National Epics
By Kate Milner Rabb

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Selections From the Divine Comedy - Count Ugolino

In the frozen lake of Cocytus in the ninth circle of the Inferno, where were punished the traitors to kindred, country, friends, or benefactors, the poets beheld Count Ugolino, a Guelph, who, because of his treachery, was taken prisoner by the people with his sons and grandsons and thrust into a tower, where they were left to starve. Ugolino was frozen in the ice, where he forever gnawed the head of the Archbishop Ruggieri, his enemy. At the request of Dante he stopped to tell his story.

                 “Thy will ’tis I renew
    A desperate sorrow that doth crush my heart
    Even before my lips its tale impart.
  But if my words may be a seed that, sowed,
    Shall fruit of infamy to this traitor bear,
    Then, though I weep, speech too shall be my care.

  “Who thou may’st be I know not, nor what mode
    Hath brought thee here below, but then I glean,
    From words of thine, thou art a Florentine.
  That I Count Ugolino was, know thou,
    And this the Archbishop Ruggieri. Why
    I will thee tell we are such neighbors nigh.
  Needs not to say that him I did allow
    A friend’s own trusts, but so his treachery wrought;
    That first my liberty, then my life, it sought.

  “But that which thou canst not have hitherto learned
    That is, how cruel was my death, I thee
    Will tell; judge thou if he offended me.
  Within the Mew, a tower which well hath earned
    From me its name of Famine, and where wrath
    Yet others waits, a narrow opening hath,
  Through which of several moons the broken light
    Had strayed, when unto me in sleep was sent
    A dream whereby the future’s veil was rent.

  “This ill dream me this man set forth in might:
    He wolf and whelps upon those mounts pursued
    Which Pisa ’twixt and Lucca’s domes obtrude.
  Hounds had he with him, lank and shrewd and keen,
    And in their front Gualandi’s sword had place,
    Sismondi’s lash and sour Lanfranchi’s mace.
  Father and sons’ undoing soon was seen;
    Methought the sharp fangs on them closed, and tore
    Their flanks, which now the hue of crimson wore.

  “Before the dawn I woke and heard my sons,
    The helpless children with me, in their sleep,
    Cry out for bread, cries pushed from sobbings deep.
  Right cruel art thou, if not e’en now runs
    To tears thy grief at what my heart forbode,
    If tears of thine at misery’s tale e’er flowed.
  And then they woke, and came the hour around
    Which had been wont our scanty meal to bring;
    But from our dreams dumb terrors seemed to spring;

  “When from below we heard the dreadful sound
    Of nails; the horrible tower was closed; all dumb
    I let my gaze into my sons’ eyes come.
  Weep I did not, like stone my feelings lay.
    They wept, and spoke my little Anselm: ’Pray
    Why lookest so? Father, what ails thee, say?’
  Shed I no tear, nor answered all that day
    Nor the next night, until another sun
    His journey through the wide world had begun.

  “Then came a small ray into our sad, sad den,
    And when in their four faces I beheld
    That carking grief which mine own visage held,
  Mine hands for grief I bit, and they, who then
    Deemed that I did it from desire to eat,
    Stood up each one at once upon his feet,
  And said: ’Father, ’twill give us much less pain
    If thou wilt eat of us: of thee was born
    This hapless flesh, and be it by thee torn.’

  “Myself I calmed that they might not so grieve;
    Mute that day and the next we were; O thou
    Most cruel earth, that didst not open now!
  When we the fourth day’s agony did receive
    Stretched at my feet himself my Gaddo threw,
    And said: ’My father, canst thou nothing do?’
  There died he, and, as now sees me thy sight,
    The three I saw fall one by one; first died
    One on the fifth; deaths two the sixth me tried.

  “Then blind, I groped o’er them to left and right,
    And for three days called on their spirits dead;
    Then grief before the power of fasting fled."
             Wilstach’s Translation, Inferno. Canto XXXIII.

On the second terrace of the Ante-Purgatory, on the Purgatorial Mount, were the spirits of those whose lives were ended by violence. Among those who here addressed Dante was Buonconte di Montefeltro, who was slain in the battle of Campaldino, and whose body was never found.

  Another then: “Ah, be thy cherished aim
    Attained that to the lofty Mount thee draws,
    As thou with pity shalt advance my cause.
  Of Montefeltro I Buonconte am;
    Giovanna, and she only, for me cares;
    Hence among those am I whom waiting wears.”

  “What violence or what chance led thee so wide
    From Campaldino,” I of him inquired,
    “That’s still unknown thy burial-place retired?"
  “Oh, Casentino’s foot,” he thus replied,
    “Archiano’s stream o’erflows, which hath its rise
    Above the Hermitage under Apennine skies.
  There where its name is lost did I arrive,
    Pierced through and through the throat, in flight,
    Upon the plain made with my life-blood bright;

  “There sight I lost, and did for speech long strive;
    At last I uttered Mary’s name, and fell
    A lifeless form, mine empty flesh a shell.
  Truth will I speak, below do thou it hymn;
    Took me God’s Angel up, and he of Hell
    Cried out: ’O thou from Heaven, thou doest well
  To rob from me the eternal part of him
    For one poor tear, that me of him deprives;
    In other style I’ll deal with other lives!’

