The 7 Days of CryAction

The 7 Days of CryAction
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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A trip to the Gaza Strip (5)

[GC 17: 2]

Presa fu la città dal Re d'Eggitto,
Con altre molte, in lacrimosa guerra
Quando a l'Imperio già de' turchi afflitto
Tolse ei gran parte de la siria terra
Insino a Laodicea (sì com'è scritto),
Che d'alte mura s'incorona e serra;
Ma Gaza parve più opportuna parte
Da raccor varie genti e schiere sparte.

The city [of Gaza] was conquered by the King of Egypt, together with many others, in a distressing war when he took a great part of the Syrian land away from the afflicted Turkish Empire -- up to Laodicea (as it is written), crowned and enclosed by high walls. But Gaza [among the other conquered cities] seemed the most fitting place where to gather all those different peoples and armies.

Tasso and/or his sources make some historical mess. Gaza was conquered in 634 by Caliph Umar, who however was not the "King of Egypt," and did not take away the city from the (then non-existent) "Turkish Empire" but from Christian Byzantium. Egypt would be ruled by the Arabs starting from the year 641, therefore later than Palestine.
Moreover, in the time period in which the poem is set, i.e. the end of the First Crusade in 1099, Gaza experienced a phase of decadence.
The word "Syria," as was often the case during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, means the Middle East in general.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Fuseli sees (himself in) the Renaissance

Henry Fuseli's (i.e. Johann Heinrich Füssli's) Aphorisms are mainly devoted to the Italian art of the 16th and 17th centuries: Leonardo Da Vinci, Raffaello, Michelangelo, Tiziano, Tintoretto, Paolo Veronese, Guido Reni, Caravaggio, the Carraccis, Guercino, Parmigianino, etc. With interesting side forays into literature, especially Homer and Shakespeare.

As it has been remarked by editors,* it is a little difficult, at first sight, to recognize Fuseli's own art in the aesthetic criteria he lists. But, by collecting his favorite subjects, and adding a "guilty conscience" method that takes into consideration the authors he seems to reprimand, or at least tolerate, there emerges a self-portrait as follows: the female beauty (see especially the Venetian artists), light and shadow, the splendor and misery of humankind (see Caravaggio), a morbid imagination (see Goltzius), the strength of alternative representational patterns (see Jan Lievens' Raising of Lazarus). No aphorism deals expressly with William Blake, but Fuseli's defense of visionary, independent, despised artists should suffice.

* In this case J. H. Füssli, Aforismi sull'arte, edited by Maurizio Barletta: Rome, Robin Edizioni, 2013.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 5: 795-865

Galleria Sabauda, Torino

Deep differences distinguish
birds in size and shape
and colors and customs
with hundreds of habits.
Let us omit the many with
[800] split or linked feathers
or enveloped in leather
or unusually soft—and
consider clean and unclean.
The clean kinds, the meek,
feed on herb and seed;
the unclean are killers
fond of flesh and blood
hence hook-bills and claws
as weapons and swifter
[810] wings so as to grip
and break the bones.
The latter form no flock
but are solitary snipers;
they only make mating
for the sake of offspring.
The former do flock
keen on company, though
absolutely not safe
from predators pillaging.
[820] Among these the doves
with natural necklaces
of shot silk and gold;
and cranes and starlings.
Some serve no empire
while live in liberty
under an ethnical ethos;
some rely on leaders
to be obeyed in battle;
some love their lands
[830] others fly far away
up to alien habitats
asking for a friendly sun
or arrive already much
before summer starts.
Thrushes in autumn come
back to beloved places
where inhospitable traps
are laid, or allured by
fool-catching cages
[840] or misled by mistletoe
or entangled in nets.
When storks are seen
Spring raises her flag.
Some are accustomed
to the hands of humans
and beak their bread.
Some are shy, others
twist nests on walls;
some, more unsociable
[850] live in loneliness.
A great variety of voices
becomes the birds
either talkative or not
either making music
or not; and noticeably
skilled in counterfeiting,
taught by Nature and art
some sing elasticly
while unlearned species
[860] produce perpetually
identical voice tones.
Rooster, peacock proud
dove slow and lustful
partridge perfidious
who helps the hunters.

(to be continued on Feb. 26)

Friday, February 17, 2017

[GBM] Myrrha Case reopened

Apollo has been asked to join a coalition against Venus, who dared spank her omnipotent son Love. For a starter, the solar god tells Love he better stop crying like a little, silly baby. Then (1.28, line 3) gives him a 'good' piece of advice, again in a Freudian-like key: volgere il duolo in ira, "to channel pain/sorrow into wrath." How, concretely? Look. . .


