Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #13
THE ARGUMENT. The charms and spirits false therein which lie Rinaldo chaseth from the forest old; The host of Egypt comes; Vafrin the spy Entereth their camp, stout, crafty, wise and bold; Sharp is the fight about the bulwarks high And ports of Zion, to assault the hold: Godfrey hath aid from Heaven, by force the town Is won, the Pagans slain, walls beaten down. I Arrived where Godfrey to embrace him stood, "My sovereign lord," Rinaldo meekly said, "To venge my wrongs against Gernando proud My honor's care provoked my wrath unstayed; But that I you displeased, my chieftain good, My thoughts yet grieve, my heart is still dismayed, And here I come, prest all exploits to try To make me gracious in your gracious eye." II To him that kneeled, folding his friendly arms About his neck, the duke this answer gave: "Let pass such speeches sad, of passed harms. Remembrance is the life of grief; his grave, Forgetfulness; and for amends, in arms Your wonted valor use and courage brave; For you alone to happy end must bring The strong enchantments of the charmed spring. III "That aged wood whence heretofore we got, To build our scaling engines, timber fit, Is now the fearful seat, but how none wot, Where ugly fiends and damned spirits sit; To cut one twist thereof adventureth not The boldest knight we have, nor without it This wall can battered be: where others doubt There venture thou, and show thy courage stout." IV Thus said he, and the knight in speeches few Proffered his service to attempt the thing, To hard assays his courage willing flew, To him praise was no spur, words were no sting; Of his dear friends then he embraced the crew To welcome him which came; for in a ring About him Guelpho, Tancred and the rest Stood, of the camp the greatest, chief and best. V When with the prince these lords had iterate Their welcomes oft, and oft their dear embrace, Toward the rest of lesser worth and state, He turned, and them received with gentle grace; The merry soldiers bout him shout and prate, With cries as joyful and as cheerful face As if in triumph's chariot bright as sun, He had returned Afric or Asia won. VI Thus marched to his tent the champion good, And there sat down with all his friends around; Now of the war he asked, now of the wood, And answered each demand they list propound; But when they left him to his ease, up stood The hermit, and, fit time to speak once found, "My lord," he said, "your travels wondrous are, Far have you strayed, erred, wandered far. VII "Much are you bound to God above, who brought You safe from false Armida's charmed hold, And thee a straying sheep whom once he bought Hath now again reduced to his fold, And gainst his heathen foes these men of naught Hath chosen thee in place next Godfrey bold; Yet mayest thou not, polluted thus with sin, In his high service war or fight begin. VIII "The world, the flesh, with their infection vile Pollute the thoughts impure, thy spirit stain; Not Po, not Ganges, not seven-mouthed Nile, Not the wide seas, can wash thee clean again, Only to purge all faults which thee defile His blood hath power who for thy sins was slain: His help therefore invoke, to him bewray Thy secret faults, mourn, weep, complain and pray." IX This said, the knight first with the witch unchaste His idle loves and follies vain lamented; Then kneeling low with heavy looks downcast, His other sins confessed and all repented, And meekly pardon craved for first and last. The hermit with his zeal was well contented, And said, "On yonder hill next morn go pray That turns his forehead gainst the morning ray. X "That done, march to the wood, whence each one brings Such news of furies, goblins, fiends, and sprites, The giants, monsters, and all dreadful things Thou shalt subdue, which that dark grove unites: Let no strange voice that mourns or sweetly sings, Nor beauty, whose glad smile frail hearts delights, Within thy breast make ruth or pity rise, But their false looks and prayers false despise." XI Thus he advised him, and the hardy knight Prepared him gladly to this enterprise, Thoughtful he passed the day, and sad the night; And ere the silver morn began to rise, His arms he took, and in a coat him dight Of color strange, cut in the warlike guise; And on his way sole, silent, forth he went Alone, and left his friends, and left his tent. XII It was the time when gainst the breaking day Rebellious night yet strove, and still repined, For in the east appeared the morning gray And yet some lamps in Jove's high palace shined, When to Mount Olivet he took his way, And saw, as round about his eyes he twined, Night's shadows hence, from thence the morning's shine, This bright, that dark; that earthly, this divine. XIII Thus to himself he thought, how many bright And splendent lamps shine in heaven's temple