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Friday, May 16, 2014

Rebel With a Cause (6)

[6: 41] Berserkr!

Quasi in quel punto mille spade ardenti
Fiammeggiâr, mille gridi udîrsi insieme,
Ché varia turba di pietose genti
D'ogni 'ntorno v'accorre, e s'urta e preme;
D'incerte voci e di confusi accenti,
Un suon per l'aria si raggira e freme,
Qual s'ode in riva al mar, ove confonda
Il vento i suoi co 'l mormorar de l'onda.

Presently, nearly a thousand shiny swords
Flamed, a thousand shouts resounded together,
As a motley crew of pitying people
Rush, knocking and pressing one another;
The sound of uncertain voices and mixed
Cries circulates and vibrates in the air,
Like on the sea coasts, when the wind
Mixes its sounds with the waves' whispers.


Notes
As it is often the case, Tasso suddenly shifts from the past tense to the present, to increase the dramatic effect.
The first two verses recall Milton, Paradise Lost 1: 663-668. Had he this episode in mind? From the parallel section in Gerusalemme Liberata (5: 28) at least, where these verses already appeared in a basically identical form. The only -- and interesting -- difference is in verse 3, in which the rushing people were termed mal caute, "unwise," instead of "pitying."
As to the second half of this stanza, it is clearly a paraphrase of Dante, Inferno 3: 25-30.