Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #13
THE ARGUMENT. Ismen from sleep awakes the Soldan great, And into Sion brings the Prince by night Where the sad king sits fearful on his seat, Whom he emboldeneth and excites to fight; Godfredo hears his lords and knights repeat How they escaped Armida's wrath and spite: Rinaldo known to live, Peter foresays His Offspring's virtue, good deserts, and praise. I A gallant steed, while thus the Soldan said, Came trotting by him, without lord or guide, Quickly his hand upon the reins he laid, And weak and weary climbed up to ride; The snake that on his crest hot fire out-braid Was quite cut off, his helm had lost the pride, His coat was rent, his harness hacked and cleft, And of his kingly pomp no sign was left. II As when a savage wolf chased from the fold, To hide his head runs to some holt or wood, Who, though he filled have while it might hold His greedy paunch, yet hungreth after food, With sanguine tongue forth of his lips out-rolled About his jaws that licks up foam and blood; So from this bloody fray the Soldan hied, His rage unquenched, his wrath unsatisfied. III And, as his fortune would, he scaped free From thousand arrows which about him flew, From swords and lances, instruments that be Of certain death, himself he safe withdrew, Unknown, unseen, disguised, travelled he, By desert paths and ways but used by few, And rode revolving in his troubled thought What course to take, and yet resolved on naught. IV Thither at last he meant to take his way, Where Egypt's king assembled all his host, To join with him, and once again assay To win by fight, by which so oft he lost: Determined thus, he made no longer stay, But thitherward spurred forth his steed in post, Nor need he guide, the way right well he could, That leads to sandy plains of Gaza old. V Nor though his smarting wounds torment him oft, His body weak and wounded back and side, Yet rested he, nor once his armor doffed, But all day long o'er hills and dales doth ride: But when the night cast up her shade aloft And all earth's colors strange in sables dyed, He light, and as he could his wounds upbound, And shook ripe dates down from a palm he found. VI On them he supped, and amid the field To rest his weary limbs awhile he sought, He made his pillow of his broken shield To ease the griefs of his distempered thought, But little ease could so hard lodging yield, His wounds so smarted that he slept right naught, And, in his breast, his proud heart rent in twain, Two inward vultures, Sorrow and Disdain. VII At length when midnight with her silence deep Did heaven and earth hushed, still, and quiet make, Sore watched and weary, he began to steep His cares and sorrows in oblivion's lake, And in a little, short, unquiet sleep Some small repose his fainting spirits take; But, while he slept, a voice grave and severe At unawares thus thundered in his ear: VIII "O Solyman! thou far-renowned king, Till better season serve, forbear thy rest; A stranger doth thy lands in thraldom bring, Nice is a slave, by Christian yoke oppressed; Sleepest thou here, forgetful of this thing, That here thy friends lie slain, not laid in chest, Whose bones bear witness of thy shame and scorn! And wilt thou idly here attend the morn?" IX The king awoke, and saw before his eyes A man whose presence seemed grave and old, A writhen staff his steps unstable guies, Which served his feeble members to uphold. "And what art thou?" the prince in scorn replies, "What sprite to vex poor passengers so bold, To break their sleep? or what to thee belongs My shame, my loss, my vengeance or my wrongs." X "I am the man of thine intent," quoth he, "And purpose new that sure conjecture hath, And better than thou weenest know I thee: I proffer thee my service and my faith. My speeches therefore sharp and biting be, Because quick words the whetstones are of wrath, -- Accept in gree, my lord, the words I spoke, As spurs thine ire and courage to provoke. XI "But now to visit Egypt's mighty king, Unless my judgment fall, you are prepared, I prophesy, about a needless thing You suffer shall a voyage long and hard: For though you stay, the monarch great will bring His new assembled host to Juda-ward, No place of service there, no cause of fight, Nor gainst our foes to use your force and might. XII "But if you follow me, within this wall With Christian arms hemmed in on every side, Withouten battle, fight, or stroke at all, Even at noonday, I will you safely guide, Where you delight, rejoice, and glory shall In perils great to see your prowess tried. That noble town you may preserve and shield, Till Egypt's host come to renew the field." XIII While thus he parleyed, of this