Stories from the Italian Poets: With Lives of the Writers, Vol. 2
by Leigh Hunt
1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse



















THE ADVENTURES OF ANGELICA Part I. Angelica and her Suitors II. Angelica and Medoro III. The Jealousy of Orlando










WITH THE ADVENTURE OF THE ENCHANTED FOREST: Part I. Armida in the Christian Camp II. Armida's Hate and Love III. The Terrors of the Enchanted Forest IV. The Loves of Rinaldo and Armida V. The Disenchantment of the Forest, and the Taking of Jerusalem, &c.


I. The Death of Agrican II. Angelica and Medoro Translation III. The Jealousy of Orlando IV. The Death of Clorinda V. Tancred in the Enchanted Forest


Critical Notice of his Life and Genius.

Critical Notice


While Pulci in Florence was elevating romance out of the street-ballads, and laying the foundation of the chivalrous epic, a poet appeared in Lombardy (whether inspired by his example is uncertain) who was destined to carry it to a graver though still cheerful height, and prepare the way for the crowning glories of Ariosto. In some respects he even excelled Ariosto: in all, with the exception of style, shewed himself a genuine though immature master.

Little is known of his life, but that little is very pleasant. It exhibits him in the rare light of a poet who was at once rich, romantic, an Arcadian and a man of the world, a feudal lord and an indulgent philosopher, a courtier equally beloved by prince and people.

Matteo Maria Boiardo, Count of Scandiano, Lord of Arceto, Casalgrande, &c., Governor of Reggio, and Captain of the citadel of Modena (it is pleasant to repeat such titles when so adorned), is understood to have been born about the year 1434, at Scandiano, a castle at the foot of the Apennines, not far from Reggio, and famous for its vines.

He was of an ancient family, once lords of Rubiera, and son of Giovanni, second count of Scandiano, and Lucia, a lady of a branch of the Strozzi family in Florence, and sister and aunt of Tito and Erole Strozzi, celebrated Latin poets. His parents appear to have been wise people, for they gave him an education that fitted him equally for public and private life. He was even taught, or acquired, more Greek than was common to the men of letters of that age. His whole life seems, accordingly, to have been divided, with equal success, between his duties as a servant of the dukes of Modena, both military and civil, and the prosecution of his beloved art of poetry,—a combination of pursuits which have been idly supposed incompatible. Milton's poetry did not hinder him from being secretary to Cromwell, and an active partisan. Even the sequestered Spenser was a statesman; and poets and writers of fiction abound in the political histories of all the great nations of Europe. When a man possesses a thorough insight into any one intellectual department (except, perhaps, in certain corners of science), it only sharpens his powers of perception for the others, if he chooses to apply them.

In the year 1469, Boiardo was one of the noblemen who went to meet the Emperor Frederick the Third on his way to Ferrara, when Duke Borso of Modena entertained him in that city. Two years afterwards, Borso, who had been only Marquis of Ferrara, received its ducal title from the Pope; and on going to Rome to be invested with his new honours, the name of our poet is again found among the adorners of his state. A few days after his return home this prince died; and Boiardo, favoured as he had been by him, appears to have succeeded to a double portion of regard in the friendship of the new duke, Ercole, who was more of his own age.

During all this period, from his youth to his prime, our author varied his occupations with Italian and Latin poetry; some of it addressed to a lady of the name of Antonia Caprara, and some to another, whose name is thought to have been Rosa; but whether these ladies died, or his love was diverted elsewhere, he took to wife, in the year 1472, Taddea Gonzaga, of the noble house of that name, daughter of the Count of Novellara. In the course of the same year he is supposed to have begun his great poem. A popular court-favourite, in the prime of life, marrying and commencing a great poem nearly at one and the same time, presents an image of prosperity singularly delightful. By this lady Boiardo had two sons and four daughters. The younger son, Francesco Maria, died in his childhood; but the elder, Camillo, succeeded to his father's title, and left an heir to it,—the last, I believe, of the name. The reception given to the poet's bride, when he took her to Scandiano, is said to have been very splendid.

In the ensuing year the duke his master took a wife himself. She was Eleonora, daughter of the King of Naples; and the newly-married poet was among the noblemen who were sent to escort her to Ferrara. For several years afterwards, his time was probably filled up with the composition of the Orlando Innamorato, and the entertainments given by a splendid court. He was appointed Governor of Reggio, probably in 1478. At the expiration of two or three years he was made Captain of the citadel of Modena; and in 1482 a war broke out, with the Venetians, in which he took part, for it interrupted the progress of his poem. In 1484 he returned to it; but ten years afterwards was again and finally interrupted by the unprincipled descent of the French on Italy under Charles the Eighth; and in the December following he died. The Orlando Innamorato was thus left unfinished. Eight years before his decease the author published what he had written of it up to that time, but the first complete edition was posthumous. The poet was writing when the French came: he breaks off with an anxious and bitter notice of the interruption, though still unable to deny himself a last word on the episode which he was relating, and a hope that he should conclude it another time.

"Mentre che io canto, o Dio redentore, Vedo l'Italia tutta a fiamma e foco, Per questi Galli, che con gran valore Vengon, per disertar non so che loco: Pero vi lascio in questo vano amore Di Fiordespina ardente poco a poco Un' altra volta, se mi fia concesso, Racconterovvi il tutto per espresso."

But while I sing, mine eyes, great God! behold A flaming fire light all the Italian sky, Brought by these French, who, with their myriads bold, Come to lay waste, I know not where or why. Therefore, at present, I must leave untold How love misled poor Fiordespina's eye.[2] Another time, Fate willing, I shall tell, From first to last, how every thing befell.

Besides the Orlando Innamorato, Boiardo wrote a variety of prose works, a comedy in verse on the subject of Timon, lyrics of great elegance, with a vein of natural feeling running through them, and Latin poetry of a like sort, not, indeed, as classical in its style as that of Politian and the other subsequent revivers of the ancient manner, but perhaps not the less interesting on that account; for it is difficult to conceive a thorough copyist in style expressing his own thorough feelings. Mr. Panizzi, if I am not mistaken, promised the world a collection of the miscellaneous poems of Boiardo; but we have not yet had the pleasure of seeing them. In his life of the poet, however, he has given several specimens, both Latin and Italian, which are extremely agreeable. The Latin poems consist of ten eclogues and a few epigrams; but the epigrams, this critic tells us, are neither good nor on a fitting subject, being satirical sallies against Nicolo of Este, who had attempted to seize on Ferrara, and been beheaded. Boiardo was not of a nature qualified to indulge in bitterness. A man of his chivalrous disposition probably misgave himself while he was writing these epigrams. Perhaps he suffered them to escape his pen out of friendship for the reigning branch of the family. But it must be confessed, that some of the best-natured men have too often lost sight of their higher feelings during the pleasure and pride of composition.

With respect to the comedy of Timon, if the whole of it is written as well as the concluding address of the misanthrope (which Mr. Panizzi has extracted into his pages), it must be very pleasant. Timon conceals a treasure in a tomb, and thinks he has baffled some knaves who had a design upon it. He therefore takes leave of his audience with the following benedictions

"Pur ho scacciate queste due formiche, Che raspavano l' oro alla mia buca, Or vadan pur, che Dio le malediche.

Cotal fortuna a casa li conduca, Che lor fiacchi le gambe al primo passo, E nel secondo l'osso della nuca.

Voi altri, che ascoltate giuso al basso, Chiedete, se volete alcuna cosa, Prima ch' io parta, perche mo vi lasso.

Benche abbia l'alma irata e disdegnosa, Da ingiusti oltraggi combattuta e vinta, A voi gia non l'avro tanto ritrosa.

In me non e pietade al tutto estinta Faccia di voi la prova chi gli pare, Sino alla corda, the mi trovo cinta;

Gli prestero, volendosi impiccare."

So! I've got rid of these two creeping things, That fain would have scratched up my buried gold. They're gone; and may the curse of God go with them! May they reach home dust in good time enough To break their legs at the first step in doors, And necks i' the second!—And now then, as to you, Good audience,—groundlings,—folks who love low places, You too perhaps would fain get something of me, Ere I take leave.—Well;—angered though I be, Scornful and torn with rage at being ground Into the dust with wrong, I'm not so lost To all concern and charity for others As not to be still kind enough to part With something near to me-something that's wound About my very self. Here, sirs; mark this;— [Untying the cord round his waist. Let any that would put me to the test, Take it with all my heart, and hang themselves.

The comedy of Timon, which was chiefly taken from Lucian, and one, if not more, of Boiardo's prose translations from other ancients, were written at the request of Duke Ercole, who was a great lover of dramatic versions of this kind, and built a theatre for their exhibition at an enormous expense. These prose translations consist of Apuleius's Golden Ass, Herodotus (the Duke's order), the Golden Ass of Lucian, Xenophon's Cyropaedia (not printed), Emilius Probus (also not printed, and supposed to be Cornelius Nepos), and Riccobaldo's credulous Historia Universalis, with additions. It seems not improbable, that he also translated Homer and Diodorus; and Doni the bookmaker asserts, that he wrote a work called the Testamento dell' Anima (the Soul's Testament) but Mr. Panizzi calls Doni "a barefaced impostor;" and says, that as the work is mentioned by nobody else, we may be "certain that it never existed," and that the title was "a forgery of the impudent priest."

Nothing else of Boiardo's writing is known to exist, but a collection of official letters in the archives of Modena, which, according to Tiraboschi, are of no great importance. It is difficult to suppose, however, that they would not be worth looking at. The author of the Orlando Innamorato could hardly write, even upon the driest matters of government, with the aridity of a common clerk. Some little lurking well-head of character or circumstance, interesting to readers of a later age, would probably break through the barren ground. Perhaps the letters went counter to some of the good Jesuit's theology.

