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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A trip to the Gaza Strip (2)

[GC 16: 87]

Varie tende scorgea di color tanti,
Quanti non hebbe mai l'april fiorito.
Mirava i cavalier, mirava i fanti
Ire e tornar da quelle mura al lito;
E da cameli onusti ed elefanti
L'arenoso sentier calpesto e trito.
Poi nel porto vedeva, o scarche o gravi,
Sorte e legate a l'ancore le navi.

Many tents he(*) saw, of so many colors
As April never had even though in bloom.
He saw the knights, saw the soldiers
Come and go from the walls(**) to the shore;
And by loaded camels and elephants
Sandy ways being traveled and trodden on.
Then in the harbor, either empty or laden
He saw all the anchored ships that arrived.

(*) Vafrino
(**) Gaza

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 5: 596-674

An exhibition at the Royal Library in Turin, Italy
(Biblioteca Reale, Torino)

But the Forger’s Force
shines in small things
not only the enormous.
See! In full sail there
[600] a ship spins leeward,
unexpectedly a tiny fish
slows down her speed:
as idle as a painted ship
upon a painted ocean,
resting on a remora.
Creepy are the killer
whales and saw-fish
swordfish and sharks
but also cruel stingrays
[610] that, even dead, hit
and give gruesome death;
so does the sea hare.
But pros probably
cover cons, and fish
provide precious examples.
Gnothi seautòn, bro:
sea is life, you’re fish
and the Gennesaret net
snaring many species
[620] is like the Kingdom
that searches for souls
then cans the chosen ones
and throws out the others.
With cosmic consummation
the angels will announce
Doomsday and destine
the sinners to circles
the righteous to rays.
Fish are foul or good;
[630] if good, not caught
by net or iron hook but
sprinkled with Precious
Blood. Friend, youre fish
the one whose open mouth
showed a coin called
stater” that is the scales
of free unfixed will.
You’re fish, the fisher
being Peter or the Pope,
[640] sea a symbol of Gospel
the Church’s certainty.
Don’t be afraid, anchovy,
the hook makes you holy!
Fish, but fling yourself
out of the muddy stream
during storms—or shelter
in the abyssal bottom.
The sea is serene: Enjoy!
In a tempest or twister
[650] mind the mad wind
does not dehydrate you.
Now anyway let words
override the waves
let us look upwards
at a beautiful beach:
sea salt hardens white
as marble, a red rock
is the outcome of coral
that was soft undersea,
[660] there shines among shells
the pearl, solitary sands
seem gold and like gems
are multicolored stones.
Waters feed the Fleece
and are full of flowers
among which murex:
the fantastic fabric that
honors military leaders
splendid sovereigns
[670] Catholic cardinals
is the beauty and treasure
of Poseidon, his present—
he adds many more gifts
and superb sea parades.

(to be continued on Feb. 5)

Friday, January 27, 2017

[GBM] Starting off on the right foot?

by ilTM + Selkis

Cominciamo bbene! they would say in Rome, meaning, "Is this supposed to be starting off on the right foot?!" In the allegedly standard invocation at the very beginning of his long poem Adonis, Giovan Battista Marino immediately breaks the rules by using a formula that is "neither pagan nor Christian," as was stressed by his main rival, Tomaso Stigliani. In fact, Marino does not invoke the classical Muses nor the Holy Spirit, but the goddess Venus. The reason why he does so is made clear by the text itself, as it is also immediately clear how deeply Marino mixes pagan and Christian languages---and views:

1.1

I call you, the one who turns and moves
the most benign and meek sphere,     just joking; see the events
holy mother of Love, Jove's daughter,     N.B. the first words
beautiful goddess of Amatunte 'n' Cythera;     in Cyprus
you whose star, pouring all grace,     Lucifer/Hesperus (classically meant)
is the messenger of night and day;     ambivalence
you whose shiny and fertile ray
calms the sky, sweetens the world. . .     lit., causes the world to fall in love


* The posts devoted to Marino will be indicated by the acronym "[GBM]" in the title. The critical edition for reference is: Giovan Battista Marino, Adone, edited by Emilio Russo, Milan: Rizzoli - BUR, 2013, pages 2,346 (in two volumes).

