SeeStan ChapLee

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Notes on "Romeo and Juliet" (8)

Scene ii

Line 5  . . . love-performing night . . .
against "love-devouring death " in Act II, Scene iv, line 7 -- or, only apparently against: see here below

Lines 10-11  . . . Come, civil night,
Thou sober-suited matron, all in black
Juliet speaks. It reminds Death, especially if we consider that Morte (Death) is a feminine word in Italy, where the scene is supposed to happen; and she is imagined as a black lady.

Line 17  Come, night; come, Romeo . . .
are the two names meant as synonyms?

Line 43  What devil art thou that dost torment me thus?
maybe echoing Dante, Inferno 32.108; and, in its turn, echoed by S. T. Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Part I, the third to last line

Line 75  . . . fiend angelical
see 2 Corinthians 11.14

Lines 85-7  . . . There's no trust,
No faith, no honesty in men; all perjur'd,
All forsworn, all naught, all dissemblers
the Nurse gives voice to her experience, as well as her own more or less unconscious impulses; but also quotes from the Psalms, see 53.3, etc.

Lines 118-9  Why followed not, when she said 'Tybalt's dead,'
Thy father or thy mother, nay, or both
are these Juliet's fears, or hopes? 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

[GC] "C'mon!"

The Battle of Jaffa. A valiant Muslim commander, Rodoan, spurs his soldiers. The Christian fort has been built by reusing the hulls of their very ships.

[17: 126.6 - 127.8]

"C'mon, why do slow down your efforts,
O comrades? In vain will I struggle alone.
Nor will I open—thru the wall, or above,
there among enemy ships—a passage,
for the virtue of one strives in vain, and
in the excess of boldness deceives itself.
Better is the work of many instead, united.
Therefore come behind me, you all,
on this sand that covers firs and oaks,     the ships
'cause glory is a good exchange for danger!"

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 6: 1520-1599

by ilTM + Selkis (picture data)

There existed of old
the son of mare and deer
embellished by the mane
and the majestic antlers
of parents one and two,
a bastard but beautiful
fast-running and robust
adorned in adulthood
with a rabbinic beard.
In the inland of India this
[1530] rarity roamed free
where wild oxen grazed
who had twisted horns
black hide strong brawn;
then probably disappeared
even tho’ in the far North
wild oxen, aurochses
and moose remained.
On the horse-deer hybrid
however no news come
[1540] nor do steeds have sex
with leopards any longer
to provide hippardions:
Crossbreeds are short-lived
and their names nullified
cause they weren’t created
by the immortal Maker
who eternalizes lineages
and safeguards species.
Gone are the grotesque
[1550] forms of fierce beasts
that flourished in Africa
the direful Disneyland,
or are gradually going
since uncertain stocks
cannot be kept forever.
Only the certified survive
as fixed by the Forger.
Going towards my goal
like a racer out of breath
[1560] I suddenly discern
both buffalos and hyenas
that violate our tombs
and imitate man’s voice.
I see long-horned rhinos
and the one-horned horse
that purges the springs
I see on ice and snow
the native reindeer
draw swift wagons
[1570] I see a lot of animals
polar and tropical
unwitnessed in the West
but illustrious thru legends.
Now no more delays,
tho’ tired I’ll soon reach
a Jurassic jungle where
among myriads of marvels
Adam was waiting for me.
As a confounded child
[1580] in a city for a fair
packed with vulgar people
if looking at a platform
distinguishes his dear
father shining from afar
like a crowned king—
dismisses the mob and
walks towards the place
where his powerful parent
now invites his son with
[1590] a wave or a word,
so throughout this habitat
of mortals and immortals
in which perpetual laws
warrant our welfare
I behaved like a visitor
in a modern museum fully
enjoying the exhibition
and often tarrying before
secondary specimens.

(to be continued on Nov. 19)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Notes on "Romeo and Juliet" (7)

Act II
Scene vi

Line 7  Then love-devouring death . . .
Possibly a source for the controversial phrase in John Milton's Paradise Lost 9.792, when Eve "knew not eating death." She did not know she was eating / about to eat Death, or, she did not recognize all-devouring Death? Shakespeare would suggest the latter.

