Poems

Orlando Furioso Canto 19

ARGUMENT
Medoro, by Angelica's quaint hand,
Is healed, and weds, and bears her to Catay.
At length Marphisa, with the chosen band,
After long suffering, makes Laiazzi's bay.
Guido the savage, bondsman in the land,
Which impious women rule with civil sway,
With Marphisa strives in single fight,
And lodges her and hers at full of night.

I
By whom he is beloved can no one know,
Who on the top of Fortune's wheel is seated;
Since he, by true and faithless friends, with show
Of equal faith, in glad estate is greeted.
But, should felicity be changed to woe,
The flattering multitude is turned and fleeted!
While he who loves his master from his heart,
Even after death performs his faithful part.

II
Were the heart seen as is the outward cheer,
He who at court is held in sovereign grace,
And he that to his lord is little dear,
With parts reversed, would fill each other's place;
The humble man the greater would appear,
And he, now first, be hindmost in the race.
But be Medoro's faithful story said,
The youth who loved his lord, alive or dead.

III
The closest path, amid the forest gray,
To save himself, pursued the youth forlorn;
But all his schemes were marred by the delay
Of that sore weight upon his shoulders born.
The place he knew not, and mistook the way,
And hid himself again in sheltering thorn.
Secure and distant was his mate, that through
The greenwood shade with lighter shoulders flew.

IV
So far was Cloridan advanced before,
He heard the boy no longer in the wind;
But when he marked the absence of Medore,
It seemed as if his heart was left behind.
'Ah! how was I so negligent,' (the Moor
Exclaimed) 'so far beside myself, and blind,
That I, Medoro, should without thee fare,
Nor know when I deserted thee or where?'

V
So saying, in the wood he disappears,
Plunging into the maze with hurried pace;
And thither, whence he lately issued, steers,
And, desperate, of death returns in trace.
Cries and the tread of steeds this while he hears,
And word and the tread of foemen, as in chase:
Lastly Medoro by his voice is known,
Disarmed, on foot, 'mid many horse, alone.

VI
A hundred horsemen who the youth surround,
Zerbino leads, and bids his followers seize
The stripling: like a top, the boy turns round
And keeps him as he can: among the trees,
Behind oak, elm, beech, ash, he takes his ground,
Nor from the cherished load his shoulders frees.
Wearied, at length, the burden he bestowed
Upon the grass, and stalked about his load.

VII
As in her rocky cavern the she-bear,
With whom close warfare Alpine hunters wage,
Uncertain hangs about her shaggy care,
And growls in mingled sound of love and rage,
To unsheath her claws, and blood her tushes bare,
Would natural hate and wrath the beast engage;
Love softens her, and bids from strife retire,
And for her offspring watch, amid her ire.

VIII
Cloridan who to aid him knows not how,
And with Medoro willingly would die,
But who would not for death this being forego,
Until more foes than one should lifeless lie,
Ambushed, his sharpest arrow to his bow
Fits, and directs it with so true an eye,
The feathered weapon bores a Scotchman's brain,
And lays the warrior dead upon the plain.

IX
Together, all the others of the band
Turned thither, whence was shot the murderous reed;
Meanwhile he launched another from his stand,
That a new foe might by the weapon bleed,
Whom (while he made of this and that demand,
And loudly questioned who had done the deed)
The arrow reached - transfixed the wretch's throat,
And cut his question short in middle note.

X
Zerbino, captain of those horse, no more
Can at the piteous sight his wrath refrain;
In furious heat, he springs upon Medore,
Exclaiming, 'Thou of this shalt bear the pain.'
One hand he in his locks of golden ore
Enwreaths, and drags him to himself amain;
But, as his eyes that beauteous face survey,
Takes pity on the boy, and does not slay.

XI
To him the stripling turns, with suppliant cry,
And, 'By thy God, sir knight,' exclaims, 'I pray,
Be not so passing cruel, nor deny
That I in earth my honoured king may lay:
No other grace I supplicate, nor I
This for the love of life, believe me, say.
So much, no longer, space of life I crave.
As may suffice to give my lord a grave.

XII
'And if you needs must feed the beast and bird,
Like Theban Creon, let their worst be done
Upon these limbs; so that by me interred
In earth be those of good Almontes' son.'
Medoro thus his suit, with grace, preferred,
And words - to move a mountain, and so won
Upon Zerbino's mood, to kindness turned,
With love and pity he all over burned.

XIII
This while, a churlish horseman of the band,
Who little deference for his lord confest,
His lance uplifting, wounded overhand
The unhappy suppliant in his dainty breast.
Zerbino, who the cruel action scanned,
Was deeply stirred, the rather that, opprest
And livid with the blow the churl had sped,
Medoro fell as he was wholly dead.

XIV
So grieved Zerbino, with such wrath was stung,
'Not unavenged shalt thou remain,' he cries;
Then full of evil will in fury sprung
Upon the author of the foul emprize.
But he his vantage marks, and, from among
The warriors, in a moment slips and flies.
Cloridan who beholds the deed, at sight
Of young Medoro's fall, springs forth to fight;

XV
And casts away his bow, and, 'mid the band
Of foemen, whirls his falchion, in desire
Rather of death, than hoping that his hand
May snatch a vengeance equal to his ire.
Amid so many blades, he views the sand
Tinged with his blood, and ready to expire,
And feeling he the sword no more can guide,
Lets himself drop by his Medoro's side.

XVI
The Scots pursue their chief, who pricks before,
Through the deep wood, inspired by high disdain,
When he has left the one and the other Moor,
This dead, that scarce alive, upon the plain.
There for a mighty space lay young Medore,
Spouting his life-blood from so large a vein,
He would have perished, but that thither made
A stranger, as it chanced, who lent him aid.

XVII
By chance arrived a damsel at the place,
Who was (though mean and rustic was her wear)
Of royal presence and of beauteous face,
And lofty manners, sagely debonair:
Her have I left unsung so long a space,
That you will hardly recognise the fair.
Angelica, in her (if known not) scan,
The lofty daughter of Catay's great khan.

XVIII
Angelica, when she had won again
The ring Brunello had from her conveyed,
So waxed in stubborn pride and haught disdain,
She seemed to scorn this ample world, and strayed
Alone, and held as cheap each living swain,
Although, amid the best, by Fame arrayed:
Nor brooked she to remember a galant
In Count Orlando or king Sacripant;

XIX
And above every other deed repented,
That good Rinaldo she had loved of yore;
And that to look so low she had consented,
(As by such choice dishonoured) grieved her sore.
Love, hearing this, such arrogance resented,
And would the damsel's pride endure no more.
Where young Medoro lay he took his stand,
And waited her, with bow and shaft in hand.

XX
When fair Angelica the stripling spies,
Nigh hurt to death in that disastrous fray,
Who for his king, that there unsheltered lies,
More sad than for his own misfortune lay,
She feels new pity in her bosom rise,
Which makes its entry in unwonted way.
Touched was her haughty heart, once hard and curst,
And more when he his piteous tale rehearsed.

XXI
And calling back to memory her art,
For she in Ind had learned chirurgery,
(Since it appears such studies in that part
Worthy of praise and fame are held to be,
And, as an heir-loom, sires to sons impart,
With little aid of books, the mystery)
Disposed herself to work with simples' juice,
Till she in him should healthier life produce;

XXII
And recollects a herb had caught her sight
In passing hither, on a pleasant plain,
What (whether dittany or pancy hight)
I know not; fraught with virtue to restrain
The crimson blood forth-welling, and of might
To sheathe each perilous and piercing pain,
She found it near, and having pulled the weed,
Returned to seek



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