The 7 Days of CryAction

The 7 Days of CryAction
Banner by The Magic Trio

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)

Friday, September 2, 2016

Trees are tough (7)

Self-styled valiant Alcasto (draft) or Drogo (final text) reaches the haunted forest, where however a "firewall" suddenly stops him.

[16: 29]

Cresce il gran foco, e 'n forma d'alte mura
Stende le fiamme torbide e fumanti
E ne cinge quel bosco, e l'assecura
Ch'altri gli arbori suoi non tronchi o schianti.
Le maggiori sue fiamme hanno figura
Di castelli superbi e torreggianti;
E di machine ardenti anco ha munite
Le torri sue questa superba Dite.

The great fire grows, stretching its flames
In the shape of very high, smoking walls
That surround the whole wood and prevent
All from cutting or felling its trees.
Its most developed flames have the shapes
Of magnificent and towering castles,
While burning devices also defend
The towers of such a superb Dis.

The reference is to Dante's City of Dis in hell, see Inferno 9: 67-75, but here more technologically advanced according to the military developments in the Renaissance -- that is, the time period in which the poem was written, not the period in which it is set (late 11th century).
The Italian adjective superbo, and inflected forms, may mean both "superb, magnificent" and "proud," hinting at the devil.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Hilde & JB Show

digital background (sky) by Selkis; Venom by ilT;
also starring: Michelangelo, Arnold Böcklin

Two of the most fascinating visions of our world have been worked out by two very different people, a woman and a man. She is St Hildegard of Bingen; he is Giambattista Vico. She: a 12th century nun, preacher, mystic, physician, and musician from cold Northern Europe. He: an early 18th century legal expert and philosopher from hot and hot blooded Southern Italy. Both conformist Catholics, both absolutely nonconformist.

Hilde offered a holistic view of the universe and, directly linked, human psychology and spirituality. JB rewrote the history of humankind from actual Australopithecus [though not yet called so, of course] to Ancient Rome. Their main ideas can be retrieved in encyclopedias and online, and may be accepted or not, but the true pleasure is to enjoy their surprising descriptions in detail. In one way or another, after reading their works, you won't look at the world, body, Nature, society, culture, etc., in the same manner as before.

With reference to Vico, it is interesting to report the opinion of Giuseppe Ferrari (Italian philosopher and politician, 1812-1876): "His starting point was the 16th century. . .  From his deep respect toward the ancient authors to his ignorance about the events in modern Europe, to the Machiavellian loop that chains him to a never-ending repetition of the Old; to the hope that does enliven him when he sees the European civilization fall, because out of its ruins Rome and the Greece will rise again; to his very language, now Latin, now based on Latin syntax, . . .  from all this we realize that Vico belonged to the Renaissance."

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Trees are tough (6)

The first team of knights comes back in a hurry, frightened, from the enchanted forest. Another knight, after mocking them, volunteers to go there and accomplish the mission. His name is Alcasto in Gerusalemme Liberata and in the draft of Gerusalemme Conquistata; it will become Drogo in the final version of GC.

[16: 27]

Crollava il capo e sorridea, dicendo:
- Dove costui non osa, io gir confido.
Io sol quel bosco di troncare intendo,
Che di torbidi sogni è fatto nido.
Già no 'l mi vieterà fantasma horrendo,
Non di selva o d'augei fremito o grido,
O pur tra quei sì spaventosi chiostri
D'ir ne l'inferno il varco a me si mostri -.

He shook his head and smiled, and then said,
"Where this(*) does not dare, I will surely go.
I mean to cut down that wood alone,
Which proved such a nest of gloomy dreams.
No dreadful phantom will prevent me,
Nor will the noises of the trees or birds,
Even if in those frightening places
I were to see the very gates of hell." (**)

(*) The knight who reported to Godfrey of Bouillon.
(**) A wink to the reader: Since Dante's "dark forest" lay near Jerusalem, it can be supposed to be the same as the wood now entered by the Crusaders.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Off Topic: I love Tasso, but love THIS from before

Cthulhu runs for the presidency

Recreation of the World


Marvel Minotaur movie: a still from the set

Harbor Pearl

Meet the Lucifers: Satan, Sin, Death

Four 'reboots' of illustrations from the book: Torquato Tasso, Creation of the World (Il mondo creato), International Authors, 2016. The book includes some 60 illustrations by The Magic Trio: Nivalis70, Selkis, and ilT. The new digital backgrounds added here have been kindly provided by Selkis. Felt-pen drawings from personal stocks; other materials from Web sources. Pictures assembled and reworked with DeviantArt muro tools.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 4: 459-519

