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Monday, September 30, 2013

In the beginning was the Sword (5)

Guidon, who has been killed by Argantes, was the chief of the mercenary troops, that were - and are - quite independent of the Central Command. Richard would be the most natural successor of Guidon, but right the issue of succession, together with the coming of the witch (and more than that, the non-human) Armida, will create very big troubles in the Christian army.

As to language, Riccardo's words, though spoken in anger, are learned enough to include at least one quotation from Dante: "Hor quale indugio è questo, e che s'aspetta?" recalls Inferno 2: 121-123 very closely, when Virgil encourages his disciple who doesn't feel like facing his mission.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sunday Guest: Mrs Beaver


From: CS Lewis' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (The Chronicles of Narnia)

The quote: "So you've come at last!" she said, holding out both her wrinkled old paws. "At last! To think that ever I should live to see this day! The potatoes are boiling and the kettle's singing and I daresay, Mr Beaver, you'll get us some fish."

The precedents: Mrs Beaver's cry of joy because of the coming of the 'saviors sent by God' echoes the hymn Nunc Dimittis in Luke 2: 29-32, "Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, / According to Your word; / For my eyes have seen Your salvation / Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, / A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, / And the glory of Your people Israel."
But this mix of theology, folk wisdom and very practical concerns also makes Mrs Beaver very similar to the priest's housekeeper Perpetua in Alessandro Manzoni's 19th century novel I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed), the first novel in Italian literature, like Ivanhoe in English.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

In the beginning was the Sword (4)

[4: 55]

Ma i suoi conforta il gran Riccardo, e grida:
- Hor quale indugio è questo, e che s'aspetta?
Poi ch'è morto il signor ch'a noi fu guida,
Ché non corriamo a vendicarlo in fretta
E non facciam nel barbaro omicida
Del nostro duce estinto aspra vendetta?
Basta una scala homai, senza altre scale,
Dove invitto valore ascende e sale.

But the Great Richard encourages his fellows soldiers and shouts, "Now what's this hesitation? What are we waiting for? Now that the Lord who was our leader is dead, why don't we rush to avenge him quickly, and take fierce revenge on the barbarous killer of our late Captain? One ladder will suffice, without any other stairs, if unconquered valor does climb and rise!"

Friday, September 27, 2013

In the beginning was the Sword (3)

Guidon is the first 'important' victim of the war, though the turning point will be another duel, much later, i.e. that in which the Muslim knight Solyman will kill the Christian Crusader Rupert - the man loved by Richard (yes, you read well) - mistaking him for Richard himself.

Guidon is, as well, the first enemy killed by Argantes after joining the Muslim army in Jerusalem. In Gerusalemme Liberata however the episode was much more powerful because the precious sword used by Argantes was the one Godfrey had given him to honor him as an ambassador; and the former, in addressing the Crusaders - and horrifying them - said that that very same weapon would soon kill the giver. In Gerusalemme Conquistata the beautiful scene of the presents for the ambassadors (Argantes and Aletes) has been deleted, but, on the other hand, this prevents Argantes from looking too ungodly. The Muslim knight here simply says that Godfrey has "despised" i.e. underestimated his sword, but it may prove dangerous to him too.

Argantes' quick "trascorrere," "passing by," possibly stresses his dangerousness by likening him to Dante's Cacus, a centaur+dragon creature (Inferno 25: 34).

Thursday, September 26, 2013

In the beginning was the Sword (2)

In the end, [Argantes] turns towards him [Guidon] so unexpectedly, and hits his side with such violence that the blade plunges into it, and suddenly life is taken away from the Frankish Captain. He falls; and tough stillness, iron sleep weighs on his eyes, that can hardly open now.

Three times did he open them, looking for the sweet sunbeams in the sky and trying to lift himself up on one arm; and three times did he fall again; and a dark veil overshadowed his eyes, that finally shut, weary. His limbs unravel, a deadly chill has made them stiff and covered them with sweat. -- The fierce knight did not stop over the dead man, but quickly passed by.

