'The bitter tragedy of human life - horrors of death, attack, retreat, advance, and the great game of Destiny and Chance.'
In The Liberation of Jerusalem (Gerusalemme liberata, 1581), Torquato Tasso set out to write an epic to rival the Iliad and the Aeneid. Unlike his predecessors, he took his subject not from myth but from history: the Christian capture of Jerusalem during the First Crusade.
The siege of the city is played out alongside a magical romance of love and sacrifice, in which the Christian knight Rinaldo succumbs to the charms of the pagan sorceress Armida, and the warrior maiden Clorinda inspires a fatal passion in the Christian Tancred.
Tasso's masterpiece left its mark on writers from Spenser and Milton to Goethe and Byron, and inspired countless painters and composers. This is the first English translation in modern times that faithfully reflects both the sense and the verse form of the original. Max Wickert's fine rendering is introduced by Mark Davie, who places Tasso's poem in the context of his life and times and points to the qualities that have ensured its lasting impact on Western culture.
Torquato Tasso (11 March 1544 – 25 April 1595) was an Italian poet of the 16th century, best known for his poem La Gerusalemme liberata (Jerusalem Delivered) (1580), in which he depicts a highly imaginative version of the combats between Christians and Muslims at the end of the First Crusade, during the siege of Jerusalem. He died a few days before he was due to be crowned as the king of poets by the Pope. Until the beginning of the 19th century, Tasso remained one of the most widely read poets in Europe.
How wonderful! I can say that I hated it so much during high school and now nearly 25 years later i love it much !! The reading was long and tiring, challenging if not sometimes impossible to understand events under a clear historical and allegorical basis. The story tells the deeds of Geoffrey of Bouillon who went on a crusade to free Jerusalem. Many events and characters will be presented in the various songs, so that the exact plot is difficult to understand without the help of some epic compendium. The final part with the death of Clorinda, wrongly killed by his beloved Tancredi is moving to say at least. I had already seen in the past the melodrama "Rinaldo" by Handel, also in this case a wonder for the soul, so having read the book of Tasso with his songs gave me a complete understanding of the drama in question. It is not a reading for everyone, there are many characters, I read the book in vulgar Italian, and I almost had to read the paraphrase text many times side by side.
Che meraviglia!! e dire che l' ho odiato così tanto durante il liceo!! La lettura è stata lunga e faticosa, impegnativa se non a volte impossibile nel capire gli avvenimenti sotto una chiara base storica e allegorica. La storia parla delle gesta di Goffredo da Buglione andato in crociata appunto per liberare Gerusalemme. Tantissimi eventi e personaggi verranno presentati nei vari canti, tanto che l' esatta trama è difficile da comprendere senza un aiuto di qualche compendio ei epica. La parte finale con la morte di Clorinda, uccisa erroneamente da suo amato Tancredi è commovente a dir poco. Avevo già visto in passato il melodramma "Rinaldo" di Handel, anche in questo caso una meraviglia per l'anima, l'aver letto quindi il libro di Tasso con i suoi canti mi ha dato una completa comprensione del dramma in questione. Non è una lettura per tutti, vi sono tantissimi personaggi, ho letto il libro in italiano volgare, e ho dovuto quasi sempre leggermi la parafrasi fianco testo.
Nelle partite dell'antico sport dell'èmeglioAriostooTasso? (simile a quello che giocavo da bambino: èpiùforteHulkolaCosa?) io mi sono sempre presentato con la maglietta dei tassofili, trovandomi tra gli avversari esperti giocatori del passato come Galileo Galilei, che attaccava così:
«Mi è sempre parso e pare che questo poeta [Tasso] sia nelle sue invenzioni oltre tutti i termini gretto, povero e miserabile; e all’opposito l’Ariosto magnifico, ricco e mirabile: e quando mi volgo a considerare i cavalieri con le loro azioni e avvenimenti, come anche tutte l’altre favolette di questo poema [Gerusalemme liberata], parmi giusto d’entrare in uno studietto di qualche ometto curioso, che si sia dilettato di adornarlo di cose che abbiano, o per antichità o per rarità o per altro, del pellegrino, ma che però sieno in effetto coselline, avendosi come saria a dire un granchio petrificato, un camaleonte secco, una mosca e un ragno in gelatina in un pezzo d’ambra, alcuni di quei fantoccini di terra che dicono trovarsi ne i sepolcri antichi di Egitto, e così, in maniera di pittura, qualche schizzetto di Baccio Bandinelli o del Parmigiano, e simili altre cosette; ma all’incontro; quando entro nel Furioso, veggo aprirsi una tribuna, una galleria regia, ornata di cento statue antiche de’ più celebri scultori, con infinite storie intere, e le migliori, di pittori illustri, con un numero grande di vasi di cristalli, d’agate, di lapislazzari e l’altre gioie, e finalmente ripiene di cose rare, preziose, meravigliose, e di tutta eccellenza.»
Ecco, ci si batteva nobilmente. Senza smettere di sorridere per il furibondo analogismo del parere di Galileo, penetrante anche quando ingiusto, stavo dalla parte degli scorci fulminanti, dell'oscurità che progressivamente lascia intravedere di lontano un non so che di luminoso; dei tormenti interiori; delle azioni degne di un chiaro sole, degne di un pieno teatro e invece osservate soltanto, tra le lacrime, dalla notte.
