Part 3 out of 25
With ensigns strange, not known of living wight,
Since ever close concealed the warrior went;
Not, since he had been there, had bared to sight
His visage, aye within his helmet pent:
And that the very squire who with him came,
Swore that he knew not what the stranger's name.
Not far they ride before the walls appear,
And now before the gate their coursers stand.
To advance the sad Dalinda was in fear,
Yet followed, trusting in Rinaldo's brand.
The gate was shut, and to the porter near,
What this implies Rinaldo makes demand:
To him was said, the people, one and all,
Were trooped to see a fight without the wall:
Beyond the city, fought upon accord,
Between Lurcanio and a stranger knight;
Where, on a spacious meadow's level sward,
The pair already had begun the fight.
The porter opened to Mount Alban's lord,
And straight behind the peer the portal hight.
Rinaldo through the empty city rode,
But in a hostel first the dame bestowed:
And will that she (he will not long delay
To seek her there) till his return repose;
And quickly to the lists pursued his way,
Where the two made that fell exchange of blows,
And strove and struggled yet in bloody fray.
Lurcanio's heart with vengeful hatred glows
Against Geneura; while that other knight
As well maintains the quarrel for her right.
Six knights on foot within the palisade
Stand covered with the corslet's iron case;
Beneath the Duke of Albany arrayed,
Borne on a puissant steed of noble race:
Who there, as lord high-constable obeyed,
Was keeper of the field and of the place,
And joyed Geneura's peril to espy
With swelling bosom and exulting eye.
Rinaldo pierces through the parted swarm,
(So wide is felt the good Bayardo's sway,)
And he who hears the courser come in storm,
Halts not, in his desire to make him way:
Above is seen Rinaldo's lofty form,
The flower of those who mix in martial fray.
He stops his horse before the monarch's chair,
While all to hear the paladin repair.
"Dread sir," to him the good Rinaldo said,
"Let not the pair this combat longer ply;
Since whichsoever of the two falls dead,
Know, that you let him perish wrongfully:
This thinks that he is right, and is misled,
Vouches the false, and knows not 'tis a lie:
Since that which brought his brother to his end,
Moves him in causeless battle contend.
"That, in pure gentleness, with little care
If what he here maintains be wrong or right,
Because he would preserve a maid so fair,
Perils his person in the furious fight.
To injured innocence I safety bear,
And to the evil man its opposite.
But first, for love of God, the battle stay;
Then list, sir king, to what I shall display."
So moved the king the grave authority
Of one who seemed so worthy, by his cheer,
That he made sign the battle should not be
Further continued then with sword or spear:
To whom, together with his chivalry,
And barons of the realm and others near
Rinaldo all the treacherous plot displayed,
Which Polinesso for Geneura layed.
Next that he there in arms would testify
The truth of what he vouched, the warrior cried.
False Polinesso, called, with troubled eye,
Stood forth, but daringly the tale denied.
To him the good Rinaldo in reply;
"By deeds be now the doubtful quarrel tried."
The field was cleared, and, ready armed, the foes,
Without more let, in deadly duel close.
How was the hope to king and people dear,
The proof might show Geneura innocent!
All trust that God will make the treason clear,
And show she was accused with foul intent:
For Polinesso, greedy and severe,
And proud was held, and false and fraudulent.
So that none there, of all assembled, deemed
It marvel, if the knight such fraud had schemed.
False Polinesso, with a mien distressed,
A pallid cheek, and heart which thickly beat,
At the third trumpet, laid his lance in rest;
As well Rinaldo spurred the knight to meet,
And levelled at his evil foeman's breast,
Eager to finish at a single heat.
Nor counter to his wish was the event;
Since through the warrior half his weapon went.
Him, through his breast, impaled upon the spear,
More than six yards beyond his horse he bore.
With speed alighted Mount Albano's peer,
And, ere he rose, unlaced the helm he wore:
But he for mercy prayed with humble cheer,
Unfit to strive in joust or warfare more:
And, before king and court, with faltering breath,
Confessed the fraud which brought him to his death.
He brings not his confession to a close,
And pangs of death the failing accents drown:
The prince, who ended saw his daughter's woes,
Redeemed from death and scorn, her virtue shown,
With more delight and rapture overflows,
Than if he, having lost his kingly crown,
Then saw it first upon his head replaced;
So that he good Rinaldo singly graced.
And when, through his uplifted casque displaid,
Features, well known before, the king descried,
His thanks to God with lifted hands he paid,
That he had deigned such succour to provide.
That other cavalier, who bared his blade,
Unknown of all, upon Geneura's side,
And thither came from far, his aid to impart,
Looked upon all that passed, and stood apart.
Him the good king entreated to declare
His name, or, at the least, his visage shew;
That he might grace him with such guerdon fair,
As to his good intent was justly due.
The stranger, after long and earnest prayer,
Lifted to covering casque, and bared to view
What in the ensuing canto will appear,
If you are fain the history to hear.
Ariodantes has, a worthy meed,
With his loved bride, the fief of Albany.
Meantime Rogero, on the flying steed,
Arrives in false Alcina's empery:
There from a myrtle-tree her every deed,
A human myrtle hears, and treachery,
And thence would go; but they who first withdrew
Him from one strife, engage him in a new.
Wretched that evil man who lives in trust
His secret sin is safe in his possession!
Since, if nought else, the air, the very dust
In which the crime is buried, makes confession,
And oftentimes his guilt compels the unjust,
Though sometime unarraigned in worldly session,
To be his own accuser, and bewray,
So God has willed, deeds hidden from the day.
The unhappy Polinesso hopes had nursed,
Wholly his secret treason to conceal.
By taking off Dalinda, who was versed
In this, and only could the fact reveal;
And adding thus a second to his first
Offence, but hurried on the dread appeal,
Which haply he had stunned, at least deferred;
But he to self-destruction blindly spurred.
And forfeited estate, and life, and love
Of friends at once, and honour, which was more.
The cavalier unknown, I said above,
Long of the king and court entreated sore,
At length the covering helmet did remove,
And showed a visage often seen before,
The cherished face of Ariodantes true,
Of late lamented weeping Scotland through;
Ariodantes, whom with tearful eye
His brother and Geneura wept as dead,
And king, and people, and nobility:
Such light his goodness and his valour shed.
The pilgrim therefore might appear to lie
In what he of the missing warrior said.
Yet was it true that from a headland, he
Had seen him plunge into the foaming sea.
But, as it oft befalls despairing wight,
Who grisly Death desires till he appear;
But loathes what he had sought, on nearer sight;
So painful seems the cruel pass and drear.
Thus, in the sea engulphed, the wretched knight,
Repentant of his deed, was touched with fear;
And, matchless both for spirit and for hand,
Beat back the billows, and returned to land.
And, now despising, as of folly bred,
The fond desire which did to death impell,
Thence, soaked and dripping wet, his way did tread,
And halted at a hermit's humble cell:
And housed within the holy father's shed,
There secretly awhile designed to dwell;
Till to his ears by rumour should be voiced,
If his Geneura sorrowed or rejoiced.
At first he heard that, through excess of woe,
The miserable damsel well-nigh died:
For so abroad the doleful tidings go,
'Twas talked of in the island, far and wide:
Far other proof than that deceitful show,
Which to his cruel grief he thought he spied!
And next against the fair Geneura heard
Lurcanio to her sire his charge preferred:
Nor for his brother felt less enmity
Than was the love he lately bore the maid;
For he too foul, and full of cruelty,
Esteemed the deed, although for him essayed;
And, hearing after, in her jeopardy,
That none appeared to lend the damsel aid,
Because so puissant was Lurcanio's might,
All dreaded an encounter with the knight,
And that who well the youthful champion knew,
Believed he was so wary and discreet,
That, had what he related been untrue,
He never would have risqued so rash a feat,
-- For this the greater part the fight eschew,
Fearing in wrongful cause the knight to meet --
Ariodantes (long his doubts are weighed)
Will meet his brother in Geneura's aid.
