How I Fell in Love with David R. Slavitt's Orlando Furioso

Orlando Furioso - Ludovico Ariosto, David R. Slavitt, Charles S. Ross

Bought after hearing an interview with the translator, David R. Slavitt (listen at the following link):


World Books Podcast: Of Naked Maidens and Sea Serpents (February 2, 2010)

The Italian Renaissance epic “Orlando Furioso,” was once a hot volume, at least among the literati, such as Shakespeare, and musicians, such as Scarlotti and Haydn. But Ludovico Ariosto’s long tale of knights and monsters duking it out largely dropped off the radar screen in the 20th century, though it was Italo Calvino’s favorite work of literature. Translator David R. Slavitt wants to rectify that with his English translation of the poem, the first in 30 years. World Books Editor Bill Marx talks to Slavitt, a veteran translator of over eighty volumes of poetry and fiction, about how his playful version reflects the giggly, surrealist mischievousness of the original.


I thought that, since I hadn't read more than excerpts in undergrad, I should try to read the entire work. Well, not really - let's just say the first half, since the entire text is even more massive than this version. Note this fact from the wikipedia page: "Ariosto's work is 38,736 lines long in total, making it one of the longest poems in European literature."

So at 658 pages this still isn't the complete poem. From the preface:

"What we have in this volume is slightly more than half of what Aristo wrote - primarily because the production costs of an enormous and unwieldy volume (or volumes) would have made for a discouragingly expensive book, which would have defeated my purpose of broadening Aristo's Anglophone audience."

I read a used copy which has been marked and underlined, with notes added here and there, by former owner Kate Miley (I think). Kate has won me over by the odd doodles and the random cartoon bear she sketched on the last page. At first I was rolling my eyes over the "lol" added here and there, but then I began to really get into the reading, and when I'd come to a "lol" I'd say to the book "I know, right?!" Because yes, there are some really funny moments. (And of course I had to quote them, see below.)

I should also note here that the earliest version of this came out in around 1516. So when you read the more modernized text of this version - the sentiments are still original and some wildly unusual for that time. (Here's the William Stewart Rose translation on Gutenberg, from 1823-31.)

So what's the book like? Hmmm, how to describe this to you...well, it's not like reading your average piece of 16th century poetic literature, not in this translation anyway. Think of this as a cross between a pulp novel, a comic book, a session of Dungeons and Dragons (where the DM has a great sense of humor), and a bodice-ripper romance that's heavy on the near-rape scenes (some of those made me wince, some made me say "oh great, not again" - because yes, it's a trope). In fact it's now inspired me to go read other translations just to see how others have translated some of these words. (Though I'm probably not going to get around to doing that anytime soon.)

I should add that I started reading this book during a particularly crappy time in my life, and I vaguely hoped that reading it might get my mind off of reality. But I was also expecting it to be a standard poetic epic that I'd have to work to understand what's going on - like, say, The Faerie Queene (which I still have not finished). I was actually trying to use it as Put Yourself To Sleep Reading at Bedtime. Instead I ended up reading it, enjoying it, and laughing every so often. And forgetting the crappiness I was in the midst of. Which I very much needed, and not at all what I expected from an epic. Also I'm the quietly-snickering-to-herself type more than laughing type - but I confess, I did laugh. So now I'm going to regard the book fondly just for helping me out. It gets a special bookshelf place. (After it's loaned to my father who's dying to read this translation.)

How much did I enjoy this read? Read the following quotes, and then the Reading Progress section. The amount I've bothered to quote is always a sign I'm having fun. For those wanting the quick version without having to read the HUGE amount of quotes - I think I quoted this book more than anything else I've read. Because I wanted a place to quick reference some of these lines. And then note how many stars I gave it.

IMPORTANT! My reaction is completely due to this particular translation. Having looked at one or two examples of previous translations - reading them would be a completely different experience.

(Not always copying the full stanza, just the funny and interesting bits. And to give you an idea of the read-ability of the thing.)


Canto II, 10
Rinaldo raises up Fusberta, which,
believe it or not, is the name of his broadsword.



Canto II, 11
She's fleeing from Rinaldo, and here he stands,
victorious, and no one is left to protect her.
Unless she wants to give in to his demands,
as, if she remains there, he would expect her
to do, she had better make some other plans
and leave at once, out of self-respect or
simply fear. She does not make excuses
but with a twitch of the reins of her horse vamooses.



Canto II, 58
The knight once more falls silent. You remember the knight
is talking to Bradamante. Those quotation
marks were reminders of this. But his story was quite
long, and during the course of his narration,
you may have forgotten the frame. But that's all right.




Canto II, 72
And there it is, easy as pie, although
why pie is easy is difficult to explain.




Canto II, 76 (last stanza before Canto III)
And then? Is this the end? But surely not.
The smaller twigs of the elm branch break her fall,
as you might have guessed, with all those pages you've got
in your right hand. So this cannot be all
there is. She doesn't die here, but just what
happens to her after this close call
that leaves her on the bottom, stunned and hurt so
we'll get to soon, perhaps in Canto Terzo.




Canto III, 67
"...the odds would still be against you, for that mad
necromancer inside that arrogant
steel castle of his rides about on that bad
hippogryph that flies in extravagant
aerial maneuvers. But worse, you'll find,
is his shield with which he can render his foes blind.


"when he uncovers it. And do not expect
that you can contrive some stratagem - to fight
with your eyes closed perhaps. ..."




Canto III, 77
She does not let him sit too close to her knowing
that he could rob her and then absquatulate.