"Over there in the rich, happy land     the Sun watches the whole Earth
of beautiful Arabia, the young Adonis,
almost a competitor of the phoenix,     competitor in the original text too
unmatched in beauty, lives alone---
Adonis, born of her who was joined     of her: Myrrha
by the maid in one bed with her own dad;     Cinyras
her who, turning into a tree, still distills    the myrrh (both spelled mirra in Italian)
her sorrows into tear-shaped scents."

The tragic story of Myrrha, a symbol of scandal and sin (see Dante, Inferno 30.37-41), makes one of the most interesting subplots in the poem, from the condition of outcast to moral and social redemption. The importance of mentioning here Myrrha's wet nurse, then maid and procuress, will become clear in the final section of the poem.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A trip to the Gaza Strip (4)

Quite unusually, after the poetical, "fading out" ending of canto 16, canto 17 of Gerusalemme Conquistata restarts from the same subject -- Gaza -- with a "technical" description. The description, based on second-hand reports, is not very accurate anyway, since the Gaza hill is not high at all. But this wrong detail makes the city's look more fascinating, also recalling Jerusalem.

[GC 17: 1]

Gaza è città de la Giudea nel fine,
Su quella via ch'inver Pelusio mena,
Posta in un alto colle, et ha vicine
Deserte solitudini d'arena;
Le quai, com'Austro suol l'onde marine,
Mesce il turbo spirante, ond'a gran pena
Ritrova il peregrin riparo o scampo
Ne le tempeste de l'instabil campo.

Gaza is a city at the border of Judea, along the road that leads to Pelusium [in Egypt]; it rises on a high hill and is encircled by lonely places of sand which, as the South wind does with the sea waves, are whirled by blowing swirls, so that a traveler can hardly find shelter or refuge among the storms in that unstable field.

Monday, February 13, 2017

[GBM] Prince of Outcasts

A casual flash forward all the way up to canto 16, stanzas 197-228 in the plot of G. B. Marino's Adonis to introduce a very interesting character: Tricane dal Dente, that could be translated as "Tridog O'Tooth." He will pop up as a competitor against Adonis in the beauty contest arranged to (!) choose the new king of Cyprus---well, not in his real shape (see picture) but magically appearing as a handsome young man. We won't deal with these events now, however.

What matters here is that Tricane's story is an impressive mix of humor and horror. He is the son of a dwarfish queen who has been deceived by a foreign conqueror: the man makes her believe he means to marry her, then seizes the power and has her raped by his own dog. So Tricane is half man and half beast, and further misshapen, i.e. lame, because of a childhood accident.

Dark-skinned, as short as a pygmy or even shorter than that, Tricane does not frighten the people but makes them laugh when he suddenly appears as is. Mocked as a freak, despised in an attitude of racism, he becomes the most important symbol of social alienation in the whole poem. Is this just a modern, politically correct interpretation, or Marino's very key? The second hypothesis may stand. Tricane in fact is lame like the devil in many pictures, but, more properly in our context, lame like Vulcan, Venus' husband, whom she hates and betrays. The "demi-dog," for some unexplained reason, has tusks like a wild boar, and a monstrous, sexually excited boar will finally kill Adonis (this is not spoilering, eh?, this is trivial Greek mythology) in a sort of preventive parody of Beauty and the Beast. And especially, Marino himself might sometimes have felt like Tricane while desperately trying to convince the Roman Inquisition that they should not blame and convict him. But they did.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 5: 716-794

by Nivalis70 (site)

Now from liquid fields
I soar to the atmosphere:
Who gives me wings
to cross the clouds
[720] and beat all birds?
May He by whom Man
was lifted lead me
in this stormy history
of flexible Fortune
who hosts tornados
snow and wind and fire
that shake the starlings.
Sky and sea were OK
woods and meadows green
[730] when Adonai asked
the struthia to take off
in the skythe storehouse
of humors that exhale
from our opaque orb
and they immediately
started to sing ’n’ fly.
If you were awake among
fish, among so many
songs will you sleep?
[740] Will you dare delay
the praise of our Provider
of food, whom we thank?
Twice a day, at dawn
and when the sun sets
and Orient fades off
they chant in chorus;
will now sunrise be silent
as well as twilight?
(Millet una notte,
[750] the bells welcoming
the mortals’ toils.)
Never! But the narrative
of Day Five follows.
Birds are re-formed fish,
swimming and winged
species are similar
in their natural tools:
they both cross currents
by feathers or fins
[760] twisting their tails
like oars and helms.
Fish however are fed
by wavering waves,
birds by stable soil;
therefore the former
didn’t develop the legs
the latter lean on.
Crocodiles that kill
along the Nile’s banks
[770] have lateral legs—
-ped” properly coming
from “pedon,” the soil.
While one ornithological
kind keeps carrying in
the air its fragile frame
insofar as it has no feet
as if meant by Nature
an example to noble souls
[780] who only aim at heaven;
it looks like a swallow
and on rearing rocks
makes a muddy nest
with a narrow entrance,
Greeks call it “kypselos.
Others do have toes but
are unable to attack
and capture their preys
in the air. Among these
[790] the nimble swallow
that hunts by flying low
and grazing the ground;
and Riparia that recalls
the grassy river banks.

