Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #13
THE ARGUMENT. Alecto false great Solyman doth move By night the Christians in their tents to kill: But God who their intents saw from above, Sends Michael down from his sacred hill: The spirits foul to hell the angels drove; The knights delivered from the witch, at will Destroy the Pagans, scatter all their host: The Soldan flies when all his bands are lost. I The grisly child of Erebus the grim, Who saw these tumults done and tempest spent, Gainst stream of grace who ever strove to swim And all her thoughts against Heaven's wisdom bent, Departed now, bright Titan's beams were dim And fruitful lands waxed barren as she went. She sought the rest of her infernal crew, New storms to raise, new broils, and tumults new. II She, that well wist her sisters had enticed, By their false arts, far from the Christian host, Tancred, Rinaldo, and the rest, best prized For martial skill, for might esteemed most, Said, of these discords and these strifes advised, "Great Solyman, when day his light hath lost, These Christians shall assail with sudden war, And kill them all while thus they strive and jar." III With that where Solyman remained she flew, And found him out with his Arabian bands, Great Solyman, of all Christ's foes untrue, Boldest of courage, mightiest of his hands, Like him was none of all that earth-bred crew That heaped mountains on the Aemonian sands, Of Turks he sovereign was, and Nice his seat, Where late he dwelt, and ruled that kingdom great. IV The lands forenenst the Greekish shore he held, From Sangar's mouth to crooked Meander's fall, Where they of Phrygia, Mysia, Lydia dwelled, Bithynia's towns, and Pontus' cities all: But when the hearts of Christian princes swelled, And rose in arms to make proud Asia thrall, Those lands were won where he did sceptre wield And he twice beaten was in pitched field. V When Fortune oft he had in vain assayed, And spent his forces, which availed him naught, To Egypt's king himself he close conveyed, Who welcomed him as he could best have thought, Glad in his heart, and inly well apayed, That to his court so great a lord was brought: For he decreed his armies huge to bring To succor Juda land and Juda's king. VI But, ere he open war proclaimed, he would That Solyman should kindle first the fire, And with huge sums of false enticing gold The Arabian thieves he sent him forth to hire, While he the Asian lords and Morians hold Unites; the Soldan won to his desire Those outlaws, ready aye for gold to fight, The hope of gain hath such alluring might. VII Thus made their captain to destroy and burn, In Juda land he entered is so far, That all the ways whereby he should return By Godfrey's people kept and stopped are, And now he gan his former losses mourn, This wound had hit him on an elder scar, On great adventures ran his hardy thought, But naught assured, he yet resolved on naught. VIII To him Alecto came, and semblant bore Of one whose age was great, whose looks were grave, Whose cheeks were bloodless, and whose locks were hoar Mustaches strouting long and chin close shave, A steepled turban on her head she wore, Her garment wide, and by her side, her glaive, Her gilden quiver at her shoulders hung, And in her hand a bow was, stiff and strong. IX "We have." Quoth she,."through wildernesses gone, Through sterile sands, strange paths, and uncouth ways, Yet spoil or booty have we gotten none, Nor victory deserving fame or praise, Godfrey meanwhile to ruin stick and stone Of this fair town, with battery sore assays; And if awhile we rest, we shall behold This glorious city smoking lie in mould. X "Are sheep-cotes burnt, or preys of sheep or kine, The cause why Solyman these bands did arm? Canst thou that kingdom lately lost of thine Recover thus, or thus redress thy harm? No, no, when heaven's small candles next shall shine, Within their tents give them a bold alarm; Believe Araspes old, whose grave advice Thou hast in exile proved, and proved in Nice. XI "He feareth naught, he doubts no sudden broil From these ill-armed and worse-hearted bands, He thinks this people, used to rob and spoil, To such exploit dares not lift up their hands; Up then and with thy courage put to foil This fearless camp, while thus secure it stands." This said, her poison in his breast she hides, And then to shapeless air unseen she glides. XII The Soldan cried, "O thou which in my thought Increased hast my rage and fury so, Nor seem'st a wight of mortal metal wrought, I follow thee, whereso thee list to go, Mountains