Guinevere, a king's daughter, is accused of being unchaste and thus law decrees she will be put to death. Rinaldo thinks this is a bad law, even if Guinevere has slept with someone:


Canto V, 66
"If the same ardor moves both men and women
to the sweetness of love, it is unfair
that women should be punished for being human
once, while men are praised as debonair
for doing it as often as they can do. Man
and woman should be treated the same. I declare
that I mean, with the help of God, to right this wrong
that is so outrageous and has gone on so long."




Canto VI, 20
The island was like the one that Arethusa
lived on (it was Ortygia, I recall),
fleeing the river god. (You have to use a
book of myths to get these stories all
in order.) Let's say it was nice (and who's a
critic of islands anyway?) The small
island loomed much larger as they got lower,
and the hippogryph flew gentlier and slower.



Ruggiero must fight the "cruel giantess" Erifilla:


Canto VII, 3
Her armor, first, was set with gems of many
colors - rubies, emeralds, chrysolite.
She was mounted, not on a horse that any
person might want, but a wolf on which she'd fight.
Ruggiero took a second look at this when he
approached and wondered if she had trained it to bite.
And it wasn't a normal wolf but enormous in size,
tall as an ox, and with gleaming yellow eyes.




Canto VIII, 71
...He tries to focus his mind without
success and these notions, whirling about like perns
in a gyre, or, say, like moonbeams put to rout
as they bounce off the surface of water and one discerns
on the ceiling a dance of their tiny lights that are acting
as if they were terrified - it can be distracting.



Orlando wondering where Angelica is, and worrying about her possible rape (because her loss of virginity would be such a trauma for *him* because of course she belongs to him - all males in this story seem to have this attitude towards Angelica), among other dangers:

Canto VIII, 77
"And where are you now, my hope, my love, without
my protection? Do wicked wolves surround you,
their slathering jaws agape as they circle about
their prey? That delicate flower that I found, you
beautiful blossom the angels gave me. I doubt
that you can survive untouched, unplucked, your dew
still on those lovely petals. Or have they by force
taken you? I worry about that, of course.

"And if the worst that I can imagine has come
to pass, what can I wish for but a quick
death? O God, I pray to you to have some
mercy. Afflict me some other way, sick
crippled, blind, dishonored, deaf and dumb,
but spare her. Otherwise, I shall have to pick
some painful form of suicide." ...


Must give you three stanzas here so that you can see how fun Aristo is - what at first seems a pacifist rant then becomes something else in stanza 90. All about the modern technology of destruction - in this time period - the cannon.

Canto IX, 88
And neither is Orlando hanging around.
He departs, having taken but one
thing - that machine of fire, iron, and sound,
a weapon of mass destruction, that terrible gun,
which he does not want for his own use, having found
it to be unfair and unsporting: only a son
of a bitch would think to use it in a fight.
It isn't at all appropriate for a knight.

It ought to be destroyed, he thinks, to keep
anyone from ever making use
of it against men to kill and to estrepe.
He cannot think of any sane excuse
for it to exist, and he throws it into the deep
of the sea to make men and women safer, whose
futures will not be blighted by such an obscene,
inelegant, and dangerous machine.

He also finds it politically incorrect
in the way it makes a weak man equal to
the strongest, so that all rank and respect
are fundamentally threatened, for otherwise who
would know his place or observe the correct
distinctions? Civilization as he knew
it would be over, equality would reign.
The very idea gives our paladin pain.


I had no idea orc had so many definitions. In this case it's a sea monster:

Canto X, 101
Ruggiero, however, has his lance at the ready,
and with it he strikes the orc, a writhing mass
that is more a blob than a beast, except for the head he
is aiming at. Its mouth is a dark crevasse
with protruding teeth like a boar's. Ruggiero's steady
lance strikes at the forehead but he has
little success. It's as if he is striking blows
on granite or iron. It's perfectly otiose.


Hey look, it's more cannon ranting! And the devil is to blame!

Canto XI, 22
Had it been up to Orlando we would all
be much better off. But the cannon's cruel inventor
was the one who tempted Eve and contrived the fall
of mankind from the garden, the arch tormentor,
whose clear intention was that what we call
guns and cannons would one day re-enter
the world of men, in our grandparents' time or before
and would transform both society and war.

A hundred fathoms down it was, but some
necromancer raised it from the deep
and gave it to the Germans who learned from
repeated trial and error how to keep
from blowing themselves up. The curriculum
of the devil suited them well and with a steep
learning curve they rediscovered its use.
But secrets tend to spread and reproduce.

...And what this means is that anyone, high or low,
is the equal of anyone else. It has done away
with rank and order, and honor, and valor, too,
and the rabble are just the same as me and you.


Enchantress Melissa (one of the good ones) explains the castle that's a magical trap set by the villain Atlas - and in which the reader can see as a metaphor...:


Canto XIII, 49
She reveals his trick of intuiting the desire
of every person and offering just that
for which the man's or woman's heart is on fire,
but whatever it is, it's just out of reach, which is what
keeps them there, searching through the entire
structure for that voice they keep hearing but
can never quite locate. It is a quest
that can never succeed but from which they can never rest.



As if this wasn't long enough already, I wanted to back up my Reading In Progress Quotes from Goodreads, and this seemed the best place. Just so you know what you're in for beyond this point! (Some of these are repeats of ones above.)




"I've been Shadow Reading this for a few days and am having SO much fun that I can't put it down. (No matter how much I mean to keep up with books I'm reading for challenges!)"



08/11/2013 page 62    

"If the same ardor moves both men and women
to the sweetness of love, it is unfair
that women should be punished for being human
once, while men are praised as debonair
for doing it as often as they can do. Man
and woman should be treated the same."