«Era la notte»...
Negli ultimi anni, però, devo dire che ho letto di più Ariosto. A volte scoprendo di conoscere meglio per certe cose gli avversari dei miei compagni.
Ma non cambio squadra! Basta aprire quasi a caso ed ecco, nel terzo canto, cosa succede durante il primo scontro tra la donna guerriera che difende Gerusalemme e il crociato che la ama:
«Clorinda intanto ad incontrar l’assalto va di Tancredi, e pon la lancia in resta. Ferirsi a le visiere, e i tronchi in alto volaro e parte nuda ella ne resta; ché, rotti i lacci a l’elmo suo, d’un salto (mirabil colpo!) ei le balzò di testa; e, le chiome dorate al vento sparse, giovane donna in mezzo ’l campo apparse.»
E soprattutto, il canto XII (quello del combattimento tra Tancredi e Clorinda), probabilmente contiene i versi più belli che siano stati scritti nella lingua italiana.
L'edizione Bur del 2009 è apprezzabile per molti motivi. In particolare, il commento di Franco Tomasi si segnala per la ricchezza dei riferimenti ai testi precedenti. Non soltanto Iliade e Eneide, ma Silio Italico o la Christias di Vida, che è comodo trovare a piè di pagina.
[postilla 16 novembre 2017] Rileggo ancora quelle pagine di Galileo, con la famosa immagine della tarsia. E vengono in mente le straordinarie tarsie di Lorenzo Lotto nel coro di Santa Maria Maggiore di Bergamo, ma Galileo vuole offendere! Secondo lui, la narrazione di Tasso è più una pittura intarsiata che colorita a olio: "perché, essendo le tarsie un accozzamento di legnetti di diversi colori, con i quali non possono già mai accoppiarsi e unirsi così dolcemente che non restino i lor confini taglienti e dalla diversità de' colori crudamente distinti, rendono per necessità le lor figure secche, crude, senza tondezza e rilievo."
Sarà, Galileo, ma se mi fai venire in mente il balenare della luce su quei legnetti di Bergamo, con le figure che prendono rilievo e escono fuori dalla materia e continuamente ridiventano opache quando si allontana la torcia, per poi balenare di nuovo, forse la tua immagine si ritorce contro il tuo deprezzamento di Torquato!
"De dos mil no hay ya ciento. Él contemplando tanta sangre vertida y tanto muerto, si se está el fuerte pecho lastimando o acaso teme, yo a decir no acierto. Sin mostrar turbación, la voz alzando, Sigamos-grita-al cielo en rumbo cierto de nuestros compañeros el destino, que con su sangre marcan el camino."
"Jerusalén Libertada" de Tasso es un poema épico, imposible que este género no me guste, ya tengo muchas experiencias (Ilíada, Odisea, Eneida, Los Lusiadas, Argonáuticas, La Tebaida, Etc). Pero hay algunos aspectos que no me han llegado a gustar del todo. La historia narra la Primera Cruzada (única victoriosa de todas las que se emprendió contra los musulmanes) empieza prácticamente con el asedio de Jerusalén. Destaca a lo largo del poema Godofredo de Bouillón, noble francés, jefe de todos los cruzados que es enaltecido con sus innumerables cualidades y magnanimidad (a pesar de ser uno de los más jóvenes en la vida real). Es él el que recibe auxilio permanente de los ángeles y como predestinado por Dios el indicado para reunir a todos los cristianos. De otro lado está Reynaldo, en el poema quizás rejuvenecido, arrogante, vehemente pero valeroso, que combatirá en un combate de lo más épico y lírico, realista y romántico a la vez con la peligrosa Armida, pagana poseedora de artes diabólicas pero paradójicamente de un corazón sensible y rencoroso. El otro gran héroe real de esta cruzada que se menciona es Tancredo, exaltado por algún pasado italiano o latino en el poema, quien lleva gran parte de la acción alrededor de Jerusalén y que a su vez tiene algunos conflictos amorosos. Del lado musulmán, aquí casi representado por turcos y sobre todo egipcios, al mando del rey Aladino luchan el terrible Argante, general muy valeroso y destacado, con las guerreras Clorinda y Armida. Las mujeres aquí tienen una relevancia inusual para la época, pues además de seductoras o astutas resultan ser muy buenas guerreras y tienen papeles estelares. Me gustó mucho por ejemplo el papel que se le dio a Clorinda, muchas de ellas tienen un conflicto entre amor odio y no sólo ellas sino sus enemigos en este caso los católicos. Cosa que aunque resulta bastante ingenuo de creer y poco realista le da un lirismo y le permite a Tasso poder ahondar en temas que quizás sería difícil hacerlo de limitarse a relatar los actos bélicos per se. Lo que no me gustó tanto del poema fueron primero lo mencionado, las licencias históricas, por más que sé de poemas épicos en este caso me parecieron demasiado profundas, demasiado fantasiosas y lo más bajo en credibilidad no sólo por la historia en sí sino por el acontecer en el poema. Ver a moribundos hablando de amor o convirtiéndose resulta demasiado cargado en tintas aunque muy bien puedo aceptar hechos sobrenaturales o ficticios pero que al estar inmersos en una obra no se nota. Aquí lamentablemente sí se notaron y a veces demasiado. El segundo aspecto que no me gustó tanto fue el orden. Se nota la organización de los cantos y lo que se quiere contar pero la variedad de situaciones, lo opuesto a veces del clima de la obra, me hacía perderme mucho y me pareció la obra un poco caótica. Muchos cantos se iban por aspectos demasiado fantasiosos que ya no sabías qué exactamente se contaba y a dónde iba a parar todo. Es muy heterogéneo a mi modo de ver. Comparándolo con los grecorromanos hay una diferencia enorme, pero quizás el estilo es más parecido a "Los Lusiadas" en el que permanentemente hay estas lagunas. Las obras griegas me parecen aunque llenas de fantasía muy uniformes y muy coherentes. Hay partes sin embargo entrañables, las partes bélicas aunque muchas veces son minimizadas hay ciertos capítulos como en la parte final que sí se les da la importancia que a veces parece que nunca se les da, muchas veces sí he podido comprender, vivir, los asedios a las fortalezas, la lluvia de flechas de los paganos, las máquinas de asedio de los cruzados, sus arietes, las cargas de la caballería contra la infantería egipcia, Etc. La parte final quizás es la que más acción le da a la obra y hace que todo parezca más ensamblado. Los pasajes de fantasía, de magia, de religiosidad, sin duda han servido de inspiración a generaciones posteriores de artistas para bellos cuadros, tragedias o incluso óperas, logro que no se le puede restar a este gran poema épico de Tasso.
