Lord Byron Poem

The Morgante Maggiore of Pulci

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Canto The First.


    In the beginning was the Word next God;
    God was the Word, the Word no less was He:
    This was in the beginning, to my mode
    Of thinking, and without Him nought could be:
    Therefore, just Lord! from out thy high abode,
    Benign and pious, bid an angel flee,
    One only, to be my companion, who
    Shall help my famous, worthy, old song through.


    And thou, oh Virgin! daughter, mother, bride,
    Of the same Lord, who gave to you each key
    Of Heaven, and Hell, and every thing beside,
    The day thy Gabriel said “All hail!” to thee,
    Since to thy servants Pity’s ne’er denied,
    With flowing rhymes, a pleasant style and free,
    Be to my verses then benignly kind,
    And to the end illuminate my mind.


    ‘Twas in the season when sad Philomel
    Weeps with her sister, who remembers and
    Deplores the ancient woes which both befel,
    And makes the nymphs enamoured, to the hand
    Of Phaton, by Phoebus loved so well,
    His car (but tempered by his sire’s command)
    Was given, and on the horizon’s verge just now
    Appeared, so that Tithonus scratched his brow:


    When I prepared my bark first to obey,
    As it should still obey, the helm, my mind,
    And carry prose or rhyme, and this my lay
    Of Charles the Emperor, whom you will find
    By several pens already praised; but they
    Who to diffuse his glory were inclined,
    For all that I can see in prose or verse,
    Have understood Charles badly, and wrote worse.


    Leonardo Aretino said already,
    That if, like Pepin, Charles had had a writer
    Of genius quick, and diligently steady,
    No hero would in history look brighter;
    He in the cabinet being always ready,
    And in the field a most victorious fighter,
    Who for the church and Christian faith had wrought,
    Certes, far more than yet is said or thought.


    You still may see at Saint Liberatore,
    The abbey, no great way from Manopell,
    Erected in the Abruzzi to his glory,
    Because of the great battle in which fell
    A pagan king, according to the story,
    And felon people whom Charles sent to Hell:
    And there are bones so many, and so many,
    Near them Giusaffa’s would seem few, if any.


    But the world, blind and ignorant, don’t prize
    His virtues as I wish to see them: thou,
    Florence, by his great bounty don’t arise,
    And hast, and may have, if thou wilt allow,
    All proper customs and true courtesies:
    Whate’er thou hast acquired from then till now,
    With knightly courage, treasure, or the lance,
    Is sprung from out the noble blood of France.


    Twelve Paladins had Charles in court, of whom
    The wisest and most famous was Orlando;
    Him traitor Gan conducted to the tomb
    In Roncesvalles, as the villain planned too,
    While the horn rang so loud, and knelled the doom
    Of their sad rout, though he did all knight can do:
    And Dante in his comedy has given
    To him a happy seat with Charles in Heaven.


    ‘Twas Christmas-day; in Paris all his court
    Charles held; the Chief, I say, Orlando was,
    The Dane; Astolfo there too did resort,
    Also Ansuigi, the gay time to pass
    In festival and in triumphal sport,
    The much-renowned St. Dennis being the cause;
    Angiolin of Bayonne, and Oliver,
    And gentle Belinghieri too came there:


    Avolio, and Arino, and Othone
    Of Normandy, and Richard Paladin,
    Wise Hamo, and the ancient Salamone,
    Walter of Lion’s Mount, and Baldovin,
    Who was the son of the sad Ganellone,
    Were there, exciting too much gladness in
    The son of Pepin: – when his knights came hither,
    He groaned with joy to see them altogether.


    But watchful Fortune, lurking, takes good heed
    Ever some bar ‘gainst our intents to bring.
    While Charles reposed him thus, in word and deed,
    Orlando ruled court, Charles, and every thing;
    Curst Gan, with envy bursting, had such need
    To vent his spite, that thus with Charles the king
    One day he openly began to say,
    “Orlando must we always then obey?


    “A thousand times I’ve been about to say,
    Orlando too presumptuously goes on;
    Here are we, counts, kings, dukes, to own thy sway,
    Hamo, and Otho, Ogier, Solomon,
    Each have to honour thee and to obey;
    But he has too much credit near the throne,
    Which we won’t suffer, but are quite decided
    By such a boy to be no longer guided.