  “Well know’st thou how in air is gathered dim
    That humid vapor which to water turns
    Soon as the cold its rising progress learns.
  The fiend that ill-will joined (which aye seeks ill)
    To intellectual power, which mist and wind
    Moved by control which faculties such can find,
  And afterwards, when the day was spent, did fill
    The space from Protomagno to where tower
    The Mounts with fog; and high Heaven’s covering power

  “The pregnant atmosphere moist to water changed.
    Down fell the rain, and to the ditches fled,
    Whate’er of it the soil’s thirst had not sped;
  And, as it with the mingling torrents ranged
    Towards the royal river, so it flowed
    That over every obstacle wild it rode.
  The robust river found my stiffened frame
    Near to its outlet, and it gave a toss
    To Arno, loosening from my breast the cross

  “I made of me when agony me o’ercame;
    Along his banks and bottoms he me lapped,
    Then in his muddy spoils he me enwrapped."
           Wilstach’s Translation, Purgatorio, Canto V.

Dante and Vergil mounted to the Terrestial Paradise, where, while they talked with Matilda, the Car of the Church Triumphant appeared in the greatest splendor. As it stopped before Dante it was enveloped in a shower of roses from the hands of a hundred angels.

  I have beheld ere now, when dawn would pale,
    The eastern hemisphere’s tint of roseate sheen,
    And all the opposite heaven one gem serene,
  And the uprising sun, beneath such powers
    Of vapory influence tempered, that the eye
    For a long space its fiery shield could try:

  E’en so, embosomed in a cloud of flowers,
    Which from those hands angelical upward played,
    And roseate all the car triumphal made,
  And showered a snow-white veil with olive bound,
    Appeared a Lady, green her mantle, name
    Could not describe her robe unless ’t were flame.
  And mine own spirit, which the past had found
    Often within her presence, free from awe,
    And which could never from me trembling draw,
  And sight no knowledge giving me at this time,
    Through hidden virtue which from her came forth,
    Of ancient love felt now the potent worth.
  As soon as on my vision smote sublime
    The heavenly influence that, ere boyhood’s days
    Had fled, had thrilled me and awoke my praise,
  Unto the leftward turned I, with that trust
    Wherewith a little child his mother seeks,
    When fear his steps controls, and tear-stained cheeks,

  To say to Vergil: “All my blood such gust
    Of feeling moves as doth man’s bravery tame;
    I feel the traces of the ancient flame."
            Wilstach’s Translation, Paradiso, Canto XXX.

While Dante and Beatrice rose from the Heaven of Primal Motion to the Empyrean, the poet turned his dazzled eyes from the heavens, whose sight he could no longer bear, to the contemplation of Beatrice.

    Wherefore my love, and loss of other view,
    Me back to Beatrice and her homage drew.
  If what of her hath been already said
    Were in one single eulogy grouped, ’t would ill
    Her meed of merit at this moment fill.

  The beauty which in her I now beheld
    B’yond mortals goes; her Maker, I believe,
    Hath power alone its fulness to receive.
  Myself I own by obstacles stronger spelled
    Than in his labored theme was ever bard
    Whose verses, light or grave, brought problems hard;
  For, as of eyes quelled by the sun’s bright burst,
    E’en so the exquisite memory of that smile
    Doth me of words and forming mind beguile.

  Not from that day when on this earth I first
    Her face beheld, up to this moment, song
    Have I e’er failed to strew her path along,
  But now I own my limping numbers lame;
    An artist sometimes finds his powers surpassed,
    And mine succumbs to beauty’s lance at last.
  And I must leave her to a greater fame
    Than any that my trumpet gives, which sounds,
    Now, hastening notes, which mark this labor’s bounds.
            Wilstach’s Translation, Paradiso, Canto XXX.

Ludovico Ariosto, author of the Orlando Furioso was born in Reggio, Italy, Sept. 8, 1474. In 1503 he was taken into the service of the Cardinal Hippolito d’Este, and soon after began the composition of the Orlando Furioso, which occupied him for eleven years. It was published in 1516, and brought him immediate fame. Ariosto was so unkindly treated by his patron that he left him and entered the service of the cardinal’s brother, Alfonso, Duke of Ferrara. By him he was appointed governor of a province, in which position he repressed the banditti by whom it was infested, and after a successful administration of three years, returned to Ferrara to reside. The latter part of his life was spent in writing comedies and satires, and in revising the Orlando Furioso. He died in Ferrara, June 6, 1533.

The Orlando Furioso is a sequel to Boiardo’s Orlando Innamorata, Ariosto taking up the story at the end of that poem. Its historical basis is the wars of Charlemagne with the Moors, which were probably confused with those of Charles Martel. As the Orlando of the poem is the same Roland whose fall at Roncesvalles in 778 is celebrated in the Song of Roland, its events must have occurred before that time.

Although the poem is called Orlando Furioso, Orlando’s madness occupies a very small part of it, the principal threads of the story being Orlando’s love for Angelica and his consequent madness, the wars of Charlemagne, and the loves of Bradamant and Rogero. From this Rogero the family of Este claimed to be derived, and for this reason Ariosto made Rogero the real hero of the poem, and took occasion to lavish the most extravagant praises upon his patron and his family.

With these principal threads are interwoven innumerable episodes which are not out of place in the epic, and lend variety to a story which would otherwise have become tiresome. The lightness of treatment, sometimes approaching ridicule, the rapidity of movement, the grace of style, and the clearness of language, the atmosphere created by the poet which so successfully harmonizes all his tales of magic and his occasional inconsistencies, and the excellent descriptions, have all contributed to the popularity of the poem, which is said to be the most widely read of the epics. These descriptions outweigh its faults,–the taking up the story of Boiardo without an explanation of the situation, the lack of unity, and the failure to depict character; for with the exception of Bradamant and Rogero, Ariosto’s heroes and heroines are very much alike, and their conversation is exceedingly tiresome.

