Sunday, May 20, 2018

Renaissance additions to Noah's Ark

click to enlarge

From the Museo di Storia Naturale [Natural History Museum, English website] in Casalina, Umbria, Italy. The quetzal, top right, was actually discovered in the 20th century, but the Spanish Conquistadores already knew about its existence, though not precisely where.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Renaissance in 12 frames

Twelve paintings have been cleverly chosen to summarize the history and culture of the 16th century in Italy. Among them, there appear both overfamous masterpieces like Michelangelo's Creation of Adam and mostly ignored works like Dosso Dossi's Allegory of Hercules, or maybe Witchcraft, or whatever. The paintings in fact have been selected not on the basis of their fame or 'beauty' abstractly conceived, but according to their significance insofar as they concentrate elements of all kinds from the society for which they had been made. Sort of a 16th century visual encyclopedia, including riddles alongside facts & figures. More useful and witty than a standard history handbook. An Italian version of the Taschen book is also available, very well translated by Monica Valdettaro, and titled I segreti dei dipinti: Rinascimento italiano.

As for Dosso's painting (below), I also will launch a hypothesis: it might portray Odysseus among the Proci, Penelope's suitors, and the maids, who by night have sex with the Proci inside the very palace. Thanks to one of Athena's special effects, Odysseus (bottom left) looks like an old man, but still strong, and recalls his past glories as an athlete (shot, discus) while planning the suitors' slaughter. They consume his goods (the goat), and boast because they discovered Penelope's trick (the spindle). This of course would only provide the basic subject matter, but the painting would hint at many more, hidden references at the same time, as was the rule.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

The 7 Days of CryAction 7: 1051 to the end

Not only master minds
(the angels, clearly)
exalted the Most High,
the sky itself praised Him
and the firmament waters
with synthetic sounds;
the sun and the stars
and satellites entered
and concomitant clouds;
[1060] snow, frost followed
together with thunderbolts
and light and night
set his Name to music,
sky shrines re-echoed
and shadows resounded.
The exhilarated Earth
praised Jehovah joyfully
accompanied by mountains
and viridescent hills
[1070] while seas whispered
with springs and rivers
the ascension of HaShem
and flying birds and fish
and lambs and wolves
applauded Ho Agathos.
Priests would praise Him
later in the temples in
synchrony with the souls
in this life and afterlife
[1080] so that a triple plane
glares with his glory. . . . . . . . .
but poor Tasso is tired
and the Globe grows old
after so many millenniums
and asks for apocalypse:
Déspota kai Pater mou
who made me from nihil
unbelievably beautiful
and safe after all floods
[1090] I am ephemeral
and will finally fall but
Negentropy meantime
supports me in my turns
round speculative points.
In spite of scores of Ages
I still feel like a lad
I did not lose my frills
not even one brilliant
but far away from You
[1100] I would wind up.
I love You sufficiently
and seek You inside me
and long for revelation.
Many times I mourn You
thick like rainmy fault!
and by singing I sanctify
myself lest You may
reject your cosmic icon
your sealed simulacrum.
[1110] I observe outside:
Where have You hidden?
Who stole my sole Lord?
Without You I am nothing
hope nothing tweet nothing
for everything is nothing
if devoid of your voice.
I bounce beyond myself
to meet You my mate
I languish for love
[1120] and if fire finishes
me, your love will make
me still more luminous
not consumed by circling.
Let this older and older
world rest in eternity, no
more a swiveling temple
but granitic Glory”
the universe says.
Let us listen to its Psalm
[1130] and worship and weep.

The 7 Days of CryAction project has now been completed. The regular columns in this blog will presently come to an end. The site never aimed at having billions of followers since it dealt with a very sectorial subject and was carried on for a personal pleasure in working with Renaissance culture; but honestly, figures about readers and feedback did hardly match the efforts needed. They even worsened in time.

All published materials will anyway remain available, and can be freely used for cultural purposes. New posts will be added on occasions. From now on, Torquato Tasso and Giambattista Marino will no more provide the subject matters; they will provide the atmospheres.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Will they survive? Something did survive anyway

If the purpose of publishing this book is to save hundreds of endangered species, as the National Geographic project was meant to, it might unfortunately prove a Lost Ark -- all the more so as the foreword has been written by Harrison Ford. But, at least, the absolute beauty of these snapshots by Joel Sartore shows that something did succeed in surviving Man's stupidity: the Renaissance gorgeous art of portraying animals.