"Alas! (he said) I cannot bear to see
Thus by my cause the royal damsel die;
My death too bitter and too dread would be,
Did I, before my own, her death descry;
For still my lady, my divinity
She is; -- the light and comfort of my eye.
Her, right or wrong, I cannot choose but shield,
And for her safety perish in the field.
"I know I choose the wrong, and be it so!
And in the cause shall die: nor this would move;
But that, alas! my death, as well I know,
Will such a lovely dame's destruction prove,
To death I with one only comfort go,
That, if her Polinesso bears her love,
To her will manifestly be displayed,
That hitherto he moves not in her aid.
"And me, so wronged by her, the maid shall view
Encounter death in her defence; and he,
My brother, who such flames of discord blew,
Shall pay the debt of vengeance due to me.
For well I ween to make Lurcanio rue
(Informed of the event) his cruelty,
Who will have thought to venge me with his brand,
And will have slain me with his very hand."
He, having this concluded in his thought,
Made new provision of arms, steed, and shield;
Black was the vest and buckler which he bought,
Where green and yellow striped the sable field:
By hazard found, with him a squire he brought,
A stranger in that country; and, concealed
(As is already told) the unhappy knight,
Against his brother came, prepared for fight.
And yielding to his natural inclination,
And at the suit of all his court beside,
And mostly at Rinaldo's instigation,
Assigned the youth the damsel as his bride.
Albany's duchy, now in sequestration,
Late Polinesso's, who in duel died,
Could not be forfeited in happier hour;
Since this the monarch made his daughter's dower.
Rinaldo for Dalinda mercy won;
Who from her fault's due punishment went free.
She, satiate of the world, (and this to shun,
The damsel so had vowed) to God will flee:
And hence, in Denmark's land, to live a nun,
Straight from her native Scotland sailed the sea.
But it is time Rogero to pursue,
Who on his courser posts the welkin through.
Although Rogero is of constant mind,
Not from his cheek the wonted hues depart.
I ween that faster than a leaf i' the wind
Fluttered within his breast the stripling's heart.
All Europe's region he had left behind
In his swift course; and, issuing in that part,
Passed by a mighty space, the southern sound
Where great Alcides fixed the sailor's bound.
That hippogryph, huge fowl, and strange to sight,
Bears off the warrior with such rapid wing,
He would have distanced, in his airy flight,
The thunder bearing bird of Aether's king:
Nor other living creature soars such height,
Him in his mighty swiftness equalling.
I scarce believe that bolt, or lightning flies,
Or darts more swiftly from the parted skies.
When the huge bird his pinions long had plied,
In a straight line, without one stoop or bend,
He, tired of air, with sweeping wheel and wide,
Began upon an island to descend;
Like that fair region, whither, long unspied
Of him, her wayward mood did long offend,
Whilom in vain, through strange and secret sluice,
Passed under sea the Virgin Arethuse.
A more delightful place, wherever hurled
Through the whole air, Rogero had not found:
And, had he ranged the universal world,
Would not have seen a lovelier in his round,
Than that, where, wheeling wide, the courser furled
His spreading wings, and lighted on the ground,
'Mid cultivated plain, delicious hill,
Moist meadow, shady bank, and crystal rill.
Small thickets, with the scented laurel gay,
Cedar, and orange, full of fruit and flower,
Myrtle and palm, with interwoven spray,
Pleached in mixed modes, all lovely, form a bower;
And, breaking with their shade the scorching ray,
Make a cool shelter from the noontide hour.
And nightingales among those branches wing
Their flight, and safely amorous descants sing.
Amid red roses and white lilies there,
Which the soft breezes freshen as they fly,
Secure the cony haunts, and timid hare,
And stag, with branching forehead broad and high.
These, fearless of the hunter's dart or snare,
Feed at their ease, or ruminating lie:
While, swarming in those wilds, from tuft or steep
Dun deer or nimble goat, disporting, leap.
When the hyppogryph above the island hung,
And had approached so nigh that landscape fair,
That, if his rider from the saddle sprung,
He might the leap with little danger dare,
Rogero lit the grass and flowers among,
But held him, lest he should remount the air:
And to a myrtle, nigh the rolling brine,
Made fast, between a bay-tree and a pine.
And there, close-by where rose a bubbling fount,
Begirt the fertile palm and cedar-tree,
He drops the shield, the helmet from his front
Uplifts, and, either hand from gauntlet free,
Now turning to the beach, and now the mount,
Catches the gales which blow from hill or sea,
And, with a joyous murmur, lightly stir
The lofty top of beech, or feathery fir:
And, now, to bathe his burning lips he strains;
Now dabbles in the crystal wave, to chase
The scorching heat which rages in his veins,
Caught from the heavy corslet's burning case.
Nor is it marvel if the burden pains;
No ramble his in square or market-place!
Three thousand miles, without repose, he went,
And still, at speed, in ponderous armour pent.
Meanwhile the courser by the myrtle's side,
Whom he left stabled in the cool retreat,
Started at something in the wood descried,
Scared by I know not what; and in his heat
So made the myrtle shake where he was tied,
He brought a shower of leaves about his feet;
He made the myrtle shake and foliage fall,
But, struggling, could not loose himself withal.
As in a stick to feed the chimney rent,
Where scanty pith ill fills the narrow sheath,
The vapour, in its little channel pent,
Struggles, tormented by the fire beneath;
And, till its prisoned fury find a vent,
Is heard to hiss and bubble, sing and seethe:
So the offended myrtle inly pined,
Groaned, murmured, and at last unclosed its rind:
And hence a clear, intelligible speech
Thus issued, with a melancholy sound;
"If, as thy cheer and gentle presence teach,
Thou courteous art and good, his reign unbound,
Release me from this monster, I beseech:
Griefs of my own inflict sufficient wound:
Nor need I, compassed with such ills about,
Other new pain to plague me from without."
At the first sound, Rogero turns to see
Whence came the voice, and, in unused surprise,
Stands, when he finds it issues from the tree;
And swiftly to remove the courser hies.
Then, with a face suffused with crimson, he
In answer to the groaning myrtle, cries;
"Pardon! and, whatsoe'er thou art, be good,
Spirit of man, or goddess of the wood!
"Unweeting of the wonderous prodigy
Of spirit, pent beneath the knotty rind,
To your fair leaf and living body I
Have done this scathe and outrage undesigned.
But not the less for that, to me reply,
What art thou, who, in rugged case confined,
Dost live and speak? And so may never hail
From angry heaven your gentle boughs assail!
"And if I now or ever the despite
I did thee can repair, or aid impart,
I, by that lady dear, my promise plight,
Who in her keeping has my better part,
To strive with word and deed, till thou requite
The service done with praise and grateful heart."
Rogero said; and, as he closed his suit,
That gentle myrtle shook from top to root.
Next drops were seen to stand upon the bark,
As juice is sweated by the sapling-spray,
New-severed, when it yields to flame and spark,
Sometime in vain kept back and held at bay.
And next the voice began: "My story dark,
Forced by thy courteous deed, I shall display; --
What once I was -- by whom, through magic lore,
Changed to a myrtle on the pleasant shore.
"A peer of France, Astolpho was my name,
Whilom a paladin, sore feared in fight;
Cousin I was to two of boundless fame,
Orlando and Rinaldo. I by right
Looked to all England's crown; my lawful claim
After my royal father, Otho hight.
More dames than one my beauty served to warm,
And in conclusion wrought my single harm.
"Returning from those isles, whose eastern side
The billows of the Indian ocean beat,
Where good Rinaldo and more knights beside
With me were pent in dark and hollow seat,
Thence, rescued by illustrious Brava's pride,
Whose prowess freed us from that dark retreat,
Westward I fared along the sandy shores,
On which the stormy north his fury pours.