Boiardo's prose translations from the authors of antiquity are so scarce, that Mr. Panizzi himself, a learned and miscellaneous reader, says he never saw them. I am willing to get the only advantage in my power over an Italian critic, by saying that I have had some of them in my hands,—brought there by the pleasant chances of the bookstalls; but I can give no account of them. A modern critic, quoted by this gentleman (Gamba, Testi di Lingua), calls the version of Apuleius "rude and curious;"[3] but adds, that it contains "expressions full of liveliness and propriety." By "rude" is probably meant obsolete, and comparatively unlearned. Correctness of interpretation and classical nicety of style (as Mr. Panizzi observes) were the growths of a later age.

Nothing is told us by his biographers of the person of Boiardo: and it is not safe to determine a man's physique from his writings, unless perhaps with respect to the greater or less amount of his animal spirits; for the able-bodied may write effeminately, and the feeblest supply the defect of corporal stamina with spiritual. Portraits, however, seem to be extant. Mazzuchelli discovered that a medal had been struck in the poet's honour; and in the castle of Scandiano (though "the halls where knights and ladies listened to the adventures of the Paladin are now turned into granaries," and Orlando himself has nearly disappeared from the outside, where he was painted in huge dimensions as if "entrusted with the wardenship") there was a likeness of Boiardo executed by Niccolo dell' Abate, together with the principal events of the Orlando Innamorato and the AEneid.But part of these paintings (Mr. Panizzi tells us) were destroyed, and part removed from the castle to Modena" to save them from certain loss;" and he does not add whether the portrait was among the latter.

From anecdotes, however, and from the poet's writings, we gather the nature of the man; and this appears to have been very amiable. There is an aristocratic tone in his poem, when speaking of the sort of people of whom the mass of soldiers is wont to consist; and Foscolo says, that the Count of Scandiano writes like a feudal lord. But common soldiers are not apt to be the elite of mankind; neither do we know with how goodnatured a smile the mention of them may have been accompanied. People often give a tone to what they read, more belonging to their own minds than the author's. All the accounts left us of Boiardo, hostile as well as friendly, prove him to have been an indulgent and popular man. According to one, he was fond of making personal inquiries among its inhabitants into the history of his native place; and he requited them so generously for their information, that it was customary with them to say, when they wished good fortune to one another, "Heaven send Boiardo to your house!" There is said to have been a tradition at Scandiano, that having tried in vain one day, as he was riding out, to discover a name for one of his heroes, expressive of his lofty character, and the word Rodamonte coming into his head, he galloped back with a pleasant ostentation to his castle, crying it out aloud, and ordering the bells of the place to be rung in its holiour; to the astonishment of the good people, who took "Rodamonte" for some newly-discovered saint. His friend Paganelli of Modena, who wrote a Latin poem on the Empire of Cupid, extolled the Governor of Reggio for ranking among the deity's most generous vassals,—one who, in spite of his office of magistrate, looked with an indulgent eye on errors to which himself was liable, and who was accustomed to prefer the study of love-verses to that of the law. The learned lawyer, his countryman Panciroli, probably in resentment, as Panizzi says, of this preference, accused him of an excess of benignity, and of being fitter for writing poems than punishing ill deeds; and in truth, as the same critic observes, "he must have been considered crazy by the whole tribe of lawyers of that age," if it be true that he anticipated the opinion of Beccaria, in thinking that no crime ought to be punished with death.

The great work of this interesting and accomplished person, the Orlando Innamorato, is an epic romance, founded on the love of the great Paladin for the peerless beauty Angelica, whose name has enamoured the ears of posterity. The poem introduces us to the pleasantest paths in that track of reading in which Milton has told us that his "young feet delighted to wander." Nor did he forsake it in his age.

"Such forces met not, nor so wide a camp, When Agrican with all his northern powers Besieged Albracca, as romances tell, The city of Gallaphrone, from whence to win The fairest of her sex, Angelica."

Paradise Regained.

The Orlando Innamorato may be divided into three principal portions:-the search for Angelica by Orlando and her other lovers; the siege of her father's city Albracca by the Tartars; and that of Paris and Charlemagne by the Moors. These, however, are all more or less intermingled, and with the greatest art; and there are numerous episodes of a like intertexture. The fairies and fairy-gardens of British romance, and the fabulous glories of the house of Este, now proclaimed for the first time, were added by the author to the enchantments of Pulci, together with a pervading elegance; and had the poem been completed, we were to have heard again of the traitor Gan of Maganza, for the purpose of exalting the imaginary founder of that house, Ruggero.

This resuscitation of the Helen of antiquity, under a more seducing form, was an invention of Boiardo's; so was the subjection of Charles's hero Orlando to the passion of love; so, besides the heroine and her name, was that of other interesting characters with beautiful names, which afterwards figured in Ariosto. This inventive faculty is indeed so conspicuous in every part of the work, on small as well as great occasions, in fairy-adventures and those of flesh and blood, that although the author appears to have had both his loves and his fairies suggested to him by our romances of Arthur and the Round Table, it constitutes, next to the pervading elegance above mentioned, his chief claim to our admiration. Another of his merits is a certain tender gallantry, or rather an honest admixture of animal passion with spiritual, also the precursor of the like ingenuous emotions in Ariosto; and he furthermore set his follower the example, not only of good breeding, but of a constant heroical cheerfulness, looking with faith on nature. Pulci has a constant cheerfulness, but not with so much grace and dignity. Foscolo has remarked, that Boiardo's characters even surpass those of Ariosto in truth and variety, and that his Angelica more engages our feelings;[4] to which I will venture to add, that if his style is less strong and complete, it never gives us a sense of elaboration. I should take Boiardo to have been the healthier man, though of a less determined will than Ariosto, and perhaps, on the whole, less robust. You find in Boiardo almost which Ariosto perfected,—chivalry, battles, combats, loves and graces, passions, enchantments, classical and romantic fable, eulogy, satire, mirth, pathos, philosophy. It is like the first sketch of a great picture, not the worse in some respects for being a sketch; free and light, though not so grandly coloured. It is the morning before the sun is up, and when the dew is on the grass. Take the stories which are translated in the present volume, and you might fancy them all written by Ariosto, with a difference; the Death of Agrican perhaps with minuter touches of nature, but certainly not with greater simplicity and earnestness. In the Saracen Friends there is just Ariosto's balance of passion and levity; and in the story which I have entitled Seeing and Believing, his exhibition of triumphant cunning. During the lives of Pulci and Boiardo, the fierce passions and severe ethics of Dante had been gradually giving way to a gentler and laxer state of opinion before the progress of luxury; and though Boiardo's enamoured Paladin retains a kind of virtue not common in any age to the heroes of warfare, the lord of Scandiano, who appears to have recited his poem, sometimes to his vassals and sometimes to the ducal circle at court, intimates a smiling suspicion that such a virtue would be considered a little rude and obsolete by his hearers. Pulci's wandering gallant, Uliviero, who in Dante's time would have been a scandalous profligate, had become the prototype of the court-lover in Boiardo's. The poet, however, in his most favourite characters, retained and recommended a truer sentiment, as in the instance of the loves of Brandimart and Fiordelisa; and there is a graceful cheerfulness in some of his least sentimental ones, which redeems them from grossness. I know not a more charming fancy in the whole loving circle of fairy-land, than the female's shaking her long tresses round Mandricardo, in order to furnish him with a mantle, when he issues out of the enchanted fountain.[5]

But Boiardo's poem was unfinished: there are many prosaical passages in it, many lame and harsh lines, incorrect and even ungrammatical expressions, trivial images, and, above all, many Lombard provincialisms, which are not in their nature of a "significant or graceful" sort,[6] and which shocked the fastidious Florentines, the arbiters of Italian taste. It was to avoid these in his own poetry, that Boiardo's countryman Ariosto carefully studied the Tuscan dialect, if not visited Florence itself; and the consequence was, that his greater genius so obscured the popularity of his predecessor, that a remarkable process, unique in the history of letters, appears to have been thought necessary to restore its perusal. The facetious Berni, a Tuscan wit full of genius, without omitting any particulars of consequence, or adding a single story except of himself, re-cast the whole poem of Boiardo, altering the diction of almost every stanza, and supplying introductions to the cantos after the manner of Ariosto; and the Florentine idiom and unfailing spirit of this re-fashioner's verse (though, what is very curious, not till after a long chance of its being overlooked itself, and a posthumous editorship which has left doubts on the authority of the text) gradually effaced almost the very mention of the man's name who had supplied him with the whole staple commodity of his book, with all the heart of its interest, and with far the greater part of the actual words. The first edition of Berni was prohibited in consequence of its containing a severe attack on the clergy; but even the prohibition did not help to make it popular. The reader may imagine a similar occurrence in England, by supposing that Dryden had re-written the whole of Chaucer, and that his reconstruction had in the course of time as much surpassed the original in popularity, as his version of the Flower and the Leaf did, up to the beginning of the present century.