Line 21  Good even to my ghostly confessor
interestingly enough, Romeo and Juliet, in spite of the family feud, shared the same confessor even before meeting

Scene i

Line 114  O Romeo, Romeo . . .
Benvolio uses the same words as Juliet in Act I, Scene ii, 33; a repetition that, in both the Old and the New Testament, means a (divine) heartfelt address to people in order to show them their duty, see e.g. Genesis 22.11, Acts of the Apostles 9.4

[Enter PRINCE . . . their WIVES, and all.]
Lady Montague will not say one word

Line 139  Where are the vile beginners of this fray?
the Prince does not even ask "who," he will do so later (line 149)

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

[GBM] Summarizing

The Judgment of Paris in G. B. Marino's version: Venus adds to Paris' comfort by lingering on Helen's beauty. The word in line 2, epilogato ("summarized"), corresponds to the Greek verb anakephalaio-o used in the New Testament, Letter to the Ephesians 1.10 with reference to the cosmic Christ. The Latin version of the Bible, the Vulgate, rendered it by a different verb, instaurare ("to establish"); but Greek had been vastly rediscovered during the Renaissance. At any rate, the concept of something recapitulating all other things in itself, especially Man seen as microcosm, was widespread. In Catholic spirituality, see e.g. Dante's Convivio, the sum of all beauty and perfection was also identified with Virgin Mary. -- Flashforward: According to the Iliad, Venus will actually take part in the War of Troy (the consequence of Paris' love story with Helen) on the Trojans' side; but she will cut a poor figure, and be of little help.


"So well does, in her face, of all beauty
the aggregation unite, summarized;
so perfectly gathered together does
all earthly beauty flower in her
that Beauty herself, by far defeated,
fears comparison and feels ashamed.
On having worked on such a refined     like Athena vs. Arachne
veil, Heaven and Nature compete."     veil = flesh

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 6: 1452-1519

In Day Six, Adonai
made no mules, illegitimate
off-off-Broadway offspring
of animals attracted by
unrestrained desire,
either a strong donkey
and a mare or a nimble
steed and a lazy mother.
[1460] Yet like heroic horses
mules sometimes won
in Olympic hippodromes;
they also carried Cardinals
in their red garments
(see Raffaello’s fresco)
to meet the messengers
from queens and kings.
Tho’ a thoroughbred’s son
can prove an ass, and so
[1470] does a mare’s daughter,
the first case is infertile
the second won’t conceive,
no mule mothers a mule
as horses habitually do
and in the Army’s herd
a son succeeds his father.
Causes are conjectural.
Deformed ducts” said
old Democritus the one
[1480] who, while blind, booed
delusions and disasters
of humankind humorously.
Empedocles who debatably
decided to meet death
in the flames of Etna
thought a failure follows
two orgasms too soggy:
contraries coalesce better—
as when someone melts
[1490] silver with a very
different metal, tin.
A more eminent mind
the philosopher frequently
adopted by tradition
saw the cause of sterility
in the coolness of seed
since donkeys are cool
unable to bear winter
so that none of them dwell
[1500] in northern Europe
though often in France.
A donkey-born he-mule
unlike his father has
infertile seeds inside
whereas a rare phenomenon
is Miss Mule with child;
but a seven-year-old mule
can mate with a mare
and make her pregnant.
[1510] In the Syrian sun
tho in ancient centuries
she-mules proved prolific
and mule came from mule
so that their descendants
mirrored the ancestors and
the race was preserved,
now however forever lost
among modern Syrians
worried over the war.

(to be continued on Nov. 12)

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Notes on "Romeo and Juliet" (6)

Act II
Scene iv

Line 72  I will bite thee by the ear . . .
this friendly threat is still used in Rome: Te dò 'n mòrzico su 'na recchia!

Lines 82-3  . . . now art thou Romeo; now art
thou what thou art by art . . .
the problem is, he must "refuse" his name and "be new baptiz'd"; from now on, his name "is no part of" himself, as stated in his dialog with Juliet in Act II, Scene ii

Line 157  . . . if you should deal double with her
Freudian projection: the Nurse will "deal double" with Juliet

Lines 199-200  . . . And she hath
the prettiest sententious of it, of you and rosemary
something having to do with "rose" (rising) and "marry"?

Scene v

Line 74  Must climb a bird's nest . . .
like a snake, not by chance

Lines 75-6  I am the drudge, and toil in your delight;
But you shall bear the burden soon at night
the Nurse as Queen Mab, see Act I, Scene iv, especially lines 54, 92-4

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

[GBM] Hold on! -- and cross fingers

Eustache Le Sueur, Venus Presents
Cupid to Jupiter

The Judgment of Paris in G. B. Marino's version: Paris is frightened by Juno's and Minerva's threats. Venus comforts him. In retrospect, as readers, we see that her reasons of comfort are the same that she will use with her own lover Adonis under the menace of jealous Mars, and, well, in both cases she will prove wrong.


