Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #13
THE ARGUMENT. The searchers pass through all the palace bright Where in sweet prison lies Rinaldo pent, And do so much, that full of rage and spite, With them he goes sad, shamed, discontent: With plaints and prayers to retain her knight Armida strives; he hears, but thence he went, And she forlorn her palace great and fair Destroys for grief, and flies thence through the air. I The palace great is builded rich and round, And in the centre of the inmost hold There lies a garden sweet, on fertile ground, Fairer than that where grew the trees of gold: The cunning sprites had buildings reared around With doors and entries false a thousandfold, A labyrinth they made that fortress brave, Like Daedal's prison, or Porsenna's grave. II The knights passed through the castle's largest gate, Though round about an hundred ports there shine, The door-leaves framed of carved silver-plate, Upon their golden hinges turn and twine. They stayed to view this work of wit and state. The workmanship excelled the substance fine, For all the shapes in that rich metal wrought, Save speech, of living bodies wanted naught. III Alcides there sat telling tales, and spun Among the feeble troops of damsels mild, He that the fiery gates of hell had won And heaven upheld; false Love stood by and smiled: Armed with his club fair Iole forth run, His club with blood of monsters foul defiled, And on her back his lion's skin had she, Too rough a bark for such a tender tree. IV Beyond was made a sea, whose azure flood The hoary froth crushed from the surges blue, Wherein two navies great well ranged stood Of warlike ships, fire from their arms outflew, The waters burned about their vessels good, Such flames the gold therein enchased threw, Caesar his Romans hence, the Asian kings Thence Antony and Indian princes brings. V The Cyclades seemed to swim amid the main, And hill gainst hill, and mount gainst mountain smote, With such great fury met those armies twain; Here burnt a ship, there sunk a bark or boat, Here darts and wild-fire flew, there drowned or slain Of princes dead the bodies fleet and float; Here Caesar wins, and yonder conquered been The Eastern ships, there fled the Egyptian queen: VI Antonius eke himself to flight betook, The empire lost to which he would aspire, Yet fled not he nor fight for fear forsook, But followed her, drawn on by fond desire: Well might you see within his troubled look, Strive and contend, love, courage, shame and ire; Oft looked he back, oft gazed he on the fight, But oftener on his mistress and her flight. VII Then in the secret creeks of fruitful Nile, Cast in her lap, he would sad death await, And in the pleasure of her lovely smile Sweeten the bitter stroke of cursed fate: All this did art with curious hand compile In the rich metal of that princely gate. The knights these stories viewed first and last, Which seen, they forward pressed, and in they passed: VIII As through his channel crooked Meander glides With turns and twines, and rolls now to, now fro, Whose streams run forth there to the salt sea sides Here back return and to their springward go: Such crooked paths, such ways this palace hides; Yet all the maze their map described so, That through the labyrinth they got in fine, As Theseus did by Ariadne's line. IX When they had passed all those troubled ways, The garden sweet spread forth her green to show, The moving crystal from the fountains plays, Fair trees, high plants, strange herbs and flowerets new, Sunshiny hills, dales hid from Phoebus' rays, Groves, arbors, mossy caves, at once they view, And that which beauty moat, most wonder brought, Nowhere appeared the art which all this wrought. X So with the rude the polished mingled was That natural seemed all and every part, Nature would craft in counterfeiting pass, And imitate her imitator art: Mild was the air, the skies were clear as glass, The trees no whirlwind felt, nor tempest smart, But ere the fruit drop off, the blossom comes, This springs, that falls, that ripeneth and this blooms. XI The leaves upon the self-same bough did hide Beside the young the old and ripened fig, Here fruit was green, there ripe with vermeil side, The apples new and old grew on one twig, The fruitful vine her arms spread high and wide That bended underneath their clusters big, The grapes were tender here, hard, young and sour, There purple ripe, and nectar sweet forth pour. XII The joyous birds, hid under greenwood shade, Sung merry notes on every branch and bough, The wind that in the leaves and