Part 2 out of 25
"More famed for courtesy than warlike deed,
Azo the second, he who next repairs!
Bertoldo and Albertazo are his seed:
And, lo! the father walkes between his heirs.
By Parma's walls I see the Germans bleed,
Their second Henry quelled; such trophy bears
The one renowned in story's future page:
The next shall wed Matilda, chaste and sage.
"His virtues shall deserve so fair a flower,
(And in his age, I wot, no common grace)
To hold the half of Italy in dower,
With that descendent of first Henry's race.
Rinaldo shall succeed him in his power,
Pledge of Bertoldo's wedded love, and chase
Fierce Frederick Barbarossa's hireling bands,
Saving the church from his rapacious hands.
"Another Azo rules Verona's town,
With its fair fields; and two great chiefs this while
(One wears the papal, one the imperial crown),
The baron, Marquis of Ancona style.
But to show all who rear the gonfalon
Of the consistory, amid that file,
Were task too long; as long to tell each deed
Achieved for Rome by thy devoted seed.
"See Fulke and Obyson, more Azos, Hughs!
Both Henrys! -- mark the father and his boy.
Two Guelphs: the first fair Umbria's land subdues,
And shall Spoleto's ducal crown enjoy.
Behold the princely phantom that ensues,
Shall turn fair Italy's long grief to joy;
I speak of the fifth Azo of thy strain,
By whom shall Ezelin be quelled and slain.
"Fierce Ezelin, that most inhuman lord,
Who shall be deemed by men a child of hell.
And work such evil, thinning with the sword
Who in Ausonia's wasted cities dwell;
Rome shall no more her Anthony record,
Her Marius, Sylla, Nero, Cajus fell.
And this fifth Azo shall to scathe and shame
Put Frederick, second Caeser of the name.
"He, with his better sceptre well contented,
Shall rule the city, seated by the streams,
Where Phoebus to his plaintive lyre lamented
The son, ill-trusted with the father's beams;
Where Cygnus spread his pinions, and the scented
Amber was wept, as fabling poet dreams.
To him such honour shall the church decree;
Fit guerdon of his works, and valour's fee.
"But does no laurel for his brother twine,
Aldobrandino, who will carry cheer
To Rome (when Otho, with the Ghibelline,
Into the troubled capital strikes fear),
And make the Umbri and Piceni sign
Their shame, and sack the cities far and near;
Then hopeless to relieve the sacred hold,
Sue to the neighbouring Florentine for gold:
"And trust a noble brother to his hands,
Boasting no dearer pledge, the pact to bind:
And next, victorious o'er the German bands,
Give his triumphant ensigns to the wind:
To the afflicted church restore her lands,
And take due vengeance of Celano's kind.
Then die, cut off in manhood's early flower,
Beneath the banners of the Papal power?
"He, dying, leaves his brother Azo heir
Of Pesaro and fair Ancona's reign,
And all the cities which 'twixt Tronto are,
And green Isauro's stream, from mount to main;
With other heritage, more rich and rare,
Greatness of mind, and faith without a strain.
All else is Fortune's in this mortal state;
But Virtue soars beyond her love and hate.
"In good Rinaldo equal worth shall shine,
(Such is the promise of his early fire)
If such a hope of thine exalted line.
Dark Fate and Fortune wreck not in their ire.
Alas! from Naples in this distant shrine,
Naples, where he is hostage for his sire,
His dirge is heard: A stripling of thy race,
Young Obyson, shall fill his grandsire's place.
"This lord to his dominion shall unite
Gay Reggio, joined to Modena's bold land.
And his redoubted valour lend such light,
The willing people call him to command.
Sixth of the name, his Azo rears upright
The church's banner in his noble hand:
Fair Adria's fief to him in dower shall bring
The child of second Charles, Sicilia's king.
"Behold in yonder friendly group agreed.
Many fair princes of illustrious name;
Obyson, Albert famed for pious deed,
Aldobrandino, Nicholas the lame.
But we may pass them by, for better speed,
Faenza conquered, and their feats and fame;
With Adria (better held and surer gain)
Which gives her title to the neighbouring main:
"And that fair town, whose produce is the rose,
The rose which gives it name in Grecian speech:
That, too, which fishy marshes round enclose,
And Po's two currents threat with double breach;
Whose townsmen loath the lazy calm's repose,
And pray that stormy waves may lash the beach.
I pass, mid towns and towers, a countless store,
Argenta, Lugo, and a thousand more.
"See Nicholas, whom in his tender age,
The willing people shall elect their lord;
He who shall laugh to scorn the civil rage
Of the rebellious Tideus and his horde;
Whose infantine delight shall be to wage
The mimic fight, and sweat with spear and sword:
And through the discipline such nurture yields,
Shall flourish as the flower of martial fields.
"By him rebellious plans are overthrown,
And turned upon the rash contriver's head;
And so each stratagem of warfare blown,
That vainly shall the cunning toils be spread.
To the third Otho this too late is known,
Of Parma and the pleasant Reggio dread;
Who shall by him be spoiled in sudden strife,
Of his possessions and his wretched life.
"And still the fair dominion shall increase,
And without wrong its spreading bounds augment;
Nor its glad subjects violate the peace,
Unless provoked some outrage to resent,
And hence its wealth and welfare shall not cease;
And the Divine Disposer be content
To let it flourish (such his heavenly love!)
While the celestial spheres revolve above.
"Lo! Lionel! lo! Borse great and kind!
First duke of thy fair race, his realm's delight;
Who reigns secure, and shall more triumphs find
In peace, than warlike princes win in fight.
Who struggling Fury's hands shall tie behind
Her back, and prison Mars, removed from sight.
His fair endeavours bent to bless and stay
The people, that his sovereign rule obey.
"Lo! Hercules, who may reproach his neighbour,
With foot half burnt, and halting gait and slow,
That at Budrio, with protecting sabre,
He saved his troops from fatal overthrow;
Not that, for guerdon of his glorious labour,
He should distress and vex him as a foe;
Chased into Barco. It were hard to say,
If most he shine in peace or martial fray.
"Lucania, Puglia, and Calabria's strand,
Shall with the rumour of his prowess ring:
Where he shall strive in duel, hand to hand,
And gain the praise of Catalonia's king.
Him, with the wisest captains of the land
His worth shall class; such fame his actions bring;
And he the fief shall win like valiant knight,
Which thirty years before was his of right.
"To him his grateful city owes a debt,
The greatest subjects to their lord can owe;
Not that he moves her from a marsh, to set
Her stones, where Ceres' fruitful treasures grow.
Nor that he shall enlarge her bounds, nor yet
That he shall fence her walls against the foe;
Nor that he theatre and dome repairs,
And beautifies her streets and goodly squares;
"Not that he keeps his lordship well defended
From the winged lions' claws and fierce attacks;
Nor that, when Gallic ravage is extended,
And the invader all Italia sacks,
His happy state alone is unoffended;
Unharassed, and ungalled by toll or tax.
Not for these blessings I recount, and more
His grateful realm shall Hercules adore;
"So much as that from him shall spring a pair
Of brothers, leagued no less by love than blood;
Who shall be all that Leda's children were;
The just Alphonso, Hippolite the good.
And as each twin resigned the vital air
His fellow to redeem from Stygian flood,
So each of these would gladly spend his breath,
And for his brother brave perpetual death.
"In these two princes' excellent affection,
Their happy lieges more assurance feel,
Than if their noble town, for its protection,
Were girded twice by Vulcan's works of steel.
And so Alphonso in his good direction,
Justice, with knowledge and with love, shall deal,
Astrea shall appear returned from heaven,
To this low earth to varying seasons given.
"Well is it that his wisdom shines as bright
As his good sire's, nor is his valour less;
Since here usurping Venice arms for fight,
And her full troops his scanty numbers press,
There she (I know not if more justly hight
Mother or stepmother) brings new distress;
But, if a mother, scarce to him more mild
Than Progue or Medea to her child.