08/11/2013 page 85    

"Canto V, 88: ...Rinaldo's aim was to take the fellow apart
which he pretty much did, for as the two knights passed,
he skewered Polinesso with his lance,
like a shish-ka-bob. (You've had one of these, perchance?)"



08/11/2013 page 88    

"Canto VI, 6: He hauled himself out of the water and, dripping wet,
made his way inland until he arrived
at the hut of a convenient hermit. (You get
such characters when you need them.)..."



08/11/2013 page 90    

"Canto VI, 13:
"Having decided this, he took a new
suit of armor (does the hermit stock this?), a shield,
and a horse he rather liked and thought would do.
The shield had a yellow-green chevron on a field
sable (which is black)."

--I am really loving the comments in parentheses!"



08/11/2013 page 100    

"Canto VI, 54: You think it's easy? No, it's very hard
to say nice things to a tree - about how its bark
is worse than its bite? You can't even send a card,
unless it has that recycled paper mark.
Ruggiero did what he could in that regard,
and then he asked for directions from the park
to Logistilla's realm."



08/12/2013 page 110    

"Canto VII, 11: "...Her hair is blonde and hangs in nonchalant curls."


- really enjoying the word choices here."



08/12/2013 page 110    

"Canto VII, 12: "...The design
of her nose is such that Envy itself cannot
imagine how to better the one she's got."

- this is describing the enchantress Alcina btw."



08/12/2013 page 110    

"Canto VII, 14:
"Her neck? Snow! Her cupcake breasts? Cream!"

- I may have made a snorting noise while reading this line..."



08/12/2013 page 112    

"Canto VII, 22
The game is fun, but even such delight
comes to its conclusion when the guests
disperse to their various chambers for the night
led by pages bearing torches to nests
of lively bliss. And Ruggiero is quite
delirious with all that this suggests -
he has the largest room, the softest bed,
and a mirror on the ceiling overhead."



08/12/2013 page 113    

"Canto VII, 24 -25
...But the night
drags on as it can, with time's elasticity
being something of which we are all aware.
Moments are months. And you can hear your hair
growing on your head. How long can it take
for her to get from her room to this one?"



08/12/2013 page 113    

"Canto VII, 26
...To be a little coy
is not only good for him but also amusing
for her as she imagines her new boy,
his energies, his appetites, his vigor,
which, with art can be made even bigger."



08/12/2013 page 117    

"Canto VII, 41
For such a knight to waste his days and years
in sluggishness and inactivity
and then - as anyone paying attention fears -
wind up as a rock or brook, or bush, or tree,
without a body or, as it appears,
even a soul would be good cause for tears.
Or would that soul survive somehow? Our poem
can't tell if it's in the xylem or the phloem."



08/12/2013 page 121    

"Canto VII, 55
His hair is slick with pomade and it reeks
of eau de quelquechose. (It's very floral.)"



08/12/2013 page 126    

"Canto VII, 78
...But ask yourself how unhappy you'd be if
you hadn't learned to control your hippogryph."


08/12/2013 page 132    

"Canto VIII, 21
...Let us therefore leave him on that shore,
wishing him well, but turning our eyes away
to something altogether different for
the sake of the poem. We'll go back to Scotland, say,
where Rinaldo - remember Rinaldo? - has been busy,
and ought to be doing well for himself. But is he?

- this is how the poet decides to leave off with one character's story (due to boredom) and skip to another."



08/13/2013 page 154    

"Canto IX, 17
How sturdy a ship looks in port, and then
how fragile it is when it puts out to sea,
as delicate as cut crystal goblets when
lovers quarrel and scream intemperately,
and start to throw things like some tragedienne
doing her mad scene."



08/13/2013 page 155    

"Canto IX, 19
All these old guys and maidens make it tough
to keep a story running in a more
or less straight line.

--It does seem like every other page a new maiden or a new old man pops out of the woodwork. This is probably the most self aware poem/book I've ever read."



08/13/2013 page 158    

"Canto IX, 34
...for each ill I now suffer I would be willing
to suffer a hundred more, to be had at
by wild beasts, or endure some other killing
entertaining to such a kakistocrat
as he was...

--Am also finding more interesting (unknown to me) words in this translation..."



08/13/2013 page 170    

"Canto IX, 79
...He raises his sword and hacks the king's helmet in twain -
to show white bone, red blood, and pale grey brain.

Oddly enough, he sits on his horse upright
for a moment or two until Orlando touches
him, and he falls over, as he well might
in his condition."



08/13/2013 page 176    

"On falling in love:

Canto X, 9
...The summit
of human emotion beckons to you now,
but avoid young men who are often callow and dumb. It
is like picking fruit - neither too ripe nor too green.
You're better off with something that's in between."



08/13/2013 page 182    

"Canto X, 34
...A mind flies free
and leaves the body behind when it suffers a shock."



08/13/2013 page 209    

"Aristo is VERY anti-cannon. Total rant is 7 stanzas:

Canto XI, 26
...Many brave lords and knights will find their rest
in the wholesale carnage of this new era in fighting,
so bloody and disgusting, but not exciting.

...Our battlefields are lakes of gore
because of this machine of metal and fire
that the devil was the inspiration for.
Let its inventor rot in hell. ..."



08/13/2013 page 211    

"Ruggiero has now bumped into his second naked woman of the day. (Or maybe it's been two days?) The last one he tried to have sex with after saving (and no, he didn't ask her if she was interested) - let's see how he treats this one. Oh and apparently you have to strip the woman naked before you feed her to the sea monster. But I somehow doubt the monster requires this."



