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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Is it her or not? (4)

In Gerusalemme Conquistata, in the description of the "Queen of Daphne," or "Lady of Seleucia," Tasso adds a stanza that did not appear in the parallel episode of Armida in Gerusalemme Liberata. In fact, it is about a simile between the lady and the mythical phoenix: a subject that Tasso developed in the same time period (1592-3) as he was polishing the Conquistata, i.e. in his long poem Il Mondo Creato. There, the whole final section of canto 5 is devoted to the phoenix. In this very blog, a free translation of that section has just been posted on Sundays in the column The 7 Days of CryAction (link).
So, if the so-called Queen of Daphne recalls the bird that "dies and then is born again," it possibly provides a clue to let us state that she is the resurgent Armida.

[GC 17: 43]

In tal guisa il rinato unico augello
I neri ethiopi a visitar s'invia,
Vario e vago la piuma, e ricco e bello
Di monil, di corona aurea natia,
Sacrando al Sol nel suo felice hostello
La ricca tomba ove s'infiamma e cria.
S'allegra il mondo, e va dietro e da' lati,
Maravigliando, essercito d'alati.

Likewise the born-again, unique bird
Goes and visits the black Ethiopians -- (*)
Varied in its feathers, rich and beautiful
With native jewels and golden crown --
Consecrating to the Sun, in that happy place,
Its rich grave, where it burns and rises. (**)
The world rejoices; behind and beside,
An army of birds in amazement flies.

(*) In a very general sense, as usual in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, the term meant all the inhabitants of the interior of Africa, towards the (then undiscovered) springs of the Nile. See e.g. Dante, Inferno 34: 45. Basically, therefore, "black Ethiopians" is a tautology.
(**) Literally, "it burns itself, and [re-]creates itself."