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Tasso

poet, court, ferrara, whom, rome, poem, cardinal, gerusalemme, alfonso and time

TASSO, Torquato, tifir'kwii'to, son of the preceding, Italian epic poet: b. Sorrento, 11 March 1544; d. Rome, 25 April 1595. He was early sent to the school of the Jesuits at Na ples, and his father being absent from home, his education was at first superintended by his mother, whom he quitted at 10 years of age to rejoin his father at Rome, and never saw her again. At this time he could recite from mem ory the great Greek and Latin poets. He sub sequently pursued his studies under his father's superintendence at Rome, Bergamo, Urbino, Pesaro and Venice. Before the age of 16 he was employed by his father to revise and com plete his poem (L'Amadigi,' and eventually sent to Padua to study law. Tasso, a born poet, found his legal studies a sore burden, but man aged to steal time for more congenial pursuits, and at 17, to the surprise of Italy and the in dignation of his father, produced the 'Rinaldo,' an epic poem in 12 cantos. The disappointment of the father yielded at length to genuine ad miration of this really remarkable production, and he consented to allow his son to abandon law . for literature. The reputation of the young poet meanwhile procured for him an in vitation to the University of Bologna, where he displayed an aptitude for the study of phi losophy, especially that of Plato. He left Bo logna on account of a lampoon, which he was unjustly charged with writing. After visiting friends at Castelvetro, Modena and Correggio, he returned to Padua on the invitation of Scipio di Gonzaga. Here he continued the study of Plato, and wrote three 'Discorsi del Poema Eroico.' He determined no longer to imitate Ariosto but take Virgil for his model. He began to construct the plan of his 'Gerusa lemme Liberata,' which he at first called 'God fredo.' The plan of this poem was of a highly prudential character. By celebrating all the great European houses as having taken part in the crusade of Godfrey, he hoped to make him self many powerful friends, and while he was elaborating this project he secured a patron in Cardinal Luigi d'Este, to whom he had dedi cated his 'Rinaldo.' The princes of Italy at this time deemed it their chief honor to be esteemed the patrons of art and literature, and the cardinal retained 500 gentlemen in his ret inue, one of whom was Tasso, who was also introduced by the cardinal to the court of Fer rara. The Academy of Ferrara supplied learned associates with whom he engaged in philosoph ical discussions; the courtiers were easily trans formed into paladins, and the court ladies into heroines, whose imaginary achievements the poet recorded with daily diligence. Thus the `Gerusalemme) grew at the court of Ferrara. That nothing might be wanting to his experi ence, the bard engaged in a course of love making on his own account. There were at the court of Ferrara two sisters of the reigning duke, Lucrezia, the wife of the Duke of Ur bino, and Leonora, the younger, a virgin of 30, and about nine years his senior. Their brother Alfonso served to the poet as model for his 'Godf redo.' In high favor with the ladies, by whom his attentions were received as the gal lantries of a courtier and a poet, it would be impossible to imagine a more blissful slave than the poet had now become. In 1571 he accom panied the cardinal on an embassy from the Pope to Charles IX of France. He was re ceived with distinction at the court of France, which he followed to Blois, Tours and Chenon ceaux. Ronsard (q.v.) received him in the most friendly spirit. A quarrel with his patron drove him from the French court, and he re turned to Ferrara, where Alfonso, at the solici tation of his sisters, received the penniless poet into his own service. In the spring of 1573 his 'Aminta,' a pastoral drama, was represented at the court of Ferrara. It is still considered the most graceful Italian work of the kind, al though many prefer the 'Pastor Fido> of Guarini. In April 1575 he announced the completion of the (Gerusalemtne.' Alfonso was eager for its immediate publication, hut this judicious counsel was not heeded by the poet, whose sensitive mind dreaded censure, especially the censure of the Church, even more than it coveted applause. He, therefore, sent his poem to his friend Scipio Gonzaga, now a cardinal at Rome, requesting his judgment. Scipio as sembled a consulta of churchmen and critics against whose censures, literary and ecclesias tical, the poet was forced to defend himself and to amend and modify his work to meet their views. He was told he ought to be content with monks and nuns as his auditors, and to renounce all mythology, romance and chival rous adventure, and his mind, divided between art and religion, gave way. To add to his dis

