Part 21 out of 25
So battered with his fall, it seemed he wou'd
Bequeath his parting soul to paradise.
Astolpho and Dudon, that again upstood
(Albeit swoln were Dudon's face and eyes)
And Sansonet, who plied so well his sword,
All made together at Anglantes' lord.
Dudon Orlando from behind embraced,
And with his foot the furious peer would throw:
Astolpho and others seize his arms; but waste
Their strength in all attempts to hold the foe.
He who has seen a bull, by mastiffs chased
That gore his bleeding ears, in fury lowe,
Dragging the dogs that bait him there and here,
Yet from their tusks unable to get clear;
Let him imagine, so Orlando drew
Astolpho and those banded knights along.
Meanwhile upstarted Oliviero, who
By that fell fistycuff on earth was flung;
And, seeing they could ill by Roland do
That sought by good Astolpho and his throng,
He meditates, and compasses, a way
The frantic paladin on earth to lay.
He many a hawser made them thither bring,
And running knots in them he quickly tied;
Which on the count's waist, arms, and legs, they fling;
And then, among themselves, the ends divide,
Conveyed to this or that amid the ring,
Compassing Roland upon every side.
The warriors thus Orlando flung parforce,
As farrier throws the struggling ox or horse.
As soon as down, they all upon him are,
And hands and feet more tightly they constrain:
He shakes himself, and plunges here and there;
But all his efforts for relief are vain.
Astolpho bade them hence the prisoner bear;
For he would heal (he said) the warrior's brain.
Shouldered by sturdy Dudon is the load,
And on the beach's furthest brink bestowed.
Seven times Astolpho makes them wash the knight;
And seven times plunged beneath the brine he goes.
So that they cleanse away the scurf and blight,
Which to his stupid limbs and visage grows.
This done, with herbs, for that occasion dight,
They stop his mouth, wherewith he puffs and blows.
For, save his nostrils, would Astolpho leave
No passage whence the count might air receive.
Valiant Astolpho had prepared the vase,
Wherein Orlando's senses were contained,
And to his nostrils in such mode conveys,
That, drawing-in his breath, the county drained
The mystic cup withal. Oh wondrous case!
The unsettled mind its ancient seat regained;
And, in its glorious reasonings, yet more clear
And lucid waxed his wisdom than whilere.
As one, that seems in troubled sleep to see
Abominable shapes, a horrid crew;
Monsters which are not, and which cannot be;
Or seems some strange, unlawful thing to do,
Yet marvels at himself, from slumber free.
When his recovered senses play him true;
So good Orlando, when he is made sound,
Remains yet full of wonder, and astound.
Aldabelle's brother, Monodantes' son,
And him that on his brain such cure had wrought,
He wondering marked, but word he spake to none;
And when and how he was brought thither, thought.
He turned his restless eyes now up now down,
Nor where he was withal, imagined aught,
Marvelling why he there was naked cast,
And wherefore tethered, neck and heels, so fast.
Then said, as erst Silenus said -- when seen,
And taken sleeping the cave of yore --
SOLVITE ME, with visage so serene,
With look so much less wayward than before,
That him they from his bonds delivered clean,
And raiment to the naked warrior bore;
All comforting their friend, with grief opprest
For that delusion which had him possest.
When to his former self he was recovered,
Of wiser and of manlier mind than e'er,
From love as well was freed the enamoured lord;
And she, so gentle deemed, so fair whilere,
And by renowned Orlando so adored,
Did but to him a worthless thing appear.
What he through love had lost, to reacquire
Was his whole study, was his whole desire.
Meanwhile Bardino told to Brandimart,
How Monodantes, his good sire, was dead,
And, on his brother, Gigliantes' part,
To call him to his kingdom had he sped,
As well as from those isles, which most apart
From other lands, in eastern seas are spread,
That prince's fair inheritance; than which
Was none more pleasant, populous, or rich.
He said, mid many reasons which he prest,
That home was sweet, and -- were the warrior fain
To taste that sweet -- he ever would detest
A wandering life; and Brandimart again
Replies, through all that war, he will not rest
From serving Roland and King Charlemagne;
And after, if he lives to see its end,
To his own matters better will attend.
Upon the following day, for Provence steer
The shipping under Danish Dudon's care;
When with the duke retired Anglantes' peer,
And heard that lord the warfare's state declare:
Then prest with siege Biserta, far and near,
But let good England's knight the honour wear
Of every vantage; while Astolpho still
In all was guided by Orlando's will.
The order taken to attack the town
Of huge Biserta, when, and on what side;
How, at the first assault, the walls are won,
And with Orlando who the palm divide,
Lament not that I now shall leave unshown,
Since for short time I lay my tale aside.
In the meanwhile, how fierce an overthrow
The Moors received in France, be pleased to know.
Well nigh abandoned was their royal lord
In his worst peril; for to Arles again
Had gone, with many of the paynim horde,
The sage Sobrino and the king of Spain;
Who, for the deemed the land unsafe, aboard
Their barks sought refuge, with a numerous train,
Barons and cavaliers, that served the Moor;
Who moved by their example put from shore.
Yet royal Agramant the fight maintains;
But when he can no longer make a stand,
Turns from the combat, and directly strains
For Arles, not far remote, upon the strand.
Him Rabican pursues, with flowing reins,
Whom Aymon's daughter drives with heel and hand.
Him would she slay, through whom so often crost,
That martial maid had her Rogero lost.
Marphisa by the same desire was stirred,
Who had her thoughts on tardy vengeance placed,
For her dead sire; and as she fiercely spurred,
Made her hot courser feel his rider's haste.
But neither martial maid, amid that herd
Of flying Moors, so well the monarch chased,
As to o'ertake him in his swift retreat,
First into Arles, and then aboard his fleet.
As two fair generous pards, that from some crag
Together dart, and stretch across the plain;
When they perceive that vigorous goat or stag,
Their nimble quarry, is pursued in vain,
As if ashamed they in that chase did lag,
Return repentant and in high disdain:
So, with a sigh, return those damsels two,
When they the paynim king in safety view:
Yet therefore halt not, but in fury go
Amid that crowd, which flies, possest with dread;
Feeling, now here, now there, at every blow,
Many that never more uprear their head.
To evil pass was brought the broken foe;
For safety was not even for them that fled:
Since Agramant, a sure retreat to gain,
Bade shut the city-gate which faced the plain;
And bade on Rhone break all the bridges down.
Unhappy people, ever held as cheap
-- Weighed with the tyrant's want who wears a crown --
As worthless herd of goats or silly sheep!
These in the sea, those in the river drown;
And those with blood the thirsty fallows steep.
The Franks few prisoners made, and many slew;
For ransom in that battle was for few.
Of the great multitude of either train,
Christened or paynim, killed in that last fight,
Though in unequal parts (for, of the slain,
By far more Saracens were killed in flight,
By hands of those redoubted damsels twain),
Signs even to this day remain in sight:
For, hard by Arles, where sleeps the lazy Rhone,
The plain with rising sepulchres is strown.
Meanwhile his heavy ships of deepest draught
King Agramant had made put forth to sea,
Leaving some barks in port -- his lightest craft --
For them that would aboard his navy flee:
He stays two days, while they the stragglers waft,
And, for the winds are wild and contrary,
On the third day, to sail he give command,
In trust to make return to Africk's land.
Royal Marsilius, in that fatal hour,
Fearing the costs will fall upon his Spain,
And that the clouds, which big with tempest lower,
In the end will burst upon his fields and grain,
Makes for Valentia; where he town and tower
Begins to fortify with mickle pain;
And for that war prepares, which after ends
In the destruction of himself and friends.
King Agramant his sails for Africk bent:
His barks ill-armed and almost empty go;
Empty of men, but full of discontent,
In that three-fourths had perished by the foe.
As cruel some, as weak and proud some shent
Their king, and (as still happens in like woe)
All hate him privily; but, for they fear
His fury, in his presence mute appear.
