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Torquato Tasso
Jerusalem Delivered
page 54

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 alone nor more nor less the dame
Could win, the rest 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 heard it told,
She thought, 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 herself to earth she cast,
"The hour is come, my Lord," she humbly said,
"And if the tyrant haply hear 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 goodness 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 sage 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 saw the secret of their hearts,
And knew how best to warm them in their blood,
Against them threw the cursed poisoned darts
Of jealousy, and grief at others' good,
For love she wist was weak without those arts,
And slow; for jealousy is Cupid's food;
For the swift steed runs not so fast alone,
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 satisfy each good desire,
Withouten partial love, of every knight,
Although he swelled with shame, with grief and ire
To see 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 see 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 thought his bread well baken;

* * *

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