Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #13
THE ARGUMENT. Egypt's great host in battle-ray forth brought, The Caliph sends with Godfrey's power to fight; Armida, who Rinaldo's ruin sought, To them adjoins herself and Syria's might. To satisfy her cruel will and thought, She gives herself to him that kills her knight: He takes his fatal arms, and in his shield His ancestors and their great deeds beheld. I Gaza the city on the frontier stands Of Juda's realm, as men to Egypt ride, Built near the sea, beside it of dry sands Huge wildernesses lie and deserts wide Which the strong winds lift from the parched lands And toss like roaring waves in roughest tide, That from those storms poor passengers almost No refuge find, but there are drowned and lost. II Within this town, won from the Turks of yore Strong garrison the king of Egypt placed, And for it nearer was, and fitted more That high emprise to which his thoughts he cast, He left great Memphis, and to Gaza bore His regal throne, and there, from countries vast Of his huge empire all the puissant host Assembled he, and mustered on the coast. III Come say, my Muse, what manner times these were, And in those times how stood the state of things, What power this monarch had, what arms they bear, What nations subject, and what friends he brings; From all lands the southern ocean near, Or morning star, came princes, dukes and kings, And only thou of half the world well-nigh The armies, lords, and captains canst descry. IV When Egypt from the Greekish emperor Rebelled first, and Christ's true faith denied, Of Mahomet's descent a warrior There set his throne and ruled that kingdom wide, Caliph he hight, and Caliphs since that hour Are his successors named all beside: So Nilus old his kings long time had seen That Ptolemies and Pharaohs called had been. V Established was that kingdom in short while, And grew so great, that over Asia's lands And Lybia's realms it stretched many a mile, From Syria's coasts as far as Cirene sands, And southward passed gainst the course of Nile, Through the hot clime where burnt Syene stands, Hence bounded in with sandy deserts waste, And thence with Euphrates' rich flood embraced. VI Maremma, myrrh and spices that doth bring, And all the rich red sea it comprehends, And to those lands, toward the morning spring That lie beyond that gulf, it far extends; Great is that empire, greater by the king That rules it now, whose worth the land amends, And makes more famous, lord thereof by blood, By wisdom, valor, and all virtues good. VII With Turks and Persians war he oft did wage, And oft he won, and sometimes lost the field, Nor could his adverse fortune aught assuage His valor's heat or make his proud heart yield, But when he grew unfit for war through age, He sheathed his sword and laid aside his shield: But yet his warlike mind he laid not down, Nor his great thirst of rule, praise and renown, VIII But by his knights still cruel wars maintained. So wise his words, so quick his wit appears, That of the kingdom large o'er which he reigned, The charge seemed not too weighty for his years; His greatness Afric's lesser kings constrained To tremble at his name, all Ind him fears, And other realms that would his friendship hold; Some armed soldiers sent, some gifts, some gold. IX This mighty prince assembled had the flower Of all his realms, against the Frenchmen stout, To break their rising empire and their power, Nor of sure conquest had he fear or doubt: To him Armida came, even at the hour When in the plains, old Gaza's walls without, The lords and leaders all their armies bring In battle-ray, mustered before their king. X He on his throne was set, to which on height Who clomb an hundred ivory stairs first told, Under a pentise wrought of silver bright, And trod on carpets made of silk and gold; His robes were such as best beseemen might A king, so great, so grave, so rich, so old, And twined of sixty ells of lawn and more A turban strange adorned his tresses hoar. XI His right hand did his precious sceptre wield, His beard was gray, his looks severe and grave, And from his eyes, not yet made dim with eild, Sparkled his former worth and vigor brave, His gestures all the majesty upheild And state, as his old age and empire crave, So Phidias carved, Apelles so, pardie, Erst painted Jove, Jove thundering down from sky. XII On either side him stood a noble lord, Whereof the first held in his upright