The Furioso is written in the octave stanza, and originally consisted of forty cantos, afterwards increased to forty-six.

The poem is the work of a practical poet, one who could govern a province. It is marred by an over-profusion of ornament, and contains no such lofty flights of fancy as are to be found in the Jerusalem Delivered. To this, no doubt, it owes, in part at least, its great popularity, for the poet’s poem is never the people’s poem.

Bibliography and Criticism, the Orlando Furioso.

Dublin University Magazine, 1845, xxvi., 187-201, 581-601, xxvii., 90-104;

Retrospective Review, 1823, viii., 145-170, ix., 263-291;

William T. Dobson’s Classic Poets, 1879, pp. 186-238;

Leigh Hunt’s Stories from the Italian Poets, n. d. vol. ii., pp. 134-151;

William Hickling Prescott’s Italian Narrative Poetry. (See his Biographical and Critical Miscellanies, 1873, pp. 441-454);

M. W. Shelley’s Lives of the most eminent Literary and Scientific Men of Italy, Spain, and Portugal, 1835, pp. 239-255. (In Lardner’s Cabinet Cyclopedia, vol. i.);

John Addington Symonds’s Italian Literature, 1888, vol. i., pp. 493-522, vol. ii. pp. 1-50.

Standard English Translations, the Orlando Furioso.

Orlando Furioso, Tr. from the Italian by Sir James Harrington, 1724;

Orlando Furioso, Tr. by John Hoole, 1819;

Orlando Furioso, Tr. into English verse by W. S. Rose, 2 vols., 1864-5.


The Emperor Charlemagne was at war with the Moors and had camped near the Pyrenees with his host, determined to conquer their leaders, Marsilius of Spain and Agramant of Africa. To his camp came Orlando, the great paladin, with the beautiful Angelica, princess of Cathay, in search of whom he had roamed the world over. Orlando’s cousin, Rinaldo, another of the great lords of Charlemagne, also loved Angelica, for he had seen her immediately after drinking of the Fountain of Love in the forest of Arden, and Charlemagne, fearing trouble between the cousins on her account, took Angelica from Orlando’s tent and placed her in the care of Duke Namus of Bavaria.

Angelica did not like Orlando and she loathed Rinaldo, for he had been the first to meet her after she had tasted the waters of the Fountain of Hate. So when the Christian forces were one day routed in battle and the tents forsaken, she leaped on her palfrey and fled into the forest. Here the first person she met was the hated Rinaldo; and fleeing from him she encountered the fierce Moor Ferrau, who, being also in love with her, drew his sword and attacked the pursuing paladin. But when the two discovered that Angelica had taken advantage of their duel to flee, they made peace and went in search of her.

As she fled, Angelica met Sacripant, an eastern lover who had followed her to France, and put herself under his protection. But when Sacripant was first defeated by Bradamant and then engaged in battle with the pursuing Rinaldo, she deemed herself safer without him and fled; and presently a page appeared, a shade conjured there by a hermit magician whom Angelica had met, and announced to the warriors that Orlando had appeared and carried the maid to Paris.

Rinaldo immediately hastened to Paris, to find Orlando absent and Charlemagne, defeated by the Moors, entrenching himself in the city and preparing to send to England for aid. Rinaldo must be his ambassador, and that without a day’s delay.

Frantic with jealousy, Rinaldo leaped into a ship in the midst of a storm, and hastened on his errand. Driven upon the coast of Scotland, he won the king’s gratitude by saving his daughter Ginevra from shame and death, and secured from him a promise of all the horsemen and arms that could be spared. He was equally successful in England, and was soon reviewing the troops preparatory to their embarkation.

The warrior maid, Bradamant, sister of Rinaldo, after overthrowing Sacripant, pursued her way through the forest in search of Rogero the pagan. They had met once in battle and had loved, and since then she had ever roamed through the land in search of him. In the forest she found Pinabel, lamenting because his beloved lady had been snatched from him by a wizard on a winged steed, and carried to an impregnable castle. Thither he had seen many warriors conveyed, among them Rogero and Gradasso, conquered first by the lance and then thrown into profound slumber by the glare of a magic shield carried by the wizard.

Bradamant, anxious to save Rogero, offered to rescue Pinabel’s lady if he would guide her to the castle. But when the treacherous knight learned that she was Bradamant, between whose house and his there was a deadly feud, he planned to slay her, and soon, by his treachery, managed to hurl her down a precipice.

Bradamant was only stunned by the fall, however, and soon awoke, to find herself at the entrance of a cave, which was the tomb of Merlin. Melissa, the prophetess maid, welcomed her, assured her that Rogero should be her spouse, and showed her their phantom descendants, brave princes and beautiful princesses of the house of Este. She then told her that Brunello, a knight of King Agramant, was hastening to the castle to release the prisoners by means of a magic ring, formerly the property of Angelica, which when put in the mouth would render one invisible, and, worn on the finger, made one proof against magic spells. Bradamant must overcome Brunello, wrest the ring from him, and herself free Rogero.

Following Melissa’s advice, Bradamant overtook Brunello, seized the ring, and hastening to the castle, challenged Atlantes to battle. When he displayed the shield she pretended to become unconscious; but when he ran up to bind her she sprang up and seized him. He declared that he had imprisoned Rogero, his nephew, only to save him from the fate foretold by the stars, death by treachery at the hands of the Christians, and had brought the other knights and ladies there for his entertainment. Then Atlantes broke the spell and disappeared, together with the castle, and the prisoners trooped forth, Rogero among them.