Absolutely beautiful work, and my favorite epic poem - hands down.
I had never heard of this work until I took a class called "From Homer to Star Wars" in which we, as the name implies, started with Homer's epics, and followed major epics through to Star Wars. There are several comments which I wish to make about this incredible piece.
1) The poetry is incredible: The description of Satan put my hair on end and left me speechless. Also, note the brilliance of the description of the soldiers marching - blending into the sun at the horizon, wings on their feet and wings in their heart lifting them toward battle. I was spellbound. The same mastery is found throughout the tale.
2) When reading the epics chronologically, note that this is the FIRST of the major epics in which all of the female characters are JUST as developed as the male characters. Yes, Penelope is a strong female character, but not in comparison to the women here.
3) Pay special attention to Tasso's understanding of psychology: A perfect example is when Tancred, who is always described as having never been afraid, first experiences fear. Keep in mind that Tasso suffered from mental illness himself, and was, therefore, most likely very attuned to the inner workings of the mind.
Brilliant. Magical. Spellbinding. A true work of art. I could go on, but it's probably best if you just find out for yourself...
I have always preferred Ariosto's wit to Tasso's seriousness, writing in the same ottava rima later in the same century, 16th. But now in retirement, perusing Gerusalemme Liberata, I'm impressed with Tasso's ease, writing in hendecasyllables, which I am familiar with in Catullus’s Latin. In the third canto, Goffredo tells his troops, --Già non si deve a te doglia né pianto, ché se mori nel mondo, in Ciel rinasci... (p.93, Einaudi 1993) They should ready for battle untroubled about dying, because if they were to die, they'll be reborn in Heaven. This, good Christian counsel, and incidentally, why Rome began converting to Christianity under Emperor Constantine: the Christian armies fought to the death, not fearing it. Much later, in Canto 16, we find a source for Andrew Marvell’s “Bermudas,” and some stanzas of his longish poem, “Upon Appleton House.” “L’aura, non ch’altro, è de la maga effetto, l’aura che rende gli alberi fioriti: co’ fiori eterni eterno il frutto dura, e mentre spunta l’un, l’altro matura.” (stanza 10, p.476) J.B. Leishman notes the translation by the great-uncle of Cromwell’s cavalry Lord General Fairfax, who employed Marvell outside Hull (which the poet represented in Parliament) at Appleton House. Marvell tutored his daughters in languages, since he had been Latin Under-Secretary (Foreign Secretary) to Milton, and got poem ideas from Italian, French—and had travelled to Russia with a trade embassy. The Cavalry Lord Fairfax himself translated St Amant’s “Solitude” which probably influenced Marvell’s “Garden.”
Duke Goffredo of Boullion, prior quoted, continues to lament Dudon, hero in the First Crusade, where he is to be buried:
���Sorse a pari co ‘l sole, ed egli stesso seguir la pompa funeral poi volle. A Dudon d’odorifero cipresso composto hanno un sepolcro a piè d’un colle, non lunge a gli steccati; a sovra ed esso un’ altissima palma i rami estolle. Or qui fu posti, e i sacerdoti intanto quiete a l’alma gli pregàr co ‘l canto��� (95)
The great uncle of Marvell’s employer (and Cavalry hero who retired from Cromwell’s military at age 33), Edward Fairfax translated this: “Up with the lark the sorrowing Duke arose, A Mourner chief at Dudon’s burial, Of cypress sad a Pile his Friends compose Under a hill, o’ergrown with Cedars tall: Beside the Hearse a fruitful Palm-tree grows, (Ennobled since by this great funeral) Where Dudon’s Corpse they softly laid in Ground; The Priests sung hymns; the Soldiers wept around.”
Of course, Fairfax takes fine liberties, using the lark rather than “up with the sun,” and notes the height of the Palm-tree rather than the overextending branches and their darkness, “a highest Palm extends its branches,” and Tasso’s complex, Latinate syntax of “Now here stood the priests, quieting souls with their songs.” Also, it’s clear that Tasso’s Italian is lighter, more sonorous than the English translation, as are translations of Dante.