"Pursuing thus our rugged journey, we
Came (such our evil doom) upon the strand,
Where stood a mansion seated by the sea:
Puissant Alcina owned the house and land.
We found her, where, without her dwelling, she
Had taken on the beach her lonely stand;
And though nor hook nor sweeping net she bore,
What fish she willed, at pleasure drew to shore.
"Thither swift dolphins gambol, inly stirred,
And open-mouthed the cumbrous tunnies leap;
Thither the seal or porpus' wallowing herd
Troop at her bidding, roused from lazy sleep;
Raven-fish, salmon, salpouth, at her word,
And mullet hurry through the briny deep,
With monstrous backs above the water, sail
Ork, physeter, sea-serpent, shark, and whale.
"There we behold a mighty whale, of size
The hugest yet in any water seen:
More than eleven paces, to our eyes,
His back appears above the surface green:
And (for still firm and motionless he lies,
And such the distance his two ends between)
We all are cheated by the floating pile,
And idly take the monster for an isle.
"Alcina made the ready fish obey
By simple words and by mere magic lore:
Born with Morgana -- but I cannot say
If at one birth, or after or before.
As soon as seen, my aspect pleased the fay;
Who showed it in the countenance she wore:
Then wrought with art, and compassed her intent,
To part me from the friends with whom I went.
"She came towards us with a cheerful face,
With graceful gestures, and a courteous air,
And said: 'So you my lodging please to grace,
Sir cavalier, and will with me repair,
You shall behold the wonders of my chace,
And note the different sorts of fish I snare;
Shaggy or smooth, or clad in scales of light,
And more in number than the stars of night:
" 'And would you hear a mermaid sing so sweet,
That the rude sea grows civil at her song,
Wont at this hour her music to repeat,
(With that she showed the monster huge and long
-- I said it seemed an island -- as her seat)
Pass with me where she sings the shoals among.'
I, that was always wilful, at her wish,
I now lament my rashness, climb the fish.
"To Dudon and Rinaldo's signal blind,
I go, who warn me to misdoubt the fay.
With laughing face Alcina mounts behind,
Leaving the other two beside the bay.
The obedient fish performs the task assigned,
And through the yielding water works his way.
Repentant of my deed, I curse the snare,
Too far from land my folly to repair.
"To aid me swam Mount Alban's cavalier,
And was nigh drowned amid the waves that rise;
For a south-wind sprang up that, far and near,
Covered with sudden darkness seas and skies.
I know not after what befel the peer:
This while Alcina to console me tries,
And all that day, and night which followed, me
Detained upon that monster in mid-sea,
"Till to this isle we drifted with the morn,
Of which Alcina keeps a mighty share;
By that usurper from a sister torn,
Who was her father's universal heir:
For that she only was in wedlock born,
And for those other two false sisters were
(So well-instructed in the story, said
One who rehearsed the tale) in incest bred.
"As these are practised in iniquity,
And full of every vice and evil art;
So she, who ever lives in chastity,
Wisely on better things has set her heart.
Hence, leagued against her, in conspiracy,
Those others are, to drive her from her part:
And more than once their armies have o'errun
Her realm, and towns above a hundred won.
"Nor at this hour a single span of ground
Would Logistilla (such her name) command,
But that a mountain here, and there a sound,
Protects the remnant from the invading band.
'Tis thus the mountain and the river bound
England, and part it from the Scottish land.
Yet will the sisters give their foe no rest,
Till of her scanty remnant dispossest.
"Because in wickedness and vice were bred
The pair, as chaste and good they loath the dame.
But, to return to what I lately said,
And to relate how I a plant became;
Me, full of love, the kind Alcina fed
With full delights; nor I a weaker flame
For her, within my burning heart did bear,
Beholding her so courteous and so fair.
"Clasped in her dainty limbs, and lapt in pleasure,
I weened that I each separate good had won,
Which to mankind is dealt in different measure,
Little or more to some, and much to none.
I evermore contemplated my treasure,
Nor France nor aught beside I thought upon:
In her my every fancy, every hope
Centered and ended as their common scope.
"By her I was as much beloved, or more;
Nor did Alcina now for other care;
She left her every lover; for before,
Others, in truth, the fairy's love did share:
I was her close adviser evermore;
And served by her, where they commanded were.
With me she counselled, and to me referred;
Nor, night nor day, to other spake a word.
"Why touch my wounds, to aggravate my ill,
And that, alas! without the hope of cure?
Why thus the good possessed remember still,
Amid the cruel penance I endure?
When kindest I believed Alcina's will,
And fondly deemed my happiness secure,
From me the heart she gave, the fay withdrew,
And yielded all her soul to love more new.
"Late I discerned her light and fickle bent,
Still loving and unloving at a heat:
Two months, I reigned not more, no sooner spent,
Than a new paramour assumed my seat;
And me, with scorn, she doomed to banishment,
From her fair grace cast out. 'Tis then I weet
I share a thousand lovers' fate, whom she
Had to like pass reduced, all wrongfully.
"And these, because they should not scatter bruits,
Roaming the world, of her lascivious ways,
She, up and down the fruitful soil, transmutes
To olive, palm, or cedar, firs or bays.
These, as you see me changed, Alcina roots;
While this transformed into a monster strays;
Another melts into a liquid rill;
As suits that haughty fairy's wanton will.
"Thou, too, that to this fatal isle art led
By way unwonted and till now unknown,
That some possessor of the fairy's bed,
May be for thee transformed to wave or stone,
Thou shalt, with more than mortal pleasures fed,
Have from Alcina seigniory and throne;
But shalt be sure to join the common flock,
Transformed to beast or fountain, plant or rock.
"I willingly to thee this truth impart,
Not that I hope with profit to advise:
Yet 'twill be better, that informed, in part,
Of her false ways, she harm not by surprise.
Perhaps, as faces differ, and in art
And wit of man an equal difference lies,
Thou may'st some remedy perchance apply
To the ill, which thousand others could not fly."
The good Rogero, who from Fame had learned
That he was cousin to the dame he wooed,
Lamented much the sad Astolpho, turned
From his true form, to barren plant and rude:
And for her love, for whom so sore he burned,
Would gladly serve the stripling if he cou'd:
But, witless how to give the wished relief,
Might but console the unhappy warrior's grief.
As best he could, he strove to soothe his pain;
Then asked him, if to Logistil's retreat
Were passage, whether over hill or plain;
That he might so eschew Alcina's seat.
-- `There was a way', the myrtle said again,
-- `But rough with stones, and rugged to the feet --
If he, some little further to the right,
Would scale the Alpine mountain's very height:
`But that he must not think he shall pursue
The intended journey far; since by the way
He will encounter with a frequent crew,
And fierce, who serve as rampart to the fay,
That block the road against the stranger, who
Would break her bounds, and the deserter stay.'
Rogero thanked the tree for all, and taught,
Departed thence with full instructions fraught.
The courser from the myrtle he untied,
And by the bridle led behind him still;
Nor would he, as before, the horse bestride,
Lest he should bear him off against his will:
He mused this while how safely he might find
A passage to the land of Logistil;
Firm in his purpose every nerve to strain,
Lest empire over him Alcina gain.
He to remount the steed, and through the air
To spur him to a new career again
Now thought; but doubted next, in fear to fare
Worse on the courser, restive to the rein.
"No, I will win by force the mountain stair,"
Rogero said; (but the resolve was vain)
Nor by the beach two miles his way pursued,
Ere he Alcina's lovely city viewed.
A lofty wall at distance meets his eye
Which girds a spacious town within its bound;
It seems as if its summit touched the sky,
And all appears like gold from top to ground.
Here some one says it is but alchemy
-- And haply his opinion is unsound --
And haply he more wittily divines:
For me, I deem it gold because it shines.