of men by dint of sword down brought Thou shalt behold, and seas of red blood flow Where'er I go; only be thou my guide When sable night the azure skies shall hide." XIII When this was said, he mustered all his crew, Reproved the cowards, and allowed the bold: His forward camp, inspired with courage new, Was ready dight to follow where he would: Alecto's self the warning trumpet blew And to the wind his standard great unrolled, Thus on they marched, and thus on they went, Of their approach their speed the news prevent. XIV Alecto left them, and her person dight Like one that came some tidings new to tell: It was the time, when first the rising night Her sparkling diamonds poureth forth to sell, When, into Sion come, she marched right Where Juda's aged tyrant used to dwell, To whom of Solyman's designment bold, The place, the manner, and the time she told. XV Their mantle dark, the grisly shadows spread, Stained with spots of deepest sanguine hue, Warm drops of blood, on earth's black visage shed, Supplied the place of pure and precious dew, The moon and stars for fear of sprites were fled, The shrieking goblins eachwhere howling flew, The furies roar, the ghosts and fairies yell, The earth was filled with devils, and empty hell. XVI The Soldan fierce, through all this horror, went Toward the camp of his redoubted foes, The night was more than half consumed and spent; Now headlong down the western hill she goes, When distant scant a mile from Godfrey's tent He let his people there awhile repose, And victualled them, and then he boldly spoke These words which rage and courage might provoke: XVII "See there a camp, full stuffed of spoils and preys, Not half so strong as false report recordeth; See there the storehouse, where their captain lays Our treasures stolen, where Asia's wealth he hoardeth; Now chance the ball unto our racket plays, Take then the vantage which good luck affordeth; For all their arms, their horses, gold and treasure Are ours, ours without loss, harm or displeasure. XVIII "Nor is this camp that great victorious host That slew the Persian lords, and Nice hath won: For those in this long war are spent and lost, These are the dregs, the wine is all outrun, And these few left, are drowned and dead almost In heavy sleep, the labor half is done To send them headlong to Avernus deep, For little differs death and heavy sleep. XIX "Come, come, this sword the passage open shall Into their camp, and on their bodies slain We will pass o'er their rampire and their wall; This blade, as scythes cut down the fields of grain, Shall cut them so, Christ's kingdom now shall fall, Asia her freedom, you shall praise obtain." Thus he inflamed his soldiers to the fight, And led them on through silence of the night. XX The sentinel by starlight, lo, descried This mighty Soldan and his host draw near, Who found not as he hoped the Christians' guide Unware, ne yet unready was his gear: The scouts, when this huge army they descried, Ran back, and gan with shouts the 'larum rear; The watch stert up and drew their weapons bright, And busked them bold to battle and to fight. XXI The Arabians wist they could not come unseen, And therefore loud their jarring trumpets sound, Their yelling cries to heaven upheaved been, The horses thundered on the solid ground, The mountains roared, and the valley green, The echoes sighed from the caves around, Alecto with her brand, kindled in hell, Tokened to them in David's tower that dwell. XXII Before the rest forth pricked the Soldan fast, Against the watch, not yet in order just, As swift as hideous Boreas' hasty blast From hollow rocks when first his storms outburst, The raging floods, that trees and rocks down cast, Thunders, that towns and towers drive to dust: Earthquakes, to tear the world in twain that threat, Are naught, compared to his fury great. XXIII He struck no blow, but that his foe he hit; And never hit, but made a grievous wound: And never wounded, but death followed it; And yet no peril, hurt or harm he found, No weapon on his hardened helmet bit, No puissant stroke his senses once astound, Yet like a bell his tinkling helmet rung, And thence flew flames of fire and sparks among. XXIV Himself well nigh had put the watch to flight, A jolly troop of Frenchmen strong and stout, When his Arabians came by heaps to fight, Covering, like raging floods, the fields about; The beaten Christians run away full light, The Pagans, mingled with the flying rout, Entered their camp, and filled, as they stood, Their tents with ruin, slaughter, death