The Captain (Godfrey) replies, "Let the most powerful here give examples of obedience to the less powerful! You ill advise, Tancred, and ill evaluate, if you think that I will leave a fault unpunished. What kind of command would this be if I were to command only the lower ranks -- the Captain of the plebs! An all too weak scepter and a shameful power: if it is accepted [by you all] on such conditions, I don't want it.
But it was freely given(*) and it is a venerable role, so let nobody dismiss its honor and awe! I do know how and when one should make provision for different penalties and rewards, or else, preserving equality, make no distinction between the high and the low ranks." So he spoke, nor did Tancred reply, overcome by due respect.
(*) By the main Chiefs taking part in the Crusade, at least in the fictional reconstruction of it made by Tasso; the actual role of the historical Godfrey of Bouillon was a more complex and shaded thing. But, more in depth, Godfrey means that God himself appointed him as the Captain, as it was shown in Canto 1 (an episode not reported in this blog, because we are translating from the manuscript of Gerusalemme Conquistata, in which the whole Canto 1 is missing).
In this section, Tasso seeks a difficult balance between the Renaissance 'Nietzschean' conception of the knight as a 'superman' whose behavior was beyond all rules and all authorities -- see Ariosto's Orlando Furioso -- and the Christian requirements for humbleness and justice, applying to anybody. As we will soon see, in Gerusalemme Conquistata the "clash" between the two attitudes will be tougher than in Gerusalemme Liberata.