Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #13
THE ARGUMENT. Argantes calls the Christians out to just: Otho not chosen doth his strength assay, But from his saddle tumbleth in the dust, And captive to the town is sent away: Tancred begins new fight, and when both trust To win the praise and palm, night ends the fray: Erminia hopes to cure her wounded knight, And from the city armed rides by night. I But better hopes had them recomforted That lay besieged in the sacred town; With new supply late were they victualled, When night obscured the earth with shadows brown; Their armies and engines on the walls they spread, Their slings to cast, and stones to tumble down; And all that side which to the northward lies, High rampiers and strong bulwarks fortifies. II Their wary king commands now here now there, To build this tower, to make that bulwark strong, Whether the sun, the moon, or stars appear, To give them time to work, no time comes wrong: In every street new weapons forged were, By cunning smiths, sweating with labor long; While thus the careful prince provision made, To him Argantes came, and boasting said: III "How long shall we, like prisoners in chains, Captived lie inclosed within this wall? I see your workmen taking endless pains To make new weapons for no use at all; Meanwhile these eastern thieves destroy the plains, Your towns are burnt, your forts and castles fall, Yet none of us dares at these gates out-peep, Or sound one trumpet shrill to break their sleep. IV "Their time in feasting and good cheer they spend, Nor dare we once their banquets sweet molest, The days and night likewise they bring to end, In peace, assurance, quiet, ease and rest; But we must yield whom hunger soon will shend, And make for peace, to save our lives, request, Else, if th' Egyptian army stay too long, Like cowards die within this fortress strong. V "Yet never shall my courage great consent So vile a death should end my noble days, Nor on mine arms within these walls ypent To-morrow's sun shall spread his timely rays: Let sacred Heavens dispose as they are bent Of this frail like, yet not withouten praise Of valor, prowess, might, Argantes shall Inglorious die, or unrevenged fall. VI "But if the roots of wonted chivalry Be not quite dead your princely breast within, Devise not how with frame and praise to die, But how to live, to conquer and to win; Let us together at these gates outfly, And skirmish bold and bloody fight begin; For when last need to desperation driveth, Who dareth most he wisest counsel giveth. VII "But if in field your wisdom dare not venture To hazard all your troops to doubtful fight, Then bind yourself to Godfrey by indenture, To end your quarrels by one single knight: And for the Christian this accord shall enter With better will, say such you know your right That he the weapons, place and time shall choose, And let him for his best, that vantage use. VIII "For though your foe had hands, like Hector strong, With heart unfeared, and courage stern and stout, Yet no misfortune can your justice wrong, And what that wanteth, shall this arm help out, In spite of fate shall this right hand ere long, Return victorious: if hereof you doubt, Take it for pledge, wherein if trust you have, It shall yourself defend and kingdom save." IX "Bold youth," the tyrant thus began to speak, "Although I withered seem with age and years, Yet are not these old arms so faint and weak, Nor this hoar head so full of doubts and fears But whenas death this vital thread shall break, He shall my courage hear, my death who hears: And Aladine that lived a king and knight, To his fair morn will have an evening bright. X "But that which yet I would have further blazed, To thee in secret shall be told and spoken, Great Soliman of Nice, so far ypraised, To be revenged for his sceptre broken, The men of arms of Araby hath raised, From Inde to Africk, and, when we give token, Attends the favor of the friendly night To victual us, and with our foes to fight. XI "Now though Godfredo hold by warlike feat Some castles poor and forts in vile oppression, Care not for that; for still our princely seat, This stately town, we keep in our possession, But thou appease and calm that courage great, Which in thy bosom make so hot impression; And stay fit time, which will betide are long, To increase thy glory, and revenge our wrong." XII The Saracen at this was inly spited, Who Soliman's great worth had long envied, To hear him praised thus he naught delighted, Nor that the king upon his aid relied: "Within your power, sir king," he says, "united Are peace and war, nor shall that be denied; But for the Turk and his Arabian band, He lost his own, shall he defend your land? XIII "Perchance he comes some heavenly messenger, Sent down to set the Pagan people free, Then let Argantes for himself take care, This sword, I trust, shall well safe-conduct me: But while you rest and all your forces spare, That I go forth to war at least agree; Though not your champion, yet a private knight, I will some Christian prove in single fight." XIV The king replied, "Though thy force and might Should be reserved to better time and