Who will vouchsafe me voice that shall ascend
As high as I would raise my noble theme?
Who will afford befitting words, and lend
Wings to my verse, to soar the pitch I scheme?
Since fiercer fire for such illustrious end,
Than what was wont, may well my song beseem.
For this fair portion to my lord is due
Which sings the sires from whom his lineage grew.
Than whose fair line, 'mid those by heavenly grace
Chosen to minister this earth below,
You see not, Phoebus, in your daily race,
One that in peace or war doth fairer show;
Nor lineage that hath longer kept its place;
And still shall keep it, if the lights which glow
Within me, but aright inspire my soul,
While the blue heaven shall turn about the pole.
But should I seek at full its worth to blaze,
Not mine were needful, but that noble lyre
Which sounded at your touch the thunderer's praise,
What time the giants sank in penal fire.
Yet should you instruments, more fit to raise
The votive work, bestow, as I desire,
All labour and all thought will I combine,
To shape and shadow forth the great design.
Till when, this chisel may suffice to scale
The stone, and give my lines a right direction;
And haply future study may avail,
To bring the stubborn labour to perfection.
Return we now to him, to whom the mail
Of hawberk, shield, and helm, were small protection:
I speak of Pinabel the Maganzeze,
Who hopes the damsel's death, whose fall he sees.
The wily traitor thought that damsel sweet
Had perished on the darksome cavern's floor,
And with pale visages hurried his retreat
From that, through him contaminated door.
And, thence returning, clomb into his seat:
Then, like one who a wicked spirit bore,
To add another sin to evil deed,
Bore off with him the warlike virgin's steed.
Leave we sometime the wretch who, while he layed
Snares for another, wrought his proper doom;
And turn we to the damsel he betrayed,
Who had nigh found at once her death and tomb.
She, after rising from the rock, dismayed
At her shrewd fall, and gazing through the gloom,
Beheld and passed that inner door, which gave
Entrance to other and more spacious cave.
For the first cavern in a second ended,
Fashioned in form of church, and large and square;
With roof by cunning architect extended
On shafts of alabaster rich and rare.
The flame of a clear-burning lamp ascended
Before the central altar; and the glare,
Illuminating all the space about,
Shone through the gate, and lit the cave without.
Touched with the sanctifying thoughts which wait
On worthy spirit in a holy place,
She prays with eager lips, and heart elate,
To the Disposer of all earthly grace:
And, kneeling, hears a secret wicket grate
In the opposing wall; whence, face to face,
A woman issuing forth, the maid addresses,
Barefoot, ungirt, and with dishevelled tresses.
"O generous Bradamant," the matron cried,
"Know thine arrival in this hallowed hold
Was not unauthorized of heavenly guide:
And the prophetic ghost of Merlin told,
Thou to this cave shouldst come by path untried,
Which covers the renowned magician's mould.
And here have I long time awaited thee,
To tell what is the heavens' pronounced decree.
"This is the ancient memorable cave
Which Merlin, that enchanter sage, did make:
Thou may'st have heard how that magician brave
Was cheated by the Lady of the Lake.
Below, beneath the cavern, is the grave
Which holds his bones; where, for that lady's sake,
His limbs (for such her will) the wizard spread.
Living he laid him there, and lies there dead.
"Yet lives the spirit of immortal strain;
Lodged in the enchanter's corpse, till to the skies
The trumpet call it, or to endless pain,
As it with dove or raven's wing shall rise.
Yet lives the voice, and thou shalt hear how plain
From its sepulchral case of marble cries:
Since this has still the past and future taught
To every wight that has its counsel sought.
"Long days have passed since I from distant land
My course did to this cemetery steer,
That in the solemn mysteries I scanned,
Merlin to me the truth should better clear;
And having compassed the design I planned,
A month beyond, for thee, have tarried here;
Since Merlin, still with certain knowledge summing
Events, prefixed this moment for thy coming."
The daughter of Duke Aymon stood aghast,
And silent listened to the speech; while she
Knew not, sore marvelling at all that passed,
If 'twere a dream or a reality.
At length, with modest brow, and eyes down cast,
Replied (like one that was all modesty),
"And is this wrought for me? and have I merit
Worthy the workings of prophetic spirit?"
