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His judgment be my guide; and when his voice
Shall on the bravest champion fix the choice,
Let one of you, who dares in fight the best,
That fatal buckler from the victor wrest,

410 And to my hand restore: such knight shall

prove My vow'd affection, far all knights above, And sovereign of my heart possess my throne and love. Thus from th' remotest ocean has she sent Three potent kings, who come with sworn intent 415 From him who wins it, to redeem the shield, Or by his sword lie breathless on the field.

Thus spoke the squire, while Bradamant to hear
Th’unwonted story gave attentive car.
The tale complete, the speaker spurr'd again 120
His steed, and soon regain'd the courtly train.

More slow the virgin kept her steed behind,
While many a thought came crowding on her mind.
Yon shield (she thought) in France may raise debate,
And sow the seeds of envy, strife, and hate

425
In every Paladin and rival knight,
Should Charles attempt to fix the claimant's right.
This thought disturb’d, but ah! her former thought
Far deeper anguish in her bosom wrought,
That false Rogero could from her depart,

430 And on Marphisa fix his changeful heart. So deep in this was buried every sense That, mindless of the way, she heeds not whence, Or what her course, or where she next may meet, To rest at night, a hospitable seat.

435 As when some vessel by the mastering wind, Or torrent surge, is from the land disjoin d,

5

410

Her rudder lost, no pilot for her guide,
She Aoats at random on th' uncertain tide:
So rov'd the virgin, while Rogero still
Engross'd her soul---at Rabicano's will
She rov’d; while distant many a mile remain
Iler thoughts that should direct the guiding rein.
At length she lifts her eyes and sees the sun
Near Bocchus' realm his evening journey run, 1.15,
And like the sea-gull now in ocean's breast,
Beyond Morocco dive to wonted rest;
And ill she judges, if she means to stray
In opening fields along the darkling way,
While the night air with chilly vapour blows,

450 Denouncing drizzling rain and freezing snows.

Her courser urging Bradamant pursues The track with greater speed, and soon she views A shepherd-boy retiring from the plain, Who slowly drives before his bleating train. 455 Of him the dame entreats some place to show That, fair or homely, shelter might bestow; However homely, better there to lie Than

pass the night beneath th’inclement sky. For five long leagues, I know not where can rest 460 (Reply'd the shepherd) a benighted guest, Save at a place which Tristram's lodge we call, But there t abide the chance to few

may

fall. What knight should there to find repose intend, His spear must win it, and his spear defend : 465

Ver. 443. Near Bocchus' realm---] Bocchus, a king who reigned in the farthest parts of Mauritania.

If thither comes a warrior when the place
No knight has hous'd, the lord with courteous grace
Admits the entering guest, but makes him swear
That should a new one to the rock repair,
His arm the stranger on the plain shall meet:
Should none arrive, he peaceful keeps his seat.
When two knights joust, the warrior, doom'd to yield,
Must quit the fort and sleep in open field.
If four, or five, or more, in social train
At once appear, they ready entrance gain :

175
But ill he fares, who comes an after-guest:
With whom the troop, already hous'd, shall rest
By turns the lance : should one, receiv'd within,
Possess the place which others come to win;
These, one by one, shall call him to the plain, 480
And he with all in turn the strise maintain.
So when the longe admits a dame or maid,
Alone or with companion thither led,
If chance another comes, whoe'er can gain
Th' award for beauty, shall her seat maintain: 485
But she, whose form her rival's charms outshine,
For air unshelter'd must the place resign.
Instruct

me, swain (she cry’d) yon lodge to find: The simple swain with ready tongue rejoin'd, And pointed with his hand the nearest way

490 To where six miles remote the dwelling lay.

Though well his speed good Rabicano ply'd, Though Bradamant in either bleeding side Drove deep the spur, yet through the miry road Slippery with clay, with drenching waters flow'd, 495 The lodge she reach'd not till the darkening night Had quonch'd in shade the world's all-cheering light.

She found the portal barr’d, then loud address'd
The watchful guard, and claim'd her right of guest.
The place was fill'd (he answer'd to the dame) 500
With knights and damsels that but newly came,
And round the blazing hearth impatient stood
To sate their hunger with refreshing food.
If still they fast, I trust (the virgin cries)
'Tis not for them the cook his fare supplies.

505 Go--bear my message---I their force defy, The law I know, and with the law comply.

The guard departing to the knights convey'd The bold defiance of the martial maid, That from warm shelter call'd them forth to dare 510 Th' inclement chillness of nocturnal air: And now the clouds a plenteous shower began: Yet each his weapons seiz’d, and man by man Went where the virgin stood their force to wait; The rest remain'd within the castle-gate.

515 Three knights were these, in arms esteem'd so well, That few on earth their valour could excel: These were the warriors that day were seen, With the fair envoy from Islanda's queen, To whom they boasted oft with sword or lance 520 To bring again the golden shield from France: These three had far outrode the martial dame, And hence before her to the castle came : Few knights there were so well at tilt could run, But midst those few the martial fair was one, 525 Who meant not there unshelter'd to remain, Foodless, alone, and wet with drizzling rain.

Meanwhile from windows and the turrets height Spectators stand to view th' approaching fight,

Seen by the moon, while through the shower that streams

530 From broken clouds, she darts her watry beams. As some fond youth whom beauty fires to love, When at his fair-one's porch he waits to prove The lover's dear reward, with rapture hears The bolt slow moving in his longing ears:

535 So Bradamant, whose generous bosom fir’d With honour's praise, to noble deeds aspir’d, Rejoices when she hears the gates unbar, And sees the draw-bridge lower'd, and deck'd for war Beholds the champions issue to the plain :

510 Soon as she view'd them near, she turn'd her rein The length of field to measure for the course, Then back at speed in pelld her foaming horse. That spear she bore, which trusted to her hand Her kinsman gave, which nothing could withstand, 545 Which each opponent humbled in the dust, Though Mars himself, oppos’d, receiv'd the thrust. The king of Sweden who the first to meet The virgin mov’d, was first to lose his seat: Against his helm the lance so strongly came, 550 The lance that ne'er deceiv'd the guider's aim. Next Gothland's monarch ran, who leadlong far Fell from his steed with heels high rais'd in air. In filth and mire the third half stifled lay, Roll'd o'er and o'er amidst the wütery way.

555 Thus with three strokes three knights to earth she drove, With heads cast downward and with feet above. Then to the lodge she went, but ere her right Was there confirm’d to pass at ease the night,

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