While not stopping to shift uphill [towards the wall of Jerusalem], Argantes turns towards the Franks and says, "O Knights, this bloodstained sword is the one your Lord despised no later than yesterday . . ."

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

At the Brooklyn Book Festival



Dante Was a Fantasy Writer (bottom left) together with other books published by International Authors

In the beginning was the Sword (1)

[4: 50-52]

. . .
Alfin così improviso a lui si volta
E di cotal percossa il giunge al fianco
Che dentro il ferro vi s'immerge, e tolta
È dal colpo la vita al duce franco.
Cade, e i lumi, ch'a pena aprir si ponno,
Dura quïete preme, e ferreo sonno.

Gli aprì tre volte, e i dolci rai nel cielo
Cercò del sole, e sovra un braccio alzarsi,
E tre volte ricadde, e fosco velo
Gli occhi adombrò, che stanchi alfin serrârsi:
Si dissolvono i membri, e mortal gelo
Rigidi fatti, e di sudor gli ha sparsi.
Sovra l'estinto il cavalier feroce
Non si fermò, ma trascorrea veloce.

Benché seguir l'alpestra via non cessa,
Si volge a' Franchi e dice: - O cavalieri,
Questa sanguinosa spada è quella stessa
Che 'l signor vostro disprezzò pur hieri
. . .

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Secrets of Magic

Bob McCabe, Harry Potter dalla pagina allo schermo. L'avventura cinematografica raccontata per immagini [orig.: Harry Potter Page to Screen: The Complete Filmmaking Journey], Modena, IT: Panini Comics, 2011, with 1,200 pictures, pages 532, euros 58

As it is often the case with this kind of operations, other than the unavoidable "it has been wonderful, everything worked from the beginning, everyone was fantastic," etc. etc., this rent-a-wheelbarrow book is noteworthy for the really big lot of materials it provides, especially the original graphic concepts that have then been changed in the making, but they were often better than the final ones.



Your turn, Richard (2)

Admiration for a worthy enemy is a basic value of chivalry. It can be found in Dante, referring to Saladin (he also admired Godfrey of Bouillon, of course); in Ariosto; and in Tasso, e.g. here. This attitude would last, more or last, until the beginning of the First World War included, ending with the installation of machine guns on planes. More about this. All in all, Ariosto had already foreseen that war technology would destroy chivalry.

Riccardo / Richard is an Italian warrior, a hero and an anti-hero at the same time. In Gerusalemme Liberata (1581) his name was Rinaldo, and his story was quite different. In the manuscript of Gerusalemme Conquistata, but not in the final printed version of the poem (1593), Riccardo was often called "Guiscardo," with an obvious reference to this famous Norman stock. Riccardo is in fact a Norman, whose ancestors came from Scandinavia; this allows Tasso to turn him into a Viking, a true berserkr, in line with the Old Norse mania of his late years, see his tragedy Il Re Torrismondo.

The statement, here made by Muslim observers, that "six" warriors like Richard would mean big troubles will prove all too optimistic: Richard will defeat a whole army by himself! -- though with the essential help of an IronMan-like super-powered armor.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Your turn, Richard (1)

[4: 43-44]

. . .
E disser quei ch'in lui fissâr lo sguardo:
- Eccoti il domator d'ogni gagliardo.

Questi ha nel pregio de la spada eguali
Pochi o nessuno, e giovinetto è anchora.
Se fosser tra' nemici altri sei tali,
Tutta Soria già vinta e serva hor fora
. . .

And those [Muslims] who looked at him said, "Here's the tamer of any strong man! In his ability with the sword, he is without parallel, or nearly so, and he's still so young. If there were six like him in the enemy army, the whole Syria would already have been defeated and subjected!"

N.B. In Medieval and Renaissance parlance, "Soria" i.e. Syria meant what we now call the Near East. "Soria" was pronounced with the accent on "i," while in current Italian the word "Siria" has the accent on the first "i."