08/13/2013 page 211    

"Oh wait, no, that's not Ruggiero - we're back to Orlando's story, I forgot. So now it's 1 naked woman for Ruggerio (and one near rape of Angelica) and 1 naked woman for Orlando. And now we'll see how Orlando treats said naked woman post-saving. Assuming he can defeat the orc/sea monster thing."



08/15/2013 page 219    

"Aristo "oogling a heroine" (Olympia) in writing (this is not the first time, mind you) (oh dear, I've caught Aristo's parentheses problem):

Canto XI, 67
...And her breasts! Oh, there was such perfection there
that all other women would envy and be sad
that theirs were not like hers. Beyond compare!
Snowy white, like cheeses on display,
with that cleavage in between them...(Look away!
And yet we can't.)"



08/15/2013 page 221    

"Canto XI, 74
in the empty houses where plenty of gowns remained
behind after their wearers had been fed
to the orc. (This should not have to be explained.)"



08/15/2013 page 223    

"Canto XI, 81
...Orlando walked the walk
and left it to lesser men to talk the talk.

Which reminded me of the 1970s tv show theme with the line: "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time." ...Damn earworm."



08/15/2013 page 223    

"Oh and earlier when I was wondering how Orlando would treat the naked woman he rescues? Turns out it was someone he already knew - funny how easy it is to bump into people that way. And he behaved himself. Amazing, since so few of the men in this book are able to do so around beautiful and/or naked women."



08/15/2013 page 229    

"Angelica plans to use a man as bodyguard (she's dealt with multiple attempted rapes so far) then dump him:

Canto XII, 23
...plans to return to India - and would bring
Orlando with her or Sacripant. She still
rejects them as suitors but as she is traveling
through so many cities and towns over the wide
expanse of the earth, she'd welcome a masculine guide."



08/15/2013 page 243    

"Orlando fighting, squishily:

Canto XII, 77
to left and right, he smites them, inflicting a wound
of lethal effect as he cuts a bloody swath
through their astonished ranks with a squishy sound.
Heads are lopped off, and arms, and they fly in the air
as if Death himself had come to visit there."



08/15/2013 page 244    

"Canto XII, 83
It is a vivid abattoir tableau."



08/15/2013 page 245    

"Canto XII, 87
Is he thinking what we are thinking that these
caves are good, eerie holes in the earth
and full of narrative possibilities?
Does he know he's in a story? Is it worth
asking such questions?"



08/15/2013 page 253    

"Isabella, yet another woman in the story that has to deal with near-rape, and by a man she (and her lover) had trusted:

Canto XIII, 22
"What kind of world is this, and how can it be
that a girl must always be deeply suspicious of men?""



08/15/2013 page 256    

"Canto XIII, 36-37
...It is fun
of the kind a brave youth might have if he had found
a nest of vipers sunning themselves and he
picked up a good sized rock with which to pound
them all into a disgusting pate. You see
one wriggle off in a hurry across the ground
but missing a tail..."



08/16/2013 page 272    

"Canto XIV, 16
Bavarte, Largalifa, Doriconte,
and Analardo too (great names for a cat!)
are there...

Long section listing all the new leaders in France's army (which goes on and on) - I appreciated the cat comment. Artisto also makes jokes on the length of this section."



08/16/2013 page 274    

"Canto XIV, 22
...Now Soridano passes by with the bold
soldiers of Hesperia. (All these names
are sure winners, I'd think, in Trivia games.)"



08/16/2013 page 277    

"Orlando's a man in black, though I'm vague on the precise cause of the grief (Angelica? war? something in the previous book/poem?):

Canto XIV, 36 his sadness thought it best
to show a black exterior that would label
him as a knight who grieved. It was to his liking,
and we can agree that it was very striking."



08/16/2013 page 279    

"Canto XIV, 44
...he will not
carry another sword (he promised then)
but the one Orlando carries that Hector fought
with long ago. It turns out, gentlemen,
that Durindana, which he is so eager for,
was used against the Greeks in the Trojan War."



08/16/2013 page 279    

"Canto XIV, 45
...there is a certain disdain in the man coming at
him without a sword, relying on blows
and jabs with a spear as against some dandiprat.

Which of course, makes you wonder what a dandiprat is."



08/16/2013 page 281    

"Mandricardo falls for Doralice. Problem, she's engaged, and he's just slaughtered her guards.

Canto XIV, 52
...He is caught in the nets of love! And one of his
first thoughts is that in this very sorry case,
weeping, if this is how she appears, what is
her face like when she's smiling? ..."



08/16/2013 page 281    

"Mandricardo and Doralice

Canto XIV, 53
A curious thing: the captor has become
the captive's captive. As the two stand there,
there almost seems to be a kind of hum
of complicated forces in the air
as the power of her domination transfers from
him to her."



08/16/2013 page 283    

"Mandricardo and Doralice

Canto XIV, 60
And would you believe? She starts at last to hear
what he is saying. Her terror fades. She knows
well how the game is played, for in her sphere
at court, that's what girls learn to do, I suppose,
at a very early age."



08/16/2013 page 284    

"Mandricardo and Doralice:

Canto XIV, 63
And what do you think happened that night between
Doralice and Agrican's son? Do you
think...? (Wink wink! Nudge nudge! Know what I mean?)
I'll let you imagine what you like. But it's true
that in the morning both of them were seen
to be somewhat more cheerful. And calmer, too."



08/16/2013 page 288    

"Angel Michael bumps into Discord:

Canto XIV, 79
He can recognize her at once by her strange cloak
of multicolored tatters that pell-mell
fall open at any breeze. Her hair is a joke,
partly plaited but partly loose as well
and falling on back and bosom in baroque
multicolored swirls in a fricandel
of styles and shades. She clutches in both her hands
writs, affidavits, complaints, and legal demands."



