Thomas Bulfinch > The Age of Fable > Vol. IV: Legends of Charlemagne > V. Adventures of Rinaldo and Orlando
Thomas Bulfinch (1796–1867).  Age of Fable: Vol. IV: Legends of Charlemagne.  1913.

V.  Adventures of Rinaldo and Orlando
WE left Rinaldo when, having overcome the monster, he quitted the castle of Altaripa, and pursued his way on foot. He soon met with a weeping damsel, who, being questioned as to the cause of her sorrow, told him she was in search of one to do battle to rescue her lover, who had been made prisoner by a vile enchantress, together with Orlando and many more. The damsel was Flordelis, the lady-love of Florismart, and Rinaldo promised his assistance, trusting to accomplish the adventure either by valor or skill. Flordelis insisted upon Rinaldo’s taking her horse, which he consented to do, on condition of her mounting behind him.   1
  As they rode on through a wood, they heard strange noises, and Rinaldo, reassuring the damsel, pressed forward towards the quarter from which they proceeded. He soon perceived a giant standing under a vaulted cavern, with a huge club in his hand, and of an appearance to strike the boldest spirit with dread. By the side of the cavern was chained a griffin, which, together with the giant, was stationed there to guard a wonderful horse, the same which was once Argalia’s. This horse was a creature of enchantment, matchless in vigor, speed, and form, which disdained to share the diet of his fellow-steeds,—corn or grass,—and fed only on air. His name was Rabican.   2
  This marvellous horse, after his master Argalia had been slain by Ferrau, finding himself at liberty, returned to his native cavern, and was here stabled under the protection of the giant and the griffin. As Rinaldo approached, the giant assailed him with his club. Rinaldo defended himself from the giant’s blows, and gave him one in return, which, if his skin had not been of the toughest, would have finished the combat. But the giant, though wounded, escaped, and let loose the griffin. This monstrous bird towered in air, and thence pounced down upon Rinaldo, who, watching his opportunity, dealt her a desperate wound. She had, however, strength for another flight, and kept repeating her attacks, which Rinaldo parried as he could, while the damsel stood trembling by, witnessing the contest.   3
  The battle continued, rendered more terrible by the approach of night, when Rinaldo determined upon a desperate expedient to bring it to a conclusion. He fell, as if fainting from his wounds, and, on the close approach of the griffin, dealt her a blow which sheared away one of her wings. The beast, though sinking, griped him fast with her talons, digging through plate and mail; but Rinaldo plied his sword in utter desperation, and at last accomplished her destruction.   4
  Rinaldo then entered the cavern, and found there the wonderful horse, all caparisoned. He was coal-black, except for a star of white on his forehead, and one white foot behind. For speed he was unrivalled, though in strength he yielded to Bayard. Rinaldo mounted upon Rabican, and issued from the cavern.   5
  As he pursued his way he met a fugitive from Agrican’s army, who gave such an account of the prowess of a champion who fought on the side of Angelica, that Rinaldo was persuaded this must be Orlando, though at a loss to imagine how he could have been freed from captivity. He determined to repair to the scene of the contest to satisfy his curiosity, and Flordelis, hoping to find Florismart with Orlando, consented to accompany him.   6
  While these things were doing, all was rout and dismay in the Tartarian army, from the death of Agrican. King Galafron, arriving at this juncture with an army for the relief of his capital, Albracca, assaulted the enemy’s camp, and carried all before him. Rinaldo had now reached the scene of action, and was looking on as an unconcerned spectator, when he was espied by Galafron. The king instantly recognized the horse Rabican, which he had given to Argalia when he sent him forth on his ill-omened mission to Paris. Possessed with the idea that the rider of the horse was the murderer of Argalia, Galafron rode at Rinaldo, and smote him with all his force. Rinaldo was not slow to avenge the blow, and it would have gone hard with the king had not his followers instantly closed round him and separated the combatants.   7
  Rinaldo thus found himself, almost without his own choice, enlisted on the side of the enemies of Angelica, which gave him no concern, so completely had his draught from the fountain of hate steeled his mind against her.   8
