SeeStan ChapLee

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The future is Utopia _and_ Dystopia


Many features of Renaissance Utopias are reused, more or less parodied, by HP Lovecraft in his short novel At the Mountains of Madness. The dystopian side of it lies in the fact that the superior civilization described in this case belongs to alien entities who conquered Earth some 1,000 millions years ago and, incidentally, did create the first human beings as their food and pastime. But, after all, "Scientists to the last—what had they done that we would not have done in their place? God, what intelligence and persistence! . . .  Radiates, vegetables, monstrosities, star-spawn—whatever they had been, they were men!" No, the true problem is that other cosmic forces finally succeeded in destroying them, and are ready to destroy us.

By the way, have a Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

On Christ's Native-E.T.


And this is the interpretation of the picture provided by Mauricio Yushin Marassi of the Italian Zen community La Stella del Mattino ("The Morning Star," see website):
The space full of birds of prey, while Man is in a beam of light on a robotized earth. . .  as if Man were good, and evil "somewhere else."

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A great jump forward


In his illustrations for Orlando Furioso, Fabrizio Clerici (see) seems to represent Rodomonte as what we would call an X-Man, a mutant; at least, he makes Rodomonte's body merge biologically with his armor, that is made with the skin of a dragon. This recolored version simply highlights the concept.

What better wish for the new year than to admire a genius being futuristically reinterpreted by another genius? May the Renaissance spur us to a true renaissance.
Have a great 2017!

. . . But, wait, earlier than that, there will appear a Christmas greeting card on December 25.

Fantastic Design and Where to Find It

click to enlarge

Crazy ornaments, both small for the tables and big for the buildings, were a must-have to Renaissance nobles; a task with which great artists were entrusted. All sorts of things could be assembled to make pots, etc., from mold copies of eagle claws to coconuts being labeled as "fossils" to cameos with Biblical or mythological or erotic scenes. The outcome would turn out either refined or kitsch.

An amazing set of modern objects in that line, especially the refined side, can be seen in the book: Cristina Morozzi (ed.), Terrific Design, Milan (Italy): 24 Ore Cultura, 2014, pages 242, euros 45, from which the items in the collage above have been taken. With many thanks to Libreria Bardamù, Perugia.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Spy Who Came in from the Heat (5)

[76.1 - 77.4]

Poi che s'avide che non può dar crollo,
Svelle la chioma e la sua nera barba,
Come fa de la menta o del serpollo
Il villan, che cogliendo egli dibarba.
Alfin premendo l'una mano al collo,
Che parea tinto dove nacque Iarba,
Gridò: - Confessa, mentitor fallace,
Il vero a me, se vita brami e pace.

Di' chi sei, donde vieni, ov'era dritto
Dinanzi il tuo corso errante e fuggitivo.
E non mentir, che non sarai trafitto,
E quinci partirai satollo e vivo -.

When he(*) saw that the man could not move, (**)
He tore off his hair and his black beard,
As with a plant of mint or wild thyme
A farmer does when he uproots them.
Then pressing one hand against his neck,
That looked as dark as in Iarbas' birthplace, (***)
Vafrino cried, "Treacherous liar, confess
The truth now, if you love life and peace!
Who are you, whence do you come, and where
Did your wandering, fleeing route lead?
Do not lie, for you will not be slain,
Yeah, you will leave sated and alive."

(*) Vafrino
(**) The Italian phrasing echoes Dante, Inferno 25: 9.
(***) Iarbas was a North African king mentioned in the Iliad. The definition of Africa as "the land of Iarbas" comes from Dante, Purgatorio 31: 72, where Iarba already rhymed with barba (beard) and dibarba (uproots), but here Dante's "strong oaks" are replaced with humble herbs. In the third line, the unusual form serpollo instead of serpillo (wild thyme) is due to the needs of rhyming. Tasso's love for plants and their uses emerges in his contemporary long poem Il Mondo Creato.

Christmas break: The GC posts will restart on January 7.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 5: 344-404

by ilT + Selkis

All the more so with Man:
corporations controlling
humble people heavily
drink Dracula-wise
the blood of buyers.
Is a soul stimulated
[350] greedily towards gold
different in depth from
Leviathan that hunts
thousands of tiny fish
to fill its own flesh?
New blasphemous Ahabs
dispossess the poor and—
you enjoy the exile’s
goods, you now gnaw
old spoils shamelessly
[360] adding to you account
such past usurpation
and proving a pig worse
than the primal pig.
Therefore mind the doom
that falls on the fish
preying on its peers:
hook or net or bow-net.
You won’t avoid after
so many misdeeds
[370] a punishment proper
that looms like a lasso.
Of a small crustacean
learn the subtle traps
and be free from fraud:
The crab craves for
the shell’s sweet pulp
a very precious prey
since a hard defense
was given her by God
[380] with vigorous valves
that shut super-strongly
and neutralize nippers.
But if the sea’s smooth
in sunny serene weather
the relaxing rays are
loved by the she-shell
who opens up, and lo!
he throws a stone inside
and makes her harmless
[390] so shrewdness wins
where weakness cannot.
Odi malizia” of a man
unjust and unrefined
silently fraudulent!
If you aim at the art
of acquiring, avoid
bothering your brother.
Shun damned souls
be content with things
[400] provided by poverty
without humiliating honors
or pompous pride:
Master your own mind
that’s more than America.

