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"[Translation] From Tasso [Gerusalemme Liberata] Canto 14, Stanza 32-9."

"[Translation] From Tasso [Gerusalemme Liberata]
Canto 14, Stanza 32-9."


Preser commiato, e si 'l desire gli sprona, &c:

1 Dismissed at length, they break through all delay
2 To tempt the dangers of the doubtful way;
3 And first to Ascalon their steps they bend,
4 Whose walls along the neighbouring sea extend.
5 Nor yet in prospect rose the distant shore,
6 Scarce the hoarse waves from far were heard to roar,
7 When thwart the road a river rolled its flood
8 Tempestuous, and all further course withstood:
9 The torrent-stream his ancient bounds disdains,
10 Swoll'n with new force and late-descending rains.
11 Irresolute they stand, when lo! appears
12 The wondrous sage: vigorous he seemed in years,
13 Awful his mien; low as his feet there flows
14 A vestment unadorned, though white as new-fall'n snows;
15 Against the stream the waves secure he trod,
16 His head a chaplet bore, his hand a rod.

17 As on the Rhine when Boreas' fury reigns
18 And winter binds the floods in icy chains,
19 Swift shoots the village-maid in rustic play,
20 Smooth, without step, adown the shining way,
21 Fearless in long excursion loves to glide,
22 And sports and wantons o'er the frozen tide;
23 So moved the seer, but on no hardened plain:
24 The river boiled beneath and rushed towards the main.
25 Where fixed in wonder stood the warlike pair
26 His course he turned and thus relieved their care:

27 'Vast, O my friends, and difficult the toil
28 To seek your hero in a distant soil!
29 No common helps, no common guide, ye need,
30 Art it requires and more than winged speed.
31 What length of sea remains, what various lands,
32 Oceans unknown, inhospitable sands!
33 For adverse fate the captive chief has hurled
34 Beyond the confines of our narrow world.
35 Great things and full of wonder in your ears
36 I shall unfold; but first dismiss your fears,
37 Nor doubt with me to tread the downward road
38 That to the grotto leads, my dark abode.'

39 Scarce had he said, before the warriors' eyes
40 When mountain-high the waves disparted rise:
41 The flood on either hand its billows rears,
42 And in the midst a spacious arch appears.
43 Their hands he seized and down the steep he led,
44 Beneath the obedient river's inmost bed.
45 The watery glimmerings of a fainter day
46 Discovered half, and half concealed, their way,
47 As when athwart the dusky woods by night
48 The uncertain crescent gleams a sickly light.
49 Through subterraneous passages they went,
50 Earth's inmost cells and caves of deep descent.
51 Of many a flood they viewed the secret source,
52 The birth of rivers, rising to their course;
53 Whate'er with copious train its channel fills,
54 Floats into lakes or bubbles into rills.
55 The Po was there to see, Danubius' bed,
56 Euphrates' fount and Nile's mysterious head.
57 Further they pass, where ripening minerals flow,
58 And embryon metals undigested glow;
59 Sulphureous veins and living silver shine,
60 Which soon the parent sun's warm powers refine,
61 In one rich mass unite the precious store,
62 The parts combine and harden into ore.
63 Here gems break through the night with glittering beam,
64 And paint the margin of the costly stream.
65 All stones of lustre shoot their vivid ray,
66 And mix attempered in a various day.

67 Here the soft emerald smiles, of verdant hue,
68 And rubies flame, with sapphires heavenly blue;
69 The diamond there attracts the wondering sight,
70 Proud of its thousand dyes and luxury of light.

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0 "[Translation] From Tasso [Gerusalemme Liberata]
Canto 14, Stanza 32-9." 1 Explanatory

Title/Paratext] "Torquato Tasso (1544-95) was the [...]" H.W. Starr/J.R. Hendrickson, 1966.

"Torquato Tasso (1544-95) was the author of the Italian epic Gerusalemme Liberata, which dealt with the capture of Jerusalem by Godfrey of Bouillon during the First Crusade. The chief imaginary hero of the poem is Rinaldo d'Este.
    In March 1737 Gray wrote that he was learning 'Italian like any dragon, and in two months am got through the 16th book of Tasso ...' [...] Mason (i. 36-37 n.) states that the translation was made before Sept. 1738; and his opinion is confirmed by the date '1738' in CB [...]."

