Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The Beauteous Pair

From Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, Canto XXII, as translated by William Stewart Rose:
  But it behoves that, ere the rest I say,
  I Bradamant and good Rogero find.
  After the horn had ceased, and, far away,
  The beauteous pair had left the dome behind,
  Rogero looked, and knew what till that day
  He had seen not, by Atlantes rendered blind.
  Atlantes had effected by his power,
  They should not know each other till that hour.

  Rogero looks on Bradamant, and she
  Looks on Rogero in profound surprise
  That for so many days that witchery
  Had so obscurred her altered mind and eyes.
  Rejoiced, Rogero clasps his lady free,
  Crimsoning with deeper than the rose's dyes,
  And his fair love's first blossoms, while he clips
  The gentle damsel, gathers from her lips.
  A thousand times they their embrace renew,
  And closely each is by the other prest;
  While so delighted are those lovers two,
  Their joys are ill contained within their breast.
  Deluded by enchantments, much they rue
  That while they were within the wizard's rest,
  They should not e'er have one another known,
  And have so many happy days foregone.
  The gentle Bradamant, who was i' the vein
  To grant whatever prudent virgin might,
  To solace her desiring lover's pain,
  So that her honour should receive no slight;
  — If the last fruits he of her love would gain,
  Nor find her ever stubborn, bade the knight,
  Her of Duke Aymon through fair mean demand;
  But be baptized before he claimed her hand.

The story of Bradamant/Bradamante and Ruggiero/Rogero/Roger is my favorite part of the Carolovingian tales; when I was in high school I did a re-write of their story (based on the version in Bulfinch's Mythology) which I called The Unicorns. Bradamante is interesting, because she is a knight, and, indeed, the stories are all quite clear that she is one of the best knights in France (and Ariosto makes quite clear that she is the equal of her brother, Rinaldo/Renault/Renaud, who is among the creme-de-la-creme of Carlovingian knighthood). She has a magic lance that never fails to unhorse its target and a magic ring that nullifies all enchantments, but even when she doesn't have these things she is virtually always successful. She rides around like any other knight, usually rescuing maidens in distress; the ruffian-knights she unhorses are often quite put out when later they discover that they were outmatched in arms by a woman. However, she happens to fall in love with a Moorish knight, who is Roger. She ends up having to rescue him from the clutches of an evil enchanter (getting captured by enchanters is almost as common for these Carlovingian knights as losing their horses), and in the course of this quest she meets Merlin, or, rather, his spirit, who is in the care of a good enchantress named Melissa. Merlin prophesies her great destiny. She manages to free Roger, but unfortunately a hippogriff absconds with him and Roger ends up flying away to many adventures, leaving Bradamante once more to look for him. Roger ends up finally getting the hippogriff to stop, and when he does, he finds Astolphe/Astolfo, her English cousin, who having been kidnapped by a whale had become turned into a myrtle tree. It's a long story. Anyway, they get into a terrible situation with the enchantress Alcina; but Melissa comes along to the save the day. Both Roger and Bradamante are eventually captured -- by an enchanter, as it happens -- and Astolphe, who has lost his horse Rabican but found the hippogriff, comes flying in to save them. This leads to the scene above. Now, finally, they are able to express their love -- at least, as Ariosto carefully notes, "whatever prudent virgin might" -- and they definitely want to marry. But there is an impediment: Bradamante is a good Catholic girl, of course, but Roger is Muslim. However, Roger for a number of reasons is somewhat cool at this point toward Moorish chivalry, and Bradamante is, after all, not only an extraordinary knight but a beautiful woman, so he'll be baptized and they'll marry. Since the end of the book hasn't come yet, it turns out not to be that easy.


  1. Catherine Hodge9:20 AM

    Methinks a prudent virgin in the vein to grant whatever she might actually has a lot of leeway in this situation, given the length of relationship and intention of marriage. I like Ariosto's phrasing.

    When you say you were in high school, do you mean that you were assigned to rewrite the story? If so, I'd like to hear a bit more about your writing program at school. If you did it on your own, then kudos to you.

  2. branemrys9:46 AM

    I think you are quite right! Certainly Bradamante isn't a member of the 'no kissing before marriage' school of thought.

    For various reasons I had an extra slot on my schedule the last term of my senior year of high school, and took a creative writing class; there was some project or other -- I forget the details -- and because I liked Bulfinch's Mythology, and had always liked the Bradamant/Ruggiero storyline, I decided to do my own version of it. Like a lot of my projects, it turned out to be rather more massive than I had thought it was going to be.

