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Friday, July 4, 2014

A Hero's CV (1)

[6: 57.3-8]

Così parlò crollando altera fronte,
E sul pugnale havea la man sinistra.
Molti membrâr qual già sembrò sul ponte
Quando da' Franchi ei difendea Murmistra,
E 'ngombrato de' corpi al fiume il fondo,
Il fe' correr più tardo al mar profondo.

So he(*) spoke, shaking(**) his proud forehead,
His left hand already lying on the dagger.
Many remembered his appearance on that bridge
As he defended Murmistra against the Franks;
By obstructing the whole river with corpses,
He made it flow more slowly towards the sea.

(*) Richard the Norman. His enterprises follow 'standard' patterns taken from classical sources (see the next post) and poems of chivalry. The most interesting detail is that, as mentioned by Godfrey, in a previous phase of the war Richard fought against the Franks, and fiercely so. Unfortunately, as the critical edition of Gerusalemme Conquistata is not yet available, or rather, no edition is available in Italy, it is hard to get a better understanding of the events here told. "Murmistra" is probably Mumistra in current Turkey (Tasso was a learned man, but he sometimes tended to misspell names). And Richard probably had to defend it "against" the Franks because the Crusaders used to occupy the lands they crossed, even those ruled by Christian leaders! Something more about this will be revealed later in the poem, with reference to Tancred, who -- unlike Richard -- was a historical personage.

(**) "Crollando," a verb of Dantean origin. An unusual feature of this section of the poem, from a linguistic viewpoint, is that the narrative rhythm does not follow the formal division in octaves; with a sort of super-enjambements, so to speak. Tasso loved this stylistic device, which he called inarcatura.