by Torquato Tasso
"Or else my tender bosom opened wide,
And heart though pierced with his cruel blade,
The bloody weapon in my wounded side
Might cure the wound which love before had made;
Then should my soul in rest and quiet slide
Down to the valleys of the Elysian shade,
And my mishap the knight perchance would move,
To shed some tears upon his murdered love.
"Alas! impossible are all these things,
Such wishes vain afflict my woeful sprite,
Why yield I thus to plaints and sorrowings,
As if all hope and help were perished quite?
My heart dares much, it soars with Cupid's wings,
Why use I not for once these armors bright?
I may sustain awhile this shield aloft,
Though I be tender, feeble, weak and soft.
"Love, strong, bold, mighty never-tired love,
Supplieth force to all his servants true;
The fearful stags he doth to battle move,
Till each his horns in others' blood imbrue;
Yet mean not I the haps of war to prove,
A stratagem I have devised new,
Clorinda-like in this fair harness dight,
I will escape out of the town this night.
"I know the men that have the gate to ward,
If she command are not her will deny,
In what sort else could I beguile the guard?
This way is only left, this will I try:
O gentle love, in this adventure hard
Thine handmaid guide, assist and fortify!
The time, the hour now fitteth best the thing,
While stout Clorinda talketh with the king."
Resolved thus, without delay she went,
As her strong passion did her rashly guide,
And those bright arms, down from the rafter hent,
Within her closet did she closely hide;
That might she do unseen, for she had sent
The rest, on sleeveless errands from her side,
And night her stealths brought to their wished end,
Night, patroness of thieves, and lovers' friend.
Some sparkling fires on heaven's bright visage shone;
His azure robe the orient blueness lost,
When she, whose wit and reason both were gone,
Called for a squire she loved and trusted most,
To whom and to a maid, a faithful one,
Part of her will she told, how that in post
She would depart from Juda's king, and feigned
That other cause her sudden flight constrained.
The trusty squire provided needments meet,
As for their journey fitting most should be;
Meanwhile her vesture, pendant to her feet,
Erminia doft, as erst determined she,
Stripped to her petticoat the virgin sweet
So slender was, that wonder was to see;
Her handmaid ready at her mistress' will,
To arm her helped, though simple were her skill.
The rugged steel oppressed and offended
Her dainty neck, and locks of shining gold;
Her tender arm so feeble was, it bended
When that huge target it presumed to hold,
The burnished steel bright rays far off extended,
She feigned courage, and appeared bold;
Fast by her side unseen smiled Venus' son,
As erst he laughed when Alcides spun.
Oh, with what labor did her shoulders bear
That heavy burthen, and how slow she went!
Her maid, to see that all the coasts were clear,
Before her mistress, through the streets was sent;
Love gave her courage, love exiled fear,
Love to her tired limbs new vigor lent,
Till she approached where the squire abode,
There took they horse forthwith and forward rode.
Disguised they went, and by unused ways,
And secret paths they strove unseen to gone,
Until the watch they meet, which sore affrays
Their soldiers new, when swords and weapons shone
Yet none to stop their journey once essays,
But place and passage yielded every one;
For that while armor, and that helmet bright,
Were known and feared, in the darkest night.
Erminia, though some deal she were dismayed,
Yet went she on, and goodly countenance bore,
She doubted lest her purpose were bewrayed,
Her too much boldness she repented sore;
But now the gate her fear and passage stayed,
The heedless porter she beguiled therefore,
"I am Clorinda, ope the gate," she cried,
"Where as the king commands, this late I ride."
Her woman's voice and terms all framed been,
Most like the speeches of the princess stout,
Who would have thought on horseback to have seen
That feeble damsel armed round about?
The porter her obeyed, and she, between
Her trusty squire and maiden, sallied out,
And through the secret dales they silent pass,
Where danger least, least fear, least peril was.
But when these fair adventurers entered were
Deep in a vale, Erminia stayed her haste,
To be recalled she had no cause to fear,
This foremost hazard had she trimly past;
But dangers new, tofore unseen, appear,
New perils she descried, new doubts she cast.
The way that her desire to quiet brought,
More difficult now seemed than erst she thought.
Armed to ride among her angry foes,
She now perceived it were great oversight,
Yet would she not, she thought, herself disclose,
Until she came before her chosen knight,
To him she purposed to present the rose
Pure, spotless, clean, untouched of mortal wight,
She stayed therefore, and in her thoughts more wise,
She called her squire, whom thus she gan advise.
Last updated January 14, 2019