The 7 Days of CryAction

The 7 Days of CryAction
Banner by The Magic Trio

Friday, October 21, 2016

Whatcha gonna do now, Tancred? (12)

[16: 44]

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

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

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

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Cathedral of Memory (lost)

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Whatcha gonna do now, Tancred? (11)

[16: 43]

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

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

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

Monday, October 17, 2016

How to sing Ariosto's poetry

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

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

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

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 4: 931-990

(from the "DantEsq." set, work in progress: see)

More astounding is the art
and Paternal providence
by which the crooked courses
of planets are programmed,
and even stricter the sun’s
which never swerves from
its direction dividing
the Zodiac into zones.
The others are odder,
[940] less or more, and the moon
roams throughout its ring.
Venus even leaves her circle,
she shameless and fertile,
therefore in Africa and India
the horny wilderness
has plenty of species:
Let no one blame Baal
if on top of the totality
of his created chains
[950] fierce and fossil beasts
add decorum and awe.
But the Sun by preserving
his prescribed path
provides a true teaching
to emperors, the hard
voyage of virtue.
When his flame faces
the Moon who smashes
the Dragon’s head or tail,
[960] Helios denies his beams
by inserting the Earth
and Artemis turns pale.
Or as she approaches him—
namely twice in Gemini—
he is partly veiled instead.
Now, if heavenly light
can be slightly lost,
no worldly light, no
Fortune (that flashes into
[970] the eyes of idiots)
can help losing power;
this raises our thought
to the holy eternal Light
that never rises nor sets
nor fades nor fails.
But after becoming Body
He caused an eclipse
in an unexpected period
saddening Nature and
[980] in spite of astronomy.
On the sun’s distances,
the moon’s emerging
late and setting early,
why Saturn Jupiter Mars
contrariwise rise
at dawn, then go down
and many further effects
appearing in the spheres
many causes were conjectured
[990] by different thinkers.

(to be continued on Oct. 23)

Friday, October 14, 2016

Whatcha gonna do now, Tancred? (10)

[16: 42]

Cotai note leggendo, egli era intento
De le brevi parole a' sensi occulti.
Fremere intanto udìa continuo il vento
Tra le frondi del bosco e tra' virgulti;
E un suono uscir, che flebile concento
Par d'humani sospiri e di singulti;
E un non so che confuso instilla al core
Di pietà, di spavento e di dolore.

Reading the text, he was intent on grasping
The hidden meaning of that brief message.
Meanwhile he kept hearing the wind tremble
Among the wood's branches and younger shoots,
And a sound came from it, that seemed a feeble
Concert of human sighs and human sobs;
Which into his heart instilled a vague mix
Of compassion, and terror, and suffering.

See Freud's anguish theory.
This is Tassean poetry at its apogee.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

When Francis saved the world

The whole cultural difference between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance may be summarized in one curious detail. The subject is avaritia, a Latin term that does not correspond to avarice, but greed. It was considered one of the greatest evils on earth, maybe the worst one (see I Timothy 6: 10). Both Dante and, expressly drawing on Dante, Ludovico Ariosto described it by means of the icon of the she-wolf.
How to get rid of it?
Dante, Inferno 11, thinks that a new start in human history was provided by St Francis of Assisi, who first found out that Poverty was not a monster as frightening as Death but, right the opposite, a beautiful Lady whom he symbolically married.
As for Ariosto, Orlando Furioso 26, he thinks that the she-wolf will be annihilated by Francis. . . I, the King of France. And he will do so not by embracing poverty, absolutely not, but by exercising generosity and munificence, as well as by promoting virtue and justice i.e. by waging wars.

Choose the candidate you like better. The wolfish demon of Greed is still out there, anyway.

Whatcha gonna do now, Tancred? (9)

[16: 41]

Fra i segni ignoti alcune note ha scorte
Del sermon di Sorìa, ch'ei ben possede:
- Tu che ne' chiostri de l'avara Morte
Osasti por, guerrero audace, il piede,
Deh, se non sei crudel quanto sei forte,
Deh, non turbar questa secreta sede.
Perdona a l'alme homai di luce prive:
Non dee guerra co' morti haver chi vive -.