08/16/2013 page 288    

"And because I know someone else must be wondering: fricandel on wiktionary, or see wikipedia's frikandel - "a Dutch snack, a sort of minced-meat hot dog, developed either in 1954 or in 1958/1959 in the Netherlands.""



08/16/2013 page 289    

"Where to look for Silence:

Canto XIV, 85-6
..."Once, I'd have said the hall
of any Benedictine abbey. Or reading a book
in a library in the school where Pythagoras taught.
But in those places now, he wouldn't be caught
dead. He didn't abandon them but they
abandoned him. And now he hangs out with thieves,
lovers sometimes, and even killers who may
skulk about with him at night...""



08/16/2013 page 298    

"And now for some blood and gore from our poet Aristo:

Canto XIV, 121
moves along this convenient path to slay
one man after another, with zest and glee,
slicing open the top of a head to display
the brains (or else it's a monk's tonsure that could be
just a bit short). Arms and heads are flying
as what remains of their damaged trunks are dying."



08/26/2013 page 299    

"More gore!

Canto XIV, 124
"...Moschino? Stove in,
his head crushed like a grapefruit..."
A couple of stanzas listing who died and some telling specifically how. But this part made me stop to ponder whether people were regularly going around crushing grapefruit for some reason."



08/26/2013 page 299    

"Canto XIV, 126
"...They've fled, but there is more to do
at the inner wall to which the skimble-scamble
French are hurrying."

Where else you'll find skimble-skamble, which has more than one spelling. More here."



08/26/2013 page 305    

"Canto XV, 13-14
...So she gives him a book
he can keep by his side and into which he can look.
This clever volume comes with a complete
index that allows him to find at once
any particular subject, she he meet
one kind of spell or another. Only a dunce
would flip through the pages at random and in the heat
of the moment try to find the answer he hunts
for frantically."



08/26/2013 page 306    

"The wording on this one made me eyeroll, because how much more colloquial can we get:

Canto XV, 17
"They keep on keeping on until they reach



08/26/2013 page 308    

"Section here about the glory of the Spanish - fairy/sorceress tells of the future - and so we suddenly hear about Hernando Cortez and New Spain. Which I definitely did not expect."



08/26/2013 page 309    

"Canto XV, 28
"...And he will have also
in his campaigns a very helpful friend,
Andrea Doria. He'll be a godsend."

You might not have heard of that 16th century captain - but the name is familiar thanks to the sinking of the Andrea Doria."



08/26/2013 page 317    

"Canto XV, 61
He uses the giant then as a kind of valet
to carry his helmet and shield and other such
cumbersome paraphernalia (or do you say
valet, sounding the final T. It's much
preferred among those people who really may
have one, and it's a very classy touch).
At any rate, he carries stuff, and the crowd
express their awe and their admiration aloud."



08/26/2013 page 319    

"Comedy in fighting Orrilo - he can heal any wound he receives. After his head is cut off:

Canto XV, 71
"...He gropes around on the ground for a moment or so
and picks it up by the hair and with a small
neat gesture claps it back where it should go
on the open neck, from which it does not fall.
Fasteners? Glue? Nails? I couldn't begin
to guess. But it's there, and secure, and can even grin.""



08/26/2013 page 328    

"Canto XVI, 1
It's just a story, but lety me explain to you
how stories are not mere inventions but
pieces of real life, some painfully true,
that we manipulate. You have to cut
and paste a little, but that doesn't mean what you do
is mere persiflage and rodomontade. It's not."



08/26/2013 page 333    

"Canto XVI, 20-21 - Rodomonte:

...This spirited
warrior leapt the ditch and, in a burst
of energy, the inner wall to land
inside the fortifications. It was grand,
unless you were inside, in which sad case
it was terrifying - a guy in a lizard suit?
The citizens flee...

No,no idea what the lizard suit part is about. It sounds hysterical though."



09/09/2013 page 340    

"Canto XVI, 50
...The blade seems not to stop
at anything - oak, leather, quilted cloth
are nothing. It is a cannical's butcher shop,
and Rinaldo is fearsome when he's extremely wroth.
Miscellaneous body parts that drop
onto the ground in such profesion are both
exhilarating and disgusting. The battle's
background music is grunts and loud death rattles.

It's another one of those gore moments..."



09/09/2013 page 342    

"Canto XVI, 57
The sky grows dark as if a cloud were there
but the shadow is from arrows, dense overhead.

An example of a descriptive scene in few words."



09/09/2013 page 349    

"Example of unexpected humor:

Canto XVI, 83
His arrival turns out to be very timely indeed,
for Zerbino's haggis surely would have been
otherwise cooked.

No one expects a haggis!" 2 comments



09/09/2013 page 351    

"Canto XVII, 4
Evil rulers are worse than wolves for their
hungers are never satisfied. They feed
on flesh and treasure. Terror everywhere
flatters and delights them."



09/09/2013 page 354    

"Charlemagne telling off his nobles before he rushes into the fight himself:

Canto XVII, 15
Now there is only one of that tribe who destroys
our city. And what can he to do you that's worse
than death? Are you such frightened little boys?
Everyone dies. What's nasty and perverse
is dying badly, losing your nerve and poise
so that your names provoke contempt or a curse."



09/09/2013 page 355    

"In case you're tired of battle, never fear!:
Canto XVII, 17
But enough of this wretched violence. Let's turn away
from mayhem and killing and such depressing stuff!
Of burly wicked Saracens, I say -
and I think you will agree with me - enough!