(to be continued on Feb. 19)

Friday, February 10, 2017

[GBM] The Psychopathology of Heavenly Life

Galleria Sabauda, Torino

Still sobbing after having been spanked by his mother Venus, Love takes a decision that will condition the whole development of the plot: he goes and asks the Sun to join forces against Venus. The Sun at the beginning, in stanza 19, appears like a separate god, the original Helios; but, as it soon becomes clear, he is the same as Apollo (as in the later mythology), who will prove the most dangerous enemy of Venus throughout the poem. Why an enemy? Marino apparently provides an explanation that does not work, by referring to the famous episode of Vulcan's net in the Odyssey, canto 8. This, in case, would explain Venus' hate against Apollo, not the other way round. So what? Marino's words, and not for the last time, suggest a Freudian solution.


Apollo was strongly hostile to Venus
and hate still burned in his heart from
the day when, on high, he broadcast     verb: pubblicare
the indecent show of her adultery,
reported the stealthy predator     Mars
of the lustful bed to the black Smith     Vulcan, Venus' husband
and, with shame envied in heaven,     <----- N.B. "envied"
opened the veil to her sweet bonds.     with a sexual innuendo

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A trip to the Gaza Strip (3)

[GC 16: 88]

Altre spiegar le vele al ciel sereno,
Altre i remi trattar veloci e snelle;
E da' remi e da' rostri il molle seno
Spumar percosso in queste parti e 'n quelle.
Molte, lentando al lungo corso il freno,
Parean lunge portar vere novelle
Dal Rosso Mare, e donde irriga e frange
I salsi lidi biancheggiando il Gange.

Some ships unfurled the sails in the clear sky;
Others, swift and tapered, employed the oars;
Hit by oars and bows, he(*) saw, the liquid
Bosom foamed on this and the other sides.
Many, hastening after their long course,
Seemed to be delivering the true news (**)
From the Red Sea and whence, white with foam,
The Ganges waters and breaks salty shores. (***)

(*) Vafrino
(**) With a quotation from Dante, Inferno 32: 111.
(***) The adjective salsi, "salty," replaces in the final printed text the evocative but impossible tanti, "many," in the manuscript. The -- fictional -- connections of the Muslim army in Jerusalem with Egypt and India stress Tasso's treatment of the First Crusade as a "first world war." But especially, in this last octave of the canto the description of war preparations fades out into a romantic sea vision, that is quite typical of Tasso's poetry.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 5: 675-715

16th century history, by ilTM + Selkis

Sweet wind, serene
breeze whispers making
the sea like silver foam
among the rocks while
like shiny sapphires is
[680] its depth and reddish
its surface in the sun.
Sails fan out faraway
white in hundreds
faster than steeds.
Painted ships display
banners and break
billows with beaks;
fish dart, dolphins
bend their backs.
[690] Merrily there ring
arsenals and harbors
full of fancy ships,
an ancient Admiral
carries the knights
annihilating Neptune;
and winners, rewards
I see! and bow before
the Spanish ensign.
Now like those who dive
[700] into an Italian sea
for a famous festival
and undersea search
the hardest rocks and
the sea secrets so as to
get a gem thrown by
a distinguished Doge—
I’ll finally resurface
from gloomy gulfs
with Truth brighter
[710] than the Ruling Ring,
Truth who tarried but
presently pops up,
and I bring her bare
to all of you without
any veil or vestment. 

(to be continued on Feb. 12) 

This is the 1,000th post! yay! 

Friday, February 3, 2017

[GBM] The power of Love

Max Ernst, The Blessed Virgin
Chastising the Infant Jesus

The plot of Marino's Adonis starts with Juno 'classically' furious because of the nth high jinks of Jove. This time, she charges Love (Cupid) with it before his mother, Venus, who in her turn reacts by spanking her son. Throughout the whole poem the personality of Love will oscillate between a bad boy and the all-powerful cosmic energy.


"Alas, how come," the Cypriot goddess said,
"I can never have one hour of peace with you?
Is any cerastes more vicious and spiteful
than you bred by the Nile's desert sands?
What insane Fury, what bloodstained Harpy
is as much rabid in the caves of Styx?
Whence the venom by which you infect
all hearts? Speak, serpent of Paradise!"

The last insult clearly refers to Genesis. It would be misguiding to simply label it an "anachronism." As it had already been remarked in the previous GBM post, the mix of pagan sources and Christian theology / spirituality is in fact a major feature of the poem, although the latter aspect is often less apparent. The reflection on the meaning of this fusion -- that proved quite scandalous at that time -- will constantly accompany us in the reading of Adonis. In this case, the ambivalence of Love is further stressed as the source of all joy and all evils in human life. Marino, besides, implies that the story he is telling us is no fairy tale, no pastime, but the grand, sacred history of humankind, whose deep dynamics have been conveyed by the different literatures.

