SiStan ChapLee

Friday, December 5, 2014

Let he who loves me follow me (4)

[6: 118]

D'intorno a l'acque tepide et immonde
De l'horribil palude, ovunque allaghi,
Habitan l'infelici antiche sponde
(Sì come è vecchia fama) e maghe e maghi.
Altri ne le spelunche ivi s'asconde,
Pur come siano orsi e leoni e draghi;
Altri occulti palagi alza d'intorno.
Fe' in mezzo Armida il suo edificio adorno.

All around the lukewarm and filthy waters
Of the horrid swamp, wherever it flows,
The ancient, unblessed shores are inhabited
(As old fame reports) by witches and wizards.
Some hide themselves in the grottoes there
As if they were bears or lions or dragons;
Others built secret palaces all around.
Armida set her rich palace in the midst.

The imagery of the swamp inhabited by witches has a long tradition: it appeared in Beowulf, for example. More directly, Tasso draws on the story of the witch Manto, the legendary founder of the town of Mantua in Italy, as recounted by Dante (Inferno 20: 79 ff) and Ludovico Ariosto (Orlando Furioso 43, stanzas 96-98; but noticeably, Ariosto terms Manto a "fairy," showing her as a positive character, even defending witches in an era in which they were fiercely persecuted).