The 400-page book is also available in Italian, in both a larger and a smaller size.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Ad Este fideles

Ferrara, not far from Venice, was and remains one of the main centers of Renaissance culture in Italy. Here Ludovico Ariosto and Torquato Tasso (link) wrote their masterpieces. Here a lot of palaces, monuments, museums, works of that time can still be admired. A gorgeous private collection of art is e.g. the Cavallini Sgarbi Collection, the name Sgarbi indicating the in/famous scholar and showman Vittorio, while Marchioness Cavallini was his mother. In the photos, clockwise:

- A scale model of Ferrara as was in the Renaissance. In the foreground, the fortress, no longer existing. Top right, the Este Castle.
- Inside the Castle.
- Father Girolamo Savonarola, who was born in Ferrara in 1452, but his rise and fall are connected with Florence.
- A cannon of the early 17th century.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Renaissance at "the world's center"

The inhabitants of Foligno, Italy (from Latin Fulginium), jokingly call their own town lu centru de lu munnu, "the world's center." The place has many interesting things to tell. For example, in the 18th century an architect from Foligno, Giuseppe Piermarini, designed the Teatro alla Scala in Milan; a fine wood model of it can be admired in the museum inside Palazzo Trinci, the Trinci family palace. But the most famous must-see is a 'Medieval' joust, the Giostra della Quintana, that actually started in 1613, and became a yearly event from 1946. Here above: some customs kept in the museum. Below: a detail from a painting that shows how much Baroque celebrations looked like the current Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. In the third photo, the very first printed edition of the Divine Comedy, made in Foligno in 1472. A very bad one, though, from a philological viewpoint; e.g. line 2 reads Mi trovai p'una selva oscura.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

The 7 Days of CryAction 7: 984-1050

from the DantEsq. series (see all)

It was supposedly sex
to stifle his scruples
and tasting the test-fruit
he cursed the covenant.
Sin then opened the doors
to the raids of Death who
[990] occupied our orb
turning the whole world
into a gloomy graveyard
imposing himself on
not solely the first parents’
genealogy of losers
but all biological beings
until Life defeated him
and took back his booty.
As the sick ask for
[1000] their favorite food
though totally unhealthy
so that fu**ed by fever
they cause their decease
by neglecting the cure
decided by the doctor,
that sensual delusion
did daze Adam who
incurred the Reaper.
Not God gave us death
[1010] our idiocy did;
He foresaw our fall
and blessed it because
no sin, no conscience.
In order that our hearts
in a Shakespearean tempest
might not sadly sink
He gave us a government
that is his true Torah
to reach Redemption.
[1020] He saw that solitude
would mar man’s life
who was “not of wood”
therefore He decided to
have him meet a mate
and sent him to sleep
then a profound peace
permeated man’s mind.
Out of a rib a revered
body with boobs came
[1030] his higher half
and Adam affirmed,
Well done this bone
and flesh, my preciousss.
Man will leave his clan
to be one with his wife.”
Naked like natives they
weren’t subject to shame
as in their frail frames
no law was latent yet
[1040] ready to sap reason;
not a simple loincloth
hid their genitalia
unlike later eras that
demanded designer clothes
and prickly piercings.
So God the Father framed
the uncanny universe
and Man the microcosm
and Eve in the end
[1050] then quit creating.

(to be continued on May 13)

Friday, May 4, 2018

Turin-Paris: Let the music begin!

by Artefatotattoo (website)

The second of G. B. Marino's Dicerie sacre is the second in both senses, both chronologically and in the final structure of the text, that includes three "sermons." A quite long essay, some 150 pages in the version published in Italy in the BIT&S in 2014, this Diceria is divided in four parts, and seems to have passed through a complex editorial work, possibly before, during, and after the mysterious 14-month imprisonment (April 1611 to June 1612) of Marino in Turin for some still unclear reason.

The subject is quite experimental even according to Baroque standards, when exceptions were the rule. There is one subject being dealt with under one umbrella-metaphor; what strikes is the matching of the two elements. In fact, Marino expounds the seven sentences uttered by Jesus on the cross, and likens them to music, the most sublime music ever heard on earth. While doing so, he also provides a lot of data on the 17th century theory of music.

