Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #13
THE ARGUMENT. A shepherd fair Erminia entertains, Whom whilst Tancredi seeks in vain to find, He is entrapped in Armida's trains: Raymond with strong Argantes is assigned To fight, an angel to his aid he gains: Satan that sees the Pagan's fury blind, And hasty wrath turn to his loss and harm, Doth raise new tempest, uproar and alarm. I Erminia's steed this while his mistress bore Through forests thick among the shady treen, Her feeble hand the bridle reins forlore, Half in a swoon she was, for fear I ween; But her fleet courser spared ne'er the more, To bear her through the desert woods unseen Of her strong foes, that chased her through the plain, And still pursued, but still pursued in vain. II Like as the weary hounds at last retire, Windless, displeased, from the fruitless chase, When the sly beast tapished in bush and brier, No art nor pains can rouse out of his place: The Christian knights so full of shame and ire Returned back, with faint and weary pace: Yet still the fearful dame fled swift as wind, Nor ever stayed, nor ever looked behind. III Through thick and thin, all night, all day, she drived, Withouten comfort, company, or guide, Her plaints and tears with every thought revived, She heard and saw her griefs, but naught beside: But when the sun his burning chariot dived In Thetis' wave, and weary team untied, On Jordan's sandy banks her course she stayed At last, there down she light, and down she laid. IV Her tears, her drink; her food, her sorrowings, This was her diet that unhappy night: But sleep, that sweet repose and quiet brings, To ease the griefs of discontented wight, Spread forth his tender, soft, and nimble wings, In his dull arms folding the virgin bright; And Love, his mother, and the Graces kept Strong watch and ward, while this fair lady slept. V The birds awoke her with their morning song, Their warbling music pierced her tender ear, The murmuring brooks and whistling winds among The rattling boughs and leaves, their parts did bear; Her eyes unclosed beheld the groves along Of swains and shepherd grooms that dwellings were; And that sweet noise, birds, winds and waters sent, Provoked again the virgin to lament. VI Her plaints were interrupted with a sound, That seemed from thickest bushes to proceed, Some jolly shepherd sung a lusty round, And to his voice he tuned his oaten reed; Thither she went, an old man there she found, At whose right hand his little flock did feed, Sat making baskets, his three sons among, That learned their father's art, and learned his song. VIII "But, father, since this land, these towns and towers Destroyed are with sword, with fire and spoil, How many it be unhurt that you and yours In safety thus apply your harmless toil?" "My son," quoth he, "this poor estate of ours Is ever safe from storm of warlike broil; This wilderness doth us in safety keep, No thundering drum, no trumpet breaks our sleep. IX "Haply just Heaven's defence and shield of right Doth love the innocence of simple swains, The thunderbolts on highest mountains light, And seld or never strike the lower plains; So kings have cause to fear Bellona's might, Not they whose sweat and toil their dinner gains, Nor ever greedy soldier was enticed By poverty, neglected and despised. X "O poverty, chief of the heavenly brood, Dearer to me than wealth or kingly crown: No wish for honor, thirst of others' good, Can move my heart, contented with mine own: We quench our thirst with water of this flood, Nor fear we poison should therein be thrown; These little flocks of sheep and tender goats Give milk for food, and wool to make us coats. XI "We little wish, we need but little wealth, From cold and hunger us to clothe and feed; These are my sons, their care preserves form stealth Their father's flocks, nor servants more I need: Amid these groves I walk oft for my health, And to the fishes, birds, and beasts give heed, How they are fed, in forest, spring and lake, And their contentment for example take. XII "Time was, for each one hath his doating time, These silver locks were golden tresses then, That country life I hated as a crime, And from the forest's sweet contentment ran, To Memphis's stately palace would I climb, And there became the mighty Caliph's man, And though I but a simple gardener were, Yet could I mark abuses, see and hear. XIII "Enticed on with hope of future gain, I suffered long what did my soul displease; But when my youth was spent, my hope was vain. I felt my native strength at last decrease; I gan my loss of lusty years complain, And wished I had enjoyed the country's peace; I bade the court farewell, and with content My latter age here have I quiet spent." XIV While thus he spake, Erminia hushed and still His wise discourses heard, with great attention, His speeches grave those idle fancies kill Which in her troubled soul bred such dissension; After much thought reformed was her will, Within those woods to dwell was her intention, Till Fortune should occasion new afford, To turn her home to her desired lord. XV She said therefore, "O shepherd fortunate! That troubles some didst whilom feel and prove, Yet livest now in this contented state, Let my mishap thy thoughts to pity move, To entertain me as a willing mate In shepherd's life which I admire and love; Within these pleasant groves perchance my heart, Of her discomforts, may unload some part. XVI "If gold or wealth, of most esteemed dear, If jewels rich thou diddest hold in prize, Such store