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To fly the royal Agramant is fain,
And sees Biserta burning far away;
But landing finds the royal Sericane,
Who of his faith gives goodly warrant; they
Defy Orlando, backed by champions twain;
Whom bold Gradasso firmly trusts to slay.
For seven kings’ sake, fast prisoners to their foes,
Rogero and the Dane exchange rude blows.
I. The diverse chances of that sea-fight dread,
Here to rehearse would take a weary while;
And to discourse to you upon this head,
Great son of Hercules, were to Samos’ isle
To carry earthen vessels, as ’tis said,
To Athens owls, and crocodiles the Nile.
In that, my lord, by what is vouched to me,
Such things you saw, such things made others see.
II. Your faithful people gazed on a long show,
That night and day, wherein they crowded stood,
As in a theatre, and hemmed on Po
Twixt fire and sword, the hostile navies viewed.
What outcries may be heard, what sounds of woe,
How rivers may run red with human blood,
In suchlike combat, in how many a mode
Men die, you saw, and you to many showed.
III. I saw not, I, who was compelled to course,
Evermore changing nags, six days before,
To Rome, in heat and haste, some helpful force
Of him our mighty pastor to implore.
But, after, need was none of foot or horse,
For so the lion’s beak and claws you tore,
From that day unto this I hear not said
That he more trouble in your land has bread.
IV. But Trotto, present at this victory,
Afranio, Moro, Albert, Hannibal,
Zerbinat, Bagno, the Ariostos three,
Assured me of the mighty feat withal,
Certified after by that ensignry,
Suspended from the holy temple’s wall,
And fifteen galleys at our river-side,
Which with a thousand captive barks I spied.
V. He that those wrecks and blazing fires discerned,
And such sore slaughter, under different shows,
Which—venging us for hall and palace burned—
While bark remained, raged wide among the foes,
Might also deem how Africk’s people mourned,
With Agramant, mid diverse deaths and woes,
On that dark night, when the redouted Dane
Assaulted in mid sea the Moorish train.
VI. ’Twas night, nor gleam was anywhere descried,
When first the fleets in furious strife were blended;
But when lit sulphur, pitch and tar from side
And poop and prow into the sky ascended,
And the destructive wild-fire, scattered wide,
Fed upon ship and shallop ill defended,
The things about them all descried so clear
That night was changed to day, as ’twould appear.
VII. Hence Agramant, that by the dark deceived,
Had rated not so high the foes’ array,
Nor to encounter such a force believed,
But would, if ’twere opposed, at last give way,
When that wide darkness cleared, and he perceived
(What least he weened upon the first affray)
That twice as many were the ships he fought,
As his own Moorish barks, took other thought.
VIII. Into a boat he with some few descends,
Brigliador and some precious things, to flee;
And so, twixt ship and ship, in silence wends,
Until he finds himself in safer sea,
Far from his own; whom fiery Dudon shends,
Reduced to sad and sore extremity;
Them steel destroys, fires burn, and waters drown;
While he, that mighty slaughter’s cause, is flown.
IX. Agramant flies, and with him old Sobrine,
Agramant grieving he had not believed,
What time that sage foresaw with eye divine,
And told the woe wherewith he is aggrieved.
But turn me to the valiant paladine,
Who, before other aid can be received,
Counsels the duke Biserta to destroy;
That it no more may Christian France annoy.
X. And hence in public order was it said,
The camp should to its arms the third day stand;
For this, it was with many barks bested;
For all were placed not at the Dane’s command.
That fleet the worthy Sansonetto led,
(As good a warrior he by sea as land)
Which a mile off the port, and overight
Biserta, now was anchored by the knight.
XI. Orlando and the duke, like Christians true,
Which dare no danger without God for guide,
That fast and prayer be made their army through,
Ordain by proclamation to be cried;
And that upon the third day, when they view
The signal, all shall bown them, far and wide,
Biserta’s royal city to attack,
Which they, when taken, doom to fire and sack.