Jesus' last seven parole ("words," as they are often referred to; actually, sentences) are a frequent theme in Catholic books of devotion, though it is a debatable procedure from the viewpoint of Biblical exegesis insofar as it mixes passages from the four Gospels, that were originally set in different contexts and with different purposes. Not even the order of the seven sentences remains the same from one author to another. Anyway, it will prove exciting to have a look at the theology of this Baroque 'preacher' who was not a priest, was admired throughout Europe, and in trouble with the Vatican.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

[GBM] Ba Ba Baciami Bambina

René Magritte, The Lovers II (1928)

And finally Venus, as in a fairy tale, decides to awake Adonis with a kiss. The "three times" recall the -- melancholy, failed -- embraces in afterlife, Homer to Virgil to Dante (Purgatorio 2.79-81). In the last line, the "heavenly wetness" on Adonis' lips translates celeste licor, that sounds quite like celeste icor, "heavenly ichor." So, paradoxically, while Venus has plain red, 'human' blood in her veins (stanzas 66, etc.), Adonis sort of has the gods' 'biological' liquid.


Three times near his light, sweet breath she
places her lips, her kisses; then stops,
and as the spur and rein of herself
she will and won't, withdraws and goes.
Love, who does not cease stimulating,
finally forces her toward that prey,
until she dares to savor those dewy
purple roses of a heavenly wetness.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

The 7 Days of CryAction 7: 926-983

Hamlet and the Ghost. Collage with elements
from J. H. Fuseli and Salvador Dali

Since nothing is steady
in human institutions
the more so where power
makes people ambitious,
[930] most fittingly the first
man who had in himself
the icon of the cosmos
and of the cosmic King
the Maker of his mind
that man most fittingly
became the big example
of mistake and misery.
Eve did suggest his sin
whence evils and death
[940] she blandished him
against Elohim’s “halt!”
After transferring Adam
to Prehistoric Park
for his apprenticeship
before getting a promotion,
Adonai—not thru angels
or dreams, nor in ecstasy
nor in bushes or nimbuses—
He himself spoke to him
[950] as to his seraphim
in theological tongue
moving Adam’s mind
in ways beyond words:
Feel free to feed on
all plants of paradise
for all are allowed except
the venomous wood
of sainthood and sin.
If you ever eat of it
[960] you’ll die.” A direful
promise and punishment.
Man still unmindful
innocuously innocent
lacked experience proper
on hidden desires and
discernment, according
to which souls don’t survive
a divorce from Divinity.
Two deaths indeed had
[970] been threatened then.
A candid dove when
a chick unaccustomed
to dangers does feel
a confused fear inside
of indistinct death
and aware of a hawk
vanishes in the leaves;
instead of this instinct
Adam had God’s advice
[980] against Death’s ambush,
it was his personal sin
to snatch at Science
though science is positive.

(to be continued on May 6)

Friday, April 27, 2018

Turin-Paris: Age of massacres

E. Delacroix, The Massacre at Chios, 1824.
It had happened in 1822

G. B. Marino's third (but chronologically first) 'lay sermon' ends with a description of the consequences of the Turks' attacks against the Christian lands. The situation remained tense, now that the rather symbolical victory of Lepanto, 1571, was a memory of almost four decades before. Actually, however, the Ottoman Empire was slowly getting weaker and weaker, a "giant with clay feet"; and precisely in the 17th century, it was often defeated in its battles against the Western countries, though of course a lot of time would pass before its final collapse because of WWI. Marino's words, while echoing the European propaganda, surely mirror many tragic facts. At the same time, Christian conquerors were giving the same treatment to native American peoples, or even to one another during the Thirty Years' War.

Dicerie sacre, III. Il cielo, 127
What might be worthier of our compassion than seeing the little, innocent virgins kidnapped from our bosoms and led to brothels, and the children torn off from our breasts, stolen away from the sacred water of Baptism, and carried to a profane residence in evil mosques? How many priests have been sneered at? How many temples [churches] desecrated? How many holy pictures ruined? How many venerable relics trodden on? Who will be able to count the crops set on fire, the stolen herds, the ransacked farms, the people taken prisoners? O plague all the more distressing as unavenged!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

[GC] Dangerous rocks

Jaffa in the background of Giorgio Vasari's
1570 painting Perseus and Andromeda

The Muslim chief Argantes, hurt by a stone hurled by a Christian knight, Robert, is taken to the Muslim camp by his soldiers. A scene coming, in part, from the Iliad (Agamemnon in canto 11) and again readapted by John Milton in Paradise Lost to Satan during the battle between the rebellious angels and God's army. According to a legend, that has been kept till nowadays, the rock on which Andromeda was exposed to the sea Orc is situated along the coast of Jaffa: Torquato Tasso had read some 'handbooks' on the history and places of the Holy Land. Psychology, sleep, dream, darkness were among his favorite themes.