Thursday, January 26, 2017

A trip to the Gaza Strip (1)

[GC 16: 86]

Vafrin lascia quel morto, et a mancina
Drizza il veloce corso inver ponente
Insin che Gaza si trovò vicina,
Che fu porto di Gaza anticamente;
Ma poi, crescendo de l'altrui ruina,
Città divenne assai grande e possente;
Ed erano le piagge allhor ripiene
Quasi d'huomini sì come d'arene.

Vafrino leaves the dead man, and on the left
Rides at full speed towards the West until
He comes to the territory of Gaza.
That was the Gaza harbor in old times,
But then, other places having been destroyed, (*)
It turned into a great, powerful city;
And right then its seashore was nearly as
Full of soldiers as it was of sand grains.

(*) Given the long and complex history of Gaza, it is not clear to which events Tasso refers here. The parallel text in Gerusalemme Liberata 19: 57-58 is of no help since, in that case, the Muslim army had been gathered near Ascalona (Ashkelon), not Gaza.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Spy Who Came in from the Heat (10)

Now the unnamed Muslim prisoner asks the Christian spy, Vafrino, to release him. But Vafrino does not trust him, and. . .

[16: 85]

Ma l'amicitia hor te di giusta pena
Guarda e sottragge a' più fieri tormenti,
Se d'Antiochia e de l'horribil cena
Di Boemondo invitto anco rammenti -.
Così dicendo, il fere in gola e svena,
E la via tronca a' dolorosi accenti;
E l'anima crudel, che geme e mugge,
Da le ferite mormorando fugge.

"But friendship now defends you against
A just punishment and fiercer tortures,
If you recall Antioch and the hideous
Supper of Bohemond the undefeated."
Saying so, Vafrino slits the other's throat
And cuts off the passage to his laments;
And his cruel soul, that groans and roars,
Out of his wounds murmuring flees.


Notes
What does Vafrino refer to? Did the two of them use to be friends? What happened during a supper in the palace of Bohemond, the Christian prince of Antioch (a historical personage)?
Tasso does not bother to explain it, and the episode did not appear in Gerusalemme Liberata for a comparison. A critical edition of Gerusalemme Conquistata would be needed, but there exists none! Yep, this is a pioneering blog.
Horror suppers have a glorious tradition in literature anyway, from Dante, Inferno 33: 118-120, to Macbeth.
This octave also underscores that Vafrino is not a knight -- he is a squire of Tancred, in fact. A knight would not kill a tied prisoner, and in cold blood.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 5: 537-595

by ilT + Selkis

To be mute doesn’t mean
to be dumb: Dumb is to
withstand the will of
[540] LORD. So listen to the
voice of mute salmons,
whose actions teach to
partake in a pilgrimage
and abandon the bitter
waters for the fresh
(happy like flying a kite)
where the sun is sweet
and evaporation poor.
No smell of money
[550] makes them emigrate
as people do, but positively
the love of offspring.
Besides, Giants in ancient
times existed, now Nature
whelps them no more, why?
Pachyderms and whales
survived though, the work
of divine design, therefore
genuinely good. They
[560] so huge as hills
humble human pride
by frightening our eyes
with their “terribilità
and monstrous mass.
When God gave rise
to so many animals
varied and revolutionary
He made some to Man’s
utility and authority—that’s
[570] seldom soft to bear(s);
some for his own-Herr-ship
to supply us with a sample
of his multitasking tools
and power that pops up
differently here and there.
But Greeks those geeks
turned God’s grand deeds
into a jongleur’s joke
with luminous lies
[580] believing that beyond
Gibraltar some gorgeous
kingdoms and Disney
islands lay; add Ulysses
trip and the tremendous
people-eater Physeter
swallowing whole armies
so its sty-lish stomach
is to enemy nations
a bloody battlefield.
[590] But ships being sunk
by the White Whale
thousands and thousands
is no fairy tale at all,
and no joke was Jonah
gulped by Liopleurodon.

(to be continued on Jan. 29)

Friday, January 20, 2017

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner


A second poet now enters this blog to play a major role: Giovan Battista Marino (1569-1625). If bias and prejudice is currently strong against Torquato Tasso, even worse is it against Marino, often reduced to a Baroque chatterbox who wasted a lot of words to talk about frou-frou. In Italian anthologies just some 'harmless,' insignificant passages from his main work, Adone (Adonis), are usually included: the description of a rose, of a nightingale. . .

