THE JERUSALEM DELIVERED OF TORQUATO TASSO.* ABOVE all epic poems" Tasso's Geru- of Tasso, which was excited to a pitch salemme Liberata" displays the hap- of morbidity by the incidents and piest choice of subject and the most misfortunes of his life, is everywhere artistically perfected design; the apparent throughout his poem ; and characters are drawn consistent with few bards have idealized objectively their ideal, and strikingly contrasted, their loves and sorrows more effecand a strong and various inventive tively than he. All hisChristian heroes, power is shown in the incidents and with the exception of Godfrey-that scenes which accelerate and diversify more noble pious Æneas of the “Geruthe action of the story. But as a salemme"--and even some of his infigreat and original work of ima- del knights, are lovers; but while gination, it is alike inferior to the such delineations confer on the work, epics of Greece and England, and to contrasted with its forerunners and the poems of the author's country- succedents, a distinctive individuality, men, Dante and Ariosto. To depict the preponderance thus given to this the 'heroic grandeur of Christian sentiment and passion, may be reknighthood is Tasso's forte, to paint garded as by no means inconsistent the sentiment and passion of love his in an epic of Christian chivalry: element. Pre-eminent in tender and Though in selecting and painting beautiful conceptions, he had hardly his warriors and women, Tasso had any idea of the sublime in its highest Homer and Virgil constantly in view sense, as we find it in the “ Prome. -Achilles, being the model of Rinaltheus," the “Inferno," and "Para- do ; Agamemnon, of Godfrey ; Cloandise Lost.” Witness his Tartarus thes, apparently of Tankred; even and fiends, the latter of which are Turnus, of Argante ; Calypso, of Armore grotesque than awful, and mida; Camilla, of Clorinda ; --the formore bizarre than grotesque -- for mer are all strikingly delineated, which, in its proper sense, he had no while embellished with traits suitable faculty like Pulci and Dante, humour- to the modern spirit of heroism ; and ous and terrible. The Italian Virgil the latter so fully developed as wellof the Crusades is an artist like the nigh to conceal their Greek and Latin Latin, with more fancy, indeed, and origin. Great inventive power is a greater sense of beauty ; but upon manifested in the incidents which the whole, scarcely more original mark the current of the fable; the than the ambitious imitative compo- alternate successes of Christians and ser of the unrevised Æneid ; for Payans holding the interest in balwhile he placed before him as models ance until the final victory of the the epics of antiquity, he took much arms of Christendom. The machinembodied in his poem from ro- ery, also, is well managed, to fulfil mances of chivalry, their incidents the purpose of that department of and characters; and the most gener- epic structure ; the angels and deally, though not judiciously, admired mons coming to the assistance of portion of his work--the garden of either force at such times as the Armida, from the Aphroditean island, attractiveness of their separate ad. in the "Laisiad" of Camoens. As in ventures terminating requires to be Virgil

, the episodes are the most maintained by supernatural acces poetic part of the epic, in which sories. The speeches, also, several of heroines play a greater part than in which display a grand and noble any other, and the scenes in which Er- spirit, such as Godfrey's address to minia, Clorinda, and Armida appear, the army, in the first canto, are never form its finest passages, which adini carried to an exorbitant length, as rably unite in conception and treat- in Homer, but concentrated within ment the romantic and classic spirit the limita necessary for advancing the which characterizes the "Gerusalemme action. Takso excels in description, Liberata." The susceptible character and several of his battle pieces are

"The Jerusalem Delivered od Torquato Tass" Translated into English verse. By John Kingotun James, kot, MA, in 2 volumes. London: Longman, 1965.

[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors]

full of force and animation. In such read Lucan's description of the Druidscenes, however, neither he nor Ariosto ical wood at Marseilles, is likely; but have produced anything so varied, though he introduced the demoniac pathetic, and imaginative as Pulci's adjuncts to intensify the horror of battle of Roncesvalles.

the scene, he has failed to produce The supernatural element enters the effect of overwhelming gloom and largely into the poem, but with the awe which impresses the reader of exception of the effects produced by this famous passage :Ismenio's arts in the enchanted forest,

“Siqua fidem meruit superos mirata vetustas several of the other scenes are com- Illis et volucres metuunt insistere ramis, parative failures. The stanza in which Et lustris recubare—feræ ; nec ventus in he describes Pluto, marshalling the

illas demons of Tartarus, has long been ad

Incubuit silvas, excussaque nubibus atris, mired as an instance of the rough, sono

Fulgura ; non ullis frondem præbentibus

rous strength which Tasso has given to

Arboribus suus horror inest."
the soft Italian by selecting a num-
ber of words abounding in aspirates.

