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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Ummah (8)

The military parade near Gaza ends with another of the main heroes in the Muslim army. We had already heard about him, but here his story is told us, and is a quite peculiar one.

[GC 17: 40]

Ma duce è un fero armeno, il qual traggitto
Al paganesmo ne l'età novella
Fe' da la vera fede; et ove ditto
Fu già Clemente, hora Emiren s'appella.
Per altro, huom fido e caro al Re d'Eggitto
Sovra quanti per lui calcâr la sella;
È duce insieme e cavalier sovrano
Per cor, per senno e per robusta mano.

The leader is a fierce Armenian, who 
In his young age shifted to paganism
From true faith; whereas he used to
Be called Clement, now is Emiren. (*)
Loyal however and dear to Egypt's King
Above all the men who ride for him;
He is the leader and the supreme knight
By courage, and wisdom, and strength.

(*) Conversions from Christianity to Islam, and the other way round, were not well accepted at all, not even by the followers of the target religion -- some mean reason was usually supposed to be the cause of the faith change. But Emiren is so valiant that Tasso, in the last two lines, even gives him the same features as Godfrey of Bouillon (see both GL 1: 1 and GC 1: 1).
Emiren's former Christian name was changed into "Severo" in the final printed version of Gerusalemme Conquistata, maybe because Clement (VIII) was the name of the Pope elected in 1592, precisely while Tasso was polishing the poem. The reference might have sounded ironic, though involuntarily so.
There also is a little joke. Severo means "stern, inflexible": Tasso simply replaced the former name, "clement," with its opposite.

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