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sunday Guest: the Professor


From: CS Lewis' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (The Chronicles of Narnia)

The quote: "But do you really mean, Sir," said Peter, "that there could be other worlds -- all over the place, just round the corner -- like that?"
"Nothing is more probable," said the Professor, taking off his spectacles and beginning to polish them, while he muttered to himself, "I wonder what they do teach them at these schools."
"But what are we to do?" said Susan. She felt that the conversation was beginning to get off the point.
"My dear young Lady," said the Professor, suddenly looking up with a very sharp expression at both of them, "there is one plan which no one has yet suggested and which is well worth trying."
"What's that?" said Susan.
"We might all try minding our own business."

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Enter Clorinda (7)

Tancred asks Clorinda for a 'private' duel, so he succeeds in remaining alone with her. But just as he is declaring his love, another Christian knight suddenly appears and tries to hit Clorinda. Tancred defends her by parrying the blow with his own sword . . .

[4: 36]

Ma pur ne' bianchi e teneri confini
L'eburno collo il cavalier ferille;
Fu levissima piaga, e i biondi crini
Rigati fûr da le purpuree stille,
Come l'or che di smalti o di rubini
Per man d'egregio mastro a' rai scintille.
Disdegnando Tancredi allhor si spinse
Addosso a quel villano, e 'l ferro strinse.

But nonetheless the knight did wound her ivory neck in that white, tender [exposed] part. A very light wound -- and her blond hair was streaked by purple drops, like gold shining in the sun with enamels or rubies, the work of a gifted craftsman. Then Tancred moved in disdain against that jerk, gripping his sword.

Tancred chases the "jerk," Clorinda goes back to her army. Curtain, for now.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Witches and/or She-Doctors




Michele Ruggiero, Streghe e diavoli in Piemonte [Witches and Devils in Piedmont, N-W Italy], Turin: Editrice Piemonte in Bancarella, 1971, pages 190, with 18 pictures. This is just one out of a billion books on such issues, though at that time, more than forty years ago, it was presented as the first complete essay on supernatural folklore in that geographic area. What makes this kind of field research interesting is the big amount of data, sometimes showing phenomena that can be found almost identical almost everywhere throughout Europe, and even farther; sometimes describing very local traditions that are far more enjoyable than much 'learned' fantasy literature. The materials here listed prove very valuable for a better understanding of Dante, Ariosto, Tasso, all the way up to CS Lewis, with their points in common and their differences.

The main flaw in Michele Ruggiero's book is a (so-called) Enlightenment attitude, defending witches by discrediting them: poor, fool, crazy, hysteric women . . .  A much deeper insight is provided by the more recent study here below, stressing the ancient and fundamental role of wicca culture from the age of Pharaohs to Renaissance.


Erika Maderna, Medichesse. La vocazione femminile alla cura [She-Doctors: The Woman's Vocation to Health Care], Sansepolcro, IT: Aboca, 2012, pages 144, with 45 pictures, euros 19.50

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Off Topic: A 'dirty' review

On some occasions, posts are written in Italian, namely when they refer to books unavailable abroad, especially if they don't have a link to Tasso criticism. But tomorrow a more consistent review (in English) of more pertinent volumes will be published.

Il libro è arrivato in redazione con dedica "A M. R. V. [la caporedattrice] con la stima" dell'autore, anche se ogni volta il 'lavoro sporco' di leggerlo e recensirlo tocca al sottoscritto. Sporco per sporco, allora ecco una recensione scorrettissima, scritta dopo una  lettura affrettata, e solo del primo capitolo. Anche vero che di Marco Guzzi e del movimento Darsi Pace si era già parlato (vd qui). E anche stavolta, l'intento è offrire un metodo cristiano di "sviluppo del Sé" che sia "adatto ai nostri tempi". Il buono è la capacità di fare tesoro della grande tradizione cristiana, lasciando da parte la paccottiglia alla moda per concentrarsi sull'essenziale.

