Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VII. Descriptive: Narrative
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VII. Descriptive: Narrative.  1904.
 
Narrative Poems: V. The Orient
Erminia and the Wounded Tancred
Torquato Tasso (1544–1595)
 
From “Jerusalem Delivered”

From the Italian by Edward Fairfax

“THOUGH gone, though dead, I love thee still; behold
  Death wounds but kills not love: yet if thou live,
Sweet soul, still in his breast, my follies bold
  Ah pardon, love’s desires and stealth forgive:
Grant me from his pale mouth some kisses cold,        5
  Since death doth love of just reward deprive,
And of thy spoils, sad death, afford me this,—
Let me his mouth, pale, cold, and bloodless, kiss.
 
“O gentle mouth! with speeches kind and sweet
  Thou didst relieve my grief, my woe, and pain;        10
Ere my weak soul from this frail body fleet,
  Ah, comfort me with one dear kiss or twain;
Perchance, if we alive had happed to meet,
  They had been given which now are stolen: oh vain,
O feeble life, betwixt his lips out fly!        15
Oh, let me kiss thee first, then let me die!
 
“Receive my yielded spirit, and with thine
  Guide it to heaven, where all true love hath place.”
This said, she sighed and tore her tresses fine,
  And from her eyes two streams poured on his face.        20
The man, revivèd with those showers divine,
  Awaked, and openèd his lips a space;
His lips were opened, but fast shut his eyes,
And with her sighs one sigh from him upflies.
 
The dame perceived that Tancred breathed and sight,        25
  Which calmed her grief some deal and eased her fears:
“Unclose thine eyes” (she says), “my lord and knight,
  See my last services, my plaints, and tears;
See her that dies to see thy woful plight,
  That of thy pain her part and portion bears;        30
Once look on me: small is the gift I crave,—
The last which thou canst give, or I can have.”
 
Tancred looked up, and closed his eyes again,
  Heavy and dim; and she renewed her woe.
Quoth Vafrine, “Cure him first and then complain:        35
  Medicine is life’s chief friend, plaint her worst foe.”
They plucked his armor off, and she each vein,
  Each joint, and sinew felt and handled so,
And searched so well each thrust, each cut; and wound,
That hope of life her love and skill soon found.        40
 
From weariness and loss of blood she spied
  His greatest pains and anguish most proceed.
Naught but her veil amid those deserts wide
  She had to bind his wounds in so great need:
But love could other bands (though strange) provide,        45
  And pity wept for joy to see that deed;
For with her amber locks, cut off, each wound
She tied—O happy man, so cured, so bound!
 
For why? her veil was short and thin, those deep
  And cruel hurts to fasten, roll, and bind:        50
Nor salve nor simple had she; yet to keep
  Her knight alive, strong charms of wondrous kind
She said, and from him drove that deadly sleep,
  That now his eyes he lifted, turned, and twined,
And saw his squire, and saw that courteous dame        55
In habits strange, and wondered whence she came.
 
He said, “O Vafrine, tell me whence com’st thou,
  And who this gentle surgeon is, disclose.”
She smiled, she sighed, she looked she wist not how,
  She wept, rejoiced, she blushed as red as rose:        60
“You shall know all” (she says); “your surgeon now
  Commands your silence, rest, and soft repose;
You shall be sound, prepare my guerdon meet.”
His head then laid she in her bosom sweet.
 
 
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