aged guest The Turk the words and looks did both admire, And from his haughty eyes and furious breast He laid apart his pride, his rage and ire, And humbly said, "I willing am and prest To follow where thou leadest, reverend sire, And that advice best fits my angry vein That tells of greatest peril, greatest pain." XIV The old man praised his words, and for the air His late received wounds to worse disposes, A quintessence therein he poured fair, That stops the bleeding, and incision closes: Beholding then before Apollo's chair How fresh Aurora violets strewed and roses, "It's time," he says, "to wend, for Titan bright To wonted labor summons every wight." XV And to a chariot, that beside did stand, Ascended he, and with him Solyman, He took the reins, and with a mastering hand Ruled his steeds, and whipped them now and than, The wheels or horses' feet upon the land Had left no sign nor token where they ran, The coursers pant and smoke with lukewarm sweat And, foaming cream, their iron mouthfuls eat. XVI The air about them round, a wondrous thing, Itself on heaps in solid thickness drew, The chariot hiding and environing, The subtle mist no mortal eye could view; And yet no stone from engine cast or sling Could pierce the cloud, it was of proof so true; Yet seen it was to them within which ride, And heaven and earth without, all clear beside. XVII His beetle brows the Turk amazed bent, He wrinkled up his front, and wildly stared Upon the cloud and chariot as it went, For speed to Cynthia's car right well compared: The other seeing his astonishment How he bewondered was, and how he fared, All suddenly by name the prince gan call, By which awaked thus he spoke withal: XVIII "Whoe'er thou art above all worldly wit That hast these high and wondrous marvels brought, And know'st the deep intents which hidden sit ]n secret closet of man's private thought, If in thy skilful heart this lot be writ, To tell the event of things to end unbrought; Then say, what issue and what ends the stars Allot to Asia's troubles, broils and wars. XIX "But tell me first thy name, and by what art Thou dost these wonders strange, above our skill; For full of marvel is my troubled heart, Tell then and leave me not amazed still." The wizard smiled and answered, "In some part Easy it is to satisfy thy will, Ismen I hight, called an enchanter great, Such skill have I in magic's secret feat; XX "But that I should the sure events unfold Of things to come, or destinies foretell, Too rash is your desire, your wish too bold, To mortal heart such knowledge never fell; Our wit and strength on us bestowed I hold, To shun the evils and harms, mongst which we dwell, They make their fortune who are stout and wise, Wit rules the heavens, discretion guides the skies. XXI "That puissant arm of thine that well can rend From Godfrey's brow the new usurped crown, And not alone protect, save and defend From his fierce people, this besieged town, Gainst fire and sword with strength and courage bend, Adventure, suffer, trust, tread perils down, And to content, and to encourage thee, Know this, which as I in a cloud foresee: XXII "I guess, before the over-gliding sun Shall many years mete out by weeks and days, A prince that shall in fertile Egypt won, Shall fill all Asia with his prosperous frays, I speak not of his acts in quiet done, His policy, his rule, his wisdom's praise, Let this suffice, by him these Christians shall In fight subdued fly, and conquered fall. XXIII "And their great empire and usurped state Shall overthrown in dust and ashes lie, Their woful remnant in an angle strait Compassed with sea themselves shall fortify, From thee shall spring this lord of war and fate." Whereto great Solyman gan thus reply: "0 happy man to so great praise ybore!" Thus he rejoiced, but yet envied more; XXIV And said, "Let chance with good or bad aspect Upon me look as sacred Heaven's decree, This heart to her I never will subject, Nor ever conquered shall she look on me; The moon her chariot shall awry direct Ere from this course I will diverted be." While thus he spake, it seemed he breathed fire, So fierce his courage was, so hot his ire. XXV Thus talked they, till they arrived been Nigh to the place where Godfrey's tents were reared, There was a woful spectacle yseen, Death in a thousand ugly forms appeared, The Soldan changed hue for grief and teen, On that sad book his shame and loss he lead, Ah, with what grief his men, his friends he found; And standards proud, inglorious lie on ground! XXVI And saw one visage of some well-known friend. In foul despite, a rascal Frenchman tread, And there another ragged peasant rend The arms and garments from some champion dead, And there with