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Sunday, January 31, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 3: 1-79



Songday 3


Self-magnifying Metropolises
architecturally amazing
with behemoth buildings
or a powerful past.
From sunrise to sunset
or even when Night
sports her starry saucer,
a mighty movida fills
squares streets theaters
[10] where they all the while
spend the swift hours
of day, the nicotinic nights,
and trick themselves.
Dudes are deceived
by eye-fooling arts
and bamboozled believe
in feigned phenomena.
Somesurrounded by
the inputs of instruments
[20] that influence inside
and push or depress
forget about fu**ing all.
Some depend on a dancer
who loosens her limbs
like a shape-shifter
in lascivious laps
and they hunger for her.
Or against a scenery
with shades and spotlights
[30] with arches and archfiends
with heathen temples
they mourn Romeo’s death
while in a synthetic sky
a simulated sun darkens;
or they laugh for loony
old men being mocked.
Others observe speedy
cars racing in a ring,
or within a square space
[40] virtual wars with
shrieking sounds
and fashion uniforms
and they OK campaigns.
And we, whom the Maker
of all cool things calls
to admire the art
of his wonderful world
whimsically woven with
both heaven and earth—
[50] will we tepidly take in
the beyond-judgment job
of the supernatural smith?
Or rather, by realizing
the richness of Reality
won’t we go back to
the beautiful beginning
of matter and time?
Like a vast vault
the sky covers the stars
[60] and with lots of lamps
God’s home hovers.
Resting on itself
is the heavy earth.
Air sprays around
and offers no obstacle
to moving masses
that transfix it,
it passes on pacifically
while providing breath
[70] and coolness to creatures:
spirit loves psyche.
Water feeds, and useful
to our dirty predicament
was given by God.
Disliking dispersion,
it clearly contracted
within local limits
where it washed coasts
obeying the Almighty.

(to be continued on Feb. 7)

Friday, January 29, 2016

We'd go down to the rivers (7)

[8: 18]

La quinta fonte è del color de l'herba,
Ma pur di gemme ella riluce e d'oro;
E di quanti metalli in sen riserba
L'antica madre abonda il bel tesoro:
E con fiorita vista, e con superba,
Frondeggia intorno a lei palma et alloro,
E coronata di sue verdi selve,
Nel grembo accoglie armenti e greggie e belve.

The fifth spring has the color of grass
While shining with gems and with gold;
As many metals as Mother Earth keeps
In her womb make its rich treasure.
In their flowery and superb appearance
There grow palms and laurels all about;
Crowned with its green forests, the spring
Hosts herds and flocks and wild beasts.


Notes
Now, the fifth and last river symbolizes dry land! On the other hand, both Genesis and the Theory of Evolution (that is a masked version of the Bible, as some authors stress) see life on dry land as a "con-sequence" of sea life.
In brief, Tasso's Metaphysics of Water has started from the universe's borders "and beyond," and gradually gone down to life on Earth. Such emanative pattern is based on the Biblical account of creation only in part, it obviously draws on Neo-Platonic sources as well.

This mix or compromise between traditional Christian tenets and Neo-Platonic philosophy is 'officially' stated by Tasso in the dedication of his prose dialogue Il Messaggero ("The Messenger," i.e. the spirit he said he often happened to talk to while in prison; see also Giacomo Leopardi's Dialogue between Torquato Tasso and His Home Genius, of which a complete English translation is provided here).
In the dialogue itself, Tasso shows this hypothesis concretely operating with reference to the origin and 'spiritual mechanism' of the universe, paving the way -- often in the very details -- to his own long poem Il Mondo Creato, that therefore was not only the outcome of his conversations with the learned mother of Count Giovanni Battista Manso (as it happened to be affirmed in this blog too. With apologies).

