Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #13
THE ARGUMENT. Tancred in single combat kills his foe, Argantes strong: the king and Soldan fly To David's tower, and save their persons so; Erminia well instructs Vafrine the spy, With him she rides away, and as they go Finds where her lord for dead on earth doth lie; First she laments, then cures him: Godfrey hears Ormondo's treason, and what marks he bears. I Now death or fear or care to save their lives From their forsaken walls the Pagans chase: Yet neither force nor fear nor wisdom drives The constant knight Argantes from his place; Alone against ten thousand foes he strives, Yet dreadless, doubtless, careless seemed his face, Nor death, nor danger, but disgrace he fears, And still unconquered, though o'erset, appears. II But mongst the rest upon his helmet gay With his broad sword Tancredi came and smote: The Pagan knew the prince by his array, By his strong blows, his armor and his coat; For once they fought, and when night stayed that fray, New time they chose to end their combat hot, But Tancred failed, wherefore the Pagan knight Cried, "Tancred, com'st thou thus, thus late to fight? III "Too late thou com'st, and not alone to war, But yet the fight I neither shun nor fear, Although from knighthood true thou errest far, Since like an engineer thou dost appear, That tower, that troop, thy shield and safety are, Strange kind of arms in single fight to bear; Yet shalt thou not escape, O conqueror strong Of ladies fair, sharp death, to avenge that wrong." IV Lord Tancred smiled, with disdain and scorn, And answerd thus, "To end our strife," quoth he, "Behold at last I come, and my return, Though late, perchance will be too soon for thee; For thou shalt wish, of hope and help forlorn, Some sea or mountain placed twixt thee and me, And well shalt know before we end this fray No fear of cowardice hath caused my stay. V "But come aside, thou by whose prowess dies The monsters, knights and giants in all lands, The killer of weak women thee defies." This said, he turned to his fighting bands, And bids them all retire. "Forbear," he cries, "To strike this knight, on him let none lay hands; For mine he is, more than a common foe, By challenge new and promise old also." VI "Descend," the fierce Circassian gan reply, "Alone, or all this troop for succor take To deserts waste, or place frequented high, For vantage none I will the fight forsake:" Thus given and taken was the bold defy, And through the press, agreed so, they brake, Their hatred made them one, and as they went, Each knight his foe did for despite defend: VII Great was his thirst of praise, great the desire That Tancred had the Pagan's blood to spill, Nor could that quench his wrath or calm his ire If other hand his foe should foil or kill. He saved him with his shield, and cried "Retire!" To all he met, "and do this knight none ill:" And thus defending gainst his friends his foe, Through thousand angry weapons safe they go. VII They left the city, and they left behind Godfredo's camp, and far beyond it passed, And came where into creeks and bosoms blind A winding hill his corners turned and cast, A valley small and shady dale they find Amid the mountains steep so laid and placed As if some theatre or closed place Had been for men to fight or beasts to chase. IX There stayed the champions both with rueful eyes, Argantes gan the fortress won to view; Tancred his foe withouten shield espies, And far away his target therefore threw, And said, "Whereon doth thy sad heart devise? Think'st thou this hour must end thy life untrue? If this thou fear, and dost foresee thy fate, Thy fear is vain, thy foresight comes too late." X "I think," quoth he, "on this distressed town, The aged Queen of Judah's ancient land, Now lost, now sacked, spoiled and trodden down, Whose fall in vain I strived to withstand, A small revenge for Sion's fort o'erthrown, That head can be, cut off by my strong hand." This said, together with great heed they flew, For each his foe for bold and hardy knew. XI Tancred of body active was and light, Quick, nimble, ready both of hand and foot; But higher by the head, the Pagan knight Of limbs far greater was, of heart as stout: Tancred laid low and traversed in his fight, Now to his ward retired, now struck out, Oft with his sword his foe's fierce blows he broke, And rather chose to ward-than bear his stroke. XII But bold and bolt upright Argantes fought, Unlike in gesture, like in skill and art, His sword outstretched before him far he brought, Nor would his weapon touch, but pierce his heart, To catch his point Prince Tancred strove and sought, But at his breast or helm's unclosed part He threatened death, and would with stretched-out brand His entrance close, and fierce assaults withstand. XIII With a tall ship so doth a galley fight, When the still winds stir not the unstable main; Where this in nimbleness as that in might Excels; that stands, this goes and comes again, And shifts from prow to poop with turnings light; Meanwhile the other doth unmoved remain, And on her nimble foe approaching nigh, Her weighty engines tumbleth down from high. XIV The Christian sought to enter on his foe, Voiding his point, which at his breast was bent; Argantes at his face a thrust did throw, Which while the Prince awards and doth prevent, His ready hand the Pagan turned so, That all defence his quickness far o'erwent, And pierced his side, which done, he said and smiled, "The craftsman is in his own craft beguiled." XV Tancredi bit his lip for scorn and shame, Nor longer stood on points of fence and skill, But to revenge so fierce and fast he came As if his hand could not o'ertake his will, And at his visor aiming just, gan frame To his proud boast an answer sharp, but still Argantes broke the thrust; and at half-sword, Swift, hardy, bold, in stepped the Christian lord. XVI With his left foot fast forward gan he stride, And with his left the Pagan's right arm bent, With his right hand meanwhile the man's right side He cut, he wounded, mangled, tore