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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Friendship of Medoro and Cloridane
By Lodovico Ariosto (1474–1533)
 
From ‘Orlando Furioso,’ Cantos 18 and 19

TWO Moors among the Paynim army were,
  From stock obscure in Ptolomita grown;
Of whom the story, an example rare
  Of constant love, is worthy to be known.
Medore and Cloridane were named the pair;        5
  Who, whether Fortune pleased to smile or frown,
Served Dardinello with fidelity,
And late with him to France had crost the sea.
 
Of nimble frame and strong was Cloridane,
  Throughout his life a follower of the chase.        10
A cheek of white, suffused with crimson grain,
  Medoro had, in youth, a pleasing grace;
Nor bound on that emprize, ’mid all the train,
  Was there a fairer or more jocund face.
Crisp hair he had of gold, and jet-black eyes;        15
And seemed an angel lighted from the skies.
 
These two were posted on a rampart’s height,
  With more to guard the encampment from surprise,
When ’mid the equal intervals, at night,
  Medoro gazed on heaven with sleepy eyes.        20
In all his talk, the stripling, woeful wight,
  Here cannot choose, but of his lord devise,
The royal Dardinel; and evermore
Him left unhonored on the field, deplore.
 
Then, turning to his mate, cries, “Cloridane,        25
  I cannot tell thee what a cause of woe
It is to me, my lord upon the plain
  Should lie, unworthy food for wolf or crow!
Thinking how still to me he was humane,
  Meseems, if in his honor I forego        30
This life of mine, for favors so immense
I shall but make a feeble recompense.
 
“That he may not lack sepulture, will I
  Go forth, and seek him out among the slain;
And haply God may will that none shall spy        35
  Where Charles’s camp lies hushed. Do thou remain;
That, if my death be written in the sky,
  Thou may’st the deed be able to explain.
So that if Fortune foil so far a feat,
The world, through Fame, my loving heart may weet.”        40
 
Amazed was Cloridane a child should show
  Such heart, such love, and such fair loyalty;
And fain would make the youth his thought forego,
  Whom he held passing dear: but fruitlessly
Would move his steadfast purpose; for such woe        45
  Will neither comforted nor altered be.
Medoro is disposed to meet his doom,
Or to inclose his master in the tomb.
 
Seeing that naught would bend him, naught would move,
  “I too will go,” was Cloridane’s reply:        50
“In such a glorious act myself will prove;
  As well such famous death I covet, I.
What other thing is left me, here above,
  Deprived of thee, Medoro mine? To die
With thee in arms is better, on the plain,        55
Than afterwards of grief, shouldst thou be slain.”
 
And thus resolved, disposing in their place
  Their guard’s relief, depart the youthful pair,
Leave fosse and palisade, and in small space
  Are among ours, who watch with little care;        60
Who, for they little fear the Paynim race,
  Slumber with fires extinguished everywhere.
’Mid carriages and arms they lie supine,
Up to the eyes immersed in sleep and wine.
 
A moment Cloridano stopt, and cried,        65
  “Not to be lost are opportunities.
This troop, by whom my master’s blood was shed,
  Medoro, ought not I to sacrifice?
Do thou, lest any one this way be led,
  Watch everywhere about, with ears and eyes;        70
For a wide way, amid the hostile horde,
I offer here to make thee with my sword.”
 
So said he, and his talk cut quickly short,
  Coming where learned Alpheus slumbered nigh;
Who had the year before sought Charles’s court,        75
  In med’cine, magic, and astrology
Well versed: but now in art found small support,
  Or rather found that it was all a lie.
He had foreseen that he his long-drawn life
Should finish on the bosom of his wife.        80
 
And now the Saracen with wary view
  Had pierced his weasand with the pointed sword.
Four others he near that Diviner slew,
  Nor gave the wretches time to say a word.
Sir Turpin in his story tells not who,        85
  And Time has of their names effaced record.
Palidon of Moncalier next he speeds;
One who securely sleeps between two steeds.
*        *        *        *        *
Rearing th’ insidious blade, the pair are near
  The place where round King Charles’s pavilion        90
Are tented warlike paladin and peer,
  Guarding the side that each is camped upon,
When in good time the Paynims backward steer,
  And sheathe their swords, the impious slaughter done;
Deeming impossible, in such a number,        95
But they must light on one who does not slumber.
 
And though they might escape well charged with prey,
  To save themselves they think sufficient gain.
Thither by what he deems the safest way
  (Medoro following him) went Cloridane        100
Where in the field, ’mid bow and falchion lay,
  And shield and spear, in pool of purple stain,
Wealthy and poor, the king and vassal’s corse,
And overthrown the rider and his horse.
*        *        *        *        *
The silvery splendor glistened yet more clear,        105
  There where renowned Almontes’s son lay dead.
Faithful Medoro mourned his master dear,
  Who well agnized the quartering white and red,
With visage bathed in many a bitter tear
  (For he a rill from either eyelid shed),        110
And piteous act and moan, that might have whist
The winds, his melancholy plaint to list;
 
But with a voice supprest—not that he aught
  Regards if any one the noise should hear,
Because he of his life takes any thought,        115
  Of which loathed burden he would fain be clear;
But lest his being heard should bring to naught
  The pious purpose which has brought them here—
The youths the king upon their shoulders stowed;
And so between themselves divide the load.        120
 
Hurrying their steps, they hastened, as they might,
  Under the cherished burden they conveyed;
And now approaching was the lord of light,
  To sweep from heaven the stars, from earth the shade,
When good Zerbino, he whose valiant sprite        125
  Was ne’er in time of need by sleep down-weighed,
From chasing Moors all night, his homeward way
Was taking to the camp at dawn of day.
 
