Alessandro Tassoni (Modena 1565, Modena 1635): Italian poet and writer.

The life

Alessandro Tassoni was born in Modena, to a noble family, on September 28. 1565. In 1597, he began his service for the cardinal Ascanio Colonna which he followed to Spain. In 1603 he was back in Italy and moved to Roma.

In 1612 he published anonimously the booklet "Le Filippiche" in which he attacked the Spanish domination of Italy. Though he always denied having written it (probably for fear of Spanish retaliation), the work became famous enough to ingratiate Tassoni to the Duke Carlo Emanuele di Savoia, who, in 1618 hired him in Torino with the title of first secretary.

After this, Tassoni was with the cardinal Ludovisi in 1626 and served under Francesco I, duke of Modena, in 1635.

He died in Modena, April 25, 1635. His fellow citizens rememebered his life and work with a statue that can still be seen in front of the town symbol, the Ghirlandina.

The work

Besides the above mentioned "Filippiche", and other works, some of poetry and some of literary criticism (such as the "Varieta' di pensieri di Alessandro Tassoni" - Diverse meditations by A.T.), Tassoni is best known for authoring the satyrical poem "La Secchia Rapita" (The Abduction of the Pail): it is by virtue of this work that he is remembered as Modena's poet laureate.

La secchia rapita

Written by Tassoni in 1622, the poem tells the tale of a XIII century war between Modena and Bologna.

During a scuffle, the Modenesi follow the Bolognesi into Bologna's downtown and, leaving, they take with them a wooden pail that they used for drawing water out of a well.

As a result an extremely complicated war erupts, where even the Olympian gods take part (this is in the tradition of classical poems such as Homer's Iliad) and is eventually resolved by the intervention of the pope.

The narration is dotted by references to situations and persons contemporary to the author, and with farcical appearances such as the "Conte di Culagna" (Count of Ass-land) probably the best known character of the book.

The Conte di Culagna appears

In the third chapter of the poem, armies from all over the country arrive to take part in the war, and the Conte of Culagna makes his first appearance.

Quest'era un cavalier bravo e galante,
filosofo poeta e bacchettone
ch'era fuor de' perigli un Sacripante,
ma ne' perigli un pezzo di polmone.
Spesso ammazzato avea qualche gigante,
e si scopriva poi ch'era un cappone,
onde i fanciulli dietro di lontano
gli soleano gridar: - Viva Martano. - 

Avea ducento scrocchi in una schiera,
mangiati da la fame e pidocchiosi;
ma egli dicea ch'eran duo mila e ch'era
una falange d'uomini famosi:
dipinto avea un pavon ne la bandiera
con ricami di seta e d'or pomposi:
l'armatura d'argento e molto adorna;
e in testa un gran cimier di piume e corna. 

This roughly translates to:


He was a brave and gallant knight
A philosopher a poet and a moralist,
A devil out of the fight,
A meek guy when close to peril.
He often claimed he had killed a giant, 
which was then discoverd to be a chicken,
and for this the kids, seeing him approaching,
would follow him shouting "Long live Martano!"

He had two hundred armed men,
hungry and lousy;
but he claimed it was an army of two thousand 
famous knights;
his coat of arms was a peacock,
his armour silver;
on the head he wore an helmet decorated with feathers 
and horns(*)

(*)The feathers recall the peacock and its vanity, the horns are the traditional symbol of the cuckold.

I know the translation sucks, but hey, it's my own, so if you know of a better one (or if you can write a better one) just go ahead, be my guest.

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