;’

Said the knight, ‘nor is your name soon forgot.

I was there, in Bizerte, for a space,

Once I had left the East; twas even so;

Brandimarte am I; you, Ruggiero.’

The warriors embraced, courteously,

And then, debating the matter, agreed,

That they should put an end, chivalrously,

To that fierce clash of cudgels, and with speed.

It took them quite a while, so violently

Did that quarrelsome pair battle, indeed,

The two would hear neither reason nor plea,

But merely hammered away, ceaselessly.

Yet Brandimarte, forcefully, insisted

That his words be listened to, calling out:

‘If you do seek the sword, here contested,

I can lead you to the Count; there, no doubt,

You can resolve the thing, and be tested

Against the man!’ (He stopped them with that shout),

‘Filled with anger, you merely drop the rein,

And fight for naught, here; all your blows in vain!

Book III: Canto VI: 54-57: Brandimarte seeks help in freeing Orlando

Could you but save that mighty champion

From a certain grievous enchantment,

He’d not refuse to duel for the weapon,

And should either win, you’d gain your intent.

The world is full of wonders, and yet none

More wondrous has been seen, rest content,

Than this same place to which I go, to see

If I can set the Count Orlando free.’

This, Mandricardo and Gradasso heard.

They willingly left off their savage fight,

And, taking Brandimarte at his word,

Begged that he would conduct them to that knight.

He answered: ‘Now I’ll tell you, what’s occurred:

There is a river that flows, tis clear and bright,

Less than two leagues from here, you should know,

Called the River of Laughter, though of woe,

And there the Count is held, by enchantment.

In Africa, one skilled in wizardry,

Told me the tale, and, here, tis my intent,

Being desperate, to set the warrior free.

I’ll not do so alone; if you’d consent

To grant your aid (tis heaven-sent to me,

I believe) I know the sea you would brave

To find the Count and the sword you crave.’

Now, the warriors who’d fought together

Had a great desire to hasten to that place,

But the youth said: ‘As regards this matter,

Nor Count nor Durindana, I’d embrace!’

I’ll speak no more of that strange adventure,

The enchantment, or Orlando, for a space,

Nor whether his release their quest affords.

I commend myself to you, my dear lords.

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

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