Yet sometimes two or three their lips unclose,
-- Some knot of friends, where each on each relies --
And their pent choler and their rage expose:
Yet Agramant beneath the illusion lies,
That each will love and pity overflows;
And this befalls, because he still espies
False faces, hears but voices that applaud,
And nought but adulation, lies and fraud.
Not in Biserta's port his host to land
Was the sage king of Africa's intent,
Who had sure news that shore by Nubia's band
Was held, but he so far above it meant
To steer his Moorish squadron, that the strand
Should not be steep or rugged for descent:
There would he disembark, and thence would aid
Forthwith his people, broken and dismaid.
But favoured not by his foul destiny
Was that intention, provident and wise;
Which willed the fleet, from leaves of greenwood tree,
Produced upon the beach in wondrous guise,
That, bound for France, now ploughed the foaming sea,
Should meet the king at night; that from surprise
In that dark, dismal hour, amid his crew
Worse panic and disorder might ensue.
Not yet to him have tidings been conveyed,
That squadrons of such force the billows plow:
Nor would he have believed in him who said,
A hundred barks had sprung from one small bough;
And hence for Africa the king had weighed,
Not fearing to encounter hostile prow;
Nor has he watchmen in his tops to spy,
And make report of what they hence descry.
`Twas so those ships, by England's peer supplied
To Dudon, manned with good and armed crew,
Which see that Moorish fleet at eventide,
And that strange armament forthwith pursue,
Assailed them unawares, and, far, and wide,
Among those barks their grappling-irons threw,
And linked by chains, to their opponents clung,
When known for Moors and foemen by their tongue.
In bearing down, impelled by winds that blow
Propitious to the Danish chief's intent,
Those weighty ships so shocked the paynim foe,
That many vessels to the bottom went;
Then, taxing wits and hands, to work them woe,
Them with fire, sword, and stones the Christians shent;
Which on their ships in such wide ruin pour,
Like tempest never vext the sea before.
Bold Dudon's men, to whom unwonted might
And daring was imparted from on high,
(Since the hour was come the paynims to requite
For more than one ill deed,) from far and nigh,
The Moors so pestilently gall and smite,
Agramant finds no shelter; from the sky
Above, thick clouds of whistling arrows strike;
Around gleam hook and hatchet, sword and pike.
The king hears huge and heavy stones descend,
From charged machine or thundering engine sent,
Which, falling, poop and prow and broadside rend,
Opening to ravening seas a mighty vent;
And more than all the furious fires offend,
Fires that are quickly kindled, slowly spent,
The wretched crews would fain that danger shun,
And ever into direr peril run.
One headlong plunged, pursued by fire and sword,
And perished mid the waters, one who wrought
Faster with arms and feet, his passage oared
To other barque, already overfraught:
But she repulsed the wretch that fain would board;
Whose hand, which too importunately sought
To clamber, grasped the side, while his lopt arm
And body stained the wave with life-blood warm.
Him, that to save his life i' the waters thought,
Or, at the worst, to perish with less pain,
(Since swimming profited the caitiff nought,
And he perceived his strength and courage drain)
To the hungry fires from which the refuge sought,
The fear of drowning hurries back again:
He grasps a burning plank, and in the dread
Of dying either death, by both is sped.
This vainly to the sea resorts, whom spear
Or hatchet, brandished close at hand, dismay;
For stone or arrow following in his rear,
Permit the craven to make little way.
But haply, while it yet delights your ear,
'Twere well and wisely done to end my lay,
Rather than harp upon the theme so long
As to annoy you with a tedious song.
To fly the royal Agramant is fain,
And sees Biserta burning far away;
But landing finds the royal Sericane,
Who of his faith gives goodly warrant; they
Defy Orlando, backed by champions twain;
Whom bold Gradasso firmly trusts to slay.
For seven kings' sake, fast prisoners to their foes,
Rogero and the Dane exchange rude blows.
The diverse chances of that sea-fight dread,
Here to rehearse would take a weary while;
And to discourse to you upon this head,
Great son of Hercules, were to Samos' isle
To carry earthen vessels, as 'tis said,
To Athens owls, and crocodiles the Nile.
In that, my lord, by what is vouched to me,
Such things you saw, such things made others see.
Your faithful people gazed on a long show,
That night and day, wherein they crowded stood,
As in a theatre, and hemmed on Po
Twixt fire and sword, the hostile navies viewed.
What outcries may be heard, what sounds of woe,
How rivers may run red with human blood,
In suchlike combat, in how many a mode
Men die, you saw, and you to many showed.
I saw not, I, who was compelled to course,
Evermore changing nags, six days before,
To Rome, in heat and haste, some helpful force
Of him our mighty pastor to implore.
But, after, need was none of foot or horse,
For so the lion's beak and claws you tore,
From that day unto this I hear not said
That he more trouble in your land has bread.
But Trotto, present at this victory,
Afranio, Moro, Albert, Hannibal,
Zerbinat, Bagno, the Ariostos three,
Assured me of the mighty feat withal,
Certified after by that ensignry,
Suspended from the holy temple's wall,
And fifteen galleys at our river-side,
Which with a thousand captive barks I spied.
He that those wrecks and blazing fires discerned,
And such sore slaughter, under different shows,
Which -- venging us for hall and palace burned --
While bark remained, raged wide among the foes,
Might also deem how Africk's people mourned,
With Agramant, mid diverse deaths and woes,
On that dark night, when the redouted Dane
Assaulted in mid sea the Moorish train.
'Twas night, nor gleam was anywhere descried,
When first the fleets in furious strife were blended;
But when lit sulphur, pitch and tar from side
And poop and prow into the sky ascended,
And the destructive wild-fire, scattered wide,
Fed upon ship and shallop ill defended,
The things about them all descried so clear
That night was changed to day, as 'twould appear.
Hence Agramant, that by the dark deceived,
Had rated not so high the foes' array,
Nor to encounter such a force believed,
But would, if 'twere opposed, at last give way,
When that wide darkness cleared, and he perceived
(What least he weened upon the first affray)
That twice as many were the ships he fought,
As his own Moorish barks, took other thought.
Into a boat he with some few descends,
Brigliador and some precious things, to flee;
And so, twixt ship and ship, in silence wends,
Until he finds himself in safer sea,
Far from his own; whom fiery Dudon shends,
Reduced to sad and sore extremity;
Them steel destroys, fires burn, and waters drown;
While he, that mighty slaughter's cause, is flown.
Agramant flies, and with him old Sobrine,
Agramant grieving he had not believed,
What time that sage foresaw with eye divine,
And told the woe wherewith he is aggrieved.
But turn me to the valiant paladine,
Who, before other aid can be received,
Counsels the duke Biserta to destroy;
That it no more may Christian France annoy.
And hence in public order was it said,
The camp should to its arms the third day stand;
For this, it was with many barks bested;
For all were placed not at the Dane's command.
That fleet the worthy Sansonetto led,
(As good a warrior he by sea as land)
Which a mile off the port, and overight
Biserta, now was anchored by the knight.
Orlando and the duke, like Christians true,
Which dare no danger without God for guide,
That fast and prayer be made their army through,
Ordain by proclamation to be cried;
And that upon the third day, when they view
The signal, all shall bown them, far and wide,
Biserta's royal city to attack,
Which they, when taken, doom to fire and sack.
And so, when now devoutly have been done
Vigil and vow, and holy prayer and fast,
Kin, friends, and those to one another known,
Together feast; who, when with glad repast
Their wasted bodies were refreshed, begun
To embrace and weep; and acts and speeches past,
Upon the banquet's close, amid those crews
Such as best friends, about to sever, use.
The holy priests within Biserta's wall,
Pray with their grieving people, and in tears,
Aye beat their bosoms, and for succour call
Upon their Mahomet, who nothing hears.
What vigils, offerings, and what gifts withal
Were promised silently, amid their fears!
What temples, statues, images were vowed,
In memory of their bitter woes, aloud!
And, when the cadi hath his blessing said,
The people arms and to the rampart hies.
