SeeStan ChapLee

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)

Friday, September 22, 2017

[GBM] Dating Agency Venus

Leda by a Renaissance painter,
Francesco Ubertini called "Bacchiacca"

The Judgment of Paris in G. B. Marino's version: In this second phase of the beauty contest, each goddess -- in addition to showing herself naked to Paris -- makes a promise. Juno says she will make him the "ruler of whole Asia," basically the Sultan! But, on closer inspection, she is not promising much insofar as Paris is already a son of powerful Priam, though currently in exile. Minerva says she will turn him into an invincible warrior. In retrospect, that would have proved useless since, in the future War of Troy, Paris, though 'weak,' would kill no less than Achilles. He anyway, like Adonis (into whose story his own story has been inserted) later on, does not seem to be interested in such gifts. And now, again, it is the turn of Venus. She stresses that Paris, yeah, is of royal origin, therefore he needs a mate better than any peasant or wood nymph. He deserves the most beautiful woman in the world. He deserves Helen.


"Jupiter left Leda's womb pregnant
with this new sun I am talking about
when, soft and swift, onto her he flew
transfigured into a fair, noble swan.
White and pure she is, as it becomes
a girl born of a bird so white;
smooth, delicate, as bred and fed
inside the frail shell of an egg."

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The first assault

[GC 17: 102]

The Syrians, raising their dry shields     i.e. wood. Then edited: heavy
and frightful shouts around Argantes,
now uncertainly attack the firm wall,
the sea and the coast echoing the sound.
Against the children of cruel Ducat     Argantes & Co.
and their faithful, unfaithful to Christ,
from the towers our men threw stones,
driving them away from guarded places.     chiostri (*)

(*) literally, "cloisters," a term often employed by Tasso as a more solemn synonym of "place." See Dante, Inferno 29: 40 and Purgatorio 7: 21 (both times chiostra).

Monday, September 18, 2017


Again some materials on the Battle of Lepanto, 1571, that is much more interesting to "see" through the eyes of its contemporaries (e.g. here) than those of modern authors, who often are either Catholic or anti-Catholic fundamentalists. Renaissance poets and artists could make something epic, even witty, out of that event. For example, let's have a look at a painting by Paolo Veronese (above, left) nominally titled Perseus freeing Andromeda, of the years 1576-78. It strikes the eye that in the background a big city rises, which 'suspiciously' recalls Constantinople. In fact, the jaws of the "Orc" look the same as in the painting The Battle of Lepanto by El Greco (above, right).
Though, well, incidentally, the main reason why I love this work of Veronese so much is the monster's flipper, possibly one of the most impressive pieces of science fiction in art history.

The Battle of Lepanto is dealt with in one of the new sections added by Torquato Tasso to his Jerusalem-poem, i.e. shifting from Gerusalemme Liberata to the Conquistata. Giovan Battista Marino too provides a description of the sea war event in his Adone. Both passages belong to the later parts of the respective poems, so it will take a while for us to get there, "if God helps us, and the devil does not put his tail on it" (Emperor Charles V).

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 6: 989-1045

Darwinism, by ilTM + Selkis (and D. G. Rossetti)

How could curiosity lead
[990] me absolutely astray?
We were wondering about
providence in Day Six.
Providence, not selection
made the animals that
finish off the food chain
little less than infertile
while plentifully prolific
are harmless herbivores
which all too easily
[1000] turn into titbits.
Dozens of babies are born
of a hare, a pair each time
of a mountain goat and
twins of a wild sheep
for a fruitful offspring
means more survivors
after the lions lunch.
While a lioness scarcely
bears one, that rips her
[1010] belly with its claws
as a cub born to kill
thru a splattering uterus.
The viper also violates
its mother’s meatuses
by breaking her body.
Paying attention to
animal anatomy you see
Shaddai didn’t shape
too much nor too less.
[1020] He fixed the fangs
within the whole mouth
of fierce flesh-eaters
but partially empty are
the jaws of herbivores
that ruminate tranquil
in their lazy lifestyle.
All those biological bags
and digestive systems
like food refineries
[1030] to fuel the physical,
the pure and the impure
that ends up expelled
are not pastime toys
but tools indispensable
to sustain existence
either enduring or brief.
The camel’s neck extends
up to reaching the earth
and grazing the grass.
[1040] A short neck is shown
by lions tigers and bears
and all other orders that
don’t process the plants
and don’t go grazing
but are blood bandits. 

(to be continued on Sept. 24)

Friday, September 15, 2017

[GBM] Triple sun-bathing

The Judgment of Paris in G. B. Marino's version: The judge's reaction to the divine lap dance show. The vision of three suns recalls some natural/psychological phenomena already described by ancient authors, but also implies a mischievous reuse of Christian imagery (see e.g. Dante, Paradiso 33.76-78, 100-102, 112-117; Torquato Tasso, Il Mondo Creato / The 7 Days of CryAction 1.12, here).