hand Of severe justice the unpartial sword; The other bare the seal, and causes scanned, Keeping his folk in peace and good accord, And termed was lord chancellor of the land; But marshal was the first, and used to lead His armies forth to war, oft with good speed. XIII Of bold Circassians with their halberts long, About his throne his guards stood in a ring, All richly armed in gilden corslets strong, And by their sides their crooked swords down hing: Thus set, thus seated, his grave lords among, His hosts and armies great beheld the king, And every band as by his throne it went, Their ensigns low inclined, and arms down bent: XIV Their squadrons first the men of Egypt show, In four troops, and each his several guide, Of the high country two, two of the low Which Nile had won out of the salt seaside, His fertile slime first stopped the waters' flow, Then hardened to firm land the plough to bide, So Egypt still increased, within far placed That part is now where ships erst anchor cast. XV The foremost band the people were that dwelled In Alexandria's rich and fertile plain, Along the western shore, whence Nile expelled The greedy billows of the swelling main; Araspes was their guide, who more excelled In wit and craft than strength or warlike pain, To place an ambush close, or to devise A treason false, was none so sly, so wise. XVI The people next that gainst the morning rays Along the coasts of Asia have their seat, Arontes led them, whom no warlike praise Ennobled, but high birth and titles great, His helm ne'er made him sweat in toilsome frays, Nor was his sleep e'er broke with trumpet's threat, But from soft ease to try the toil of fight His fond ambition brought this carpet knight. XVII The third seemed not a troop or squadron small, But an huge host; nor seemed it so much grain In Egypt grew as to sustain them all; Yet from one town thereof came all that train, A town in people to huge shires equal, That did a thousand streets and more contain, Great Caire it hight, whose commons from each side Came swarming out to war, Campson their guide. XVIII Next under Gazel marched they that plough The fertile lands above that town which lie Up to the place where Nilus tumbling low Falls from his second cataract from high; The Egyptians weaponed were with sword and bow, No weight of helm or hauberk list they try, And richly armed, in their strong foes no dreed Of death but great desire of spoil they breed. XIX The naked folk of Barca these succeed, Unarmed half, Alarcon led that band, That long in deserts lived, in extreme need, On spoils and preys purchased by strength of hand. To battle strong unfit, their king did lead His army next brought from Zumara land. Then he of Tripoli, for sudden fight And skirmish short, both ready, bold, and light. XX Two captains next brought forth their bands to show Whom Stony sent and Happy Araby, Which never felt the cold of frost and snow, Or force of burning heat, unless fame lie, Where incense pure and all sweet odors grow, Where the sole phoenix doth revive, not die, And midst the perfumes rich and flowerets brave Both birth and burial, cradle hath and grave. XXI Their clothes not rich, their garments were not gay, But weapons like the Egyptian troops they had, The Arabians next that have no certain stay, No house, no home, no mansion good or bad, But ever, as the Scythian hordes stray, From place to place their wandering cities gad: These have both voice and stature feminine, Hair long and black, black face, and fiery eyne. XXII Long Indian canes, with iron armed, they bear, And as upon their nimble steeds they ride, Like a swift storm their speedy troops appear, If winds so fast bring storms from heavens wide: By Syphax led the first Arabians were; Aldine the second squadron had no guide, And Abiazar proud, brought to the fight The third, a thief, a murderer, not a knight. XXIII The islanders came then their prince before Whose lands Arabia's gulf enclosed about, Wherein they fish and gather oysters store, Whose shells great pearls rich and round pour out; The Red Sea sent with them from his left shore, Of negroes grim a black and ugly rout; These Agricalt and those Osmida brought, A man that set law, faith and truth at naught. XXIV The Ethiops next which Meroe doth breed, That sweet and gentle isle of Meroe, Twixt Nile and Astrabore that far doth spread, Where two religions are, and kingdoms three, These Assimiro and Canario led, Both