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Orlando Furioso, Part Two by Ludovico…
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Orlando Furioso, Part Two

by Ludovico Ariosto

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Orlando Furioso (volume 2)

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» See also 3 mentions

Italian (1)  English (1)  All (2)
Reynold's is one of the classic English translations: I may not have been the only person to have noticed how much the poetry improves in the last half of _Paradiso_ in the Dorothy Sayers translation. This is because Sayers died before completing the last of her translation of the _Divina Commedia_, and her devoted friend and admirer Barbara Reynolds took over. But where Sayers had been technically impressive in matching Dante's terza rima, but pedestrian in the poetry, at the point where (as I guess) Reynolds takes over a new lightness of touch and poetic feel for the language makes itself felt. This Ariosto translation is Reynolds' great achievement. Moreover it is one of the three or four greatest literary translations in English, an achievement to stand beside Dryden's _Aeniad_ and Fairfax's _Gerusalemma Liberata_. (On Pope's _Illiad_, which I'm currently reading, I tend to agree with the contemporary reviewer who commented, "A very pretty poem, Mr Pope, but you must not call it Homer".) She captures Ariosto's wit and lightness, occasionally turning in closing couplets for her stanzas that are as sharp as Byron's in _Don Juan_ (who was in turn also using Ariosto - among others - as a model), but also following Ariosto in allowing the sense to flow from stanza to stanza in a quite un-Byronic way. As well, she manages to transmit Ariosto's graver passages in equally dignified verse, for example some of the set pieces imitated (by Ariosto) from Homer. English readers tend to think of Ottava Rima as a vehicle for comic verse, but in Italian it is a model for epic. It's just that the great Italian epic tradition, unlike the English epic tradition before Byron's great anti-epic, includes humour. As for Ariosto, he is a great poet and story-teller, and (not exactly a literary judgment, this) his authorial "voice" is one whose company you cannot help enjoying. His humour, sometimes sly, is also warmly compassionate; sometimes satirical, sometimes splendidly and deliberately silly. Ariosto knows his flying horses, invisibility rings, sexy sorceresses and the rest are perfectly absurd, but manages to maintain the fantasy elements as wonderful and exciting, without ever undercutting them with mere cynicism or bathos. But most often the humour is warm and character-based. His story has an astonishing range of characters, the Moorish warriors and their lovers depicted as fairly and favourably as his Christian protegonists, and an astonish sweep, all over Europe and the East, with digressions to the Moon and other enchanted places. Another feature of Ariosto is his feminism, which shows in his warrior women, who give and take in battle every bit as well as the men. He also tellingly mocks some of the anti-feminist aspects of chivalry, as in the scene where one of Ariosto's heroes is called upon to champion in a trial by combat a woman who has been accused of unchastity. The hero readily agrees to defend the woman's honour, but only after observing that he would as readily defend her if she were unchaste, as in his view (clearly also Ariosto's) women have a right to make love without being condemned for it. Two last observations. First, I believe that this poem, and not Dante's, is the great Italian epic, superior to Dante for the same reason that Shakespeare is superior to Racine, or Byron's English epic is superior to Milton's or even Spencer's. Dante offers moral allegory (though with a thoroughly repellant worldview), and Ariosto's failure to preach has sometimes been taken as a sign of lack of depth or seriousness. But the great epics are about humanity, not allegory (though I have seen attempts to allegorise Homer, none have done so convincingly); and Ariosto presents one of the widest and greatest human canvases of all epic. It is the most readable long poem since the _Odyssey_. Yes. Second, Amazon has linked this translation to another, a prose translation. I haven't read the prose translation, but I would observe that _Orlando Furioso_ is a poem. To render it as something else is to lose its structure, its purpose and its very nature. To present a prose translation of this poem as a genuine "version of Ariosto" is a bit like presenting Beethoven's Ninth symphony by playing an arrangement for kazoo: some of Beethoven will come through in a kazoo transcription, but you cannot call it the Ninth. Get the Reynolds; it is a great and easy _read_, and it is one of the glories of English poetic translation. Cheers! Laon
  iayork | Aug 9, 2009 |
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» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ludovico Ariostoprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hippeau, C.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reynolds, BarbaraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Segre, CesareEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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