SiStan ChapLee

Friday, March 28, 2014

An offer you can't refuse (2)

[6: 14.1 - 15.2]

Però così rispose: - I gradi primi
Men conseguir che meritar desio;
Né, dove me la mia virtù sublimi,
Di scettri altezza invidïar degg'io.
Ma s'a l'honor m'inviti, il qual si stimi
Debito a me, non ci verrò restio;
E caro esser mi dee che sia dimostro
Sì bel segno da voi del voler vostro.

Dunque io no'l chiedo e no 'l rifiuto, e quando
Duce io pur sia, sarai de gli altri eletti -.

Therefore Richard answered, "I want to deserve the highest grades, rather than getting them; even if my own valor were to exalt me, I shouldn't envy the power of scepters. But if you are calling me to an honor that may be due to me, I won't be reluctant. And it cannot but be dear to me that you all show such a fine sign of your will. So, I don't ask for it, nor do I refuse it. And yes, if I become the Captain, you will be among the [men] chosen [to follow Armida]."

Throughout the poem, and in the Conquistata version even more than in the Liberata, Tasso tries to achieve a difficult balance between the values of chivalry and the Christian values, basically between Norse pride and Gospel humbleness. In Ludovico Ariosto the former values were the ruling ones, while the latter only surfaced on some occasions, and often as a mockery, but Tasso is as sincerely a Christian as a fan of classical epic, so his attempt is a definitely hard one.
Verse 14.7, "E caro esser mi dee," ironically echoes Dante, Inferno 32: 91. Not many lines below, at 122, Dante will mention Ganelon, the traitor of Charlemagne.