Among those unknown signs he recognizes
Some words in Arabic, (*) which he masters:
"You, who in the sanctuary of greedy Death
Dared set foot, O brave-hearted warrior,
If you are not so cruel as you are strong,
Oh, please don't violate this secret place.
Have pity on souls now devoid of light:
Let the living wage no war on the dead."

(*) Literally, "in the language of Syria," where "Syria" meant the Middle East in general. Paladin Roland also could read and speak Arabic, and precisely this caused his fury and ruin in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso.
While the Egyptian hieroglyphs in the previous octave conveyed a sense of mystery, these words in Arabic refer to Clorinda as their alleged author, since she was a Muslim.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 4: 865-930

When it comes closer
nel mezzo del cammin,
hours go fifty-fifty
and the wind warms.
Zephyr breathes, Spring
[870] is green and grins
with her flourishing family,
our pregnant Planetess
now safe from snow
cannot help whelping:
all plants spring up
animals are animated
and super-perpetuate
insofar as the sun
navigates northwards.
[880] When it comes to Cancer
and dilates the day
and at a peaceful pace
rides above our roofs
and warms our air, it
also dries soil and seeds
and ripens apricots.
The sun rejoices in July
and darts direct rays
at earth from heaven;
[890] days obtain time
shadows shorten instead
if days diminish, bodies
cast stretched shadows.
We see it so, who live
between Apollos line
and the Bears’ border
next to the Seven Oxen.
We constantly cast
shadows northwards;
[900] in tropical latitudes
natives don’t cast any
once and twice a year
when sun’s in the South
with vertical rays.
It even happens there
that narrow wells
blaze to the bottom,
see Syene, Berenice
and the prestigious palace
[910] between Nile branches
with the title and tomb
of Cambyses’ sister.
Beyond the balmy land
of Arabia, the Amphiskioi
show two shadows both
south- and northwards
as soon as the sun
passes past Aquilo
and felicitous Fall
[920] offers fruits and wine
out of verdant vines.
Summer’s now softened
and shades are sold up,
Libra levels the hours
and sees us to winter
when Sol leaves again
and journeys to India.
Such are the sun’s ways
such are time’s turns
[930] the managers of Man.

(to be continued on Oct. 16)

Friday, October 7, 2016

Whatcha gonna do now, Tancred? (8)

[16: 40]

Alfine un largo spatio in forma scorge
D'anfiteatro, e non è pianta in esso
Salvo che nel suo mezzo altero sorge,
Qual piramide eccelsa, alto cipresso.
Ei là si drizza, e nel mirar s'accorge
Ch'era di vari segni il tronco impresso,
Simili a quei ch'in vece usò di scritto
L'antico già misterïoso Egitto.

He finally sees a wide area shaped
As a Roman theater, without a tree
Except, in its middle, rising as high
As a pyramid, (*) a very tall cypress.
He goes straight there, and there notices
That in its trunk many signs are carved
Like those which, instead of an alphabet,
The ancient, mysterious Egypt employed. (**)

(*) In Western art, from the Middle Ages up to the 18th century (see Tiepolo), Egyptian pyramids were usually represented much more elongated than they are.
(**) The Renaissance experienced a real hieroglyph-mania, with all kinds of interpretations of them, and the invention of new ones 'after the manner of.' See e.g. the monumental Triumphal Arch engraved by Albrecht Dürer for Emperor Maximilian.
There is another subtle hint here. A woman actually carved words of love for Tancred on trunks: Princess Erminia -- in Gerusalemme Liberata; then renamed "Nicaea" in the Conquistata -- though he does not reciprocate her sentiment. The knight is in love with a she-knight, Clorinda (see more about this). But he himself has just killed her by mistake. And, as a matter of fact, in a past episode he had already chanced to follow Erminia/Nicaea thinking he was following Clorinda. In this "Freudian" episode, is Tancred's subconscious trying to reveal something to him?

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Ro-Land of the Rising Sun

Knight vs dragon: Could a more 'western,' Renaissance indeed, subject be dealt with? But the great sagas of chivalry have long been made trivial and boring in the West, so the duty has been transferred to a Japanese author: Go Nagai. His Jushin Ryger, created in 1989, has just been published in Italy in a wonderful edition (big format, good paper, accurate translation). The plot is an impressive elaboration of typical Nagaian themes, Japanese culture, and European lore and even religion. In this case, both the knights -- wearing armors that follow partly Renaissance, partly samurai types -- and their enemies are giants, therefore their combats demolish whole neighborhoods. And in the end, the very end of the world impends, but thank God, our heroes [NO SPOILER].

