Stands scoffing through the never-opened gate,
Which nothing through its bars admits, save day,
And tasteless food, which I have eat alone
Till its unsocial bitterness is gone;
And I can banquet like a beast of prey,
Sullen and lonely, couching in the cave
Which is my lair, and—it may be—my grave.
All this hath somewhat worn me, and may wear,
But must be borne. I stoop not to despair;20
For I have battled with mine agony,
And made me wings wherewith to overfly
The narrow circus of my dungeon wall,
And freed the Holy Sepulchre from thrall;
And revelled among men and things divine,
And poured my spirit over Palestine,
In honour of the sacred war for Him,
The God who was on earth and is in Heaven,
For He has strengthened me in heart and limb.
That through this sufferance I might be forgiven,30
I have employed my penance to record
How Salem's shrine was won, and how adored.
But this is o'er—my pleasant task is done:
My long-sustaining Friend of many years!
If I do blot thy final page with tears,
Know, that my sorrows have wrung from me none.
But Thou, my young creation! my Soul's child!
"The second of a tenderer sadder mood,
Shall pour his soul out o'er Jerusalem."
Prophecy of Dante, Canto IV. lines 136, 137.]
- [Tasso's imprisonment in the Hospital of Sant' Anna lasted from March, 1579, to July, 1586. The Gerusalemme had been finished many years before. He sent the first four cantos to his friend Scipio Gonzaga, February 17, and the last three on October 4, 1575 (Lettere di Torquato Tasso, 1852, i. 55-117). A mutilated first edition was published in 1580 by "Orazio alias Celio de' Malespini, avventuriere intrigante " (Solerti's Vita, etc., 1895, i. 329).]
- [So, too. Gibbon was overtaken by a "sober melancholy" when he had finished the last line of the last page of the Decline and Fall on the night of June 27, 1787.]