I do not mean to compare Chaucer with Boiardo, or Dryden with Berni. Fine poet as I think Boiardo, I hold Chaucer to be a far finer; and spirited, and in some respects admirable, as are Dryden's versions of Chaucer, they do not equal that of Boiardo by the Tuscan. Dryden did not apprehend the sentiment of Chaucer in any such degree as Berni did that of his original. Indeed, Mr. Panizzi himself, to whom the world is indebted both for the only good edition of Boiardo and for the knowledge of the most curious facts respecting Berni's rifacimento, declares himself unable to pronounce which of the two poems is the better one, the original Boiardo, or the re-modelled. It would therefore not very well become a foreigner to give a verdict, even if he were able; and I confess, after no little consideration (and apart, of course, from questions of dialect, which I cannot pretend to look into), I feel myself almost entirely at a loss to conjecture on which side the superiority lies, except in point of invention and a certain early simplicity. The advantage in those two respects unquestionably belongs to Boiardo; and a great one it is, and may not unreasonably be supposed to settle the rest of the question in his favour; and yet Berni's fancy, during a more sophisticate period of Italian manners, exhibited itself so abundantly in his own witty poems, his pen at all times has such a charming facility, and he proved himself, in his version of Boiardo, to have so strong a sympathy with the earnestness and sentiment of his original in his gravest moments, that I cannot help thinking the two men would have been each what the other was in their respective times;—the Lombard the comparative idler, given more to witty than serious invention, under a corrupt Roman court; and the Tuscan the originator of romantic fictions, in a court more suited to him than the one he avowedly despised. I look upon them as two men singularly well matched. The nature of the present work does not require, and the limits to which it is confined do not permit, me to indulge myself in a comparison between them corroborated by proofs; but it is impossible not to notice the connexion: and therefore, begging the reader's pardon for the sorry substitute of affirmative for demonstrative criticism, I may be allowed to say, that if Boiardo has the praise of invention to himself, Berni thoroughly appreciated and even enriched it; that if Boiardo has sometimes a more thoroughly charming simplicity, Berni still appreciates it so well, that the difference of their times is sufficient to restore the claim of equality of feeling; and finally, that if Berni strengthens and adorns the interest of the composition with more felicitous expressions, and with a variety of lively and beautiful trains of thought, you feel that Boiardo was quite capable of them all, and might have done precisely the same had he lived in Berni's age. In the greater part of the poem the original is altered in nothing except diction, and often (so at least it seems to me) for no other reason than the requirements of the Tuscan manner. And this is the case with most of the noblest, and even the liveliest passages. My first acquaintance, for example, with the Orlando Innamorato was through the medium of Berni; and on turning to those stories in his version, which I have translated from his original for the present volume, I found that every passage but one, to which I had given a mark of admiration, was the property of the old poet. That single one, however, was in the exquisitest taste, full of as deep a feeling as any thing in its company (I have noticed it in the translated passage). And then, in the celebrated introductions to his cantos, and the additions to Boiardo's passages of description and character (those about Rodamonte, for example, so admired by Foscolo), if Berni occasionally spews a comparative want of faith which you regret, he does it with a regret on his own part, visible through all his jesting. Lastly, the singular and indignant strength of his execution often makes up for the trustingness that he was sorry to miss. If I were asked, in short, which of the two poems I should prefer keeping, were I compelled to choose, I should first complain of being forced upon so hard an alternative, and then, with many a look after Berni, retain Boiardo. The invention is his; the first earnest impulse; the unmisgivings joy; the primitive morning breath, when the town-smoke has not polluted the fields, and the birds are singing their "wood-notes wild." Besides, after all, one cannot be sure that Berni could have invented as Boiardo did. If he could, he would probably have written some fine serious poem of his own. And Panizzi has observed, with striking and conclusive truth, that "without Berni the Orlando Innamorato will be read and enjoyed; without Boiardo not even the name of the poem remains."[7]

Nevertheless this conclusion need not deprive us of either work. Berni raised a fine polished edifice, copied and enlarged after that of Boiardo;—on the other hand, the old house, thank Heaven, remains; and our best way of settling the question between the two is, to be glad that we have got both. Let the reader who is rich in such possessions look upon Berni's as one of his town mansions, erected in the park-like neighbourhood of some metropolis; and Boiardo's as the ancient country original of it, embosomed in the woods afar off, and beautiful as the Enchanted Castle of Claude—

"Lone sitting by the shores of old romance."

* * * * *

[Footnote 1: The materials for the biography in this notice have been gathered from Tiraboschi and others, but more immediately from the copious critical memoir from the pen of Mr. Panizzi, in that gentleman's admirable edition of the combined poems of Boiardo and Ariosto, in nine volumes octavo, published by Mr. Pickering. I have been under obligations to this work in the notice of Pulci, and shall again be so in that of Boiardo's successor; but I must not a third time run the risk of omitting to give it my thanks (such as they are), and of earnestly recommending every lover of Italian poetry, who can afford it, to possess himself of this learned, entertaining, and only satisfactory edition of either of the Orlandos. The author writes an English almost as correct as it is elegant; and he is as painstaking as he is lively.]

[Footnote 2: She had taken a damsel in male attire for a man]

[Footnote 3: Crescimbeni himself had not seen the translation from Apuleius, nor, apparently, several others—Commentari, &c. vol. ii. part ii. lib. vii. sect. xi.]

[Footnote 4: Article on the Narrative and Romantic Poems of the Italians, in the Quarterly Review, No. 62, p. 527.]

[Footnote 5:

"E' suoi capelli a se sciolse di testa, Che n'avea molti la dama gioconda; Ed, abbracciato il cavalier con festa, Tutto il coperse de la treccia bionda: Cosi, nascosi entrambi di tal vesta, Uscir' di quella fonte e la bell' onda."

Her locks she loosened from her lovely head, For many and long had that same lady fair; And clasping him in mirth as round they spread, Covered the knight with the sweet shaken hair: And so, thus both together garmented, They issued from the fount to the fresh air.

Readers of the Faerie Queene will here see where Spenser has been, among his other visits to the Bowers of Bliss.]

[Footnote 6: Foscolo, ut sup. p. 528.]

[Footnote 7: A late amiable man of wit, Mr. Stewart Rose, has given a prose abstract of Berni's Orlando Innamorato, with occasional versification; but it is hardly more than a dry outline, and was, indeed, intended only as an introduction to his version of the Furioso. A good idea, however, of one of the phases of Berni's humour may be obtained from the same gentleman's abridgment of the Animali Parlanti of Casti, in which he has introduced a translation of the Tuscan's description of himself and of his way of life, out of his additions to Boiardo's poem. The verses in the prohibited edition of Berni's Orlando, in which he denounced the corruptions of the clergy, have been published, for the first time in this country, in the notes to the twentieth canto of Mr. Panizzi's Boiardo. They have all his peculiar wit, together with a Lutheran earnestness; and shew him, as that critic observes, to have been "Protestant at his heart."

Since writing this note I have called to mind that a translation of Berni's account of himself is to be found in Mr. Rose's prose abstract of the Innamorato.]



Angelica, daughter of Galafron, king of Cathay, the most beautiful of womankind, and a possessor of the art of magic, comes, with her brother Argalia, to the court of Charlemagne under false pretences, in order to carry away his knights to the country of her father. Her immediate purpose is defeated, and her brother slain; but all the knights, Orlando in particular, fall in love with her; and she herself, in consequence of drinking at an enchanted fountain, becomes in love with Rinaldo. On the other hand, Rinaldo, from drinking a neighbouring fountain of a reverse quality, finds his own love converted to loathing. Various adventures arise out of these circumstances; and the fountains are again drunk, with a mutual reversal of their effects.


It was the month of May and the feast of Pentecost, and Charlemagne had ordained a great jousting, which brought into Paris an infinite number of people, baptised and infidel; for there was truce proclaimed, in order that every knight might come. There was King Grandonio from Spain, with his serpent's face; and Ferragus, with his eyes like an eagle; and Balugante, the emperor's kinsman; and Orlando, and Rinaldo, and Duke Namo; and Astolfo of England, the handsomest of mankind; and the enchanter Malagigi; and Isoliero and Salamone; and the traitor Gan, with his scoundrel followers; and, in short, the whole flower of the chivalry of the age, the greatest in the world. The tables at which they feasted were on three sides of the hall, with the emperor's canopy midway at the top; and at that first table sat crowned heads; and down the table on the right sat dukes and marquises; and down the table on the left, counts and cavaliers. But the Saracen nobles, after their doggish fashion, looked neither for chair nor bench, but preferred a carpet on the floor, which was accordingly spread for them in the midst.

High sat Charlemagne at the head of his vassals and his Paladins, rejoicing in the thought of all the great men of which they consisted, and holding the infidels cheap as the sands which are scattered by the tempest. To each of his lords, as they drank, he sent round, by his pages, gifts of enamelled cups of exquisite workmanship; and to every body some mark of his princely distinction; and so they were all sitting and hearing music, and feasting off dishes of gold, and talking of lovely things with low voices,[1] when suddenly there came into the hall four enormous giants, in the midst of whom was a lady, and behind the lady there followed a cavalier. She was a very lily of the field, and a rose of the garden, and a morning-star; in short, so beautiful that the like had never been seen. There was Galerana in the hall; there was Alda, the wife of Orlando; and Clarice, and Armellina the kind-hearted, and abundance of other ladies, all beautiful till she made her appearance; but after that they seemed nothing. Every Christian knight turned his face that way; and not a Pagan remained on the floor, but arose and got as near to her as he could; while she, with a cheerful sweetness, and a smile fit to enamour a heart of stone, began speaking the following words:

"High-minded lord, the renown of your worthiness, and the valour of these your knights, which echoes from sea to sea, encourages me to hope, that two pilgrims who have come from the ends of the world to behold you, will not have encountered their fatigue in vain. And to the end that I may not hold your attention too long with speaking, let me briefly say, that this knight here, Uberto of the Lion, a prince renowned also for his achievements, has been wrongfully driven from out his dominions; and that I, who was driven out with him, am his sister, whose name is Angelica. Fame has told us of the jousting this day appointed, and of the noble press of knights here assembled, and how your generous natures care not to win prizes of gold or jewels, or gifts of cities, but only a wreath of roses; and so the prince my brother has come to prove his own valour, and to say, that if any or all of your guests, whether baptised or infidel, choose to meet him in the joust, he will encounter them one by one, in the green meadow without the walls, near the place called the Horseblock of Merlin, by the Fountain of the Pine. And his conditions are these,—that no knight who chances to be thrown shall have license to renew the combat in any way whatsoever, but remain a submissive prisoner in his hands; he, on the other hand, if himself be thrown, agreeing to take his departure out of the country with his giants, and to leave his sister, for prize, in the hands of the conqueror."

Kneeling at the close of these words, the lady awaited the answer of Charlemagne, and every body gazed on her with astonishment. Orlando especially, more than all the rest, felt irresistibly drawn towards her, so that his heart trembled, and he changed countenance. But he felt ashamed at the same time; and casting his eyes down, he said to himself, "Ah, mad and unworthy Orlando! whither is thy soul being hurried? I am drawn, and cannot say nay to what draws me. I reckoned the whole world as nothing, and now I am conquered by a girl. I cannot get her sweet look out of my heart. My soul seems to die within me, at the thought of being without her. It is love that has seized me, and I feel that nothing will set me free;—not strength, nor courage, nor my own wisdom, nor that of any adviser. I see the better part, and cleave to the worse."[2]

Thus secretly in his heart did the frank and noble Orlando lament over his new feelings; and no wonder; for every knight in the hall was enamoured of the beautiful stranger, not excepting even old white-headed Duke Namo. Charlemagne himself did not escape.

