Part 7 out of 10
"A burning fire, so are those deserts charmed,
Built like a battled wall to heaven was reared;
Whereon with darts and dreadful weapons armed,
Of monsters foul mis-shaped whole bands appeared;
But through them all I passed, unhurt, unharmed,
No flame or threatened blow I felt or feared,
Then rain and night I found, but straight again
To day, the night, to sunshine turned the rain.
"What would you more? each tree through all that wood
Hath sense, hath life, hath speech, like human kind,
I heard their words as in that grove I stood,
That mournful voice still, still I bear in mind:
And, as they were of flesh, the purple blood
At every blow streams from the wounded rind;
No, no, not I, nor any else, I trow,
Hath power to cut one leaf, one branch, one bough."
While thus he said, the Christian's noble guide
Felt uncouth strife in his contentious thought,
He thought, what if himself in perzon tried
Those witchcrafts strange, and bring those charms to naught,
For such he deemed them, or elsewhere provide
For timber easier got though further sought,
But from his study he at last abraid,
Called by the hermit old that to him said:
"Leave off thy hardy thought, another's hands
Of these her plants the wood dispoilen shall,
Now, now the fatal ship of conquest lands,
Her sails are struck, her silver anchors fall,
Our champion broken hath his worthless bands,
And looseth from the soil which held him thrall,
The time draws nigh when our proud foes in field
Shall slaughtered lie, and Sion's fort shall yield."
This said, his visage shone with beams divine,
And more than mortal was his voice's sound,
Godfredo's thought to other acts incline,
His working brain was never idle found.
But in the Crab now did bright Titan shine,
And scorched with scalding beams the parched ground,
And made unfit for toil or warlike feat
His soldiers, weak with labor, faint with sweat:
The planets mild their lamps benign quenched out,
And cruel stars in heaven did signorize,
Whose influence cast fiery flames about
And hot impressions through the earth and skies,
The growing heat still gathered deeper rout,
The noisome warmth through lands and kingdoms flies,
A harmful night a hurtful day succeeds,
And worse than both next morn her light outspreads.
When Phoebus rose he left his golden weed,
And donned a gite in deepest purple dyed,
His sanguine beams about his forehead spread,
A sad presage of ill that should betide,
With vermeil drops at even his tresses bleed,
Foreshows of future heat, from the ocean wide
When next he rose, and thus increased still
Their present harms with dread of future ill,
While thus he bent gainst earth his scorching rays,
He burnt the flowers, burnt his Clytie dear,
The leaves grew wan upon the withered sprays,
The grass and growing herbs all parched were,
Earth cleft in rifts, in floods their streams decays,
The barren clouds with lightning bright appear,
And mankind feared lest Climenes' child again
Had driven awry his sire's ill-guided wain.
As from a furnace flew the smoke to skies,
Such smoke as that when damned Sodom brent,
Within his caves sweet Zephyr silent lies,
Still was the air, the rack nor came nor went,
But o'er the lands with lukewarm breathing flies
The southern wind, from sunburnt Afric sent,
Which thick and warm his interrupted blasts
Upon their bosoms, throats, and faces casts.
Nor yet more comfort brought the gloomy night,
In her thick shades was burning heat uprolled,
Her sable mantle was embroidered bright
With blazing stars and gliding fires for gold,
Nor to refresh, sad earth, thy thirsty sprite,
The niggard moon let fall her May dews cold,
And dried up the vital moisture was,
In trees, in plants, in herbs, in flowers, in grass.
Sleep to his quiet dales exiled fled
From these unquiet nights, and oft in vain
The soldiers restless sought the god in bed,
But most for thirst they mourned and most complain;
For Juda's tyrant had strong poison shed,
Poison that breeds more woe and deadly pain,
Than Acheron or Stygian waters bring,
In every fountain, cistern, well and spring:
And little Siloe that his store bestows
Of purest crystal on the Christian bands,
The pebbles naked in his channel shows
And scantly glides above the scorched sands,
Nor Po in May when o'er his banks he flows,
Nor Ganges, waterer of the Indian lands,
Nor seven-mouthed Nile that yields all Egypt drink,
To quench their thirst the men sufficient think.
He that the gliding rivers erst had seen
Adown their verdant channels gently rolled,
Or falling streams which to the valleys green
Distilled from tops of Alpine mountains cold,
Those he desired in vain, new torments been,
Augmented thus with wish of comforts old,
Those waters cool he drank in vain conceit,
Which more increased his thirst, increased his heat.
The sturdy bodies of the warriors strong,
Whom neither marching far, nor tedious way,
Nor weighty arms which on their shoulders hung,
Could weary make, nor death itself dismay;
Now weak and feeble cast their limbs along,
Unwieldly burdens, on the burned clay,
And in each vein a smouldering fire there dwelt,
Which dried their flesh and solid bones did melt.
Languished the steed late fierce, and proffered grass,
His fodder erst, despised and from him cast,
Each step he stumbled, and which lofty was
And high advanced before now fell his crest,
His conquests gotten all forgotten pass,
Nor with desire of glory swelled his breast,
The spoils won from his foe, his late rewards,
He now neglects, despiseth, naught regards.
Languished the faithful dog, and wonted care
Of his dear lord and cabin both forgot,
Panting he laid, and gathered fresher air
To cool the burning in his entrails hot:
But breathing, which wise nature did prepare
To suage the stomach's heat, now booted not,
For little ease, alas, small help, they win
That breathe forth air and scalding fire suck in.
Thus languished the earth, in this estate
Lay woful thousands of the Christians stout,
The faithful people grew nigh desperate
Of hoped conquest, shameful death they doubt,
Of their distress they talk and oft debate,
These sad complaints were heard the camp throughout:
"What hope hath Godfrey? shall we still here lie
Till all his soldiers, all our armies die?
"Alas, with what device, what strength, thinks he
To scale these walls, or this strong fort to get?
Whence hath he engines new? doth he not see,
How wrathful Heaven gainst us his sword doth whet?
These tokens shown true signs and witness be
Our angry God our proud attempts doth let,
And scorching sun so hot his beams outspreads,
That not more cooling Inde nor Aethiop needs.
"Or thinks he it an eath or little thing
That us despised, neglected, and disdained,
Like abjects vile, to death he thus should bring,
That so his empire may be still maintained?
Is it so great a bliss to be a king,
When he that wears the crown with blood is stained
And buys his sceptre with his people's lives?
See whither glory vain, fond mankind drives.
"See, see the man, called holy, just, and good,
That courteous, meek, and humble would be thought,
Yet never cared in what distress we stood
If his vain honor were diminished naught,
When dried up from us his spring and flood
His water must from Jordan streams be brought,
And how he sits at feasts and banquets sweet
And mingleth waters fresh with wines of Crete."
The French thus murmured, but the Greekish knight
Tatine, that of this war was weary grown:
"Why die we here," quoth he, "slain without fight,
Killed, not subdued, murdered, not overthrown?
Upon the Frenchmen let the penance light
Of Godfrey's folly, let me save mine own,"
And as he said, without farewell, the knight
And all his comet stole away by night.
His bad example many a troop prepares
To imitate, when his escape they know,
Clotharius his band, and Ademare's,
And all whose guides in dust were buried low,
Discharged of duty's chains and bondage snares,
Free from their oath, to none they service owe,
But now concluded all on secret flight,
And shrunk away by thousands every night.
Godfredo this both heard, and saw, and knew,
Yet nould with death them chastise though he mought,
But with that faith wherewith he could renew
The steadfast hills and seas dry up to naught
He prayed the Lord upon his flock to rue,
To ope the springs of grace and ease this drought,
Out of his looks shone zeal, devotion, faith,
His hands and eyes to heaven he heaves, and saith:
"Father and Lord, if in the deserts waste
Thou hadst compassion on thy children dear,
The craggy rock when Moses cleft and brast,
And drew forth flowing streams of waters clear,
Like mercy, Lord, like grace on us down cast;
And though our merits less than theirs appear,
Thy grace supply that want, for though they be
Thy first-born son, thy children yet are we."