Una citazione notevole, da pag. 28: "La comprensione delle nostre distorsioni psichiche e delle ferite che le hanno provocate non potrebbe di per sé produrre la loro perfetta guarigione, non potrebbe cioè ri-generarci fino in fondo, se non potessimo attingere a una sfera indenne, a una Potenza Sorgiva, a un Principio libero da tutti i condizionamenti del (nostro) passato, a un Essere As-soluto, che sia capace di operare in noi un vero ricominciamento". Ossia quel "mistero sorgivo che chiamiamo da sempre DIO", dove riecheggia il quod omnes dicunt Deum di Tommaso d'Aquino. Così come risuonano grandi parole dimenticate, ancorché problematiche: Ordine divino... ordo, dharma, rta...

Ciò detto, l'altro merito del libro è di prestarsi a un'analisi di tipo interlucutorio, in pratica a critiche sperabilmente costruttive per entrambi. Eccone qualcuna sparata a pallettoni e... Guzzi, se ci sei, batti un colpo.
1) Si insiste sulla novità, unicità, eccezionalità, messianicità della nostra epoca. Ma questa non è, da millenni, l'illusione di un esercito di autori, peraltro validissimi?
2) Qui e altrove emerge un interesse per le religioni orientali. A pag. 31, in nota, si cita Henri Le Saux, ma non c'è traccia di un nome che invece potrebbe rivelarsi proficuo in questo tipo di percorso, per evitare trabocchetti: Raimon Panikkar.
3) E sempre in quest'ambito, il lavoro di gruppo di Darsi Pace prevede anche "tecniche di concentrazione e di sviluppo della consapevolezza che derivano almeno in parte dalle tradizioni spirituali asiatiche (yogiche e buddhiste)" che "servono come preparazione alla preghiera cristiana vera e propria". Ma appunto, fare zazen in vista di qualcos'altro, anzi in vista di qualcosa, significa snaturarlo in radice.
Ecc. ecc., ma ora... pace!

Post scriptum (ore 20). Oh, adesso sì, dopo aver percorso il volume per intero, si può fare qualche osservazione più sostanziosa. Le grandi linee offrono un intreccio psico-cosmo-teologico come non se ne vedevano da secoli. Più si va avanti nella lettura, più si nota quanto sia coraggioso questo modello di spiritualità che, a prima vista, potrebbe sembrare uno dei tanti gruppi di preghiera e formazione. Pur con tante sfumature - e nonostante le varie pezze di appoggio nella tradizione e addirittura nella gerarchia cattolica -, lo si può caratterizzare come un sistema gnostico, ben ammodernato e con una forte impronta personale, come poteva essere il cristianesimo alternativo di un William Blake. Il punto dolente resta la presentazione abbastanza approssimativa delle altre religioni, in particolare l'ebraismo. Ma a un autore bisogna chiedere cosa 'sa' del suo Dio, non di quelli altrui. E poi, sempre meglio questo che le minestrine insipide che ammanniscono i saggisti "politicamente corretti".

Marco Guzzi, Imparare ad amare. Un manuale di realizzazione umana [Learning to Love: A Handbook of Human Realization], Milan: Paoline, 2013, pages 246, euros 15

Enter Clorinda (6)

* Reading Tasso's poetry is difficult even for Italians because of the often odd structure of sentences, drawing on Latin or even Greek syntax. Here, we even find two Greek accusatives, or accusatives of respect, i.e. a structure in which the expressions "Clorinda with her face naked" or "a helm with broken straps" are literally built as "Clorinda naked-her-face" and "the helm broken-its-straps."

This, together with the internal rhythm of a hendecasyllable, also provides a Freudian insight into Tancred's mind, as a verbatim translation of verse 4 would imply: ". . .  and she naked [pause] her face does remain."

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Off Topic: Guten Morgen

"Il Papa non è una rockstar."

"The Pope is not a rockstar."

