- Rinaldo and Armida
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. [End Page 334]
GEORGE GREEN’s book, Lord Byron’s Foot, won The New Criterion Poetry Prize and The Poet’s Prize. In 2014 he received an Award in Literature from The American Academy of Arts and Letters.