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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Un(s)even: Day 5, by Nivalis

(a detail)

Looking at these pictures, one thinks, "It's a pity that the universe is not like that" ----- oh, but, it is!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Duel (3)

[7: 28]

Già cedea ciascun altro, e non secreto
Del sommo duce era il voler mirando:
- Vanne a lui (disse). A te l'uscir non vieto,
Gloria d'Italia e del valor normando -.
Ei tutto in vista baldanzoso e lieto,
Per sì alto giudicio Iddio lodando,
A lo scudier chiedea l'elmo e 'l cavallo;
Poi, da molti seguito, uscia del vallo.

All others had already given up, nor hidden
Was the wondrous(*) will of the supreme leader,
Who said, "Go against him! I won't prevent you,
O Glory of Italy and of the Norman valor!"
He, all bold and glad in his countenance,
Praising God for this gratifying judgment,
Asked his squire for his helmet and horse;
Then, followed by many, exited from the wall.

(*) There is nothing especially wondrous about Godfrey's words; the adjective, in Italian, is substantially a filler for the sake of rhyme. These verses are less plain than what meets the eye, anyway. Tancred's jolly boldness prepares, by contrast, the poor figure he is -- unexpectedly -- about to cut. Besides, by exalting him as the "glory of Italy and of the Norman valor," Tasso hints at two of his own political ideas: cultural nationalism, along with the disgust for the weak Italians, who should take the Nordic peoples as an example. We can find something more about this latter view in his long poem Il Mondo Creato.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

La rabbia esaudita: Il fattore L



La pollitica prepara con cura

le guerre affidandosi

alla ballistica.




*

All Michelangelo's Witches


Michelangelo is often presented as a forerunner of Neoclassicism, and he was. But we shouldn't forget that he was a Renaissance man, so that his interest in classical art and literature was very different from the point of view of Neoclassicism proper in the 18th and 19th centuries. A major difference, besides, between Michelangelo and the more "typical" Renaissance artists is that he used to conceal what they used to show; and often, the official titles of his works didn't correspond to the actual subjects. By looking carefully at some of his masterpieces, for example, we can discover witches where they were not supposed to belong. Clockwise from top left:

Leah, officially the symbol of active life "against" contemplative life (her sister Rachel). But she holds a jar with the face of a demon, so the statue maybe portrays a witch "against" a saint (Rachel prays) as two opposite, but both legitimate, ways of life;

The Cumaean Sibyl, a proverbially old Wiccan of Southern Italy. In the Greek and Roman societies, a great number of witches worked; their job would be carried on throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The poet Virgil himself was honored as a wizard, even by Dante (see). Going back to our Sibyl, both strega in Italian and "witch, hag" in English can still indicate an old, ugly woman;

The Night, whose statue includes a mask -- a symbol of secrecy -- and a barn owl, incidentally placed between her legs. The Latin name of the barn owl was precisely strix, from which strega, witch, comes.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Duel (2)

[7: 27]

Alcun però dal pio Goffredo eletto
Come il miglior anco non è fra molti.
Ben si vedean con desïoso affetto
Tutti gli occhi in Tancredi esser rivolti;
E 'l dichiarò, fra quei miglior, perfetto
Manifesto favor di mille volti;
E s'udìa, non oscuro, ivi il bisbiglio
Ch'egli solo sia pari al gran periglio.

But no one has been chosen yet by Godfrey,
Among so many knights, as their champion.
Nonetheless, the eyes of all of them were
Now obviously turned towards Tancred,
Who was declared the best among the best
By the clear approval of a thousand faces;
An unconcealed murmur exalted him
As the sole(*) who could match that peril.

(*) The final printed version would stress Tancred's valor further by describing him as "more than equal" to that great peril. Of course, the first Christian champion to send would have been Richard, but he was off after breaking off with the Captain -- like Achilles in the Iliad. See the past posts titled Rebel With a Cause.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Un(s)even: New symbols of love


Translating from ancient sources, Tasso describes storks as models of family love; and much more remarkably, bats are presented as a symbol of social behavior and solidarity, not of the devil as the whole Christian tradition did.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sunday Guests: Walt Disney and Salvador Dalí