Precisely one century before, about the 1520s, Ludovico Ariosto too did love to entwine classical and Christian elements; but in the 17th century this was no longer an 'innocent play,' all the more so as Marino even outclassed Ariosto.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Church of Shame

[photo from Tripadvisor]

The church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, in Rome, is famous nowadays especially because of the elephant-and-obelisk monument designed by Bernini, placed in the little square in front of the building and, inside, because of the grave of Fra Angelico. Moreover, it contains the remains of St. Catherine of Siena. But inside the church a "scandalous" sculpture by Michelangelo (and disciples) is also kept, the Risen Christ. Scandalous since the Savior was completely naked, in fact a golden loincloth has been added, nor has it been removed even if the loincloths in Michelangelo's Last Judgment have.

But there is more to it. In this very building in November 1623 Giovan Battista Marino, in spite of the powerful friends he had in the circles of culture and international politics and even of the Church, before the eyes of the Apollonian Christ had to recant his long poem Adonis. Now, the logical object of the verb "to recant" is a theory or an idea, not a poem! The reason would be clearly expressed in 1627 by the head censor of the Papal State, Fr. Niccolò Riccardi, who charged Marino (who had died meanwhile) with irreligiosas hiperboles, profanum usum sacrarum vocum, "ungodly imagery, and the profane/blasphemous [read: erotic] use of religious terms." That was- - -  simply true, as we have seen in part, and will have many opportunities to see. But the opposite is true as well: a sacred use of profane terms.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A trip to the Gaza Strip (2)

[GC 16: 87]

Varie tende scorgea di color tanti,
Quanti non hebbe mai l'april fiorito.
Mirava i cavalier, mirava i fanti
Ire e tornar da quelle mura al lito;
E da cameli onusti ed elefanti
L'arenoso sentier calpesto e trito.
Poi nel porto vedeva, o scarche o gravi,
Sorte e legate a l'ancore le navi.

Many tents he(*) saw, of so many colors
As April never had even though in bloom.
He saw the knights, saw the soldiers
Come and go from the walls(**) to the shore;
And by loaded camels and elephants
Sandy ways being traveled and trodden on.
Then in the harbor, either empty or laden
He saw all the anchored ships that arrived.

(*) Vafrino
(**) Gaza

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 5: 596-674

An exhibition at the Royal Library in Turin, Italy
(Biblioteca Reale, Torino)

But the Forger’s Force
shines in small things
not only the enormous.
See! In full sail there
[600] a ship spins leeward,
unexpectedly a tiny fish
slows down her speed:
as idle as a painted ship
upon a painted ocean,
resting on a remora.
Creepy are the killer
whales and saw-fish
swordfish and sharks
but also cruel stingrays
[610] that, even dead, hit
and give gruesome death;
so does the sea hare.
But pros probably
cover cons, and fish
provide precious examples.
Gnothi seautòn, bro:
sea is life, you’re fish
and the Gennesaret net
snaring many species
[620] is like the Kingdom
that searches for souls
then cans the chosen ones
and throws out the others.
With cosmic consummation
the angels will announce
Doomsday and destine
the sinners to circles
the righteous to rays.
Fish are foul or good;
[630] if good, not caught
by net or iron hook but
sprinkled with Precious
Blood. Friend, youre fish
the one whose open mouth
showed a coin called
stater” that is the scales
of free unfixed will.
You’re fish, the fisher
being Peter or the Pope,
[640] sea a symbol of Gospel
the Church’s certainty.
Don’t be afraid, anchovy,
the hook makes you holy!
Fish, but fling yourself
out of the muddy stream
during storms—or shelter
in the abyssal bottom.
The sea is serene: Enjoy!
In a tempest or twister
[650] mind the mad wind
does not dehydrate you.
Now anyway let words
override the waves
let us look upwards
at a beautiful beach:
sea salt hardens white
as marble, a red rock
is the outcome of coral
that was soft undersea,
[660] there shines among shells
the pearl, solitary sands
seem gold and like gems
are multicolored stones.
Waters feed the Fleece
and are full of flowers
among which murex:
the fantastic fabric that
honors military leaders
splendid sovereigns
[670] Catholic cardinals
is the beauty and treasure
of Poseidon, his present—
he adds many more gifts
and superb sea parades.

