SeeStan ChapLee

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

[GC] A Normandy Landing in Jaffa

by Arnold Böcklin

Jaffa, 1099 AD. In a wholly fictional episode, the Poseidon-like demon now sees many Christian ships approaching to help the Crusaders, and especially help the young, Achilles-like knight Richard. Here a recap is needed because a huge section was missing in the Gerusalemme Conquistata manuscript that we are following. Richard (Riccardo) in GC corresponds to Rinaldo in Gerusalemme Liberata, Torquato Tasso's more famous version of the poem. Some of Richard's adventures are the same as Rinaldo's, some not. In GC Richard, after defeating and immobilizing the witch Armida (her love story with Rinaldo in GL developed differently), is confined in Lebanon waiting for his destiny to call him back to battle. The demon knows it, and decides to destroy the Christian fleet. He runs toward the coast.

[18: 11]

Having said so, he moved his swift, quick
feet from that steep mountain and ran down,     Lebanon
making the high forests and wild ranges
tremble under those frightening strides of his.     see Polyphemus
Three times did he shake the prickly sides
of the mountains, and broke the live rock;
but his fourth stride impresses the shore—
his rage lets him have no rest at all.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The 7 Days of CryAction 7: 314-382

What Eastern President
ever had such soldiers
inside a conquered city
full of fires and blood
and dismembered bodies
and bombed buildings?
[320] Not unfortunate Troy
ground-zeroed by Greeks
or commanding Carthage
then deleted or Corinth
ransacked and ruined
not one incredible chaos
of tears and butchery
can compare with our
world played havoc with,
pyre and grave of itself.
[330] The good-willed will
be abducted by UFOs
commanded by cherubim
and on stealth devices
will fly away swiftly to
the galaxy of righteous.
ballasted by seven sins
the wicked will sink
into a bottomless abyss
[340] to re-emerge no more.
Dies irae dies Godzilla!
Will that day dawn
but have no evening?
Or will there be a halt
to that super-payday
in that final twilight
and will the souls shine
in Day Eight’s light?
When Rome the core
[350] business of bloody
breeders and emperors
was beaten by barbarians
it fell down in fragments
a Cyclopean cemetery;
it would Pope-up anew
more culturally rich
and larger than life, yes,
the Earth is not enough
for its ample ambitions.
[360] So, multiplying much,
the whole universe will
meet its doom, in due time
this revolving theater
will explode in sparkles;
then the divine Director
will shoot a reboot series
independent of time
totally collapse-proof.
This swing temple and
[370] sun will keep still
stars will stop swirling
the saved will stay
in suffused silence
safely from storms
within invisible light
menaced by no night.
Hours will no longer run
from dawn to darkness
season after season,
[380] the great gift will
consist of kabod
in a supreme stillness.

(to be continued on Feb. 25)

Friday, February 16, 2018

Turin-Paris: A lay Paradiso

In 1609 in Turin, the then capital city of the Duchy of Savoy, G. B. Marino was appointed a Knight of the Order of St. Maurice and St. Lazarus (Ordine dei Santi Maurizio e Lazzaro, or more simply Ordine Mauriziano) -- which had been created by merging two different Orders, named after the respective Saints. He himself will sum up the history of the two Catholic knight organizations in the earliest of his Dicerie sacre, though often reworking and embellishing the historical data, as we might expect of his epoch, and of him. The Order's official website, in Italian, can be visited here.

A novelty in Marino's "sacred orations" is that each of them deals with a subject by using one, only one metaphor, unlike the typical Counter-Reformation sermons, where all sorts of similes, etc., were employed while speaking of any topic. Marino's novelty proved so successful that the Dicerie would be re- and re-printed a lot of times during the 17th century, influencing many Catholic preachers. That is all the more interesting as he was not a priest, and as a layman he could hardly be termed a 'saint.' In 1623 he was even condemned by the Inquisition because of his long poem Adone, that mixes the Christian Sacred and overt eroticism.

The oration in which he thanks the Duke of Savoy, Charles Emmanuel I (Carlo Emanuele, but then spelled Carlo Emanuello), and addresses his fellow Knights, is called Il cielo. A simple word that is not easy to translate because it meant, and means, at the same time "heaven" and "sky, universe." The con/fusion of both concepts was particularly clear e.g. in Dante's Paradiso. To Marino the structure of the universe, the planets, etc., provides a starting point that allows him to exalt the history, mission, and values of the Order of St. Maurice. The editor of the 2014 Italian edition of the Dicerie sacre, E. Ardissino, finds it odd that Marino, who was a friend of Galileo Galilei, kept using an old-fashioned pattern of the cosmos. I however think that this was precisely the point: Marino needed a simple, traditional pattern, familiar to his audience, that would enable him to soar freely and develop his true subject. It was unnecessary to draw allegories from the newly discovered moons of Jupiter. And anyway, as we will see, his view of the universe is more "modern" than it may appear at first sight.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

[GBM] Magic inconsistencies

Now Marino adds a new 'explanation' for Venus falling in love with Adonis -- the long poem Adone accumulates all sorts of materials, often from drafts that Marino kept in store for other projects, or for previous versions of this same poem; and sometimes the different versions are not, or not fully consistent with one another. This is part of the charm of Adone, as well as a true metaphor of the world. In this case, the power of a written name recalls the rules of magic. The term sen (seno) that appears in line 6 usually did not mean, in poetry's Italian, "breast" as it does nowadays in the common parlance, but "womb." See e.g. the Italian text of the Catholic prayer Ave Maria ("Hail, Mary"), where the words ventris tui, from Luke 1.42, have been translated as seno tuo.