Thursday, January 28, 2016

In memory of Robert J. Wickenheiser, Milton&art collector


The sad news about Prof. Robert J. Wickenheiser's death arrived late here. He was, among other things, a great collector of art, specifically Miltonian Art. He gave the University of South Carolina the whole of the prestigious sets of illustrations he owned, based on Milton's works, to which he -- with incredibly great kindness -- also wanted to add a number of drawings by me and/or The Magic Trio. A selection of them can be seen here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

We'd go down to the rivers (6)

[8: 17]

Quasi gran mar fremendo il quarto ondeggia
Ne l'ampio vaso e 'n su la molle arena,
E scopre la squamosa horrida greggia
E, come isola in mezzo, orca o balena,
E 'l corallo e la perla; e quel rosseggia,
Questa è nel suo candor tutta serena;
E l'onda vaga co 'l suo moto alterno
Somiglia de la luna il corso eterno.

Like a wide sea the fourth river shakes
In its wide bed, on the soft sand,
Showing rugged-skinned, scaly herds
And island-like, there, an orc or whale,
And coral and pearl: the former red,
The latter shines clear in its whiteness.
And with alternating motions the waves
Recall the moon's eternal course.


Notes
If our hypothesis is true, the fourth river (out of five) in Torquato Tasso's "Metaphysics of Water" represents -- water proper. This wonderful description draws on the text of Genesis while romanticizing it, as Tasso was doing in those same years working on his long poem Il Mondo Creato; which in its turn may have been inspired John Milton for the central section of his Paradise Lost, though we don't know if the English poet had the opportunity to read Gerusalemme Conquistata as he had with the Liberata. We will even forgive Tasso for going so Baroque as to use a river as a symbol of the sea.
A minor detail: the word horrida in line 3 does not imply "horrible," etc., but echoes the original Latin meaning of it, here rendered as "rugged-skinned."

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 2: 747-811



So, repeatedly running
some planets spin quick
some more slowly;
[750] some spy each other
some shun each other
with floods of figures;
and micro-mistakes
that grow and grow
make endless errors.
If the sky modifies
itself “n” times a day,
why not a daily king?
Why is the successor
[760] a son born in a wholly
different disposition?
Why do kings not wait
for a royal readjustment
in conceiving a child?
Will they delay the day
and ask for advise
the superintending stars?
Where there a royal
gleam when Gyges jumped
[770] from zero to hero?
Or Servius the sovereign?
Or Genghis the conqueror?
Croesus on the contrary
was under a sinister star,
so were jaguar Jugurtha
who honored Rome
and­—alas—Augustus
the prisoner of Persians
and the uprooted Apostate.
[780] But let the Beyond-All
quit all quarrels:
It would thwart laws
and revoke all rewards
for virtue, pains for vice
if the drive of deeds
righteous or unrighteous
were outside ourselves.
Thieves wouldnt be thieves
killers wouldn’t be killers
[790] if they could not cope
with theft or death,
thus damned by Doom.
Crushed craftsmanship
and fatigues; and fields
in vain wooed with plows
and rakes and forks
or sharpened scythes
if the sky’s fury or fate
controlled the crops.
[800] Navigators in vain
cross seas and oceans
if Fate owns all wealth.
The faithful’s hope
pointing to paradise
would vanish without
prizes and punishments.
Where Fate functions
neither valor nor virtue
have a fitting office.
[810] But no, Heaven has
palms for good performances.

(to be continued on Jan. 31)

Friday, January 22, 2016

We'd go down to the rivers (5)

[8: 16]

Il terzo fonte par ch'al sol s'indori
Come suol ne le nubi arco dipinto,
E dispiega sue forme e suoi colori
Onde fe' Delia la corona e 'l cinto;
E verghe e spegli in luminosi horrori,
Da cui lo stil d'Apelle anchora è vinto;
Né formerìa l'algente et humida ombra
Ch'a' rai s'alluma, e 'l lume in lei s'adombra.

The third spring shines golden in the sun
Like a rainbow painted amid the clouds,
And unfolds its own shapes and colors
As Delia, the moon, does with her corona;
And stripes and mirrors in luminous
Darkness, that would defeat Apelles.
It would not cast any cold, wet shadow
Made by sunbeams and darkening them.


