Orlando Furioso

Author: Lodovico Ariosto  | Date: 1532


Oh foule Harpias, greedy, hunger starv’d,

Whom wrath divine for just revenge hath sent

To blinded Italy, that hath deserv’d

For sinnes both old and late so to be shent.

The sustenance that should for food have serv’d,

For widowes poore and orphans innocent,

These filthy monsters do consume and wast it

Oft at one meale, before the owners tast it.


He doubtlesse guilty is of grievous sin,

That first set open that long closed cave,

From which all filth and greedinesse came in

To Italy, and it infected have,

Then ended good then did bad dayes begin,

And discord foule so fane off all peace drave,

That now in warres, in poverty and paine,

It long hath tari’d, and shall long remaine.


Untill she can her slothfull sonnes awake,

From drowsie sleep, that now themselves forget,

And say to them, for shame example take,

Let others valiant deeds your courage whet:

Why should not you the like acts undertake,

As in time past did Calai and Zet?

That erst like aid to Phineas did bring,

As did Astolfo th’Ethiopian king.


Who having driv’n away these monsters fell,

From blind Senapos boord, as erst I told,

And chased them so farre, untill they fell

Into the cave most fearfull to behold;

That fearfull cave that was the mouth of hell,

To hearken at the same he waxed bold,

And heard most wofull mourning, plaints and cries,

Such as from hell were likely to arise.


Astolfo minds into the place to enter,

And visit those that have forgone this light

And pierce the earth ev’n to the middle center,

To see if ought may there be worth the sight;

For why he thought, what need I feare to venter,

That have this horn, with which I can affright

Foule Sathan, Cerberus with triple chaps,

And safely keep my selfe from all mishaps?


He ties his flying beast fast by the reines,

With mind to hell it selfe to bid defiance,

His horn fast ti’d about his neck remaines,

In which much more then sword he puts affiance:

But at his very entrance he complaines

Of that same smoke that bred him much annoyance,

That savour’d strong of brimstone and of pitch,

Yet still Astolfo goeth thorow stitch.


But still the further that he forward goes,

He feels the smoke more noisome and more thick,

That in himselfe he gan now to suppose,

If further he should wade he should be sick,

When lo a shadow seemed to disclose

It selfe to him, of somwhat that was quick,

And to his thinking hither wav’d and thither,

Much like a carcasse hanged long in weather.


The English Duke that had desire to know,

If so he saw a body or a vision,

Strake with his sword thereat so fierce a blow,

As would indeed thereof have made division,

If it had been as it did seem in show:

But when he saw his sword made no incision,

He guessed that it was (by that blowes giving)

A passed spirit, not a body living.


Then heard he how thus wofully it said,

Oh you that to these lower parts descend,

Bring us no hurt, though you can bring no aid,

And be not so to those whom none can friend.

The Duke amaz’d, both hands and footsteps staid,

And said unto the ghost, so God thee send

Some speedy ease of this thy painfull smart,

As thou wilt deine to tell me who thou art.


And if to work your good lay in my lot,

Above or here I should be glad to do it.

Ah (said the ghost) my plague with such a knot

Is ti’d, as mortall strength cannot undo it,

Yet your request deny you will I not,

Because you have so great a mind unto it,

I will declare to you my stock and name,

And eke the cause why to this place I came.


My name is Lydia, born of princely birth,

And bred in pomp and solaces delightfull,

Though now in place excluded from all mirth,

I lie condemn’d by Gods high doom and rightfull,

Because while I did live above on earth,

Unto my love I shew’d my selfe so spightfull;

And many more be here for like offences,

As he that all doth rule, their plague dispences.


Here lies that faire, but cruell Anaxaritee,

Whose corps a stone divine revenge did make,

Her ghost in smoke that no light ay shall clarifie,

Doth most severe, but most just penance take,

Because she could without all sense of charity,

Behold her lover hanging for her sake:

Here Daphne lies, that now repents her shunning

Of Phoebus, whom she scap’d with over-running.


Too tedious it would be for me to tell

The sev’rall names of ev’ry female spirit,

That for reward of their hard hearts, in hell

Appointed are such portions to inherit.

Yet farre more are the men that there do dwell,

For like offence, who for their evill merit

Are placed much more low, though somwhat nigh, them,

Where fume doth smother them, and flame doth fry them.


