The 7 Days of CryAction

The 7 Days of CryAction
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Friday, December 2, 2016

The ancestor of NSA (5)

[16: 62, Godfrey speaks]

Scenderan (se fia d'uopo) incontra gli empi
Angeli amici da' stellanti chiostri,
A' quai non son l'hore prescritte o i tempi,
Com' a noi tutti et a' nemici nostri.
Liberarem la città sacra e i tempi,
E cadranno d'Egitto i feri mostri;
E fia di varie genti e d'una terra
Vittoria integra in glorïosa guerra.

"Against the impious, if needed, there will
Come friendly angels from the starry courts(*) --
To whom hours and times are not prescribed
As they are to us all and our enemies. (**)
We will free the Holy City and temples,
And the fierce monsters of Egypt (***) will fall;
And out of many peoples and one land
Full victory will rise in a glorious war."

(*) Literally "cloisters," a metaphor often used by Tasso.
(**) The angels will be able to intervene at any time, and immediately so, not needing to prepare equipments, etc. The predicament of humans is hard and tiring, to whatever religion they belong.
(***) The umbrella concept of "paganism" makes Tasso shamelessly mix up Islam and the religion of Ancient Egypt. He deals more diffusely with the monsters/gods of Egypt in his long poem Il Mondo Creato, on which he was working at the same time as he edited the Jerusalem-poem. This octave, anyway, provides a fine example of Baroque imagery and rhetoric.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The ancestor of NSA (4)

Jerusalem in Gustave Dore's illustrations
for Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando Furioso

Godfrey of Bouillon comments on the intercepted message with his knights.

[16: 61]

Ma qual d'aquila volo, o di colomba,
Veloce è come la celeste aita?
Qui dove hebbe il Figliol tormenti e tomba
Aspettar noi debbiam vittoria e vita.
Né vi turbi il romor, ch'alto rimbomba,
D'innumerabil turba o d'infinita:
Ché nostre fian le lor sì care salme,
E cresceranno a voi trïonfi e palme.

"But what flight of an eagle or a dove 
Is so rapid as the heavenly help?
Here, where the Son(*) had sufferings and grave,
We must expect both victory and life.
Don't be afraid of the resounding noise
Of their countless, even endless army:
Ours will be, in the end, their dearest spoils, (**)
Your triumphs and trophies will keep increasing."

(*) "Jesus" in the final printed version. The octave had undergone a thorough editing already in the manuscript. "Life" in the following line does not only refer to the Christian knights' success in the war but also to their eternal reward in heaven. And once in a while, the reason of the whole crusade is recalled: the reconquest of the Holy Sepulcher.
(**) The city of Jerusalem with its holy places.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Clerici vagantes

From left: Astolfo, Saint John,
the magic shield, and the Hippogriff

Pope Alexander VI
(Rodrigo Borgia)

One of the most interesting artists who illustrated some of the 'greatest hits' of the Renaissance was Fabrizio Clerici (1913-1993). Usually considered the main exponent of Italian Surrealism, he in fact had only some points in common with that movement. A very cultured man, an old-fashioned aristocrat as well as an independent and revolutionary artist -- snubbed by the leading official criticism both during and after the Fascist Era -- Clerici was therefore a Renaissance personage himself, in a way. He worked nonetheless as a painter, illustrator, and set designer up until his last days, thanks to a sufficient number of people all over the world who believed in his talent. He illustrated Leonardo Da Vinci's animal tales in 1945, The Prince by Machiavelli in 1961, and Ariosto's Orlando Furioso in 1965, always skipping commonplace and offering powerful, intelligent, experimental and multidisciplinary versions of the texts.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 5: 143-201

by ilT + Selkis
from the "DantEsq." set

Speechless species
and selfish are fish
impossible pets to be
carefully cuddled,
only occasionally
endowed with some
unusual sounds or
[150] even with voice
or a clumsy language
to express experiences.
Too slow is their spirit
unable is their lung
wet is their windpipe,
their speech is shaped
solely in their throat:
tongue and teeth are
needed, otherwise no
[160] concept can come.
Otherwise sounds shatter
as in the bees band
wound round their waists
that spoils the spirit
in Antinfernal anguish.
Other bugs break their
breath in that band
and sing wing-songs
so the forests are full
[170] of cicada jazz swing.
But in the fish family
scaly or crustaceans
some have no sound
some snort or shriek
and the water whirrs;
such concerts caused
the lyre-fish’s fame.
Pecten creaks as well
as the sea swallow,
[180] both fly high above
the waters with wings.
Aspropotamus River
hosts an abyssal boar
and the creek cuckoo
lullabies like the bird
but that’s no true voice
it’s merely the outcome
of grossly shaped gills.
More truly talkative is
[190] the half-fishy frog
the star of swamps
with lung and tongue
perfectly formed:
the former as in a fish
the latter (its clapper)
sticks to its throat.
Frogs frequently hoot
as hot fish also do,
a Cupid call by which
[200] males fu** females
their sweet spouses.