When he was nigh the city-walls, so bright,
The world has not their equal, he the straight
And spacious way deserts, the way which dight
Across the plain, conducted to the gate;
And by that safer road upon the right,
Strains now against the mountain; but, in wait,
Encounters soon the crowd of evil foes,
Who furiously the Child's advance oppose.
Was never yet beheld a stranger band,
Of mien more hideous, or more monstrous shape.
Formed downwards from neck like men, he scanned
Some with the head of cat, and some of ape;
With hoof of goat that other stamped the sand;
While some seemed centaurs, quick in fight and rape;
Naked, or mantled in outlandish skin.
These doting sires, those striplings bold in sin.
This gallops on a horse without a bit;
This backs the sluggish ass, or bullock slow;
These mounted on the croup of centaur sit:
Those perched on eagle, crane, or estridge, go.
Some male, some female, some hermaphrodit,
These drain the cup and those the bungle blow.
One bore a corded ladder, one a book;
One a dull file, or bar of iron shook.
The captain of this crew, which blocked the road,
Appeared, with monstrous paunch and bloated face;
Who a slow tortoise for a horse bestrode,
That passing sluggishly with him did pace:
Down looked, some here, some there, sustained the load,
For he was drunk, and kept him in his place.
Some wipe his brows and chin from sweat which ran,
And others with their vests his visage fan.
One, with a human shape and feet, his crest,
Fashioned like hound, in neck and ears and head,
Bayed at the gallant Child with angry quest,
To turn him to the city whence he fled.
"That will I never, while of strength possessed
To brandish this," the good Rogero said:
With that his trenchant faulchion he displayed,
And pointed at him full the naked blade.
That monster would have smote him with a spear,
But swiftly at his foe Rogero sprung,
Thrust at his paunch, and drove his faulchion sheer
Through his pierced back a palm; his buckler flung
Before him, and next sallied there and here:
But all too numerous was the wicked throng.
Now grappled from behind, now punched before,
He stands, and plies the crowd with warfare sore.
One to the teeth, another to the breast,
Of that foul race he cleft; since no one steeled
In mail, his brows with covering helmet dressed,
Or fought, secured by corslet or by shield;
Yet is he so upon all quarters pressed,
That it would need the Child, to clear the field,
And to keep off the wicked crew which swarms,
More than Briareus' hundred hands and arms.
If he had thought the magic shield to show,
(I speak of that the necromancer bore,
Which dazed the sight of the astonished foe,
Left at his saddle by the wizard Moor)
That hideous band, in sudden overthrow,
Blinded by this, had sunk the knight before.
But haply he despised such mean as vile,
And would prevail by valour, not by guile.
This as it may: the Child would meet his fate,
Ere by so vile a band be prisoner led;
When, lo! forth issuing from the city's gate,
Whose wall appeared like shining gold I said,
Two youthful dames, not born in low estate,
If measured by their mien and garb, nor bred
By swain, in early wants and troubles versed;
But amid princely joys in palace nursed!
On unicorn was seated either fair,
A beast than spotless ermine yet more white;
So lovely were the damsels, and so rare
Their garb, and with such graceful fashion dight,
That he who closely viewed the youthful pair,
Would need a surer sense than mortal sight,
To judge between the two. With such a mien
Embodied Grace and Beauty would be seen.
Into the mead rode this and the other dame,
Where the foul crew opposed the Child's retreat.
The rabble scattered as the ladies came,
Who with extended hand the warrior greet.
He, with a kindling visage, red with shame,
Thanked the two damsels for their gentle feat;
And was content upon their will to wait,
With them returning to that golden gate.
Above, a cornice round the gateway goes,
Somedeal projecting from the colonnade,
In which is not a single part but glows,
With rarest gems of India overlaid.
Propp'd at four points, the portal did repose
On columns of one solid diamond made.
Whether what met the eye was false or true,
Was never sight more fair or glad to view.
Upon the sill and through the columns there,
Ran young and wanton girls, in frolic sport;
Who haply yet would have appeared more fair,
Had they observed a woman's fitting port.
All are arrayed in green, and garlands wear
Of the fresh leaf. Him these in courteous sort,
With many proffers and fair mien entice,
And welcome to this opening Paradise:
For so with reason I this place may call,
Where, it is my belief, that Love had birth;
Where life is spent in festive game and ball,
And still the passing moments fleet in mirth.
Here hoary-headed Thought ne'er comes at all,
Nor finds a place in any bosom. Dearth,
Nor yet Discomfort, never enter here,
Where Plenty fills her horn throughout the year.
Here, where with jovial and unclouded brow,
Glad April seems to wear a constant smile,
Troop boys and damsels: One, whose fountains flow,
On the green margin sings in dulcet style;
Others, the hill or tufted tree below,
In dance, or no mean sport the hours beguile.
While this, who shuns the revellers' noisy cheer,
Tells his love sorrows in his comrade's ear.
Above the laurel and pine-tree's height,
Through the tall beech and shaggy fir-tree's spray,
Sport little loves, with desultory flight:
These, at their conquests made, rejoiced and gay:
These, with the well-directed shaft, take sight
At hearts, and those spread nets to catch their prey;
One wets his arrows in the brook which winds,
And one on whirling stone the weapon grinds.
To good Rogero here was brought a steed,
Puissant and nimble, all of sorel hue;
Who was caparisoned with costly weed,
Broidered with gold, and jewels bright to view.
That other winged horse, which, at his need,
Obedient to the Moorish wizard flew,
The friendly damsels to a youth consigned,
Who led him at a slower pace behind.
That kindly pair who, by the wicked band
Offended fate, had saved the youthful knight;
The wicked crew, that did the Child withstand,
When he the road had taken on his right,
Exclaimed, "Fair sir, your works already scanned
By us, who are instructed of your might,
Embolden us, in our behalf, to pray
You will the prowess of your arm assay.
"We soon shall reach a bottom which divides
The plain into two parts: A cruel dame
A bridge maintains, which there a stream bestrides,
Eriphila the savage beldam's name;
Who cheats, and robs, and scathes, whoever rides
To the other shore, a giantess in frame;
Who has long poisonous teeth her prey to tear,
And scratches with her talons like a bear.
"Besides that she infests the public way,
Which else were free; she often ranging through
All this fair garden, puts in disarray
This thing or that. Of the assassin crew,
That people who without the portal gay,
Lately with brutal rage assaulted you,
Many her sons, the whole her followers call,
As greedy and inhospitable all."
"For you not only her I would assail,
But do a hundred battles, well content:
Then of my person, where it may avail,
Dispose (Rogero said) to you intent.
Silver and land to conquer, plate or mail
I swear not, I, in warlike cuirass pent;
But to afford my aid to others due;
And, most of all, to beauteous dames like you."
Their grateful thanks the ladies, worthily
Bestowed on such a valiant champion, paid:
They talking thus the bridge and river see,
And at her post the haughty dame arraid
(Sapphire and emerald decked the panoply)
In arms of gold: but I awhile delay
Till other strain the issue of the fray.
Rogero, as directed by the pair,
The giantess Eriphila o'erthrows.
That done, he to Alcina's labyrinth, where
More than one knight is tied and prisoned, goes.
To him Melissa sage the secret snare,
And remedy for that grave evil shows.
Whence he, by her advised, with downcast eye,
And full of shame forthwith resolves to fly.
The traveller, he, whom sea or mountain sunder
From his own country, sees things strange and new;
That the misjudging vulgar, which lies under
The mist of ignorance, esteems untrue:
Rejecting whatsoever is a wonder,
Unless 'tis palpable and plain to view:
Hence inexperience, as I know full well,
Will yield small credence to the tale I tell.
But this be great or small, I know not why
The rabble's silly judgement I should fear,
Convinced you will not think the tale a lie,
In whom the light of reason shines so clear.
And hence to you it is I only try
The fruit of my fatigues to render dear.
I ended where Eriphila in guard
Of bridge and stream was seen, the passage barred.
