Luigi Puli The Morgante Maggiore

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Appendix: the partial translation of John Herman Merivale, compared with Byron’s.

Merivale: Morgante had a rustic palace made

Of sticks, earth, leaves, in his own barbarous way,

And here at ease his mighty members laid,

Securely guarded, at the close of day.

Orlando knocked; the giant, fore dismay’d,

Waked from the heavy sleep in which he lay;

And, when he open’d, like a thing astound,

Scared by a frightful dream, he gazed around.

Byron: Morgante had a palace in his mode,

Composed of branches, logs of wood, and earth,

And stretch’d himself at ease in this abode,

And shut himself at night within his birth.

Orlando knock’d, and knock’d, again to goad

The giant from his sleep; and he came forth,

The door to open, like a crazy thing,

For a rough dream had shook him slumbering.

Merivale: He thought s furious serpent had assail’d him;

And, when to Mahound for relief he pray’d,

That nought his Pagan deity avail’d him;

But, when Christ’s holy name he called for aid,

Straightway the serpent’s wonted fury fail’d him.

Waked from his dream, towards the door he made –

“Who knocks?” with rough and grumbling voice he cried.

“Soon shalt thou know –” the Paladin replied.

Byron: He thought that a fierce serpent had attack’d him,

And Mahomet he call’d, but Mahomet

Is nothing worth, and not an instant back’d him;

But praying blessed Jesu, he was set

At liberty from all the fears which rack’d him; 325

And to the gate he came with great regret –

Who knocks here?” grumbling all the while, said he:

“That,” said Orlando, “you will quickly see.

Merivale: “I come to make thee, as I have before

Thy brothers, for thy sins do penitence;

Sent by those monks unfortunate and poor,

And guarded by celestial Providence.

Your wicked hands have long assail’d them fore,

And now Heaven’s justice waits on your offence.

Know, that already, as the marble cold,

Lie Passamont and Alabaster bold.

Byron: “I come to preach to you, as to your brothers,

Sent by the miserable monks – repentance; 330

For Providence divine, in you and others,

Condemns the evil done my new acquaintance.

’Tis writ on high – your wrong must pay another’s;

From heaven itself is issued out this sentence;

Know then, that colder now than a pilaster 335

I left your Passamont and Alabaster.”

Merivale: “Oh Knight,” Morgante said, “Oh gentle knight,

By thine own God, I charge thee, tell me fair,

Rede me in courtesy thy name aright,

And, if a Christian, oh the truth declare!”

Orlando answer’d, “By this holy light,

And by my faith (a sacred oath) I swear,

Christ I adore, my master just and true –

Serve him thyself; and all thy crimes eschew.” (Monthly Magazine, July 1st

1906, pp.511-2)


Byron: Morgante said, “O gentle cavalier!

Now by thy God say me no villany;

The favour of your name I fain would hear,

And if a Christian, speak for courtesy.” 340

Replied Orlando, “So much to your ear

I by my faith disclose contentedly;

Christ I adore, who is the genuine Lord,

And, if you please, by you may be adored.”

Merivale: Into a secret cabinet they came,

With antient armour piled upon the ground.

“All these,” the Abbot said, “my friend may claim.”

Morgante views them all, and handles round;

But nothing seem’d to suit his giant frame,

Save one old coat of mail with rust embrown’d.

Much does he wonder, when the mail he tries,

To find it fit exactly to his size.

Byron: And in a certain closet, where the wall

Was cover’d with old armour like a crust,

The abbot said to them, “I give you all.”

Morgante rummaged piecemeal from the dust

The whole, which, save one cuirass, was too small,

And that too had the mail inlaid with rust.

They wonder’d how it fitted him exactly,

Which ne’er has suited others so compactly.

Merivale: This cuirass once a monstrous giant wore,

Within the precincts of the abbey slain

By Milo, great Angrante’s chief of yore,

(Unless the story I have heard be vain.)

The pictur’d walls the whole adventure bore,

How their huge foe was humbled on the plain;

The cruel war he waged was there display’d

And there was Milo’s knightly form pourtray’d.

Byron: ’Twas an immeasurable giant’s, who

By the great Milo of Angrante fell

Before the abbey many years ago.

The story on the wall was figured well;

In the last moment of the abbey’s foe,

Who long had waged a war implacable:

Precisely as the war occurr’d they drew him,

And there was Milo as he overthrew him.

Merivale: This painted story when the count beheld,

With wonder he survey’d the varied scene,

How Milo there arriv’d, and how he quell’d

The mighty giant fearful and obscene.

His heart with tender recollections swell’d,

And, as he read, the tears gush’d forth between.

For never till that moment did he hear

This noble action of the reverend Peer. (Monthly Magazine, July 1st 1906,



Byron: Seeing this history, Count Orlando said

In his own heart, “Oh God! who in the sky

Know’st all things, how was Milo hither led?

Who caused the giant in this place to die?”

And certain letters, weeping, then he read,

So that he could not keep his visage dry,

As I will tell in the ensuing story.

From evil keep you the high King of Glory!

1All Pulci quotations are from Luigi Pulci, Morgante, ed. Franca Ageno, Ricciardi (1955). There are discussions of the styles of Pulci and Byron in Lord Byron as a Satirist in Verse by Claude M. Fuess (New York 1912) pp.144-55; in the introduction to R.D.Waller’s edition of Frere’s The Monks and The Giants (Manchester 1926); by Lindsay Waters in two articles, The ‘Desultory Rhyme’ of Don Juan: Byron, Pulci and the Improvisatory Style, ELH 45 (1978) pp.429-42, and Pulci and the Poetry of Byron: “Domestiche Muse”, Annali d’Italianistica 1 (1983) pp.44-8. I am grateful to David Woodhouse for bringing this volume to my attention: it has a very full bibliography, in which Mark Davie, Pulci’s Margutte Episode Re-Examined, Italian Studies 33 (1978) pp.29-55, is the most immediately relevant article. Other books I have found useful are Luigi Pulci: Morgante, The Epic Adventures of Orlando and his Giant Friend Morgante, tr. Joseph Tusiani, int. and notes by Edoardo A. Lèbano, Indiana University Press, 1998; Luigi Pulci and the Morgante Maggiore by Lewis Einstein (Berlin 1902) The Skeptics of the Italian Renaissance by John Owen (1908, reprinted Kennikat Press, Port Washington 1970) and Luigi Pulci and the Animal Kingdom by J.R.Shulters (Baltimore 1920).

: Jacob Burckhardt, The Civilisation of the Renaissance in Italy, Penguin 1990, p.305. Burckhardt has a good section on Margutte at pp.315-16.

2I am most grateful to Fran Waterhouse for help with the Italian, and to Peter Davison for his linguistic expertise, and the excellent quality of his pasta. The following abbreviations apply below: BLJ:Byron’s Letters and Journals, ed. Marchand.

: Byron, rough draft of Don Juan Canto III Stanza 45: Manuscripts of the Younger Romantics, Byron II, ed. McGann and Levine, Garland 1985, p.198.

3: Byron, fair copy of Don Juan Canto III Stanza 45: third side of third double-folio sheet: Sterling Library, London University, Catalogue No. M.S. [SL] V 7.


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