and blood. XXV High on the Soldan's helm enamelled laid An hideous dragon, armed with many a scale, With iron paws, and leathern wings displayed, Which twisted on a knot her forked tail, With triple tongue it seemed she hissed and brayed, About her jaws the froth and venom trail, And as he stirred, and as his foes him hit, So flames to cast and fire she seemed to spit. XXVI With this strange light, the Soldan fierce appeared Dreadful to those that round about him been, As to poor sailors, when huge storms are reared, With lightning flash the rafting seas are seen; Some fled away, because his strength they feared, Some bolder gainst him bent their weapons keen, And forward night, in evils and mischiefs pleased, Their dangers hid, and dangers still increased. XXVII Among the rest that strove to merit praise, Was old Latinus, born by Tiber's bank, To whose stout heart in fights and bloody frays, For all his eild, base fear yet never sank; Five sons he had, the comforts of his days, That from his side in no adventure shrank, But long before their time, in iron strong They clad their members, tender, soft and young. XXVIII The bold ensample of their father's might Their weapons whetted and their wrath increased, "Come let us go," quoth he, "where yonder knight Upon our soldiers makes his bloody feast, Let not their slaughter once your hearts affright, Where danger most appears, there fear it least, For honor dwells in hard attempts, my sons, And greatest praise, in greatest peril, wons." XXIX Her tender brood the forest's savage queen, Ere on their crests their rugged manes appear, Before their mouths by nature armed been, Or paws have strength a silly lamb to tear, So leadeth forth to prey, and makes them keen, And learns by her ensample naught to fear The hunter, in those desert woods that takes The lesser beasts whereon his feast he makes. XXX The noble father and his hardy crew Fierce Solyman on every side invade, At once all six upon the Soldan flew, With lances sharp, and strong encounters made, His broken spear the eldest boy down threw, And boldly, over-boldly, drew his blade, Wherewith he strove, but strove therewith in vain, The Pagan's steed, unmarked, to have slain. XXXI But as a mountain or a cape of land Assailed with storms and seas on every side, Doth unremoved, steadfast, still withstand Storm, thunder, lightning, tempest, wind, and tide: The Soldan so withstood Latinus' band, And unremoved did all their justs abide, And of that hapless youth, who hurt his steed, Down to the chin he cleft in twain the head. XXXII Kind Aramante, who saw his brother slain, To hold him up stretched forth his friendly arm, Oh foolish kindness, and oh pity vain, To add our proper loss, to other's harm! The prince let fall his sword, and cut in twain About his brother twined, the child's weak arm. Down from their saddles both together slide, Together mourned they, and together died. XXXIII That done, Sabino's lance with nimble force He cut in twain, and 'gainst the stripling bold He spurred his steed, that underneath his horse The hardy infant tumbled on the mould, Whose soul, out squeezed from his bruised corpse, With ugly painfulness forsook her hold, And deeply mourned that of so sweet a cage She left the bliss, and joys of youthful age. XXXIV But Picus yet and Lawrence were on live, Whom at one birth their mother fair brought out, A pair whose likeness made the parents strive Oft which was which, and joyed in their doubt: But what their birth did undistinguished give, The Soldan's rage made known, for Picus stout Headless at one huge blow he laid in dust, And through the breast his gentle brother thrust. XXXV Their father, but no father now, alas! When all his noble sons at once were slain, In their five deaths so often murdered was, I know not how his life could him sustain, Except his heart were forged of steel or brass, Yet still he lived, pardie, he saw not plain Their dying looks, although their deaths he knows, It is some ease not to behold our woes. XXXVI He wept not, for the night her curtain spread Between his cause of weeping and his eyes, But still he mourned and on sharp vengeance fed, And thinks he conquers, if revenged he dies; He thirsts the Soldan's heathenish blood to shed, And yet his own at less than naught doth prize, Nor can he tell whether he liefer would, Or die himself, or kill the Pagan bold. XXXVII At last, "Is this right hand," quoth he, "so weak, That thou disdain'st gainst me to use thy might? Can it naught do? can this tongue nothing speak That may provoke