    “And even at Aspramont thou didst begin
    To let him know he was a gallant knight,
    And by the fount did much the day to win;
    But I know who that day had won the fight
    If it had not for good Gherardo been;
    The victory was Almonte’s else; his sight
    He kept upon the standard – and the laurels,
    In fact and fairness, are his earning, Charles!


    “If thou rememberest being in Gascony,
    When there advanced the nations out of Spain
    The Christian cause had suffered shamefully,
    Had not his valour driven them back again.
    Best speak the truth when there’s a reason why:
    Know then, oh Emperor! that all complain:
    As for myself, I shall repass the mounts
    O’er which I crossed with two and sixty counts.


    “‘Tis fit thy grandeur should dispense relief,
    So that each here may have his proper part,
    For the whole court is more or less in grief:
    Perhaps thou deem’st this lad a Mars in heart?”
    Orlando one day heard this speech in brief,
    As by himself it chanced he sate apart:
    Displeased he was with Gan because he said it,
    But much more still that Charles should give him credit.


    And with the sword he would have murdered Gan,
    But Oliver thrust in between the pair,
    And from his hand extracted Durlindan,
    And thus at length they separated were.
    Orlando angry too with Carloman,
    Wanted but little to have slain him there;
    Then forth alone from Paris went the Chief,
    And burst and maddened with disdain and grief.


    From Ermellina, consort of the Dane,
    He took Cortana, and then took Rondell,
    And on towards Brara pricked him o’er the plain;
    And when she saw him coming, Aldabelle
    Stretched forth her arms to clasp her lord again:
    Orlando, in whose brain all was not well,
    As “Welcome, my Orlando, home,” she said,
    Raised up his sword to smite her on the head.


    Like him a Fury counsels, his revenge
    On Gan in that rash act he seemed to take,
    Which Aldabella thought extremely strange;
    But soon Orlando found himself awake;
    And his spouse took his bridle on this change,
    And he dismounted from his horse, and spake
    Of every thing which passed without demur,
    And then reposed himself some days with her.


    Then full of wrath departed from the place,
    As far as pagan countries roamed astray,
    And while he rode, yet still at every pace
    The traitor Gan remembered by the way;
    And wandering on in error a long space,
    An abbey which in a lone desert lay,
    ‘Midst glens obscure, and distant lands, he found,
    Which formed the Christian’s and the Pagan’s bound.


    The Abbot was called Clermont, and by blood
    Descended from Angrante: under cover
    Of a great mountain’s brow the abbey stood,
    But certain savage giants looked him over;
    One Passamont was foremost of the brood,
    And Alabaster and Morgante hover
    Second and third, with certain slings, and throw
    In daily jeopardy the place below.


    The monks could pass the convent gate no more,
    Nor leave their cells for water or for wood;
    Orlando knocked, but none would ope, before
    Unto the Prior it at length seemed good;
    Entered, he said that he was taught to adore
    Him who was born of Mary’s holiest blood,
    And was baptized a Christian; and then showed
    How to the abbey he had found his road.


    Said the Abbot, “You are welcome; what is mine
    We give you freely, since that you believe
    With us in Mary Mother’s Son divine;
    And that you may not, Cavalier, conceive
    The cause of our delay to let you in
    To be rusticity, you shall receive
    The reason why our gate was barred to you:
    Thus those who in suspicion live must do.


    “When hither to inhabit first we came
    These mountains, albeit that they are obscure,
    As you perceive, yet without fear or blame
    They seemed to promise an asylum sure:
    From savage brutes alone, too fierce to tame,
    ‘Twas fit our quiet dwelling to secure;
    But now, if here we’d stay, we needs must guard
    Against domestic beasts with watch and ward.


    “These make us stand, in fact, upon the watch;
    For late there have appeared three giants rough,
    What nation or what kingdom bore the batch
    I know not, but they are all of savage stuff;
    When Force and Malice with some genius match,
    You know, they can do all – we are not enough:
    And these so much our orisons derange,
    I know not what to do, till matters change.


    “Our ancient fathers, living the desert in,
    For just and holy works were duly fed;
    Think not they lived on locusts sole, ’tis certain
    That manna was rained down from heaven instead;
    But here ’tis fit we keep on the alert in
    Our bounds, or taste the stones showered down for bread,
    From off yon mountain daily raining faster,
    And flung by Passamont and Alabaster.