traction his work at this time was printed pi ratically without his own revisions. Alfonso wrote a vigorous protest against this disgrace ful proceeding to all the Italian courts, but doubts of his favor at court began also to fill the mind of Tasso. He believed that he was persistently calumniated at court, and systemat ically misrepresented to the Inquisition. On 17 June 1577, he drew his poignard in the apart ment of the Duchess of Urbino. He was ar rested, but set at liberty after two days and recommended to retire to his country-seat. In spite of strong reassurances he still suspected the office at Rome. He was now received into the convent of Saint Francis at Ferrara, but on the 20th July he started in disguise for his native place where he stayed with his sister Cornelia, till the end of summer. In the au tumn he solicited leave to return to Ferrara, and obsequiously accepted a conditional acqui escence to his request. Alfonso is accused of imprisoning him, first, from offense at the ad dresses paid to his sister; secondly, from jeal ousy of the Medici, from whom the poet had received an offer; and thirdly, from fear that the poet would strike the glory of the house of Este out of his work. For some years lasso had lived on intimate terms with Alfonso and his two sisters, especially Lucrezia, who, dis missed by her husband, kept him as her con stant companion. He had hesitated about ac cepting the offer of the Medici, hut in 1557 he put away, out of gratitude to the Este family, all thoughts of other service. After many complaints of ill-treatment he again left Fer rara, and wandered, sometimes in want, through Padua, Venice, Urbino and Piedmont, and finally returned to Ferrara (21 Feb. 1579), on the eve of the duke's second marriage. Finding himself treated with complete neglect, he broke out in loud complaint and was impris oned as a madman in the hospital of Saint Anne of Ferrara. At this time his work was condemned by the Academy della Crusca, to whom he replied with moderation. He re mained in the hospital of Saint Anne till July 1586, when he was released at the solicitation of Vincent di Gonzaga, who took him to his es tates. Tasso now resided at Mantua, and wrote the tragedy of Torrismondo, which with a genealogical poem he dedicated to Vincent di Gonzaga. Finding that Mantua did not agree with him, he proceeded to Naples, the climate of which he found most congenial, and where he fixed his favorite residence at the monastery of Mount Olivetto. Here he composed die (Gerusalemme Conquistata,) which he dedicated to Cardinal Aldobrandini. It is a reconstruc tion of the (Gerusalemme Liberata,' in which he rejects the chief mystical and chivalrous ornaments of the previous poem, and plumes himself on a precise and slavish imitation of the (Iliad.' He wished it to supersede the (Liber ata,' but posterity has reversed his decision as to its superiority. Aldobrandini solicited and obtained from the Pope the laurel crown on be half of Tasso. Urged by his patron, Tasso re paired to Rome, although he declared it was to die. Amid the preparations for the ceremony his health gave way. He retired from the plaudits of the public to the convent of Santo Onofrio, where he expired. (See AMINTA ; JERUSALEM DELIVERED). Tasso's chief works include (Gerusalemme Liberata); the (Rime,' and the (Arninta.' The (Gerusalemme' was translated into English by Edward Fairfax in 1600. In Italian literature the (Gerusalemme shares with the (Orlando) of Ariosto the place of the greatest epic. Both are full of poetic beauties and admirable for the interest and variety of the narrative. Consult Albertazzi, A., (Torquato Tasso' (Modena 1911); Boulting, W., (Tasso and his Times) (New York 1907) ; Milman, R., (Life of Tass& (2 vols., London 1850) ; Ferrazzi, (T. Tasso, studi biografici critici-bibliograficP (1880) ; Serassi, (La vita di T. Tass0 (3d ed., with notes by Guasti 1858); (Complete Works' (33 vols., Pisa 1821-32) ; Tasso's (Lettere e Dialoghi,' edited by Guasti (Florence 1852-59) ; (Prose diverse) (1875) ; Solerti, A., (Vita di Torquato Tasso) (3 vols., Turin 1895) ; de Sanctis, F., (Storia della let teratura italiana' (2 vols., Bari 1912) ; Sainati, A., (La lirica di Torquato 'rust)) (Pisa 1912) ; Scopia, (Le fonti del mondo creato di Tor quato Tasso) (Naples 1907) ; Wagner, Hedwig, (Tasso daheim und in Deutschland' (Berlin 1905) ; Woodberry, G. E., (The Inspiration uf Poetry' (New York 1910).