(Christmas break: to be continued on Jan. 8)

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Spy Who Came in from the Heat (4)

[16: 75]

Ma di creder Vafrino anco s'infinge,
Sin ch'ebro il vede e di parlar già stanco,
E sovra l'herba, che l'humor dipinge,
Posare il capo non ch'il tergo o il fianco,
E chiuder gli occhi gravi: allhor gli scinge
La spada, che pendeva al lato manco,
E mentre il sonno più l'affrena e lega,
Egli co 'l proprio cinto anco il rilega.

But Vafrino makes as if he believed him,
Until he sees him drunk and tired of talking;
On the grass -- red with wine -- the man finally
Lays his head, not only his back and hips,
And shuts his drowsy eyes. Vafrino unfastens
The man's sword, that hung on his left side, 
And when sleep dominates him wholly,
Ties him strongly by using his own belt. (*)

(*) In the final printed version, the text is slightly different, and specifies that Vafrino ties the man by using "his own and other belts," probably because one belt would not suffice. At the same time, it is not clear whence these other belts come.
The man, as it has become clear by now, is a Muslim spy -- though a very bad Muslim (he drinks a lot of wine) and a very bad spy! A poor devil, after all. His story will presently confirm the impression.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Fab and Furious

British knights look,
amazed, at the Hippogriff

The Battle of Lampedusa
(3 Christians vs. 3 Muslims)

The search for the [almost] complete catalog of Fabrizio Clerici's illustrations for Ariosto's Orlando Furioso has proved successful, at last! The book, published in 1981 after an exhibition in Bologna (Italy), includes 158 ink and watercolor pictures made in 1964-67, that cover basically the whole poem while summarizing the whole of Clerici's career. The references to art history and other literary sources also are many, but the main influences apparently come from the drawings -- not the paintings -- by Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Füssli/Fuseli, possibly Picasso too (especially the Vollard Suite), as well as comics, children's books, pulp novels, and illustrated magazines.

This album can be listed, imho, among the greatest achievements in the history of illustration, together with William Blake's works for Paradise Lost, Salvador Dali's for Don Quixote, Gustave Dore's for The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Renato Guttuso's for Les Misérables, Beppe Madaudo's for the Divine Comedy.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Spy Who Came in from the Heat (3)

[16: 73]

Greco d'esser dicea, che già molti anni
Guerreggiato ha co' Franchi in Asia, e vinto;
E i rischi de la guerra, e i lunghi affanni,
Dal primo egli narrava all'anno quinto.
Guata Vafrino il viso, i modi e i panni,
Né presta intera fede al parlar finto;
E mentre l'un contrario e l'altro accoppia,
S'accorge ben che quella fraude è doppia.

A Greek, he said he was; who many years now
Had fought with the Franks in Asia, (*) and won;
And the perils of war and wearing times
He recounted, from year one to the fifth.
Vafrino inspects his face, manners, clothes, (**)
And does not believe his false words at all,
But by comparing one side and its contrary (***)
He well understands there's a double fraud.

(*) Asia Minor, current Turkey; the self-styled Byzantine soldier says he fought against the Muslims in his own country when the Crusaders, called collectively "Franks," passed through it coming from Western Europe.
(**) The same method that will be adopted by Sherlock Holmes.
(***) Echoing Dante, Purgatorio 16: 57.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Learning Latin with the Renaissance method



There is a place where reading and speaking Latin and Greek is taught as it was in the Renaissance: through music! An alternative, exciting, easy, and working method. It is the international Accademia Vivarium Novum (website), whose current headquarters is in the wonderful Falconieri Villa in Frascati, Italy, near Rome. The building dates back to the 16th century, although it has been reworked in the following centuries, as usual.

If you happen to visit it, you may feel thrilled and moved by listening to a girl who sings Dido's last words in the Aeneid according to a melody that is very likely to match the original Latin music. Or, you may have a Mexican student, a discipulus de Nova Hispania as a tour guide, who tells you about the place's history in Latin. Well, tour guides are called ciceroni in Italian, after the name of the Roman orator and philosopher whose Villa lay in the very neighborhood of the Falconieris'.