use; Yet that thou challenge some renowned knight, Among the Christians bold I not refuse." The warrior breathing out desire of fight, An herald called, and said, "Go tell those news To Godfrey's self, and to the western lords, And in their hearings boldly say these words: XV "Say that a knight, who holds in great disdain To be thus closed up in secret new, Will with his sword in open field maintain, If any dare deny his words for true, That no devotion, as they falsely feign, Hath moved the French these countries to subdue; But vile ambition, and pride's hateful vice, Desire of rule, and spoil, and covetice. XVI "And that to fight I am not only prest With one or two that dare defend the cause, But come the fourth or fifth, come all the rest, Come all that will, and all that weapon draws, Let him that yields obey the victor's hest, As wills the lore of mighty Mars his laws:" This was the challenge that fierce Pagan sent, The herald donned his coat-of-arms, and went. XVII And when the man before the presence came Of princely Godfrey, and his captains bold: "My Lord," quoth he, "may I withouten blame Before your Grace, my message brave unfold?" "Thou mayest," he answered, "we approve the same; Withouten fear, be thine ambassage told." "Then," quoth the herald, "shall your highness see, If this ambassage sharp or pleasing be." XVIII The challenge gan he then at large expose, With mighty threats, high terms and glorious words; On every side an angry murmur rose, To wrath so moved were the knights and lords. Then Godfrey spake, and said, "The man hath chose An hard exploit, but when he feels our swords, I trust we shall so far entreat the knight, As to excuse the fourth or fifth of fight. XIX "But let him come and prove, the field I grant, Nor wrong nor treason let him doubt or fear, Some here shall pay him for his glorious vaunt, Without or guile, or vantage, that I swear. The herald turned when he had ended scant, And hasted back the way he came whileare, Nor stayed he aught, nor once forslowed his pace, Till he bespake Argantes face to face. XX "Arm you, my lord," he said, "your bold defies By your brave foes accepted boldly been, This combat neither high nor low denies, Ten thousand wish to meet you on the green; A thousand frowned with angry flaming eyes, And shaked for rage their swords and weapons keen; The field is safely granted by their guide," This said, the champion for his armor cried. XXI While he was armed, his heart for ire nigh brake, So yearned his courage hot his foes to find: The King to fair Clorinda present spake; "If he go forth, remain not you behind, But of our soldiers best a thousand take, To guard his person and your own assigned; Yet let him meet alone the Christian knight, And stand yourself aloof, while they two fight." XXII Thus spake the King, and soon without abode The troop went forth in shining armor clad, Before the rest the Pagan champion rode, His wonted arms and ensigns all he had: A goodly plan displayed wide and broad, Between the city and the camp was spread, A place like that wherein proud Rome beheld The forward young men manage spear and shield. XXIII There all alone Argantes took his stand, Defying Christ and all his servants true, In stature, stomach, and in strength of hand, In pride, presumption, and in dreadful show, Encelade like, on the Phlegrean strand, Of that huge giant Jesse's infant slew; But his fierce semblant they esteemed light, For most not knew, or else not feared his might. XXIV As yet not one had Godfrey singled out To undertake this hardy enterprise, But on Prince Tancred saw he all the rout Had fixed their wishes, and had cast their eyes, On him he spied them gazing round about, As though their honor on his prowess lies, And now they whispered louder what they meant, Which Godfrey heard and saw, and was content. XXV The rest gave place; for every one descried To whom their chieftain's will did most incline, "Tancred," quoth he, "I pray thee calm the pride, Abate the rage of yonder Saracine:" No longer would the chosen champion bide, His face with joy, his eyes with gladness shine, His helm he took, and ready steed bestrode, And guarded with his trusty friends forth rode. XXVI But scantly had he spurred his courser swift Near to the plain, where proud Argantes stayed, When unawares his eyes he chanced to lift, And on the hill beheld the warlike maid, As white as snow upon the Alpine clift The virgin shone in silver arms arrayed, Her vental up so high, that he descried Her goodly visage, and her beauty's pride. XXVII He saw not where the Pagan stood, and stared, As if with looks he would his foeman kill, But full of other thoughts he forward fared, And sent his looks before him up the hill, His gesture such his troubled soul declared, At last as marble rock he standeth still, Stone cold without; within, burnt with love's flame, And quite forgot himself, and why he came. XXVIII The challenger, that yet saw none appear That made or sign or show came to just, "How long," cried he, "shall I attend you here? Dares none come forth? dares none his fortune trust?" The other stood amazed, love stopped his ear, He thinks on