As yet reposing in her Tithon's bed
Aurora was, and dusky were the skies;
When to their posts, their several troops to head,
Here Sansonetto, there Astolpho flies.
And when they hear Orlando's signal blown
Assault with furious force Biserta's town.
Washed by the sea, upon two quarters, were
The city walls, two stood on the dry shore,
Of a construction excellent and rare,
Wherein was seen the work of days of yore:
Of other bulwarks was the town nigh bare;
For since Branzardo there the sceptre bore;
Few masons at command, and little space
That monarch had to fortify the place.
The Nubian king is charged by England's peer,
With sling and arrow so the Moors to gall,
That none upon the works shall dare appear;
And that, protected by the ceaseless fall
Of stone and dart, in safety cavalier
And footman may approach the very wall;
Who loaded, some with plank, with rock-stone some,
And some with beam, or weightier burden, come.
This and that other thing the Nubians bore,
And by degrees filled-up that channel wide,
Whose waters were cut off the day before,
So that in many parts the ooze was spied.
Filled is the ditch in haste from shore to shore,
And forms a level to the further side.
Cheering the footmen on the works to mount,
Stand Olivier, Astolpho, and the Count.
The Nubian upon hope of gain intent,
Impatient of delay, nor heeding how
With pressing perils they were compassed, went
Protected by the sheltering boar and sow.
With battering ram, and other instrument,
To break the gate and make the turret bow,
Speedily to the city wall they post,
Nor unprovided find the paynim host.
For steel, and fire, and roof, and turret there,
In guise of tempest on the Nubians fell,
Which plank and beam from those dread engines tear,
Made for annoyance of the infidel.
In the ill beginning, and while dim the air,
Much injury the christened host befell;
But when the sun from his rich mansion breaks,
Fortune the faction of the Moor forsakes.
The assault is reinforced on every side,
By Count Orlando, both by sea and land:
The fleet, with Sansonetto for its guide,
Entered the harbour, and approached the strand;
And sorely they with various engines plied,
With arrows and with slings, the paynim band;
And sent the assailants scaling-ladder, spear,
And naval stores, and every needful gear.
Orlando, Oliviero, Brandimart,
And he, in air so daring heretofore,
Do fierce and furious battle on that part,
Which lies the furthest inland from the shore:
Each leads a portion of those Aethiops swart,
Ordered in equal bands beneath the four,
Who at the walls, the gateways, or elsewhere,
All give of prowess shining proofs and rare.
So better could be seen each warrior's claim,
That in confused in combat there and here.
Who of reward is worthy, who of shame,
To a thousand and to watchful eyes is clear.
Dragged upon wheels are towers of wooden frame,
And others well-trained elephants uprear,
Which so o'ertop the turrets of the foe,
Those bulwarks stand a mighty space below.
Brandimart to the walls a ladder brought,
Climbed, and to climb withal to others cried:
Many succeed, with bold assurance fraught,
For none can fear beneath so good a guide:
Nor was there one who marked, nor one who thought
Of marking, if such weight it would abide.
Brandimart only, on the foes intent,
Clambered and fought, and grasped a battlement.
Here clang with hand and foot the daring knight,
Sprang on the embattled wall, and whirled his sword;
And, showing mickle tokens of his might,
The paynims charged, o'erthrew, hewed down and gored:
But all at once, o'erburthened with that weight,
The ladder breaks beneath the assailing horde;
And, saving Brandimart, the Christians all
Into the ditch with headlong ruin fall.
Not therefore blenched the valiant cavalier,
Nor thought he of retreat, albeit was none
Of his own band that followed in his rear;
Although he was a mark for all the town.
Of many prayed, the warrior would not hear
The prayer to turn; but mid the foes leapt down;
I say, into the city took a leap,
Where the town-wall was thirty cubits deep.
He, without any harm on the hard ground,
As if on feathers or on straw, did light;
And, like cloth shred and shorn, the paynims round
In fury shreds and shears the valiant knight.
Now springs on these, now those, with vigorous bound;
And these and those betake themselves to flight.
They that without have seen the leap he made,
Too late to save him deem all human aid.
Throughout the squadrons a deep rumour flew,
A murmur and a whisper, there and here,
From mouth to mouth, the Fame by motion grew,
And told and magnified the tale of fear:
For upon many quarters stormed that crew,
Where good Orlando was, where Olivier,
Where Otho's son, she flew on pinions light,
Nor ever paused upon her nimble flight.
Those warriors, and Orlando most of all,
Who love and prize the gentle Brandimart,
Hearing, should they defy upon that call,
They would from so renowned a comrade part,
Their scaling-ladders plant, and mount the wall
With rivalry, which shows the kingly heart;
Who carry all such terror in their look,
That, at the very sight, their foemen shook.
As on loud ocean, lashed by boisterous gale
The billows the rash bark assault, and still --
Now threatening poop, now threatening prow -- assail,
And, in their rage and fury, fain would fill;
The pilot sighs and groans, dismaid and pale,
-- He that should aid, and has not heart or skill --
At length a surge the pinnace sweeps and swallows,
And wave on wave in long succession follows;
Thus when those win the wall, they leave a space
So wide, that who beneath their conduct go,
Safely may follow them; for at its base,
A thousand ladders have been reared below.
Meanwhile the battering rams, in many a place,
Have breached that wall, and with such mighty blow,
The bold assailant can, from many a part,
Bear succour to the gallant Brandimart.
Even with that rage wherewith the stream that reigns,
The king of rivers -- when he breaks his mound,
And makes himself a way through Mantuan plains --
The greasy furrows and glad harvests, round,
And, with the sheepcotes, flock, and dogs and swains
Bears off, in his o'erwhelming waters drowned;
Over the elm's high top the fishes glide,
Where fowls erewhile their nimble pinions plied;
Even with that rage rushed in the impetuous band,
Where many breaches in the wall were wrought,
To slay with burning torch and trenchant brand,
That people, which to evil pass were brought.
Murder and rapine there, and violent hand
Dipt deep in blood and plunder, in a thought,
Destroy that sumptuous and triumphant town,
Which of all Africk wore the royal crown.
Filled with dead bodies of the paynim horde,
Blood issued from so many a gaping wound,
A fouler fosse was formed and worse to ford
Than girdles the infernal city round.
From house to house the fire in fury poured;
Mosque, portico, and palace, went to ground;
And spoiled and empty mansions with the clang,
Of beaten breast, and groan and outcry rang.
The victors, laden with their mighty prey,
From that unhappy city's gates are gone,
One with fair vase, and one with rich array,
Or silver plate from ancient altar won.
The mother this, that bore the child away;
Rapes and a thousand evil things were done.
Of much, and what they cannot hinder, hear
Renowned Orlando and fair England's peer.
By Olivier, amid that slaughter wide,
Fell Bucifaro of the paynim band;
And -- every hope and comfort cast aside --
Branzardo slew himself with his own brand;
Pierced with three wounds whereof he shortly died,
Folvo was taken by Astolpho's hand;
The monarchs three, intrusted to whose care
Agramant's African dominions were.
Agramant, who had left without a guide
His fleet this while, and with Sobrino fled,
Wept over his Biserta when he spied
Those fires that on the royal city fed.
When nearer now the king was certified,
How in that cruel strife his town had sped,
He thought of dying, and himself had slain,
But that Sobrino's words his arm restrain.
"What victory, my lord," (Sobrino cries)
"Could better than thy death the Christian cheer,
Whence he might hope to joy in quiet wise
Fair Africa, from all annoyance clear?
Thy being yet alive this hope denies;
Hence shall he evermore have cause for fear.
For well the foeman knows, save thou art gone,
He for short time will fill thine Africk throne.
"Thy subjects by thy death deprived will be
Of hope, the only good they have in store,
Thou, if thou liv'st, I trust, shalt set us free,
Redeem from trouble, and to joy restore.
Captives for ever, if thou diest, are we;
Africk is tributary evermore.
