SiStan ChapLee

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A temporary farewell to arms (2)

[6: 75-77]

Meanwhile, Tancred tries to soften Richard's bitter resentment and anger: . . .

"Ha, will you today stain your valiant hands with innocent blood, and by wounding His people to death, stab Christ himself, of whom they are members and parts? Will a vain glory, and honor, which darkens and fades as the ebbs and flows of sea waves, affect you more than the love and zeal for that glory which becomes eternal in heaven?

No, by God! Overcome yourself, get rid of this fierce and proud mind of yours! Surrender, if a noble longing for honor is what really moves you, because a palm and a crown are kept for you in heaven. And if, in our earlier years, you judged me worthy of being followed as a model, please remember that, being curbed by the modesty of fortune, I despised both gold and lands."

A significant summary of the values at the basis of Christian chivalry. A heartfelt religious creed, here even with reference to St. Paul's theology (see Acts of the Apostles 9: 4, Romans 12: 5, I Corinthians 6: 15, etc.), is associated with the feeling of comradeship among soldiers.
Tancred/Tancredi is a historical personage who actually took part in the First Crusade, though Tasso 'duly' makes him a bit nobler than he was. He was an Italian-Norman knight, related to Robert Guiscard who, in his turn, also inspired the fictional character of Richard. Tancred here refers to the campaign in Cilicia, a region in the South-East of current Turkey, that (as it is told in stanza 78, here not reported) had been conquered by him, but then usurped by Baldovinus, Godfrey's brother; that, incidentally, provides us with a less idealized picture of the Crusade.