My own copy, Garzanti’s two volume edition from 1977, Vol.II beginning with Canto 12: Clorinda proposes Argante join her in burning the tower. The "magus" (scientist) Ismeno prepares the little fire and flammable liquid. Clorinda was daughter of Senapo, Christian king of the Ethiops, but she was born white, so fearing accusation of adultery, her mother spirited her away by Arsete, a muslim, who neglected to baptize her. Interesting, the reverse danger to US racism, where a white mother having a black child would be suspected, though both parents may have had some African genes from some forbear. Halfway through the canto, I aloudread Tasso's ease, describing a man to man fight, once the city gates are closed. Tancredi asks, "What gate do you head for?" The other answering, "No gate, but war and death." Tancredi offers, "I can give you those, myself": "Guerra e morte avrai;" disse, "io non rifiuto darlarti, se la cerchi," e ferma attende. Non vuol Tancredi, che pedon veduto ha il suo nemico, usar cavallo, e scende. E impugna l'uno e l'altro il ferro acuto, ed aguzza l'orgoglio e l'ire accende; e vansi a ritrovar non altrimenti che duo tori gelosi e d'ira ardenti." (XII, 53. p.373, Garzanti tomo 2) The previous stanza says their clashing swords made a loud sound. Tancredi dismounts since his enemy's on foot-- military fair play noe mostly forgotten with bombing napalm, etc. They fight with sharp "iron"-- doubtless steel, maybe for the scansion, two-syllable "ferro" vs "acciaio." Fighting raises their anger and sharpens their pride, maybe why our Trumpster president picks so many verbal fights (never a physical one): to sharpen his pride. The stanza ends with rather clichéd comparison of them to two jealous bulls. Still, I must say, this stanza rolls easily off the tongue, and can be understood as easily.
Torquato Tasso truly woke up in the morning, had a wet dream about converting an Arab Muslim woman who was also white for some reason to Christianity, wrote some poetry about it, and then went to sleep. 98% of the plot points are around that level of deeply ridiculous. also, that guy who personally led a specific massacre of 2000 Jewish people is a voice of reason. one thing about the Renaissance rois they truly have a thing for that time they massacred 40,000 Muslim and Jewish people. beautiful poetry but. well, perhaps I am a heathen.
He published this major work in 1580 which is an epic imaginative and poetic version of the historic First Crusade and the siege and battles before Jerusalem. (1099)
This edition is a new French translation from the original medieval Italian original. The language is still colourful and dramatic, but the beauty of the original rhymed style is lost.
I suggest that a reader interested in the beauty of Tasso’s poem should read it, if possible, only in its original Italian version.
As for historical facts, the author has taken great liberty with names and places of the battles. He has written his work about 500 years after the events and drew his knowledge from the literature on chivalry and romantic fictions around the theme of King Arthur and his knights. Homer and Virgil are the muses for Tasso in many lines of his poem.
Details of the siege however and the general attack resulting in the fall of Jerusalem are exact copies of reports from historians.
He had little knowledge of Islamic traditions and behaviour. Events involving armed female warriors and romantic love affairs were quite impossible at the time and place.
My personal interest in this book was satisfied with elaborate, extensive notes after each chapter; we find the exact known events taken from reports by historians both French and Arabic of the Xth century.
The reports are about the crusader's road to Jerusalem with battles and conquests of the different Kingdoms and Cities on the way. Notably, the siege and conquest of Nicée and Antioch were some of the pilgrim's leaders remained to reign over these important places.
The names of the leading French noblemen are recorded and so are many fights and duels of individuals. The most disturbing issues are the cruel and inhuman behaviour of the Christian crusaders towards the civilian population of Jerusalem. All without distinction of age and sex were massacred by the thousands. Historical monuments dating from the times of Salomon looted and destroyed without distinction.
As history would have it, the conquest of Jerusalem was of a short life. Only eighty-eight years after, Saladin, the great Muslim conquerer recovered Jerusalem from the Christian Kings, and new crusades started over again.
Tasso died a few days before he was due to be crowned as the king of poets by the Pope. Until the beginning of the 19th century, he remained one of the most widely read poets in Europe.
My recommendation as I said above is twofold; one for lovers of ancient epic poems to read it in original Italian language. The other is for readers of historical events is the biography of Tasso and the rich collection of reports from ancient French and Arabic historians.
A true epic, in scope and delivery and Wickert's work is what every translator should strive for.
This is a highly fictionalised rendering of the First Crusade's taking of Jerusalem. Hints of 'The Iliad' and 'The Aeneid' are everywhere, although Tasso's depiction of war is more somber and less heroic. His evil council of Hell in turn influenced Milton's 'Paradise Lost'.
Godfrey of Bouillon, heroic Tancred and invincible Rinaldo vie for supremacy with the likes of Solyman the Sultan, unstoppable Argant and Clorinda, warrior maiden extraordinaire. The action is emotionally charged, the interludes are interesting and a nice change of pace and the side stories are a plus instead of being distractions.
The whole thing is beautiful, charming - and kinda cool. Methinks I will look for more Italian classics.