(to be continued on Feb. 5)

Friday, January 27, 2017

[GBM] Starting off on the right foot?

by ilTM + Selkis

Cominciamo bbene! they would say in Rome, meaning, "Is this supposed to be starting off on the right foot?!" In the allegedly standard invocation at the very beginning of his long poem Adonis, Giovan Battista Marino immediately breaks the rules by using a formula that is "neither pagan nor Christian," as was stressed by his main rival, Tomaso Stigliani. In fact, Marino does not invoke the classical Muses nor the Holy Spirit, but the goddess Venus. The reason why he does so is made clear by the text itself, as it is also immediately clear how deeply Marino mixes pagan and Christian languages---and views:


I call you, the one who turns and moves
the most benign and meek sphere,     just joking; see the events
holy mother of Love, Jove's daughter,     N.B. the first words
beautiful goddess of Amatunte 'n' Cythera;     in Cyprus
you whose star, pouring all grace,     Lucifer/Hesperus (classically meant)
is the messenger of night and day;     ambivalence
you whose shiny and fertile ray
calms the sky, sweetens the world. . .     lit., causes the world to fall in love

* The posts devoted to Marino will be indicated by the acronym "[GBM]" in the title. The critical edition for reference is: Giovan Battista Marino, Adone, edited by Emilio Russo, Milan: Rizzoli - BUR, 2013, pages 2,346 (in two volumes).

Thursday, January 26, 2017

A trip to the Gaza Strip (1)

[GC 16: 86]

Vafrin lascia quel morto, et a mancina
Drizza il veloce corso inver ponente
Insin che Gaza si trovò vicina,
Che fu porto di Gaza anticamente;
Ma poi, crescendo de l'altrui ruina,
Città divenne assai grande e possente;
Ed erano le piagge allhor ripiene
Quasi d'huomini sì come d'arene.

Vafrino leaves the dead man, and on the left
Rides at full speed towards the West until
He comes to the territory of Gaza.
That was the Gaza harbor in old times,
But then, other places having been destroyed, (*)
It turned into a great, powerful city;
And right then its seashore was nearly as
Full of soldiers as it was of sand grains.

(*) Given the long and complex history of Gaza, it is not clear to which events Tasso refers here. The parallel text in Gerusalemme Liberata 19: 57-58 is of no help since, in that case, the Muslim army had been gathered near Ascalona (Ashkelon), not Gaza.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Spy Who Came in from the Heat (10)

Now the unnamed Muslim prisoner asks the Christian spy, Vafrino, to release him. But Vafrino does not trust him, and. . .

[16: 85]

Ma l'amicitia hor te di giusta pena
Guarda e sottragge a' più fieri tormenti,
Se d'Antiochia e de l'horribil cena
Di Boemondo invitto anco rammenti -.
Così dicendo, il fere in gola e svena,
E la via tronca a' dolorosi accenti;
E l'anima crudel, che geme e mugge,
Da le ferite mormorando fugge.

"But friendship now defends you against
A just punishment and fiercer tortures,
If you recall Antioch and the hideous
Supper of Bohemond the undefeated."
Saying so, Vafrino slits the other's throat
And cuts off the passage to his laments;
And his cruel soul, that groans and roars,
Out of his wounds murmuring flees.

What does Vafrino refer to? Did the two of them use to be friends? What happened during a supper in the palace of Bohemond, the Christian prince of Antioch (a historical personage)?
Tasso does not bother to explain it, and the episode did not appear in Gerusalemme Liberata for a comparison. A critical edition of Gerusalemme Conquistata would be needed, but there exists none! Yep, this is a pioneering blog.
Horror suppers have a glorious tradition in literature anyway, from Dante, Inferno 33: 118-120, to Macbeth.
This octave also underscores that Vafrino is not a knight -- he is a squire of Tancred, in fact. A knight would not kill a tied prisoner, and in cold blood.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 5: 537-595

by ilT + Selkis

To be mute doesn’t mean
to be dumb: Dumb is to
withstand the will of
[540] LORD. So listen to the
voice of mute salmons,
whose actions teach to
partake in a pilgrimage
and abandon the bitter
waters for the fresh
(happy like flying a kite)
where the sun is sweet
and evaporation poor.
No smell of money
[550] makes them emigrate
as people do, but positively
the love of offspring.
Besides, Giants in ancient
times existed, now Nature
whelps them no more, why?
Pachyderms and whales
survived though, the work
of divine design, therefore
genuinely good. They
[560] so huge as hills
humble human pride
by frightening our eyes
with their “terribilità
and monstrous mass.
When God gave rise
to so many animals
varied and revolutionary
He made some to Man’s
utility and authority—that’s
[570] seldom soft to bear(s);
some for his own-Herr-ship
to supply us with a sample
of his multitasking tools
and power that pops up
differently here and there.
But Greeks those geeks
turned God’s grand deeds
into a jongleur’s joke
with luminous lies
[580] believing that beyond
Gibraltar some gorgeous
kingdoms and Disney
islands lay; add Ulysses
trip and the tremendous
people-eater Physeter
swallowing whole armies
so its sty-lish stomach
is to enemy nations
a bloody battlefield.
[590] But ships being sunk
by the White Whale
thousands and thousands
is no fairy tale at all,
and no joke was Jonah
gulped by Liopleurodon.

