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Friday, January 13, 2017

The Spy Who Came in from the Heat (8)

[16: 82, the captured spy speaks]

Questi, che d'Orïente estremo aggiunse,
Con le sue squadre attendò lunge e 'n disparte,
Perché da gli altri suo valor disgiunse
Lui che stimato è quasi un novo Marte;
Et a' carri falcati ivi congiunse
Destrier che frena con mirabil arte;
E questi ancor da l'indïane selve
Gli elefanti conduce, horride belve.

"This, (*) who came from the farthest East,
Camped with his squadrons far, on his own, since
His strength was kept apart from the others
By him who is considered a new Mars; (**)
And to scythed chariots he also adds
Steeds driven with a wonderful technique;
He, moreover, from the forests of India
Brought the elephants, frightening beasts." (***)

(*) Adrast
(**) Emiren, the general -- fictionally -- sent by the Sultan of Egypt, and the supreme head of the Muslim army in this final stage of battle for Jerusalem. A made-up character.
(***) Elephants were better known in Europe in the Renaissance (when Tasso wrote) than in the Middle Ages (when the story is set), but remained amazing animals anyway.
In the 11th century Islam had started to penetrate some areas of India, but of course Indian Muslims did not take part in the First Crusade! Adrast and his whole army are fictional characters too; we will see what literary sources Tasso drew on to depict this alleged far-eastern leader's intervention in battle.