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CANTO VENTESIMOQUARTO

Love is like -- would you believe, bird lime?
You stick your foot in it, your little toe,
and then you find that there is no way to climb
out of it. It's madness, as wise men know.
Orlando's case is extreme, but all the time
such frenzies are acted out for us in a show
that is funny or depressing. It's quite clear
that forgetting yourself for love is way beyond queer.

The effects of this derangement vary a lot
although the cause is the same. It's a foray
into a dark forêt where the path is not
marked at all, and one guesses and gropes one's way,
up or down, left or right, and he's got
a dismal suspicion that he has gone astray.
And the longer he stays, the worse he's going to get,
until he needs restraints or an oubliette.

I anticipate what you're likely to say to me,
"Physician, heal thyself," or some such thing.
How can I criticize others when as you see
I have been stricken too, and have felt the sting
of the poison dart? But even so there can be
lucid moments in which I can hope to bring
truth to the fore. And heed it myself, or try,
for as it is said, "Once bitten, but twice shy."

As I was saying, my Lord, Orlando was
absolutely furioso. He had
pulled off his armor (not every madman does
this, but then his case was extremely bad).
He’d thrown away his sword, as splendid as
any in the world. And, being mad,
he was causing general havoc and pulling up trees.
It's painful for me even to do this reprise.

There were certain shepherds (that's the phrase,
I do believe) who followed after a star,
but that not all stars are good should not amaze
sophisticated people. There they are
approaching this lunatic whose violent ways
terrify them, and they run as fast and as far
as they can, but he is faster than they and he
catches one and rips his head off. (Dear me!)

He then picks up the lifeless trunk by the shin
and swings it about like a mace or club to beat
two others cruelly to death -- to languish in
hope of mercy on Judgment Day. The fleet
do not look back to witness what has been
going on, but run away. (Oh, feet,
don't fail me now!) And they are indeed gone,
faster and farther than any marathon.

He would have continued after them except
that he was distracted by the herds and flocks
that, for their livelihood, these peasants kept.
From treetops, roofs, and steeples of churches, it shocks
the men to see his rampage as he swept
through pastures and barnyards that were their stock's
sanctuaries. He rips them limb from limb
in the senseless bloodlust that has come over him.

Only the fastest horses escape, and from
the neighboring villages there are horns and bells.
Whenever there's a disaster that has come
upon them, this noise summons from hills and dells
farmers to help however they can. There are some
with spears or pruning hooks or whatever else
could serve as a weapon. All together they can
counter attack against this crazy man.

Sometimes on a beach when the South Wind blows
the waves come in to break on the salt-rimed shore
and as they come their size apparently grows
so that the second is larger and much more
forceful than the first, and each of those
that follows is yet larger. I suppose
one could compare the men who stream from their farms
to those waves as they hurry, responding to these alarms.

But Orlando is like a surfer and he delights
in these human waves -- he kills the first ten men
whom he can grab, and then he turns and fights
and maims and savagely kills another ten.
The farmers hesitate for this affrights
even the boldest, particularly when
they realize that neither arrow nor knife
can penetrate his skin or touch his life.

The King of Heaven had given him this rare
and splendid gift so he could be the guard
of the Holy Faith. It wasn't right or fair
but even here with innocent farmers the hard
skin protected him. (He didn't care
or even know he couldn't be hurt or scarred.)
At any rate, the crowd was running away
and Orlando had to look for other prey.





Lacunae
The Missing Cantos & Stanzas of Ariosto's Orlando Furioso
a new verse translation
by David R. Slavitt
600 pages


$18.95 paperback
ISBN 9781937402259


Lacunae
The Missing Cantos & Stanzas
of Ariosto's Orlando Furioso
a new verse translation
by David R. Slavitt
600 pages

$18.95 print ISBN 978193740280




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