These prayers just, from humble hearts forth sent,
Were nothing slow to climb the starry sky,
But swift as winged bird themselves present
Before the Father of the heavens high:
The Lord accepted them, and gently bent
Upon the faithful host His gracious eye,
And in what pain and what distress it laid,
He saw, and grieved to see, and thus He said:
"Mine armies dear till now have suffered woe,
Distress and danger, hell's infernal power
Their enemy hath been, the world their foe,
But happy be their actions from this hour:
What they begin to blessed end shall go,
I will refresh them with a gentle shower;
Rinaldo shall return, the Egyptian crew
They shall encounter, conquer, and subdue."
At these high words great heaven began to shake,
The fixed stars, the planets wandering still,
Trembled the air, the earth and ocean quake,
Spring, fountain, river, forest, dale and hill;
From north to east, a lightning flash outbrake,
And coming drops presaged with thunders shrill:
With joyful shouts the soldiers on the plain,
These tokens bless of long-desired rain.
A sudden cloud, as when Helias prayed,
Not from dry earth exhaled by Phoebus' beams,
Arose, moist heaven his windows open laid,
Whence clouds by heaps out rush, and watery streams,
The world o'erspread was with a gloomy shade,
That like a dark mirksome even it seems;
The crashing rain from molten skies down fell,
And o'er their banks the brooks and fountains swell.
In summer season, when the cloudy sky
Upon the parched ground doth rain down send,
As duck and mallard in the furrows dry
With merry noise the promised showers attend,
And spreading broad their wings displayed lie
To keep the drops that on their plumes descend,
And where the streams swell to a gathered lake,
Therein they dive, and sweet refreshing take:
So they the streaming showers with shouts and cries
Salute, which heaven shed on the thirsty lands,
The falling liquor from the dropping skies
He catcheth in his lap, he barehead stands,
And his bright helm to drink therein unties,
In the fresh streams he dives his sweaty hands,
Their faces some, and some their temples wet,
And some to keep the drops large vessels set.
Nor man alone to ease his burning sore,
Herein doth dive and wash, and hereof drinks,
But earth itself weak, feeble, faint before,
Whose solid limbs were cleft with rifts and chinks,
Received the falling showers and gathered store
Of liquor sweet, that through her veins down sinks,
And moisture new infused largely was
In trees, in plants, in herbs, in flowers, in grass.
Earth, like the patient was, whose lively blood
Hath overcome at last some sickness strong,
Whose feeble limbs had been the bait and food
Whereon this strange disease depastured long,
But now restored, in health and welfare stood,
As sound as erst, as fresh, as fair, as young;
So that forgetting all his grief and pain,
His pleasant robes and crowns he takes again.
Ceased the rain, the sun began to shine,
With fruitful, sweet, benign, and gentle ray,
Full of strong power and vigor masculine,
As be his beams in April or in May.
0 happy zeal! who trusts in help divine
The world's afflictions thus can drive away,
Can storms appease, and times and seasons change,
And conquer fortune, fate, and destiny strange.
The Lord to Godfrey in a dream doth show
His will; Rinaldo must return at last;
They have their asking who for pardon sue:
Two knights to find the prince are sent in haste,
But Peter, who by vision all foreknew,
Sendeth the searchers to a wizard, placed
Deep in a vault, who first at large declares
Armida's trains, then how to shun those snares.
Now from the fresh, the soft and tender bed
Of her still mother, gentle night out flew,
The fleeting balm on hills and dales she shed,
With honey drops of pure and precious dew,
And on the verdure of green forests spread
The virgin primrose and the violet blue,
And sweet-breathed Zephyr on his spreading wings,
Sleep, ease, repose, rest, peace and quiet brings.
The thoughts and troubles of broad-waking day,
They softly dipped in mild Oblivion's lake;
But he whose Godhead heaven and earth doth sway,
In his eternal light did watch and wake,
And bent on Godfrey down the gracious ray
Of his bright eye, still ope for Godfrey's sake,
To whom a silent dream the Lord down sent.
Which told his will, his pleasure and intent.
Far in the east, the golden gate beside
Whence Phoebus comes, a crystal port there is,
And ere the sun his broad doors open wide
The beam of springing day uncloseth this,
Hence comes the dreams, by which heaven's sacred guide
Reveals to man those high degrees of his,
Hence toward Godfrey ere he left his bed
A vision strange his golden plumes bespread.
Such semblances, such shapes, such portraits fair,
Did never yet in dream or sleep appear,
For all the forms in sea, in earth or air,
The signs in heaven, the stars in every sphere
All that was wondrous, uncouth, strange and rare,
All in that vision well presented were.
His dream had placed him in a crystal wide,
Beset with golden fires, top, bottom, side,
There while he wondereth on the circles vast,
The stars, their motions, course and harmony,
A knight, with shining rays and fire embraced,
Presents himself unwares before his eye,
Who with a voice that far for sweetness passed
All human speech, thus said, approaching nigh:
"What, Godfrey, knowest thou not thy Hugo here?
Come and embrace thy friend and fellow dear!"
He answered him, "Thy glorious shining light
Which in thine eyes his glistering beams doth place,
Estranged hath from my foreknowledge quite
Thy countenance, thy favor, and thy face:"
This said, three times he stretched his hands outright
And would in friendly arms the knight embrace,
And thrice the spirit fled, that thrice he twined
Naught in his folded arms but air and wind.
Lord Hugo smiled, "Not as you think," quoth he,
"I clothed am in flesh and earthly mould,
My spirit pure, and naked soul, you see,
A citizen of this celestial hold:
This place is heaven, and here a room for thee
Prepared is among Christ's champions bold:"
"Ah when," quoth he, "these mortal bonds unknit,
Shall I in peace, in ease and rest there sit?"
Hugo replied, "Ere many years shall run,
Amid the saints in bliss here shalt thou reign;
But first great wars must by thy hand be done,
Much blood be shed, and many Pagans slain,
The holy city by assault be won,
The land set free from servile yoke again,
Wherein thou shalt a Christian empire frame,
And after thee shall Baldwin rule the same.
"But to increase thy love and great desire
To heavenward, this blessed place behold,
These shining lamps, these globes of living fire,
How they are turned, guided, moved and rolled;
The angels' singing hear, and all their choir;
Then bend thine eyes on yonder earth and mould,
All in that mass, that globe and compass see,
Land, sea, spring, fountain, man, beast, grass and tree.
"How vile, how small, and of how slender price,
Is their reward of goodness, virtue's gain!
A narrow room our glory vain upties,
A little circle doth our pride contain,
Earth like an isle amid the water lies,
Which sea sometime is called, sometime the main,
Yet naught therein responds a name so great,
It's but a lake, a pond, a marish strait."
Thus said the one, the other bended down
His looks to ground, and half in scorn he smiled,
He saw at once earth, sea, flood, castle, town,
Strangely divided, strangely all compiled,
And wondered folly man so far should drown,
To set his heart on things so base and vild,
That servile empire searcheth and dumb fame,
And scorns heaven's bliss, yet proffereth heaven the same.
Wherefore he answered, "Since the Lord not yet
Will free my spirit from this cage of clay,
Lest worldly error vain my voyage let,
Teach me to heaven the best and surest way:"
Hugo replied, "Thy happy foot is set
In the true path, nor from this passage stray,
Only from exile young Rinaldo call,
This give I thee in charge, else naught at all.
"For as the Lord of hosts, the King of bliss,
Hath chosen thee to rule the faithful band;
So he thy stratagems appointed is
To execute, so both shall win this land:
The first is thine, the second place is his,
Thou art this army's head, and he the hand,
No other champion can his place supply,
And that thou do it doth thy state deny.
"The enchanted forest, and her charmed treen,
With cutting steel shall he to earth down hew,
And thy weak armies which too feeble been
To scale again these walls reinforced new,
And fainting lie dispersed on the green,
Shall take new strength new courage at his view,
The high-built towers, the eastern squadrons all,
Shall conquered be, shall fly, shall die, shall fall."
He held his peace; and Godfrey answered so:
"Oh, how his presence would recomfort me!
You that man's hidden thoughts perceive and know:
If I say truth, or if I love him, see.
But say, what messengers shall for him go?
What shall their speeches, what their errand be?
Shall I entreat, or else command the man?
With credit neither well perform I can."
"The eternal Lord," the other knight replied,
"That with so many graces hath thee blest,
Will, that among the troops thou hast to guide,
Thou honored be and feared of most and least:
Then speak not thou lest blemish some betide
Thy sacred empire if thou make request;
But when by suit thou moved art to ruth,
Then yield, forgive, and home recall the youth.