Here the silent gloom indigenous to “Chiama gli abitator dell'ombre eterne

the place is enough ; while in Tasso Il rauco suon della tartarea tromba,

the flames that oppose Godfrey, taking Treman le spaziose atre caverne,

the form of castellated towers and E l'aer cieco a quel romor rombomba," instruments of war, is a bizarre fancy. &c.

The most beautiful scenes in the a passage which Milton did not at-“Jerusalem,” as we have said, are the tempt to emulate; though, as usual, episodes of Clorinda and Sofronia, when describing the effect of sound, which charms by its unexpected endhe works it out in a more imaginative ing; and the combat of Tankred and manner, as, in the passage where the Clorinda, and death of the latter-a angels are marshalling in his Pande- scene managed with exquisite dramamonium, which, unlike the narrow

tic art, and leaving an impression of Tartarus of Tasso, is an infinite with the finest sentimental pathos, still an infinite beyond

heightened by the conclusion in which, " All the while

after his despair at causing her death, Sonorous metal blowing martial sounds,

the spirit of his slain mistress apAt which the universal host set up

pears to the lover in a dream, to offer A shout that tore hell's concave, and him forgiveness and consolation. far off

We characterize this passage, which Frighted the reign of Chaos and old Night.” is perfectly worked out, as an instance

As, however, the description of the of the highest reach of sentimental infernal regions and their demons pathos of which Tasso was a master; continue, they fall far short of the but may add, that in none of his commencement. The devil's eyes poetry of this order can we find those strike terror and death, but their brows imaginative touches of nature, which are twined with serpents. Pluto's turn the blood to tears in the pathetic stature is as Calpe and Atlas to a little pictures of Dante or Shakespeare. bill, but his eyes stream with poison,

The description of Armida, her enhis mouth with black blood; and, em- chanted island, and love scene with bellished with horns and tail, he is Rinaldo, is one of the most favourite no longer a sublime monster, but an and charming parts of the “Gerusalemabsurd hobgoblin-the raw-head-and-me Liberata;" and the voyage of the bloody-bones of vulgar medieval fic- knight thither, interesting, but more tion. The best, indeed, that can be said geographical than poetic, with

the of the hell of Tasso, who imitated the exception of the allusion to Carthage, monstrosity of Dante without his and the fine reflection—“Muojono le sublimity, is, that it is terribly absurd. citte, muojono i regni”-and the proThe account of the enchanted forest, phecy of the discovery of America by which Ismenio fills with demons, to Columbus :prevent the Christian soldiers cutting

“E la terra misuri, immensa mole wood for making machines to attack

Vittorioso ed emulo del sole." the walls of Jerusalem, has been much The thirty-six stanzas describing praised; it is a striking incident in the island is little more than a transconnexion with the siege, and in the lation of the charms of the Fortunate romantic spirit. That Tasso may have Islands in Horace's epode. The glimpses we are given of the bathing Liberata," among which, as contrast nymphs is presented in Tasso's most pieces, may be mentioned, the picpoetic manner--a picture of graceful ture of the burning autumn drought and chaste voluptuousness; and the with which the Christian army are rising of their humid brows and afflicted (canto 13, stan. 53 to 64), in beauties from the crystal lake, illus- which every verse serves to heighten trated by a charming simile-"Qual the description--an abnormal state of mattutina stella esce dall'onde," &c. nature, in which a dim and bloody sun -a picture which Fairfax has im- looks through the feverous air on the proved, and Spenser imitated, as he perishing host; and of whichthe effect has the entire fifteenth and sixteenth is as though the demoniac powers had cantos.