"This chief, what time soever he shall go
Forth with his faithful crew, by night or day,
By water or by land, will shame the foe,
With memorable rout and disarray;
And this too late Romagna's sons shall know.
Led against former friends in bloody fray,
Who shall bedew the campaign with their blood,
By Santern, Po, and Zaniolus' flood.
"This shall the Spaniard know, to his dismay,
'Mid the same bounds, whom papal gold shall gain,
Who shall from him Bastia win and slay,
With cruel rage, her hapless Castellain,
The city taken; but shall dearly pay;
His crime, the town retrieved, and victor slain:
Since in the rescued city not a groom
Is left alive, to bear the news to Rome.
" 'Tis he, who with his counsel and his lance,
Shall win the honours of Romagna's plain,
And open to the chivalry of France
The victory over Julius, leagued with Spain.
Paunch-deep in human blood shall steeds advance
In that fierce strife, and struggle through the slain,
'Mid crowded fields, which scarce a grace supply,
Where Greek, Italian, Frank, and Spaniard die.
"Lo! who in priestly vesture clad, is crowned
With purple hat, conferred in hallowed dome!
'Tis he, the wise, the liberal, the renowned
Hippolitus, great cardinal of Rome;
Whose actions shall in every region sound,
Where'er the honoured muse shall find a home:
To whose glad era, by indulgent heaven,
As to Augustus' is a Maro given.
"His deeds adorn his race, as from his car
The glorious sun illumes the subject earth
More than the silver moon or lesser star;
So far all others he transcends in worth.
I see this captain, ill bested for war,
Go forth afflicted, and return in mirth:
Backed by few foot, and fewer cavaliers,
He homeward barks, and fifteen gallies steers.
"Two Sigismonds, the first, the second, see;
To these Alphonso's five good sons succeed;
Whose glories spread o'er seas and land shall be.
The first shall wed a maid of France's seed.
This is the second Hercules; and he,
(That you may know their every name and deed),
Hippolitus; who with the light shall shine,
Of his wise uncle, gilding all his line.
"Francis the third comes next; the other two
Alphonsos both; -- but yet again I say,
Thy line through all its branches to pursue,
Fair virgin, would too long protract thy stay;
And Phoebus, many times, to mortal view,
Would quench and light again the lamp of day.
Then, with thy leave, 'tis time the pageant cease,
And I dismiss the shades and hold my peace."
So with the lady's leave the volume closed,
Whose precepts to her will the spirits bent.
And they, where Merlin's ancient bones reposed,
From the first cavern disappearing, went.
Then Bradamant her eager lips unclosed,
Since the divine enchantress gave consent;
"And who," she cried, "that pair of sorrowing mien,
Alphonso and Hippolitus between?
"Sighing, those youths advanced amid the show,
Their brows with shame and sorrow overcast,
With downward look, and gait subdued and slow:
I saw the brothers shun them as they passed."
Melissa heard the dame with signs of woe,
And thus, with streaming eyes, exclaim'd at last:
"Ah! luckless youths, with vain illusions fed,
Whither by wicked men's bad counsel led!
"O, worthy seed of Hercules the good,
Let not their guilt beyond thy love prevail;
Alas! the wretched pair are of thy blood,
So many prevailing pity turn the scale!"
And in a sad and softer tone pursued,
"I will not further press the painful tale.
Chew on fair fancy's food: Nor deem unmeet
I will not with a bitter chase the sweet.
"Soon as to-morrow's sun shall gild the skies
With his first light, myself the way will show
To where the wizard knight Rogero sties;
And built with polished steel the ramparts glow:
So long as through deep woods thy journey lies,
Till, at the sea arrived, I shall bestow
Such new instructions for the future way,
That thou no more shalt need Melissa's stay."
All night the maid reposes in the cave,
And the best part in talk with Merlin spends;
While with persuasive voice the wizard grave
To her Rogero's honest love commends;
Till from the vault goes forth that virgin brave,
As through the sky the rising sun ascends,
By path, long space obscure on either side,
The weird woman still her faithful guide.
They gain a hidden glen, which heights inclose,
And mountains inaccessible to man:
And they all day toil on, without repose,
Where precipices frowned and torrents ran.
And (what may some diversion interpose)
Sweet subjects of discourse together scan,
In conference, which best might make appear
The rugged road less dismal and severe.
Of these the greater portion served to guide
(Such the wise woman's scope) the warlike dame;
And teach by what device might be untied
Rogero's gyves, if stedfast were her flame.
"If thou wert Mars himself, or Pallas," cried
The sage Melissa, "though with thee there came
More than King Charles or Agramant command,
Against the wizard foe thou could'st not stand.
"Besides that it is walled about with steel,
And inexpugnable his tower, and high;
Besides that his swift horse is taught to wheel,
And caracol and gallop in mid sky,
He bears a mortal shield of power to seal,
As soon as 'tis exposed, the dazzled eye;
And so invades each sense, the splendour shed,
That he who sees the blaze remains as dead.
"And lest to shut thine eyes, thou should'st suppose
Might serve, contending with the wizard knight;
How would'st thou know, when both in combat close,
When he strikes home, or when eschews the fight?
But to escape the blaze which blinds his foes,
And render vain each necromantic sleight,
Have here a speedy mean which cannot miss;
Nor can the world afford a way but this.
"King Agramant of Africa a ring.
Thieved from an Indian queen by subtle guiles,
Has to a baron of his following
Consigned, who now precedes us by few miles;
Brunello he. Who wears the gift shall bring
To nought all sorceries and magic wiles.
In thefts and cheats Brunello is as well
Instructed, as the sage in charm and spell.
"Brunello, he so practised and so sly
As now I tell thee, by his king is sent,
That he with aid of mother wit may try,
And of this ring, well proved in like event,
To take Rogero from the castle high;
So has he boasted, by the wizard pent:
And to his lord such promise did impart,
Who has Rogero's presence most at heart.
"That his escape to thee alone may owe,
Not to the king, the youthful cavalier,
How to release Rogero from his foe
And his enchanted cage, prepare to hear.
Three days along the shingle shalt thou go,
Beside the sea, whose waves will soon appear;
Thee the third day shall to a hostel bring,
Where he shall come who bears the virtuous ring.
"That thou may'st recognise the man, in height
Less than six palms, observe one at this inn
Of black and curly hair, the dwarfish wight!
Beard overgrown about the cheek and chin;
With shaggy brow, swoln eyes, and cloudy sight,
A nose close flattened, and a sallow skin;
To this, that I may make my sketch complete,
Succinctly clad, like courier, goes the cheat.
"Thy conversation with this man shall turn
Upon enchantment, spell, and mystic pact;
And thou shalt, in thy talk, appear to yearn
To prove the wizard's strength, as is the fact.
But, lady, let him not thy knowledge learn
Of his good ring, which mars all magic act:
He shall propose to bring thee as a guide
To the tall castle, whither thou would'st ride.
"Follow him close, and viewing (for a sign),
Now near, the fortress of the enchanter hoar;
Let no false pity there thy mind incline
To stay the execution of my lore.
Give him his death; but let him not divine
Thy thought, nor grant him respite; for before
Thine eyes, concealed by it, the caitiff slips
If once he place the ring between his lips."
Discoursing thus, they came upon the sea
Where Garonne near fair Bordeaux meets the tide;
Here, fellow travellers no more to be,
Some natural tears they drop and then divide.
Duke Aymon's child, who slumbers not till she
Release her knight, holds on till even-tide:
'Twas then the damsel at a hostel rested,
Where Sir Brunello was already guested.
The maid Brunello knows as soon as found
(So was his image on her mind impressed),
And asks him whence he came, and whither bound;
And he replies and lies, as he is pressed.