stately pomp by heaps they wend, And Christians slain roll up in webs of lead; Lastly the Turks and slain Arabians, brought On heaps, he saw them burn with fire to naught. XXVII Deeply he sighed, and with naked sword Out of the coach he leaped in the mire, But Ismen called again the angry lord, And with grave words appeased his foolish ire. The prince content remounted at his sword, Toward a hill on drove the aged sire, And hasting forward up the bank they pass, Till far behind the Christian leaguer was. XXVIII There they alight and took their way on foot, The empty chariot vanished out of sight, Yet still the cloud environed them about. At their left hand down went they from the height Of Sion's Hill, till they approached the route On that side where to west he looketh right, There Ismen stayed, and his eyesight bent Upon the bushy rocks, and thither went. XXIX A hollow cave was in the craggy stone, Wrought out by hand a number years tofore, And for of long that way had walked none, The vault was hid with plants and bushes hoar, The wizard stooping in thereat to gone, The thorns aside and scratching brambles bore, His right hand sought the passage through the cleft, And for his guide he gave the prince his left: XXX "What," quoth the Soldan, "by what privy mine, What hidden vault behoves it me to creep? This sword can find a better way than thine, Although our foes the passage guard and keep." "Let not," quoth he, "thy princely foot repine To tread this secret path, though dark and deep; For great King Herod used to tread the same, He that in arms had whilom so great fame. XXXI "This passage made he, when he would suppress His subjects' pride, and them in bondage hold; By this he could from that small forteress Antonia called, of Antony the bold, Convey his folk unseen of more and less Even to the middest of the temple old, Thence, hither; where these privy ways begin, And bring unseen whole armies out and in. XXXII "But now saye I in all this world lives none That knows the secret of this darksome place, Come then where Aladine sits on his throne, With lords and princes set about his grace; He feareth more than fitteth such an one, Such signs of doubt show in his cheer and face; Fitly you come, hear, see, and keep you still, Till time and season serve, then speak your fill." XXXIII This said, that narrow entrance passed the knight, So creeps a camel through a needle's eye, And through the ways as black as darkest night He followed him that did him rule and guie; Strait was the way at first, withouten light, But further in, did further amplify; So that upright walked at ease the men Ere they had passed half that secret den, XXXIV A privy door Ismen unlocked at last, And up they clomb a little-used stair, Thereat the day a feeble beam in cast, Dim was the light, and nothing clear the air; Out of the hollow cave at length they passed Into a goodly hall, high, broad and fair, Where crowned with gold, and all in purple clad Sate the sad king, among his nobles sad. XXXV The Turk, close in his hollow cloud imbarred, Unseen, at will did all the prease behold, These heavy speeches of the king he heard, Who thus from lofty siege his pleasure told; "My lords, last day our state was much impaired, Our friends were slain, killed were our soldiers bold, Great helps and greater hopes are us bereft, Nor aught but aid from Egypt land is left: XXXVI "And well you see far distant is that aid, Upon our heels our danger treadeth still, For your advice was this assembly made, Each what he thinketh speak, and what he will." A whisper soft arose when this was said, As gentle winds the groves with murmur fill, But with bold face, high looks and merry cheer, Argantes rose, the rest their talk forbear. XXXVII "0 worthy sovereign," thus began to say The hardy young man to the tyrant wise, "What words be these? what fears do you dismay? Who knows not this, you need not our advice! But on your hand your hope of conquest lay, And, for no loss true virtue damnifies, Make her our shield, pray her us succors give, And without her let us not wish to live. XXXVIII "Nor say I this for that I aught misdeem That Egypt's promised succors fail us might, Doubtful of my great master's words to seem To me were neither lawful, just, nor right! I speak these words, for spurs I them esteem To waken up each dull and fearful sprite, And make our hearts resolved to all assays, To win with honor, or to die with praise." XXXIX Thus much Argantes said, and said no more, As if the case were clear of which he spoke. Orcano rose, of princely stem ybore, Whose presence 'mongst them bore a mighty stroke, A man esteemed well in arms of yore, But now was coupled new in marriage