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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

The Crusaders’ First Sight of the Holy City

By Torquato Tasso (1544–1595)

From ‘Jerusalem Delivered’: Translation of Edward Fairfax

THE PURPLE morning left her crimson bed,

And donned her robe of pure vermilion hue;

Her amber locks she crowned with roses red,

In Eden’s flowery gardens gathered new:

When through the camp a murmur shrill was spread;

Arm, arm! they cried; arm, arm! the trumpets blew;

Their merry noise prevents the joyful blast:

So hum small bees, before their swarms they cast.

Their captain rules their courage, guides their heat,

Their forwardness he stays with gentle rein:

And yet more easy, haply, were the feat,

To stop the current near Charybdis’s main,

Or calm the blustering winds on mountains great,

Than fierce desires of warlike hearts restrain:

He rules them yet, and ranks them in their haste,

For well he knows disordered speed makes waste.

Feathered their thoughts, their feet in wings were dight;

Swiftly they marched, yet were not tired thereby,

For willing minds make heaviest burdens light:

But when the gliding sun was mounted high,

Jerusalem, behold, appeared in sight,

Jerusalem they view, they see, they spy;

Jerusalem with merry noise they greet,

With joyful shouts and acclamations sweet.

As when a troop of jolly sailors row,

Some new-found land and country to descry;

Through dangerous seas and under stars unknown,

Thrall to the faithless waves and trothless sky;

If once the wishèd shore begin to show,

They all salute it with a joyful cry,

And each to other show the land in haste,

Forgetting quite their pains and perils past.

To that delight which their first sight did breed,

That pleasèd so the secret of their thought,

A deep repentance did forthwith succeed,

That reverend fear and trembling with it brought.

Scantly they durst their feeble eyes dispread

Upon that town where Christ was sold and bought,

Where for our sins he, faultless, suffered pain,

There where he died, and where he lived again.

Soft words, low speech, deep sobs, sweet sighs, salt tears,

Rose from their breasts, with joy and pleasure mixt;

For thus fares he, the Lord aright that fears,—

Fear on devotion, joy on faith is fixt;

Such noise their passions make, as when one hears

The hoarse sea-waves roar hollow rocks betwixt;

Or as the wind in hoults and shady greaves

A murmur makes among the boughs and leaves.

Their naked feet trod on the dusty way,

Following th’ ensample of their zealous guide;

Their scarfs, their crests, their plumes, and feathers gay,

They quickly doft and willing laid aside:

Their molten hearts their wonted pride allay,

Along their watery cheeks warm tears down slide;

And then such secret speech as this they used.

While to himself each one himself accused:—

“Flower of goodness, root of lasting bliss,

Thou well of life, whose streams were purple blood

That flowèd here, to cleanse the foul amiss

Of sinful man,—behold this brinish flood,

That from my melting heart distillèd is;

Receive in gree these tears, O Lord so good:

For never wretch with sin so overgone

Had fitter time or greater cause to moan.”