waters played With murmur sweet, now sung, and whistled now; Ceased the birds, the wind loud answer made, And while they sung, it rumbled soft and low; Thus were it hap or cunning, chance or art, The wind in this strange music bore his part. XIII With party-colored plumes' and purple bill, A wondrous bird among the rest there flew, That in plain speech sung love-lays loud and shrill, Her leden was like human language true; So much she talked, and with such wit and skill, That strange it seemed how much good she knew, Her feathered fellows all stood hush to hear, Dumb was the wind, the waters silent were. XIV "The gently budding rose," quoth she, "behold, That first scant peeping forth with virgin beams, Half ope, half shut, her beauties doth upfold In their dear leaves, and less seen, fairer seems, And after spreads them forth more broad and bold, Then languisheth and dies in last extremes, Nor seems the same, that decked bed and bower Of many a lady late, and paramour; XV "So, in the passing of a day, doth pass The bud and blossom of the life of man, Nor e'er doth flourish more, but like the grass Cut down, becometh withered, pale and wan: Oh gather then the rose while time thou hast Short is the day, done when it scant began, Gather the rose of love, while yet thou mayest, Loving, be loved; embracing, be embraced." XVI He ceased, and as approving all he spoke, The choir of birds their heavenly tunes renew, The turtles sighed, and sighs with kisses broke, The fowls to shades unseen by pairs withdrew; It seemed the laurel chaste, and stubborn oak, And all the gentle trees on earth that grew, It seemed the land, the sea, and heaven above, All breathed out fancy sweet, and sighed out love. XVII Through all this music rare, and strong consent Of strange allurements, sweet bove mean and measure, Severe, firm, constant, still the knights forthwent, Hardening their hearts gainst false enticing pleasure, Twixt leaf and leaf their sight before they sent, And after crept themselves at ease and leisure, Till they beheld the queen, set with their knight Besides the lake, shaded with boughs from sight: XVIII Her breasts were naked, for the day was hot, Her locks unbound waved in the wanton wind; Some deal she sweat, tired with the game you wot, Her sweat-drops bright, white, round, like pearls of Ind; Her humid eyes a fiery smile forthshot That like sunbeams in silver fountains shined, O'er him her looks she hung, and her soft breast The pillow was, where he and love took rest. XIX His hungry eyes upon her face he fed, And feeding them so, pined himself away; And she, declining often down her head, His lips, his cheeks, his eyes kissed, as he lay, Wherewith he sighed, as if his soul had fled From his frail breast to hers, and there would stay With her beloved sprite: the armed pair These follies all beheld and this hot fare. XX Down by the lovers' side there pendent was A crystal mirror, bright, pure, smooth, and neat, He rose, and to his mistress held the glass, A noble page, graced with that service great; She, with glad looks, he with inflamed, alas, Beauty and love beheld, both in one seat; Yet them in sundry objects each espies, She, in the glass, he saw them in her eyes: XXI Her, to command; to serve, it pleased the knight; He proud of bondage; of her empire, she; "My dear," he said, "that blessest with thy sight Even blessed angels, turn thine eyes to me, For painted in my heart and portrayed right Thy worth, thy beauties and perfections be, Of which the form; the shape and fashion best, Not in this glass is seen, but in my breast. XXII "And if thou me disdain, yet be content At least so to behold thy lovely hue, That while thereon thy looks are fixed and bent Thy happy eyes themselves may see and view; So rare a shape no crystal can present, No glass contain that heaven of beauties true; Oh let the skies thy worthy mirror be! And in dear stars try shape and image see." XXIII And with that word she smiled, and ne'ertheless Her love-toys still she used, and pleasures bold! Her hair, that done, she twisted up in tress, And looser locks in silken laces rolled, Her curles garlandwise she did up-dress, Wherein, like rich enamel laid on gold, The twisted flowers smiled, and her white breast The lilies there that spring with roses dressed. XXIV The jolly peacock spreads not half so fair The eyed feathers of his pompous train; Nor golden Iris so bends in the air Her twenty-colored bow, through clouds of rain; Yet all her ornaments, strange, rich and rare, Her girdle did in price and beauty stain, Nor that, with