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Next Gerrard followed, then with tresses hoar
Old Wenceslaus, that felt Cupid's rage
Now in his doating and his dying age.
Oh how Firstment in their foreheads shined!
Their looks with joy; thoughts swelled with secret pleasure,
These three it seemed good success designed
To make the lords of love and beauty's treasure:
Their doubtful fellows at their hap repined,
And with small patience wait Fortune's leisure,
Upon his lips that read the scrolls attending,
As if their lives were on his words depending.
Guasco the fourth, Ridolpho him succeeds,
Then Ulderick whom love list so advance,
Lord William of Ronciglion next he reads,
Then Eberard, and Henry born in France,
Rambaldo last, whom wicked lust so leads
That he forsook his Saviour with mischance;
This wretch the tenth was who was thus deluded,
The rest to their huge grief were all excluded.
O'ercome with envy, wrath and jealousy,
The rest blind Fortune curse, and all her laws,
And mad with love, yet out on love they cry,
That in his kingdom let her judge their cause:
And for man's mind is such, that oft we try
Things most forbidden, without stay or pause,
In spite of fortune purposed many a knight
To follow fair Armida when 'twas night.
To follow her, by night or else by day,
And in her quarrel venture life and limb.
With sighs and tears she gan them softly pray
To keep that promise, when the skies were dim,
To this and that knight did she plain and say,
What grief she felt to part withouten him:
Meanwhile the ten had donned their armor best,
And taken leave of Godfrey and the rest.
The duke advised them every one apart,
How light, how ttless was the Pagan's faith,
And told what policy, what wit, what art,
Avoids deceit, which heedless men betray'th;
His speeches pierce their ear, but not their heart,
Love calls it folly, whatso wisdom saith:
Thus warned he leaves them to their wanton guide,
Who parts that night; such haste had she to ride.
The conqueress departs, and with her led
These prisoners, whom love would captive keep,
The hearts of those she left behind her bled,
With point of sorrow's arrow pierced deep.
But when the night her drowsy mantle spread,
And filled the earth with silence, shade and sleep,
In secret sort then each forsook his tent,
And as blind Cupid led them blind they went.
Eustatio first, who scantly could forbear,
Till friendly night might hide his haste and shame,
He rode in post, and let his breast him bear
As his blind fancy would his journey frame,
All night he wandered and he wist not where;
But with the morning he espied the dame,
That with her guard up from a village rode
Where she and they that night had made abode.
Thither he galloped fast, and drawing near
Rambaldo knew the knight, and loudly cried,
"Whence comes young Eustace, and what seeks he here?"
"I come," quoth he, "to serve the Queen Armide,
If she accept me, would we all were there
Where my good-will and faith might best be tried."
"Who," quoth the other, "choseth thee to prove
This high exploit of hers?" He answered, "Love."
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