kings, both Pagans, and both subjects be To the great Caliph, but the third king kept Christ's sacred faith, nor to these wars outstepped. XXV After two kings, both subjects also, ride, And of two bands of archers had the charge, The first Soldan of Ormus placed in the wide Huge Persian Bay, a town rich, fair, and large: The last of Boecan, which at every tide The sea cuts off from Persia's southern marge, And makes an isle; but when it ebbs again, The passage there is sandy, dry and plain. XXVI Nor thee, great Altamore, in her chaste bed Thy loving queen kept with her dear embrace, She tore her locks, she smote her breast, and shed Salt tears to make thee stay in that sweet place, "Seem the rough seas more calm, cruel," she said, "Than the mild looks of thy kind spouse's face? Or is thy shield, with blood and dust defiled, A dearer armful than thy tender child?" XXVII This was the mighty king of Samarcand, A captain wise, well skilled in feats of war, In courage fierce, matchless for strength of hand, Great was his praise, his force was noised far; His worth right well the Frenchmen understand, By whom his virtues feared and loved are: His men were armed with helms and hauberks strong, And by their sides broad swords and maces hong. XXVIII Then from the mansions bright of fresh Aurore Adrastus came, the glorious king of Ind, A snake's green skin spotted with black he wore, That was made rich by art and hard by kind, An elephant this furious giant bore, He fierce as fire, his mounture swift as wind; Much people brought he from his kingdoms wide, Twixt Indus, Ganges, and the salt seaside. XXIX The king's own troop come next, a chosen crew, Of all the camp the strength, the crown, the flower, Wherein each soldier had with honors due Rewarded been, for service ere that hour; Their arms were strong for need, and fair for show, Upon fierce steeds well mounted rode this power, And heaven itself with the clear splendor shone Of their bright armor, purple, gold and stone. XXX Mongst these Alarco fierce, and Odemare The muster master was, and Hidraort, And Rimedon, whose rashness took no care To shun death's bitter stroke, in field or fort, Tigranes, Rapold stem, the men that fare By sea, that robbed in each creek and port, Ormond, and Marlabust the Arabian named, Because that land rebellious he reclaimed. XXXI There Pirga, Arimon, Orindo are, Brimarte the scaler, and with him Suifant The breaker of wild horses brought from far; Then the great wresteler strong Aridamant, And Tisapherne, the thunderbolt of war, Whom none surpassed, whom none to match durst vaunt At tilt, at tourney, or in combat brave, With spear or lance, with sword, with mace or glaive. XXXII A false Armenian did this squadron guide, That in his youth from Christ's true faith and light To the blind lore of Paganism did slide, That Clement late, now Emireno, hight; Yet to his king he faithful was, and tried True in all causes, his in wrong and right: A cunning leader and a soldier bold, For strength and courage, young; for wisdom, old. XXXIII When all these regiments were passed and gone, Appeared Armide, and came her troop to show; Set in a chariot bright with precious stone, Her gown tucked up, and in her hand a bow; In her sweet face her new displeasures shone, Mixed with the native beauties there which grow, And quickened so her looks that in sharp wise It seems she threats and yet her threats entice. XXXIV Her chariot like Aurora's glorious wain, With carbuncles and jacinths glistered round: Her coachman guided with the golden rein Four unicorns, by couples yoked and bound; Of squires and lovely ladies hundreds twain, Whose rattling quivers at their backs resound, On milk-white steeds, wait on the chariot bright, Their steeds to manage, ready; swift, to flight. XXXV Followed her troop led forth by Aradin, Which Hidraort from Syria's kingdom sent, As when the new-born phoenix doth begin To fly to Ethiop-ward, at the fair bent Of her rich wings strange plumes and feathers thin Her crowns and chains with native gold besprent, The world amazed stands; and with her fly An host of wondering birds, that sing and cry: XXXVI So passed Armida, looked on, gazed on, so, A wondrous dame in habit, gesture, face; There lived no wight to love so great a foe But wished and longed those beauties to embrace, Scant seen, with anger sullen, sad for woe, She conquered all the lords and knights in place, What would she do, her