[Milton-L] The TeaM: Living in America

Dario Rivarossa dario.rivarossa at gmail.com
Tue Jan 18 01:53:48 EST 2011

[…] e ne l’avversa parte
Del mondo, dove il sole asciuga ed arde
La terra, sono ancor nel suolo adusto
Di mirabil virtù paludi e stagni,
A cui di mar non fu negato il nome.

_____Torquato Tasso, Il Mondo Creato 3.536-540

[…] And on the opposite side
Of the world, where the Sun dries, burns
The earth, in that burnt land there are
Fens and pools of wonderful virtues,
To which the name “seas” was not denied.

America, at last! More precisely the – currently – Lake Enriquillo,
Dominican Republic, whose description Tasso could find in the books
“Delle navigationi et viaggi” (Of voyages and journeys) by
Giovanbattista Ramusio, Venetian geographer, published in the 1550’s.
The Spanish conquerors had nicknamed the lake “Caspian Sea”.

It is remarkable that Il Mondo Creato was written in 1592, exactly one
century after Columbus’ discovery. Just a chance? Anyway, what was
“the thing called New World” at that time? A rapid survey of the issue
will prove meaningful.
* Dante, Divine Comedy: America is not mentioned--- of course! But it
is very interesting to notice that, immediately after the discovery of
the new world, the “mad, impious” voyage of Ulysses beyond the Pillars
of Hercules, Inferno 26, was re-read and twisted in an optimistic
sense, as a prophecy of Columbus.
* Ludovico Ariosto, Orlando Furioso: First half of the 16th century.
The poet sings the wars and victories of the Spanish soldiers against
the natives. Okay, he wanted to get on the right side of Emperor
Charles V, but those verses, if we read them now, make our flesh
* Toquato Tasso, Gerusalemme Liberata and Mondo Creato: America stops
being a “no man’s land”, it starts to show its own geography, peoples,
religions etc. Tasso hopes that the natives will join the Christian
faith, but in Il Mondo Creato in no case he justifies the use of
violence (the Gerusalemme Liberata was more militarist, although never
coarsely; looks like a shift has meanwhile occurred in Tasso’s
* John Milton, Paradise Lost: First hints at the carnage of “Indians”:
“… Rich Mexico, the seat of Montezume, / And Cusco in Peru, the richer
seat / Of Atabalipa, and yet unspoiled / Guiana…” (PL 11.406 ff). An
elegiac mood, since Milton and his readers knew all too well that
those seats had been lost, those riches did not belong to those
peoples any more.

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