and rent. "To his victorious teacher," Tancred cried, "His conquered scholar hath this answer sent;" Argantes chafed, struggled, turned and twined, Yet could not so his captive arm unbind: XVII His sword at last he let hang by the chain, And griped his hardy foe in both his hands, In his strong arms Tancred caught him again, And thus each other held and wrapped in bands. With greater might Alcides did not strain The giant Antheus on the Lybian sands, On holdfast knots their brawny arms they cast, And whom he hateth most, each held embraced: XVIII Such was their wrestling, such their shocks and throws That down at once they tumbled both to ground, Argantes, -- were it hap or skill, who knows, His better hand loose and in freedom found; But the good Prince, his hand more fit for blows, With his huge weight the Pagan underbound; But he, his disadvantage great that knew, Let go his hold, and on his feet up flew: XIX Far slower rose the unwieldy Saracine, And caught a rap ere he was reared upright. But as against the blustering winds a pine Now bends his top, now lifts his head on height, His courage so, when it 'gan most decline, The man reinforced, and advanced his might, And with fierce change of blows renewed the fray, Where rage for skill, horror for art, bore sway. XX The purple drops from Tancred's sides down railed, But from the Pagan ran whole streams of blood, Wherewith his force grew weak, his courage quailed As fires die which fuel want or food. Tancred that saw his feeble arm now failed To strike his blows, that scant he stirred or stood, Assuaged his anger, and his wrath allayed, And stepping back, thus gently spoke and said: XXI "Yield, hardy knight, and chance of war or me Confess to have subdued thee in this fight, I will no trophy, triumph, spoil of thee, Nor glory wish, nor seek a victor's right More terrible than erst;" herewith grew he And all awaked his fury, rage and might, And said, "Dar'st thou of vantage speak or think, Or move Argantes once to yield or shrink? XXII "Use, use thy vantage, thee and fortune both I scorn, and punish will thy foolish pride:" As a hot brand flames most ere it forth go'th, And dying blazeth bright on every side; So he, when blood was lost, with anger wroth, Revived his courage when his puissance died, And would his latest hour which now drew nigh, Illustrate with his end, and nobly die. XXIII He joined his left hand to her sister strong, And with them both let fall his weighty blade. Tancred to ward his blow his sword up slung, But that it smote aside, nor there it stayed, But from his shoulder to his side along It glanced, and many wounds at once it made: Yet Tancred feared naught, for in his heart Found coward dread no place, fear had no part. XXIV His fearful blow he doubled, but he spent His force in waste, and all his strength in vain; For Tancred from the blow against him bent, Leaped aside, the stroke fell on the plain. With thine own weight o'erthrown to earth thou went, Argantes stout, nor could'st thyself sustain, Thyself thou threwest down, O happy man, Upon whose fall none boast or triumph can! XXV His gaping wounds the fall set open wide, The streams of blood about him made a lake, Helped with his left hand, on one knee he tried To rear himself, and new defence to make: The courteous prince stepped back, and "Yield thee!" cried, No hurt he proffered him, no blow he strake. Meanwhile by stealth the Pagan false him gave A sudden wound, threatening with speeches brave: XXVI Herewith Tancredi furious grew, and said, "Villain, dost thou my mercy so despise?" Therewith he thrust and thrust again his blade, And through his ventil pierced his dazzled eyes, Argantes died, yet no complaint he made, But as he furious lived he careless dies; Bold, proud, disdainful, fierce and void of fear His motions last, last looks, last speeches were. XXVII Tancred put up his sword, and praises glad Gave to his God that saved him in this fight; But yet this bloody conquest feebled had So much the conqueror's force, strength and might, That through the way he feared which homeward led He had not strength enough to walk upright; Yet as he could his steps from thence he bent, And foot by foot a heavy pace forth-went; XXVIII His legs could bear him but a little stound, And more he hastes, more tired, less was his speed, On his right hand, at last, laid on the ground He leaned, his hand weak like a shaking reed, Dazzled his eyes, the world on wheels ran round, Day wrapped her brightness up in sable weed; At length he swooned, and the victor knight Naught differed from his conquered foe in fight. XXIX But while these lords their private fight pursue, Made fierce and cruel through their secret hate, The victor's ire destroyed the faithless crew From street to street, and chased from gate to gate. But of the sacked town the image true Who can describe, or paint the woful state, Or with fit words this spectacle express Who can? or tell the city's great distress? XXX Blood, murder, death, each street, house, church defiled, There heaps of slain appear, there mountains high; There underneath the unburied hills up-piled Of bodies dead, the living buried lie; There the sad mother with her tender child Doth tear her tresses loose, complain and fly, And there the spoiler by her amber hair Draws to his lust the virgin chaste and fair. XXXI But through the way that to the west-hill yood Whereon the old and stately temple stands, All soiled with gore and wet with lukewarm blood Rinaldo ran, and chased the Pagan bands; Above their heads he heaved his curtlax good, Life in his grace, and death lay in his hands, Nor helm nor target strong his blows off bears, Best armed there seemed he no arms that wears; XXXII For gainst his armed foes he only bends His force, and scorns the naked folk to wound; Them whom no courage arms, no arms defends, He chased with his looks and dreadful sound: Oh, who can tell how far his force extends? How these he scorns, threats those, lays them on ground? How with unequal harm, with equal fear Fled all, all that well