  For several successive days the struggle continued, without any important results, Rinaldo meeting the bravest knights of Angelica’s party, and defeating them one after the other. At length he encountered Orlando, and the two knights bitterly reproached one another for the cause they had each adopted, and engaged in a furious combat. Orlando was mounted upon Bayard, Rinaldo’s horse, which Agrican had by chance become possessed of, and Orlando had taken from him as the prize of victory. Bayard would not fight against his master, and Orlando was getting the worse of the encounter, when suddenly Rinaldo, seeing Astolpho, who for love of him had arrayed himself on his side, hard beset by numbers, left Orlando to rush to the defence of his friend. Night prevented the combat from being renewed; but a challenge was given and accepted for their next meeting.   9
  But Angelica, sighing in her heart for Rinaldo, was not willing that he should be again exposed to so terrible a venture. She begged a boon of Orlando, promising she would be his if he would do her bidding. On receiving his promise, she enjoined him to set out without delay to destroy the garden of the enchantress Falerina, in which many valiant knights had been entrapped, and were imprisoned.  10
  Orlando departed on his horse Brigliadoro, leaving Bayard in disgrace for his bad deportment the day before. Angelica, to conciliate Rinaldo, sent Bayard to him; but Rinaldo remained unmoved by this as by all her former acts of kindness.  11
  When Rinaldo learned Orlando’s departure, he yielded to the entreaties of the lady of Florismart, and prepared to fulfil his promise, and rescue her lover from the power of the enchantress. Thus both Rinaldo and Orlando were bound upon the same adventure, but unknown to one another.  12
  The castle of Falerina was protected by a river, which was crossed by a bridge, kept by a ruffian, who challenged all comers to the combat; and such was his strength that he had thus far prevailed in every encounter, as appeared by the arms of various knights which he had taken from them, and piled up as a trophy on the shore. Rinaldo attacked him, but with as bad success as the rest, for the bridge-ward struck him so violent a blow with an iron mace that he fell to the ground. But when the villain approached to strip him of his armor, Rinaldo seized him, and the bridge-ward, being unable to free himself, leapt with Rinaldo into the lake, where they both disappeared.  13
  Orlando, meanwhile, in discharge of his promise to Angelica, pursued his way in quest of the same adventure. In passing through a wood he saw a cavalier armed at all points, and mounted, keeping guard over a lady who was bound to a tree, weeping bitterly. Orlando hastened to her relief, but was exhorted by the knight not to interfere, for she had deserved her fate by her wickedness. In proof of which he made certain charges against her. The lady denied them all, and Orlando believed her, defied the knight, overthrew him, and, releasing the lady, departed with her seated on his horse’s croup.  14
  While they rode another damsel approached on a white palfrey, who warned Orlando of impending danger, and informed him that he was near the garden of the enchantress. Orlando was delighted with the intelligence, and entreated her to inform him how he was to gain admittance. She replied that the garden could only be entered at sunrise and gave him such instructions as would enable him to gain admittance. She gave him also a book in which was painted the garden and all that it contained, together with the palace of the false enchantress, where she had secluded herself for the purpose of executing a magic work in which she was engaged. This was the manufacture of a sword capable of cutting even through enchanted substances. The object of this labor, the damsel told him, was the destruction of a knight of the west, by name Orlando, who she had read in the book of Fate was coming to demolish her garden. Having thus instructed him, the damsel departed.  15
  Orlando, finding he must delay his enterprise till the next morning, now lay down and was soon asleep. Seeing this, the base woman whom he had rescued, and who was intent on making her escape to rejoin her paramour, mounted Brigliadoro, and rode off, carrying away Durindana.  16
  When Orlando awoke, his indignation, as may be supposed, was great on the discovery of the theft; but, like a good knight and true, he was not to be diverted from his enterprise. He tore off a huge branch of an elm to supply the place of his sword; and, as the sun rose, took his way towards the gate of the garden, where a dragon was on his watch. This he slew by repeated blows, and entered the garden, the gate of which closed behind him, barring retreat. Looking round him, he saw a fair fountain, which overflowed into a river, and in the centre of the fountain a figure, on whose forehead was written:
        “The stream which waters violet and rose,
From hence to the enchanted palace goes.”