"Guelpho shall pray thee, God shall him inspire,
To pardon this offence, this fault commit
By hasty wrath, by rash and headstrong ire,
To call the knight again; yield thou to it:
And though the youth, enwrapped in fond desire,
Far hence in love and looseness idle sit,
Year fear it not, he shall return with speed,
When most you wish him and when most you need.
"Your hermit Peter, to whose sapient heart
High Heaven his secrets opens, tells and shews,
Your messengers direct can to that part,
Where of the prince they shall hear certain news,
And learn the way, the manner, and the art
To bring him back to these thy warlike crews,
That all thy soldiers, wandered and misgone,
Heaven may unite again and join in one.
"But this conclusion shall my speeches end:
Know that his blood shall mixed be with thine,
Whence barons bold and worthies shall descend,
That many great exploits shall bring to fine."
This said, he vanished from his sleeping friend,
Like smoke in wind, or mist in Titan's shine;
Sleep fled likewise, and in his troubled thought,
With wonder, pleasure; joy, with marvel fought.
The duke looked up, and saw the azure sky
With argent beams of silver morning spread,
And started up, for praise axed virtue lie
In toil and travel, sin and shame in bed:
His arms he took, his sword girt to his thigh,
To his pavilion all his lords them sped,
And there in council grave the princes sit,
For strength by wisdom, war is ruled by wit.
Lord Guelpho there, within whose gentle breast
Heaven had infused that new and sudden thought,
His pleasing words thus to the duke addressed:
"Good prince, mild, though unasked, kind, unbesought,
Oh let thy mercy grant my just request,
Pardon this fault by rage not malice wrought;
For great offence, I grant, so late commit,
My suit too hasty is, perchance unfit.
But since to Godfrey meek benign and kind,
For Prince Rinaldo bold, I humbly sue,
And that the suitor's self is not behind
Thy greatest friends in state or friendship true;
I trust I shall thy grace and mercy find
Acceptable to me and all this crew;
Oh call him home, this trespass to amend,
He shall his blood in Godfrey's service spend.
"And if not he, who else dares undertake
Of this enchanted wood to cut one tree?
Gainst death and danger who dares battle make,
With so bold face, so fearless heart as he?
Beat down these walls, these gates in pieces break,
Leap o'er these rampires high, thou shalt him see,
Restore therefore to this desirous band
Their wish, their hope, their strength, their shield, their hand;
"To me my nephew, to thyself restore
A trusty help, when strength of hand thou needs,
In idleness let him consume no more,
Recall him to his noble acts and deeds!
Known be his worth as was his strength of yore
Wher'er thy standard broad her cross outspreads,
Oh, let his fame and praise spread far and wide,
Be thou his lord, his teacher and his guidel"
Thus he entreated, and the rest approve
His words, with friendly murmurs whispered low.
Godfrey as though their suit his mind did move
To that whereon he never thought tell now,
"How can my heart," quoth he, "if you I love,
To your request and suit but bend and bow?
Let rigor go, that right and justice be
Wherein you all consent and all agree.
"Rinaldo shall return; let him restrain
Henceforth his headstrong wrath and hasty ire,
And with his hardy deeds let him take pain
To correspond your hope and my desire:
Guelpho, thou must call home the knight again,
See that with speed he to these tents retire,
The messengers appoint as likes thy mind,
And teach them where they should the young man find."
Up start the Dane that bare Prince Sweno's brand,
"I will," quoth he, "that message undertake,
I will refuse no pains by sea or land,
To give the knight this sword, kept for his sake."
This man was bold of courage, strong of hand,
Guelpho was glad he did the proffer make:
"Thou shalt," quoth he, "Ubaldo shalt thou have
To go with thee, a knight, stout, wise, and grave."
Ubaldo in his youth had known and seen
The fashions strange of many an uncouth land,
And travelled over all the realms between
The Arctic circle and hot Meroe's strand,
And as a man whose wit his guide had been,
Their customs use he could, tongues understand,
Forthy when spent his youthful seasons were
Lord Guelpho entertained and held him dear.
To these committed was the charge and care
To find and bring again the champion bold,
Guelpho commands them to the fort repair,
Where Boemond doth his seat and sceptre hold,
For public fame said that Bertoldo's heir
There lived, there dwelt, there stayed; the hermit old,
That knew they were misled by false report,
Among them came, and parleyed in this sort:
"Sir knights," quoth he, "if you intend to ride,
And follow each report fond people say,
You follow but a rash and truthless guide
That leads vain men amiss and makes them stray;
Near Ascalon go to the salt seaside,
Where a swift brook fails in with hideous sway,
An aged sire, our friend, there shall you find,
All what he saith, that do, that keep in mind.
"Of this great voyage which you undertake,
Much by his skill, and much by mine advise
Hath he foreknown, and welcome for my sake
You both shall be, the man is kind and wise."
Instructed thus no further question make
The twain elected for this enterprise,
But humbly yielded to obey his word,
For what the hermit said, that said the Lord.
They took their leave, and on their journey went,
Their will could brook no stay, their zeal, no let;
To Ascalon their voyage straight they bent,
Whose broken shores with brackish waves are wet,
And there they heard how gainst the cliffs, besprent
With bitter foam, the roaring surges bet,
A tumbling brook their passage stopped and stayed,
Which late-fall'n rain had proud and puissant made,
So proud that over all his banks he grew,
And through the fields ran swift as shaft from bow,
While here they stopped and stood, before them drew
An aged sire, grave and benign in show,
Crowned with a beechen garland gathered new,
Clad in a linen robe that raught down low,
In his right hand a rod, and on the flood
Against the stream he marched, and dry shod yode.
As on the Rhene, when winter's freezing cold
Congeals the streams to thick and hardened glass,
The beauties fair of shepherds' daughters bold
With wanton windlays run, turn, play and pass;
So on this river passed the wizard old,
Although unfrozen soft and swift it was,
And thither stalked where the warriors stayed,
To whom, their greetings done, he spoke and said:
"Great pains, great travel, lords, you have begun,
And of a cunning guide great need you stand,
Far off, alas! is great Bertoldo's son,
Imprisoned in a waste and desert land,
What soil remains by which you must not run,
What promontory, rock, sea, shore or sand
Your search must stretch before the prince be found,
Beyond our world, beyond our half of ground!
But yet vouchsafe to see my cell I pray,
In hidden caves and vaults though builded low,
Great wonders there, strange things I will bewray,
Things good for you to hear, and fit to know:"
This said, he bids the river make them way,
The flood retired, backward gan to flow,
And here and there two crystal mountains rise,
So fled the Red Sea once, and Jordan thrice.
He took their hands, and led them headlong down
Under the flood, through vast and hollow deeps,
Such light they had as when through shadows brown
Of thickest deserts feeble Cynthia peeps,
Their spacious caves they saw all overflown,
There all his waters pure great Neptune keeps,
And thence to moisten all the earth he brings
Seas, rivers, floods, lakes, fountains, wells and springs:
Whence Ganges, Indus, Volga, Ister, Po,
Whence Euphrates, whence Tigris' spring they view,
Whence Tanais, whence Nilus comes also,
Although his head till then no creature knew,
But under these a wealthy stream doth go,
That sulphur yields and ore, rich, quick and new,
Which the sunbeams doth polish, purge and fine,
And makes it silver pure, and gold divine.
And all his banks the rich and wealthy stream
Hath fair beset with pearl and precious stone
Like stars in sky or lamps on stage that seem,
The darkness there was day, the night was gone,
There sparkled, clothed in his azure-beam,
The heavenly sapphire, there the jacinth shone,
The carbuncle there flamed, the diamond sheen,
There glistered bright, there smiled the emerald green.
Amazed the knights amid these wonders passed,
And fixed so deep the marvels in their thought,
That not one word they uttered, till at last
Ubaldo spake, and thus his guide besought:
"O father, tell me by what skill thou hast
These wonders done? and to what place us brought?
For well I know not if I wake or sleep,
My heart is drowned in such amazement deep."
"You are within the hollow womb," quoth he,
"Of fertile earth, the nurse of all things made,
And but you brought and guided are by me,
Her sacred entrails could no wight invade;
My palace shortly shall you splendent see,
With glorious light, though built in night and shade.