thereof, such plenty have I here, As to a greedy mind might well suffice:" With that down trickled many a silver tear, Two crystal streams fell from her watery eyes; Part of her sad misfortunes then she told, And wept, and with her wept that shepherd old. XVII With speeches kind, he gan the virgin dear Toward his cottage gently home to guide; His aged wife there made her homely cheer, Yet welcomed her, and placed her by her side. The princess donned a poor pastoral's gear, A kerchief coarse upon her head she tied; But yet her gestures and her looks, I guess, Were such as ill beseemed a shepherdess. XVIII Not those rude garments could obscure and hide The heavenly beauty of her angel's face, Nor was her princely offspring damnified Or aught disparaged by those labors base; Her little flocks to pasture would she guide, And milk her goats, and in their folds them place, Both cheese and butter could she make, and frame Herself to please the shepherd and his dame. XIX But oft, when underneath the greenwood shade Her flocks lay hid from Phoebus' scorching rays, Unto her knight she songs and sonnets made, And them engraved in bark of beech and bays; She told how Cupid did her first invade, How conquered her, and ends with Tancred's praise: And when her passion's writ she over read, Again she mourned, again salt tears she shed. XX "You happy trees forever keep," quoth she, "This woful story in your tender rind, Another day under your shade maybe Will come to rest again some lover kind; Who if these trophies of my griefs he see, Shall feel dear pity pierce his gentle mind;" With that she sighed and said, "Too late I prove There is no troth in fortune, trust in love. XXI "Yet may it be, if gracious heavens attend The earnest suit of a distressed wight, At my entreat they will vouchsafe to send To these huge deserts that unthankful knight, That when to earth the man his eyes shall bend, And sees my grave, my tomb, and ashes light, My woful death his stubborn heart may move, With tears and sorrows to reward my love. XXII "So, though my life hath most unhappy been, At least yet shall my spirit dead be blest, My ashes cold shall, buried on this green, Enjoy that good this body ne'er possessed." Thus she complained to the senseless treen, Floods in her eyes, and fires were in her breast; But he for whom these streams of tears she shed, Wandered far off, alas, as chance him led. XXIII He followed on the footsteps he had traced, Till in high woods and forests old he came, Where bushes, thorns and trees so thick were placed, And so obscure the shadows of the same, That soon he lost the tract wherein he paced; Yet went he on, which way he could not aim, But still attentive was his longing ear If noise of horse or noise of arms he hear. XXIV If with the breathing of the gentle wind, An aspen leaf but shaked on the tree, If bird or beast stirred in the bushes blind, Thither he spurred, thither he rode to see: Out of the wood by Cynthia's favor kind, At last, with travel great and pains, got he, And following on a little path, he heard A rumbling sound, and hasted thitherward. XXV It was a fountain from the living stone, That poured down clear streams in noble store, Whose conduit pipes, united all in one, Throughout a rocky channel ghastly roar; Here Tancred stayed, and called, yet answered none, Save babbling echo, from the crooked shore; And there the weary knight at last espies The springing daylight red and white arise. XXVI He sighed sore, and guiltless heaven gan blame, That wished success to his desire denied, And sharp revenge protested for the same, If aught but good his mistress fair betide; Then wished he to return the way he came, Although he wist not by what path to ride, And time drew near when he again must fight With proud Argantes, that vain-glorious knight. XXVII His stalwart steed the champion stout bestrode And pricked fast to find the way he lost, But through a valley as he musing rode, He saw a man that seemed for haste a post, His horn was hung between his shoulders broad, As is the guise with us: Tancredi crossed His way, and gently prayed the man to say, To Godfrey's camp how he should find the way. XXVIII "Sir," in the Italian language answered he, "I ride where noble Boemond hath me sent:" The prince thought this his uncle's man should be, And after him his course with speed he bent, A fortress stately built at last they see, Bout which a muddy stinking lake there went, There they arrived when Titan went to rest His weary limbs in night's untroubled nest. XXIX The courier gave the fort a warning blast; The drawbridge was let down by them within: "If thou a Christian be," quoth he, "thou mayest Till Phoebus shine again, here take thine inn, The County of Cosenza, three days past, This castle from the Turks did nobly win." The prince beheld the piece, which site and art Impregnable had made on every part. XXX He feared within a pile so fortified Some secret treason or enchantment lay, But had he known even there he should have died, Yet should his looks no sign of fear betray; For wheresoever will or chance him guide, His strong victorious hand still made him way: Yet for the combat he must shortly make, No new adventures list he undertake. XXXI Before the castle, in a meadow plain Beside the bridge's end, he stayed and stood, Nor was entreated by the speeches vain Of his false guide, to pass beyond the flood. Upon the bridge appeared a warlike swain, From top to toe all clad in armor good, Who brandishing a broad and cutting