"Adonis, my dear, what fear now seizes you?
If Love is with you, what can you be afraid of?     see Romans 8.31
Don't you know that on his arrow's point
all triumphs, all trophies have their location?
And that against his all-powerful power
the most powerful gods too are powerless?
And that the invincible strength of his fire
blows out the flashes of Jupiter himself?"     fire. . .blows out: witticism

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 6: 1400-1451

by ilTM + Selkis

Skipping mysteries
and fairy-tale fictions
that hide truer ideas:
The same process causes
monsters and mars the
embryos in their bosoms
by either defective DNA
or matter’s malevolence,
all the more often when
nests are more numerous
[1410] e.g. industrial hens
and delicate doves whose
chicks are often a chaos;
not seldom bicephalous
serpents have been seen.
Christ’s dearest comrade
dreamed about a dragon
with seven snaky heads
and a starlet astride
who used to hook kings.
[1420] Seven had Hydra too
whose heads were beheaded
by iron blades in vain,
not to speak of the strange
lad in the labyrinth
and centaurs sphinxes
cyclopes Polyphemus
satyrs sylvans fauns
Pans and other peoples
who filled the forests
[1430] marvelous as the army
enlisted by Dionysus
to conquer Calcutta before
going back to Greece
as Camões composed.
Then add Arimaspians
& lazy one-footed fellas
& the Pigmies’ artillery
against the cranes and
all such exotic trash.
[1440] In fact such freaks
such unnatural natures
never existed, or if they did,
God made no monsters
then, insofar as freaks
are made of bad matter
that spoils parentage just
on casual occasions
dishonoring Nature; or
maybe a divine warning
[1450] to menace mankind
with disasters and death.

(to be continued on Nov. 4)

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Notes on "Romeo and Juliet" (5)

Act II
Scene iii

Lines 21-2  Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied,
And vice sometime's by action dignified
The whole monologue of Friar Lawrence (lines 1-30) provides an epitome of the Renaissance worldview, but these two lines are the cornerstone of their ethics, that implied a 'careful' use of boldness as well as the acknowledgement of the great rule of chance/Fortune. "Virtue" retained its original Latin meaning of both physical and inner strength. This approach will be destroyed in the 18th century by the -- devastating -- model that sets supposedly universal theoretical principles to be applied each time.

Lines 65, 69  Holy Saint Francis! // Jesu Maria
The former exclamation is maybe a joke of Shakespeare, but the latter comes from true parlance, and is still used in Southern Italy (rather than Verona, in the NE): Gesummaria!

Lines 85-7  . . . her I love now
Doth grace for grace and love for love allow;
The other did not so
paraphrasing the Gospel of John 1.16-17

Scene iv

Lines 23-6
Mercutio's description of the then (late Renaissance) fashionable continental style of dueling is ironic. The same kind of description, but much longer and meant as highly honorable, will be used by G. B. Marino in Adone, canto 20, stanzas 233-247.

Lines 36-43
In Mercutio's list, Dante is conspicuous by his absence. To think that he was so warmly welcomed in Verona! Paradiso 17.70-75.
The famous women exalted by poets are mocked by punning on the sound of their names: "Dido, a dowdy," etc., with the exception of Cleopatra, "a gipsy" -- that however puns on "Egyptian."

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

[GC] The glory of British archers

Galleria Sabauda, Torino (Savoy Art Gallery, Turin, Italy)

The description of the (fictional) Battle of Jaffa in Tasso's Gerusalemme Conquistata continues with many valiant acts of the Crusaders besieged by the Muslims. This agitated section of the poem should be read in succession, like seeing a movie; it would not work much to extrapolate a few lines. Sometimes the pace slows down to focus on one warrior, for example here:

[17: 122]

With both Roberts was William, the handsome,
the honor and the glory of British archers;
he wore a golden armor and helmet, all
with gold did his beautiful weapons shine,     (*)
his Anselm carrying the golden quiver:
he shot arrows, and had already hit many.
With those golden, splendid arms of his
he kept making lethal, insidious wounds.