    “The third, Morgante, ‘s savagest by far; he
    Plucks up pines, beeches, poplar-trees, and oaks,
    And flings them, our community to bury;
    And all that I can do but more provokes.”
    While thus they parley in the cemetery,
    A stone from one of their gigantic strokes,
    Which nearly crushed Rondell, came tumbling over,
    So that he took a long leap under cover.


    “For God-sake, Cavalier, come in with speed;
    The manna’s falling now,” the Abbot cried.
    “This fellow does not wish my horse should feed,
    Dear Abbot,” Roland unto him replied,
    “Of restiveness he’d cure him had he need;
    That stone seems with good will and aim applied.”
    The holy father said, “I don’t deceive;
    They’ll one day fling the mountain, I believe.”


    Orlando bade them take care of Rondello,
    And also made a breakfast of his own;
    “Abbot,” he said, “I want to find that fellow
    Who flung at my good horse yon corner-stone.”
    Said the abbot, “Let not my advice seem shallow;
    As to a brother dear I speak alone;
    I would dissuade you, Baron, from this strife,
    As knowing sure that you will lose your life.


    “That Passamont has in his hand three darts —
    Such slings, clubs, ballast-stones, that yield you must:
    You know that giants have much stouter hearts
    Than us, with reason, in proportion just:
    If go you will, guard well against their arts,
    For these are very barbarous and robust.”
    Orlando answered,” This I’ll see, be sure,
    And walk the wild on foot to be secure.”


    The Abbot signed the great cross on his front,
    “Then go you with God’s benison and mine.”
    Orlando, after he had scaled the mount,
    As the Abbot had directed, kept the line
    Right to the usual haunt of Passamont;
    Who, seeing him alone in this design,
    Surveyed him fore and aft with eyes observant,
    Then asked him, “If he wished to stay as servant?”


    And promised him an office of great ease.
    But, said Orlando, “Saracen insane!
    I come to kill you, if it shall so please
    God, not to serve as footboy in your train;
    You with his monks so oft have broke the peace —
    Vile dog! ’tis past his patience to sustain.”
    The Giant ran to fetch his arms, quite furious,
    When he received an answer so injurious.


    And being returned to where Orlando stood,
    Who had not moved him from the spot, and swinging
    The cord, he hurled a stone with strength so rude,
    As showed a sample of his skill in slinging;
    It rolled on Count Orlando’s helmet good
    And head, and set both head and helmet ringing,
    So that he swooned with pain as if he died,
    But more than dead, he seemed so stupified.


    Then Passamont, who thought him slain outright,
    Said, “I will go, and while he lies along,
    Disarm me: why such craven did I fight?”
    But Christ his servants ne’er abandons long,
    Especially Orlando, such a knight,
    As to desert would almost be a wrong.
    While the giant goes to put off his defences,
    Orlando has recalled his force and senses:


    And loud he shouted, “Giant, where dost go?
    Thou thought’st me doubtless for the bier outlaid;
    To the right about — without wings thou’rt too slow
    To fly my vengeance — currish renegade!
    ‘Twas but by treachery thou laid’st me low.”
    The giant his astonishment betrayed,
    And turned about, and stopped his journey on,
    And then he stooped to pick up a great stone.


    Orlando had Cortana bare in hand;
    To split the head in twain was what he schemed:
    Cortana clave the skull like a true brand,
    And pagan Passamont died unredeemed;
    Yet harsh and haughty, as he lay he banned,
    And most devoutly Macon still blasphemed;
    But while his crude, rude blasphemies he heard,
    Orlando thanked the Father and the Word, –


    Saying, “What grace to me thou’st this day given!
    And I to thee, O Lord! am ever bound;
    I know my life was saved by thee from Heaven,
    Since by the Giant I was fairly downed.
    All things by thee are measured just and even;
    Our power without thine aid would nought be found:
    I pray thee take heed of me, till I can
    At least return once more to Carloman.”


    And having said thus much, he went his way;
    And Alabaster he found out below,
    Doing the very best that in him lay
    To root from out a bank a rock or two.
    Orlando, when he reached him, loud ‘gan say,
    “How think’st thou, glutton, such a stone to throw?”
    When Alabaster heard his deep voice ring,
    He suddenly betook him to his sling,


    And hurled a fragment of a size so large
    That if it had in fact fulfilled its mission,
    And Roland not availed him of his targe,
    There would have been no need of a physician.
    Orlando set himself in turn to charge,
    And in his bulky bosom made incision
    With all his sword. The lout fell; but o’erthrown, he
    However by no means forgot Macone.