The dame, who is forewarned, and knows her ground,
Feigns too as well as he, and lies her best:
And changes sex and sect, and name and land,
And her quick eye oft glances at his hand;
Oft glances at his resless hand, in fear
That he might undetected make some prize;
Nor ever lets the knave approach too near,
Well knowing his condition: In this guise
The couple stand together, when they hear
A sudden sound: but what that sound implies
I, sir, shall tell hereafter with its cause;
But first shall break my song with fitting pause.
The old Atlantes suffers fatal wreck,
Foiled by the ring, and young Rogero freed,
Who soars in air till he appears a speck,
Mounted upon the wizard's winged steed.
Obediant to the royal Charles's beck,
He who had followed Love's imperious lead,
Rinaldo, disembarks on British land,
And saves Genevra, doomed to stake and brand.
Though an ill mind appear in simulation,
And, for the most, such quality offends;
'Tis plain that this in many a situation
Is found to further beneficial ends,
And save from blame, and danger, and vexation;
Since we converse not always with our friends,
In this, less clear than clouded, mortal life,
Beset with snares, and full of envious strife.
If after painful proof we scarcely find
A real friend, through various chances sought,
To whom we may communicate our mind,
Keeping no watch upon our wandering thought;
What should the young Rogero's lady kind
Do with Brunello, not sincere, but fraught
With treasons manifold, and false and tainted,
As by the good enchantress truly painted?
She feigns as well with that deceitful scout;
(Fitting with him the father of all lies)
Watches his thievish hands in fear and doubt;
And follows every motion with her eyes.
When lo! a mighty noise is heard without!
"O mighty mother! king of heaven!" she cries,
"What thing is this I hear?" and quickly springs
Towards the place from whence the larum rings,
And sees the host and all his family,
Where, one to door, and one to window slips,
With eyes upturned and gazing at the sky,
As if to witness comet or eclipse.
And there the lady views, with wondering eye,
What she had scarce believed from other's lips,
A feathered courser, sailing through the rack,
Who bore an armed knight upon his back.
Broad were his pinions, and of various hue;
Seated between, a knight the saddle pressed,
Clad in steel arms, which wide their radiance threw,
His wonderous course directed to the west:
There dropt among the mountains lost to view.
And this was, as that host informed his guest,
(And true the tale) a sorcerer, who made
Now farther, now more near, his frequent raid.
"He, sometimes towering, soars into the skies;
Then seems, descending, but to skim the ground:
And of all beauteous women makes a prize,
Who, to their mischief, in these parts are found.
Hence, whether in their own or other's eyes,
Esteemed as fair, the wretched damsels round,
(And all in fact the felon plunders) hine;
As fearing of the sun to be descried.
"A castle on the Pyrenean height
The necromancer keeps, the work of spell."
(The host relates) "of steel, so fair and bright,
All nature cannot match the wonderous shell.
There many cavaliers, to prove their might,
Have gone, but none returned the tale to tell.
So that I doubt, fair sir, the thief enthralls
Or slays whoever in the encounter falls."
The watchful maid attends to every thing,
Glad at her heart, and trusting to complete
(What she shall compass by the virtuous ring)
The downfall of the enchanter and his seat.
Then to the host -- "A guide I pray thee bring,
Who better knows than me the thief's retreat.
So burns my heart. (nor can I choose but go)
To strive in battle with this wizard foe."
"It shall not need," exclaimed the dwarfish Moor,
"For I, myself, will serve you as a guide;
Who have the road set down, with other lore,
So that you shall rejoice with me to ride."
He meant the ring, but further hint forbore;
Lest dearly he the avowed should abide.
And she to him -- "Your guidance gives me pleasure."
Meaning by this she hoped to win his treasure.
What useful was to say, she said, and what
Might hurt her with the Saracen, concealed.
Well suited to her ends, the host had got
A palfrey, fitting for the road or field.
She bought the steed, and as Aurora shot
Her rosy rays, rode forth with spear and shield:
And maid and courier through a valley wind,
Brunello now before and now behind.
From wood to wood, from mount to mountain hoar,
They clomb a summit, which in cloudless sky
Discovers France and Spain, and either shore.
As from a peak of Apennine the eye
May Tuscan and Sclavonian sea explore,
There, whence we journey to Camaldoli.
Then through a rugged path and painful wended,
Which thence into a lowly vale descended.
A rock from that deep valley's centre springs;
Bright walls of steel about its summit go:
And this as high that airy summit flings,
As it leaves all the neighbouring cliffs below.
He may not scale the height who has not wings,
And vainly would each painful toil bestow.
"Lo! where his prisoners!" Sir Brunello cries,
"Ladies and cavaliers, the enchanter sties."
Scarped smooth upon four parts, the mountain bare
Seemed fashioned with the plumb, by builder's skill
Nor upon any side was path or stair,
Which furnished man the means to climb the hill.
The castle seemed the very nest and lair
Of animal, supplied with plume and quill.
And here the damsel knows 'tis time to slay
The wily dwarf, and take the ring away.
But deems it foul, with blood of man to stain
Unarmed and of so base a sort, her brand;
For well, without his death, she may obtain
The costly ring; and so suspends her hand.
Brunello, off his guard, with little pain,
She seized, and strongly bound with girding band:
Then to a lofty fir made fast the string;
But from his finger first withdrew the ring.
Neither by tears, nor groans, nor sound of woe,
To move the stedfast maid the dwarf had power:
She down the rugged hill descended slow,
Until she reached the plain beneath the tower.
Then gave her bugle breath, the keep below,
To call the castled wizard to the stower:
And when the sound was finished, threatening cried,
And called him to the combat and defied.
Not long within his gate the enchanter stayed,
After he heard the voice and bugle ring.
Against the foe, who seemed a man, arrayed
In arms, with him the horse is on the wing.
But his appearance well consoled the maid,
Who, with small cause for fear, beheld him bring
Nor mace, nor rested lance, nor bitting sword,
Wherewith the corselet might be bruised or gored.
On his left arm alone his shield he took,
Covered all o'er with silk of crimson hue;
In his right-hand he held an open book,
Whence, as the enchanter read, strange wonder grew:
For often times, to sight, the lance he shook;
And flinching eyelids could not hide the view;
With tuck or mace he seemed to smite the foe:
But sate aloof and had not struck a blow.
No empty fiction wrought by magic lore,
But natural was the steed the wizard pressed;
For him a filly to griffin bore;
Hight hippogryph. In wings and beak and crest,
Formed like his sire, as in the feet before;
But like the mare, his dam, in all the rest.
Such on Riphaean hills, though rarely found,
Are bred, beyond the frozen ocean's bound.
Drawn by enchantment from his distant lair,
The wizard thought but how to tame the foal;
And, in a month, instructed him to bear
Saddle and bit, and gallop to the goal;
And execute on earth or in mid air,
All shifts of manege, course and caracole;
He with such labour wrought. This only real,
Where all the rest was hollow and ideal.
This truth by him with fictions was combined,
Whose sleight passed red for yellow, black for white:
But all his vain enchantments could not blind
The maid, whose virtuous ring assured her sight:
Yet she her blows discharges at the wind;
And spurring here and there prolongs the fight.
So drove or wheeled her steed, and smote at nought,
And practised all she had before been taught.
When she sometime had fought upon her horse,
She from the courser on her feet descends:
To compass and more freely put in force,
As by the enchantress schooled, her wily ends.
The wizard, to display his last resource,
Unweeting the defence, towards her wends.
He bares the shield, secure to blind his foe,
And by the magic light, astonished, throw.
The shield might have been shown at first, nor he
Needed to keep the cavaliers at bay;
But that he loved some master-stroke to see,
Achieved by lance or sword in single fray.
As with the captive mouse, in sportive glee,
The wily cat is sometimes seen to play;
Till waxing wroth, or weary of her prize,
She bites, and at a snap the prisoner dies.
To cat and mouse, in battles fought before,
I liken the magician and his foes;
But the comparison holds good no more:
For, with the ring, the maid against him goes;
Firm and attentive still, and watching sore,
Lest upon her the wizard should impose:
And as she sees him bare the wondrous shield,
Closes her eyes and falls upon the field.
