Orlando Furioso, Canto II
Second installment and I am noticing a pattern. Introduce knight. Make the knight fight. Put knight in hole. Introduce another knight or switch to one you already had in a hole. Rinse and repeat. It’s a neat formula. I can see why the book’s been so popular.
This chapter has a lot of that. It also has wizards, sprites, dwarfs, and a winged horse. A veritable monster manual of stuff.
So strap on your sword belts and let’s go!
Rinaldo and Sacripante are getting ready to duel. The cause? Angelica (and the fact that Sacripante is on Rinaldo’s horse):
“Let us then have recourse
To combat, to decide which of us is
More worthy of the lady and the horse.”
Lady? Horse? Same same.
So the two knights hurl themselves at each other. Rinaldo on the ground, Sacripante on a horse. Except it’s Rinaldo’s horse, Baiardo, and refuses to harm its master. Sacripante dismounts and now they hurl themselves at each other with all their fury. There’s lots of clashing. Rinaldo’s sword is named Fusberta. Sacripnate’s shield gets smashed and his arm broken. Angelica sees Rinaldo is about to win and does what she does best: hightail it out of there as fast as she can and make straight for the forest. In there because the wilderness is a wild place where anything can happen, she promptly finds a hermit who turns out to be a wizard and kindly deposed to her.
“As soon as the fair damsel he had seen
Approaching him, though weaker than of yore,
That organ, by such tender beauty spurred,
With warmth of feeling and compassion stirred.”
(Ariosto’s talking about the hermit wizard’s heart you pervos.)
The wizard throws his lot in with Angelica and goes with her to the nearest port. He also conjures up a sprite to go distract the still fighting Rinaldo and Sacripante. The sprite takes on human form and tells the knights that they have no reason to fight since Angelica’s gone to Paris with Orlando. If they hurry though it’s possible they could catch them. The knights feel like fools and quit the field. Rinaldo reclaiming Baiardo the Horse and we get a bit then about how great Baiardo is. Smart too. Except not this time. Baiardo falls for the sprite’s trick as well. When they get to Paris, they find no Angelica there only King Charlemagne and he’s preparing for siege. Rinaldo’s quickly ordered off to England on a diplomatic mission. Rinaldo set off and puts to sea where a storm promptly starts, and as the waves mount and threaten to sink the ship Ariosto says “Enough of this guy, let’s talk about that lady knight Bradamante.”
Bradamante is Rinaldo’s sister and equal in power, courage, and virtue. I don’t know the name of her sword or horse… yet. She’s in love with and loved by Ruggiero one of the greatest knights in the African army. I suspect we will see more of him later when someone else gets put in a hole. As it is Bradamante finds another knight looking doleful. She asks what’s wrong and the knight tells a tale of how he and his girl were riding along when a knight on a winged horse flew down and stole his girl. He tried to fight the guy, but he was too fast. Now the knight’s girl is locked up in yonder castle and there’s no way to save her. Already the knight told some other knights (Gradasso and Ruggiero) and their dwarf buddy (name as yet unknown) about the flying menace (name also unknown at the moment) and those guys said they would take care of things, but sadly the flying knight kicked their asses (he has a shield that shoots energy beams by the way) and kidnapped them too. Woe. Woe. Boo hoo.
Being a hero Bradamante’s ready to set off and fight this flying menace. The knight agrees to be her guide. But wait! What’s this the knight is not who he claims! He is Pinabel the Maganzan and he doesn’t have good intentions.
“Named Pinabel, of all true knights the foe.
Born a Maganzan, he obeyed no laws
Of chivalry, and of that breed accurst
In acts of treachery he was the worst.”
The two set forth towards the castle, but on the way the envoy from the first canto shows up and tells Bradamante that she’s needed in Marseilles. Pinabel seethes, and Ariosto explains how there’s hatred between the two families. He gets so vexed that they soon get lost in a wood. There after some maneuvering Pinabel spots a ravine and decides it’s as good a place as any to do away with Bradamante. He tells her a story about a damsel trapped in the hole and convinces Bradamante to climb down there. Except when she does, he cuts the tree branch they’re using and lets her drop.