Following the banks of this flowing stream, and rapt in the delights of the charming garden, Orlando arrived at the palace, and entering it, found the mistress, clad in white, with a crown of gold upon her head, in the act of viewing herself in the surface of the magic sword. Orlando surprised her before she could escape, deprived her of the weapon, and holding her fast by her long hair, which floated behind, threatened her with immediate death if she did not yield up her prisoners, and afford him the means of egress. She, however, was firm of purpose, making no reply, and Orlando, unable to move her either by threats or entreaties, was under the necessity of binding her to a beech, and pursuing his quest as he best might.
  He then bethought him of his book, and, consulting it, found that there was an outlet to the south, but that to reach it a lake was to be passed, inhabited by a siren, whose song was so entrancing as to be quite irresistible to whoever heard it; but his book instructed him how to protect himself against this danger. According to its directions, while pursuing his path, he gathered abundance of flowers, which sprung all around, and filled his helmet and his ears with them; then listened if he heard the birds sing. Finding that, though he saw the gaping beak, the swelling throat, and ruffled plumes, he could not catch a note, he felt satisfied with his defence, and advanced toward the lake. It was small but deep, and so clear and tranquil that the eye could penetrate to the bottom.  18
  He had no sooner arrived upon the banks than the waters were seen to gurgle, and the siren, rising midway out of the pool, sung so sweetly that birds and beasts came trooping to the water-side to listen. Of this Orlando heard nothing, but, feigning to yield to the charm, sank down upon the bank. The siren issued from the water with the intent to accomplish his destruction. Orlando seized her by the hair, and while she sang yet louder (song being her only defence) cut off her head. Then, following the directions of the book, he stained himself all over with her blood.  19
  Guarded by this talisman, he met successively all the monsters set for defence of the enchantress and her garden, and at length found himself again at the spot where he had made captive the enchantress, who still continued fastened to the beech. But the scene was changed. The garden had disappeared, and Falerina, before so haughty, now begged for mercy, assuring him that many lives depended upon the preservation of hers. Orlando promised her life upon her pledging herself for the deliverance of her captives.  20
  This, however, was no easy task. They were not in her possession, but in that of a much more powerful enchantress, Morgana, the Lady of the Lake, the very idea of opposing whom made Falerina turn pale with fear. Representing to him the hazards of the enterprise, she led him towards the dwelling of Morgana. To approach it he had to encounter the same uncourteous bridge-ward who had already defeated and made captive so many knights, and last of all, Rinaldo. He was a churl of the most ferocious character, named Arridano. Morgana had provided him with impenetrable armor, and endowed him in such a manner that his strength always increased in proportion to that of the adversary with whom he was matched. No one had ever yet escaped from the contest, since, such was his power of endurance, he could breathe freely under water. Hence, having grappled with a knight, and sunk with him to the bottom of the lake, he returned, bearing his enemy’s arms in triumph to the surface.  21
  While Falerina was repeating her cautions and her counsels Orlando saw Rinaldo’s arms erected in form of a trophy, among other spoils made by the villain, and, forgetting their late quarrel, determined upon revenging his friend. Arriving at the pass, the churl presuming to bar the way, a desperate contest ensued, during which Falerina escaped. The churl finding himself overmatched at a contest of arms, resorted to his peculiar art, grappled his antagonist, and plunged with him into the lake. When he reached the bottom Orlando found himself in another world, upon a dry meadow, with the lake overhead, through which shone the beams of our sun, while the water stood on all sides like a crystal wall. Here the battle was renewed, and Orlando had in his magic sword an advantage which none had hitherto possessed. It had been tempered by Falerina so that no spells could avail against it. Thus armed, and countervailing the strength of his adversary by his superior skill and activity, it was not long before he laid him dead upon the field.  22
  Orlando then made all haste to return to the upper air, and, passing through the water, which opened a way before him (such was the power of the magic sword), he soon regained the shore, and found himself in a field as thickly covered with precious stones as the sky is with stars.  23
  Orlando crossed the field, nor tempted to delay his enterprise by gathering any of the brilliant gems spread all around him. He next passed into a flowery meadow planted with trees, covered with fruit and flowers, and full of all imaginable delights.  24
  In the middle of this meadow was a fountain, and fast by it lay Morgana asleep; a lady of a lovely aspect, dressed in white and vermilion garments, her forehead well furnished with hair, while she had scarcely any behind.  25
  While Orlando stood in silence contemplating her beauty he heard a voice exclaim: “Seize the fairy by the forelock, if thou hopest fair success.” But his attention was arrested by another object, and he heeded not the warning. He saw on a sudden an array of towers, pinnacles and columns, palaces with balconies and windows, extended alleys with trees, in short a scene of architectural magnificence surpassing all he had ever beheld. While he stood gazing in silent astonishment the scene slowly melted away and disappeared. 1   26
  When he had recovered from his amazement he looked again toward the fountain. The fairy had awaked and risen, and was dancing round its border with the lightness of a leaf, timing her footsteps to this song:
        “Who in this world would wealth and treasure share,
Honor, delight, and state, and what is best,
Quick let him catch me by the lock of hair
Which flutters from my forehead; and be blest.