Of finest metal was her armour bright,
With gems of many colours overspread,
The tawny jacinth, yellow chyrsolite,
The emerald green of hue, and ruby red.
Mounted, but not on palfrey, for the fight:
In place of that, she on a wolf had sped,
Sped on a wolf towards the pass; and rode
On sell, that rich beyond all custom showed.
No larger wolf, I ween, Apulia roams;
More huge than bull, unguided by her hand;
Although upon no bit the monster foams,
Docile, I know not why, to her command.
The accursed Plague, arrayed in surcoat, comes
Above her arms, in colour like the sand;
That, saving in its dye, was of the sort
Which bishops and which prelates wear at court.
The giantess's crest and shield appear,
For ensign, decked with swoln and poisonous toad.
Her the two damsels to the cavalier
Before the bridge, prepared for battle, showed,
Threatening, as wont to some, with levelled spear,
To do the warrior scorn and bar the road.
Bidding him turn, she to Rogero cries;
A lance he takes, and threats her and defies.
As quick and daring, the gigantic Pest
Spurred her wolf, seated well for that dread game:
In mid career she laid her lance in rest,
And made earth quake beneath her as she came;
Yet at the encounter fierce the champaign pressed;
For underneath the casque, with stedfast aim,
So hard Rogero smote her, that he bore
The beldam backward six good yards and more:
And came already with his lifted blade,
Drawn for that end, to take her haughty head;
To him an easy task; for she was laid
Among the grass and flowers, like one that's dead.
But, " 'Tis enough that she is vanquished," said
The pair, "No further press thy vengeance dread.
Sheathe, courteous cavalier, thy sword anew:
Pass we the river, and our way pursue."
Along the path, which through a forest lay,
Roughish and somedeal ill to beat, they went.
Besides that strait and stony was the way,
This, nigh directly, scaled a hill's ascent.
But, when arrived upon the summit, they
Issued upon a mead of vast extent;
And a more pleasant palace on that green
Beheld, and brighter than was ever seen.
To meet the Child, Alcina, fair of hue,
Advanced some way beyond the outer gate;
And, girded by a gay and courtly crew,
Rogero there received in lordly state:
While all the rest to him such honour do,
And on the knight with such deep reverence wait,
They could not have displayed more zeal and love,
Had Jove descended from the choirs above.
Not so much does the palace, fair to see,
In riches other princely domes excel,
As that the gentlest, fairest, company
Which the whole world contains, within it dwell:
Of either sex, with small variety
Between, in youth and beauty matched as well:
The fay alone exceeds the rest as far
As the bright sun outshines each lesser star.
Her shape is of such perfect symmetry,
As best to feign the industrious painter knows,
With long and knotted tresses; to the eye
Not yellow gold with brighter lustre glows.
Upon her tender cheek the mingled dye
Is scattered, of the lily and the rose.
Like ivory smooth, the forehead gay and round
Fills up the space, and forms a fitting bound.
Two black and slender arches rise above
Two clear black eyes, say suns of radiant light,
Which ever softly beam and slowly move;
Round these appears to sport in frolic flight,
Hence scattering all his shafts, the little Love,
And seems to plunder hearts in open sight.
Thence, through mid visage, does the nose descend,
Where Envy finds not blemish to amend.
As if between two vales, which softly curl,
The mouth with vermeil tint is seen to glow:
Within are strung two rows of orient pearl,
Which her delicious lips shut up or show.
Of force to melt the heart of any churl,
However rude, hence courteous accents flow:
And here that gentle smile receives its birth,
Which opes at will a paradise on earth.
Like milk the bosom, and the neck of snow;
Round is the neck, and full and large the breast;
Where, fresh and firm, two ivory apples grow,
Which rise and fall, as, to the margin pressed
By pleasant breeze, the billows come and go.
Not prying Argus could discern the rest.
Yet might the observing eye of things concealed
Conjecture safely, from the charms revealed.
To all her arms a just proportion bear,
And a white hand is oftentimes descried,
Which narrow is, and somedeal long; and where
No knot appears, nor vein is signified.
For finish of that stately shape and rare,
A foot, neat, short, and round, beneath is spied.
Angelic visions, creatures of the sky,
Concealed beneath no covering veil can lie.
A springe is planted in Rogero's way,
On all sides did she speak, smile, sing, or move;
No wonder then the stripling was her prey,
Who in the fairy saw such show of love.
With him the guilt and falsehood little weigh,
Of which the offended myrtle told above.
Nor will he think that perfidy and guile
Can be united with so sweet a smile.
No! he could now believe, by magic art,
Astolpho well transformed upon the plain,
For punishment of foul ungrateful heart,
And haply meriting severer pain.
And, as for all he heard him late impart,
'Twas prompted by revenge, 'twas false and vain.
By hate and malice was the sufferer stung,
To blame and wound the fay with slanderous tongue.
The beauteous lady whom he loved so well
Is newly banished from his altered breast;
For (such the magic of Alcina's spell)
She every ancient passion dispossessed;
And in his bosom, there alone to dwell,
The image of her love, and self impressed.
So witched, Rogero sure some grace deserves,
If from his faith his frail affection swerves.
At board lyre, lute and harp of tuneful string,
And other sounds, in mixed diversity,
Made, round about, the joyous palace ring,
With glorious concert and sweet harmony.
Nor lacked there well-accorded voice to sing
Of love, its passion and its ecstasy;
Nor who, with rare inventions, choicely versed,
Delightful fiction to the guests rehearsed.
What table, spread by whatsoever heir
Of Ninus, though triumphant were the board,
Or what more famous and more costly, where
Cleopatra feasted with the Latian lord,
Could with this banquet's matchless joys compare,
By the fond fairy for Rogero stored?
I think not such a feast is spread above,
Where Ganymede presents the cup to Jove.
They form a ring, the board and festive cheer
Removed, and sitting, play a merry game:
Each asks, still whispering in a neighbour's ear,
What secret pleases best; to knight and dame
A fair occasion, without let or fear,
Their love, unheard of any, to proclaim.
And in conclusion the two lovers plight
Their word, to meet together on that night.
Soon, and much sooner than their wont, was ended
The game at which the palace inmates play:
When pages on the troop with torches tended,
And with their radiance chased the night away.
To seek his bed the paladin ascended,
Girt with that goodly squadron, in a gay
And airy bower, appointed for his rest,
Mid all the others chosen as the best.
And when of comfits and of cordial wine
A fitting proffer has been made anew,
The guests their bodies reverently incline,
And to their bowers depart the courtly crew.
He upon perfumed sheets, whose texture fine
Seemed of Arachne's loom, his body threw:
Hearkening this while with still attentive ears,
If he the coming of the lady hears.
At every movement heard on distant floor,
Hoping 'twas her, Rogero raised his head:
He thinks he hears; but it is heard no more,
Then sighs at his mistake: ofttimes from bed
He issued, and undid his chamber door,
And peeped abroad, but still no better sped;
And cursed a thousand times the hour that she
So long retarded his felicity.
"Yes, now she comes," the stripling often said,
And reckoned up the paces, as he lay,
Which from her bower where haply to be made
To that where he was waiting for the fay.
These thoughts, and other thoughts as vain, he weighed
Before she came, and restless at her stay,
Often believed some hinderance, yet unscanned,
Might interpose between the fruit and hand.
At length, when dropping sweets the costly fay
Had put some end to her perfumery,
The time now come she need no more delay,
Since all was hushed within the palace, she
Stole from her bower alone, through secret way,
And passed towards the chamber silently,
Where on his couch the youthful cavalier
Lay, with a heart long torn by Hope and Fear.
When the successor of Astolpho spies
Those smiling stars above him, at the sight
A flame, like that of kindled sulphur, flies
Through his full veins, as ravished by delight
Out of himself; and now up to the eyes
Plunged in a sea of bliss, he swims outright.