thine ire, thy wrath and spite?" With that he struck, his anger great to wreak, A blow, that pierced the mail and metal bright, And in his flank set ope a floodgate wide, Whereat the blood out streamed from his side. XXXVIII Provoked with his cry, and with that blow, The Turk upon him gan his blade discharge, He cleft his breastplate, having first pierced through, Lined with seven bulls' hides, his mighty targe, And sheathed his weapons in his guts below; Wretched Latinus at that issue large, And at his mouth, poured out his vital blood, And sprinkled with the same his murdered brood. XXXIX On Apennine like as a sturdy tree, Against the winds that makes resistance stout, If with a storm it overturned be, Falls down and breaks the trees and plants about; So Latine fell, and with him felled he And slew the nearest of the Pagans' rout, A worthy end, fit for a man of fame, That dying, slew; and conquered, overcame. XL Meanwhile the Soldan strove his rage To satisfy with blood of Christian spilled, The Arabians heartened by their captain stern, With murder every tent and cabin filled, Henry the English knight, and Olipherne, O fierce Draguto, by thy hands were killed! Gilbert and Philip were by Ariadene Both slain, both born upon the banks of Rhone. XLI Albazar with his mace Ernesto slew, Under Algazel Engerlan down fell, But the huge murder of the meaner crew, Or manner of their deaths, what tongue can tell? Godfrey, when first the heathen trumpets blew, Awaked, which heard, no fear could make him dwell, But he and his were up and armed ere long, And marched forward with a squadron strong. XLII He that well heard the rumor and the cry, And marked the tumult still grow more and more, The Arabian thieves he judged by and by Against his soldiers made this battle sore; For that they forayed all the countries nigh, And spoiled the fields, the duke knew well before, Yet thought he not they had the hardiment So to assail him in his armed tent. XLIII All suddenly he heard, while on he went, How to the city-ward, "Arm, arm!" they cried, The noise upreared to the firmament, With dreadful howling filled the valleys wlde: This was Clorinda, whom the king forth sent To battle, and Argantes by her side. The duke, this heard, to Guelpho turned, and prayed Him his lieutenant be, and to him said: XLIV "You hear this new alarm from yonder part, That from the town breaks out with so much rage, Us needeth much your valor and your art To calm their fury, and their heat to 'suage; Go thither then, and with you take some part Of these brave soldiers of mine equipage, While with the residue of my champions bold I drive these wolves again out of our fold." XLV They parted, this agreed on them between, By divers paths, Lord Guelpho to the hill, And Godfrey hasted where the Arabians keen His men like silly sheep destroy and kill; But as he went his troops increased been, From every part the people flocked still, That now grown strong enough, he 'proached nigh Where the fierce Turk caused many a Christian die. XLVI So from the top of Vesulus the cold, Down to the sandy valleys, tumbleth Po, Whose streams the further from the fountain rolled Still stronger wax, and with more puissance go; And horned like a bull his forehead bold He lifts, and o'er his broken banks doth flow, And with his horns to pierce the sea assays, To which he proffereth war, not tribute pays. XLVII The duke his men fast flying did espy, And thither ran, and thus, displeased, spake, "What fear is this? Oh, whither do you fly? See who they be that this pursuit do make, A heartless band, that dare no battle try, Who wounds before dare neither give nor take, Against them turn your stern eye's threatening sight, An angry look will put them all to flight." XLVIII This said, he spurred forth where Solyman Destroyed Christ's vineyard like a savage boar, Through streams of blood, through dust and dirt he ran, O'er heaps of bodies wallowing in their gore, The squadrons close his sword to ope began, He broke their ranks, behind, beside, before, And, where he goes, under his feet he treads The armed Saracens, and barbed steeds. XLIX This slaughter-house of angry Mars he passed, Where thousands dead, half-dead, and dying were. The hardy Soldan saw him come in haste, Yet neither stepped aside nor shrunk for fear, But busked him bold to fight, aloft he cast His blade, prepared to strike, and stepped near, These noble princes twain, so Fortune wrought From the world's end here met, and here they fought: L With virtue, fury; strength with courage strove, For