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The Orlando Innamorato

The Orlando Innamorato
Title: The Orlando Innamorato
Release Date: 2018-09-08
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Orlando Innamorato, byMatteo Maria Boiardo and Francesco Berni

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Title: The Orlando Innamorato

Author: Matteo Maria Boiardo
        Francesco Berni

Translator: William Stewart Rose

Release Date: September 8, 2018 [EBook #57869]

Language: English


Produced by Kathleen Ethington





Who, at a late period of my labours upon the "Furioso", suggestedthe present work as its necessary prologue.

Kind peer, who, mid the tempest of debate,
  Hast gladly wooed and won the Southern muse.
Where, crowned with fruit and flower of mingling hues,
  She in a grove of myrtle keeps her state.

This I had entered by a postern gate,
  Like stranger, who no certain path pursues.
Or garden's lord, that hath his own to choose,
  Hadst thou not shewn a better entrance late:

That portal led me to Morgana's* towers,
  Where fierce Orlando found the dame at play;
And though, too fast for me, from fields of flowers,
  She flies to savage waste, and will not stay.
It will content me but to paint her bowers,
If this be granted by the scornful fay.

William Stewart Rose.

* See the adventure of Morgana, the type of Fortune, who, flyingfrom her garden into a wilderness, is taken by Orlando, Book II.


It is many years since I first entertained a vague idea oftranslating the Orlando Furioso, and circumstances of littleimportance to the reader, led me more recently to undertake it inearnest. This work was again laid down; and afterwards resumed atthe instance of a distinguished friend; and by an odd coincidence,I am indebted also to the suggestion of another eminent person forthe idea of the present translation of the Orlando Innamorato,which, I should observe, is intended to be auxiliary to that, myfirst and greater undertaking, though I need scarcely say, thatthe story of Boiardo is a necessary prologue to the poem ofAriosto.

It was my intention to have translated the first mentioned work,exactly upon the model adopted by Tressan in his version of theFrench romances, a scheme afterwards executed with so much bettersuccess, by my late excellent friend, Mr. George Ellis, in hisEnglish work of the same description. A further consideration ofthe subject, however, induced me to imitate them only in theirgeneral plan of illustrating a compendious prose translation byextracts, without seeking to add poignancy to this, by what mightgive a false idea of the tone of my original. I recollected that Istood in a very different predicament from that of either of theseauthors; that, to compare my work with the one, which is mostlikely to be familiar to my readers, the 'Specimens of earlyEnglish Romances,' the originals are composed in a spirit ofgravity which can hardly be confused with the gay style of thetranslator, and therefore nobody can be misled by the vein ofpleasantry which runs through Mr. Ellis's work, and which is sureto be exclusively ascribed to the author of the Rifacimento.This, however, would possibly not be the case with me, as theInnamorato is in a great measure a humourous work, of which Imight give a false impression, by infusing into it a differentspecies of wit, from that which distinguishes it;—aconsideration which induced me to adopt the scheme I have pursuedin the following sheets.

This project is to give a mere ground-plan of the Gothic edificeof Boiardo, upon a small scale, accompanied with some elevationsand sections of the chambers; which I have sought to colour aftermy original: or, (to speak more plainly,) the reader is to lookfor the mere story in my prose abridgement, while he may form somenotion of its tone and style, from the stanzas with which it isinterspersed.

The story indeed, which seems most likely to interest theEnglish reader, is that which took a strong possession of theimagination of Milton, who refers with more apparent enthusiasm tothe Innamorato, than to the Furioso, and whose apparentpreference is justifiable, if a richer stream of invention, andmore consummate art in its distribution, are legitimate titles toadmiration.

In this latter qualification more especially, Boiardo, howeverinferior as a poet, must be considered as a superior artist toAriosto; and weaving as complicated a web as his successor, it iscurious to observe how much he excels him as a story-teller. Thetales, indeed, of Ariosto, (and the want of connexion among theseis, in my eyes, his most essential defect) are so many looseepisodes, which may be compared to parallel streams, flowingtowards one reservoir, but through separate and independentchannels. Those of Boiardo, on the contrary, are like waters,that, however they may diverge, preserve their relation to theparent river, to which their accession always seems necessary, andwith which they reunite, previous to its discharging its contentsinto their common resting-place. A short example may serve toillustrate what I have laid down. A damsel in the Innamoratorelates to Rinaldo the adventures of two worthies named Iroldo andPrasildo, a narration which is interrupted, and which, though goodin itself, at first appears to be an insulated episode. Rinaldo,however, afterwards falls in with Iroldo and his friend; and thishistory, thus resumed, unites itself naturally with that of thepaladin. It is thus that all the stories are dove-tailed one intothe other, and form a mosaic, as striking from the nice union ofits parts, as from the brilliancy of its colours.

Boiardo's art, though here indeed he cannot be said to excelAriosto, is as conspicuous also in the direction of the strangeunder-current of allegory which pervades his poem, as it is in thedistribution of his stream of story; while the sort of esotericdoctrines conveyed by it, gives a mysterious interest even to whatwe imperfectly comprehend.

