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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

What about Armida? (2)

[6: 93]

E benché sia mastra d'inganni, e i suoi modi
Gentili, e le maniere accorte,
E bella sì che 'l ciel prima né poi
Altrui non diè maggior bellezza in sorte,
Onde i più scelti e più famosi Heroi
Del suo piacer già presi havea sì forte
Che tutti vanno indietro altri diletti,
Non adivien che 'l pio Goffredo alletti.

But, although she is a master of deception,
And her manners all courteous and kind,
And she is so beautiful that never had heaven
Given a greater beauty to any other woman, (*)
Therefore the most selected and famous Heroes
Have been caught by her appeal so strongly (**)
That they have left behind all other delights,
She cannot allure(***) the pious Godfrey at all.

(*) Tasso reserves this praise to Armida, and in part to Herminia/Nicaea, while in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso a lot of women were described as "the most" beautiful ever. And unlike Ariosto's Alcina, Armida's gorgeous beauty is real, not a delusion created by magic. It may be worth recalling that, in Gerusalemme Conquistata, Armida is a "mermaid" not by way of saying but literally.
(**) Echoing Dante, Inferno 5: 104, where Francesca Da Rimini speaks.
(***) Possibly with a pun, since the verb allettare -- in current Italian, at least -- also means "to have someone go to bed" (letto).