Notes
The third river seems to symbolize the light effects in the atmosphere, 'lightier' than the effects of sun and shadows on earth (see lines 7-8), basically like water-colors. If our hypothesis holds, Tasso is developing a "Metaphysics of Water" in parallel to the Medieval Metaphysics of Light (see Robert Grosseteste, Dante). After the "divine waters" symbolized by the first spring, and the "spiritual waters," e.g. divine grace and/or angels, of the second spring, now the emanation starts to reach down towards the Earth. Air as a thinner version of water proper (well, both are made of hydrogen and oxygen, we could volunteer). The next two rivers will apparently confirm this conjecture.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

We'd go down to the rivers (4)

Did we think that the first symbolical river was hard to decipher? We hadn't seen the second one yet!

[8: 15]

Ma nel secondo pur, qual cervo o damma
L'huom correrìa per ammorzar la sete;
Bench'egli tutto al novo dì s'infiamma
Co' rai che sembran quasi accese mete.
Il fonte è del color di fiamma viva,
In cui spiegan il crin varie comete;
E d'ardenti sembianze auree faville
Hor turbate vi scorgi, et hor tranquille.

But to the second river, deer or doe-like
Man would run to quench his thirst, (*)
Even though at sunrise it is set on fire
By rays that look like burning spires. (**)
The spring is in color of the living flame (***)
In which comets unfold their tails;
And in it you can see golden sparks
Now being unsettled, now resting quiet.

(*) The first two lines may suggest that the second river means divine grace, on the basis of the standard mystical interpretation of Psalm 42.
(**) "Spires": Tasso actually says mete referring to the shape of Latin metae, the turning points for horse races; more or less like little obelisks.
(***) Literal quotation from Dante, Purgatorio 30: 33. Beatrice is described there, who is the symbol of theology and/or grace and/or the Bible (in the Middle Ages the three concepts were much more interconnected than nowadays). This apparently strengthens the hypothesis that the river means grace, unfortunately the following lines makes things quite tangled again. The whole octave might also hint at the role of angels as the intermediaries of grace, partly busy in the world, partly worshiping God in heaven -- but all of this sounds quite 'stretched.'

Monday, January 18, 2016

A lion-hearted, horse-winged Renaissance Spanish poet

Alaba, oh alma, a Dios: Señor, tu alteza
¿Qué lengua hay que la cuente?
Vestido estás de gloria y de belleza
Y luz resplandeciente.

Encima de los cielos desplegados
Al agua disto asiento;
Las nubes son tu carro, tus alados
Caballos son el viento;

Son fuego abrasador tus mensajeros,
Y trueno, y torbellino:
Las tierras sobre asientos duraderos
Mantienes de contino.

Las mares las cubrían de primero
Por cima los collados;
Mas, visto de tu voz el trueno fiero,
Huyeron espantados.

Y luego los subidos montes crecen,
Humíllanse los valles,
Si ya entre sí hinchados se embravecen,
No pasarán las calles.

Las calles, que les diste, y los linderos,
Ni anegarán las tierras;
Descubres minas de agua en los oteros,
Y corre entre las sierras;

El gamo, y las salvajes alimañas
Allí la sed quebrantan;
Las aves nadadoras allí bañas,
Y por las ramas cantan.

Con lluvia el monte riegas de tus cumbres,
Y das hartura al llano:
Ansí das heno al buey, y mil legumbres
Para el servicio humano.

Ansí se espiga el trigo, y la vid crece
Para nuestra alegría:
La verde oliva ansí nos resplandece,
Y el pan de valentía.

De allí se viste el bosque y la arboleda,
Y el cedro soberano.
A donde anida la ave, a donde enreda
Su cámara el milano.

Los riscos a los corzos dan guarida,
Al conejo la peña;
Por ti nos mira el sol, y su lucida
Hermana nos enseña

Los tiempos. Tú nos das la noche oscura,
En que salen las fieras;
El tigre, que ración con hambre dura
Te pide, y voces fieras.