(to be continued on Jan. 29)

Friday, January 20, 2017

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

A second poet now enters this blog to play a major role: Giovan Battista Marino (1569-1625). If bias and prejudice is currently strong against Torquato Tasso, even worse is it against Marino, often reduced to a Baroque chatterbox who wasted a lot of words to talk about frou-frou. In Italian anthologies just some 'harmless,' insignificant passages from his main work, Adone (Adonis), are usually included: the description of a rose, of a nightingale. . .

It should be remembered that he was not simply reproached but officially condemned by the Inquisition, like Galileo Galilei. And why? Because in Adonis there appear some undressed chicks? Literature and art of the time were full of that stuff. We will have to make the Marino Scandal clearer in the next weeks, and months, and years.

Since Adonis is thrice as long as the Divine Comedy, it would be crazy to translate and comment the whole of it. But, very many poignant passages will be selected and examined. So, save the date! Each Friday, Giovan Battista Marino will be waiting for you on these pages. To make you enjoy life. And at the same time, to make you discover that the world is not what it was supposed to be at first sight.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Spy Who Came in from the Heat (9)

[16: 83, again the Muslim prisoner speaking]

Non v'ha chi sentinelle o guardie faccia
Fra tante schiere, o chi si cinga intorno;
Ma si vanta ciascuno, ciascun minaccia
A' Franchi morte e vergognoso scorno.
Copron le squadre la deserta faccia
De l'ampia terra ovunque appare il giorno,
E 'l gran numero par d'horrida turba
A quelle arene egual ch'Austro perturba.

"No one, over there among so many armies, is on sentry-duty or stands guard, nor does anyone keep ready with a sword; (*) but everyone boasts, everyone threatens death and a shameful defeat to the Franks. The squads cover the desert surface of the wide land everywhere the daylight is spread, and the great number of people in that horrid crowd seems to match the grains of sand whirled by the wind."

(*) Now, disorganized armies do exist, and "the enemy" is, by definition, weaker than "us"; but the first two lines in this description are 'frankly' ridiculous.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 5: 481-536

Not so Adam’s damned
and blasphemous sons.
We change the contracts
and keep occupying
the natives’ inheritance
and building brothels
and wrecking countries
by force and fright.
Cetaceans acknowledged
[490] their natural lots
(and dishes): the deep sea
isle-less beyond inhabited
lands, lacking any
form of terra firma
coasts or canyons,
in unreachable ranches
where no ship should
peep at new peoples
and gain novel glory.
[500] There, no reports
will escort the ship
of human madness.
That very liquid limbo
welcomes Moby Dick
as whalers witnessed,
no island or town there
was destroyed by his
stupendous strength;
there all leviathans
[510] as in a cute quarter
or one’s home town
settle submitting to
Deus and disposition.
Some species expatriate
in self-imposed exile
to go to queer countries;
they start in thousands—
soldiers who at the signal
cross the encampment
[520] following the shofar
in sensible season
awakened by ancient
Nature’s norms and
hasten northwards.
Imagine them dashing
Propontis to Pontus:
Who is their leader?
What king commands?
What browser brings
[530] the iron orders
or pilgrimage plans?
Sanatana Dharma entails
both trifle and Totum,
which herrings don’t err
in obeying while obdurate
Man fights foolishly.

(to be continued on Jan. 22)

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Spy Who Came in from the Heat (8)

[16: 82, the captured spy speaks]

Questi, che d'Orïente estremo aggiunse,
Con le sue squadre attendò lunge e 'n disparte,
Perché da gli altri suo valor disgiunse
Lui che stimato è quasi un novo Marte;
Et a' carri falcati ivi congiunse
Destrier che frena con mirabil arte;
E questi ancor da l'indïane selve
Gli elefanti conduce, horride belve.

"This, (*) who came from the farthest East,
Camped with his squadrons far, on his own, since
His strength was kept apart from the others
By him who is considered a new Mars; (**)
And to scythed chariots he also adds
Steeds driven with a wonderful technique;
He, moreover, from the forests of India
Brought the elephants, frightening beasts." (***)

(*) Adrast
(**) Emiren, the general -- fictionally -- sent by the Sultan of Egypt, and the supreme head of the Muslim army in this final stage of battle for Jerusalem. A made-up character.
(***) Elephants were better known in Europe in the Renaissance (when Tasso wrote) than in the Middle Ages (when the story is set), but remained amazing animals anyway.
In the 11th century Islam had started to penetrate some areas of India, but of course Indian Muslims did not take part in the First Crusade! Adrast and his whole army are fictional characters too; we will see what literary sources Tasso drew on to depict this alleged far-eastern leader's intervention in battle.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Spy Who Came in from the Heat (7)

[16: 81, the prisoner keeps answering Vafrino's questions]

Di nuovo il timoroso a lui ragiona:
- Fuor di Gaza Emiren gli Eggitii accampa,
Ché di muro o di vallo altra corona
Non voler dice in cui si fugge e scampa.
Arabi, Assiri, Mori ove risuona
Il mar han teso, e dove il lido avampa;
Ma fra terra Altamor co' Persi alberga,
Con gli Indi Adrasto ove il terren più s'erga.