Benedict XVI

Enter Clorinda (5)

Lost in translation

In this octave the experimental use of language in Gerusalemme Conquistata is quite obvious. Namely:

* Verbs pass suddenly from past tense to present or vice versa.

* Learned citations are unexpectedly mixed to the descriptions of war actions. Here, "E le chiome dorate a l'aura sparse" quotes the most famous verse of Petrarch: "Eran i capei d'oro a l'aura sparsi," "Her gold hair was loose in the air," with a now classic pun that however doesn't work in Tasso's version. In fact, "a l'aura" (in the air) sounds exactly like "a Laura," and Petrarch's verse becomes: "Laura's gold hair were loose," Laura being the woman he loved, but in this case the woman's name is Clorinda.

( . . .  to be continued . . . )

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Jerusalem Released

The anthology Emanations: Third Eye, published by International Authors, is now available! Among many other things - fiction of several genres, poetry, essays, art - it includes Jerusalem Updated, new translations of selected passages from Tasso's Gerusalemme Liberata, plus comments, and 8 illustrations by the Magic Trio, i.e. Nivalis, Selkis and yours truly.


Learn more / buy: here

Enter Clorinda (4)

East Side Story

The paradoxical love story between Tancred and Clorinda is a key element both in Gerusalemme Liberata and in Gerusalemme Conquistata.

"Paradoxical," first of all, because it is an 'impossible' love, as it often happens. Exactly in the same years in which William Shakespeare writes Romeo and Juliet (or has it written), Torquato Tasso shows us the Italian Crusader Tancred falling desperately in love with the Muslim warrior Clorinda. Not only do they belong to different religions, but they are actually fighting against each other. The same situation, but with inverted roles, had been described by Ariosto in Orlando Furioso, i.e. the - happier - affair between Bradamante and Ruggiero.

Even more paradoxical [WARNING: SPOILER] is the fact that Clorinda, though learning about Tancred's love during the very episode we're reading, won't care at all about it, BUT she will remember and return his love after her death!

Meanwhile, Clorinda has discovered that her parents were Christians, but she has been grown up as a Muslim because, when she was a little baby, she had to flee abroad together with her tutor, who was a Muslim. What to do now? Remain in her current, 'personal' faith, or go back to her 'original' religion?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Enter Clorinda (3)

[4: 27]

Ma già Clorinda ad incontrar l'assalto
Vien di Tancredi, e pon la lancia in resta.
Ferîrsi ambo negli elmi, e i tronchi in alto
Volâro; ed ella ignuda il viso resta,
Ché rotto a l'elmo suo, quasi d'un salto,
I duri lacci, egli l'uscìo di testa,
E le chiome dorate a l'aura sparse,
Giovene donna in duro campo apparse.

But already Clorinda comes to meet Tancred's assault, setting her lance in rest. They hit each other's helm, and high did wood splinters fly -- and she remains with her face naked as, the hard straps being broken with a jerk, the helm jumped out of her head -- and her golden hair being now loose in the air, she showed up as a young woman in the tough battlefield.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sunday Guest: the White Witch


From: CS Lewis' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (The Chronicles of Narnia)

The quote: "My poor child, how cold you look! Come and sit with me here on the sledge, and I will put my mantle round you and we will talk."

The pic: Lewis apparently describes her as a vampire, that's why she here has a 'lost' beauty, or even a corpse's. And she looks sad because evildoers can't be truly happy, and because she maybe senses that she will soon be killed; not only defeated but killed, though virtually immortal.

The curio: The Witch "putting her mantle around" her 'faithful child' seems a blasphemous parody of Virgin Mary, especially as she was portrayed in late Medieval art.