XII. And so, when now devoutly have been done
Vigil and vow, and holy prayer and fast,
Kin, friends, and those to one another known,
Together feast; who, when with glad repast
Their wasted bodies were refreshed, begun
To embrace and weep; and acts and speeches past,
Upon the banquet’s close, amid those crews
Such as best friends, about to sever, use.
XIII. The holy priests within Biserta’s wall,
Pray with their grieving people, and in tears,
Aye beat their bosoms, and for succour call
Upon their Mahomet, who nothing hears.
What vigils, offerings, and what gifts withal
Were promised silently, amid their fears!
What temples, statues, images were vowed,
In memory of their bitter woes, aloud!
XIV. And, when the cadi hath his blessing said,
The people arms and to the rampart hies.
As yet reposing in her Tithon’s bed
Aurora was, and dusky were the skies;
When to their posts, their several troops to head,
Here Sansonetto, there Astolpho flies.
And when they hear Orlando’s signal blown
Assault with furious force Biserta’s town.
XV. Washed by the sea, upon two quarters, were
The city walls, two stood on the dry shore,
Of a construction excellent and rare,
Wherein was seen the work of days of yore:
Of other bulwarks was the town nigh bare;
For since Branzardo there the sceptre bore;
Few masons at command, and little space
That monarch had to fortify the place.
XVI. The Nubian king is charged by England’s peer,
With sling and arrow so the Moors to gall,
That none upon the works shall dare appear;
And that, protected by the ceaseless fall
Of stone and dart, in safety cavalier
And footman may approach the very wall;
Who loaded, some with plank, with rock-stone some,
And some with beam, or weightier burden, come.
XVII. This and that other thing the Nubians bore,
And by degrees filled-up that channel wide,
Whose waters were cut off the day before,
So that in many parts the ooze was spied.
Filled is the ditch in haste from shore to shore,
And forms a level to the further side.
Cheering the footmen on the works to mount,
Stand Olivier, Astolpho, and the Count.
XVIII. The Nubian upon hope of gain intent,
Impatient of delay, nor heeding how
With pressing perils they were compassed, went
Protected by the sheltering boar and sow.
With battering ram, and other instrument,
To break the gate and make the turret bow,
Speedily to the city wall they post,
Nor unprovided find the paynim host.
XIX. For steel, and fire, and roof, and turret there,
In guise of tempest on the Nubians fell,
Which plank and beam from those dread engines tear,
Made for annoyance of the infidel.
In the ill beginning, and while dim the air,
Much injury the christened host befell;
But when the sun from his rich mansion breaks,
Fortune the faction of the Moor forsakes.
XX. The assault is reinforced on every side,
By Count Orlando, both by sea and land:
The fleet, with Sansonetto for its guide,
Entered the harbour, and approached the strand;
And sorely they with various engines plied,
With arrows and with slings, the paynim band;
And sent the assailants scaling-ladder, spear,
And naval stores, and every needful gear.
XXI. Orlando, Oliviero, Brandimart,
And he, in air so daring heretofore,
Do fierce and furious battle on that part,
Which lies the furthest inland from the shore:
Each leads a portion of those Aethiops swart,
Ordered in equal bands beneath the four,
Who at the walls, the gateways, or elsewhere,
All give of prowess shining proofs and rare.
XXII. So better could be seen each warrior’s claim,
That in confused in combat there and here.
Who of reward is worthy, who of shame,
To a thousand and to watchful eyes is clear.
Dragged upon wheels are towers of wooden frame,
And others well-trained elephants uprear,
Which so o’ertop the turrets of the foe,
Those bulwarks stand a mighty space below.
XXIII. Brandimart to the walls a ladder brought,
Climbed, and to climb withal to others cried:
Many succeed, with bold assurance fraught,
For none can fear beneath so good a guide:
Nor was there one who marked, nor one who thought
Of marking, if such weight it would abide.
Brandimart only, on the foes intent,
Clambered and fought, and grasped a battlement.