And reason good, for sith our sex is weak,

The greater sinne it is us to deceive,

As Theseus and Jason well can speak,

And he that Latin did of rule bereave,

With him, on whom faire Absolon did wreak

The wrong that ravisht Thamar did receive,

With diverse that of tone and tother gender,

Refus’d or left their loves for causes slender.


But that I may particularly touch

The cause that brought me to this endlesse paine,

My beauty while I liv’d, and pride was such,

As none or few did to the like attaine,

And both of them in me excel’d so much,

’Twas hard to say which greater was of twaine:

But this I know full well, my proud mind grew

Out of conceit of my well pleasing hew.


It hapned that a valiant knight of Thrace

In state and living of the better sort,

And hearing praise of my praise-worthy face,

Confirmed oft by more then one report,

He purpos’d, and perform’d it in short space,

Unto my fathers kingdome to resort,

That he might sue to me, and only serve me,

In hope by his great value to deserve me.


In gallant sort when he to Lydia came,

And saw with eye what he had heard with eare,

He calleth scant report, and niggard fame,

That did to him so barren tidings beare:

And ravisht with my look, he straight doth frame

Himselfe to wait in court, and tarrie there,

And shew’d such worth, and used such behaviour,

As justly might deserve my fathers favour.


Exceeding was his service and desert,

If to a gratefull Prince it had been done,

So perfectly he had of warre the art,

That for my sire, by his conduct he won

All Caria, and of Cilicia part,

And after these exploits, he then begun,

For recompence of these his merits rife,

To pray my father I might be his wife.


My father him repuls’d with answer sowre,

Because to match me higher was his will,

Not to a private knight, whose chiefest dowre

Was vertue, of whose worth he could not skill,

His greedy thoughts did nought but gaine devoure,

And covetise the branch and root of ill,

Made him no more regard his vertuous sute,

Then doth an Asse the sound of sweetest Lute.


Alceste (so was nam’d the worthy Knight)

Took this so foul repulse in great disdaine,

Proceeding thence, from whence he ought of right

Expect great recompence for his great paine;

Wherefore he parted thence in great despight,

And vow’d revenge, nor was his vow in vaine.

Unto th’Armenian king he thence doth go,

My fathers emulous and ancient foe.


Him (ready to accept each light occasion)

He soon perswades, without all intermission,

To make upon my father fierce invasion,

And make him chiefe Lieutenant by commission:

And having won him thereto by perswasion,

They thus agreed of spoiles to make partition,

As namely all the towns he won should be

The kings, and for himselfe he ask’d but me.


This league thus made, what woes my sire he wrought,

I know not how in speeches to expresse,

Foure royall armies quickly came to nought,

Disperst or dead in half a yeare and lesse;

In fine Alceste by his value brought

My father and his friends to such distresse,

They took them to a fort with such small treasure,

As in so Scarbrow warning they had leasure.


When here a while he us besieged had,

To such despaire he then my father drave,

To yeeld me up he would have been full glad,

To be his wife, yea ev’n to be his slave;

Nor would my sire have thought the bargaine bad,

If halfe the Realme with me for dowre he gave,

So sore he fear’d, ere long to leese it all,

And die in wofull bands a captive thrall.


Wherefore in season to prevent the worst,

Me that had been the cause of all this ill,

He minds to offer to Alceste first,

To win thereby his favour and good will:

I went (for why none other do I trust)

With mind herein my sires mind to fulfill,

And offer mine own self at his devotion,

With halfe the Realme, if he accept the motion.


Alceste hearing I came him to look,

Against me forth he comes all pale and trembling,

Not like a conqueror was then his look,

But rather a captived man resembling;

Which when I found, my first plot I forsook,

For well I saw that this was not dissembling,

With lowring look I held my peace a while,

Then fit for his estate I fram’d my stile.


I waxed bold the more I see him faint,

And first I cursed this unluckie love,

And of his cruelty I made complaint,

Which harm’d my friends, and chiefe that he would prove

Against my will to have me by constraint,

I further did most sharply him reprove,

That he so parted with the first deniall,

And never sought to make new friendly triall.


