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Torquato Tasso
Jerusalem Delivered
page 154

"Of this great voyage which you undertake,
Much by his skill, and much by mine advise
Hath he foreknown, and welcome for my sake
You both shall be, the man is kind and wise."
Instructed thus no further question make
The twain elected for this enterprise,
But humbly yielded to obey his word,
For what the hermit said, that said the Lord.

They took their leave, and on their journey went,
Their will could brook no stay, their zeal, no let;
To Ascalon their voyage straight they bent,
Whose broken shores with brackish waves are wet,
And there they heard how gainst the cliffs, besprent
With bitter foam, the roaring surges bet,
A tumbling brook their passage stopped and stayed,
Which late-fall'n rain had proud and puissant made,

So proud that over all his banks he grew,
And through the fields ran swift as shaft from bow,
While here they stopped and stood, before them drew
An aged sire, grave and benign in show,
Crowned with a beechen garland gathered new,
Clad in a linen robe that raught down low,
In his right hand a rod, and on the flood
Against the stream he marched, and dry shod yode.

As on the Rhene, when winter's freezing cold
Congeals the streams to thick and hardened glass,
The beauties fair of shepherds' daughters bold
With wanton windlays run, turn, play and pass;
So on this river passed the wizard old,
Although unfrozen soft and swift it was,
And thither stalked where the warriors stayed,
To whom, their greetings done, he spoke and said:

"Great pains, great travel, lords, you have begun,
And of a cunning guide great need you stand,
Far off, alas! is great Bertoldo's son,
Imprisoned in a waste and desert land,
What soil remains by which you must not run,
What promontory, rock, sea, shore or sand
Your search must stretch before the prince be found,
Beyond our world, beyond our half of ground!

But yet vouchsafe to see my cell I pray,
In hidden caves and vaults though builded low,
Great wonders there, strange things I will bewray,
Things good for you to hear, and fit to know:"
This said, he bids the river make them way,
The flood retired, backward gan to flow,
And here and there two crystal mountains rise,
So fled the Red Sea once, and Jordan thrice.

He took their hands, and led them headlong down
Under the flood, through vast and hollow deeps,
Such light they had as when through shadows brown
Of thickest deserts feeble Cynthia peeps,
Their spacious caves they saw all overflown,
There all his waters pure great Neptune keeps,
And thence to moisten all the earth he brings
Seas, rivers, floods, lakes, fountains, wells and springs:

Whence Ganges, Indus, Volga, Ister, Po,
Whence Euphrates, whence Tigris' spring they view,
Whence Tanais, whence Nilus comes also,
Although his head till then no creature knew,
But under these a wealthy stream doth go,
That sulphur yields and ore, rich, quick and new,
Which the sunbeams doth polish, purge and fine,
And makes it silver pure, and gold divine.

And all his banks the rich and wealthy stream
Hath fair beset with pearl and precious stone
Like stars in sky or lamps on stage that seem,

* * *

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