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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Spy Who Came in from the Heat (1)

The Crusaders decide to send a spy to the Muslim camp: Vafrino, a squire of Tancred.
The episode was set in another section in Gerusalemme Liberata (cantos 18-19), and was quite different in its developments. In both versions, however, Vafrino starts by disguising himself as a Muslim, or rather, as Arabs often appear in modern children's books, stickers and comics.

As it can be inferred from other episodes in the Jerusalem-poems as well as from other works by Tasso, he loved detective stories. The major example is in Gerusalemme Liberata, canto 8, when false clues make some Crusaders believe that the knight Rinaldo has been murdered by order of no less than Godfrey of Bouillon. The parallel episode in the Conquistata (where Rinaldo has been changed into Riccardo) has, unfortunately, not been dealt with in our posts because it belongs to the part missing in the manuscript.


[16: 67.5 - 68.8]

Così parla Vafrino, e non trattiensi,
Ma cangia in lunga vesta il suo farsetto
E scopre ignudo il nero collo, e prende
Sottili e 'ntorno al capo attorte bende.

La faretra s'adatta e l'arco siro,
E barbarico sembra ogni suo gesto.
Maravigliosi ragionar l'udîro,
E 'n sì diverse lingue esser sì presto
Ch'eggittio in Menfi o pur fenice in Tiro
L'havria creduto e quel popolo e questo.
Egli se 'n va sovra un destrier ch'à pena
Segna correndo la più molle arena.

So speaks Vafrino, then does not tarry, and
His doublet replaces with a long garment;
He shows a black neck naked, then wears
A long, thin cloth all around his head;
Arranges a quiver, a Syrian bow,
All his gestures now recall the heathens'.
All were amazed while listening to him,
So skilled in so many different languages
That he could have passed for an Egyptian
In Memphis, a Phoenician in Tyre.
He goes, riding a horse who hardly leaves
A print on the finest sand by galloping.