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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Hero's CV (2)

[6: 58.1-6]

E dicean: - Parea questi al dubbio varco
Horatio sol contra Toscana tutta,
Senza colpo temer di lancia e d'arco;
E forse quella gente havria destrutta
Se del corsier non era il grave incarco
Caduto ove la riva è meno asciutta -.

They said, "In that dangerous passage, he
Looked like Horatius against whole Tuscany,
Fearing no blows from lances or arches.
He would perhaps destroy all that people,
But was blocked under the weight of his horse,
Who fell where the bank was less dry."


Notes
Tasso keeps 'hinting' at events in the life of Richard the Norman that he has never described, nor will he do so.
The most noticeable thing, from a literary point of view, is that these few verses are packed with quotations or echoes from Dante: "Toscana tutta" (whole Tuscany), "senza colpo temer" (fearing no blows), "gente . . .  destrutta" (destroyed people), "grave incarco" (heavy weight).
The word Tuscany, 'attracted' here by the Dantesque gravity, is not completely exact: in 509 BC in Rome, Horatius Cocles fought against the Etruscans, who lived in central Italy in an area just south of Tuscany, more or less the current Umbria. The Etruscan city walls of Perugia, in Umbria, were built precisely in that time period; they can still be admired there. As to this way of updating geographic names, Dante himself made Virgil say he was born in Lombardia, the "Land of Longobards," using the Medieval name of the area in Italy in which Mantua is; and called Hannibal's men "Arabians" because they came from Northern Africa.