Not that the shining metal could offend,
As wont those others, from its cover freed;
But so the damsel did, to make descend
The vain enchanter from his wondrous steed.
Nor was in ought defeated of her end;
For she no sooner on the grassy mead
Had laid her head, than wheeling widely round,
The flying courser pitched upon the ground.
Already cased again, the shield was hung,
By the magician, at his sadle bow.
He lights and seeks her, who like wolf among
The bushes, couched in thicket, waits the roe;
She without more delay from ambush sprung,
As he drew near, and grappled fast the foe.
That wretched man, the volume by whose aid
He all his battles fought, on earth had laid:
And ran to bind her with a chain, which he,
Girt round about him for such a purpose, wore;
Because he deemed she was no less to be
Mastered and bound than those subdued before.
Him hath the dame already flung; by me
Excused with reason, if he strove not more.
For fearful were the odds between that bold
And puissant maid, and warrior weak and old!
Intending to behead the fallen foe,
She lifts her conquering hand; but in mid space,
When she beholds his visage, stops the blow,
As if disdaining a revenge so base.
She sees in him, her prowess has laid low,
A venerable sire, with sorrowing face;
Whose hair and wrinkles speak him, to her guess,
Of years six score and ten, or little less.
"Kill me, for love of God!" (afflicted sore,
The old enchanter full of wrath did cry).
But the victorious damsel was not more
Averse to kill, than he was bent to die.
To know who was the necromancer hoar
The gentle lady had desire, and why
The tower he in that savage place designed,
Doing such outrage foul to all mankind.
"Nor I, by malice moved, alas! poor wight,"
(The weeping necromancer answer made,)
"Built the fair castle on the rocky height,
Nor yet for rapine ply the robber's trade;
But only to redeem a gentle knight
From danger sore and death, by love was swayed;
Who, as the skies foreshow, in little season,
Is doomed to die a Christian, and by treason.
"The sun beholds not 'twixt the poles, a Child
So excellent as him, and passing fair;
Who from his infancy, Rogero styled,
(Atlantes I) was tutored by my care.
By love of fame and evil stars beguiled,
He follows into France Troyano's heir.
Him, in my eyes, than son esteemed more dear,
I seek to snatch from France and peril near.
"I only built the beauteous keep to be
Rogero's dungeon, safely harboured there;
Who whilom was subdued in fight by me,
As I to-day had hoped thyself to snare,
And dames and knights, and more of high degree,
Have to this tower conveyed, his lot to share,
That with such partners of his prison pent,
He might the loss of freedom less lament.
"Save they should seek to break their dungeon's bound,
I grant my inmates every other pleasure.
For whatsoever in the world is found,
Search its four quarters, in this keep I treasure;
(Whatever heart can wish or tongue can sound)
Cates, brave attire, game, sport, or mirthful measure.
My field well sown, I well had reaped my grain.
But that thy coming makes my labour vain.
"Ah! then unless thy heart less beauteous be
Than thy sweet face, mar not my pious care;
Take my steel buckler, this I give to thee,
And take that horse, which flies so fast in air,
Nor meddle with my castle more; or free
One or two captive friends, the rest forbear --
Or (for I crave but this) release them all,
So that Rogero but remain my thrall.
"Or if disposed to take him from my sight,
Before the youth be into France conveyed,
Be pleased to free my miserable sprite
From its now rotted bark, long decayed."
"Prate as thou wilt, I shall restore the knight
To liberty," replied the martial maid,
"Nor offer shield and courser to resign,
Which are not in thy gift, -- already mine.
"Nor were they thine to take or to bestow,
Would it appear that such exchange were wise;
Thou sayest to save him from what stars foreshow,
And cheat an evil influence of the skies
Rogero is confined. Thou canst not know,
Or knowing, canst not change his destinies:
For, if unknown an ill so near to thee,
Far less mayest thou another's fate foresee.
"Seek not thy death from me; for the petition
Is made in vain; but if for death thou sigh,
Though the whole world refused the requisition,
A soul resolved would find the means to die.
But ope thy gates to give thy guests dismission
Before thine hand the knot of life untie."
So spake the scornful dame with angry mock,
Speeding her captive still towards the rock.
Round by the conqueror with the chain he bore,
Atlantes walked, the damsel following nigh,
Who trusted not to the magician hoar,
Although he seemed subdued in port and eye.
Nor many paces went the pair, before
They at the mountain's foot the cleft espy,
With steps by which the rugged hill to round;
And climb, till to the castle-gate they wound:
Atlantes from the threshold, graved by skill,
With characters and wondrous signs, upturned
A virtuous stone, where, underneath the sill,
Pots, with perpetual fire and secret, burned.
The enchanter breaks them; and at once the hill
To an inhospitable rock is turned.
Nor wall nor tower on any side is seen,
As if no castle there had ever been.
Then from the lady's toils the wizard clears
His limbs, as thrush escapes the fowler's snare;
With him as well his castle disappears,
And leaves the prisoned troop in open air;
From their gay lodgings, dames and cavaliers,
Unhoused upon that desert, bleak and bare.
And many at the freedom felt annoy,
Which dispossessed them of such life of joy.
There is Gradasso, there is Sacripant,
There is Prasildo, noble cavalier,
Who with Rinaldo came from the Levant;
Iroldo, too, Prasildo's friend sincere.
And there, at last, the lovely Bradamant
Discerns Rogero, long desired and dear;
Who, when assured it was that lady, flew
With joyful cheer to greet the damsel true;
As her he prized before his eyes, his heart,
His life; from that day cherished when she stood
Uncasqued for him, and from the fight apart;
And hence an arrow drank her virgin blood.
'Twere long to tell who launched the cruel dart,
And how the lovers wandered in the wood;
Now guided by the sun, and now benighted,
Here first since that encounter reunited.
Now that the stripling sees her here, and knows
Alone she freed him from the wizard's nest,
He deems, his bosom with such joy overflows,
That he is singly fortunate and blest.
Thither, where late the damsel conquered, goes
The band, descending from the mountain's crest;
And finds the hippogryph, who bore the shield,
But in its case of crimson silk concealed.
To take him by the rein the lady there
Approached, and he stood fast till she was nigh,
Then spread his pinions to the liquid air,
And at short distance lit, half-mountain high:
And, as she follows him with fruitless care,
Not longer flight nor shorter will he try.
'Tis thus the raven, on some sandy beach,
Lures on the dog, and flits beyond his reach.
Gradasso, Sacripant, Rogero, who
With all those other knights below were met,
Where'er, they hope he may return, pursue
The beast, and up and down, each pass beset.
He having led those others, as he flew,
Often to rocky height, and bottom wet,
Among the rocks of the moist valley dropt,
And at short distance from Rogero stopt.
This was Atlantes the enchanter's deed,
Whose pious wishes still directed were,
To see Rogero from his peril freed:
This was his only thought, his only care;
Who for such end dispatched the winged steed,
Him out of Europe by this sleight to bear.
Rogero took his bridle, but in vain;
For he was restive to the guiding rein.
Now the bold youth from his Frontino flings
(Frontino was his gentle courser hight)
Then leaps on him who towers in air, and stings
And goads his haughty heart with rowels bright.
He runs a short career; then upward springs.
And through mid ether soars a fairer flight
Than hawk, from which the falconer plucks away
In time the blinding hood, and points her prey.
When her Rogero the fair dame discerned,
In fearful peril, soar so high a strain,
She stood long space amazed, ere she returned
To her right judgement, and sound wits again:
And what she erst of Ganymede had learned,
Snatched up to heaven from his paternal reign,
Feared might befall the stripling, born through air,
As gentle as young Ganymede and fair.
She on Rogero looks with stedfast eyes
As long as feeble sight can serve her use;
And in her mind next tracks him through the skies,
When sight in vain the cherished youth pursues.