(*) A Renaissance parade armor, rather than Medieval war equipment.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 6: 1315-1399

HPL, The Dunwich Horror (by ilTM + Selkis)

This whole volume indeed
this wonderful world
did not start from ABC
and popped up perfect.
Did You make monsters?
[1320] You didn’t, Director
of Physis: it was the fault
of ill-measuring matter
now scanty now redundant.
If the sperm of a male
weak insofar as old
or feeble as too early
is unable to activate
the ovules to operate
in that wet dwelling
[1330] it will fatally fail—
a painful necessity,
while entirely unneeded
are mutant monsters
devoid of destination.
Here stubborn matter
rebels against Progress,
the end of development;
excluded X-Men issue.
When hyle however is
[1340] defeated, it follows
chromosomal commands
so that newborn babies
resemble their parents.
Transgressors also
betray their own breed
and turn into monsters;
so much so sometimes
that their degeneration
makes them inhuman
[1350] anthropologically aliens
and from a cursed seed
a cursed Cain is born
shunned by the society
hated by Nature herself.
Old stories report on
a ram-skulled kid
and an ox-headed one
or a calf with a child’s
head or a humble sheep
[1360] looking like a bull.
Think of the frightening
Chupacabra that recalls
a dog and a dragon.
A mare can mate with
a Griffin on the glaciers
of far northern regions
where he watches over
knick-knacks like Smaug.
Well-known everywhere
[1370] are Egyptian hybrids
e.g. a human forehead
embellished with bovine
horns under a veil,
Jove Ammon adored in
a well patronized temple
solitary and surrounded
by a stormy desert.
Pictured and carved
were Anubis in afterlife
[1380] and endless idols.
The Hebrews themselves
imitated the heathens
burning babies to Moloch.
The commencing cause
is Nature who overruns
her pregnancy protocols
by bearing extra-limbed
creatures like one torso
with many horrible heads
[1390] or feet in superfetation.
Therefore Fame felt free
to invent Hekatoncheiroi
with a hundred hands
and to crown Cerberian
Geryon gloriously
in Spain in past times—
but perhaps hinting at
the human mind with
its threefold faculty.

(to be continued on Oct. 29)

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Notes on "Romeo and Juliet" (4)

Act II

Line 8  And she steal love's sweet bait from fearful hooks
simply, imho, one of the most beautiful verses ever

Scene i

Line 2  . . . and find thy centre out
playing on syntax, Romeo seems to hint at his personal center now being out of himself -- in Juliet

Scene ii

Line 3  . . . and Juliet is the sun
O sole mio. . .

Line 34  Deny thy father and refuse thy name
A request like those made by Christ in the Gospels (Luke 14.26). See also Psalm 45.10, a bridal song, though the words are spoken to "her," the princess, in that case.

Lines 92-3  . . . at lovers' perjuries
They say Jove laughs
"they" who? An unusual role for the father of the gods and illegitimate children

Line 144  Thy purpose marriage, send me word to-morrow
tomorrow! 14 y.o. Juliet wastes even less time than her father will

Line 163  With repetition of my Romeo's name
possibly with reference to the echo: Romeo... meo... meo... (i.e. mio, "mine own," in Medieval Italian)

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Un-Taught Dante

One Saturday in Hell
"Other" Interpretations of Dante

A lecture on Dante as was reread and reused by authors who did not belong to the official line of interpretation taught in Italian schools from the National Unification (1861) onward, because they lived either happily before or elsewhere.


Jacopo Alighieri (the poet's unruly son)
Ludovico Ariosto
Giovan Battista Marino
William Blake
Edgar Allan Poe
Herman Melville
Jorge Luis Borges
Go Nagai

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

[GBM] Oops, again!

William Blake could not stand Dante's submissive
attitude (bottom right) before Beatrice

The Judgment of Paris in G. B. Marino's version: After Juno's angry outburst, Minerva does not keep quiet. Among other things, Juno 'quotes' Genesis 3.17-18 when she says that because of Paris, as already because of Adam, "Nature will be cursed, / and will abhor you in anger and grief" (stanza 165). Minerva's words, on her part, seem to echo Beatrice's reproach against Dante in Purgatorio 30.109 ff. The myth of Hercules at the crossroads -- the choice between virtue and vice -- is also implied, here overturned.


"So, this is how you assign your rewards,
taking the bait of misleading deceits?     Helen's love, & consequences
How you thank me for the glorious seeds
I sowed in your heart from your earliest years?
You who exalt lust, you who crush valor,
who welcome vice and condemn virtue, and
for a dirty compensation in cajolery,
refuse honor while despising chastity!"