scorn, which Tuscan Guilla lost, Igor Venus Ceston, could match this for cost. XXV Of mild denays, of tender scorns, of sweet Repulses, war, peace, hope, despair, joy, fear, Of smiles, jests, mirth, woe, grief, and sad regreet, Sighs, sorrows, tears, embracements, kisses dear, That mixed first by weight and measure meet, Then at an easy fire attempered were, This wondrous girdle did Armida frame, And, when she would be loved, wore the same. XXVI But when her wooing fit was brought to end, She congee took, kissed him, and went her way; For once she used every day to wend Bout her affairs, her spells and charms to say: The youth remained, yet had no power to bend One step from thence, but used there to stray Mongst the sweet birds, through every walk and grove Alone, save for an hermit false called Love. XXVII And when the silence deep and friendly shade Recalled the lovers to their wonted sport, In a fair room for pleasure built, they laid, And longest nights with joys made sweet and short. Now while the queen her household things surveyed, And left her lord her garden and disport, The twain that hidden in the bushes were Before the prince in glistering arms appear: XXVIII As the fierce steed for age withdrawn from war Wherein the glorious beast had always wone, That in vile rest from fight sequestered far, Feeds with the mares at large, his service done, If arms he see, or hear the trumpet's jar, He neigheth loud and thither fast doth run, And wiseth on his back the armed knight, Longing for jousts, for tournament and fight: XXIX So fared Rinaldo when the glorious light Of their bright harness glistered in his eyes, His noble sprite awaked at that sight His blood began to warm, his heart to rise, Though, drunk with ease, devoid of wonted might On sleep till then his weakened virtue lies. Ubaldo forward stepped, and to him hield Of diamonds clear that pure and precious shield. XXX Upon the targe his looks amazed he bent, And therein all his wanton habit spied, His civet, balm, and perfumes redolent, How from his locks they smoked and mantle wide, His sword that many a Pagan stout had shent, Bewrapped with flowers, hung idly by his side, So nicely decked that it seemed the knight Wore it for fashion's sake but not for fight. XXXI As when, from sleep and idle dreams abraid, A man awaked calls home his wits again; So in beholding his attire he played, But yet to view himself could not sustain, His looks he downward cast and naught he said, Grieved, shamed, sad, he would have died fain, And oft he wished the earth or ocean wide Would swallow him, and so his errors hide. XXXII Ubaldo took the time, and thus begun, "All Europe now and Asia be in war, And all that Christ adore and fame have won, In battle strong, in Syria fighting are; But thee alone, Bertoldo's noble son, This little corner keeps, exiled far From all the world, buried in sloth and shame, A carpet champion for a wanton dame. XXXIII "What letharge hath in drowsiness up-penned Thy courage thus? what sloth doth thee infect? Up, up, our camp and Godfrey for thee send, Thee fortune, praise and victory expect, Come, fatal champion, bring to happy end This enterprise begun, all that sect Which oft thou shaken hast to earth full low With thy sharp brand strike down, kill, overthrow." XXXIV This said, the noble infant stood a space Confused, speechless, senseless, ill-ashamed; But when that shame to just disdain gave place, To fierce disdain, from courage sprung untamed, Another redness blushed through his face, Whence worthy anger shone, displeasure flamed, His nice attire in scorn he rent and tore, For of his bondage vile that witness bore; XXXV That done, he hasted from the charmed fort, And through the maze passed with his searchers twain. Armida of her mount and chiefest port Wondered to find the furious keeper slain, Awhile she feared, but she knew in short, That her dear lord was fled, then saw she plain, Ah, woful sight! how from her gates the man In haste, in fear, in wrath, in anger ran. XXXVI "Whither, O cruel! leavest thou me alone?" She would have cried, her grief her speeches stayed, So that her woful words are backward gone, And in her heart a bitter echo made; Poor soul, of greater skill than she was one Whose knowledge from her thus her joy conveyed, This wist she well, yet had desire to prove If art could keep, if charms recall her love. XXXVII All what the witches of Thessalia land, With lips unpure yet ever said or spake, Words that could make heaven's rolling circles stand, And draw the damned ghosts from Limbo lake, All well she