Poiché penso che non abbia molto senso dare un voto ai classici le 5 stelline sono per l'edizione curata da Caretti: le introduzioni ai canti sono a loro volta dei piccoli gioielli letterari. Le mie letture della Liberata risalivano al liceo, e come purtroppo spesso accade con le letture scolastiche mi era rimasto un ricordo di immane pesantezza. E invece... che sorpresa rileggerla oggi! È appassionante, grandiosa nelle rappresentazioni delle battaglie ma allo stesso tempo delicatissima nel mettere in scena i caratteri e i moti dell'animo dei personaggi. Meravigliose poi le descrizioni dei paesaggi, sempre mossi dai cambi di luce e di atmosfera. Mi ha entusiasmata al punto tale che non vedevo l'ora che arrivasse il momento della giornata dedicato al canto quotidiano del Tasso. Che splendore!
I can't sing enough praise for these 20 cantos that Tasso laid down for us in 1581. I already thought that 'Orlando Furioso' was a clear cut masterpiece, and this might just be better (in terms of late Renaissance epic poetry). Glory and tragedy is rendered through poetic stanzas which depict a highly imaginary crusader setting. You can open this textbook size book and flip to any given page, point at a block of text and be blown away by Tasso's poetic ability (and thats without context plus translated!).
The type of writing that should probably be vaulted and preserved for posterity. A shame it's not as widely regarded in the modern world as it was just a couple centuries back.
I strongly believe that all serious readers should at least once per year take a trip back in time to read something from another era. In this manner, Jerusalem Delivered is well worth considering
Jerusalem delivered is a great work which shows how close to the classical period European culture was during the Renaissance. In English translation, this epic poem written in Italian is very similar in feel to Virgil's Latin Epic the Aenid. The author who was a purely a man of letters writes interminable descriptions of battles that do not really interest him and which bore the reader intensely. Deities and other supernatural creatures regularly intervene in human affairs. God and St. Michel both participate in the events of Jerusalem Delivered. The heroine is a flying witch.
Jerusalem Delivered's best moments are those where it describes the battle of the sexes. The female characters are by far superior to the male characters.
"Reading Tasso I was struck by how similar epic poems are to the modern epic blockbuster movie. Think of the Ridley Scott-style oevre. You have blithe disregard for historical accuracy, unbelievable feats of arms, and completely apocryphal romance subplots, often starring hilariously waiflike action girls who mow down enemies by the score.
Believe it or not, when our forefathers sat down to write blockbuster poems, this was more or less the approach they took, and Tasso is as much fun as the rest of them. You will learn more about the medieval and Renaissance conception of the Crusades from this book than you will learn actual historical details: this is certainly the Hollywood blockbuster version of events."
Near the end of the year, I was so happy to discover the Renaissance epic Jerusalem Delivered, written by the Italian poet Torquato Tasso. Anthony Esolen’s translation is quite clear, lucid, and readable. I love the battles, the romance, the piety, the free-flowing form, the adventures. It’s all quite great. Next year I hope to read Orlando Furioso, which I hear is even funnier and cooler than Tasso’s poem. I think the adjective I can use to best describe it is C.S. Lewis’s own adjective: “edifying.” Why have we lost the memory of the Italian Renaissance epics? If only we rediscovered them. They’re quite good, if Tasso’s engrossing poem is any clue.
The scenes of Sophronia’s and Olinda’s love for one another that is strong as death, of the tyrant Aladine’s poisoning the waters of the countryside, the fights of Tancredi and his love Clorinda, the healing of Tancredi by Erminia, the fight between Rinaldo and the Sultan Soliman, the scenes in Armida’s “Bower of Bliss,” the baptism of Clorinda as she dies, the vision of the archangels that Godfrey of Bouillon (the poem’s chief hero) sees as he fights for Jerusalem, the death of the married warrior couple Gildippe and Edward — these are but a few moments in this epic that reminds me of Ridley Scott’s Gladiator and Mel Gibson’s Braveheart, two epics that go for bold in their bigness and sheer emotionalism.
If the Icelandic sagas are apparently a well-kept Secret, except for its deepest fans, so are the Italian Renaissance epics of the sixteenth century, the epic that entertained and delighted some of the greatest Western writers and minds like Spenser, Milton, and Byron. I kept thinking of cinema when reading Tasso; the stanzas and the form and the structure really support my conception that cinema would benefit from a great adaptation of Tasso’s epic
In the Gerusalemme Liberata Tasso sets out, and succeeds, in writing what may be the quintessential Renaissance epic: drawing obviously on Homer and Vergil he doesn't just try to match classical epic but to over-reach it. By Christianising the heroic quest he gives a different kind of moral and spiritual framework to the genre which is both recognisable and transformed.
But this is no dry, dull read: exciting, dramatic and passionate, this is set during the first crusade as the Christian army besige Jerusalem and is full of heroism, love, romance and magic.
Tancred's love for the 'pagan' female warrior Clorinda; Rinaldo's sexual obsession with the beguiling enchantress Armida; Erminia's own love for Tancred fill the poem with human emotion. And the fight scenes of heroic duels are quite nail-biting at points.
Wickert translates this brilliantly into eight-line stanzas, and uses rhyme rhythmically and well. As with other epic poems, the best way is to forget the fact that it's poetry and simply follow the sense of the text: the rhyme then takes care of itself and adds a subtle rather than plodding emphasis and pleasure to the text.
Hugely influential, this certainly influenced Spenser and Milton. But it's worth reading not just for its status within the epic tradition but as a genuinely pleasurable and engrossing story in its own right.
