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The Liberation of Jerusalem (Oxford World's Classics) [Paperback]

Torquato Tasso , Mark Davie , Max Wickert
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

12 Feb 2009 Oxford World's Classics
'The bitter tragedy of human life- horrors of death, attack, retreat, advance, and the great game of Destiny and Chance. ' In The Liberation of Jerusalem (Gerusalemme liberata, 1581), Torquato Tasso set out to write an epic to rival the Iliad and the Aeneid. Unlike his predecessors, he took his subject not from myth but from history: the Christian capture of Jerusalem during the First Crusade. The siege of the city is played out alongside a magical romance of love and sacrifice, in which the Christian knight Rinaldo succumbs to the charms of the pagan sorceress Armida, and the warrior maiden Clorinda inspires a fatal passion in the Christian Tancred. Tasso's masterpiece left its mark on writers from Spenser and Milton to Goethe and Byron, and inspired countless painters and composers. This is the first English translation in modern times that faithfully reflects both the sense and the verse form of the original. Max Wickert's fine rendering is introduced by Mark Davie, who places Tasso's poem in the context of his life and times and points to the qualities that have ensured its lasting impact on Western culture. ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (12 Feb 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199535353
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199535354
  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 14.9 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 211,559 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


The translation is accompanied by a clear, detailed and helpful introduction by Mark Davie. David Robey, Times Literary Supplement Wickert's is a remarkable achievement...the translation is consistently faithful to almost every detail of the content. David Robey, Times Literary Supplement

About the Author

Mark Davie has published studies on various aspects of Italian literature, mainly in the period from Dante to the Renaissance. He has contributed to The Oxford Companion to Italian Literature and he is the Italian Editor of Modern Language Review.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
I sing of war,* of holy war, and him, Captain* who freed the Sepulchre of Christ. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt
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Customer Reviews

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything a Book Needs 28 July 2010
The first Crusade told as a poem. This has everything a book needs, a terrific plot with an enormous cast of characters, a desperate struggle between two evenly matched opponents, love, valor, determination, magic, luck, intrigue, cowardice and leadership. All wrapped up in great language and very human understanding for both sides. The fact that this is a poem hardly matters; it's just a great work of art.

First a quick explanation; this is an epic poem and therefore subject to a set of rules that Tasso claimed were that the poem should deal with heroic characters; and the subject should be historical but sufficiently remote to allow the poet some license for invention. Other Epic poems include The Iliad, The Odyssey, The Aeneid, Le Mort D'Artur, The Inferno and Paradise Lost and the custom is to cross refer to other epics and use some of their structure and even parts of their stories. They also tend to be rather long and this one is some 400 pages. All in all then a daunting prospect for the average reader (me for example) who does not have a full grasp of the cross references, isn't that keen on poetry and isn't clued up on the relevant period of history - in this case the first Crusade.

Secondly, some technical comments; Tasso was Italian and so naturally wrote in his native tongue and chose a poetic meter known as hendecasyllabic. This volume is a translation into English and uses iambic pentameter as the closest English approximation to the Italian rhythm, and this was the meter that Shakespeare and Milton used.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting, dramatic and passionate 26 Nov 2009
By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In the Gerusalemme Liberata Tasso sets out, and succeeds, in writing what may be the quintessential Renaissance epic: drawing obviously on Homer and Vergil he doesn't just try to match classical epic but to over-reach it. By Christianising the heroic quest he gives a different kind of moral and spiritual framework to the genre which is both recognisable and transformed.

But this is no dry, dull read: exciting, dramatic and passionate, this is set during the first crusade as the Christian army besige Jerusalem and is full of heroism, love, romance and magic.

Tancred's love for the 'pagan' female warrior Clorinda; Rinaldo's sexual obsession with the beguiling enchantress Armida; Erminia's own love for Tancred fill the poem with human emotion. And the fight scenes of heroic duels are quite nail-biting at points.

Wickert translates this brilliantly into eight-line stanzas, and uses rhyme rhythmically and well. As with other epic poems, the best way is to forget the fact that it's poetry and simply follow the sense of the text: the rhyme then takes care of itself and adds a subtle rather than plodding emphasis and pleasure to the text.

Hugely influential, this certainly influenced Spenser and Milton. But it's worth reading not just for its status within the epic tradition but as a genuinely pleasurable and engrossing story in its own right.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Extremely Clever 2 May 2011
By Christian VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Let me first address why this review falls short of five stars; ironically it is for the reason that makes me admire the undertaking here...the very structure of the poem. Tasso has written a classic; aping the tradition of Homer, Virgil and even drawing on Aristoto. Each verse is eight lines long with rhyming couplets ending the line. This means that sometimes sentences run over a paragraph and into the next as this structure is maintained. I also admire the translation ensuring that the very heart of the peopm is maintained. It is exquisite.

But it was the very structure that put me off. By sticking so solidly to the strucutre it looses some readability and made this a huge effort to read, most especially towards the beginning. In some ways I would draw a parallel (probably the only time this will be drawn) with Crichton's Eaters of the Dead where you have to struggle through the historically accurate opening chapters in order to reach a slightly more mystical and rewarding story. A woven tale of historical truths and untruths.

As a casual reader of the classics, I most prize readability, even over a gripping tale as I believe you should derive pleasure from the very words as well as the meaning behind them. Finishing this book I am glad to have done so, and also I recognise that a second reading may leave me feeling slightly warmer about it. For now, I would point others in the direction of Virgil rather than Tasso.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
4.0 out of 5 stars The best available English translation of this significant work 29 Jan 2014
By Albert MacSwigart - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm somewhat prejudiced because the translator is personally known to me, but I think this translation beats Esolin's (from Johns Hopkins U Press) hands down and Paul Nash'e prose version simply by being in convincing rhymed versions matching the versification of the Italian original. It's just the best since the first English translation (by Edward Fairfax) in the Renaissance, which also, spirited as it is, takes considerable liberties in diction and meaning.
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