knew, but yet no time she fand To use her knowledge or her charms to make, But left her arts, and forth she ran to prove If single beauty were best charm for love. XXXVIII She ran, nor of her honor took regard, Oh where be all her vaunts and triumphs now? Love's empire great of late she made or marred, To her his subjects humbly bend and bow, And with her pride mixed was a scorn so hard, That to be loved she loved, yet whilst they woo Her lovers all she hates; that pleased her will To conquer men, and conquered so, to kill. XXXIX But now herself disdained, abandoned, Ran after him; that from her fled in scorn, And her despised beauty labored With humble plaints and prayers to adorn: She ran and hasted after him that fled, Through frost and snow, through brier, bush and thorn, And sent her cries on message her before, That reached not him till he had reached the shore. XL "Oh thou that leav'st but half behind," quoth she, "Of my poor heart, and half with thee dost carry, Oh take this part, or render that to me, Else kill them both at once, ah tarry, tarry: Hear my last words, no parting kiss of thee I crave, for some more fit with thee to marry Keep them, unkind; what fear'st thou if thou stay? Thou may'st deny, as well as run away." XLI At this Rinaldo stopped, stood still, and stayed, She came, sad, breathless, weary, faint and weak, So woe-begone was never nymph or maid And yet her beauty's pride grief could not break, On him she looked, she gazed, but naught she said, She would not, could not, or she durst not speak, At her he looked not, glanced not, if he did, Those glances shamefaced were, close, secret, hid. XLII As cunning singers, ere they strain on high, In loud melodious tunes, their gentle voice, Prepare the hearers' ears to harmony With feignings sweet, low notes and warbles choice: So she, not having yet forgot pardie Her wonted shifts and sleights in Cupid's toys, A sequence first of sighs and sobs forthcast, To breed compassion dear, then spake at last: XLIII "Suppose not, cruel, that I come to vow Or pray, as ladies do their loves and lords; Such were we late, if thou disdain it now, Or scorn to grant such grace as love affords, At least yet as an enemy listen thou: Sworn foes sometimes will talk and chaffer words, For what I ask thee, may'st thou grant right well, And lessen naught thy wrath and anger fell. XLIV "If me thou hate, and in that hate delight, I come not to appease thee, hate me still, It's like for like; I bore great hate and spite Gainst Christians all, chiefly I wish thee ill: I was a Pagan born, and all my might Against Godfredo bent, mine art and skill: I followed thee, took thee, and bore thee far, To this strange isle, and kept thee safe from war. XLV "And more, which more thy hate may justly move, More to thy loss, more to thy shame and grief, I thee inchanted, and allured to love, Wicked deceit, craft worthy sharp reprief; Mine honor gave I thee all gifts above, And of my beauties made thee lord and chief, And to my suitors old what I denayed, That gave I thee, my lover new, unprayed. XLVI "But reckon that among, my faults, and let Those many wrongs provoke thee so to wrath, That hence thou run, and that at naught thou set This pleasant house, so many joys which hath; Go, travel, pass the seas, fight, conquest get, Destroy our faith, what shall I say, our faith? Ah no! no longer ours; before thy shrine Alone I pray, thou cruel saint of mine; XLVII "All only let me go with thee, unkind, A small request although I were thy foe, The spoiler seldom leaves the prey behind, Who triumphs lets his captives with him go; Among thy prisoners poor Armida bind, And let the camp increase thy praises so, That thy beguiler so thou couldst beguile, And point at me, thy thrall and bondslave vile. XLVIII "Despised bondslave, since my lord doth hate These locks, why keep I them or hold them dear? Come cut them off, that to my servile state My habit answer may, and all my gear: I follow thee in spite of death and fate, Through battles fierce where dangers most appear, Courage I have, and strength enough perchance, To lead thy courser spare, and bear thy lance: XLIX "I will or bear, or be myself, thy shield, And to defend thy life. will lose mine own: This breast, this bosom soft shall be thy bield Gainst storms of arrows, darts and weapons thrown; Thy foes, pardie, encountering thee in field, Will spare to strike thee, mine affection known, Lest me they wound, nor will sharp vengeance take On thee, for this despised beauty's sake. L "O wretch! dare I still vaunt, or help invoke From