Asia's mighty empire, who can tell With how strange force their cruel blows they drove? How sore their combat was? how fierce, how fell? Great deeds they wrought, each other's harness clove; Yet still in darkness, more the ruth, they dwell. The night their acts her black veil covered under, Their acts whereat the sun, the world might wonder. LI The Christians by their guide's ensample hearted, Of their best armed made a squadron strong, And to defend their chieftain forth they started: The Pagans also saved their knight from wrong, Fortune her favors twixt them evenly parted, Fierce was the encounter, bloody, doubtful, long; These won, those lost; these lost, those won again; The loss was equal, even the numbers slain. LII With equal rage, as when the southern wind, Meeteth in battle strong the northern blast, The sea and air to neither is resigned, But cloud gainst cloud, and wave gainst wave they cast: So from this skirmish neither part declined, But fought it out, and kept their footings fast, And oft with furious shock together rush, And shield gainst shield, and helm gainst helm they crush. LIII The battle eke to Sionward grew hot, The soldiers slain, the hardy knights were killed, Legions of sprites from Limbo's prisons got, The empty air, the hills and valleys filled, Hearting the Pagans that they shrinked not, Till where they stood their dearest blood they spilled; And with new rage Argantes they inspire, Whose heat no flames, whose burning need no fire. LIV Where he came in he put to shameful flight The fearful watch, and o'er the trenches leaped, Even with the ground he made the rampire's height, And murdered bodies in the ditch unheaped, So that his greedy mates with labor light, Amid the tents, a bloody harvest reaped: Clorinda went the proud Circassian by, So from a piece two chained bullets fly. LV Now fled the Frenchmen, when in lucky hour Arrived Guelpho, and his helping band, He made them turn against this stormy shower, And with bold face their wicked foes withstand. Sternly they fought, that from their wounds downpour The streams of blood and run on either hand: The Lord of heaven meanwhile upon this fight, From his high throne bent down his gracious sight. LVI From whence with grace and goodness compassed round, He ruleth, blesseth, keepeth all he wrought, Above the air, the fire, the sea and ground, Our sense, our wit, our reason and our thought, Where persons three, with power and glory crowned, Are all one God, who made all things of naught, Under whose feet, subjected to his grace, Sit nature, fortune, motion, time and place. LVII This is the place, from whence like smoke and dust Of this frail world the wealth, the pomp and power, He tosseth, tumbleth, turneth as he lust, And guides our life, our death, our end and hour: No eye, however virtuous, pure and just, Can view the brightness of that glorious bower, On every side the blessed spirits be, Equal in joys, though differing in degree. LVIII With harmony of their celestial song The palace echoed from the chambers pure, At last he Michael called, in harness strong Of never yielding diamonds armed sure, "Behold," quoth he, "to do despite and wrong To that dear flock my mercy hath in cure, How Satan from hell's loathsome prison sends His ghosts, his sprites, his furies and his fiends. LIX "Go bid them all depart, and leave the care Of war to soldiers, as doth best pertain: Bid them forbear to infect the earth and air; To darken heaven's fair light, bid them refrain; Bid them to Acheron's black flood repair, Fit house for them, the house of grief and pain: There let their king himself and them torment, So I command, go tell them mine intent." LX This said, the winged warrior low inclined At his Creator's feet with reverence due; Then spread his golden feathers to the wind, And swift as thought away the angel flew, He passed the light, and shining fire assigned The glorious seat of his selected crew, The mover first, and circle crystalline, The firmament, where fixed stars all shine; LXI Unlike in working then, in shape and show, At his left hand, Saturn he left and Jove, And those untruly errant called I trow, Since he errs not, who them doth guide and move: The fields he passed then, whence hail and snow, Thunder and rain fall down from clouds above, Where heat and cold, dryness and moisture strive, Whose wars all creatures kill, and slain, revive. LXII The horrid darkness, and the shadows dun Dispersed he with his eternal wings, The flames which from his heavenly eyes outrun Beguiled the earth and all her