    Because we moved around a lot, my English career in junior high and high school was quite complicated. In the first part of eighth grade, the English class was mostly creative writing -- it was excellently done -- then we moved and I spent the last half of eighth grade struggling to catch up in a course that was almost purely grammar and diagramming of sentences. Then the usual high school literature-focused courses, of which the best was that of my senior year; I was supposed to have been in AP English, but for various reasons it wouldn't fit into my schedule. So I ended up in the College Prep English course; and, as it happens, I actually liked that course better than I think I would have liked the AP course. (Despite being in the lower College Prep course, I was allowed to take the AP test, and as it happened I got the highest AP English exam grade in the school, to the bafflement of the AP English teacher who had no idea who I was and so didn't recognize my name.) But it was the same set of scheduling problems that led to the creative writing class. It was probably the easiest course of my entire schooling career, but it was fun. Looking back, though, it's a good thing I took it when I did. A lot of my short stories from the time turned on themes of violence (still do, actually) and human response to it. Given the heavy-handedness of any high school student writing on such subjects, I suspect that in the school climate that has arisen since I would have set off warning bells, and probably ended up being sent to the counselor out of worry for supposed violent tendencies. Temperamentally I was the least violent high school student imaginable; but these days people worry about such things far more than they did back then.

  3. Catherine Hodge11:26 AM

    Well, now that you're famous on the internet I bet your the AP teacher in high school drops your name at parties. :)

    You say, "The usual high school literature-focused courses", but I'm without a lot of frame of reference there. The writing work sounds delightful -- I still feel mostly self-taught in that regard, and I wish I'd had some good instruction in writing at a formative age, beyond the Voyages in English which were so popular with a certain stripe of Catholic homeschooler. What was the difference between College Prep and AP? 

    It is a mercy to be able to reference one's teenage writing without having to display it. When I was 16 and 17 I penned a few plays on Biblical themes for the youth group to perform -- a friend who was a musician wrote songs for them, and they were mildly popular. The awkwardness is that they're still being performed, these 17 years later. My 18 year-old brother (were we ever really that young?) just tells me, to my consternation, that my original effort is going up again this year, which is proof that no good deed goes unpunished. "The writing finger writes; and having writ / moves on..."

  4. branemrys12:21 PM

    I keep forgetting that you weren't public school. It's pretty straightforward. In ninth grade English we read James Fenimore Cooper's Last of the Mohicans, and wrote essays on it. And we read Romeo and Juliet and wrote an essay about it. And we had a choice of reading A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court or Wuthering Heights or Dracula and writing an essay about it. And in tenth grade, which was at a different school, it was mostly short stories and essays (Thoreau, etc.) and short poems in an anthology. And we wrote essays about them. Eleventh grade was similar. And then in twelfth grade, which was a different school, we read Hamlet, The Fountainhead, and Bless Me Ultima, and wrote essays about them. You could pretty much choose classics at random, have essay assignments and comprehension quizzes on them, and that's a standard high school English course, although they get varied by grammar, composition, and creative writing components according to the taste of the teacher.

    The ranks of the English program were, if I recall correctly: Remedial, Standard (I don't remember what this level was actually called), College Preparation, and Advanced Placement. The basic idea was that CP courses were supposed to be designed specifically to prepare you for college, while AP courses were supposed to be equivalent, to the extent possible, to college courses, since they were geared to preparing you for the Advanced Placement exams, which would get you college credit. Since I got the highest possible score on the AP English test, a 5, I started college with six out of nine required credits of English, so never had to take Freshman comp or anything like it -- my only college English course was an upper-level course on Chaucer. That was very handy.

    17 years is a pretty good run for a play. And, on the plus side, you know that even when 16 you could write youth group materials that couldn't be outcompeted by anything else, so you always have that career if you need it. ;)

  5. Catherine Hodge4:08 PM

    <span>" </span><span>you always have that career if you need it."</span>

    I know that the good Lord, in his mercy, will spare me from ever having to work with a youth group again! It's not the kids, necessarily; it's the parents.

  6. branemrys6:58 PM

    :) Yes -- I can imagine you getting attacked by parents for suggesting that it's sometimes OK for men and women to be alone together before marriage.

  7. Catherine Hodge7:36 AM

    You're more right than you know.

    There's a certain head-banging aspect to fighting the good fight against people so determined to make life harder than it has to be in their vain attemtps to build a firewall against sin. That's why Brendan doesn't post about evolution much anymore: one grows weary of graciously reiterating the same arguments against the same tired objections. 

  8. branemrys10:09 AM

    There's a phenomenon well-known to teachers -- after the sixth paper that makes the same mistake, you always have to remember explicitly that it's not one person making the same mistake over and over again despite your comments. Obviously you always know that in some sense, but if you don't explicitly bring it to mind, there's always part of your mind that's saying, "Dude, I already told you this!" Of course, teachers are paid to deal with it; it's a lot harder to deal with when it's a free service.

  9. Catherine Hodge12:10 PM

    I am not at all a Nice Person, but I find it politic to be careful in what I write since nothing ever truly goes away. I suppose it works, because even when I leave what I think is a biting comment I find, upon re-reading, that it's actually fairly mild. It also helps that most of our readers are well-intentioned. The recent spate of ignorance is due to the fact that my book review got picked up by a large orthodox aggregator. I'm unclear if some of the commentors even read the post, and that is something that irritates me no end. Gah.


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