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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Rebel With a Cause (3)

[6: 32] The tragedy looms

- I' son figlio di re (dicea Gernando),
E li avi miei regnâr là sotto il Polo,
Là donde i tuoi fuggîr cacciati in bando,
E cercâr altri lidi e stranio suolo -.
- Prima i miei vi regnâr, e poscia errando
L'ali spiegâr di cento legni a volo,
Come Francone e 'l pio figlioul d'Anchise -
Replicò il bel Riccardo, e qui sorrise.

"I am a king's son," said Gernand, "and my
Ancestors reigned there, below the North Pole,
Whence yours fled after being outlawed,
Looking for another seat in foreign lands."
"My ancestors did reign there, then wandering,
Spread the wings of a hundred ships and flew,
Like Franconians and the just son of Anchises,"
Replied the handsome Richard, and smiled.

The whole historical debate between Gernand and Richard coudn't be found in Gerusalemme Liberata, it has been added in Gerusalemme Conquistata.

This octave is full of quotations from, or hints at, Dante. Gernand's describing himself as "I am . . .  and my ancestors were . . ." echoes Virgil's words in Inferno 1: 67-68. The episode is even more clearly cited below, when Aeneas is called "the just son of Anchises" like in Inferno 1: 73-74 (Tasso uses the adjective pio, pious, tracing the Latin word in the Aeneid, instead of Dante's giusto, just, righteous, that better expresses its meaning). The metaphor of the ships flying like birds comes from Inferno 26: 125, that in the Renaissance was interpreted as a prophecy of the Discovery of America. The significant pun between "fleeing" and "flying" is a bonus given by the English language, it is not in the original text.

"Franconians" is an old term, in order to avoid an obviously anachronistic reference to Renaissance Dutch merchants and explorers. But, here as elsewhere, Tasso has his own world in his mind, rather than the society of the 11th century.