Bradamant was happy, but alas! only for a moment; for as she and Rogero went down the mountain together he thoughtlessly leaped on the hippogrif, which alighted near him, and the winged steed, refusing his control, rose in the air, leaving the tearful Bradamant behind. The hippogrif flew rapidly over land and sea until it was directly above a small island, upon which it descended. Rogero sprang from its back, tied it to a myrtle tree, and, weary from his three thousand mile ride in heavy armor, prepared to drink from a rippling spring. The groves were of cedar, laurel, palm, and myrtle; roses and lilies filled the air with their perfume, and the wild stag and timid hare ran fearlessly through the groves. As he stooped to drink he heard a voice issuing from the myrtle to which he had tied the hippogrif. It was that of Astolpho, the English knight, who told him that the greater part of the island was under the control of Alcina the enchantress, who had left only a small portion to her sister Logistilla, to whom it all rightfully belonged. He himself had been enticed thither by Alcina, who had loved him for a few weeks, and then, serving him as she did all her lovers, had transformed him to a tree.

Rogero determined to profit by this advice; but when he was driven from the narrow path to Logistilla’s domain and met Alcina he fell under the power of her beauty, and thought Astolpho a traducer. The days passed so gayly in her beautiful home that Rogero forgot the pagan cause, forgot his duty, forgot Bradamant, and was roused from his lethargy only by Melissa, to whom Bradamant had given the magic ring to enable her to find and rescue her lover. Melissa found the young knight when apart from Alcina, and gave him the ring that he might with it be enabled to see the enchantress in her true form. She then instructed him how to escape and seek the kingdom of Logistilla. Rogero was disgusted when the beautiful enchantress appeared as a hideous, wrinkled old woman, but concealing his change of feeling, waited until the opportunity presented itself to get his armor, take a steed, and pass by the warders of the gate. With great difficulty he reached a stream which separated Alcina’s lands from those of Logistilla, and while ferrying across was overtaken by the boats of Alcina. With the help of Atlantes’ shield, they were overcome, and Alcina was forced to depart, weeping, with only one boat, while Rogero entered the castle of the fairy Logistilla, from whom he learned many noble lessons.

Here came the other knights freed from Alcina’s enchantment by Melissa, and Melissa herself with Astolpho, on the hippogrif, which she had learned to control. Astolpho was in his own armor and bore his wondrous spear, which had the power of overthrowing every one whom it so much as touched.

After a short rest among the pleasant gardens of Logistilla, Rogero departed on the hippogrif, and although anxious to see his Bradamant again, took the opportunity to pass over all the known world by this novel method of travel. He saw the troops in England gathering to go to the aid of Charlemagne, and rescued the beautiful Angelica, who had been taken by pirates and sold to the people of Ebuda, who chained her upon a rock as a victim for the orc. Rogero put the orc to sleep with his magic shield, giving Angelica the ring that the sight of the shield might not affect her as well. But when, charmed by the maid, he became too lover-like in his attentions, she put the ring in her mouth and disappeared. The angry Rogero turned, only to find that his hippogrif had broken its rein and was gone. Hastening through the forest, vexed with himself and the maiden, he fancied he saw ’Bradamant carried off by a giant, and following her, entered a magic castle of Atlantes, where he spent his days vainly trying to overtake his beloved and her captor.

Orlando could think only of his lost Angelica; and forgetful of the fact that his uncle Charlemagne was sorely pressed by the heathen, he stole from the camp one night in disguise, and went in search of her. Passing the isle of Ebuda he slew the ore, rescued Olympia, who was exposed as its victim, avenged her wrongs, and continued on his way until he reached the castle of Atlantes, and, fancying he saw Angelica, entered, and began the mad round of pursuit with many other Christian and pagan knights who were rendered unconscious of one another’s presence by the magic of the wizard.

Hither came Angelica, invisible by means of the ring, to find a knight to protect her on her way to Cathay. Unfortunately as she showed herself to Sacripant, she was seen by Ferrau and Orlando, and all three pursued her from the castle. When they were sufficiently removed from it Angelica slipped the ring in her mouth and disappeared, and Ferrau and Orlando began to quarrel about Orlando’s helmet, which the Moor was determined to win and wear. As Ferrau wore no helm until he could win Orlando’s, that paladin hung his on a tree while they fought. Unseen by them, Angelica took it down, intending to restore it to Orlando later, and slipped away. When the knights discovered her absence they went in search of her, and Ferrau, coming upon her, took the helmet as she disappeared in fright. Orlando, assuming another crest, which he did not need, as his body was charmed and could not be hurt by any weapon, went forward, still in search of his love, and on the way encountered and almost totally destroyed two squadrons of Moors, and rescued from a robber’s cave the beautiful Isabel, betrothed of Zerbino.

Melissa returned to Bradamant with the news that while Rogero was freed from the enchantment of Aleina, he was imprisoned in Atlantes’ castle, from which she herself could rescue him by slaying the wizard, who would appear to her in the form of her lover. Bradamant resolved to do so; but when she saw the seeming Rogero set upon by two giants, she forgot her resolution, believed Melissa to be false, and spurring after him, became a prisoner in that wondrous castle, through which day and night she pursued her ever-fleeing lover.

When the Moors discovered the destruction of the two squadrons, Mandricardo, the Tartar king, determined to seek and do battle with the knight (unknown to him by name) who had wrought such destruction. The Tartar wore the arms of Hector save the sword, which was the property of Orlando, and until he gained it, he bore no weapon save the lance. With this, however, he stormed through the battlefield, striking terror to the hearts of all. With it alone, he destroyed a band of men conveying to Rodomont, the Saracen chief, his betrothed bride, Doralice, and won the maid for himself.