armed or naked were: XXXIII Fast fled the people weak, and with the same A squadron strong is to the temple gone Which, burned and builded oft, still keeps the name Of the first founder, wise King Solomon; That prince this stately house did whilom frame Of cedar trees, of gold and marble stone; Now not so rich, yet strong and sure it was, With turrets high, thick walls, and doors of brass. XXXIV The knight arrived where in warklike sort The men that ample church had fortified. And closed found each wicket, gate and port, And on the top defences ready spied, He left his frowning looks, and twice that fort From his high top down to the groundwork eyed, And entrance sought, and twice with his swift foot The mighty place he measured about. XXXV Like as a wolf about the closed fold Rangeth by night his hoped prey to get, Enraged with hunger and with malice old Which kind 'twixt him and harmless sheep hath set: So searched he high and low about that hold, Where he might enter without stop or let, In the great court he stayed, his foes above Attend the assault, and would their fortune prove. XXXVI There lay by chance a posted tree thereby, Kept for some needful use, whate'er it were, The armed galleys not so thick nor high Their tall and lofty masts at Genes uprear; This beam the knight against the gates made fly From his strong hands all weights which lift and bear, Like a light lance that tree he shook and tossed, And bruised the gate, the threshold and the post. XXXVII No marble stone, no metal strong outbore The wondrous might of that redoubled blow, The brazen hinges from the wall it tore, It broke the locks, and laid the doors down low, No iron ram, no engine could do more, Nor cannons great that thunderbolts forth throw, His people like a flowing stream inthrong, And after them entered the victor strong; XXXVIII The woful slaughter black and loathsome made That house, sometime the sacred house of God, O heavenly justice, if thou be delayed, On wretched sinners sharper falls thy rod! In them this place profaned which invade Thou kindled ire, and mercy all forbode, Until with their hearts' blood the Pagans vile This temple washed which they did late defile. XXXIX But Solyman this while himself fast sped Up to the fort which David's tower is named, And with him all the soldiers left he led, And gainst each entrance new defences framed: The tyrant Aladine eke thither fled, To whom the Soldan thus, far off, exclaimed, "Come, come, renowned king, up to this rock, Thyself, within this fortress safe uplock: XL "For well this fortress shall thee and thy crown Defend, awhile here may we safe remain." "Alas!" quoth he, "alas, for this fair town, Which cruel war beats down even with the plain, My life is done, mine empire trodden down, I reigned, I lived, but now nor live nor reign; For now, alas! behold the fatal hour That ends our life, and ends our kingly power." XLI "Where is your virtue, where your wisdom grave, And courage stout?" the angry Soldan said, "Let chance our kingdoms take which erst she gave, Yet in our hearts our kingly worth is laid; But come, and in this fort your person save, Refresh your weary limbs and strength decayed:" Thus counselled he, and did to safety bring Within that fort the weak and aged king. XLII His iron mace in both his hands he hent, And on his thigh his trusty sword he tied, And to the entrance fierce and fearless went, And kept the strait, and all the French defied: The blows were mortal which he gave or lent, For whom he hit he slew, else by his side Laid low on earth, that all fled from the place Where they beheld that great and dreadful mace. XLIII But old Raymondo with his hardy crew By chance came thither, to his great mishap; To that defended path the old man flew, And scorned his blows and him that kept the gap, He struck his foe, his blow no blood forth drew, But on the front with that he caught a rap, Which in a swoon, low in the dust him laid, Wide open, trembling, with his arms displayed. XLIV The Pagans gathered heart at last, though fear Their courage weak had put to flight but late, So that the conquerors repulsed were, And beaten back, else slain before the Gate: The Soldan, mongst the dead beside him near That saw Lord Raymond lie in such estate, Cried to his men, "Within these bars," quoth he, "Come draw this knight, and let him captive be." XLV Forward they rushed to execute his word, But hard and dangerous that emprise they found, For none of Raymond's men forsook their lord, But to their guide's defence they flocked round, Thence fury fights, hence pity draws the sword, Nor strive they for vile cause or on light ground, The life and freedom of that champion brave, Those spoil, these would preserve, those kill, these save. XLVI But yet at last if they had longer fought The hardy Soldan would have won the field; For gainst his thundering mace availed naught Or helm of temper fine or sevenfold shield: But from each side great succor now was brought To his weak foes, now fit to faint and yield, And both at once to aid and help the same The sovereign Duke and young Rinaldo came. XLVII As when a shepherd, raging round about That sees a storm with wind, hail, thunder, rain, When gloomy clouds have day's bright eye put out, His tender flocks drives from the open plain To some thick grove or mountain's shady foot, Where Heaven's fierce wrath they may unhurt sustain, And with his hook, his whistle and his cries Drives forth his fleecy charge, and with them flies: XLVIII So fled the Soldan, when he gan descry This tempest come from angry war forthcast, The armor clashed and lightened gainst the sky, And from each side swords, weapons, fire outbrast: He sent his folk up to the fortress high, To shun the furious storm, himself stayed last, Yet to the danger he gave place at length, For wit, his courage; wisdom ruled his strength. XLIX But scant the knight was safe the gate within, Scant closed were the doors, when having broke The bars, Rinaldo doth assault begin Against the port, and on the wicket stroke His matchless might, his