by George Green
Van Dyke, Baltimore Museum of Art
Of course I notice first the naked nymph
who’s singing lustily and kindly tips
her score, so musicologists can read it.
It may be Monteverdi that she sings,
his non-extant “Armida.” The Mantuans
commissioned it and then their town was sacked;
the opera’s lost and only nymphs have copies.
Van Dyke’s Armida? That’s the problem here;
she looks like Mother Hubbard in a gown.
Compare her to Finiglio’s fell enchantress,
who’s got the Tassoean tenderness
and melancholy down, and beauty that
could devastate an army of Crusaders.
So Godfrey only lets ten knights depart
with her, the rest are made to cool their heels.
Then Eustace, lovesick, slips away by night,
and others in the darkness come along
like baffled scouts, or desperate rangers lost
on some frontier. But Eustace is the worst,
disdaining day and night and hell and death
to follow her, to chase a sorceress
through Palestine. The others, too, will slog,
all shattered now, all guilty of desertion,
all tremulous with infinite desire.