And full of joy the adventure strange pursues,
Moving with ready haste behind the dame,
Who brings her to the sepulchre which mews
The bones and spirit, erst of Merlin's name.
The tomb, of hardest stone which masons use,
Shone smooth and lucid, and as red as flame.
So that although no sun-beam pierced the gloom,
Its splendour lit the subterraneous room.
Whether it be the native operation
O certain stones, to shine like torch i' the dark,
Or whether force of spell or fumigation,
(A guess that seems to come more near the mark)
Or sign made under mystic constellation,
The blaze that came from the sepulchral ark
Discovered sculpture, colour, gems, and gilding,
And whatsoever else adorned the building.
Scarcely had Bradamant above the sill
Lifter her foot, and trod the secret cave,
When the live spirit, in clear tones that thrill,
Addressed the martial virgin from the grave;
"May Fortune, chaste and noble maid, fulfil
Thine every wish!" exclaimed the wizard brave.
"Since from thy womb a princely race shall spring,
Whose name through Italy and earth shall ring.
"The noble blood derived from ancient Troy,
Mingling in thee its two most glorious streams,
Shall be the ornament, and flower, and joy
Of every lineage on which Phoebus beams,
Where genial stars lend warmth, or cold annoy,
Where Indus, Tagus, Nile, or Danube gleams;
And in thy progeny and long drawn line
Shall marquises, counts, dukes and Caesers shine.
"Captains and cavaliers shall spring from thee,
Who both by knightly lance and prudent lore,
Shall once again to widowed Italy
Her ancient praise and fame in arms restore;
And in her realms just lords shall seated be,
(Such Numa and Augustus were of yore),
Who with their government, benign and sage,
Shall re-create on earth the golden age.
"Then, that the will of Heaven be duly brought
To a fair end through thee, in fitting date,
Which from the first to bless thy love has wrought,
And destined young Rogero for thy mate,
Let nothing interpose to break that thought,
But boldly tread the path perscribed by fate;
Nor let aught stay thee till the thief be thrown
By thy good lance, who keeps thee from thine own."
Here Merlin ceased, that for the solemn feat
Melissa might prepare with fitting spell,
To show bold Bradamant, in aspect meet,
The heirs who her illustrious race should swell.
Hence many sprites she chose; but from what seat
Evoked, I know not, or if called from hell;
And gathered in one place (so bade the dame),
In various garb and guise the shadows came.
This done, into the church she called the maid,
Where she had drawn a magic ring, as wide
As might contain the damsel, prostrate laid;
With the full measure of a palm beside.
And on her head, lest spirit should invade,
A pentacle for more assurance tied.
So bade her hold her peace, and stand and look,
Then read, and schooled the demons from her book.
Lo! forth of that first cave what countless swarm
Presses upon the circle's sacred round,
But, when they would the magic rampart storm,
Finds the way barred as if by fosse or mound;
Then back the rabble turns of various form;
And when it thrice with bending march has wound
About the circle, troops into the cave,
Where stands that beauteous urn, the wizard's grave.
"To tell at large the puissant acts and worth,
And name of each who, figured in a sprite,
Is present to our eyes before his birth,"
Said sage Melissa to the damsel bright;
"To tell the deeds which they shall act on earth,
Were labour not to finish with the night.
Hence I shall call few worthies of thy line,
As time and fair occasion shall combine.
"See yonder first-born of thy noble breed,
Who well reflects thy fair and joyous face;
He, first of thine and of Rogero's seed,
Shall plant in Italy thy generous race.
In him behold who shall distain the mead,
And his good sword with blood of Pontier base;
The mighty wrong chastised, and traitor's guilt,
By whom his princely father's blood was spilt.
"By him King Desiderius shall be pressed,
The valiant leader of the Lombard horde:
And of the fiefs of Calaon and Este;
For this imperial Charles shall make him lord.
Hubert, thy grandson, comes behind; the best
Of Italy, with arms and belted sword:
Who shall defend the church from barbarous foes,
And more than once assure her safe repose.
"Alberto next, unconquered captain, see,
Whose trophies shall so many fanes array.
Hugh, the bold son, is with the sire, and he
Shall conquer Milan, and the snakes display.
Azo, that next approaching form shall be,
And, his good brother dead, the Insubri sway.