The Complete Poems of Thomas Gray: English, Latin and Greek. Edited by Herbert W. Starr and J. R. Hendrickson. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1966, 231.

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Preser commiato, e si 'l desire gli sprona, &c:

1 Dismissed at length, they break through all delay
2 To tempt the dangers of the doubtful way;
3 And first to Ascalon their steps they bend,
4 Whose walls along the neighbouring sea extend.
5 Nor yet in prospect rose the distant shore,
6 Scarce the hoarse waves from far were heard to roar,
7 When thwart the road a river rolled its flood
8 Tempestuous, and all further course withstood:
9 The torrent-stream his ancient bounds disdains,
10 Swoll'n with new force and late-descending rains.
11 Irresolute they stand, when lo! appears
12 The wondrous sage: vigorous he seemed in years,
13 Awful his mien; low as his feet there flows
14 A vestment unadorned, though white as new-fall'n snows;
15 Against the stream the waves secure he trod,
16 His head a chaplet bore, his hand a rod.

17 As on the Rhine when Boreas' fury reigns
18 And winter binds the floods in icy chains,
19 Swift shoots the village-maid in rustic play,
20 Smooth, without step, adown the shining way,
21 Fearless in long excursion loves to glide,
22 And sports and wantons o'er the frozen tide;
23 So moved the seer, but on no hardened plain:
24 The river boiled beneath and rushed towards the main.
25 Where fixed in wonder stood the warlike pair
26 His course he turned and thus relieved their care:

27 'Vast, O my friends, and difficult the toil
28 To seek your hero in a distant soil!
29 No common helps, no common guide, ye need,
30 Art it requires and more than winged speed.
31 What length of sea remains, what various lands,
32 Oceans unknown, inhospitable sands!
33 For adverse fate the captive chief has hurled
34 Beyond the confines of our narrow world.
35 Great things and full of wonder in your ears
36 I shall unfold; but first dismiss your fears,
37 Nor doubt with me to tread the downward road
38 That to the grotto leads, my dark abode.'

39 Scarce had he said, before the warriors' eyes
40 When mountain-high the waves disparted rise:
41 The flood on either hand its billows rears,
42 And in the midst a spacious arch appears.
43 Their hands he seized and down the steep he led,
44 Beneath the obedient river's inmost bed.
45 The watery glimmerings of a fainter day
46 Discovered half, and half concealed, their way,
47 As when athwart the dusky woods by night
48 The uncertain crescent gleams a sickly light.
49 Through subterraneous passages they went,
50 Earth's inmost cells and caves of deep descent.
51 Of many a flood they viewed the secret source,
52 The birth of rivers, rising to their course;
53 Whate'er with copious train its channel fills,
54 Floats into lakes or bubbles into rills.
55 The Po was there to see, Danubius' bed,
56 Euphrates' fount and Nile's mysterious head.
57 Further they pass, where ripening minerals flow,
58 And embryon metals undigested glow;
59 Sulphureous veins and living silver shine,
60 Which soon the parent sun's warm powers refine,
61 In one rich mass unite the precious store,
62 The parts combine and harden into ore.
63 Here gems break through the night with glittering beam,
64 And paint the margin of the costly stream.
65 All stones of lustre shoot their vivid ray,
66 And mix attempered in a various day.

67 Here the soft emerald smiles, of verdant hue,
68 And rubies flame, with sapphires heavenly blue;
69 The diamond there attracts the wondering sight,
70 Proud of its thousand dyes and luxury of light.

Works cited

  • The Complete Poems of Thomas Gray: English, Latin and Greek. Edited by Herbert W. Starr and J. R. Hendrickson. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1966.

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Spelling has been modernized throughout, except in case of conscious archaisms. Contractions, italics and initial capitalization have been largely eliminated, except where of real import. Obvious errors have been silently corrected, punctuation has been supplied. The editor would like to express his gratitude to the library staff of the Göttingen State and University Library (SUB Göttingen) for their invaluable assistance.