SeeStan ChapLee

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Renaissance made it better

Qui mira e qui ti specchia,
secol superbo e sciocco,
che il calle insino allora
dal risorto pensier segnato innanti
abbandonasti, e volti addietro i passi,
del ritornar ti vanti,
e procedere il chiami.
---from Giacomo Leopardi, La Ginestra ("The Broom," 1836)

Look here (*) as in your mirror,
you proud and silly century
who left the path until then
marked by the risen thought, (**)
and by taking backward steps, (***)
you boast about moving back
while defining it "advancement."

(*) The towns destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in Italy in the year 79 AD.
(**) The Renaissance, paraphrasing the Risen Christ in a secular key.
(***) See Dante, Purgatorio 10.123.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 6: 661-765

by Nivalis70 (website)

A hind in labor reveals
a wisdom wider than
any other animal having
a seed of reasoning;
to human hospitality
she confides her fawns,
for fear of wolves
avoiding the wilderness
and untilled terrains to
[670] follow the footprints
left by leather soles.
There she happily litters
while eating “seselis”—
or shelters in a cowshed
from the wolf’s fangs
or in a fissured rock
she builds a bunker
for her still frail fawns
and feeds them with four
[680] udders, or two if Nature
made her more meager.
Being melancholy-less
she enjoys a long life
and occasionally albino,
is worshiped by peoples
like the one who wandered
untied in a hortus conclusus
freed by a Capuan king.
Fame endowed that doe
[690] with golden antlers
and an adorned necklace
though antlers actually,
the deer’s distinguishing
mark, Nature denied to her
while embellishing the males
who renew them regularly;
the old ones fall because
of their weight, the forehead
will acquire a new crown
[700] with one more horn
as each spring appears
(sometimes ivy even
grew on them, Munchausen).
Paradoxically, my Darwin,
Nature gilded with glory
this timorous beast
elegant dandy endowed
with useless artillery.
His heart tho huge-sized
[710] boasts of no boldness
it only contains cowardice;
as in ever-running hares
his blood is poor in fibers
therefore not thick
but resembling milk
not fortified by rennet.
Sometimes however Love—
when the Earth’s womb
opens viridescent, ice
[720] already disappears, snow
makes streams muddy—
encourages the stags
to turn into warriors
and fight in the forests.
Then not only wolves, tigers
bears, dappled bobcats
wild boars (rubbing their ribs
against trunks to shape
a hard armor of mud)
[730] start to roam on heat
but the hind too, unmindful
of her defenseless fawns;
the shyest species are
spurred by sex pangs.
A flaming fury leads
beyond Bithynia, Ida
Euphrates and Taurus
the maniac mothers,
beyond ridges and rivers
[740] crags and rocks
and valleys—not towards
Apollo’s birthplace but
North, West, and whence
Auster saddens the sky.
Does distil a poison
nicknamed “hippomanes
by shepherds, often
reworked by witches
with unholy herbs
[750] and foul formulas.
All-including, the longing
for ones offspring
and mad mating now
physically flares up
and brings up battles
not only between bears
but humble herd leaders.
Observers in suspense
of such cruel contests
[760] between superb stags
are the belles who bet
on the knights more likely
to become their barons;
seconds do not dare
separate the adversaries. 

(SUMMER BREAK: to be continued on Aug. 27)

Friday, July 28, 2017

[GBM] Venus got game


The Judgment of Paris in G. B. Marino's version: Paris is charmed by Venus much more than by the other two goddesses. The general tone of the episode makes us suspect that Venus would "offer herself" to Paris if the myth had not already provided a different solution (Helen).

2.109

The shepherd, conquered by her graceful words     parolette (Dante)
and tied and bound by such a great beauty,
on those new, those immortal marvels     "miracles," etymologically
is all intent, spiritless and pulseless.
Love has hit his heart with sweet arrows
and inflamed his chest with sweet sparks,
so that, with deep and broken sighs, he
moans, languishes; and dazed, has no words.     non fa motto (Dante)


- - - - -

SUMMER BREAK, AND BEYOND. Starting from August 29, the posts on Torquato Tasso's Gerusalemme Conquistata will be resumed on Tuesdays. As it had been mentioned (here), the final section of the poem is the most actually 'Tassean' of it, with some basic features belonging to his later period, especially the use of long paragraphs stretching beyond the 'borders' of an octave, and the use of a complex language full of difficult phrasings and words, including e.g. place names that are fascinating to listen/read, but boring to trace back. Translating a stanza here and there proved an unsuccessful method. So, a more experimental kind of translation will be adopted from now on -- though less experimental than The 7 Days of CryAction (see) -- choosing the section lengths independently of the octaves, and preserving the 'esotic' sounds without trying to find the English equivalents of those terms by any means. Hope you will enjoy it.

