The Eternal Father looked down from His lofty throne upon the Christian powers in Syria. In the six years they had spent in the East they had taken Nice and Antioch. Now, while inactive in winter quarters, Bohemond was strengthening himself in Antioch, and the other chiefs were thinking of glory or love; but Godfrey, to whom renown was the meanest of glories, was burning to win Jerusalem and restore it to the faith. Inspired by Gabriel, despatched by the Eternal Father, Godfrey called a council, and with an eloquence and fire more than mortal, roused the Christians to action. “We came not here to raise empires; the period has come when all the world is waiting for our next step. Now is the propitious moment. If we delay longer, Egypt will step in to the aid of our Syrian foe!”
Godfrey was unanimously elected chief, and immediate arrangements were made for the setting out to Jerusalem. Godfrey first reviewed the army. A thousand men marched under the lilied banner of Clotharius; a thousand more from the Norman meads under Robert; from Orange and Puy, troops came under the priests William and Ademar. Baldwin led his own and Godfrey’s bands, and Guelpho, allied to the house of Este, brought his strong Carinthians. Other troops of horse and foot were led by William of England. After him came the young Tancred, the flower of chivalry, blighted now, alas! by unrequited love. He had seen by chance the pagan maid Clorinda, the Amazon, drinking at a pool in the forest, and had forgot all else in his love for her. After him came the small Greek force under Tatine; next, the invincible Adventurers under Dudon, bravest of men. Following these were Otho, Edward and his sweet bride Gildippe, who, unwilling to be separated from her husband, fought at his side, and, excellent above all others, the young Rinaldo, whose glorious deeds were yet but a promise of his great future. While but a boy he had escaped from the care of his foster mother, Queen Matilda, and hastened to join the Crusaders. The review was closed by the array of foot soldiers led by Raymond, Stephen of Amboise, Alcasto, and Camillus. The pageant having passed by, Godfrey despatched a messenger to summon Sweno the Dane, who with his forces was still tarrying in Greece, and at once set out for Jerusalem.
Swift rumor had conveyed the tidings of his approach to Aladine, King of Jerusalem, a merciless tyrant, who, enraged, immediately laid heavier taxes upon the unfortunate Christians in his city. Ismeno, a sorcerer, once a Christian, but now a pagan who practised all black arts, penetrated to the presence of the king and advised him to steal from the temple of the Christians an image of the Virgin and put it in his mosque, assuring him that he would thus render his city impregnable. This was done, and Ismeno wrought his spells about the image, but the next morning it had disappeared. After a fruitless search for the image and the offender, the angry king sentenced all the Franks to death. The beautiful maid Sophronia, determined to save her people, assumed the guilt, and was sentenced to be burned. As she stood chained to the stake, her lover, Olindo, to whom she had ever been cold, saw her, and in agony at her sacrifice, declared to the king that Sophronia had lied and that he was the purloiner of the image. The cruel monarch ordered him also to be tied to the stake, that they might die together; and the flames had just been applied when the two were saved by the Amazon Clorinda, who convinced the king that the Christians were innocent and that Allah himself, incensed at the desecration, had snatched away the image.
To the camp of Godfrey at Emmaus came two ambassadors from the king of Egypt, Alethes, a supple crafty courtier of low lineage, and Argantes, a haughty and powerful warrior. But their efforts to keep Godfrey from Jerusalem, first by persuasion, and then by threats, were in vain. They were dismissed from the camp, and the army proceeded on its way.
When the walls and towers of the city where Messias died came in sight, the Christian army, crying “All Hail, Jerusalem!” laid aside their casques, and, shedding tears, trod barefoot the consecrated way.
At sight of the Franks, the pagans hastened to strengthen the fortifications of their city, and Aladine from a lofty tower watched Clorinda attack a band of Franks returning from a foray. At his side was the lovely Erminia, daughter of the King of Antioch, who had sought Jerusalem after the downfall of her city.