Cupid, think of Mars who lust; But forth stert Otho bold, and took the field, A gentle knight whom God from danger shield. XXIX This youth was one of those, who late desired With that vain-glorious boaster to have fought, But Tancred chosen, he and all retired; Now when his slackness he awhile admired, And saw elsewhere employed was his thought, Nor that to just, though chosen, once he proffered, He boldly took that fit occasion offered. XXX No tiger, panther, spotted leopard, Runs half so swift, the forests wild among, As this young champion hasted thitherward, Where he attending saw the Pagan strong: Tancredi started with the noise he heard, As waked from sleep, where he had dreamed long, "Oh stay," he cried, "to me belongs this war!" But cried too late, Otho was gone too far. XXXI Then full of fury, anger and despite, He stayed his horse, and waxed red for shame, The fight was his, but now disgraced quite Himself he thought, another played his game; Meanwhile the Saracen did hugely smite On Otho's helm, who to requite the same, His foe quite through his sevenfold targe did bear, And in his breastplate stuck and broke his spear. XXXII The encounter such, upon the tender grass, Down from his steed the Christian backward fell; Yet his proud foe so strong and sturdy was, That he nor shook, nor staggered in his sell, But to the knight that lay full low, alas, In high disdain his will thus gan he tell, "Yield thee my slave, and this thine honor be, Thou may'st report thou hast encountered me." XXXIII "Not so," quoth he, "pardy it's not the guise Of Christian knights, though fall'n, so soon to yield; I can my fall excuse in better wise, And will revenge this shame, or die in field." The great Circassian bent his frowning eyes, Like that grim visage in Minerva's shield, "Then learn," quoth he, "what force Argantes useth Against that fool that proffered grace refuseth." XXXIV With that he spurred his horse with speed and haste, Forgetting what good knights to virtue owe, Otho his fury shunned, and, as he passed, At his right side he reached a noble blow, Wide was the wound, the blood outstreamed fast, And from his side fell to his stirrup low: But what avails to hurt, if wounds augment Our foe's fierce courage, strength and hardiment? XXXV Argantes nimbly turned his ready steed, And ere his foe was wist or well aware, Against his side he drove his courser's head, What force could he gainst so great might prepare? Weak were his feeble joints, his courage dead, His heart amazed, his paleness showed his care, His tender side gainst the hard earth he cast, Shamed, with the first fall; bruised, with the last. XXXVI The victor spurred again his light-foot steed, And made his passage over Otho's heart, And cried, "These fools thus under foot I tread, This dare contend with me in equal mart." Tancred for anger shook his noble head, So was he grieved with that unknightly part; The fault was his, he was so slow before, With double valor would he salve that sore. XXXVII Forward he galloped fast, and loudly cried: "Villain," quoth he, "thy conquest is thy shame, What praise? what honor shall this fact betide? What gain? what guerdon shall befall the same? Among the Arabian thieves thy face go hide, Far from resort of men of worth and fame, Or else in woods and mountains wild, by night, On savage beasts employ thy savage might." XXXVIII The Pagan patience never knew, nor used, Trembling for ire, his sandy locks he tore, Our from his lips flew such a sound confused, As lions make in deserts thick, which roar; Or as when clouds together crushed and bruised, Pour down a tempest by the Caspian shore; So was his speech imperfect, stopped, and broken, He roared and thundered when he should have spoken. XXXIX But when with threats they both had whetted keen Their eager rage, their fury, spite and ire, They turned their steeds and left large space between To make their forces greater, 'proaching nigher, With terms that warlike and that worthy been: O sacred Muse, my haughty thoughts inspire, And make a trumpet of my slender quill To thunder out this furious combat shrill. XL These sons of Mayors bore, instead of spears, Two knotty masts, which none but they could lift, Each foaming steed so fast his master bears, That never beast, bird, shaft flew half so swift; Such was their fury, as when Boreas tears The shattered crags from Taurus' northern clift, Upon their helms their lances long they broke, And up to heaven flew splinters, spark and smoke. XLI The shock made all the towers and turrets quake, And woods and mountains all nigh hand resound; Yet could not all that force and fury shake The valiant champions, nor their persons wound; Together hurtled both their steeds, and brake Each other's neck, the riders lay on ground: But they, great masters of war's dreadful art, Plucked forth their swords and soon from earth up start. XLII Close at his surest ward each warrior lieth, He wisely guides his hand, his foot, his eye, This blow he proveth, that defence he trieth, He traverseth, retireth, presseth nigh, Now strikes he out, and now he falsifieth, This blow he wardeth, that he lets slip by, And for advantage