Despiertas el aurora, y de consuno
Se van a sus moradas.
Da el hombre a su labor sin miedo alguno
Las horas situadas.

¡Cuan nobles son tus hechos, y cuan lleno
De tu sabiduría!
Pues ¿quién dirá el gran mar, sus anchos senos
Y cuántos peces cría?

¿Las naves que en el corren, la espantable
Ballena que le azota?
Sustento esperan todos, saludable
De ti, que el bien no agota.

Tomamos, si tú das; tu larga mano
Nos deja satisfechos.
Si huyes, desfallece el ser liviano,
Quedamos polvo hechos.

Mas tornará tu soplo, y renovado
Repararás el mundo.
Será sin fin tu gloria, y Tú, alabado
De todos sin segundo.

Tú que los montes ardes, si los tocas,
Y al suelo das temblores.
Cien vidas que tuviera, y cien mil bocas
Dedico a tus loores.

Mi voz te agradará, y a mí este oficio.
Será mi gran contento.
No se verá en la tierra maleficio.
Ni tirano sangriento.
Sepultará el olvido su memoria:
Tú, alma, a Dios da gloria.

By Fray Luis de León (1574-5), from Psalm 104. This was no harmless pastime: A highly esteemed university professor, a father of Spanish literature, a subtle theologian, and the son of a Jewish woman, Fr. Luis was jailed and taken to trial -- but finally acquitted -- by the 'frightening' Spanish Inquisition because he 'dared' to read the Bible in the original languages, Hebrew and Greek, and 'even' translate parts of it into Castilian.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 2: 697-746



An angel-baby is born
very calm and curly:
an avatar of Aries!
[700] At the same time
he’s lion-hearted like
the leader of the flock,
a little but big horn,
though meek when man
shears his white wool
that physis will easily
regrow. One being born
with Sun in Taurus
is labor-resistant
[710] and self-subduing
like a plowing ox.
With Scorpio rising,
one will hit hard as
with a poisonous point.
Meanwhile Libra makes
friends with Dikaiosyne.
Funny eh? The figure
supposedly life-leading—
Ram who balances nights
[720] and days; Libra of light—
is a spot in the sky.
Should beasts bestow
temperament on Tom?
Is human nature
feral? And feral as well
the sky, subjugated
to stinky species?
Are the sky’s spheres
below the beasts?
[730] Ha! vain wisdom
puffed up with pride
like unhappy Arachne
who hardly entangles
an insect in her net
but a bigger weight
will blur and break it.
He who both binds
and unbinds us
sometimes from sins,
[740] the frame of Fate—
may He who takes heed
of free will (a gift from
on higher than sky)
break the weak web
of old illusions
by launching liberation.

(to be continued on Jan. 24)

Friday, January 15, 2016

We'd go down to the rivers (3)

[8: 14]

Paion quell'acque liquidi zaffiri,
Non turbate da nembi o da procelle;
E luminosi raggi in loro rimiri
Percossi lampeggiar de l'auree stelle;
E i lor torti viaggi e i torti giri
Da quelle a queste, o pur da queste a quelle;
E con ogni altra più serena imago
L'errante luna e 'l sole errante e vago.

Those waters look like liquid sapphires,
Undisturbed by clouds or by storms;
In them you can see luminous rays
That flash by reflecting the golden stars,
And their crooked paths and turns from
One another, and the other way round;
And together will all serene images,
The wandering moon and wandering sun.


