Orlando Furioso - Ludovico Ariosto. A translation into English by A. S. Kline. Published in entirety with illustrations by Gustave Doré - photographed and digitally restored from the Fratelli Treves edition (Milan, 1899).
Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533) was trained in law, later joining the household of Cardinal Ippolito d’Este, where he shared the patronage of the Cardinal’s elder sister, Isabella d’Este, the ‘First Lady of the Renaissance’, and a patron of Leonardo da Vinci, who sketched her portrait. During his time in the Cardinal’s employ, Ariosto wrote the epic poem for which he is famous ‘Orlando Furioso’ (or ‘Orlando's Frenzy’), first published in 1516, a final version being published in 1532. Dismissed by the Cardinal in 1518, Ariosto transferred to the household of the Cardinal’s brother, Alfonso Duke of Ferrara, where he distinguished himself in diplomatic roles.
‘Orlando Furioso’ is Ariosto’s continuation of Matteo Maria Boiardo’s unfinished romance ‘Orlando Innamorato’ (or ‘Orlando in Love’) which was published posthumously in 1495. Its setting is borrowed from the 11th Century ‘Chanson de Roland’, written in Old French, which tells of the death of Roland at the Battle of Roncevaux (Roncesvalles). Orlando is here an Italian version of Roland the Christian knight who, in the French epic poem, fights for Charlemagne in a battle between the Christian paladins and the invading Saracens. The historical battle in 778, was actually with the Basques, retaliating after the destruction of Pamplona by Charlemagne’s army.
Regarding Ariosto’s rhyme scheme, where the clinching couplet of each verse can be used to heighten the wit and reinforce the, often tongue-in-cheek, comments within the rest of the verse, the reader might note that it is the same rhyme-scheme Byron employed to great comic effect in ‘Don Juan’.
Published by Poetry in Translation.