It should be remembered that he was not simply reproached but officially condemned by the Inquisition, like Galileo Galilei. And why? Because in Adonis there appear some undressed chicks? Literature and art of the time were full of that stuff. We will have to make the Marino Scandal clearer in the next weeks, and months, and years.

Since Adonis is thrice as long as the Divine Comedy, it would be crazy to translate and comment the whole of it. But, very many poignant passages will be selected and examined. So, save the date! Each Friday, Giovan Battista Marino will be waiting for you on these pages. To make you enjoy life. And at the same time, to make you discover that the world is not what it was supposed to be at first sight.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Spy Who Came in from the Heat (9)

[16: 83, again the Muslim prisoner speaking]

Non v'ha chi sentinelle o guardie faccia
Fra tante schiere, o chi si cinga intorno;
Ma si vanta ciascuno, ciascun minaccia
A' Franchi morte e vergognoso scorno.
Copron le squadre la deserta faccia
De l'ampia terra ovunque appare il giorno,
E 'l gran numero par d'horrida turba
A quelle arene egual ch'Austro perturba.

"No one, over there among so many armies, is on sentry-duty or stands guard, nor does anyone keep ready with a sword; (*) but everyone boasts, everyone threatens death and a shameful defeat to the Franks. The squads cover the desert surface of the wide land everywhere the daylight is spread, and the great number of people in that horrid crowd seems to match the grains of sand whirled by the wind."

(*) Now, disorganized armies do exist, and "the enemy" is, by definition, weaker than "us"; but the first two lines in this description are 'frankly' ridiculous.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 5: 481-536


Not so Adam’s damned
and blasphemous sons.
We change the contracts
and keep occupying
the natives’ inheritance
and building brothels
and wrecking countries
by force and fright.
Cetaceans acknowledged
[490] their natural lots
(and dishes): the deep sea
isle-less beyond inhabited
lands, lacking any
form of terra firma
coasts or canyons,
in unreachable ranches
where no ship should
peep at new peoples
and gain novel glory.
[500] There, no reports
will escort the ship
of human madness.
That very liquid limbo
welcomes Moby Dick
as whalers witnessed,
no island or town there
was destroyed by his
stupendous strength;
there all leviathans
[510] as in a cute quarter
or one’s home town
settle submitting to
Deus and disposition.
Some species expatriate
in self-imposed exile
to go to queer countries;
they start in thousands—
soldiers who at the signal
cross the encampment
[520] following the shofar
in sensible season
awakened by ancient
Nature’s norms and
hasten northwards.
Imagine them dashing
Propontis to Pontus:
Who is their leader?
What king commands?
What browser brings
[530] the iron orders
or pilgrimage plans?
Sanatana Dharma entails
both trifle and Totum,
which herrings don’t err
in obeying while obdurate
Man fights foolishly.

(to be continued on Jan. 22)

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Spy Who Came in from the Heat (8)

[16: 82, the captured spy speaks]

Questi, che d'Orïente estremo aggiunse,
Con le sue squadre attendò lunge e 'n disparte,
Perché da gli altri suo valor disgiunse
Lui che stimato è quasi un novo Marte;
Et a' carri falcati ivi congiunse
Destrier che frena con mirabil arte;
E questi ancor da l'indïane selve
Gli elefanti conduce, horride belve.

"This, (*) who came from the farthest East,
Camped with his squadrons far, on his own, since
His strength was kept apart from the others
By him who is considered a new Mars; (**)
And to scythed chariots he also adds
Steeds driven with a wonderful technique;
He, moreover, from the forests of India
Brought the elephants, frightening beasts." (***)

(*) Adrast
(**) Emiren, the general -- fictionally -- sent by the Sultan of Egypt, and the supreme head of the Muslim army in this final stage of battle for Jerusalem. A made-up character.
(***) Elephants were better known in Europe in the Renaissance (when Tasso wrote) than in the Middle Ages (when the story is set), but remained amazing animals anyway.
In the 11th century Islam had started to penetrate some areas of India, but of course Indian Muslims did not take part in the First Crusade! Adrast and his whole army are fictional characters too; we will see what literary sources Tasso drew on to depict this alleged far-eastern leader's intervention in battle.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Spy Who Came in from the Heat (7)

[16: 81, the prisoner keeps answering Vafrino's questions]

Di nuovo il timoroso a lui ragiona:
- Fuor di Gaza Emiren gli Eggitii accampa,
Ché di muro o di vallo altra corona
Non voler dice in cui si fugge e scampa.
Arabi, Assiri, Mori ove risuona
Il mar han teso, e dove il lido avampa;
Ma fra terra Altamor co' Persi alberga,
Con gli Indi Adrasto ove il terren più s'erga.