sable things; After a storm so spreadeth forth the sun His rays and binds the clouds in golden strings, Or in the stillness of a moonshine even A falling star so glideth down from Heaven. LXIII But when the infernal troop he 'proached near, That still the Pagans' ire and rage provoke, The angel on his wings himself did bear, And shook his lance, and thus at last he spoke: "Have you not learned yet to know and fear The Lord's just wrath, and thunder's dreadful stroke? Or in the torments of your endless ill, Are you still fierce, still proud, rebellious still? LXIV "The Lord hath sworn to break the iron bands The brazen gates of Sion's fort which close, Who is it that his sacred will withstands? Against his wrath who dares himself oppose? Go hence, you cursed, to your appointed lands, The realms of death, of torments, and of woes, And in the deeps of that infernal lake Your battles fight, and there your triumphs make. LXV "There tyrannize upon the souls you find Condemned to woe, and double still their pains; Where some complain, where some their teeth do grind, Some howl, and weep, some clank their iron chains:" This said they fled, and those that stayed behind, With his sharp lance he driveth and constrains; They sighing left the lands, his silver sheep Where Hesperus doth lead, doth feed, and keep. LXVI And toward hell their lazy wings display, To wreak their malice on the damned ghosts; The birds that follow Titan's hottest ray, Pass not in so great flocks to warmer coasts, Nor leaves in so great numbers fall away When winter nips them with his new-come frosts; The earth delivered from so foul annoy, Recalled her beauty, and resumed her joy. LXVII But not for this in fierce Argantes' breast Lessened the rancor and decreased the ire, Although Alecto left him to infest With the hot brands of her infernal fire, Round his armed head his trenchant blade he blest, And those thick ranks that seemed moist entire He breaks; the strong, the high, the weak, the low, Were equalized by his murdering blow. LXVIII Not far from him amid the blood and dust, Heads, arms, and legs, Clorinda strewed wide Her sword through Berengarius' breast she thrust, Quite through the heart, where life doth chiefly bide, And that fell blow she struck so sure and just, That at his back his life and blood forth glide; Even in the mouth she smote Albinus then, And cut in twain the visage of the man. LXIX Gernier's right hand she from his arm divided, Whereof but late she had received a wound; The hand his sword still held, although not guided, The fingers half alive stirred on the ground; So from a serpent slain the tail divided Moves in the grass, rolleth and tumbleth round, The championess so wounded left the knight, And gainst Achilles turned her weapon bright. LXX Upon his neck light that unhappy blow, And cut the sinews and the throat in twain, The head fell down upon the earth below, And soiled with dust the visage on the plain; The headless trunk, a woful thing to know, Still in the saddle seated did remain; Until his steed, that felt the reins at large, With leaps and flings that burden did discharge. LXXI While thus this fair and fierce Bellona slew The western lords, and put their troops to flight, Gildippes raged mongst the Pagan crew, And low in dust laid many a worthy knight: Like was their sex, their beauty and their hue, Like was their youth, their courage and their might; Yet fortune would they should the battle try Of mightier foes, for both were framed to die. LXXII Yet wished they oft, and strove in vain to meet, So great betwixt them was the press and throng, But hardy Guelpho gainst Clorinda sweet Ventured his sword to work her harm and wrong, And with a cutting blow so did her greet, That from her side the blood streamed down along; But with a thrust an answer sharp she made, And 'twixt his ribs colored somedeal her blade. LXXIII Lord Guelpho struck again, but hit her not, For strong Osmida haply passed by, And not meant him, another's wound he got, That cleft his front in twain above his eye: Near Guelpho now the battle waxed hot, For all the troops he led gan thither hie, And thither drew eke many a Paynim knight, That fierce, stern, bloody, deadly waxed the fight. LXXIV Meanwhile the purple morning peeped o'er The eastern threshold to our half of land, And Argillano in this great uproar From prison loosed was, and what he fand, Those arms he hent, and to the field them bore, Resolved to take his chance what came to hand, And with great acts amid the Pagan host Would win again his reputation