Outside Paris raged the infidel, chief among them the giant King Rodomont. Smiting those of his troops who hesitated to mount the scaling ladders, he waded through the wet moat, scaled the first wall, leaped the dry ditch, mounted the second wall, and ran alone through the city, spreading terror, death, and fire, while Charlemagne, ignorant of his presence, was busied in the defence of one of the gates against Agramant.

Now Rinaldo’s army approached, unsuspected by the heathen, because of the aid of Silence, summoned by Saint Michael. Through these, welcomed by Charlemagne, Rodomont cut his way, hewing down fifteen or twenty foes at once, and, casting himself into the Seine, escaped, angry that he had not succeeded in destroying the city.

Discord, also summoned by Michael to the aid of the Christians, informed Rodomont on his return to the camp of the capture of Doralice, and the chief set forth raging, in search of Mandricardo, thoughtlessly abandoning King Agramant, struggling against the English re-inforcements. As night fell on a furious battle, the Moors were driven back, and Charlemagne pitched his tents without the city, opposite those of the Moors.

In the Moorish camp were two youths who loved one another with a love passing wonderful, Medoro and Cloridan. Both served Dardinello, and had crossed the sea with him. As they stood on guard that night they talked of their lord’s death on the field that day, and Medoro suggested that they go in search of his body and bury it. Cloridan agreed, and they crept through the sleeping lines of the Christians, slaughtering many, found the body, and were hurrying into the forest when they heard the troops of Zerbino. Cloridan fled, fancying that Medoro would do the same, but on finding himself unaccompanied, retraced his footsteps, only to see his friend surrounded by a troop of horsemen. From his ambush he shot his arrows at the foe, until Zerbino in wrath seized Medoro by the throat, exclaiming, “Thou shall die for this!” But when Medoro prayed to be allowed first to bury his lord, pity touched Zerbino, and he freed the youth, who fell, however, wounded by a thrust from a churlish horseman, in pursuit of whom Zerbino at once fled. Cloridan sprang in among the horsemen and fell dead by their thrusts at the side of the unconscious Medoro.

The bleeding youth was found by Angelica, who passed by, clad in rustic raiment; and the maid, struck with his beauty, recalled her knowledge of chirturgery and revived him. After Dardinello was buried, she and a shepherd assisted Medoro to a neighboring cottage, where she attended him until his wound was healed. But as he grew well, Angelica, who had scorned the suit of the proudest knights, fell sick of love for the humble youth, and resolved to take him with her to Cathay.

When Astolpho left the castle of Logistilla he carried with him as her gift a book from which he could learn to overcome all magic cheats, and a horn whose sound would put the boldest man to flight. Following her directions, he sailed past Scythia and India into the Persian Gulf, and there disembarking, passed through Arabia and along the Red Sea. There he overcame the giant Caligorantes, slew Orillo, who guarded the outlet of the Nile, and met there the brother knights Gryphon and Aquilant. Gryphon, led astray by an unworthy love, stole away from his brother, but was found again after many adventures, and the three, together with Sansonet and Marphisa, a warlike virgin, embarked for France. A great storm arose, and the vessel was forced to land in Syria. This was the land of the Amazons, and the troop escaped only by the warning and assistance of Guido, the savage, who was a bondsman in the land.

Astolpho became separated from the rest of the party and reached Europe alone. One day, while he was stooping to drink at a spring in the forest, a rustic sprang from a thicket, and leaping upon Rabican, rode him away. Astolpho, hastening after him, entered the enchanted castle of Atlantes, and soon recognized it as a house of magic. He broke the spell by the aid of his book, freed the captive knights, and finding the hippogrif, which he had learned to guide from Melissa, mounted it and rode away.

When the castle was destroyed, Rogero recognized Bradamant and clasped her in his arms, rejoicing to find her again. The maid, anxious to avoid further separation, promised to wed him if he would become a Christian, and demand her of her father, Duke Aymon. Rogero gladly promised to do so. and the two were hastening to Vallombrosa that he might be baptized when they encountered a maid, who prayed them to hasten to the relief of a youth doomed to death by fire. They hurried on, but paused to free Guido the savage, Gryphon. Aquilant, and Sansonet, who had been imprisoned by Pinabel, and Bradamant, pursuing Pinabel into the forest, slew him. But there, unfortunately, she lost her way, and while she was wandering about, Rogero, ignorant of her whereabouts, pushed on and freed the youth, who proved to be Bradamant’s brother.

As Bradamant wandered through the forest she found Astolpho, who had just made a bridle for the hippogrif, and recognizing him, took his horse and spear in charge. A long time she wandered forlorn. She did not know the way to Vallombrosa; she did not know the whereabouts of Rogero. Her home was in sight, but if her mother saw her she would not again be suffered to depart. As she stood debating with herself, she was recognized by one of her brothers, and was forced to accompany him home. Thence she secretly sent her maid Hippalca to Vallombrosa with Rogero’s horse Frontino, and a message explaining her absence.

After the capture of Doralice, Mandricardo hastened on, and overtook Orlando just as he had freed Zerbino and united him to Isabel. Recognizing Orlando by his crest as the chief who had destroyed the squadrons, the Tartar challenged him to combat. In courtesy to his foe, who would bear no sword until he could have Durindana, Orlando hung the blade on a tree, and the two knights spurred their steeds and broke their lances together. Then grappling, each endeavored to unhorse the other. The breaking of Orlando’s saddle girth caused his fall just as he had slipped the bridle from the head of his enemy’s horse, and the frightened steed, freed from its rein, ran madly through the wood, followed by Doralice.