Although not for thyself, yet not to give
My liege, annoyance to thy followers, live.
"The soldan, he thy neighbour, will be won,
Surely with men and money thee to aid:
By him with evil eye King Pepin's son,
So strong in Africa, will be surveyed.
All efforts to restore thee to thy throne
By Norandine, thy kinsman, will be made.
Turk, Persian and Armenian, Arab, Mede,
If prayed, will all assist thee in thy need."
In such and such like words, with wary art,
With hope of quickly winning back his reign,
Sobrino soothed the king, while in his heart
He other thought perchance did entertain.
Well knows he to what pass, what evil mart
That lord is brought; how often sighs in vain,
Whoe'er foregoes the sceptre which he swayed,
And to barbarians hath recourse for aid.
Jugurtha, martial Hannibal, and more
In ancient times, good proof of this afford:
In our own era, Lewis, hight the Moor,
Delivered into other Lewis' ward.
Your brother, Duke Alphonso, wiser lore
Learned from their fate; -- I speak to you, my lord --
Wont them as very madmen to decry,
That more on others than themselves rely;
And therefore aye, throughout that warfare drear
Waged by the pontiff, in his fierce disdain,
Albeit upon his feeble powers the peer
Could ill depend, though from Italian plain
Was driven the friend that aided him whilere,
And by the foe possessed was Naples' reign,
He against menace, against promise steeled,
Ne'er to another would his dukedom yield.
Eastward King Agramant had turned his prow;
And seaward steered his bark, of Africk wide;
When from the land a wicked wind 'gan blow,
And took the reeling vessel on one side:
The master, seated at the helm, his brow
Raised towards heaven, and to the monarch cried:
"I see so fell and fierce a tempest form,
Our pinnace cannot face the pelting storm.
"If you, my lords, will listen to my lore,
An isle is on our left-hand; and to me
It seems that it were well to make that shore
Till overblown the tempest's fury be."
To his advice assents the royal Moor,
And makes the larboard land, from peril free;
Which, for the sailor's weal, when tempests rise,
'Twixt Vulcan's lofty forge and Africk lies.
With juniper and myrtle overgrown,
Of habitations is that islet bare;
A pleasing solitude; and where alone
Harbour wild stag and roebuck, deer and hare;
And, save to fishermen, is little known,
That oftentimes on the shorn brambles there
Hang their moist nets; meanwhile, untroubled sleep
The scaly fishes in their quiet deep.
Here other vessel, sheltered from the main,
They found, by tempest tost upon that land,
Which had conveyed the king of Sericane
Erewhile from Arles; on one and the other hand,
In reverent wise and worthy of the twain,
Those valiant kings embraced upon the strand:
For friends the monarchs were, and late before
The walls of Paris, arms together bore.
With much displeasure Sericana's knight
Heard by King Agramant his griefs displaid;
Then him consoled, and in his cause to fight,
Like courteous king, the kindly offer made:
But brooked nat, that to Egypt's people, light
And lacking faith, he should resort for aid.
"That thither it is perilous to wend,
Exiles (he said) are warned by Pompey's end.
"And for Senapus' Aethiopian crew
Have come beneath Astolpho, as ye show,
To wrest your fruitful Africa from you,
And burnt and laid her chiefest city low.
And with their squadrons is Orlando, who
Was wandering void of wit, short while ago,
The fittest cure for all, whereby to scape
Out of this trouble I, meseems, can shape.
"I, for your love, will undertake the quest,
The Count in single combat to appear;
He vainly would, I wot, with me contest,
If wholly made of copper or of steel.
I rate the Christian church, were he at rest,
As wolf rates lambs, when hungering for his meal.
Next have I thought how of the Nubian band
-- A brief and easy task -- to free your land.
"I will make other Nubians, they that hold
Another faith, divided by Nile's course,
And Arabs and Macrobians (rich in gold
And men are these, and those in herds of horse),
Chaldaean, Perse, and many more, controlled
By my good sceptre, in such mighty force,
Will make them war upon the Nubians' reign,
Those reavers shall not in your land remain."
Gradasso's second offer seemed to be
Most opportune to King Troyano's son;
And much he blest the chances of the sea,
Which him upon that desert isle had thrown:
Yet would not upon any pact agree,
-- Nay, not to repossess Biserta's town --
Gradasso should for him in fight contend;
Deeming too sore his honour 'twoud offend.
"If Roland is to be defied, more due
The battle is to me (that king replies)
I am prepared for it; and let God do
His will by me, in good or evil wise."
" -- Follow my mode; another mode and new,
Which comes into my mind" (Gradasso cries),
"Let both of us together wage this fight
Against Orlando and another knight."
"So not left out, I care not, if I be
The first or last (said Agramant): I know
In arms no better can I find than thee,
Though I should seek a comrade, high or low,
And what (Sobrino cried) becomes of me?
I should be more expert if old in show;
And evermore in peril it is good,
Force should have Counsel in his neighbourhood."
Stricken in years, yet vigorous was the sage,
And well had proved himself with sword and spear;
And said, he found himself in gray old age,
Such as in green and supple youth whilere.
They own his claim, and for an embassage
Forthwith a courier find, then bid him steer
For Africa, where camped the Christians lie,
And Count Orlando on their part defy;
With equal number of armed knights to be,
Matching his foes, on Lampedosa's shore;
Where on all quarters that circumfluent sea,
By which they are inisled, is heard to roar.
The paynim messenger unceasingly,
Like one in needful haste, used sail and oar,
Till he found Roland in Biserta, where
The host beneath his eye their plunder share.
From those three monarchs to the cavalier
The invitation was in public told;
So pleasing to Anglante's valiant peer,
To the herald he was liberal of his gold:
From his companions had he heard whilere
That Durindane was in Gradasso's hold:
Hence, to retrieve that faulchion from the foe,
To India had the Count resolved to go:
Deeming he should not find that king elsewhere,
Who, so he heard, had sailed from the French shore.
A nearer place is offered now; and there
He hopes Gradasso shall his prize restore;
Moved also by Almontes' bugle rare,
To accept the challenge which the herald bore;
Nor less by Brigliadoro; since he knew
In Agramant's possession were the two.
He chose for his companions in the fight
The faithful Brandimart and Olivier:
Well has he proved the one and the other's might;
Knows he alike to both is passing dear.
Good horses and good armour seeks the knight
And goodly swords and lances, far and near,
For him and his; meseems to you is known
How none of those three warriors had his own.
Orlando (as I oft have certified)
In fury, his had scattered wide and far;
Rodomont took the others', which beside
The river, locked in that high turret are.
Few throughout Africa could they provide;
As well because to France, in that long war,
King Agramant had born away the best,
As because Africa but few possest.
What could be had of armour, rusted o'er
And brown with age, Orlando bids unite;
Meanwhile with his companions on the shore,
He walks, discoursing on the future fight.
So wandering from their camp three miles and more,
It chanced that, turning towards the sea their sight,
Under full sail approaching, they descried
A helmless barque, with nought her course to guide.
She, without pilot, without crew, alone,
As wind and fortune ordered it, was bound:
The vessel neared the shore, with sails full-blown,
Furrowing the waves, until she took the ground.
But ere of these three warriors more be shown,
The love wherewith I to the Child am bound,
To his story brings me back, and bids record
What past 'twixt him and Clermont's warlike lord.
I spake of that good pair of warriors, who
Had both retreated from the martial fray,
Beholding pact and treaty broken through,
And every troop and band in disarray.
Which leader to his oath was first untrue,
And was occasion of such evil, they
Study to learn of all the passing train;
King Agramant or the Emperor Charlemagne.
Meanwhile a servant of the Child's, at hand,
-- Faithful, expert and wary was the wight,
Nor in the shock of either furious band,
Had ever of his warlike lord lost sight --
To bold Rogero bore his horse and brand,
That he might aid his comrades now in flight.
Rogero backed the steed and grasped the sword;
But not in battle mixed that martial lord.