Lo! Albertazo! by whose rede undone,
See Berengarius banished, and his son.
"With him shall the imperial Otho join
In wedlock worthily his daughter fair.
And lo! another Hugh! O noble line!
O! sire succeeded by an equal heir!
He, thwarting with just cause their ill design,
Shall thrash the Romans' pride who overbear;
Shall from their hands the sovereign pontiff take,
With the third Otho, and their leaguer break.
"See Fulke, who to his brother will convey
All his Italian birth-right, and command
To take a mighty dukedom far away
From his fair home, in Almayn's northern land.
There he the house of Saxony shall stay,
And prop the ruin with his saving hand;
This in his mother's right he shall possess,
And with his progeny maintain and bless.
"More famed for courtesy than warlike deed,
Azo the second, he who next repairs!
Bertoldo and Albertazo are his seed:
And, lo! the father walkes between his heirs.
By Parma's walls I see the Germans bleed,
Their second Henry quelled; such trophy bears
The one renowned in story's future page:
The next shall wed Matilda, chaste and sage.
"His virtues shall deserve so fair a flower,
(And in his age, I wot, no common grace)
To hold the half of Italy in dower,
With that descendent of first Henry's race.
Rinaldo shall succeed him in his power,
Pledge of Bertoldo's wedded love, and chase
Fierce Frederick Barbarossa's hireling bands,
Saving the church from his rapacious hands.
"Another Azo rules Verona's town,
With its fair fields; and two great chiefs this while
(One wears the papal, one the imperial crown),
The baron, Marquis of Ancona style.
But to show all who rear the gonfalon
Of the consistory, amid that file,
Were task too long; as long to tell each deed
Achieved for Rome by thy devoted seed.
"See Fulke and Obyson, more Azos, Hughs!
Both Henrys! -- mark the father and his boy.
Two Guelphs: the first fair Umbria's land subdues,
And shall Spoleto's ducal crown enjoy.
Behold the princely phantom that ensues,
Shall turn fair Italy's long grief to joy;
I speak of the fifth Azo of thy strain,
By whom shall Ezelin be quelled and slain.
"Fierce Ezelin, that most inhuman lord,
Who shall be deemed by men a child of hell.
And work such evil, thinning with the sword
Who in Ausonia's wasted cities dwell;
Rome shall no more her Anthony record,
Her Marius, Sylla, Nero, Cajus fell.
And this fifth Azo shall to scathe and shame
Put Frederick, second Caeser of the name.
"He, with his better sceptre well contented,
Shall rule the city, seated by the streams,
Where Phoebus to his plaintive lyre lamented
The son, ill-trusted with the father's beams;
Where Cygnus spread his pinions, and the scented
Amber was wept, as fabling poet dreams.
To him such honour shall the church decree;
Fit guerdon of his works, and valour's fee.
"But does no laurel for his brother twine,
Aldobrandino, who will carry cheer
To Rome (when Otho, with the Ghibelline,
Into the troubled capital strikes fear),
And make the Umbri and Piceni sign
Their shame, and sack the cities far and near;
Then hopeless to relieve the sacred hold,
Sue to the neighbouring Florentine for gold:
"And trust a noble brother to his hands,
Boasting no dearer pledge, the pact to bind:
And next, victorious o'er the German bands,
Give his triumphant ensigns to the wind:
To the afflicted church restore her lands,
And take due vengeance of Celano's kind.
Then die, cut off in manhood's early flower,
Beneath the banners of the Papal power?
"He, dying, leaves his brother Azo heir
Of Pesaro and fair Ancona's reign,
And all the cities which 'twixt Tronto are,
And green Isauro's stream, from mount to main;
With other heritage, more rich and rare,
Greatness of mind, and faith without a strain.
All else is Fortune's in this mortal state;
But Virtue soars beyond her love and hate.
"In good Rinaldo equal worth shall shine,
(Such is the promise of his early fire)
If such a hope of thine exalted line.
Dark Fate and Fortune wreck not in their ire.
Alas! from Naples in this distant shrine,
Naples, where he is hostage for his sire,
His dirge is heard: A stripling of thy race,
Young Obyson, shall fill his grandsire's place.
"This lord to his dominion shall unite
Gay Reggio, joined to Modena's bold land.
