Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  The Crusaders before Jerusalem

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Asia: Vols. XXI–XXIII. 1876–79.

Syria: Jerusalem

The Crusaders before Jerusalem

By Torquato Tasso (1544–1595)

(From Jerusalem Conquered)
Translated by E. Fairfax

THE PURPLE morning left her crimson bed,

And donned her robes 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 stayed with gentle rein;

And yet more easy, haply, were the feat

To stop the current near Charybdis’ 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 unknow,

Thrall to the faithless waves and trothless sky;

If once the wished 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 pleased 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 the ensample of their zealous guide;

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

They quickly doft, and willing laid aside;

Their moulten 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 flowed here, to cleanse the foul amiss

Of sinful man, behold this brinish flood,

That from my melting heart distilled 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.

This while the wary watchman looked over,

From tops of Sion’s towers, the hills and dales,

And saw the dust the fields and pastures cover,

As when thick mists arise from moory vales:

At last the sun-bright shields he ’gan discover,

And glistering helms, for violence none that fails;

The metal shone like lightning bright in skies,

And man and horse amid the dust descries.

Then loud he cries, O, what a dust ariseth!

O, how it shines with shields and targets clear!

Up, up, to arms, for valiant heart despiseth

The threatened storm of death, and danger near;

Behold your foes: then further thus deviseth;

Haste, haste, for vain delay encreaseth fear;

These horrid clouds of dust, that yonder fly,

Your coming foes do hide, and hide the sky.