The posts on G. B. Marino's Adone (Adonis) will be regularly published on Fridays, starting from September 1.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

[GBM] Tits and brains


The Judgment of Paris in G. B. Marino's version: Paris 'obviously' grants Minerva the victory, forgetting what he had promised the wife of the supreme god. But 'obviously' the third candidate now talks privately to him: Venus. And she adopts a completely different approach, not trying to frighten him, but, on the contrary, calling him by name as her first word.

2.102, line 1 - 103, line 1

But Love's mother, in whose beautiful face
the three Graces put all of their delights,
turning her eyes⎯ that open heaven on earth⎯      or paradise (paradiso)
towards the boy, now approaches him
and, composing her sweet, serene face
in a mood of joyful friendliness,
she pleasingly looses her language
able to charm the hearts, and says,

"Paris!. . ."

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 6: 599-660

from HD Wallpapers (site)

Oh maternal love that
[600] even softens the tigress
who pursuing a prey,
and tired, suddenly turns
back to check her cubs;
she finds the den devoid
of her adored offspring
and springs at full speed
after their kidnapper.
There flees, and swiftly,
the hunter on horseback,
[610] who to save his skin
(no other way works)
with a fiendish fraud
deludes the yellow fury:
he throws a transparent
reflective ball before her
she sees herself and
thinks it’s a tiger cub
so she brakes and tries
to catch her own child,
[620] bring it back home.
She loses a lot of time
because of that bluffer
then runs back in anger
to nab the kidnapper
and she nearly succeeds,
but again he avails
himself of that method
and stops his pursuer.
No oblivion obliterating
[630] her maternal sentiments
she unfortunately surrounds
the diabolical icon
misinterpreting it more.
Her fearful symmetry
loses sons and vengeance
that is always so sweet.
A tiger loves her sons
a lioness loves them also
as well as a wild bear
[640] so its nothing noticeable
if an innocent sheep or
a savagely shy hind love
their newly-born babies.
Among a thousand sheep
a harmless lamb plays
then slinks off the fold
but remembering mom
and desiring a snack
he hurries back home
[650] an udders-addict
even if they prove empty;
even if others are full
he’ll surely skip those tits
for mom’s is the one milk.
And she detects her son
among a thousand others
with senses substituting
the role of reason: senses
maybe more developed
[660] than Aristotelian logic.

(to be continued on July 30)

Friday, July 21, 2017

[GBM] Paris at the Crossroads

by Annibale Carracci, 1596

The Judgment of Paris in G. B. Marino's version: In order to strengthen her candidacy to the Most Beautiful Goddess Prize, Minerva also introduces herself as Virtue in the flesh. As a consequence, Paris -- if we take into consideration his next dialog with Venus -- will find himself in the same position as Hercules at the Crossroads, a major topic in Renaissance art and literature. Juno here can be practically dismissed, as she plays a quite stereotypical role.

2.96

"Virtue I am, of whom no mortal ever
saw anything but a picture, a trace.
To you, however, with unveiled rays
I represent its very bodily shape;
whence, if you are wise, you can take
the authentic norm for true beauty
and know on earth, without obfuscation,
what must be followed and worshiped."

Thursday, July 20, 2017

E. T. A. Hoffmann translates Ludovico Ariosto

by Selkis + ilTM

In his experimental novel The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr (1819-21), E. T. A. Hoffmann inserts a stanza from Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando Furioso (31.1):
Che dolce più, che più giocondo stato
Saria, di quel d’un amoroso core?
Che viver più felice, e più beato,
Che ritrovarsi in servitù d’Amore?
Se non fosse l’huom sempre stimulato
Da quel sospetto rio, da quel timore,
Da quel martìr, da quella frenesia,
Da quella rabbia, detta gelosia
.

It basically says that nothing would be more pleasant than love if jealousy did not spoil it. Hoffmann himself translates the text into German like this:
Gab's süßres noch, gab's höheres Entzücken,
Als wenn das Herz entbrannt in brünstger Liebe?
Könnt den ein sel'gres Himmelslos beglücken,
Der in des mächtgen Gottes Fesseln bliebe?
Vermöchte nicht den Menschen zu berücken
Der finstre Geist Verdacht, der Furcht Getriebe,
Trostlose Qual, Wahnsinns wuchernder Same,
Der Hölle Furie, Eifersucht ihr Name!