XXIV. Here clang with hand and foot the daring knight,
Sprang on the embattled wall, and whirled his sword;
And, showing mickle tokens of his might,
The paynims charged, o’erthrew, hewed down and gored:
But all at once, o’erburthened with that weight,
The ladder breaks beneath the assailing horde;
And, saving Brandimart, the Christians all
Into the ditch with headlong ruin fall.
XXV. Not therefore blenched the valiant cavalier,
Nor thought he of retreat, albeit was none
Of his own band that followed in his rear;
Although he was a mark for all the town.
Of many prayed, the warrior would not hear
The prayer to turn; but mid the foes leapt down;
I say, into the city took a leap,
Where the town-wall was thirty cubits deep.
XXVI. He, without any harm on the hard ground,
As if on feathers or on straw, did light;
And, like cloth shred and shorn, the paynims round
In fury shreds and shears the valiant knight.
Now springs on these, now those, with vigorous bound;
And these and those betake themselves to flight.
They that without have seen the leap he made,
Too late to save him deem all human aid.
XXVII. Throughout the squadrons a deep rumour flew,
A murmur and a whisper, there and here,
From mouth to mouth, the Fame by motion grew,
And told and magnified the tale of fear:
For upon many quarters stormed that crew,
Where good Orlando was, where Olivier,
Where Otho’s son, she flew on pinions light,
Nor ever paused upon her nimble flight.
XXVIII. Those warriors, and Orlando most of all,
Who love and prize the gentle Brandimart,
Hearing, should they defy upon that call,
They would from so renowned a comrade part,
Their scaling-ladders plant, and mount the wall
With rivalry, which shows the kingly heart;
Who carry all such terror in their look,
That, at the very sight, their foemen shook.
XXIX. As on loud ocean, lashed by boisterous gale
The billows the rash bark assault, and still—
Now threatening poop, now threatening prow—assail,
And, in their rage and fury, fain would fill;
The pilot sighs and groans, dismaid and pale,
—He that should aid, and has not heart or skill—
At length a surge the pinnace sweeps and swallows,
And wave on wave in long succession follows;
XXX. Thus when those win the wall, they leave a space
So wide, that who beneath their conduct go,
Safely may follow them; for at its base,
A thousand ladders have been reared below.
Meanwhile the battering rams, in many a place,
Have breached that wall, and with such mighty blow,
The bold assailant can, from many a part,
Bear succour to the gallant Brandimart.
XXXI. Even with that rage wherewith the stream that reigns,
The king of rivers—when he breaks his mound,
And makes himself a way through Mantuan plains—
The greasy furrows and glad harvests, round,
And, with the sheepcotes, flock, and dogs and swains
Bears off, in his o’erwhelming waters drowned;
Over the elm’s high top the fishes glide,
Where fowls erewhile their nimble pinions plied;
XXXII. Even with that rage rushed in the impetuous band,
Where many breaches in the wall were wrought,
To slay with burning torch and trenchant brand,
That people, which to evil pass were brought.
Murder and rapine there, and violent hand
Dipt deep in blood and plunder, in a thought,
Destroy that sumptuous and triumphant town,
Which of all Africk wore the royal crown.
XXXIII. Filled with dead bodies of the paynim horde,
Blood issued from so many a gaping wound,
A fouler fosse was formed and worse to ford
Than girdles the infernal city round.
From house to house the fire in fury poured;
Mosque, portico, and palace, went to ground;
And spoiled and empty mansions with the clang,
Of beaten breast, and groan and outcry rang.
XXXIV. The victors, laden with their mighty prey,
From that unhappy city’s gates are gone,
One with fair vase, and one with rich array,
Or silver plate from ancient altar won.
The mother this, that bore the child away;
Rapes and a thousand evil things were done.
Of much, and what they cannot hinder, hear
Renowned Orlando and fair England’s peer.
XXXV. By Olivier, amid that slaughter wide,
Fell Bucifaro of the paynim band;
And—every hope and comfort cast aside—
Branzardo slew himself with his own brand;
Pierced with three wounds whereof he shortly died,
Folvo was taken by Astolpho’s hand;
The monarchs three, intrusted to whose care
Agramant’s African dominions were.