(to be continued on Dec. 4)

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Ariosto to Harry Potter to (. . .?)

As underscored in this book, one of the great efforts in the Harry Potter movie effects was to make fantasy creatures as realistic as possible; that meant, not only to base them on living animals in detail, but also to blend the different parts into a plausible whole, and -- even more difficult -- to have them move as naturally as they possibly would do if they existed. And they succeeded.

Once again, as in many other subjects we have been dealing with, the origin of this approach can be traced back to the Renaissance, in both literature and art. It will suffice to compare Dante's Griffin in Purgatorio with Ariosto's Hippogriff in Orlando Furioso: the former is a stiff symbol, the latter acts as a living being, nosediving like a falcon, being taken care of and fed like a horse, etc.
And once again, it must be remarked that the Renaissance culture has survived especially in the people's movies and comics -- which one day will, perhaps, be reevaluated as a precious link between a past glorious Era and a new glorious Era in Europe. Somewhat later than tomorrow morning, anyway.

Jody Revenson, Harry Potter: Il libro delle creature magiche. Creature e piante dei film di Harry Potter [orig.: The Creature Vault], Modena: Panini, 2015, pages 208, euros 39.90

Friday, November 25, 2016

The ancestor of NSA (3)

[16: 57.7 - 58.8]

- A Ducalto salute (era lo scritto)
Manda il grande admiraglio e 'l Re d'Eggitto.

Non sbigottir, signore, resisti e dura
Al terzo dì dopo l'ottavo e 'l quinto;
Ch'io vengo a liberar l'offese mura,
E vedrai tosto il tuo nemico vinto -.
Questo secreto allor breve scrittura
In barbariche note havea distinto:
Dato in custodia al messaggier volante,
Ché tai messi in quel tempo usò 'l Levante.

"To Ducat," the text read, "Egypt's supreme
General and King sends wishes of health. (*)
Do not be afraid, my Lord; resist until
The third day after the eighth and the fifth, (**)
For I will come and free the walls under siege:
You will see your enemies vanquished soon."
This secret message in a brief paper had
Been written in a non-Latin (***) alphabet
Then entrusted to the flying messenger,
As the East used such envoys in that time. (****)

(*) Emir Ducat, a historical personage, was the Muslim King of Jerusalem. As a matter of fact, the Sultan of Egypt did not take part in the First Crusade; but in Gerusalemme Conquistata Tasso turns the crusade into a World War, as we will see. The phrase "sending health" echoes the Latin salutem dicere, whence comes the current Italian verb salutare, "to greet."
(**) A couple of weeks, according to the final printed text. The manuscript had "until the fourth or fifth day," that probably would not have been enough.
(***) The text says "barbaric," to be taken in its original sense. The word distinto, literally "distinct," meaning something clearly written, comes from Dante, Paradiso 18: 96 ("inlaid" in the Longfellow version).
(****) Actually, it was still used in the Renaissance; and it would be up until the early 20th century in the West, too. But both Ariosto and Tasso liked to 'make as if' they were not dealing with their own world and era, though that was obviously their main focus.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The ancestor of NSA (2)

[16: 57.1-6]

La raccoglie Goffredo e la difende,
Poi scorge, in lei guardando, estrania cosa
Ché dal collo, ad un filo avinta, pende
Rinchiusa carta, e sotto l'ale ascosa.
La disserra e dispiega, e bene intende
Quella ch'in sé contien non lunga prosa
. . .

Godfrey takes it in his hands, defends it, (*)
Then he looks and notices something strange
As from its neck, tied to a thread, there hangs
A rolled sheet, hidden under the wings;
Unties, unfolds it. He well understands (**)
The very brief message that it contains:
. . .

(*) The dove that, as recounted in stanza 56 here not reported, had recovered in Godfrey's lap after fleeing from the attack of an eagle.
(**) Apparently, Godfrey also -- as Tancred has proved able to before -- can read Arabic.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 5: 76-142

