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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Understandable worries (4)

[8: 54, John the 300 y.o. warrior speaks to Godfrey]

E volto a lui, soggiunse: - Ahi, non sia vero
Ch'in un capo s'arrischi il popol tutto.
Duce sei tu, non pur sommo guerrero;
Pubblico fora e non privato il lutto.
In te la fé s'appoggia e 'l santo impero,
Per te fia 'l regno di Babel destrutto.
Tu molto il senno e poco il ferro adopra,
Ponga altri poi l'ardire e l'arme in opra.

And looking at him, he said, "Far be it
To jeopardize the whole people in one head. (*)
You are our leader, not simply a great knight:
Mourning for you would be shared, not private.
You support faith and the holy(**) empire,
You will destroy the kingdom of Babel. (***)
Employ your wisdom rather than the sword, 
Let others exercise boldness and weapons!"

(*) The wording was slightly modified in the final printed text: ". . . in the head of one man." Capo may mean "head" in both senses.
(**) Interestingly enough, in the final version "holy" was reduced to "our."
(***) The pagan world as a whole, sometimes called Paganìa -- but here, more realistically, the one city of Jerusalem then in the hands of Muslims -- is likened to the kingdom of Nimrod who defied God (Genesis, ch. 10). Still in current Italian una babele has a broadened meaning as "a complete, ungovernable chaos," also from a political viewpoint, e.g. Libya these days.