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.
The Two Knights in Search for Rinaldo Reach the Fortunate Island, and Discover the Fountain of Laughter
By Torquato Tasso (1544–1595)
From ‘Jerusalem Delivered’: Translation of Edward Fairfax

“SEE here the stream of laughter, see the spring”
  (Quoth they) “of danger and of deadly pain:
Here fond desire must by fair governing
  Be ruled, our lust bridled with wisdom’s rein;
Our ears be stoppèd while these syrens sing,        5
  Their notes enticing man to pleasure vain.”
Thus past they forward where the stream did make
An ample pond, a large and spacious lake.
There on the table was all dainty food
  That sea, that earth, or liquid air could give:        10
And in the crystal of the laughing flood
  They saw two naked virgins bathe and dive,
That sometimes toying, sometimes wrestling stood,
  Sometimes for speed and skill in swimming strive:
Now underneath they dived, now rose above,        15
And ’ticing baits laid forth of lust and love.
These naked wantons, tender, fair, and white,
  Movèd so far the warriors’ stubborn hearts,
That on their shapes they gazèd with delight;
  The nymphs applied their sweet alluring arts,        20
And one of them above the waters quite
  Lift up her head, her breasts, and higher parts,
And all that might weak eyes subdue and take;
Her lower beauties veiled the gentle lake.
As when the morning star, escaped and fled        25
  From greedy waves, with dewy beams upflies,
Or as the queen of love, new born and bred
  Of th’ ocean’s fruitful froth, did first arise;
So vented she, her golden locks forth shed
  Round pearls and crystal moist therein which lies.        30
But when her eyes upon the knights she cast,
She start, and feigned her of their sight aghast:
And her fair locks, that on a knot were tied
  High on her crown, she ’gan at large unfold;
Which falling long and thick, and spreading wide,        35
  The ivory soft and white mantled in gold:
Thus her fair skin the dame would clothe and hide,
  And that which hid it no less fair was hold;
Thus clad in waves and locks, her eyes divine
From them ashamèd did she turn and twine:        40
Withal she smilèd, and she blushed withal,
  Her blush her smiling, smiles her blushing graced;
Over her face her amber tresses fall,
  Whereunder love himself in ambush placed:
At last she warbled forth a treble small,        45
  And with sweet looks her sweet songs interlaced:
“O happy men! that have the grace” (quoth she)
“This bliss, this heaven, this paradise to see.
“This is the place wherein you may assuage
  Your sorrows past; here is that joy and bliss        50
That flourished in the antique Golden Age;
  Here needs no law, here none doth aught amiss.
Put off those arms, and fear not Mars his rage,
  Your sword, your shield, your helmet needless is;
Then consecrate them here to endless rest,—        55
You shall love’s champions be and soldiers blest.”

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