Thence he departed; but he first renewed
His compact with Montalban's knight -- that so
His Agramant convinced of perjury stood --
Him and his evil sect he would forego.
That day no further feats of hardihood
Rogero will perform against the foe:
He but demands of all that make for Arles,
Who first broke faith, King Agramant or Charles?
From all he hears repeated, far and near,
That Agramant had broke the promise plight:
He loves that king, and from his side to veer,
For this, believes would be no error light.
The Moors were broke and scattered (this whilere
Has been rehearsed) and from the giddy height
Of HER revolving wheel were downward hurled,
Who at her pleasure rolls this nether world.
Rogero ponders if he should remain,
Or rather should his sovereign lord attend:
Love for his lady fits him with a rein
And bit, which lets him not to Africk wend;
Wheels him, and to a counter course again
Spurs him, and threats his restive mood to shend,
Save he maintains the treaty, and the troth
Pledged to the paladin with solemn oath.
A wakeful, stinging care, on the other side
Scourges and goads no less the cavalier;
Lest, if he now from Agramant divide,
He should be taxed with baseness or with fear.
If many deem it well he should abide,
To many and many it would ill appear:
Many would say, that oaths unbinding are,
Which 'tis unlawful and unjust to swear.
He all that day and the ensuing night
Remains alone, and so the following day;
Forever sifting in his doubtful sprite,
If it be better to depart or stay:
Lastly for Agramant decides the knight;
To him in Africk will he wend his way:
Moved by his love for his liege-lady sore,
But moved by honour and by duty more.
He made for Arles, where yet he hoped would ride
The fleet which him to Africa might bear;
Nor in the port nor offing ships espied,
Nor Saracens save dead beheld he there.
For Agramant had swept the roadstead wide,
And burnt what vessels in the haven were.
Rogero takes the road, when his hope fails,
Along the sea-beat shore toward Marseilles.
Upon some boat he hoped to lay his hand,
Which him for love or force should thence convey.
Already Ogier's son had made the land,
With the barbarians' fleet, his captive prey.
You could not there have cast a grain of sand
Between those vessels; moored closely lay
The mighty squadrons to that harbour brought,
With conquerors these, and those with prisoners fraught.
The vessels of the Moor that were not made
The food of fire and water on that night
(Saving some few that fled) were all conveyed
Safe to Marseilles by the victorious knight
Seven of those kings, that Moorish sceptres swayed,
Who, having seen their squadron put to flight,
With their seven ships had yielded to the foe,
Stood mute and weeping, overwhelmed with woe.
Dudon had issued forth upon dry land,
Bent to find Charlemagne that very day;
And of the Moorish spoil and captive band
Made in triumphal pomp a long display.
The prisoners all were ranged upon the strand,
And round them stood their Nubian victors gay;
Who, shouting in his praise, with loud acclaim,
Made all that region ring with Dudon's name.
Rogero, when from far the ships he spied,
Believed they were the fleet of Agramant,
And, to know further, pricked his courser's side;
Then, nearer, mid those knights of mickle vaunt,
Nasamon's king a prisoner he desired,
Agricalt, Bambirago, Farurant,
Balastro, Manilardo, and Rimedont;
Who stood with weeping eyes and drooping front.
In their unhappy state to leave that crew
The Child, who loved those monarchs, cannot bear;
That useless is the empty hand he knew;
That where force is not, little profits prayer.
He couched his lance, their keeper overthrew,
Then proved his wonted might with faulchion bare;
And in a moment stretched upon the strand
Above a hundred of the Nubian band.
The noise Sir Dudon hears, the slaughter spies,
But knows not who the stranger cavalier:
He marks how, put to rout, his people flies;
With anguish, with lament and mighty fear;
Quickly for courser, shield, and helmet cries,
(Bosom, and arms, and thighs, were mailed whilere)
Leaps on his horse, nor -- having seized his lance --
Forgets he is a paladin of France.
He called on every one to stand aside,
And with the galling spur his courser prest;
Meanwhile a hundred other foes have died,
And filled with hope was every prisoner's breast;
And as Rogero holy Dudon spied
Approach on horseback, (footmen were the rest,)
Esteeming him their head, he charged the knight,
Impelled by huge desire to prove his might.
Already, on his part, had moved the Dane;
But when he saw the Child without a spear,
He flang is own far from him, in disdain
To take such vantage of the cavalier.
Admiring at Sir Dudon's courteous vein,
"Belie himself he cannot," said the peer,
"And of those perfect warriors must be one
That as the paladins of France are known.
"If I my will can compass, he shall shew
His name, to me, ere further deed be done."
He made demand; and in the stranger knew
Dudon, the Danish Ogier's valiant son:
He from Rogero claimed an equal due,
And from the Child as courteous answer won.
-- Their names on either side announced -- the foes
A bold defiance speak, and come to blows.
Bold Dudon had with him that iron mace,
Which won him deathless fame in many a fight:
Wherewith he proved him fully of the race
Of that good Danish warrior, famed for might.
That best of faulchions, which through iron case
Of cuirass or of casque was wont to bite,
Youthful Rogero from the scabbard snatched,
And with the martial Dane his valour matched.
But for the gentle youth was ever willed
To offend his lady-love the least he could,
And knew he should offend her, if he spilled,
In that disastrous battle, Dudon's blood
(Well in the lineage of French houses skilled
He wist of Beatrice's sisterhood,
-- Bradamant's mother she -- with Armelline,
The mother of the Danish paladine).
He therefore never thrust in that affray,
And rarely smote an edge on plate and chain.
Now warding off the mace, now giving way,
Before the fall of that descending bane.
Turpin believes it in Rogero lay
Sir Dudon in few sword-strokes to have slain.
Yet never when the Dane his guard foregoes,
Save on the faulchion's flat descend the blows.
The flat as featly as the edge he plies,
Of that good faulchion forged of stubborn grain;
And, at strange blindman's bluff, in weary wise,
Hammers on Dudon with such might and main,
He often dazzles so the warrior's eyes,
That hardly he his saddle can maintain.
But to win better audience for my rhyme,
My canto I defer to other time.
His prisoners to the Child the Danish peer
Consigns, who, homeward bound, are wrecked at sea;
By swimming he escapes, and a sincere
And faithful servant now of Christ is he.
Meanwhile bold Brandimart, and Olivier,
And Roland fiercely charge the hostile three.
Sobrino is left wounded in the strife;
Gradasso and Agramant deprived of life.
The odour which well-fashioned bear or hair,
Of that which find and dainty raiment steeps
Of gentle stripling, or of damsel fair,
-- Who often love awakens, as she weeps --
If it ooze forth and scent the ambient air,
And which for many a day its virtue keeps,
Well shows, by manifest effects and sure,
How perfect was its first perfume and pure.
The drink that to his cost good Icarus drew
Of yore his sun-burned sicklemen to cheer,
And which ('tis said) lured Celts and Boi through
Our Alpine hills, untouched by toil whilere,
Well shows that cordial was the draught, when new;
Since it preserves its virtue through the year.
The tree to which its wintry foliage cleaves,
Well shows that verdant were its spring tide leaves.
The famous lineage, for so many years
Of courtesy the great and lasting light,
Which ever, brightening as it burns, appears
To shine and flame more clearly to the sight,
Well proves the sire of Este's noble peers
Must, amid mortals, have shone forth as bright
In all fair gifts which raise men to the sky,
As the glad sun mid glittering orbs on high.
As in his every other feat exprest,
Rogero's valiant mind and courteous lore
Were showed by tokens clear and manifest,
And his high mindedness shone more and more;
-- So toward the Dane those virtues stood confest,
With whom (as I rehearsed to you before)
He had belied his mighty strength and breath;
For pity loth to put that lord to death.
The Danish warrior was well certified,
No wish to slay him had the youthful knight,
Who spared him now, when open was his side;
Now, when so wearied he no more could smite.
When finally he knew, and plain descried
Rogero scrupled to put forth his might,
If with less vigour and less prowess steeled,
At least in courtesy he would not yield.