And his redoubted valour lend such light,
The willing people call him to command.
Sixth of the name, his Azo rears upright
The church's banner in his noble hand:
Fair Adria's fief to him in dower shall bring
The child of second Charles, Sicilia's king.
"Behold in yonder friendly group agreed.
Many fair princes of illustrious name;
Obyson, Albert famed for pious deed,
Aldobrandino, Nicholas the lame.
But we may pass them by, for better speed,
Faenza conquered, and their feats and fame;
With Adria (better held and surer gain)
Which gives her title to the neighbouring main:
"And that fair town, whose produce is the rose,
The rose which gives it name in Grecian speech:
That, too, which fishy marshes round enclose,
And Po's two currents threat with double breach;
Whose townsmen loath the lazy calm's repose,
And pray that stormy waves may lash the beach.
I pass, mid towns and towers, a countless store,
Argenta, Lugo, and a thousand more.
"See Nicholas, whom in his tender age,
The willing people shall elect their lord;
He who shall laugh to scorn the civil rage
Of the rebellious Tideus and his horde;
Whose infantine delight shall be to wage
The mimic fight, and sweat with spear and sword:
And through the discipline such nurture yields,
Shall flourish as the flower of martial fields.
"By him rebellious plans are overthrown,
And turned upon the rash contriver's head;
And so each stratagem of warfare blown,
That vainly shall the cunning toils be spread.
To the third Otho this too late is known,
Of Parma and the pleasant Reggio dread;
Who shall by him be spoiled in sudden strife,
Of his possessions and his wretched life.
"And still the fair dominion shall increase,
And without wrong its spreading bounds augment;
Nor its glad subjects violate the peace,
Unless provoked some outrage to resent,
And hence its wealth and welfare shall not cease;
And the Divine Disposer be content
To let it flourish (such his heavenly love!)
While the celestial spheres revolve above.
"Lo! Lionel! lo! Borse great and kind!
First duke of thy fair race, his realm's delight;
Who reigns secure, and shall more triumphs find
In peace, than warlike princes win in fight.
Who struggling Fury's hands shall tie behind
Her back, and prison Mars, removed from sight.
His fair endeavours bent to bless and stay
The people, that his sovereign rule obey.
"Lo! Hercules, who may reproach his neighbour,
With foot half burnt, and halting gait and slow,
That at Budrio, with protecting sabre,
He saved his troops from fatal overthrow;
Not that, for guerdon of his glorious labour,
He should distress and vex him as a foe;
Chased into Barco. It were hard to say,
If most he shine in peace or martial fray.
"Lucania, Puglia, and Calabria's strand,
Shall with the rumour of his prowess ring:
Where he shall strive in duel, hand to hand,
And gain the praise of Catalonia's king.
Him, with the wisest captains of the land
His worth shall class; such fame his actions bring;
And he the fief shall win like valiant knight,
Which thirty years before was his of right.
"To him his grateful city owes a debt,
The greatest subjects to their lord can owe;
Not that he moves her from a marsh, to set
Her stones, where Ceres' fruitful treasures grow.
Nor that he shall enlarge her bounds, nor yet
That he shall fence her walls against the foe;
Nor that he theatre and dome repairs,
And beautifies her streets and goodly squares;
"Not that he keeps his lordship well defended
From the winged lions' claws and fierce attacks;
Nor that, when Gallic ravage is extended,
And the invader all Italia sacks,
His happy state alone is unoffended;
Unharassed, and ungalled by toll or tax.
Not for these blessings I recount, and more
His grateful realm shall Hercules adore;
"So much as that from him shall spring a pair
Of brothers, leagued no less by love than blood;
Who shall be all that Leda's children were;
The just Alphonso, Hippolite the good.
And as each twin resigned the vital air
His fellow to redeem from Stygian flood,
So each of these would gladly spend his breath,
And for his brother brave perpetual death.
"In these two princes' excellent affection,
Their happy lieges more assurance feel,
Than if their noble town, for its protection,
Were girded twice by Vulcan's works of steel.
And so Alphonso in his good direction,
Justice, with knowledge and with love, shall deal,
Astrea shall appear returned from heaven,
To this low earth to varying seasons given.