by ilT + Selkis

We will now show the
[460] full moon’s usefulness
for earthly items
and sea species by
swelling itself and life,
and vice versa by waning,
in a balanced blend
of humidity and heat.
No, no cold celestial
mass is the moon, though
less hot than Apollo.
[470] When she in a circle
shows her warm curves
bullying her brother
as a past-midnight sun,
nights become welcome
more than when she has
a scythe or silver horns
because of sunbeams.
Then verdant trunks
germinate greener
[480] and flourish fatter;
more savory undersea
are clams; and caravaneers
sleeping outside feel
their brains banging.
We’ll skip her skittering
effects on wind ’n’ waves:
let it suffice to cite
her place and power.
Human nous should never
[490] dare measure the moon
since our science sways.
She’s so great as to grant
light to cities set apart
by oceans and countries—
either in the wild West
or in Aurora’s halls
or below the Bears
or in the burning belt
that splits the planet,
[500] all are equally lit
all with direct rays.
This definitely fixes
its big size, in spite of
any sense or reasoning
so shut up, O sophists.
He who gave us gnosis
will hopefully help us
approach aletheia.
His world-forging wisdom
[510] is big in tiny things
and bigger in big ones
for example moon & sun;
but by weighing either
against their Author—
He who gathers greatness
in himself and holds
the Whole in his hand
both will be just like
Ant-Man or Meister Floh.

(to be continued on Sept. 4)

Friday, August 26, 2016

Trees are tough (5)

[16: 23]

Esce allhor da la selva un suon repente
Che par rimbombo di terren che trema;
E d'euro e d'austro il mormorar si sente,
E quel de l'onda che si rompa e gema.
Come rugga il leon, fischii il serpente,
Com'urli il lupo e come l'orso frema
V'odi, e v'odi co 'l tuono ancor la tromba:
Di così vari tuoni un tuon rimbomba.

From the forest a sudden sound then comes
That recalls the echo of an earthquake; (*)
They hear the whisper of Euros and Auster (**)
Together with breaking and moaning waves.
As if a lion were roaring, a serpent hissing,
A wolf howling, a bear growling they hear,
And a trumpet mixed with thunderbolts: from
So many different tones one tone blows. (***)

(*) Renaissance Italy experienced some disastrous earthquakes.
(**) The western and southern winds in Greek parlance.
(***) Tasso plays on the double meaning of the 16th century word tuono: thunder (the same as in current Italian) and musical tone (tono in current Italian). This "acoustic horror" is quite typical of him, who often suffered from auditory hallucinations.
Unfortunately, the pun disappeared in the final printed text, which in line 8 simply reads "sounds . . . sound" (suono instead of tuono). Some other stylistic variations were introduced, but preserving the general description.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

1628: The Astrology Affair

digital background by Selkis

One of the craziest episodes in Tommaso Campanella's crazy life was the Astrology Affair. In 1628 some astronomical phenomena made wheeler-dealers think, hope, and say that the Pope -- Urban VIII -- would die soon, in 1630. [He would reign until 1644, and would meanwhile condemn Galileo Galilei, even if they used to be friends.] For a counter-omen the Pope asked the top expert in the field: Campanella, who however was a notorious and dangerous "heretic" whom the Inquisition had kept locked up in jail for 27 years, so the meeting needed some discretion.

Campanella reassured the Pope about his death date, and would finally prove to be right, but his, or rather their enemies divulged the philosopher's secret instructions on "How to escape Fate" (De siderali fato vitando). Campanella reacted by writing another booklet, Apologeticus ad libellum De siderali fato vitando, that aimed to show that his ideas on astrology were perfectly orthodox; but Urban made more than that. Since he was furious about having become the villain of star wars, in 1631 he issued a Papal bull, titled Inscrutabilis, which banned all kind of books on horoscopes, divination, palmistry, etc. It was forbidden to read and even to own one, and punishments would be tougher than against the heretics. So, poor Campanella -- who fled to France -- had to write one more essay, the Disputatio an bullae. . ., to demonstrate that official Church documents did not prevent Catholic scholars from dealing with astrology, at least in order to challenge it.

The only type of astrology that remained legitimate was what we would simply call weather forecast, to help agriculture, health care, and travels. This position is well mirrored in Torquato Tasso's long poem Il Mondo Creato (1592-4), which reworks and updates St. Basil's sermons on the Hexaemeron (the six days of Creation), which in their turn are sometimes quoted in Campanella's works.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Trees are tough (4)

[16: 22]

Questi, appressando ove il lor seggio han posto
Gli empi demoni in quel selvaggio horrore,
Non rimirâr le nere ombre sì tosto
Che lor si scosse e tornò ghiaccio il core.
Pur oltre ancor se 'n gìan, tenendo ascosto
Sotto audaci sembianti il vil timore,
E tanto s'avanzâr che lunge poco
Erano homai da l'incantato loco.

These, (*) approaching the place where the ungodly
Devils set their own seats in that wild horror, (**)
No sooner had a look at the black shadows
That their hearts shook and turned(***) into ice.
Yet, they marched on keeping their cowardly
Fear hidden under bold countenances,
And advanced so much as to being not far
From the very enchanted forest now.