sword, Thus threatened death with many an idle word. XXXII "O thou, whom chance or will brings to the soil, Where fair Armida doth the sceptre guide, Thou canst not fly, of arms thyself despoil, And let thy hands with iron chains be tied; Enter and rest thee from thy weary toil. Within this dungeon shalt thou safe abide, And never hope again to see the day, Or that thy hair for age shall turn to gray; XXXIII "Except thou swear her valiant knights to aid Against those traitors of the Christian crew." Tancred at this discourse a little stayed, His arms, his gesture, and his voice he knew: It was Rambaldo, who for that false maid Forsook his country and religion true, And of that fort defender chief became, And those vile creatures stablished in the same. XXXIV The warrior answered, blushing red for shame, "Cursed apostate, and ungracious wight, I am that Tancred who defend the name Of Christ, and have been aye his faithful knight; His rebel foes can I subdue and tame, As thou shalt find before we end this fight; And thy false heart cleft with this vengeful sword, Shall feel the ire of thy forsaken Lord." XXXV When that great name Rambaldo's ears did fill, He shook for fear and looked pale for dread, Yet proudly said, "Tancred, thy hap was ill To wander hither where thou art but dead, Where naught can help, thy courage, strength and skill; To Godfrey will I send thy cursed head, That he may see, how for Armida's sake, Of him and of his Christ a scorn I make." XXXVI This said, the day to sable night was turned, That scant one could another's arms descry, But soon an hundred lamps and torches burned, That cleared all the earth and all the sky; The castle seemed a stage with lights adorned, On which men play some pompous tragedy; Within a terrace sat on high the queen, And heard, and saw, and kept herself unseen. XXXVII The noble baron whet his courage hot, And busked him boldly to the dreadful fight; Upon his horse long while he tarried not, Because on foot he saw the Pagan knight, Who underneath his trusty shield was got, His sword was drawn, closed was his helmet bright, Gainst whom the prince marched on a stately pace, Wrath in his voice, rage in his eyes and face. XXXVIII His foe, his furious charge not well abiding, Traversed his ground, and stated here and there, But he, though faint and weary both with riding, Yet followed fast and still oppressed him near, And on what side he felt Rambaldo sliding, On that his forces most employed were; Now at his helm, not at his hauberk bright, He thundered blows, now at his face and sight. XXXIX Against those numbers battery chief he maketh, Wherein man's life keeps chiefest residence; At his proud threats the Gascoign warrior quaketh, And uncouth fear appalled every sense, To nimble shifts the knight himself betaketh, And skippeth here and there for his defence: Now with his rage, now with his trusty blade, Against his blows he good resistance made. XL Yet no such quickness for defence he used, As did the prince to work him harm and scathe; His shield was cleft in twain, his helmet bruised, And in his blood is other arms did bathe; On him he heaped blows, with thrusts confused, And more or less each stroke annoyed him hath; He feared, and in his troubled bosom strove Remorse of conscience, shame, disdain and love. XLI At last so careless foul despair him made, He meant to prove his fortune ill or good, His shield cast down, he took his helpless blade In both his hands, which yet had drawn no blood, And with such force upon the prince he laid, That neither plate nor mail the blow withstood, The wicked steel seized deep in his right side, And with his streaming blood his bases dyed: XLII Another stroke he lent him on the brow, So great that loudly rung the sounding steel; Yet pierced he not the helmet with the blow, Although the owner twice or thrice did reel. The prince, whose looks disdainful anger show, Now meant to use his puissance every deal, He shaked his head and crashed his teeth for ire, His lips breathed wrath, eyes sparkled shining fire. XLIII The Pagan wretch no longer could sustain The dreadful terror of his fierce aspect, Against the threatened blow he saw right plain No tempered armor could his life protect, He leapt aside, the stroke fell down in vain, Against a pillar near a bridge erect. Thence flaming fire and thousand sparks outstart, And kill with fear the coward Pagan's heart. XLIV Toward the bridge the fearful Paynim fled, And in swift flight, his hope of life reposed; Himself fast after Lord Tancredi sped, And now in equal pace almost they closed, When all the burning lamps extinguished The shining fort his goodly splendor losed, And all those stars on heaven's blue face that shone With Cynthia's self, dispeared were and gone. XLV Amid those witchcrafts and that ugly shade, No further could the prince pursue the chase, Nothing he saw, yet forward still he made, With doubtful steps, and ill assured pace; At last his foot upon a threshold trad, And ere he wist, he entered had the place; With ghastly noise the door-leaves shut behind, And closed him fast in prison dark and blind. XLVI As in our seas in the Commachian Bay, A silly fish, with streams enclosed, striveth, To shun the fury and avoid the sway Wherewith the current in that whirlpool driveth, Yet seeketh all in vain, but finds no way Out of that watery prison, where she diveth: For with such force there be the tides in brought, There entereth all that will, thence issueth naught: XLVII This prison so entrapped that