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Torquato Tasso
Jerusalem Delivered
page 131

Nor could I since find means thee to baptize,
In Pagan lands thou knowest it's not the guise.

"To me she gave thee, and she wept withal,
To foster thee in some far distant place.
Who can her griefs and plaints to reckoning call,
How oft she swooned at the last embrace:
Her streaming tears amid her kisses fall,
Her sighs, her dire complaints did interlace?
And looking up at last, ` O God,' quoth she,
`Who dost my heart and inward mourning see,

"`If mind and body spotless to this day,
If I have kept my bed still undefiled,
Not for myself a sinful wretch I pray,
That in thy presence am an abject vilde,
Preserve this babe, whose mother must denay
To nourish it, preserve this harmless child,
Oh let it live, and chaste like me it make,
But for good fortune elsewhere sample take.

"'Thou heavenly soldier which delivered hast
That sacred virgin from the serpent old,
If on thine altars I have offerings placed,
And sacrificed myrrh, frankincense and gold,
On this poor child thy heavenly looks down cast,
With gracious eye this silly babe behold;'
This said, her strength and living sprite was fled,
She sighed, she groaned, she swooned in her bed.

"Weeping I took thee, in a little chest,
Covered with herbs and leaves, I brought thee out
So secretly, that none of all the rest
Of such an act suspicion had or doubt,
To wilderness my steps I first addressed,
Where horrid shades enclosed me round about,
A tigress there I met, in whose fierce eyes
Fury and wrath, rage, death and terror lies:

"Up to a tree I leaped, and on the grass,
Such was my sudden fear, I left thee lying,
To thee the beast with furious course did pass,
With curious looks upon thy visage prying,
All suddenly both meek and mild she was,
With friendly cheer thy tender body eying:
At last she licked thee, and with gesture mild
About thee played, and thou upon her smiled.

"Her fearful muzzle full of dreadful threat,
In thy weak hand thou took'st withouten dread;
The gentle beast with milk-outstretched teat,
As nurses' custom, proffered thee to feed.
As one that wondereth on some marvel great,
I stood this while amazed at the deed.
When thee she saw well filled and satisfied,
Unto the woods again the tigress hied.

"She gone, down from the tree I came in haste,
And took thee up, and on my journey wend,
Within a little thorp I stayed at last,
And to a nurse the charge of thee commend,
And sporting with thee there long time I passed,
Till term of sixteen months were brought to end,
And thou begun, as little children do,
With half clipped words to prattle, and to go.

"But having passed the August of mine age,
When more than half my tap of life was run,
Rich by rewards given by your mother sage,
For merits past, and service yet undone,
I longed to leave this wandering pilgrimage,
And in my native soil again to won,
To get some seely home I had desire,
Loth still to warm me at another's fire.

"To Egypt-ward, where I was born, I went,

* * *

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