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Friday, October 7, 2016

Whatcha gonna do now, Tancred? (8)

[16: 40]

Alfine un largo spatio in forma scorge
D'anfiteatro, e non è pianta in esso
Salvo che nel suo mezzo altero sorge,
Qual piramide eccelsa, alto cipresso.
Ei là si drizza, e nel mirar s'accorge
Ch'era di vari segni il tronco impresso,
Simili a quei ch'in vece usò di scritto
L'antico già misterïoso Egitto.

He finally sees a wide area shaped
As a Roman theater, without a tree
Except, in its middle, rising as high
As a pyramid, (*) a very tall cypress.
He goes straight there, and there notices
That in its trunk many signs are carved
Like those which, instead of an alphabet,
The ancient, mysterious Egypt employed. (**)

(*) In Western art, from the Middle Ages up to the 18th century (see Tiepolo), Egyptian pyramids were usually represented much more elongated than they are.
(**) The Renaissance experienced a real hieroglyph-mania, with all kinds of interpretations of them, and the invention of new ones 'after the manner of.' See e.g. the monumental Triumphal Arch engraved by Albrecht Dürer for Emperor Maximilian.
There is another subtle hint here. A woman actually carved words of love for Tancred on trunks: Princess Erminia -- in Gerusalemme Liberata; then renamed "Nicaea" in the Conquistata -- though he does not reciprocate her sentiment. The knight is in love with a she-knight, Clorinda (see more about this). But he himself has just killed her by mistake. And, as a matter of fact, in a past episode he had already chanced to follow Erminia/Nicaea thinking he was following Clorinda. In this "Freudian" episode, is Tancred's subconscious trying to reveal something to him?