[18: 54.5 - 55.8]

He was thence carried to the sunlit coast
where they had raised a great tent, next
to the rock on which Andromeda had
appeared so beautiful, tied at the seaside.
On many-colored blankets and feathers
the knight was set, still weak; on his
face they poured water from a river
that dug its own way not far away.
And rising to sitting, he then opened
his eyes to the sun's sweet rays,
but fell back, and with black horror
a dark night again occupied them.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The 7 Days of CryAction 7: 876-925

Man lived an absolutely
tranquil life as the son
and heir of the Most High
full of his powerful Spirit
[880] his faithful follower
his ecstatic student
in the paths of pure virtue
which can only be covered
by his chosen children.
Since Adam was appointed
the king of clay cosmos
over biological beings
and a king confers names
that implies personalized
[890] jobs on his subjects
as they deserve them,
LORD led all animals
before their big boss
and Adam indicated
the denominations of all.
He did it as a teacher
of Montessori method
maximizing maieutics:
none of so many names
[900] missed its mark
they guessed the essence
of biology & behavior
so that straightaway
our Sire’s spelling hit
the theological target
and the beasts obeyed
his influential language.
So many marine species
and in pools and ponds
[910] so many mammals
were well-known to him
and driven by his voice
came amicably to him
forgetting their fierceness
and saying, “Aye-Aye* Sir”
so nothing unusual if
his sons also succeeded.
Themistocles they say,
Cyrus and The Carthaginian
[920] could recall camels
and elephants and other
animals of any measures
besides their combatants
but these were exceptions
in our degenerate nature.

* Daubentonia madagascariensis

(to be continued on Apr. 29)

Friday, April 20, 2018

Turin-Paris: This cosmos is a mess

The universe described in G. B. Marino's third Sacred Oration, dating back to 1609, is -- as already mentioned -- the 'old,' precopernican one. Or, only apparently so. In the following passage, in fact, the complex movements of the planets and stars are ascribed to two sources that, as such, come from the astronomical pattern of Aristotle and his commentators. So, there is nothing actually new in this, but it is worth to highlight some details. Dante, for one, had basically the same pattern in his mind, but he drew a much plainer cosmos out of it. Marino here lists (1) a "simple," "uniform," "rational" motion, on the one hand; while (2) . . .

Dicerie sacre, III. Il cielo, 115
The second one—opposite to the former though not contrary in an absolute sense, just insofar as it runs against the former along the diameter with an opposite course—is termed "second" because it is assigned to the lower spheres. It is not wholly simple because it never accomplishes itself unless it mixes with the first, main motion. It is somehow common, i.e. to the seven errant planets only, not however to that prime sphere that turns above all others. It is unequal and varied [or even "deformed" (difforme)] because, before it can be accomplished, it passes through many variations since every planet has its own motion, either lazy and slow or swift and fast, anyway different from all others. It is irrational because, according to the natures of the planets that wander here and there in their epicycles, it becomes errant, and sways.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

[GBM] Besieged inside and without

Adonis' action and Venus' reaction while Morpheus appears in Adonis' dreams disguised as Venus. Intellectual subtlety, criss-crossed paradoxes, and refined morbidness, and a pinch of horror. A little masterpiece of the typically Baroque multi-level approach.


Shocked with high amazement, Adonis
thinks he can hear the beautiful mask,
who stretching her ivory-white hand
suddenly says, "Adonis, gimme your heart"
and almost instantly, she opens his side
and tears off the heart, and vanishes.
Dreaming, the handsome boy moans,
so the true goddess languishes at once
. . .

