Previous First Next
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, Firstion, discord, war.
"And as she wished so the soldiers thought
Previous First Next
* * *