sorrows passed, think you, When her fair eyes, her looks and smiles shall woo? XXXVII She passed, the king commanded Emiren Of his rich throne to mount the lofty stage, To whom his host, his army, and his men, He would commit, now in his graver age. With stately grace the man approached then; His looks his coming honor did presage: The guard asunder cleft and passage made, He to the throne up went, and there he stayed. XXXVIII To earth he cast his eyes, and bent his knee: To whom the king thus gan his will explain, "To thee this sceptre, Emiren, to thee These armies I commit, my place sustain Mongst them, go set the king of Judah free, And let the Frenchmen feel my just disdain, Go meet them, conquer them, leave none alive; Or those that scape from battle, bring captive." XXXIX Thus spake the tyrant. and the sceptre laid With all his sovereign power upon the knight: "I take this sceptre at your hand," he said, "And with your happy fortune go to fight, And trust, my lord, in your great virtue's aid To venge all Asia's harms, her wrongs to right, Nor e'er but victor will I see your face; Our overthrow shall bring death, not disgrace. XL "Heavens grant if evil, yet no mishap I dread, Or harm they threaten against this camp of thine, That all that mischief fall upon my head, Theirs be the conquest, and the danger mine; And let them safe bring home their captain dead, Buried in pomp of triumph's glorious shine." He ceased, and then a murmur loud up went, With noise of joy and sound of instrument. XLI Amid the noise and shout uprose the king, Environed with many a noble peer That to his royal tent the monarch bring, And there he feasted them and made them cheer, To him and him he talked, and carved each thing, The greatest honored, meanest graced were; And while this mirth, this joy and feast doth last, Armida found fit time her nets to cast: XLII But when the feast was done, she, that espied All eyes on her fair visage fixed and bent, And by new notes and certain signs described, How love's empoisoned fire their entrails brent, Arose, and where the king sate in his pride, With stately pace and humble gestures, went; And as she could in looks in voice she strove Fierce, stern, bold, angry, and severe to prove. XLIII "Great Emperor, behold me here," she said. "For thee, my country, and my faith to fight, A dame, a virgin, but a royal maid; And worthy seems this war a princess hight, For by the sword the sceptre is upstayed, This hand can use them both with skill and might, This hand of mine can strike, and at each blow Thy foes and ours kill, wound, and overthrow. XLIV "Nor yet suppose this is the foremost day Wherein to war I bent my noble thought, But for the surety of thy realms, and stay Of our religion true, ere this I wrought: Yourself best know if this be true I say, Or if my former deeds rejoiced you aught, When Godfrey's hardy knights and princes strong I captive took, and held in bondage long. XLV "I took them, bound them, and so sent them bound To thee, a noble gift, with whom they had Condemned low in dungeon under ground Forever dwelt, in woe and torment sad: So might thine host an easy way have found To end this doubtful war, with conquest glad, Had not Rinaldo fierce my knights all slain, And set those lords, his friends, at large again. XLVI "Rinaldo is well known," and there a long And true rehearsal made she of his deeds, "This is the knight that since hath done me wrong, Wrong yet untold, that sharp revengement needs: Displeasure therefore, mixed with reason strong, This thirst of war in me, this courage breeds; Nor how he injured me time serves to tell, Let this suffice, I seek revengement fell, XLVII "And will procure it, for all shafts that fly Light not in vain; some work the shooter's will, And Jove's right hand with thunders cast from sky Takes open vengeance oft for secret ill: But if some champion dare this knight defy To mortal battle, and by fight him kill, And with his hateful head will me present, That gift my soul shall please, my heart content: XLVIII "So please, that for reward enjoy he shall, The greatest gift I can or may afford, Myself, my beauty, wealth, and kingdoms all, To marry him, and take him for my lord, This promise will I keep whate'er befall, And thereto bind myself by oath and word: Now he that deems this purchase worth his pain, Let him step forth and speak, I none disdain." XLIX While thus the princess said, his hungry eyne