Apparently, unlike all other Disney classics, there exists no 'big book' reporting everything -- events, sketches, storyboards, etc. -- about the short Destino, planned by Walt Disney and Salvador Dali back in 1946 but produced by the WD Company no sooner than 2003. Only one booklet in English and one in Italian are available (see below). And this is a pity, because the film witnesses a magic era in the history of art and animation: in those years, in fact, Disney was working hard to show that his cartoons were something more than pastimes for children, and Dali had reached his artistic maturity while not yet yielding to the excesses of fame. Indeed, some ideas developed by the Surrealist painter on this occasion will remain unique throughout his career. Some clear tributes to Renaissance art can be seen as well, such as Bruegel the Elder's Tower of Babel and Giovanni Bellini's allegory of Envy. The 2003 edition follows the original storyboards as closely as possible, but adopting a more modern style, and rightly so. The result is simply superb.

Francesca Adamo, Caterina Pennestrì, Il Destino di un incontro: Salvador Dalí e Walt Disney, Introduction by Matteo G. Brega, Milan: Mimesis, 2010, pages 110, with 59 black&white pictures, euros 14

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Ecumenism of Fairy Tales




During the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, in Egypt, the definitive version of the Arabian Nights took shape after having originated in India more or less in the 8th century, and then developed in Persia. What is specifically striking for this blog devoted to Renaissance culture is that many episodes recounted in these tales can be found, nearly identical, in Ariosto's and Tasso's poems. For example, in Gerusalemme Conquistata Armida is the daughter of a man and a mermaid basically like King Badr Basim in the tale of Julnar the Sea-Born; not to speak of the tricks of love, especially in Orlando Furioso. So, apparently, Hindus, Jews, Christians, and Muslims can disagree on almost everything, but they all love to listen to the same fairy tales.

The book shown here (Rome: Donzelli Editore, 2011) includes four tales chosen by Marc Chagall; it was first published in 1948 in the USA by Pantheon Books. The only small imperfection of this recent Italian edition is that some captions are wrong. The texts, wonderfully translated by Fulvia De Luca, are -- on purpose -- not philologically accurate since they follow the classic English version, i.e. Richard Burton's, of the late 19th century; but they deserve to enter the universe of Great Literature simply because they were 'adopted' by Chagall himself, who saw his own story symbolized in them and created some of his most beautiful and significant works to illustrate them.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Duel (1)

[7: 26] After some shilly-shallying, the Emir allows Argantes to challenge the Christian knights.

Ivi solo discese, ivi fermosse
In vista de' nemici il fero Argante,
Per gran cor, per gran corpo e per gran posse
Superbo, anzi terribile al sembiante,
Qual ne l'Africa Anteo, ch'Alcide scosse,
O in ima valle il Filisteo gigante;
Ma pur molti di lui tema non hanno,
Ché quanto egli sia forte ancor non sanno.

There he alone descended, there he stopped
In sight of his enemies -- the fierce Argantes,
In his great heart, great limbs, and great strength
Superb; (*) indeed, even frightening to see,
Like the African Antaeus who shook Hercules, (**)
Or the giant Philistine on that valley floor.
Nevertheless, many are not afraid of him
Since they don't know yet how strong he is.

(*) The Italian word superbo corresponds to both "superb" and "proud," both often being meant at the same time in Dante's and Tasso's verses. In this case, however, it is essentially used as a praise.
(**) In Gerusalemme Liberata Argantes' description was basically the same as here, except for some minor details in the wording. The only significant difference is that, in line 5, he was likened to Giant Enceladus in Phlegra, instead of Antaeus; then Tasso probably thought that the simile of a cosmic entity fighting against the gods was an exaggeration. Antaeus had been defeated by Hercules, yes, but had wrestled valiantly; see Dante, Inferno 31: 119-121, 132.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

It takes one to know one


A true gem retrieved by Prof. Carter Kaplan is this wonderful portrait of the Renaissance poet made by no less than William Blake. It belongs to a lesser-known series of great personages that Blake was requested to draw at the beginning of his career. They can be admired in the Manchester City Galleries. By the irony of fate, among them there appear Homer, Dante, Chaucer, Camões, Shakespeare, Milton, etc., but also a fine rendition of the (later) "hated" Voltaire.