"Well is it that his wisdom shines as bright
As his good sire's, nor is his valour less;
Since here usurping Venice arms for fight,
And her full troops his scanty numbers press,
There she (I know not if more justly hight
Mother or stepmother) brings new distress;
But, if a mother, scarce to him more mild
Than Progue or Medea to her child.
"This chief, what time soever he shall go
Forth with his faithful crew, by night or day,
By water or by land, will shame the foe,
With memorable rout and disarray;
And this too late Romagna's sons shall know.
Led against former friends in bloody fray,
Who shall bedew the campaign with their blood,
By Santern, Po, and Zaniolus' flood.
"This shall the Spaniard know, to his dismay,
'Mid the same bounds, whom papal gold shall gain,
Who shall from him Bastia win and slay,
With cruel rage, her hapless Castellain,
The city taken; but shall dearly pay;
His crime, the town retrieved, and victor slain:
Since in the rescued city not a groom
Is left alive, to bear the news to Rome.
"'Tis he, who with his counsel and his lance,
Shall win the honours of Romagna's plain,
And open to the chivalry of France
The victory over Julius, leagued with Spain.
Paunch-deep in human blood shall steeds advance
In that fierce strife, and struggle through the slain,
'Mid crowded fields, which scarce a grace supply,
Where Greek, Italian, Frank, and Spaniard die.
"Lo! who in priestly vesture clad, is crowned
With purple hat, conferred in hallowed dome!
'Tis he, the wise, the liberal, the renowned
Hippolitus, great cardinal of Rome;
Whose actions shall in every region sound,
Where'er the honoured muse shall find a home:
To whose glad era, by indulgent heaven,
As to Augustus' is a Maro given.
"His deeds adorn his race, as from his car
The glorious sun illumes the subject earth
More than the silver moon or lesser star;
So far all others he transcends in worth.
I see this captain, ill bested for war,
Go forth afflicted, and return in mirth:
Backed by few foot, and fewer cavaliers,
He homeward barks, and fifteen gallies steers.
"Two Sigismonds, the first, the second, see;
To these Alphonso's five good sons succeed;
Whose glories spread o'er seas and land shall be.
The first shall wed a maid of France's seed.
This is the second Hercules; and he,
(That you may know their every name and deed),
Hippolitus; who with the light shall shine,
Of his wise uncle, gilding all his line.
"Francis the third comes next; the other two
Alphonsos both; -- but yet again I say,
Thy line through all its branches to pursue,
Fair virgin, would too long protract thy stay;
And Phoebus, many times, to mortal view,
Would quench and light again the lamp of day.
Then, with thy leave, 'tis time the pageant cease,
And I dismiss the shades and hold my peace."
So with the lady's leave the volume closed,
Whose precepts to her will the spirits bent.
And they, where Merlin's ancient bones reposed,
From the first cavern disappearing, went.
Then Bradamant her eager lips unclosed,
Since the divine enchantress gave consent;
"And who," she cried, "that pair of sorrowing mien,
Alphonso and Hippolitus between?
"Sighing, those youths advanced amid the show,
Their brows with shame and sorrow overcast,
With downward look, and gait subdued and slow:
I saw the brothers shun them as they passed."
Melissa heard the dame with signs of woe,
And thus, with streaming eyes, exclaim'd at last:
"Ah! luckless youths, with vain illusions fed,
Whither by wicked men's bad counsel led!
"O, worthy seed of Hercules the good,
Let not their guilt beyond thy love prevail;
Alas! the wretched pair are of thy blood,
So many prevailing pity turn the scale!"
And in a sad and softer tone pursued,
"I will not further press the painful tale.
Chew on fair fancy's food: Nor deem unmeet
I will not with a bitter chase the sweet.
"Soon as to-morrow's sun shall gild the skies
With his first light, myself the way will show
To where the wizard knight Rogero sties;
And built with polished steel the ramparts glow:
So long as through deep woods thy journey lies,
Till, at the sea arrived, I shall bestow
Such new instructions for the future way,
That thou no more shalt need Melissa's stay."
All night the maid reposes in the cave,
And the best part in talk with Merlin spends;
While with persuasive voice the wizard grave
To her Rogero's honest love commends;
Till from the vault goes forth that virgin brave,
As through the sky the rising sun ascends,
By path, long space obscure on either side,
The weird woman still her faithful guide.
