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Thursday, July 18, 2013

This is Istanbul (2)

[3: 23]

Nel gran tempio sorgea sede suprema,
Dove ne l'aureo manto e gemme et ostri
Portava Alessio, al crine alto diadema;
E i Greci eran congiunti a' Duci nostri.
Par ch'ondeggi la turba intorno, e frema;
Sovra, l'Aquila spiega artigli e rostri
E 'n vista ventillar fa rosse piume
Ne l'aura a l'auro, e splende al chiaro lume.

In the great temple a high seat stood,
Where in his golden cloak gems and purples
Did show Alexy, with a high diadem on;
And the Greeks were together with our Chiefs.
Seems like the crowd ripples and sways all around;
Above, the Eagle spreads claws and beaks
And you can see its red feathers flapping
In the air in gold, and it shines in the clear light.


The Emperor of Byzantium, Alexios I Komnenos. The temple is presumably the Hagia Sophia / Holy Wisdom. Verse 8 contains a typical Baroque pun between "l'aura," the air, and "l'auro," the gold (the pun would no more work in current Italian, in which the two words sound "aria" and "oro"). But especially, Tasso here makes explicit reference to Dante's theory of realism in art, cf. Purgatorio 10: 79-81.