brought hell nearer to the earth. An. Tasso has described, not painted, other exquisite passage, of a different the garden of Armida ; the effect is character, is that in which Erminia is produced by accumulation of detail, described flying to the banks of the and is deficient in the sense of beauty Jordan, where she resides with an and tone which give a halo to the old shepherd, and passes a lonely depiction and landscape of more ima- life amid solitary pastoral scenes. ginative poets, such as Keats and The picture ( 7, s. 5) is exquisite. Tennyson. The introduction of the Awaked by the song of birds she singing bird – a highly cultivated salutes the pale dawn, but takes no parrot and perfect metricist certainly pleasure in their joy, the river mur---has been reprehended as a conceit: murs in the arborage, the waves but considering that the gardens are play with the air and the flowers; under the power of an enchantress, it she opens her languid eyes and betrespasses less upon poetic taste than holds the solitary dwellings of the the mirror which Tasso has hung on shepherds, and a voice seems to adRinaldo's neck, and in which he and his dress her from the waters and the mistress amuse themselves by reflect- branches which answers to her sighs ing themselves and the surrounding and her tears. ( The battle before scenery. But of such false fancies there the walls of Jerusalem between the are many in this epic poem--a species crusading hosts and the Egyptian of composition into which, above all army is a varied and magnificent others except tragedy, they should piece of description. The meeting never be permitted to enter. The between Armida and Rinaldo then amorous dalliance of the lovers, but occurs; for Tasso cannot wind up for this, is, however, charmingly por- without reconciling his favourite hero trayed, as are also the objects with with his enchantress The poem which they are surrounded, such concludes by Godfrey entering Jeruas the peacock which“ spriga la salem, and offering thanks to Heaven pompa delle occhiute piume" -one for his sucress in the Holy Sepulchre. of the few picturesque expressions in From beginning to end, therefore, the Tasso, and only surpassed by the action, dignified and varied to its description of the movement of the conclusion, realizes the nature of serpent which “bè dopo se tira." epical conception, ending happily. Then comes the account of the res. As far as structure is concerned, tus of Armida- taken indeed from indeed, that of Tasso has the adHomer, but from the very nature of vantage of all others; and had he the object, more attractive in the possessed as much imagination and choice soft Italian verses. The sud- nature as invention and design-in den appearance of the warriors daz- which former respect he is not to be zling the lovers with the heroic flame compared to Miltin or Shakespeare of their golden armour as they burst his work would have been worthy of upon their retreat, is a fine poetical a place on the supremest summit of 1 surprise, and appropriately breaks the Olympus of epic poetry. the charm which has held Rinaldo Of the several English translations enthralled in his Cytherean isle, pre- which have appeared -- and in this facing the transition from the love catego ty we include the latest, that scene to one of hatred and revenge, from the pen of Sir John Kingsten and the magical terrors which ensue. James we cannot say thnt any have

There are many admirable descrip done all justice to Tasso's grand, tive passages in the “Gerusalemmo interes ing, and pathetic epic of

chivalry. Though the task of re- "Into himself now coils, and now distends flecting in our language the beauties His knotty rings, and glides along to of the romantic poets of Italy is far

guard;" less difficult than that of producing excluding altogether the striking poetic translations of the classics of image, draws himself after himGreece and Rome, no adequate ren- self;" and passing to the succeeding dering of any of them, in toto, has yet line. Again, of the stanza about been accomplished. Sir J. K. James the famous cestus of Armida, in appears to us to have possessed seve- painting which Tasso has selected ral of the fundamental requisites for the choicest words, the writer has the execution of the extensive labour given a partially inaccurate and coarse he has essayed : a sound knowledge rendering :of Italian, considerable mastery and

“Teneri sdegni, e placide e tranquille, ready application of the vocabulary

Repulse, e cari vezzi, e liete paci, of the English, a love of his subject,

Sorrisi, parolette, e dolci stille, and much

scholarly and poetic taste. Di pianto." His version of the "Gerusalemme Liberata” is perhaps the most literal yet

He translates :produced indeed to render it so seems “The coy refusal, the voluptuous leer !! to have been his primary purpose; but