Adrastus fed on her sweet beauty's light, "The gods forbid," quoth he, "one shaft of thine Should be discharged gainst that discourteous knight, His heart unworthy is, shootress divine, Of thine artillery to feel the might; To wreak thine ire behold me prest and fit, I will his head cut off, and bring thee it. L "I will his heart with this sharp sword divide, And to the vultures cast his carcass out." Thus threatened he, but Tisapherne envied To hear his glorious vaunt and boasting stout, And said, "But who art thou, that so great pride Thou showest before the king, me, and this rout? Pardie here are some such, whose worth exceeds Thy vaunting much yet boast not of their deeds." LI The Indian fierce replied, "I am the man Whose acts his words and boasts have aye surpassed; But if elsewhere the words thou now began Had uttered been, that speech had been thy last." Thus quarrelled they; the monarch stayed them than, And 'twixt the angry knights his sceptre cast: Then to Armida said, "Fair Queen, I see Thy heart is stout, thy thoughts courageous be; LII "Thou worthy art that their disdain and ire At thy commands these knights should both appease, That gainst thy foe their courage hot as fire Thou may'st employ, both when and where you please, There all their power and force, and what desire They have to serve thee, may they show at ease." The monarch held his peace when this was said, And they new proffer of their service made. LIII Nor they alone, but all that famous were In feats of arms boast that he shall be dead, All offer her their aid, all say and swear, To take revenge on his condemned head: So many arms moved she against her dear, And swore her darling under foot to tread, But he, since first the enchanted isle he left, Safe in his barge the roaring waves still cleft. LIV By the same way returned the well-taught boat By which it came, and made like haste, like speed; The friendly wind, upon her sail that smote, So turned as to return her ship had need: The youth sometimes the Pole or Bear did note, Or wandering stars which dearest nights forthspread: Sometimes the floods, the hills, or mountains steep, Whose woody fronts o'ershade the silent deep. LV Now of the camp the man the state inquires, Now asks the customs strange of sundry lands; And sailed, till clad in beams and bright attires The fourth day's sun on the eastern threshold stands: But when the western seas had quenched those fires, Their frigate struck against the shore and sands; Then spoke their guide, "The land of Palestine This is, here must your journey end and mine." LVI The knights she set upon the shore all three, And vanished thence in twinkling of an eye, Uprose the night in whose deep blackness be All colors hid of things in earth or sky, Nor could they house, or hold, or harbor see, Or in that desert sign of dwelling spy, Nor track of man or horse, or aught that might Inform them of some path or passage right. LVII When they had mused what way they travel should, From the west shore their steps at last they twined, And lo, far off at last their eyes behold Something, they wist not what, that clearly shined With rays of silver and with beams of gold Which the dark folds of night's black mantle lined. Forward they went and marched against the light, To see and find the thing that shone so bright. LVIII High on a tree they saw an armor new, That glistered bright gainst Cynthia's silver ray, Therein, like stars in skies, the diamonds show Fret in the gilden helm and hauberk gay, The mighty shield all scored full they view Of pictures fair, ranged in meet array; To keep them sate an aged man beside, Who to salute them rose, when them he spied. LIX The twain who first were sent in this pursuit Of their wise friend well knew the aged face: But when the wizard sage their first salute Received and quitted had with kind embrace, To the young prince, that silent stood and mute, He turned his speech, "In this unused place For you alone I wait, my lord," quoth he, "My chiefest care your state and welfare be. LX "For, though you wot it not, I am your friend, And for your profit work, as these can tell, I taught them how Armida's charms to end, And bring you thither from love's hateful cell, Now to my words, though sharp perchance, attend, Nor be aggrieved although they seem too fell, But keep them well in mind, till in the truth A wise and holier man instruct thy youth. LXI "Not underneath sweet shades and