"Pardi, sir, make we peace;" (he said) "success
In this contention cannot fall to me --
Cannot be mine; for I myself confess
Conquered and captive to thy courtesy."
To him Rogero answered, "And no less
I covet peace, than 'tis desired by thee.
But this upon condition, that those seven
Are freed from bondage, and to me are given."
With that he showed those seven whereof I spake,
Bound and with drooping heads, a sad array;
Adding, he must to him no hindrance make,
Who would those kings to Africa convey.
And Dudon thus allowed the Child to take
Those seven, and him allowed to bear away
A bark as well; what likes him best he chooses,
Amid those vessels, and for Africk looses.
He looses bark and sail; and in bold wise
Trusting the fickle wind, to seaward stood.
At first on her due course the vessel flies,
And fills the pilot full of hardihood.
The beach retreats, and from the sailors' eyes
So fades, the sea appears a shoreless flood.
Upon the darkening of the day, the wind
Displays its fickle and perfidious kind.
It shifts from poop to beam, from beam to prow,
And even there short season doth remain:
The reeling ship confounds the pilot; now
Struck fore, now aft, now on her beam again.
Threatening the billows rise, with haughty brow,
And Neptune's white herd lows above the main.
As many deaths appear to daunt that rout,
As waves which beat their troubled bark about.
Now blows the wind in front, and now in rear,
And drives this wave an-end, that other back;
Others the reeling vessel's side o'erpeer;
And every billow threatens equal wrack.
The pilot sighs, confused and pale with fear;
Vainly he calls aloud to shift the tack,
To strike or jibe the yard; and with his hand,
Signs to the crew the thing he would command.
But sound or signal little boots; the eye
Sees not amid the dim and rainy night;
The voice unheard ascends into the sky, --
The sky, which with a louder larum smite
The troubled sailors' universal cry,
And roar of waters, which together fight.
Unheard is every hest, above, below,
Starboard or larboard, upon poop or prow.
In the strained tackle sounds a hollow roar,
Wherein the struggling wind its fury breaks;
The forked lightning flashes evermore,
With fearful thunder heaven's wide concave shakes.
One to the rudder runs, one grasps an oar;
Each to his several office him betakes.
One will make fast, another will let go;
Water into the water others throw.
Lo! howling horribly, the sounding blast,
Which Boreas in his sudden fury blows,
Scourges with tattered sail the reeling mast:
Almost as high as heaven the water flows:
The oars are broken; and so fell and fast
That tempest pelts, the prow to leeward goes;
And the ungoverned vessel's battered side
Is undefended from the foaming tide.
Fallen on her starboard side, on her beam ends,
About to turn keel uppermost, she lies.
Meanwhile, his soul to Heaven each recommends,
Surer than sure to sink, with piteous cries.
Scathe upon scathe malicious Fortune sends,
And when one woe is weathered, others rise.
O'erstrained, the vessel splits; and through her seams
In many a part the hostile water streams.
A fierce assault and cruel coil doth keep
Upon all sides that wintry tempest fell.
Now to their sight so high the billows leap,
It seems that these to heaven above would swell;
Now, plunging with the wave, they sink so deep,
That they appear to spy the gulfs of hell.
Small hope there is or none: with faultering breath
They gaze upon inevitable death.
On a despiteous sea, that livelong night,
They drifted, as the wind in fury blew.
The furious wind that with the dawning light
Should have abated, gathered force anew.
Lo! a bare rock, ahead, appears in sight,
Which vainly would the wretched band eschew;
Whom towards that cliff, in their despite, impel
The raging tempest and the roaring swell.
Three times and four the pale-faced pilot wrought
The tiller with a vigorous push to sway;
And for the bark a surer passage sought:
But the waves snapt and bore the helm away.
To lower, or ease the bellying canvas aught
The sailors had no power; nor time had they
To mend that ill, or counsel what was best;
For them too hard the mortal peril prest.
Perceiving now that nothing can defend
Their bark from wreck on that rude rock and bare,
All to their private aims alone attend,
And only to preserve their life have care.
Who quickest can, into the skiff descend;
But in a thought so overcrowded are,
Through those so many who invade the boat,
That, gunwale-deep, she scarce remains afloat.
Rogero, on beholding master, mate,
And men abandoning the ship with speed,
In doublet, as he is, sans mail and plate,
Hopes in the skiff, a refuge in that need:
But finds her overcharged with such a weight,
And afterwards so many more succeed,
That the o'erwhelming wave the pinnace drown,
And she with all her wretched freight goes down;
Goes down, and, foundering, drags with her whoe'er
Leaving the larger bark, on her relies.
Then doleful shrieks are heard, 'mid sob and tear,
Calling for succour on unpitying skies:
But for short space that shrilling cry they rear;
For, swoln with rage and scorn, the waters rise,
And in a moment wholly stop the vent
Whence issues that sad clamour and lament.
One sinks outright, no more to reappear;
Some rise, and bounding with the billows go:
Their course, with head uplifted, others steer;
An arm, an unshod leg, those others show:
Rogero, who the tempest will not fear,
Springs upward to the surface from below;
And little distant sees that rock, in vain
Eschewed by him and his attendant train.
Himself with hands and feet the warrior rows,
Hoping by force thereof to win the shore;
Breast boldly the importunate flood, and blows
With his unwearied breath the foam before.
Waxing meanwhile, the troubled water rose,
And from the rock the abandoned vessel bore;
Quitted of those unhappy men, who die
(So curst their lot) the death from which they fly.
Alas! for man's deceitful thoughts and blind!
The ship escaped from wreck, where hope was none;
When master and when men their charge resigned,
And let the vessel without guidance run.
It would appear the wind has changed its mind,
On seeing all that sailed in her are gone;
And blows the vessel from those shallows free,
Through better course, into a safer sea.
She, having drifted wildly with her guide,
Without him, made directly Africk's strand,
Two or three miles of waste Biserta wide,
Upon the quarter facing Egypt's land;
And, as the sea went down and the wind died,
Stood bedded in that weary waste of sand.
Now thither Roland roved, who paced the shore;
As I in other strain rehearsed before;
And willing to discover if alone,
Laden, or light, the stranded vessel were,
He, Olivier, and Monodantes' son,
Aboard her in a shallow bark repair:
Beneath the hatchways they descend, but none
Of human kind they see; and only there
Find good Frontino, with the trenchant sword
And gallant armour of his youthful lord;
Who was so hurried in his hasty flight
He had not even time to take his sword;
To Orlando known; which, Balisardo hight,
Was his erewhile; the tale's upon record,
And ye have read it all, as well I wite;
How Falerina lost it to that lord,
When waste as well her beauteous bowers he laid;
And how from him Brunello stole the blade;
And how beneath Carena, on the plain
Brunello on Rogero this bestowed.
How matchless was that faulchion's edge and grain,
To him experience had already showed;
I say, Orlando; who was therefore fain,
And to heaven's king with grateful thanks o'erflowed;
And deemed, and often afterwards so said,
Heaven for such pressing need had sent the blade:
Such pressing need, in that he had to fight
With the redoubted king of Sericane;
And knew that he, besides his fearful might,
Was lord of Bayard and of Durindane.
Not knowing them, Anglantes' valiant knight
So highly rated not the plate and chain
As he that these had proved: they valour were,
But valued less as good than rich and fair;
And, for of harness he had little need,
Charmed, and against all weapons fortified,
To Olivier he left the warlike weed:
Not so the sword; which to his waist he tied:
To Brandimart Orlando gave the steed:
Thus equally that spoil would he divide
With his companions twain, in equal share,
Who partners in that rich discovery were.
Against the day of fight, in goodly gear
And new, those warriors seek their limbs to deck.
Blazoned upon Orlando's shield appear
The burning bold and lofty Babel's wreck.
A lyme-dog argent bears Sir Olivier,
Couchant, and with the leash upon his neck:
The motto; TILL HE COMES: In gilded vest
And worthy of himself he will be drest.
