SiStan ChapLee

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Insult added to injury

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Ferrara, Italy. This is where the St. Anne Hospital existed in the 16th century, that is the jail and asylum in which Torquato Tasso was locked up because he had threatened to report some stories of corruption of the city rulers, the Este family, before the Church authorities; namely, with reference to the not-too-chaste lifestyle of Cardinal Luigi D'Este. See Fabio Pittorru, Torquato Tasso. L'uomo, il poeta, il cortigiano, Milan: Bompiani, 1982. Precisely in that period, Tasso worked on the "authorized edition" of his long poem Gerusalemme Liberata (1581) in order to contrast the many pirated editions that circulated; and wrote sharp, interesting essays.

The inscription, flatly echoing the official version of the Estes according to which the poet had gone crazy, reads: "Here in the St. Anne Hospital / from March 1579 to July 1586 / Alphonse II, the fifth Duke of Ferrara, / mercifully helped / Torquato Tasso. / The darkness of that great mind / also experienced wonderful flashes of light, / that's why his manuscripts, however sad, / shine with glory."

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