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Torquato Tasso
Jerusalem Delivered
page 206

"For well this fortress shall thee and thy crown
Defend, awhile here may we safe remain."
"Alas!" quoth he, "alas, for this fair town,
Which cruel war beats down even with the plain,
My life is done, mine empire trodden down,
I reigned, I lived, but now nor live nor reign;
For now, alas! behold the fatal hour
That ends our life, and ends our kingly power."

"Where is your virtue, where your wisdom grave,
And courage stout?" the angry Soldan said,
"Let chance our kingdoms take which erst she gave,
Yet in our hearts our kingly worth is laid;
But come, and in this fort your person save,
Refresh your weary limbs and strength decayed:"
Thus counselled he, and did to safety bring
Within that fort the weak and aged king.

His iron mace in both his hands he hent,
And on his thigh his tty sword he tied,
And to the entrance fierce and fearless went,
And kept the strait, and all the French defied:
The blows were mortal which he gave or lent,
For whom he hit he slew, else by his side
Laid low on earth, that all fled from the place
Where they beheld that great and dreadful mace.

But old Raymondo with his hardy crew
By chance came thither, to his great mishap;
To that defended path the old man flew,
And scorned his blows and him that kept the gap,
He struck his foe, his blow no blood forth drew,
But on the front with that he caught a rap,
Which in a swoon, low in the dust him laid,
Wide open, trembling, with his arms displayed.

The Pagans gathered heart at last, though fear
Their courage weak had put to flight but late,
So that the conquerors repulsed were,
And beaten back, else slain before the Gate:
The Soldan, mongst the dead beside him near
That saw Lord Raymond lie in such estate,
Cried to his men, "Within these bars," quoth he,
"Come draw this knight, and let him captive be."

Forward they hed to execute his word,
But hard and dangerous that emprise they found,
For none of Raymond's men forsook their lord,
But to their guide's defence they flocked round,
Thence fury fights, hence pity draws the sword,
Nor strive they for vile cause or on light ground,
The life and freedom of that champion brave,
Those spoil, these would preserve, those kill, these save.

But yet at last if they had longer fought
The hardy Soldan would have won the field;
For gainst his thundering mace availed naught
Or helm of temper fine or sevenfold shield:
But from each side great succor now was brought
To his weak foes, now fit to faint and yield,
And both at once to aid and help the same
The sovereign Duke and young Rinaldo came.

As when a shepherd, raging round about
That sees a storm with wind, hail, thunder, rain,
When gloomy clouds have day's bright eye put out,
His tender flocks drives from the open plain
To some thick grove or mountain's shady foot,
Where Heaven's fierce wrath they may unhurt sustain,
And with his hook, his whistle and his cries
Drives forth his fleecy charge, and with them flies:

So fled the Soldan, when he gan descry
This tempest come from angry war forthcast,
The armor clashed and lightened gainst the sky,

* * *

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