I told him that his manners were too fierce,

That though my father his just suit deny’d,

Because perhaps his nature is perverse,

And would not at the first attempt be ply’d,

He should not though, all his good deeds reverse,

But rather ought with constancy have try’d,

By patient suffring, and by painfull serving,

To come unto reward of well deserving.


And if my father would not have been won,

I would (I said) his favour have procur’d,

And would have praid him, to make him his sonne,

If I had found his love to me had dur’d;

Or else in secret I would that have done,

By which of me he should have been assur’d;

But sith he needs would trie another mean,

I told him plaine, my love was alter’d clean.


And though I now came in this humble sort,

To yeeld my body, as the price of peace,

Because my father, whom he held so short,

Intreated me to sue for his release;

Yet did I vow to marre his hoped sport,

And if to offer force he would not cease,

I sware that rather I my selfe would kill,

Then grant such joyes constrain’d against my will.


These words and such as these to him I spake,

Finding my power was over him so great,

Wherewith I did him as repentant make,

As ere was Saint in Hermits desart seat:

He fell down at my feet, and praid me take

His naked dagger, and did me intreat,

To stab him with the same into his heart,

To take just vengeance of his lewd desart.


Now when I saw him at this passe, I thought

To follow this great conquest to his end,

And straight a little hope to him I brought,

Of favour, if his errour he would mend,

And if my fathers freedome might be wrought,

And state restor’d, and he continue friend,

And not attempt hereafter to constraine me,

But with his serviceable love to gaine me.


He promised hereof he would not misse,

And back unto my sire me safe did send,

Nor once presumed he my mouth to kisse;

Think you, how he unto my yoke did bend;

I think that love plaid well his part in this,

And needed not for him more arrowes spend;

Hence straight unto th’Armenian king he went,

Whose all the winnings should be, by consent.


And in the mildest manner that he could,

He prayeth him to grant his good assent,

That my poore sire might Lydia quiet hold,

And he would with Armenia be content.

The king Alceste sharply then controld,

And in plaine terms he told he never meant

To cease that bloudy warre at any hand,

While that my father had a foot of land.


What if (said he) Alcestes wav’ring braine

Is turn’d with womans words? his dammage be it:

Shall I therefore lose all a whole yeares gaine

At his request? I never will agree it:

Againe Alceste prayes him, and againe,

But all in vaine, he sees it will not be yet:

And last he waxed angry, and did sweare,

That he should do it, or for love or feare.


Thus wrath ingendred many a bitter word,

And bitter words did breed more bloudy blowes,

Alceste in that fury drew his sword,

And straight the guard on each side him inclose,

But he among them so himselfe bestir’d,

He slue the king, and by the help of those

Of Thrace, and of Cilicia in his pay,

Th’Armenians all he put to flight that day.


And then his happy victory pursuing,

First he my fathers friends did all inlarge,

And next the Realme within one month ensuing,

He gat again, without my fathers charge;

And for the better shunning and eschuing

Of all unkindnesse, with amends most large,

For recompence of all harms he had done,

He gave him all the spoiles that he had won.


Yea fully to content him to his asking,

In all the countries that did neare confine,

He rais’d such summes of coine, by cursed tasking,

As made them grieve and greatly to repine.

The while my hate in loves faire vizar masking,

In outward show, I seem’d him to incline;

Yet secretly I studi’d to annoy him,

And many wayes devised to destroy him.


In stead of triumph by a privy train,

At his return to kill him we intended,

But from such fact feare forc’d us to refrain,

Because we found he was so strongly friended;

I seemed of his comming glad and fain,

And promis’d when our troubles all were ended,

That I his faithfull yokefellow would be,

In wo or weale, to take such part as he.


Wherefore I praid him first, that for my sake,

He would subdue some of our private foes,

And he each hard exploit doth undertake,

And now alone, and then with few he goes,

And safe returns, yet oft I did him make,

To fight with cruell Giants, and with those

That past his strength, oft with some monstrous beast,

Or Dragon fell, that did our Realme molest.


Don Hercles never by his cruell Aunt,

Nor by the hard Euristeus was so wrought

In Lerna, Thrace, in Nemea Eremaunt,

Numid, Etolia, Tebrus where he fought,

Nor Spaine, nor no where els, as I might vaunt,

With mild perswasion, but with murdring thought,

I made my lover still to put in ure,

In hope hereby his ruine to procure.


