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Thou knowest of things performed so long agone,
This latter age hears little truth or none.
The town Damascus and the lands about
Ruled Hidraort, a wizard grave and sage,
Acquainted well with all the damned rout
Of Pluto's reign, even from his tender age;
Yet of this war he could not figure out
The wished ending, or success presage,
For neither stars above, nor powers of hell,
Nor skill, nor art, nor charm, nor devil could tell.
And yet he thought, -- Oh, vain conceit of man,
Which as thou wishest judgest things to come! --
That the French host to sure destruction ran,
Condemned quite by Heaven's eternal doom:
He thinks no force withstand or vanquish can
The Egyptian strength, and therefore would that some
Both of the prey and glory of the fight
Upon this Syrian folk would haply light.
But for he held the Frenchmen's worth in prize,
And feared the doubtful gain of bloody war,
He, that was closely false and slyly war,
Cast how he might annoy them most from far:
And as he gan upon this point devise, --
As counsellors in ill still nearest are, --
At hand was Satan, ready ere men need,
If once they think, to make them do, the deed.
He counselled him how best to hunt his game,
What dart to cast, what net, what toil to pitch,
A niece he had, a nice and tender dame,
Peerless in wit, in nature's blessings rich,
To all deceit she could her beauty frame,
False, fair and young, a virgin and a witch;
To her he told the sum of this emprise,
And praised her thus, for she was fair and wise:
"My dear, who underneath these locks of gold,
And native brightness of thy lovely hue,
Hidest grave thoughts, ripe wit, and wisdom old,
More skill than I, in all mine arts untrue,
To thee my purpose great I must unfold,
This enterprise thy cunning must pursue,
Weave thou to end this web which I begin,
I will the distaff hold, come thou and spin.
"Go to the Christians' host, and there assay
All subtle sleights that women use in love,
Shed brinish tears, sob, sigh, entreat and pray,
Wring thy fair hands, cast up thine eyes above,
For mourning beauty hath much power, men say,
The stubborn hearts with pity frail to move;
Look pale for dread, and blush sometime for shame,
In seeming truth thy lies will soonest frame.
"Take with the bait Lord Godfrey, if thou may'st;
Frame snares of look, strains of alluring speech;
For if he love, the conquest then thou hast,
Thus purposed war thou may'st with ease impeach,
Else lead the other Lords to deserts waste,
And hold them slaves far from their leader's reach:"
Thus taught he her, and for conclusion, saith,
"All things are lawful for our lands and faith."
The sweet Armida took this charge on hand,
A tender piece, for beauty, sex and age,
The sun was sunken underneath the land,
When she began her wanton pilgrimage,
In silken weeds she tteth to withstand,
And conquer knights in warlike equipage,
Of their night ambling dame the Syrians prated,
Some good, some bad, as they her loved or hated.
Within few days the nymph arrived there
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