high, Day hath his golden sun, her moon the night, Her fixed and wandering stars the azure sky, So framed all by their Creator's might That still they live and shine, and ne'er shall die Till, in a moment, with the last day's brand They burn, and with them burn sea, air, and land. XIV Thus as he mused, to the top he went, And there kneeled down with reverence and fear, His eyes upon heaven's eastern face he bent, His thoughts above all heavens uplifted were: "The sins and errors, which I now repent, Of mine unbridled youth, O Father dear, Remember not, but let thy mercy fall, And purge my faults and mine offences all." XV Thus prayed he, with purple wings upflew In golden weed the morning's lusty queen, Begilding with the radiant beams she threw His helm, his harness, and the mountain green; Upon his breast and forehead gently blew The air, that balm and nardus breathed unseen, And o'er his head let down from clearest skies A cloud of pure and precious clew there flies. XVI The heavenly dew was on his garments spread, To which compared, his clothes pale ashes seem, And sprinkled so, that all that paleness fled And thence, of purest white, bright rays outstream; So cheered are the flowers late withered With the sweet comfort of the morning beam, And so, returned to youth, a serpent old Adorns herself in new and native gold. XVII The lovely whiteness of his changed weed, The Prince perceived well, and long admired; Toward the forest marched he on with speed, Resolved, as such adventures great required; Thither he came whence shrinking back for dread Of that strange desert's sight the first retired, But not to him fearful or loathsome made That forest was, but sweet with pleasant shade: XVIII Forward he passed, mid in the grove before He heard a sound that strange, sweet, pleasing was; There rolled a crystal brook with gentle roar, There sighed the winds as through the leaves they pass, There did the nightingale her wrongs deplore, There sung the swan, and singing died, alas! There lute, harp, cittern, human voice he heard, And all these sounds one sound right well declared. XIX A dreadful thunder-clap at last he heard, The aged trees and plants well-nigh that rent; Yet heard the nymphs and sirens afterward, Birds, winds, and waters, sing with sweet consent: Whereat amazed he stayed, and well prepared For his defence, heedful and slow forth went: Nor in his way his passage aught withstood, Except a quiet, still, transparent flood. XX On the green banks which that fair stream inbound, Flowers and odors sweetly smiled and smelled, Which reaching out his stretched arms around, All the large desert in his bosom held, And through the grove one channel passage found; That in the wood; in that, the forest dwelled: Trees clad the streams; streams green those trees aye made And so exchanged their moisture and their shade. XXI The knight some way sought out the flood to pass, And as he sought, a wondrous bridge appeared, A bridge of gold, a huge and weighty mass, On arches great of that rich metal reared; When through that golden way he entered was, Down fell the bridge, swelled the stream, and weared The work away, nor sign left where it stood, And of a river calm became a flood. XXII He turned, amazed to see it troubled so, Like sudden brooks increased with molten snow, The billows fierce that tossed to and fro, The whirlpools sucked down to their bosoms low; But on he went to search for wonders mo, Through the thick trees there high and broad which grow, And in that forest huge and desert wide, The more he sought, more wonders still he spied. XXIII Whereso he stepped, it seemed the joyful ground Renewed the verdure of her flowery weed, A fountain here, a wellspring there he found; Here bud the roses, there the lilies spread The aged wood o'er and about him round Flourished with blossoms new, new leaves, new seed, And on the boughs and branches of those treen, The bark was softened, and renewed the green. XXIV The manna on each leaf did pearled lie, The honey stilled from the tender rind; Again he heard that wondrous harmony, Of songs and sweet complaints of lovers kind, The human voices sung a triple high, To which respond the birds, the streams, the wind, But yet unseen those nymphs, those singers were, Unseen the lutes, harps, viols which they bear. XXV He looked, he listened, yet his thoughts denied To think that true which he both heard and see, A myrtle in an ample plain he spied, And thither by a beaten path went he: The myrtle spread her mighty branches wide, Higher than pine or palm or cypress tree: And far above all other plants was seen That forest's lady and that desert's queen. XXVI Upon the trees his eyes Rinaldo bent,. And there a marvel great and strange began; An aged oak beside him cleft and rent, And from his fertile hollow womb forth ran, Clad in rare weeds and strange