The text and art of Jushin Ryger provide a triumph of the purest Go Nagai with his pros and cons, his cons being as lovely as his pros. Fast, extreme, epic, essential while Baroque, tender and high-tech, humorous, sexy, and furious. Just one critical remark: since the basic look of Ryger the Divine Cyborg is absolutely glorious, it is a pity that he is often modified into less interesting fight modes. Anyway, if an uglier armor makes him able to save the world, it is welcome.

Go Nagai, Jushin Ryger, Torino [Turin]: Hikari, 2016, pages 424, euros 18

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Whatcha gonna do now, Tancred? (7)

[16: 39]

Stupido sì, ma intrepido rimane
Tancredi; e poi che il tutto intorno è cheto,
Ne le soglie di morte empie e profane
Entra securo, e spia l'alto secreto.
Né più apparenze inusitate o strane
Né trova alcun, tra via, scontro o divieto,
Se non se il nero bosco horrido troppo,
Che per se stesso a' passi è duro intoppo.

Tancred, however amazed, (*) keeps his head;
And since everything around (**) is now still,
Into the evil, ungodly realm of death
He walks safely, peeking at that mystery.
No more unusual, strange appearances,
No enemies or obstacles he sees,
Except the black forest, all too horrid,
Which simply by itself hampers his steps. (***)

(*) Tasso had used the adjective stupido, that in old Italian meant "amazed" but means "stupid" in more modern parlance, so he finally replaced it with a synonym, maraviglioso. The former term is spelled stupito in current Italian; the latter, meravigliato.
(**) "The sky" is still, in the final printed version of the poem.
(***) That is the meaning of the words selvaggia, aspra, and forte in Dante, Inferno 1: 5.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 4: 802-864

Out of the Silent Planet: a Soroborn

Thirty years, tho looking lazy,
does Saturn run swifter
than all fellow planets;
twelve, slowcoach Jupiter;
two years, Marshal Mars
(more exactly, Malacandra);
one year obviously the sun
and a little less the star
[810] that delights dawn
as Lucifer, later called
Hesperus when it sets.
More or less the same
with the winged messenger;
twenty-seven days does
the moon’s loop last
tho seemingly speedier
in its shorter circuit
towards its given goal.
[820] It in fact first taught
how to divide one year
in months (entry: Numa)
because it catches back
the sun after twelve times—
but the Greeks preceded
and the Hebrews earlier.
Romulus, less interested
in calculus than carnage,
stated ten clumsy parts;
[830] the mistake was emended
by the wise Sabine king.
Thus the two lofty lamps
are watches wound up
by God their guide.
Year” means sun yearning
for the same sign
it started from, or rather
the very same spot
(by just joining the same
[840] star it would see it
shifted to a different place
by the pilot sphere).
Who makes them work?
The West names them
after the bogus gods
but they are angels
people of Providence
who obliquely ordained
the seven and the sun
[850] for the seasons sake
and it consequently causes
us to be and cease to be,
bios and thanatos in turn.
When the sun stays
faraway southward,
nights get unusually long
the air incredibly cold
the soil feels upset
rain falls and snow
[860] concretes into ice
on rocky backbones
re-pressing the rivers
while pool and ponds
become like crystal.

(to be continued on Oct. 9)

Friday, September 30, 2016

Whatcha gonna do now, Tancred? (6)

[16: 38]

Né sotto l'arme già sentir gli parve
Caldo o fervor come di foco intenso;
Ma pur se fosser vere fiamme o larve
Mal poté giudicar sì tosto il senso:
Perché repente, a pena toccò, sparve
Quel simolacro, e giunse un nuvol denso
Che portò notte e verno; e 'l verno anchora
Si dileguò con l'ombra in picciola hora.