Orlando told Zerbino to inform Mandricardo if he overtook him that he would wait in that spot three days for him to return and renew the combat, and bade the lovers farewell. As he wandered through the region while waiting, he found a peaceful little spot where a limpid rill rippled through a meadow dotted here and there with trees. Here the weary warrior sought repose; but as he looked about him he espied the name of Angelica carved on the trees, entwined with that of Medoro. Persuading himself that this was a fanciful name by which the maid intended to signify himself, he entered a little ivy-covered grotto, arching over a fountain, and there discovered on the rocky wall some verses in which Medoro celebrated his union with Angelica. For a moment he stood as if turned to stone. Unable to weep, he again mounted his horse and sought a peasant’s house to pass the night. There he heard the story of Angelica’s infatuation, and saw the bracelet she had left them in return for their hospitality. The unhappy Orlando passed a sleepless night, weeping and groaning, and the next morning hastened to the forest that he might give way to his grief unobserved. There madness came upon him, and he uprooted the hateful trees, cut the solid stone of the grotto with his sword, making a desolation of the beautiful spot, and, casting off his armor, ran naked through the country, pillaging, burning, and slaying.

Zerbino and Isabel sought the spot in a few days to learn if Mandricardo had returned, found the scattered armor, and heard of Orlando’s madness from a shepherd. Lamenting over their protector’s misfortune, they gathered up the armor, hung it on a sapling, and wrote thereon Orlando’s name. But while they were thus engaged, Mandricardo arrived, took the long coveted sword, and gave Zerbino, who attempted to prevent the theft, a mortal wound. The unhappy Isabel, intent on self-destruction, was comforted by a hermit, who promised to take her to a monastery near Marseilles.

Mandricardo had had but a few moments for repose after this combat with Zerbino, when the furious Rodomont overtook him and a terrible combat between the two began, the beautiful cause of it looking on with interest. But so strong were the champions that the struggle might have been prolonged indefinitely had not a messenger announced to the knights that they must postpone their private quarrels for a moment and hasten to the relief of King Agramant.

After Rogero had freed Richardetto, Bradamant’s brother, and had attempted in vain to find Bradamant, he was troubled by the thought of King Agramant. He was determined to wed the warrior maid and become a Christian, but first came his vow to the pagan king. He therefore wrote her a note, saying that honor required his presence with Agramant for at least fifteen or twenty days, but after that time he would find means to justify himself with Agramant and would meet her at Vallombrosa to be baptized.

He, with Richardetto, Aldigier, and Marphisa, whom they met on her way to the pagan camp, rode on together, and freed Vivian and Malagigi from the Moors and Manganese. While they rested at a little fountain, Hippalca rode up, and told them that she had just met Rodomont, who took Frontino from her. She also managed secretly to give Rogero Bradamant’s message and receive his letter in return.

While the party still remained at the fountain, Rodomont came up with Mandricardo and Doralice, and all engaged in a fierce battle, which was at last interrupted by Malagigi, who, versed in wizard arts, conjured a demon into Doralice’s horse so that it ran away; and Rodomont and Mandricardo, frightened by her screams, started in pursuit.

With the assistance of Rogero, Marphisa, Rodomont, and Mandricardo, Agramant was enabled to drive Charlemagne back into Paris, where he was saved only by the interposition of Discord, who stirred up the old quarrels between Rodomont, Mandricardo, Rogero, and Gradasso over weapons, bearings, and horses, until Agramant announced that they should settle their difficulties by single combat, drawing lots to see who should first engage in battle. But when they were ready for the lists, fresh quarrels broke out, until the king despaired of ever having peace in his ranks. Finally, at his command, Doralice publicly declared Mandricardo her choice, and the furious Rodomont fled from the camp. On his way to Africa he found a little abandoned church between France and Spain, and decided to remain there instead of returning home. From this spot he saw Isabel on her way to Marseilles, and falling in love with her, he slew the hermit, dragged her to his retreat, and tried to win her. But she, loathing him and faithful to Zerbino, caused him to slay her, pretending that she was rendered invulnerable by an ointment which she had prepared, and the secret of which she would impart to him. The unhappy Rodomont walled up the church to form her tomb, and threw a narrow bridge across the stream. On this bridge he met every knight who came thither, and having overthrown him, took his arms to deck the tomb, on which he determined to hang a thousand such trophies. If the vanquished knight was a Moor he was set free without his arms; if a Christian he was imprisoned. Thither came the mad Orlando, and wrestled with Rodomont on the bridge until both fell into the stream. The madman then passed on through the country and met Medoro and Angelica on their way to India. They escaped with difficulty, Medoro’s horse falling a victim to the madman, who continued to lay waste the land until he reached Zizera on the bay of Gibraltar, and, plunging into the sea, swam to Africa.