Monday, October 16, 2017

The penultimate truth about 1425

In Philip K. Dick's 1964 novel The Penultimate Truth, one of his masterpieces, an episode that happened in 1425 is described: an alien attack against an Indian tribe in Utah. The whole episode is actually made up in 2025 in order to make a plot of land "of great scientific interest" and therefore confiscate it. The finds (alien weapons and skulls) are manufactured in a laboratory, then sent backward in time thanks to a machine that survived the Third World War. Fake scientific articles speculating on the existence of such extraterrestrial materials will also be written, then artificially inserted into an early 20th century magazine. The problem is, the time machine can still be activated, but nobody knows about its way of working any longer; so that the result will not be the one expected, just the opposite indeed -- perfectly in line with the Renaissance concepts of chance and Fortune. And the Cherokee will be avenged. A sci-fi version of Ariosto's narrative loops.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 6: 1265-1314

Not one was left behind
of either infertile plants
or fertile sprouting full
of fruits from the beginning,
laden and beautiful,
[1270] unlike in our times
when each in its season
reaches its ripeness.
The seed is sawn first
superficially or deep
then an herb appears
which goes on growing
driving roots downward
as firm foundations
and blooming into branches
[1280] leaves and flowers.
Last, not least the fruit
surfaces although unripe
then constantly changes
in a set of shapes;
nearly invisible at first
and eluding our looks
like the corpuscles
whirling in the sunlight,
it assimilates the humus
[1290] and drinks the dew
till it takes on many tints
like a Flemish still life.
But in Genesis genetics
forests in their fullness
flourished and the fruits
could be perceived plain
not green but ripe already
so as to attract the animals
to come to dry land life
[1300] and taste such dainties.
Inseminated by Shem’s God
the Earth edidit herbs
and fruits with filaments
inside for an immortal
propagation so as to replace
extinct environments.
The beasts were born
already dressed in rough
hair or white wool, with
[1310] horns hoofs claws
they appeared armed
in their legal age
without knowing about
infancy and innocence.

(to be continued on Oct. 22)

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Notes on "Romeo and Juliet" (3)

Act I
Scene iv

Line 38  I'll be a candle-holder . . .
a phrase still very common in Rome, with reference to playing the odd man out: arèggere 'r mòccolo

Lines 92-3  This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs,
That presses them and learns them first to bear
see the devil called incubus, like in Fuseli's two paintings titled Nightmare; here however the odd thing is that Queen Mab acts as woman on woman. But especially, in the play, the "maid lying on her back" is Juliet: Scene iii, lines 40 ff.

Line 100  Which is as thin of substance as the air
like humankind, according to Macbeth's well-known definition

Scene v

Line 106  [Juliet] Then have my lips the sin that they have took
the "original sin" is transmitted from him to her, the opposite of Adam and Eve

Line 108  You kiss by th' book
handbooks were a Renaissance mania

Line 136-7  Too early seen unknown, and known too late!
Prodigious birth . . .
Juliet apparently paraphrases St. Augustine's famous sentence, "Late have I loved you [God], beauty so ancient and so new!" And "prodigious," though meaning "ominous" in this context, also mirrors the theological parlance referring to the birth of Christ.

Friday, October 13, 2017

[GBM] Oops

The Judgment of Paris in G. B. Marino's version: Juno and Minerva definitely do not share Paris' decision. Juno voices their feeling.


"Rather than glorious, baleful     like Achilles' wrath
such a choice will be for you.
Know that the honor and glory that
you judged to take away from me
will put the shame on your deeds,
immortal infamy on your stock.     from Dante, Inferno 28.109
The evil, malign beauty who was     Helen; Juno quotes Inferno 1.97
your prize will be your torment."

N.B. Starting from next week, the translations from Tasso's Gerusalemme Conquistata and Marino's Adone will be posted only on Tuesday: alternately, two episodes from Marino in a row, then one from Tasso, etc.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Post-modern tributes to Baroque culture

please click on the red link below

The Magic Trio's illustrations and YouTube videos presented by Electric Sheep Comics.

The story of young Amullo

During the Muslim attack against the Christian fort in Jaffa (a fictional episode set during the First Crusade), a young assailant falls. The theme of a hero's "dear friend" being killed in battle, that usually makes the hero angrier and readier to fight, dates back to Homer. This literary device had been reused by Ariosto already, and it implied, more or less clearly, a homosexual bond between the young man and the famous warrior. In the case of Tasso, homosexuality was a subject that affected him himself in depth: Gerusalemme Conquistata -- not so the Liberata before -- also worked as his "coming out." Lively sea descriptions are another of Tasso's 'trademarks.'