The feuds and truces, the heart-piercing this, though meritorious in the main,

eyes, has led him into a number of metri

The tender kiss, the sympathetic tear, cal inaccuracies, which, as they are

The playful raillery, the broken sighs.” possibly the result of hasty composi- While, remarking that in the Italian tion, will demand a rigorous excision there is nothing about voluptuous before he again sends his work leers or heart-piercing eyes, we may through the press. The writer states suggest how much more poetic a in his preface that he was induced to closer adhesion to the wording of any adopt the alternate elegiac couplet in finished passage, like this catalogue his translation from the difficulty of of charms, renders a translation, than sustaining the ottiva rima of the the most flowery paraphrase. original; and it is no less certain that Passing over these and other dethe labour would have been greater fects, chiefly metrical, a tendency to had he adhered to that form of verse, inversion, &c., we must compliment than that by its adoption the veri- the writer on the general fidelity and similitude between his rendering and spirit with which he has turned the the Italian poem would have been twenty cantos into English verse. more approximate. Deficient, how- The combat between Tancredi and ever, as the English may be in rhymes Clorinda, and her death, the entire of compared with the Italian, the ob- the 16th canto, are particularly well stacles alluded to have been overcome rendered, while many shorter pasby many poets, among whom it is only sages, of the most varied poetic necessary to refer to Byron, who, character, exhibit a congenial adapthroughout his longest work and mas- tability of poetic power and versifiterpiece has managed that metre with cation, and a choice of diction by no a facility which should explode any means common. Take as a specimen objections to its use on the score of of the fidelity in which the work inaptitude. A good number of false is executed, the picture of the enrhymes also require correction ; and chanted garden, in the 16th canto :here and there the idiomatic turns and

" But when they had passed those labyrinpicturesque phrases of Tasso might

thine bowers, with effect be literally produced. An

In gay aspect the lovely garden opes : instance of the total omission of one of Still water, springing crystal, myriad the latter is found in his rendering of flowers, the stanza in the 15th canto, descrip- All kinds of herbs and plants, rich tive of the serpent which guards the sunny slopes, paradise of Armida.

Grottoes and groves, dark vales' inviting

shade, Or rientra in sè stessa, or le nodose Rote distende, e sè dopo se tira.

Were grouped together in one fairy

scene; Of this the writer merely translates And what more beautiful the picture made, the first line, and first half of the Art, that did all, remained herself unsecond


"So blent was waste with ornament, you'd *** So passeth in the passing of a has deem

Life's bloom and verdure, nor All strictly natural : the art of Nature April's showers Was such, that she, in frolic mood, would Return with promise of another seem

Will it reblossom or again bear For sport to imitate her imitator. Cull we, then, roses while life's me The very air was formed by magic powers Pranked with that prime w That caused perennial spring: undying will soon remove; fruit

Cull we Love's rose, and let us For ever bloomed amid undying flowers,

we, And one was ripe when the other gan Still loving, meet with for to shoot.

love.' “On the same stem, and 'twixt the self- " He ceased; as if approving same leaves,

Of tuneful birds take One fig is ripe, while 'neath, another

sioned strain; blows;

The doves kiss fondly, To the samne bough the golden apple desire ; cleaves,

Nor is there creatur As that on which its green successor

refrain: grows;

The vestal laurel, tho! In rank luxuriance the meandering vine And all the vario Creep to the sunniest aspect you behold;

grove, Here flowering buds their tortuous ten- And earth and air, drils twine ;

look, Here, big with nectar, rubies form and

And the sighshme gold.

"Mid such att * Beautiful birds, among the frondous

sights, boughs, Vie with each other in seductive spells;

Mid song

Unmoved and O'er wood and water gentle Zephyr blows,

knight And them to murmur as she strikes

Steded compels. When cease the birds, loudly the air

When we replies; When sing the birds, more soft its

tones appear; Or chance or art the voices barmonise,

Or in alternate numbers charm the ear. " One bird there was, that 'mong the others

flew, Of variegated plume and purple heak, Whose untied tongue such sounds articu.

late drew, That like a man he almost scemed to

speak; And with such art continued to pulong His sweet discourse, he seemned a marvel

Sle rare. The others paused to listen to him song,

Р POR And the wind hushed the whispen in

the air. " " Ah, see,' he sang, 'the blushing muiden In con el

that Sir Peep from her green, in modesty arrayed,

to that of And still half open, still half shot, disclose and it is

The greater loveliness, the less displayrol of the former,
Lo! she, grown bolder, bares her la 112
-Lo !

ufter such ou But scarce uncovered, her frail beauty as will render it fades,

it will secure a hi Nor seems the same-the same no longer su among the

Desired before by lovers and by maids naturali



« ForrigeFortsett »