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In The Liberation of Jerusalem (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 its troubled historical context and sheds light on its narrative framework and historical accuracy as well as its reception and influence.
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