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Friday, September 23, 2016

Whatcha gonna do now, Tancred? (4)

[16: 36]

Allor s'arretra, e dubbio alquanto resta:
- Che giovan qui (dicendo) o forze od armi?
Fra gli artigli de' mostri e 'n gola a questa
Devoratrice fiamma andrò a gettarmi?
Non mai la vita, ove cagione honesta
Del comun pro la chieda, altri risparmi,
Né prodigo ancor sia d'anima grande:
E tal è ben, se qui la versa e spande.

Then he withdraws and remain uncertain,
Saying, "Can strength or weapons here avail?
Shall I throw myself into monsters' claws
Or into the mouth of devouring fire?
Where the sound reason of Common Good
Requires it, let nobody spare his life,
But not even waste(*) a great soul, either!
And such it would be, by being shed here."

(*) In the final printed text, the Italian adjective prodigo, literally "prodigal, lavish" (with one's own soul) was changed into troppo largo: a synonym, probably chosen because prodigo could -- and can -- also be meant in a positive sense as "very, very generous."
Tancred's doubt would sound like a vulgar excuse in the mouth of a knight less valiant than him, but here epitomizes the complex balances required by the values of chivalry between different duties, or official duty and private accomplishments, especially in the fields of love and/or honor. See, e.g., Orlando Furioso 2, stanzas 27 and 65, with opposite solutions -- it is also true, however, that precisely by pursuing her private ends, Bradamante will fulfill the Big Plan.