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The 7 Days of CryAction 7: 807-875

by ilTM + Selkis

Like a transplanted tree
Adam the chloro-filius was
abducted from Damascus
[810] to breathtaking Eden
as its part-time gardener
since he was not conceived
as a turd and time waster—
even if no fertilizers were
needed to Mother Nature
then much more active
whose mammae gave milk
poured in profusion,
a prosperous Pandora
[820] with a very big box
full of pleasant presents.
But a more generous job
was allotted to Adam:
to improve his mind
especially spirituality
that plays the main part
as the inner and true cult
towards heaven’s Emperor.
According to various Rabbis
[830] (who handed this tenet
generation after generation
making it wider and wilder
in several languages even
in Christian countries)
when Man was still single
without his future wife
alas the demon’s victim,
the garden he resided in
was unlike the Great Lakes
[840] in fact our forests
host no sentient plants
though numerous species
have evergreen leaves—
others show green gems
only when spring reigns
and like a young lady
the season puts on T-shirts;
some fruits fit our taste
some appeal to animals.
[850] But in God’s garden
trees with superior senses
could think and talk too.
Oh the Maker’s marvels
where fiction functions
as a thesaurus of truths!
They believed the globe
was to newborn Antrho
a limitless Metropolis
but not built by concrete
[860] not controlled by cameras
not damned by mosquitos.
There he lived happily
as the lord of the jungle
piranhas included
all honestly obeying,
they loved their leader
and served peacefully.
The City Civil Code
was more respected than
[870] our United Nations.
Some clear citizens
were actually angels
though their own homes
of high-quality light
were set in the stars.

(to be continued on Apr. 22)

Friday, April 13, 2018

Turin-Paris: Destiny's child

Adonis' death, collage with elements from
Antonio Ligabue, Edmund Dulac

In the field of astrology, G. B. Marino exhibits the typical 17th century hypocrisy. Astrology was never officially accepted within the Christian theology, but during the Counter-Reformation process the attack against it was clear and 'definitive.' So, while Dante could peacefully deal with the influences of the constellations, even upon himself (Paradiso 22.112-4), the Catholic authors of the late Renaissance must declare that the stars had no power whatever. At the same time, they usually did believe in astrology -- Roman Popes included -- that led them to use twisted phrasings: under certain conditions, in some circumstances, to a limited extent, and without forcing human freedom, etc. Here Marino rejects any belief in astrology as if it were a venomous snake. But some years later he would write his masterpiece, the long poem Adone, whose main character is the Adonis of Greek mythology. The teenage lover of Venus will be made not one horoscope, but two, warning him that he will die, killed by a wild boar during a hunting party, "if," "if," RPT: "if" he does not follow good advice. He will die precisely like that, due to the negligence of the same goddess who had warned him so carefully. Marino anyway was not in trouble with the Church because of astrology; they would find heavier reasons to condemn him!

Dicerie sacre, III. Il cielo, 75, 77
But what about the most fruitful power of the sky, the father of influences, that, through those golden canals we call stars, rains and springs in all lower bodies some dunno-what by which every begotten thing is first generated? That the stars have such power in us, it has been the opinion of not only mathematicians and Platonists—who boldly affirm that the human bodies receive shape and qualities from the stars, and their souls from their souls, so the human beings are like the stars by which they have been formed—but the great Master of physicists himself openly teaches that the lower world is ruled by the upper world; and that after God, on whom both the world and Nature depend, the sky is the universal cause of all that is moved and created among us.
. . .
Far, far be it from me to share the wicked impiety of those who grant them [the stars] an absolute power and authority over our lives, as if they [the astrologists] were the arbiters of fate and judges of destiny! . . .

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

[GBM] The woman of my dreams

Eve's dream, by ilTM + Selkis (and Dürer)

Venus, now completely enchanted by Adonis' beauty, gazes at the boy, who keeps sleeping on the grass and flowers. Therefore she implores the god of dream to appear in Adonis' mind as an image of her, and awake him. The very name "Morpheus" suggests the power of meta-morphosis. An interesting parallel with Eve's dream in Milton's Paradise Lost can be made, where an erotic dimension is also implied.


As soon as she has expressed such words,
her friend Morpheus, who roamed nearby,     i.e. in Adonis' eyes
by using the air and vapors weaves     from Homer
a simulacrum, refined and wonderful.
He puts on that shape, revealing in it
a divine glare of heavenly beauty.
An all-light woman, radiating fire,
Adonis admires in the theater of sleep.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The 7 Days of CryAction 7: 724-806