valiant knight; Of which the gate was framed by subtle train, To close without the help of human wight, So sure none could undo the leaves again; Against the doors he bended all his might, But all his forces were employed in vain, At last a voice gan to him loudly call, "Yield thee," quoth it, "thou art Armida's thrall." XLVIII "Within this dungeon buried shalt thou spend The res'due of thy woful days and years;" The champions list not more with words contend, But in his heart kept close his griefs and fears, He blamed love, chance gan he reprehend, And gainst enchantment huge complaints he rears. "It were small loss," softly he thus begun, "To lose the brightness of the shining sun; XLIX "But I. alas, the golden beam forego Of my far brighter sun; nor can I say If these poor eyes shall e'er be blessed so, As once again to view that shining ray:" Then thought he on his proud Circassian foe, And said, "Ah! how shall I perform that fray? He, and the world with him, will Tancred blame, This is my grief, my fault, mine endless shame." L While those high spirits of this champion good, With love and honor's care are thus oppressed, While he torments himself, Argantes wood, Waxed weary of his bed and of his rest, Such hate of peace, and such desire of blood, Such thirst of glory, boiled in his breast; That though he scant could stir or stand upright, Yet longed he for the appointed day to fight. LI The night which that expected day forewent, Scantly the Pagan closed his eyes to sleep, He told how night her sliding hours spent, And rose ere springing day began to peep; He called for armor, which incontinent Was brought by him that used the same to keep, That harness rich old Aladine him gave, A worthy present for a champion brave. LII He donned them on, not long their riches eyed, Nor did he aught with so great weight incline, His wonted sword upon his thigh he tied, The blade was old and tough, of temper fine. As when a comet far and wide descried, In scorn of Phoebus midst bright heaven doth shine, And tidings sad of death and mischief brings To mighty lords, to monarchs, and to kings. LIII So shone the Pagan in bright armor clad, And rolled his eyes great swollen with ire and blood, His dreadful gestures threatened horror sad, And ugly death upon his forehead stood; Not one of all his squires the courage had To approach their master in his angry mood, Above his head he shook his naked blade, And gainst the subtle air vain battle made. LIV "The Christian thief," quoth he, "that was so bold To combat me in hard and single fight, Shall wounded fall inglorious on the mould, His locks with clods of blood and dust bedight, And living shall with watery eyes behold How from his back I tear his harness bright, Nor shall his dying words me so entreat, But that I'll give his flesh to dogs for meat." LV Like as a bull when, pricked with jealousy, He spies the rival of his hot desire, Through all the fields doth bellow, roar and cry, And with his thundering voice augments his ire, And threatening battle to the empty sky, Tears with his horn each tree, plant, bush and brier, And with his foot casts up the sand on height, Defying his strong foe to deadly fight: LVI Such was the Pagan's fury, such his cry. A herald called he then, and thus he spoke; "Go to the camp, and in my name, defy The man that combats for his Jesus' sake;" This said, upon his steed he mounted high, And with him did his noble prisoner take, The town he thus forsook, and on the green He ran, as mad or frantic he had been. LVII A bugle small he winded loud and shrill, That made resound the fields and valleys near, Louder than thunder from Olympus hill Seemed that dreadful blast to all that hear; The Christian lords of prowess, strength and skill, Within the imperial tent assembled were, The herald there in boasting terms defied Tancredi first, and all that durst beside. LVIII With sober those ten which chosen were by lot, And viewed at leisure every lord and knight; But yet for all his looks not one stepped out, With courage bold, to undertake the fight: Absent were all the Christian champions stout, No news of Tancred since his secret flight; Boemond far off, and banished from the crew Was that strong prince who proud Gernando slew: LIX And eke those ten which chosen were by lot, And all the worthies of the camp beside, After Armida false were followed hot, When night were come their fight to hide; The rest their hands and hearts that trusted not, Blushed for shame, yet silent still abide; For none there was that sought to purchase fame In so great peril, fear exiled shame. LX The angry duke their fear discovered plain, By their pale looks and silence from each part, And as he moved was with just disdain, These words he said, and from his seat upstart: "Unworthy life I judge that coward swain To hazard it even now that wants the heart, When this vile Pagan with his glorious boast Dishonors and defies Christ's sacred host. LXI "But let my camp sit still in peace and rest, And my life's hazard at their ease behold. Come bring me here my fairest arms and best;" And they were brought sooner than could be told. But gentle Raymond in his aged breast, Who had mature advice, and counsel old, Than whom in all the camp were none or few Of greater might, before Godfredo drew, LXII And gravely said, "Ah, let it not betide, On one man's hand to venture all his host! No private soldier thou, thou are our guide, If thou miscarry, all our hope were lost, By thee must Babel fell, and all her pride; Of