    Morgante had a palace in his mode,
    Composed of branches, logs of wood, and earth,
    And stretched himself at ease in this abode,
    And shut himself at night within his berth.
    Orlando knocked, and knocked again, to goad
    The giant from his sleep; and he came forth,
    The door to open, like a crazy thing,
    For a rough dream had shook him slumbering.


    He thought that a fierce serpent had attacked him,
    And Mahomet he called; but Mahomet
    Is nothing worth, and, not an instant backed him;
    But praying blessed Jesu, he was set
    At liberty from all the fears which racked him;
    And to the gate he came with great regret —
    “Who knocks here?” grumbling all the while, said he.
    “That,” said Orlando, “you will quickly see:


    “I come to preach to you, as to your brothers, —
    Sent by the miserable monks — repentance;
    For Providence divine, in you and others,
    Condemns the evil done, my new acquaintance!
    ‘Tis writ on high — your wrong must pay another’s:
    From Heaven itself is issued out this sentence.
    Know then, that colder now than a pilaster
    I left your Passamont and Alabaster.”


    Morgante said, “Oh gentle Cavalier!
    Now by thy God say me no villany;
    The favour of your name I fain would hear,
    And if a Christian, speak for courtesy.”
    Replied Orlando, “So much to your ear
    I by my faith disclose contentedly;
    Christ I adore, who is the genuine Lord,
    And, if you please, by you may be adored.”


    The Saracen rejoined in humble tone,
    “I have had an extraordinary vision;
    A savage serpent fell on me alone,
    And Macon would not pity my condition;
    Hence to thy God, who for ye did atone
    Upon the cross, preferred I my petition;
    His timely succour set me safe and free,
    And I a Christian am disposed to be.”


    Orlando answered, “Baron just and pious,
    If this good wish your heart can really move
    To the true God, who will not then deny us
    Eternal honour, you will go above,
    And, if you please, as friends we will ally us,
    And I will love you with a perfect love.
    Your idols are vain liars, full of fraud:
    The only true God is the Christian’s God.


    “The Lord descended to the virgin breast
    Of Mary Mother, sinless and divine;
    If you acknowledge the Redeemer blest,
    Without whom neither sun nor star can shine,
    Abjure bad Macon’s false and felon test,
    Your renegado god, and worship mine,
    Baptize yourself with zeal, since you repent.”
    To which Morgante answered, “I’m content.”


    And then Orlando to embrace him flew,
    And made much of his convert, as he cried,
    “To the abbey I will gladly marshal you.”
    To whom Morgante, “Let us go,” replied:
    “I to the friars have for peace to sue.”
    Which thing Orlando heard with inward pride,
    Saying, “My brother, so devout and good,
    Ask the Abbot pardon, as I wish you would:


    “Since God has granted your illumination,
    Accepting you in mercy for his own,
    Humility should be your first oblation.”
    Morgante said, “For goodness’ sake, make known, —
    Since that your God is to be mine — your station,
    And let your name in verity be shown;
    Then will I everything at your command do.”
    On which the other said, he was Orlando.


    “Then,” quoth the Giant, “blessed be Jesu
    A thousand times with gratitude and praise!
    Oft, perfect Baron! have I heard of you
    Through all the different periods of my days:
    And, as I said, to be your vassal too
    I wish, for your great gallantry always.”
    Thus reasoning, they continued much to say,
    And onwards to the abbey went their way.


    And by the way about the giants dead
    Orlando with Morgante reasoned: “Be,
    For their decease, I pray you, comforted,
    And, since it is God’s pleasure, pardon me;
    A thousand wrongs unto the monks they bred;
    And our true Scripture soundeth openly,
    Good is rewarded, and chastised the ill,
    Which the Lord never faileth to fulfil:


    “Because His love of justice unto all
    Is such, He wills His judgment should devour
    All who have sin, however great or small;
    But good He well remembers to restore.
    Nor without justice holy could we call
    Him, whom I now require you to adore.
    All men must make His will their wishes sway,
    And quickly and spontaneously obey.