All stood for awhile in silence, lost in the delight of looking at her. The fiery youth Ferragus was the first to exhibit symptoms in his countenance of uncontrollable passion. He refrained with difficulty from going up to the giants, and tearing her out of their keeping. Rinaldo also turned as red as fire; while his cousin Malagigi the enchanter, who had discovered that the stranger was not speaking truth, muttered softly, as he looked at her, "Exquisite false creature! I will play thee such a trick for this, as will leave thee no cause to boast of thy visit."

Charlemagne, to detain her as long as possible before him, made a speech in answer, in which he talked and looked, and looked and talked, till there seemed no end of it. At length, however, the challenge was accepted in all its forms; and the lady quitted the hall with her brother and the giants.

She had not yet passed the gates, when Malagigi the enchanter consulted his books; and that no means might be wanting to complete the counteraction of what he suspected, he summoned to his aid three spirits out of the lower regions. But how serious his look turned, how his very soul within him was shaken, when he discovered that the most dreadful disasters hung over Charles and his court, and that the sister of the pretended Uberto was daughter of King Galafron of Cathay, a beauty accomplished in every species of enchantment, and sent there by her father on purpose to betray them all! Her brother's name was not Uberto, but Argalia. Galafron had given him a horse swifter than the wind, an enchanted sword, a golden lance, also enchanted, which overthrew all whom it touched,[3] and a ring of a virtue so extraordinary, that if put into the mouth, it rendered the person invisible, and if worn on the finger, nullified every enchantment. But beyond even all this, he gave him his sister for a companion; rightly judging, that every body that saw her would fall into the proposal of the joust; and trusting that, at the close of it, she would bring him the whole court of France into Cathay, prisoners in her hands.

Such, Malagigi discovered, was the plot of the accursed infidel hound, King Galafron.[4]

Meantime the pretended Uberto had returned to his station at the Horseblock of Merlin. He had had a beautiful pavilion pitched there; and under this pavilion he lay down awhile to refresh himself with sleep. His sister Angelica lay down also, but in the open air, under the great pine by the fountain. The four giants kept watch: and as she lay thus asleep, with her fair head on the grass, she appeared like an angel come down from heaven.

By this time Malagigi, borne by one of his demons, had arrived in the same place. He saw the beauty asleep by the flowery water, and the four giants all wide awake; and he said within his teeth,—" Brute scoundrels, I will take every one of you into my net without a blow."

Malagigi took his book, and cast a spell out of it; and in an instant the whole four giants were buried in sleep. Then, drawing his sword, he softly approached the young lady, intending to despatch her as quickly: but seeing her look so lovely as she slept, he paused, and considered within himself, and resolved to detain her in the same state by enchantment, so long as it should please him. Laying down the naked sword in the grass, he again took his book, and read and read on, and still read on, and fancied he was locking up her senses all the while in a sleep unwakeable. But the ring of which I have spoken was on her finger. She had borrowed it of her brother; and a superior power rendered all other magic of no avail. A touch from Malagigi to prove the force of his spell awoke her, to the magician's consternation, with a great cry. She fled into the arms of her brother, whom it aroused; and, by the help of his sister's knowledge of enchantment, Argalia mastered and bound the magician. The book was then turned against him, and the place was suddenly filled with a crowd of his own demons, every one of them crying out to Angelica, "What commandest thou?"

"Take this man," said Angelica, "and bear him prisoner to the great city between Tartary and India, where my father Galafron is lord. Present him to him in my name, and say it was I that took him; and add, that having so taken the master of the book, I care not for all the other lords of the court of Charlemagne."

At the end of these words, and at one and the same instant, the magician was conveyed to the feet of Galafron in Cathay, and locked up in a rock under the sea.

In due time the enamoured knights, according to agreement, came to the spot, for the purpose of jousting with the supposed Uberto, each anxious to have the first encounter, particularly Orlando, in order that he might not see the beauty carried off by another. But they were obliged to draw lots; and thirty other names appeared before his, the first of which was that of Astolfo the Englishman.

Now Astolfo was son of the king of England; and as I said before, he was the handsomest man in the world. He was also very rich and well bred, and loved to dress well, and was as brave as he was handsome; but his success was not always equal to his bravery. He had a trick of being thrown from his horse, a failing which he was accustomed to attribute to accident; and then he would mount again, and be again thrown from the saddle, in the boldest manner conceivable.

This gallant prince was habited, on the present occasion, in arms worth a whole treasury. His shield had a border of large pearls; his mail was of gold; on his helmet was a ruby as big as a chestnut; and his horse was covered with a cloth all over golden leopards.[5] He issued to the combat, looking at nobody and fearing nothing; and on his sounding the horn to battle, Argalia came forth to meet him. After courteous salutations, the two combatants rushed together; but the moment the Englishman was touched with the golden lance, his legs flew over his head.

"Cursed fortune!" cried he, as he lay on the grass; "this is out of all calculation. But it was entirely owing to the saddle. You can't but acknowledge, that if I had kept my seat, the beautiful lady would have been mine. But thus it is when Fortune chooses to befriend infidels!"[6]

The four giants, who had by this time been disenchanted out of their sleep by Angelica, took up the English prince, and put him in the pavilion. But when he was stripped of his armour, he looked so handsome, that the lovely stranger secretly took pity on him, and bade them shew him all the courtesies that captivity allowed. He was permitted to walk outside by the fountain; and Angelica, from a dark corner, looked at him with admiration, as he walked up and down in the moonlight.[7]

The violent Ferragus had the next chance in the encounter, and was thrown no less speedily than Astolfo; but he did not so easily put up with the mischance. Crying out, "What are the emperor's engagements to me?" he rushed with his sword against Argalia, who, being forced to defend himself unexpectedly, dismounted and set aside his lance, and got so much the worse of the fight, that he listened to proposals of marriage from Ferragus to his sister. The beauty, however, not feeling an inclination to match with so rough and savage-looking a person, was so dismayed at the offer, that, hastily bidding her brother meet her in the forest of Arden, she vanished from the sight of both, by means of the enchanted ring. Argalia, seeing this, took to his horse of swiftness, and dashed away in the same direction; Ferragus, in distraction, pursued Argalia; and Astolfo, thus left to himself, took possession of the golden lance, and again issued forth—not, indeed, with quite his usual confidence of the result, but determined to run all risks, in any thing that might ensue, for the sake of the emperor. In fine, to cut this part of the history short, Charlemagne, finding the lady and her brother gone, ordered the joust to be restored to its first intention; and Astolfo, who was as ignorant as the others of the treasure he possessed in the enchanted lance, unhorsed all comers against him like so many children, equally to their astonishment and his own.

The Paladin Rinaldo now learnt the issue of the fight between Ferragus and the stranger, and galloped in a loving agony of pursuit after the fair fugitive. Orlando learnt the disappearance of Rinaldo, and, distracted with jealousy, pushed forth in like manner; and at length all three are in the forest of Arden, hunting about for her who is invisible.

Now in this forest were two enchanted waters, the one a running stream, and the other a built fountain; the first caused every body who tasted it to fall in love, and the other (so to speak) to fall out of love; say, rather, to feel the love turned into hate. To the latter of these two waters Rinaldo happened to come; and being flushed with heat and anxiety, he dismounted from his horse, and quenched, in one cold draught, both his thirst and his passion. So far from loving Angelica as before, or holding her beauty of any account, he became disgusted with its pursuit, nay, hated her from the bottom of his heart; and so, in this new state of mind, and with feelings of lofty contempt, he remounted and rode away, and happened to come on the bank of the running stream. There, enticed by the beauty of the place, which was all sweet meadow-ground and bowers of trees, he again quitted his saddle, and, throwing himself on the ground, fell fast asleep. Unfortunately for the proud beauty Angelica, or rather in just punishment for her contempt, her palfrey conducted her to this very place. The water tempted her to drink, and, dismounting and tying the animal to one of the trees, she did so, and then cast her eyes on the sleeping Rinaldo. Love instantly seized her, and she stood rooted to the spot.

The meadow round about was all full of lilies of the valley and wild roses. Angelica, not knowing what to do, at length plucked a quantity of these, and with her white hand she dropped them on the face of the sleeper. He woke up; and seeing who it was, not only received her salutations with a change of countenance, but remounting his horse, galloped away through the thickest part of the forest. In vain the beautiful creature followed and called after him; in vain asked him what she had done to be so despised, and entreated him, at any rate, to take care how he went so fast. Rinaldo disappeared, leaving her to wring her hands in despair; and she returned in tears to the spot on which she had found him sleeping. There, in her turn, she herself lay down, pressing the spot of earth on which he had lain; and so, weeping and lamenting, yet blessing every flower and bit of grass that he had touched, fell asleep out of fatigue and sorrow.

As Angelica thus lay, the good or bad fortune of Orlando conducted him to the same place. The attitude in which she was sleeping was so lovely that it is not even to be conceived, much less expressed. The very grass seemed to flower on all sides of her for joy; and the stream, as it murmured along, to go talking of love.[8] Orlando stood gazing like a man who had been transported to another sphere. "Am I on earth," thought he, "or am I in paradise? Surely it is I myself that am sleeping, and this is my dream."

But his dream was proved to be none, in a manner which he little desired. Ferragus, who had slain Argalia, came up raging with jealousy, and a combat ensued which awoke the sleeper. Terrified at what she beheld, she rushed to her palfrey; and while the fighters were occupied with one another, fled away through the forest.

Fast fled the beauty in the direction taken by Rinaldo; nor did she cease travelling, by one conveyance or another, till she reached her own country, whither she had sent Malagigi. Him she freed from his prison, on condition that he would employ his art for the purpose of bringing Rinaldo to a palace of hers, which she possessed in an island; and accordingly Rinaldo was inveigled by a spirit into an enchanted barque, which he found on a sea-shore, and which conveyed him, without any visible pilot, into Joyous Palace (for so the island was called).