by ilT + Selkis

Be it as it may, on Day
Five beasts were born
with non-stupid senses,
each slippery species
[80] of surface or abyss
was made to submit to
the everlasting Voice.
Few phonemes sufficed
to include all kinds:
seals and dolphins who
bear breathing pups,
the fish by which
the fishers fingers are
electrically treated,
[90] the egg-laying phyla
the scaled & the scaring
the flying & the floating,
all wrapped in words
and led by law, all
the darting dwellers;
inhabitants of the abyss
conquerors of rocks
swimming in schools
scattered here and there
[100] blue and killer whales
anchovies and plankton.
Some shift the weight
of their bellies on legs
ambivalent amphibians
eating twofold food
unsatisfied with simply
one type of gastronomy:
the deafening frogs
the cyborg-like crabs
[110] crocodiles and river
horses of the Nile whose
waves fertilize fields.
Both big, small, and strange
under one decree they
got manifold lives when
He said, “Let waters whelp”
and the sound showed
that the liquid element
was the fun of fish.
[120] Like the air to avian
or to breathing beasts
is water to sea species
or those living in lakes.
The reason is sensible
as our lung on the left
lies in our bowels
spongy and transparent
like a mirrored image
and acts and contracts
[130] like Los’ bellows
operating oxygen and
comforting corazon
the bank of blood;
the same spirit that
cools our inner oven
validates our voice.
But Physis supplied
gobies just with gills,
by fanning fluxes
[140] they whirl the water
and thus practically
breathe the streams.

(to be continued on Nov. 27)

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Macbeth's secret?

Weird Lady Gaga Macbeth
playing Hecat[e]

In Shakespeare's Macbeth we are told all sort of ugly things about the protagonist, but is there one more? In V.1.41 ff. Lady Macbeth in her somnambulism is obsessed with the Macduffs: "The Thane of Fife had a wife; where is she now?" and "There's knocking at the gate," with reference to the morning after the assassination of King Duncan (II.3). Maybe, she had some special reason to hate Lady Macduff, therefore 'encouraging' Macbeth -- off stage -- to have her killed.
In IV.3.57-58 the head of the resistance, Duncan's son Malcolm, describes Macbeth as "luxurious, avaricious, false, deceitful, / sudden, malicious". . . All adjectives square, except for the first one; when is Macbeth ever shown as lecherous? Or, did he entertain a secret love affair with Lady Macduff? As a matter of fact, in V.7.33 ff. he still feels remorse for her death when he meets Macduff in the final battle: "Of all men else I have avoided thee. / But get thee back; my soul is too much charged / with blood of thine already."
This would cast a special light on Lady Macduff's words in IV.2.41, after her husband's cowardly escape from Fife: "Why, I can buy me twenty [men] at any market," possibly including the best party in the neighborhood.

P.S. In the final lines, the now dead and beheaded Macbeth is defined a "butcher" by Malcolm. He was a butcher from the very beginning (I.2), but then usefully so -- that only makes the difference. Intelligenti pauca.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The ancestor of NSA (1)

[16: 55]

Mentre rinova pur l'ampia cittade
L'arme contra i nemici e le difese,
Vaga colomba per cerulee strade
Vista è passar sovra il signor francese,
Che non dimena i presti vanni, e rade
Quelle liquide vie con l'ali tese;
E già la messaggiera peregrina
Da l'alte nubi a la città s'inchina.

While the great city (*) keeps renewing its
Weapons and defenses against the enemies,
A beautiful (**) dove across light blue roads
Is observed passing over the French lord; (***)
It doesn't flap its swift feathers but touches
The yielding element with wings wide open; (****)
And already the traveling messenger
From the high clouds glides towards the city.

(*) Jerusalem
(**) Vaga is a basically untranslatable poetical adjective that conveys the idea, at the same time, of something beautiful and wandering, especially across the sky. It referred typically to birds and stars. The same ambivalence had peregrina, see line 7, that meant either/both "pilgrim" or/and "rare, precious, wonderful." Here it has been rendered with "traveling."
(***) Godfrey of Bouillon
(****) Imagery coming from Virgil, Aeneid 5; it had already been reused by Dante in Inferno 5: 82-84.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

We do need another hero (2)

[16: 53, Peter the Hermit speaks to Godfrey of Bouillon]

- Lascia il pensiero ardito: altri convene
Che de le piante sue la selva spoglie.
Ma chi de l'indegnissime catene
Il bramato guerrero homai discioglie,
Mentre il mar carco e le minute arene
Son di schiere e di navi e d'auree spoglie?
Già il nemico possente a turba afflitta
Più s'avicina, e l'hora è 'n ciel prescritta -.

"Quit this bold project; (*) it will be up
To someone else to clear-cut the forest. (**)
But, who will from that most shameful chains
Free, at last, the warrior we all long for,
Now that the sea and the sands are full
Of armies, and ships, and gold equipments?
Our strong enemies already see our
Vexed crowds -- the predestined time has come!"