Such indeed is the case with many of the fables of the Odyssey,and even of the Iliad; where the allegory, moreover, is alwayssubservient to poetry, and poetry is never made subservient toallegory. This remarkable piece of judgment in the Greek poet has,I think, been well imitated both by Boiardo and Ariosto, and it isthe neglect of this principle which has made allegory so oftenoffensive in the Faery Queene of Spenser. The obtrusive natureof this has been well compared by Mr. George Ellis, in hisSpecimens of the early English poets, to a ghost in day-light. Itis, moreover, destructive to all character; for Spenser's heroesbeing mere abstract personifications of some virtue or vice, wealmost always know what they are to do, though their actions areoften unnatural, if considered as the actions of human beings.Hence it is that we are never entertained with pictures of mannersin the Faery Queen, while these form one of the great charms ofthe poems with which I am contrasting it.

It may however be said with justice, that we are to ascribe thismore picturesque effect of allegory, rather to the spirit of theage than to that of the fabulist. For it is perhaps true that allearly fable is purely allegorical; that this is by degrees mixedup with other circumstances, and it is in this mixed characterthat it is most conducive to poetical effect. But in a later ageand later process of refinement, when there is a greater tendencyto abstract, allegory is stript of her adventitious ornaments, andis at last forced upon us in poetry, painting, and sculpture,unveiled, or unencompassed by that sort of pleasing halo which isnecessary to give her effect.

But whether we are to ascribe Boiardo's success in this particularto the character of his age, or to his own superior judgment,there is, I think, no doubt about the fact, and there is, I think,as little difficulty in conceding to my author, upon othergrounds, the praise of skill in executing the singular work ofwhich he was the architect.

This extraordinary man was Matteo Maria Boiardo, count ofScandiano, and a native of Reggio in the Modenese, who flourishedin the beginning of the sixteenth century. These are circumstancesthe more worthy of mention, as some of them tend to explain whatmay seem most strange in the composition of the Innamorato; suchas the provincial character of the diction, and more especiallythat careless and almost contemptuous tone between jest andearnest, which distinguishes his poem. It is doubtless on thisaccount that Ugo Foscolo observes, in an ingenious critique on theItalian romantic poets, in the Quarterly Review*, that he tellshis story in the tone of a feudal baron; thus applying to him morejustly what M. de Balzac has objected to another; of whom he says,"qu'il s'est comporté dans son poëme comme un prince dans sesétats. C'est en vertu de cette souverainté qu'il ne reconnoitpoint les lois, et qu'il se met au dessus du droit commun."

* In an article purporting to be a review of Whistlecraft'spoem, (now entitled The Monks and Giants,) and The Court andParliament of Beasts.

After speaking of the mode in which he arranged his work, it is anatural transition to the substance with which Boiardo built. Thisshews strong internal evidence* of having been taken, in the main,from the old French romances of Charlemagne, or rather fromItalian works, raised upon their foundation. Hoole mentions one ofthese, called Aspramonte, &c., of uncertain date, and we havethe titles of two others, which were anterior to the Innamorato,one called Li fatti di Carlo Magno e dei Paladini di Francia,printed in 1481; the other printed in 1491, and entitled LaHistoria real di Francia, che tratta dei fatti dei Paladini e diCarlo Magno in set libri. Some indeed would seem to deny thatBoiardo had dug in these mines, and would wish us to believe, thathe not only compounded but manufactured the materials with whichhe wrought. Such at least would appear to have been the drift ofone, who observes that Agramant, Sacripant and Gradassso werenames of certain of the vassals of Scandiano. But if he means toinsinuate by this, that Boiardo was not also indebted to the othersource for his fictions and characters, as well might a critic ofto-day, contend that the author of the Monks and Giants, whowrites under the name of Whistlecraft, had not borrowed the ideaof their cause of quarrel from Pulci, because he has givenridiculous modern names to some of his giants; or that he had nottaken the leaders amongst his dramatis personæ from the romancesof the Round Table, because he has conferred "two leopards'faces," that is, his own arms, on the single knight, who perishesin Sir Tristram's successful expedition.

* A single circumstance, which I cite, because it can beappreciated by every body, would convince me that such stories asare to be found in the Innamorato, were not the growth ofBoiardo's century. No author of that age could have imagined thefriendly ties of alliance and consanguinity between Christians andpaynims, though such fictions are justified by facts: thus welearn from Gibbon that like relations existed between Greeks andTurks, and (as we are informed by Mr. Lockhart, in the preface tohis Spanish Ballads, a work which presents a striking picturesof manners as of passion) between Spaniards and Moors. Nor needsuch things surprise us, though the barriers which now separateChristian and Mahomedan, render them impossible. Nations are likeindividuals, and when they are brought into close and constantintercourse, of whatever kind, their passions, good or bad, mustbe kindled by the contact.

But if Boiardo has apparently taken his principal fictions fromthe romances of Charlemagne, he has also resorted to other knownquarries, and ransacked classical as well as romantic fable formaterials.

This edifice, so constructed, which Boiardo did not

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