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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The conspiracy (5)

Vafrino goes back to the Crusaders' encampment, and reports about the Muslim army. His not-very-flattering description was commonplace among Christian authors.

[GC 17: 70]

Ma sì de' cavalier sì de' pedoni
Sono in gran parte inutili le schiere:
Gente che non intende ordini e suoni
Né stringe ferro, e di lontan sol fere.
Ma son quelli oltre gli altri eletti e buoni
Che di Persia seguîr l'insegne altere;
E di questa anco è via migliore squadra
Quella che l'admiraglio ordina e squadra.

"But, both of knights and foot soldiers
The formations are mostly useless:
People unable to obey orders and sounds,
And use swords, they just hit from afar. (*)
Better, better chosen are those who
Followed the superb flags of Persia,
And much better than this is the squad
ruled by the Commander in chief." (**)

(*) By shooting arrows.
(**) The title admiraglio or ammiraglio, here used in its original, Arabic sense (amir al-), should belong to Emiren (17: 44, 47). Here however it refers to Ormond (see above) who, as we will be told soon, turns out to be the leader of a squad of “Assassins,” the historical and, at the same time, legendary sect of killers. This anyway is poetic license, as they did not take part in the actual Crusade. Canto 17 of Gerusalemme Conquistata is bristling with difficulties; unfortunately, there exists no commented edition of the poem, and one cannot resort to Gerusalemme Liberata since the whole episode was almost completely missing there, or radically different.