His translation is a bit free and very interesting, especially with reference to lines 3-4. According to a plain English translation, Ariosto's words in fact mean: "What a happier, more blessed life / Than finding oneself in the servitude of Love?" But in Hoffmann's version, "Can a more blessed heavenly lot make him happy, / Who lies in the bonds of the powerful God?" -- that reinterprets the text in the atmosphere of German Romantic culture, and especially of Hoffmann's own worldview, where the "bonds of the powerful God" imply both Cupid and Destiny at the same time. Not to speak of a potential pun, since Himmelslos (heavenly lot) might be mistaken for Himmellos (heavenless).

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

[GBM] Wisdom

G. Doré for Poe's Raven

The Judgment of Paris in G. B. Marino's version: Paris promises Juno that he will proclaim her the winner in the beauty contest. But he speaks too early. Minerva also comes and asserts her claims; and more cleverly than Juno-she is the goddess of wisdom, after all-appealing to Paris' qualities, not only her own. 

2.94

"You, who own much light in your mind,
you, who esteem valor and courtesy,     from Dante, Purgatorio 16.116
within your wise spirit will examine
all that I am worth, all that I am;
so I cannot but believe that easily
you will make my beauty the winner,
granting me the reverence and right
that I deserve, want, and demand."


 - - - - -

N.B. The posts on Torquato Tasso's 1593 long poem Gerusalemme Conquistata are temporarily suspended because, if we have a look ahead, it becomes clear that the job needs some rethinking. The remaining part of the poem, more or less one third, underwent extended reworking, so that most of the text is completely new, with no parallels in the Gerusalemme Liberata ("Jerusalem Delivered") published in 1581. In order to translate all this into English, a lot of terms and details would need a line-by-line commented edition of GC as a starting point, that is precisely what does NOT exist. Moreover, since Tasso's experimental style in his later works is based on long phrasings, it spoils the effect to choose one stanza at a time (as we awkwardly did in these past weeks); and even worse it would be to simply provide summaries of the episodes. A solution is already taking shape, but we will deal with it next September. For the time being, selected passages from G. B. Marino's Adonis will be posted on both Tuesdays and Fridays. Meanwhile, our free translation of Tasso's poem Il Mondo Creato, called "The 7 Days of CryAction," will keep appearing on Sundays. Many thanks for your attention.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 6: 543-598


How great how grand
how majestic O Master
is your portfolio, full
of infinite wisdom!
We Adam’s descendants
as a biological bonus
have congenital faculties
[550] fixed in the fetus
and exhibited after birth.
No law no folklore no
example samples them
to the simple-minded soul
in its delicate limbs
but its very Will within
stirs and drives it.
Who taught it to hate
the diseases that destroy
[560] humanity, and death,
without texting to it?
No law and no intellect
but she who sweetly
makes us the mentors
of ourselves: Physis.
In this fashion the soul
voluntarily shuns vice
without being warned,
so that seeing sexy Virtue,
[570] Man’s mind falls in love
and flies away from Sin
and hijacks to heaven.
Vice is interior illness
burning with blue desire
while virtue contrariwise
is the heart’s health
firm and unforgetful.
Therefore Astraea is a star,
Prudence praised, Temperance
[580] thanked, and tougher
still is fearless Fortitude
(the fu**er of Fortune)
honored with arches
and altars and temples:
Psyche’s saintly friends
and beauties still better
than physical health.
Children! Respect dad
and let dad do the same,
[590] don’t strain them
for Nature knows better.
If a relentless lioness
loves her children and
a wolf fights for his cubs
till death, can human dads
cruelly despise their kids?
Fierceness, forgetfulness
in the acts of parents?

(to be continued on July 23)

Friday, July 14, 2017

[GBM] The Boss' Wife

Juno portrayed by Gustave Moreau

The Judgment of Paris in G. B. Marino's version: As soon as Paris starts to chew over the problem of the "most beautiful" goddess, the three contestants, one by one, approach him presenting their respective CVs, each of which implying a veiled threat. Juno first:

2.87

"You discern, if you discern me, the one
to whom all gods cede the first honors,     after Jupiter, of course
the empress of the supernal heroes,
spouse to the great Mover of movers.     puzzling reuse of Aristotelianism
You see the worthiest eternal subject
admired by heaven, worshiped by earth;     see Virgin Mary in Catholic devotion
her, before the rays of whose beauty
Amazement too falls in amazement."     Stupor/stupido ( = stupito)

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The conspiracy (5)

Vafrino goes back to the Crusaders' encampment, and reports about the Muslim army. His not-very-flattering description was commonplace among Christian authors.