Erminia instructed Aladine of the various crusaders, and when she pointed out the noble Tancred, who had treated her with such consideration in Antioch, she felt her love for him revive, though she pretended to the king to hate him for his cruelty. Tancred recognized among the leaders of the pagans Clorinda, bereft of her helmet, and for love of her, refused to fight her. The pagans, driven back by the Christians, were rallied by Argantes, but only to be met by the matchless Adventurers under Dudon. When Dudon fell, the troops under Rinaldo, burning for revenge, reluctantly obeyed Godfrey’s summons to return.
The funeral rites over, the artificers were sent to the forest to fell the trees, that engines might be fabricated for the destruction of the city walls.
Angry at the success of the Franks, Satan stirred up the infernal regions, and set loose his friends to work destruction to the Christians. One he despatched to the wizard Idraotes, at Damascus, who conceived the scheme of sending his beautiful niece Armida to ensnare the Christians. In a few days Armida appeared among the white pavilions of the Franks, attracting the attention and winning the love of all who saw her. Her golden locks appeared through her veil as the sunshine gleams through the stormy skies; her charms were sufficiently hidden to make them the more alluring. So attired, modestly seeking the camp of Godfrey, she was met by Eustace, his young brother, and taken to the prince.
With many tears and sighs, she told her pitiful story. She had been driven from her kingdom, an orphan, by the envy and wickedness of her uncle, and had come to ask the Christians to aid her in regaining her rights. Unfortunately for her success, she and her uncle had not calculated on Godfrey’s absorption in his divine undertaking. He was proof against her charms, and was determined not to be delayed longer in laying siege to the city. It required the utmost persuasion of Eustace to induce him to permit ten of the Adventurers to accompany her. Armida, though disappointed in Godfrey’s lack of susceptibility, employed her time so well while in camp that when she departed with the ten Adventurers chosen by lot, she was followed secretly by Eustace and many others who had not been chosen, but who were madly in love with her.
Before his departure, Eustace, jealous of Rinaldo, whom he was fearful Armida might admire, had persuaded him to aspire to the place of Dudon, to whom a successor must be elected. Gernando of Norway desired the same place, and, angry that the popular Rinaldo should be his rival, scattered through the camp rumors disparaging to his character: Rinaldo was vain and arrogant; Rinaldo was rash, not brave; Rinaldo’s virtues were all vices. At last, stung past endurance by his taunts and insinuations, Rinaldo gave the lie to his traducer, and slew him in fair fight. False reports were taken to Godfrey by Rinaldo’s enemies; and the ruler determined to punish the youth severely; but he, warned by his friends, escaped from camp and fled to Antioch. To Godfrey, deprived thus of Rinaldo and many of his brave Adventurers, was brought the tidings that the Egyptian expedition was on its way, and that a ship laden with provisions had been intercepted on its way to his camp.
The bold Argantes, weary of the restraint of the siege, sent a challenge to the Christians, saying he would meet any Frank, high-born or low, in single combat, the conditions being that the vanquished should serve the victor. A thousand knights burned to accept the challenge, but Godfrey named Tancred, who proudly buckled on his armor and called for his steed. As he approached the field, he saw among the pagan hosts, who stood around to view the combat, the fair face of Clorinda, and stood gazing at her, forgetful of all else. Otho, seeing his delay, spurred on his horse, and fought till vanquished. Then Tancred woke from his stupor, and, burning with shame, rushed forward. The battle raged until night fell, and the weary warriors ceased, pledging themselves to return on the morrow.
Erminia, shut up in Jerusalem, mourned over the wounds of Tancred. She knew many healing balms, by which, were she with him, she might heal him and make him ready for the morrow’s fight; but she was forced to administer them to his enemy instead. Unable to endure the suspense longer, she put on her friend Clorinda’s armor and fled to the Christian camp to find her beloved. The Franks, who spied her, supposed her Clorinda, and pursued her; but she succeeded in reaching a woodland retreat, where she determined to remain with the kind old shepherd and his wife who had fled from the disappointments of the court and had here sought and found peace in their humble home. When Tancred heard from his followers that they had driven Clorinda from the camps, he determined to pursue and speak with her. Rising from his bed he sought the forest only to fall into the wiles of Armida, and be lured into a castle, in whose dungeon he lay, consumed with shame at the thought of his unexplained absence from the morrow’s combat.