(*) To defy the enchanted forest himself.
(**) Richard. Recap: The final victory is destined, of course, to the 'anointed' hero. In Gerusalemme Conquistata, Riccardo (Richard) replaces the Rinaldo of the Liberata. The two share the same adventures, in part, and in part not. Rinaldo had been seduced by the witch Armida and brought from Jerusalem to an island in the Atlantic Ocean; Riccardo has been seduced by the witch/mermaid Armida and brought, more simply, to Lebanon. Peter the Hermit does not know that Richard has already been freed, secretly, by two volunteers, the knights Ruperto (Rupert) and Araldo ( = Harold?). Rupert, as we will discover, happens to be the male lover of Richard, as Patroclus was to Achilles in the Iliad; and this is surely the most significant novelty in the Conquistata, while recalling that Tasso himself was bisexual and mainly homosexual.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 5: 1-75

by Selkis + ilT

Songday 5

A citizen of elsewhere
about to go back home
after exile and exertions
and very many years of
an exhausting existence,
to his courteous host is
benevolent before leaving;
so we longing for a flight
sooner or later to heaven
[10] from this opaque orb
of clay and of ocean
which fed and cradled us
for a continued time
we owe words and gifts
of loyalty and love, of
an enduring memory,
to this dear devoted
Mother who welcomed us
adolescents and aged,
[20] to this transporting sea
to this lung-filling air.
Hear! Gods hand after
decorating the cosmos
replenished all places
with happy inhabitants
and left no desolation
and waste anywhere
nor solitary horror.
His brush embellished
[30] the sky with star-flowers
looking like eyes
and Sun and Selene
then added He, “Let air
and liquid now litter
all fliers and finned!”
Abruptly the rivers
and pools got pregnant
and the sea produced
sets of scaly shoals.
[40] Slimy swamps too
missing all motion
and lazily stagnating
were highly honored,
did not remain empty
when God gushed things,
suddenly springing
batrachians croaked
and at once all animals,
to obey his Order
[50] even waters yawped.
Innumerable items
impossible to list
were born and began
to move and make
their Makers hymns
humbling Man’s tongue.
Ladies and gentlemen,
something sentient
at last! Plants in fact
[60] by unfolding leaves
have life that feeds
their roots and the rest
but are not anima-ted
they lack intelligence
to organize the objects.
Yet, some suspect that
even barbarous barks
can twist themselves
and stretch their branches
[70] like amorous arms
with a secret passion
slowly but surely, according
to ancient authors.
Let hypotheses hide
in wooden whispers. 

(to be continued on Nov. 20)

Friday, November 11, 2016

We do need another hero (1)

[16: 52]

Così dice egli, e 'l sommo duce ondeggia
In gran tempesta de' pensieri intanto;
Pensa s'egli medesmo andar là deggia
(Ché tal lo stima) a ritentar l'incanto,
O se pur di materia altra proveggia,
Lontana più, ma non difficil tanto.
Ma 'l pio romito dal pensiero profondo
Il rappella, ch'al core è grave pondo:
. . .

So he(*) speaks, and the supreme chief meanwhile
Wavers in the midst of a storm of thoughts; (**)
He ponders whether he should go there himself
To test the spell (as he deems it to be)
Or provide the materials from elsewhere,
In a farther but less difficult place.
But the pious hermit(***) calls him back from
The worries that weigh so much on his heart:
. . .

(*) Tancred
(**) One of the most interesting novelties in Gerusalemme Conquistata is Godfrey of Bouillon's doubts not only about particular problems, but about his very mission in the Holy Land. In Gerusalemme Liberata he appeared more unshakable.
(***) Peter of Amiens, aka Peter the Hermit, a historical personage who was among the main promoters of the Crusade.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction: The second online review, or so

Prof. Donald Mack Hassler's review (the same that has been mentioned in the previous post, or a different paper?) takes into consideration both The 7 Days of CryAction and the other translation of Tasso's long poem Il Mondo Creato, the philologically correct one, namely Creation of the World. The complete text of his review can be read here.

Favorite quotes: The 7Days version "shortens the English metric in order to create rapid, nearly jazzy beats," while already in the illustrations for the International Authors edition, the “jazzy, pulp quality that characterizes the Rivarossa rebellion is everywhere in the art even before his departure to the ebook version of the Tasso poem."

Again heartfelt thanks, Mack!

The 7 Days of CryAction: The first online review, or so

Her husband is Prof. Donald Mack Hassler, whom I warmly thank together with her.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Minority Report (2)

[16: 51]

Ancor dirò: ch'a gli arbori dà vita
Spirito human, che sente e che ragiona;
Io il so per prova, e n'ho la voce udita,
Che nel cor flebilmente ancor mi suona;
Stilla sangue de' tronchi ogni ferita,
Quasi di molle carne habbian persona.
No, no, non più potrei -- vinto mi chiamo --
Né corteccia scorzar né sveller ramo.