The founder of Vivarium Novum, Luigi Miraglia, invested all of his (noteworthy) financial means and his (noteworthy) talents to start this project. Erchou kai ide!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 5: 271-343

by Selkis + ilT

But the feeble fisher
by the Mar Tirreno
or Adriatic, Aegean
Caspian, Euxinus Sea
or Red Sea or Ocean
in northern Europe
and islands and India
who grew hoary on
the most solitary sands
[280] roving on the rocks
with his hook and net—
could he ever recount
the thousands of types
of the slippery progeny
the numberless amount
of scaly ways of life
all around Arda?
Some species in Egypt
others in the Eritrean Sea
[290] or Caspian or Persian
or at Atlas’ slopes
or at Indus’ mouth
may appear like aliens
or perplexing pilgrims.
How many are made by
the Ocean beneath Ursa
or on the opposite side
that resemble monsters!
But they all developed
[300] from the one Voice
who promoted plurality.
Some initially lay eggs
though without brooding
nor composing a nest
not fishing for food
but the water welcomes
and fortifies fries.
Some are viviparous:
differently from mules
[310] and many hybrid birds
their purest progeny
spreads forever fertile
through lawful loves.
Rules are rules: Although
morays mate with snakes,
the latter leaves its poison
otherwise the former flees.
No family of fish has
teeth in one sole section
[320] of their poor palates
like goats and oxen;
no fish—many think
ruminates replete,
except for scarus.
They all show saw-
like teeth in two rows
and different diets:
slime or fungi or algae
sea or swamp weeds
[330] or by the riverbeds.
Some believe in the bait
put by human hands,
fond of man’s food—
of lethal hidden hooks.
Most of them however
destroy one another:
To be small is to be meal.
But often opportunely
the proud predator will
[340] find a bigger fiend
try to vanish in vain
and be inexorably eaten,
two titbits in one belly.

(to be continued on Dec. 18)

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Tasso Art: Edoardo Matania

Mission: Not Impossible

Erminia's self-investiture
[Nicaea's, in G. Conquistata]

Crusaders were not saints

The illustrations of Edoardo Matania for Gerusalemme Liberata (Jerusalem Delivered) were first published in 1895, not by chance in the 300th anniversary of Tasso's death. Though less original and powerful than Gustave Doré, Matania was more technically skilled, and his engravings stand out for their style, refinement, and historical accuracy.

Noticeably, here the 11th century Crusaders are not armored like Renaissance knights. As for the clothing and architecture in Muslim countries, in European art history there had developed a true mania during the 19th century, see Eugène Delacroix.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Spy Who Came in from the Heat (2)

During a stop in his journey, the Christian spy Vafrino meets a strange guy.

[16: 70]

Quindi mentre prendea posa e restauro,
Meschiando il vin di Creta e l'onda fresca
E, sibilar udendo il pino e 'l lauro,
Dava al corpo digiuno humore ed esca,
Vi giunse huom di color sembiante al mauro,
A cui par che 'l vïaggio homai incresca;
Ma l'habito avea greco e l'idïoma,
E come greco lunga e culta chioma.

While he here took a break and refreshment,
Blending the wine of Crete with fresh water (*)
And, listening to pines and laurels that whistled, (**)
He gave his body something to eat and drink,
There came a man whose skin was like the Moors',
Apparently tired of his own long travel;
But Greek were his garments and language,
And his hair, long and combed as the Greeks have. (***)

(*) In past times, wine was quite thick, and had to be watered down before drinking it. Greek wines were renowned, and Tasso was a connoisseur.
(**) A Tassean touch in the landscape.
(***) What have today become folkloric costumes were the actual garments of peoples. "Greek" here means "from the Byzantine Empire."

Thursday, December 8, 2016

If Donald Trump could see this!

click to enlarge

In this world map of 1548, the territory of the current USA is shown as an extension of China, and honorably so.

The map, drawn by Iacopo Gastaldi, was included in an edition of Ptolemy's Geography printed in Venice, the publisher G. B. Pederzano. Source: Isabella Pezzini (ed.), Exploratorium. Cose dell'altro mondo, Milan (Italy): Electa, 1991, pages 228, full of pictures. The very interesting essays in the book deal with the time period between the late Middle Ages and the 19th century, with the Renaissance obviously as the key focus. Cose dell'altro mondo literally means "things of the other world," but it is a common phrase referring to something unexpected and shocking.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Spy Who Came in from the Heat (1)

The Crusaders decide to send a spy to the Muslim camp: Vafrino, a squire of Tancred.
The episode was set in another section in Gerusalemme Liberata (cantos 18-19), and was quite different in its developments. In both versions, however, Vafrino starts by disguising himself as a Muslim, or rather, as Arabs often appear in modern children's books, stickers and comics.

As it can be inferred from other episodes in the Jerusalem-poems as well as from other works by Tasso, he loved detective stories. The major example is in Gerusalemme Liberata, canto 8, when false clues make some Crusaders believe that the knight Rinaldo has been murdered by order of no less than Godfrey of Bouillon. The parallel episode in the Conquistata (where Rinaldo has been changed into Riccardo) has, unfortunately, not been dealt with in our posts because it belongs to the part missing in the manuscript.