XXXVI. Agramant, who had left without a guide
His fleet this while, and with Sobrino fled,
Wept over his Biserta when he spied
Those fires that on the royal city fed.
When nearer now the king was certified,
How in that cruel strife his town had sped,
He thought of dying, and himself had slain,
But that Sobrino’s words his arm restrain.
XXXVII. “What victory, my lord,” (Sobrino cries)
“Could better than thy death the Christian cheer,
Whence he might hope to joy in quiet wise
Fair Africa, from all annoyance clear?
Thy being yet alive this hope denies;
Hence shall he evermore have cause for fear.
For well the foeman knows, save thou art gone,
He for short time will fill thine Africk throne.
XXXVIII. “Thy subjects by thy death deprived will be
Of hope, the only good they have in store,
Thou, if thou liv’st, I trust, shalt set us free,
Redeem from trouble, and to joy restore.
Captives for ever, if thou diest, are we;
Africk is tributary evermore.
Although not for thyself, yet not to give
My liege, annoyance to thy followers, live.
XXXIX. “The soldan, he thy neighbour, will be won,
Surely with men and money thee to aid:
By him with evil eye King Pepin’s son,
So strong in Africa, will be surveyed.
All efforts to restore thee to thy throne
By Norandine, thy kinsman, will be made.
Turk, Persian and Armenian, Arab, Mede,
If prayed, will all assist thee in thy need.”
XL. In such and such like words, with wary art,
With hope of quickly winning back his reign,
Sobrino soothed the king, while in his heart
He other thought perchance did entertain.
Well knows he to what pass, what evil mart
That lord is brought; how often sighs in vain,
Whoe’er foregoes the sceptre which he swayed,
And to barbarians hath recourse for aid.
XLI. Jugurtha, martial Hannibal, and more
In ancient times, good proof of this afford:
In our own era, Lewis, hight the Moor,
Delivered into other Lewis’ ward.
Your brother, Duke Alphonso, wiser lore
Learned from their fate;—I speak to you, my lord—
Wont them as very madmen to decry,
That more on others than themselves rely;
XLII. And therefore aye, throughout that warfare drear
Waged by the pontiff, in his fierce disdain,
Albeit upon his feeble powers the peer
Could ill depend, though from Italian plain
Was driven the friend that aided him whilere,
And by the foe possessed was Naples’ reign,
He against menace, against promise steeled,
Ne’er to another would his dukedom yield.
XLIII. Eastward King Agramant had turned his prow;
And seaward steered his bark, of Africk wide;
When from the land a wicked wind ’gan blow,
And took the reeling vessel on one side:
The master, seated at the helm, his brow
Raised towards heaven, and to the monarch cried:
“I see so fell and fierce a tempest form,
Our pinnace cannot face the pelting storm.
XLIV. “If you, my lords, will listen to my lore,
An isle is on our left-hand; and to me
It seems that it were well to make that shore
Till overblown the tempest’s fury be.”
To his advice assents the royal Moor,
And makes the larboard land, from peril free;
Which, for the sailor’s weal, when tempests rise,
’Twixt Vulcan’s lofty forge and Africk lies.
XLV. With juniper and myrtle overgrown,
Of habitations is that islet bare;
A pleasing solitude; and where alone
Harbour wild stag and roebuck, deer and hare;
And, save to fishermen, is little known,
That oftentimes on the shorn brambles there
Hang their moist nets; meanwhile, untroubled sleep
The scaly fishes in their quiet deep.
XLVI. Here other vessel, sheltered from the main,
They found, by tempest tost upon that land,
Which had conveyed the king of Sericane
Erewhile from Arles; on one and the other hand,
In reverent wise and worthy of the twain,
Those valiant kings embraced upon the strand:
For friends the monarchs were, and late before
The walls of Paris, arms together bore.