yoke; Young babes he had, to fight which made him loth, He was a husband and a father both. XL "My lord," quoth he, "I will not reprehend The earnest zeal of this audacious speech, From courage sprung, which seld is close ypend In swelling stomach without violent breach: And though to you our good Circassian friend In terms too bold and fervent oft doth preach, Yet hold I that for good, in warlike feat For his great deeds respond his speeches great. XLI "But if it you beseem, whom graver age And long experience hath made wise and sly, To rule the heat of youth and hardy rage, Which somewhat have misled this knight awry, In equal balance ponder then and gauge Your hopes far distant, with your perils nigh; This town's old walls and rampires new compare With Godfrey's forces and his engines rare. XLII "But, if I may say what I think unblamed, This town is strong, by nature, site and art, But engines huge and instruments are framed Gainst these defences by our adverse part, Who thinks him most secure is eathest shamed; I hope the best, yet fear unconstant mart, And with this siege if we be long up pent, Famine I doubt, our store will all be spent. XLIII "For all that store of cattle and of grain Which yesterday within these walls you brought, While your proud foes triumphant through the plain On naught but shedding blood, and conquest thought, Too little is this city to sustain, To raise the siege unless some means be sought; And it must last till the prefixed hour That it be raised by Egypt's aid and power. XLIV "But what if that appointed day they miss? Or else, ere we expect, what if they came? The victory yet is not ours for this, Oh save this town from ruin, us from shame! With that same Godfrey still our warfare is, These armies, soldiers, captains are the same Who have so oft amid the dusty plain Turks, Persians, Syrians and Arabians slain. XLV "And thou Argantes wotest what they be; Oft hast thou fled from that victorious host, Thy shoulders often hast thou let them see, And in thy feet hath been thy safeguard most; Clorinda bright and I fled eke with thee, None than his fellows had more cause to boast, Nor blame I any; for in every fight We showed courage, valor, strength and might. XLVI "And though this hardy knight the certain threat Of near-approaching death to hear disdain; Yet to this state of loss and danger great, From this strong foe I see the tokens plain; No fort how strong soe'er by art or seat, Can hinder Godfrey why he should not reign: This makes me say, -- to witness heaven I bring, Zeal to this state, love to my lord and king -- XLVII "The king of Tripoli was well advised To purchase peace, and so preserve his crown: But Solyman, who Godfrey's love despised, Is either dead or deep in prison thrown; Else fearful is he run away disguised, And scant his life is left him for his own, And yet with gifts, with tribute, and with gold, He might in peace his empire still have hold." XLVIII Thus spake Orcanes, and some inkling gave In doubtful words of that he would have said; To sue for peace or yield himself a slave He durst not openly his king persuade: But at those words the Soldan gan to rave, And gainst his will wrapt in the cloud he stayed, Whom Ismen thus bespake, "How can you bear These words, my lord? or these reproaches hear?" XLIX "Oh, let me speak," quoth he, "with ire and scorn I burn, and gains, my will thus hid I stay!" This said. the smoky cloud was cleft and torn, Which like a veil upon them stretched lay, And up to open heaven forthwith was borne, And left the prince in view of lightsome day, With princely look amid the press he shined, And on a sudden, thus declared his mind. L "Of whom you speak behold the Soldan here, Neither afraid nor run away for dread, And that these slanders, lies and fables were, This hand shall prove upon that coward's head, I, who have shed a sea of blood well near, And heaped up mountains high of Christians dead, I in their camp who still maintained the fray, My men all murdered, I that run away. LI "If this, or any coward vile beside, False to his faith and country, dares reply; And speak of concord with yon men of pride, By your good leave, Sir King, here shall he die, The lambs and wolves shall in one fold abide, The doves and serpents in one nest shall lie, Before one town us and these Christians shall In peace and love unite within one wall." LII While thus he spoke, his broad and trenchant sword His hand held high aloft in threatening guise; Dumb stood the knights, so dreadful was his word; A storm was in his front, fire in his eyes, He turned at last to Sion's aged lord, And calmed his visage stern in humbler wise: "Behold," quoth he, "good prince, what aid I bring, Since 