After Doralice had decided the quarrel between Mandricardo and Rodomont, Rogero and the Tartar met in the lists to decide their quarrel over their bearings. The battle was fearful, and when both fell to the ground it was supposed that Mandricardo was the victor. But when the crowd rushed to the lists they found the Tartar dead and Rogero only wounded. But the cheers of the crowd gave little pleasure to the hero, who grieved that he must lie on a sick-bed instead of seeking Bradamant, according to his promise. Bradamant too, who had looked forward so eagerly to the day he had set, wept when it came without her lover. Soon she heard that Rogero’s coming was prevented by his wounds; but when she also heard that he was attended by the warrior maid Marphisa, and that their names were frequently coupled in the pagan camp, she at once felt the pangs of jealousy. Unable to endure it longer, she armed herself, changing her usual vest for one whose colors denoted her desperation and desire to die, and set forth to meet and slay Marphisa, taking with her the spear left her by Astolpho, whose magic properties she did not know. With this she overthrew Rodomont and caused him to depart from his tomb and free his captives, and then, proceeding to Aries, challenged Rogero, who was sadly puzzled, not recognizing his challenger on account of her changed vest. Several knights attacked her before Rogero came forth, only to be overthrown by the spear, and then Marphisa, who had rushed forth before Rogero could arm, met her, and the two women fought like tigers. When Rogero at last went forth he recognized Bradamant’s voice, and suspecting the cause of her hostility, implored her to withdraw with him to a wood near by to hear his explanation. Marphisa followed them and attacked Bradamant so fiercely that Rogero was forced to her rescue, and lifting his sword would have struck the maid had he not been stopped by a voice from a tomb near by. It was that of Atlatites, who announced to Rogero and Marphisa that they were brother and sister, children of Rogero of Pisa and Galiciella; that Rogero had been treacherously slain and his town betrayed to Almontes, who cast Galiciella adrift on the sea. Atlantes rescued her, and took her children when she died; but Marphisa was stolen from him by a band of Arabs.

From this speech it was plainly the duty of Rogero and Marphisa to espouse the cause of Charlemagne and take arms against Agramant, who was their enemy. Bradamant and Marphisa then embraced, bade Rogero farewell, and proceeded to Charlemagne’s camp, where Marphisa was received with honor and baptized, while Rogero promised to follow them as soon as he could find an excuse to leave Agramant.

When Astolpho left Bradamant in the forest, he quickly rose in the air and passed rapidly over the kingdoms of the world, Aragon, Navarre, Cadiz, Egypt, Morocco, Fez, over the sandy desert until he reached the kingdom of Nubia, whose king he rescued from the harpies by the sound of his magic horn. Then, mounted on his hippogrif again, he rose to the terrestrial Paradise, where he was welcomed by John, who informed him that he was sent thither by the grace of God that he might get instruction how to furnish aid to Charles and the Church, who were sorely in need of it. With John he rose in a chariot to the Heaven of the Moon, where, after seeing many strange things, he was given the wits of Orlando enclosed in a vial. They had been taken from him as a punishment for his loving a pagan, but were now to be restored to him that he might aid Charlemagne in conquering the Moors. Astolpho then descended to Nubia, restored sight to its king, and asking for his forces, went with them into Africa and attacked Biserta, the city of Agramant.

When these tidings were borne to Agramant he was greatly troubled, and desiring to end the war in Europe and hasten to his own country, he proposed to Charlemagne that the war be decided by single combat between two champions. Great was the agony of Rogero, the pagan champion, when he recognized in his opponent Rinaldo, the brother of Bradamant. He would never dare to slay him, so he parried the blows rained upon him, and struck back so feebly that the spectators, not understanding his motives, deemed him unable to cope with Rinaldo. But Melissa, determined that Merlin’s prophecy should come true, appeared to Agramant in the guise of Rodomont, and urged him to break the compact and fall upon the Christians. Delighted to have the mighty king with him again, Agramant did not scruple to break his word, and rushed upon the Christian forces, breaking up the combat. After a sharp conflict, the Saracens were put to flight and Agramant hastened into Africa.

His people in Biserta, their strength drained by the long war, were unable to withstand the Christian foe, soon re-enforced by a powerful enemy. One day, as Astolpho and his friends were standing on the beach, a madman came raging towards them, whom Astolpho recognized as Orlando. The warriors attempted in vain to hold him until Astolpho ordered the ship’s hawsers to be brought, and knotting them flung them at the count’s limbs, and so threw him down and tied him. Then, after having had his body cleansed from mud and filth, he stopped his mouth with herbs so that he could breathe only through his nostrils, and holding the vial there, the lost senses were quickly inhaled, and Orlando was himself again, astonished and delighted to find himself with his friends.

With Orlando’s help, Biserta was soon taken, and Agramant, who had met the Christian fleet under the leadership of Dudon and had barely escaped with his life, saw from afar the flames devouring his beloved city.

Landing with Sobrino upon a little isle, he found there King Sericane, who advised him to challenge the Christians to single combat in order to decide the outcome of the war, he, Gradasso, and Sobrino to stand in the lists against three Christian champions. Orlando agreed to do so, and selected for his companions in the fight Brandimart and Olivier. But the pagans were no match for Orlando, whom no weapon could injure, and Agramant and Gradasso soon fell, while Sobrino was wounded. But the joy over the Christian victory was not unalloyed by sorrow, for Olivier was severely wounded and the beloved Brandimart was slain.

The champions were now joined by Rinaldo, who after the breaking of the pact by Agramant, had set off for India in search of Angelica, whom he still madly loved. But Disdain guided his steps to the Fountain of Hate, one draught of which changed his love to loathing, so that he abandoned his undertaking and hastened to join the Christian forces in Africa.

