Monday, March 13, 2017

Jerusalem Delivered

Jerusalem DeliveredJerusalem Delivered by Torquato Tasso, translated by Anthony Esolen, 419 pages

In the masterpiece he labored over for much of his troubled life, Tasso set out to translate the history of the First Crusade into the language of epic poetry, substituting the fancies of chivalric romance for those of pagan mythology.  In keeping with his models, Tasso fills his work with subplots beyond the story of how with great effort and even greater faith Godfrey de Bouillon held together the quarrelsome Christians and led them in the capture of the Holy City.  Memorable stories include the love quadrangle between the fierce warrior Argante, the impetuous knight Tancred, the gentle princess Erminia, and the proud warrior woman Clorinda, the sinister schemes of the seductive sorceress Armida and the enchantment with which she captures the peerless Rinaldo, and the sacrifice of the earnest Olindo and the chaste Sophronia.

Tasso uses his poetry to entertain, but also to explore inner struggles of faith and virtue, to illuminate the nature of true love and the nature of true leadership.  Esolen ably translates the language of the poem while providing keys to open the layers of allegorical meaning locked into the text.

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