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Environed all the place with darkness sad,
Wherein a firebrand gave a dreadful light,
Kindled in hell by Tisiphone the mad;
Vanished the shade, the sun appeared in sight,
Pale were his beams, the air was nothing glad,
And all the palace vanished was and gone,
Nor of so great a work was left one stone.
As oft the clouds frame shapes of castles great
Amid the air, that little time do last,
But are dissolved by wind or Titan's heat,
Or like vain dreams soon made, and sooner past:
The palace vanished so, nor in his seat
Left aught but rocks and crags, by kind there placed;
She in her coach which two old serpents drew,
Sate down, and as she used, away she flew.
She broke the clouds, and cleft the yielding sky,
And bout her gathered tempest, storm and wind,
The lands that view the south pole flew she by,
And left those unknown countries far behind,
The Straits of Hercules she passed, which lie
Twixt Spain and Afric, nor her flight inclined
To north or south, but still did forward ride
O'er seas and streams, till Syria's coasts she spied.
Now she went forward to Damascus fair,
But of her country dear she fled the sight,
And guided to Asphaltes' lake her chair,
Where stood her castle, there she ends her flight,
And from her damsels far, she made repair
To a deep vault, far from resort and light,
Where in sad thoughts a thousand doubts she cast,
Till grief and shame to wrath gave place at last.
"I will not hence," quoth she, "till Egypt's lord
In aid of Zion's king his host shall move;
Then will I use all helps that charms afford,
And change my shape or sex if so behove:
Well can I handle bow, or lance, or sword,
The worthies all will aid me, for my love:
I seek revenge, and to obtain the same,
Farewell, regard of honor; farewell, shame.
"Nor let mine uncle and protector me
Reprove for this, he most deserves the blame,
My heart and sex, that weak and tender be,
He bent to deeds that maidens ill became;
His niece a wandering damsel first made he,
He spurred my youth, and I cast off my shame,
His be the fault, if aught gainst mine estate
I did for love, or shall commit for hate."
This said, her knights, her ladies, pages, squires
She all assembleth, and for journey fit
In such fair arms and vestures them attires
As showed her wealth, and well declared her wit;
And forward marched, full of strange desires,
Nor rested she by day or night one whit,
Till she came there, where all the eastern bands,
Their kings and princes, lay on Gaza's sands.
Egypt's great host in battle-ray forth brought,
The Caliph sends with Godfrey's power to fight;
Armida, who Rinaldo's ruin sought,
To them adjoins herself and Syria's might.
To satisfy her cruel will and thought,
She gives herself to him that kills her knight:
He takes his fatal arms, and in his shield
His ancestors and their great deeds beheld.
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