oft he lets some part Discovered seem; thus art deludeth art. XLIII The Pagan ill defenced with sword or targe, Tancredi's thigh, as he supposed, espied And reaching forth gainst it his weapon large, Quite naked to his foe leaves his left-side; Tancred avoideth quick his furious charge, And gave him eke a wound deep, sore and wide; That done, himself safe to his ward retired, His courage praised by all, his skill admired. XLIV The proud Circassian saw his streaming blood, Down from his wound, as from a fountain, running, He sighed for rage, and trembled as he stood, He blamed his fortune, folly, want of cunning; He lift his sword aloft, for ire nigh wood, And forward rushed: Tancred his fury shunning, With a sharp thrust once more the Pagan hit, To his broad shoulder where his arm is knit. XLV Like as a bear through pierced with a dart Within the secret woods, no further flieth, But bites the senseless weapon mad with smart, Seeking revenge till unrevenged she dieth; So mad Argantes fared, when his proud heart Wound upon wound, and shame on shame espieth, Desire of vengeance so o'ercame his senses, That he forgot all dangers, all defences. XLVI Uniting force extreme, with endless wrath, Supporting both with youth and strength untired, His thundering blows so fast about he layeth, That skies and earth the flying sparkles fired; His foe to strike one blow no leisure hath, Scantly he breathed, though he oft desired, His warlike skill and cunning all was waste, Such was Argantes' force, and such his haste. XLVII Long time Tancredi had in vain attended When this huge storm should overblow and pass, Some blows his mighty target well defended, Some fell beside, and wounded deep the grass; But when he saw the tempest never ended, Nor that the Paynim's force aught weaker was, He high advanced his cutting sword at length, And rage to rage opposed, and strength to strength. XLVIII Wrath bore the sway, both art and reason fail, Fury new force, and courage new supplies, Their armors forged were of metal frail, On every side thereof, huge cantels flies, The land was strewed all with plate and mail. That, on the earth; on that, their warm blood lies. And at each rush and every blow they smote Thunder the noise, the sparks, seemed lightning hot. XLIX The Christian people and the Pagans gazed, On this fierce combat wishing oft the end, Twixt hope and fear they stood long time amazed, To see the knights assail, and eke defend, Yet neither sign they made, nor noise they raised, But for the issue of the fight attend, And stood as still, as life and sense they wanted, Save that their hearts within their bosoms panted. L Now were they tired both, and well-nigh spent, Their blows show greater will than power to wound; But Night her gentle daughter Darkness, sent, With friendly shade to overspread the ground, Two heralds to the fighting champions went, To part the fray, as laws of arms them bound Aridens born in France, and wise Pindore, The man that brought the challenge proud before. LI These men their sceptres interpose, between The doubtful hazards of uncertain fight; For such their privilege hath ever been, The law of nations doth defend their right; Pindore began, "Stay, stay, you warriors keen, Equal your honor, equal is your might; Forbear this combat, so we deem it best, Give night her due, and grant your persons rest. LII "Man goeth forth to labor with the sun, But with the night, all creatures draw to sleep, Nor yet of hidden praise in darkness won The valiant heart of noble knight takes keep:" Argantes answered him, "The fight begun Now to forbear, doth wound my heart right deep: Yet will I stay, so that this Christian swear, Before you both, again to meet me here." LIII "I swear," quoth Tancred, "but swear thou likewise To make return thy prisoner eke with thee; Else for achievement of this enterprise, None other time but this expect of me;" Thus swore they both; the heralds both devise, What time for this exploit should fittest be: And for their wounds of rest and cure had need, To meet again the sixth day was decreed. LIV This fight was deep imprinted in their hearts That saw this bloody fray to ending brought, An horror great possessed their weaker parts, Which made them shrink who on their combat thought: Much speech was of the praise and high desarts Of these brave champions that so nobly fought; But which for knightly worth was most ypraised, Of that was doubt and disputation raised. LV All long to see them end this doubtful fray, And as they favor, so they wish success, These hope true virtue shall obtain the day, Those trust on fury, strength and hardiness; But on Erminia most this burden lay, Whose looks her trouble and her fear express; For on this dangerous combat's doubtful end Her joy, her comfort, hope and life depend. LVI Her the sole daughter of that hapless king, That of proud Antioch late wore the crown, The Christian soldiers to Tancredi bring, When they had sacked and spoiled that glorious town; But he, in whom all good and virtue spring, The virgin's honor saved, and her renown; And when her city and her state was lost, Then was her person loved and honored most. LVII