great desire to win, His oath and promise, doth his wrath provoke, For he had sworn, nor should his word be vain, To kill the man that had Prince Sweno slain. L And now his armed hand that castle great Would have assaulted, and had shortly won, Nor safe pardie the Soldan there a seat Had found his fatal foes' sharp wrath to shun, Had not Godfredo sounded the retreat; For now dark shades to shroud the earth begun, Within the town the duke would lodge that night, And with the morn renew the assault and fight. LI With cheerful look thus to his folk he said, "High God hath holpen well his children dear, This work is done, the rest this night delayed Doth little labor bring, less doubt, no fear, This tower, our foe's weak hope and latest aid, We conquer will, when sun shall next appear: Meanwhile with love and tender ruth go see And comfort those which hurt and wounded be; LII "Go cure their wounds which boldly ventured Their lives, and spilt their bloods to get this hold, That fitteth more this host for Christ forth led, Than thirst of vengeance, or desire of gold; Too much, ah, too much blood this day is shed! In some we too much haste to spoil behold, But I command no more you spoil and kill, And let a trumpet publish forth my will." LIII This said, he went where Raymond panting lay, Waked from the swoon wherein he late had been. Nor Solyman with countenance less gay Bespake his troops, and kept his grief unseen; "My friends, you are unconquered this day, In spite of fortune still our hope is green, For underneath great shows of harm and fear, Our dangers small, our losses little were: LIV "Burnt are your houses, and your people slain, Yet safe your town is, though your walls be gone, For in yourselves and in your sovereign Consists your city, not in lime and stone; Your king is safe, and safe is all his train In this strong fort defended from their fone, And on this empty conquest let them boast, Till with this town again, their lives be lost; LV "And on their heads the loss at last will light, For with good fortune proud and insolent, In spoil and murder spend they day and night, In riot, drinking, lust and ravishment, And may amid their preys with little fight At ease be overthrown, killed, slain and spent, If in this carelessness the Egyptian host Upon them fall, which now draws near this coast. LVI "Meanwhile the highest buildings of this town We may shake down with stones about their ears, And with our darts and spears from engines thrown, Command that hill Christ's sepulchre that bears:" Thus comforts he their hopes and hearts cast down, Awakes their valors, and exiles their fears. But while the things hapt thus, Vafrino goes Unknown, amid ten thousand armed foes. LVII The sun nigh set had brought to end the day, When Vafrine went the Pagan host to spy, He passed unknown a close and secret way; A traveller, false, cunning, crafty, sly, Past Ascalon he saw the morning gray Step o'er the threshold of the eastern sky, And ere bright Titan half his course had run, That camp, that mighty host to show begun. LVIII Tents infinite, and standards broad he spies, This red, that white, that blue, this purple was, And hears strange tongues, and stranger harmonies Of trumpets, clarions, and well-sounding brass: The elephant there brays, the camel cries. The horses neigh as to and fro they pass: Which seen and heard, he said within his thought, Hither all Asia is, all Afric, brought. LIX He viewed the camp awhile, her site and seat, What ditch, what trench it had, what rampire strong, Nor close, nor secret ways to work his feat He longer sought, nor hid him from the throng; But entered through the gates, broad, royal, great, And oft he asked, and answered oft among, In questions wise, in answers short and sly; Bold was his look, eyes quick, front lifted high: LX On every side he pried here and there, And marked each way, each passage and each tent: The knights he notes, their steeds, and arms they bear, Their names, their armor, and their government; And greater secrets hopes to learn, and hear, Their hidden purpose, and their close intent: So long he walked and wandered, till he spied The way to approach the great pavilions' side: LXI There as he looked he saw the canvas rent, Through which the voice found eath and open way From the close lodgings of the regal tent And inmost closet where the captain lay; So that if Emireno spake, forth went The sound to them that listen what they say, There Vafrine watched, and those that saw him thought To mend the breach that there he stood and wrought. LXII The captain great within bare-headed stood, His body armed and clad in purple weed, Two pages bore his shield and helmet good, He leaning on a bending lance gave heed To a big man whose looks were fierce and proud, With whom he parleyed of some haughty deed, Godfredo's name as Vafrine watched he heard, Which made him give more heed, take more regard: LXIII Thus spake the chieftain to that surly sir, "Art thou so sure that Godfrey shall be slain?" "I am," quoth he, "and swear ne'er to retire, Except he first be killed, to court again. I will prevent those that with me conspire: Nor other guerdon ask I for my pain But that I may hang up his harness brave At Gair, and under them these words engrave: LXIV " `These arms Ormondo took in noble fight From Godfrey proud, that spoiled all Asia's lands, And with them took his life, and here on high, In memory thereof, this trophy stands.' " The duke replied, "Ne'er shall that deed, bold knight, Pass unrewarded at our sovereign's hands, What thou demandest shall he gladly grant, Nor gold nor guerdon shalt thou wish or want. LXV "Those counterfeited armors then prepare, Because the day of fight approacheth fast." "They ready are," quoth he; then both forbare From further talk, these speeches were the last. Vafrine, these great things heard, with grief and care Remained astound, and in his thoughts oft cast What treason false this was, how feigned were Those arms, but yet that doubt he could not clear. LXVI From thence he parted, and broad