"And more than this, the trees receive life
From a human spirit that feels and speaks;
I did experience this, I heard that voice,
Which still echoes, though faintly, in my heart.
Blood does drip from every wound in the trunks,
As if they possessed a body (*) of soft flesh.
No, no, I give up, I would not be able
To bark one more tree, tear off a branch."

(*) Here Tasso uses the word persona in its original sense: the outward appearance of a human being. Line 4, in Italian, has the same cadence as Dante's verse Amor che ne la mente mi ragiona, "Love, who speaks inside my mind."
Tancred's description of his experience in the "dark forest," while omitting the most important detail, is filled with true, delicate sentiment.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 4: 1130-1229

by ilT + Selkis (see Album)

So many marvels will
be seen in some centuries
in outer space, provided
anybody believes so.
As a cause they change
kingdoms, or kings indeed:
the old one was deposed
stars had a new sovereign.
Under Saturn the sky
slipped from the left
[1140] usurper Jupiter then
modified its motion
and by turn-transforming
he twisted all things
subject to the skies.
Like Benjamin Button
who heading for death
reversed his own age
came back to maturity
then little by little grew
[1150] young then younger
an innocent infant
eventually to the extreme
end of existence dis-
appearing in Ancient Mom.
Ha the truth of tales
betraying all doubts
about the fate of bodies—
given a very long law,
not eternal, by Elohim
[1160] and destined one day
to complete quiet.
Signs will be observed
preceding Doomsday
when the world’s frame
will fall aflame
the sun dripping red
and scary scars
on Selene’s skin.
The Forger in fact said,
[1170] “Let signs be seen
to dot days and years”
e.g. the lunar lakes
or Phoebus’ phenomena
that show us suggestions
for our toilsome lives.
An upset sky often
forecasts catastrophes,
many dry days have been
experienced by the elders.
[1180] One thing was taught
by the true Master:
When the sky is sadly
red, a tempest approaches.”
This happens when Helios
is clothed in dark clouds
through which his robe
gleams as through glass
almost bloodstained;
or when twin-suns turn
[1190] around him, making
three frightening suns
as ancient Rome noted
and still often occurs
in the snowy North.
Sometimes we also see
long looming stripes like
a Dürerian rainbow
that portends tempests
or a dull day at least.
[1200] The moony moon
prophesies phenomena:
pure and thin the third day
it promises happiness,
if it grows red and horned
it then threatens rain
and Auster’s attack
vehement and violent.
But signs are more easily
seen in Aquilo’s kingdom
[1210] by shrewd steersmen.
If that cloudy corona
circling the sun or stars
suddenly disappears
then seamen expect
clear sky and calm;
if the celestial crown
breaks, from that “banda
the wind is waited for;
if it shatters utterly
[1220] several spirits rise
to fight in the sky and sea
that become the battlefield
of warlike whirlwinds.
N.B. Signs can be substituted
by the mighty Mover.
May He show us serenity
from the cosmos, clearing
the dismal menaces
from our frail lives.

(to be continued on Nov. 13)

Friday, November 4, 2016

Minority Report (1)

[16: 49]

Pur non tornò, né ritentando ardìo
Spiar di novo le cagioni ascose.
E poi che, giunto al sommo duce, unìo
Gli spirti alquanto e l'animo compose,
Incominciò: - Signor, nuntio son io
Di non credute e non credibil cose:
Ciò che dicean del bosco horrido e fero
E del suon paventoso, è tutto vero.

But(*) he did not go back, nor did he dare
Investigate the hidden causes more.
Appearing before the supreme leader, (**) 
He gathered his spirits, composed himself, (***)
And said, "Sir, I am a messenger 
Of unbelieved and unbelievable news:
The things they told about the horrid, fierce
Forest and its frightening sound, are true. . ."

(*) In spite of having retrieved his sword.
(**) Godfrey of Bouillon
(***) Again Tasso's interest in human psychology and behavior.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Whatcha gonna do now, Tancred? (15)

[16: 48]

Così quel contra Morte audace core
Nulla forma turbò d'alto spavento,
Ma lui che debil solo è contra Amore
Falsa imago deluse e van lamento.
Il suo caduto ferro intanto fore
Portò del bosco impetüoso vento,
Sì che vinto partissi, e 'n su la strada
Ripigliò poi la sua caduta spada.

So, that heart bold against Death was not
Shaken by any shape however frightening,
But him, who only against Love is weak, (*)
A fake image deluded, (**) a void lament.
His fallen blade (***) meanwhile had been dragged
Out of the forest by a violent wind;
Therefore he left, defeated, and on his way
Back, stooped to retrieve his fallen sword.