He honored her, served her, and leave her gave, And willed her go whither and when she list, Her gold and jewels had he care to save, And them restored all, she nothing missed, She, that beheld this youth and person brave, When, by this deed, his noble mind she wist, Laid ope her heart for Cupid's shaft to hit, Who never knots of love more surer knit. LVIII Her body free, captivated was her heart, And love the keys did of that prison bear, Prepared to go, it was a death to part From that kind Lord, and from that prison dear, But thou, O honor, which esteemed art The chiefest virtue noble ladies wear, Enforcest her against her will, to wend To Aladine, her mother's dearest friend. LIX At Sion was this princess entertained, By that old tyrant and her mother dear, Whose loss too soon the woful damsel plained, Her grief was such, she lived not half the year, Yet banishment, nor loss of friends constrained The hapless maid her passions to forbear, For though exceeding were her woe and grief, Of all her sorrows yet her love was chief. LX The silly maid in secret longing pined, Her hope a mote drawn up by Phoebus' rays, Her love a mountain seemed, whereon bright shined Fresh memory of Tancred's worth and praise, Within her closet if her self she shrined, A hotter fire her tender heart assays: Tancred at last, to raise her hope nigh dead, Before those walls did his broad ensign spread. LXI The rest to view the Christian army feared, Such seemed their number, such their power and might, But she alone her troubled forehead cleared, And on them spread her beauty shining bright; In every squadron when it first appeared, Her curious eye sought out her chosen knight; And every gallant that the rest excels, The same seems him, so love and fancy tells. LXII Within the kingly palace builded high, A turret standeth near the city's wall, From which Erminia might at ease descry The western host, the plains and mountains all, And there she stood all the long day to spy, From Phoebus' rising to his evening fall, And with her thoughts disputed of his praise, And every thought a scalding sigh did raise. LXIII From hence the furious combat she surveyed, And felt her heart tremble with fear and pain, Her secret thoughts thus to her fancy said, Behold thy dear in danger to be slain; So with suspect, with fear and grief dismayed, Attended she her darling's loss or gain, And ever when the Pagan lift his blade, The stroke a wound in her weak bosom made. LXIV But when she saw the end, and wist withal Their strong contention should eftsoons begin, Amazement strange her courage did appal, Her vital blood was icy cold within; Sometimes she sighed, sometimes tears let fall, To witness what distress her heart was in; Hopeless, dismayed, pale, sad, astonished, Her love, her fear; her fear, her torment bred. LXV Her idle brain unto her soul presented Death in an hundred ugly fashions painted, And if she slept, then was her grief augmented, With such sad visions were her thoughts acquainted; She saw her lord with wounds and hurts tormented, How he complained, called for her help, and fainted, And found, awaked from that unquiet sleeping, Her heart with panting sore; eyes, red with weeping. LXVI Yet these presages of his coming ill, Not greatest cause of her discomfort were, She saw his blood from his deep wounds distil, Nor what he suffered could she bide or bear: Besides, report her longing ear did fill, Doubling his danger, doubling so her fear, That she concludes, so was her courage lost, Her wounded lord was weak, faint, dead almost. LXVII And for her mother had her taught before The secret virtue of each herb that springs, Besides fit charms for every wound or sore Corruption breedeth or misfortune brings, -- An art esteemed in those times of yore, Beseeming daughters of great lords and kings -- She would herself be surgeon to her knight, And heal him with her skill, or with her sight. LXVIII Thus would she cure her love, and cure her foe She must, that had her friends and kinsfolk slain: Some cursed weeds her cunning hand did know, That could augment his harm, increase his pain; But she abhorred to be revenged so, No treason should her spotless person stain, And virtueless she wished all herbs and charms Wherewith false men increase their patients' harms. LXIX Nor feared she among the bands to stray Of armed men, for often had she seen The tragic end of many a bloody fray; Her life had full of haps and hazards been, This made her bold in every hard assay, More than her feeble sex became, I ween; She feared not the shake of every reed, So cowards are courageous made through need. LXX Love, fearless, hardy, and audacious love, Emboldened had this tender damsel so, That where wild beasts and serpents glide and move Through Afric's deserts durst she ride or go, Save that her honor, she esteemed above Her life and body's safety, told her no; For in the secret of her troubled thought, A doubtful combat, love and honor fought. LXXI "O spotless virgin," Honor thus began, "That my true lore observed firmly hast, When with thy foes thou didst in bondage won, Remember then I kept thee pure and chaste, At liberty now, where