lost. LXXV As a fierce steed 'scaped from his stall at large, Where he had long been kept for warlike need, Runs through the fields unto the flowery marge Of some green forest where he used to feed, His curled mane his shoulders broad doth charge And from his lofty crest doth spring and spreed, Thunder his feet, his nostrils fire breathe out, And with his neigh the world resounds about. LXXVI So Argillan rushed forth, sparkled his eyes, His front high lifted was, no fear therein, Lightly he leaps and skips, it seems he flies, He left no sign in dust imprinted thin, And coming near his foes, he sternly cries, As one that forced not all their strength a pin, "You outcasts of the world, you men of naught What hath in you this boldness newly wrought? LXXVII "Too weak are you to bear a helm or shield Unfit to arm your breast in iron bright, You run half-naked trembling through the field, Your blows are feeble, and your hope in flight, Your facts and all the actions that you wield, The darkness hides, your bulwark is the night, Now she is gone, how will your fights succeed? Now better arms and better hearts you need." LXXVIII While thus he spoke, he gave a cruel stroke Against Algazel's throat with might and main; And as he would have answered him, and spoke, He stopped his words, and cut his jaws in twain; Upon his eyes death spread his misty cloak, A chilling frost congealed every vein, He fell, and with his teeth the earth he tore, Raging in death, and full of rage before. LXXIX Then by his puissance mighty Saladine, Proud Agricalt and Muleasses died, And at one wondrous blow his weapon fine, Did Adiazel in two parts divide, Then through the breast he wounded Ariadine, Whom dying with sharp taunts he gan deride, He lifting up uneath his feeble eyes, To his proud scorns thus answereth, ere he dies: LXXX "Not thou, whoe'er thou art, shall glory long Thy happy conquest in my death, I trow, Like chance awaits thee from a hand more strong, Which by my side will shortly lay thee low:" He smiled, and said, "Of mine hour short or long Let heaven take care; but here meanwhile die thou, Pasture for wolves and crows," on him his foot He set, and drew his sword and life both out. LXXXI Among this squadron rode a gentle page, The Soldan's minion, darling, and delight, On whose fair chin the spring-time of his age Yet blossomed out her flowers, small or light; The sweat spread on his cheeks with heat and rage Seemed pearls or morning dews on lilies white, The dust therein uprolled adorned his hair, His face seemed fierce and sweet, wrathful and fair. LXXXII His steed was white, and white as purest snow That falls on tops of aged Apennine, Lightning and storm are not so 'swift I trow As he, to run, to stop, to turn and twine; A dart his right hand shaked, prest to throw; His cutlass by his thigh, short, hooked, fine, And braving in his Turkish pomp he shone, In purple robe, o'erfret with gold and stone. LXXXIII The hardy boy, while thirst of warlike praise Bewitched so his unadvised thought, Gainst every band his childish strength assays, And little danger found, though much he sought, Till Argillan, that watched fit time always In his swift turns to strike him as he fought, Did unawares his snow-white courser slay, And under him his master tumbling lay: LXXXIV And gainst his face, where love and pity stand, To pray him that rich throne of beauty spare, The cruel man stretched forth his murdering hand, To spoil those gifts, whereof he had no share: It seemed remorse and sense was in his brand Which, lighting flat, to hurt the lad forbare; But all for naught, gainst him the point he bent That, what the edge had spared, pierced and rent. LXXXV Fierce Solyman that with Godfredo strived Who first should enter conquest's glorious gate, Left off the fray and thither headlong drived, When first he saw the lad in such estate; He brake the press, and soon enough arrived To take revenge, but to his aid too late, Because he saw his Lesbine slain and lost, Like a sweet flower nipped with untimely frost. LXXXVI He saw wax dim the starlight of his eyes, His ivory neck upon his shoulders fell, In his pale looks kind pity's image lies, That death even mourned, to hear his passing bell. His marble heart such soft impression tries, That midst his wrath his manly tears outwell, Thou weepest, Solyman, thou that beheld Thy kingdoms lost, and not one tear could yield. LXXXVII But when the murderer's sword he hapt to view Dropping with blood of his Lesbino dead, His pity vanished, ire and rage renew, He had no leisure