A Pagan was I born, but yet the Lord
To grace, by baptism, hath my soul restored.
"Nor yet by help of devil, or aid from hell,
I do this uncouth work and wondrous feat,
The Lord forbid I use or charm or spell
To raise foul Dis from his infernal seat:
But of all herbs, of every spring and well,
The hidden power I know and virtue great,
And all that kind hath hid from mortal sight,
And all the stars, their motions, and their might.
"For in these caves I dwell not buried still
From sight of Heaven. but often I resort
To tops of Lebanon or Carmel hill,
And there in liquid air myself disport,
There Mars and Venus I behold at will!
As bare as erst when Vulcan took them short,
And how the rest roll, glide and move, I see,
How their aspects benign or froward be."
"And underneath my feet the clouds I view,
Now thick, now thin, now bright with Iris' bow,
The frost and snow, the rain, the hail, the dew,
The winds, from whence they come and whence they blow,
How Jove his thunder makes and lightning new,
How with the bolt he strikes the earth below,
How comate, crinite, caudate stars are framed
I knew; my skill with pride my heart inflamed.
"So learned, cunning, wise, myself I thought,
That I supposed my wit so high might climb
To know all things that God had framed or wrought,
Fire, air, sea, earth, man, beast, sprite, place and time;
But when your hermit me to baptism brought,
And from my soul had washed the sin and crime,
Then I perceived my sight was blindness still,
My wit was folly, ignorance my skill.
"Then saw I, that like owls in shining sun,
So gainst the beams of truth our souls are blind,
And at myself to smile I then begun,
And at my heart, puffed up with folly's wind,
Yet still these arts, as I before had done,
I practised, such was the hermit's mind:
Thus hath he changed my thoughts, my heart, my will,
And rules mine art, my knowledge, and my skill.
"In him I rest, on him my thoughts depend,
My lord, my teacher, and my guide is he,
This noble work he strives to bring to end,
He is the architect, the workmen we,
The hardy youth home to this camp to send
From prison strong, my care, my charge shall be;
So He commands, and me ere this foretold
Your coming oft, to seek the champion bold."
While this he said, he brought the champions twain
Down to a vault, wherein he dwells and lies,
It was a cave, high, wide, large, ample, plain,
With goodly rooms, halls, chambers, galleries,
All what is bred in rich and precious vein
Of wealthy earth, and hid from mortal eyes,
There shines, and fair adorned was every part
With riches grown by kind, not framed by art:
An hundred grooms, quick, diligent and neat,
Attendance gave about these strangers bold,
Against the wall there stood a cupboard great
Of massive plate, of silver, crystal, gold.
But when with precious wines and costly meat
They filled were, thus spake the wizard old:
"Now fits the time, sir knights, I tell and show
What you desire to hear, and long to know.
"Armida's craft, her sleight and hidden guile
You partly wot, her acts and arts untrue,
How to your camp she came, and by what wile
The greatest lords and princes thence she drew;
You know she turned them first to monsters vile,
And kept them since closed up in secret mew,
Lastly, to Gaza-ward in bonds them sent,
Whom young Rinaldo rescued as they went.
"What chanced since I will at large declare,
To you unknown, a story strange and true.
When first her prey, got with such pain and care,
Escaped and gone the witch perceived and knew,
Her hands she wrung for grief, her clothes she tare,
And full of woe these heavy words outthrew:
`Alas! my knights are slain, my prisoners free,
Yet of that conquest never boast shall he,
" `He in their place shall serve me, and sustain
Their plagues, their torments suffer, sorrows bear,
And they his absence shall lament in vain,
And wail his loss and theirs with many a tear:'
Thus talking to herself she did ordain
A false and wicked guile, as you shall hear;
Thither she hasted where the valiant knight
Had overcome and slain her men in fight.
"Rinaldo there had dolt and left his own,
And on his back a Pagan's harness tied,
Perchance he deemed so to pass unknown,
And in those arms less noted false to ride.
A headless corse in fight late overthrown,
The witch in his forsaken arms did hide,
And by a brook exposed it on the sand
Whither she wished would come a Christian band:
"Their coming might the dame foreknow right well,
For secret spies she sent forth thousand ways,
Which every day news from the camp might tell,
Who parted thence, booties to search or preys:
Beside, the sprites conjured by sacred spell,
All what she asks or doubts, reveals and says,
The body therefore placed she in that part
That furthered best her sleight, her craft. and art;
"And near the corpse a varlet false and sly
She left, attired in shepherd's homely weed,
And taught him how to counterfeit and lie
As time required, and he performed the deed;
With him your soldiers spoke, of jealousy
And false suspect mongst them he strewed the seed,
That since brought forth the fruit of strife and jar,
Of civil brawls, contention, discord, war.
"And as she wished so the soldiers thought
By Godfrey's practice that the prince was slain,
Yet vanished that suspicion false to naught
When truth spread forth her silver wings again
Her false devices thus Armida wrought,
This was her first deceit, her foremost train;
What next she practised, shall you hear me tell,
Against our knight, and what thereof befell.
"Armida hunted him through wood and plain,
Till on Orontes' flowery banks he stayed,
There, where the stream did part and meet again
And in the midst a gentle island made,
A pillar fair was pight beside the main,
Near which a little frigate floating laid,
The marble white the prince did long behold,
And this inscription read, there writ in gold:
" `Whoso thou art whom will or chance doth bring
With happy steps to flood Orontes' sides,
Know that the world hath not so strange a thing,
Twixt east and west, as this small island hides,
Then pass and see, without more tarrying.'
The hasty youth to pass the stream provides,
And for the cogs was narrow, small and strait,
Alone he rowed, and bade his squires there wait;
"Landed he stalks about, yet naught he sees
But verdant groves, sweet shades, and mossy rocks
With caves and fountains, flowers, herbs and trees,
So that the words he read he takes for mocks:
But that green isle was sweet at all degrees,
Wherewith enticed down sits he and unlocks
His closed helm, and bares his visage fair,
To take sweet breath from cool and gentle air.
"A rumbling sound amid the waters deep
Meanwhile he heard, and thither turned his sight,
And tumbling in the troubled stream took keep
How the strong waves together rush and fight,
Whence first he saw, with golden tresses, peep
The rising visage of a virgin bright,
And then her neck, her breasts, and all, as low
As he for shame could see, or she could show.
"So in the twilight does sometimes appear
A nymph, a goddess, or a fairy queen,
And though no siren but a sprite this were
Yet by her beauty seemed it she had been
One of those sisters false which haunted near
The Tyrrhene shores and kept those waters sheen,
Like theirs her face, her voice was, and her sound,
And thus she sung, and pleased both skies and ground:
" `Ye happy youths, who April fresh and May
Attire in flowering green of lusty age,
For glory vain, or virtue's idle ray,
Do not your tender limbs to toil engage;
In calm streams, fishes; birds, in sunshine play,
Who followeth pleasure he is only sage,
So nature saith, yet gainst her sacred will
Why still rebel you, and why strive you still?
" `O fools who youth possess, yet scorn the same,
A precious, but a short-abiding treasure,
Virtue itself is but an idle name,
Prized by the world 'bove reason all and measure,
And honor, glory, praise, renown and fame,
That men's proud harts bewitch with tickling pleasure,
An echo is, a shade, a dream, a flower,
With each wind blasted, spoiled with every shower.
" `But let your happy souls in joy possess
The ivory castles of your bodies fair,
Your passed harms salve with forgetfulness,
Haste not your coming evils with thought and care,
Regard no blazing star with burning tress,
Nor storm, nor threatening sky, nor thundering air,
This wisdom is, good life, and worldly bliss,
Kind teacheth us, nature commands us this.'
"Thus sung the spirit false, and stealing sleep,
To which her tunes enticed his heavy eyes,
By step and step did on his senses creep,
Still every limb therein unmoved lies,
Not thunders loud could from this slumber deep,
Of quiet death true image, make him rise:
Then from her ambush forth Armida start,
Swearing revenge, and threatening torments smart.