When morning dawned and Tancred did not appear, the good old Count Raymond went forth to meet Argantes. When he was about to overcome his antagonist, an arrow shot from the pagan ranks brought on a general conflict, in which the Christians were successful until a storm, summoned by the powers of darkness, put an end to the battle. The next morning a knight came to the camp of Godfrey to tell of Sweno’s defeat and slaughter. He, the sole survivor of the band, had been commissioned by some supernatural visitants to bring Sweno’s sword to Rinaldo.
While Godfrey’s heart was wrung by this disaster, the camp of Italians, led to suppose by some bloody armor found in a wood that Rinaldo had been treacherously slain with the connivance of Godfrey, accused the chief and stirred up the camp to revolt; but Godfrey, praying to Heaven for strength to meet his enemies, walked through the camp firmly and unfalteringly, unarmed and with head bare, his face still bright with the heavenly light left there by spiritual communion, and silenced the tumult by a few well-chosen words. His arch-accuser Argillan he sentenced to death; the others crept back to their tents in shame.
The Soldan Solyman, driven from Nice at its capture, had joined the Turks, and, spurred on by hate and fury, made a night attack on the Frankish camp. The Franks, saved only by the interposition of the angel Michael, and by the troops just returned, released from Armida’s enchantment, fought fiercely, and at dawn put Solyman to flight. By the arts of Ismeno he was conveyed to Jerusalem by a secret way, where he cheered the discouraged Aladine.
Before attempting to storm the city, the Christian troops, by the advice of Peter the Hermit, walked in a long procession to Mt. Olivet, filling the heavens with melody, and there partook of the communion administered by the warrior priests, William and Ademar. The next morning, Godfrey, in the light armor of a foot-soldier, appeared with his barons, prepared for the storm. The troops were arranged carefully, the huge engines were moved forward, and the Franks made a bold attempt against the walls, from the top of which Clorinda aimed her arrows, wounding and slaying many men. Godfrey himself was wounded, but was healed by divine aid, and immediately returned to the field to rally his troops. Night fell, and the contest was deferred until another day.
Clorinda, burning to distinguish herself, determined to fire the huge towers of the Christians. Her eunuch tried to dissuade her because he had been warned in a dream that she would this night meet her death. He told her her history. Her mother was a Christian who had been compelled to put her infant away from her. This eunuch had rescued her from death and brought her up, failing, however, to obey an angel’s command to have her baptized a Christian.
Clorinda would not heed his caution, but went forth and fired the Frankish machines. She and the fleeing pagans were pursued by the Christians; and while her companions reached the city in safety, she was accidentally shut out and met Tancred in mortal combat. She refused to tell her name until she felt her death-wound, and then she prayed her enemy to baptize her, that she might die a Christian. The broken-hearted Tancred fell fainting on her corpse, and was found there the next morning by the Franks. Neither his comrades, nor Godfrey and Peter the Hermit, were able to rouse him from his melancholy.
Their machines destroyed, timbers were needed by the Franks to construct new ones. Knowing this, Ismeno laid spells on the forest, so that the warriors sent thither by Godfrey were frightened away by the sights they saw therein. Even Tancred was put to flight when one of the demons took the form of his beloved Clorinda. To add to the discomfort of the Franks, excessive heat overpowered them, and they suffered tortures from lack of water until the prayers of Godfrey moved the Ruler of the Earth with pity, and He sent down the longed-for showers.
Delighted with the piety of Godfrey, the Great King sent him a dream by which he might know the will of Heaven. Lifted through the whirling spheres, his ears charmed with their music, his eyes dazzled by the brilliancy of the stars, he saw Duke Hugo, who told him that Rinaldo must be sought out before the conquest of Jerusalem could be accomplished. The same Power influenced the princes in council so that by the will of all, two knights, one of them him to whom Sweno’s sword had been given, were despatched to seek Rinaldo. Instructed by Peter the Hermit, they sought the sea-coast, and found a wizard, who, after showing them the splendor of his underground abode beneath the river’s bed, revealed to them the way in which they were to overcome the wiles of Armida.