our true faith thou art the prop and post, Rule with thy sceptre, conquer with thy word, Let others combat make with spear and sword. LXIII "Let me this Pagan's glorious pride assuage, These aged arms can yet their weapons use, Let others shun Bellona's dreadful rage, These silver locks shall not Raymondo scuse: Oh that I were in prime of lusty age, Like you that this adventure brave refuse, And dare not once lift up your coward eyes, Gainst him that you and Christ himself defies! LXIV "Or as I was when all the lords of fame And Germain princes great stood by to view, In Conrad's court, the second of that name, When Leopold in single fight I slew; A greater praise I reaped by the same, So strong a foe in combat to subdue, Than he should do who all alone should chase Or kill a thousand of these Pagans base. LXV "Within these arms, bad I that strength again, This boasting Paynim had not lived now, Yet in this breast doth courage still remain; For age or years these members shall not bow; And if I be in this encounter slain, Scotfree Argantes shall not scape, I vow; Give me mine arms, this battle shall with praise Augment mine honor, got in younger days." LXVI The jolly baron old thus bravely spake, His words are spurs to virtue; every knight That seemed before to tremble and to quake, Now talked bold, example hath such might; Each one the battle fierce would undertake, Now strove they all who should begin the fight; Baldwin and Roger both, would combat fain, Stephen, Guelpho, Gernier and the Gerrards twain; LXVII And Pyrrhus, who with help of Boemond's sword Proud Antioch by cunning sleight opprest; The battle eke with many a lowly word, Ralph, Rosimond, and Eberard request, A Scottish, an Irish, and an English lord, Whose lands the seas divide far from the rest, And for the fight did likewise humbly sue, Edward and his Gildippes, lovers true. LXVIII But Raymond more than all the rest doth sue Upon that Pagan fierce to wreak his ire, Now wants he naught of all his armors due Except his helm that shone like flaming fire. To whom Godfredo thus; "O mirror true Of antique worth! thy courage doth inspire New strength in us, of Mars in thee doth shine The art, the honor and the discipline. LXIX "If ten like thee of valor and of age, Among these legions I could haply find, I should the best of Babel's pride assuage, And spread our faith from Thule to furthest Inde; But now I pray thee calm thy valiant rage, Reserve thyself till greater need us bind, And let the rest each one write down his name, And see whom Fortune chooseth to this game, -- LXX "Or rather see whom God's high judgement taketh, To whom is chance, and fate, and fortune slave." Raymond his earnest suit not yet forsaketh, His name writ with the residue would he have, Godfrey himself in his bright helmet shaketh The scrolls, with names of all the champions brave: They drew, and read the first whereon they hit, Wherein was "Raymond, Earl of Tholouse," writ. LXXI His name with joy and mighty shouts they bless; The rest allow his choice, and fortune praise, New vigor blushed through those looks of his; It seemed he now resumed his youthful days, Like to a snake whose slough new changed is, That shines like gold against the sunny rays: But Godfrey most approved his fortune high, And wished him honor, conquest, victory. LXXII Then from his side he took his noble brand, And giving it to Raymond, thus he spake: "This is the sword wherewith in Saxon land, The great Rubello battle used to make, From him I took it, fighting hand to hand, And took his life with it, and many a lake Of blood with it I have shed since that day, With thee God grant it proves as happy may." LXXIII Of these delays meanwhile impatient, Argantes threateneth loud and sternly cries, "O glorious people of the Occident! Behold him here that all your host defies: Why comes not Tancred, whose great hardiment, With you is prized so dear? Pardie he lies Still on his pillow, and presumes the night Again may shield him from my power and might. LXXIV "Why then some other come, by hand and hand, Come all, come forth on horseback, come on foot, If not one man dares combat hand to hand, In all the thousands of so great a rout: See where the tomb of Mary's Son doth stand, March thither, warriors hold, what makes you doubt? Why run you not, there for your sins to weep Or to what greater need these forces keep?" LXXV Thus scorned by that heathen Saracine Were all the soldiers of Christ's sacred name: Raymond, while others at his words repine, Burst forth in rage, he could not bear this shame: For fire of courage brighter far doth shine If challenges and threats augment the same; So that, upon his steed he mounted light, Which Aquilino for his swiftness hight. LXXVI This jennet was by Tagus bred; for oft The breeder of these beasts to war assigned, When first on trees burgeon the blossoms soft Pricked forward with the sting of fertile kind, Against the air casts up her head aloft And gathereth seed so from the fruitful wind And thus conceiving of the gentle blast, A wonder strange and rare, she foals at last. LXXVII And had you seen the beast, you would have said The light and subtile wind his father was; For if his course upon the sands he made No sign was left what way the beast did pass; Or if he menaged were, or if he played, He scantly bended down the tender grass: Thus mounted rode the Earl, and as he went, Thus prayed, to Heaven his zealous looks upbent. LXXVIII "O Lord, that diddest save, keep and defend Thy servant David from