"But when she looked on his face awhile,
And saw how sweet he breathed, how still he lay,
How his fair eyes though closed seemed to smile,
At first she stayed, astound with great dismay,
Then sat her down, so love can art beguile,
And as she sat and looked, fled fast away
Her wrath, that on his forehead gazed the maid,
As in his spring Narcissus tooting laid;
"And with a veil she wiped now and then
From his fair cheeks the globes of silver sweat,
And cool air gathered with a trembling fan,
To mitigate the rage of melting heat,
Thus, who would think it, his hot eye-glance can
Of that cold frost dissolve the hardness great
Which late congealed the heart of that fair dame,
Who late a foe, a lover now became.
"Of woodbines, lilies, and of roses sweet,
Which proudly flowered through that wanton plain,
All platted fast, well knit, and joined meet,
She framed a soft but surely holding chain,
Wherewith she bound his neck his hands and feet;
Thus bound, thus taken, did the prince remain,
And in a coach which two old dragons drew,
She laid the sleeping knight, and thence she flew:
"Nor turned she to Damascus' kingdoms large,
Nor to the fort built in Asphalte's lake,
But jealous of her dear and precious charge,
And of her love ashamed, the way did take,
To the wide ocean whither skiff or barge
From us doth seld or never voyage make,
And there to frolic with her love awhile,
She chose a waste, a sole and desert isle.
"An isle that with her fellows bears the name
Of Fortunate, for temperate air and mould,
There in a mountain high alight the dame,
A hill obscured with shades of forests old,
Upon whose sides the witch by art did frame
Continual snow, sharp frost and winter cold,
But on the top, fresh, pleasant, sweet and green,
Beside a lake a palace built this queen.
"There in perpetual sweet and flowering spring,
She lives at ease, and joys her lord at will;
The hardy youth from this strange prison bring
Your valors must, directed by my skill,
And overcome each monster and each thing,
That guards the palace or that keeps the hill,
Nor shall you want a guide, or engines fit,
To bring you to the mount, or conquer it.
"Beside the stream, yparted shall you find
A dame, in visage young, but old in years,
Her curled locks about her front are twined,
A party-colored robe of silk she wears:
This shall conduct you swift as air or wind,
Or that flit bird that Jove's hot weapon bears,
A faithful pilot, cunning, trusty, sure,
As Tiphys was, or skilful Palinure.
"At the hill's foot, whereon the witch doth dwell,
The serpents hiss, and cast their poison vilde,
The ugly boars do rear their bristles fell,
There gape the bears, and roar the lions wild;
But yet a rod I have can easily quell
Their rage and wrath, and make them meek and mild.
Yet on the top and height of all the hill,
The greatest danger lies, and greatest ill:
"There welleth out a fair, clear, bubbling spring,
Whose waters pure the thirsty guests entice,
But in those liquors cold the secret sting
Of strange and deadly poison closed lies,
One sup thereof the drinker's heart doth bring
To sudden joy, whence laughter vain doth rise,
Nor that strange merriment once stops or stays,
Till, with his laughter's end, he end his days:
"Then from those deadly, wicked streams refrain
Your thirsty lips, despise the dainty cheer
You find exposed upon the grassy plain,
Nor those false damsels once vouchsafe to hear,
That in melodious tunes their voices strain,
Whose faces lovely, smiling, sweet, appear;
But you their looks, their voice, their songs despise,
And enter fair Armida's paradise.
"The house is builded like a maze within,
With turning stairs, false doors and winding ways,
The shape whereof plotted in vellum thin
I will you give, that all those sleights bewrays,
In midst a garden lies, where many a gin
And net to catch frail hearts, false Cupid lays;
There in the verdure of the arbors green,
With your brave champion lies the wanton queen.
"But when she haply riseth from the knight,
And hath withdrawn her presence from the place,
Then take a shield I have of diamonds bright,
And hold the same before the young man's face,
That he may glass therein his garments light,
And wanton soft attire, and view his case,
That with the sight shame and disdain may move
His heart to leave that base and servile love.
"Now resteth naught that needful is to tell,
But that you go secure, safe, sure and bold,
Unseen the palace may you enter well,
And pass the dangers all I have foretold,
For neither art, nor charm, nor magic spell,
Can stop your passage or your steps withhold,
Nor shall Armida, so you guarded be,
Your coming aught foreknow or once foresee:
"And eke as safe from that enchanted fort
You shall return and scape unhurt away;
But now the time doth us to rest exhort,
And you must rise by peep of springing day."
This said, he led them through a narrow port,
Into a lodging fair wherein they lay,
There glad and full of thoughts he left his guests,
And in his wonted bed the old man rests.
The well instructed knights forsake their host,
And come where their strange bark in harbor lay,
And setting sail behold on Egypt's coast
The monarch's ships and armies in array:
Their wind and pilot good, the seas in post
They pass, and of long journeys make short way:
The far-sought isle they find; Armida's charms
They scorn, they shun her sleights, despise her arms.
The rosy-fingered morn with gladsome ray
Rose to her task from old Tithonus' lap
When their grave host came where the warriors lay,
And with him brought the shield, the rod, the map.
"Arise," quoth he, "ere lately broken day,
In his bright arms the round world fold or wrap,
All what I promised, here I have them brought,
Enough to bring Armida's charms to naught."
They started up, and every tender limb
In sturdy steel and stubborn plate they dight,
Before the old man stalked, they followed him
Through gloomy shades of sad and sable night,
Through vaults obscure again and entries dim,
The way they came their steps remeasured right;
But at the flood arrived, "Farewell," quoth he,
"Good luck your aid, your guide good fortune be."
The flood received them in his bottom low
And lilt them up above his billows thin;
The waters so east up a branch or bough,
By violence first plunged and dived therein:
But when upon the shore the waves them throw,
The knights for their fair guide to look begin,
And gazing round a little bark they spied,
Wherein a damsel sate the stern to guide.
Upon her front her locks were curled new,
Her eyes were courteous, full of peace and love;
In look a saint, an angel bright in show,
So in her visage grace and virtue strove;
Her robe seemed sometimes red and sometimes blue,
And changed still as she did stir or move;
That look how oft man's eye beheld the same
So oft the colors changed, went and came.
The feathers so, that tender, soft, and plain,
About the dove's smooth neck close couched been,
Do in one color never long remain,
But change their hue gainst glimpse of Phoebus' sheen;
And now of rubies bright a vermeil chain,
Now make a carknet rich of emeralds green;
Now mingle both, now alter, turn and change
To thousand colors, rich, pure, fair, and strange.
"Enter this boat, you happy men," she says,
"Wherein through raging waves secure I ride,
To which all tempest, storm, and wind obeys,
All burdens light, benign is stream and tide:
My lord, that rules your journeys and your ways,
Hath sent me here, your servant and your guide."
This said, her shallop drove she gainst the sand,
And anchor cast amid the steadfast land.
They entered in, her anchors she upwound,
And launched forth to sea her pinnace flit,
Spread to the wind her sails she broad unbound,
And at the helm sat down to govern it,
Swelled the flood that all his banks he drowned
To bear the greatest ship of burthen fit;
Yet was her fatigue little, swift and light,
That at his lowest ebb bear it he might.
Swifter than thought the friendly wind forth bore
The sliding boat upon the rolling wave,
With curded foam and froth the billows hoar
About the cable murmur roar and rave;
At last they came where all his watery store
The flood in one deep channel did engrave,
And forth to greedy seas his streams he sent,
And so his waves, his name, himself he spent.
The wondrous boat scant touched the troubled main
But all the sea still, hushed and quiet was,
Vanished the clouds, ceased the wind and rain,
The tempests threatened overblow and pass,
A gentle breathing air made even and plain
The azure face of heaven's smooth looking-glass,
And heaven itself smiled from the skies above
With a calm clearness on the earth his love.
By Ascalon they sailed, and forth drived,
Toward the west their speedy course they frame,
In sight of Gaza till the bark arrived,
A little port when first it took that name;
But since, by others' loss so well it thrived
A city great and rich that it became,
And there the shores and borders of the land
They found as full of armed men as sand.
The passengers to landward turned their sight,
And there saw pitched many a stately tent,
Soldier and footman, captain, lord and knight,
Between the shore and city, came and went:
Huge elephants, strong camels, coursers light,
With horned hoofs the sandy ways outrent,
And in the haven many a ship and boat,
With mighty anchors fastened, swim and float;
Some spread their sails, some with strong oars sweep
The waters smooth, and brush the buxom wave,
Their breasts in sunder cleave the yielding deep,
The broken seas for anger foam and rave,
When thus their guide began, "Sir knights, take keep
How all these shores are spread with squadrons brave
And troops of hardy knights, yet on these sands
The monarch scant hath gathered half his bands.