fountains shrill, Among the nymphs, the fairies, leaves and flowers; But on the steep, the rough and craggy hill Of virtue stands this bliss, this good of ours: By toil and travel, not by sitting still In pleasure's lap, we come to honor's bowers; Why will you thus in sloth's deep valley lie? The royal eagles on high mountains fly. LXII "Nature lifts up thy forehead to the skies, And fills thy heart with high and noble thought, That thou to heavenward aye shouldst lift thine eyes, And purchase fame by deeds well done and wrought; She gives thee ire, by which not courage flies To conquests, not through brawls and battles fought For civil jars, nor that thereby you might Your wicked malice wreak and cursed spite. LXIII "But that your strength spurred forth with noble wrath, With greater fury might Christ's foes assault, And that your bridle should with lesser scath Each secret vice, and kill each inward fault; For so his godly anger ruled hath Each righteous man beneath heaven's starry vault, And at his will makes it now hot, now cold, Now lets it run, now doth it fettered hold." LXIV Thus parleyed he; Rinaldo, hushed and still, Great wisdom heard in those few words compiled, He marked his speech, a purple blush did fill His guilty checks, down went his eyesight mild. The hermit by his bashful looks his will Well understood, and said, "Look up, my child, And painted in this precious shield behold The glorious deeds of thy forefathers old. LXV "Thine elders' glory herein see and know, In virtue's path how they trod all their days, Whom thou art far behind, a runner slow In this true course of honor, fame and praise: Up, up, thyself incite by the fair show Of knightly worth which this bright shield bewrays, That be thy spur to praise!" At last the knight Looked up, and on those portraits bent his sight. LXVI The cunning workman had in little space Infinite shapes of men there well expressed, For there described was the worthy race And pedigree of all of the house of Est: Come from a Roman spring o'er all the place Flowed pure streams of crystals east and west, With laurel crowned stood the princes old, Their wars the hermit and their battles told. LXVII He showed them Caius first, when first in prey To people strange the falling empire went, First Prince of Est, that did the sceptre sway O'er such as chose him lord by tree consent; His weaker neighbors to his rule obey, Need made them stoop, constraint doth force content; After, when Lord Honorius called the train Of savage Goths into his land again, LXVIII And when all Italy did burn and flame With bloody war, by this fierce people mad, When Rome a captive and a slave became, And to be quite destroyed was most afraid, Aurelius, to his everlasting fame, Preserved in peace the folk that him obeyed: Next whom was Forest, who the rage withstood Of the bold Huns, and of their tyrant proud. LXIX Known by his look was Attila the fell, Whose dragon eyes shone bright with anger's spark, Worse faced than a dog, who viewed him well Supposed they saw him grin and heard him bark; But when in single fight he lost the bell, How through his troops he fled there might you mark, And how Lord Forest after fortified Aquilea's town, and how for it he died. LXX For there was wrought the fatal end and fine, Both of himself and of the town he kept: But his great son renowned Acarine, Into his father's place and honor stepped: To cruel fate, not to the Huns, Altine Gave place, and when time served again forth leapt, And in the vale of Po built for his seat Of many a village a small city great; LXXI Against the swelling flood he banked it strong, And thence uprose the fair and noble town Where they of Est should by succession long Command, and rule in bliss and high renown: Gainst Odoacer then he fought, but wrong Oft spoileth right, fortune treads courage down, For there he died for his dear country's sake, And of his father's praise did so partake. LXXII With him died Alforisio, Azzo was With his dear brother into exile sent, But homeward they in arms again repass -- The Herule king oppressed -- from banishment. His front through pierced with a dart, alas, Next them, of Est the Epaminondas went, That smiling seemed to cruel death to yield, When Totila was fled, and safe his shield. LXXIII Of Boniface I speak; Valerian, His son, in praise and power succeeded him, Who durst sustain, in years though scant a man, Of the proud Goths an hundred squadrons