[16: 67.5 - 68.8]

Così parla Vafrino, e non trattiensi,
Ma cangia in lunga vesta il suo farsetto
E scopre ignudo il nero collo, e prende
Sottili e 'ntorno al capo attorte bende.

La faretra s'adatta e l'arco siro,
E barbarico sembra ogni suo gesto.
Maravigliosi ragionar l'udîro,
E 'n sì diverse lingue esser sì presto
Ch'eggittio in Menfi o pur fenice in Tiro
L'havria creduto e quel popolo e questo.
Egli se 'n va sovra un destrier ch'à pena
Segna correndo la più molle arena.

So speaks Vafrino, then does not tarry, and
His doublet replaces with a long garment;
He shows a black neck naked, then wears
A long, thin cloth all around his head;
Arranges a quiver, a Syrian bow,
All his gestures now recall the heathens'.
All were amazed while listening to him,
So skilled in so many different languages
That he could have passed for an Egyptian
In Memphis, a Phoenician in Tyre.
He goes, riding a horse who hardly leaves
A print on the finest sand by galloping.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 5: 202-270



Dolphins talk as have
both blood and lung
but no tongue to
shape their sounds.
There snort in sleeping
some slippery fish or
armored arachnids too,
even without eyelids
[210] to be lowered on
their tired sight;
but their relaxed rest
with swinging tails
informs the fisher
who won’t harpoon
but can catch them
and regularly ransacks
sea rocks and sands
to seize the specimens
[220] secretly sleeping.
Using sharpened iron
Sparus, Perca are caught:
deep in their Dormitio
they will hardly wake up,
sleep passes into death
from slight to endless sleep
almost inadvertently.
Dolphins and tremendous
whales while sleeping
[230] set on the surface
their spouting spiracles
and fluctuate on fins.
At dead of night rather
than any other time fish
sleep—easy in summertime—
when herds are reared
by Proteus in his ponds:
Pistrices and sharks
whose bed is weeds
[240] snore sonorously
with their chef-herd
who counted sea sheep.
But old fables fit better
somewhere else. I won’t
argue about Arion who
was helped by a dolphin;
nor deal with the love of
a bottle-nose for a boy
whose death destroyed it
[250] and defeated by grief
it passed away on sand.
If we refuse faith to
such tales, let us trust
Natural History where
piety is pedagogically
foretasted by fish.
Dolphins have udders
to breast-feed babies,
their wombs welcome back
[260] a son who seeks
shelter there when the sea
is darn dangerous.
Growing up sub gurgite
the son learns to swim
not afraid of foam
taught by his daddy
the signal of sailors,
so that seamen foresee
the War of the Winds
[270] and quit their cruise.

(to be continued on Dec. 11)

Friday, December 2, 2016

The ancestor of NSA (5)

[16: 62, Godfrey speaks]

Scenderan (se fia d'uopo) incontra gli empi
Angeli amici da' stellanti chiostri,
A' quai non son l'hore prescritte o i tempi,
Com' a noi tutti et a' nemici nostri.
Liberarem la città sacra e i tempi,
E cadranno d'Egitto i feri mostri;
E fia di varie genti e d'una terra
Vittoria integra in glorïosa guerra.

"Against the impious, if needed, there will
Come friendly angels from the starry courts(*) --
To whom hours and times are not prescribed
As they are to us all and our enemies. (**)
We will free the Holy City and temples,
And the fierce monsters of Egypt (***) will fall;
And out of many peoples and one land
Full victory will rise in a glorious war."

(*) Literally "cloisters," a metaphor often used by Tasso.
(**) The angels will be able to intervene at any time, and immediately so, not needing to prepare equipments, etc. The predicament of humans is hard and tiring, to whatever religion they belong.
(***) The umbrella concept of "paganism" makes Tasso shamelessly mix up Islam and the religion of Ancient Egypt. He deals more diffusely with the monsters/gods of Egypt in his long poem Il Mondo Creato, on which he was working at the same time as he edited the Jerusalem-poem. This octave, anyway, provides a fine example of Baroque imagery and rhetoric.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The ancestor of NSA (4)

Jerusalem in Gustave Dore's illustrations
for Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando Furioso

Godfrey of Bouillon comments on the intercepted message with his knights.

[16: 61]

Ma qual d'aquila volo, o di colomba,
Veloce è come la celeste aita?
Qui dove hebbe il Figliol tormenti e tomba
Aspettar noi debbiam vittoria e vita.
Né vi turbi il romor, ch'alto rimbomba,
D'innumerabil turba o d'infinita:
Ché nostre fian le lor sì care salme,
E cresceranno a voi trïonfi e palme.

"But what flight of an eagle or a dove 
Is so rapid as the heavenly help?
Here, where the Son(*) had sufferings and grave,
We must expect both victory and life.
Don't be afraid of the resounding noise
Of their countless, even endless army:
Ours will be, in the end, their dearest spoils, (**)
Your triumphs and trophies will keep increasing."

