by Torquato Tasso
But yet all ways the wily witch could find
Could not Tancredi's heart to loveward move,
His sails were filled with another wind,
He list no blast of new affection prove;
For, as one poison doth exclude by kind
Another's force, so love excludeth love:
These two nor more nor less the dame
Could win, the all burnt in her sweet flame.
The princess, though her purpose would not frame,
As late she hoped, and as still she would,
Yet, for the lords and knights of greatest name
Became her prey, as erst you it told,
She , ere truth-revealing time or frame
Bewrayed her act, to lead them to some hold,
Where chains and band she meant to make them prove,
Composed by Vulcan not by gentle love.
The time prefixed at length was come and past,
Which Godfrey had set down to lend her aid,
When at his feet to earth she cast,
"The hour is come, my Lord," she humbly said,
"And if the tyrant haply at last,
His banished niece hath your assistance prayed,
He will in arms to save his kingdom rise,
So shall we harder make this enterprise.
"Before report can bring the tyrant news,
Or his espials certify their king,
Oh let thy these few champions choose,
That to her kingdom should thy handmaid bring;
Who, except Heaven to aid the right refuse,
Recover shall her crown, from whence shall spring
Thy profit; for betide thee peace or war,
Thine all her cities, all her subjects are."
The captain the damsel fair assured,
His word was passed and should not be recanted,
And she with sweet and humble grace endured
To let him point those ten, which late he granted:
But to be one, each one fought and procured,
No suit, no entreaty, intercession wanted;
There envy each at others' love exceeded,
And all importunate made, more than needed.
She that well the secret of their hearts,
And how best to warm them in their blood,
Against them threw the cursed poisoned darts
Of , and grief at others',
For love she was weak without those arts,
And slow; for is Cupid's food;
For the swift steed runs not so fast ,
As when some strain, some strive him to outgone.
Her words in such alluring sort she framed,
Her looks enticing, and her wooing smiles,
That every one his fellows' favors blamed,
That of their mistress he received erewhiles:
This foolish crew of lovers unashamed,
Mad with the poison of her secret wiles,
Ran forward still, in this disordered sort,
Nor could Godfredo's bridle rein them short.
He that would each,
Withouten partial love, of every knight,
Although he swelled with shame, with grief and ire
To these fellows and these fashions light;
Yet since by no advice they would retire,
Another way he sought to set them right:
"Write all your names," quoth he, "and whom chance
Of lot, to this exploit will first advance."
Their names were writ, and in an helmet shaken,
While each did fortune's grace and aid implore;
At last they drew them, and the foremost taken
The Earl of Pembroke was, Artemidore,
Doubtless the county his bread well baken;
Next Gerrard followed, then with tresses hoar
Old Wenceslaus, that Cupid's rage
Now in his doating and his dying age.
Oh how contentment in their foreheads shined!
Their looks with; swelled with secret,
These three it seemed success designed
To make the lords of love and beauty's treasure:
Their fellows at their hap repined,
And with small wait Fortune's leisure,
Upon his lips that read the scrolls attending,
As if their lives were on his words depending.
Guasco the fourth, Ridolpho him succeeds,
Then Ulderick whom love list so advance,
Lord William of Ronciglion next he reads,
Then Eberard, and Henry born in France,
Rambaldo last, whom wicked lust so leads
That he forsook his Saviour with mischance;
This wretch the tenth was who was thus deluded,
The to their huge grief were all excluded.
O'ercome with envy, wrath and,
The blind Fortune curse, and all her laws,
And mad with love, yet out on love they cry,
That in his kingdom let her judge their cause:
And for man's is such, that oft we try
Things most forbidden, without stay or pause,
In spite of fortune purposed many a knight
To follow fair Armida when 'twas night.
To follow her, by night or else by day,
And in her quarrel venture life and limb.
With sighs and tears she gan them softly pray
To keep that promise, when the skies were dim,
To this and that knight did she plain and say,
What grief she to part withouten him:
Meanwhile the ten had donned their armor best,
And taken leave of Godfrey and the.
The duke advised them every one apart,
How light, how trustless was the Pagan's,
And told what policy, what, what art,
Avoids , which heedless men betray'th;
His speeches pierce their ear, but not their heart,
Love calls it folly, whatso saith:
Thus warned he leaves them to their wanton guide,
Who parts that night; such haste had she to ride.
The conqueress departs, and with her led
These prisoners, whom love would captive keep,
The hearts of those she left behind her bled,
With point of sorrow's arrow pierced deep.
But when the night her drowsy mantle spread,
And filled the earth with silence, shade and sleep,
In secret sort then each forsook his tent,
And as blind Cupid led them blind they went.
Eustatio first, who scantly could,
Till friendly night might hide his haste and shame,
He rode in post, and let his breast him bear
As his blind fancy would his journey frame,
All night he wandered and he not where;
But with the morning he espied the dame,
That with her guard up from a village rode
Where she and they that night had made abode.
Thither he galloped fast, and drawing near
Rambaldo the knight, and loudly cried,
"Whence comes young Eustace, and what seeks he here?"
"I come," quoth he, "to serve the Queen Armide,
If she me, would we all were there
Where my good-will and might best be tried."
"Who," quoth the other, "choseth thee to prove
This high exploit of hers?" He answered, "Love."
Last updated January 14, 2019