Notes
These further 'explanations' seem to suggest that the first river symbolizes the starry universe with its divine perfection and its complex motions; a subject that is developed in the whole Day/canto 4 in Tasso's long poem Il Mondo Creato.
In line 4, percossi is the past participle of percuotere, "to hit," that in this case -- see Dante -- is probably referred to the action of light when it reaches a body and is reflected by it. Lines 1 and 2 also echo Dantean phrasing.
In line 8, the untranslatable adjective vago entails a pun since it means at the same time "wandering" and "beautiful." This double meaning will be fully developed by Giacomo Leopardi, e.g. in his poem Vaghe stelle dell'Orsa.
Anyway, it must be frankly admitted that, in spite of the poetical beauty of this octave, the whole symbolism (of which we have only read a part so far) is a bit heavy to read, even if philosophically interesting.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

We'd go down to the rivers (2)

[8: 13]

L'Aurora intanto, candida e vermiglia,
Lieta apparìa nel lucido orizonte
E discoprìa l'antica maraviglia,
Come si faccia l'un da l'altro fonte:
Il primo, che 'l suo occulto e 'l ver somiglia,
Ha per sostegno un huom che pare un monte,
Lo qual gli homeri incurva, e quasi stanco
China al peso lucente il capo e 'l fianco.

Aurora meanwhile, white and vermilion,
Happily appeared on the shiny horizon
And showed that ancient marvel, namely
How these springs flow from one another:
The first one -- like truth and its secrets --
Is supported by a man as huge as a mount,
Who bends his shoulders and, almost tired,
Lowers his head under the sparkling weight.


Notes
Two mythological hints: the goddess Aurora (Dawn) and Atlas, who in this case supports the first spring, not the world. But the very parallel suggests that the spring symbolizes the universe, whose "tiredness" is powerfully expressed in the last lines of Tasso's Il Mondo Creato, that is basically the only passage in the poem reported in literary essays.
Line 5 is not clear at all. A more literal translation would read: "The first [spring], which recalls its hidden side and truth," where the former adjective "its" must probably be referred not to "spring" but to "truth" as a prolepsis. Maybe an echo from Dante, Paradiso 19: 42, that deals precisely with the creation of the world.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Hey Man


Tommaso Campanella was not so much a "late Renaissance" man as rather a late "Renaissance man." Though living in the 17th century, he still belonged to the 16th century for the great freedom and boldness of his thought, his world-wide curiosity, his paradoxes. His essays De Homine (On Man) were written in the early 1620s during his long imprisonment as a heretic. Yeah, you know, he did things like: defending Galileo, describing Aristotle as an ass, making the Church suspect that he himself was a wizard. . .

The most striking feature in De Homine is Campanella's absolutely multidisciplinary approach. Most freely and most naturally, he can quote Aristotle, then immediately Origen, then the Bible, then the folklore of American natives, then Virgil, then a curious natural event he happened to witness, then a passage from Ariosto, then a foray into science fiction, then the stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi, etc. etc., without any preset hierarchy of importance, and without leaving subjects like sex and excrement out of philosophy. To deal with the mystery of Man, that includes and is included in the mystery of the whole universe, means to listen to all kind of information that comes from the world around us. At the same time, Campanella can unify his insights thanks to his concept of "spirit" that, in brief, implies a holistic and cybernetic cosmos.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 2: 628-696

by Selkis, The Magic Trio


Yet—Filius forecast
stupendous signs
[630] of world wreckage
in moon sun ’n’ stars:
Luna denying light
Sol sanguineous
announce apocalypse.
Trespassers though
try to loosen life
as weakly woven
by the Fate’s thread
but subject to skies,
[640] bless Babylon!
Alright, let’s admit
signs not of storms
or varying weather
but of life’s leading:
What next? That fixed
and ever-shifting stars
with complicated knots
and pics and links
are the real reason
[650] of a lucky life?
Or the other Hawaii round?
To disentangle this
I will quote quotations
and count inconsistencies.
Astrologists saw a lot
of things in a brief time
speedily disappearing,
ergo finxerunt figuras
with micro-measures
[660] as tiny as dots
as swift as twinkling.
Of babies being born
out of woman’s womb
they immediately
detected the different
cleverness and chances:
One will become Cambyses
one Alexander or Augustus
for scepter and reign
[670] for cheers and win,
one will imitate Irus
in begging for bread
in knocking poverty.
They took twelve signs
and cut thirty parts
as many as the hemerai
in one Sun-passage;
then divided daily
twenty-four hours
[680] sixty minutes and seconds
to fit in with the fetus.
But clear certainty
was denied—Nohow!—
about that time point.
A baby is born: Let us
see his/her sex first
then wait for his/her wail,
the Symbol of existence,
and determine destiny.”
[690] How many seconds, Sir?
Who can fill the cans
with shapes and stars
coming up, overcoming,
driving the kid’s chariot?
In phantasmagorical figures
delusion is decreed.