XLVII. With much displeasure Sericana’s knight
Heard by King Agramant his griefs displaid;
Then him consoled, and in his cause to fight,
Like courteous king, the kindly offer made:
But brooked nat, that to Egypt’s people, light
And lacking faith, he should resort for aid.
“That thither it is perilous to wend,
Exiles (he said) are warned by Pompey’s end.
XLVIII. “And for Senapus’ Aethiopian crew
Have come beneath Astolpho, as ye show,
To wrest your fruitful Africa from you,
And burnt and laid her chiefest city low.
And with their squadrons is Orlando, who
Was wandering void of wit, short while ago,
The fittest cure for all, whereby to scape
Out of this trouble I, meseems, can shape.
XLIX. “I, for your love, will undertake the quest,
The Count in single combat to appear;
He vainly would, I wot, with me contest,
If wholly made of copper or of steel.
I rate the Christian church, were he at rest,
As wolf rates lambs, when hungering for his meal.
Next have I thought how of the Nubian band
—A brief and easy task—to free your land.
L. “I will make other Nubians, they that hold
Another faith, divided by Nile’s course,
And Arabs and Macrobians (rich in gold
And men are these, and those in herds of horse),
Chaldaean, Perse, and many more, controlled
By my good sceptre, in such mighty force,
Will make them war upon the Nubians’ reign,
Those reavers shall not in your land remain.”
LI. Gradasso’s second offer seemed to be
Most opportune to King Troyano’s son;
And much he blest the chances of the sea,
Which him upon that desert isle had thrown:
Yet would not upon any pact agree,
—Nay, not to repossess Biserta’s town—
Gradasso should for him in fight contend;
Deeming too sore his honour ’twould offend.
LII. “If Roland is to be defied, more due
The battle is to me (that king replies)
I am prepared for it; and let God do
His will by me, in good or evil wise.”
“—Follow my mode; another mode and new,
Which comes into my mind” (Gradasso cries),
“Let both of us together wage this fight
Against Orlando and another knight.”
LIII. “So not left out, I care not, if I be
The first or last (said Agramant): I know
In arms no better can I find than thee,
Though I should seek a comrade, high or low,
And what (Sobrino cried) becomes of me?
I should be more expert if old in show;
And evermore in peril it is good,
Force should have Counsel in his neighbourhood.”
LIV. Stricken in years, yet vigorous was the sage,
And well had proved himself with sword and spear;
And said, he found himself in gray old age,
Such as in green and supple youth whilere.
They own his claim, and for an embassage
Forthwith a courier find, then bid him steer
For Africa, where camped the Christians lie,
And Count Orlando on their part defy;
LV. With equal number of armed knights to be,
Matching his foes, on Lampedosa’s shore;
Where on all quarters that circumfluent sea,
By which they are inisled, is heard to roar.
The paynim messenger unceasingly,
Like one in needful haste, used sail and oar,
Till he found Roland in Biserta, where
The host beneath his eye their plunder share.
LVI. From those three monarchs to the cavalier
The invitation was in public told;
So pleasing to Anglante’s valiant peer,
To the herald he was liberal of his gold:
From his companions had he heard whilere
That Durindane was in Gradasso’s hold:
Hence, to retrieve that faulchion from the foe,
To India had the Count resolved to go:
LVII. Deeming he should not find that king elsewhere,
Who, so he heard, had sailed from the French shore.
A nearer place is offered now; and there
He hopes Gradasso shall his prize restore;
Moved also by Almontes’ bugle rare,
To accept the challenge which the herald bore;
Nor less by Brigliadoro; since he knew
In Agramant’s possession were the two.
LVIII. He chose for his companions in the fight
The faithful Brandimart and Olivier:
Well has he proved the one and the other’s might;
Knows he alike to both is passing dear.
Good horses and good armour seeks the knight
And goodly swords and lances, far and near,
For him and his; meseems to you is known
How none of those three warriors had his own.
LIX. Orlando (as I oft have certified)
In fury, his had scattered wide and far;
Rodomont took the others’, which beside
The river, locked in that high turret are.