The whole island was a garden, fifteen miles in extent. It was full of trees and lawns; and on the western side, close to the sea, was the palace, built of a marble so clear and polished, that it reflected the landscape round about. Rinaldo, not knowing what to think of his strange conveyance, lost no time in leaping to shore; upon which a lady made her appearance, who invited him within. The house was a most beautiful house, full of rooms adorned with azure and gold, and with noble paintings; and within as well as without it were the loveliest flowers, the purest fountains, and a fragrance fit to turn sorrow to joy. The lady led the knight into an apartment painted with stories, and opening to the garden through pillars of crystal with golden capitals. Here he found a bevy of ladies, three of whom were singing in concert, while another played on some foreign instrument of exquisite accord, and the rest were dancing round about them. When the ladies beheld him coming, they turned the dance into a circuit round about himself; and then one of them, in the sweetest manner, said, "Sir knight, the tables are set, and the hour for the banquet is come:" and with these words they all drew him, still dancing, across the lawn in front of the apartment, to a table that was spread with cloth of gold and fine linen, under a bower of damask roses, by the side of a fountain.[9]

Four ladies were already seated there, who rose and placed Rinaldo at their head, in a chair set with pearls. And truly indeed was he astonished. A repast ensued, consisting of viands the most delicate, and wines as fragrant as they were fine, drunk out of jewelled cups; and when it drew towards its conclusion, harps and lutes were heard in the distance, and one of the ladies said in the knight's ear, "This house, and all that you see in it, are yours. For you alone was it built, and the builder is a queen; and happy indeed must you think yourself, for she loves you, and she is the greatest beauty in the world. Her name is Angelica."

The moment Rinaldo heard the name he so detested, disgust and wretchedness fell upon his heart, notwithstanding the joys around him. He started up with a changed countenance, and, in spite of all that the lady could say, broke off across the garden, and never ceased hastening till he reached the place where he landed. He would have thrown himself into the sea, rather than stay any longer in that island; but the enchanted barque was still on the shore. He sprang into it, and attempted instantly to push off, for he still saw nobody in it but himself; but the barque for a while resisted his efforts; till, on his feeling a wish to drown himself, or to do any thing rather than return to that detested house, it suddenly loosed itself from its moorings, and dashed away with him over the sea, as if in a fury.

All night did the pilotless barque dash on, till it reached, in the morning, a distant shore covered with a gloomy forest. Here Rinaldo, surrounded by enchantments of a very different sort from those which he had lately resisted, was entrapped into a pit. The pit belonged to a castle which was hung with human heads, and painted red with blood; and as the Paladin was calling upon God to help him, a hideous white-headed old woman, of a spiteful countenance, made her appearance on the edge of the pit, and told him that he must fight with a monster born of Death and Desire.

"Be it so," said the Paladin. "Let me but remain armed as I am, and I fear nothing." For Rinaldo had with him his renowned sword Fusberta.[10]

The old woman laughed in derision. Rinaldo remained in the den all night, and next day was taken to a place where a portcullis was lifted up, and the monster rushed forth. He was a mixture of hog and serpent, larger than an ox, and not to be looked at without horror. He had eyes like a traitor, the hands of a man, but clawed, a beard dabbled with blood, a skin of coarse variegated colours, too hard to be cut through, and two horns on his temples, which he could turn on all sides of him at his pleasure, and which were so sharp that they cut like a sword.

Rising on his hind-legs, and opening a mouth six palms in width, this horrible beast fell heavily on Rinaldo, who was nevertheless quick enough to give it a blow on the snout which increased its fury. Returning the knight a tremendous cuff, it seized his coat of mail between breast and shoulder, and tore away a great strip of it down to the girdle, leaving the skin bare. Every successive rent and blow was of the like irresistible violence; and though the Paladin himself never fought with more force and fury, he lost blood every instant. The monster at length tearing his sword out of his hand, the Paladin surely began to think that his last hour was arrived.

Looking about to see what might possibly help him, he observed overhead a beam sticking out of a wall at the height of some ten feet. He took a leap more than human; and reaching the beam with his hand, succeeded in flinging himself up across it. Here he sat for hours, the furious brute continually trying to reach him. Night-time then came on with a clear starry sky and moonlight, and the Paladin could discern no way of escaping, when he heard a sound of something, he knew not what, coming through the air like a bird. Suddenly a female figure stood on the end of the beam, holding something in her hand towards him, and speaking in a loving voice.

It was Angelica, come with means for destroying the monster, and carrying the knight away.

But the moment Rinaldo saw her, desperate as seemed to be his condition, he renounced all offers of her assistance; and at length became so exasperated with her good offices, especially when she opened her arms and offered to bear him away in them, that he threatened to cast himself down to the monster if she did not go away.[11]

Angelica, saying that she would lose her life rather than displease him, descended from the beam; and having given the monster a cake of wax which fastened up his teeth, and then caught and fixed him in a set of nooses she had brought for that purpose, took her miserable departure. Rinaldo upon this got down from the beam himself; and having succeeded, though with the greatest difficulty, in beating and squeezing the life out of the monster, dealt such havoc among the people of the castle who assailed him, that the horrible old woman, whose crimes had made her the creature's housekeeper, and led her to take delight in its cruelty, threw herself headlong from a tower. The Paladin then took his way forth, turning his back on the castle and the sea-shore.

Angelica returned to the capital of her father's dominion, Albracca; and the pertinacity of others in seeking her love being as great as that of hers for Rinaldo, she found King Galafron, in a short time, besieged there for her sake, by the fierce Agrican, king of Tartary.

In a short time a jealous feud sprang up between the loving friends Rinaldo and Orlando; and Angelica, torn with conflicting emotions, from her dread on her father's account as well as her own, and her aversion to every knight but her detester, was at one time compelled to apply to Orlando for assistance, and at another, being afraid that he would have the better of Rinaldo in combat, to send him away on a perilous adventure elsewhere, with a promise of accepting his love should he succeed.[12] Orlando went, but not before he had slain Agrican and delivered Albracca. Circumstances, however, again took him with her to a distance, as the reader will see, ere he could bring her to perform her promise; and the Paladins in general having again been scattered abroad, it happened that Rinaldo a second time found himself in the forest of Arden; and here, without expecting it, he became an altered man; for he now tasted a very different stream from that which had given him his hate for Angelica; namely, the one which had made her fall in love with himself. He was led to do this by a very extraordinary adventure.

In the thick of the forest he had come upon a mead full of flowers, in which there was a naked youth, singing in the midst of three damsels, who were naked also, and who were dancing round about him. They had bunches of flowers in their hands, and garlands on their heads; and as they were thus delighting themselves, with faces full of love and joy, they suddenly changed countenance on seeing Rinaldo. "Behold," cried they, "the traitor! Behold him, villain that he is, and the scorner of all delights! He has fallen into the net at last." With these words they fell upon him with the flowers like so many furies; and tender as such scourges might be thought, every blow which the roses and violets gave him, every fresh stroke of the lilies and the hyacinths, smote him to the very heart, and filled his veins with fire. The flowers in the bands of the nymphs being exhausted, the youth gave him a blow on the helmet with a tall garden-lily, which felled him to the earth; and so, taking him by the legs, and dragging him over the grass, his conqueror went the whole circuit of the mead with him, the nymphs taking the very garlands off their heads, and again scourging him with their white and red roses.[13]

At the close of this discipline, which left him more exhausted than twenty battles, his enemies suddenly developed wings from their shoulders, the feathers of which were of white and gold and vermilion, every feather having an eye in it, not like those in the peacock's feathers, but one full of life and motion, being a female eye, lovely and gracious. And with these wings they poised themselves a little, and so sprung up to heaven.[14]

The Paladin, more dead than alive, lay helpless among the flowers, when a fourth nymph came up to him, of inexpressible beauty. She told him that he had grievously offended the naked youth, who was no other than Love himself; and added, that his only remedy was to be penitent, and to drink of the waters of a stream hard by, which he would find running from the roots of an olive-tree and a pine. With these words, she vanished in her turn like the rest; and Rinaldo, dragging himself as well as he could to the olive and pine, stooped down, and greedily drank of the water. Again and again he drank, and wished still to be drinking, for it took not only all pain out of his limbs, but all hate and bitterness out of his soul, and produced such a remorseful and doating memory of Angelica, that he would fain have galloped that instant to Cathay, and prostrated himself at her feet. By degrees he knew the place; and looking round about him, and preparing to remount his horse, he discerned a knight and a lady in the distance. The knight was in a coat of armour unknown to him, and the lady kneeling and drinking at a fountain, which was the one that had formerly quenched his own thirst; to wit, the Fountain of Disdain.

Alas! it was Angelica herself; and the knight was Orlando. She had allowed him to bring her into France, ostensibly for the purpose of wedding him at the court of Charlemagne, whither the hero's assistance had been called against Agramant king of the Moors, but secretly with the object of discovering Rinaldo. Rinaldo, behold! is discovered; but the fatal averse water has been drunk, and Angelica now hates him in turn, as cordially as he detested her. In vain he accosted her in the humblest and most repentant manner, calling himself the unworthiest of mankind, and entreating to be allowed to love her. Orlando, disclosing himself, fiercely interrupted him; and a combat so terrific ensued, that Angelica fled away on her palfrey till she came to a large plain, in which she beheld an army encamped.

The army was Charlemagne's, who had come to meet Rodamonte, one of the vassals of Agramant. Angelica, in a tremble, related how she had left the two Paladins fighting in the wood; and Charlemagne, who was delighted to find Orlando so near him, proceeded thither with his lords, and parting the combatants by his royal authority, suppressed the dispute between them for the present, by consigning the object of their contention to the care of Namo duke of Bavaria, with the understanding that she was to be the prize of the warrior who should best deserve her in the approaching battle with the infidels.

[This is the last we hear of Angelica in the unfinished poem of Boiardo. For the close of her history see its continuation by Ariosto in the present volume.]