Paris himself in those extreme joys 
cannot live, no, except via his eyes.     but see lines below
Such an excess of light, he, shocked, fears
it may steal his sight and life at once.     pun: vista/vita
His eyes are not enough to so many rays,
his heart not enough to bear three suns.
A tripled flash forcibly shuts his eyes—
one sun in the sky, three on earth he sees.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Shakespeare for Italian actors

A new, 'free and easy' Italian translation of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet has just been published by Grazia Cavasino (go to the online shop). As indicated in the book flaps, the translation's target is the stage, so as to prove useful, i.e. both flowing and effective, for acting. In order to do so, it plays with the different speech levels, from the still existing refined Renaissance words to the everyday people's, even gross usage via the musical/sung forms.
So, G. Cavasino makes us agree, more and more, with a remark made many decades ago by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa: that is that, paradoxically, the true language and manners of Italians in the Renaissance were rendered much better by Shakespeare than by the 16th century Italian poets, who tended to shape their own texts on the basis of classical models. (According to one of the many revisionistic theories, in fact, the real authors of the plays 'under the name' of the Bard should have been two Italian exiles. Or, is this nothing more than our scholars' envy?)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


The Muslims prepare to attack the Christian fort near the harbor of Jaffa, in five squads. Meanwhile one of Argantes' brothers, Norandin (all of these are fictional characters), rides back to the Muslim ships in order to ask for more help, but. . .

[GC 17: 95.7 - 96.8]

But, on his superb horse's back, he cannot
avoid an untimely end in a hard death.
He would not see again the high walls
of Aelia and of the embellished palace     A. Capitolina (Jerusalem)
that he had occupied as his own home;
in vain had he hoped in a happy return—
a dark whirl of war tore him away
as we see a fir, an ash being uprooted.
He fell where a cruel spear pierced him,
a man who opposes his fate in vain.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 6: 932-988

by Raphael, ilTM, and Selkis

I have till now neglected
(not even one tiny word)
the illustrious horses
the comrades of knights
in jousts and army jobs
sharing their vicissitudes.
You verily are warriors
stirred by the trumpets
[940] you partake in pursuits
that give gold and glory.
It was seen in Pisa and
Olympia every four years
and in Thebes and Troy
in Greek games and wars
like Marathon and Leuctra
Pharsalia and surroundings;
carrying knights on your
strong backs in battle as
[950] one mighty monster
you created the centaurs.
Who could fittingly tell
about your enterprises?
You poured precious
blood with your riders
but even—incredibly—
shed sorrowful tears
because of their death.
You partook in the triumphs
[960] of heroes and emperors,
Bucephala (now Jalalpur)
was named after a steed.
Not Neptune’s trident
was your obstetrician
no potter produced you:
God’s vigorous voice
trumpeted your birth
even before bothering
about Adam.
[970] That voice obviously
obeyed by Nature now
perpetuates your race.
But may your majestic
almost-human spirit be
edified by Jesus Christ
who on a Palm sunny day
held a donkey dearer
leaving you to the leaders
of the ruling countries.
[980] Let power and pomp
and mundane magnificence
yield to humbleness
to the silent suffering
of the donkey dignified
in Bethlehem as behooved
by the heavenly King
who has no horses and
no equine escutcheons. . .

(to be continued on Sept. 17)

Friday, September 8, 2017

[GBM] Bodies of evidence

Minerva by Paolo Barbieri

The Judgment of Paris in G. B. Marino's version: In the end, all three goddesses accept to strip in front of Paris. A cosmic event, that affects the whole Nature.


As finally those three models of
perfection put down their clothes,
and, of their immortally beautiful bodies,
the most hidden parts were exhibited,
among their own shadows novel lights     "their" i.e. of the caverns
were seen by the most secret caverns;     allusion
and no created thing in the environs
failed to feel love's power in itself.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

War balances

The Battle of Lepanto in a cartoon
by G. A. Sartorio, about 1930

Now, in Tasso's fictional narrative of the First Crusade, two Christian knights both called Robert (respectively from Frisia and Normandy), volunteer to go and defend the harbor of Joppe/Jaffa. Meanwhile Argantes, one of the main leaders of the Muslim army, attacks a fort that has been built by the Crusaders near the harbor -- by piling up their very ships. This whole, long section did not exist in the Gerusalemme Liberata, it was added in the Conquistata after the model of the Iliad. This serves two purposes: 1. Giving Tasso's poem a Homeric solemnity, and

2. Counterbalancing the war, so that, while the Christian army besieges the Muslim army in Jerusalem, the opposite occurs in Jaffa. This sort of "fairness doctrine" or "equal treatment" played a key role in Renaissance literature, worldview, and practice. The actual Battle of Lepanto, 1571, did not aim at 'destroying Islam' but simply at re-establishing the military balance in the Mediterranean Sea by "showing that Turkey was not unbeatable," as reminded by a Christian soldier who had been there: Miguel De Cervantes. Argantes speaks:

[GC 17: 90.7b - 91.6]

". . . I will not come back
without glory and booty, O fellows!
I hope I'll adorn the Asian coast and farthest
territories with enemy spoils, rather,
by depriving the Franks of the den     i.e. Westerners
where their extreme hope now lies.
You just follow me, and I feel that
the slow, the scared will become bold!"