wouldest thou run, To lay that field of princely virtue waste, Or lost that jewel ladies hold so dear? Is maidenhood so great a load to bear? LXXII "Or deem'st thou it a praise of little prize, The glorious title of a virgin's name? That thou will gad by night in giglot wise, Amid thine armed foes, to seek thy shame. O fool, a woman conquers when she flies, Refusal kindleth, proffers quench the flame. Thy lord will judge thou sinnest beyond measure, If vainly thus thou waste so rich a treasure." LXXIII The sly deceiver Cupid thus beguiled The simple damsel, with his filed tongue: "Thou wert not born," quoth he, "in desert wild The cruel bears and savage beasts among, That you shouldest scorn fair Citherea's child, Or hate those pleasures that to youth belong, Nor did the gods thy heart of iron frame; To be in love is neither sin nor shame. LXXIV "Go then, go, whither sweet desire inviteth, How can thy gentle knight so cruel be? Love in his heart thy grief and sorrows writeth, For thy laments how he complaineth, see. Oh cruel woman, whom no care exciteth To save his life, that saved and honored thee! He languished, one foot thou wilt not move To succor him, yet say'st thou art in love. LXXV "No, no, stay here Argantes' wounds to cure, And make him strong to shed thy darling's blood, Of such reward he may himself assure, That doth a thankless woman so much good: Ah, may it be thy patience can endure To see the strength of this Circassian wood, And not with horror and amazement shrink, When on their future fight thou hap'st to think? LXXVI "Besides the thanks and praises for the deed, Suppose what joy, what comfort shalt thou win, When thy soft hand doth wholesome plaisters speed, Upon the breaches in his ivory skin, Thence to thy dearest lord may health succeed, Strength to his limbs, blood to his cheeks so thin, And his rare beauties, now half dead and more, Thou may'st to him, him to thyself restore. LXXVII "So shall some part of his adventures bold And valiant acts henceforth be held as thine; His dear embracements shall thee straight enfold, Together joined in marriage rites divine: Lastly high place of honor shalt thou hold Among the matrons sage and dames Latine, In Italy, a land, as each one tells, Where valor true, and true religion dwells." LXXVIII With such vain hopes the silly maid abused, Promised herself mountains and hills of gold; Yet were her thoughts with doubts and fears confused How to escape unseen out of that hold, Because the watchman every minute used To guard the walls against the Christians bold, And in such fury and such heat of war, The gates or seld or never opened are. LXXIX With strong Clorinda was Erminia sweet In surest links of dearest friendship bound, With her she used the rising sun to greet, And her, when Phoebus glided under ground, She made the lovely partner of her sheet; In both their hearts one will, one thought was found; Nor aught she hid from that virago bold, Except her love, that tale to none she told. LXXX That kept she secret, if Clorinda heard Her make complaints, or secretly lament, To other cause her sorrow she referred: Matter enough she had of discontent, Like as the bird that having close imbarred Her tender young ones in the springing bent, To draw the searcher further from her nest, Cries and complains most where she needeth least. LXXXI Alone, within her chamber's secret part, Sitting one day upon her heavy thought, Devising by what means, what sleight, what art, Her close departure should be safest wrought, Assembled in her unresolved heart An hundred passions strove and ceaseless fought; At last she saw high hanging on the wall Clorinda's silver arms, and sighed withal: LXXXII And sighing, softly to herself she said, "How blessed is this virgin in her might? How I envy the glory of the maid, Yet envy not her shape, or beauty's light; Her steps are not with trailing garments stayed, Nor chambers hide her valor shining bright; But armed she rides, and breaketh sword and spear, Nor is her strength restrained by shame or fear. LXXXIII "Alas, why did not Heaven these members frail With lively force and vigor strengthen so That I this silken gown and slender veil Might for a breastplate and an helm forego? Then should not heat, nor cold, nor rain, nor hail, Nor storms that fall, nor blustering winds that blow Withhold me, but I would both day and night, In pitched field, or private combat fight. LXXXIV "Nor haddest thou, Argantes, first begun With my dear lord that fierce and cruel fight, But I to that encounter would have run, And haply ta'en him captive by my might; Yet should he find, our furious combat done, His thraldom easy, and his bondage light; For fetters, mine embracements should he prove; For diet, kisses sweet; for keeper, love. LXXXV "Or else my tender bosom opened wide, And heart though pierced with his cruel blade, The bloody weapon in my wounded side Might cure the wound which love before had made; Then should my soul in rest and quiet slide Down to the valleys of the Elysian shade, And my mishap the knight perchance would move, To shed some tears upon his murdered love. LXXXVI "Alas! impossible are all these