habiliment, A nymph, for age able to go to man, An hundred plants beside, even in his sight, Childed an hundred nymphs, so great, so dight. XXVII Such as on stages play, such as we see The Dryads painted whom wild Satyrs love, Whose arms half-naked, locks untrussed be, With buskins laced on their legs above, And silken robes tucked short above their knee; Such seemed the sylvan daughters of this grove, Save that instead of shafts and boughs of tree, She bore a lute, a harp, or cittern she. XXVIII And wantonly they cast them in a ring, And sung and danced to move his weaker sense, Rinaldo round about environing, As centres are with their circumference; The tree they compassed eke, and gan to sing, That woods and streams admired their excellence; "Welcome, dear lord, welcome to this sweet grove, Welcome our lady's hope, welcome her love. XXIX "Thou com'st to cure our princess, faint and sick For love, for love of thee, faint, sick, distressed; Late black, late dreadful was this forest thick, Fit dwelling for sad folk with grief oppressed, See with thy coming how the branches quick Revived are, and in new blosoms dressed:" This was their song, and after, from it went First a sweet sound, and then the myrtle rent. XXX If antique times admired Silenus old That oft appeared set on his lazy ass, How would they wonder if they had behold Such sights as from the myrtle high did pass? Thence came a lady fair with locks of gold, That like in shape, in face and beauty was To sweet Armide; Rinaldo thinks he spies Her gestures, smiles, and glances of her eyes. XXXI On him a sad and smiling look she cast, Which twenty passions strange at once bewrays: "And art thou come," quoth she, "returned at last To her from whom but late thou ran'st thy ways? Com'st thou to comfort me for sorrows past? To ease my widow nights and careful days? Or comest thou to work me grief and harm? Why nilt thou speak? -- why not thy face disarm? XXXII "Com'st thou a friend or foe? I did not frame That golden bridge to entertain my foe, Nor opened flowers and fountains as you came, To welcome him with joy that brings me woe: Put off thy helm, rejoice me with the flame Of thy bright eyes, whence first my fires did grow. Kiss me, embrace me, if you further venture, Love keeps the gate, the fort is eath to enter." XXXIII Thus as she woos she rolls her rueful eyes With piteous look, and changeth oft her cheer, An hundred sighs from her false heart upflies, She sobs, she mourns, it is great ruth to hear; The hardest breast sweet pity mollifies, What stony heart resists a woman's tear? But yet the knight, wise, wary, not unkind, Drew forth his sword and from her careless twined. XXXIV Toward the tree he marched, she thither start, Before him stepped, embraced the plant and cried, "Ah, never do me such a spiteful part, To cut my tree, this forest's joy and pride, Put up thy sword, else pierce therewith the heart Of thy forsaken and despised Armide; For through this breast, and through this heart unkind To this fair tree thy sword shall passage find." XXXV He lift his brand, nor cared though oft she prayed, And she her form to other shape did change; Such monsters huge when men in dreams are laid Oft in their idle fancies roam and range: Her body swelled, her face obscure was made, Vanished her garments, her face and vestures strange, A giantess before him high she stands, Like Briareus armed with an hundred hands. XXXVI With fifty swords, and fifty targets bright, She threatened death, she roared, cried and fought, Each other nymph in armor likewise dight, A Cyclops great became: he feared them naught, But on the myrtle smote with all his might, That groaned like living souls to death nigh brought, The sky seemed Pluto's court, the air seemed hell, Therein such monsters roar, such spirits yell. XXXVII Lightened the heavens above, the earth below Roared loud, that thundered, and this shook; Blustered the tempests strong, the whirlwinds blow, The bitter storm drove hailstones in his look; But yet his arm grew neither weak nor slow, Nor of that fury heed or care he took, Till low to earth the wounded tree down bended; Then fled the spirits all, the charms all ended. XXXVIII The heavens grew clear, the air waxed calm and still, The wood returned to his wonted state, Of withcrafts free, quite void of spirits ill; Of horror full, but horror there innate; He further proved if aught withstood his will To cut those trees as did the charms of late, And finding naught to stop him, smiled, and said, "O shadows vain! O fools, of shades afraid!" XXXIX From thence home to the campward turned the knight, The hermit cried, upstarting from his seat, "Now of the wood the charms have lost their might, The sprites are conquered, ended is the feat, See where he comes!" In glistering white all dight Appeared the man, bold, stately, high and great, His eagle's