5olyman is joined with Juda's king." LIII King Aladine from his rich throne upstart And said, "Oh how I joy thy face to view, My noble friend! it lesseneth in some part My grief, for slaughter of my subjects true; My weak estate to stablish come thou art, And mayest thine own again in time renew, If Heavens consent:" with that the Soldan bold In dear embracements did he long enfold. LIV Their greetings done, the king resigned his throne To Solyman, and set himself beside, In a rich seat adorned with gold and stone, And Ismen sage did at his elbow bide, Of whom he asked what way they two had gone, And he declared all what had them betide: Clorinda bright to Solyman addressed Her salutations first, then all the rest. LV Among them rose Ormusses' valiant knight, Whom late the Soldan with a convoy sent, And when most hot and bloody was the fight, By secret paths and blind byways he went, Till aided by the silence and the night Safe in the city's walls himself he pent, And there refreshed with corn and cattle store The pined soldiers famished nigh before. LVI With surly countenance and disdainful grace, Sullen and sad, sat the Circassian stout, Like a fierce lion grumbling in his place, His fiery eyes that turns and rolls about; Nor durst Orcanes view the Soldan's face, But still upon the floor did pore and tout: Thus with his lords and peers in counselling, The Turkish monarch sat with Juda's king. LVII Godfrey this while gave victory the rein, And following her the straits he opened all; Then for his soldiers and his captains slain, He celebrates a stately funeral, And told his camp within a day or twain He would assault the city's mighty wall, And all the heathen there enclosed doth threat, With fire and sword, with death and danger great. LVIII And for he had that noble squadron known, In the last fight which brought him so great aid, To be the lords and princes of his own Who followed late the sly enticing maid, And with them Tancred, who had late been thrown In prison deep, by that false witch betrayed, Before the hermit and some private friends, For all those worthies, lords and knights, he sends; LIX And thus he said, "Some one of you declare Your fortunes, whether good or to be blamed, And to assist us with your valors rare In so great need, how was your coming framed?" They blush, and on the ground amazed stare, For virtue is of little guilt ashamed, At last the English prince with countenance bold, The silence broke, and thus their errors told: LX "We, not elect to that exploit by lot, With secret flight from hence ourselves withdrew, Following false Cupid, I deny it not, Enticed forth by love and beauty's hue; A jealous fire burnt in our stomachs hot, And by close ways we passed least in view, Her words, her looks, alas I know too late, Nursed our love, our jealousy, our hate. LXI "At last we gan approach that woful clime, Where fire and brimstone down from Heaven was sent To take revenge for sin and shameful crime Gainst kind commit, by those who nould repent; A loathsome lake of brimstone, pitch and lime, O'ergoes that land, erst sweet and redolent, And when it moves, thence stench and smoke up flies Which dim the welkin and infect the skies. LXII "This is the lake in which yet never might Aught that hath weight sink to the bottom down, But like to cork or leaves or feathers light, Stones, iron, men, there fleet and never drown; Therein a castle stands, to which by sight But o'er a narrow bridge no way is known, Hither us brought, here welcomed us the witch, The house within was stately, pleasant, rich. LXIII "The heavens were clear, and wholsome was the air, High trees, sweet meadows, waters pure and good; For there in thickest shade of myrtles fair A crystal spring poured out a silver flood; Amid the herbs, the grass and flowers rare, The falling leaves down pattered from the wood, The birds sung hymns of love; yet speak I naught Of gold and marble rich, and richly wrought. LXIV "Under the curtain of the greenwood shade, Beside the brook upon the velvet grass, In massy vessel of pure silver made, A banquet rich and costly furnished was, All beasts, all birds beguiled by fowler's trade, All fish were there in floods or seas that pass, All dainties made by art, and at the table An hundred virgins served, for husbands able. LXV "She with sweet words and false enticing smiles, Infused love among the dainties set, And with empoisoned cups our souls beguiles, And made each knight himself and God forget: She rose and turned again within short whiles, With changed looks where wrath and anger met, A charming rod, a book with her she brings, On which she mumbled strange and secret things. LXVI "She read, and change I felt my