[GC 17: 70]

Ma sì de' cavalier sì de' pedoni
Sono in gran parte inutili le schiere:
Gente che non intende ordini e suoni
Né stringe ferro, e di lontan sol fere.
Ma son quelli oltre gli altri eletti e buoni
Che di Persia seguîr l'insegne altere;
E di questa anco è via migliore squadra
Quella che l'admiraglio ordina e squadra.

"But, both of knights and foot soldiers
The formations are mostly useless:
People unable to obey orders and sounds,
And use swords, they just hit from afar. (*)
Better, better chosen are those who
Followed the superb flags of Persia,
And much better than this is the squad
ruled by the Commander in chief." (**)

(*) By shooting arrows.
(**) The title admiraglio or ammiraglio, here used in its original, Arabic sense (amir al-), should belong to Emiren (17: 44, 47). Here however it refers to Ormond (see above) who, as we will be told soon, turns out to be the leader of a squad of “Assassins,” the historical and, at the same time, legendary sect of killers. This anyway is poetic license, as they did not take part in the actual Crusade. Canto 17 of Gerusalemme Conquistata is bristling with difficulties; unfortunately, there exists no commented edition of the poem, and one cannot resort to Gerusalemme Liberata since the whole episode was almost completely missing there, or radically different.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 6: 475-542

by Selkis + ilTM

Nature shows the signs
to weigh the weather too
hot cold clear cloudy
or threatening a tempest
so that artificial forecast
[480] of winds rain storms
often proves less reliable.
When winter approaches
sheep stuff themselves
as foreseeing the shortage
caused by the cold season.
The oxen enclosed
in smelly cattle sheds,
when spring sails back,
stirred by a sixth sense
[490] stretch their subdued
necks beyond the fodder
longing for open spaces.
The hedgehog’s home
has not one door but two
one turning southward
the other northward;
and when Boreas blows
the respective door is shut
when an African wind
[500] heats, the hedgehog
screens the south side.
This shows to our senses
that Providence permeates
everything on every side
and to check the chosen ones
doesn’t dismiss the lowest:
even a brute is granted
a foresight of the future.
And will we always look
[510] at our present predicament
forgetting afterlife?
Think of the famous case
of the hardworking ants
which wait for winter
by amassing in summer
in advisable advance
without slowing down
getting accustomed to toil;
in often dry fields are
[520] their Erga kai Hemerai
till the storehouse is full.
Their natural tools cut
the fruits to be desiccate
as long as the clear sky
gives positive signs
for during those duties
no rain will ravage,
forecast are not false.
In microscopical cellars
[530] supplies are stored up
by diligent dispensers.
Not only the sunlight
but the moon also admires
untiring ants at work,
so do many warm nights
subtracted from sleep
and added to activity:
in limbs so little, much
ingenious industry was
[540] engineered by Nature
or rather Nature’s Parent
passed his skills on to her.

(to be continued on July 16)

Friday, July 7, 2017

[GBM] La noche oscura del alma

by ilTM + Selkis

The Judgment of Paris in G. B. Marino's version: Paris, in his first reply to Mercury, declares himself unsuited to choose the most beautiful goddess among Juno, Minerva, and Venus. In a typical (in the Renaissance, and especially in Marino's poetry) blend of classical mythology and modern theology, Paris' words echo a basic topic of mysticism. The link between pre-Christian thought and Christian teaching was, already in the New Testament, Platonic and Neoplatonic philosophy; Marino however reuses all this in a context of eroticism.

2.80

"How might the excellent, the full
perfection of Beauty be recognized
by a man who, in addition to his
earthly veil, lives in this green darkness     the woods in Phrygia
where, of its serene light, nothing but     its = Beauty's
an obscure shadow can be glimpsed?
I do feel and confess myself unable
to test the excess of such extremes."