[GC 17: 117.7 - 118.8]

Among them was Amullo the valiant,     name origin?
Argantes' loyal friend, no more than a kid.
He had ascended toward the top so much
that he seemed to deserve crown and palm,    symbols of victory
when lo, Robert hurled the great mass
of a rock that would prove too heavy to
a brawny man―his beaten head and bones,
his broken helmet let his soul pass through.
He fell like one who into the deep sea
dives from a high ship to search the bottom. 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 6: 1222-1264

Goya, Saint Francis Borgia, 1788

Ghoulish Goya painted
the cadaveric colors
of an already dead man
adding misshapen monsters
as in Pickman’s portraits
but in spite of terror
a successful illustration
does delight collectors;
[1230] my colors and lights
of poetical prowess
my shocking shading
will hopefully please
my brilliant readers
making horror amiable.
But to avoid annoyance
these dry dreadful sands
where slimy things crawl
will wind up off topic:
[1240] Let’s turn over a new. . .
hey look at those quirky
creatures capturing us
those flying formations
born of dead bodies
or without using sperm
made by Mother Nature
in her wet womb.
Such clusters causing
bore rather than fright
[1250] occupy cloud-like
the sky and my eyes,
fetch me a fly-whisk!
Let your light chase ’em
O Father here apparently
clashing with holiness
as a Lord of the flies!
Anyway as far as words
can say when inspired,
I declare that those days
[1260] adult beings were born:
The respective specimens
of plants and animals
popped up perfect
when voiced in Eden.

(to be continued on Oct. 15)

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Notes on "Romeo and Juliet" (2)

Act I
Scene ii

Line 5  And pity 'tis you liv'd at odds so long
but nobody thinks about an inter-clan marriage (as it had been the case with Dante Alighieri and Gemma Donati -- that however proved politically unsuccessful)

Line 46  One pain is lessened by another's anguish
see Ariosto, who used a saying still very common in Italy: chiodo scaccia chiodo, "a nail expels another nail," like in a wood board

Lines 54-6  . . . a madman . . .
Shut up in prison, kept without my food,
Whipt and tormented . . .
Torquato Tasso experienced this all too well

Lines 64 ffThe Italian names are quite approximate, wrongly spelled and/or 'unreal,' i.e. taken from all sorts of Latin sources

Line 89  . . . the devout religion of mine eye
for "religion" meaning "rule, way of operating" see Dante, Purgatorio 21.41-2

Scene iii

Line 4  God forbid! . . .
the Nurse often inserts popular phrases (here Dio liberi! as still nowadays in Italy) in the wrong place, like Sancho Panza

Line 24  'Tis since the earthquake now eleven years
Italy was hit by some strong earthquakes in the Renaissance, though there are no data available about one in Verona in the late XVI century; nor in the XIII or XIV century, if we take the alleged epoch of the events described in the play

Lines 77-9  . . . why, he's [Paris] a man of wax. /
Verona's summer . . . /
Nay, he's a flower . . .
Well, the summer sun melts the wax. And, is a "flower" a man who flows away?

Line 88  This precious book . . . unbound . . .
books were sold like that, then each collector would add a customized binding and cover

Friday, October 6, 2017

[GBM] Full victory, nothing else

In this painting by Francesco Albani
(more or less contemporary to Marino's poem)
Venus shows the golden apple

The Judgment of Paris in G. B. Marino's version: Venus' victory song.


"Come, O my Graces, and come, O Loves,
my powerful forces, unconquered squads!
With the greenest laurel leaves crown 
your finally victorious mother!
Go sing in high, resounding verse, and
let the thin, delicate breeze reecho:
Long live Love, long live Love, who in heaven
and on earth subdues both peace and war!"

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Amazing adventures of Renaissance physicians

Published in 2013, this slipcase devised by Prof. Lino Conti of the University of Perugia, Italy, consists of two books. The first of which, Forays into 17th Century Medicine, includes three essays respectively on: 1. An original, very interesting reconstruction of the scientific, or rather philosophical process that led William Harvey to the discovery of blood circulation (by Lino Conti); 2. The history of Lodovico Locatelli, the pioneering physician who first translated a work of Paracelsus into Italian, namely his Commentary on the Aphorisms of Hippocrates (by Paolo Capitanucci); 3. The unusual case of a very small and isolated Italian town, Preci, that during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance was famous all over Europe because of its surgeons; one of them cured no less than Queen Elizabeth I (by Anna Pelliccia).

The second book is an anastatic reprint of a 1586 essay, the Brief Treatise on the Preservation from, and Cure of the Plague by Fr. Evangelista Quattrami from Gubbio, Italy. His remedies do not seem to have worked much, but who knows, maybe they could work if anybody had chanced to get the theriaca required as an ingredient. Anyway, the treatise does provide an insight into 16th-17th century culture, medicine, and everyday life. For Italian readers, an extra key comes from the fact that this is the same time period in which the plague described in Alessandro Manzoni's 1840s novel I Promessi Sposi took place; Fr. Evangelista even mentions some alleged untori ("plague-spreaders") in Milan. Also typical of a Renaissance text like this is the presence of modern, accurate descriptions of the inner organs of the human body along with outdated 'explanations' of their functions.