waking lay All that long night, nor slumbered once nor slept: But when the camp by peep of springing day Their banner spread, and knights on horseback leapt, With them he marched forth in meet array, And where they pitched lodged, and with them kept, And then from tent to tent he stalked about, To hear and see, and learn this secret out; LXVII Searching about, on a rich throne he fand Armida set with dames and knights around, Sullen she sat, and sighed, it seemed she scanned Some weighty matters in her thoughts profounds, Her rosy cheek leaned on her lily hand, Her eyes, love's twinkling stars, she bent to ground, Weep she, or no, he knows not, yet appears Her humid eyes even great with child with tears. LXVIII He saw before her set Adrastus grim, That seemed scant to live, move, or respire, So was he fixed on his mistress trim, So gazed he, and fed his fond desire; But Tisiphern beheld now her now him, And quaked sometime for love, sometime for ire, And in his cheeks the color went and came, For there wrath's fire now burnt, now shone love's flame. LXIX Then from the garland fair of virgins bright, Mongst whom he lay enclosed, rose Altamore, His hot desire he hid and kept from sight, His looks were ruled by Cupid's crafty lore, His left eye viewed her hand, her face, his right Both watched her beauties hid and secret store, And entrance found where her thin veil bewrayed The milken-way between her breasts that laid. LXX Her eyes Armida lift from earth at last, And cleared again her front and visage sad, Midst clouds of woe her looks which overcast She lightened forth a smile, sweet, pleasant, glad; "My lord," quoth she, "your oath and promise passed, Hath freed my heart of all the griefs it had, That now in hope of sweet revenge it lives, Such joy, such ease, desired vengeance gives." LXXI "Cheer up thy looks," answered the Indian king, "And for sweet beauty's sake, appease thy woe, Cast at your feet ere you expect the thing, I will present the head of thy strong foe; Else shall this hand his person captive bring And cast in prison deep;" he boasted so. His rival heard him well, yet answered naught, But bit his lips, and grieved in secret thought. LXXII To Tisipherne the damsel turning right, "And what say you, my noble lord ?" quoth she. He taunting said, "I that am slow to fight Will follow far behind, the worth to see Of this your terrible and puissant knight," In scornful words this bitter scoff gave he. "Good reason," quoth the king, "thou come behind, Nor e'er compare thee with the Prince of Ind." LXXIII Lord Tisiphernes shook his head, and said, "Oh, had my power free like my courage been, Or had I liberty to use this blade, Who slow, who weakest is, soon should be seen, Nor thou, nor thy great vaunts make me afraid, But cruel love I fear, and this fair queen." This said, to challenge him the king forth leapt, But up their mistress start, and twixt them stepped: LXXIV "Will you thus rob me of that gift," quoth she, "Which each hath vowed to give by word and oath? You are my champions, let that title be The bond of love and peace between you both; He that displeased is, is displeased with me, For which of you is grieved, and I not wroth?" Thus warned she them, their hearts, for ire nigh broke, In forced peace and rest thus bore love's yoke." LXXV All this heard Vafrine as he stood beside, And having learned the truth, he left the tent, That treason was against the Christian's guide Contrived, he wist, yet wist not how it went, By words and questions far off, he tried To find the truth; more difficult, more bent Was he to know it, and resolved to die, Or of that secret close the intent to spy. LXXVI Of sly intelligence he proved all ways, All crafts, all wiles, that in his thoughts abide, Yet all in vain the man by wit assays, To know that false compact and practice hid: But chance, what wisdom could not tell, bewrays, Fortune of all his doubt the knots undid, So that prepared for Godfrey's last mishap At ease he found the net, and spied the trap. LXXVII Thither he turned again where seated was, The angry lover, 'twixt her friends and lords, For in that troop much talk he thought would pass, Each great assembly store of news affords, He sided there a lusty lovely lass, And with some courtly terms the wench he boards, He feigns acquaintance, and as bold appears As he had known that virgin twenty years. LXXVIII He said, "Would some sweet lady grace me so, To chose me for her champion, friend and knight, Proud Godfrey's or Rinaldo's head, I trow, Should feel the sharpness of my curtlax bright; Ask me the head, fair mistress, of some foe, For to your beauty wooed is my might;" So he began, and meant in speeches wise Further to wade, but thus he broke the ice. LXXIX Therewith he smiled, and smiling gan to frame His looks so to their old and native grace, That towards him another virgin came, Heard him, beheld him, and with bashful face Said, "For thy mistress choose no other dame But me, on me thy love and service place, I take thee for my champion, and apart Would reason with thee, if my knight thou art." LXXX Withdrawn, she thus began, "Vafrine, pardie, I know thee well, and me thou knowest of old," To his last trump this drove the subtle spy, But smiling towards her he turned him bold, "Ne'er that I wot I saw thee erst with eye, Yet for thy worth all eyes should thee behold, Thus much I know right well, for from the same Which erst you gave me different is my name. LXXXI "My mother bore me near Bisertus wall, Her name was Lesbine, mine is Almansore!" "I knew long since," quoth she, "what men thee call, And thine estate, dissemble it no more, From me thy friend hide not thyself at all, If I betray thee let me die therefore, I am Erminia, daughter to a prince, But Tancred's slave, thy fellow-servant since; LXXXII "Two happy months within that prison kind, Under thy guard rejoiced I to dwell, And thee a keeper meek and good did find, The same, the same I am; behold me well." The squire her lovely beauty called to mind, And marked her visage fair: "From thee