“But let him not the proffered good forbear,
Nor till he seize the fleeting blessing rest;
For present loss is sought in vain to-morrow,
And the deluded wretch is left in sorrow.”
  The fairy, having sung thus, bounded off, and fled from the flowery meadow over a high and inaccessible mountain. Orlando pursued her through thorns and rocks, while the sky gradually became overcast, and at last he was assailed by tempest, lightning, and hail.  28
  While he thus pursued, a pale and meagre woman issued from a cave, armed with a whip, and, treading close upon his steps, scourged him with vigorous strokes. Her name was Repentance, and she told him it was her office to punish those who neglected to obey the voice of Prudence, and seize the fairy Fortune when he might.  29
  Orlando, furious at this chastisement, turned upon his tormentor, but might as well have stricken the wind. Finding it useless to resist, he resumed his chase of the fairy, gained upon her, and made frequent snatches at her white and vermilion garments, which still eluded his grasp. At last, on her turning her head for an instant, he profited by the chance, and seized her by the forelock. In an instant the tempest ceased, the sky became serene, and Repentance retreated to her cave.  30
  Orlando now demanded of Morgana the keys of her prison, and the fairy, feigning a complacent aspect, delivered up a key of silver, bidding him to be cautious in the use of it, since to break the lock would be to involve himself and all in inevitable destruction; a caution which gave the Count room for long meditation, and led him to consider
        How few amid the suitors who importune
The dame, know how to turn the keys of Fortune.
  Keeping the fairy still fast by the forelock, Orlando proceeded toward the prison, turned the key, without occasioning the mischiefs apprehended, and delivered the prisoners.  32
  Among these were Florismart, Rinaldo, and many others of the bravest knights of France. Morgana had disappeared, and the knights, under the guidance of Orlando, retraced the path by which he had come. They soon reached the field of treasure. Rinaldo, finding himself amidst this mass of wealth, remembered his needy garrison of Montalban, and could not resist the temptation of seizing part of the booty. In particular a golden chain, studded with diamonds, was too much for his self-denial, and he took it and was bearing it off, notwithstanding the remonstrances of Orlando, when a violent wind caught him and whirled him back, as he approached the gate. This happened a second and a third time, and Rinaldo at length yielded to necessity, rather than to the entreaties of his friends, and cast away his prize.  33
  They soon reached the bridge and passed over without hindrance to the other side, where they found the trophy decorated with their arms. Here each knight resumed his own, and all, except the paladins and their friends, separated as their inclinations or duty prompted. Dudon, the Dane, one of the rescued knights, informed the cousins that he had been made prisoner by Morgana while in the discharge of an embassy to them from Charlemagne, who called upon them to return to the defence of Christendom. Orlando was too much fascinated by Angelica to obey this summons, and, followed by the faithful Florismart, who would not leave him, returned towards Albracca. Rinaldo, Dudon, Iroldo, Prasildo, and the others took their way toward the west.  34

Note 1.  This is a poetical description of a phenomenon which is said to be really exhibited in the strait of Messina, between Sicily and Calabria. It is called Fata Morgana, or Mirage. [back]


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