Orlando Furioso Canto 17

ARGUMENT
Charles goes, with his, against King Rodomont.
Gryphon in Norandino's tournament
Does mighty deeds; Martano turns his front,
Showing how recreant is his natural bent;
And next, on Gryphon to bring down affront,
Stole from the knight the arms in which he went;
Hence by the kindly monarch much esteemed,
And Gryphon scorned, whom he Martano deemed.

I
God, outraged by our rank iniquity,
Whenever crimes have past remission's bound,
That mercy may with justice mingled be,
Has monstrous and destructive tyrants crowned;
And gifted them with force and subtlety,
A sinful world to punish and confound.
Marius and Sylla to this end were nursed,
Rome with two Neros and a Caius cursed;

II
Domitian and the latter Antonine;
And, lifted from the lowest rabble's lees,
To imperial place and puissance, Maximine:
Hence Thebes to cruel Creon bent her knees,
Mezentius ruled the subject Agiline,
Fattening his fields with blood. To pests like these
Our Italy was given in later day,
To Lombard, Goth, and Hun a bleeding prey.

III
What shall I of fierce Attila, what say
Of wicked Ezzeline, and hundreds more?
Whom, because men still trod the crooked way,
God sent them for their pain and torment sore.
Of this ourselves have made a clear assay,
As well as those who lived in days of yore;
Consigned to ravening wolves, ordained to keep
Us, his ill-nurturing and unuseful sheep;

IV
Who, as if having more than served to fill
Their hungry maw, invite from foreign wood
Beyond the mountain, wolves of greedier will,
With them to be partakers of their food.
The bones which Thrasymene and Trebbia fill,
And Cannae, seem but few to what are strewed
On fattened field and bank, where on their way
Adda and Mella, Ronco and Tarro stray.

V
Now God permits that we should feel the spite
Of people, who are haply worse than we,
For errors multiplied and infinite,
And foul and pestilent iniquity.
The time will come we may such ill requite
Upon their shores, if we shall better be,
And their transgressions ever prove above
The long endurance of AETERNAL LOVE.

VI
The Christian people then God's placid front
Must have disturbed with their excesses sore;
Since them with slaughter, rape, and rapine hunt,
Through all their quarters, plundering Turk and Moor:
But the unsparing rage of Rodomont
Proves worse than all the ills endured before.
I said that Charlemagne had made repair
In search of him towards the city square.

VII
Charles, by the way, his people's butchery
Beholds - burnt palaces and ruined fanes -
And sees large portion of the city lie
In unexampled wreck. - 'Ye coward trains,
Whither in heartless panic would ye fly?
Will none his loss contemplate? what remains
To you, - what place of refuge, say, is left,
If this from you so shamefully be reft?

VIII
'Then shall one man alone, a prisoned foe,
Who cannot scale the walls which round him spread,
Unscathed, unquestioned, from your city go,
When all are by his vengeful arm laid dead?'
Thus Charlemagne, whose veins with anger glow,
And shame, too strong to brook, in fury said;
And to the spacious square made good his way,
Where he beheld the foe his people slay.

IX
Thither large portion of the populace,
Climbing the palace roof, had made resort;
For strongly walled, and furnished was the place
With ammunition, for their long support.
Rodomont, mad with pride, had, in his chace
Of the scared burghers, singly cleared the court,
He with one daring hand, which scorned the world,
Brandished the sword; - his other wildfire hurled;

X
And smote and thundered, 'mid a fearful shower,
At the sublime and royal house's gate.
To their life's peril, crumbling roof and tower
Is tost by them that on the summit wait:
Nor any fears to ruin hall or bower;
But wood and stone endure one common fate,
And marbled column, slab, and gilded beam,
By sire and grandsire held in high esteem.

XI
Rodomont stands before the portal, bright
With steel, his head and bust secured in mail,
Like to a serpent, issued into light,
Having cast off his slough, diseased and stale:
Who more than ever joying in his might,
Renewed in youth, and proud of polished scale,
Darts his three tongues, fire flashing from his eyes;
While every frighted beast before him flies.

XII
Nor bulwark, stone, nor arbalest, nor bow,
Nor what upon the paynim smote beside,
Sufficed to arrest the sanguinary foe;
Who broke and hewed, and shook that portal w
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Ludovico Ariosto

Ludovico Ariosto was an Italian poet. more…

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"Orlando Furioso Canto 17" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 26 May 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/26301/orlando-furioso-canto-17>.

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