They gain a hidden glen, which heights inclose,
And mountains inaccessible to man:
And they all day toil on, without repose,
Where precipices frowned and torrents ran.
And (what may some diversion interpose)
Sweet subjects of discourse together scan,
In conference, which best might make appear
The rugged road less dismal and severe.
Of these the greater portion served to guide
(Such the wise woman's scope) the warlike dame;
And teach by what device might be untied
Rogero's gyves, if stedfast were her flame.
"If thou wert Mars himself, or Pallas," cried
The sage Melissa, "though with thee there came
More than King Charles or Agramant command,
Against the wizard foe thou could'st not stand.
"Besides that it is walled about with steel,
And inexpugnable his tower, and high;
Besides that his swift horse is taught to wheel,
And caracol and gallop in mid sky,
He bears a mortal shield of power to seal,
As soon as 'tis exposed, the dazzled
And so invades each sense, the splendour shed,
That he who sees the blaze remains as dead.
"And lest to shut thine eyes, thou should'st suppose
Might serve, contending with the wizard knight;
How would'st thou know, when both in combat close,
When he strikes home, or when eschews the fight?
But to escape the blaze which blinds his foes,
And render vain each necromantic sleight,
Have here a speedy mean which cannot miss;
Nor can the world afford a way but this.
"King Agramant of Africa a ring.
Thieved from an Indian queen by subtle guiles,
Has to a baron of his following
Consigned, who now precedes us by few miles;
Brunello he. Who wears the gift shall bring
To nought all sorceries and magic wiles.
In thefts and cheats Brunello is as well
Instructed, as the sage in charm and spell.
"Brunello, he so practised and so sly
As now I tell thee, by his king is sent,
That he with aid of mother wit may try,
And of this ring, well proved in like event,
To take Rogero from the castle high;
So has he boasted, by the wizard pent:
And to his lord such promise did impart,
Who has Rogero's presence most at heart.
"That his escape to thee alone may owe,
Not to the king, the youthful cavalier,
How to release Rogero from his foe
And his enchanted cage, prepare to hear.
Three days along the shingle shalt thou go,
Beside the sea, whose waves will soon appear;
Thee the third day shall to a hostel bring,
Where he shall come who bears the virtuous ring.
"That thou may'st recognise the man, in height
Less than six palms, observe one at this inn
Of black and curly hair, the dwarfish wight!
Beard overgrown about the cheek and chin;
With shaggy brow, swoln eyes, and cloudy sight,
A nose close flattened, and a sallow skin;
To this, that I may make my sketch complete,
Succinctly clad, like courier, goes the cheat.
"Thy conversation with this man shall turn
Upon enchantment, spell, and mystic pact;
And thou shalt, in thy talk, appear to yearn
To prove the wizard's strength, as is the fact.
But, lady, let him not thy knowledge learn
Of his good ring, which mars all magic act:
He shall propose to bring thee as a guide
To the tall castle, whither thou would'st ride.
"Follow him close, and viewing (for a sign),
Now near, the fortress of the enchanter hoar;
Let no false pity there thy mind incline
To stay the execution of my lore.
Give him his death; but let him not divine
Thy thought, nor grant him respite; for before
Thine eyes, concealed by it, the caitiff slips
If once he place the ring between his lips."
Discoursing thus, they came upon the sea
Where Garonne near fair Bordeaux meets the tide;
Here, fellow travellers no more to be,
Some natural tears they drop and then divide.
Duke Aymon's child, who slumbers not till she
Release her knight, holds on till even-tide:
'Twas then the damsel at a hostel rested,
Where Sir Brunello was already guested.
The maid Brunello knows as soon as found
(So was his image on her mind impressed),
And asks him whence he came, and whither bound;
And he replies and lies, as he is pressed.
The dame, who is forewarned, and knows her ground,
Feigns too as well as he, and lies her best:
And changes sex and sect, and name and land,
And her quick eye oft glances at his hand;
Oft glances at his resless hand, in fear
That he might undetected make some prize;
Nor ever lets the knave approach too near,
Well knowing his condition: In this guise
The couple stand together, when they hear
A sudden sound: but what that sound implies
I, sir, shall tell hereafter with its cause;
But first shall break my song with fitting pause.