[Footnote 1: "Con parlar basso e bei ragionamenti."]

[Footnote 2: Video meliora, proboque, &c. Writers were now beginning to pride themselves on their classical reading. The present occasion, it must be owned, was a very good one for introducing the passage from Horace. The previous words have an affecting ingenuousness; and, indeed, the whole stanza is beautiful:

"Io non mi posso dal cor dipartire La dolce vista del viso sereno, Perch'io mi sento senza lei morire, E 'l spirto a poco a poco venir meno. Or non mi vale forza, ne l'ardire Contra d' amor, the m' ha gia posto il freno; Ne mi giova saper, ne altrui consiglio: Il meglio veggio, ed al peggior m'appiglio."

Alas! I cannot, though I shut mine eyes, Lose the sweet look of that delightful face; The very soul within me droops and dies, To think that I may fail to gain her grace. No strong limbs now, no valour, will suffice To burst the spell that roots me to the place: No, nor reflection, nor advice, nor force; I see the better part, and clasp the worse.]

[Footnote 3: [Greek: Argureais logchaisi machou, kai panta krataeseis.]

"Make war with silver spears, and you'll beat all."

The reader will note the allegory or not, as he pleases. It is a very good allegory; but allegory, by the due process of enchantment, becomes matter of fact; and it is pleasant to take it as such.]

[Footnote 4: "Re Galagron, il maledetto cane"]

[Footnote 5: The lions in the shield of England were leopards in the "olden time," and it is understood, I believe, ought still to be so,—as Napoleon, with an invidious pedantry, once permitted himself to be angry enough to inform us.]

[Footnote 6: The character of Astolfo, the germ of which is in our own ancient British romances, appears to have been completed by the lively invention of Boiardo, and is a curious epitome of almost all which has been discerned in the travelled Englishmen by the envy of poorer and the wit of livelier foreigners. He has the handsomeness and ostentation of a Buckingham, the wealth of a Beckford, the generosity of a Carlisle, the invincible pretensions of a Crichton, the self-commitals and bravery of a Digby, the lucklessness of a Stuart, and the nonchalance "under difficulties" of "Milord What-then" in Voltaire's Princess of Babylon, where the noble traveller is discovered philosophically reading the news-paper in his carriage after it was overturned. English beauty, ever since the days of Pope Gregory, with his pun about Angles and Angels, has been greatly admired in the south of Europe—not a little, perhaps, on account of the general fairness of its complexion. I once heard a fair-faced English gentleman, who would have been thought rather effeminate looking at home, called an "Angel" by a lady in Genoa.]

[Footnote 7:

"Stava disciolto, senza guardia alcuna, Ed intorno a la fonte sollazzava; Angelica nel lume de la luna, Quanto potea nascosa, lo mirava."

There is something wonderfully soft and lunar in the liquid monotony of the third line.]

[Footnote 8:

"La qual dormiva in atto tanto adorno, Che pensar non si puo, non ch'io lo scriva Parea che l'erba a lei fiorisse intorno, E d'amor ragionasse quella riva."

Her posture, as she lay, was exquisite Above all words—nay, thought itself above: The grass seemed flowering round her in delight, And the soft river murmuring of love.]

[Footnote 9: Supremely elegant all this appears to me.]

[Footnote 10: Sometimes called in the romances Frusberta (query, from fourbir, to burnish; or, froisser, to crush?). The meaning does not seem to be known. I ought to have observed, in the notes to Pulci, that the name of Orlando's sword, Durlindana (called also Durindana, Durandal, &c.), is understood to mean Hardhitter.]

[Footnote 11: The force of aversion was surely never better imagined than in this scene of the opened arms of beauty, and the knight's preference of the most odious death.]

[Footnote 12: Legalised, I presume, by a divorce from the hero's wife, the fair Alda; who, though she is generally designated by that epithet, seems never to have had much of his attention.]

[Footnote 13: This violent effect of weapons so extremely gentle is beautifully conceived.]

[Footnote 14: The "female eye, lovely and gracious," is charmingly painted per se, but of this otherwise thoroughly beautiful description I must venture to doubt, whether living eyes of any sort, instead of those in the peacock's feathers, are in good taste. The imagination revolts from life misplaced.]




Agrican king of Tartary, in love with Angelica, and baffled by the prowess of the unknown Orlando in his attempts to bring the siege of Albracca to a favourable conclusion, entices him apart from the battle into a wood, in the hope of killing him in single combat. The combat is suspended by the arrival of night-time; and a conversation ensues between the warriors, which is furiously interrupted by Agrican's discovery of his rival, and the latter's refusal to renounce his love. Agrican is slain; and in his dying moments requests baptism at the hand of his conqueror, who, with great tenderness, bestows it.



The siege of Albracca was going on formidably under the command of Agrican, and the city of Galafron was threatened with the loss of the monarch's daughter, Angelica, when Orlando, at his earnest prayer, came to assist him, and changing at once the whole course of the war, threw the enemy in his turn into transports of anxiety. Wherever the great Paladin came, pennon and standard fell before him. Men were cut up and cloven down, at every stroke of his sword; and whereas the Indians had been in full rout but a moment before, and the Tartars ever on their flanks, Galafron himself being the swiftest among the spurrers away, it was now the Tartars that fled for their lives; for Orlando was there, and a band of fresh knights were about him, and Agrican in vain attempted to rally his troops. The Paladin kept him constantly in his front, forcing him to attend to nobody else. The Tartar king, who cared not a button for Galafron and all his army,[1] provided he could but rid himself of this terrible knight (whom he guessed at, but did not know), bethought him of a stratagem. He turned his horse, and made a show of flying in despair. Orlando dashed after him, as he desired; and Agrican fled till he reached a green place in a wood, with a fountain in it.

The place was beautiful, and the Tartar dismounted to refresh himself at the fountain, but without taking off his helmet, or laying aside any of his armour. Orlando was quickly at his back, crying out, "So bold, and yet such a fugitive! How could you fly from a single arm, and yet think to escape? When a man can die with honour, he should be glad to die; for he may live and fare worse. He may get death and infamy together."

The Tartar king had leaped on his saddle the moment he saw his enemy; and when the Paladin had done speaking, he said in a mild voice, "Without doubt you are the best knight I ever encountered; and fain would I leave you untouched for your own sake, if you would cease to hinder me from rallying my people. I pretended to fly, in order to bring you out of the field. If you insist upon fighting, I must needs fight and slay you; but I call the sun in the heavens to witness, that I would rather not. I should be very sorry for your death."

The County Orlando felt pity for so much gallantry; and he said," The nobler you shew yourself, the more it grieves me to think, that in dying without a knowledge of the true faith, you will be lost in the other world. Let me advise you to save body and soul at once. Receive baptism, and go your way in peace."

Agrican looked him in the face, and replied, "I suspect you to be the Paladin Orlando. If you are, I would not lose this opportunity of fighting with you, to be king of Paradise. Talk to me no more about your things of the other world; for you will preach in vain. Each of us for himself, and let the sword be umpire."

No sooner said than done. The Tartar drew his sword, boldly advancing upon Orlando; and a cut and thrust fight began, so long and so terrible, each warrior being a miracle of prowess, that the story says it lasted from noon till night. Orlando then, seeing the stars come out, was the first to propose a respite. "What are we to do," said he, "now that daylight has left us?"

Agrican answered readily enough, "Let us repose in this meadow, and renew the combat at dawn."

The repose was taken accordingly. Each tied up his horse, and reclined himself on the grass, not far from one another, just as if they had been friends,—Orlando by the fountain, Agrican beneath a pine. It was a beautiful clear night; and as they talked together, before addressing themselves to sleep, the champion of Christendom, looking up at the firmament, said, "That is a fine piece of workmanship, that starry spectacle. God made it all,—that moon of silver, and those stars of gold, and the light of day and the sun,—all for the sake of human kind."

"You wish, I see, to talk of matters of faith," said the Tartar. "Now I may as well tell you at once, that I have no sort of skill in such matters, nor learning of any kind. I never could learn anything when I was a boy. I hated it so, that I broke the man's head who was commissioned to teach me; and it produced such an effect on others, that nobody ever afterwards dared so much as shew me a book. My boyhood was therefore passed as it should be, in horsemanship, and hunting, and learning to fight. What is the good of a gentleman's poring all day over a book? Prowess to the knight, and prattle to the clergyman. That is my motto."

"I acknowledge," returned Orlando, "that arms are the first consideration of a gentleman; but not at all that he does himself dishonour by knowledge. On the contrary, knowledge is as great an embellishment of the rest of his attainments, as the flowers are to the meadow before us; and as to the knowledge of his Maker, the man that is without it is no better than a stock or a stone, or a brute beast. Neither, without study, can he reach anything like a due sense of the depth and divineness of the contemplation."

"Learned or not learned," said Agrican, "you might skew yourself better bred than by endeavouring to make me talk on a subject on which you have me at a disadvantage. I have frankly told you what sort of person I am; and I dare say, that you for your part are very learned and wise. You will therefore permit me, if you say anything more of such things, to make you no answer. If you choose to sleep, I wish you good night; but if you prefer talking, I recommend you to talk of fighting, or of fair ladies. And, by the way, pray tell me-are you, or are you not, may I ask, that Orlando who makes such a noise in the world? And what is it, pray, brings you into these parts? Were you ever in love? I suppose you must have been; for to be a knight, and never to have been in love, would be like being a man with no heart in his breast."

The County replied, "Orlando I am, and in love I am.[2] Love has made me abandon every thing, and brought me into these distant regions; and to tell you all in one word, my heart is in the hands of the daughter of King Galafron. You have come against him with fire and sword, to get possession of his castles and his dominions; and I have come to help him, for no object in the world but to please his daughter, and win her beautiful hand. I care for nothing else in existence."