Nor did it seem to him, under the armor,
To feel the heat of any powerful fire.
But whether those flames were true or fake,
His own senses had no time to verify:
Suddenly, as soon as he touched it, that
Image disappeared, and a thick cloud came,
Which brought night and cold -- and the very cold (*)
Vanished with its shadows in a moment.

(*) With a faint echo from Dante, Inferno 3: 87.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

100 new pics for Dante

Inferno 1: Forest Gump

In the Flickr folder DantEsq. (go) a new series of illustrations is being published that will represent all 100 cantos of the Divine Comedy in a modern key. The folder will be updated every day or so, as regularly as possible anyway. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Whatcha gonna do now, Tancred? (5)

[16: 37, Tancred speaks]

Pur, gli altri che diran? S'indarno io riedo,
Quale altra selva ho di troncar speranza?
Né intentato lasciar vorrà Goffredo
Mai questo varco: hor, s'oltre alcun s'avanza?
Forse l'incendio, che quo sorto io vedo,
Fia d'effetto minor che di sembianza.
Ma sia che può; se fosse ancor l'inferno,
Io 'l passo! - O degno adir di nome eterno!

"But, what will they say? If I fail and go
Back, which other wood will I ever fell?
Nor will Godfrey leave this opportunity
Unattempted. . . So, what about advancing? (*)
Maybe this fire that I see here burning
Will actually prove weaker than it seems. (**)
So be it. It might be hell itself: I go!"
Oh bravery deserving eternal fame! (***)

(*) In Gerusalemme Liberata the wording was the same, but with a plainer punctuation: Hor, s'oltre alcun s'avanza, forse l'incendio. . ., "Now, if you move forward, maybe this fire. . ." Is the new punctuation simply a matter of style, or does it suggest a different meaning? That is, "Now, what about somebody else advancing [and acquiring glory instead of me]? Well, maybe this fire. . ."
(**) See, in part, Dante, Purgatorio 27, especially lines 16-18, 25-27.
(***) Possibly ironic, in the light of the following events.

Monday, September 26, 2016

But O O O O that Shakespearean Troy

by ilT + Selkis

One of the great cultural achievements of the Renaissance was the rediscovery of Homer's "original" poems in Greek (thanks to Byzantine scholars who fled from the Turkish Conqueror) in Western Europe. This Homeric material, soon translated into Latin, was then reused in a number of manners. Torquato Tasso, for example, stuffed his Gerusalemme Conquistata with a lot of new episodes -- not included in the Liberata -- directly borrowed from the Iliad, as well as the Aeneid. Riccardo (Richard), the Conquistata version of the Liberata hero Rinaldo, is patterned after Achilles in both his rage and his bisexuality; that were, incidentally, two features of Tasso, too.

William Shakespeare choose a completely different approach in his unconventional drama Troilus and Cressida, written probably in 1600 or 1601 but fully appreciated only after World War II. He drew on the Homeric texts but especially on Medieval lore to create a story that, while perfectly a Renaissance one in its courtesy, humor, and armors, recalls Homer because of its fierceness, the omnipotence of Fate and, in depth, a feeling of desperation. The drama also contains what is possibly one of the best puns in literature, which summarizes the whole plot and, more than that, might convey the Late Renaissance worldview in general: Ariachne's broken woof.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 4: 722-801

Tiny data can describe
everything that exists on earth
and in the sea and sky
(unlike infinite numbers
that division can’t diminish).
Now, who dares digitize
the list of pure intellects?
Don’t you mark how many
[730] rays the sun has, while
is itself one ray of Ra?
How many resplendent rays
how many spiritual sparks
develop from Divinity!
No tongue no thought can
express the endless number
of transcendent trains.
Surely some high reason
moved the Maker to
[740] make more perfect
creatures than defective.
The fierce beasts are few
in the solitary forests
and impervious valleys
while hundreds of herds
and flocks in the fields
follow their shepherds.
Adam’s descendants
occupy Europe and Earth
[750] that is a small mass
compared with the cosmos.
And heaven hosts more
inhabitants than stars,
and almost not content
with its first settlers
it welcomes immigrants
from muddy mundus,
offering them a home
guiding them and adding
[760] them to its towns.
Adam’s cursed children
are actually not aliens:
heavenly is the origin
of their souls, serenely
heading back home
from the dark dwelling
of this poor pilgrimage.
Man’s fleshly figure
comes from Adamic mud
[770] but he became re-born
in baptism and Pneuma
and as a honored heir
asks for the Iron Crown.
Wait, I’m carried away
by philanthropy beforehand!
Let’s go on considering
the circuit of sidera
whose appointed starters
are those sublime minds—
[780] not as a psyche proper
but a steering charioteer.
Thence the sky’s motions
either right to left or
the other way round,
where “right” implies East
the spring of Sky One
that then draws all others
in spite of themselves.
Left” I call the West
[790] the origin of all others:
the sun looks easterly simply
because of the tractor beam
that heads it back home.
In one light-and-dark day
the first sphere completes
one wheel, while the others
circle contrariwise
like an insect that settles
on a moving millstone
[800] and meanwhile walks
slowly against the stream.

