by Torquato Tasso
"For lo a knight, that had a gate to ward,
A man of chiefest trust about his king,
Hath promised so to beguile the guard
That me and mine he undertakes to bring
Safe, where the tyrant haply sleepeth hard
He counselled me to undertake this thing,
Of these some little succor to intreat,
Whose name accomplish can the feat."
This said, his answer did the nymph attend,
Her looks, her sighs, her gestures all did pray him:
But Godfrey did his grant suspend,
He the worst, and that awhile did stay him,
He, who no God, he loves no friend,
He the heathen false would thus betray him:
But yet such ruth dwelt in his princely,
That gainst his, made him kind.
Besides the kindness of his gentle,
Ready to each distressed wight,
The maiden's offer profit with it brought;
For if the Syrian kingdom were her right,
That won, the way were easy, which he sought,
To bring all Asia subject to his might:
There might he raise munition, arms and treasure
To work the Egyptian king and his displeasure.
Thus was his heart long time betwixt
and remorse, not granting nor denying,
Upon his eyes the dame her lookings fixed,
As if her life and death lay on his saying,
Some tears she shed, with sighs and sobbings mixed,
As if her hopes were dead through his delaying;
At last her earnest suit the duke denayed,
But with sweet words thus would content the maid:
"If not in service of our God we fought,
In meaner quarrel if this sword were shaken,
Well might thou gather in thy gentle,
So fair a princess should not be forsaken;
But since these armies, from the world's end brought,
To free this sacred town have undertaken,
It were unfit we turned our strength away,
And victory, even in her coming, stay.
"I promise thee, and on my princely word
The burden of thy wish and hope,
That when this chosen temple of the Lord,
Her holy doors shall to his saints unclose
In and peace; then this victorious sword
Shall execute due vengeance on thy foes;
But if for of a worldly dame
I left this work, such were my shame."
At this the princess bent her eyes to ground,
And stood unmoved, though not unmarked, a space,
The secret bleeding of her inward wound
Shed heavenly dew upon her angel's face,
"Poor wretch," quoth she, "in tears and drowned,
Death be thy peace, the grave thy resting-place,
Since such thy hap, that lest thou find
The gentlest heart on earth is proved unkind.
"Where none attends, what boots it to complain?
Men's froward hearts are moved with women's tears
As marble stones are pierced with drops of rain,
No plaints find passage through unwilling ears:
The tyrant, haply, would his wraith restrain
he these prayers ruthless Godfrey,
Yet not thy fault is this, my chance, I,
Hath made even, pitiless in thee.
"So both thy, and hap, denayed me,
Grief, mischief, care, hath overthrown me,
The star that ruled my birthday hath betrayed me,
My genius his charge, but dares not own me,
Of queen-like, my flight hath disarrayed me,
My father died, ere he five years had me,
My kingdom lost, and lastly resteth now,
Down with the tree sith broke is every bough.
"And for the modest lore of maidenhood,
Bids me not sojourn with these armed men,
O whither shall I fly, what secret wood
Shall hide me from the tyrant? or what den,
What rock, what vault, what cave can do me ?
No, no, where death is sure, it resteth then
To scorn his power and be it therefore,
Armida lived, and died, both like a queen."
With that she looked as if a proud disdain
Kindled displeasure in her,
The way she came she turned her steps again,
With gesture sad but in disdainful kind,
A tempest railed down her cheeks amain,
With tears of woe, and sighs of anger's wind;
The drops her footsteps wash, whereon she treads,
And seems to step on pearls, or crystal beads.
Her cheeks on which this streaming nectar fell,
Stilled through the limbeck of her diamond eyes,
The roses white and red resembled well,
Whereon the rory May-dew sprinkled lies
When the fair morn first blusheth from her cell,
And breatheth balm from opened paradise;
Thus sighed, thus mourned, thus wept this lovely queen,
And in each drop bathed a grace unseen.
Thrice twenty Cupids unperceived flew
To gather up this liquor, ere it fall,
And of each drop an arrow forged new,
Else, as it came, snatched up the crystal ball,
And at rebellious hearts for wildfire threw.
O wondrous love! thou makest gain of all;
For if she weeping sit, or smiling stand,
She bends thy bow, or kindleth else thy brand.
This forged plaint drew forth unfeigned tears
From many eyes, and pierced each worthy's heart;
Each one condoleth with her that her,
And of her grief would her bear the smart:
If Godfrey aid her not, not one but swears
Some tigress gave him suck on roughest part
Midst the rude crags, on Alpine cliffs aloft:
Hard is that heart which beauty makes not soft.
But jolly Eustace, in whose breast the brand
Of love and kindled had the flame,
While others softly whispered underhand,
Before the duke with comely boldness came:
"Brother and lord," quoth he, "too long you stand
In your first purpose, yet vouchsafe to frame
Your to ours, and lend this virgin aid:
Thanks are half lost when turns are delayed.
"And not that Eustace's talk assays
To turn these forces from this present war,
Or that I wish you should your armies raise
From Sion's walls, my speech tends not so far:
But we that venture all for fame and praise,
That to no charge nor service bounden are,
Forth of our troop may ten well spared be
To succor her, which naught can weaken thee.
"And, they shall in God's high service fight,
That virgins innocent save and defend:
Dear will the spoils be in the Heaven's ,
That from a tyrant's head we rend:
Nor seemed I forward in this lady's right,
With hope of gain or profit in the end;
But for I he arms unworthy bears,
To a maiden's cause that shuns or.
Last updated January 14, 2019