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The conspiracy (4)

Cairo in G. Dore's illustrations
for Ariosto's Orlando Furioso

The description of Vafrino's mission is interrupted for some stanzas: after organizing the Muslim army, the Sultan of Egypt goes back from Gaza to his own country, so Tasso takes the chance to describe his magnificent royal palace in Cairo. As it had already been indicated by Ludovico Ariosto in Orlando Furioso, the city of Cairo was famous in the Christian world because of its splendor and its incredible extent, possibly the biggest metropolis during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

[GC 63.1 - 64.4]

Out of white marbles, the generous springs
Pour -- as he(*) has been told -- waters so clear
As to be envied by the highest mountains
Or the nicest river flowing seaward.
There, of the most unknown species of birds 
Many, beautiful, and varied appear, (**)
As our Western world has never seen, though
It depicts Harpies, the Sphinx, and Pegasus --
And animals hidden to our senses 
Roam about that refined and shady place,
Among the fountains and marble arcades,
Without using their claws, or teeth, or venom. (***)

(*) Vafrino; but the parenthetical element would be changed into a more general "as they say" in the final printed text of the poem.
(**) See the specimens from America, that immediately became a must-show in European art in the Renaissance.
(***) Transferring to the Sultan's enclosure the alleged features of Eden, as was usually done when 'describing' the Fortunate Islands, a major element in Renaissance imagination, that partly stimulated the exploration of the New World -- the main cause, from the very beginning (Columbus included), being however the search for gold. Noticeably, the very word "Paradise" comes from Persian pardesh, "garden with animals."

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 6: 411-474


The impulsive panther
whose body quickly obeys
its ever-restless soul
has very elastic limbs;
painted with spots is
the elegant leopard
that hiding its horrors
under a deceiving skin
allures naïve animals
[420] and such shrewdness
proves more precious
than the job of jumping.
The she-bear lazes about
in mountain meadows
wrapping her wild soul
in rough bones and brawn
almost misshapen;
in cold ragged caverns
she yearly hibernates.
[430] But going berserk
she attacks her assailants
armed with iron devices
to inflict infinite blows
almost as desiring death.
Her technicist tongue
shapes her defective cubs
What about you boor?
What about the upbringing
of your innocent children?
[440] Mould their minds
with a teaching tongue;
or, is yours a yelling one?
A wounded bear will
follow Nature’s methods
to heal herself: the most
serious scars are tamponed
with Verbascum leaves
that dry the blood drain.
A scarcely seeing snake
[450] eats fennel to expel
evil humors from its eyes.
Eagles employ lettuce
to strengthen their sights.
A turtle lethally poisoned
by the viper’s venom
looks for health and life
from oregano and rightly so.
A sick Renard to repel
death resorts to an elixir:
[460] two drops of pine resin.
A steinbock stabbed by
an iron arrow in its ribs
provides itself with first aid
with ready-made medicine:
by eating dittany, the arrow
slips out automatically.
A monkey is the meal
of weak Ugolino Lion;
goat blood for jaguars
[470] olive twigs for deer.
But for you sick soul
you retrieve no remedy
the only authentic cure
the juice of Scripture.

(to be continued on July 9)

Friday, June 30, 2017

[GBM] Speechless

S. Dalí, Three Sphinxes of Bikini

The Judgment of Paris in G. B. Marino's version: The three goddesses, led by Mercury, appear before Paris. Marino summarizes here some of the main features of his poetry and worldview: beauty that raises marvel, but accompanied by terror, and paradox, a subject that is often linked with metamorphosis, the ever-shifting and ambiguous nature of reality. In this case, the young shepherd "looks" and, by doing so, "looks like" a tree.

2.73

Amazed at such amazing things, he     rimirando/mirabil
tightens his lips, bends his eyelashes,
and on his furrowed, scared forehead
sculpts—together with terror—wonder.
On the next trunk he leans his head,
so like that very trunk he looks.
Breaking his song, he lets fall his
loud flute, now silent, at his feet.     see Dante, Inferno 21.86

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The conspiracy (3)

Here a bad narrative junction occurs. Vafrino cannot find out the exact nature of the conspiracy against Godfrey of Bouillon, so he goes on spying across the Muslim encampment until, all of a sudden -- "Fortune (what he himself could not do) untied the inner knots of his doubts" (GC 17: 61). And the episode ends like that, for now, without providing us further information.

This is one of the points in which the shift from Gerusalemme Liberata to Gerusalemme Conquistata spoils the result. In the Liberata (19: 65 ff), in fact, Vafrino sees Armida first, then Erminia, in the Muslim tents; and learns a lot by listening to the dialogs that happen there. Erminia, who soon recognizes him (she had lived as a prisoner among the Crusaders), asks him to bring her back to the Christian camp since she, though a Muslim, has fallen in love with the knight Tancred; and while asking so, she reveals the secret plot against Godfrey in detail.