(to be continued on Oct. 2)

Friday, September 23, 2016

Whatcha gonna do now, Tancred? (4)

[16: 36]

Allor s'arretra, e dubbio alquanto resta:
- Che giovan qui (dicendo) o forze od armi?
Fra gli artigli de' mostri e 'n gola a questa
Devoratrice fiamma andrò a gettarmi?
Non mai la vita, ove cagione honesta
Del comun pro la chieda, altri risparmi,
Né prodigo ancor sia d'anima grande:
E tal è ben, se qui la versa e spande.

Then he withdraws and remain uncertain,
Saying, "Can strength or weapons here avail?
Shall I throw myself into monsters' claws
Or into the mouth of devouring fire?
Where the sound reason of Common Good
Requires it, let nobody spare his life,
But not even waste(*) a great soul, either!
And such it would be, by being shed here."

(*) In the final printed text, the Italian adjective prodigo, literally "prodigal, lavish" (with one's own soul) was changed into troppo largo: a synonym, probably chosen because prodigo could -- and can -- also be meant in a positive sense as "very, very generous."
Tancred's doubt would sound like a vulgar excuse in the mouth of a knight less valiant than him, but here epitomizes the complex balances required by the values of chivalry between different duties, or official duty and private accomplishments, especially in the fields of love and/or honor. See, e.g., Orlando Furioso 2, stanzas 27 and 65, with opposite solutions -- it is also true, however, that precisely by pursuing her private ends, Bradamante will fulfill the Big Plan.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Whatcha gonna do now, Tancred? (3)

[16: 35]

Vassene il valoroso in sé ristretto,
Tacito e solo al pauroso bosco,
E sostien de la selva il fero aspetto,
Qual novo inferno spaventoso e fosco:
Né per tuon sbigottisce il forte petto
O per belva che spiri o fiamma o tosco.
Trapassa; et ecco in quel selvaggio loco
Sorge improviso la città del foco.

The valiant knight now goes all alone
And silent to the frightening wood, (*)
Withstanding the forest's fierce appearance,
Like a novel hell, dark and appalling:
His strong heart does not fear the thunders
Nor the beasts that spit flames or venom. (**)
He passes; and lo! in that wild place
The city of fire suddenly pops up.

(*) A textual collage from Dante, see Inferno 23: 1 and 1: 6. The exact reference to Dante's wording, taciti e soli, is a stylistic improvement of Gerusalemme Conquistata.
(**) A dragon, at last, in this poem of chivalry! This detail also was absent in Gerusalemme Liberata: it has been added in the Conquistata, as a further confirmation that GC is a strengthened -- not a weaker -- version of GL.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 4: 649-721