silver wings to shine begun With wondrous splendor gainst the golden sun. XL The camp received him with a joyful cry, A cry the dales and hills about that flied; Then Godfrey welcomed him with honors high, His glory quenched all spite, all envy killed: "To yonder dreadful grove," quoth he, "went I, And from the fearful wood, as me you willed, Have driven the sprites away, thither let be Your people sent, the way is safe and free." XLI Sent were the workmen thither, thence they brought Timber enough, by good advice select, And though by skilless builders framed and wrought Their engines rude and rams were late elect, Yet now the forts and towers from whence they fought Were framed by a cunning architect, William, of all the Genoese lord and guide, Which late ruled all the seas from side to side; XLII But forced to retire from him at last, The Pagan fleet the seas moist empire won, His men with all their stuff and store in haste Home to the camp with their commander run, In skill, in wit, in cunning him surpassed Yet never engineer beneath the sun, Of carpenters an hundred large he brought, That what their lord devised made and wrought. XLIII This man began with wondrous art to make, Not rams, not mighty brakes, not slings alone, Wherewith the firm and solid walls to shake, To cast a dart, or throw a shaft or stone; But framed of pines and firs, did undertake To build a fortress huge, to which was none Yet ever like, whereof he clothed the sides Against the balls of fire with raw bull's hides. XLIV In mortices and sockets framed just, The beams, the studs and puncheons joined he fast; To beat the city's wall, beneath forth brust A ram with horned front, about her waist A bridge the engine from her side out thrust, Which on the wall when need she cast; And from her top a turret small up stood, Strong, surely armed, and builded of like wood. XLV Set on an hundred wheels the rolling mass, On the smooth lands went nimbly up and down, Though full of arms and armed men it was, Yet with small pains it ran, as it had flown: Wondered the camp so quick to see it pass, They praised the workmen and their skill unknown, And on that day two towers they builded more, Like that which sweet Clorinda burned before. XLVI Yet wholly were not from the Saracines Their works concealed and their labors hid, Upon that wall which next the camp confines They placed spies, who marked all they did: They saw the ashes wild and squared pines, How to the tents, trailed from the grove, they slid: And engines huge they saw, yet could not tell How they were built, their forms they saw not well. XLVII Their engines eke they reared, and with great art Repaired each bulwark, turret, port and tower, And fortified the plain and easy part, To bide the storm of every warlike stoure, Till as they thought no sleight or force of Mart To undermine or scale the same had power; And false Ismeno gan new balls prepare Of wicked fire, wild, wondrous, strange and rare. XLVIII He mingled brimstone with bitumen fell Fetched from that lake where Sodom erst did sink, And from that flood which nine times compassed hell Some of the liquor hot he brought, I think, Wherewith the quenchless fire he tempered well, To make it smoke and flame and deadly stink: And for his wood cut down, the aged sire Would thus revengement take with flame and fire. XLIX While thus the camp, and thus the town were bent, These to assault, these to defend the wall, A speedy dove through the clear welkin went, Straight o'er the tents, seen by the soldiers all; With nimble fans the yielding air she rent, Nor seemed it that she would alight or fall, Till she arrived near that besieged town, Then from the clouds at last she stooped down: L But lo, from whence I nolt, a falcon came, Armed with crooked bill and talons long, And twixt the camp and city crossed her game, That durst nor bide her foe's encounter strong; But right upon the royal tent down came, And there, the lords and princes great among, When the sharp hawk nigh touched her tender head In Godfrey's lap she fell, with fear half dead: LI The duke received her, saved her, and spied, As he beheld the bird, a wondrous thing, About her neck a letter close was tied, By a small thread, and thrust under her wing, He loosed forth the writ and spread it wide, And read the intent thereof, "To Judah's king," Thus said the schedule, "honors high increase, The Egyptian chieftain wisheth health and peace: LII "Fear not, renowned prince, resist, endure Till the third day, or till the fourth at most, I come, and your deliverance will procure, And kill your coward foes and all their host." This secret in that brief was closed up sure, Writ in strange language, to the winged post Given to transport; for in their warlike need The east such message used, oft with good speed. LIII The duke let go the captive dove at large, And