And still renewing tears, and groans, and sighs,
Will not afford her sorrow peace or truce.
After the knight had vanished from her view,
Her eyes she on the good Frontino threw.
And lest the courser should become the prey
Of the first traveller, who passed the glen,
Him will not leave; but thence to bear away
Resolves, in trust to see his lord again.
The griffin soars, nor can Rogero stay
The flying courser; while, beneath his ken,
Each peak and promontory sinks in guise,
That he discerns not flat from mountain-rise.
After the hippogryph has won such height,
That he is lessened to a point, he bends
His course for where the sun, with sinking light,
When he goes round the heavenly crab, descends;
And shoots through air, like well-greased bark and light,
Which through the sea a wind propitious sends.
Him leave we on his way, who well shall speed,
And turn we to Rinaldo in his need.
Day after day the good Rinaldo fares,
Forced by the wind, the spacious ocean through;
Now westward borne, and now toward the Bears;
For night and day the ceaseless tempest blew.
Scotland at last her dusky coast uprears,
And gives the Caledonian wood to view;
Which, through its shadowy groves of ancient oak,
Oft echoes to the champion's sturdy stroke.
Through this roves many a famous cavalier,
Renowned for feat in arms, of British strain;
And throng from distant land, or country near,
French, Norse, of German knights, a numerous train.
Let none, save he be valiant, venture here,
Where, seeking glory, death may be his gain.
Here Arthur, Galahalt, and Gauvaine fought,
And well Sir Launcelot and Tristram wrought.
And other worthies of the table round;
(Of either table, whether old or new)
Whose trophies yet remain upon the ground;
Proof of their valiant feats, Rinaldo true
Forthwith his armour and Bayardo found,
And landed on the woody coast: The crew
He bade, with all the haste they might, repair
To Berwick's neighbouring port, and wait him there.
Without a guide or company he went
Through that wide forest; choosing now this way,
Now that, now other, as it might present
Hope of adventurous quest or hard assay:
And, ere the first day's circling sun is spent,
The peer is guested in an abbey gray:
Which spends much wealth in harbouring those who claim
Its shelter, warlike knight or wandering dame.
The monks and abbot to Mount Alban's peer
A goodly welcome in their house accord;
Who asked, but not before with savoury cheer
He amply had his wearied strength restored,
If in that tract, by errant cavalier,
Often adventurous quest might be explored,
In which a man might prove, by dangerous deed,
If blame or glory were his fitting meed.
They answered, in those woods he might be sure
Many and strange adventures would be found;
But deeds, there wrought, were, like the place, obscure,
And, for the greater part, not bruited round.
"Then seek (they said) a worthier quest, secure
Your works will not be buried underground.
So that the glorious act achieved, as due,
Fame may your peril and your pain pursue.
"And if you would your warlike worth assay,
Prepare the worthiest enterprize to hear,
That, e'er in times of old or present day,
Was undertaken by a cavalier.
Our monarch's daughter needs some friendly stay,
Now sore bested, against a puissant peer:
Lurcanio is the doughty baron's name,
Who would bereave her both of life and fame.
"Her he before her father does pursue,
Perchance yet more for hatred than for right;
And vouches, to a gallery she updrew
A lover, seen by him, at dead of night.
Hence death by fire will be the damsel's due,
Such is our law, unless some champion fight
On her behalf, and, ere a month go by,
(Nigh spent) upon the accuser prove the lie.
"Our impious Scottish law, severe and dread,
Wills, that a woman, whether low or high
Her state, who takes a man into her bed,
Except her husband, for the offence shall die.
Nor is there hope of ransom for her head,
Unless to her defence some warrior hie;
And as her champion true, with spear and shield,
Maintain her guiltless in the listed field.
"The king, sore grieving for Geneura bright,
For such is his unhappy daughter's name,
Proclaims by town and city, that the knight
Who shall deliver her from death and shame,
He to the royal damsel will unite,
With dower, well suited to a royal dame;
So that the valiant warrior who has stood
In her defence, be come of gentle blood.
"But if within a month no knight appear,
Or coming, conquer not, the damsel dies.
A like emrpize were worthier of your spear
Than wandering through these woods in lowly guise.
Besides, the eternal trophy you shall rear,
You by the deed shall gain a glorious prize,
The sweetest flower of all the ladies fair
That betwixt Ind and Atlas' pillars are.
"And you with wealth and state shall guerdoned be,
So that you evermore may live content,
And the king's grace, if through your means he see
His honour raised anew, now well-nigh spent.
Besides, you by the laws of chivalry
Are bound to venge the damsel foully shent.
For she, whose life is by such treason sought,
Is chaste and spotless in the common thought."
Rinaldo mused awhile, and then replied,
"And must a gentle damsel die by fire,
Because she with a lover's wish complied,
And quenched within her arms his fond desire?
Cursed be the law by which the dame is tried!
Cursed he who would permit a doom so dire!
Perish (such fate were just!) who cruel proves!
Not she that life bestows on him who loves.
"Or true or false Geneura's tale of shame;
If she her lover blessed I little heed:
For this my praise the lady well might claim,
If manifest were not that gentle deed.
My every thought is turned to aid the dame.
Grant me but one to guide my steps, and lead
Quickly to where the foul accuser stands,
I trust in God to loose Geneura's bands.
"I will not vouch her guiltless in my thought,
In fear to warrant what is false; but I
Boldly maintain, in such an act is nought
For which the damsel should deserve to die;
And ween unjust, or else of wit distraught,
Who statutes framed of such severity;
Which, as iniquitous, should be effaced,
And with a new and better code replaced.
"If like desire, and if an equal flame
Move one and the other sex, who warmly press
To that soft end of love (their goal the same)
Which to the witless crowd seems rank excess;
Say why shall woman -- merit scathe or blame,
Though lovers, one or more, she may caress;
While man to sin with whom he will is free,
And meets with praise, not mere impunity?
"By this injurious law, unequal still,
On woman is inflicted open wrong;
And to demonstrate it a grievous ill,
I trust in God, which has been borne too long."
To good Rinaldo's sentence, with one will,
Deeming their sires unjust, assents the throng,
Their sires who such outrageous statute penned,
And king, who might, but does not, this amend.
When the new dawn, with streaks of red and white,
Broke in the east, and cleared the hemisphere,
Rinaldo took his steed and armour bright:
A squire that abbey furnished to the peer.
With him, for many leagues and miles, the knight
Pricked through the dismal forest dark and drear;
While they towards the Scottish city ride,
Where the poor damsel's cause is to be tried.
Seeking their way to shorten as they wound,
They to the wider track a path preferred;
When echoing through the gloomy forest round,
Loud lamentations nigh the road were heard.
Towards a neighbouring vale, whence came the sound,
This his Bayardo, that his hackney spurred;
And viewed, between two grisly ruffians there,
A girl, who seemed at distance passing fair.
But woe begone and weeping was the maid
As ever damsel dame, or wight was seen:
Hard by the barbarous twain prepared the blade,
To deluge with that damsel's blood the green.
She to delay her death awhile essayed,
Until she pity moved with mournful mien.
This when Rinaldo near approaching eyes,
He thither drives with threats and furious cries.
The ruffians turn their backs and take to flight
As soon as they the distant succour view,
And squat within a valley out of sight:
Nor cares the good Rinaldo to pursue.
To her approaching, sues Mount Alban's knight,
To say what on her head such evil drew;
And, to save time, commands his squire to stoop,
And take the damsel on his horse's croup.
And as the lady nearer he surveyed,
Her wise behaviour marked and beauty's bloom;
Though her fait countenance was all dismayed,
And by the fear of death o'erspread with gloom.
Again to know, the gentle knight essayed,
Who had prepared for her so fell a doom;
And she began to tell in humble tone
What to another canto I postpone.