A beautiful maid with dove-like eyes and radiant smile received them in her small bark, and they were soon flying over the sea, marvelling at the rich cities and vast fleets by which they passed. Leaving rich Cadiz and the Pillars of Hercules, they sped out into the unknown sea, while the maiden told them of how some day Columbus would venture into unknown seas to find a new continent. On, on they flew, past the Happy Isles, the Fortunate, long the song of the poet; where the olive and honey made happy the land, and the rivers swept down from the mountains in silver streamlets; where every bird-song was heavenly music, a place so divine that there were placed of old the Elysian fields. To one of these islands the lady steered, and the knights disembarked, and started on their perilous journey up the mountain. Following the wizard’s instructions, they waved the golden rod at the monstrous serpents hissing in their pathway, and they vanished; they steeled their hearts against the charms of the voluptuous maids bathing in the lake, and passed without tasting the fountain of laughter. Then the spacious palace met their eyes. Built round a garden, its marble courts and unnumbered galleries formed a trackless maze through which they could never have found their way without the aid of the wizard’s map. As they trod the marble floors they paused many times to view the matchless carvings on the silver doors, which told anew the beautiful old stories of love triumphant.
Once through the winding ways, they entered the wonderful garden which art and nature combined to render the most beautiful spot on earth. The same trees bore ripe fruit, buds, and blossoms; the birds sang joyfully in the green bowers; and the faint breezes echoed their song. One bird sang a song of love, and when the tender melody was done the other birds took it up and sang until the forest rang with melody, and all was love, love, love. Then the knights saw Rinaldo, lying in the grove, his head in the lap of the enchantress. His sword was gone from his side, and in its place hung a mirror in which he sometimes gazed at Armida’s reflection. When Armida left him alone for a few hours, the knights surprised Rinaldo, and turned the wizard’s diamond shield upon him. For the first time he saw himself as others saw him, and, blushing with shame, announced himself ready to return with them to rescue Jerusalem. Tearing off his ornaments, he hastened down the mountain, but not soon enough to escape Armida. Tears, prayers, threats she used in vain. She had captured him when he fled from the camp, intending to slay him; but moved by his beauty, she had spared him, and falling in love with him, had reared this palace that they might in it revel in love’s pleasures. Now, miserable, she saw him desert her, and destroying the beautiful haunt, she drove her swift chariot across the seas to the camp of the Egyptian king, who was hastening towards Jerusalem. Intent on the slaughter of Rinaldo, her love for whom had changed to bitter hate, she offered the warriors of the Egyptian king, all of whom had fallen victims to her charms, her hand as a reward to the slayer of Rinaldo.
When Rinaldo and his rescuers reached the abode of the wizard they found him waiting with new arms for the young hero. The sage reproached him gently for his dalliance, and then, seeing the blush of shame upon his countenance, showed him the shield, which bore the illustrious deeds of his ancestors of the house of Este. Great as were their past glories, still greater would be those of the family which he should found, greatest of whom would be the Duke Alphonso.
Rinaldo, having told his story to Godfrey, and confessed his wrong-doing to Peter the Hermit, proceeded to the enchanted forest; and though as beauteous scenes, and as voluptuous sirens displayed themselves to him as dwelt in Armida’s garden, yea, though one tree took the semblance of Armida herself, he boldly hacked the trunk and broke the magic spell. Joyfully the Franks set to work to fell the huge trees and construct vaster, stronger engines than before, under the direction of a master mechanic. At the same time, Vafrino, a cunning squire of Tancred, was commissioned to go forth in disguise and inspect the camp of the coming Egyptian king. Even before he departed, a carrier pigeon, driven back by a hawk, fell into Godfrey’s hands, bearing a message to Aladine from Egypt, saying that in four or five days he would be with him in Jerusalem.