(*) The knights escorting the carpenters.
(**) Tasso often employs the word "horror" hinting at its original meaning, from the Latin verb horresco, "to be bristling" with branches, thorns, etc.
(***) Here the Italian verb tornare, usually meaning "to come back," is used in the same sense as "to turn into."

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

A mystery during the Carnival -- or Lent

click to enlarge further

In Bruegel's Fight between Carnival and Lent (1559) there appears an unusually puzzling detail among the 'usual' bizarre things: An old woman pulling a cart in which. . . a dead man lies. The concealment of a murder? Or maybe the victim of a plague, to be carried away from the town?
On closer inspection, it may even look like a "portable" reproduction of the Holy Shroud -- the one now in Turin -- whose devotion in fact was widespread during the Renaissance (in the Netherlands, too?), but then, the cart also contains a trivial wicker basket. So. . .
What is that?
Agnes Karpinski, a graduate student at Saarland University (see her G+ profile), kindly commented, “I think the dead person stands for the future of all human beings, their death. The depicted ‘theme' can be found further on this picture. The pig, for example, is placed very close to the roasted pig. How the dead person died is left to speculation. In all meanings, death and misery seems to be a consequence of the very nature of mankind. A disturbing painting, however beautiful."

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 4: 389-458

by ilT + Selkis

The same considerations
[390] can be made on the moon;
its body is very big
and—except for the sun—
no other shines as much
but it not always appears
and its brightness varies
either full-surfaced
or dimly diminishing.
By waxing and waning
it partly disappears:
[400] Eternal Intelligence
with his articulate art
provided a clear proof
(the metamorphic moon)
of Man’s manifoldness
with our fickle lives
without one Tenor
and any fixed firmness.
Both begin by growing
up to the uppermost point
[410] then both burn out
turning into nothingness.
Let no guy glorify
himself or boast of
wealth or power
with pissing pride
fiercely full of shit
for a Congress chair.
Down with our decaying
side, up with the soul
[420] that lives limitless!
Remember the randomness
of man-things and maintain
your hold of Leholam.
If a dismal moon
can sadden our spirits
let us rather rue
the vanishing of virtue—
a theological treasure—
and the end of Edenic
[430] decorum and dignity.
Really the revolutions
of this planet pattern
the Nietzschean nuts
as moonish as the moon.
Man’s mind—some say—
having two halves:
powerful and passive,
the former forms a sun
the latter illuminated
[440] defeats darkness
in the moon’s manner
which shines secondarily.
Our mortal mental part
(provided this applies)
thanks to the other’s light
spots shapes in itself;
but the superior source
won’t be afraid of death,
to the extent that heathens
[450] grasped it as God.
No god—others objected—
but a creature, although
as splendid as the sun.
But let reason rest
in peace, prone before
the philosophy of faith
that treats intellectual
truth directly in Dios.

Summer break: 7Days posts will resume on Aug. 28

Friday, July 29, 2016

Trees are tough (3)

[16: 21]

Torna la turba, e misera e smarrita
Varia e confonde sì le cose e i detti
Ch'ella nel raccontar n'è poi schernita,
Né son creduti i mostrüosi effetti.
Allhor vi manda il sovran duce ardita
E forte squadra de' guerrieri eletti,
Acciò ch'a l'altra sia secura scorta
Quando il timor l'assale e la sconforta.

The group [of carpenters] comes back [from the enchanted forest], and being miserable and puzzled, they make such a mess of things and words that they are mocked by all others, who do not believe in those hideous phenomena. Then the supreme leader [Godfrey] sends a strong and bold squad of chosen knights with them to encourage them in case they are assailed and disheartened by fear.

This half-humorous interlude is sociologically remarkable insofar as it shows the air of superiority of the knights towards the carpenters, obviously considered ignorant, fearful and superstitious. As it is even clearer in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, knights of either religion -- Christianity and Islam -- had more things in common with the knights of the other front than with the peasants of their own people. It would be interesting to know in what measure this was the case not only in literature but in true life, too, during the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Summer break: The posts on Gerusalemme Conquistata will resume on Aug. 23

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Trees are tough (2)

[16: 20]

Qual semplice bambin mirar non osa
Dove insolite larve habbia presenti,
O come pave ne la notte ombrosa
Imaginando pur mostri e portenti,
Tal huom temea d'estrania horribil cosa,
Non conoscendo pur quel ch'ei paventi;
Se non che 'l timor forse a' sensi finge
Maggior prodigio di chimera o sfinge.

As a naive kid does not dare to look
Where he makes out strange apparitions,
Or as he trembles in a shadowy night
Imagining monsters and phenomena,
So did the men fear some alien horror
While not even knowing what it was --
Unless fear itself showed to their senses
Marvels greater than a chimera or sphinx.

Psychological horror was one of the trademarks of Tasso's poetry: suggesting, often by means of sounds, without describing in detail the source of that creepy feeling. The English term "alien" well renders both meanings of the Italian adjective estraneo (here in the outdated feminine form estrania), especially as used by Tasso.