I love it when the book worries I'll get tired of the story it's telling."



09/09/2013 page 355    

"So this knight named Grifon is so stupid that the woman he's in love with has convinced him that the man Grifon found her with is her brother - when actually the guy's her lover. The poem's author/narrator is equally "can you believe this guy?!""



09/10/2013 page 355    

"Made the mistake of sending my father (former lit prof.) some quotes from this (already posted here). He's so psyched to read it he was going to buy his own copy - I've convinced him to wait for me to finish and he can read my copy. Next time will remember to wait til I've finished the book before send the amusing quotes. Meanwhile must speed up and finish this!" 2 comments



09/11/2013 page 355   52.0%

"My father called to let me know that he's checked the 1970s translation he has of this - and it's really dull in comparison. And I definitely need to start reading this faster..."



09/17/2013 page 358    

"Story of the monster Orco, which is just like the Cyclops episode in the Odyssey. But still fun in this telling. (wikipedia)"



09/17/2013 page 363    

"Canto XVII, 49
"...Remembering this
my hair horripilates and I tremble."

Had to look that up, great word - horripilation: The bristling of the body hair, as from fear or cold; goose bumps.
(Another example of why this translation rocks.)"



09/17/2013 page 369    

"Canto XVII, 75
"You call yourselves Most Christian and claim to be
Catholics, but what does that mean if you go on killing
your brothers in Christ?
...We should all be spilling
the blood of filthy Arabs and Turks who
occupy it and Constantinople too."

The Take Back Jerusalem bit plus some anti arab sentiment. The poem's not all love and bloodshed."



09/17/2013 page 383    

"Canto XVII, 130 - Spoiler!

A talented liar, he thinks up some excuse
for not lingering longer. The king regrets,
but gives him gifts and documents, the use
of which we will see later on. And then he lets
him go. But I promise you that there will be news
of him again. Do not take any bets
that he'll get away scot-free. Such evil must
be punished if the world - or poem - is just."



09/17/2013 page 387    

"Canto XVIII, 9
"...Ah but I see no
reason not to get to the point and try
to show how in that scaly suit there could be no
way for the blows of lances hurled at him by
all these men together to penetrate
or hurt him, for its magic was so great."

--That's Rodomonte again, wearing what was called a lizard suit earlier. Apparently enchanted dragon (I think) armor."



09/17/2013 page 391    

"It seems slightly unfair that in the background the angel Michael has teamed up with Discord, Pride, Jealousy, etc. to attack the enemy and help out Charlemagne and company. But since Rodomonte apparently mowed down a chunk of Parisians and the military they need the help."



09/17/2013 page 407    

"Canto XVIII, 91
is much embarrassed at having caused such bother
and having been so wrong and wronged (but if on
matters of love, we were wiser and picked rather
likelier mates, then what would romancers riff on?).""



09/17/2013 page 409    

"Canto XVIII, 99
This is the maid Marfisa, a woman of great
valor who has often brought to the brow
of Orlando of Brava furrows and even sweat
and to Rinaldo as well. We should mention how
she never takes off her armor, early or late,
day or night, having taken an oath. But now
is not the time for that. She wanders here
and there, looking for knights - and for trouble, I fear."



09/17/2013 page 412    

"Canto XVIII, 109
I don't believe that I have to rehearse here
the story of what happened, for you have read
Orlando Innamorato, which makes it clear
what took place and no more need be said.

Why of course you've read the previous book in our series, right? (And I thought only modern authors did this.)"



09/17/2013 page 413    

"Canto XVIII, 113
"...With a swing of her sword she cuts off a head. (These details
are gory but some people like them best.)
Another head she smashes and then she performs
transradial amputations on several arms."

For those of you who like to read of female warriors - Marfisa is all about the bloodshed."



09/17/2013 page 425    

"Canto XVIII, 162
Maybe it was the Creator who had some pity
for his creations, for blood flowed on the field
in rivulets into pools and not very pretty
lakes in which the contents were half congealed.
There were eighty thousand corpses - a sizeable city
of dead men. In the skies the vultures wheeled;
the peasants came out to rob the bodies; and when
they left, wolves came to feed upon the men."



09/17/2013 page 433    

"Canto XIX, 2
If hearts were as easy to read as faces, we
would know of those in court who like to oppress
their underlings, and likewise we could see
the wisdom of those who wear humility's dress -
and the lord would exchange their lots so they could be
in their proper places. But pardon, I digress." 8 comments



09/17/2013 page 433    

"Canto XIX, 11 - Medoro, caught in enemy territory:

"Allow me to bury the body of my king.
I ask no quarter for myself. You may
do with my corpse what you like, but I should bring
the proper honors to my liege today.
For me? As Theban Creon, unpitying,
decreed for Polyneices.""



09/17/2013 page 436    

"So Zerbino is terribly impressed with the plea of Medoro to bury his king - because "modesty, the chivalric selflessness" are things he admires. And here I should mention that Zerbino is the son of the King of Scotland. Which always makes me pause to ponder how Scottish that name could actually be."



09/17/2013 page 438    

"Canto XIX, 20 Angelica sees Medoro:

She saw the wounded youth growing ever weaker.
When she heard the details of his story she
was smitten, she thought by pity, but the wreaker
of that pain was Love (as we know him to be).
Her haughty hardened heart was softer and meeker
as she saw the cost of his nobility
of spirit. And in addition to all of these
qualities, his looks did not fail to please."



09/17/2013 page 441    

"Canto XIX, 34
The nuptials over, they spend their honeymoon
right there in the herdman's cottage where they abide
for more than a month, and, morning, night, and noon,
they can't get enough of each other, now inside
and now outdoors by a brook they would commune.
It seems that neither can be satisfied,
nor their appetites for one another sated
in a passion that continues unabated."