Again the man, frightened, speaks to him:
"Outside Gaza did Emiren set his Egyptians,
Saying he does not wish to leave any wall
Or rampart to which people may escape.
Arabs, Syrians(*), Moors have been positioned
Where the sea resounds and the shore burns;
Altamor and his Persians in the hinterland,
Adrast and his Indians in the mountains."

(*) The text literally says "Assyrians," but the two names were often confused with each other in Medieval and Renaissance descriptions. As this stanza shows, Tasso turns the First Crusade into a sort of First World War, all the more so if we remember that the Crusaders themselves (are here supposed to) come from all Europe, "Vikings" included.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 5: 405-480

from the DantEsq. set (go)


The octopus also uses
deceit. After clinging
to a stone undersea
he quickly takes on
the habitat’s hues;
[410] when a foolish fish
passes by and sees him
as an ordinary rock,
the damage is done.
Analogous are ass-lickers
in the palaces of power
and economy, who echo
the praise to the prodigies
of Fortune and transform
themselves thousandfold
[420] according to occasions
and times and tigers
by modifying moods
and words; with polite
people they play polite
suffering with the suffering
snobbish with the snobbish
adopting the others’ taste.
It is not easy to skip
meeting these managers
[430] and keep safe from
devils in the disguise
of Papal supporters.
Voracious wolves
put on lamb fleece
and look harmless:
Flee flee O friend
unclear connections!
Love Aletheia and
the soul’s innocence
[440] true trustworthiness.
Shape-shifting is the snake
consistently condemned
to slither on the soil.
Reliable are the righteous
just unlike Jacob, and
welcomed by LORD.
Our ambiguous habitat
as well as the wide sea
hosts serpents, Gwoemuls
[450] and monsters roaming
and krill all in the fray
being carefully curbed
by a wise and lawful
government: good
examples shower.
Don’t blame Big Boss
if beings are full of flaws.
Think, first of all, that
to every fish He fixed
[460] its proper place
with borders not to be
trespassed—or seldom—to
occupy private properties.
Inside its own turf does
each clan command.
No surveyor measured
areas or added walls
to their liquid palaces;
everywhere soft-wares
[470] are available
and distinctly destined.
This sea if for such fish
the other for the others,
no rivers no ridges
may halt their armies,
but an inflexible law
assigns harmoniously
nice neighborhoods
where the livin is easy
[480] and food sufficient.

(to be continued on Jan. 15)

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Spy Who Came in from the Heat (6)

[77.5-8 and 79, the spy answers Vafrino's questions]

- Nacqui in Cirene appresso il verde Eggitto,
E 'n Grecia fui lunga stagion captivo;
E da l'antica Gaza hor ne venìa,
D'uno essercito a l'altro amica spia.

. . .

Me (disse) l'Admiraglio a questo affanno
Co' suoi doni ha sospinto e con promesse,
Perché brama saper s'ardire havranno
I Franchi d'aspettarlo ov'ei s'appresse
O se, spiegate pur le vele, andranno
Dove è chi fila in aspettando, e tesse:
A riveder ciascun la donna e i figli,
Già stanco de la guerra e de' perigli -.

"I was born in Cyrene(*) near green Egypt, and have long been a captive in Greece; (**) from the ancient Gaza(***) I was now coming as a friendly spy from one army to the other. [. . . ] The Commander(****) pushed me to such a distress with his gifts and promises, since he wishes to learn whether the Franks will dare wait for him if he intervenes, or, after unfurling their sails, will go back to those who spin and weave while waiting for them -- to see again, each one, his own wife and children, as already tired of the war and its dangers."

(*) In Libya.
(**) The Byzantine Empire.
(***) Gaza has always provided the geographical and strategic link between Egypt and the Holy Land.
(****) Emiren, the head of the army -- fictionally, not historically -- sent by the Sultan of Egypt to help the Muslims under siege in Jerusalem. Though entering the stage quite late, Emiren will prove one of the main military leaders in the final phase of the poem.