Now when the Tartar king Agrican heard his antagonist speak in this manner, and knew him to be indeed Orlando, and to be in love with Angelica, his face changed colour for grief and jealousy, though it could not be seen for the darkness. His heart began beating with such violence, that he felt as if he should have died. "Well," said he to Orlando, "we are to fight when it is daylight, and one or the other is to be left here, dead on the ground. I have a proposal to make to you; nay, an entreaty. My love is so excessive for the same lady, that I beg you to leave her to me. I will owe you my thanks, and give up the fight myself. I cannot bear that any one else should love her, and I live to see it. Why, therefore, should either of us perish? Give her up. Not a soul shall know it."[3]

"I never yet," answered Orlando, "made a promise which I did not keep; and, nevertheless, I own to you, that were I to make a promise like that, and even swear to keep it, I should not. You might as well ask me to tear away the limbs from my body, and the eyes out of my head. I could as soon live without breath itself, as cease loving Angelica."

Agrican bad scarcely patience enough to let the speaker finish, ere he leaped furiously on horseback, though it was midnight. "Quit her," said he, "or die!"

Orlando, seeing the infidel getting up, and not being sure that he would not add treachery to fierceness, had been hardly less quick in mounting for the combat. "Never!" exclaimed he. "I never could have quitted her if I would; and now I wouldn't if I could. You must seek her by other means than these."

Fiercely dashed their horses together, in the night-time, on the green mead. Despiteful and terrible were the blows they gave and took by the moonlight. There was no need of their looking out for one another, night-time though it was. Their business was to take as sharp heed of every movement, as if it had been noon-day.[4]

Agrican fought in a rage: Orlando was cooler. And now the struggle had lasted more than five hours, and dawn began to be visible, when the Tartar king, furious to find so much trouble given him, dealt his enemy a blow sharp and violent beyond conception. It cut the shield in two, as if it had been a cheesecake; and though blood could not be drawn from Orlando, because he was fated, it shook and bruised him, as if it had started every joint in his body.

His body only, however; not a particle of his soul. So dreadful was the blow which the Paladin gave in return, that not only shield, but every bit of mail on the body of Agrican, was broken in pieces, and three of his left ribs cut asunder.

The Tartar, roaring like a lion, raised his sword with still greater vehemence than before, and dealt a blow on the Paladin's helmet, such as he had never yet received from mortal man. For a moment it took away his senses. His sight failed; his ears tinkled; his frightened horse turned about to fly; and he was falling from the saddle, when the very action of falling jerked his head upwards, and with the jerk he regained his recollection.

"O my God!" thought he, "what a shame is this! how shall I ever again dare to face Angelica! I have been fighting, hour after hour, with this man, and he is but one, and I call myself Orlando. If the combat last any longer, I will bury myself in a monastery, and never look on sword again."

Orlando muttered with his lips closed and his teeth ground together; and you might have thought that fire instead of breath came out of his nose and mouth. He raised his sword Durindana with both his hands, and sent it down so tremendously on Agrican's left shoulder, that it cut through breast-plate and belly-piece down to the very haunch; nay, crushed the saddle-bow, though it was made of bone and iron, and felled man and horse to the earth. From shoulder to hip was Agrican cut through his weary soul, and he turned as white as ashes, and felt death upon him. He called Orlando to come close to him with a gentle voice, and said, as well as he could, "I believe in Him who died on the Cross. Baptise me, I pray thee, with the fountain, before my senses are gone. I have lived an evil life, but need not be rebellious to God in death also. May He who came to save all the rest of the world, save me! He is a God of great mercy."

And he shed tears, did that king, though he had been so lofty and fierce.

Orlando dismounted quickly, with his own face in tears. He gathered the king tenderly in his arms, and took and laid him by the fountain, on a marble cirque which it had; and then he wept in concert with him heartily, and asked his pardon, and so baptised him in the water of the fountain, and knelt and prayed to God for him with joined hands.

He then paused and looked at him; and when he perceived his countenance changed, and that his whole person was cold, he left him there on the marble cirque by the fountain, all armed as he was, with the sword by his side, and the crown upon his head.

* * * * *

I think I may anticipate the warm admiration of the reader for the whole of this beautiful episode, particularly its close. "I think," says Panizzi, "that Tasso had this passage particularly in view when he wrote the duel of Clorinda and Tancredi, and her conversion and baptism before dying. The whole passage, from stanza xii. (where Agrican receives his mortal blow) to this, is beautiful; and the delicate proceeding of Orlando in leaving Agrican's body armed, even with the sword in his hand, is in the noblest spirit of chivalry."—Edition of Boiardo and Ariosto, vol. iii. page 357.

The reader will find the original in the Appendix No. I.

In the course of the poem (canto xix. stanza xxvi.) a knight, with the same noble delicacy, who is in distress for a set of arms, borrows those belonging to the dead body, with many excuses, and a kiss on its face.

[Footnote 1:

"Che tutti insieme, e 'l suo Re Galafrone, Non li stimava quanto un vil bottone."]

[Footnote 2: Berni has here introduced the touching words, "Would I were not so!" (Cosi non foss'io!)]

[Footnote 3: This proposal is in the highest ingenuous spirit of the absurd wilfulness of passion, thinking that every thing is to give way before it, not excepting the same identical wishes in other people.]

[Footnote 4: Very fine all this, I think.]




Prasildo, a nobleman of Babylon, to his great anguish, falls in love with his friend's wife, Tisbina; and being overheard by her and her husband threatening to kill himself, the lady, hoping to divert him from his passion by time and absence, promises to return it on condition of his performing a distant and perilous adventure. He performs the adventure; and the husband and wife, supposing that there is no other way of her escaping the consequences, resolve to take poison; after which the lady goes to Prasildo's house, and informs him of their having done so. Prasildo resolves to die with them; but hearing, in the mean time, that the apothecary had given them a drink that was harmless, he goes and tells them of their good fortune; upon which the husband is so struck with his generosity, that he voluntarily quits Babylon for life and the lady marries the lover. The new husband subsequently hears that his friend's life is in danger, and quits the wife to go and deliver him from it at the risk of his own, which he does.

This story, which has resemblances to it in Boccaccio and Chaucer, is told to Rinaldo while riding through a wood in Asia, with a damsel behind him on the same horse. He has engaged to combat in her behalf with a band of knights; and the lady relates it to beguile the way.

The reader is to bear in mind, that the age of chivalry took delight in mooting points of love and friendship, such as in after-times would have been out of the question; and that the parties in this story are Mahometans, with whom divorce was an easy thing, and caused no scandal.


Iroldo, a knight of Babylon, had to wife a lady of the name of Tisbina, whom he loved with a passion equal to that of Tristan for Iseult;[1] and she returned his love with such fondness, that her thoughts were occupied with him from morning till night. Among other pleasant circumstances of their position, they had a neighbour who was accounted the greatest nobleman in the city; and he deserved his credit, for he spent his great riches in doing nothing but honour to his rank. He was pleasant in company, formidable in battle, full of grace in love; an open-hearted, accomplished gentleman.

This personage, whose name was Prasildo, happened to be of a party one day with Tisbina, who were amusing themselves in a garden, with a game in which the players knelt down with their faces bent on one another's laps, and guessed who it was that struck them. The turn came to himself, and he knelt down to the lap of Tisbina; but no sooner was he there, than he experienced feelings he had never dreamt of; and instead of trying to guess correctly, took all the pains he could to remain in the same position.

These feelings pursued him all the rest of the day, and still more closely at night. He did nothing but think and sigh, and find the soft feathers harder than any stone. Nor did he get better as time advanced. His once favourite pastime of hunting now ceased to afford him any delight. Nothing pleased him but to be giving dinners and balls, to make verses and sing them to his lute, and to joust and tournay in the eyes of his love, dressed in the most sumptuous apparel. But above all, gentle and graceful as he had been before, he now became still more gentle and graceful—for good qualities are always increased when a man is in love. Never in my life did I know them turn to ill in that case. So, in Prasildo's, you may guess what a super-excellent person he became.

The passion which had thus taken possession of this gentleman was not lost upon the lady for want of her knowing it. A mutual acquaintance was always talking to her on the subject, but to no purpose; she never relaxed her pride and dignity for a moment. The lover at last fell ill; he fairly wasted away; and was so unhappy, that he gave up all his feastings and entertainments. The only pleasure he took was in a solitary wood, in which he used to plunge himself in order to give way to his grief and lamentations.

It happened one day, early in the morning, while he was thus occupied, that Iroldo came into the wood to amuse himself with bird-catching. He had Tisbina with him; and as they were coming along, they overheard their neighbour during one of his paroxysms, and stopped to listen to what he said.

"Hear me," exclaimed he, "ye flowers and ye woods. Hear to what a pass of wretchedness I am come, since that cruel one will hear me not. Hear, O sun that hast taken away the night from the heavens, and you, ye stars, and thou the departing moon, hear the voice of my grief for the last time, for exist I can no longer; my death is the only way left me to gratify that proud beauty, to whom it has pleased Heaven to give a cruel heart with a merciful countenance. Fain would I have died in her presence. It would have comforted me to see her pleased even with that proof of my love. But I pray, nevertheless, that she may never know it; since, cruel as she is, she might blame herself for having shewn a scorn so extreme; and I love her so, I would not have her pained for all her cruelty. Surely I shall love her even in my grave."

With these words, turning pale with his own mortal resolution, Prasildo drew his sword, and pronouncing the name of Tisbina more than once with a loving voice, as though its very sound would be sufficient to waft him to Paradise, was about to plunge the steel into his bosom, when the lady herself, by leave of her husband, whose manly visage was all in tears for pity, stood suddenly before him.

"Prasildo," said she, "if you love me, listen to me. You have often told me that you do so. Now prove it. I happen to be threatened with nothing less than the loss of life and honour. Nothing short of such a calamity could have induced me to beg of you the service I am going to request; since there is no greater shame in the world than to ask favours from those to whom we have refused them. But I now promise you, that if you do what I desire, your love shall be returned. I give you my word for it. I give you my honour. On the other side of the wilds of Barbary is a garden which has a wall of iron. It has four gates. Life itself keeps one; Death another; Poverty the third; the fairy of Riches the fourth. He who goes in at one gate must go out at the other opposite; and in the midst of the garden is a tree, tall as the reach of an arrow, which produces pearls for blossoms. It is called the Tree of Wealth, and has fruit of emeralds and boughs of gold. I must have a bough of that tree, or suffer the most painful consequences. Now, then, if you love me, I say, prove it. Prove it, and most assuredly I shall love you in turn, better than ever you loved myself."

