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Torquato Tasso
Jerusalem Delivered
page 99

Covering, like raging floods, the fields about;
The beaten Christians run away full light,
The Pagans, mingled with the flying rout,
Entered their camp, and filled, as they stood,
Their tents with ruin, slaughter, death and blood.

High on the Soldan's helm enamelled laid
An hideous dragon, armed with many a scale,
With iron paws, and leathern wings displayed,
Which twisted on a knot her forked tail,
With triple tongue it seemed she hissed and brayed,
About her jaws the froth and venom trail,
And as he stirred, and as his foes him hit,
So flames to cast and fire she seemed to spit.

With this strange light, the Soldan fierce appeared
Dreadful to those that round about him been,
As to poor sailors, when huge storms are reared,
With lightning flash the rafting seas are seen;
Some fled away, because his strength they feared,
Some bolder gainst him bent their weapons keen,
And forward night, in evils and mischiefs pleased,
Their dangers hid, and dangers still increased.

Among the rest that strove to merit praise,
Was old Latinus, born by Tiber's bank,
To whose stout heart in fights and bloody frays,
For all his eild, base fear yet never sank;
Five sons he had, the comforts of his days,
That from his side in no adventure shrank,
But long before their time, in iron strong
They clad their members, tender, soft and young.

The bold ensample of their father's might
Their weapons whetted and their wrath increased,
"Come let us go," quoth he, "where yonder knight
Upon our soldiers makes his bloody feast,
Let not their slaughter once your hearts affright,
Where danger most appears, there fear it least,
For honor dwells in hard attempts, my sons,
And greatest praise, in greatest peril, wons."

Her tender brood the forest's savage queen,
Ere on their crests their rugged manes appear,
Before their mouths by nature armed been,
Or paws have strength a silly lamb to tear,
So leadeth forth to prey, and makes them keen,
And learns by her ensample naught to fear
The hunter, in those desert woods that takes
The lesser beasts whereon his feast he makes.

The noble father and his hardy crew
Fierce Solyman on every side invade,
At once all six upon the Soldan flew,
With lances sharp, and strong encounters made,
His broken spear the eldest boy down threw,
And boldly, over-boldly, drew his blade,
Wherewith he strove, but strove therewith in vain,
The Pagan's steed, unmarked, to have slain.

But as a mountain or a cape of land
Assailed with storms and seas on every side,
Doth unremoved, steadfast, still withstand
Storm, thunder, lightning, tempest, wind, and tide:
The Soldan so withstood Latinus' band,
And unremoved did all their justs abide,
And of that hapless youth, who hurt his steed,
Down to the chin he cleft in twain the head.

Kind Aramante, who saw his brother slain,
To hold him up stretched forth his friendly arm,
Oh foolish kindness, and oh pity vain,
To add our proper loss, to other's harm!
The prince let fall his sword, and cut in twain
About his brother twined, the child's weak arm.

* * *

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