things, Such wishes vain afflict my woful sprite, Why yield I thus to plaints and sorrowings, As if all hope and help were perished quite? My heart dares much, it soars with Cupid's wings, Why use I not for once these armors bright? I may sustain awhile this shield aloft, Though I be tender, feeble, weak and soft. LXXXVII "Love, strong, bold, mighty never-tired love, Supplieth force to all his servants true; The fearful stags he doth to battle move, Till each his horns in others' blood imbrue; Yet mean not I the haps of war to prove, A stratagem I have devised new, Clorinda-like in this fair harness dight, I will escape out of the town this night. LXXXVIII "I know the men that have the gate to ward, If she command are not her will deny, In what sort else could I beguile the guard? This way is only left, this will I try: O gentle love, in this adventure hard Thine handmaid guide, assist and fortify! The time, the hour now fitteth best the thing, While stout Clorinda talketh with the king." LXXXIX Resolved thus, without delay she went, As her strong passion did her rashly guide, And those bright arms, down from the rafter hent, Within her closet did she closely hide; That might she do unseen, for she had sent The rest, on sleeveless errands from her side, And night her stealths brought to their wished end, Night, patroness of thieves, and lovers' friend. XC Some sparkling fires on heaven's bright visage shone; His azure robe the orient blueness lost, When she, whose wit and reason both were gone, Called for a squire she loved and trusted most, To whom and to a maid, a faithful one, Part of her will she told, how that in post She would depart from Juda's king, and feigned That other cause her sudden flight constrained. XCI The trusty squire provided needments meet, As for their journey fitting most should be; Meanwhile her vesture, pendant to her feet, Erminia doft, as erst determined she, Stripped to her petticoat the virgin sweet So slender was, that wonder was to see; Her handmaid ready at her mistress' will, To arm her helped, though simple were her skill. XCII The rugged steel oppressed and offended Her dainty neck, and locks of shining gold; Her tender arm so feeble was, it bended When that huge target it presumed to hold, The burnished steel bright rays far off extended, She feigned courage, and appeared bold; Fast by her side unseen smiled Venus' son, As erst he laughed when Alcides spun. XCIII Oh, with what labor did her shoulders bear That heavy burthen, and how slow she went! Her maid, to see that all the coasts were clear, Before her mistress, through the streets was sent; Love gave her courage, love exiled fear, Love to her tired limbs new vigor lent, Till she approached where the squire abode, There took they horse forthwith and forward rode. XCIV Disguised they went, and by unused ways, And secret paths they strove unseen to gone, Until the watch they meet, which sore affrays Their soldiers new, when swords and weapons shone Yet none to stop their journey once essays, But place and passage yielded every one; For that while armor, and that helmet bright, Were known and feared, in the darkest night. XCV Erminia, though some deal she were dismayed, Yet went she on, and goodly countenance bore, She doubted lest her purpose were bewrayed, Her too much boldness she repented sore; But now the gate her fear and passage stayed, The heedless porter she beguiled therefore, "I am Clorinda, ope the gate," she cried, "Where as the king commands, this late I ride." XCVI Her woman's voice and terms all framed been, Most like the speeches of the princess stout, Who would have thought on horseback to have seen That feeble damsel armed round about? The porter her obeyed, and she, between Her trusty squire and maiden, sallied out, And through the secret dales they silent pass, Where danger least, least fear, least peril was. XCVII But when these fair adventurers entered were Deep in a vale, Erminia stayed her haste, To be recalled she had no cause to fear, This foremost hazard had she trimly past; But dangers new, tofore unseen, appear, New perils she descried, new doubts she cast. The way that her desire to quiet brought, More difficult now seemed than erst she thought. XCVIII Armed to ride among her angry foes, She now perceived it were great oversight, Yet would she not, she thought, herself disclose, Until she came before her chosen knight, To him she purposed to present the rose Pure, spotless, clean, untouched of mortal wight, She stayed therefore, and in her thoughts more wise, She called her squire, whom thus she gan advise. XCIX "Thou must," quoth she, "be mine ambassador, Be wise, be careful, true, and diligent, Go to the camp, present thyself before The Prince Tancredi, wounded in his tent; Tell him thy mistress comes to care his sore, If he to grant her peace and rest consent Gainst whom fierce love such cruel war hath raised, So shall his wounds be cured, her torments eased. C "And say, in him such hope and trust she hath, That in his powers she fears no shame nor scorn, Tell him thus much, and whatso'er he saith, Unfold no more, but make a quick return, I, for this place