"Of Egypt only these the forces are,
And aid from other lands they here attend,
For twixt the noon-day sun and morning star,
All realms at his command do bow and bend;
So that I trust we shall return from far,
And bring our journey long to wished end,
Before this king or his lieutenant shall
These armies bring to Zion's conquered wall."
While thus she said, as soaring eagles fly
Mongst other birds securely through the air,
And mounting up behold with wakeful eye,
The radiant beams of old Hyperion's hair,
Her gondola so passed swiftly by
Twixt ship and ship, withouten fear or care
Who should her follow, trouble, stop or stay,
And forth to sea made lucky speed and way.
Themselves fornenst old Raffia's town they fand,
A town that first to sailors doth appear
As they from Syria pass to Egypt land:
The sterile coasts of barren Rhinocere
They passed, and seas where Casius hill doth stand
That with his trees o'erspreads the waters near,
Against whose roots breaketh the brackish wave
Where Jove his temple, Pompey hath his grave:
Then Damiata next, where they behold
How to the sea his tribute Nilus pays
By his seven mouths renowned in stories old,
And by an hundred more ignoble ways:
They pass the town built by the Grecian bold,
Of him called Alexandria till our days,
And Pharaoh's tower and isle removed of yore
Far from the land, now joined to the shore:
Both Crete and Rhodes they left by north unseen,
And sailed along the coasts of Afric lands,
Whose sea towns fair, but realms more inward been
All full of monsters and of desert sands:
With her five cities then they left Cyrene,
Where that old temple of false Hammon stands:
Next Ptolemais, and that sacred wood
Whence spring the silent streams of Lethe flood.
The greater Syrte, that sailors often cast
In peril great of death and loss extreme,
They compassed round about, and safely passed,
The Cape Judeca and flood Magra's stream;
Then Tripoli, gainst which is Malta placed,
That low and hid, to lurk in seas doth seem:
The little Syrte then, and Alzerhes isle,
Where dwelt the folk that Lotos ate erewhile.
Next Tunis on the crooked shore they spied,
Whose bay a rock on either side defends,
Tunis all towns in beauty, wealth and pride
Above, as far as Libya's bounds extends;
Gainst which, from fair Sicilia's fertile side,
His rugged front great Lilybaeum bends.
The dame there pointed out where sometime stood
Rome's stately rival whilom, Carthage proud;
Great Carthage low in ashes cold doth lie,
Her ruins poor the herbs in height scant pass,
So cities fall, so perish kingdoms high,
Their pride and pomp lies hid in sand and grass:
Then why should mortal man repine to die,
Whose life, is air; breath, wind; and body, glass?
From thence the seas next Bisert's walls they cleft,
And far Sardinia on their right hand left.
Numidia's mighty plains they coasted then,
Where wandering shepherds used their flocks to feed,
Then Bugia and Argier, the infamous den
Of pirates false, Oran they left with speed,
All Tingitan they swiftly overren,
Where elephants and angry lions breed,
Where now the realms of Fez and Maroc be,
Gainst which Granada's shores and coasts they see.
Now are they there, where first the sea brake in
By great Alcides' help, as stories feign,
True may it be that where those floods begin
It whilom was a firm and solid main
Before the sea there through did passage win
And parted Afric from the land of Spain,
Abila hence, thence Calpe great upsprings,
Such power hath time to change the face of things.
Four times the sun had spread his morning ray
Since first the dame launched forth her wondrous barge
And never yet took port in creek or bay,
But fairly forward bore the knights her charge;
Now through the strait her jolly ship made way,
And boldly sailed upon the ocean large;
But if the sea in midst of earth was great,
Oh what was this, wherein earth hath her seat?
Now deep engulphed in the mighty flood
They saw not Gades, nor the mountains near,
Fled was the land, and towns on land that stood,
Heaven covered sea, sea seemed the heavens to bear.
"At last, fair lady," quoth Ubaldo good,
"That in this endless main dost guide us here,
If ever man before here sailed tell,
Or other lands here be wherein men dwell."
"Great Hercules," quoth she, "when he had quailed
The monsters fierce in Afric and in Spain,
And all along your coasts and countries sailed,
Yet durst he not assay the ocean main,
Within his pillars would he have impaled
The overdaring wit of mankind vain,
Till Lord Ulysses did those bounders pass,
To see and know he so desirous was.
"He passed those pillars, and in open wave
Of the broad sea first his bold sails untwined,
But yet the greedy ocean was his grave,
Naught helped him his skill gainst tide and wind;
With him all witness of his voyage brave
Lies buried there, no truth thereof we find,
And they whom storm hath forced that way since,
Are drowned all, or unreturned from thence:
"So that this mighty sea is yet unsought,
Where thousand isles and kingdoms lie unknown,
Not void of men as some have vainly thought,
But peopled well, and wonned like your own;
The land is fertile ground, but scant well wrought,
Air wholesome, temperate sun, grass proudly grown."
"But," quoth Ubaldo, "dame, I pray thee teach
Of that hid world, what be the laws and speech?"
"As diverse be their nations," answered she,
"Their tongues, their rites, their laws so different are;
Some pray to beasts, some to a stone or tree,
Some to the earth, the sun, or morning star;
Their meats unwholesome, vile, and hateful be,
Some eat man's flesh, and captives ta'en in war,
And all from Calpe's mountain west that dwell,
In faith profane, in life are rude and fell."
"But will our gracious God," the knight replied,
"That with his blood all sinful men hath bought,
His truth forever and his gospel hide
From all those lands, as yet unknown, unsought?"
"Oh no," quoth she, "his name both far and wide
Shall there be known, all learning thither brought,
Nor shall these long and tedious ways forever
Your world and theirs, their lands, your kingdoms sever.
"The time shall come that sailors shall disdain
To talk or argue of Alcides' streat,
And lands and seas that nameless yet remain,
Shall well be known, their boundaries, site and seat,
The ships encompass shall the solid main,
As far as seas outstretch their waters great,
And measure all the world, and with the sun
About this earth, this globe, this compass, run.
"A knight of Genes shall have the hardiment
Upon this wondrous voyage first to wend,
Nor winds nor waves, that ships in sunder rent,
Nor seas unused, strange clime, or pool unkenned,
Nor other peril nor astonishment
That makes frail hearts of men to bow and bend,
Within Abilas' strait shall keep and hold
The noble spirit of this sailor bold.
"Thy ship, Columbus, shall her canvas wing
Spread o'er that world that yet concealed lies,
That scant swift fame her looks shall after bring,
Though thousand plumes she have, and thousand eyes;
Let her of Bacchus and Alcides sing,
Of thee to future age let this suffice,
That of thine acts she some forewarning give,
Which shall in verse and noble story live."
Thus talking, swift twixt south and west they run,
And sliced out twixt froth and foam their way;
At once they saw before, the setting sun;
Behind, the rising beam of springing day;
And when the morn her drops and dews begun
To scatter broad upon the flowering lay,
Far off a hill and mountain high they spied,
Whose top the clouds environ, clothe and hide;
And drawing near, the hill at ease they view,
When all the clouds were molten, fallen and fled,
Whose top pyramid-wise did pointed show,
High, narrow, sharp, the sides yet more outspread,
Thence now and then fire, flame and smoke outflew,
As from that hill, whereunder lies in bed
Enceladus, whence with imperious sway
Bright fire breaks out by night, black smoke by day.
About the hill lay other islands small,
Where other rocks, crags, cliffs, and mountains stood,
The Isles Fortunate these elder time did call,
To which high Heaven they reigned so kind and good,
And of his blessings rich so liberal,
That without tillage earth gives corn for food,
And grapes that swell with sweet and precious wine
There without pruning yields the fertile vine.
The olive fat there ever buds and flowers,
The honey-drops from hollow oaks distil,
The falling brook her silver streams downpours
With gentle murmur from their native hill,
The western blast tempereth with dews and showers
The sunny rays, lest heat the blossoms kill,
The fields Elysian, as fond heathen sain,
Were there, where souls of men in bliss remain.
To these their pilot steered, "And now," quoth she,
"Your voyage long to end is brought well-near,
The happy Isles of Fortune now you see,
Of which great fame, and little truth, you hear,
Sweet, wholesome, pleasant, fertile, fat they be,
Yet not so rich as fame reports they were."