09/17/2013 page 447    

"Canto XIX, 57
This part of the Syrian coast, the captain explains,
is owned by weird and murderous females whose
ancient laws put males either in chains
or else to death. For that brave soul who may choose
to escape this dismal fate, their law ordains
that he must fight ten men and never lose,
and if he succeeds at this, must show his might
by bedding ten of their maidens that same night."



09/17/2013 page 449    

Canto XIX, 65
They anchor the ship and six thousand women swarm
down to the harbor, all of them armed with bows
and spears. (For certain tastes this has some charm.)"



09/17/2013 page 451    

"Canto XIX, 73
The discussion among the knights seems to have stalled.
Which of them should attempt to perform the feats
of this biathlon? They're not quite appalled
but puzzled, say, when Marfisa says that the meets
are well within her competence. Is this a bald
lie? What has she planned for between the sheets?
If there is one who has guessed or who may think he
has the answer, hush! It's rather kinky."



09/17/2013 page 454    

"Canto XIX, 87
...She cleaves his skull lengthwise as in those cunning
figures of the head you find on stands
in doctor's office. The model explains
what the parts are from the skull inside to the brains."



09/17/2013 page 460    

"Canto XX, 2
Women have achieved in every art
and craft the highest distinction, and their fame
is great indeed. They're strong and they are smart.
Without them history couldn't have been the same.
I rather think it is envy on men's part
that keeps concealed the honor and acclaim
they have deserved. If their work is not taught in schools,
it is because men are jealous - or are fools."



09/17/2013 page 460    

"Canto XX, 3
In our own age, fair women of talent and
worth are everywhere and deserve that pen
and paper record their prowess and their grand
achievements, so that in the future, when
people study our times they will understand
the excellence of the ladies. Only then
will envious anti-feminist chatter at last
cease, as even Marfisa's fame is surpassed."



09/18/2013 page 491    

"Canto XX, 125 - Zerbino and Marfisa joust over old woman:

"Okay, okay," Marfisa agreed. "We'll trade.
The loser gets to keep her. And the winner
walks away. Your ardor for the maid
is minimal, it appears. Although her inner
beauty is great, as cannot be gainsaid,
on the outside she is rather a dog's dinner.
If you should lose to me you'll take her where -
ever she wants to go. Does that sound fair?""



09/18/2013 page 493    

"Canto XX, 134 - poet reminds us of Zerbino love life, which was many pages back:

...he was none
other than the man of whom the poor
Isabella had told her with many a moan
and sigh a while back in that cave. (And your
recollection, too, I think may need
some help, unless you remember all that you read.)"



09/18/2013 page 502    

"The old woman is Gabrina who was in love with a knight Philander (who refused her) so she falsely accused him of rape - very Joseph and Potiphar's wife - Gabrina's husband was Phil's friend. And then she triecked Phil into murdering her husband, and then escape with her. Then she had Phil poisoned. She is indeed evil, but Zerbino's stuck with her."



09/18/2013 page 511    

"Canto XXI, 60
"...With deadly poison (what other kind is there?)"

I love it when the poem asks the questions that I'm thinking."



09/18/2013 page 514    

"Canto XXII, 1 - apology to the reader:

You ladies, pleasant, courteous, and constant,
with but a single lover, let me say
that nothing I've written about Gabrina was meant
to apply to any of you in any way,
for few of you are like her. (One percent?)
I shouldn't like to displease you but, if I may,
I am obliged to resume my excoriation
of her as I return to our narration."



09/18/2013 page 518    

"Canto XXII, 16 - the excitement of an index in 1500s:

He sees that he's been in this room before and he
begins to understand that the palace might
somehow be enchanted. But fortunately
he remembers the book that Logistilla one night
in India had given him. There, you see,
were charms and magic spells an errant knight
might need to know about from wicked mages.
Its index sent him at once to the proper pages."



09/18/2013 page 521    

"Astolfo, a man torn between a newly found hippogryph to ride and Rabican, the horse who loves him. And whom he loves right back - and can't just leave behind with no one to look after. Multiple cantos on this dilemma. Horses get a lot of attention in this poem.

(Dore illustration of hippogryph from this book)"



09/18/2013 page 530    

"Canto XXII, 63 - back to one of the women in armor in our story (who seem to enjoy defeating pretty knights more than the rest):

Bradamante thought he was pretty and she
wanted to have the honor of knocking him off
his high horse.
...She didn't argue about this but would be
a spectator. She knew she would have enough
opportunity later, here or in town,
to display her talent for knocking strong men down."



09/18/2013 page 544    

"Canto XXIII, 20 - Bradamante sees her home in the distance:

...she sees Montalban - which would be very good
except that to go and visit her family will
delay her meeting with Ruggiero. Should
she stop to visit, they will detain her there.
She's in love, but will her family care?

---But then she meets her brother on the road and so she has to go home and not to meet Ruggiero. Poor thing."



09/18/2013 page 552    

"Canto XXIII, 52 - Gabrino falsely accuses Zerbino of a murder:

The morning dawns in particular splendor with blue
skies bedecked with yellow and roseate clouds,
but the mood of the streets is utterly black and you
can hear shouts of "Death to him" from the crowds.

But hey, at least it's a nice day for an execution." 3 comments



09/18/2013 page 571    

"Canto XXIII, 128 - many cantos of him upset over Angelica marrying another:

"I am not Orlando. He is dead
and buried. This is a ghost, a zombie, or
some wraith from the underworld whose heart it lead.
She did this to me, she! All you who adore
some maiden with your soul, listen instead
to my sad story of wretchedness and more
disgrace than I can describe."

