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Friday, January 23, 2015

Duel (1)

[7: 26] After some shilly-shallying, the Emir allows Argantes to challenge the Christian knights.

Ivi solo discese, ivi fermosse
In vista de' nemici il fero Argante,
Per gran cor, per gran corpo e per gran posse
Superbo, anzi terribile al sembiante,
Qual ne l'Africa Anteo, ch'Alcide scosse,
O in ima valle il Filisteo gigante;
Ma pur molti di lui tema non hanno,
Ché quanto egli sia forte ancor non sanno.

There he alone descended, there he stopped
In sight of his enemies -- the fierce Argantes,
In his great heart, great limbs, and great strength
Superb; (*) indeed, even frightening to see,
Like the African Antaeus who shook Hercules, (**)
Or the giant Philistine on that valley floor.
Nevertheless, many are not afraid of him
Since they don't know yet how strong he is.

(*) The Italian word superbo corresponds to both "superb" and "proud," both often being meant at the same time in Dante's and Tasso's verses. In this case, however, it is essentially used as a praise.
(**) In Gerusalemme Liberata Argantes' description was basically the same as here, except for some minor details in the wording. The only significant difference is that, in line 5, he was likened to Giant Enceladus in Phlegra, instead of Antaeus; then Tasso probably thought that the simile of a cosmic entity fighting against the gods was an exaggeration. Antaeus had been defeated by Hercules, yes, but had wrestled valiantly; see Dante, Inferno 31: 119-121, 132.