Bold Brandimart designed upon the day
Of battle, for his royal father's sake,
And his own honour, no device more gay
Than a dim surcoat to the field to take.
By gentle Flordelice for that dark array,
Was wrought the fairest facing she could make.
With costly jewels was the border sown;
Sable the vest, and of one piece alone.
With her own hand the lady wrought that vest,
Becoming well the finest plate and chain,
Wherein the valiant warrior should be drest,
And cloak his courser's croup and chest and mane:
But, from that day when she herself addrest
Unto this task, till ended was her pain,
She showed no sign of gladness; nor this while,
Nor after, was she ever seen to smile.
The heartfelt fear, the torment evermore
Of losing Brandimart the dame pursued.
She him whilere a hundred times and more
Engaged in fierce and fearful fight had viewed;
Nor ever suchlike terror heretofore
Had blanched her cheek and froze her youthful blood;
And this new sense of fear increased her trouble,
And made the trembling lady's heart beat double.
The warriors to the wind their canvas rear,
When point device the three accoutred are.
Bold Sansonet is left, with England's peer,
Intrusted with the faithful army's care.
Flordelice, pricked at heart with cruel fear,
Filling the heavens with vow, lament and prayer,
As far as they by sight can followed be,
Follows their sails upon the foaming sea.
Scarce, with much labour, the two captains led
Her, gazing on the waters, from the shore,
And to the palace drew, where on her bed
They left the lady, grieved and trembling sore.
Meanwhile upon their quest those others sped,
Whom mercy wind and weather seaward bore.
Their vessel made that island on the right;
The field appointed for so fell a fight.
Orlando disembarks, with his array,
His kinsman Olivier and Brandimart;
Who on the side which fronts the eastern ray,
Encamp them, and not haply without art.
King Agramant arrives that very day,
And tents him on the contrary part.
But for the sun is sinking fast, forborne
Is their encounter till the following morn.
Until the skies the dawning light receive,
Armed servants keep their watch both there and here.
The valiant Brandimart resorts that eve
Thitherward, where their tents the paynims rear;
And parleys, by this noble leader's leave,
With Agramant; for they were friends whilere;
And, underneath the banner of the Moor,
He into France had passed from Africk's shore.
After salutes, and joining hand with hand,
Fair reasons, as a friend, the faithful knight
Pressed on the leader of the paynim band
Why he should not the appointed battle fight;
And every town -- restored to his command --
Laying 'twixt Nile and Calpe's rocky height,
Vowed he, with Roland's license, should receive,
If upon Mary's Son he would believe.
He said: "For loved you were, and are by me,
This counsel give I; that I deem it sane,
Since I pursue it, you assured must be:
Mahound I hold but as an idol vain;
In Jesus Christ, the living God I see,
And to conduct you in my way were fain;
I' the way of safety fain would have you move
With me and all those others that I love.
"In this consists your welfare; counsel none
Save this, in your disaster, can avail;
And, of all counsels least, good Milo's son
To meet in combat, clad in plate and mail;
In that the profit, if the field be won,
Weighs not against the loss, in equal scale.
If you be conqueror, little gain ensues,
Yet little loss results not, if you lose.
"Were good Orlando and we others slain,
Banded with him to conquer or to die;
Wherefore, through this, ye should your lost domain
Acquire anew, forsooth, I see not, I;
Nor is there reason hope to entertain
That, if we lifeless on the champaigne lie,
Men should be wanting in King Charles's host
To guard in Africa his paltriest post."
Thus Brandimart to Afick's cavalier;
And much would have subjoined; but, on his side,
That knight, with angry voice and haughty cheer,
The pagan interrupted, and replied:
" `Tis sure temerity and madness sheer
Moves you and whatsoever wight beside,
That counsels matter, be it good or ill,
Uncalled a counsellor's duty to fulfil;
"And how to think, from love those counsels flow
Which once you bore and bear me, as you say,
(To speak the very truth) I do not know,
Who with Orlando see you here, this day.
I ween that, knowing you are doomed to woe,
And marked for the devouring dragon's prey,
Ye all mankind would drag to nether hell,
In your eternity of pains to dwell.
"If I shall win or lose, remount my throne,
Or pass my future days in exile drear,
God only knows, whose purpose is unknown
To me, in turn, or to Anglantes' peer.
Befall what may, by me shall nought be done
Unworthy of a king, through shameful fear.
If death must be my certain portion, I,
Rather than wrong my princely blood, will die.
"Ye may depart, who, save ye better play
The warrior, in to-morrow's listed fight,
Then ye have plaid the embassador to-day,
In arms will second ill Anglantes' knight."
Agramant ended so his furious say;
-- His angry bosom boiling with despite.
So said -- the warriors parted, to repose,
Till from the neighbouring sea the day arose.
When the first whitening of the dawn was seen,
Armed, in a moment leapt on horseback all;
Short parley past the puissant foes between.
There was no stop; there was no interval;
For they have laid in rest their lances keen:
But I into too foul a fault should fall
Meseems, my lord, if, while their deeds I tell
I let Rogero perish in the swell.
Cleaving the flood with nimble hands and feet
He swims, amid the horrid surges' roar,
On him the threatening wind and tempest beat,
But him his harassed conscience vexes more.
Christ's wrath he fears; and, since in waters sweet
(When time and fair occasion served of yore)
He, in his folly, baptism little prized,
Fears in these bitter waves to be baptized.
Those many promises remembered are
Whereby he to his lady-love was tied,
Those oaths which sworn to good Rinaldo were,
And were in nought fulfilled upon his side.
To God, in hope that he would hear and spare,
That he repented, oftentimes he cried,
And, should he land, and scape that mortal scaith,
To be a Christian, vowed in heart and faith;
And ne'er, in succour of the Moorish train,
With sword or lance, the faithful to offend;
And into France, where he to Charlemagne
Would render honour due, forthwith to wend;
Nor Bradamant with idle words again
To cheat, but bring his love to honest end.
A miracle it is that, as he vows,
He swims more lightly and his vigour grows.
His vigour grows; unwearied is his mind;
And still his arms from him the billow throw,
This billow followed fast by that behind;
Whereof one lifts him high, one sinks him low.
Rising and falling, vext by wave and wind,
So gains the Child that shore with labour slow;
And where the rocky hill slopes seaward most,
All drenched and dropping, climbs the rugged coast.
All the others that had plunged into the flood
In the end, o'erwhelmed by those wild waters died.
Rogero, as to Providence seemed good,
Mounted the solitary islet's side.
When safe upon the barren rock he stood,
A new alarm the stripling terrified;
To be within those narrow bounds confined,
And die, with hardship and with hunger pined.
Yet he with an unconquered heart, intent
To suffer what the heavens for him ordained,
O'er those hard stones, against that steep ascent,
Towards the top with feet intrepid strained;
And not a hundred yards had gone, when, bent
With years, and with long fast and vigil stained,
He worthy of much worship one espied,
In hermit's weed, descend the mountain's side;
Who cries, on his approaching him, "Saul, Saul,
Why persecutest thou my faithful seed?"
As whilom said the Saviour to Saint Paul,
When (blessed stroke!) he smote him from his steed.
"Thou thought'st to pass the sea, nor pay withal;
Thought'st to defraud the pilot of his meed.
Thou seest that God has arms to reach and smite,
When farthest off thou deem'st that God of might."
And he, that holiest anchoret, pursued,
To whom the night foregoing God did send
A vision, as he slumbered, and foreshewed
How, thither by his aid the Child should wend;
Wherein his past and future life, reviewed,
Were seen, as well as his unhappy end;
And sons, and grandsons, and his every heir,
Fully revealed to that good hermit were.
That anchoret pursues, and does upbraid
Rogero first, and comforts finally:
Upbraideth him, because he had delaid
Beneath that easy yoke to bend the knee;
And what he should have done, when whilom prayed
And called of Christ -- then uncompelled and free --
Had done with little grace; nor turned to God
Until he saw him threatening with the rod.