It is quite unlikely that the future author of Jerusalem knew something about Jerusalem Delivered, nor possibly would during his whole lifetime, but in the end, this turns out to be among the most beautiful portraits of Tasso. The two angels recall the artifact that, according to Blake, marked the origin of art, namely the Ark of Covenant. What about the despairing woman? The Muse of a persecuted poet? Or, Tasso's legendary lover Eleonora D'Este? (see)

Though based on some engraving, the portrait is free from the prejudices of Continental Criticism. The eyes, especially, are not those of a neurotic but of a very learned man, a refined poet, and a Seer.

La rabbia esaudita: Scontro di civiltà



Combatteremo le

grida islamiste con le

parole crociate.




*

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Un(s)even: Day 3, by Nivalis

(a detail)


And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.
And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.
And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
And the evening and the morning were the third day.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Solyman rising (3)

[7: 13, Argantes speaks]

Vengane pur, quasi celeste messo,
Liberator del popolo pagano;
Ch'io, quanto a me, bastar credo a me stesso,
E sol vo' libertà da questa mano.
Hor nel riposo altrui mi sia concesso
Ch'io già discenda a guerreggiar nel piano:
Privato cavalier, non tuo campione,
Verrò co' Franchi a singolar tenzone.

"Let him freely come as a heavenly envoy, (*)
As the Liberator of the pagan people. (**)
As to me, I have no need for others
And only ask this hand of mine for freedom.
So, right here and now, while others rest,
Let me go down to the plain and give battle.
As a private knight, not as your champion,
I will defy the Franks in single combat." (***)

(*) Ironically quoting Dante, Inferno 9: 85, see also lines 79-80.
(**) It sounds odd, to our ears, that Argantes should call "pagan" his own people. But, as far as much Medieval and Renaissance literature witnesses, in the Christian countries no specific term existed to indicate Islam.
(***) This new request, to fight the Franks simply as proof of his personal valor, not in order to settle the war, makes the duel much less significant, though.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sunday Guest: Edgar Allan Poe

René Magritte,
The Unexpected Answer

The Master of "horror"? Not at all. This, very lamentably, is the label with which Poe has been imported to Europe by Baudelaire, but he was a master in whatever genre he chose to deal with: Old West adventures (e.g. The Journal of Julius Rodman), Sitchin-like science fiction (Some Words with a Mummy), Lovecraftian witchcraft (Ligeia, cf. The Thing on the Doorstep), new "Munchausen" episodes (Hans Pfaall), social satire (How to Write a Blackwood Article; Thou Art the Man!), literary criticism (The Rationale of Verse), detective stories (The Mystery of Marie Roget), psychology (The Imp of the Perverse), astrophysics (Eureka) . . .  Had he lived in the Renaissance, he would now be exalted worldwide as a universal genius like Leonardo Da Vinci, rather than as a bizarre writer.

And, speaking of the Renaissance. Poe's Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, 1838, may be termed the last example of a sea "report" in the style of the 15th-16th century explorers and of Camões' long poem The Lusiads. There is a mysterious land to be discovered (the only remaining one, in this case: the South Pole), as well as commonplace "savages," earthly paradises, strange animals, surprising natural phenomena, unfair trading, etc. Of course, as a product of the 19th century, Gordon Pym reuses all such materials with a good deal of irony, though not without nostalgia for a world that was "larger" than nowadays; and as a book by Poe, it is full of horror or anyway extreme situations.

The most mysterious page in the novel is, notoriously, the last one. What's that "shrouded human figure, very far larger in its proportions than any dweller among men"? The uncanny apparition echoes the supernatural horse in Metzengerstein, written before Gordon Pym, not to speak of Red Death, after it, but there is something more to it, a cosmic awesomeness anticipating German Symbolism. Is it only by chance that Gordon Pym's voyage starts in 1827, the same year in which Arnold Böcklin was born?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The other side of Machiavelli

