« PreviousContinue »
Pulci, Luigi, an Italian poet; born at Florence, December 3, 1432; died 1487 (?). His greatest work is the romantic epic “Il Mor. gante Maggiore” (first printed 1481). He wrote also some stories. His life seems to have had no importance in the political history of his times; but in literature he prepared the way for Berni and for Ariosto, and established for himself a firm position as the author of “Il Morgante Maggiore" (Morgante the Giant), a burlesque epic in twenty-eight cantos. He was a warm friend of Lorenzo de' Medici, the Magnificent, — whose mother, Lucrezia Tornabuoni, he says, urged and inspired him in the composition of this work. The romances of Carlovingian chivalry had acquired at the time wonderful popularity in Italy; by which popularity Pulci was half mad. dened, half amused. With infinite delight he gave his mocking imagination free play; and in “Il Morgante Maggiore” he turns into good-natured ridicule the combats and exploits which form the scheme of the mediæval epic.
THE CONVERSION OF THE GIANT MORGANTE,
(From “ Il Morgante Maggiore.")
Ever some bar 'gainst our intents to bring.
Orlando ruled court, Charles, and everything;
To vent his spite, that thus with Charles the King
Orlando too presumptuously goes on.
Hamo and Otho, Ogier, Solomon,
But he has too much credit near the throne;
« 'T is fit my grandeur should dispense relief,
So that each here may have his proper part, For the whole court is more or less in grief :
Perhaps thou deem'st this lad a Mars in heart? " Orlando one day heard this speech in brief,
As by himself it chanced he sat apart: Displeased he was with Gan because he said it, But much more still that Charles should give him credito
And with the sword he would have murdered Gan,
But Oliver thrust in between the pair, And from his hand extracted Durlindan,
And thus at length they separated were. Orlando, angry too with Carloman,
Wanted but little to have slain him there; Then forth alone from Paris went the chief, And burst and maddened with disdain and grief. ...
Then full of wrath departed from the place,
And far as pagan countries roamed astray, And while he rode, yet still at every pace
The traitor Gan remembered by the way; And wandering on in error a long space,
An abbey which in a lone desert lay, 'Midst glens obscure and distant lands, he found, Which formed the Christian's and the pagan's bound.
The abbot was called Clermont, and by blood
Descended from Angrante; under cover Of a great mountain's brow the abbey stood
But certain savage giants looked him over:
And Alabaster and Morgante hover
The monks could pass the convent gate no more,
Nor leave their cells for water or for wood. Orlando knocked, but none would ope, before
Unto the prior it at length seemed good; Entered, he said that he was taught to adore
Him who was born of Mary's holiest blood, And was baptized a Christian; and then showed How to the abbey he had found his road.
Said the abbot, “You are welcome; what is mine
We give you freely, since that you believe With us in Mary Mother's son divine;
And that you may not, cavalier, conceive
To be rusticity, you shall receive
66 When hither to inhabit first we came,
These mountains, albeit that they are obscure, As you perceive, yet without fear or blame
They seemed to promise an asylum sure; From savage brutes alone, too fierce to tamne,
'T was fit our quiet dwelling to secure; But now, if here we'd stay, we needs must guard Against domestic beasts with watch and ward.
“ These make us stand, in fact, upon the watch;
For late there have appeared three giants rough: What nation or what kingdom bore the batch
I know not; but they are all of savage stuff.
You know they can do all — we are not enough:
“ Our ancient fathers living the desert in,
For just and holy works were duly fed ;
That manna was rained down from heaven instead :
Our bounds, or taste the stones showered down for bread, From oft yon mountain daily raining faster, And flung by Passamont and Alabaster.
« The third, Morgante, 's savagest by far: he
Plucks up pines, beeches, poplar-trees, and oaks, And flings them, our community to bury;
And all that I can do but more provokes."
A stone from one of their gigantic strokes,
“For God's sake, cavalier, come in with speed !
The manna's falling now," the abbot cried. “This fellow does not wish my horse should feed,
Dear abbot," Roland unto him replied: “Of restiveness he'd cure him had he need;
That stone seems with good will and aim applied.” The holy father said, “I don't deceive: They 'll one day fling the mountain, I believe."
Orlando bade them take care of Rondello,
And also made a breakfast of his own. “ Abbot,” he said, “I want to find that fellow
Who flung at my good horse yon corner-stone.”
As to a brother dear I speak alone :
“ That Passamont has in his hand three darts, –
Such slings, clubs, ballast-stones, that yield you must; You know that giants have much stouter hearts
Than we, with reason, in proportion just: If go you will, guard well against their arts,
For these are very barbarous and robust." Orlando answered, “ This I'll see, be sure, And walk the wild on foot to be secure."
The abbot signed the great cross on his front:
“ Then go you with God's benison and mine!” Orlando, after he had scaled the mount,
As the abbot had directed, kept the line
Who, seeing him alone in this design,
And promised him an office of great ease.
But said Orlando, “Saracen insane!
God, not to serve as footboy in your train :
Vile dog! 't is past his patience to sustain."
And being returned to where Orlando stood,
Who had not moved him from the spot, and swinging The cord, he hurled a stone with strength so rude
As showed a sample of his skill in slinging;
And head, and set both head and helmet ringing,
Then Passamont, who thought him slain outright,
Said, “I will go; and while he lies along, Disarm me: why such craven did I fight?"
But Christ his servants ne'er abandons long, Especially Orlando, such a knight
As to desert would almost be a wrong. While the giant goes to put off his defences, Orlando has recalled his force and senses.
And loud he shouted, “Giant, where dost go ?
Thou thought'st me doubtless for the bier outlaid : To the right about ! — without wings thou'rt too slow
To fly my vengeance, currish renegade !
The giant his astonishment betrayed,
Orlando had Cortana bare in hand ;
To split the head in twain was what he schemed. Cortana clave the skull like a true brand,
And pagan Passamont died unredeemed ; Yet harsh and haughty, as he lay he banned,
And most devoutly Macon still blasphemed: But while his crude, rude blasphemies he heard, Orlando thanked the Father and the Word, —
Saying, “What grace to me thou 'st given!
And I to thee, O Lord, am ever bound.
Since by the giant I was fairly downed.
Our power without thine aid would naught be found.