I've been on the fence about reading this for over 4 years now and I have to say I am very happy I finally took the plunge. It was a great read. Tasso weaves a complex narrative of love, faith, and duty. The cantos dealing with the mission to bring Rinaldo back to the crusaders dragged quite a bit. It took me quite a bit to power through it. Otherwise, I would highly recommend this epic.
Altro capolavoro che ho letto esclusivamente perché era parte del programma di un esame. Superando lo scoglio iniziale della scrittura in ottave - alla quale non è facile abituarsi, a meno che boh non siate tipo nati nel '500 e quindi la vostra idea di narrativa sia fatta di cose scritte in ottave - non è affatto difficile entrare nella trama e trovarcisi proprio avvinti. Al di là del piacere puro che dà per un letterato (o aspirante tale, come me) il ritrovare tutti i riferimenti celati alla letteratura precedente (orgasmico, per il letterato, appunto, che studia quel che studia solo per queste circostanze), c'è un'elaborazione psicologica dei personaggi che si pone esattamente a metà tra i due generi di letteratura che più hanno lavorato in tal senso, si pone quindi a metà tra la tragedia (greca, che discorsi) e il romanzo del secondo ottocento.
Non c'è un personaggio che non abbia le sue ragioni, non ce n'è uno che non sia in qualche maniera comprensibile per il lettore: ed è una sfida, una sfida che risuona anche a tutti questi secoli di distanza - vogliamo prendere razionalmente le parti di Goffredo e dei suoi crociati oppure lasciarci trascinare a fondo dalla mente conturbante e labirintica degli avversari? Non solo Armida, ma Solimano - il più crudele dei nemici ma anche il più umano - Aladino, i maghi.
E gli amori, gli amori! Le lacrime versate sulle vicende disperate del giovanissimo Tancredi che si vede protagonista del più orribile degli scenari, la vergogna di Rinaldo, che si sente sulla propria pelle.
Non per essere terribilmente banale, ma poi alla fine lo sono un po' sempre: non c'è altro da dire su questo poema se non che la sua grandezza si regge soltanto su quanto si è disposti a farselo scorrere davanti agli occhi come se stessimo guardando un film (perché nel '500 parlavano di vederle a teatro le cose, ma noi abbiamo avuto un aggiornamento al proposito).
Beautiful and captivating, even in the (often rhyming) verse translation expertly, brilliantly executed by Anthony Esolen. I never thought that I'd enjoy a verse translation of anything so much.
I thought I was reading another tale in the Carolingian Cycle, especially because one of the main characters has the same name as one of Charlemagne's foremost knights, and because Tasso's name constantly occurs beside that of Ludovico Ariosto, author of Orlando Furioso. Instead this story takes place during the first Crusade, which is an equally fascinating period. The tale is not quite as fantastical as Ariosto's epic, and the tone is definitely graver & less playful, but there is still action and intrigue aplenty; and there's something ineffable about this epic that makes it a thuroughly pleasurable read. Milton and Spenser loved Tasso, and there's a scene around Canto 5 from which John Milton clearly took inspiration for Satan's initial soliloquies in Paradise Lost. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to find that Milton wasn't perfectly original there, already knowing how much he stole from Dante, Homer and Virgil, but who could have expected that he owed so much to Tasso! The only question I have now is, where did Torquato Tasso get it? Or is he actually the originator?
In the end, the plot usually follows only one or two separate storylines at once (where Orlando Furioso is always intricately weaving together about 15), and there isn't quite the level of fun or suspense in Tasso's work that you get with Ariosto, but compared to just about any other epic, Gerusalemme liberata is awesome. Without Ariosto for competition, I'd have given this book five stars.
”O ye scourge of the enemies of Christ! My army, conqueror of the Orient! Behold the final day, the day has come Which you have craved, for which your toil’s been spent, And all the rebel populations have Merged here against you, all with heaven’s consent, That you may, with your foes in unison, Fight many wars and win them all in one!
Canto 20 Stanza 14
I enjoyed every bit of this. Heroic speeches, noble charges, last stands, cowardice, betrayal, courage, and valor on a grand scale; everything you would desire and expect in an epic.
Written almost as propaganda, Tasso published this during the late 1500's, a time of disunity within a Machiavellian Italy. Political strife, compounded by the Reformation, was causing great division in the country; Tasso wished to harken back the days of yore, during the first crusade, when the country was unified in cause and religion, and laid siege to a Saracen-occupied Jerusalem. Of course, the period of the first crusade was just as turbulent, with conflict between ruling parties and individuals, but that all falls to the wayside in the blending of myth and lore Tasso invokes in telling his poetic Jerusalem Delivered to ‘Make Italy Great Again’.
Though one would think the forces of Islam undergoing the siege would be portrayed as ridiculous caricatures, staged merely as one-dimensional villains upon which the Italian forces can execute their virtue; it’s actually quite the opposite. The Muslim forces are handled with just as much respect as the Crusaders, with many of the story’s strongest, and most notable characters, standing in defense of Jerusalem. They are brave, and selfless, and tremendously strong on the battlefield, a rival for any of the crusading forces. Furthermore, they are given name and voice; Clorinda, a Saracen soldier, as beautiful as she is deadly, who wins the heart of Tancred, a Christian knight; Argante, a Muslim warrior, who is unrivaled on the field of battle, and becomes Tancred’s nemesis as the siege rages on; Soliman, a warrior Sultan who, as the crusaders lay ladders to cross Jerusalem’s walls, nobly charges them in one of the poems most cinematic moments:
The Captain waits not more, But seized the banner his trusty ensign bore,
And is first man on the bridge; and in mid-course There is the Sultan to block him. There they strive With infinite virtue, on a little bridge, A narrow field, with the few blows they give, And the proud Soliman cries, “I consecrate My own life here that other men may live! Friends, the bridge behind my back, cut it away! To the end I will be no easy prey.”