But as the Palm the more the top is prest,

The thicker do the under branches grow,

Ev’n so, the more his vertue was opprest

By hard attempts the brighter it did show:

Which when I found, forthwith I thought it best,

Another way to work his overthrow,

A way by which indeed I wrought the feat,

Which yet I shame and sorrow to repeat.


Against all such as bare him best affection,

I secretly did still his mind incense,

And ever one and one by my direction,

I made him wrong, till all were driv’n from thence:

So was his heart and soul in my subjection,

So had my beauty blinded all his sence,

Had I but wink’d, or up my finger hild,

He had not car’d whom he had hurt or kild.


Now when I thus had foil’d my fathers foes,

And by Alceste, had Alceste won,

And made him for my sake forsake all those,

That for his sake no high attempt would shun;

I then began my self plain to disclose;

And let him know what wise thred he had spun,

With bitter spitefull words I all to rated him,

And told him plain that in my heart I hated him.


And that I wish’d his life and dayes were ended,

And would have kild him, if I could for shame,

Save then I should of all men be condemned,

Because his high deserts were of such fame;

Yet him and them I utterly contemned,

And loath’d to see his face, or heare his name,

And sware I would wish him thenceforth no better,

Nor heare his message, nor receive his letter.


At this my cruell usage and ungrate

He took such grief, that in a while he di’d:

Now for this sin, he that all sin did hate,

Condemnes me here in this smoke to be ti’d,

Where I in vain repent my self too late,

That I his suit so causlesly deni’d,

For which, in smoke eternall I must dwell,

Sith no redemption can be had from hell.


Here Lidia this her wofull tale doth end,

And faded thence; now when her speech did cease,

The Duke a farther passage did intend,

But this tormenting smoke did so increase,

That backward he was forc’d his steps to bend,

For vitall sprites already did decrease,

Wherefore the smoke to shun, and life to save,

He clammerd to the top of that same cave.


And lest those woman-faced monsters fell

Might after come from out that lothsome ledge,

He dig’d up stones, and great trees down did fell,

(His sword sufficing both for axe and sledge)

He hew’d and brake, and labour’d it so well,

That gainst the cave he made a thick strong hedge,

So stop’d with stones, and many a ragged rafter,

As kept th’Harpias in a great while after.


But now the Duke, both with his present toile,

That did with dirt and dust him all to dash,

And with the smoke that erst did him so soile,

As black as soot, was driv’n to seek some plash,

Where he himself might of his clothes dispoile,

And both his raiment and his armour wash,

For why the smoke without and eke within,

Did taint his clothes, his armour, and his skin.


Soon after he a chrystall stream espying,

From foot to head he wash’d himself therein,

Then up he gets him on his courser flying,

And of the aire he more and more doth win,

Affecting heav’n, all earthly thoughts defying:

As fishes cut the liquid streame with fin,

So cutteth he the aire and doth not stop,

Till he was come unto that mountaines top.


This hill nigh touch’d the circle of the Moone,

The top was all a fruitfull pleasant field,

And light at night, as ours is here at noone,

The sweetest place that ever man beheld;

(There would I dwell if God gave me my boone)

The soyle thereof most fragrant flowres did yeeld,

Like Rubies, Gold, Pearles, Saphyrs, Topas stones,

Chrysolites, Diamonds, Iacints for the nones.


The trees that there did grow were ever green,

The fruits that thereon grew were never fading,

The sundry colour’d birds did sit between,

And sing most sweet, the fruitfull boughs them shading:

The rivers cleare as crystall to be seen,

The fragrant smell the sense and soule invading,

With aire so temperate and so delightsome,

As all the place beside was cleare and lightsome.


Amid the plaine a pallace passing faire

There stood, above conceit of mortall men,

Built of great height, unto the clearest aire,

And was in circuit twenty mile and ten;

To this faire place the Duke did straight repaire,

And viewing all that goodly country then,

He thought this world, compared with that pallace,

A dunghill vile, or prison void of solace.


But when as nearer to the place he came,

He was amazed at the wondrous sight;

The wall was all one precious stone, the same,

And then the carbuncle more sanguine bright;

O workman rare, O most stupendious frame,

What Dedalus of this had oversight?

Peace ye that wont to praise the wonders seav’n.

