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Torquato Tasso
Jerusalem Delivered
page 77

Such thirst of glory, boiled in his breast;
That though he scant could stir or stand upright,
Yet longed he for the appointed day to fight.

The night which that expected day forewent,
Scantly the Pagan closed his eyes to sleep,
He told how night her sliding hours spent,
And rose ere springing day began to peep;
He called for armor, which incontinent
Was brought by him that used the same to keep,
That harness rich old Aladine him gave,
A worthy present for a champion brave.

He donned them on, not long their riches eyed,
Nor did he aught with so great weight incline,
His wonted sword upon his thigh he tied,
The blade was old and tough, of temper fine.
As when a comet far and wide descried,
In scorn of Phoebus midst bright heaven doth shine,
And tidings sad of death and mischief brings
To mighty lords, to monarchs, and to kings.

So shone the Pagan in bright armor clad,
And rolled his eyes great swollen with ire and blood,
His dreadful gestures threatened horror sad,
And ugly death upon his forehead stood;
Not one of all his squires the courage had
To approach their master in his angry mood,
Above his head he shook his naked blade,
And gainst the subtle air vain battle made.

"The Christian thief," quoth he, "that was so bold
To combat me in hard and single fight,
Shall wounded fall inglorious on the mould,
His locks with clods of blood and dust bedight,
And living shall with watery eyes behold
How from his back I tear his harness bright,
Nor shall his dying words me so entreat,
But that I'll give his flesh to dogs for meat."

Like as a bull when, pricked with jealousy,
He spies the rival of his hot desire,
Through all the fields doth bellow, roar and cry,
And with his thundering voice augments his ire,
And threatening battle to the empty sky,
Tears with his horn each tree, plant, bush and brier,
And with his foot casts up the sand on height,
Defying his strong foe to deadly fight:

Such was the Pagan's fury, such his cry.
A herald called he then, and thus he spoke;
"Go to the camp, and in my name, defy
The man that combats for his Jesus' sake;"
This said, upon his steed he mounted high,
And with him did his noble prisoner take,
The town he thus forsook, and on the green
He ran, as mad or frantic he had been.

A bugle small he winded loud and shrill,
That made resound the fields and valleys near,
Louder than thunder from Olympus hill
Seemed that dreadful blast to all that hear;
The Christian lords of prowess, strength and skill,
Within the imperial tent assembled were,
The herald there in boasting terms defied
Tancredi first, and all that durst beside.

With sober those ten which chosen were by lot,
And viewed at leisure every lord and knight;
But yet for all his looks not one stepped out,
With courage bold, to undertake the fight:
Absent were all the Christian champions stout,
No news of Tancred since his secret flight;
Boemond far off, and banished from the crew
Was that strong prince who proud Gernando slew:

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