Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Description of the Sorceress Armida
By Torquato Tasso (1544–1595)
From ‘Jerusalem Delivered’: Translation of Jeremiah Holmes Wiffen
  [Idriot, a magician, at the instigation of the powers of Hell sends his niece Armida, who is an enchantress, to the camp of the Crusaders to seduce the chiefs.]

  ARMIDA, in her youth and beauty’s pride,
    Assumed th’ adventure; and at close of day,
  Eve’s vesper star her solitary guide,
    Alone, untended, took her secret way.
    In clustering locks and feminine array,        5
  Armed with but loveliness and frolic youth,
    She trusts to conquer mighty kings, and slay
  Embattled hosts; meanwhile false rumors soothe
The light censorious crowd, sagacious of the truth.
  Few days elapsed, ere to her wishful view        10
    The white pavilions of the Latins rise;
  The camp she reached: her wondrous beauty drew
    The gaze and admiration of all eyes;
    Not less than if some strange star in the skies,
  Or blazing comet’s more resplendent tire        15
    Appeared: a murmur far below her flies,
  And crowds press round, to listen or inquire
Who the fair pilgrim is, and soothe their eyes’ desire.
  Never did Greece or Italy behold
    A form to fancy and to taste so dear!        20
  At times the white veil dims her locks of gold,
    At times in bright relief they reappear:
    So when the stormy skies begin to clear,
  Now through transparent clouds the sunshine gleams;
    Now issuing from its shrine, the gorgeous sphere        25
  Lights up the leaves, flowers, mountains, vales, and streams
With a diviner day—the spirit of bright beams.
  New ringlets form the flowing winds amid
    The native curls of her resplendent hair;
  Her eye is fixed in self-reserve, and hid        30
    Are all love’s treasures with a miser’s care;
    The rival roses, upon cheeks more fair
  Than morning light, their mingling tints dispose;
    But on her lips, from which the amorous air
  Of Paradise exhales, the crimson rose        35
Its sole and simple bloom in modest beauty throws.
  Crude as the grape unmellowed yet to wine,
    Her bosom swells to sight: its virgin breasts,
  Smooth, soft, and sweet, like alabaster shine,
    Part bare, part hid, by her invidious vests;        40
    Their jealous fringe the greedy eye arrests,
  But leaves its fond imagination free
    To sport, like doves, in those delicious nests,
  And their most shadowed secrecies to see,
Peopling with blissful dreams the lively phantasy.        45
  As through pure water or translucent glass
    The sunbeam darts, yet leaves the crystal sound,
  So through her folded robes unruffling pass
    The thoughts, to wander on forbidden ground:
    There daring Fancy takes her fairy round.        50
  Such wondrous beauties singly to admire;
    Which, in a pleasing fit of transport bound,
  She after paints and whispers to desire,
And with her charming tale foments th’ excited fire.
  Praised and admired, Armida passed amid        55
    The wishful multitude, nor seemed to spy,
  Though well she saw the interest raised, but hid
    In her deep heart the smile that to her eye
    Darted in prescience of the conquests nigh.
  Whilst in the mute suspense of troubled pride        60
    She sought, with look solicitous yet shy,
  For her uncertain feet an ushering guide
To the famed captain’s tent, young Eustace pressed her side.

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