(*) With a faint echo from the sequence of Petrarch's Triumphs, but in reverse order as, in Petrarch, Death prevailed over Love.
(**) Here the Italian verb deludere has the same meaning as "to delude" in English, while in current Italian it means "to disappoint."
(***) With a symbolical implication: his virility.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 4: 1065-1129

Dante's Odysseus by ilT + Selkis (see Album)

Two opposite schools
the one unconvincing
the other blasphemous
against heavens order
by putrefying its perfection
[1070] and simple symmetry
that’s why Nature nuts up.
Philosophy fights
against appearances
and refutes the rebels.
To confirm conjectures
reach some remote land
for example Ethiopia
in the heat of Tropics
by the Beasts’ Belt:
[1080] If the sun’s lesser
sphere spins unevenly,
no equinox will ensue;
if defaced Phoebe
shows you her shame,
her mole will sometimes
change its collocation.
Let no Bold-zebub
against Theos’ truth
model skies after Miró!
[1090] Antiquity also affirms
incredible pieces of information;
twenty-five thousand years
are the unbelievable boast
of Egypt, and modern essays
maintain the memory
of its fabulous fictions.
They thought (so do others)
that across the aeons
the first sphere revolved
[1100] not East to West but
North to the southern pole,
so as to supposedly show
that Apollo accelerates
insofar as he swerves.
They even dared say
he rose twice in the West
and twice died at dawn
from West enlightening
then obscure in Orient.
[1110] The spot where the sun
seems to stop a while
(solstice, substantially)
changed, thus causing
such effects—the exploit
of Egyptian genius!
The solstice, they say,
was originally in Gemini
now in Cancer: unquiet
is that fake-fixed point,
[1120] no trustworthy art
no still buoyant bodies
of all manner of matter.
If this were true, then
the North one day will
be switched to South;
and the sun sailing
along a crooked route
will follow a straightforward
course on the Equator.

(to be continued on Nov. 6)

Friday, October 28, 2016

Whatcha gonna do now, Tancred? (14)

[16: 46]

Qual infermo talhor, ch'in sogno scorge
Drago o cinta di fiamme alta chimera,
Se ben sospetta, e 'n parte anco s'accorge
Che simulacro sia, non forma vera,
Pur desia di fuggir, tanto gli porge
Spavento la sembianza horrida e fera;
Tal il timido amante a pien non crede
A' falsi incanti, e pur s'arretra e cede.

As a sick man who in his dreams sees
A dragon or a tall, flaming chimera,
Even if he doubts and partly realizes
That that is appearance, not a true shape,
Yet he wants to flee, so great is the scare
Aroused by that horrid and fierce image;
The shocked lover, while not fully believing
In such magic illusions, keeps withdrawing.

Psychology, indeed an already Freudian psychology is one of the strong points of Tasso's modern approach to traditional literary subjects.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Changing one's religion is no child's play

Balloons to be read right to left;
see below for an English translation

Some more words on the complex issue of the Christian/Muslim relationships in Ariosto's and Tasso's long poems. In general, during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, converts were disliked by both the followers of their 'source' religion and even by the followers of their 'target' religion: Honor was more important than statistics. To put it bluntly, could you trust people who had betrayed their God, the God of their fathers? What profit were they trying to get? -- against the troubles of being Muslims in a Christian country, or vice versa.

So, when in Orlando Furioso and Gerusalemme Liberata a noble, disinterested character changes his/her religion, especially when a Muslim knight embraces Christianity, it only happens because they chance to rediscover their older, true cultural roots (see Ruggiero, Marfisa, Clorinda) or because they experience the valor of Christians, the power of Christian faith on the field (see Samsonet, Sobrino). That's basically why -- in Orlando Furioso, canto 41 -- Brandimarte, a now Christian knight who has converted from Islam, fails in his attempt to convince King Agramante, too, to embrace the faith in Jesus by simply giving him a theoretical speech.

Anyway, always personal and carefully considered choices; no mass conversions. The greatest author of "poems of chivalry" in recent times, as it has already been mentioned, is probably the Japanese mangaka and cartoonist, Go Nagai. In his saga titled Jushin Ryger, 1989, the alien invaders are shocked when their best warrior, Dolga, reveals he will side with Terrestrials from now on:
"Are you going to betray us, Maryuo Dolga?"
"It is no treason at all: I simply opened my eyes. -- My god is not the Dragon. My god is Zenshin Argama. -- I have been deceived by [Empress] Zara, who kidnapped me when I was a child. -- The Dragon Empire and the Dragon God are my true enemies!"

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Whatcha gonna do now, Tancred? (13)

[16: 45]

Clorinda fui, né sol qui spirto humano
Aspetto il suon de la divina tromba,
Ma ciascun altro ancor, franco o pagano,
Ch'al Ciel non può volar, quasi colomba,
Astretto è qui dal suo destin sovrano,
Non so s'io dica in corpo o 'n viva tomba.
Son di senso animati i rami e i tronchi,
E micidial sei tu se legno hor tronchi.