Lurcanio, by a false report abused,
Deemed by Geneura's fault his brother dead,
Weening the faithless duke, whom she refused,
Was taken by the damsel to her bed;
And her before the king and peers accused:
But to the session Ariodantes led,
Strives with his brother in disguise. In season
Rinaldo comes to venge the secret treason.
Among all other animals who prey
On earth, or who unite in friendly wise,
Whether they mix in peace or moody fray,
No male offends his mate. In safety hies
The she bear, matched with hers, through forest gray:
The lioness beside the lion lies:
Wolves, male and female, live in loving cheer;
Nor gentle heifer dreads the wilful steer.
What Fury, what abominable Pest
Such poison in the human heart has shed,
That still 'twixt man and wife, with rage possessed,
Injurious words and foul reproach are said?
And blows and outrage hase their peace molest,
And bitter tears still wash the genial bed;
Not only watered by the tearful flood,
But often bathed by senseless ire with blood?
Not simply a rank sinner, he appears
To outrage nature, and his God to dare,
Who his foul hand against a woman rears,
Or of her head would harm a single hair.
But who what drug the burning entrail sears,
Or who for her would knife or noose prepare,
No man appears to me, though such to sight
He seem, but rather some infernal sprite.
Such, and no other were those ruffians two,
Whom good Rinaldo from the damsel scared,
Conducted to these valleys out of view,
That none might wot of her so foully snared.
I ended where the damsel, fair of hue,
To tell the occasion of her scathe prepared,
To the good Paladin, who brought release;
And in conclusion thus my story piece.
"Of direr deed than ever yet was done,"
The gentle dame began, "Sir cavalier,
In Thebes, Mycene, Argos, or upon
Other more savage soil, prepare to hear;
And I believe, that if the circling sun
To these our Scottish shores approach less near
Than other land, 'tis that he would eschew
A foul ferocious race that shocks his view.
"All times have shown that man has still pursued
With hair, in every clime, his natural foe;
But to deal death to those who seek our good
Does from too ill and foul a nature flow.
Now, that the truth be better understood,
I shall from first to last the occasion show,
Why in my tender years, against all right,
Those caitiffs would have dome me foul despite.
" 'Tis fitting you should know, that in the spring
Of life, I to the palace made resort;
There served long time the daughter of the king,
And grew with her in growth, well placed in court.
When cruel love, my fortune envying,
Willed I should be his follower and his sport;
And made, beyond each Scottish lord and knight,
Albany's duke find favour in my sight.
"And for he seemed to cherish me above
All mean; his love a love as ardent bred.
We hear, indeed, and see, but do not prove
Man's faith, nor is his bosom's purpose read.
Believing still, and yielding to my love,
I ceased not till I took him to my bed;
Nor, of all chambers, in that evil hour,
Marked I was in Geneura's priviest bower.
"Where, hoarded, she with careful privacy
Preserved whatever she esteemed most rare;
There many times she slept. A gallery
From thence projected into the open air.
Here oft I made my lover climb to me,
And (what he was to mount) a hempen stair,
When him I to my longing arms would call,
From the projecting balcony let fall.
"For here my passion I as often fed
As good Geneura's absence made me bold;
Who with the varying season changed her bed,
To shun the burning heat or pinching cold,
And Albany, unseen and safely sped;
For, fronting a dismantled street, and old,
Was built that portion of the palace bright;
Nor any went that way by day or night.
"So was for many days and months maintained
By us, in secrecy, the amorous game;
Still grew by love, and such new vigour gained,
I in my inmost bosom felt the flame;
And that he little loved, and deeply feigned
Weened not, so was I blinded to my shame:
Though, in a thousand certain signs betrayed,
The faithless knight his base deceit bewrayed.
"After some days, of fair Geneura he
A suitor showed himself; I cannot say
If this began before he sighed for me,
Or, after, of this love he made assay:
But judge, alas! with what supremacy
He ruled my heart, how absolute his sway!
Since this he owned, and thought no shame to move
Me to assist him in his second love.
"Unlike what he bore me, he said, indeed,
That was not true which he for her displayed;
But so pretending love, he hoped to speed,
And celebrate due spousals with the maid.
He with her royal sire might well succeed,
Were she consenting to the boon he prayed;
For after our good king, for wealth and birth
In all the realm, was none of equal worth.
"Me he persuades, if through my ministry
He the king's son-in-law elected were,
For I must know he next the king would be
Advanced as high, as subject could repair,
The merit should be mine, and ever he
So great a benefit in mind would bear;
And he would cherish me above his bride,
And more than every other dame beside.
"I, who to please him was entirely bent,
Who never could or would gainsay his will,
Upon those days alone enjoy content,
When I find means his wishes to fulfil:
And snatch at all occasions which present
A mode, his praise and merits to instil:
And for my lover with all labour strain,
And industry, Geneura's love to gain.
"With all my heart, in furtherance of his suit,
I wrought what could be done, God truly knows;
But with Geneura this produced no friut,
Nor her to grace my duke could I dispose.
For that another love had taken root
In her, whose every fond affection flows
Towards a gentle knight of courteous lore,
Who sought our Scotland from a distant shore:
"And with a brother, then right young, to stay
In our king's court, came out of Italy:
And there of knightly arms made such assay,
Was none in Britain more approved than he;
Prized by the king, who (no ignoble pay),
Rewarding him like his nobility,
Bestowed upon the youth, with liberal hand,
Burghs, baronies, and castles, woods and land.
"Dear to the monarch, to the daughter still
This lord was dearer, Ariodantes hight.
Her with affection might his valour fill;
But knowledge of his love brought more delight.
Nor old Vesuvius, nor Sicilia's hill,
Nor Troy-town, ever, with a blaze so bright,
Flamed, as with all his heart, the damsel learned,
For love of her young Ariodantes burned.
"The passion which she bore the lord, preferred
And loved with perfect truth and all her heart,
Was the occassion I was still unheard;
Nor hopeful answer would she e'er impart:
And still the more my lover's suit I stirred,
And to obtain his guerdon strove with art,
Him she would censure still, and ever more
Was strengthened in the hate she nursed before.
"My wayward lover often I excite
So vain and bootless an emprize to quit;
Nor idly hope to turn her stedfast sprite,
Too deeply with another passion smit;
And make apparent to the Scottish knight,
Ariodantes such a flame had lit
In the young damsel's breast, that seas in flood
Would not have cooled one whit her boiling blood.
"This Polinesso many times had heard
From me (for such the Scottish baron's name)
Well warranted by sight as well as word,
How ill his love was cherished by the dame.
To see another to himself preferred
Not only quenched the haughty warrior's flame,
But the fond love, which in his bosom burned
Into despiteful rage and hatred turned.
"Between Geneura and her faithful knight
Such discord and ill will he schemed to shed,
And put betwixt the pair such foul despite.
No time should heal the quarrel he had bred;
Bringing such scandal on that damsel bright,
The stain should cleave to her, alive or dead:
Nor, bent to wreck her on this fatal shelf,
Counselled with me, or other but himself.
" `Dalinda mine,' he said, his project brewed,
(Dalinda is my name) `you needs must know,
That from the root although the trunk be hewed,
Successive suckers many times will grow.
Thus my unhappy passion is renewed,
Tenacious still of life, and buds; although
Cut off by ill success, with new increase:
Nor, till I compass my desire, will cease.
" `Nor hope of pleasure this so much has wrought,
As that to compass my design would please;
And, if not in effect, at least in thought
To thrive, would interpose some little ease.
Then every time your bower by me is sought,
When in her bed Geneura slumbers, seize
What she puts off, and be it still your care
To dress yourself in all her daily wear.
" `Dispose your locks and deck yourself as she
Goes decked; and, as you can, with cunning heed,
Imitate her; then to the gallery
You, furnished with the corded stair, shall speed:
I shall ascend it in the phantasy
That you are she, of whom you wear the weed:
And hope, that putting on myself this cheat,
I in short time shall quench my amorous heat.'