The question: In the final one-volume version of the saga, the Wardrobe episode (the first to be written) has been placed after The Magician's Nephew, so it sounds like the White Witch is the same as Jadis: but are they? Their origins, powers and personalities are quite different. And vice versa, the Lady of the Green Kirtle in The Silver Chair is introduced as "a" witch -- or "the" Witch, Lilith herself, now risen somehow?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Off Topic: Official History




Today - September 14 - in Perugia, Italy, they celebrated the anniversary of the 'liberation' that took place in 1860 when the Bersaglieri, a special Corps, marched into the town and 'freed' it from the Pope's power (whose State was then much bigger than the current Vatican City). The whole Official History of Italy's National Unity is a mountain of lies, as it's getting more and more clear, though slowly and late, but September 14th has meanwhile turned into a nice folk festival, with street markets, songs, Bersaglieri taking the Mass in a Catholic church, etc. And going back in topic, it would be interesting to contrast the war propaganda in the 16th century - Tasso's times - and nowadays, i.e. after the 18th century.

Enter Clorinda (2)

In Gerusalemme Liberata, the Sub-Saharan African (though white) she-warrior Clorinda was given an important role in the Muslim army after that she had popped up in Jerusalem just in time to save two innocent people who had been sentenced to death. Cf. the Book of Prophet Daniel, ch. 13, in a way.

In Gerusalemme Conquistata, Tasso deleted the whole episode: Clorinda is simply there from the beginning. Anyway the fact remains that the Muslim army, from this standpoint, looks more 'liberal' than the Christian army, where no female commanders appear.

Clorinda indeed is the only she-knight in the poem, whereas in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso women had more important roles. The main - not the only - heroines were Bradamante and Marfisa, on the Christian and Muslim side respectively. In Tasso's own Gerusalemme Liberata a certain Gildippe appeared, who joined the Crusade together with her husband Odoardo, but this episode also has been removed from Gerusalemme Conquistata.

As to the wording, several expressions here used by Tasso quote, or at least hint at Dante: "magnanimo sembiante," lofty countenance, "alto principio," high beginning, or principle, "a noi convene," it is up to us, or our duty, "fondar la spene," to ground hope.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Enter Clorinda (1)

[4: 22]

Ma già Clorinda incontra a' Franchi era ita,
Lui permettendo, a la schiera avante,
E 'n altra parte, ond'è improvisa uscita,
Sta preparato a la riscossa Argante.
L'altera donna i suoi guerreri invita
Co' detti e co'l magnanimo sembiante:
- Ben con alto principio a noi convene
(Dicea) fondar de l'Asia hoggi la spene -.

But already had Clorinda gone - with his [Argantes'] permission - towards the Franks at the head of the troops; while on another side, with a sudden sortie, Argantes gets ready for a counterattack. The lofty woman calls her warriors by her words and her magnanimous countenance: "Really with a high beginning," she says, "it is up to us today to ground the hope of Asia."

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Here they come (4)

The description of the Christian army approaching Jerusalem, as seen by a Muslim sentry, is - imho - a masterpiece of Baroque 'art': a dust cloud shining within, and little by little revealing its frightful contents.

In fact, Torquato Tasso is considered the initiator of Baroque culture, both through his style and his subject matters. In his long poem Il Mondo Creato he also described the technique of Renaissance painting, and showed a horror scene that will be almost exactly resumed by Francisco Goya in his juvenile work St Francis Borgia at the Deathbed of an Impenitent (painted in 1788, but with definitely Baroque atmospheres).

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Here they come (3)

In literary commonplace, Muslims do call Christians "infidels"; here the opposite occurs, and it is probably due to the fact that the story is set in the Holy Land where the two armies 'mirror' one another. But usually, during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Christians used to refer to Muslims as gentiles (in Latin) or "pagani" (in Italian: pagans, heathens).

The latter term comes from the Latin word pagus, i.e. village, as traditional religions lasted for a much longer time in the European countryside after towns and cities had already converted to Christianity.

