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.
Tancred in Ignorance Slays Clorinda
By Torquato Tasso (1544–1595)
From ‘Jerusalem Delivered’: Translation of Edward Fairfax

AS Ægean’s seas, when storms be calmed again
  That rolled their tumbling waves with troublous blast,
Do yet of tempests past some show retain,
  And here and there their swelling billows cast:
So though their strength were gone, and might were vain,        5
  Of their first fierceness still the fury lasts;
Wherewith sustained, they to their tackling stood,
And heapèd wound on wound, and blood on blood.
But now, alas! the fatal hour arrives
  That her sweet life must leave that tender hold:        10
His sword into her bosom deep he drives,
  And bathed in lukewarm blood his iron cold;
Between her breasts the cruel weapon rives
  Her curious square embost with swelling gold;
Her knees grow weak, the pains of death she feels,        15
And like a fallen cedar, bends and reels.
The prince his hand upon her shield doth stretch,
  And low on earth the wounded damsel laith;
And while she fell, with weak and woeful speech
  Her prayers last and last complaints she saith:        20
A spirit new did her those prayers teach,
  Spirit of hope, of charity, and faith;
And though her life to Christ rebellious were,
Yet dièd she his child and handmaid dear.
“Friend, thou hast won; I pardon thee: nor save        25
  This body, that all torments can endure,
But save my soul; baptism I dying crave,—
  Come, wash away my sins with waters pure.”
His heart relenting nigh in sunder rave,
  With woeful speech of that sweet creature;        30
So that his rage, his wrath, and anger died,
And on his cheek salt tears for ruth down slide.
With murmur loud down from the mountain’s side
  A little runnel tumbled near the place:
Thither he ran and filled his helmet wide,        35
  And quick returned to do that work of grace:
With trembling hands her beaver he untied,
  Which done, he saw, and seeing knew her face,
And lost therewith his speech and moving quite,
Of woeful knowledge! Ah, unhappy sight!        40
He dièd not, but all his strength unites,
  And to his virtues gave his heart in guard;
Bridling his grief, with water he requites
  The life that he bereft with iron hard:
And while the sacred words the knight recites,        45
  The nymph to heaven with joy herself prepared;
And as her life decays, her joys increase:
She smiled and said, “Farewell! I die in peace.”
As violets blue ’mongst lilies pure men throw,
  So paleness ’midst her native white begun.        50
Her looks to heaven she cast; their eyes, I trow,
  Downward for pity bent both heaven and sun.
Her naked hand she gave the knight, in show
  Of love and peace; her speech, alas! was done.
And thus the virgin fell on endless sleep:        55
Love, Beauty, Virtue, for your darling weep.

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