she that had his counsel close betrayed, Traitress to her great Lord, touched not the marge Of Salem's town, but fled far thence afraid. The duke before all those which had or charge Or office high, the letter read, and said: "See how the goodness of the Lord foreshows The secret purpose of our crafty foes. LIV "No longer then let us protract the time, But scale the bulwark of this fortress high, Through sweat and labor gainst those rocks sublime Let us ascend, which to the southward lie; Hard will it be that way in arms to climb, But yet the place and passage both know I, And that high wall by site strong on that part, Is least defenced by arms, by work and art. LV "Thou, Raymond, on this side with all thy might Assault the wall, and by those crags ascend, My squadrons with mine engines huge shall fight And gainst the northern gate my puissance bend, That so our foes, beguiled with the sight, Our greatest force and power shall there attend, While my great tower from thence shall nimbly slide, And batter down some worse defended side; LVI "Camillo, thou not far from me shalt rear Another tower, close to the walls ybrought." This spoken, Raymond old, that sate him near, And while he talked great things tossed in his thought, Said, "To Godfredo's counsel, given us here, Naught can be added, from it taken naught: Yet this I further wish, that some were sent To spy their camp, their secret and intent, LVII "That may their number and their squadrons brave Describe, and through their tents disguised mask." Quoth Tancred, "Lo, a subtle squire I have, A person fit to undertake this task, A man quick, ready, bold, sly to deceive, To answer, wise, and well advised to ask; Well languaged, and that with time and place, Can change his look, his voice, his gait, his grace." LVIII Sent for, he came, and when his lord him told What Godfrey's pleasure was and what his own, He smiled and said forthwith he gladly would. "I go," quoth he, "careless what chance be thrown, And where encamped be these Pagans bold, Will walk in every tent a spy unknown, Their camp even at noon-day I enter shall, And number all their horse and footmen all; LIX "How great, how strong, how armed this army is, And what their guide intends, I will declare, To me the secrets of that heart of his And hidden thoughts shall open lie and bare." Thus Vafrine spoke, nor longer stayed on this, But for a mantle changed the coat he ware, Naked was his neck, and bout his forehead bold, Of linen white full twenty yards he rolled. LX His weapons were a Syrian bow and quiver, His gestures barbarous, like the Turkish train, Wondered all they that heard his tongue deliver Of every land the language true and plain: In Tyre a born Phoenician, by the river Of Nile a knight bred in the Egyptian main, Both people would have thought him; forth he rides On a swift steed, o'er hills and dales that glides. LXI But ere the third day came the French forth sent Their pioneers to even the rougher ways, And ready made each warlike instrument, Nor aught their labor interrupts or stays; The nights in busy toll they likewise spent And with long evenings lengthened forth short days, Till naught was left the hosts that hinder might To use their utmost power and strength in fight. LXII That day, which of the assault the day forerun, The godly duke in prayer spent well-nigh, And all the rest, because they had misdone, The sacrament receive and mercy cry; Then oft the duke his engines great begun To show where least he would their strength apply; His foes rejoiced, deluded in that sort, To see them bent against their surest port: LXIII But after, aided by the friendly night, His greatest engine to that side he brought Where plainest seemed the wall, where with their might The flankers least could hurt them as they fought; And to the southern mountain's greatest height To raise his turret old Raymondo sought; And thou Camillo on that part hadst thine, Where from the north the walls did westward twine. LXIV But when amid the eastern heaven appeared The rising morning bright as shining glass, The troubled Pagans saw, and seeing feared, How the great tower stood not where late it was, And here and there tofore unseen was reared Of timber strong a huge and fearful mass, And numberless with beams, with ropes and strings, They view the iron rams, the barks and slings. LXV The Syrian people now were no whit slow, Their best defences to that side to bear, Where Godfrey did his greatest engine show, From thence where late in vain they placed were: But he who at his back right well did know The host of Egypt to be proaching near, To him called Guelpho, and the Roberts twain, And said, "On horseback look you still remain, LXVI "And have regard, while all our people strive To scale this wall, where weak it seems and thin, Lest unawares some sudden host arrive, And at our backs