There even existed the Italian word "Paganìa" literally meaning 'heathenland' and indicating any non-Christian country, from North Africa and Arabia to India and China. As a matter of fact, in Tasso's Gerusalemme Conquistata all these peoples gather for the war, even though - of course - it was not so in the 'real' Crusade.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Here they come (2)

Meanwhile among the infidels, a man
Guarding an old tower disclosing mounts and fields
Looks at the already thin dust rising.
A big cloud seems to be printed in the air,
And the thick cloud seems to flash and burn
As if it contained flames and lightnings.
Then the radiance of the shiny metals
He recognizes, and makes out men and horses.

So he cried, "Oh, what a dust spreading
In the air I see! Oh, it looks so shining!

Quick, run to the weapons, to the defense,
To the doors, to the wall! All climb up there:
The enemy is here already!" Then, repeating

His call, "All be quick, and take your arms!
Lo, the enemy is here: look at the dust
That hides the sky in a dark fog!"

Monday, September 9, 2013

Here they come (1)

[4: 18-19]

Fra gli infedeli intanto un huom che guarda
Antica torre, e scopre i monti e i campi,
La già minuta polve alzarsi guarda,
Onde par che gran nube in aria stampi;
Par che baleni il nuvol denso et arda,
Come fiamme nel sen rinchiuda e lampi;
Poi lo splendor de' lucidi metalli
Distingue, e scerne gli huomini e i cavalli.

Allhor gridava: - O qual per l'aria stesa
Polvere i' veggio, o come par che splenda!
Pronti correte a l'arme, a la difesa,
A le porte, a le mura! Ogn'un v'ascenda:
Già presente è il nemico! - E poi, ripresa
Tal voce: - Ogn'un s'affretti, e l'arme prenda.
Ecco, il nemico è qui: mira la polve
Che ne l'oscura nebbia il cielo involve -.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sunday Guest: Tumnus


From: CS Lewis' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (The Chronicles of Narnia)

The quote: "Good evening, good evening.  Excuse me -- I don't want to be inquisitive -- but should I be right in thinking that you are a Daughter of Eve?"

The pic: This is Tumnus before his 'conversion,' i.e. when he is still "in the pay of the White Witch." The umbrella suggests claws, the tail pays tribute to HP Lovecraft.

The curio: The Italian word for wardrobe is "guardaroba." Which comes from which? Surely the original term is the English one, as robe refers to clothes while "roba" in Italian means "thing(s)," so it makes no sense except as a verbatim translation from English.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

. . . and translating Isaiah (4)

Isaiah's reference to foreign peoples is here stressed by specifying that they are "fere" = fierce, wild, savage, and "diverse" = different from us, alien to us, strange. The wording echoes Dante's powerful description of Cerberus in Inferno 6: "fiera crudele e diversa," literally: a cruel and strange, or rather monstrous, wild beast.

And so, by twisting Isaiah's text and adapting it to 16th century audiences, the poet makes us remember the first impression that Native Americans left on European explorers, then conquerors, then readers. But, in the case of Tasso, it would be wrong to see this as plain racism; rather, it is about theological imagery identifying idolatry and beast-like (mental) attitudes, as St Paul did in Romans 1: 18 ff on the basis of several passages in the Tanakh (Jewish Bible), e.g. Psalm 135.

Tasso's varied views on Native Americans / Indians will be more thoroughly studied on some future occasion.

Friday, September 6, 2013

. . . and translating Isaiah (3)

We've already examined (see June 27, 2013, and following days) a sample of Tasso's way of translating the Bible, a Psalm in that case. Here the Scripture being translated and reinterpreted is a well-known hymn from the book of prophet Isaiah, ch. 60. But the very context in which Tasso inserts these lines modifies their meaning. In fact, Isaiah 60 has traditionally been used by Christian authors as a prophecy of the birth of Jesus, together with the Magi / wise men coming to worship Him from the Far East. Here, however, the land to be 'freed' from 'darkness' is Jerusalem, by the hand of the Crusaders; not by chance is the rising Sun the emblem of the main hero in the poem, the knight Richard.