Goliath's rage, And broughtest that huge giant to his end, Slain by a faithful child of tender age; Like grace, O Lord, like mercy now extend! Let me this vile blasphemous pride assuage, That all the world may to thy glory know, Old men and babes thy foes can overthrow!" LXXIX Thus prayed the County, and his prayers dear Strengthened with zeal, with godliness and faith, Before the throne of that great Lord appear, In whose sweet grace is life, death in his wrath, Among his armies bright and legions clear, The Lord an angel good selected hath, To whom the charge was given to guard the knight, And keep him safe from that fierce Pagan's might. LXXX The angel good, appointed for the guard Of noble Raymond from his tender eild, That kept him then, and kept him afterward, When spear and sword he able was to wield, Now when his great Creator's will he heard, That in this fight he should him chiefly shield, Up to a tower set on a rock he flies, Where all the heavenly arms and weapons lies: LXXXI There stands the lance wherewith great Michael slew The aged dragon in a bloody fight, There are the dreadful thunders forged new, With storms and plagues that on poor sinners light; The massy trident mayest thou pendant view There on a golden pin hung up on height, Wherewith sometimes he smites this solid land, And throws down towns and towers thereon which stand. LXXXII Among the blessed weapons there which stands Upon a diamond shield his looks he bended, So great that it might cover all the lands, Twixt Caucasus and Atlas hills extended; With it the lord's dear flocks and faithful bands, The holy kings and cities are defended, The sacred angel took his target sheen, And by the Christian champion stood unseen. LXXXIII But now the walls and turrets round about, Both young and old with many thousands fill; The king Clorinda sent and her brave rout, To keep the field, she stayed upon the hill: Godfrey likewise some Christian bands sent out Which armed, and ranked in good array stood still, And to their champions empty let remain Twixt either troop a large and spacious plain. LXXXIV Argantes looked for Tancredi bold, But saw an uncouth foe at last appear, Raymond rode on, and what he asked him, told, Better by chance, "Tancred is now elsewhere, Yet glory not of that, myself behold Am come prepared, and bid thee battle here, And in his place, or for myself to fight, Lo, here I am, who scorn thy heathenish might." LXXXV The Pagan cast a scornful smile and said, "But where is Tancred, is he still in bed? His looks late seemed to make high heaven afraid; But now for dread he is or dead or fled; But whe'er earth's centre or the deep sea made His lurking hole, it should not save his head." "Thou liest," he says, "to say so brave a knight Is fled from thee, who thee exceeds in might." LXXXVI The angry Pagan said, "I have not spilt My labor then, if thou his place supply, Go take the field, and let's see how thou wilt Maintain thy foolish words and that brave lie;" Thus parleyed they to meet in equal tilt, Each took his aim at other's helm on high, Even in the fight his foe good Raymond hit, But shaked him not, he did so firmly sit. LXXXVII The fierce Circassian missed of his blow, A thing which seld befell the man before, The angel, by unseen, his force did know, And far awry the poignant weapon bore, He burst his lance against the sand below, And bit his lips for rage, and cursed and swore, Against his foe returned he swift as wind, Half mad in arms a second match to find. LXXXVIII Like to a ram that butts with horned head, So spurred he forth his horse with desperate race: Raymond at his right hand let slide his steed, And as he passed struck at the Pagan's face; He turned again, the earl was nothing dread, Yet stept aside, and to his rage gave place, And on his helm with all his strength gan smite, Which was so hard his courtlax could not bite. LXXXIX The Saracen employed his art and force To grip his foe within his mighty arms, But he avoided nimbly with his horse, He was no prentice in those fierce alarms, About him made he many a winding course, No strength, nor sleight the subtle warrior harms, His nimble steed obeyed his ready hand, And where he stept no print left in the sand. XC As when a captain doth besiege some hold, Set in a marsh or high up on a hill, And trieth ways and wiles a thousandfold, To bring the piece subjected to his will; So fared the County with the Pagan bold; And when he did his head and breast none ill, His weaker parts he wisely gan assail, And entrance searched oft 'twixt mail and mail. XCI At last he hit him on a place or twain, That on his arms the red blood trickled down, And yet himself untouched did remain, No nail was broke, no plume cut from his crown; Argantes raging spent his strength in vain, Waste were his strokes, his thrusts were idle thrown, Yet pressed he on, and doubled still his blows, And where he hits he neither cares nor knows. XCII Among a thousand blows the Saracine At last struck one, when Raymond was so near, That not the swiftness of his Aquiline Could his dear lord from that huge danger bear: But lo, at hand unseen was help divine, Which saves when worldly comforts none appear, The angel on his targe received that stroke, And on that shield Argantes' sword was broke. XCIII The sword was broke, therein no wonder lies If earthly tempered metal could not hold Against that target forged above the skies, Down fell the blade in pieces on the mould; The proud Circassian scant believed his eyes, Though