this poor beauty, scorned and disdained?" She said no more, her tears her speeches broke, Which from her eyes like streams from springs down rained: She would have caught him by the hand or cloak, But he stepped backward, and himself restrained, Conquered his will, his heart ruth softened not, There plaints no issue, love no entrance got. LI Love entered not to kindle in his breast, Which Reason late had quenched, his wonted flame; Yet entered Pity in the place at least, Love's sister, but a chaste and sober dame, And stirred him so, that hardly he suppressed The springing tears that to his eyes up came; But yet even there his plaints repressed were, And, as he could, he looked, and feigned cheer. LII "Madam," quoth he, "for your distress I grieve, And would amend it, if I might or could. From your wise heart that fond affection drive: I cannot hate nor scorn you though I would, I seek no vengeance, wrongs I all forgive, Nor you my servant nor my foe I hold, Truth is, you erred, and your estate forgot, Too great your hate was, and your love too hot. LIII "But those are common faults, and faults of kind, Excused by nature, by your sex and years; I erred likewise, if I pardon find None can condemn you, that our trespass hears; Your dear remembrance will I keep in mind, In joys, in woes, in comforts, hopes and fears, Call me your soldier and your knight, as far As Christian faith permits, and Asia's war. LIV "Ah, let our faults and follies here take end, And let our errors past you satisfy, And in this angle of the world ypend, Let both the fame and shame thereof now die, From all the earth where I am known and kenned, I wish this fact should still concealed lie: Nor yet in following me, poor knight, disgrace Your worth, your beauty, and your princely race. LV "Stay here in peace, I go, nor wend you may With me, my guide your fellowship denies, Stay here or hence depart some better way, And calm your thoughts, you are both sage and wise." While thus he spoke, her passions found no stay, But here and there she turned and rolled her eyes, And staring on his face awhile, at last Thus in foul terms, her bitter wrath forth brast: LVI "Of Sophia fair thou never wert the child, Nor of the Azzain race ysprung thou art, The mad sea-waves thee hare, some tigress wild On Caucasus' cold crags nursed thee apart; Ah, cruel man l in whom no token mild Appears, of pity, ruth, or tender heart, Could not my griefs, my woes, my plaints, and all One sigh strain from thy breast, one tear make fall? LVII "What shall I say, or how renew my speech? He scorns me, leaves me, bids me call him mine: The victor hath his foe within his reach; Yet pardons her, that merits death and pine; Hear how he counsels me; how he can preach, Like chaste Xenocrates, gainst love divine; O heavens, O gods! why do these men of shame, Thus spoil your temples and blaspheme your name? LVIII "Go cruel, go, go with such peace, such rest, Such joy, such comfort, as thou leavest me here: My angry soul discharged from this weak breast, Shall haunt thee ever, and attend thee near, And fury-like in snakes and firebrands dressed, Shall aye torment thee, whom it late held dear: And if thou 'scape the seas, the rocks, and sands And come to fight among the Pagan bands, LIX "There lying wounded, mongst the hurt and slain, Of these my wrongs thou shalt the vengeance bear, And oft Armida shalt thou call in vain, At thy last gasp; this hope I soon to hear:" Here fainted she, with sorrow, grief and pain, Her latest words scant well expressed were, But in a swoon on earth outstretched she lies, Stiff were her frozen limbs, closed were her eyes. LX Thou closed thine eyes, Armida, heaven envied Ease to thy grief, or comfort to thy woe; Ah, open then again, see tears down slide From his kind eyes, whom thou esteem'st thy foe, If thou hadst heard, his sighs had mollified Thine anger, hard he sighed and mourned so; And as he could with sad and rueful look His leave of thee and last farewell he took. LXI What should he do? leave on the naked sand This woful lady half alive, half dead? Kindness forbade, pity did that withstand; But hard constraint, alas! did thence him lead; Away he went, the west wind blew from land Mongst the rich tresses of their pilot's head, And with that golden sail the waves she cleft, To land he looked, till land unseen he left. LXII Waked from her trance, foresaken, speechless, sad, Armida wildly stared and gazed about, "And is he gone," quoth she, "nor pity had To leave me thus twixt life and death in doubt? Could he not stay? could not the traitor-lad