[Milton-L] The TeaM: Torquato's Lab

Dario Rivarossa dario.rivarossa at gmail.com
Wed Feb 9 01:28:43 EST 2011

Per cui, quasi sorelle e nate insieme,
Non ci paion l’istesse, e non diverse
Molto; ma l’una assai somiglia l’altra.

_____Torquato Tasso, Il Mondo Creato 3.856-858

So that, as sisters being born together,
They don’t look identical, nor very
Different; but they are much alike.

Tasso reminds us of Gregor Mendel studying the pea plants in his
garden. Though the poet “obviously” was a “creationist” like everybody
at that time, in Parts 4 to 6 of MC he will surprise us by his
unbelievably exact forecasts about the theory of evolution.
As for the vegetable kingdom, see also 3.929-930:

Perché ne la radice o pur nel fondo
Quasi è virtù di seme. […]

Since in its root or bottom there is
Basically the virtue of seed. […]

Tasso took this bits of information from such ancient writers as
Aristotle, Pliny the Elder etc., but he was updated and prophetical
nevertheless, because this kind of research will come into fashion
again only in the 18th-19th centuries. E.g. this “virtue of seed” a
plant has everywhere in its fibers will be a major “discovery” by
Goethe (who as a scientist was even greater than as a poet) in his
essay “The Metamorphosis of Plants”, 1790.
And, almost surely, this was the first time such issues – not the
usual flowers blossoming, but metabolism, genetics etc. – were sung by
a poet. A very rare trend in the whole history of western literature,
indeed. Dante had described the process of human generation in
Purgatorio 25, spermatozoa and all. Milton devoted many PL pages to
the origins and development of Nature, though less than Tasso. Among
contemporary poets being inspired by Botany and Biology, I could
mention my friend Sergio Gallo, who however has known about Il Mondo
Creato just now.

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