by Torquato Tasso
Argantes calls the Christians out to just:
Otho not chosen doth his strength assay,
But from his saddle tumbleth in the dust,
And captive to the town is sent away:
Tancred begins new fight, and when both trust
To win the praise and palm, night ends the fray:
Erminia hopes to cure her wounded knight,
And from the city armed rides by night.
But better hopes had them recomforted
That lay besieged in the sacred town;
With new supply late were they victualled,
When night obscured the earth with shadows brown;
Their armies and engines on the walls they spread,
Their slings to cast, and stones to tumble down;
And all that side which to the northward lies,
High rampiers and strong bulwarks fortifies.
Their wary king commands now here now there,
To build this tower, to make that bulwark strong,
Whether the sun, the moon, or stars appear,
To give them time to work, no time comes wrong:
In every street new weapons forged were,
By cunning smiths, sweating with labor long;
While thus the careful prince provision made,
To him Argantes came, and boasting said:
"How long shall we, like prisoners in chains,
Captived lie inclosed within this wall?
I see your workmen taking endless pains
To make new weapons for no use at all;
Meanwhile these eastern thieves destroy the plains,
Your towns are burnt, your forts and castles fall,
Yet none of us dares at these gates out-peep,
Or sound one trumpet shrill to break their sleep.
"Their time in feasting and good cheer they spend,
Nor dare we once their banquets sweet molest,
The days and night likewise they bring to end,
In peace, assurance, quiet, ease and rest;
But we must yield whom hunger soon will shend,
And make for peace, to save our lives, request,
Else, if th' Egyptian army stay too long,
Like cowards die within this fortress strong.
"Yet never shall my courage great consent
So vile a death should end my noble days,
Nor on mine arms within these walls ypent
To-morrow's sun shall spread his timely rays:
Let sacred Heavens dispose as they are bent
Of this frail like, yet not withouten praise
Of valor, prowess, might, Argantes shall
Inglorious die, or unrevenged fall.
"But if the roots of wonted chivalry
Be not quite dead your princely breast within,
Devise not how with frame and praise to die,
But how to live, to conquer and to win;
Let us together at these gates outfly,
And skirmish bold and bloody fight begin;
For when last need to desperation driveth,
Who dareth most he wisest counsel giveth.
"But if in field your wisdom dare not venture
To hazard all your troops to doubtful fight,
Then bind yourself to Godfrey by indenture,
To end your quarrels by one single knight:
And for the Christian this accord shall enter
With better will, say such you know your right
That he the weapons, place and time shall choose,
And let him for his best, that vantage use.
"For though your foe had hands, like Hector strong,
With heart unfeared, and courage stern and stout,
Yet no misfortune can your justice wrong,
And what that wanteth, shall this arm help out,
In spite of fate shall this right hand ere long,
Return victorious: if hereof you doubt,
Take it for pledge, wherein if trust you have,
It shall yourself defend and kingdom save."
"Bold youth," the tyrant thus began to speak,
"Although I withered seem with age and years,
Yet are not these old arms so faint and weak,
Nor this hoar head so full of doubts and fears
But whenas death this vital thread shall break,
He shall my courage hear, my death who hears:
And Aladine that lived a king and knight,
To his fair morn will have an evening bright.
"But that which yet I would have further blazed,
To thee in secret shall be told and spoken,
Great Soliman of Nice, so far ypraised,
To be revenged for his sceptre broken,
The men of arms of Araby hath raised,
From Inde to Africk, and, when we give token,
Attends the favor of the friendly night
To victual us, and with our foes to fight.
"Now though Godfredo hold by warlike feat
Some castles poor and forts in vile oppression,
Care not for that; for still our princely seat,
This stately town, we keep in our possession,
But thou appease and calm that courage great,
Which in thy bosom make so hot impression;
And stay fit time, which will betide are long,
To increase thy glory, and revenge our wrong."
The Saracen at this was inly spited,
Who Soliman's great worth had long envied,
To hear him praised thus he naught delighted,
Nor that the king upon his aid relied:
"Within your power, sir king," he says, "united
Are peace and war, nor shall that be denied;
But for the Turk and his Arabian band,
He lost his own, shall he defend your land?
"Perchance he comes some heavenly messenger,
Sent down to set the Pagan people free,
Then let Argantes for himself take care,
This sword, I trust, shall well safe-conduct me:
But while you rest and all your forces spare,
That I go forth to war at least agree;
Though not your champion, yet a private knight,
I will some Christian prove in single fight."
The king replied, "Though thy force and might
Should be reserved to better time and use;
Yet that thou challenge some renowned knight,
Among the Christians bold I not refuse."
The warrior breathing out desire of fight,
An herald called, and said, "Go tell those news
To Godfrey's self, and to the western lords,
And in their hearings boldly say these words:
Last updated January 14, 2019