Tomorrow we'll see another, even more intriguing 'updating' made by Tasso on this Biblical text.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

. . . and translating Isaiah (2)

[4: 11]

Alza gli occhi dolenti e 'n torno gira:
Tutti questi per te già fûro accolti;
Tutti vengon per te, fra lor rimira
I figli tuoi de' lacci antichi sciolti:
Qual gioia havrai (se 'l vero a noi s'ispira)
Quando i popoli a te vedrai rivolti
E le genti sì fere e sì diverse,
Più che del mare l'arene, a te converse?

"Lift up your sad eyes and look all around:
All these have already gathered for you;
They all come to you - see, among them,
Your children freed from their old bounds!
How great will your joy be (if truth inspires us)
When you see the peoples heading for you
And so fierce,(*) so strange nations,
More numerous than sand, turning(**) towards you?"

(*) It may also be translated as "wild, savage."
(**) "Converse," like the verb shuv in Hebrew, means both "turning back towards" and "converting to."

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

. . . and translating Isaiah (1)

[4: 10]

- Sorgi, Gierusalem, co' raggi illustri,
Perch'il tuo lume e l'altrui gloria hor vene;
La gloria del Signore onde t'illustri
Nasce in te, perch'il duolo in te serene.
Ecco, dopo tanti anni e tanti lustri
Che l'ombre e le caligini terrene
I popoli coprîr ne l'Orïente,
De la gloria divina il Sol nascente.
. . .

"Rise, O Jerusalem, with shining rays,
Because your Light and the others' glory now comes;
Now the Lord's glory illuminating you
Is born in you and cheers up your sufferings.
Lo - after so many years and decades(*)
In which the earthly shadows and darkness

Covered the peoples in the East -
The rising Sun of Divine Glory!
. . ."

(*) "Lustri" literally means five-year periods. But it's simply a poetical phrase, often used by Tasso.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Reworking Dante and himself (2)

This passage has remained basically the same as in Gerusalemme Liberata 3:6 (N.B. one whole Canto before, in comparison with the much longer Gerusalemme Conquistata), though Tasso refined some terms, e.g. "Auster" instead of a simple "wind," and added some 'special effects,' especially sounds that were among his favorite details.

But what matters more is a 'shocking' poetical operation, unchanged in both poems. In fact, the description refers to the Crusaders' reaction the first time they see Jerusalem from afar. And their feeling are expressed with a quotation from Dante. Good. Just . . .  it is a scene Dante saw in hell, cf. Inferno 3: 22-30! Such hidden, paradoxical jokes are common in Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, but much less so in Tasso's works.

Is he just joking? Or suggesting that heaven and hell are mixed together - on this occasion, like in everything? And one cannot help thinking about Books 1-2 in Milton's Paradise Lost.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Reworking Dante and himself (1)

[4: 6]

Sommessi accenti e timide parole,
Rotti singulti e flebili sospiri
De la gente ch'in cor s'allegra e dole
Fan che per l'aria un mormorio s'aggiri;
Qual ne le sacre selve udir si suole
Dove Austro soffi sibilando e spiri,
O qual, spezzato infra gli scogli e' lidi,
Freme e si lagna il mar con rauchi stridi.

Humble tones and shy words,
broken sobs, feeble sighs
of people rejoicing and grieving in their hearts
make a murmur roam in the air
as in the sacred woods you can hear
where Auster blows hissing and breathes;
or if, broken among rocks and shores,
the sea throbs and laments with hoarse shrieks. 


The red-fonted words are those that have been changed by Tasso in comparison with Gerusalemme Liberata.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sunday Guest: CS Lewis (2)

CS Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia will deserve much more room than this - together with a thousand thanks to dear friend Carl B. for sending the one-volume complete saga in English as a gift. From several viewpoints, Lewis could be termed "the 20th century Tasso," and in fact, he will be a regular guest over the next months. Meanwhile, just a couple of pics to enter his meta-world.

Queen/Witch Jadis aka Lilith

(well . . . no caption needed)
the evil god Tash