will and thought, I longed to change my life, and place of biding, That virtue strange in me no pleasure wrought, I leapt into the flood myself there hiding, My legs and feet both into one were brought, Mine arms and hands into my shoulders sliding, My skin was full of scales, like shields of brass, Now made a fish, where late a knight I was. LXVII "The rest with me like shape, like garments wore, And dived with me in that quicksilver stream, Such mind, to my remembrance, then I bore, As when on vain and foolish things men dream; At last our shade it pleased her to restore, Then full of wonder and of fear we seem, And with an ireful look the angry maid Thus threatened us, and made us thus afraid. LXVIII " `You see,' quoth she, `my sacred might and skill, How you are subject to my rule and power, In endless thraldom damned if I will I can torment and keep you in this tower, Or make you birds, or trees on craggy hill, To bide the bitter blasts of storm and shower; Or harden you to rocks on mountains old, Or melt your flesh and bones to rivers cold: LXIX " `Yet may you well avoid mine ire and wrath, If to my will your yielding hearts you bend, You must forsake your Christendom and faith, And gainst Godfredo false my crown defend.' We all refused, for speedy death each prayeth, Save false Rambaldo, he became her friend, We in a dungeon deep were helpless cast, In misery and iron chained fast. LXX "Then, for alone they say falls no mishap, Within short while Prince Tancred thither came, And was unwares surprised in the trap: But there short while we stayed, the wily dame In other folds our mischiefs would upwrap. From Hidraort an hundred horsemen came, Whose guide, a baron bold to Egypt's king, Should us disarmed and bound in fetters bring. LXXI "Now on our way, the way to death we ride, But Providence Divine thus for us wrought, Rinaldo, whose high virtue is his guide To great exploits, exceeding human thought, Met us, and all at once our guard defied, And ere he left the fight to earth them brought. And in their harness armed us in the place, Which late were ours, before our late disgrace. LXXII "I and all these the hardy champion knew, We saw his valor, and his voice we heard; Then is the rumor of his death untrue, His life is safe, good fortune long it guard, Three times the golden sun hath risen new, Since us he left and rode to Antioch-ward; But first his armors, broken, hacked and cleft, Unfit for service, there he doft and left." LXXIII Thus spake the Briton prince, with humble cheer The hermit sage to heaven cast up his eyne, His color and his countenance changed were, With heavenly grace his looks and visage shine, Ravished with zeal his soul approached near The seat of angels pure, and saints divine, And there he learned of things and haps to come, To give foreknowledge true, and certain doom. LXXIV At last he spoke, in more than human sound, And told what things his wisdom great foresaw, And at his thundering voice the folk around Attentive stood, with trembling and with awe: "Rinaldo lives," he said, "the tokens found From women's craft their false beginnings draw, He lives, and heaven will long preserve his days, To greater glory, and to greater praise. LXXV "These are but trifles yet, though Asia's kings Shrink at his name, and tremble at his view, I well foresee he shall do greater things, And wicked emperors conquer and subdue; Under the shadow of his eagle's wings Shall holy Church preserve her sacred crew, From Caesar's bird he shall the sable train Pluck off, and break her talons sharp in twain. LXXVI "His children's children at his hardiness And great attempts shall take example fair, From emperors unjust in all distress They shall defend the state of Peter's chair, To raise the humble up, pride to suppress, To help the innocents shall be their care. This bird of east shall fly with conquest great, As far as moon gives light or sun gives heat; LXXVII "Her eyes behold the truth and purest light, And thunders down in Peter's aid she brings, And where for Christ and Christian faith men fight, There forth she spreadeth her victorious wings, This virtue nature gives her and this might; Then lure her home, for on her presence hings The happy end of this great enterprise, So Heaven decrees, and so command the skies." LXXVIII These words of his of Prince Rinaldo's death Out of their troubled hearts, the fear had rased; In all this joy yet Godfrey smiled uneath. In his wise thought such care and heed was placed. But now from deeps of regions underneath Night's veil arose, and sun's bright lustre chased, When all full sweetly in their cabins slept, Save he, whose thoughts his eyes still open kept.
Go to the Eleventh Book.