SeeStan ChapLee

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

In the dark, dark forest (4)

[16: 5]

Ivi le maghe sono accolte, e 'l vago
Con ciascuna di lor notturno viene,
Vien sopra i nembi, e chi d'un fero drago
E chi forma d'un capro infome tiene:
Conciglio infame, che fallace imago
Suole allettar di desïato bene
A celebrar con pompe immonde e sozze
I profani conviti e l'empie nozze.

There the witches gather, and with each
Of them her lover comes by night from
Above the clouds, some having the shape
Of a fierce dragon, some of an ugly goat:
A foul Council(*) that a deceiving image
Of a longed for good very often calls (**)
To celebrate, with a filthy splendor,
Profane banquets, ungodly weddings.

(*) Interestingly enough, the manuscript reads Conciglio (more exactly spelled Concilio), but in the final printed version the word was slightly modified into Consiglio: Though coming from the same Latin root concilium, in Italian the former means a Church assembly while the latter means a town council, or nowadays an administrative board. Maybe in the "director's cut" of his main poem Tasso chose not to stress the parallelism -- though ironic, or precisely because of this -- with the Council of Trent, even if he himself had used the term Concilio in Gerusalemme Liberata. John Milton, who had read the Liberata, added to the irony by defining Pandemonium "a solemn council."
(**) Another interesting detail. Both Dante and Ariosto had dealt with witches, but neither had proposed a sociological explanation of the phenomenon as Tasso does here.