"I was Clorinda, and not only my human
Spirit waits here for the divine trumpet, (*)
But all others, either Christians or Muslims (**)
Who cannot fly dove-like towards heaven (***)
Are fastened by their supreme fate to these --
Whatever, either bodies or living graves.
Both the branches and the trunks are sentient: (****)
If you fell a tree, you will prove a killer."

(*) The signal of Doomsday; usually imagined to be played by Archangel Michael.
(**) An unusual, interesting case of interfaith event.
(***) See, in part, the legend about the final destiny of King Arthur, who will rise either as a dove or as a raven, depending on the eternal sentence on him. Tasso, by mixing such imagery and Dante's (see previous post on this episode), presents the forest as a sort of permanent limbo. It must be recollected, anyway, that all this is a hallucinogenic effect created by devils.
(****) The manuscript endows the trees with senso in the singular. In the final printed version the word was changed into sensi in the plural, meaning the "senses" in a more general way. Sentient trees existed in Paradise, according to some Jewish Rabbis whose opinion Tasso reports in Il Mondo Creato, and he seems to accept it.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Christianity and Islam: Nicholas of Cusa's goof

Dante's Limbo; or, The fathers of our culture (see further)

In 1461, just few years after the conquest of Constantinople by the hands of the Turks in 1453, Catholic Cardinal and philosopher Nicholas of Cusa (from Kues, now Bernkastel in Germany) wrote a book called Cribratio Alkorani, "Sifting the Quran." By carefully -- or allegedly so -- examining the holy book of Muslims, he dug for its "true" message and tried to show that it led to the orthodox faith in Jesus Christ.

The attempt was obviously doomed to fail. Not only and not mainly because the Latin translation of the Quran he used included some misunderstandings, but especially because of his very approach: the Cribratio Alkorani examines the text in the abstract, without any actual contact with the people who followed its teachings. Nicholas of Cusa, moreover, as a disciple of Greek philosophy, proves unable to handle the often paradoxical, nonlinear Middle-Eastern way of thinking and telling. -- Only his metabolized faith prevents him from noticing that the Hebrew Bible, the so-called "Old Testament," is built like that too.

The most interesting parts in the Cribratio concern the history of the knowledge of the Quran in the Western world, as well as the descriptions of the assorted religious market in the 7th century. The book has been recently published in Italian, Lettura dialettica del Corano, Rome: Città Nuova, 2011, very well translated and edited by Prof. Maria Rosaria Matrella.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 4: 991-1064

About the contrary routes
(the upper sky hauling
the lesser against the stream)
some said each sky has
a center around which
a whole sphere spins;
farther than firmament
there is no super-sky
but seven are below
[1000] that add harmony
to the celestial lyre;
each sky has its spheres
like a collection of cars
of a big billionaire who
uses one to reach a ranch
another to drive back.
On the number of bodies
opinions are millions.
Eudoxus endowed the sun
[1010] with three carrier spheres,
as many as the moon’s; four
to the planets to transport
them back to their bases—
while one less to Luna
who doesn’t need a nurse.
Callippus added two carriers
to the sun and two as well
in the service of Selene.
In sum fifty-five spheres
[1020] listed by philosophers.
So many gold starry ships
so many machines
so many motions
serve the supreme mass
that turns within itself.
The inspirer of scholars
even almighty Aristotle
following them, fixed
too much matter and
[1030] not enough angels.
Our own Era however
upsets all ancient tenets
makes motions relative
and verifies vibrations
in changing approaches;
unbelievably bold they
defy the old times by
theorizing turns and returns
around scores of centers
[1040] in a timeless continuum.
Others held Hipparchus
or Ptolemys supposition
that abused the stars
with crooked courses,
an amazing monster!
He gave Apollo a triple
sphere whose center was
not the cosmic center,
not to speak of stars;
[1050] and the twisting sun
rolls now close now far
from the cosmic core.
In the biggest globe
a smaller one revolves
around private poles
even eccentrically:
here the sun shifts
higher or Earthwards
or against the signs
[1060] or in the same stream.
Ditto does the moon
whose well-shaped
ring would be irregular
with a quirky course… 

(to be continued on Oct. 30)

Friday, October 21, 2016

Whatcha gonna do now, Tancred? (12)

[16: 44]

Che poi distinto in voci: - Ahi troppo (disse)
M'hai tu, Tancredi, offeso; hor tanto basti.
Tu del corpo che meco e per me visse,
Felice albergo già, mi discacciasti:
Perch'il misero tronco a cui m'affisse
Il mio duro destino ancor mi guasti?
Crudel, dopo la morte offendi i lassi
Spiriti, e 'n tomba riposar non lassi?