    “And here our doctors are of one accord,
    Coming on this point to the same conclusion, —
    That in their thoughts, who praise in Heaven the Lord,
    If Pity e’er was guilty of intrusion
    For their unfortunate relations stored
    In Hell below, and damned in great confusion,
    Their happiness would be reduced to nought, —
    And thus unjust the Almighty’s self be thought.


    “But they in Christ have firmest hope, and all
    Which seems to Him, to them too must appear
    Well done; nor could it otherwise befall;
    He never can in any purpose err.
    If sire or mother suffer endless thrall,
    They don’t disturb themselves for him or her:
    What pleases God to them must joy inspire; —
    Such is the observance of the eternal choir.”


    “A word unto the wise,” Morgante said,
    “Is wont to be enough, and you shall see
    How much I grieve about my brethren dead;
    And if the will of God seem good to me,
    Just, as you tell me, ’tis in Heaven obeyed —
    Ashes to ashes, — merry let us be!
    I will cut off the hands from both their trunks,
    And carry them unto the holy monks.


    “So that all persons may be sure and certain
    That they are dead, and have no further fear
    To wander solitary this desert in,
    And that they may perceive my spirit clear
    By the Lord’s grace, who hath withdrawn the curtain
    Of darkness, making His bright realm appear.”
    He cut his brethren’s hands off at these words,
    And left them to the savage beasts and birds.


    Then to the abbey they went on together,
    Where waited them the Abbot in great doubt.
    The monks, who knew not yet the fact, ran thither
    To their superior, all in breathless rout,
    Saying with tremor, “Please to tell us whether
    You wish to have this person in or out?”
    The Abbot, looking through upon the Giant,
    Too greatly feared, at first, to be compliant.


    Orlando seeing him thus agitated,
    Said quickly, “Abbot, be thou of good cheer;
    He Christ believes, as Christian must be rated,
    And hath renounced his Macon false;” which here
    Morgante with the hands corroborated,
    A proof of both the giants’ fate quite clear:
    Thence, with due thanks, the Abbot God adored,
    Saying, “Thou hast contented me, O Lord!”


    He gazed; Morgante’s height he calculated,
    And more than once contemplated his size;
    And then he said, “O Giant celebrated!
    Know, that no more my wonder will arise,
    How you could tear and fling the trees you late did,
    When I behold your form with my own eyes.
    You now a true and perfect friend will show
    Yourself to Christ, as once you were a foe.


    “And one of our apostles, Saul once named,
    Long persecuted sore the faith of Christ,
    Till, one day, by the Spirit being inflamed,
    ‘Why dost thou persecute me thus?’ said Christ;
    And then from his offence he was reclaimed,
    And went for ever after preaching Christ,
    And of the faith became a trump, whose sounding
    O’er the whole earth is echoing and rebounding.


    “So, my Morgante, you may do likewise:
    He who repents — thus writes the Evangelist —
    Occasions more rejoicing in the skies
    Than ninety-nine of the celestial list.
    You may be sure, should each desire arise
    With just zeal for the Lord, that you’ll exist
    Among the happy saints for evermore;
    But you were lost and damned to Hell before!”


    And thus great honour to Morgante paid
    The Abbot: many days they did repose.
    One day, as with Orlando they both strayed,
    And sauntered here and there, where’er they chose,
    The Abbot showed a chamber, where arrayed
    Much armour was, and hung up certain bows;
    And one of these Morgante for a whim
    Girt on, though useless, he believed, to him.


    There being a want of water in the place,
    Orlando, like a worthy brother, said,
    “Morgante, I could wish you in this case
    To go for water.” “You shall be obeyed
    In all commands,” was the reply, “straight ways.”
    Upon his shoulder a great tub he laid,
    And went out on his way unto a fountain,
    Where he was wont to drink, below the mountain.


    Arrived there, a prodigious noise he hears,
    Which suddenly along the forest spread;
    Whereat from out his quiver he prepares
    An arrow for his bow, and lifts his head;
    And lo! a monstrous herd of swine appears,
    And onward rushes with tempestuous tread,
    And to the fountain’s brink precisely pours;
    So that the Giant’s joined by all the boars.


    Morgante at a venture shot an arrow,
    Which pierced a pig precisely in the ear,
    And passed unto the other side quite through;
    So that the boar, defunct, lay tripped up near.
    Another, to revenge his fellow farrow,
    Against the Giant rushed in fierce career,
    And reached the passage with so swift a foot,
    Morgante was not now in time to shoot.


