SiStan ChapLee

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Tancred vs Argantes (5)

[7: 61]

Posero in resta e gîr drizzando in alto
I duo guerrier le due gravose antenne;
Né fu di corso mai né fu di salto
Né fu mai tal velocità di penne
Né forza o furia eguale al fero assalto
Quando Argante e Tancredi in giostra venne.
Rupper l'haste negli elmi, e volâr mille
E tronchi e scheggie e lucide faville.

Both warriors laid their heavy lances 
In rest, put them high up, and started;
No such speed was ever seen in a run,
Nor in a jump, nor in a flight, no such
Strength or fury like that fierce attack
When Argantes and Tancred jousted.
Both spears broke against the helmets, away
Flew a thousand splinters and shining sparks.

Descriptions like this were frequent in Ariosto's poem of chivalry Orlando Furioso, but usually with some irony included (the splinters flying all the way up to the "sphere of fire," etc.). Here Tasso is being serious, with the paradoxical effect that meaningfulness follows parody, not the other way round.