Godfrey, determined to take the city before that day should come, made the utmost exertions to have the machines completed. In Jerusalem, also, great preparations were made, machines built, and a fearful fire concocted by Ismeno with which to drive the assaulters from the wall.
Shriven by the priests, the Christian army went forth to battle. Godfrey took his stand against the northern gate; Raymond was assigned to the steep sharp crags at the southwest walls, and Guelph and the two Roberts were stationed on the track to Gaza to watch for the Egyptians.
The pagans fought with great fury, bringing out new instruments to oppose the huge battering rams, raining down arrows, and throwing the suffocating fire. But Rinaldo, to whom all this work appeared too slow, urged on his bold Adventurers to form a tortoise, hastened to the wall, seized a scaling ladder, and, unmoved by any missile, mounted the wall and assisted his followers, in spite of the multitudes who surrounded him, attempting to hurl him down. But as Godfrey advanced, Ismeno launched his terrible fire-balls, more horrible than the flames of Mt. Etna; they affected even the vast tower, swelling and drying the heavy skins that covered its sides until protecting Heaven sent a breeze that drove the flames back to the city. Ismeno, accompanied by two witches, hurried to the wall, but was crushed by a stone that ground his and their bones to powder. Godfrey, inspired by a vision of the slain soldiery fighting in his ranks, leaped upon the wall and planted the red-cross flag. Raymond was also successful, and the Christians rushed over the walls into the town, following Aladine, who hastened to shut himself up in the citadel.
While the battle was raging, but success was assured to the Christians, Tancred and the terrible Argantes met, and glad of an opportunity to settle their quarrel, withdrew to a glade in the forest. Tancred, stung by the taunts of cowardice for his former failure to keep his appointment, fought bitterly. He had not the sheer strength of his antagonist, but his sleight at last overcame, and Argantes fell. Weakened by pain and loss of blood, Tancred fell senseless, and was thus found by Erminia, who had met Vafrino the spy in the camp of the Egyptians and had fled with him. They revived Tancred, and carried him home to be nursed by the delighted Erminia.
Vafrino had seen Armida in the camp and had learned through Erminia not only the princes’ designs on Rinaldo, but also that they meant to assume the signs of the red-cross knights and thus reach the neighborhood of Godfrey and slay him. On this intelligence Godfrey changed the signs of his men that they might recognize the Egyptians on the following day and put them to death.
Terrible to the Franks was the sight of the Egyptian army when they opened their eyes upon it next morning. Clouds of dust obscured all the heavens, hills, and valleys, so great was the coming host. But Godfrey, with an eloquence that fired each soul, told them of the helplessness of the enemy, of how many of them were slaves, scourged to the battle, and reminded them of the great undertaking before them, the saving of the Sepulchre, until fired with zeal, and burning to fight, they rushed into battle and dispersed the Egyptians. Many of the Christians fell by the sword of the terrible Soldan, among them Gildippe and her husband, united in death as in life. Rinaldo, hearing of their slaughter, speedily avenged it by laying the Soldan low on the battle-field.
One after another of Armida’s champions attacked Rinaldo, determined to win the prize, but his good sword sent them to earth, and Armida was left alone and unprotected. Rinaldo, having seen her fly away over the plain and knowing the victory achieved, followed and found her ready to put herself to death in a lonely glade. He snatched the sword from her hand and speedily changed back her hate to love. She fell upon his breast, and with the promise to become a Christian and give her life to him, accompanied him back to the city.
During the battle, Aladine and those who were imprisoned in the citadel overpowered Count Raymond, and rushed out to battle, only to be overcome and slain. Prince Altamore, who, covered with blood, remained alone on the field, yielded himself to Godfrey, and was given his life and his kingdom.
Then, from the field covered with spoil and floating with blood, the conquering troops, clad in their bloody armor, marched in solemn cavalcade to the Temple and paid their vowed devotions at the sacred tomb.