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Torquato Tasso
Jerusalem Delivered
page 102

His blade, prepared to strike, and stepped near,
These noble princes twain, so Fortune wrought
From the world's end here met, and here they fought:

With virtue, fury; strength with courage strove,
For Asia's mighty empire, who can tell
With how strange force their cruel blows they drove?
How sore their combat was? how fierce, how fell?
Great deeds they wrought, each other's harness clove;
Yet still in darkness, more the ruth, they dwell.
The night their acts her black veil covered under,
Their acts whereat the sun, the world might wonder.

The Christians by their guide's ensample hearted,
Of their best armed made a squadron strong,
And to defend their chieftain forth they started:
The Pagans also saved their knight from wrong,
Fortune her favors twixt them evenly parted,
Fierce was the encounter, bloody, doubtful, long;
These won, those lost; these lost, those won again;
The loss was equal, even the numbers slain.

With equal rage, as when the southern wind,
Meeteth in battle strong the northern blast,
The sea and air to neither is resigned,
But cloud gainst cloud, and wave gainst wave they cast:
So from this skirmish neither part declined,
But fought it out, and kept their footings fast,
And oft with furious shock together h,
And shield gainst shield, and helm gainst helm they ch.

The battle eke to Sionward grew hot,
The soldiers slain, the hardy knights were killed,
Legions of sprites from Limbo's prisons got,
The empty air, the hills and valleys filled,
Hearting the Pagans that they shrinked not,
Till where they stood their dearest blood they spilled;
And with new rage Argantes they inspire,
Whose heat no flames, whose burning need no fire.

Where he came in he put to shameful flight
The fearful watch, and o'er the trenches leaped,
Even with the ground he made the rampire's height,
And murdered bodies in the ditch unheaped,
So that his greedy mates with labor light,
Amid the tents, a bloody harvest reaped:
Clorinda went the proud Circassian by,
So from a piece two chained bullets fly.

Now fled the Frenchmen, when in lucky hour
Arrived Guelpho, and his helping band,
He made them turn against this stormy shower,
And with bold face their wicked foes withstand.
Sternly they fought, that from their wounds downpour
The streams of blood and run on either hand:
The Lord of heaven meanwhile upon this fight,
From his high throne bent down his gracious sight.

From whence with grace and goodness compassed round,
He ruleth, blesseth, keepeth all he wrought,
Above the air, the fire, the sea and ground,
Our sense, our wit, our reason and our thought,
Where persons three, with power and glory crowned,
Are all one God, who made all things of naught,
Under whose feet, subjected to his grace,
Sit nature, fortune, motion, time and place.

This is the place, from whence like smoke and dust
Of this frail world the wealth, the pomp and power,
He tosseth, tumbleth, turneth as he lust,
And guides our life, our death, our end and hour:
No eye, however virtuous, pure and just,
Can view the brightness of that glorious bower,
On every side the blessed spirits be,
Equal in joys, though differing in degree.

* * *

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