Those earthly kings made, this the King of heav’n.


Now while the Duke his eyes with wonder fed,

Behold a faire old man in th’entrie stood,

Whose gown was white, but yet his jacket red,

The tone as snow, the tother look’d as blood,

His beard was long and white, so was his head,

His countnance was so grave, his grace so good,

A man thereby might at first sight suspect,

He was a Saint, and one of Gods elect.


He comming to the Duke with chearfull face,

Who now alighted was for rev’rence sake,

Bold Baron (said the Saint) by speciall grace,

That suffer’d wast this voyage strange to make,

And to arrive at this most blessed place,

Not knowing why thou didst this journey take,

Yet know that not without the will celestiall,

Thou commest here to Paradise terrestriall.


The cause you came a journey of such length,

Is here of me to learn what must be done,

That Charles and holy Church may now at length

Be freed, that erst were welnigh overrun,

Wherefore impute it not to thine own strength,

Nor to thy courage, nor thy wit, my son,

For neither could thy horn nor winged steed

Without Gods help stand thee in any steed.


But at more leisure hereof we will reason,

And more at large I mind with you to speak,

Now with some meat refresh you, as is reason,

Lest fasting long may make your stomack weak;

Our fruits (said he) be never out of season:

The Duke rejoyced much, and marvel’d eke;

Then chiefe when by his speeches and his coat

He knew ’twas he that the fourth Gospell wrote.


That holy John whom Christ did hold so deare,

That others thought he death should never see,

Though in the Gospell it appeares not cleare,

But thus he said, What if it pleased me,

O Peter, that thy fellow tarry here

Untill my comming, what is that to thee?

So though our Saviour not directly spake it,

Yet sure it was, so ev’ry one did take it.


He here assumed was in happy houre,

Whereas before Enoch the Patriark was,

And where the Prophet bides of mighty power,

That in the fierie coach did thither passe:

These three in that so happy sacred bowre

In high felicity their dayes did passe:

Where in such sort to stand they are allow’d,

Till Christ return upon the burning cloud.


These Saints him welcome to that sacred seat,

And to a stately lodging him they brought;

And for his horse likewise ordained meat,

And then the Duke himselfe by them was taught;

The dainty fruits of Paradise to eat,

So delicate in tast, as sure he thought

Our first two parents were to be excus’d,

That for such fruit obedience they refus’d.


Now when the Duke had nature satisfi’d,

With meat and drink, and with his due repose,

(For there were lodgings faire, and all beside

That needfull for mans use man can suppose)

He gets up early in the morning tide,

What time with us alow, the Sun arose,

But ere that he from out his lodging mov’d,

Came that Disciple whom our Saviour lov’d.


And by the hand the Duke abroad he led,

And said some things to him, I may not name,

But in the end (I think) my son he sed,

Although that you from France so lately came,

You little know how those in France have sped,

There your Orlando quite is out of frame,

For God his sinne most sharply now rewardeth,

Who most doth punish whom he most regardeth.


Know that the champion your Orlando, whom

God so great strength and so great courage gave,

And so rare grace, that from his mothers wombe,

By force of steel his skin no hurt might have,

To th’end that he might fight for his own home,

And those that hold the Christian faith to save;

As Sampson erst enabled was to stand,

Against Philistins for the Hebrew land.


This your Orlando hath bin so ungrate

(For so great grace receiv’d) unto his maker,

That when his country was in weakest state,

And needed succour most, he did forsake her,

For love (O wofull love that breeds Gods hate)

To woo a Pagan wench, with mind to take her,

And to such sin this love did him intice,

He would have kild his kinsman once or twice.


For this same cause doth mighty God permit

Him mad to run, with belly bare and breast,

And so to daze his reason and his wit,

He knowes not others, and himselfe knowes least:

So in times past our Lord did deem it fit,

To turn the king of Babel to a beast,

In which estate he sev’n whole yeares did passe,

And like an oxe did feed on hay and grasse.


But for the Palladins offence is not

So great as was the King of Babels crime,

The mighty Lord of mercy doth allot

Unto his punishment a shorter time,

Twelve weeks in all he must remaine a sot,

And for this cause you suffer’d were to clime

To this high place that here you may be taught

How to his wits Orlando may be brought.