He has with him some horsemen in his train,
  That from afar the two companions spy.        130
Expecting thus some spoil or prize to gain,
  They, every one, toward that quarter hie.
“Brother, behoves us,” cried young Cloridane,
  “To cast away the load we bear, and fly;
For ’twere a foolish thought (might well be said)        135
To lose two living men, to save one dead;”
 
And dropt the burden, weening his Medore
  Had done the same by it, upon his side;
But that poor boy, who loved his master more,
  His shoulders to the weight alone applied:        140
Cloridane hurrying with all haste before,
  Deeming him close behind him or beside;
Who, did he know his danger, him to save
A thousand deaths, instead of one, would brave.
*        *        *        *        *
The closest path, amid the forest gray,        145
  To save himself, pursued the youth forlorn;
But all his schemes were marred by the delay
  Of that sore weight upon his shoulders borne.
The place he knew not, and mistook the way,
  And hid himself again in sheltering thorn.        150
Secure and distant was his mate, that through
The greenwood shade with lighter shoulders flew.
 
So far was Cloridane advanced before,
  He heard the boy no longer in the wind;
But when he marked the absence of Medore,        155
  It seemed as if his heart was left behind.
“Ah! how was I so negligent,” (the Moor
  Exclaimed) “so far beside myself, and blind,
That, I, Medoro, should without thee fare,
Nor know when I deserted thee or where?”        160
 
So saying, in the wood he disappears,
  Plunging into the maze with hurried pace;
And thither, whence he lately issued, steers,
  And, desperate, of death returns in trace.
Cries and the tread of steeds this while he hears,        165
  And word and threat of foeman, as in chase;
Lastly Medoro by his voice is known,
Disarmed, on foot, ’mid many horse, alone.
 
A hundred horsemen who the youth surround,
  Zerbino leads, and bids his followers seize        170
The stripling; like a top the boy turns round
  And keeps him as he can: among the trees,
Behind oak, elm, beech, ash, he takes his ground,
  Nor from the cherished load his shoulders frees.
Wearied, at length, the burden he bestowed        175
Upon the grass, and stalked about his load.
 
As in her rocky cavern the she-bear,
  With whom close warfare Alpine hunters wage,
Uncertain hangs about her shaggy care,
  And growls in mingled sound of love and rage,        180
To unsheath her claws, and blood her tushes bare,
  Would natural hate and wrath the beast engage;
Love softens her, and bids from strife retire,
And for her offspring watch, amid her ire.
 
Cloridane, who to aid him knows not how,        185
  And with Medoro willingly would die,
But who would not for death this being forego,
  Until more foes than one should lifeless lie,
Ambushed, his sharpest arrow to his bow
  Fits, and directs it with so true an eye,        190
The feathered weapon bores a Scotchman’s brain,
And lays the warrior dead upon the plain.
 
Together, all the others of the band
  Turned thither, whence was shot the murderous reed;
Meanwhile he launched another from his stand,        195
  That a new foe might by the weapon bleed,
Whom (while he made of this and that demand,
  And loudly questioned who had done the deed)
The arrow reached—transfixed the wretch’s throat
And cut his question short in middle note.        200
 
Zerbino, captain of those horse, no more
  Can at the piteous sight his wrath refrain;
In furious heat he springs, upon Medore,
  Exclaiming, “Thou of this shalt bear the pain.”
One hand he in his locks of golden ore        205
  Enwreaths, and drags him to himself amain;
But as his eyes that beauteous face survey,
Takes pity on the boy, and does not slay.
 
To him the stripling turns, with suppliant cry,
  And, “By thy God, sir knight,” exclaims, “I pray,        210
Be not so passing cruel, nor deny
  That I in earth my honored king may lay:
No other grace I supplicate, nor I
  This for the love of life, believe me, say.
So much, no longer, space of life I crave,        215
As may suffice to give my lord a grave.
 
“And if you needs must feed the beast and bird,
  Like Theban Creon, let their worst be done
Upon these limbs; so that by me interred
  In earth be those of good Almontes’s son.”        220
Medoro thus his suit, with grace, preferred,
  And words to move a mountain; and so won
Upon Zerbino’s mood, to kindness turned,
With love and pity he all over burned.
 
This while, a churlish horseman of the band,        225
  Who little deference for his lord confest,
His lance uplifting, wounded overhand
  The unhappy suppliant in his dainty breast.
Zerbino, who the cruel action scanned,
  Was deeply stirred, the rather that, opprest,        230
And livid with the blow the churl had sped,
Medoro fell as he was wholly dead.
*        *        *        *        *
The Scots pursue their chief, who pricks before,
  Through the deep wood, inspired by high disdain,
When he has left the one and the other Moor,        235
  This dead, that scarce alive, upon the plain.
There for a mighty space lay young Medore,
  Spouting his life-blood from so large a vein
He would have perished, but that thither made
A stranger, as it chanced, who lent him aid.        240
 
 
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