What need of saying that Prasildo, with haste and joy, undertook to do all that she required? If she had asked the sun and stars, and the whole universe, he would have promised them. Quitting her in spite of his love, he set out on the journey without delay, only dressing himself before he left the city in the habit of a pilgrim.

Now you must know, that Iroldo and his lady had set Prasildo on that adventure, in the hope that the great distance which he would have to travel, and the change which it might assist time to produce, would deliver him from his passion. At all events, in case this good end was not effected before he arrived at the garden, they counted to a certainty on his getting rid of it when he did; because the fairy of that garden, which was called the Garden of Medusa, was of such a nature, that whosoever did but look on her countenance forgot the reason for his going thither; and whoever saluted, touched, and sat down to converse by her side, forgot all that had ever occurred in his lifetime.

Away, however, on his steed went our bold lover; all alone, or rather with Love for his companion; and so, riding hard till he came to the Red Sea, he took ship, and journeyed through Egypt, and came to the mountains of Barca, where he overtook an old grey-headed palmer.

Prasildo told the palmer the reason of his coming, and the palmer told him what the reader has heard about the garden; adding, that he must enter by the gate of Poverty, and take no arms or armour with him, excepting a looking-glass for a shield, in which the fairy might behold her beauty. The old man gave him other directions necessary for his passing out of the gate of Riches; and Prasildo, thanking him, went on, and in thirty days found himself entering the garden with the greatest ease, by the gate of Poverty.

The garden looked like a Paradise, it was so full of beautiful trees, and flowers, and fresh grass. Prasildo took care to hold the shield over his eyes, that he might avoid seeing the fairy Medusa; and in this manner, guarding his approach, he arrived at the Golden Tree. The fairy, who was reclining against the trunk of it, looked up, and saw herself in the glass. Wonderful was the effect on her. Instead of her own white-and-red blooming face, she beheld that of a dreadful serpent. The spectacle made her take to flight in terror; and the lover, finding his object so far gained, looked freely at the tree, and climbed it, and bore away a bough[2].

With this he proceeded to the gate of Riches. It was all of loadstone, and opened with a great noise. But he passed through it happily, for he made the fairy who kept it a present of half the bough; and so he issued forth out of the garden, with indescribable joy.

Behold our loving adventurer now on his road home. Every step of the way appeared to him a thousand. He took the road of Nubia to shorten the journey; crossed the Arabian Gulf with a breeze in his favour; and travelling by night as well as by day, arrived one fine morning in Babylon.

No sooner was he there, than he sent to tell the object of his passion how fortunate he had been. He begged her to name her own place and time for receiving the bough at his hands, taking care to remind her of her promise; and he could not help adding, that he should die if she broke it.

Terrible was the grief of Tisbina at this unlooked-for news. She threw herself on her couch in despair, and bewailed the hour she was born. "What on earth am I to do?" cried the wretched lady; "death itself is no remedy for a case like this, since it is only another mode of breaking my word. To think that Prasildo should return from the garden of Medusa! who could have supposed it possible? And yet, in truth, what a fool I was to suppose any thing impossible to love! O my husband! little didst thou think what thou thyself advisedst me to promise!"

The husband was coming that moment towards the room; and overhearing his wife grieving in this distracted manner, he entered and clasped her in his arms. On learning the cause of her affliction, he felt as though he should have died with her on the spot.

"Alas!" cried he, "that it should be possible for me to be miserable while I am so dear to your heart. But you know, O my soul! that when love and jealousy come together, the torment is the greatest in the world. Myself—myself, alas! caused the mischief, and myself alone ought to suffer for it. You must keep your promise. You must abide by the word you have given, especially to one who has undergone so much to perform what you asked him. Sweet face, you must. But oh! see him not till after I am dead. Let Fortune do with me what she pleases, so that I be saved from a disgrace like that. It will be a comfort to me in death to think that I alone, while I was on earth, enjoyed the fond looking of that lovely face. Nay," concluded the wretched husband, "I feel as though I should die over again, if I could call to mind in my grave how you were taken from me."

Iroldo became dumb for anguish. It seemed to him as if his very heart had been taken out of his breast. Nor was Tisbina less miserable. She was as pale as death, and could hardly speak to him, or bear to look at him. At length turning her eyes upon him, she said, "And do you believe I could make my poor sorry case out in this world without Iroldo? Can he bear, himself, to think of leaving his Tisbina? he who has so often said, that if he possessed heaven itself, he should not think it heaven without her? O dearest husband, there is a way to make death not bitter to either of us. It is to die together. I must only exist long enough to see Prasildo! Death, alas! is in that thought; but the same death will release us. It need not even be a hard death, saving our misery. There are poisons so gentle in their deadliness, that we need but faint away into sleep, and so, in the course of a few hours, be delivered. Our misery and our folly will then alike be ended."

Iroldo assenting, clasped his wife in distraction; and for a long time they remained in the same posture, half stifled with grief, and bathing one another's cheeks with their tears. Afterwards they sent quietly for the poison; and the apothecary made up a preparation in a cup, without asking any questions; and so the husband and wife took it. Iroldo drank first, and then endeavoured to give the cup to his wife, uttering not a word, and trembling in every limb; not because he was afraid of death, but because he could not bear to ask her to share it. At length, turning away his face and looking down, he held the cup towards her, and she took it with a chilled heart and trembling hand, and drank the remainder to the dregs. Iroldo then covered his face and head, not daring to see her depart for the house of Prasildo; and Tisbina, with pangs bitterer than death, left him in solitude.

Tisbina, accompanied by a servant, went to Prasildo, who could scarcely believe his ears when he heard that she was at the door requesting to speak with him. He hastened down to shew her all honour, leading her from the door into a room by themselves; and when he found her in tears, addressed her in the most considerate and subdued, yet still not unhappy manner, taking her confusion for bashfulness, and never dreaming what a tragedy had been meditated.

Finding at length that her grief was not to be done away, he conjured her by what she held dearest on earth to let him know the cause of it; adding, that he could still die for her sake, if his death would do her any service. Tisbina spoke at these words; and Prasildo then heard what he did not wish to hear. "I am in your hands," answered she, "while I am yet alive. I am bound to my word, but I cannot survive the dishonour which it costs me, nor, above all, the loss of the husband of my heart. You also, to whose eyes I have been so welcome, must be prepared for my disappearance from the earth. Had my affections not belonged to another, ungentle would have been my heart not to have loved yourself, who are so capable of loving; but (as you must well know) to love two at once is neither fitting nor in one's power. It was for that reason I never loved you, baron; I was only touched with compassion for you; and hence the miseries of us all. Before this day closes, I shall have learnt the taste of death." And without further preface she disclosed to him how she and her husband had taken poison.

Prasildo was struck dumb with horror. He had thought his felicity at hand, and was at the same instant to behold it gone for ever. She who was rooted in his heart, she who carried his life in her sweet looks, even she was sitting there before him, already, so to speak, dead.

"It has pleased neither Heaven nor you, Tisbina," exclaimed the unhappy young man, "to put my best feelings to the proof. Often have two lovers perished for love; the world will now behold a sacrifice of three. Oh, why did you not make a request to me in your turn, and ask me to free you from your promise? You say you took pity on me! Alas, cruel one, confess that you have killed yourself, in order to kill me. Yet why? Never did I think of giving you displeasure; and I now do what I would have done at any time to prevent it, I absolve you from your oath. Stay, or go this instant, as it seems best to you."

A stronger feeling than compassion moved the heart of Tisbina at these words. "This indeed," replied she, "I feel to be noble; and truly could I also now die to save you. But life is flitting; and how may I prove my regard?"

Prasildo, who had in good earnest resolved that three instead of two should perish, experienced such anguish at the extraordinary position in which he found all three, that even her sweet words came but dimly to his ears. He stood like a man stupified; then begged of her to give him but one kiss, and so took his leave without further ado, only intimating that her way out of the house lay before her. As he spake, he removed himself from her sight.

Tisbina reached home. She found her husband with his head covered up as she left him; but when she recounted what had passed, and the courtesy of Prasildo, and how he had exacted from her but a single kiss, Iroldo got up, and removed the covering from his face, and then clasping his hands, and raising it to heaven, he knelt with grateful humility, and prayed God to give pardon to himself, and reward to his neighbour. But before he had ended, Tisbina sunk on the floor in a swoon. Her weaker frame was the first to undergo the effects of what she had taken. Iroldo felt icy chill to see her, albeit she seemed to sleep sweetly. Her aspect was not at all like death. He taxed Heaven with cruelty for treating two loving hearts so hardly, and cried out against Fortune, and life, and Love itself.

Nor was Prasildo happier in his chamber. He also exclaimed against the bitter tyrant "whom men call Love;" and protested, that he would gladly encounter any fate, to be delivered from the worse evils of his false and cruel ascendency.

But his lamentations were interrupted. The apothecary who sold the potion to the husband and wife was at the door below, requesting to speak with him. The servants at first had refused to carry the message; but the old man persisting, and saying it was a matter of life and death, entrance for him into his master's chamber was obtained. "Noble sir," said the apothecary, "I have always held you in love and reverence. I have unfortunately reason to fear that somebody is desiring your death. This morning a handmaiden of the lady Tisbina applied to me for a secret poison; and just now it was told me, that the lady herself had been at this house. I am old, sir, and you are young; and I warn you against the violence and jealousies of womankind. Talk of their flames of love! Satan himself burn them, say I, for they are fit for nothing better. Do not be too much alarmed, however, this time: for in truth I gave the young woman nothing of the sort that she asked for, but only a draught so innocent, that if you have taken it, it will cost you but four or five hours' sleep. So, in God's name, give up the whole foolish sex; for you may depend on it, that in this city of ours there are ninety-nine wicked ones among them to one good."

1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse