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To cut one twist thereof adventureth not
The boldest knight we have, nor without it
This wall can battered be: where others doubt
There venture thou, and show thy courage stout."
Thus said he, and the knight in speeches few
Proffered his service to attempt the thing,
To hard assays his courage willing flew,
To him praise was no spur, words were no sting;
Of his dear friends then he embraced the crew
To welcome him which came; for in a ring
About him Guelpho, Tancred and the rest
Stood, of the camp the greatest, chief and best.
When with the prince these lords had iterate
Their welcomes oft, and oft their dear embrace,
Toward the rest of lesser worth and state,
He turned, and them received with gentle grace;
The merry soldiers bout him shout and prate,
With cries as joyful and as cheerful face
As if in triumph's chariot bright as sun,
He had returned Afric or Asia won.
Thus marched to his tent the champion good,
And there sat down with all his friends around;
Now of the war he asked, now of the wood,
And answered each demand they list propound;
But when they left him to his ease, up stood
The hermit, and, fit time to speak once found,
"My lord," he said, "your travels wondrous are,
Far have you strayed, erred, wandered far.
"Much are you bound to God above, who brought
You safe from false Armida's charmed hold,
And thee a straying sheep whom once he bought
Hath now again reduced to his fold,
And gainst his heathen foes these men of naught
Hath chosen thee in place next Godfrey bold;
Yet mayest thou not, polluted thus with sin,
In his high service war or fight begin.
"The world, the flesh, with their infection vile
Pollute the thoughts impure, thy spirit stain;
Not Po, not Ganges, not seven-mouthed Nile,
Not the wide seas, can wash thee clean again,
Only to purge all faults which thee defile
His blood hath power who for thy sins was slain:
His help therefore invoke, to him bewray
Thy secret faults, mourn, weep, complain and pray."
This said, the knight first with the witch unchaste
His idle loves and follies vain lamented;
Then kneeling low with heavy looks downcast,
His other sins confessed and all repented,
And meekly pardon craved for first and last.
The hermit with his zeal was well Firsted,
And said, "On yonder hill next morn go pray
That turns his forehead gainst the morning ray.
"That done, march to the wood, whence each one brings
Such news of furies, goblins, fiends, and sprites,
The giants, monsters, and all dreadful things
Thou shalt subdue, which that dark grove unites:
Let no strange voice that mourns or sweetly sings,
Nor beauty, whose glad smile frail hearts delights,
Within thy breast make ruth or pity rise,
But their false looks and prayers false despise."
Thus he advised him, and the hardy knight
Prepared him gladly to this enterprise,
Thoughtful he passed the day, and sad the night;
And ere the silver morn began to rise,
His arms he took, and in a coat him dight
Of color strange, cut in the warlike guise;
And on his way sole, silent, forth he went
Alone, and left his friends, and left his tent.
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