"So said the knight; and I, who was distraught,
And all beside myself, was not aware
That the design, in which he help besought,
Was manifestly but too foul a snare;
And in Geneura's clothes disguised, as taught,
Let down (so oft I used) the corded stair.
Nor I the traitor's foul deceit perceived,
Until the deadly mischief was achieved.
"The duke, this while, to Ariodantes' ears
Had these, or other words like these, addressed;
(For leagued in friendship were the cavaliers,
Till, rivals, they pursued this common quest)
"I marvel, since you are of all my peers
He, whom I must have honoured and caressed,
And held in high regard, and cherished still,
You should my benefits repay so ill.
" `I am assured you comprehend and know
Mine and Geneura's love, and old accord;
And, in legitimate espousal, how
I am about to claim her from my lord:
Then why disturb my suit, and why bestow
Your heart on her who offers no reward?
By Heaven, I should respect your claim and place,
Were your condition mine, and mine your case.'
" `And I,' cried Ariodantes, `marvel more'
(In answer to the Scottish lord) `at you,
Since I of her enamoured was, before
That gentle damsel ever met your view;
And know, you are assured how evermore
We two have loved; -- was never love more true --
Are certain she alone would share my lot;
And are as well assured she loves you not.
" `Why have not I from you the same respect,
To which, for friendship past, you would pretend
From me; and I should bear you in effect,
If your hope stood more fair to gain its end?
No less than you, to wed her I expect;
And if your fortunes here my wealth transcend,
As favoured of the king, as you, above
You, am I happy in his daughter's love.'
" `Of what a strange mistake,' (to him replied
The duke) `your foolish passion is the root!
You think yourself beloved; I, on my side,
Believe the same; this try we by the fruit.
You of your own proceeding nothing hide,
And I will tell the secrets of my suit:
And let the man who proves least favoured, yield,
Provide himself elsewhere, and quit the field.
" `I am prepared, if such your wish, to swear
Nothing of what is told me to reveal;
And will that you assure me, for your share,
You shall what I recount as well conceal.'
Uniting in the pact, the rival pair
Their solemn vows upon the Bible seal:
And when they had the mutual promise plighted,
Ariodantes first his tale recited.
"Then plainly, and by simple facts averred,
How with Geneura stood his suit, avows;
And how, engaged by writing and by word,
She swore she would not be another's spouse.
How, if to him the Scottish king demurred,
Virgin austerity she ever vows;
And other bridal bond for aye eschewed,
To pass her days in barren solitude.
"Then added, how he hoped by worth, which he
Had more than once avouched, with knightly brand,
And yet might vouch, to the prosperity
And honour of the king, and of his land,
To please so well that monarch, as to be
By him accounted worthy of the hand
Of his fair child, espoused with his consent:
Since he in this her wishes would content.
"Then so concludes -- `I stand upon this ground,
Nor I intruder fear, encroaching nigh;
Nor seek I more; 'tis here my hopes I bound;
Nor, striving for Geneura's love, would I
Seek surer sign of it than what is found,
By God allowed, in wedlock's lawful tie;
And other suit were hopeless, am I sure,
So excellent she is, and passing pure.'
"When Ariodantes had, with honest mind,
Told what reward he hoped should quit his pain,
False Polinesso, who before designed
To make Geneura hateful to her swain,
Began -- `Alas! you yet are far behind
My hopes, and shall confess your own are vain;
And say, as I the root shall manifest
Of my good fortune, I alone am blest.
" `With you Geneura feigns, nor pays nor prizes
Your passion, which with hopes and words is fed;
And, more than this, your foolish love despises:
And this to me the damsel oft has said,
Of hers I am assured; of no surmises,
Vain, worthless words, or idle promise bred.
And I to you the fact in trust reveal,
Though this I should in better faith conceal.
" `There passes not a month, but in that space
Three nights, four, six, and often ten, the fair
Receives me with that joy in her embrace,
Which seems to second so the warmth we share.
This you may witness, and shall judge the case;
If empty hopes can with my bliss compare.
Then since my happier fortune is above
Your wishes, yield, and seek another love.'
" `This will I not believe,' in answer cried
Ariodantes, `well assured you lie,
And that you have this string of falsehoods tied,
To scare me from the dear emprize I try.
But charge, so passing foul, you shall abide,
And vouch what you have said in arms; for I
Not only on your tale place no reliance;
But as a traitor hurl you my defiance.'
"To him rejoined the duke, 'I ween 'twere ill
To take the battle upon either part,
Since surer mean our purpose may fulfill;
And if it please, my proof I can impart.'
Ariodantes trembled, and a chill
Went through his inmost bones; and sick at heart,
Had he in full believed his rival's boast,
Would on the spot have yielded up the ghost.
"With wounded heart, and faltering voice, pale face,
And mouth of gall, he answered, 'When I see
Proofs of thy rare adventure, and the grace
With which the fair Geneura honours thee,
I promise to forego the fruitless chase
Of one, to thee so kind, so cold to me.
But think not that thy story shall avail,
Unless my very eyes confirm the tale.'
" `To warn in due time shall be my care.'
(Said Polinesso) and so went his way.
Two nights were scarecly passed, ere his repair
To the known bower was fixed for the assay.
And, ready now to spring his secret snare,
He sought his rival on the appointed day,
And him to hide, the night ensuing, prayed
I' the street, which none their habitation made.
"And to the youth a station over-right
The balcony, to which he clambered, shows.
Ariodantes weened, this while, the knight
Would him to seek that hidden place dispose,
As one well suited to his fell despite,
And, bent to take his life, this ambush chose,
Under the false pretence to make him see
What seemed a sheer impossibility.
"To go the peer resolved, but in such guise,
He should not be with vantage overlaid;
And should he be assaulted by surprise,
He need not be by fear of death dismay'd.
He had a noble brother, bold and wise,
First of the court in arms; and on his aid,
Lurcanio hight, relied with better heart
Than if ten others fought upon his part.
"He called him to his side, and willed him take
His arms; and to the place at evening led:
Yet not his secret purpose would be break;
Nor this to him, or other would have read:
Him a stone's throw removed he placed, and spake:
` -- Come if thou hearest he cry,' the warrior said;
`But as thou lovest me (whatsoe'er befall)
Come not and move not, brother, till I call.'
" `Doubt not' (the valiant brother said) `but go';
And thither went that baron silently,
And hid within the lonely house, and low,
Over against my secret gallery.
On the other side approached the fraudful foe,
So pleased to work Geneura's infamy;
And, while I nothing of the cheat divine,
Beneath my bower renews the wonted sign.
"And I in costly robe, in which were set
Fair stripes of gold upon a snowy ground,
My tresses gathered in a golden net,
Shaded with tassels of vermillion round,
Mimicking fashions, which were only met
In fair Geneura, at the accustomed sound,
The gallery mount, constructed in such mode,
As upon every side my person showed.
"This while Lurcanio, either with a view
To snares which might beset his brother's feet,
Or with the common passion to pursue,
And play the spy on other, where the street
Was darkest, and its deepest shadows threw,
Followed him softly to his dim retreat:
And not ten paces from the knight aloof,
Bestowed himself beneath the self same roof.
"Suspecting nought, I seek the balcony,
In the same habits which I mentioned, dressed;
As more than once or twice (still happily)
I did before; meanwhile the goodly vest
Was in the moonlight clearly seen, and I,
In aspect not unlike her, in the rest
Resembling much Geneura's shape and cheer,
One visage well another might appear.
"So much the more, that there was ample space
Between the palace and the ruined row:
Hence the two brothers, posted in that place,
Were lightly cheated by the lying show.
Now put yourself in his unhappy case,
And figure what the wretched lover's woe,
When Polinesso climbed the stair, which I
Cast down to him, and scaled the gallery.
"Arrived, my arms about his neck I throw,
Weening that we unseen of others meet,
And kiss his lips and face with loving show,
As him I hitherto was wont to greet;
And he assayed, with more than wonted glow,
Me to caress, to mask his hollow cheat.