In the Conquistata, however, Tasso reworks both female characters thoroughly. Armida 'officially' disappears from the stage at a certain point, even if it can be suspected that she 'reappears in disguise' as the Queen of Daphne (see posts titled "Is it her or not?"). Erminia in the new poem has a different name, Nicaea, and her story too is much modified. As a consequence, our 'private eye' Vafrino remains without either of his main contacts for his mission, and finally has to find a solution out of the blue.

According to many scholars, the ones who love better to parrot one another rather than read the texts, Gerusalemme Conquistata as a whole is a failure; a sorry, badly reworked version of the Liberata. This is simply false. The Conquistata is richer, bolder, more original, more modern, more interesting -- and to show it is one of the major purposes of this blog. But in this case, Tasso clearly did not feel like inventing some new, complex episode to replace Vafrino's meetings with Armida and Erminia. Never mind, Torquato, just keep enchanting us! ;-)

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 6: 357-410


Like a marble ball that
accelerates after being hit
and meeting a declivity
[360] starts to roll downward
while its frictionless form
makes it go faster and faster
until its show is stopped
by the flat land below;
so, activated by the Voice,
Nature runs throughout
all that is made/unmade
preserving every phylum
deathless till Doomsday.
[370] The heir of a horse
remind his father’s features,
a calf looks like a cow.
A lion cub is characterized
by mane and mortal claws
and together, he inherits
anger and magnanimity
(that makes gentlemen spare
an unsaddled adversary)
and love for loneliness
[380] so shunning society
he wanders in the wild
deserts and forests
across Numidia, Mauritania
or even Europe when free
living lions still existed.
Like Alfieri’s fierce Saul
almost unapproachable
he does not accept to get
benefits from foreigners,
[390] disgusted by leftovers
as Della Vigna by living.
His throat is so developed
his voice so violent that
it paralyzes his preys,
even swiftest sprinters
are shocked and caught;
but after lunch he relaxes
and frolics with friends
not afraid of anything.
[400] Age makes him clumsy
and slow to the extent
that he attacks the towns
to eat unprotected people.
This cat however cruel
even raging and roaring
when wrath upsets him
is frightened by flames
and is afraid of roosters
especially if their plumage
[410] shines snow-white.

(to be continued on July 2)

Saturday, June 24, 2017

(What) the devil's art history

Digital pattern by Selkis

E. T. A. Hoffmann's 1815-16 novel The Devil's Elixirs is set in the late 18th century, partly in Germany partly in Italy. But the origin of this dark story of incests, murders, and Doppelgängers dates back to an Italian painter called Francesko [sic], who lived in the Renaissance. He is said to have been a disciple of Leonardo Da Vinci, and that's where the historical problems begin. First of all, Leonardo's personality as described here does not fit in well with his actual personage, and moreover, Hoffmann seems to ignore that he spent his later years in France, where he also died. But especially, Francesko's "genius and excess" lifestyle -- see Caravaggio -- and the very art market he works for recall the Baroque Era rather than the early 16th century. As a matter of fact, a brief mind calculation of the years from the main events back to Francesko's time period gives as a result the 17th century, too.

Now, a master of the weird tale like Hoffmann can do whatever he likes best with history, but the impression is that he did not twist the data on purpose, he simply followed German Romantic commonplace in his recreation of "Renaissance Italy." More consistent are the references to another star of 15th-16th century art: Hieronymus Bosch.

Friday, June 23, 2017

[GBM] Princes in disguise

from Salvador Dalí

The Judgment of Paris in G. B. Marino's version: Jupiter indicates the young shepherd as the most fitting person to choose "the most beautiful" goddess among Juno, Minerva, and Venus, insofar as he is both handsome and honest and intelligent (2.61). A son of King Priam, Paris has been removed from Troy immediately after his birth because of a prophecy according to which he would cause the ruin of the city. The Father of the Gods, however, abstains from explaining this clearly; we know it from mythology. In the story of the appointed judge, Marino stresses: 1. The ubiquitous role of Destiny, or rather Doom, and 2. The theme of male beauty and homosexuality, with a reference to Ganymede; see his love story with Zeus in canto 5, described in a then scandalously detailed form. Marino himself seems to have been bisexual.
Jupiter speaks:

2.60

"In the woods there lives a Phrygian shepherd,    western Turkey
who is such only in name and duties---
yeah, if an envying Fate did not keep     N.B. he twists the issue
his noble birth hidden in rough clothes,
the whole world would know about his lofty
condition, his high and royal lineage:     precisely like Adonis
A son of Priam, emperor of Troy, so
an elder brother to my Ganymede."