He leaps from bed and folds her to his breast,
Nor waits until the lady he undressed;
Though but in a light sendal clad, that she
Wore in the place of farthingale or gown;
Which o'er a shift of finest quality,
And white, about her limbs the fay had thrown:
The mantle yielded at his touch, as he
Embraced her, and that veil remained alone,
Which upon every side the damsel shows,
More than clear glass the lily or the rose.
The plant no closer does the ivy clip,
With whose green boughs its stem is interlaced.
Than those fond lovers, each from either's lip
The balmy breath collecting, he embraced:
Rich perfume this, whose like no seed or slip
Bears in sweet Indian or Sabacan waste;
While so to speak their joys is either fixed,
That oftentimes those meeting lips are mixed.
These things were carried closely by the dame
And youth, or if surmised, were never bruited;
For silence seldom was a cause for blame,
But oftener as a virtue well reputed.
By those shrewd courtiers, conscious of his claim,
Rogero is with proffers fair saluted:
Worshipped of all those inmates, who fulfil
In this the enamoured far, Alcina's will.
No pleasure is omitted there; since they
Alike are prisoners in Love's magic hall.
They change their raiment twice or thrice a day,
Now for this use, and now at other call.
'Tis often feast, and always holiday;
'Tis wrestling, tourney, pageant, bath, and ball.
Now underneath a hill by fountain cast,
They read the amorous lays of ages past:
Now by glad hill, or through the shady dale,
They hunt the fearful hare, and now they flush
With busy dog, sagacious of the trail,
Wild pheasant from the stubble-field or bush.
Now where green junipers perfume the gale,
Suspend the snare, or lime the fluttering thrush:
And casting now for fish, with net or book,
Disturb their secret haunts in pleasant brook.
Rogero revels there, in like delight,
While Charles and Agramant are troubled sore.
But not for him their story will I slight,
Nor Bradamant forget: who evermore,
Mid toilsome pain and care, her cherished knight,
Ravished from her, did many a day deplore;
Whom by unwonted ways, transported through
Mid air, the damsel saw, nor whither knew.
Of her I speak before the royal pair,
Who many days pursued her search in vain;
By shadowy wood, or over champaign bare,
By farm and city, and by hill and plain;
But seeks her cherished friend with fruitless care,
Divided by such space of land and main:
Often she goes among the Paynim spears,
Yet never aught of her Rogero hears.
Of hundreds questioned, upon every side,
Each day, no answer ever gives content.
She roams from post to post, and far and wide
Searches pavilion, lodging, booth, or rent,
And this, mid foot or horsemen, unespied,
May safely do, without impediment,
Thanks to the ring, whose more than mortal aid,
When in her mouth, conceals the vanished maid.
She cannot, will not, think that he is dead;
Because the wreck of such a noble knight
Would, from Hydaspes' distant waves have spread,
To where the sun descends with westering light.
She knows not what to think, nor whither sped,
He roams in earth or air; yet, hapless wight,
Him ever seeks, and for attendant train
Has sobs and sighs, and every bitter pain.
At length to find the wondrous cave she thought,
Where the prophetic homes of Merlin lie,
And there lament herself until she wrought
Upon the pitying marble to reply;
For thence, if yet he lived would she be taught,
Of this glad life to hard necessity
Had yielded up; and, when she was possessed
Of the seer's councils, would pursue the best.
With this intention, Bradamant her way
Directed thither, where in Poictier's wood
The vocal tomb, containing Merlin's clay,
Concealed in Alpine place and savage, stood.
But that enchantress sage, who night and day
Thought of the damsel, watchful for her good,
She, I repeat, who taught her what should be
In that fair grotto her posterity;
She who preserved her with protecting care,
That same enchantress, still benign and wise,
Who, knowing she a matchless race should bear
Of men, or rather semi-deities,
Spies daily what her thoughts and actions are,
And lots for her each day, divining, tries; --
She all Rogero's fortune knew, how freed;
Then borne to India by the griffin steed:
Him on that courser plainly she had eyed,
Who would not the controlling rein obey;
When, severed by such interval, he hied,
Borne through the perilous, unwonted way:
And knew that he sport, dance, and banquet plied,
And lapt in idleness and pleasure lay;
Nor memory of his lord nor of the dame,
Once loved so well, preserved, not of his fame.
And thus such gentle knight ingloriously
Would have consumed his fairest years and best,
In long inaction, afterwards to be,
Body and soul, destroyed; and that, possessed
Alone by us in perpetuity.
That flower, whose sweets outlive the fragile rest
Which quickens man when he in earth is laid,
Would have been plucked or severed in the blade.
But that enchantress kind, who with more care
Than for himself he watched, still kept the knight,
Designed to drag him, by rough road and bare,
Towards true virtue, in his own despite;
As often cunning leech will burn and pare
The flesh, and poisonous drug employ aright:
Who, though at first his cruel art offend,
Is thanked, since he preserves us in the end.
She, not like old Atlantes, rendered blind
By the great love she to the stripling bore,
Set not on gifting him with life her mind,
As was the scope of that enchanter hoar;
Who, reckless all of fame and praise declined,
Wished length of days to his Rogero more
Than that, to win a world's applause, the peer
Should of his joyous life forego one year.
By him he to Alcina's isle had been
Dispatched, that in her palace he might dwell,
Forgetting arms; and, as enchanter seen
In magic and the use of every spell,
The heart had fastened of that fairy-queen,
Enamoured of the gentle youth, so well,
That she the knot would never disengage,
Though he should live to more than Nestor's age.
Returning now to her that well foreknew
Whatever was to come to pass, I say
She thither did her journey straight pursue,
Where she met Aymon's daughter by the way
Forlorn and wandering: Bradamant at view
Of her enchantress, erst to grief a prey,
Changes it all to hope: the other tells
That with Alcina her Rogero dwells.
Nigh dead the maid remains, in piteous guise,
Hearing of him so far removed, and more
Grieves that she danger to her love descries,
Save this some strong and speedy cure restore.
But her the enchantress comforts, and applies
A salve where it was needed most, and swore
That few short days should pass before anew
Rogero should return to glad her view.
"Since thou, an antidote to sorcery,
Lady (she said), the virtuous ring dost wear,
I have no doubt if to yon island I
This, where thine every good is hidden, hear,
To foil Alcina's wiles and witchery,
And thence to bring thee back thy cherished care.
This evening, early, will I hence away,
And be in India by the break of day."
And told to her, the tale continuing,
The mode which she was purposing to employ,
From that effeminate, soft realm to bring
Back into warlike France the cherished boy.
Bradamant from her finger slipt the ring,
Nor this alone would have bestowed with joy;
But heart and life would at her feet have laid,
If she had deemed they could Rogero aid.
Giving the ring, her cause she recommends
To her, and recommends Rogero more.
Countless salutes by her the damsel sends,
Then of Provence, departing seeks the shore.
The enchantress to another quarter wends;
And, for the execution of her lore,
Conjures, that eve, a palfrey, by her art,
With one foot red, black every other part.
Some Farfarello, or Alchino he,
I think, whom in that form she raised from hell;
And with loose hair, dishevelled horribly,
Ungirt and barefoot, mounted in the sell.
But, with wise caution, from her finger she
Withdrew the ring, lest it should mar the spell:
And then by him was with such swiftness born,
She in Alcina's isle arrived at morn.
Herself she changed with wonderful disguise,
Adding a palm of stature to her height;
And made her limbs of a proportioned size;
And of the very measure seemed to sight,
As was she deemed, the necromancer wise,
Who with such care had reared the youthful knight.
With long-descending beard she clothed her chin,
And wrinkled o'er her front and other skin.
To imitate his speech, and face, and cheer,
She knew so well, that, by the youth descried,
She might the sage Atlantes' self appear;
Next hid, and watched so long, that she espied
Upon a day (rare chance) the cavalier
At length detached from his Alcina's side:
For still, in motion or at rest, the fay
Ill bore the youth should be an hour away.
