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On milk-white steeds, wait on the chariot bright,
Their steeds to manage, ready; swift, to flight.
Followed her troop led forth by Aradin,
Which Hidraort from Syria's kingdom sent,
As when the new-born phoenix doth begin
To fly to Ethiop-ward, at the fair bent
Of her rich wings strange plumes and feathers thin
Her crowns and chains with native gold besprent,
The world amazed stands; and with her fly
An host of wondering birds, that sing and cry:
So passed Armida, looked on, gazed on, so,
A wondrous dame in habit, gesture, face;
There lived no wight to love so great a foe
But wished and longed those beauties to embrace,
Scant seen, with anger sullen, sad for woe,
She conquered all the lords and knights in place,
What would she do, her sorrows passed, think you,
When her fair eyes, her looks and smiles shall woo?
She passed, the king commanded Emiren
Of his rich throne to mount the lofty stage,
To whom his host, his army, and his men,
He would commit, now in his graver age.
With stately grace the man approached then;
His looks his coming honor did presage:
The guard asunder cleft and passage made,
He to the throne up went, and there he stayed.
To earth he cast his eyes, and bent his knee:
To whom the king thus gan his will explain,
"To thee this sceptre, Emiren, to thee
These armies I commit, my place sustain
Mongst them, go set the king of Judah free,
And let the Frenchmen feel my just disdain,
Go meet them, conquer them, leave none alive;
Or those that scape from battle, bring captive."
Thus spake the tyrant. and the sceptre laid
With all his sovereign power upon the knight:
"I take this sceptre at your hand," he said,
"And with your happy fortune go to fight,
And tt, my lord, in your great virtue's aid
To venge all Asia's harms, her wrongs to right,
Nor e'er but victor will I see your face;
Our overthrow shall bring death, not disgrace.
"Heavens grant if evil, yet no mishap I dread,
Or harm they threaten against this camp of thine,
That all that mischief fall upon my head,
Theirs be the conquest, and the danger mine;
And let them safe bring home their captain dead,
Buried in pomp of triumph's glorious shine."
He ceased, and then a murmur loud up went,
With noise of joy and sound of instrument.
Amid the noise and shout uprose the king,
Environed with many a noble peer
That to his royal tent the monarch bring,
And there he feasted them and made them cheer,
To him and him he talked, and carved each thing,
The greatest honored, meanest graced were;
And while this mirth, this joy and feast doth last,
Armida found fit time her nets to cast:
But when the feast was done, she, that espied
All eyes on her fair visage fixed and bent,
And by new notes and certain signs described,
How love's empoisoned fire their entrails brent,
Arose, and where the king sate in his pride,
With stately pace and humble gestures, went;
And as she could in looks in voice she strove
Fierce, stern, bold, angry, and severe to prove.
"Great Emperor, behold me here," she said.
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