O theological Tiller of a
place beside which Parnassus
would look laughable
and bow most humbly
in spite of all laurels:
I won’t call you Apollo
[730] because You belie
Apollo’s absurd bulls**t
and dig out antique truth
stored in your mystery.
You produced paradise
embellished with shades
You discovered springs
and started rivers, so
please reveal their original
now changed courses—
[740] You did, You indeed
can make universes anew
but your Spirit absconds.
Was the third heaven where
Paul was spiritually led
paradise? Soil in the sky?
Does the moon include
observatories and woods
and green pagan parks
the property of temples?
[750] If clay can’t dirty sky
whence Artemis’ moles?
Was Plato wrong looking
for cosmic countries?
Do explorers in vain seek
paradise about the Tropics
of Cancer and Capricorn
and the Nile’s sources also
which old reports placed
in the Moon Mountains
[760] and Ganges’ sources
in the Caucasus, and Tigris’
and Euphrates’ in Armenia?
Provided they prove lucky
how could Eden display
the springs of four rivers!
Was paradise perhaps
the whole untilled world
in the Age of innocence?
Did rivers shift flows and
[770] divert their routes?
Are Eras so efficacious?
Maybe paradisiac streams
flow upward at first
then canalize themselves
into our planet’s bowels
among Dante’s damned
to surface somewhere else
as independent springs
out of the steepest slopes.
[780] You however hide
all this from our studies
not even from our eyes,
a secret remains therefore
the principle of pleasure.
When the Deluge drowned
our millenary Mother
that spring only was saved
paradoxically water-proof
on top of Paradise Peak
[790] Adam’s original hotel
not far from Phoebe.
A shadow out of time
or a geographic game?
Speak to me! You sacred
illuminator of minds
turn the soul into Eden
whose trees are thoughts
that develops via prayer
and rivers are revealed
[800] four famous virtues.
You are the waking water
flooding us with pleasure
You vial of all virtues
You Elijah’s light breeze
You the burning bush
You flaming lava.

(to be continued on Apr. 15)

Friday, April 6, 2018

Turin-Paris: The marvels of Africa

Saint Maurice
by M. Grünewald

The religious military Order of Saint Maurice and Saint Lazarus, as its double patronymic suggests, was created by merging two previous organizations. The later took its name from 'some' Lazarus, i.e. Jesus Christ's friend and/or the beggar mentioned in Luke, ch. 16. He was associated with medicine, see the Italian word lazzaretto indicating a leper hospital. In fact the Order, founded in the 11th century, took care of lepers in the Holy Land. The Order of Saint Maurice was more recent, 1434, founded by the Savoys after the name of a presumed martyr of the third century AD, a Roman commander from Africa. After a beginning as a monastic place, the Order directed its efforts against the "enemies of Christianity." In 1572 the two organizations, however different, were united by Pope Gregorius XIII, the Order of Saint Lazarus having been in decadence for a long time. Duke Charles Emmanuel (Carlo Emanuele I) of Savoy also owned the "sword of Saint Maurice."

Giambattista Marino recapitulates the whole story with 'embellishments,' e.g. making the Savoys' foundation older than it was. Titus' war enterprise of the year 70 AD, mentioned in the passage below, should have been the subject of a long poem to be written by Marino, Gerusalemme distrutta (Jerusalem Destroyed), but it never went farther than few sections. As for Egypt, thanks to the rediscovery of the ancient Greek authors in the Renaissance, its picture had become much richer in details than it was in the Middle Ages, when the Bible had basically been the only source. Nowadays the Egyptian Museum in Turin, inaugurated in 1824, is among the top archeological institutions worldwide.

Dicerie sacre, III. Il cielo, 72-73
Faith about all this is lent us by that venerable and frightful sword, much richer in glories than adorned with gems, which—together with the other remains of his sacred body, retrieved by our Duke's piety—he wanted us to inherit. A sword about which I will not say that, in our sky, it is a threatening comet of ill omen against our enemies, like the one that is famed to have appeared over the city of Jerusalem in Titus' times; I will rather say that it is the sword of Orion, that on the helmsmen of Infidelity [i.e. Muslim pirates and/or Protestant Church leaders] pours bloody rains and lethal storms; unless we say that it is the angelic sword, burning with zeal and shaken by this heavenly Cherub [the Duke], the keeper of our heavenly vault, the defender of our earthly paradise.
O Egypt, do not boast about the long series of your Ptolemies and Pharaohs, legislators and kings; not about your famous schools and much celebrated museums of Greece, the fountains of ancient philosophy; not about Isis, Anubis, and Amon, such profane idols and lying oracles; not about the superb simulacrum of the Sphinx of Amasis [in Giza], a miracle of the chisel; not about the famous labyrinth [Karnak and Luxor?] as extended as seven royal palaces; not about the precious preservation of mummies, kept incorrupt by bitumen and tar . . .

