SiStan ChapLee

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Spy Who Came in from the Heat (10)

Now the unnamed Muslim prisoner asks the Christian spy, Vafrino, to release him. But Vafrino does not trust him, and. . .

[16: 85]

Ma l'amicitia hor te di giusta pena
Guarda e sottragge a' più fieri tormenti,
Se d'Antiochia e de l'horribil cena
Di Boemondo invitto anco rammenti -.
Così dicendo, il fere in gola e svena,
E la via tronca a' dolorosi accenti;
E l'anima crudel, che geme e mugge,
Da le ferite mormorando fugge.

"But friendship now defends you against
A just punishment and fiercer tortures,
If you recall Antioch and the hideous
Supper of Bohemond the undefeated."
Saying so, Vafrino slits the other's throat
And cuts off the passage to his laments;
And his cruel soul, that groans and roars,
Out of his wounds murmuring flees.

What does Vafrino refer to? Did the two of them use to be friends? What happened during a supper in the palace of Bohemond, the Christian prince of Antioch (a historical personage)?
Tasso does not bother to explain it, and the episode did not appear in Gerusalemme Liberata for a comparison. A critical edition of Gerusalemme Conquistata would be needed, but there exists none! Yep, this is a pioneering blog.
Horror suppers have a glorious tradition in literature anyway, from Dante, Inferno 33: 118-120, to Macbeth.
This octave also underscores that Vafrino is not a knight -- he is a squire of Tancred, in fact. A knight would not kill a tied prisoner, and in cold blood.