expel All fear," she says, "for me live safe and sure, I will thy safety, not thy harm procure. LXXXIII "But yet I pray thee, when thou dost return, To my dear prison lead me home again; For in this hateful freedom even and morn I sigh for sorrow, mourn and weep for pain: But if to spy perchance thou here sojourn, Great hap thou hast to know these secrets plain, For I their treasons false, false trains can say, Which few beside can tell, none will betray." LXXXIV On her he gazed, and silent stood this while, Armida's sleights he knew, and trains unjust, Women have tongues of craft, and hearts of guile, They will, they will not, fools that on them trust, For in their speech is death, hell in their smile; At last he said, "If hence depart you lust, I will you guide; on this conclude we here, And further speech till fitter time forbear." LXXXV Forthwith, ere thence the camp remove, to ride They were resolved, their flight that season fits, Vafrine departs, she to the dames beside Returns, and there on thorns awhile she sits, Of her new knight she talks, till time and tide To scape unmarked she find, then forth she gets, Thither where Vafrine her unseen abode, There took she horse, and from the camp they rode. LXXXVI And now in deserts waste and wild arrived, Far from the camp, far from resort and sight, Vafrine began, "Gainst Godfrey's life contrived The false compacts and trains unfold aright:" Then she those treasons, from their spring derived, Repeats, and brings their hid deceits to light, "Eight knights," she says, "all courtiers brave, there are, But Ormond strong the rest surpasseth far: LXXXVII "These, whether hate or hope of gain them move, Conspired have, and framed their treason so, That day when Emiren by fight shall prove To win lost Asia from his Christian foe, These, with the cross scored on their arms above, And armed like Frenchmen will disguised go, Like Godfrey's guard that gold and white do wear, Such shall their habit be, and such their gear: LXXXVIII "Yet each will bear a token in his crest, That so their friends for Pagans may them know: But in close fight when all the soldiers best Shall mingled be, to give the fatal blow They will keep near, and pierce Godfredo's breast, While of his faithful guard they bear false show, And all their swords are dipped in poison strong, Because each wound shall bring sad death ere long. LXXXIX "And for their chieftain wist I knew your guise, What garments, ensigns, and what arms you carry, Those feigned arms he forced me to devise, So that from yours but small or naught they vary; But these unjust commands my thoughts despise, Within their camp therefore I list not tarry, My heart abhors I should this hand defile With spot of treason, or with act of guile. XC "This is the cause, but not the cause alone:" And there she ceased, and blushed, and on the main Cast down her eyes, these last words scant outgone, She would have stopped, nor durst pronounce them plain. The squire what she concealed would know, as one That from her breast her secret thoughts could strain, "Of little faith," quoth he, "why would'st thou hide Those causes true, from me thy squire and guide?" XCI With that she fetched a sigh, sad, sore and deep, And from her lips her words slow trembling came, "Fruitless," she said, "untimely, hard to keep, Vain modesty farewell, and farewell shame, Why hope you restless love to bring on sleep? Why strive you fires to quench, sweet Cupid's flame? No, no, such cares, and such respects beseem Great ladies, wandering maids them naught esteem. XCII "That night fatal to me and Antioch town, Then made a prey to her commanding foe, My loss was greater than was seen or known, There ended not, but thence began my woe: Light was the loss of friends, of realm or crown; But with my state I lost myself also, Ne'er to be found again, for then I lost My wit, my sense, my heart, my soul almost. XCIII "Through fire and sword, through blood and death, Vafrine, Which all my friends did burn, did kill, did chase, Thou know'st I ran to thy dear lord and mine, When first he entered had my father's place, And kneeling with salt ears in my swollen eyne; `Great prince,' quoth I, `grant mercy, pity, grace, Save not my kingdom, not my life I said, But save mine honor, let me die a maid.' XCIV "He lift me by the trembling hand from ground, Nor stayed he till my humble speech was done; But said, `A friend and keeper hast thou found, Fair virgin, nor to me in vain you run:' A sweetness strange from that sweet voice's sound Pierced my heart, my breast's weak fortress won, Which creeping through my bosom soft became A wound, a sickness, and a quenchless flame. XCV "He visits me, with speeches kind and grave He sought to ease my grief, and sorrows' smart. He said, `I give thee liberty, receive All that is thine, and at thy will depart:' Alas, he robbed me when he thought he gave, Free was Erminia, but captived her heart, Mine was the body, his the soul and mind, He gave the cage but kept the bird behind. XCVI "But who can hide desire, or love suppress? Oft of his worth with thee in talk I strove, Thou, by my trembling fit that well could'st guess What fever held me, saidst, `Thou art in love;' But I denied, for what can maids do less? And yet my sighs thy sayings true did prove, Instead of speech, my looks, my tears, mine eyes, Told in what flame, what fire thy mistress fries. XCVII "Unhappy silence, well I might have told My woes, and for my harms have sought relief, Since now my pains and plaints I utter bold, Where none that hears can help or ease my grief. From him I parted, and did close upfold My wounds within my bosom, death was chief Of all my hopes and helps, till love's sweet flame Plucked off the bridle of respect and shame, XCVIII "And caused me ride to seek my lord and knight, For he that made me sick could make me sound: But on an ambush I mischanced to light Of cruel men, in armour clothed round, Hardly I scaped their hand by mature flight. And fled to wilderness and desert ground, And there I lived in groves and forests