Orlando Furioso Canto 21

Zerbino for Gabrina, who a heart
Of asp appears to bear, contends. O'erthrown,
The Fleming falls upon the other part,
Through cause of that despised and odious crone,
He wounded sore, and writhing with the smart,
The beldam's treason to the prince makes known,
Whose scorn and hatred hence derive new force.
Towards loud cries Zerbino spurs his horse.

No cord I well believe is wound so tight
Round chest, nor nails the plank so fastly hold,
As Faith enwraps an honourable sprite
In its secure, inextricable, fold;
Nor holy Faith, it seems, except in white
Was mantled over in the days of old;
So by the ancient limner ever painted,
As by one speck, one single blemish tainted.

Faith should be kept unbroken evermore,
With one or with a thousand men united;
As well if given in grot or forest hoar,
Remote from town and hamlet, as if plighted
Amid a crowd of witnesses, before
Tribunal, and in act and deed recited:
Nor needs the solemn sanction of an oath:
It is sufficient that we pledge our troth.

And this maintains as it maintained should be,
In each emprize the Scottish cavalier,
And gives good proof of his fidelity,
Quitting his road with that old crone to steer;
Although this breeds the youth such misery,
As 'twould to have Disease itself as near,
Or even Death; but with him heavier weighed
That his desire the promise he had made.

Of him I told who felt at heart such load,
Reflecting she beneath his charge must go,
He spake no word; and thus in silent mode
Both fared: so sullen was Zerbino's woe.
I said how vexed their silence, as they rode,
Was broke, when Sol his hindmost wheels did show,
By an adventurous errant cavalier,
Who in mid pathway met the crone and peer.

The hag, who the approaching warrior knew,
(Hermonides of Holland he was hight)
That bore upon a field of sable hue
A bar of vermeil tint, transversely dight,
Did humbly now to good Zerbino sue,
- Her pride abased, and look of haught despite -
And him reminded of the promise made,
When her Marphisa to his care conveyed.

Because as foe to her and hers she knew
The knight they were encountering, who had slain
Her only brother and her father true;
And was advised, the traitor would be fain
By her, the remnant of her race, to do
What he had perpetrated on the twain.
'Woman, while guarded by my arm (he said)
I will not thou shouldst any danger dread.'

As nearer now, the stranger knight espied
That face, which was so hateful in his sight,
With menacing and savage voice he cried,
'Either with me prepare thyself to fight,
Or arm thee not on that old woman's side,
Who by my hand shall perish, as is right.
If thou contendest for her, thou art slain;
For such their portion is who wrong maintain.'

Him young Zerbino answered courteously,
Twas sign of evil and ungenerous will,
And corresponded not with chivalry,
That he a woman should desire to kill;
Yet if the knight persists, he will not flee -
But bids him well consider first how ill
'Twould sound, that he, a gentle knight and good,
Should wish to dip his hand in woman's blood.

This and yet more he vainly says; nor stand
They idle long; from word they pass to deed;
And having compassed on the level land
Enough of ground, encounter on the mead.
Not fired in some rejoicing, from the hand
Discharged, so fast the whistling rockets speed,
As the two coursers bear the cavaliers
To hurtle in mid space with rested spears.

Hermonides of Holland levelled low,
And for the youth's left flank the stroke intended;
But his weak lance was shivered by the blow,
And little the opposing Scot offended:
But vain was not the spear-thrust of his foe,
Who bored his opposite's good shield, and rended
His shoulder, by the lance pierced through and through,
And good Hermonides on earth o'erthrew.

Thinking him slain who only lay amazed,
By pity prest, Zerbino leapt to ground,
And from his deathlike face the vizor raised;
And he, as wakened out of sleep profound,
In silence, hard upon Zerbino gazed;
Then cried, 'It does not me, in truth, confound,
To think that I am overthrown by thee,
Who seem'st the flower of errant chivalry.

'But it with reason grieves me this is done
Upon account of a false woman's spite;
Whose wicked cause I know not why you own,
An office ill according with your might:
And when to you the occasion shall be known
Which urges me her wickedness t
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Ludovico Ariosto

Ludovico Ariosto was an Italian poet. more…

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"Orlando Furioso Canto 21" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 28 May 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/26306/orlando-furioso-canto-21>.

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