Tasso, Torquato (15441595)

Tasso, Torquato, an illustrious Italian poet, son of preceding, born at Sorrento, near Naples; educated at a Jesuit school in Naples, he displayed unusual precocity, and subsequently studied law at the university of Padua, but already devoted to poetry, at 18 published his first poem “Rinaldo,” a romance in 12 cantos, the subject-matter of which is drawn from the Charlemagne legends; in 1566 he entered the service of Cardinal Luigi d'Este, by whom he was introduced to Alfonso, Duke of Ferrara, brother of the cardinal, within whose court he received the needful impulse to begin his great poem “La Gerusalemme Liberata”; for the court stage he wrote his pastoral play “Aminta,” a work of high poetic accomplishment, which extended his popularity, and by 1575 his great epic was finished; in the following year the symptoms of mental disease revealed themselves, and after a confinement of a few days he fled from Ferrara, and for two years led the life of a wanderer, the victim of his own brooding, religious melancholy, passing on foot from city to city of Italy; yielding to a pent-up longing to revisit Ferrara he returned, but was coldly received by the duke, and after an outburst of frenzy placed in confinement for seven years; during these years the fame of his epic spread throughout Italy, and the interest created in its author eventually led to his liberation; in 1595 he was summoned by Pope Clement VIII., from a heartless and wandering life, to appear at Rome to be crowned upon the Capitol the poet-laureate of Italy, but, although he reached the city, his worn-out frame succumbed before the ceremony could take place; “One thing,” says Settembrini, the literary historian of Italy, “Tasso had, which few in his time possessed, a great heart, and that made him a true and great poet, and a most unhappy man;” Fairfax's translation of the “Jerusalem Delivered” is one of his great translations in the English language (15441595).

Definition taken from The Nuttall Encyclopædia, edited by the Reverend James Wood (1907)

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