And there's been LOTS of crying and wailing too."



09/20/2013 page 590    

"Canto XXIX, 42 - Orlando runs mad:

"...He does not look formidable for he
is going about in the nude. It would be politer
to put on pants, perhaps, but courtesy
seems not to weigh much with him. He's either tight or
out of his mind.""



09/20/2013 page 592    

"Canto XXIX, 52
"He's naked, he's crazy, his eyes are rolling, but he's still Orlando after all...
He does not deign to speak, but with his mouth shut
he gives them an answer as clear as clear can be,
kicking the donkey in the chest to send
it high in the air where it sails end over end.

The donkey flies about a mile away and lands on a hill."



09/20/2013 page 593    

"Canto XXIX, 57 - after Orlando rips someone in half:

"...Our Turpin heard
of his account and wrote of it - if you seek
authority for this, you have the word
of that Archbishop. (I would never sneak
fictions into this narrative but have referred
to the best and most trustworthy accounts that I
can find. Do I exaggerate? That I deny!)""



09/20/2013 page 595    

"Canto XXIX, 63 - As part of his insanity Orlando seems to be giving a lot of animals a hard time:

"...He punches Medoro's horse. It falls to the ground
instantly, dead as a stone."" 4 comments



09/20/2013 page 597    

"Canto XXIX, 71-2, Orlando and horse problem (she = the horse):

"...At length she drops and dies, but he does not
notice. He keeps on going at a trot.
What makes this strange is that he drags a dead
horse behind him.""



09/20/2013 page 598    

"Canto XXIX, 74 - an anti-Angelica bit, which is odd as she never pledged herself to Orlando, instead he and all other men assumed she belonged to them. But now it's ALL women are ungrateful:

"In or out of his mind,
he was right about their ingratitude for our
many services. see this often enough so it can sour
your outlook...""



09/20/2013 page 598    

"Canto XXX,4 - except now at the beginning of the next Canto our narrator apologizes about the anti-women rant.

"I say stupid things sometimes and am in as sad
case as Orlando nearly, but with less excuse
than he had, wandering Spain, utterly mad
and dragging a dead horse behind him, the use
of which escapes me, but we know he had
a distorted frame of mind and different views.""



09/20/2013 page 599    

"Canto XXX,9
"...They never seemed to object,
but then the dead very seldom argue with you...""



09/20/2013 page 608    

"Canto XXXIV,64 - another narrator aside about a bit of the backstory:

"...(the story of this is
in Orlando Innamorato, which you ought
to read one of these days)...""



09/20/2013 page 609    

"Saint John (who folklore claims never died) and Astolfo take Elijah's chariot to the moon. To find a cure for Orlando's madness. Because everything is completely logical after Orlando can suddenly punch a mule a mile into the distance."



09/20/2013 page 610    

"Canto XXXIV,72
"On the moon there are rivers and lakes and hills and dales
like those we have but different. And also towns
with houses and public buildings, but on such scales
as we are not accustomed to. He frowns
in amazement and concentration, for earth pales
in comparison. There are also woods and downs
where nymphs and fauns are hunting fierce moon beasts
and celebrating afterwards with feasts.""



09/20/2013 page 611    

"Canto XXXIV,75 - on the moon you can find many things people have lost; money, fame, vows, time, health, etc:

"...And books of ours
that we intended to study rather than taste.
Those can often be heavier losses than
material things in the life of any man.""



09/20/2013 page 612    

"Canto XXXIV,79
"There are also many ruined cities and ghost
towns in which one can still see much treasure
that someone has hoarded up and somehow lost.
...There are snakes with the faces of ladies of pleasure,
which are representations of counterfeiters and thieves
and of card sharps with aces up their sleeves.""



09/20/2013 page 613    

"XXXIV,85 - huge amount of flasks full of lost wits:

"...who down on earth can we suppose
has all his wits or, lacking some, may still
think himself totally sane? Nobody knows,
but clearly a lot of our reason is here to fill
these flasks on the moon. We have no idea we're sick
and everyone more of less is a lunatic.""



09/20/2013 page 622    

"XXXVI,37 - Bradamante vs Ruggiero

" they are advancing
with dangerous hardware as if they were two foes
instead of a couple who have been romancing.""



09/20/2013 page 629    

"After Astolfo hung out with Saint John on the moon he's somehow got this uber prayer power hotline to God. First he prays, rolls rocks down hill - and bam, they turn into horses. Later he does the same thing to turn leaves into boats to transport his army."



09/20/2013 page 641    

"XXXIX,51 - after mad Orlando hits Oliver in the head, suddenly it's a helmet commercial:

"I ought not to interrupt the narrative flow
but one must observe the value of having the best
helmet one can find. There would have been no
chance for Oliver otherwise. Invest
in excellent equipment before you go
off to fight.""



09/20/2013 page 643    

"XXXIX,58 - Orlando, cured of madness, has no idea what he's been up to:

"...He regrets
that he seems to be, for whatever reason, nude,
which strikes him as both indecorous and rude.""



09/20/2013 page 647    

"...while he still has his hand
on the gunwale it gets cut off. (I understand
the phrase "all hands on deck," in the light of this
grisly moment.) The rest of the body falls
into the water...""



09/20/2013 page 654    

"Canto XLVI,123
"Had the helmet not been magic, the sword would have cleft
it and the skull and the rider at one blow,
and maybe even the horse, and what would be left
would be two disgusting but matching halves but, no,
the magic worked."

Instead of rider I accidentally typed reader, which made the scene much more personal."