Canto 18 Stanzas 97-98
Their war cries are raw and honest, being of the full knowledge that, if the walls are taken, their families will pay the brutal price, since the Crusaders will hold no quarter. History tells us this is the reality of the situation, as, ultimately, the soldiers that took the city, pillaged, raped, and killed all within Jerusalem’s walls, including women, and children, which makes the Muslim force’s noble cries for steadfast courage and defense that much more affecting. They know the reality of failure, and their stoic rage rings from every line.
”O valiant heart! Go with that look to take our riches home.”
“Protect our faith and laws, and do not have Our holy temples washed in our own blood! Protect your father’s ashes and his grave, Secure your virgins from that wicked brood! The old men show you their white locks and rave About the years gone, and their soldierhood; Your wife shows you her nipples and her breast, Your children, cradles, bed.” And to the rest
He said, “Asia makes you the champions Of her honor, and she expects from you Against these few thieving barbarians A harsh but most just vengeance.”
Excerpts from Canto 20 Stanzas 25-27
It’s brutal, and like The Iliad in form and function, a story of soldiers at war. Of course, this being an Italian national epic, the bravery and courage of her soldiers must stand as the beacon of chivalry, championing readers to selfless deeds and heroism.
[…] and though his face looked ashen and half dead, And he too weak to bear his mail and fight, Or even strap a helmet to his head, Still he’d not shun the trouble, come what might, For there was need.
Excerpt of Canto 13 Stanza 32
It’s easy to see why this poem has inspired so much art, and in so many forms. There are operas, paintings, plays, and stories based on the characters created here. The noble Tancred, the heroic, and handsome, love-scorned Rinaldo, and the king Godfrey, hand-selected by God to bring Jerusalem back under Christian rule, are icons of Italian expression. Tasso succeeded in giving his country a source of inspiration, and his readers an epic that has been, and will be, remembered.
As a further note, Esolen's translation was excellent, and the John Hopkins Press edition I read (pictured above) was filled with detailed character notes, historical context which added crucial specifics, and additional commentary about the author, providing a very detailed reading experience. As far as I know, this is currently the most comprehensive examination of this poem, and, if something that intrigues you, would be the premiere copy to obtain.
Jerusalem Delivered was a great read. Epic poems, and writings of this nature, deserve to be read with focused investment, by dwelling on the words selected, the scenes painted. You're going to get more from this the more you put into it. It's certainly not for everyone, but for those who are willing to make the effort, it's a drama of noble character, and emotional power. In equal fair, it would please me greatly to read a poem of rival stature from the Saracen perspective; a Jerusalem Lost, or a poem based on the third crusade, when Islam retook Jerusalem, echoing Milton, a Jerusalem Regained. Tasso's work deserves to be read, and to have a rival poem of similar caliber and note. I would be pleased to find one.
What pen has ever staged The glorious scene? Who can describe the sight Of a people overcome, or justly tell Of that pathetic, fearsome spectacle?
SO, this story is kind of ridiculous (and, obviously, I would have liked it more had it been about Philippe Auguste) but it's also incredibly vibrant. Nash has a very readable prose translation, and the footnotes indicate he also has a genuine affection for the work, which is nice. As epics go, it rates below the Odyssey, but above the Iliad and Virgil, and definitely above Roland and the Cid. I'd like to read Ariosto and Boiardo now, because (I know this means Cervantes will never forgive me) I think the romance elements were extremely interesting. Also entertaining.
"The singing warriors to the mountain went, and the low valleys answered all their hymns, while the high hill-tops and their caverns deep and Echo through a thousand paths replied. It almost seemed that all those dens and leaves, where songs of nymphs and shepherds lay concealed, now tenderly resounded, and so very clearly, the name of Christ and that of Mary.
Meanwhile atop their walls, without a word, astounded, all the Pagans had come out to watch that slow meandering of song, and those strange rites, and that unwonted pomp. But as the newness of the holy scene faded, the wretched heathens raised their cries, and soon with blasphemies, in strident chord, a mount, a torrent, a great valley roared."
I only read a select number of Cantos from this book. I'll say straightaway: Tasso stands alongside Ariosto as one of my favourite authors ever. Before reading Italian literature I was very hesitant with poetry regardless of whether it was epic or romantic; tragic or comedic. Ultimately, in Ariosto and Tasso I found the type of literature I thought the English Romantics were lacking - that is, literature of melodrama and marvel and grandeur; literature that dealt with the immense complexity of reason vs passion; literature with engaging and individualistic characters who are not only trying to survive but trying to live as well. While the poetry of the Romantics touched on these, I feel like it is in the Italian tradition where you will find the authors are really digging deep into these themes.