Alone she finds him, fitting well her will,
As he enjoys the pure and morning air
Beside a brook, which trickled from a hill,
Streaming towards a limpid lake and fair.
His fine, soft garments, wove with cunning skill,
All over, ease and wantonness declare;
These with her hand, such subtle toil well taught,
For him in silk and gold Alcina wrought.
About the stripling's neck, a splendid string
Of gems, descending to mid-breast, is wound;
On each once manly arm, now glittering
With the bright hoop, a bracelet fair is bound.
Pierced with golden wire, in form of ring,
Is either ear; and from the yellow round
Depend two precious pearls; not such the coast
Of Araby or sumptuous India boast.
Crisped into comely ringlets was his hair,
Wet with the costliest odours and the best;
And soft and amorous all his gestures were,
Like one who does Valentian lady's hest.
In him, beside his name, was nothing fair,
And more than half corrupted all the rest.
So was Rogero found, within that dell,
Changed from his former self by potent spell.
Him in the figure of Atlantes sage
She fronts, who bore the enchanter's borrowed cheer;
With that grave face, and reverend with age,
Which he was always wonted to revere;
And with that eye, which in his pupillage,
Beaming with wrath, he whilom so did fear.
And sternly cries, "Is this the fruit at last
Which pays my tedious pain and labour past?
"The marrow of the lion and the bear
Didst thou for this thine early banquet make,
And, trained by me, by cliff or cavern-lair,
Strangle with infant hands the crested snake;
Their claws from tiger and from panther tear,
And tusks from living boar in tangled brake,
That, bred in such a school, in thee should I
Alcina's Atys or Adonis spy?
"Is this the hope that stars, observed by me,
Signs in conjunction, sacred fibres, bred;
With what beside of dream or augury,
And all those lots I but too deeply read,
Which, while yet hanging at the breast, of thee,
When these thy years should be accomplished, said,
Thy fears should so be bruited far and near,
Thou justly should be deemed without a peer?
"This does, in truth, a fair beginning show;
A seed which, we may hope, will soon conceive
A Julius, Alexander, Scipio.
Who thee Alcina's bondsman could believe;
And (for the world the shameful fact might know)
That all should, manifest to sight, perceive
Upon thy neck and arms the servile chains,
Wherewith she at her will her captive trains?
"If thine own single honour move not thee,
And the high deeds which thou art called to do,
Wherefore defraud thy fair posterity
Of what, was oft predicted, should ensue?
Alas! why seal the womb God willed should be
Pregnant by thee with an illustrious crew,
That far renowned, and more than human line,
Destined the sun in glory to outshine?
"Forbid not of the noblest souls the birth,
Formed in the ideas of Eternal Mind,
Destined, from age to age, to visit earth,
Sprung from thy stock, and clothed in corporal rind;
The spring of thousand palms and festal mirth,
Through which, to Italy with losses pined
And wounds, thy good descendants shall restore
The fame and honours she enjoyed of yore.
"Not only should these many souls have weight
To bend thy purpose, holy souls, and bright,
Which from thy fruitful tree shall vegetate;
But, though alone, a single couple might
Suffice a nobler feeling to create,
Alphonso and his brother Hyppolite:
Whose like was seldom witnessed to this time,
Through all the paths whence men to virtue climb.
"I was more wont to dwell upon this pair
Than all the rest, of whom I prophesied;
As well that these a greater part should bear
In lofty virtues, as that I descried
Thee, listening to my lore with closer care,
Than to the tale of all thy seed beside.
I saw thee joy that such a pair would shine
Amid the heroes of thy noble line.
"Say, what has she, thou makest thy fancy's queen,
More than what other courtezans possess?
Who of so many concubine has been;
How used her lovers in the end to bless,
Thou truly know'st: but that she may be seen
Without disguise, and in her real dress,
This ring, returning, on thy finger wear,
And thou shalt see the dame, and mark how fair."
Abashed and mute, Rogero, listening,
In vain to her reproof an answer sought:
Who on his little finger put the ring,
Whose virtue to himself the warrior brought.
And such remorse and shame within him spring,
When on his altered sense the change is wrought,
A thousand fathoms deep he fain would lie
Buried in earth, unseen of any eye.
So speaking, to the natural shape she wore
Before his eyes returned the magic dame;
Nor old Atlantes' form was needed more,
The good effect obtained for which she came.
To tell you that which was not told before,
Melissa was the sage enchantress' name:
Who to Rogero now her purpose said,
And told with what design she thither sped:
Dispatched by her, who him in anxious pain
Desires, nor longer can without him be,
With the intent to loose him from the chain
Wherewith he was begirt by sorcery;
And had put on, more credence to obtain,
Atlantes de Carena's form; but she,
Seeing his health restored, now willed the youth,
Through her should hear and see the very truth.
"That gentle lady who so loves thee, who
Were well deserving love upon thy part;
To whom (unless forgot, thou know'st how true
The tale) thou debtor for thy freedom art,
This ring, which can each magic spell undo,
Sends for thy succour, and would send her heart,
If with such virtue fraught, her heart could bring
Thee safely in thy perils, like the ring."
How Bradamant had loved, and loves, she says,
Continuing to Rogero her relation;
To this, her worth commends with fitting praise,
Tempering in truth and fondness her narration;
And still employs the choicest mode and phrase,
Which fits one skilful in negociation,
And on the false Alcina brings such hate,
As on things horrible is wont to wait;
Brings hate on that which he so loved before;
Nor let the tale astonish which you hear,
For since his love was forced by magic lore,
The ring the false enchantment served to clear.
This too unmasked the charms Alcina wore,
And made all false, from head to food, appear.
None of her own, but borrowed, all he sees,
And the once sparkling cup now drugged with lees.
Like boy who somewhere his ripe fruit bestows,
And next forgets the place where it is laid,
Then, after many days, conducted goes
By chance, where he the rich deposit made,
And wonders that the hidden treasure shows,
Not what it is, but rotten and decayed;
And hates, and scorns, and loathes, with altered eyes,
And throws away what he was used to prize.
Rogero thus, when by Melissa's lore
Advised, he to behold the fay returned,
And that good ring of sovereign virtue wore,
Which, on the finger placed, all spells o'erturned;
For that fair damsel he had left before,
To his surprise, so foul a dame discerned,
That in this ample world, examined round,
A hag so old and hideous is not found.
Pale, lean, and wrinkled was the face, and white,
And thinly clothed with hair Alcina's head;
Her stature reached not to six palms in height,
And every tooth was gone; for she had led
A longer life than ever mortal wight,
Than Hecuba or she in Cuma bred;
But thus by practice, to our age unknown,
Appeared with youth and beauty not her own.
By art she gave herself the lovely look,
Which had on many like Rogero wrought;
But now the ring interpreted the book,
Which secrets, hid for many ages, taught.
No wonder then that he the dame forsook,
And banished from his mind all further thought
Of love for false Alcina, found in guise
Which no new means of slippery fraud supplies.
But, as Melissa counselled him, he wore
His wonted semblance for a time, till he
Was with his armour, many days before
Laid by, again accoutred cap-a-pee.
And, lest Alcina should his end explore,
Feigned to make proof of his agility;
Feigned to make proof if for his arms he were
Too gross, long time unwont the mail to bear.
Next Balisarda to his flank he tied
(For so Rogero's trenchant sword was hight),
And took the wondrous buckler, which, espied,
Not only dazzled the beholder's sight,
But seemed, when its silk veil was drawn aside,
As from the body if exhaled the sprite:
In its close cover of red sendal hung,
This at his neck the youthful warrior slung.
Provided thus, he to the stables came,
And bade with bridle and with saddle dight
A horse more black than pitch; for so the dame
Counselled, well-taught how swift the steed and light.