(*) "Jesus" in the final printed version. The octave had undergone a thorough editing already in the manuscript. "Life" in the following line does not only refer to the Christian knights' success in the war but also to their eternal reward in heaven. And once in a while, the reason of the whole crusade is recalled: the reconquest of the Holy Sepulcher.
(**) The city of Jerusalem with its holy places.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Clerici vagantes

From left: Astolfo, Saint John,
the magic shield, and the Hippogriff

Pope Alexander VI
(Rodrigo Borgia)

One of the most interesting artists who illustrated some of the 'greatest hits' of the Renaissance was Fabrizio Clerici (1913-1993). Usually considered the main exponent of Italian Surrealism, he in fact had only some points in common with that movement. A very cultured man, an old-fashioned aristocrat as well as an independent and revolutionary artist -- snubbed by the leading official criticism both during and after the Fascist Era -- Clerici was therefore a Renaissance personage himself, in a way. He worked nonetheless as a painter, illustrator, and set designer up until his last days, thanks to a sufficient number of people all over the world who believed in his talent. He illustrated Leonardo Da Vinci's animal tales in 1945, The Prince by Machiavelli in 1961, and Ariosto's Orlando Furioso in 1965, always skipping commonplace and offering powerful, intelligent, experimental and multidisciplinary versions of the texts.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 5: 143-201

by ilT + Selkis
from the "DantEsq." set

Speechless species
and selfish are fish
impossible pets to be
carefully cuddled,
only occasionally
endowed with some
unusual sounds or
[150] even with voice
or a clumsy language
to express experiences.
Too slow is their spirit
unable is their lung
wet is their windpipe,
their speech is shaped
solely in their throat:
tongue and teeth are
needed, otherwise no
[160] concept can come.
Otherwise sounds shatter
as in the bees band
wound round their waists
that spoils the spirit
in Antinfernal anguish.
Other bugs break their
breath in that band
and sing wing-songs
so the forests are full
[170] of cicada jazz swing.
But in the fish family
scaly or crustaceans
some have no sound
some snort or shriek
and the water whirrs;
such concerts caused
the lyre-fish’s fame.
Pecten creaks as well
as the sea swallow,
[180] both fly high above
the waters with wings.
Aspropotamus River
hosts an abyssal boar
and the creek cuckoo
lullabies like the bird
but that’s no true voice
it’s merely the outcome
of grossly shaped gills.
More truly talkative is
[190] the half-fishy frog
the star of swamps
with lung and tongue
perfectly formed:
the former as in a fish
the latter (its clapper)
sticks to its throat.
Frogs frequently hoot
as hot fish also do,
a Cupid call by which
[200] males fu** females
their sweet spouses.

(to be continued on Dec. 4)

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Ariosto to Harry Potter to (. . .?)


As underscored in this book, one of the great efforts in the Harry Potter movie effects was to make fantasy creatures as realistic as possible; that meant, not only to base them on living animals in detail, but also to blend the different parts into a plausible whole, and -- even more difficult -- to have them move as naturally as they possibly would do if they existed. And they succeeded.

Once again, as in many other subjects we have been dealing with, the origin of this approach can be traced back to the Renaissance, in both literature and art. It will suffice to compare Dante's Griffin in Purgatorio with Ariosto's Hippogriff in Orlando Furioso: the former is a stiff symbol, the latter acts as a living being, nosediving like a falcon, being taken care of and fed like a horse, etc.
And once again, it must be remarked that the Renaissance culture has survived especially in the people's movies and comics -- which one day will, perhaps, be reevaluated as a precious link between a past glorious Era and a new glorious Era in Europe. Somewhat later than tomorrow morning, anyway.

Jody Revenson, Harry Potter: Il libro delle creature magiche. Creature e piante dei film di Harry Potter [orig.: The Creature Vault], Modena: Panini, 2015, pages 208, euros 39.90

Friday, November 25, 2016

The ancestor of NSA (3)

[16: 57.7 - 58.8]

- A Ducalto salute (era lo scritto)
Manda il grande admiraglio e 'l Re d'Eggitto.

Non sbigottir, signore, resisti e dura
Al terzo dì dopo l'ottavo e 'l quinto;
Ch'io vengo a liberar l'offese mura,
E vedrai tosto il tuo nemico vinto -.
Questo secreto allor breve scrittura
In barbariche note havea distinto:
Dato in custodia al messaggier volante,
Ché tai messi in quel tempo usò 'l Levante.