naught were left him but the hilts of gold, And full of thoughts amazed awhile he stood, Wondering the Christian's armor was so good. XCIV The brittle web of that rich sword he thought, Was broke through hardness of the County's shield; And so thought Raymond, who discovered naught What succor Heaven did for his safety yield: But when he saw the man gainst whom he fought Unweaponed, still stood he in the field; His noble heart esteemed the glory light, At such advantage if he slew the knight. XCV "Go fetch," he would have said, "another blade," When in his heart a better thought arose, How for Christ's glory he was champion made, How Godfrey had him to this combat chose, The army's honor on his shoulder laid To hazards new he list not that expose; While thus his thoughts debated on the case, The hilts Argantes hurled at his face. XCVI And forward spurred his mounture fierce withal, Within his arms longing his foe to strain, Upon whose helm the heavy blow did fall, And bent well-nigh the metal to his brain: But he, whose courage was heroical, Leapt by, and makes the Pagan's onset vain, And wounds his hand, which he outstretched saw, Fiercer than eagles' talon, lions' paw. XCVII Now here, now there, on every side he rode, With nimble speed, and spurred now out, now in, And as he went and came still laid on load Where Lord Argantes' arms were weak and thin; All that huge force which in his arms abode, His wrath, his ire, his great desire to win, Against his foe together all he bent, And heaven and fortune furthered his intent. XCVIII But he, whose courage for no peril fails, Well armed, and better hearted, scorns his power. Like a tall ship when spent are all her sails, Which still resists the rage of storm and shower, Whose mighty ribs fast bound with bands and nails, Withstands fierce Neptune's wrath, for many an hour, And yields not up her bruised keel to winds, In whose stern blast no ruth nor grace she finds: XCIX Argantes such thy present danger was, When Satan stirred to aid thee at thy need, In human shape he forged an airy mass, And made the shade a body seem indeed; Well might the spirit of Clorinda pass, Like her it was, in armor and in weed, In stature, beauty, countenance and face, In looks, in speech, in gesture, and in pace. C And for the spirit should seem the same indeed, From where she was whose show and shape it had, Toward the wall it rode with feigned speed, Where stood the people all dismayed and sad, To see their knight of help have so great need, And yet the law of arms all help forbad. There in a turret sat a soldier stout To watch, and at a loop-hole peeped out; CI The spirit spake to him, called Oradine, The noblest archer then that handled bow, "O Oradine," quoth she, "who straight as line Can'st shoot, and hit each mark set high or low, If yonder knight, alas! be slain in fine, As likest is, great ruth it were you know, And greater shame, if his victorious foe Should with his spoils triumphant homeward go. CII "Now prove thy skill, thine arrow's sharp head dip In yonder thievish Frenchman's guilty blood, I promise thee thy sovereign shall not slip To give thee large rewards for such a good;" Thus said the spirit; the man did laugh and skip For hope of future gain, nor longer stood, But from his quiver huge a shaft he hent, And set it in his mighty bow new bent, CIII Twanged the string, out flew the quarrel long, And through the subtle air did singing pass, It hit the knight the buckles rich among, Wherewith his precious girdle fastened was, It bruised them and pierced his hauberk strong, Some little blood down trickled on the grass; Light was the wound; the angel by unseen, The sharp head blunted of the weapon keen. CIV Raymond drew forth the shaft, as much behoved, And with the steel, his blood out streaming came, With bitter words his foe he then reproved, For breaking faith, to his eternal shame. Godfrey, whose careful eyes from his beloved Were never turned, saw and marked the same, And when he viewed the wounded County bleed, He sighed, and feared, more perchance than need; CV And with his words, and with his threatening eyes, He stirred his captains to revenge that wrong; Forthwith the spurred courser forward hies, Within their rests put were their lances long, From either side a squadron brave out flies, And boldly made a fierce encounter strong, The raised dust to overspread begun Their shining arms, and far more shining sun. CVI Of breaking spears, of ringing helm and shield, A dreadful rumor roared on every side, There lay a horse, another through the field Ran masterless, dismounted was his guide; Here one lay dead, there did another yield, Some sighed, some sobbed, some prayed, and some cried; Fierce was the fight, and longer still it lasted, Fiercer and fewer, still themselves they wasted. CVII Argantes nimbly leapt amid the throng, And from a soldier wrung an iron mace, And breaking through the ranks and ranges long, Therewith he passage made himself and place, Raymond he sought, the thickest press among. To take revenge for !ate received disgrace, A greedy wolf he seemed, and would assuage With Raymond's blood his hunger and his rage. CVIII The way he found not easy as he would, But fierce encounters put him oft to pain, He met Ormanno and Rogero bold, Of Balnavile, Guy, and the Gerrards twain; Yet nothing might his rage and haste withhold, These worthies strove to stop him, but in vain, With these strong lets increased still his ire, Like rivers stopped, or closely smouldered fire. CIX He slew