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Insult added to injury

click to enlarge

Ferrara, Italy. This is where the St. Anne Hospital existed in the 16th century, that is the jail and asylum in which Torquato Tasso was locked up because he had threatened to report some stories of corruption of the city rulers, the Este family, before the Church authorities; namely, with reference to the not-too-chaste lifestyle of Cardinal Luigi D'Este. See Fabio Pittorru, Torquato Tasso. L'uomo, il poeta, il cortigiano, Milan: Bompiani, 1982. Precisely in that period, Tasso worked on the "authorized edition" of his long poem Gerusalemme Liberata (1581) in order to contrast the many pirated editions that circulated; and wrote sharp, interesting essays.

The inscription, flatly echoing the official version of the Estes according to which the poet had gone crazy, reads: "Here in the St. Anne Hospital / from March 1579 to July 1586 / Alphonse II, the fifth Duke of Ferrara, / mercifully helped / Torquato Tasso. / The darkness of that great mind / also experienced wonderful flashes of light, / that's why his manuscripts, however sad, / shine with glory."

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

[GC] Tasso the Cimmerian

Argantes leads the Muslim warriors against the Christian fort in Jaffa, and a furious battle follows. It would not do to translate selected passages, since the effect is produced by the overall sequence, like in a war movie. In general, in this section the difference between Gerusalemme Liberata (published in 1581) and the Conquistata (1593) becomes clear, the latter adding 'barbarian' -- as well as classical, i.e. Homeric -- violence and horror to the more elegant descriptions in the former. Here is a sample, when a Christian knight, Robert, strikes a Muslim attacker, "Alteo," in the eyes with his sword. The translation is based on the GC manuscript; in the final printed book some details were changed, but, imho, the earlier text was better.

[18: 34]

Both of his head lamps, mixed with blood,     his eyes
fell down to the ground, in the black sand.     from Homer
He kept on fighting, although sightless,
not lifeless yet, in a desperate rage;
until his soul, sorrowful and sad—
almost like a wild beast—left its cage
roaring fiercely. The body, pale and blind,
remained as food to dogs and crows.     from Homer

Friday, March 30, 2018

Happy Easter

Thank you; thank you for hiding from me, thank you for your wise caution and your secret smile.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

[GBM] A thorny love affair

from Grünewald

And once again, Marino describes the meeting between Venus and Adonis from an alternative viewpoint. In this version, Venus sees the sleeping boy as she goes hunting, disguised as Diana (this will have consequences later on in the poem). While she walks, the grass, the flowers, the plants blossom around her: Venus as the cosmic power of life, see Empedocles, Lucretius. Milton's Eve too will have this effect on Nature. But before the goddess reaches Adonis, her bare feet is wounded by a thorn of a rose bush. This is one of the episodes in which Marino employs a Christian mystical language -- thorns and sacred blood, see late Renaissance devotion, especially the Sindone, the Holy Shroud -- in an erotic context; that will lead in late 1623 to his condemnation by the Inquisition, with the order to rewrite the poem. The order would not be executed, anyway, and not only because of the poet's death already in 1625.


And behold a bold and daring thorn
(though as fortunate as it is bold)     O felix culpa!
by which her tender, alabaster sole
is stung; and blood springs out of it,     not "ichor"
which, dyed with such divine purple, falls
to decorate that injuring point.
But while coloring the flowers on its stem,     it (subject): the thorn
it discolors the flowers of heavenly beauty.     Venus' face

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The 7 Days of CryAction 7: 647-723

James Cameron's Avatar

There is a zone in Orient
where Helios highlights
the main cosmic belt
[650] existing between the
wheels whence the sun
comes back from Cancer
or abandons Capricorn.
Here surrounded by shades
a high and holy mountain
rises constantly clear
of smoke fog and smog
never visited by twisters
never loved by lightning
[660] or scorched by sun
in heated atmospheres.
In spite of sultriness
making slopes sweat
the heathery highlands
keep graciously green
nor do seasons passing
ravage vegetation but
Planet-Pandora flowers
bloom purple and blue
[670] while pearly dews
bejewel all branches
and turn breasts silver.
There the shadow always
matches the light’s length
and the dazzle of day is
countercharmed by night.
Add a transparent spring
that irrigates the ridges
and pours out pleasure,
[680] and a buzzing breeze
that does not ordinarily
exhale from the earth
and fluttering around
disperse its properties
and waste its wings
but—say—a celestial
breeze bred in the sky
that flying from the East
bends branches westward
[690] endlessly sweet.
Here Adam was set down
worthy of those wonders
where every eminent
plant lived luxuriant
(paradise demonstrandum)
the Life-lender included
and the giant ivy of Evil.
That spring waters first
then exits from Eden
[700] and flows into four:
- Ganges goes as wide
as a secondary sea and
encircles fertile India
with its gold, O England,
and phosphorescent
rocks breaking the night
and quartz glowing green
and piles of valuables
and like an olive tree
[710] leafy bdellium
weeps odoriferous tears
blinking however bitter;
- Number two the Nile
(but Ghicon in Genesis)
encircles Ethiopia
and enriches Egypt;
- Third comes Tigris
as energetic as a tiger,
notorious in the news;
[720] - The fourth, Euphrates;
which both start solidly
then depart then unite
once more in irony Iraq.