    Perceiving that the pig was on him close,
    He gave him such a punch upon the head,
    As floored him so that he no more arose,
    Smashing the very bone; and he fell dead
    Next to the other. Having seen such blows,
    The other pigs along the valley fled;
    Morgante on his neck the bucket took,
    Full from the spring, which neither swerved nor shook.


    The tub was on one shoulder, and there were
    The hogs on t’other, and he brushed apace
    On to the abbey, though by no means near,
    Nor spilt one drop of water in his race.
    Orlando, seeing him so soon appear
    With the dead boars, and with that brimful vase,
    Marvelled to see his strength so very great;
    So did the Abbot, and set wide the gate.


    The monks, who saw the water fresh and good,
    Rejoiced, but much more to perceive the pork;
    All animals are glad at sight of food:
    They lay their breviaries to sleep, and work
    With greedy pleasure, and in such a mood,
    That the flesh needs no salt beneath their fork.
    Of rankness and of rot there is no fear,
    For all the fasts are now left in arrear.


    As though they wished to burst at once, they ate;
    And gorged so that, as if the bones had been
    In water, sorely grieved the dog and cat,
    Perceiving that they all were picked too clean.
    The Abbot, who to all did honour great,
    A few days after this convivial scene,
    Gave to Morgante a fine horse, well trained,
    Which he long time had for himself maintained.


    The horse Morgante to a meadow led,
    To gallop, and to put him to the proof,
    Thinking that he a back of iron had,
    Or to skim eggs unbroke was light enough;
    But the horse, sinking with the pain, fell dead,
    And burst, while cold on earth lay head and hoof.
    Morgante said, “Get up, thou sulky cur!”
    And still continued pricking with the spur.


    But finally he thought fit to dismount,
    And said, “I am as light as any feather,
    And he has burst; — to this what say you, Count?”
    Orlando answered, “Like a ship’s mast rather
    You seem to me, and with the truck for front:
    Let him go! Fortune wills that we together
    Should march, but you on foot Morgante still.”
    To which the Giant answered,” So I will.


    “When there shall be occasion, you will see
    How I approve my courage in the fight.”
    Orlando said, “I really think you’ll be,
    If it should prove God’s will, a goodly knight;
    Nor will you napping there discover me.
    But never mind your horse, though out of sight
    ‘Twere best to carry him into some wood,
    If but the means or way I understood.”


    The Giant said, “Then carry him I will,
    Since that to carry me he was so slack —
    To render, as the gods do, good for ill;
    But lend a hand to place him on my back.”
    Orlando answered, “If my counsel still
    May weigh, Morgante, do not undertake
    To lift or carry this dead courser, who,
    As you have done to him, will do to you.


    “Take care he don’t revenge himself, though dead,
    As Nessus did of old beyond all cure.
    I don’t know if the fact you’ve heard or read;
    But he will make you burst, you may be sure.”
    “But help him on my back,” Morgante said,
    “And you shall see what weight I can endure.
    In place, my gentle Roland, of this palfrey,
    With all the bells, I’d carry yonder belfry.”


    The Abbot said, “The steeple may do well,
    But for the bells, you’ve broken them, I wot.”
    Morgante answered, “Let them pay in Hell
    The penalty who lie dead in yon grot;”
    And hoisting up the horse from where he fell,
    He said, “Now look if I the gout have got,
    Orlando, in the legs, — or if I have force;” —
    And then he made two gambols with the horse.


    Morgante was like any mountain framed;
    So if he did this ’tis no prodigy;
    But secretly himself Orlando blamed,
    Because he was one of his family;
    And fearing that he might be hurt or maimed,
    Once more he bade him lay his burden by:
    “Put down, nor bear him further the desert in.”
    Morgante said, “I’ll carry him for certain.”


    He did; and stowed him in some nook away,
    And to the abbey then returned with speed.
    Orlando said, “Why longer do we stay?
    Morgante, here is nought to do indeed.”
    The Abbot by the hand he took one day,
    And said, with great respect, he had agreed
    To leave his reverence; but for this decision
    He wished to have his pardon and permission.