unlooked-for war begin." This said, three fierce assaults at once they give, The hardy soldiers all would die or win, And on three parts resistance makes the king, And rage gainst strength, despair gainst hope doth bring. LXVII Himself upon his limbs with feeble eild That shook, unwieldy with their proper weight, His armor laid and long unused shield, And marched gainst Raymond to the mountain's height; Great Solyman gainst Godfrey took the field; Fornenst Camillo stood Argantes straight Where Tancred strong he found, so fortune will That this good prince his wonted foe shall kill. LXVIII The archers shot their arrows sharp and keen, Dipped in the bitter juice of poison strong, The shady face of heaven was scantly seen, Hid with the clouds of shafts and quarries long; Yet weapons sharp with greater fury been Cast from the towers the Pagan troops among, For thence flew stones and clifts of marble rocks, Trees shod with iron, timber, logs and blocks. LXIX A thunderbolt seemed every stone, it brake His limbs and armors on whom so it light, That life and soul it did not only take But all his shape and face disfigured quite; The lances stayed not in the wounds they make, But through the gored body took their flight, From side to side, through flesh, through skin and rind They flew, and flying, left sad death behind. LXX But yet not all this force and fury drove The Pagan people to forsake the wall, But to revenge these deadly blows they strove, With darts that fly, with stones and trees that fall; For need so cowards oft courageous prove, For liberty they fight, for life and all, And oft with arrows, shafts, and stones that fly, Give bitter answer to a sharp reply. LXXI This while the fierce assailants never cease, But sternly still maintain a threefold charge, And gainst the clouds of shafts draw nigh at ease, Under a pentise made of many a targe, The armed towers close to the bulwarks press, And strive to grapple with the battled marge, And launch their bridges out, meanwhile below With iron fronts the rams the walls down throw. LXXII Yet still Rinaldo unresolved went, And far unworthy him this service thought, If mongst the common sort his pains he spent; Renown so got the prince esteemed naught: His angry looks on every side he bent, And where most harm, most danger was, he fought, And where the wall high, strong and surest was, That part would he assault, and that way pass. LXXIII And turning to the worthies him behind, All hardy knights, whom Dudon late did guide, "Oh shame," quoth he, "this wall no war doth find, When battered is elsewhere each part, each side; All pain is safety to a valiant mind, Each way is eath to him that dares abide, Come let us scale this wall, though strong and high, And with your shields keep off the darts that fly." LXXIV With him united all while thus he spake, Their targets hard above their heads they threw, Which joined in one an iron pentise make That from the dreadful storm preserved the crew. Defended thus their speedy course they take, And to the wall without resistance drew, For that strong penticle protected well The knights, from all that flew and all that fell. LXXV Against the fort Rinaldo gan uprear A ladder huge, an hundred steps of height, And in his arm the same did easily bear And move as winds do reeds or rushes light, Sometimes a tree, a rock, a dart or spear, Fell from above, yet forward clomb the knight, And upward fearless pierced, careless still, Though Mount Olympus fell, or Ossa hill: LXXVI A mount of ruins, and of shafts a wood Upon his shoulders and his shield he bore, One hand the ladder held whereon he stood, The other bare his targe his face before; His hardy troop, by his example good Provoked, with him the place assaulted sore, And ladders long against the wall they clap, Unlike in courage yet, unlike in hap: LXXVII One died, another fell; he forward went, And these he comforts, and he threateneth those, Now with his hand outstretched the battlement Well-nigh he reached, when all his armed foes Ran thither, and their force and fury bent To throw him headlong down, yet up he goes, A wondrous thing, one knight whole armed bands Alone, and hanging in the air, withstands: LXXVIII Withstands, and forceth his great strength so far, That like a palm whereon huge weight doth rest, His forces so resisted stronger are, His virtues higher rise the more oppressed, Till all that would his entrance bold debar, He backward drove, upleaped and possessed The wall, and safe and easy with his blade, To all that after came, the passage made. LXXIX There killing such as durst and did withstand, To noble Eustace that was like to fall He reached forth his friendly conquering hand, And next himself helped him to mount the wall. This while Godfredo and his people land Their lives to greater harms and dangers thrall, For there not man with man, nor