Again the man, frightened, speaks to him:
"Outside Gaza did Emiren set his Egyptians,
Saying he does not wish to leave any wall
Or rampart to which people may escape.
Arabs, Syrians(*), Moors have been positioned
Where the sea resounds and the shore burns;
Altamor and his Persians in the hinterland,
Adrast and his Indians in the mountains."

(*) The text literally says "Assyrians," but the two names were often confused with each other in Medieval and Renaissance descriptions. As this stanza shows, Tasso turns the First Crusade into a sort of First World War, all the more so if we remember that the Crusaders themselves (are here supposed to) come from all Europe, "Vikings" included.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 5: 405-480

from the DantEsq. set (go)

The octopus also uses
deceit. After clinging
to a stone undersea
he quickly takes on
the habitat’s hues;
[410] when a foolish fish
passes by and sees him
as an ordinary rock,
the damage is done.
Analogous are ass-lickers
in the palaces of power
and economy, who echo
the praise to the prodigies
of Fortune and transform
themselves thousandfold
[420] according to occasions
and times and tigers
by modifying moods
and words; with polite
people they play polite
suffering with the suffering
snobbish with the snobbish
adopting the others’ taste.
It is not easy to skip
meeting these managers
[430] and keep safe from
devils in the disguise
of Papal supporters.
Voracious wolves
put on lamb fleece
and look harmless:
Flee flee O friend
unclear connections!
Love Aletheia and
the soul’s innocence
[440] true trustworthiness.
Shape-shifting is the snake
consistently condemned
to slither on the soil.
Reliable are the righteous
just unlike Jacob, and
welcomed by LORD.
Our ambiguous habitat
as well as the wide sea
hosts serpents, Gwoemuls
[450] and monsters roaming
and krill all in the fray
being carefully curbed
by a wise and lawful
government: good
examples shower.
Don’t blame Big Boss
if beings are full of flaws.
Think, first of all, that
to every fish He fixed
[460] its proper place
with borders not to be
trespassed—or seldom—to
occupy private properties.
Inside its own turf does
each clan command.
No surveyor measured
areas or added walls
to their liquid palaces;
everywhere soft-wares
[470] are available
and distinctly destined.
This sea if for such fish
the other for the others,
no rivers no ridges
may halt their armies,
but an inflexible law
assigns harmoniously
nice neighborhoods
where the livin is easy
[480] and food sufficient.

(to be continued on Jan. 15)

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Spy Who Came in from the Heat (6)

[77.5-8 and 79, the spy answers Vafrino's questions]

- Nacqui in Cirene appresso il verde Eggitto,
E 'n Grecia fui lunga stagion captivo;
E da l'antica Gaza hor ne venìa,
D'uno essercito a l'altro amica spia.

. . .

Me (disse) l'Admiraglio a questo affanno
Co' suoi doni ha sospinto e con promesse,
Perché brama saper s'ardire havranno
I Franchi d'aspettarlo ov'ei s'appresse
O se, spiegate pur le vele, andranno
Dove è chi fila in aspettando, e tesse:
A riveder ciascun la donna e i figli,
Già stanco de la guerra e de' perigli -.

"I was born in Cyrene(*) near green Egypt, and have long been a captive in Greece; (**) from the ancient Gaza(***) I was now coming as a friendly spy from one army to the other. [. . . ] The Commander(****) pushed me to such a distress with his gifts and promises, since he wishes to learn whether the Franks will dare wait for him if he intervenes, or, after unfurling their sails, will go back to those who spin and weave while waiting for them -- to see again, each one, his own wife and children, as already tired of the war and its dangers."

(*) In Libya.
(**) The Byzantine Empire.
(***) Gaza has always provided the geographical and strategic link between Egypt and the Holy Land.
(****) Emiren, the head of the army -- fictionally, not historically -- sent by the Sultan of Egypt to help the Muslims under siege in Jerusalem. Though entering the stage quite late, Emiren will prove one of the main military leaders in the final phase of the poem.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The future is Utopia _and_ Dystopia

Many features of Renaissance Utopias are reused, more or less parodied, by HP Lovecraft in his short novel At the Mountains of Madness. The dystopian side of it lies in the fact that the superior civilization described in this case belongs to alien entities who conquered Earth some 1,000 millions years ago and, incidentally, did create the first human beings as their food and pastime. But, after all, "Scientists to the last—what had they done that we would not have done in their place? God, what intelligence and persistence! . . .  Radiates, vegetables, monstrosities, star-spawn—whatever they had been, they were men!" No, the true problem is that other cosmic forces finally succeeded in destroying them, and are ready to destroy us.