Then comforts him -- that Christ aye heaven allows
To them, that late or early heaven desire;
And all those labourers of the Gospel shows,
Paid by the vineyard's lord with equal hire.
With charity and warm devotion glows,
And him instructs the venerable sire,
As toward the rocky cell where he resides
He with weak steps and slow Rogero guides.
Above that hallowed cell, on the hill's brow,
A little church receives the rising day;
Commodious is the fane and fair enow;
Thence to the beach descends a thicket gray,
Where fertile and fruit-bearing palm-trees blow,
Myrtle, and lowly juniper, and bay,
Evermore threaded by a limpid fountain,
Which falls with ceaseless murmur from the mountain.
'Twas well nigh forty years, since on that stone
The goodly friar had fixed his quiet seat;
Which, there to live a holy life, alone,
For him the Saviour chose, as harbourage meet.
Pure water was his drink, and, plucked from one,
Or the other plant, wild berries were his meat;
And hearty and robust, of ailments clear,
The holy man had reached his eightieth year.
That hermit lit a fire, and heaped the board
With different fruits, within his small repair;
Wherewith the Child somedeal his strength restored,
When he had dried his clothes and dripping hair.
After, at better ease, to him God's word
And mysteries of our faith expounded were;
And the day following, in his fountain clear,
That anchoret baptized the cavalier.
There dwells the young Rogero, well content
With what the rugged sojourn does allow;
In that the friar showed shortly his intent
To send him where he fain would turn his prow.
Meanwhile with him he many an argument
Handles and often; of God's kingdom now;
Now of things appertaining to his case;
Now to Rogero's blood, a future race.
The Lord, that every thing doth see and hear,
Had to that holiest anchoret bewrayed,
How he should not exceed the seventh year,
Dating from when he was a Christian made;
Who for the death of Pinabel whilere,
(His lady's deed, but on Rogero laid)
As well as Bertolagi's, should be slain
By false Maganza's ill and impious train;
And, how that treason should be smothered so,
No sign thereof should outwardly appear;
For where that evil people dealt the blow,
They should entomb the youthful cavalier.
For this should vengeance follow, albeit slow,
Dealt by his consort and his sister dear;
And how he by his wife should long be sought,
With weary womb, with heavy burden fraught,
'Twixt Brenta and Athesis, beneath those hills
(Which erst the good Antenor so contented,
With their sulphureous veins and liquid rills,
And mead, and field, with furrows glad indented,
That he for these left pools which Xanthus fills;
And Ida, and Ascanius long lamented,)
Till she a child should in the forests bear,
Which little distant from Ateste are;
And how the Child, in might and beauty grown,
That, like his sire, Rogero shall be hight,
Those Trojans, as of Trojan lineage known,
Shall for their lord elect with solemn rite;
Who next by Charles (in succour of whose crown
Against the Lombards shall the stripling fight)
Of that fair land dominion shall obtain,
And the honoured title of a marquis gain;
And because Charles shall say in Latin `Este',
(That is -- be lords of the dominion round!)
Entitled in a future season Este
Shall with good omen be that beauteous ground;
And thus its ancient title of Ateste
Shall of its two first letters lose the sound.
God also to his servant had foresaid
The vengeance taken for Rogero's dead;
Who shall, in vision, to his consort true
Appear somedeal before the dawn of day;
And shall relate how him the traitor slew,
And where his body lies to her shall say.
She and Marphisa hence, those valiant two,
With fire and sword on earth shall Poictiers lay;
Nor shall his son, when of befitting age,
Less harm Maganza in his mighty rage.
On Azos, Alberts, Obysons, did dwell
That hermit hoar, and on their offspring bright;
Or Borso, Nicholas, and Leonel,
Alphonso, Hercules, and Hippolyte,
And. last of those, the gentle Isabel;
Then curbs his tongue and will no more recite.
He to Rogero what is fit reveals,
And what is fitting to conceal, conceals.
Meanwhile Orlando and bold Brandimart,
With that good knight, the Marquis Olivier,
Against the paynim Mars together start;
(Name well befitting Sericana's peer)
And the other two -- that from the adverse part,
At more than a foot-pace their coursers steer;
I say King Agramant and King Sobrine:
The pebbly beach resounds, and rolling brine.
When they encounter in mid field, pell-mell,
And to the sky flew every shivered lance,
At that loud noise, the sea was seen to swell,
At that loud noise, which echoed even to France.
Gradasso and Roland met as it befel;
And fairly balanced might appear the chance,
But for the vantage of Rinaldo's horse;
Which made Gradasso seem of greater force.
Baiardo shocked the steed of lesser might,
Backed by Orlando, with such might and main,
He made that courser stagger, left and right,
And measure next his length upon the plain:
Vainly to raise him strove Anglantes' knight,
Thrice, nay four times, with rowels and with rein;
Balked of his end, he lights upon the field,
Draws Balisarda, and uplifts his shield.
With Agramant encounters Olivier,
Who, fitly matched, their foaming coursers gall.
Bold Brandimart unhorsed in the career
Sobrino; but it was not plain withal
If 'twas the fault of horse or cavalier;
For seldom good Sobrino used to fall.
Was it his courser's or his own misdeed,
Sobrino found himself without a steed.
Now Brandimart, that upon earth descried
The king Sobrine, assailed no more his man;
But at Gradasso, who Anglantes' pride
Had equally unhorsed, in fury ran.
On Agramant and Oliviero's side,
Meanwhile the warfare stood as it began:
When broken on their bucklers were the spears,
With swords encountered the returning peers.
Roland who saw Gradasso in such guise,
As showed that to return he little cared,
-- Nor can return; so Brandimart aye plies,
And presses Sericana's monarch hard,
Turns round, and, like himself, afoot descries
Sobrino, in the doubtful strife unpaired:
At him he sprang; and, at his haughty look,
Heaven, as the warrior trod, in terror shook.
Foreseeing the assault with wary eye,
Prepared, and at close ward, behold the Moor!
As pilot against whom, now cresting nigh,
The threatening billow comes with hollow roar,
Towards it turns his prow, and, when so high
He views the sea, would gladly be ashore.
Sobrino rears his buckler, to withstand
The furious fall of Falerina's brand.
Of such fine steel was Balisarda's blade,
That arms against it little shelter were;
And by a person of such puissance swayed,
By Roland, singe in the world or rare,
It splits the shield, and is in nowise stayed,
Though bound about with steel the edges are:
It splits the shield, and to the bottom rends,
And on the shoulder underneath descends.
Upon the shoulder; nor, though twisted chain
And double plates encase the paynim foe,
These hinder much that sword of stubborn grain
From opening wide the parted flesh below.
Sobrino at Orlando smites; but vain
Against the valiant count is every blow;
To whom, for special grace, the King of heaven
A body charmed against all arms had given.
The valorous count, redoubling still his blows,
Thought from the trunk the monarch's head to smite.
Sobrino, who the strength of Clermont knows,
And how the shield ill boots, retired from fight,
Yet not so far, but that upon his brows
Fell the dread faulchion of Anglantes' knight:
'Twas on its flat, but such his might and main,
It crushed the helm and stupefied the brain.
Stunned by that furious stroke, he pressed the shore,
And it was long ere he again did rise.
The paladin believes the warfare o'er,
And that deprived of life Sobrino lies;
And, lest Gradasso to ill pass and sore
Should bring Sir Brandimart, at him he flies:
For him the paynim overmatched in horse,
In arms and faulchion, and perhaps in force.
Bold Brandimart, who guides Frontino's rein,
The goodly courser, erst Rogero's steed,
So well contends with him of Sericane,
The king yet little seems his foe to exceed;
Who, if he had as tempered plate and chain
As that bold paynim lord, would better speed;
But (for he felt himself ill-armed) the knight
Often gave ground, and traversed left and right.
Better than good Frontino horse is none
To obey upon a sign the cavalier;
'Twould seem that courser had the sense to shun
Sharp Durindana's fall, now there now here.