knight with knight Contend, but engines there with engines fight. LXXX For in that place the Paynims reared a post, Which late had served some gallant ship for mast, And over it another beam they crossed, Pointed with iron sharp, to it made fast With ropes which as men would the dormant tossed, Now out, now in, now back, now forward cast. In his swift pulleys oft the men withdrew The tree, and oft the riding-balk forth threw: LXXXI The mighty beam redoubted oft his blows, And with such force the engine smote and hit, That her broad side the tower wide open throws, Her joints were broke, her rafters cleft and split; But yet gainst every hap whence mischief grows, Prepared the piece, gainst such extremes made fit, Launch forth two scythes, sharp, cutting, long and broad And cut the ropes whereon the engine rode: LXXXII As an old rock, which age or stormy wind Tears from some craggy hill or mountain steep, Doth break, doth bruise, and into dust doth grind Woods, houses, hamlets, herds, and folds of sheep, So fell the beam, and down with it all kind Of arms, of weapons, and of men did sweep, Wherewith the towers once or twice did shake, Trembled the walls, the hills and mountains quake. LXXXIII Victorious Godfrey boldly forward came, And had great hope even then the place to win; But lo, a fire, with stench, with smoke and flame Withstood his passage, stopped his entrance in: Such burning Aetna yet could never frame, When from her entrails hot her fires begin, Nor yet in summer on the Indian plain, Such vapors warm from scorching air down rain. LXXXIV There balls of wildfire, there fly burning spears, This flame was black, that blue, this red as blood; Stench well-nigh choked them, noise deafs their ears, Smoke blinds their eyes, fire kindleth on the wood; Nor those raw hides which for defence it wears Could save the tower, in such distress it stood; For now they wrinkle, now it sweats and fries, Now burns, unless some help come down from skies. LXXXV The hardy duke before his folk abides, Nor changed he color, countenance or place, But comforts those that from the scaldered hides With water strove the approaching flames to chase: In these extremes the prince and those he guides Half roasted stood before fierce Vulcan's face, When lo, a sudden and unlooked-for blast The flames against the kindlers backward cast: LXXXVI The winds drove back the fire, where heaped lie The Pagans' weapons, where their engines were, Which kindling quickly in that substance dry, Burnt all their store and all their warlike gear: O glorious captain! whom the Lord from high Defends, whom God preserves, and holds so dear; For thee heaven fights, to thee the winds, from far, Called with thy trumpet's blast, obedient are! LXXXVII But wicked Ismen to his harm that saw How the fierce blast drove back the fire and flame, By art would nature change, and thence withdraw Those noisome winds, else calm and still the same; 'Twixt two false wizards without fear or awe Upon the walls in open sight he came, Black, grisly, loathsome, grim and ugly faced, Like Pluto old, betwixt two furies placed; LXXXVIII And now the wretch those dreadful words begun, Which trouble make deep hell and all her flock, Now trembled is the air, the golden sun His fearful beams in clouds did close and lock, When from the tower, which Ismen could not shun, Out fled a mighty stone, late half a rock, Which light so just upon the wizards three, That driven to dust their bones and bodies be. LXXXIX To less than naught their members old were torn, And shivered were their heads to pieces small, As small as are the bruised grains of corn When from the mill dissolved to meal they fall; Their damned souls, to deepest hell down borne Far from the joy and light celestial, The furies plunged in the infernal lake: O mankind, at their ends ensample take! XC This while the engine which the tempest cold Had saved from burning with his friendly blast, Approached had so near the battered hold That on the walls her bridge at ease she cast: But Solyman ran thither fierce and bold, To cut the plank whereon the Christians passed. And had performed his will, save that upreared High in the skies a turret new appeared; XCI Far in the air up clomb the fortress tall, Higher than house, than steeple, church or tower; The Pagans trembled to behold the wall And city subject to her shot and power; Yet kept the Turk his stand, though on him fall Of stones and darts a sharp and deadly shower, And still to cut the bridge he hopes and strives, And those that fear with cheerful speech revives. XCII The angel Michael, to all the rest Unseen, appeared before Godfredo's eyes, In pure and heavenly armor richly dressed, Brighter than Titan's rays in clearest skies; "Godfrey," quoth he, "this is the moment blest To free this town that long in bondage lies, See, see what legions in thine