Him Rabicano those who know him name,
And he the courser was, that with the knight,
Who stands beside the sea, the breeze's sport,
The whale of yore conducted to that port.
The hippogryph he might have had at need,
Who next below good Rabican was tied,
But that the dame had cried to him, "Take heed,
Thou know'st how ill that courser is to ride";
And said the following day the winged steed
'Twas her intention from that realm to guide,
Where he should be instructed at his leisure,
To rein and run him every where at pleasure:
Nor, if he took him not, would he suggest
Suspicion of the intended flight: The peer
This while performed Melissa's every hest,
Who, still invisible, was at his ear.
So feigning, from the wanton dome possessed
By that old strumpet, rode the cavalier;
And pricking forth drew near unto a gate,
Whence the road led to Logistilla's state.
Assaulting suddenly the guardian crew,
He, sword in hand, the squadron set upon;
This one he wounded, and that other slew,
And, point by point made good, the drawbridge won:
And ere of his escape Alcina knew,
The gentle youth was far away and gone.
My next shall tell his route, and how he gained
At last the realm where Logistilla reigned.
Rogero flies; Astolpho with the rest,
To their true shape Melissa does restore;
Rinaldo levies knights and squadrons, pressed
In aid of Charles assaulted by the Moor:
Angelica, by ruffians found at rest,
Is offered to a monster on the shore.
Orlando, warned in visions of his ill,
Departs from Paris sore against his will.
How many enchantresses among us! oh,
How many enchanters are there, though unknown!
Who for their love make man or woman glow,
Changing them into figures not their own.
Nor this by help of spirits from below,
Nor observation of the stars is done:
But these on hearts with fraud and falsehood plot,
Binding them with indissoluble knot.
Who with Angelica's, or rather who
Were fortified with Reason's ring, would see
Each countenance, exposed to open view,
Unchanged by art or by hypocrisy.
This now seems fair and good, whose borrowed hue
Removed, would haply foul and evil be.
Well was it for Rogero that he wore
The virtuous ring which served the truth to explore!
Rogero, still dissembling, as I said,
Armed, to the gate on Rabican did ride;
Found the guard unprepared, not let his blade,
Amid that crowd, hang idle at his side:
He passed the bridge, and broke the palisade,
Some slain, some maimed; then t'wards the forest hied;
But on that road small space had measured yet,
When he a servant of the fairy met.
He on his fist a ravening falcon bore,
Which he made fly for pastime every day;
Now on the champaign, now upon the shore
Of neighbouring pool, which teemed with certain prey;
And rode a hack which simple housings wore,
His faithful dog, companion of his way.
He, marking well the haste with which he hies,
Conjectures truly what Rogero flies.
Towards him came the knave, with semblance haught,
Demanding whither in such haste he sped:
To him the good Rogero answers naught.
He hence assured more clearly that he fled,
Within himself to stop the warrior thought,
And thus, with his left arm extended, said:
"What, if I suddenly thy purpose balk,
And thou find no defence against this hawk?"
Then flies his bird, who works so well his wing,
Rabican cannot distance him in flight:
The falconer from his back to ground did spring,
And freed him from the bit which held him tight;
Who seemed an arrow parted from the string,
And terrible to foe, with kick and bite;
While with such haste behind the servant came,
He sped as moved by wind, or rather flame.
Nor will the falconer's dog appear more slow;
But hunts Rogero's courser, as in chace
Of timid hare the pard is wont to go.
Not to stand fast the warrior deems disgrace,
And turns towards the swiftly-footed foe,
Whom he sees wield a riding-wand, place
Of other arms, to make his dog obey.
Rogero scorns his faulchion to display.
The servant made at him, and smote him sore;
The dog his left foot worried; while untied
From rein, the lightened horse three times and more
Lashed from the croup, nor missed his better side.
The hawk, oft wheeling, with her talons tore
The stripling, and his horse so terrified,
The courser, by the whizzing sound dismayed,
Little the guiding hand or spur obeyed.
Constrained at length, his sword Rogero drew
To clear the rabble, who his course delay;
And in the animals' or villain's view
Did now its point, and now its edge display.
But with more hinderance and vexatious crew
Swarm here and there, and wholly block the way;
And that dishonour will ensue and loss,
Rogero sees, if him they longer cross.
He knew each little that he longer stayed,
Would bring the fay and followers on the trail;
Already drums were beat, and trumpets brayed,
And larum-bells rang loud in every vale.
An act too foul it seemed to use his blade
On dog, and knave unfenced with arms or mail:
A better and shorter way it were
The buckler, old Atlantes' work, to bare.
He raised the crimson cloth in which he wore
The wondrous shield, enclosed for many a day;
Its beams, as proved a thousand times before,
Work as they wont, when on the sight they play;
Senseless the falconer tumbles on the moor;
Drop dog and hackney; drop the pinions gay,
Which poised in air the bird no longer keep:
Then glad Rogero leaves a prey to sleep.
In the mean time, Alcina, who had heard
How he had forced the gate, and, in the press,
Slaughtered a mighty number of her guard,
Remained nigh dead, o'erwhelmed with her distress;
She tore her vesture, and her visage marred,
And cursed her want of wit and wariness.
Then made forthwith her meiny sound to arms,
And round herself arrayed her martial swarms.
Divided next, one squadron by the way
Rogero took, she sent; the bands were two:
She at the port embarked the next array,
And straight to sea dispatched the warlike crew.
With this good squadron went the desperate fay,
And darked by loosened sails the billows grew;
For so desire upon her bosom preyed,
Of troops she left her city unpurveyed.
Without a guard she left her palace there,
Which to Melissa, prompt her time to seize,
To loose her vassals that in misery were,
Afforded all convenience and full ease;
-- To range, at leisure, through the palace fair,
And so examine all her witcheries;
To raze the seal, burn images, and loose
Or cancel hag-knot, rhomb, or magic noose.
Thence, through the fields, fast hurrying from that dome,
The former lovers changed, a mighty train,
Some into rock or tree, to fountain some,
Or beast, she made assume their shapes again:
And these, when they anew are free to roam,
Follow Rogero's footsteps to the reign
Of Logistilla's sage; and from that bourn
To Scythia, Persia, Greece, and Ind return.
They to their several homes dispatched, repair,
Bound by a debt which never can be paid:
The English duke, above the rest her care,
Of these, was first in human form arrayed:
For much his kindred and the courteous prayer
Of good Rogero with Melissa weighed.
Beside his prayers, the ring Rogero gave;
That him she by its aid might better save.
Thus by Rogero's suit the enchantress won,
To his first shape transformed the youthful peer;
But good Melissa deemed that nought was done
Save she restored his armour, and that spear
Of gold, which whensoe'er at tilt he run,
At the first touch unseated cavalier;
Once Argalia's, next Astolpho's lance,
And source of mighty fame to both in France.
The sage Melissa found this spear of gold,
Which now Alcina's magic palace graced,
And other armour of the warrior bold,
Of which he was in that ill dome uncased.
She climbed the courser of the wizard old,
And on the croup, at ease, Astolpho placed:
And thus, an hour before Rogero came,
Repaired to Logistilla, knight and dame.
Meantime, through rugged rocks, and shagged with thorn,
Rogero wends, to seek the sober fay;
From cliff to cliff, from path to path forlorn,
A rugged, lone, inhospitable way:
Till he, with labour huge oppressed and worn,
Issued at noon upon a beach, that lay
'Twixt sea and mountain, open to the south,
Deserted, barren, bare, and parched with drouth.
The sunbeams on the neighbouring mountain beat
And glare, reflected from the glowing mass
So fiercely, sand and air both boil with heat,
In mode that might have more than melted glass.
The birds are silent in their dim retreat,
Nor any note is heard in wood or grass,
Save the bough perched Cicala's wearying cry,
Which deafens hill and dale, and sea and sky.
The heat and thirst and labour which he bore