I would attribute the success of Tasso's epic poetry and Ariosto's chivalric romance primarily, however, to their writing. Tasso in particular stands out to me more so than Ariosto because his characters are even more idiosyncratic - somehow he selects the right amount of dialogue that can give you a great deal of insight into a character's soul; no more, no less; and like Ariosto, he makes characterization look easy - particularly in this poetic form that he's writing in. (I wouldn't be surprised to find out that Tasso was one of those authors that spent hours and hours pouring over his writing and perfecting it in the same way that Ariosto did.)
I find that reading "Cantos" instead of "Chapters" (as in prose) makes it feel less of a story, as if something is missing - but Tasso's tale comes alive in this book in the same way Ariosto's does in "Orlando Furioso". The stanzas feel less like stanzas because of the fluidity to the connections between them.
Having read Tasso's "Discourses on the Heroic Poem," it was also very enjoyable to see how Tasso approached literature & then to see his theory in practice. For Tasso, epic poetry really does include every aspect of other poetic genres - and the emphasis on the "illustrious", and the grand, is really what makes epic poetry stand apart. I loved how Tasso balanced both the idiosyncracies of his characters with the epic proportions of the setting and plot. There is no part of "The Liberation of Jerusalem" where it seems like Tasso isn't 100% sure of what he is doing. And that's incredibly rare to see in a text like this; if you're looking for narrative inconsistencies or imbalances you won't find any in Tasso. He dissects his story into its components and weaves the reader through it all seamlessly.
Much like some of my other favourite authors, Tasso emphasizes religion as an authoritative figure for the characters, which was one of the most beautiful aspects of this book. Besides the sense of "loftiness" which we associate with epic tales, the importance of religion also brought a spiritual aspect to the text that uplifted every other narrative component towards the virtuous, the noble, and the good. & Like Ariosto - Tasso couldn't help but include the fantastical in this tale, which made it all the more fun to read. I had some very favourite passages in this that will stay with me for a long time, and I hope to return to it someday to read the full thing. I think there is a lot to be learned about storytelling from Tasso; but even moreso, I find him an incredible author and this epic poem was one of the most enjoyable things for me to read in a very long time!!
Over the last decade or so, fantasy fiction has emerged from a geeky underground genre to become a real cultural force in it;s own right. Go into any bookstore (or just check the Amazon sales rankings...) and you'll see and endless line of titles featuring wizards, warlocks, damsels in distress (or causing distress) and the whole sword swinging, shining knight and evil wizard deal providing fuel to the imagination. Any day of the week you can turn on a tv or head into a movie theatee and see CGI orcs, trolls and dragons battling it out across a wide variety of imaginary landscapes.
Yet the roots of fantasy go back far and deep into the bones of our culture. Tolkien is often called the father of fantasy (or one of the fathers at least) but even he had his influences, as did all the others who preceded him. To my mind, the chivalric romances are the original seed of what today we could tall fantastickal fiction. IN the courts of medieval and Renaissance Europe, poets and troubadours spun stories of brave knights and powerful wizards, princesses locked in towers and perilous quests, creating many of the tropes that we still use to this day.
To my mind, Torquato Tasso's epic poem JERUSALEM DELIVERED can be considered one of the first true epic fantasies. Ostensibly a retelling of the First Crusade, it mingles the bloody history of holy war with sorceresses, demons and magical happenings drawn from a wide variety of sources. Under the leadership of the noble lord Godfredo (the historical Godfrey of Boullion) and the mystic Peter the Hermit, a Crusader army drawn from all the Kingdoms of Christendom, and featuring many heroes familiar from numerous other medieval epics, gathers to capture Jerusalem from the armies of the Pagans (as he calls the Muslims) led by the Soldan of the Turks. Among the champions in the Christian army is the warrior Tancredi (the historical Tancred, Prince of Galillee), who faces off against the warrior-maiden Clorinda. Though fighting on the opposite side, they fall in love, which ends in tragedy when she mistakenly dies at the hands of her beloved. And there is the knight Rinaldo, who in the story is made out to be descended from one of Charlemagne's paladins (as well as being the ancestor of the House of Este, the poet's real-life patrons.) The greatest of all the Crusader knights, he falls under the spell of the sorceress Armida in a manner similar to Odysseus and Circe, before being rescued by his comrades and returned to fight in the final victory.
By today's standards this story would be reckoned grossly un-PC, the culture nowadays viewing the Crusades in a very different light then 16th Century Italian poets. And those who grew up reading modern prose might find the old-fashioned style (particularly the allusions to classical mythology mingled with Christian piety) frustrating. But there is a sense of wonder in this story, of unashamed glory, that still resonates even four centuries later. If you enjoyed reading the Lord of the Rings, this will give an idea of where Tolkien got his ideas.
Torquato Tasso (1544-1595) wrote Jerusalem Delivered in 1575 (published in 1581). This poetic epic can easily be compared to the Iliad and Odyssey by Homer. Even though Tasso isn’t a household name, his works have weathered the test of time and are still highly inspirational. Basically Jerusalem Delivered is an account of the First Crusade (1096-1099) to the Holy Lands. I admit that epic poetry isn’t my primary forte but I can still see the literary value in this antiquated historical work. This isn’t a work for everyone but could be seen as a true diamond for those chosen few.
This is an epic poem about the First Crusade to liberate the Holy Land. Little read today, it was once consider a must read during the Renaissance. Tasso imitates Homer and Virgil in composing this work and pits love against duty within the main characters. A work that should be resurrected.