Led to the shameful spectacle, aghast,
That other, from afar, viewed all that passed,
"And fell into such fit of deep despair,
He there resolved to die; and, to that end,
Planted the pommel of his falchion bare
I' the ground, its point against his breast to bend.
Lurcanio, who with marvel by that stair,
Saw Polinesso to my bower ascend,
But knew not who the wight, with ready speed
Sprang forward, when he saw his brother's deed.
"And hindered him in that fell agony
From turning his own hand against his breast.
Had the good youth been later, or less nigh,
To his assistance he had vainly pressed.
Then, `Wretched brother, what insanity.'
(He cried) `your better sense has dispossessed?
Die for a woman! rather let her kind
Be scattered like the mist before the wind!
" `Compass her death! 'tis well deserved; your own
Reserve, as due to more illustrious fate.
'Twas well to love, before her fraud was shown,
But she, once loved, now more deserves your hate:
Since, witnessed by your eyes, to you is known
A wanton of what sort you worshipped late.
Her fault before the Scottish king to attest,
Reserve those arms you turn against your breast.'
"Ariodantes, so surprised, forewent,
Joined by his brother, the design in show;
But resolute to die, in his intent
Was little shaken: Rising thence to go,
He bears away a heart not simply rent,
But dead and withered with excess of woe:
Yet better comfort to Lurcanio feigns,
As if the rage were spent which fired his veins.
"The morn ensuing, without further say
To his good brother, or to man beside,
He from the city took his reckless way
With deadly desperation for his guide;
Nor, save the duke and knight, for many a day
Was there who knew what moved the youth to ride:
And in the palace, touching this event,
And in the realm, was various sentiment.
"But eight days past or more, to Scotland's court
A traveller came, and to Geneura he
Related tidings of disastrous sort;
That Ariodantes perished in the sea:
Drowned of his own free will was the report,
No wind to blame for the calamity!
Since from a rock, which over ocean hung,
Into the raging waves he headlong sprung;
" `Who said, before he reached that frowning crest,
To me, whom he encountered by the way,
Come with me, that your tongue may manifest,
And what betides me to Geneura say;
And tell her, too, the occasion of the rest,
Which you shall witness without more delay;
In having seen too much, the occasion lies;
Happy had I been born without these eyes!"
" `By chance, upon a promontory we
Were standing, overright the Irish shore;
When, speaking thus on that high headland, he
Plunged from a rock amid the watery roar.
I saw him leap, and left him in the sea;
And, hurrying thence, to you the tidings bore.'
Geneura stood amazed, her colour fled,
And, at the fearful tale, remained half dead.
"O God! what said, what did she, when alone,
She on her faithful pillow layed her head!
She beat her bosom, and she tore her gown,
And in despite her golden tresses shed;
Repeating often, in bewildered tone,
The last sad words which Ariodantes said; --
That the sole source of such despair, and such
Disaster, was that he had seen too much.
"Wide was the rumour scattered that the peer
Had slain himself for grief; nor was the cry
By courtly dame, or courtly cavalier,
Or by the monarch, heard with tearless eye.
But, above all the rest, his brother dear
Was whelmed with sorrow of so deep a dye,
That, bent to follow him, he well nigh turned
His hand against himself, like him he mourned.
"And many times repeating in his thought,
It was Geneura who his brother slew,
Who was to self-destruction moved by nought
But her ill deed, which he was doomed to view,
So on his mind the thirst of vengeance wrought,
And so his grief his season overthrew;
That he thought little, graced of each estate,
To encounter king and people's common hate;
"And, when the throng was fullest in the hall,
Stood up before the Scottish king, and said,
`Of having marred my brother's wits withal,
Sir king, and him to his destruction led,
Your daughter only can I guilty call:
For in his inmost soul such sorrow bred
The having seen her little chastity,
He loathed existence, and preferred to die.
" `He was her lover; and for his intent
Was honest, this I seek not, I, to veil;
And to deserve her by his valour meant
Of thee, if faithful service might avail;
But while he stood aloof, and dared but scent
The blossoms, he beheld another scale,
Scale the forbidden tree with happier boot,
And bear away from him the wished-for fruit.'
"Then added, how into the gallery came
Geneura, and how dropped the corded stair;
And how into the chamber of the dame
Had climbed a leman of that lady fair;
Who, for disguise (he knew not hence his name),
Had changed his habits, and concealed his hair;
And, in conclusion, vowed that every word
So said, he would avouch with lance and sword.
"You may divine how grieves the sire, distraught
With woe, when he the accusation hears:
As well that what he never could have thought,
He of his daughter learns with wondering ears,
As that he knows, if succour be not brought
By cavalier, that in her cause appears,
Who may upon Lurcanio prove the lie,
He cannot choose, but doom the maid to die.
"I do not think our Scottish law to you
Is yet unknown, which sentences to fire
The miserable dame, or damsel, who
Grants other than her wedded lord's desire.
She dies, unless a champion, good and true,
Arm on her side before a month expire;
And her against the accuser base maintain
Unmeriting such death, and free from stain.
"The king has made proclaim by town and tower,
(For he believes her wronged, his child to free)
Her he shall have to wife, with ample dower,
Who saves the royal maid from infamy.
But each to the other looks, and to this hour
No champion yet, 'tis said, appears: for he,
Lurcanio, is esteemed so fierce in fight,
It seems as he were feared of every knight.
"And evil Fate has willed her brother dear,
Zerbino, is not here the foe to face;
Since many months has roved the cavalier,
Proving his matchless worth with spear and mace;
For if the valiant champion were more near,
(Such is his courage) or in any place,
Whither in time the news might be conveyed,
He would not fail to bear his sister aid.
"The king, mean time, who would the quest pursue,
And by more certain proof than combat, try
If the accuser's tale be false or true,
And she deserve, or merit not, to die,
Arrests some ladies of her retinue,
That, as he weens, the fact can verify.
Whence I foresaw, that if I taken were,
Too certain risque the duke and I must share.
"That very night I from the palace flee,
And to the duke repair, escaped from court;
And, were I taken, make him plainly see
How much it either's safety would import:
He praised, and bade me of good courage be,
And, for his comfort, prayed me to resort
To a strong castle which he held hard by;
And gave me two to bear me company.
"With what full proofs, sir stranger, you have heard,
I of my love assured the Scottish peer;
And clearly can discern, if so preferred,
That lord was justly bound to hold me dear.
Mark, in conclusion, what was my reward;
The glorious meed of my great merit hear!
And say if woman can expect to earn,
However well she love, her love's return.
"For this perfidious, foul, ungrateful man,
At length suspicious of my faith and zeal,
And apprehending that his wily plan,
In course of time, I haply might reveal,
Feigned that meanwhile the monarch's anger ran
Too high, he would withdraw me, and conceal
Within a fortress of his own, where I
(Such was his real end) was doomed to die.
"For secretly the duke enjoined the guide,
Who with me through the gloomy forest went,
The worthy guerdon of a faith so tried,
To slay me; and had compassed his intent,
But for your ready succour, when I cried.
Behold! what wages love's poor slaves content."
Thus to Rinaldo did Dalinda say,
As they together still pursued their way.
Above all other fortune, to the knight
Was welcome to have found the gentle maid,
Who the whole story of Geneura bright,
And her unblemished innocence displayed;
And, if he hoped, although accused with right,
To furnish the afflicted damsel aid,
Persuaded of the calumny's disproof,
He with more courage warred in her behoof.
And for St. Andrew's town, with eager speed,
Where was the king with all his family,
And where the single fight, in listed mead,
Upon his daughter's quarrel, was to be,
The good Rinaldo pricked, nor spared his steed,
Until, within an easy distance, he
Now near the city, met a squire who brought
More recent tidings than the damsel taught:
That thither had repaired a stranger knight,
To combat in Geneura's quarrel bent,