by Torquato Tasso
Thus passed she, praised, wished, and wondered at,
Among the troops who there encamped lay,
She smiled for, but well dissembled that,
Her greedy eye chose out her wished prey;
On all her gestures seeming sat,
Toward the imperial tent she asked the way:
With that she met a bold and lovesome knight,
Lord Godfrey's youngest brother, Eustace hight.
This was the fowl that first fell in the snare,
He her fair, and hoped to find her kind;
The throne of Cupid had an easy stair,
His bark is fit to sail with every wind,
The breach he makes no can repair:
With reverence meet the baron low inclined,
And thus his purpose to the virgin told,
For youth, use, nature, all had made him bold.
"Lady, if thee beseem a stile so low,
In whose sweet looks such sacred beauty shine, -
For never yet did Heaven such grace bestow
On any daughter born of Adam's line -
Thy name let us, though far unworthy, ,
Unfold thy will, and whence thou art in fine,
Lest my audacious boldness learn too late
What honors due become thy high estate."
"Sir Knight," quoth she, "your praises reach too high
Above her merit you commenden so,
A hapless maid, both born to die
And dead to, that live in care and woe,
A virgin helpless, fugitive pardie,
My native soil and kingdom thus forego
To seek Duke Godfrey's aid, such store men tell
Of ruth doth in his bosom dwell.
"Conduct me then that mighty duke before,
If you be courteous, sir, as well you seem."
"Content," quoth he, "since of one womb ybore,
We brothers are, your fortune esteem
To encounter me whose word prevaileth more
In Godfrey's than you haply deem:
Mine aid I grant, and his I promise too,
All that his sceptre, or my sword, can do."
He led her easily forth when this was said,
Where Godfrey sat among his lords and peers,
She reverence did, then blushed, as one dismayed
To speak, for secret wants and inward,
It seemed a bashful shame her speeches stayed,
At last the courteous duke her gently cheers;
Silence was made, and she began her tale,
They sit to, thus sung this nightingale:
"Victorious prince, whose honorable name
Is held so great among our Pagan kings,
That to those lands thou dost by conquest tame
That thou hast won them some content it brings;
Well to all is thy immortal fame,
The earth, thy worth, thy foe, thy praises sings,
And Paynims wronged come to seek thine aid,
So doth thy, so thy power persuade.
"And I though bred in Macon's heathenish lore,
Which thou oppressest with thy puissant might,
Yet trust thou wilt an helpless maid restore,
And repossess her in her father's right:
Others in their distress do aid implore
Of kin and friends; but I in this sad plight
Invoke thy, my kingdom to invade,
So doth thy, so my need persuade.
"In thee I hope, thy succors I invoke,
To win the crown whence dispossest;
For like renown awaiteth on the stroke
To cast the haughty down or raise the opprest;
Nor greater glory brings a sceptre broke,
Than doth deliverance of a maid distrest;
And since thou canst at will perform the thing,
More is thy praise to make, than kill a king.
"But if thou would'st thy succors due excuse,
Because in Christ I have no hope nor trust,
Ah yet for virtue's sake, thy use!
Who scorneth gold because it lies in dust?
Be witness Heaven, if thou to grant refuse,
Thou dost forsake a maid in cause most just,
And for thou shalt at large my fortunes,
I will my wrongs and their great treasons show.
"Prince Arbilan that reigned in his life
On fair Damascus, was my sire,
Born of mean race he was, yet got to wife
The Queen Chariclia, such was the fire
Of her hot love, but soon the fatal knife
Had cut the thread that kept their entire,
For so mishap her cruel lot had cast,
My birth, her death; my first day, was her last.
"And ere five years were fully come and gone
Since his dear spouse to hasty death did yield,
My father also died, consumed with moan,
And sought his love amid the Elysian fields,
His crown and me, poor orphan, left,
Mine uncle governed in my tender eild;
For well he, if mortal men have,
In brother's breast love his mansion hath.
"He took the charge of me and of the crown,
And with kind shows of love so brought to pass
That through Damascus great report was blown
How, how just, how kind mine uncle was;
Whether he kept his wicked unknown
And hid the serpent in the flowering grass,
On that did in his bosom won,
Because he meant to match me with his son.
"Which son, within short while, did undertake
Degree of knighthood, as beseemed him well,
Yet never durst he for his lady's sake
Break sword or lance, advance in lofty sell;
As fair he was, as Citherea's make,
As proud as he that signoriseth hell,
In fashions wayward, and in love unkind,
For Cupid deigns not wound a currish.
"This paragon should Queen Armida wed,
A swain to be a princess' fere,
A lovely partner of a lady's bed,
A head a golden crown to wear:
His glosing sire his errand daily said,
And sugared speeches whispered in mine ear
To make me take this darling in mine arms,
But still the adder stopt her ears from charms.
"At last he left me with a troubled grace,
Through which transparent was his inward spite,
I read the story in his face
Of these mishaps that on me since have light,
Since that foul haunt my resting-place,
And ghastly visions break any sleep by night,
Grief, horror, my fainting did kill,
For so my foreshowed my coming ill.
Last updated January 14, 2019