That then distinctly said, "Ha, too much did
You already hurt me, Tancred! Now stop.
Out of that body that lived with and by me,
A then happy home, you drove me away: (*)
Why are you damaging the wretched tree trunk
To which my hard fate forced me to stick? (**)
Why do you, cruel, hurt after death the tired
Spirits? Let them rest in peace in their graves!"

(*) With an echo of Eve being forced to leave Eden.
(**) See Dante, Inferno 13: 97-100, and 106-108, referring to suicides -- another form of violent, sacrilegious death.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Cathedral of Memory (lost)

The history of the strained Christian/Muslim relationship in the Mediterranean area during the Renaissance 'might' have been painted, or rather mosaicized in the Cathedral of Messina, Sicily (Italy). The building had been destroyed by an earthquake in 1908; it was rebuilt "as was," and the long work of its embellishment was under way when. . . the church was destroyed again, this time by the air raids during WWII. It has been rebuilt once again, but the inner walls have remained blank.

In 1930 the project for the mosaics -- after a false start -- was entrusted to one of the main Italian artists of the late 19th century and early 20th century, Giulio Aristide Sartorio (1860-1932). He however died quite soon, before completing the job, and many reasons led to a different solution. But, what would have made the cathedral unique was the series of pictures devoted to the most important episodes and personages in the religious life of the city of Messina, from Saint Paul preaching there (see, indirectly, Acts of the Apostles 28: 12) to the present era. Several pictures dealt with the clashes with the Muslim world in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, including a map of the Battle of Lepanto, 1571.

Such images would probably be labelled as "politically incorrect" nowadays, but this would be a short-sighted approach. Having a cathedral adorned like that would have meant preserving the memory of centuries of flesh-and-blood interaction between the two cultures, though not always an easy one, that's anyway better than spending one's time playing with a smartphone and thinking that Muslims come from some other planet. And both peoples would have been honored by the great, innovative sacred art of Sartorio.

Gioacchino Barbera, Anna Maria Damigella, I bozzetti di Sartorio per il Duomo di Messina, Palermo: Sellerio Editore, 1989, pages 158, some 20 x 30 cm, with the reproduction of all the sketches and many other documentary materials. In the picture above: The death sentence on Antonio Duro, from Messina, who in 1473 'terroristically' attacked by stealth and set fire to some ships in the harbor of Constantinople.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Whatcha gonna do now, Tancred? (11)

[16: 43]

Pur tragge alfin la spada, e con gran forza
Percote l'alta pianta: o maraviglia!
Manda fuor sangue la recisa scorza
E fa la terra intorno a sé vermiglia.
Tutto si raccapriccia, e pur rinforza
Il colpo, e 'l fin vederne ei si consiglia;
E quasi d'un sepolcro uscire ei sente
Un sospiroso gemito dolente
. . .

This notwithstanding, he draws his sword and
Hits the tall tree powerfully -- and lo!
From its very bark, broken off, blood spouts (*)
That makes the ground all around him red.
However horrified, he repeats his
Blow to see what will happen in the end;
And as from a sepulchre, he then hears
A sighing moan that echoes with sorrow. . .

(*) An impressive variation on a topos of fantasy literature from Virgil and Dante, see Aeneid 3: 22 ff. and Inferno 13: 31 ff. See also, more humorously, Ariosto in Orlando Furioso 6: 26-28.

Monday, October 17, 2016

How to sing Ariosto's poetry

Reading Ariosto -- as well as "other" Renaissance authors -- is a charming experience, and even more charming is having an opportunity to listen to his verses sung as they were in his own times. These street performances were so important that, at least on one occasion, Ariosto himself changed the text in order to have it match the way it had become popular. In fact, the very first line in canto 25 of Orlando Furioso had been written as: È gran contrasto in giovenil pensiero, but people, especially kids, tended to sing it modified into a better cantabile: Oh gran contrasto in giovenil pensiero, and this became the definitive version.

Thanks to a dear cyberfriend, the great expert and performer of Medieval & Renaissance music Matteo Zenatti (see his G+ profile) it has been possible to retrieve some passages of the poem sung as they used to be in the 16th century, plus a selected bibliography on this subject.
The passages can be listened to here and here. 

Balsamo, Maria Antonietta, L'Ariosto, la musica e i musicisti, Florence: Olschki, 1981.
Bronzini, Giovanni Battista, Tradizioni di stile aedico dai cantari al "Furioso," Florence: Olschki, 1956.
Cardona, Giorgio Raimondo, "Culture dell'oralità e culture della scrittura," in the Einaudi collection Letteratura italiana.