Few throughout Africa could they provide;
As well because to France, in that long war,
King Agramant had born away the best,
As because Africa but few possest.
LX. What could be had of armour, rusted o’er
And brown with age, Orlando bids unite;
Meanwhile with his companions on the shore,
He walks, discoursing on the future fight.
So wandering from their camp three miles and more,
It chanced that, turning towards the sea their sight,
Under full sail approaching, they descried
A helmless barque, with nought her course to guide.
LXI. She, without pilot, without crew, alone,
As wind and fortune ordered it, was bound:
The vessel neared the shore, with sails full-blown,
Furrowing the waves, until she took the ground.
But ere of these three warriors more be shown,
The love wherewith I to the Child am bound,
To his story brings me back, and bids record
What past ’twixt him and Clermont’s warlike lord.
LXII. I spake of that good pair of warriors, who
Had both retreated from the martial fray,
Beholding pact and treaty broken through,
And every troop and band in disarray.
Which leader to his oath was first untrue,
And was occasion of such evil, they
Study to learn of all the passing train;
King Agramant or the Emperor Charlemagne.
LXIII. Meanwhile a servant of the Child’s, at hand,
—Faithful, expert and wary was the wight,
Nor in the shock of either furious band,
Had ever of his warlike lord lost sight—
To bold Rogero bore his horse and brand,
That he might aid his comrades now in flight.
Rogero backed the steed and grasped the sword;
But not in battle mixed that martial lord.
LXIV. Thence he departed; but he first renewed
His compact with Montalban’s knight—that so
His Agramant convinced of perjury stood—
Him and his evil sect he would forego.
That day no further feats of hardihood
Rogero will perform against the foe:
He but demands of all that make for Arles,
Who first broke faith, King Agramant or Charles?
LXV. From all he hears repeated, far and near,
That Agramant had broke the promise plight:
He loves that king, and from his side to veer,
For this, believes would be no error light.
The Moors were broke and scattered (this whilere
Has been rehearsed) and from the giddy height
Of HER revolving wheel were downward hurled,
Who at her pleasure rolls this nether world.
LXVI. Rogero ponders if he should remain,
Or rather should his sovereign lord attend:
Love for his lady fits him with a rein
And bit, which lets him not to Africk wend;
Wheels him, and to a counter course again
Spurs him, and threats his restive mood to shend,
Save he maintains the treaty, and the troth
Pledged to the paladin with solemn oath.
LXVII. A wakeful, stinging care, on the other side
Scourges and goads no less the cavalier;
Lest, if he now from Agramant divide,
He should be taxed with baseness or with fear.
If many deem it well he should abide,
To many and many it would ill appear:
Many would say, that oaths unbinding are,
Which ’tis unlawful and unjust to swear.
LXVIII. He all that day and the ensuing night
Remains alone, and so the following day;
Forever sifting in his doubtful sprite,
If it be better to depart or stay:
Lastly for Agramant decides the knight;
To him in Africk will he wend his way:
Moved by his love for his liege-lady sore,
But moved by honour and by duty more.
LXIX. He made for Arles, where yet he hoped would ride
The fleet which him to Africa might bear;
Nor in the port nor offing ships espied,
Nor Saracens save dead beheld he there.
For Agramant had swept the roadstead wide,
And burnt what vessels in the haven were.
Rogero takes the road, when his hope fails,
Along the sea-beat shore toward Marseilles.
LXX. Upon some boat he hoped to lay his hand,
Which him for love or force should thence convey.
Already Ogier’s son had made the land,
With the barbarians’ fleet, his captive prey.
You could not there have cast a grain of sand
Between those vessels; moored closely lay
The mighty squadrons to that harbour brought,
With conquerors these, and those with prisoners fraught.
LXXI. The vessels of the Moor that were not made
The food of fire and water on that night
(Saving some few that fled) were all conveyed
Safe to Marseilles by the victorious knight
Seven of those kings, that Moorish sceptres swayed,
Who, having seen their squadron put to flight,
With their seven ships had yielded to the foe,
Stood mute and weeping, overwhelmed with woe.