From year 1 after Adam
[650] awoke in the world
not so many mortals
by his sinful seed
have been brought about
as the winged warriors
born to God’s blessing
and perennial pleasure
which makes them tarry
in eternal laziness
devoid of despondency.
[660] Those who think that
angels undergo hard labor
like millstone mules
or anguished Ixion
who rolls restlessly
their brains do rave.
Swami Aristotle too,
followed by thousands
and following astrophysics,
foolishly (tho forgivable)
[670] tried to determine
the quantum of Choirs
and a narrow number
should suffice, he said:
As many the motions
in the seven skies,
that many the movers.
He wouldn’t worship or
know about additional
jobs or angelology
[680] for “without working
life is lazy and proves
useless even in heaven”;
therefore not more
numerous than ouranoi,
while all extra entities
he deemed vain idols
of Greece and Egypt.
His genius couldn’t conceive
that the Creator’s Court
[690] needed different duties
not only that of turning
the spheres of skies,
he dismissed the idea
that a higher goal may
touch the eternal intellects
than the only one
he assigned to angels.
To move matter is
in fact a bodily business
[700] and a low labor
compared with the condition
of the King’s knights.
A more privileged purpose
a more honored object
a more mystic ministry
a more fitting figure
is due to immortal minds.
Far be it from LORD
to have an empty palace
[710] as a solitary sovereign
against a world swarming
with people and pride.
He who endows emperors
with scepters and crowns
and subjects and squads
and so many armies across
the nations and seas
should not remain mean
though self-sufficient—
[720] that would spoil his status,
and matter doesn’t matter!

(to be continued on Sept. 25)

Friday, September 16, 2016

Whatcha gonna do now, Tancred? (2)

[16: 34]

Era il prence Tancredi intanto sorto
A seppellir la sua diletta amica,
E bench'in volto sia languido e smorto
E mal atto a portar elmo o lorìca,
Ma dapoi che 'l timor degli altri ha scorto
Ei non ricusa il rischio o la fatica;
Ch'il cor vivace il suo vigor trasfonde
Al corpo sì che par ch'esso n'abonde.

Prince Tancred meanwhile was devoting
Himself to burying her beloved friend. (*)
Although his face looks very pale and weak
And he can scarcely wear any armour,
As soon as he perceives the others' fear (**)
He does not refuse either risk or toil --
His hot heart conveys in fact its energy
To the body and makes it seem stronger. (***)

(*) Clorinda, who has become a "friend," or sister in faith, to him after her baptism. We also recall that Tancred is a historical personage, while Clorinda is not.
(**) Before the enchanted forest, that makes it impossible to provide the wood they need for the siege devices.
(***) Tasso's interest in physical, biological, psychological phenomena is well documented by his long poem Il Mondo Creato, on which he was working in practically the same period as he wrote these lines in Gerusalemme Conquistata. But it had always been a typical attitude of his; these remarks on Tancred's psychosomatology had already been made many years before in Gerusalemme Liberata. It is worth noticing that, in Homer's poems, warriors get suddenly stronger because of a direct action from a god, or more often a goddess, rather than their own psyches -- though, of course, we can interpret the gods in this key nowadays.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Knight fishing

photo by Elena Colombo

Eel fishing is a typical job in the lagoon area of Comacchio, near Ferrara, NE Italy. A friend, who happens to be on vacation there, discovered a marble plaque in honor of Tasso: In Gerusalemme Liberata, in fact, he compares Tancred's entrapment in Armida's fake castle to an eel being caught in the labyrinth of nets in Comacchio. The parallel text in Gerusalemme Conquistata had been reported and commented here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Whatcha gonna do now, Tancred? (1)

A performance in Rome, 2012


The posts on Gerusalemme Conquistata in this blog are based on Tasso's handwritten text, where however one third of the pages, more or less, have gone lost. Among the episodes that have been passed over, there is the most famous one (together with Rinaldo/Riccardo in Armida's garden): The nocturnal duel between Tancred and Clorinda.

He, the Christian champion, is secretly in love with her, the Muslim heroine -- so secretly, in fact, that not even she knows about it. Clorinda takes part in a foray into the Christian camp. Tancred does not, and cannot, recognize her; he challenges her, and after a fierce duel just outside the walls of Jerusalem, wounds her mortally. This is not the sole surprise. Not much time before, Clorinda had discovered that she was the daughter of the Christian King of Ethiopia; but immediately after her birth, she had been entrusted to a Muslim servant because, since her skin was perfectly white, her mother feared she might be accused of adultery. So, at the point of death, when Tancred unties her helmet, Clorinda asks him to baptize her.

