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Friday, October 3, 2014

A temporary farewell to arms (3)

[6: 79]

Ma se nova prigion tu pur ricusi
E del severo imperio il grave pondo,
E seguir vuoi l'opinïoni e gli usi
Che per legge d'honore approva il mondo,
Io sarò quel che ti difenda e scusi.
Tu lontano ricovra a Boemondo,
Ch'ivi secura anchor d'ingrato oltraggio
Splenderà tua virtù con vivo raggio.

[Tancred speaks to Richard:] "But if you reject this unprecedented jailing and the excessive weight of a stern command, and choose rather to follow the opinions and customs which the world accepts as the Law of Honor, I will be the one who will defend and excuse you. You meanwhile seek refuge far from here, at Bohemond's(*) Court, where your valor will vividly shine, safe from any odious outrage."

(*) Norman prince, the eldest son of Robert Guiscard; he had conquered Antioch and now ruled it. In Tasso's poem, Antioch is often described as a safe place . . .  but, for one reason or another, nobody -- let alone Richard -- ever goes there to find shelter. Noticeably, Tancred first tries to instill Christian principles in Richard, then resorts to the "law of honor," that was much more deeply felt, and not only among soldiers. See even Dante, Inferno 29: 18 ff.