Niccolò Machiavelli's Il Principe became a "must read" only in the 18th and 19th centuries, with the birth of modern politics -- and modern dictatorship. He himself knew that his "rational" model to rule a country did not match the actual practice of his epoch; in fact, he thought that his time was not only a time of decadence, but of utter madness. Here's a significant passage from his unfinished poem L'Asino, "The Donkey," canto 8. A man who has been changed into a pig (and doesn't mean to go back to his previous human condition) speaks:
Only man is born bare of any kind of defense,
without leather or spikes or feathers or fleece
or bristles or scales providing a shield to him,
so that, truly, he is a miserable thing to see.
Besides, as he grows, his life proves so short,
without any doubt, in comparison with the
lifespan enjoyed by a deer, a crow, a goose.
Nature did give you, men, hands and language,
but, together with these, ambition as well,
and greed, which destroy all good you have.
To how many weaknesses does Nature,
first, and then Fortune subjugate you! How
many goods they promise -- to no effect!
Source: Machiavelli, Pensieri, ed. by Stenio Solinas, Turin: Fògola Editore, 1980, pages 178, with 15 Renaissance drawings (fantastic warriors' heads) by Marco Zoppo, engraved by Francesco Novelli, and a 1910 essay by Giovanni Papini.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Solyman rising (2)

[7: 12]

Turbossi alquanto il cavaliero audace,
Ché tra 'l Soldano e lui fu sdegno antico
E contesa di gloria; hor non gli piace
Ch'ei tanto si dimostri al padre amico.
- A tuo senno - risponde - e guerra e pace
Farai, signor; nulla di ciò più dico.
S'indugi pur, e Soliman s'attenda;
E chi perdé 'l suo regno, il tuo difenda.

The bold knight(*) was quite upset by this
Since old disdain and competition for glory
divided him and the sultan; he does not like
That he proves a great friend to his own father.
"As you like it," he says, "both war and peace
You will make, Sire; I will not add a thing.
Let us tarry, then, and wait for Solyman:
May he, who lost his kingdom, defend yours!"

(*) Argantes. Ironically, his father, the Emir, gives him very bad news while trying to encourage him. In his wrath, Argantes says "your kingdom" instead of "ours." Solyman is called a "sultan" in the general acceptation of the term, i.e. as a Muslim ruler (the King of Nicaea), not as the Sultan, the one who ruled Egypt. The Tassean Solyman is based on a historical personage, who however did not fight against the Crusaders; his son David did.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Solyman rising (1)

[7: 9.1-2, 10.1-8]

Rispose il Re: - La tua virtute ardente
Non sdegni il fren di questa età senile
. . .

Ma quel ch'altrui si tien celato ad arte
Essere al figlio dee chiaro e palese:
Soliman di Nicea, che brama in parte
Di vendicar le ricevute offese,
Degli Arabi le schiere erranti e sparte
Raccolte ha già sin da l'arene accese;
E spera portar, quasi di corso,
Danno a' feri nemici, a noi soccorso.

The King replied, "Let not your burning valor despise the curb of this old age of mine . . .  But what, on purpose, is being kept hidden to all must now be made clear to my own son: Solyman of Nicaea, who longs(*) for vengeance for the injuries he received,(**) has already gathered the wandering and scattered armies of the Arabians in the land of fiery-hot sands; and he hopes to be able to hasten here so as to bring damages to our fierce enemies, help to us."

(*) The text adds in parte, "partly," but it is simply a filler for the sake of rhyme.
(**) The final printed text remarks gravi e 'ndegne offese, "great and humiliating injuries."

The personages
Both Argantes and Solyman already appeared in Gerusalemme Liberata as the main Muslim heroes, together with Clorinda. Both, however, undergo important changes in the Conquistata. Here, Argantes is no longer an ally of the King of Jerusalem but his very son; this will cause some inconsistencies in the plot because Argantes often keeps behaving like a foreign guest, as he did in the Liberata. As for Solyman, in the Conquistata he becomes the father of a princess with the same name as the city: Nicaea, the character who was called Erminia in the Liberata, and wasn't his daughter. This also will bring about inconsistencies. For example, Solyman never meets his daughter, even though both, independently, have taken shelter in Jerusalem. Nicaea, in her turn, will mourn the death of Argantes rather than her father's.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Un(s)even: Day 1, by Nivalis

(a detail)

This week, our Sunday guest is Nivalis, the member of the Magic Trio who, because of her previous business commitments, hadn't yet found enough time to start working on the illustrations for the new English version of Tasso's poem Il Mondo Creato. Now she has: Enjoy!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Yours Truly seen through the eye of the tiger


La rabbia esaudita: Trionfo d'Amore (omaggio al Petrarca)

Starting from today, a series of epigrams / aphorisms are going to be published here as a diversion. They will deal with a lot of my favorite subjects, hiding disappointment and anger under the funny surface. Unfortunately, the texts are all based on untranslatable Italian puns, but to explain them in footnotes would spoil the effect, so I apologize to foreign readers. 