By the way, have a Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

On Christ's Native-E.T.

And this is the interpretation of the picture provided by Mauricio Yushin Marassi of the Italian Zen community La Stella del Mattino ("The Morning Star," see website):
The space full of birds of prey, while Man is in a beam of light on a robotized earth. . .  as if Man were good, and evil "somewhere else."

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A great jump forward

In his illustrations for Orlando Furioso, Fabrizio Clerici (see) seems to represent Rodomonte as what we would call an X-Man, a mutant; at least, he makes Rodomonte's body merge biologically with his armor, that is made with the skin of a dragon. This recolored version simply highlights the concept.

What better wish for the new year than to admire a genius being futuristically reinterpreted by another genius? May the Renaissance spur us to a true renaissance.
Have a great 2017!

. . . But, wait, earlier than that, there will appear a Christmas greeting card on December 25.

Fantastic Design and Where to Find It

click to enlarge

Crazy ornaments, both small for the tables and big for the buildings, were a must-have to Renaissance nobles; a task with which great artists were entrusted. All sorts of things could be assembled to make pots, etc., from mold copies of eagle claws to coconuts being labeled as "fossils" to cameos with Biblical or mythological or erotic scenes. The outcome would turn out either refined or kitsch.

An amazing set of modern objects in that line, especially the refined side, can be seen in the book: Cristina Morozzi (ed.), Terrific Design, Milan (Italy): 24 Ore Cultura, 2014, pages 242, euros 45, from which the items in the collage above have been taken. With many thanks to Libreria Bardamù, Perugia.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Spy Who Came in from the Heat (5)

[76.1 - 77.4]

Poi che s'avide che non può dar crollo,
Svelle la chioma e la sua nera barba,
Come fa de la menta o del serpollo
Il villan, che cogliendo egli dibarba.
Alfin premendo l'una mano al collo,
Che parea tinto dove nacque Iarba,
Gridò: - Confessa, mentitor fallace,
Il vero a me, se vita brami e pace.

Di' chi sei, donde vieni, ov'era dritto
Dinanzi il tuo corso errante e fuggitivo.
E non mentir, che non sarai trafitto,
E quinci partirai satollo e vivo -.

When he(*) saw that the man could not move, (**)
He tore off his hair and his black beard,
As with a plant of mint or wild thyme
A farmer does when he uproots them.
Then pressing one hand against his neck,
That looked as dark as in Iarbas' birthplace, (***)
Vafrino cried, "Treacherous liar, confess
The truth now, if you love life and peace!
Who are you, whence do you come, and where
Did your wandering, fleeing route lead?
Do not lie, for you will not be slain,
Yeah, you will leave sated and alive."

(*) Vafrino
(**) The Italian phrasing echoes Dante, Inferno 25: 9.
(***) Iarbas was a North African king mentioned in the Iliad. The definition of Africa as "the land of Iarbas" comes from Dante, Purgatorio 31: 72, where Iarba already rhymed with barba (beard) and dibarba (uproots), but here Dante's "strong oaks" are replaced with humble herbs. In the third line, the unusual form serpollo instead of serpillo (wild thyme) is due to the needs of rhyming. Tasso's love for plants and their uses emerges in his contemporary long poem Il Mondo Creato.

Christmas break: The GC posts will restart on January 7.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 5: 344-404

by ilT + Selkis

All the more so with Man:
corporations controlling
humble people heavily
drink Dracula-wise
the blood of buyers.
Is a soul stimulated
[350] greedily towards gold
different in depth from
Leviathan that hunts
thousands of tiny fish
to fill its own flesh?
New blasphemous Ahabs
dispossess the poor and—
you enjoy the exile’s
goods, you now gnaw
old spoils shamelessly
[360] adding to you account
such past usurpation
and proving a pig worse
than the primal pig.
Therefore mind the doom
that falls on the fish
preying on its peers:
hook or net or bow-net.
You won’t avoid after
so many misdeeds
[370] a punishment proper
that looms like a lasso.
Of a small crustacean
learn the subtle traps
and be free from fraud:
The crab craves for
the shell’s sweet pulp
a very precious prey
since a hard defense
was given her by God
[380] with vigorous valves
that shut super-strongly
and neutralize nippers.
But if the sea’s smooth
in sunny serene weather
the relaxing rays are
loved by the she-shell
who opens up, and lo!
he throws a stone inside
and makes her harmless
[390] so shrewdness wins
where weakness cannot.
Odi malizia” of a man
unjust and unrefined
silently fraudulent!
If you aim at the art
of acquiring, avoid
bothering your brother.
Shun damned souls
be content with things
[400] provided by poverty
without humiliating honors
or pompous pride:
Master your own mind
that’s more than America.

(Christmas break: to be continued on Jan. 8)