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The conspiracy (2)

With a narrative device typical of theater plays, and of future detective stories, Vafrino finds himself eavesdropping near a tent -- or a room -- precisely while the people inside talk about a crime they are planning. Here the newly appointed head of the Muslim army, Emiren, introduces to the Sultan of Egypt a warrior who promises to murder Godfrey of Bouillon, the head of the Christian army. (Of all these characters, only Godfrey is historical, though his leadership in the Crusade was less undisputed than in the poem.)

[17: 58.1 - 59.4]

Parla il Duce a colui: - Dunque securo
Sei tu così di dar morte a Goffredo? -
Risponde quegli: - Io sono, e 'n corte giuro
Non tornar mai, se vincitor non riedo.
Preverrò ben color che meco fûro
Al congiurare, e premio altro non chiedo
Se non ch'io possa un bel trofeo de l'arme
Drizzar nel Cairo, e sotto, un breve carme:

"Queste arme in guerra al capitan francese,
Distruggitor de l'Asia, Ormondo i' trassi
Quando gli trassi l'alma, e fûr sospese
Perché memoria ad ogni età trapassi".

The Sultan tells him, "So, you are absolutely sure you will put Godfrey to death?" He answers, "I am. And I swear, I will not come back to this Court if I can't do so in triumph. I will act swifter even than my comrades in the conspiracy -- and, I ask for no other reward than having the permission to raise a glorious trophy in Cairo, (*) with such words written underneath: These weapons from the Frank leader, the destroyer of Asia, (**) I, Ormond, took away when I took away his soul; they have been hanged here so that a memory may be kept throughout the ages."

(*) As in the manuscript of Gerusalemme Conquistata (and already in the Liberata); but Babilonia in the final printed text, i.e. Babel/Babylon, that had a greater symbolic meaning since in the Middle Ages and Renaissance the Biblical name of the enemy Empire par excellence was reused as a synonym of the Muslim community and power as a whole.
(**) In a very general sense, the current Turkey -- in the route towards Jerusalem -- and the Middle East. Trophies like this were very common in the poems of chivalry.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 6: 316-356


But our Era experienced
that in all latitudes there
swarms Man, the tough
descendant of Adam.
[320] The planet doesn’t look
at all like a timbrel as
Aristotle shot at random
nor like a turtle shell
but its crust is round
like an apple peel.
Not an island, insofar
as it does not seat inside
Ocean but vice versa—
that’s true but trivial,
[330] so let thought focus
on meaningful matters.
Who cares about acres
like a land surveyor,
let us please stop playing
the part of Pantokrator.
He only can hand the Earth
He measured the seas
and streams and skies
He estimated mountains
[340] He weighed woods
He supported the planet
and placed people in it
who behave like locusts
His ceiling is the sky
He, the universal Sotér.
Let nobody conjecture
how many miles the shadow
of opaque Terra stretches;
how it deprives Diana
[350] of splendor thru eclipses
or whether it overshadows
Venus’ fascinating face.
We all are now wondering
at God’s voice invading
every cell of his creatures
and reaching to their ends.

(to be continued on June 25)

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Green like power, red like blood


Quetzal Quest: The Story of the Capture of the Quetzal, the Sacred Bird of the Aztec and the Mayas, the 1939 book by Prof. Victor Von Hagen (1908 - 1985; here in its very good Italian version of 1984), retraces the history of the fateful contact between Europe and America following a green thread: the amazing feathers used by the Aztecs to embellish the headdresses of their leaders. One of such "crowns" was given Hernán Cortés, and is now kept in the Museum of Ethnology in Vienna, Austria. Moctezuma the proud, bloodthirsty conqueror had met one worse than him.

From the first feathers and aviaries seen by the Conquistadores to the European explorers who found the actual bird in the forests of Central America in the 19th century, there have passed centuries marked by violence, exploitation, and mostly unilateral influences, as well as scientific discoveries. Very interesting are the sections devoted to the books, both those that were produced by the natives, and the European volumes that described the languages and societies of the American peoples, starting almost immediately after the first contact.

Quetzal Quest, in its rich text and pictures, puts the whole story together especially from a cultural viewpoint, focusing on the habits, the arts & crafts, the political structures, the natural environments, the chronicles, the very lives of people/s who proved unlucky enough to be waiting for the wrong "god" in the right time. The Indian convert, interpreter, and "courtesan" Doña Marina -- her real name has remained unknown -- could have played the role of the protagonist in some Renaissance long poem or tragedy.

