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Jerusalem Delivered

ISBN-10: 0801863236
ISBN-13: 9780801863233
Edition: 2001
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Description: Late in the eleventh century the First Crusade culminated in the conquest of Jerusalem by Christian armies. Five centuries later, when Torquato Tasso began to search for a subject worthy of an epic, Jerusalem was governed by a sultan, Europe was in  More...

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Book details

List price: $35.00
Copyright year: 2001
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date: 7/10/2000
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 504
Size: 6.25" wide x 9.75" long x 1.25" tall
Weight: 1.782
Language: English

Late in the eleventh century the First Crusade culminated in the conquest of Jerusalem by Christian armies. Five centuries later, when Torquato Tasso began to search for a subject worthy of an epic, Jerusalem was governed by a sultan, Europe was in the crisis of religious division, and the Crusades were a nostalgic memory. Tasso turned to the First Crusade both as a subject that would test his poetic ambition and as a reflection on the quandaries of his own time. He sought to create a masterpiece that would deserve comparison with the great epics of the past. Gerusalemme liberata became one of the most widely read and cherished books of the Renaissance. First published in 1581, it was translated into English by Edward Fairfax in 1600. That translation has been the standard, even though Fairfax was only a good, not a great, poet. Fairfax tried to fit Tasso's verse into Spenserian stanzas, adding to and subtracting from the original and often changing Tasso's meaning. Anthony Esolen's new translation captures the delight of Tasso's descriptions, the different voices of its cast of characters, the shadings between glory and tragedy -- and it does all this in an English as powerful and clear as Tasso's Italian. Tasso's masterpiece finally emerges as an English masterpiece.

Few poets have had a more anguished life than Italy's Torquato Tasso, about whom Goethe wrote his celebrated tragedy Torquato Tasso. His great chivalric epic of the Christian crusades is Jerusalem Delivered (1575). Tasso, who was a critic before he was a poet, sought to make Homer and Virgil his models and Dante his source of Christian poetic inspiration, but the resulting epic, as finally published in 1581, is a work of Petrarchan melancholy. Unlike Dante or Ariosto, Tasso did not succeed in objectifying a world in the epic manner. In celebrating the deeds of heroes, he remained subjective and lyric. The reason may be, as some have suggested, that he felt Italy was a long way from becoming a significant united nation capable of sustaining a truly epic enterprise in its literature. Forlorn in love, overwhelmed by melancholy, ever suspicious of intrigues against him, Tasso became self-critical to the point of trying to rewrite his epic to placate its severest critics. He traveled much and was several times confined as insane by patrons and friends who loved him. He died in Rome, where he had been summoned to be honored, like Petrarch, with the poet's laurel. Second to Jerusalem Delivered, Tasso's most influential literary work has been his pastoral play Aminta (1581), which has been performed and highly praised. As in his epic, the poetic voice is lyric. Some modern critics have come to believe that, with his all-pervasive lyricism, Tasso was far ahead of his times.

Anthony Esolen is professor of English at Providence College, where he has taught for many years.

Acknowledgments
Note on the Translation
Introduction
Jerusalem Delivered
Allegory of the Poem
Cast of Characters
Notes
Bibliographical Essay
Index

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