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Torquato Tasso
Jerusalem Delivered
page 177

Gaza the city on the frontier stands
Of Juda's realm, as men to Egypt ride,
Built near the sea, beside it of dry sands
Huge wildernesses lie and deserts wide
Which the strong winds lift from the parched lands
And toss like roaring waves in roughest tide,
That from those storms poor passengers almost
No refuge find, but there are drowned and lost.

Within this town, won from the Turks of yore
Strong garrison the king of Egypt placed,
And for it nearer was, and fitted more
That high emprise to which his thoughts he cast,
He left great Memphis, and to Gaza bore
His regal throne, and there, from countries vast
Of his huge empire all the puissant host
Assembled he, and mustered on the coast.

Come say, my Muse, what manner times these were,
And in those times how stood the state of things,
What power this monarch had, what arms they bear,
What nations subject, and what friends he brings;
From all lands the southern ocean near,
Or morning star, came princes, dukes and kings,
And only thou of half the world well-nigh
The armies, lords, and captains canst descry.

When Egypt from the Greekish emperor
Rebelled first, and Christ's true faith denied,
Of Mahomet's descent a warrior
There set his throne and ruled that kingdom wide,
Caliph he hight, and Caliphs since that hour
Are his successors named all beside:
So Nilus old his kings long time had seen
That Ptolemies and Pharaohs called had been.

Established was that kingdom in short while,
And grew so great, that over Asia's lands
And Lybia's realms it stretched many a mile,
From Syria's coasts as far as Cirene sands,
And southward passed gainst the course of Nile,
Through the hot clime where burnt Syene stands,
Hence bounded in with sandy deserts waste,
And thence with Euphrates' rich flood embraced.

Maremma, myrrh and spices that doth bring,
And all the rich red sea it comprehends,
And to those lands, toward the morning spring
That lie beyond that gulf, it far extends;
Great is that empire, greater by the king
That rules it now, whose worth the land amends,
And makes more famous, lord thereof by blood,
By wisdom, valor, and all virtues good.

With Turks and Persians war he oft did wage,
And oft he won, and sometimes lost the field,
Nor could his adverse fortune aught assuage
His valor's heat or make his proud heart yield,
But when he grew unfit for war through age,
He sheathed his sword and laid aside his shield:
But yet his warlike mind he laid not down,
Nor his great thirst of rule, praise and renown,

But by his knights still cruel wars maintained.
So wise his words, so quick his wit appears,
That of the kingdom large o'er which he reigned,
The charge seemed not too weighty for his years;
His greatness Afric's lesser kings constrained
To tremble at his name, all Ind him fears,
And other realms that would his friendship hold;
Some armed soldiers sent, some gifts, some gold.

This mighty prince assembled had the flower
Of all his realms, against the Frenchmen stout,
To break their rising empire and their power,
Nor of sure conquest had he fear or doubt:

* * *

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