Monday, September 4, 2017

Renaissance born again

It occurred in this blog to call Salvador Dalí "the last Renaissance artist," but it would have been more exact to say "the first artist of the New Renaissance," as he loved to define himself. This qualifying side of his art emerged clearly thanks to an exhibition held in Pisa, Italy, between late 2016 and early 2017, that was devoted to Dali's Dream of Classicism. The link with Greek art was provided precisely by the 15th-16th century Italian masters. The exhibition, and all the more so the catalog that includes a greater number of works, shows the deep influence that the the whole bundle of the most significant Renaissance artists had on his paintings, even on his lifestyle: Piero Della Francesca, Andrea Mantegna, Paolo Uccello, Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Vannucci il Perugino, Raffaello/Raphael, Leonardo Da Vinci, Luca Signorelli, Benvenuto Cellini, Michelangelo. Some materials published here are virtually impossible to be found elsewhere, e.g. the book pictures diligently divided by Dalí into squares so as to being able to reproduce the works (or, have them reproduced) on a larger scale on canvas before modifying them for his own purposes.

The Spanish painter subjected his past colleagues to the same treatment to which they had subjected the ancient Greek themes. Particularly striking are some paintings in which details from Michelangelo's sculptures or sketches have been reworked in a different context, giving them a surprising meaning. For example, the famous Moses is struck with lightning by -- himself? -- and therefore resembles, at the same time, Zeus and the Tower of Babel, and/or the Tower in the Tarot deck. See René Thom's Catastrophe Theory, followed by Dalí in his late years. Adam's head, from the Sistine Chapel, turns into a sort of night spirit. The Palestrina Pietà now looks like a brawny, two-headed Venus being born from the sea. In the big-sized Searching for the Fourth Dimension, 1979, many "quotes" from Renaissance artists are rearranged within a typical Dalinian setting.

The catalog also includes Dali's illustrations for the Divine Comedy, of 1950-52. For some surreal reason, the captions are crazy.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 6: 845-931

Kommissar/Commissario/Inspector Rex

Is any memory firm as
that belonging to dogs?
Or, is there any greater
example of thankfulness
than a dog’s who dares
[850] attack a thief
and wreck his robbery?
He is ready to die with
his owners, or for them,
and save their lives
by sacrificing himself.
Often before a court
a four-footed friend
accused the culprits by
barking and was believed
[860] so that the sentence
fell on the right fellow.
In Antioch—stories tell—
in a solitary place a man
(owning a dog) lay dead
at the uncertain hour
that divides day and night
and calls the employees
to their job or to the joy
of a deserved rest. The
[870] murderer, a mercenary
as violent as Vanni Fucci
imagined he could hide
his crime under the cloak
of tenebrous night;
the same mantle he
put on and went away.
The dead man remained
pale in his own plasma.
People came to peep
[880] as the dog dismally
mourned his own master.
Meanwhile the murderer
sullied by his sin but
simulating innocence
paced back to the place
cos he intended to chat
scot-free about the “feat”
(beware of blah blahs!).
Joining the onlookers he
[890] displayed a long face
and viewed the victim.
Then the brave beast
stopped suddenly to wail
and jumped for justice
with frightening fangs
and growling low made
all people perplexed.
To stress his trustworthiness
he stopped the contractor
[900] by dint of teeth
till the killer shocked
could no longer offload
the guilt of that gruesome
effect of his hate nor
silence the suspicions
emerging in all minds.
No witness will defend
him against a dumb dog:
He is tied and executed.
[910] This is one thousandth
of the deeds of dogs
often beautifully buried
together with their lords
or put on the same pyre
or among slaying soldiers
expressing big exploits.
They got rid of tyrants
so lets make monuments
to canine champions
[920] carving their conquests;
after wars and wanderings
they triumphed together
with human partners and
hurried back home.
Greece greeted them
so did innumerable islands.
Wilderness witnessed
their valiant victories,
their heads were honored,
[930] thousands of trophies
were hunted with their aid.

(to be continued on Sept. 10)

Friday, September 1, 2017

[GBM] The best evidence rule

The Judgment of Paris in G. B. Marino's version: Now Paris has a hard time trying to choose the most beautiful among Juno, Minerva, and Venus. So -- surely following a cue from the poet -- he establishes a new rule: The three goddesses will have to show themselves naked to him. Juno and Minerva make "as if" they will not absolutely accept, at first. Venus takes her chance.


But the sea's daughter, who in courteous     a true court. . . esan
acts has grace and boldness as needed,
"I'll be the first to untie my covering,"     arnesi, usually "armor"
cries, "and unveil the most unknown parts,
so that it will be clearly seen and shown
that not only beautiful eyes and cheeks
I have, but there exists a correspondence
between exterior and hidden beauties!"     see Orlando Furioso 7.14