He obeys. She will even appear to him in a dream to thank him, but Tancred is tormented by guilt. And now, he is about to face his worst nightmare.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 4: 577-648

by ilT, Selkis, and illustrious collaborators

While red-colored comets
that terminate tyrants
and crack kingdoms
[580] enjoy a short existence
then die in two years;
as briefly as a baby does
the fearful flash live that
terrorizes our towns.
This doesn’t abide between
Capricorn and Cancer
and before it booms
the sun dissolves it.
Beyond the round route
[590] of planets it passes
navigating northwards
then unties its tresses
or its burning beard
and frightfully-faced
threatens death.
Such a dire danger
was termed a star
in spite of its spawn;
never innocent even
[600] if seemingly harmless
against Emperor Nero
but that proved just PR as
the comet catastrophically
spared a super-villain—
why didn’t it kill him?
Shall we classify among
these the especial escort
of the camel Magi?
He only knows this who
[610] manufactured that flame
voluntarily voyaging
as if equipped with IQ:
a theological item for
a prodigious purpose.
Others already existed
and were given Begriff
by the celestial smith.
Their life does not rely
famishing on food
[620] running after the air
and seas for exhalations
as Milton maintains
following old philosophers:
No, angel life is glorious
eternal by eyeing God
through Logos and Love.
These major minds were
delivered on Day One
before the sun and stars;
[630] on Day 4 the Forger
put them in their places
like trustworthy warriors
detailed to defend
a stronghold or tower.
Others moreover rolled
unforced unfatigued
the shining spheres.
Others He ordained as
the Hulks of humans
[640] for a divine duty,
of his thelema on Tellus
who constantly carry
quick graces from God
or slow sighs from Man.
And others obedient
in his service encircle
Him numberless.

(to be continued on Sept. 18)

Friday, September 9, 2016

Trees are tough (9)

Godfrey of Bouillon is informed that "there's something strange in the neighborhood. . . Who ya gonna call?"

[16: 32.7 - 33.8]

Poi disse: - Ciò che fia? forse prestigi
Son questi, o di male arte opre, o prodigi?

Ma s'alcun v'ha cui nobil voglia accenda
Di tentar que' selvaggi aspri soggiorni,
Vadane pure, e tutto veggia e 'ntenda,
E messaggier più certo a noi ritorni -.
Così disse egli; e la gran selva horrenda
Tentata fu ne' duo seguenti giorni,
Ma ciascuno affermò che fiero incanto
L'haveva in guardia, e non si diè più vanto.

And he said, "What's this? Hocus-pocus, (*)
Or the works of black magic, or miracles?
But if someone, burning with noble desire,
Wished to examine those wild places,
Let him go, and watch everything there,
And come back with more certain news."
He spoke, and the great and hideous forest
Was combed for the two following days;
But they all said a fierce incantation
Shielded it, and they all stopped to brag.

(*) Jugglers etc. were common in the Middle Ages too, but Tasso had the Renaissance feasts in his mind, which were cheered up by masquerades, pageants, fireworks, mobile structures and all kinds of special effects. Even Leonardo Da Vinci designed some.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

What's the hell in the casting?

Devils, witches & Co. became major characters of Italian literature in the Renaissance. "Are you kidding?" someone may say, "What about the Divine Comedy!" It actually offered something different: those people and critters were all shown in hell, that is in a context that was not everyday life. In the 16th century, on the contrary, characters belonging to the realms of the supernatural, magic, fantasy, horror started to "play a role" side by side with human personages in events that were -- at least -- fictionally described as historical. Satan, wizards, monsters of all types could be "seen," and sided with or fought, in common environments; they also developed personalities of their own. Ludovico Ariosto, for example, enjoyed creating pretty and clever witches. Torquato Tasso had a darker and more 'Michelangiolesque' outlook, so that he 'sculpted' a powerful king of hell who would inspire no less than Milton's Satan. While Dante's "Dis" in Inferno 34 had been reduced to a brainless machine, Tasso's Satan speaks theatrically and takes part in the vicissitudes of men by sending his 'soldiers' and 'spies' to the battlefield (the First Crusade).