"To Ducat," the text read, "Egypt's supreme
General and King sends wishes of health. (*)
Do not be afraid, my Lord; resist until
The third day after the eighth and the fifth, (**)
For I will come and free the walls under siege:
You will see your enemies vanquished soon."
This secret message in a brief paper had
Been written in a non-Latin (***) alphabet
Then entrusted to the flying messenger,
As the East used such envoys in that time. (****)

(*) Emir Ducat, a historical personage, was the Muslim King of Jerusalem. As a matter of fact, the Sultan of Egypt did not take part in the First Crusade; but in Gerusalemme Conquistata Tasso turns the crusade into a World War, as we will see. The phrase "sending health" echoes the Latin salutem dicere, whence comes the current Italian verb salutare, "to greet."
(**) A couple of weeks, according to the final printed text. The manuscript had "until the fourth or fifth day," that probably would not have been enough.
(***) The text says "barbaric," to be taken in its original sense. The word distinto, literally "distinct," meaning something clearly written, comes from Dante, Paradiso 18: 96 ("inlaid" in the Longfellow version).
(****) Actually, it was still used in the Renaissance; and it would be up until the early 20th century in the West, too. But both Ariosto and Tasso liked to 'make as if' they were not dealing with their own world and era, though that was obviously their main focus.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The ancestor of NSA (2)

[16: 57.1-6]

La raccoglie Goffredo e la difende,
Poi scorge, in lei guardando, estrania cosa
Ché dal collo, ad un filo avinta, pende
Rinchiusa carta, e sotto l'ale ascosa.
La disserra e dispiega, e bene intende
Quella ch'in sé contien non lunga prosa
. . .

Godfrey takes it in his hands, defends it, (*)
Then he looks and notices something strange
As from its neck, tied to a thread, there hangs
A rolled sheet, hidden under the wings;
Unties, unfolds it. He well understands (**)
The very brief message that it contains:
. . .

(*) The dove that, as recounted in stanza 56 here not reported, had recovered in Godfrey's lap after fleeing from the attack of an eagle.
(**) Apparently, Godfrey also -- as Tancred has proved able to before -- can read Arabic.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 5: 76-142

by ilT + Selkis


Be it as it may, on Day
Five beasts were born
with non-stupid senses,
each slippery species
[80] of surface or abyss
was made to submit to
the everlasting Voice.
Few phonemes sufficed
to include all kinds:
seals and dolphins who
bear breathing pups,
the fish by which
the fishers fingers are
electrically treated,
[90] the egg-laying phyla
the scaled & the scaring
the flying & the floating,
all wrapped in words
and led by law, all
the darting dwellers;
inhabitants of the abyss
conquerors of rocks
swimming in schools
scattered here and there
[100] blue and killer whales
anchovies and plankton.
Some shift the weight
of their bellies on legs
ambivalent amphibians
eating twofold food
unsatisfied with simply
one type of gastronomy:
the deafening frogs
the cyborg-like crabs
[110] crocodiles and river
horses of the Nile whose
waves fertilize fields.
Both big, small, and strange
under one decree they
got manifold lives when
He said, “Let waters whelp”
and the sound showed
that the liquid element
was the fun of fish.
[120] Like the air to avian
or to breathing beasts
is water to sea species
or those living in lakes.
The reason is sensible
as our lung on the left
lies in our bowels
spongy and transparent
like a mirrored image
and acts and contracts
[130] like Los’ bellows
operating oxygen and
comforting corazon
the bank of blood;
the same spirit that
cools our inner oven
validates our voice.
But Physis supplied
gobies just with gills,
by fanning fluxes
[140] they whirl the water
and thus practically
breathe the streams.

(to be continued on Nov. 27)

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Macbeth's secret?

Weird Lady Gaga Macbeth
playing Hecat[e]

In Shakespeare's Macbeth we are told all sort of ugly things about the protagonist, but is there one more? In V.1.41 ff. Lady Macbeth in her somnambulism is obsessed with the Macduffs: "The Thane of Fife had a wife; where is she now?" and "There's knocking at the gate," with reference to the morning after the assassination of King Duncan (II.3). Maybe, she had some special reason to hate Lady Macduff, therefore 'encouraging' Macbeth -- off stage -- to have her killed.
In IV.3.57-58 the head of the resistance, Duncan's son Malcolm, describes Macbeth as "luxurious, avaricious, false, deceitful, / sudden, malicious". . . All adjectives square, except for the first one; when is Macbeth ever shown as lecherous? Or, did he entertain a secret love affair with Lady Macduff? As a matter of fact, in V.7.33 ff. he still feels remorse for her death when he meets Macduff in the final battle: "Of all men else I have avoided thee. / But get thee back; my soul is too much charged / with blood of thine already."
This would cast a special light on Lady Macduff's words in IV.2.41, after her husband's cowardly escape from Fife: "Why, I can buy me twenty [men] at any market," possibly including the best party in the neighborhood.

P.S. In the final lines, the now dead and beheaded Macbeth is defined a "butcher" by Malcolm. He was a butcher from the very beginning (I.2), but then usefully so -- that only makes the difference. Intelligenti pauca.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The ancestor of NSA (1)

[16: 55]

Mentre rinova pur l'ampia cittade
L'arme contra i nemici e le difese,
Vaga colomba per cerulee strade
Vista è passar sovra il signor francese,
Che non dimena i presti vanni, e rade
Quelle liquide vie con l'ali tese;
E già la messaggiera peregrina
Da l'alte nubi a la città s'inchina.