wild, With gentle grooms and shepherds' daughters mild. XCIX "But when hot love which fear had late suppressed, Revived again, there nould I longer sit, But rode the way I came, nor e'er took rest, Till on like danger, like mishap I hit, A troop to forage and to spoil addressed, Encountered me, nor could I fly from it: Thus was I ta'en, and those that had me caught, Egyptians were, and me to Gaza brought, C "And for a present to their captain gave, Whom I entreated and besought so well, That he mine honor had great care to save, And since with fair Armida let me dwell. Thus taken oft, escaped oft I have, Ah, see what haps I passed, what dangers fell, So often captive, free so oft again, Still my first bands I keep, still my first chain. CI "And he that did this chain so surely bind About my heart, which none can loose but he, Let him not say, `Go, wandering damsel, find Some other home, thou shalt not bide with me,' But let him welcome me with speeches kind, And in my wonted prison set me free:" Thus spake the princess, thus she and her guide Talked day and night, and on their journey ride. CII Through the highways Vafrino would not pass, A path more secret, safe and short, he knew, And now close by the city's wall he was, When sun was set, night in the east upflew, With drops of blood besmeared he found the grass, And saw where lay a warrior murdered new, That all be-bled the ground, his face to skies He turns, and seems to threat, though dead he lies: CIII His harness and his habit both betrayed He was a Pagan; forward went the squire, And saw whereas another champion laid Dead on the land, all soiled with blood and mire, "This was some Christian knight," Vafrino said: And marking well his arms and rich attire, He loosed his helm, and saw his visage plain, And cried, "Alas, here lies Tancredi slain!" CIV The woful virgin tarried, and gave heed To the fierce looks of that proud Saracine, Till that high cry, full of sad fear and dread, Pierced through her heart with sorrow, grief and pine, At Tancred's name thither she ran with speed, Like one half mad, or drunk with too much wine, And when she saw his face, pale, bloodless, dead, She lighted, nay, she stumbled from her steed: CV Her springs of tears she 1ooseth forth, and cries, "Hither why bring'st thou me, ah, Fortune blind? Where dead, for whom I lived, my comfort lies, Where war for peace, travail for rest I find; Tancred, I have thee, see thee, yet thine eyes Looked not upon thy love and handmaid kind, Undo their doors, their lids fast closed sever, Alas, I find thee for to lose thee ever. CVI "I never thought that to mine eyes, my dear, Thou couldst have grievous or unpleasant been; But now would blind or rather dead I were, That thy sad plight might be unknown, unseen! Alas! where is thy mirth and smiling cheer? Where are thine eyes' clear beams and sparkles sheen? Of thy fair cheek where is the purple red, And forehead's whiteness? are all gone, all dead? CVII "Though gone, though dead, I love thee still, behold; Death wounds, but kills not love; yet if thou live, Sweet soul, still in his breast, my follies bold Ah, pardon love's desires, and stealths forgive; Grant me from his pale mouth some kisses cold, Since death doth love of just reward deprive; And of thy spoils sad death afford me this, Let me his mouth, pale, cold and bloodless, kiss; CVIII "O gentle mouth! with speeches kind and sweet Thou didst relieve my grief, my woe and pain, Ere my weak soul from this frail body fleet, Ah, comfort me with one dear kiss or twain! Perchance if we alive had happed to meet, They had been given which now are stolen, O vain, O feeble life, betwixt his lips out fly, Oh, let me kiss thee first, then let me die! CIX "Receive my yielding spirit, and with thine Guide it to heaven, where all true love hath place:" This said, she sighed, and tore her tresses fine, And from her eyes two streams poured on his face, The man revived, with those showers divine Awaked, and opened his lips a space; His lips were open; but fast shut his eyes, And with her sighs, one sigh from him upflies. CX The dame perceived that Tancred breathed and sighed, Which calmed her grief somedeal and eased her fears: "Unclose thine eyes," she says, "my lord and knight, See my last services, my plaints and tears, See her that dies to see thy woful plight, That of thy pain her part and portion bears; Once look on me, small is the gift I crave, The last which thou canst give, or I can have." CXI Tancred looked up, and closed his eyes again, Heavy and dim, and she renewed her woe. Quoth Vafrine, "Cure him first, and then complain, Medicine is life's chief friend; plaint her most foe:" They plucked his armor off, and she each vein, Each joint, and sinew felt, and handled so, And searched so well each thrust, each cut and wound, That hope of life her love and skill soon found. CXII From weariness and loss of blood she spied His greatest pains and anguish most proceed, Naught but her veil amid those deserts wide She had to bind his wounds, in so great need, But love could other bands, though strange, provide, And pity wept for joy to see that deed, For with her amber locks cut off, each wound She tied: O happy man, so cured so bound! CXIII For why her veil was short and thin, those deep And cruel hurts to fasten, roll and blind, Nor salve nor simple had she, yet to keep Her knight on live, strong charms of wondrous kind She said, and from him drove that deadly sleep, That now his eyes he lifted, turned and twined, And saw his squire, and saw that courteous dame In habit strange, and wondered whence she came. CXIV He said, "O Vafrine, tell me, whence com'st thou? And who this gentle surgeon is, disclose;" She smiled, she sighed, she looked she wist not how, She wept, rejoiced, she blushed as red as rose. "You shall know all," she says, "your surgeon now Commands you silence, rest and soft repose, You shall be sound, prepare my guerdon meet," His head then laid she in her bosom sweet. CXV Vafrine devised this while how he might bear His master home, ere