    The honours they continued to receive
    Perhaps exceeded what his merits claimed:
    He said, “I mean, and quickly, to retrieve
    The lost days of time past, which may be blamed;
    Some days ago I should have asked your leave,
    Kind father, but I really was ashamed,
    And know not how to show my sentiment,
    So much I see you with our stay content.


    “But in my heart I bear through every clime
    The Abbot, abbey, and this solitude —
    So much I love you in so short a time;
    For me, from Heaven reward you with all good
    The God so true, the eternal Lord sublime!
    Whose kingdom at the last hath open stood.
    Meantime we stand expectant of your blessing.
    And recommend us to your prayers with pressing.”


    Now when the Abbot Count Orlando heard,
    His heart grew soft with inner tenderness,
    Such fervour in his bosom bred each word;
    And, “Cavalier,” he said, “if I have less
    Courteous and kind to your great worth appeared,
    Than fits me for such gentle blood to express,
    I know I have done too little in this case;
    But blame our ignorance, and this poor place.


    “We can indeed but honour you with masses,
    And sermons, thanksgivings, and pater-nosters,
    Hot suppers, dinners (fitting other places
    In verity much rather than the cloisters);
    But such a love for you my heart embraces,
    For thousand virtues which your bosom fosters,
    That wheresoe’er you go I too shall be,
    And, on the other part, you rest with me.


    “This may involve a seeming contradiction;
    But you I know are sage, and feel, and taste,
    And understand my speech with full conviction.
    For your just pious deeds may you be graced
    With the Lord’s great reward and benediction,
    By whom you were directed to this waste:
    To His high mercy is our freedom due,
    For which we render thanks to Him and you.


    “You saved at once our life and soul: such fear
    The Giants caused us, that the way was lost
    By which we could pursue a fit career
    In search of Jesus and the saintly Host;
    And your departure breeds such sorrow here,
    That comfortless we all are to our cost;
    But months and years you would not stay in sloth,
    Nor are you formed to wear our sober cloth,


    “But to bear arms, and wield the lance; indeed,
    With these as much is done as with this cowl;
    In proof of which the Scripture you may read,
    This Giant up to Heaven may bear his soul
    By your compassion: now in peace proceed.
    Your state and name I seek not to unroll;
    But, if I’m asked, this answer shall be given,
    That here an angel was sent down from Heaven.


    “If you want armour or aught else, go in,
    Look o’er the wardrobe, and take what you choose,
    And cover with it o’er this Giant’s skin.”
    Orlando answered, “If there should lie loose
    Some armour, ere our journey we begin,
    Which might be turned to my companion’s use,
    The gift would be acceptable to me.”
    The Abbot said to him, “Come in and see.”


    And in a certain closet, where the wall
    Was covered with old armour like a crust,
    The Abbot said to them, “I give you all.”
    Morgante rummaged piecemeal from the dust
    The whole, which, save one cuirass, was too small,
    And that too had the mail inlaid with rust.
    They wondered how it fitted him exactly,
    Which ne’er had suited others so compactly.


    ‘Twas an immeasurable Giant’s, who
    By the great Milo of Agrante fell
    Before the abbey many years ago.
    The story on the wall was figured well;
    In the last moment of the abbey’s foe,
    Who long had waged a war implacable:
    Precisely as the war occurred they drew him,
    And there was Milo as he overthrew him.


    Seeing this history, Count Orlando said
    In his own heart, “O God who in the sky
    Know’st all things! how was Milo hither led?
    Who caused the Giant in this place to die?”
    And certain letters, weeping, then he read,
    So that he could not keep his visage dry, —
    As I will tell in the ensuing story:
    From evil keep you the high King of Glory!

Extra Info:
Introduction To The Morgante Maggiore.

It is possible that Byron began his translation of the First Canto of Pulci’s Morgante Maggiore (so called to distinguish the entire poem of twenty-eight cantos from the lesser Morgante [or, to coin a title, “Morganid“] which was published separately) in the late autumn of 1819, before he had left Venice (see his letter to Bankes, February 19, 1820, Letters, 1900, iv. 403). It is certain that it was finished at Ravenna during the first week of his “domestication” in the Palazzo Guiccioli (Letters to Murray, February 7, February 21, 1820). He took a deal of pains with his self-imposed task, “servilely translating stanza from stanza, and line from line, two octaves every night;” and when the first canto was finished he was naturally and reasonably proud of his achievement. More than two years had elapsed since Frere’s Whistlecraft had begotten Beppo, and in the interval he had written four cantos of Don Juan, outstripping his “immediate model,” and equalling if not surpassing his model’s parents and precursors, the masters of “narrative romantic poetry among the Italians.”