Friday, June 16, 2017

[GBM] Beware of beauty contests


Learning that this tree in Cyprus developed from the (in)famous golden apple, Adonis asks the shepherd, Clizio, to tell him the whole story. This long section, basically the whole of canto 2 of Adone, is the first of the many narrative digressions in the poem---which, not by chance, wound up to be thrice as long as the Divine Comedy. G. B. Marino draws on the many romanticized versions of the myth of the Judgment of Paris that had been worked out already by the later Greek authors, all the way up to the Renaissance poets.
The main facts are well-known: Having not been invited to the wedding of Peleus and Tethis (the future parents of Achilles), the goddess of discord, Eris, throws among the guests a golden apple with an inscription: "To the most beautiful one." Three goddesses, Juno, Minerva, and Venus, appl-y for the position, and fiercely so. Jupiter diplomatically gets out of the quarrel passing the buck to a young outcast, Paris, who however happens to be an abandoned son of King Priam. Paris, bribed by Venus, will choose her in exchange for the love of Helen, the fascinating wife of King Menelaus of Sparta, and therefore cause the War of Troy.
This mix of beauty, youth, love, cunning, rage, and doom, is absolutely in line with Marino's philosophy, all the more so in a story like Adonis'. Later in this poem, Adonis himself will become the King of Cyprus by winning a fixed beauty contest!
As it can be easily foreseen, Marino will insist on the erotic side of the myth, the chaste Juno and Minerva included.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The conspiracy (1)

Now Tasso links the plot back to a previous episode: Vafrino being sent as a spy from the Christian camp near Jerusalem to the Muslim camp in Gaza.

[GC 17: 56]

Di qua, di là sollecito s'aggira
Per le vie, per le piazze e per le tende;
I guerrieri, i destrier, l'arme rimira,
L'arte, gli ordini osserva e i nomi apprende;
Né di ciò pago, a maggior cose aspira,
Spia gli occulti pensier, e parte intende.
Tanto s'avolge, e così piano e cheto,
Che s'apre il varco al ragionar secreto.

Here and there he attentively roams
Along the streets and squares and tents;
At the warriors, horses, weapons he looks,
Watches the arrangement, learns the names--
And still unsatisfied, he aims at more:
Spies on hidden thoughts, and partly finds.
So deep does he sneak in, so quietly so,
That he comes across a secret talk.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 6: 233-315

by ilTM + Selkis

The animal soul is blood
which thickens into flesh
which decays into clay:
perishable are the souls
of wild beasts, or better
still, they are demi-dead.
God ordered the soil
[240] to lend living souls,
the soul becomes blood
then flesh then fimus
and the other way round
fimus to flesh to blood
and blood becomes soul,
so their soul is soil,
don’t deem it older than
their body and therefore
accessing afterlife.
[250] Mind metamorphoses
and time turnings,
just leave learned talk
in deserved silence.
Big Doctors dare say
that Reason corresponds
to the soul of hissing
snakes, barking beagles
and dream of themselves
having been kings, knights
[260] across different times
and even a damsel or
a fish a birch a Bush
behaving as blockheads
more than tunas or trunks.
Not even one of them
however misunderstanding
said “soul equal earth”
but following the fake
signs of sense and motion
[270] some said, “It’s air”
some preferred fire
some maintained humor
some volunteered vapor;
so the Magna Mater
pregnant then prolific
with all living souls
was rudely dishonored
by those contentious
out-of-date authors.
[280] We contrariwise
honor the mighty Mother
and call animal souls
her daughters.
                         Frankly
nothing new or ancient
about the Earth’s figure
can be stated for sure
by a tribunal of truth.
Some see it in the shape
of a sphere, some instead of
[290] a cylinder or hard disk
or a basket, a barnyard
or empty inwardly and
embellished on both sides.
Dante abducted to alien
portals as he reports,
saw or guesses he saw
this exasperating planet
as a fallow flowerbed
anyway clearly a ring.
[300] For some people the Poles
and the equatorial stripe
were desert and deserted;
they painted the latter
and the icy surfaces
as Lovecraftian places.
The torrid Equator left
two zones subject to the sun
not directly heating them
in the remaining areas
[310] whose climate is milder:
of which we inhabit one
in a narrow biome between
perpetual cold and heat
and the other hemisphere
hosts Bear-less barbarians.

(to be continued on June 18)