aid I bring, For Heaven assists thee, and Heaven's glorious King: XCIII "Lift up thine eyes, and in the air behold The sacred armies, how they mustered be, That cloud of flesh in which for times of old All mankind wrapped is, I take from thee, And from thy senses their thick mist unfold, That face to face thou mayest these spirits see, And for a little space right well sustain Their glorious light and view those angels plain. XCIV "Behold the souls of every lord and knight That late bore arms and died for Christ's dear sake, How on thy side against this town they fight, And of thy joy and conquest will partake: There where the dust and smoke blind all men's sight, Where stones and ruins such an heap do make, There Hugo fights, in thickest cloud imbarred, And undermines that bulwark's groundwork hard. XCV "See Dudon yonder, who with sword and fire Assails and helps to scale the northern port, That with bold courage doth thy folk inspire And rears their ladders gainst the assaulted fort: He that high on the mount in grave attire Is clad, and crowned stands in kingly sort, Is Bishop Ademare, a blessed spirit, Blest for his faith, crowned for his death and merit. XCVI "But higher lift thy happy eyes, and view Where all the sacred hosts of Heaven appear." He looked, and saw where winged armies flew, Innumerable, pure, divine and clear; A battle round of squadrons three they show And all by threes those squadrons ranged were, Which spreading wide in rings still wider go, Moved with a stone calm water circleth so. XCVII With that he winked, and vanished was and gone; That wondrous vision when he looked again, His worthies fighting viewed he one by one, And on each side saw signs of conquest plain, For with Rinaldo gainst his yielding lone, His knights were entered and the Pagans slain, This seen, the duke no longer stay could brook, But from the bearer bold his ensign took: XCVIII And on the bridge he stepped, but there was stayed By Solyman, who entrance all denied, That narrow tree to virtue great was made, The field as in few blows right soon was tried, "Here will I give my life for Sion's aid, Here will I end my days," the Soldan cried, "Behind me cut or break this bridge, that I May kill a thousand Christians first, then die." XCIX But thither fierce Rinaldo threatening went, And at his sight fled all the Soldan's train, "What shall I do? If here my life be spent, I spend and spill," quoth he, "my blood in vain!" With that his steps from Godfrey back he bent, And to him let the passage free remain, Who threatening followed as the Soldan fled, And on the walls the purple Cross dispread: C About his head he tossed, he turned, he cast, That glorious ensign, with a thousand twines, Thereon the wind breathes with his sweetest blast, Thereon with golden rays glad Phoebus shines, Earth laughs for joy, the streams forbear their haste, Floods clap their hands, on mountains dance the pines, And Sion's towers and sacred temples smile For their deliverance from that bondage vile. CI And now the armies reared the happy cry Of victory, glad, joyful, loud, and shrill. The hills resound, the echo showereth high, And Tancred bold, that fights and combats still With proud Argantes, brought his tower so nigh, That on the wall, against the boaster's will, In his despite, his bridge he also laid, And won the place, and there the cross displayed. CII But on the southern hill, where Raymond fought Against the townsmen and their aged king, His hardy Gascoigns gained small or naught; Their engine to the walls they could not bring, For thither all his strength the prince had brought, For life and safety sternly combating, And for the wall was feeblest on that coast, There were his soldiers best, and engines most. CIII Besides, the tower upon that quarter found Unsure, uneasy, and uneven the way, Nor art could help, but that the rougher ground The rolling mass did often stop and stay; But now of victory the joyful sound The king and Raymond heard amid their fray; And by the shout they and their soldiers know, The town was entered on the plain below. CIV Which heard, Raymondo thus bespake this crew, "The town is won, my friends, and doth it yet Resist? are we kept out still by these few? Shall we no share in this high conquest get?" But from that part the king at last withdrew, He strove in vain their entrance there to let, And to a stronger place his folk he brought, Where to sustain the assault awhile he thought. CV The conquerors at once now entered all, The walls were won, the gates were opened wide, Now bruised, broken down, destroyed fall The ports and towers that battery durst abide; Rageth the sword, death murdereth great and small, And proud 'twixt woe and horror sad doth ride. Here runs the blood, in ponds there stands the gore, And drowns the knights in whom it lived before.
Go to the Eighteenth Book.