(to be continued on Jan. 17)

Friday, January 8, 2016

We'd go down to the rivers (1)

Following the mysterious woman he has been called by, but losing sight of her, Tancred reaches a mysterious place. The whole episode is a novelty of Gerusalemme Conquistata, it did not appear in Gerusalemme Liberata (Jerusalem Delivered).

[8: 12]

Giunse dove perpetue e rapide onde
Con larga vena uscian da vivo sasso,
E facean cinque fonti ampie e profonde
Da l'imo al sommo, o pur da l'alto al basso.
Spargea due rivi il primo: e l'un s'asconde
Nel suo principio ritorcendo il passo;
L'altro queto scendea con l'acque chiare
Sin ch'egli si morìa nel Morto Mare.

He came where perpetual, swift waves
Gushed abundantly from living rock
Making five wide, deep springs from top
To bottom or the other way round.
The first spread two rivers: the one hid
In its own origin by turning back,
The other flowed down with clear waters
Until it finally died in the Dead Sea.


Notes
The five rivers seen by Tancred are clearly a symbol -- but, of what? It would be interesting to have a look at the footnotes in some edition of the poem, but unfortunately no edition is currently available (the only book available, the one we are using, namely this, is a copy of the manuscript; it provides notes about the text itself, not about its meaning).

From a mere literary viewpoint, both in the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance, prodigious rivers were a 'must-find' in eastern and/or tropical Edenic lands. See a wonderful modern re-enactment of this in EA Poe's Gordon Pym.
According to an online source, the rivers here represent the five ways of human perception, based on Scholasticism, but why should Tasso add a whole new section, in this context, to deal with such a specialized subject? Since he was interested in the God/universe relationship (see his long poem Il Mondo Creato, on which he worked at the same time as the Conquistata), the rivers are likelier to symbolize the main dynamics of creation.
In this case, the first river could mean the two basic "forces" that shape the universe: God, who opens to new beings while resting in himself; and -- with a modern term -- entropy.

Suggestions from readers will be welcome.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The counsel of Nicaea (4)

[8: 9.7 - 10.8]

Tancredi intanto ove Fortuna il tira
Lunge da lei, per lei seguir, s'aggira.

Egli seguendo le vestigia impresse,
Lunge se 'n gì da la città vicina,
Ma quivi da le piante horride e spesse
Nera e folta così l'ombra dechina
Che più non pò raffigurar tra esse
L'orme novelle, e 'n dubbio oltre camina;
Porgendo intorno pur l'orecchie intente
Se calpestio, se romor d'arme ei sente.

Tancred meanwhile, drawn by Fortune,
Roams far from her while trying to follow her. (*)
By keeping following the track she left,
He wandered away from the near city, (**)
But there the horrid and thick trees (***)
Cast such black and dense shadows
That he can no longer identify
The track, and advances hesitantly,
Attentively listening in order to
Hear footsteps or the sound of arms.

(*) According to the printed text. But there was an interesting Freudian slip in the manuscript: Tancred roams far from her while trying to shun her (fuggir). It must be recalled that he does not even know the identity of the woman who had secretly sent for him. He might erroneously think that it is about Clorinda (see last line); and yet, in the very first version of the text, something makes him try to avoid a meeting.
(**) Jerusalem
(***) A hint at Dante's "dark forest" (see Inferno 1: 5), that in fact was fictionally placed in the environs of Jerusalem, though Dante did not explain how he ended up there. Tasso, in writing a long poem set precisely in Jerusalem, could describe the "actual" forest.