trim: Then he that gainst the Sclaves much honor wan, Ernesto, threatening stood with visage grim; Before him Aldoard, the Lombard stout Who from Monselce boldly erst shut out. LXXIV There Henry was and Berengare the bold That served great Charles in his conquest high, Who in each battle give the onset would, A hardy soldier and a captain sly; After, Prince Lewis did he well uphold Against his nephew, King of Italy, He won the field and took that king on live: Next him stood Otho with his children five. LXXV Of Almeric the image next they view, Lord Marquis of Ferrara first create, Founder of many churches, that upthrew His eyes, like one that used to contemplate; Gainst him the second Azzo stood in rew, With Berengarius that did long debate, Till after often change of fortune stroke, He won, and on all Italy laid the yoke. LXXVI Albert his son the Germans warred among, And there his praise and fame was spread so wide, That having foiled the Danes in battle strong, His daughter young became great Otho's bride. Behind him Hugo stood with warfare long, That broke the horn of all the Romans' pride, Who of all Italy the marquis hight, And Tuscan whole possessed as his right. LXXVII After Tebaldo, puissant Boniface And Beatrice his dear possessed the stage; Nor was there left heir male of that great race, To enjoy the sceptre, state and heritage; The Princess Maud alone supplied the place, Supplied the want in number, sex and age; For far above each sceptre, throne and crown, The noble dame advanced her veil and gown. LXXVIII With manlike vigor shone her noble look, And more than manlike wrath her face o'erspread, There the fell Normans, Guichard there forsook The field, till then who never feared nor fled; Henry the Fourth she beat, and from him took His standard, and in Church it offered; Which done, the Pope back to the Vatican She brought, and placed in Peter's chair again. LXXIX As he that honored her and held her dear, Azzo the Fifth stood by her lovely side; But the fourth Azzo's offspring far and near Spread forth, and through Germania fructified; Sprung from the branch did Guelpho bold appear, Guelpho his son by Cunigond his bride, And in Bavaria's field transplanted new The Roman graft flourished, increased and grew. LXXX A branch of Est there in the Guelfian tree Engrafted was, which of itself was old, Whereon you might the Guelfoes fairer see, Renew their sceptres and their crowns of gold, Of which Heaven's good aspects so bended be That high and broad it spread and flourished bold, Till underneath his glorious branches laid Half Germany, and all under his shade. LXXXI This regal plant from his Italian rout Sprung up as high, and blossomed fair above, Fornenst Lord Guelpho, Bertold issued out, With the sixth Azzo whom all virtues love; This was the pedigree of worthies stout, Who seemed in that bright shield to live and move. Rinaldo waked up and cheered his face, To see these worthies of his house and race. LXXXII To do like acts his courage wished and sought, And with that wish transported him so far That all those deeds which filled aye his thought, Towns won, forts taken, armies killed in war, As if they were things done indeed and wrought, Before his eyes he thinks they present are, He hastily arms him, and with hope and haste, Sure conquest met, prevented and embraced. LXXXIII But Charles, who had told the death and fall Of the young prince of Danes, his late dear lord, Gave him the fatal weapon, and withal, "Young knight," quoth he, "take with good luck this sword, Your just, strong, valiant hand in battle shall Employ it long, for Christ's true faith and word, And of his former lord revenge the wrongs, Who loved you so, that deed to you belongs." LXXXIV He answered, "God for his mercy's sake, Grant that this hand which holds this weapon good For thy dear master may sharp vengeance take, May cleave the Pagan's heart, and shed his blood." To this but short reply did Charles make, And thanked him much, nor more on terms they stood: For lo, the wizard sage that was their guide On their dark journey hastes them forth to ride. LXXXV "High time it is," quoth he, "for you to wend Where Godfrey you awaits, and many a knight, There may we well arrive ere night doth end, And through this darkness can I guide you right." This said, up to his coach they all ascend, On his swift wheels forth rolled the chariot light, He gave his coursers fleet the rod and rein, And galloped