SiStan ChapLee

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Entrapped (3)

[8: 40.1 - 41.2]

Tale il guerriero allhor (qual che si fosse
De la strana prigion l'ordigno e l'arte)
Entrò da sé, ché troppo ardir il mosse;
E fu rinchiuso ond'huom per sé non parte.
Ben con robusta man la porta ei scosse,
Ma fûr le sue fatiche in vano sparte,
E voce intanto udì ch' - Indarno (grida)
Uscir procuri, o prigionier d'Armida.

Qui menerai (non temer già di morte)
Nel sepolcro de' vivi i mesi e gli anni -.

[Like a fish in a net]
The warrior then -- whatever the shape
And technique of that strange jail was --
Went in of his own will, spurred by boldness:
He was shut in, unable to free himself.
He did shake the door with all of his
Strength, but his efforts proved useless;
And heard a voice shouting, "In vain you try
To escape, prisoner of Armida!
Don't be afraid of death: you will spend
Months and years in the grave of the living."

Armida's castle -- see the works by St. Teresa of Avila -- is an all too clear symbol of sin, the darkness in which humankind is enveloped and whence we cannot escape without the help of God's grace. A more literal translation of line 4 would in fact read: "He was shut in a place whence no man can leave on his own."
From a poetic viewpoint, it is worth noticing that Tasso here breaks the boundaries of the octave, and adopts a syncopated rhythm in some lines (this is more obvious in the original Italian text, while the English translation simplifies things a bit).