Here you shall learn to work the feat I warrant,

But yet before you can be fully sped

Of this your great, but not forethought on arrant,

You must with me a more strange way be led,

Up to the Planet that of all starres errant

Is nearest us, when she comes over head,

Then will I bring you where the medicine lies,

That you must have to make Orlando wise.


Thus all that day they spent in divers talk,

With solace great, as never wanteth there,

But when the Sun began this earth to balk,

And passe into the tother hemispheare,

Then they prepar’d to fetch a further walk,

And straight the firie charet that did beare

Elias, when he up to heav’n was cari’d,

Was ready in a trice, and for them tari’d.


Foure horses fierce, as red as flaming fire,

Th’Apostle doth into the charet set,

Which when he framed had to his desire,

Astolfo in the carre by him he set,

Then up they went, and still ascending higher,

Above the firie region they did get,

Whose nature so th’Apostle then did turn,

That though they went through fire, they did not burn.


I say although the fire were wondrous hot,

Yet in their passage they no heat did feel,

So that it burn’d them, nor offends them not;

Thence to the Moone he guides the running wheel,

The Moone was like a glasse all void of spot,

Or like a peece of purely burnisht steel,

And look’d, although to us it seem’d so small,

Welnigh as big as earth and sea and all.


Here had Astolfo cause of double wonder,

One, that that region seemeth there so wide,

That unto us that are so farre asunder,

Seems but a little circle, and beside,

That to behold the ground that him lay under,

A man had need to have been sharply ey’d,

And bend his browes, and mark ev’n all they might,

It seem’d so small, now chiefly wanting light.


’Twere infinite to tell what wondrous things

He saw, that passed ours not few degrees,

What towns, what hils, what rivers, and what springs,

What dales, what pallaces, what goodly trees;

But to be short, at last his guide him brings

Unto a goodly valley, where he sees

A mighty masse of things strangely confus’d,

Things that on earth were lost, or were abus’d.


A store-house strange, that what on earth is lost,

By fault, by time, by fortune, there is found,

And like a merchandize is there ingrost,

In stranger sort then I can well expound;

Nor speak I sole of wealth, or things of cost,

In which blind fortunes power doth most abound,

But ev’n of things quite out of fortunes power,

Which wilfully we wast each day and houre.


The precious time that fooles mis-spend in play,

The vaine attempts that never take effect,

The vowes that sinners make, and never pay,

The counsels wise that carelesse men neglect,

The fond desires that lead us oft astray,

The praises that with pride the heart infect,

And all we lose with folly and mis-spending,

May there be found unto this place ascending.


Now as Astolfo by those regions past,

He asked many questions of his guide,

And as he on tone side his eye did cast,

A wondrous hill of bladders he espi’d;

And he was told they had been in time past,

The pompous crowns and scepters full of pride,

Of monarchs of Assyria and of Greece,

Of which now scantly there is left a peece.


He saw great store of baited hooks with gold,

And those were gifts that foolish men preferd

To give to Princes covetous and old,

With fondest hope of future vaine reward;

Then were there ropes all in sweet garlands rold,

And those were all false flatteries he hard.

Then heard he crickets songs, like to the verses

The servant in his masters praise reherses.


There did he see fond loves, that men pursue,

To look like golden gives with stones all set,

Then things like Eagles Talents he did view,

Those offices that favourites do get:

Then saw he bellowes large that much wind blew,

Large promises that Lords make, and forget,

Unto their Ganimeds in flowre of youth,

But after nought but beggery ensu’th.


He saw great Cities seated in faire places,

That overthrowne quite topsie turvie stood,

He ask’d and learn’d, the cause of their defaces

Was treason, that doth never turne to good:

He saw foule serpents with faire womens faces,

Of coyners and of theeves the cursed brood,

He saw fine glasses all in peeces broken,

Of service lost in Court, a wofull token.


Of mingled broth he saw a mighty masse

That to no use all spilt on ground did lie,

He ask’d his teacher, and he heard it was

The fruitlesse almes that men give when they die:

Then by a faire green mountaine he did passe,

That once smelt sweet, but now it stinks perdye,

This was that gift (be’t said without offence)

That Constantine gave Silvester long since.