While the great city (*) keeps renewing its
Weapons and defenses against the enemies,
A beautiful (**) dove across light blue roads
Is observed passing over the French lord; (***)
It doesn't flap its swift feathers but touches
The yielding element with wings wide open; (****)
And already the traveling messenger
From the high clouds glides towards the city.

(*) Jerusalem
(**) Vaga is a basically untranslatable poetical adjective that conveys the idea, at the same time, of something beautiful and wandering, especially across the sky. It referred typically to birds and stars. The same ambivalence had peregrina, see line 7, that meant either/both "pilgrim" or/and "rare, precious, wonderful." Here it has been rendered with "traveling."
(***) Godfrey of Bouillon
(****) Imagery coming from Virgil, Aeneid 5; it had already been reused by Dante in Inferno 5: 82-84.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

We do need another hero (2)

[16: 53, Peter the Hermit speaks to Godfrey of Bouillon]

- Lascia il pensiero ardito: altri convene
Che de le piante sue la selva spoglie.
Ma chi de l'indegnissime catene
Il bramato guerrero homai discioglie,
Mentre il mar carco e le minute arene
Son di schiere e di navi e d'auree spoglie?
Già il nemico possente a turba afflitta
Più s'avicina, e l'hora è 'n ciel prescritta -.

"Quit this bold project; (*) it will be up
To someone else to clear-cut the forest. (**)
But, who will from that most shameful chains
Free, at last, the warrior we all long for,
Now that the sea and the sands are full
Of armies, and ships, and gold equipments?
Our strong enemies already see our
Vexed crowds -- the predestined time has come!"

(*) To defy the enchanted forest himself.
(**) Richard. Recap: The final victory is destined, of course, to the 'anointed' hero. In Gerusalemme Conquistata, Riccardo (Richard) replaces the Rinaldo of the Liberata. The two share the same adventures, in part, and in part not. Rinaldo had been seduced by the witch Armida and brought from Jerusalem to an island in the Atlantic Ocean; Riccardo has been seduced by the witch/mermaid Armida and brought, more simply, to Lebanon. Peter the Hermit does not know that Richard has already been freed, secretly, by two volunteers, the knights Ruperto (Rupert) and Araldo ( = Harold?). Rupert, as we will discover, happens to be the male lover of Richard, as Patroclus was to Achilles in the Iliad; and this is surely the most significant novelty in the Conquistata, while recalling that Tasso himself was bisexual and mainly homosexual.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 5: 1-75

by Selkis + ilT


Songday 5


A citizen of elsewhere
about to go back home
after exile and exertions
and very many years of
an exhausting existence,
to his courteous host is
benevolent before leaving;
so we longing for a flight
sooner or later to heaven
[10] from this opaque orb
of clay and of ocean
which fed and cradled us
for a continued time
we owe words and gifts
of loyalty and love, of
an enduring memory,
to this dear devoted
Mother who welcomed us
adolescents and aged,
[20] to this transporting sea
to this lung-filling air.
Hear! Gods hand after
decorating the cosmos
replenished all places
with happy inhabitants
and left no desolation
and waste anywhere
nor solitary horror.
His brush embellished
[30] the sky with star-flowers
looking like eyes
and Sun and Selene
then added He, “Let air
and liquid now litter
all fliers and finned!”
Abruptly the rivers
and pools got pregnant
and the sea produced
sets of scaly shoals.
[40] Slimy swamps too
missing all motion
and lazily stagnating
were highly honored,
did not remain empty
when God gushed things,
suddenly springing
batrachians croaked
and at once all animals,
to obey his Order
[50] even waters yawped.
Innumerable items
impossible to list
were born and began
to move and make
their Makers hymns
humbling Man’s tongue.
Ladies and gentlemen,
something sentient
at last! Plants in fact
[60] by unfolding leaves
have life that feeds
their roots and the rest
but are not anima-ted
they lack intelligence
to organize the objects.
Yet, some suspect that
even barbarous barks
can twist themselves
and stretch their branches
[70] like amorous arms
with a secret passion
slowly but surely, according
to ancient authors.
Let hypotheses hide
in wooden whispers. 

(to be continued on Nov. 20)

Friday, November 11, 2016

We do need another hero (1)

[16: 52]

Così dice egli, e 'l sommo duce ondeggia
In gran tempesta de' pensieri intanto;
Pensa s'egli medesmo andar là deggia
(Ché tal lo stima) a ritentar l'incanto,
O se pur di materia altra proveggia,
Lontana più, ma non difficil tanto.
Ma 'l pio romito dal pensiero profondo
Il rappella, ch'al core è grave pondo:
. . .