Ed ecco Venere con tutti

i suoi figli: un esercito

di leziosi amorini e una

porca puttina.




*

Friday, January 9, 2015

The best defense is attack (4)

[7: 7]

Ma se nel troppo osar tu poco speri,
Cinto di squadre e d'alte mura intorno,
Tenta ch'ogni tenzon per duo guerrieri
Hor sia decisa, e destinato il giorno:
Ch'accettaran l'invito i Franchi alteri,
Cui più superbi rende il primo scorno,
E perché scelgan l'arme, invitta destra
Non teme d'arte o di virtù maestra.

[Argantes speaking to Emir Ducat] ". . .  But if you, encircled by squadrons and by high walls, little hope in excessive daring, propose [at least] that the whole war be settled, right here and now, by two warriors(*) in a fixed day. This will surely be accepted by the haughty Franks, whom our first defeat made even prouder. Even if(**) they were granted to choose the weapon, an [ = my] undefeated hand will not fear any technique or power, however masterful."

(*) This solution had been tried in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso to settle the (imaginary) war in Paris at the time of Charlemagne, with inverted roles, the Muslims being the besiegers there. But it had not worked because the duel had been sabotaged by the witch Melissa, riding a horse-shaped devil and shaping herself as the fierce knight Rodomonte.
(**) Tasso here -- as he quite often does -- employs the word perché, usually meaning "because," in the sense of "even if." But probably this acceptation was not very clear already in the Renaissance; in fact, in the final printed version, perché was replaced with a standard benché.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Tasso's glories in the 21st century

. . .
Non potevo spiegarti allora il Tasso,
non conoscevo ancora le sue glorie,
il suo impaccio mimetico
e i silenzi che innesca tra le foglie.
. . .


Then, I could not explain you about Tasso
since I didn't know his glories yet,
his mimetic clumsiness, and the stillness
he can trigger among the leaves.


From Il voyeur mustelide by Federico Italiano, in the collection L'invasione dei granchi giganti, Genoa/Milan: Marietti 1820, 2010, pages 86, euros 14. The lines joke on the name Tasso, that -- in this case -- means "badger." With many thanks to a dear friend and talented poet, Sergio Gallo, who recommended this book.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Un(s)even: Bestiary

(a bit cropped)

In the descriptions of animals in his long poem Il Mondo Creato, Torquato Tasso enchants the reader by mixing modern scientific insights with Medieval-like moralizing bestiaries, often -- in his case -- with reference to social injustice. Here above: the well-known tale of the crab and the shell.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The best defense is attack (3)

[7: 5, Argantes speaks]

Io non consento già ch'ignobil morte
I giorni miei d'oscuro oblio ricopra,
Né vuo' ch'al novo dì fra queste porte
L'alma luce del sol chiuso mi scopra.
Di questo viver mio faccia la sorte
Quel che già stabilito è là di sopra;
Non farà già che senza oprar la spada
Inglorïoso e 'nvendicato io cada.

"I don't accept that a despicable death should hide my days with dark oblivion, nor will the noble sunlight, tomorrow morning, find me enclosed behind these gates. With this life of mine, let Fortune make whatever has already been decided On High,(*) but it won't make me fall inglorious and unavenged without having used my sword first."(**)

(*) A Renaissance-styled paraphrase of the typical Muslim omen inshallah, "God willing."
(**) In Gerusalemme Liberata, Argantes' sword was a gift from Godfrey himself, when Argantes went before him as an ambassador. Here in the Conquistata, Tasso has deleted this detail probably because Argantes' threat (reported elsewhere in the poem) to kill Godfrey with that very sword was too sacrilegious against the shared chivalric values.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Crazy & Courageous




In 1616, after the first trial of the Inquisition against Galileo Galilei, the heterodox Dominican theologian, philosopher and scientist Tommaso Campanella, himself big in trouble, was the only Italian thinker who dared defend him. 