Incidentally, Fr. Evangelista worked in the service of Cardinal Luigi D'Este, who possibly was the cause of Torquato Tasso's internment "like" -- not "as" -- a madman in Ferrara in the years from 1579 to 1586, precisely. According to one hypothesis, in fact (Fabio Pittorru, Torquato Tasso: L'uomo, il poeta, il cortigiano, 1982), the reason why Tasso underwent that fate was that he had threatened to reveal the Cardinal's misdeeds before the Inquisition.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The winds of war

Now Argantes attacks the Christian fort in Jaffa. . .

[GC 111: 1 - 112: 2]

And Fortune, turning in his favor,
seemed to rebel against the Franks;     the Crusaders
from the opposite side she stirred
storm and thunderbolts against them
and brought a cloud so as to sprinkle
both warring parties with dry sand—     (*)
but in the Franks' eyes its dark dust
annoys more, and envelops them.
To break the wall, the Syrians showed
all of their strength, all of their brains. . .

(*) "To sprinkle (aspergere) with dry sand": a typical Baroque paradox.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 6: 1140-1221

after Paolo Uccello

Another animal
living in icy Siberia
is both big and devout;
in view of winter coming
it stores food supplies
in a warehouse within
to be emptied when needed
as from a refrigerator.
Wisely saving water
and supplies, they survive
[1150] like cities that foresee
a siege and stock up
packs of provisions
in stands and cellars.
But the elephant also
(one was admired in Rome
in the sixteenth century)
can be tamed: this way
God gives us evidence
of Man’s master mind
[1160] Man his live image
Man the immortal heir
of heavenly houses
and destined to deity.
Not only big beasts
make us look amazed
at divine providence;
it touches the tiniest too—
not less than Himalaya
that scrapes the skies
[1170] is valuable a valley
that lets hikers avoid
Aeolus’ guts and gusts,
who love the altitudes,
and seek relaxing refuge
under a serene sky.
The elephant however huge
is freakishly frightened
by the miniature mouse.
Scorpions are scary too
[1180] with points ’n’ poison
but let temerarious tongues
stop spitting against God
as the Creator of cobras
worms dragons & snakes
which by throwing venom
cause atrocious death.
They blame the Master
when this wasteful age
rebelling against reason
[1190] is properly punished
with widespread plagues,
they despise the doctor
for the treatment is tough.
But if you trust Ho Theos
you will bypass the basilisk
Sabertooth and T-rex,
they’ll submit immediately
to your powerful foot.
Let us revise the episode
[1200] when Paul’s holy hand
after his landing in Malta
gathered wood: the viper
did not shock or KO him
and its ivy-like venom
did not harm his hand
for God protects the pure.
Should I painstakingly
frame a snaky story
about hats and necklaces
[1210] of hissing serpents
cerulean and swollen?
Of dumb dancing nagas
phareae cenchri chelydri
alpha-sibens and the fiery
snake looking like a dart
that hurls lethal liquid?
Or you, the notorious
African killer who hitting
do not only destroy
[1220] the spirit but disperse
the corpse into nothingness?

(to be continued on Oct. 8)

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Notes on "Romeo and Juliet" (1)

Since Shakespeare's works have been examined from one cardinal point to another during the centuries, these notes -- that will be published on Saturdays -- do not claim to originality. They will simply stress some interesting details in Romeo and Juliet from the point of view of either the acting or Renaissance culture and everyday life. The quotations are taken from the Alexander Text of the play.

The Prologue

Line 9  The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love
like a meteor, which was considered a sign of ill omen

Act I
Scene i

Lady Montague: A very rare appearance in the play. She will even die in the end. N.B. In general, the Montague family will be given a much lesser role than the Capulets.

Lines 128-30  . . . sun . . . begin to draw . . .
The shady curtains from Aurora's bed
a Baroque agudeza (witty subtlety): the Sun wakes up before dawn

Lines 132-3  And private in his chamber pens himself,
Shuts up his windows, locks fair daylight out
see the current social phenomenon called hikikomori

[Rosaline]: We will not even see her.