From this last trance help or recall me out? And do I love him still, and on this sand Still unrevenged, still mourn, still weeping stand? LXIII "Fie no! complaints farewell! with arms and art I will pursue to death this spiteful knight, Not earth's low centre, nor sea's deepest part, Not heaven, nor hell, can shield him from my might, I will o'ertake him, take him, cleave his heart, Such vengeance fits a wronged lover's spite, In cruelty that cruel knight surpass I will, but what avail vain words, alas? LXIV "O fool! thou shouldest have been cruel than, For then this cruel well deserved thine ire, When thou in prison hadst entrapped the man, Now dead with cold, too late thou askest fire; But though my wit, my cunning nothing can, Some other means shall work my heart's desire, To thee, my beauty, thine be all these wrongs, Vengeance to thee, to thee revenge belongs. LXV "Thou shalt be his reward, with murdering brand That dare this traitor of his head deprive, O you my lovers, on this rock doth stand The castle of her love for whom you strive, I, the sole heir of all Damascus land, For this revenge myself and kingdom give, If by this price my will I cannot gain, Nature gives beauty; fortune, wealth in vain. LXVI "But thee, vain gift, vain beauty, thee I scorn, I hate the kingdom which I have to give, I hate myself, and rue that I was born, Only in hope of sweet revenge I live." Thus raging with fell ire she gan return From that bare shore in haste, and homeward drive, And as true witness of her frantic ire, Her locks waved loose, face shone, eyes sparkled fire. LXVII When she came home, she called with outcries shrill, A thousand devils in Limbo deep that won, Black clouds the skies with horrid darkness fill, And pale for dread became the eclipsed sun, The whirlwind blustered big on every hill, And hell to roar under her feet begun, You might have heard how through the palace wide, Some spirits howled, some barked, some hissed, some cried. LXVIII A shadow, blacker than the mirkest night, Environed all the place with darkness sad, Wherein a firebrand gave a dreadful light, Kindled in hell by Tisiphone the mad; Vanished the shade, the sun appeared in sight, Pale were his beams, the air was nothing glad, And all the palace vanished was and gone, Nor of so great a work was left one stone. LXIX As oft the clouds frame shapes of castles great Amid the air, that little time do last, But are dissolved by wind or Titan's heat, Or like vain dreams soon made, and sooner past: The palace vanished so, nor in his seat Left aught but rocks and crags, by kind there placed; She in her coach which two old serpents drew, Sate down, and as she used, away she flew. LXX She broke the clouds, and cleft the yielding sky, And bout her gathered tempest, storm and wind, The lands that view the south pole flew she by, And left those unknown countries far behind, The Straits of Hercules she passed, which lie Twixt Spain and Afric, nor her flight inclined To north or south, but still did forward ride O'er seas and streams, till Syria's coasts she spied. LXXI Now she went forward to Damascus fair, But of her country dear she fled the sight, And guided to Asphaltes' lake her chair, Where stood her castle, there she ends her flight, And from her damsels far, she made repair To a deep vault, far from resort and light, Where in sad thoughts a thousand doubts she cast, Till grief and shame to wrath gave place at last. LXXII "I will not hence," quoth she, "till Egypt's lord In aid of Zion's king his host shall move; Then will I use all helps that charms afford, And change my shape or sex if so behove: Well can I handle bow, or lance, or sword, The worthies all will aid me, for my love: I seek revenge, and to obtain the same, Farewell, regard of honor; farewell, shame. LXXIII "Nor let mine uncle and protector me Reprove for this, he most deserves the blame, My heart and sex, that weak and tender be, He bent to deeds that maidens ill became; His niece a wandering damsel first made he, He spurred my youth, and I cast off my shame, His be the fault, if aught gainst mine estate I did for love, or shall commit for hate." LXXIV This said, her knights, her ladies, pages, squires She all assembleth, and for journey fit In such fair arms and vestures them attires As showed her wealth, and well declared her wit; And forward marched, full of strange desires, Nor rested she by day or night one whit, Till she came there, where all the eastern bands, Their kings and princes, lay on Gaza's sands.
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