In 1592, ex-inmate Torquato Tasso was working on Il Mondo Creato, and published Gerusalemme Conquistata in 1593. In those very years, in 1592, Campanella and Galileo met in Padua, where the former, then 24 years old, studied at the University under a false name. In 1593, Campanella was arrested and jailed as a heretic; he would be freed no sooner than after 33 years. Meanwhile, he was so bold that he tried to defend the Tuscan scientist in the light of the doctrines of such people as Origen and Giordano Bruno! To the extent that Galileo tried to 'hide' this dangerous friendship of his. If Galilei is honored, Campanella -- who, while disagreeing with his "system," tried to help him simply in the name of the freedom of research -- should be honored more.

Tommaso Campanella, Apologia di Galileo [Lat.: Apologia pro Galileo], ed. by Prof. Luigi Firpo, Turin: UTET, 1968, pages 196, including many pictures and a facsimile reproduction of the original printed version (1622), cm 17 x 24

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Sunday Guest: Pieter Bruegel the Elder





Bruegel's messy compositions "re-present" the Renaissance society way better than Machiavelli's clear-cut doctrines. As CS Lewis would say, fantasy is the best vehicle to show the real world. Bruegel's engravings and paintings provide a full immersion into late 16th century Europe with all of its fun, everyday activities, landscapes, fashions, achievements, folklore, passions, struggles, fears, violence, values, contradictions. The artist's works also witness a phenomenon, typical of the late Renaissance, that would have far-reaching and, in the long run, negative consequences: the "divorce" between old religious/anthropological traditions (magic, alchemy, etc.) and the new official culture (scholarship, science, established Churches, etc.).

Picture 1   From Bruegel's engraving for the deadly sin of Pride, 1558, a delightful albeit a bit worrying detail shows a barber who owns a license to work as a chemist and a surgeon (!) too: a 'multi-task' job that was still very Medieval, the cerùsico; but, of course, a custom didn't change in a fortnight.

Picture 2   A medical doctor in the current sense of the word, from the 1559 engraving Prudence, and something more than that, as the Latin word prudentia meant wisdom.

For the catalog: Gloria Vallese (ed.), Vizi, virtù e follia nell'opera grafica di Bruegel il Vecchio. Catalogo generale ragionato, Milan: Mazzotta, 2004, pages 188, with 89 big, well printed pictures and a rich data sheet for each of them, cm 24 x 34. N.B. Except in one case, the plates were designed by Bruegel, but not engraved by him.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Un(s)even: the multiverse

(a bit cropped)

The years in which Torquato Tasso wrote Il Mondo Creato were those between the formulation of Copernicus' theory and the breaking out of the Galileo Affair. The heliocentric pattern already existed, but had not yet become the subject of red-hot, and dangerous, controversies. Tasso, personally, did not accept heliocentrism -- or rather, he did not accept it as a physical law, but he subscribed to its deepest 'spiritual' meaning: Man was no longer the center of the universe. The many lines he devotes to the issue also show another interesting side of the astronomical debate in the late 16th century, namely that, against all simplifications, there did not exist one geocentric pattern, but many, and quite different from one another. On the other hand, it had been so from the Greek philosophers onwards.

On this subject, it is both instructing and amusing to read, among others, Fortunato Lanci's hypotheses about Dante's cosmology (see) and Umberto Eco's 1994 novel L'isola del giorno prima / English version: The Island of the Day Before, set in the early 17th century. Not to speak of William Blake's theory on the shape and position of the Earth, expressed in his long poems Milton (Plate 28) and Jerusalem (Plate 83); while John Milton himself, notoriously, chose not to choose. Ludovico Ariosto, in the early 16th century, loved to joke about the whole issue by saying that the Sun did turn around the Earth, alright, but witches could make it work the other way round thanks to their great powers.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The best defense is attack (2)

[7: 4, Argantes speaks]

A que' non son turbati i prandi e rotti,
Né quelle cene mai, superbe e liete;
Anzi i dì lunghi e le serene notti
Traggon securi in placida quïete.
Voi da' disagi e da la fame indotti
A render l'arme a lungo andar sarete,
Od a morirne qui come codardi,
Quando l'hoste d'Eggitto anco ritardi.

". . .   To them [the Crusaders], lunches are never(*) upset and interrupted, nor are those superb and merry suppers of theirs. Indeed, they spend the long days and the clear nights safely in a placid quiet. While you, in the long run, will be led by want and hunger to surrender, or to die here as cowards, if the army of Egypt happens to be late."

(*) Of course, the Christian soldiers who complained about the way things were managed in their own Camp said the same, with inverted roles.