So he(*) speaks, and the supreme chief meanwhile
Wavers in the midst of a storm of thoughts; (**)
He ponders whether he should go there himself
To test the spell (as he deems it to be)
Or provide the materials from elsewhere,
In a farther but less difficult place.
But the pious hermit(***) calls him back from
The worries that weigh so much on his heart:
. . .

(*) Tancred
(**) One of the most interesting novelties in Gerusalemme Conquistata is Godfrey of Bouillon's doubts not only about particular problems, but about his very mission in the Holy Land. In Gerusalemme Liberata he appeared more unshakable.
(***) Peter of Amiens, aka Peter the Hermit, a historical personage who was among the main promoters of the Crusade.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction: The second online review, or so


Prof. Donald Mack Hassler's review (the same that has been mentioned in the previous post, or a different paper?) takes into consideration both The 7 Days of CryAction and the other translation of Tasso's long poem Il Mondo Creato, the philologically correct one, namely Creation of the World. The complete text of his review can be read here.

Favorite quotes: The 7Days version "shortens the English metric in order to create rapid, nearly jazzy beats," while already in the illustrations for the International Authors edition, the “jazzy, pulp quality that characterizes the Rivarossa rebellion is everywhere in the art even before his departure to the ebook version of the Tasso poem."

Again heartfelt thanks, Mack!

The 7 Days of CryAction: The first online review, or so


Her husband is Prof. Donald Mack Hassler, whom I warmly thank together with her.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Minority Report (2)

[16: 51]

Ancor dirò: ch'a gli arbori dà vita
Spirito human, che sente e che ragiona;
Io il so per prova, e n'ho la voce udita,
Che nel cor flebilmente ancor mi suona;
Stilla sangue de' tronchi ogni ferita,
Quasi di molle carne habbian persona.
No, no, non più potrei -- vinto mi chiamo --
Né corteccia scorzar né sveller ramo.

"And more than this, the trees receive life
From a human spirit that feels and speaks;
I did experience this, I heard that voice,
Which still echoes, though faintly, in my heart.
Blood does drip from every wound in the trunks,
As if they possessed a body (*) of soft flesh.
No, no, I give up, I would not be able
To bark one more tree, tear off a branch."

(*) Here Tasso uses the word persona in its original sense: the outward appearance of a human being. Line 4, in Italian, has the same cadence as Dante's verse Amor che ne la mente mi ragiona, "Love, who speaks inside my mind."
Tancred's description of his experience in the "dark forest," while omitting the most important detail, is filled with true, delicate sentiment.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 4: 1130-1229

by ilT + Selkis (see Album)


So many marvels will
be seen in some centuries
in outer space, provided
anybody believes so.
As a cause they change
kingdoms, or kings indeed:
the old one was deposed
stars had a new sovereign.
Under Saturn the sky
slipped from the left
[1140] usurper Jupiter then
modified its motion
and by turn-transforming
he twisted all things
subject to the skies.
Like Benjamin Button
who heading for death
reversed his own age
came back to maturity
then little by little grew
[1150] young then younger
an innocent infant
eventually to the extreme
end of existence dis-
appearing in Ancient Mom.
Ha the truth of tales
betraying all doubts
about the fate of bodies—
given a very long law,
not eternal, by Elohim
[1160] and destined one day
to complete quiet.
Signs will be observed
preceding Doomsday
when the world’s frame
will fall aflame
the sun dripping red
and scary scars
on Selene’s skin.
The Forger in fact said,
[1170] “Let signs be seen
to dot days and years”
e.g. the lunar lakes
or Phoebus’ phenomena
that show us suggestions
for our toilsome lives.
An upset sky often
forecasts catastrophes,
many dry days have been
experienced by the elders.
[1180] One thing was taught
by the true Master:
When the sky is sadly
red, a tempest approaches.”
This happens when Helios
is clothed in dark clouds
through which his robe
gleams as through glass
almost bloodstained;
or when twin-suns turn
[1190] around him, making
three frightening suns
as ancient Rome noted
and still often occurs
in the snowy North.
Sometimes we also see
long looming stripes like
a Dürerian rainbow
that portends tempests
or a dull day at least.
[1200] The moony moon
prophesies phenomena:
pure and thin the third day
it promises happiness,
if it grows red and horned
it then threatens rain
and Auster’s attack
vehement and violent.
But signs are more easily
seen in Aquilo’s kingdom
[1210] by shrewd steersmen.
If that cloudy corona
circling the sun or stars
suddenly disappears
then seamen expect
clear sky and calm;
if the celestial crown
breaks, from that “banda
the wind is waited for;
if it shatters utterly
[1220] several spirits rise
to fight in the sky and sea
that become the battlefield
of warlike whirlwinds.
N.B. Signs can be substituted
by the mighty Mover.
May He show us serenity
from the cosmos, clearing
the dismal menaces
from our frail lives.

(to be continued on Nov. 13)