||A German translation of Torquato Tosso's (1544-1595) Gerusalemme liberata translated by F.M. Duttenhofer. Torquato Tasso was the greatest Italian poet of the late Renaissance, best remembered for his masterpiece LA GERUSALEMME LIBERATA (Jerusalem Delivered, 1575). Its hero was the leader of the first Crusade, Godfrey of Bouillon; its climax was the capture of the holy city. In the 1570s Tasso developed a persecution mania which led to legends about the restless, half-mad, and misunderstood author. He died a few days before he was due to be crowned as the king of poets by the Pope. Tasso remained one of the most widely read poets by educated Europeans until the beginning of the 19th century.
Torquato Tasso was born in Sorrento. The family had branches all over Europe, notably the Taxis family in Germany. Tasso attended a Jesuit school in Naples, and was also educated at home by his father, Bernardo Tasso, himself a distinguished man of letters, a poet-courtier, who had been exiled from Naples and held posts here and there. Tasso continued his education in various Italian cities, notably in Urbino, where he studied at the court of Duke Guidobaldo II delle Rovere. His first major work, the narrative poem RINALDO, appeared when he was 18 years old. The work was dedicated to Cardinal d'Este. From 1560 to 1565 he studied law and philosophy at the universities of Padua and Bologna. One of Tasso's friends in Padua was Scipio Gorzaga, later a famous cadinal, whose help meant much to Tasso. For the Academy of the Ethereals Tasso wrote three essays on the heroic poem. In Ferrara he entered the service of Cardinal Luigi d'Este, and later his brother, Duke Alfonso II, as poet-in-residence. During this time he wrote the pastoral drama AMINTA (1573), and La Gerusalemme liberata, composed between the years 1559 and 1575. Tasso had left his first love in Padua, but he then fell in love with Lucrezia Bendidio, a singer, whose father was a Ferrarese nobleman. Tasso dedicated to her forty-two poems of RIME DEGLI ACADEMICI ETEREI (1567). Lucrezia later married a widower, Conte Paolo Macchiavelli.
After finishing his masterwork, Tasso started to suffer from mental problems - his sensitive nature was racked by doubts about the critical and religious orthodoxy of his work and by suspicions of hostility toward him on the part of patrons and friends. Tasso had travelled with Cardinal d'Este to France, and when King Charles IX praised his work, he answered with an undiplomatic remark about toleration of Protestants at the court. From this disastrous journey started Tasso's problems. He couldn't tolerate criticism, feared assassins, negotiated with the Medicis, who were the enemy of the house of Este, and attacked a servant with a knife. He didn't stay long in one place, and when Alfonso was getting married, he shouted curses in public. Finally he was declared insane and he spent from 1579 seven years in the hospital of Santa Anna by order of the duke. During this time Tasso wrote a number of philosophical and moral dialogues, and was visited in the middle of his misery by Montaigne.
Tasso never totally regained his sanity. He was released in 1586 on condition that he would leave Ferrara. At the same time he found himself honored for his Jerusalem, which had gained a huge popularity. Despite his further wanderings in Italy from court to court, the unhappy, paranoid, and poverty-stricken Tasso completed in 1586 a tragedy, TORRISMONDO, and a poem about creation, IL MONDO CREATO (1609). He completed and revised version of his masterpiece, called Jerusalem Conquered, to meet critical and ecclesiastical objections.
In 1594 Tasso was invited to Rome by Pope Clement VIII to be crowned Italy's Poet Laureate. However, Tasso became seriously ill and died in Rome on April 25, 1595 before he could accept the honor. Among Tasso's other works are some 2 000 short poems, including sonnets and madrigals. He wrote letters, dialogues, the tragedy RE TORRISMONDO (1587), and the theoretical restatement of ancient theories of poetry, DISCORSI DEL POEMA EROICO (1594). From the time of Edward Fairfax's translation into English of Jerusalem Delivered (1594, 1600), Tasso strongly influenced English poets, from Spencer, who used Tasso's sonnets in many of his Amoretti, to Byron, whose The Lament of Tasso is based on the legend of Tasso's passion for Leonora d'Este.