“And how she later fared I’ll later say”
Next week… new knights? New horses?
Orlando Furioso, Canto I
Welcome to this year’s self-imposed task!
Feel free to occupy yourselves as you see fit!
As mentioned before, this year I’ve decided to read Orlando Furioso, the 16th century over-the-top chivalric romance by Ludovico Ariosto.
Dante lived from the 13th to 14th century. Chaucer in the 14th century. Ariosto lived from the 15th to 16th century. He was a contemporary with Erasmus, Martin Luther, and Machiavelli. So that’s a thing to remember: While princes learned to murder and terrorize, and Catholics and Protestants murdered each other, they all relaxed and entertained themselves with chivalric ideals and heroic deeds. The poem was his gift to his patrons, the ruling D’Este family of the city Ferrara. But you can read all about that on Wikipedia.
So what is Orlando Furioso?
It’s a mess. It’s a book about knights fighting each other with dozens of named characters who ride dozens of named horses and carry dozens of named swords.
Your typical fantasy novel then.
It’s also the sequel to a book I haven’t read called Orlando Innamorato by another guy, so it starts right in the middle of the action with people running around already hating each other.
Of ladies, cavaliers, of love and war,
Of courtesies and of brave deeds I sing…
In times of high endeavour when the Moor
Had crossed the sea from Africa to bring
Great harm to France, when Agramante swore
In wrath, being now the youthful Moorish king,
To avenge Troiano, who was lately slain,
Upon the Roman emperor Charlemagne.
That’s the big picture, but behind it is Orlando, the greatest knight in Christendom, being in love with Angelica, the pagan princess. She hates him and fled to Cathay where she married the king, Ruggiero. This made Orlando mad (hence the Furioso) and he has abandoned Charlemagne’s cause to pillage the land. Another knight, Rinaldo, then fell in love with Angelica. And to keep everyone in his army, Charlemagne had Angelica captured and imprisoned, figuring to award her as a prize after the battle. Except the Saracens (fugg, am I going to have to write this word all year?) win the day and Angelica seizes her chance and escapes.
She, who was promised as a victor’s bride,
Into the saddle leapt and straight away,
Choosing her moment well, set out to ride.
While everyone is a dick, she must rely on cunning to get away from all the knights that would capture her. And have no doubt most of these knights are eager to assault her.
These guys go on and on about purity and the beauty of virgins, but are quick to get to the assaulting when they see any woman. Angelica realizes she needs a protector and finds a Saracen knight she recognizes, Sarcripante (and yes he’s in love with her too), and decides to manipulate him.
How, by her charm, her servant she can make him,
And then, ungrateful, afterwards forsake him.
Unfortunately, Sacripante figures he needs to strike now and take the opportunity to commit the “sweet assault,” but before he can do the deed he hears the drumbeat of horse’s hooves and knows another knight is nearby. More eager to make war than “love” he rides off to find the knight. This knight is dressed in snow white armor and seems to be a formidably built man. Soon the two take to jousting and Ariosto brings the action.
The mountain trembles, as the knights engage,
From its green base to the bare peak it rears.
And well it is the haubreks stand the test,
Else would each lance be driven through each breast.
Both horses fall, but the white knight’s rises again. Sacripante, pinned beneath his dead horse, watches as the white knight rides away. He climbs free, unwounded, save for his pride. Angelica saw the whole thing and he’s ashamed. An envoy rides by and Sacripante asks who was that white knight, to which the envoy says it was Bradamante, as beautiful as she is brave.
To be unseated by a woman!?!
Sacripante’s shame intensifies. Angelica and he ride away, his ardor much cooled. After a bit they find a war horse roaming free. Angelica recognizes it as Baiardo, Rinaldo’s horse, and hops into the saddle. Then she spies Rinaldo. And he espies her, and of course he’s in love with her and she hates him, but there she is on his horse with some knight.
And that’s where it ends.
Next time, Sacripante and Rinaldo start with the “come at me bro”.
* For the sake of proper record keeping all the quotes come from the Penguins Classic edition translated by Barbara Reynolds. And the illustrations come from the Spanish edition over on Project Gutenberg.