(to be continued on Apr. 8)

Friday, March 23, 2018

Turin-Paris: Social mobility

Miseria e nobiltà (1954)

G. B. Marino clarifies some basic terms belonging to the concept of aristocracy. The numbers in red have been added to stress the logical progression. No. 2, "dignity," renders the Italian word decoro, from Latin decorum. Immediately afterward, "dignity" translates its direct equivalent, dignità.

Dicerie sacre, III. Il cielo, 41
To be born in a great family is (1) luck, to preserve the degree of one's nobility with honor is (2) dignity, but to add something of one's own virtues to one's family's dignity is (3) incomparable glory. In fact, as much as an unworthy, depraved progeny contradicts the praises of its ancestors, so does a worthy, decent one excellently confirm what is told of them. It is better to become illustrious from a despised family than to become despisable from an illustrious ancestry. . . .

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

[GBM] "Tell me, O Muse. . ." no, not you

by Wilfred Gabriel De Glehn

A 'Marinization' of the classical invocation of the Muse(s). Overturning commonplace, the Graces -- as Venus' maids -- are said to know more things than the Muses themselves; and the erotic aspect is highlighted.


You Graces, you, whose lips are sweetly
infused with the nectar of heaven,
and in the most secret baths, are
accustomed to see her naked beauties,     Venus'
you can untie my tongue, you can
tell of her what the Muses cannot.
Earthly mind does not reach the sky,
not mortal feather flies like God.     penna = feather, pen

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The 7 Days of CryAction 7: 557-646

by ilTM + Selkis

Not solely Man’s skull
is a masterpiece made
by the Art that penetrates
[560] the inner mechanics;
as on a mighty tower
watchmen walk and
prevent fiendish forays
planned by plunderers,
the Maker set sentinels
in human heads, senses.
The eyes are defended by
a hairy wall, while the voice
passes through slits both
[570] to receive dispatches
and to send messages.
The tunnels are narrow
slippery is the labyrinth
and a swifter double path
was opened to odors,
soft-surfaced the tongue
that tests the tastes and
touch-screen is the skin
while hyacinthine hair
[580] constitutes the crown
to this building of bones
entangled with nerves
(Campanella’s “spirit”).
A spring of red plasma
is the heart, add glands;
like streams of humors
veins carry from kardía
the blood to the body.
Throughout our structure
[590] the soul is spread
threefold: two are mortal
sisters, the third immortal.
To have her resign herself
to living in a cell of cells
till the day of discharge
from her earthly watch
God gave her a palace
in the height of our head
as the grand empress of
[600] Man the microcosm.
The other two, her subjects,
were lodged below; by
means of an intermediate
floor the profane souls
did not defile the former
since revengeful wrath
was closed in the chest
in auricles and ventricles—
tho she won’t dwell there
[610] and will often freeze it.
Lungs were lodged nearby
blowing like bellows
so as to temper the hot
internal temperatures.
Lust left the upper area
free, as she was forced to,
descending downstairs;
the diaphragm divided
her from the other two,
[620] excited sow in a pen
which feeds furiously
unsuccessful in satisfying
a thousand cravings
now spurred by greed
now burning because
of forbidden desires.
Either of them currently
throws off the yoke
of reason and rebels but
[630] once upon a time
no wars shook the soul
perpetual peace reigned
both powers obeyed her
whose will was law
ever-joined with justice.
Heres how the divine hand
made Man then immortal
by grace, not genetically
like flesh-free angels.
[640] Adam was modeled
in downtown Damascus
according to coded stories;
God then transported him
into paradise prodigiously
adorned with tropical trees
a gorgeous English garden.

(to be continued on March 25)