SiStan ChapLee

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Beware of strangers (3)

[8: 23]

Suona il corriero in arrivando il corno,
E tosto giù calar si vede un ponte;
- Qui, se latin sei tu, puoi far soggiorno
Hor che 'l sol cade, insin ch'egli sormonte,
Ché questo loco, e non è il terzo giorno,
Acquistò (dice) de' Carnuti il conte -.
Mira il loco il guerrier, che d'ogni parte
Inespugnabil fanno il sito e l'arte.

As soon as they reach their destination, the messenger plays his horn and a bridge is drawn dawn. "Here," he tells Tancred, "if you are a Latin [ = European, Christian], you can lodge now that the sun is setting, until it rises tomorrow morning. In fact, not more than three days ago the place has been conquered by the Count of Carnutes." The knight watches the castle, that both nature and technique make impregnable.

In the parallel text in Gerusalemme Liberata (7: 29) the owner of the castle was said to be "the Count of Cosenza," in southern Italy, who however was a merely fictional character. It doesn't make a great difference since, as we will find out soon, the true owner is somebody else.
The Carnutes, an ancient people of Gaul, can hardly be expected to have survived -- as a distinct people -- up to the 11th century. Tasso obviously means the Count of some territory in northern France, maybe Orléans. Readers of comic books will recall the "Forest of Carnutes" in Asterix's adventures as the place where the druids held their meetings. The hint at Carnutes in these lines might even work as an alarm bell for Tancred because druids were considered followers of black magic and servants of the devil like all heathen priests (Celtic religions would 'become' the peak of wisdom etc. not sooner than in the 19th century). Too late.