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Friday, January 9, 2015

The best defense is attack (4)

[7: 7]

Ma se nel troppo osar tu poco speri,
Cinto di squadre e d'alte mura intorno,
Tenta ch'ogni tenzon per duo guerrieri
Hor sia decisa, e destinato il giorno:
Ch'accettaran l'invito i Franchi alteri,
Cui più superbi rende il primo scorno,
E perché scelgan l'arme, invitta destra
Non teme d'arte o di virtù maestra.

[Argantes speaking to Emir Ducat] ". . .  But if you, encircled by squadrons and by high walls, little hope in excessive daring, propose [at least] that the whole war be settled, right here and now, by two warriors(*) in a fixed day. This will surely be accepted by the haughty Franks, whom our first defeat made even prouder. Even if(**) they were granted to choose the weapon, an [ = my] undefeated hand will not fear any technique or power, however masterful."

(*) This solution had been tried in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso to settle the (imaginary) war in Paris at the time of Charlemagne, with inverted roles, the Muslims being the besiegers there. But it had not worked because the duel had been sabotaged by the witch Melissa, riding a horse-shaped devil and shaping herself as the fierce knight Rodomonte.
(**) Tasso here -- as he quite often does -- employs the word perché, usually meaning "because," in the sense of "even if." But probably this acceptation was not very clear already in the Renaissance; in fact, in the final printed version, perché was replaced with a standard benché.