is free from harm and scath, Within this valley will meanwhile sojourn." Thus spake the princess: and her servant true To execute the charge imposed, flew; CI And was received, he so discreetly wrought, First of the watch that guarded in their place, Before the wounded prince then was he brought, Who heard his message kind, with gentle grace, Which told, he left him tossing in his thought A thousand doubts, and turned his speedy pace To bring his lady and his mistress word, She might be welcome to that courteous lord. CII But she, impatient, to whose desire Grievous and harmful seemed each little stay, Recounts his steps, and thinks, now draws he nigher, Now enters in, now speaks, now comes his way; And that which grieved her most, the careful squire Less speedy seemed than e'er before that day; Lastly she forward rode with love to guide, Until the Christian tents at hand she spied. CIII Invested in her starry veil, the night In her kind arms embraced all this round, The silver moon form sea uprising bright Spread frosty pearl upon the candid ground: And Cynthia-like for beauty's glorious light The love-sick nymph threw glittering beams around, And counsellors of her old love she made Those valleys dumb, that silence, and that shade. CIV Beholding then the camp, quoth she, "O fair And castle-like pavilions, richly wrought! From you how sweet methinketh blows the air, How comforts it my heart, my soul, my thought? Through heaven's fair face from gulf of sad despair My tossed bark to port well-nigh is brought: In you I seek redress for all my harms, Rest, midst your weapons; peace, amongst your arms. CV "Receive me, then, and let me mercy find, As gentle love assureth me I shall, Among you had I entertainment kind When first I was the Prince Tancredi's thrall: I covet not, led by ambition blind You should me in my father's throne install, Might I but serve in you my lord so dear, That my content, my joy, my comfort were." CVI Thus parleyed she, poor soul, and never feared The sudden blow of Fortune's cruel spite, She stood where Phoebe's splendent beam appeared Upon her silver armor double bright, The place about her round she shining cleared With that pure white wherein the nymph was dight: The tigress great, that on her helmet laid, Bore witness where she went, and where she stayed. CVII So as her fortune would, a Christian band Their secret ambush there had closely framed, Led by two brothers of Italia land, Young Poliphern and Alicandro named, These with their forces watched to withstand Those that brought victuals to their foes untamed, And kept that passage; them Erminia spied, And fled as fast as her swift steed could ride. CVIII But Poliphern, before whose watery eyes, His aged father strong Clorinda slew, When that bright shield and silver helm he spies, The championess he thought he saw and knew; Upon his hidden mates for aid he cries Gainst his supposed foe, and forth he flew, As he was rash, and heedless in his wrath, Bending his lance, "Thou art but dead," he saith. CIX As when a chased hind her course doth bend To seek by soil to find some ease or goad; Whether from craggy rock the spring descend, Or softly glide within the shady wood; If there the dogs she meet, where late she wend To comfort her weak limbs in cooling flood, Again she flies swift as she fled at first, Forgetting weakness, weariness and thirst. CX So she, that thought to rest her weary sprite, And quench the endless thirst of ardent love With dear embracements of her lord and knight, But such as marriage rites should first approve, When she beheld her foe, with weapon bright Threatening her death, his trusty courser move, Her love, her lord, herself abandoned, She spurred her speedy steed, and swift she fled. CXI Erminia fled, scantly the tender grass Her Pegasus with his light footsteps bent, Her maiden's beast for speed did likewise pass; Yet divers ways, such was their fear, they went: The squire who all too late returned, alas. With tardy news from Prince Tancredi's tent, Fled likewise, when he saw his mistress gone, It booted not to sojourn there alone. CXII But Alicandro wiser than the rest, Who this supposed Clorinda saw likewise, To follow her yet was he nothing pressed, But in his ambush still and close he lies, A messenger to Godfrey he addressed, That should him of this accident advise, How that his brother chased with naked blade Clorinda's self, or else Clorinda's shade. CXIII Yet that it was, or that it could be she, He had small cause or reason to suppose, Occasion great and weighty must it be Should make her ride by night among her foes: What Godfrey willed that observed he, And with his soldiers lay in ambush close: These news through all the Christian army went, In every cabin talked, in every tent. CXIV Tancred, whose thoughts the squire had filled with doubt By his sweet words, supposed now hearing this, Alas! the virgin came to seek me out, And for my sake her life in danger is; Himself forthwith he singled from the rout, And rode in haste, though half his arms he miss; Among those sandy fields and valleys green, To seek his love, he galloped fast unseen.
Go to the Seventh Book.