night obscured the land, When lo, a troop of soldiers did appear, Whom he descried to be Tancredi's band, With him when he and Argant met they were; But when they went to combat hand for hand, He bade them stay behind, and they obeyed, But came to seek him now, so long he stayed. CXVI Besides them, many followed that enquest, But these alone found out the rightest way, Upon their friendly arms the men addressed A seat whereon he sat, he leaned, he lay: Quoth Tancred, "Shall the strong Circassian rest In this broad field, for wolves and crows a prey? Ah no, defraud not you that champion brave Of his just praise, of his due tomb and grave: CXVII "With his dead bones no longer war have I, Boldly he died and nobly was he slain, Then let us not that honor him deny Which after death alonely doth remain:" The Pagan dead they lifted up on high, And after Tancred bore him through the plain. Close by the virgin chaste did Vafrine ride, As he that was her squire, her guard, her guide. CXVIII "Not home," quoth Tancred, "to my wonted tent, But bear me to this royal town, I pray, That if cut short by human accident I die, there I may see my latest day, The place where Christ upon his cross was rent To heaven perchance may easier make the way, And ere I yield to Death's and Fortune's rage, Performed shall be my vow and pilgrimage." CXIX Thus to the city was Tancredi borne, And fell on sleep, laid on a bed of down. Vafrino where the damsel might sojourn A chamber got, close, secret, near his own; That done he came the mighty duke beforn, And entrance found, for till his news were known, Naught was concluded mongst those knights and lords, Their counsel hung on his report and words. CXX Where weak and weary wounded Raymond laid, Godfrey was set upon his couch's side, And round about the man a ring was made Of lords and knights that filled the chamber wide; There while the squire his late discovery said, To break his talk, none answered, none replied, "My lord," he said, "at your command I went And viewed their camp, each cabin, booth and tent; CXXI "But of that mighty host the number true Expect not that I can or should descry, All covered with their armies might you view The fields, the plains, the dales and mountains high, I saw what way soe'er they went and drew, They spoiled the land, drunk floods and fountains dry, For not whole Jordan could have given them drink, Nor all the grain in Syria, bread, I think. CXXII "But yet amongst them many bands are found Both horse and foot, of little force and might, That keep no order, know no trumpet's sound, That draw no sword, but far off shoot and fight, But yet the Persian army doth abound With many a footman strong and hardy knight, So doth the King's own troop which all is framed Of soldiers old, the Immortal Squadron named. CXXIII "Immortal called is that band of right, For of that number never wanteth one, But in his empty place some other knight Steps in, when any man is dead or gone: This army's leader Emireno hight, Like whom in wit and strength are few or none, Who hath in charge in plain and pitched field, To fight with you, to make you fly or yield. CXXIV "And well I know their army and their host Within a day or two will here arrive: But thee Rinaldo it behoveth most To keep thy noble head, for which they strive, For all the chief in arms or courage boast They will the same to Queen Armida give, And for the same she gives herself in price, Such hire will many hands to work entice. CXXV "The chief of these that have thy murder sworn, Is Altamore, the king of Samarcand! Adrastus then, whose realm lies near the morn, A hardy giant, bold, and strong of hand, This king upon an elephant is borne, For under him no horse can stir or stand; The third is Tisipherne, as brave a lord As ever put on helm or girt on sword." CXXVI This said, from young Rinaldo's angry eyes, Flew sparks of wrath, flames in his visage shined, He longed to be amid those enemies, Nor rest nor reason in his heart could find. But to the Duke Vafrine his talk applies, "The greatest news, my lord, are yet behind, For all their thoughts, their crafts and counsels tend By treason false to bring thy life to end." CXXVII Then all from point to point he gan expose The false compact, how it was made and wrought, The arms and ensigns feigned, poison close, Ormondo's vaunt, what praise, what thank he sought, And what reward, and satisfied all those That would demand, inquire, or ask of aught. Silence was made awhile, when Godfrey thus, -- "Raymondo, say, what counsel givest thou us?" CXXVIII "Not as we purposed late, next morn," quoth he, "Let us not scale, but round besiege this tower, That those within may have no issue free To sally out, and hurt us with their power, Our camp well rested and refreshed see, Provided well gainst this last storm and shower, And then in pitched field, fight, if you will; If not, delay and keep this fortress still. CXXIX "But lest you be endangered, hurt, or slain, Of all your cares take care yourself to save, By you this camp doth live, doth win, doth reign, Who else can rule or guide these squadrons brave? And for the traitors shall be noted plain, Command your guard to change the arms they have, So shall their guile be known, in their own net So shall they fall, caught in the snare they set." CXXX "As it hath ever," thus the Duke begun, "Thy counsel shows thy wisdom and thy love, And what you left in doubt shall thus be done, We will their force in pitched battle prove; Closed in this wall and trench, the fight to shun, Doth ill this camp beseem, and worse behove, But we their strength and manhood will assay, And try, in open field and open day. CXXXI "The fame of our great conquests to sustain, Or bide our looks and threats, they are not able, And when this army is subdued and slain Then is our empire settled, firm and stable, The tower shall yield, or but resist in vain, For fear her anchor is, despair her cable." Thus he concludes, and rolling down the west Fast set the stars, and called them all to rest.
Go to the Nineteenth Book.