Ormanno, and wounded Guy, and laid Rogero low, among the people slain, On every side new troops the man invade, Yet all their blows were waste, their onsets vain, But while Argantes thus his prizes played, And seemed alone this skirmish to sustain, The duke his brother called and thus he spake, "Go with thy troop, fight for thy Saviour's sake; CX "There enter in where hottest is the fight, Thy force against the left wing strongly bend." This said, so brave an onset gave the knight, That many a Paynim bold there made his end: The Turks too weak seemed to sustain his might, And could not from his power their lives defend, Their ensigns rent, and broke was their array, And men and horse on heaps together lay. CXI O'erthrown likewise away the right wing ran, Nor was there one again that turned his face, Save bold Argantes, else fled every man, Fear drove them thence on heaps, with headlong chase: He stayed alone, and battle new began, Five hundred men, weaponed with sword and mace, So great resistance never could have made, As did Argantes with his single blade: CXII The strokes of swords and thrusts of many a spear, The shock of many a joust he long sustained, He seemed of strength enough this charge to bear, And time to strike, now here, now there, he gained His armors broke, his members bruised were, He sweat and bled, yet courage still he feigned; But now his foes upon him pressed so fast, That with their weight they bore him back at last. CXIII His back against this storm at length he turned, Whose headlong fury bore him backward still, Not like to one that fled, but one that mourned Because he did his foes no greater ill, His threatening eyes like flaming torches burned, His courage thirsted yet more blood to spill, And every way and every mean he sought, To stay his flying mates, but all for naught. CXIV This good he did, while thus he played his part, His bands and troops at ease, and safe, retired; Yet coward dread lacks order, fear wants art, Deaf to attend, commanded or desired. But Godfrey that perceived in his wise heart, How his bold knights to victory aspired, Fresh soldiers sent, to make more quick pursuit, And help to gather conquest's precious fruit. CXV But this, alas, was not the appointed day, Set down by Heaven to end this mortal war: The western lords this time had borne away The prize, for which they travelled had so far, Had not the devils, that saw the sure decay Of their false kingdom by this bloody war, At once made heaven and earth with darkness blind, And stirred up tempests, storms, and blustering wind. CXVI Heaven's glorious lamp, wrapped in an ugly veil Of shadows dark, was hid from mortal eye, And hell's grim blackness did bright skies assail; On every side the fiery lightnings fly, The thunders roar, the streaming rain and hail Pour down and make that sea which erst was dry. The tempests rend the oaks and cedars brake, And make not trees but rocks and mountains shake. CXVII The rain, the lightning, and the raging wind, Beat in the Frenchmen's eyes with hideous force, The soldiers stayed amazed in heart and mind, The terror such that stopped both man and horse. Surprised with this evil no way they find, Whither for succor to direct their course, But wise Clorinda soon the advantage spied, And spurring forth thus to her soldiers cried: CXVIII "You hardy men at arms behold," quoth she, "How Heaven, how Justice in our aid doth fight, Our visages are from this tempest free, Our hands at will may wield our weapons bright, The fury of this friendly storm you see Upon the foreheads of our foes doth light, And blinds their eyes, then let us take the tide, Come, follow me, good fortune be our guide." CXIX This said, against her foes on rode the dame, And turned their backs against the wind and rain; Upon the French with furious rage she came, And scorned those idle blows they struck in vain; Argantes at the instant did the same, And them who chased him now chased again, Naught but his fearful back each Christian shows Against the tempest, and against their blows. CXX The cruel hail, and deadly wounding blade, Upon their shoulders smote them as they fled, The blood new spilt while thus they slaughter made, The water fallen from skies had dyed red, Among the murdered bodies Pyrrhus laid, And valiant Raiphe his heart blood there out bled, The first subdued by strong Argantes' might, The second conquered by that virgin knight. CXXI Thus fled the French, and then pursued in chase The wicked sprites and all the Syrian train: But gainst their force and gainst their fell menace Of hail and wind, of tempest and of rain, Godfrey alone turned his audacious face, Blaming his barons for their fear so vain, Himself the camp gate boldly stood to keep, And saved his men within his trenches deep. CXXII And twice upon Argantes proud he flew, And beat him backward, maugre all his might, And twice his thirsty sword he did imbrue, In Pagan's blood where thickest was the fight; At last himself with all his folk withdrew, And that day's conquest gave the virgin bright, Which got, she home retired and all her men, And thus she chased this lion to his den. CXXIII Yet ceased not the fury and the ire Of these huge storms, of wind, of rain and hail, Now was it dark, now shone the lightning fire, The wind and water every place assail, No bank was safe, no rampire left entire, No tent could stand, when beam and cordage fail, Wind, thunder, rain, all gave a dreadful sound, And with that music deafed the trembling ground.
Go to the Eighth Book.