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Torquato Tasso
Jerusalem Delivered
page 210

But cruel love I fear, and this fair queen."
This said, to challenge him the king forth leapt,
But up their mistress start, and twixt them stepped:

"Will you thus rob me of that gift," quoth she,
"Which each hath vowed to give by word and oath?
You are my champions, let that title be
The bond of love and peace between you both;
He that displeased is, is displeased with me,
For which of you is grieved, and I not wroth?"
Thus warned she them, their hearts, for ire nigh broke,
In forced peace and rest thus bore love's yoke."

All this heard Vafrine as he stood beside,
And having learned the truth, he left the tent,
That treason was against the Christian's guide
Contrived, he wist, yet wist not how it went,
By words and questions far off, he tried
To find the truth; more difficult, more bent
Was he to know it, and resolved to die,
Or of that secret close the intent to spy.

Of sly intelligence he proved all ways,
All crafts, all wiles, that in his thoughts abide,
Yet all in vain the man by wit assays,
To know that false compact and practice hid:
But chance, what wisdom could not tell, bewrays,
Fortune of all his doubt the knots undid,
So that prepared for Godfrey's last mishap
At ease he found the net, and spied the trap.

Thither he turned again where seated was,
The angry lover, 'twixt her friends and lords,
For in that troop much talk he thought would pass,
Each great assembly store of news affords,
He sided there a lusty lovely lass,
And with some courtly terms the wench he boards,
He feigns acquaintance, and as bold appears
As he had known that virgin twenty years.

He said, "Would some sweet lady grace me so,
To chose me for her champion, friend and knight,
Proud Godfrey's or Rinaldo's head, I trow,
Should feel the sharpness of my curtlax bright;
Ask me the head, fair mistress, of some foe,
For to your beauty wooed is my might;"
So he began, and meant in speeches wise
Further to wade, but thus he broke the ice.

Therewith he smiled, and smiling gan to frame
His looks so to their old and native grace,
That towards him another virgin came,
Heard him, beheld him, and with bashful face
Said, "For thy mistress choose no other dame
But me, on me thy love and service place,
I take thee for my champion, and apart
Would reason with thee, if my knight thou art."

Withdrawn, she thus began, "Vafrine, pardie,
I know thee well, and me thou knowest of old,"
To his last trump this drove the subtle spy,
But smiling towards her he turned him bold,
"Ne'er that I wot I saw thee erst with eye,
Yet for thy worth all eyes should thee behold,
Thus much I know right well, for from the same
Which erst you gave me different is my name.

"My mother bore me near Bisertus wall,
Her name was Lesbine, mine is Almansore!"
"I knew long since," quoth she, "what men thee call,
And thine estate, dissemble it no more,
From me thy friend hide not thyself at all,
If I betray thee let me die therefore,
I am Erminia, daughter to a prince,
But Tancred's slave, thy fellow-servant since;

* * *

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