Line 208  Nor ope her lap to saint-seducing gold
with a hint at Danaë, and sperm

Lines 215-6  She is too fair, too wise, wisely too fair,
To merit bliss by making me despair
Romeo should mean "to trouble herself with making me happy," but the opposite is what Rosaline actually does

Line 218  Do I live dead that live to tell it now
see Coleridge's Ancient Mariner

Friday, September 29, 2017

[GBM] The apple is cast

by ilTM and Selkis, from Giambologna

The Judgment of Paris in G. B. Marino's version: And finally, Paris breaks down.

2.153 to 2.154, line 2

She stopped—a flame came out of her eyes
capable of melting Caucasian glaciers;
so that he, forgetting all other beauties
against such incomparable beauty,
forced by the power of that great god     Love
who defeats all hearts, breaks all shelters,     see Dante, Inferno 17.2
kissed the apple, looked into her eyes
and, in awe handing it to her, said,
"O super-beautiful, you over the most
beautiful in heaven most beautiful Venus. . ."

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The omen

Suddenly, General Argantes is approached by his brother Norandin, whose death had just been described! (see) It may depend on the fact that either Tasso—while trying to manage the many brothers of Argantes on stage—confused a name with another, or revealed Norandin's death in advance for dramatic purposes, then went back to the main course of events. But the text structure in not clear at all: Norandin's words and actions in fact flow without a break from his horse ride towards the ships to his death, to his speech to Argantes. It might have been interpreted, too, as a classical epic scene in which a dead warrior appears to a living one, but this is not the case as Norandin is seen by Argantes as his brother in the flesh. Anyway, here is his message:

[GC 17: 105.7 - 107.8]

. . .  "Now yield to my advice, let
somebody replace you in your great peril.
You are tired, perhaps; we all are,
after the fights of one day and another,
so, we could leave this place to the rocks     = to itself
and the mob, and go away from here.
And, I won't hide, even against your
prohibition, and being mocked for this,
that Heaven, dreams, and omens I fear.
Ah, may this not be our last assault!"
He meant to add more, but surly-eyed,
fierce, Argantes looked at him and said,
"Norandin, I do dislike the cowards;
if Heaven established right today as     inshallah
the day of my death or doom, here I am.
I don't care about stars, fixed or errant,     (*)
nor about spectres and night dreams.
You—are you not ashamed of yourself?"

(*) During the Counter-Reformation, the Catholic Church 'officially' denied and attacked astrology. See here an interesting story about this.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 6: 1046-1139

The Battle of Zama in a painting of about 1521

To what possible purpose
does the elephant’s odd
trunk or nose exist?
Since it’s a behemoth bigger
[1050] than most animals
it inherited the trunk
as a weapon, note well.
It functions as a neck
insofar as the true one
cannot extend to the soil
and could not be longer.
Therefore the elephant
fetches fruits by using it
and because it is a cable
[1060] too, it can accumulate
nearly a lake inside;
it then sprays rivers
as a Berninian fountain
in Renaissance Rome.
Like an artistic spring
with a faun’s face on
which out of its mouth
or perhaps its penis
pours water everywhere,
[1070] so good Ganesha
gathers his humor first
then his nose imitates
a gorgeous geyser.
This nose often works
as a multitasking hand
twining and stretching.
When a quiet elephant
walks through a flock
of simple-minded sheep
[1080] it does not disturb
them and passes peacefully;
but it grips Gradassoes
lifts them in midair and
smashes them merciless
like a projectile that loads
a catapult then crashes
according to kinetics.
Short is the elephant’s neck
otherwise too weighty
[1090] for its balloon body
that stands on rough feet
which appear inarticulate
and the legs like pillars
of a basilican skeleton.
The beast bends them
when it must sit down
but turning on one side
because of its big mass
(impossible to sit upright)
[1100] so that it always has
to lean left or right.
Only its knees it can
bend, similarly to men:
its paralyzed elbows
force it to find props
against the trees and
sleep hard and deep. . .
look! the trunk collapses!
But often it’s been cut
[1110] by mean smugglers
in search of ivory
to be transformed into
African handicrafts.
The elephant crashes
after the falling tree
like a building broken by
a treacherous earthquake
then resting in ruins.
Prevented from picking
[1120] itself up, it trumpets
stabbed in its belly—
because its bristly back
is spear-proof—and
dies with dire moans.
Its Atlas-like shoulders
can transport towers
stuffed with soldiers
while it knocks down
every enemy it meets
[1130] like a living fort;
Hannibal and Indians
thus put armies to rout
made arms red with blood
trampled on infantry.
This pachyderm, provided
hunts and wars allow,
lives three centuries
and exerts its religion
by adoring Artemis.

(to be continued on Oct. 1)