Of birdlime-rods he saw no little store,

And these (O Ladies faire) your beauties be,

I do omit ten thousand things and more

Like unto these, that there the Duke did see:

For all that here is lost, there evermore

Is kept, and thither in a trice doth flee,

Howbeit more nor lesse there was no folly,

For still that here with us remaineth wholly.


He saw some of his own lost time and deeds,

But yet he knew them not to be his own,

They seem’d to him disguis’d in so strange weeds,

Till his instructer made them better known:

But last, the thing which no man thinks he needs,

Yet each man needeth most, to him was shown,

By name mans wit, which here we leese so fast,

As that one substance all the other past.


It seem’d to be a body moist and soft,

And apt to mount by ev’ry exhalation,

And when it hither mounted was aloft,

It there was kept in pots of such a fashion,

As we call jarrs, where oyle is kept in oft:

The Duke beheld (with no small admiration)

The jarrs of wit, amongst which one had writ

Upon the side thereof, Orlandos wit.


This vessell bigger was than all the rest,

And ev’ry vessell had ingrav’n with art

His name that erst the wit therein possest:

There of his own the Duke did find a part,

And much he mus’d, and much himselfe he blest,

To see some names of men of great desert,

That think they have great store of wit, and boast it,

When here it plaine appear’d they quite had lost it.


Some lose their wit with love, some with ambition,

Some running to the sea, great wealth to get,

Some following Lords, and men of high condition,

And some in faire jewels rich and costly set:

One hath desire to prove a rare Magician,

And some with Poetrie their wit forget,

Another thinks to be an Alcumist,

Till all be spent, and he his number mist.


Astolfo takes his own before he goes,

For so th’Evangelist doth him permit;

He set the vessels mouth but to his nose,

And to his place he snuft up all his wit:

Long after wise he liv’d, as Turpin showes,

Untill one fault he after did commit:

By name the love of one faire Northerne lasse,

Sent up his wit into the place it was.


The vessell where Orlandos wit was clos’d,

Astolfo took, and thence with him did beare;

It was far heavier then he had suppos’d,

So great a quantity of wit was there;

But yet ere back their journey they dispos’d,

The holy Prophet brought Astolfo, where

A pallace (seldome seen by mortall man)

Was plac’d, by which a thick dark river ran.


Each room therein was full of diverse fleeces,

Of wooll, of lint, of silk, or els of cotten,

An aged woman spun the diverse peeces,

Whose look and hew did shew her old and rotten:

Not much unlike unto that labour, this is,

By which in Sommer new made silk is gotten,

Where from the silk worme his fine garment taking,

They reave him of the clothes of his own making.


For first in one large roome a woman span

Threds infinite, of diverse stuffe and hew;

Another doth with all the speed she can,

With other stuffe the distaves still renew;

The third in feature like, and pale and wan,

Doth sever faire from foule, and old from new:

Now who be these? the Duke demands his guide,

These be the fatall sisters, he repli’d;


The Parcees that the thred of life do spin

To mortall men, hence death and nature know

When life must end, and when it must begin:

Now, she that doth divide them, and bestow

The course from finer, and the thick from thin,

To that end works, that those that finest grow,

For ornaments in Paradise may dwell,

The course are curst to be consum’d in hell.


The Duke did further in the place behold,

That when the threds were spent that had been spun,

Their names in brasse, in silver, or in gold

Were wrote, and so into great heapes were done;

From which a man that seemed wondrous old,

With whole loads of those names away did run,

And turn’d againe as fast the way he went,

Nor ever wearie was, nor ever spent.


This aged man did hold his pace so swift,

As though to run he onely had been born,

Or had it giv’n him as a speciall gift:

And in the lappet of his cloke were born,

The names of men, with which he made such shift:

But now a while I crave to be forborn,

For in the book ensuing shal be show’d,

How this old sire his cariage ill bestow’d.


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Chicago: Lodovico Ariosto, "1," Orlando Furioso, trans. John Harington Original Sources, accessed October 3, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L7W14YN9IWU2Q1Q.

MLA: Ariosto, Lodovico. "1." Orlando Furioso, translted by John Harington, Original Sources. 3 Oct. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L7W14YN9IWU2Q1Q.

Harvard: Ariosto, L, '1' in Orlando Furioso, trans. . Original Sources, retrieved 3 October 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L7W14YN9IWU2Q1Q.