forth and eastward drove amain; LXXXVI While silent so through night's dark shade they fly, The hermit thus bespake the young man stout: "Of thy great house, thy race, thine offspring high, Here hast thou seen the branch, the bole, the root, And as these worthies born to chivalry And deeds of arms it hath tofore brought out, So is it, so it shall be fertile still, Nor time shall end, nor age that seed shall kill. LXXXVII "Would God, as drawn from the forgetful lap Of antique time, I have thine elders shown; That so I could the catalogue unwrap Of thy great nephews yet unborn, unknown, That ere this light they view, their fate and hap I might foretell, and how their chance is thrown, That like thine elders so thou mightst behold Thy children, many, famous, stout and bold. LXXXVIII "But not by art or skill, of things future Can the plain truth revealed be and told, Although some knowledge doubtful, dark, obscure We have of coming haps in clouds uprolled; Nor all which in this cause I know for sure Dare I foretell: for of that father old, The hermit Peter, learned I much, and he Withouten veil heaven's secrets great doth see. LXXXIX "But this, to him revealed by grace divine, By him to me declared, to thee I say, Was never race Greek, barbarous, or Latine, Great in times past, or famous at this day, Richer in hardy knights than this of thine; Such blessings Heaven shall on thy children lay That they in fame shall pass, in praise o'ercome, The worthies old of Sparta, Carthage, Rome. XC "But mongst the rest I chose Alphonsus bold, In virtue first, second in place and name, He shall be born when this frail world grows old, Corrupted, poor, and bare of men of fame, Better than he none shall, none can, or could, The sword or sceptre use or guide the same, To rule in peace or to command in fight, Thine offspring's glory and thy house's light. XCI "His younger age foretokens true shall yield Of future valor, puissance, force and might, From him no rock the savage beast shall shield; At tilt or tourney match him shall no knight: After, he conquer shall in pitched field Great armies and win spoils in single fight, And on his locks, rewards for knightly praise, Shall garlands wear of grass, of oak, of bays. XCII "His graver age, as well that eild it fits, Shall happy peace preserve and quiet blest, And from his neighbors strong mongst whom he sits Shall keep his cities safe in wealth and rest, Shall nourish arts and cherish pregnant wits, Make triumphs great, and feast his subjects best, Reward the good, the evil with pains torment, Shall dangers all foresee, and seen, prevent. XCIII "But if it hap against those wicked bands That sea and earth invest with blood and war, And in these wretched times to noble lands Give laws of peace false and unjust that are, That he be sent, to drive their guilty hands From Christ's pure altars and high temples far, Oh, what revenge, what vengeance shall he bring On that false sect, and their accursed king! XCIV "Too late the Moors, too late the Turkish king, Gainst him should arm their troops and legions bold For he beyond great Euphrates should bring, Beyond the frozen tops of Taurus cold, Beyond the land where is perpetual spring, The cross, the eagle white, the lily of gold, And by baptizing of the Ethiops brown Of aged Nile reveal the springs unknown." XCV Thus said the hermit, and his prophecy The prince accepted with content and pleasure, The secret thought of his posterity Of his concealed joys heaped up the measure. Meanwhile the morning bright was mounted high, And changed Heaven's silver wealth to golden treasure, And high above the Christian tents they view How the broad ensigns trembled, waved and blew, XCVI When thus again their leader sage begun, "See how bright Phoebus clears the darksome skies, See how with gentle beams the friendly sun The tents, the towns, the hills and dales descries, Through my well guiding is your voyage done, From danger safe in travel off which lies, Hence without fear of harm or doubt of foe March to the camp, I may no nearer go." XCVII Thus took he leave, and made a quick return, And forward went the champions three on foot, And marching right against the rising morn A ready passage to the camp found out, Meanwhile had speedy fame the tidings borne That to the tents approached these barons stout, And starting from his throne and kingly seat To entertain them, rose Godfredo great.
Go to the Eighteenth Book.