Previous First Next
But while the things hapt thus, Vafrino goes
Unknown, amid ten thousand armed foes.
The sun nigh set had brought to end the day,
When Vafrine went the Pagan host to spy,
He passed unknown a close and secret way;
A traveller, false, cunning, crafty, sly,
Past Ascalon he saw the morning gray
Step o'er the threshold of the eastern sky,
And ere bright Titan half his course had run,
That camp, that mighty host to show begun.
Tents infinite, and standards broad he spies,
This red, that white, that blue, this purple was,
And hears strange tongues, and stranger harmonies
Of trumpets, clarions, and well-sounding brass:
The elephant there brays, the camel cries.
The horses neigh as to and fro they pass:
Which seen and heard, he said within his thought,
Hither all Asia is, all Afric, brought.
He viewed the camp awhile, her site and seat,
What ditch, what trench it had, what rampire strong,
Nor close, nor secret ways to work his feat
He longer sought, nor hid him from the throng;
But entered through the gates, broad, royal, great,
And oft he asked, and answered oft among,
In questions wise, in answers short and sly;
Bold was his look, eyes quick, front lifted high:
On every side he pried here and there,
And marked each way, each passage and each tent:
The knights he notes, their steeds, and arms they bear,
Their names, their armor, and their government;
And greater secrets hopes to learn, and hear,
Their hidden purpose, and their close intent:
So long he walked and wandered, till he spied
The way to approach the great pavilions' side:
There as he looked he saw the canvas rent,
Through which the voice found eath and open way
From the close lodgings of the regal tent
And inmost closet where the captain lay;
So that if Emireno spake, forth went
The sound to them that listen what they say,
There Vafrine watched, and those that saw him thought
To mend the breach that there he stood and wrought.
The captain great within bare-headed stood,
His body armed and clad in purple weed,
Two pages bore his shield and helmet good,
He leaning on a bending lance gave heed
To a big man whose looks were fierce and proud,
With whom he parleyed of some haughty deed,
Godfredo's name as Vafrine watched he heard,
Which made him give more heed, take more regard:
Thus spake the chieftain to that surly sir,
"Art thou so sure that Godfrey shall be slain?"
"I am," quoth he, "and swear ne'er to retire,
Except he first be killed, to court again.
I will prevent those that with me conspire:
Nor other guerdon ask I for my pain
But that I may hang up his harness brave
At Gair, and under them these words engrave:
" `These arms Ormondo took in noble fight
From Godfrey proud, that spoiled all Asia's lands,
And with them took his life, and here on high,
In memory thereof, this trophy stands.' "
The duke replied, "Ne'er shall that deed, bold knight,
Pass unrewarded at our sovereign's hands,
What thou demandest shall he gladly grant,
Nor gold nor guerdon shalt thou wish or want.
"Those counterfeited armors then prepare,
Previous First Next
* * *