Home > Uncategorized > Torquato Tasso: War’s devouring minister, the sword

Torquato Tasso: War’s devouring minister, the sword

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Italian writers on war and militarism

Torquato Tasso: Pastoral refuge from war

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Torquato Tasso
From Jerusalem Delivered
Translated by J. H. Wiffen

“Now is thy noon of honour, but the night
Succeeds to noon; and wise it surely were
To shun the dubious accidents of fight, –
If conqueror, conquest proves a fruitless care;
But – once beguiled in fate’s malignant snare,
Empire, past spoils, and victories, all are crossed!”

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“But if thine eye no keen resentment veils,
If it strikes not the light of reason blind,
With fear, not hope, must thou regard the scales
Of war, and tremble as the beam’s inclined;
For Fortune’s favour is a varying wind.
Wafting now ill, now good, – now joy, now woe!
She least rewards us when she seems most kind:
Oft serpents lurk where freshest roses blow.
And for the loftiest flight a gulf yawns deep below.”

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“But granting Heaven’s almightiness decree
That War’s devouring minister, the sword,
Which fatal proves to others, harm not thee,
Famine will bow thee still! when, unrestored,
Life’s rosy currents from the heart are poured,
Where wilt thou turn? what refuge will remain?
Quails in the desert will thy God afford?
Wave thy bright sword, thy javelin shake! – ‘t is vain!
Victory will nothing be but mockery of thy pain.”

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“Lovelier is Mercy’s smile than Valour’s frown,
A suppliant cherished than a foe undone:
And ’twere less glorious to thy just renown,
Whatever hazards in the task were run,
To lay whole realms in dust than thus relumine one.”

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