In attempting this translation – something, as he once said of his Armenian studies, “craggy for his mind to break upon” (Letter to Moore, December 5, 1816, Letters, 1900, iv. 10) – Byron believed that he was working upon virgin soil. He had read, as he admits in his “Advertisement,” John Herman Merivale’s poem, Orlando in Roncesvalles, which is founded upon the Morgante Maggiore; but he does not seem to have been aware that many years before (1806, 1807) the same writer (one of the “associate bards”) had published in the Monthly Magazine (May, July, 1806, etc., vide ante Introduction to Beppo, p. 156) a series of translations of selected passages of the poem. There is no resemblance whatever between Byron’s laboured and faithful rendering of the text, and Merivale’s far more readable paraphrase, and it is evident that if these selections ever passed before his eyes, they had left no impression on his memory. He was drawn to the task partly on account of its difficulty, but chiefly because in Pulci he recognized a kindred spirit who suggested and compelled a fresh and final dedication of his genius to the humorous epopee. The translation was an act of devotion, the offering of a disciple to a master.

“The apparent contradictions of the Morgante Maggiore … the brusque transition from piety to ribaldry, from pathos to satire,” the paradoxical union of persiflage with gravity, a confession of faith alternating with a profession of mockery and profanity, have puzzled and confounded more than one student and interpreter. An intimate knowledge of the history, the literature, the art, the manners and passions of the times has enabled one of his latest critics and translators, John Addington Symonds, to come as near as may be to explaining the contradictions; but the essential quality of Pulci’s humour eludes analysis.

We know that the poem itself, as Pio Rajna has shown, “the rifacimento of two earlier popular poems,” was written to amuse Lucrezia Tornabuoni, the mother of Lorenzo de’ Medici, and that it was recited, canto by canto, in the presence of such guests as Poliziano, Ficino, and Michelangelo Buonarotti; but how “it struck these contemporaries,” and whether a subtler instinct permitted them to untwist the strands and to appraise the component parts at their precise ethical and spiritual value, are questions for the exercise of the critical imagination. That which attracted Byron to Pulci’s writings was, no doubt, the co-presence of faith, a certain simplicity of faith, with an audacious and even outrageous handling of the objects of faith, combined with a facile and wanton alternation of romantic passion with a cynical mockery of whatsoever things are sober and venerable. Don Juan and the Vision of Judgment owe their existence to the Morgante Maggiore.

The MS. of the translation of Canto I. was despatched to England, February 28, 1820. It is evident (see Letters, March 29, April 23, May 18, 1820, Letters, 1900, iv. 425, 1901, v. 17, 21) that Murray looked coldly on Byron’s “masterpiece” from the first. It was certain that any new work by the author of Don Juan would be subjected to the severest and most hostile scrutiny, and it was doubtful if a translation of part of an obscure and difficult poem, vaguely supposed to be coarse and irreligious, would meet with even a tolerable measure of success. At any rate, in spite of many inquiries and much vaunting of its excellence (see Letters, June 29, September 12, 1821, Letters, 1901, v. 314, 362), the MS. remained for more than two years in Murray’s hands, and it was not until other arrangements came into force that the translation of the First Canto of the Morgante Maggiore appeared in the fourth and last number of The Liberal, which was issued (by John Hunt) July 30, 1823.

For critical estimates of Luigi Pulci and the Morgante Maggiore, see an article (Quarterly Review, April, 1819, vol. xxi. pp. 486-556), by Ugo Foscolo, entitled “Narrative and Romantic Poems of the Italians;” Preface to the Orlando Innamorato of Boiardo, by A. Panizzi, 1830, i. 190-302; Poems Original and Translated, by J. H. Merivale, 1838, ii. 1-43; Stories of the Italian Poets, by J. H. Leigh Hunt, 1846, i. 283-314; Renaissance in Italy, by J. A. Symonds, 1881, iv. 431, 456, and for translations of the Morgante Maggiorevide ibid., Appendix V. pp. 543-560; and Italian Literature, by R. Garnett, C.B., LL.D., 1898, pp. 128-131.

Francesca of Rimini
The Prophecy of Dante, Canto the Fourth.


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