Olivier’s wound proved slow to heal, and when at last the warriors heard of a hermit on a lonely isle who could help him, they hastened to take their wounded comrade thither. There they found Rogero, who had been shipwrecked while sailing to Africa, and had been baptized by the hermit, who was warned in a dream of his coming. The Christian warriors gladly welcomed Rogero to their ranks, for they knew of his valor; and Rinaldo, who had learned how the young hero had saved the life of Richardetto and had preserved Vivian and Malagigi, embraced him, and at the suggestion of the hermit, plighted him to his sister. Before they left the isle, Sobrino was converted by the pious hermit, and Olivier’s wound was healed.

The knights were received with the greatest honor by Charlemagne, especially Rogero, the new convert. But what unhappiness awaited him! In his absence Bradamant’s father had promised the maid to Leo, the son of the Greek emperor, Constantine, in spite of her prayers and entreaties.

Although Bradamant declared that she would die sooner than wed another, the heart-broken Rogero hastily departed for Constantinople to slay his rival. In his absence, Bradamant besought Charlemagne not to compel her to marry Leo unless he could defeat her in single combat; and her angry parents, on learning of this, took her from the court and shut her up in the tower of Rocca Forte. Rogero, in the mean time, reached Leo’s realms just as the Greeks engaged in battle with the Bulgarians. Because of his hatred for Leo, he fought with the Bulgarians, and when their king fell he rallied their scattered troops and put the Greeks to flight. Rogero then followed the fleeing Greeks unaccompanied, and being recognized, was taken captive that night as he slept in a hostelry. At the entreaty of a kinswoman whose son Rogero had slain that day, the emperor surrendered his captive to her, and he was thrust into a gloomy dungeon, where he suffered agonies from hunger and cold. But Leo, who had admired his valor in battle and had longed to know him, rescued him, recovered his horse and armor, and by his generosity compelled Rogero to admire him as much as he had before hated him. The news of Charlemagne’s decree now reached Leo, and he, fearing to fight Bradamant, asked the unknown knight of the unicorn to take his place. Rogero’s heart sank within him, but he dared not refuse. His life was Leo’s, and he must sacrifice himself for him, must either slay Bradamant, or be slain by her for his deliverer’s sake. He accompanied Leo to France, and feigning a cheerfulness he did not feel, changed armor and steed that he might not be known, and, while Leo remained in his tent outside the city, entered the lists and encountered Bradamant, who was determined to slay her hated suitor. Rogero was equally determined not to slay her nor to allow himself to be conquered. When twilight fell and king and court saw that while the young knight had not overcome the maid, he had not allowed himself to be overcome, they declared that the couple were well matched and that they should wed.

The hopeless Rogero hastened back to Leo’s camp, changed armor and steed, and during the night stole away from the hateful place to the greenwood that he might die there, since he could never possess his beloved. At the same time, Bradamant gave way to her grief in such a manner that Marphisa, already indignant at the treatment of her brother, appeared before the king in his behalf. She declared that Rogero and Bradamant had already exchanged all the vows of those who marry and therefore she was not free to wed another. She then suggested that since the matter had gone so far, Leo and Rogero should meet in the lists to decide to whom the lady belonged.

Leo at once set out in search of his knight of the unicorn, who he believed would defend him from all peril, and found him in the forest, almost fainting from fasting and sleeplessness. The Greek embraced Rogero tenderly and implored him to betray the cause of his grief, and so tender were his words and so gracious his manner that Rogero could not but unbosom himself. And when Leo learned that his unknown champion was no other than Rogero himself he declared that he would gladly forego Bradamant for him, and would rather have forfeited his life than caused such grief to such a faithful friend.

Joy filled the court when the story of Rogero’s fidelity was made known, and the joy was increased when ambassadors came from Bulgaria, seeking the unknown knight of the unicorn that they might offer their throne to him. Duke Aymon and his wife were reconciled when they found that Rogero was to be a king, and the wedding was celebrated with the greatest splendor, Charlemagne providing for Bradamant as though she were his daughter.

In the midst of the celebrations Rodomont appeared to defy Rogero, and that knight, nothing loath, met him in the lists. The Moor fell under Rogero’s blows, and all the Christian court rejoiced to see the last of the pagan knights fall by the hand of their champion.


Preface  •  The Râmâyana  •  The Story of the Râmâyana  •  Selections From the Râmâyana  •  The Story of the Mahâ-Bhârata  •  Selections From the Mahâ-Bhârata  •  The Iliad  •  The Story of the Iliad  •  Selections From the Iliad  •  The Story of the Odyssey  •  Selections From the Odyssey  •  The Kalevala  •  The Story of the Kalevala  •  Selections From the Kalevala  •  Selection From the Aeneid  •  Beowulf  •  The Story of Beowulf  •  Selection From Beowulf  •  Selections From the Nibelungen Lied  •  The Story of the Song of Roland  •  Selections From the Song of Roland  •  The Story of the Shah-Nameh  •  Selections From the Shah-Nameh  •  The Story of the Poem of the Cid  •  Selections From the Poem of the Cid  •  The Divine Comedy - The Hell  •  The Story of the Divine Comedy - The Hell  •  The Divine Comedy - The Purgatory  •  The Story of the Divine Comedy - The Purgatory  •  The Divine Comedy - The Paradise  •  The Story of the Divine Comedy - The Paradise  •  Selections From the Divine Comedy - Count Ugolino  •  Selection From the Orlando Furioso  •  The Lusiad  •  The Story of the Lusiad  •  Selections From the Lusiad  •  The Jerusalem Delivered  •  The Story of the Jerusalem Delivered  •  Selection From the Jerusalem Delivered  •  The Story of Paradise Lost  •  Selections From Paradise Lost  •  Apostrophe to Light  •  The Story of Paradise Regained  •  Selection From Paradise Regained