bootless tears to shed; But with his blade on Argillano flew, And cleft his shield, his helmet, and his head, Down to his throat; and worthy was that blow Of Solyman, his strength and wrath to show: LXXXVIII And not content with this, down from his horse He lights, and that dead carcass rent and tore, Like a fierce dog that takes his angry course To bite the stone which had him hit before. Oh comfort vain for grief of so great force, To wound the senseless earth that feels no sore! But mighty Godfrey 'gainst the Soldan's train Spent not, this while, his force and blows in vain. LXXXIX A thousand hardy Turks affront he had In sturdy iron armed from head to foot, Resolved in all adventures good or bad, In actions wise, in execution stout, Whom Solyman into Arabia lad, When from his kingdom he was first cast out, Where living wild with their exiled guide To him in all extremes they faithful bide; XC All these in thickest order sure unite, For Godfrey's valor small or nothing shrank, Corcutes first he on the face did smite, Then wounded strong Rosteno in the flank, At one blow Selim's head he stroke off quite, Then both Rossano's arms, in every rank The boldest knights, of all that chosen crew, He felled, maimed, wounded, hurt and slew. XCI While thus he killed many a Saracine And all their fierce assaults unhurt sustained, Ere fortune wholly from the Turks decline, While still they hoped much, though small they gained, Behold a cloud of dust, wherein doth shine Lightning of war in midst thereof contained, Whence unawares burst forth a storm of swords, Which tremble made the Pagan knights and lords. XCII These fifty champions were, mongst whom there stands, In silver field, the ensign of Christ's death, If I had mouths and tongues as Briareus hands, If voice as iron tough, if iron breath, What harm this troop wrought to the heathen bands, What knights they slew, I could recount uneath In vain the Turks resist, the Arabians fly; If they fly, they are slain; if fight, they die. XCIII Fear, cruelty, grief, horror, sorrow, pain, Run through the field, disguised in divers shapes, Death might you see triumphant on the plain, Drowning in blood him that from blows escapes. The king meanwhile with parcel of his train Comes hastily out, and for sure conquest gapes, And from a bank whereon he stood, beheld The doubtful hazard of that bloody field. XCIV But when he saw the Pagans shrink away, He sounded the retreat, and gan desire His messengers in his behalf to pray Argantes and Clorinda to retire; The furious couple both at once said nay, Even drunk with shedding blood, and mad with ire, At last they went, and to recomfort thought And stay their troops from flight, but all for nought. XCV For who can govern cowardice or fear? Their host already was begun to fly, They cast their shields and cutting swords arrear, As not defended but made slow thereby, A hollow dale the city's bulwarks near From west to south outstretched long doth lie, Thither they fled, and in a mist of dust, Toward the walls they run, they throng, they thrust. XCVI While down the bank disordered thus they ran, The Christian knights huge slaughter on them made; But when to climb the other hill they gan, Old Aladine came fiercely to their aid: On that steep brae Lord Guelpho would not than Hazard his folk, but there his soldiers stayed, And safe within the city's walls the king . The relics small of that sharp fight did bring: XCVII Meanwhile the Soldan in this latest charge Had done as much as human force was able, All sweat and blood appeared his members large, His breath was short, his courage waxed unstable, His arm grew weak to bear his mighty targe, His hand to rule his heavy sword unable, Which bruised, not cut, so blunted was the blade It lost the use for which a sword was made. XCVIII Feeling his weakness, he gan musing stand, And in his troubled thought this question tossed, If he himself should murder with his hand, Because none else should of his conquest boast, Or he should save his life, when on the land Lay slain the pride of his subdued host, "At last to fortune's power," quoth he, "I yield, And on my flight let her her trophies build. XCIX "Let Godfrey view my flight, and smile to see This mine unworthy second banishment, For armed again soon shall he hear of me, From his proud head the unsettled crown to rent, For, as my wrongs, my wrath etern shall be, At every hour the bow of war new bent, I will rise again, a foe, fierce, bold, Though dead, though slain, though burnt to ashes cold."
Go to the Tenth Book.