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Beowulf "Conquistato"

An impressive example of the same kind of operation by which Torquato Tasso transformed his long poem Gerusalemme Liberata (first published in 1581) into Gerusalemme Conquistata (1593) is provided by Santiago García & David Rubín's graphic novel Beowulf (2013; 2015 in Italy). In both cases, the "remake" means: more action, more intricacy, more violence, more blood, more fantasy, more science fiction, more psychological darkness, more sexuality -- and homosexuality, at that. Tasso accomplished after a dozen years what here has been accomplished after a dozen centuries :-)

As for the "Spanish Beowulf," the most remarkable novelties concern some Freudian sides of the story, and the appearance of the monsters: Grendel, its/his mother, and the dragon. In fact, all three of them recall -- but originally, powerfully -- the absolute protagonists of contemporary sci-fi aesthetics, i.e. Alien, Predator, Venom. More in depth, they are basically the same creature that gets bigger and bigger, more and more dangerous. Our cheer for arrogant Beowulf is redoubled.

Cherry on top, the Italian translation by Francesca Gnetti is very well made.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Trees are tough (8)

[16: 30]

O quanti appaion mostri armati in guarda
De gli alti merli, e 'n che terribil faccia!
De' quai con occhi biechi altri il riguarda,
E dibattendo l'arme altri minaccia.
Fugge egli al fine, e ben la fuga è tarda,
Qual di leon che si ritiri in caccia;
Ma pur è fuga, e pur gli scote il petto
Timor, sin a quell'hora ignoto affetto.

How many armed monsters appear, watching
The high battlements with frightening faces!
Some look at him with sinister eyes, while
Others threaten him by shaking their weapons. (*)
He flees in the end, and quite slowly so,
Like a chased lion who withdraws gradually,
But he flees nonetheless, his heart shaken
By fear -- a feeling unknown up till now.

(*) Dante's devils were armed with whips, hooked poles, or swords, though not the devils watching the walls of the City of Dis. Here bows, crossbows, and spears seem to be meant; maybe catapults, too -- and guns and cannons? When Tasso wrote these lines, the first forts had already been built in America.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Father and Son, Greece to Renaissance to Pop Art

During the Renaissance, Hercules was often seen a symbol of Christ especially insofar as he fought against the monsters that threatened humankind. More in depth, however, Hercules' story contains some tragic questions about the stressing relationship between sons/children and fathers, all the more so when the "father" is the or a Ruler, either positive or negative, of the universe.

The subject is so fascinating that is still nowadays reworked in one of the most significant fields of Pop Art and mass communication, namely comics. The picture above is freely based on Hellboy, a character created by Mike Mignola in the 1990s, also starring in two fantastic movies directed by Guillermo Del Toro: The son of Azzael and a witch, he rebels against his father and helps a team of special agents to fight against all sort of hellish monsters, though periodically 'temped' to get back to his 'native calling' as a devil. -- Italian readers might remember Geppo!

In the picture, things have been messed up a bit more. Hellboy/Hercules possesses the power of lightning like his father Zeus, who in his turn exhibits a blood stain on his forehead that recalls the Son, the Crucifix (based on the Holy Shroud kept in Turin, Italy). These details were not preprogrammed, they came out in the process as is always the case with Surrealism, which has its roots precisely in the 16th century. So, what may all this mean?

The 7 Days of CryAction 4: 520-576

He also sowed stars
after forging the firmament
unadorned in Day 2.
Stars,” some dare deem,
are not only the lofty
almost eternal lights
but include comets
and flaming figures
that appear in the air
or in the Sphere of Fire
[530] lower than Luna.
These however never
have a certain shape
or frame, in a flash
they will vanish
and melt in mid-air
like exhalations exiting
from Earth’s hystera.
If Gea doesn’t give
them dry dross, they
[540] will scarcely survive
and soon pass over:
one day, or they even die
as soon as they surge.
The famous mayfly
(a bug from Bug River)
sees one sun, not more,
and disappears at sunset;
with it Nature and Heaven
acted so avariciously!
[550] Well, its fate I prefer
to those fiery forms’.
But folks put the falling
stars in the same bundle
and ask nonsensically
if they factually fall
tho theoretically eternal
or the like—whose life
should cross the centuries.
Here “falling” is a figure
[560] of speech for stupids.
But among those images
sculpted with light
some have a certain site
and such a long life
that they are true parts,
and stupendous, of the sky.
See the Galaxy lane
gleaming lactescent
and full of fixed stars
[570] which leads to the lofts
of Pantheon and provides
a passage to human souls
bouncing into their bodies
then bouncing back
towards their own stars
(according to the ancients).

(to be continued on Sept. 11)