This said, toward an island fresh she bore,
The first of ten, that lies next Afric's shore;
When Charles thus, "If, worthy governess,
To our good speed such tarriance be no let,
Upon this isle that Heaven so fair doth bless,
To view the place, on land awhile us set,
To know the folk and what God they confess,
And all whereby man's heart may knowledge get,
That I may tell the wonders therein seen
Another day, and say, there have I been."
She answered him, "Well fits this high desire
Thy noble heart, yet cannot I consent;
For Heaven's decree, firm, stable, and entire,
Thy wish repugns, and gainst thy will is bent,
Nor yet the time hath Titan's gliding fire
Met forth, prefixed for this discoverment,
Nor is it lawful of the ocean main
That you the secrets know, or known explain.
"To you withouten needle, map or card
It's given to pass these seas, and there arrive
Where in strong prison lies your knight imbarred,
And of her prey you must the witch deprive:
If further to aspire you be prepared,
In vain gainst fate and Heaven's decree you strive."
While thus she said, the first seen isle gave place,
And high and rough the second showed his face.
They saw how eastward stretched in order long,
The happy islands sweetly flowering lay;
And how the seas betwixt those isles enthrong,
And how they shouldered land from land away:
In seven of them the people rude among
The shady trees their sheds had built of clay,
The rest lay waste, unless wild beasts unseen,
Or wanton nymphs, roamed on the mountains green.
A secret place they found in one of those,
Where the cleft shore sea in his bosom takes,
And 'twixt his stretched arms doth fold and close
An ample bay, a rock the haven makes,
Which to the main doth his broad back oppose,
Whereon the roaring billow cleaves and breaks,
And here and there two crags like turrets high,
Point forth a port to all that sail thereby:
The quiet seas below lie safe and still,
The green wood like a garland grows aloft,
Sweet caves within, cool shades and waters shrill,
Where lie the nymphs on moss and ivy soft;
No anchor there needs hold her frigate still,
Nor cable twisted sure, though breaking oft:
Into this desert, silent, quiet, glad,
Entered the dame, and there her haven made.
"The palace proudly built," quoth she, "behold,
That sits on top of yonder mountain's height,
Of Christ's true faith there lies the champion bold
In idleness, love, fancy, folly light;
When Phoebus shall his rising beams unfold,
Prepare you gainst the hill to mount upright,
Nor let this stay in your bold hearts breed care,
For, save that one, all hours unlucky are;
"But yet this evening, if you make good speed,
To that hill's foot with daylight might you pass."
Thus said the dame their guide, and they agreed,
And took their leave and leaped forth on the grass;
They found the way that to the hill doth lead,
And softly went that neither tired was,
But at the mountain's foot they both arrived,
Before the sun his team in waters dived.
They saw how from the crags and clefts below
His proud and stately pleasant top grew out,
And how his sides were clad with frost and snow,
The height was green with herbs and flowerets sout,
Like hairy locks the trees about him grow,
The rocks of ice keep watch and ward about,
The tender roses and the lilies new,
Thus art can nature change, and kind subdue.
Within a thick, a dark and shady plot,
At the hill's foot that night the warriors dwell,
But when the sun his rays bright, shining, hot,
Dispread of golden light the eternal well,
"Up, up," they cried, and fiercely up they got,
And climbed boldly gainst the mountain fell;
But forth there crept, from whence I cannot say,
An ugly serpent which forestalled their way.
Armed with golden scales his head and crest
He lifted high, his neck swelled great with ire,
Flamed his eyes, and hiding with his breast
All the broad path, he poison breathed and fire,
Now reached he forth in folds and forward pressed,
Now would he back in rolls and heaps retire,
Thus he presents himself to guard the place,
The knights pressed forward with assured pace:
Charles drew forth his brand to strike the snake;
Ubaldo cried, "Stay, my companion dear,
Will you with sword or weapon battle make
Against this monster that affronts us here?"
This said, he gan his charmed rod to shake,
So that the serpent durst not hiss for fear,
But fled, and dead for dread fell on the grass,
And so the passage plain, eath, open was.
A little higher on the way they met
A lion fierce that hugely roared and cried,
His crest he reared high, and open set
Of his broad-gaping jaws the furnace wide,
His stern his back oft smote, his rage to whet,
But when the sacred staff he once espied
A trembling fear through his bold heart was spread,
His native wrath was gone, and swift he fled.
The hardy couple on their way forth wend,
And met a host that on them roar and gape,
Of savage beasts, tofore unseen, unkend,
Differing in voice, in semblance, and in shape;
All monsters which hot Afric doth forthsend,
Twixt Nilus, Atlas, and the southern cape,
Were all there met, and all wild beasts besides
Hyrcania breeds, or Hyrcane forest hides.
But yet that fierce, that strange and savage host
Could not in presence of those worthies stand,
But fled away, their heart and courage lost,
When Lord Ubaldo shook his charming wand.
No other let their passage stopped or crossed;
Till on the mountain's top themselves they land,
Save that the ice, the frost, and drifted snow,
Oft made them feeble, weary, faint and slow.
But having passed all that frozen ground,
And overgone that winter sharp and keen,
A warm, mild, pleasant, gentle sky they found,
That overspread a large and ample green,
The winds breathed spikenard, myrrh, and balm around,
The blasts were firm, unchanged, stable been,
Not as elsewhere the winds now rise now fall,
And Phoebus there aye shines, sets not at all.
Not as elsewhere now sunshine bright now showers,
Now heat now cold, there interchanged were,
But everlasting spring mild heaven down pours, --
In which nor rain, nor storm, nor clouds appear, --
Nursing to fields, their grass; to grass, his flowers;
To flowers their smell; to trees, the leaves they bear:
There by a lake a stately palace stands,
That overlooks all mountains, seas and lands:
The passage hard against the mountain steep
These travellers had faint and weary made,
That through those grassy plains they scantly creep;
They walked, they rested oft, they went, they stayed,
When from the rocks, that seemed for joy to weep,
Before their feet a dropping crystal played
Enticing them to drink, and on the flowers
The plenteous spring a thousand streams down pours,
All which, united in the springing grass,
Ate forth a channel through the tender green
And underneath eternal shade did pass,
With murmur shrill, cold, pure, and scantly seen;
Yet so transparent, that perceived was
The bottom rich, and sands that golden been,
And on the brims the silken grass aloft
Proffered them seats, sweet, easy, fresh and soft.
"See here the stream of laughter, see the spring,"
Quoth they, "of danger and of deadly pain,
Here fond desire must by fair governing
Be ruled, our lust bridled with wisdom's rein,
Our ears be stopped while these Sirens sing,
Their notes enticing man to pleasure vain."
Thus passed they forward where the stream did make
An ample pond, a large and spacious lake.
There on a table was all dainty food
That sea, that earth, or liquid air could give,
And in the crystal of the laughing flood
They saw two naked virgins bathe and dive,
That sometimes toying, sometimes wrestling stood,
Sometimes for speed and skill in swimming strive,
Now underneath they dived, now rose above,
And ticing baits laid forth of lust and love.
These naked wantons, tender, fair and white,
Moved so far the warriors' stubborn hearts,
That on their shapes they gazed with delight;
The nymphs applied their sweet alluring arts,
And one of them above the waters quite,
Lift up her head, her breasts and higher parts,
And all that might weak eyes subdue and take,
Her lower beauties veiled the gentle lake.
As when the morning star, escaped and fled
From greedy waves, with dewy beams up flies,
Or as the Queen of Love, new born and bred
Of the Ocean's fruitful froth, did first arise:
So vented she her golden locks forth shed
Round pearls and crystal moist therein which lies:
But when her eyes upon the knights she cast,
She start, and feigned her of their sight aghast.
And her fair locks, that in a knot were tied
High on her crown, she 'gan at large unfold;
Which falling long and thick and spreading wide,
The ivory soft and white mantled in gold:
Thus her fair skin the dame would clothe and hide,
And that which hid it no less fair was hold;
Thus clad in waves and locks, her eyes divine,
From them ashamed did she turn and twine.