LXXII. Dudon had issued forth upon dry land,
Bent to find Charlemagne that very day;
And of the Moorish spoil and captive band
Made in triumphal pomp a long display.
The prisoners all were ranged upon the strand,
And round them stood their Nubian victors gay;
Who, shouting in his praise, with loud acclaim,
Made all that region ring with Dudon’s name.
LXXIII. Rogero, when from far the ships he spied,
Believed they were the fleet of Agramant,
And, to know further, pricked his courser’s side;
Then, nearer, mid those knights of mickle vaunt,
Nasamon’s king a prisoner he desired,
Agricalt, Bambirago, Farurant,
Balastro, Manilardo, and Rimedont;
Who stood with weeping eyes and drooping front.
LXXIV. In their unhappy state to leave that crew
The Child, who loved those monarchs, cannot bear;
That useless is the empty hand he knew;
That where force is not, little profits prayer.
He couched his lance, their keeper overthrew,
Then proved his wonted might with faulchion bare;
And in a moment stretched upon the strand
Above a hundred of the Nubian band.
LXXV. The noise Sir Dudon hears, the slaughter spies,
But knows not who the stranger cavalier:
He marks how, put to rout, his people flies;
With anguish, with lament and mighty fear;
Quickly for courser, shield, and helmet cries,
(Bosom, and arms, and thighs, were mailed whilere)
Leaps on his horse, nor—having seized his lance—
Forgets he is a paladin of France.
LXXVI. He called on every one to stand aside,
And with the galling spur his courser prest;
Meanwhile a hundred other foes have died,
And filled with hope was every prisoner’s breast;
And as Rogero holy Dudon spied
Approach on horseback, (footmen were the rest,)
Esteeming him their head, he charged the knight,
Impelled by huge desire to prove his might.
LXXVII. Already, on his part, had moved the Dane;
But when he saw the Child without a spear,
He flang is own far from him, in disdain
To take such vantage of the cavalier.
Admiring at Sir Dudon’s courteous vein,
“Belie himself he cannot,” said the peer,
“And of those perfect warriors must be one
That as the paladins of France are known.
LXXVIII. “If I my will can compass, he shall shew
His name, to me, ere further deed be done.”
He made demand; and in the stranger knew
Dudon, the Danish Ogier’s valiant son:
He from Rogero claimed an equal due,
And from the Child as courteous answer won.
—Their names on either side announced—the foes
A bold defiance speak, and come to blows.
LXXIX. Bold Dudon had with him that iron mace,
Which won him deathless fame in many a fight:
Wherewith he proved him fully of the race
Of that good Danish warrior, famed for might.
That best of faulchions, which through iron case
Of cuirass or of casque was wont to bite,
Youthful Rogero from the scabbard snatched,
And with the martial Dane his valour matched.
LXXX. But for the gentle youth was ever willed
To offend his lady-love the least he could,
And knew he should offend her, if he spilled,
In that disastrous battle, Dudon’s blood
(Well in the lineage of French houses skilled
He wist of Beatrice’s sisterhood,
—Bradamant’s mother she—with Armelline,
The mother of the Danish paladine).
LXXXI. He therefore never thrust in that affray,
And rarely smote an edge on plate and chain.
Now warding off the mace, now giving way,
Before the fall of that descending bane.
Turpin believes it in Rogero lay
Sir Dudon in few sword-strokes to have slain.
Yet never when the Dane his guard foregoes,
Save on the faulchion’s flat descend the blows.
LXXXII. The flat as featly as the edge he plies,
Of that good faulchion forged of stubborn grain;
And, at strange blindman’s bluff, in weary wise,
Hammers on Dudon with such might and main,
He often dazzles so the warrior’s eyes,
That hardly he his saddle can maintain.
But to win better audience for my rhyme,
My canto I defer to other time.

Next: Canto 41