Jerusalem Delivered (Gerusalemme liberata)
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.
About the Authors
Anthony Esolen is a professor of English at Providence College. He is the editor and translator of Lucretius: On the Nature of Things, also available from Johns Hopkins.
What a tale it is!... [Esolen's] notes are full of fascinating and comment and helpful information... These notes, a thoughtful introduction, and above all a winning translation that captures the charms of Tasso's verse should give Tasso the wide audience in the English-speaking world that he has so far never had, but richly deserves.
This is the best way to read [Tasso] at the moment. Do it.
Now English readers have available to them Anthony Esolen's readable and accurate verse translation of Jerusalem Delivered. Esolen copes admirably with Tasso's octave stanza... It is not only beauty that Jerusalem Delivered still holds for us. In our time, when the future of the Holy City is contested once again, and sectarian conflicts are on the rise, and a Tridentine spirit, a fear of internal dissent, has returned to the Roman church, Tasso's magniloquent epic still has something to say.
A solid verse translation... Esolen observes the basic shape, rhythm, and rhetorical movement of the original ottava rima but never sacrifices poetry or meaning to rigid form. The result is both highly readable and truer to the spirit of Tasso than [Edward] Fairfax's rendition... An important contribution.
[A] much-needed new translation... No one will fail to admire the careful enormity of the undertaking.
This new translation of Gerusalemme liberata is a very fine, highly readable version of Tasso's epic about the First Crusade. The Gerusalemme is an acknowledged masterpiece of world literature and a culmination of Italian Renaissance poetry. It is good to have a modern, affordable edition of Tasso in print again, in a fast-flowing English verse that is infinitely more accessible to the ordinary reader than the Elizabethan rendition of Edward Fairfax... Tasso's work is charged with the fiery passion of youth. Esolen's translation captures this fire... A very useful feature of Esolen's edition, besides the notes and index, is a 'Cast of Characters' at the end, where each personage is identified, with words and actions noted for each canto.
Until now, the rollicking story of the heroes, villains, witches and lovers was available in only one modern English translation. Anthony M. Esolen has corrected this shortage in masterful style and his translation restores not only the epic grandeur of the original but also its excitement.
[Esolen] executes verse with art that it rarely intrudes upon the reader's consciousness, and then only to invoke admiration at the accomplishment of both the poet-scholars involved in telling the tale... This edition is eminently satisfying. Because Esolen takes such care to make the text accessible, he offers an excellent introduction to Tasso for new generations of readers, and he succeeds in awakening an interest in the original Italian, as well as in all of Tasso's works, with this translation.
We are fortunate to have Anthony Esolen's new verse Englishing of Torquato Tasso's masterpiece... Thanks to Esolen we now have an English Tasso worthy of use in our classrooms without the sort of fussy apologies that can undermine the experience we are trying to provide our students. In translating the Liberata Esolen has undertaken a daunting challenge and met it handsomely.
Esolen's translation of Tasso is a genuine intellectual and poetic achievement. The accompanying scholarly apparatus makes this the most valuable edition of Tasso available. Esolen has thought through with care what readers need to make their way through the immensity of the poem.
Esolen wittily calls Tasso 'a kind of Caravaggio of poetry,' and his own fluid translation of Jerusalem Delivered brings alive this ars poetica from the opening of Tasso's epic... Though not a child and not reluctant, I was up well past midnight several nights in a row, feverishly reading Esolen's wonderful translation, swept along by Tasso's stories and Esolen's accomplished and fast-moving verse.
Jerusalem Delivered offers a thorough introduction tackling T.'s relationship to Ariosto, his struggle with the problems of truth, authority, and religion, and notes on the characters.
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