Withal she smiled and she blushed withal,
Her blush, her smilings, smiles her blushing graced:
Over her face her amber tresses fall,
Whereunder Love himself in ambush placed:
At last she warbled forth a treble small,
And with sweet looks her sweet songs interlaced;
"Oh happy men I that have the grace," quoth she,
"This bliss, this heaven, this paradise to see.
"This is the place wherein you may assuage
Your sorrows past, here is that joy and bliss
That flourished in the antique golden age,
Here needs no law, here none doth aught amiss:
Put off those arms and fear not Mars his rage,
Your sword, your shield, your helmet needless is;
Then consecrate them here to endless rest,
You shall love's champions be, and soldiers blest.
"The fields for combat here are beds of down,
Or heaped lilies under shady brakes;
But come and see our queen with golden crown,
That all her servants blest and happy makes,
She will admit you gently for her own,
Numbered with those that of her joy partakes:
But first within this lake your dust and sweat
Wash off, and at that table sit and eat."
While thus she sung, her sister lured them nigh
With many a gesture kind and loving show,
To music's sound as dames in court apply
Their cunning feet, and dance now swift now slow:
But still the knights unmoved passed by,
These vain delights for wicked charms they know,
Nor could their heavenly voice or angel's look,
Surprise their hearts, if eye or ear they took.
For if that sweetness once but touched their hearts,
And proffered there to kindle Cupid's fire,
Straight armed Reason to his charge up starts,
And quencheth Lust, and killeth fond Desire;
Thus scorned were the dames, their wiles and arts
And to the palace gates the knights retire,
While in their stream the damsels dived sad,
Ashamed, disgraced, for that repulse they had.
The searchers pass through all the palace bright
Where in sweet prison lies Rinaldo pent,
And do so much, that full of rage and spite,
With them he goes sad, shamed, discontent:
With plaints and prayers to retain her knight
Armida strives; he hears, but thence he went,
And she forlorn her palace great and fair
Destroys for grief, and flies thence through the air.
The palace great is builded rich and round,
And in the centre of the inmost hold
There lies a garden sweet, on fertile ground,
Fairer than that where grew the trees of gold:
The cunning sprites had buildings reared around
With doors and entries false a thousandfold,
A labyrinth they made that fortress brave,
Like Daedal's prison, or Porsenna's grave.
The knights passed through the castle's largest gate,
Though round about an hundred ports there shine,
The door-leaves framed of carved silver-plate,
Upon their golden hinges turn and twine.
They stayed to view this work of wit and state.
The workmanship excelled the substance fine,
For all the shapes in that rich metal wrought,
Save speech, of living bodies wanted naught.
Alcides there sat telling tales, and spun
Among the feeble troops of damsels mild,
He that the fiery gates of hell had won
And heaven upheld; false Love stood by and smiled:
Armed with his club fair Iole forth run,
His club with blood of monsters foul defiled,
And on her back his lion's skin had she,
Too rough a bark for such a tender tree.
Beyond was made a sea, whose azure flood
The hoary froth crushed from the surges blue,
Wherein two navies great well ranged stood
Of warlike ships, fire from their arms outflew,
The waters burned about their vessels good,
Such flames the gold therein enchased threw,
Caesar his Romans hence, the Asian kings
Thence Antony and Indian princes brings.
The Cyclades seemed to swim amid the main,
And hill gainst hill, and mount gainst mountain smote,
With such great fury met those armies twain;
Here burnt a ship, there sunk a bark or boat,
Here darts and wild-fire flew, there drowned or slain
Of princes dead the bodies fleet and float;
Here Caesar wins, and yonder conquered been
The Eastern ships, there fled the Egyptian queen:
Antonius eke himself to flight betook,
The empire lost to which he would aspire,
Yet fled not he nor fight for fear forsook,
But followed her, drawn on by fond desire:
Well might you see within his troubled look,
Strive and contend, love, courage, shame and ire;
Oft looked he back, oft gazed he on the fight,
But oftener on his mistress and her flight.
Then in the secret creeks of fruitful Nile,
Cast in her lap, he would sad death await,
And in the pleasure of her lovely smile
Sweeten the bitter stroke of cursed fate:
All this did art with curious hand compile
In the rich metal of that princely gate.
The knights these stories viewed first and last,
Which seen, they forward pressed, and in they passed:
As through his channel crooked Meander glides
With turns and twines, and rolls now to, now fro,
Whose streams run forth there to the salt sea sides
Here back return and to their springward go:
Such crooked paths, such ways this palace hides;
Yet all the maze their map described so,
That through the labyrinth they got in fine,
As Theseus did by Ariadne's line.
When they had passed all those troubled ways,
The garden sweet spread forth her green to show,
The moving crystal from the fountains plays,
Fair trees, high plants, strange herbs and flowerets new,
Sunshiny hills, dales hid from Phoebus' rays,
Groves, arbors, mossy caves, at once they view,
And that which beauty moat, most wonder brought,
Nowhere appeared the art which all this wrought.
So with the rude the polished mingled was
That natural seemed all and every part,
Nature would craft in counterfeiting pass,
And imitate her imitator art:
Mild was the air, the skies were clear as glass,
The trees no whirlwind felt, nor tempest smart,
But ere the fruit drop off, the blossom comes,
This springs, that falls, that ripeneth and this blooms.
The leaves upon the self-same bough did hide
Beside the young the old and ripened fig,
Here fruit was green, there ripe with vermeil side,
The apples new and old grew on one twig,
The fruitful vine her arms spread high and wide
That bended underneath their clusters big,
The grapes were tender here, hard, young and sour,
There purple ripe, and nectar sweet forth pour.
The joyous birds, hid under greenwood shade,
Sung merry notes on every branch and bough,
The wind that in the leaves and waters played
With murmur sweet, now sung, and whistled now;
Ceased the birds, the wind loud answer made,
And while they sung, it rumbled soft and low;
Thus were it hap or cunning, chance or art,
The wind in this strange music bore his part.
With party-colored plumes' and purple bill,
A wondrous bird among the rest there flew,
That in plain speech sung love-lays loud and shrill,
Her leden was like human language true;
So much she talked, and with such wit and skill,
That strange it seemed how much good she knew,
Her feathered fellows all stood hush to hear,
Dumb was the wind, the waters silent were.
"The gently budding rose," quoth she, "behold,
That first scant peeping forth with virgin beams,
Half ope, half shut, her beauties doth upfold
In their dear leaves, and less seen, fairer seems,
And after spreads them forth more broad and bold,
Then languisheth and dies in last extremes,
Nor seems the same, that decked bed and bower
Of many a lady late, and paramour;
"So, in the passing of a day, doth pass
The bud and blossom of the life of man,
Nor e'er doth flourish more, but like the grass
Cut down, becometh withered, pale and wan:
Oh gather then the rose while time thou hast
Short is the day, done when it scant began,
Gather the rose of love, while yet thou mayest,
Loving, be loved; embracing, be embraced."
He ceased, and as approving all he spoke,
The choir of birds their heavenly tunes renew,
The turtles sighed, and sighs with kisses broke,
The fowls to shades unseen by pairs withdrew;
It seemed the laurel chaste, and stubborn oak,
And all the gentle trees on earth that grew,
It seemed the land, the sea, and heaven above,
All breathed out fancy sweet, and sighed out love.
Through all this music rare, and strong consent
Of strange allurements, sweet bove mean and measure,
Severe, firm, constant, still the knights forthwent,
Hardening their hearts gainst false enticing pleasure,
Twixt leaf and leaf their sight before they sent,
And after crept themselves at ease and leisure,
Till they beheld the queen, set with their knight
Besides the lake, shaded with boughs from sight:
Her breasts were naked, for the day was hot,
Her locks unbound waved in the wanton wind;
Some deal she sweat, tired with the game you wot,
Her sweat-drops bright, white, round, like pearls of Ind;
Her humid eyes a fiery smile forthshot
That like sunbeams in silver fountains shined,
O'er him her looks she hung, and her soft breast
The pillow was, where he and love took rest.
His hungry eyes upon her face he fed,
And feeding them so, pined himself away;
And she, declining often down her head,
His lips, his cheeks, his eyes kissed, as he lay,
Wherewith he sighed, as if his soul had fled
From his frail breast to hers, and there would stay
With her beloved sprite: the armed pair
These follies all beheld and this hot fare.
Down by the lovers' side there pendent was
A crystal mirror, bright, pure, smooth, and neat,