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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Spy Who Came in from the Heat (5)

[76.1 - 77.4]

Poi che s'avide che non può dar crollo,
Svelle la chioma e la sua nera barba,
Come fa de la menta o del serpollo
Il villan, che cogliendo egli dibarba.
Alfin premendo l'una mano al collo,
Che parea tinto dove nacque Iarba,
Gridò: - Confessa, mentitor fallace,
Il vero a me, se vita brami e pace.

Di' chi sei, donde vieni, ov'era dritto
Dinanzi il tuo corso errante e fuggitivo.
E non mentir, che non sarai trafitto,
E quinci partirai satollo e vivo -.

When he(*) saw that the man could not move, (**)
He tore off his hair and his black beard,
As with a plant of mint or wild thyme
A farmer does when he uproots them.
Then pressing one hand against his neck,
That looked as dark as in Iarbas' birthplace, (***)
Vafrino cried, "Treacherous liar, confess
The truth now, if you love life and peace!
Who are you, whence do you come, and where
Did your wandering, fleeing route lead?
Do not lie, for you will not be slain,
Yeah, you will leave sated and alive."

(*) Vafrino
(**) The Italian phrasing echoes Dante, Inferno 25: 9.
(***) Iarbas was a North African king mentioned in the Iliad. The definition of Africa as "the land of Iarbas" comes from Dante, Purgatorio 31: 72, where Iarba already rhymed with barba (beard) and dibarba (uproots), but here Dante's "strong oaks" are replaced with humble herbs. In the third line, the unusual form serpollo instead of serpillo (wild thyme) is due to the needs of rhyming. Tasso's love for plants and their uses emerges in his contemporary long poem Il Mondo Creato.

Christmas break: The GC posts will restart on January 7.