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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The reasons of the heart (4)

[7: 79]

In Èlia venne, e qui Nicea raccolta
Dal gran Tiranno fu del Regno hebreo.
Ma de la madre sua, ch'ancisa e tolta
Le fu da morte, pianse il caso reo;
Né 'l dolersi per lei ch'era sepolta
Né l'essiglio infelice unqua poteo
Spegner favilla in lei di tanta fiamma,
Ond'ella si consuma a dramma a dramma.

To Aelia(*) Nicaea came, received here by
The great Tyrant of the Hebrew kingdom. (**)
She then mourned the sad end of her mother,
Who was killed, and taken away by death;
But, nor her sorrow for her buried mother,
Nor her unhappy exile ever succeeded (***)
In extinguishing a spark of that huge fire
By which she was consumed inch by inch. (****)

(*) Aelia Capitolina, the name the Romans had given Jerusalem after conquering, destroying, and rebuilding it.
(**) That is, Emir Ducat, the current Muslim king of the formerly Hebrew land. To call him a "tyrant" is mere war propaganda.
(***) The structure of these two verses echoes Dante, Inferno 26: 94-96.
(****) Literally, "drachm by drachm," from Dante, Purgatorio 30: 46-48, where the word dramma already rhymed with fiamma (flame, fire).

In general: In Gerusalemme Conquistata Tasso modifies Nicaea's story quite radically -- starting from the name: she was called Erminia in Gerusalemme Liberata. Tasso however does not modify the whole plot accordingly, so that the Conquistata is affected by several inconsistencies. For example, here Nicaea mourns her mother, but she will not even meet her father, the powerful Turkish king and knight Solyman, who also lives in Jerusalem now. The reason is that in the Liberata Solyman was not her father, so no relation between them was needed. As a paradoxical consequence, in the final part of the poem, Nicaea will mourn Argantes' death, not her father's.
Gerusalemme Liberata had been praised for its 'compactness' against the puzzling maze of Ariosto's Orlando Furioso. In the Conquistata, Tasso -- as a true Renaissance author -- concludes that consistency is not a fitting key to "re-present" life, least of all in his own worldview.