Achy and indignant, she tears away
the arrow, sticking in her sexy side,
and there, between the feathers and the tip
she finds the written name, "Adonis."
Observing and minding the wound, she
then sees her womb is deeply hurt,
and feels in her veins, little by little,
a lustful fire that snaking grows.

A noticeable parallel with Dante, Purgatorio 28,64-6 (Longfellow version):

I do not think there shone so great a light
under the lids of Venus, when transfixed
by her own son, beyond his usual custom!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The 7 Days of CryAction 7: 249-313

Edgar Allan Poe, Al Aaraaf

Forgiveness and feast
[250] seal Day Seven
not Sunday but Sabbath
for Israel’s offspring
who gonna be ghettoized.
That day had a dawn
but would skip sunset
that hasn’t happened yet
in its perpetual light,
while Time’s turnings
delimitate our days
[260] in which we all work
then exhausted sleep—
before that frightening
devastating day comes,
the threatened seventh
when walls and malls
of this sparkling society
will turn into ruins.
Not Agnus Dei but Agni
will dry up the waters
[270] and burn refineries
like an atomic Apollyon
till of the former Earth
scarcely ash will be seen
as the trophy of Thor.
When Big Crunch begins
for the fear of flames
no parties will be planned
no trade agreements
between Bolivia and USA
[280] or Congo and China;
FAO will be fu**ed
by agricultural culture.
Stupor will seize the
whole world, shock will
gulp God’s works in
that unearthly terror.
The righteous will tremble
yeah, all but Abraham
who will laugh at hell,
[290] lifted to the level
he obviously belongs
where Jehovah’s justice
redistributes rewards
according to aletheia.
The Thunderbolt Basileus
will rise in a shroud,
like a vaginal veil
the clouds will uncover
the Op Art of his power
[300] and numberless rows
of warriors will appear
as glossy as Grendizer.
Gold-yellow electricity
in a Bagheera-black sky
passing supersonically
while terrifying trumpets
play Wagner’s Walkyries
and the starry systems
are shaken and collapse.
[310] Horror will overwhelm
Nature, fear will even haunt
the angels all around
the thundering throne.

(to be continued on Feb. 18)

Friday, February 9, 2018

Turin-Paris: First things first

Giovan Battista (or Giambattista) Marino published his Dicerie sacre in 1614. As he himself explains, the word Dicerie must be understood in the high sense of the Latin dìcere, that is, to make a speech in a solemn context -- even if, he stresses, meanwhile the meaning of the Italian word in its common usage had already shifted to "talks"; and nowadays, we may add, even "gossip." So, the title here will have to be interpreted as Sacred Orations.

He published them in Turin, NW Italy, the then capital city of the small Duchy of Savoy, squeezed between France and the many Italian States, most of which ruled by the Spaniards as a consequence of the 16th century European wars. The Duchy would become a Kingdom -- of Piedmont, a.k.a. of Sardinia -- in the 18th century, and in the mid-19th century would conquer the other territories of Italy, leading to the National Unification in 1861. In this sense, Marino's due prophecies on the "future glories" of the Savoys proved much more successful than Dante's political prophecies. The situation of northern Italy in the early 17th century would also provide the setting for the Italian historical novel par excellence, Alessandro Manzoni's I promessi sposi (The Betrothed), whose final version was published in 1842.

The Dicerie sacre are three, though the author promised many more to come, which would never come, like many of his amazing projects (a long poem called Jerusalem Destroyed on the events of 70 AD; a remake of Ovid's Metamorphoses, etc.). In the 1617 book the "Orations" are set in order of importance, that is the reverse of the order in which they had been written; here, we will follow the latter so as to focus on the developments in Marino's life and works. After examining selected passages from them, we will study his Sferza, the "Whip" against the Huguenot leaders, written at the court of King Louis XIII of France where Marino had arrived after leaving Savoy, basically to escape the Pope. His coming back to Italy in 1623 would happen in coincidence with the publishing of his great, and our beloved poem Adone. . .  and with the poet's ruin by the hand of the Inquisition.

- Giovan Battista Marino, Dicerie sacre, ed. by Erminia Ardissino, Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 2014, pages 394
- Diego Varini, I rovesci della pace. Prospezioni per un Marino politico, con la Sferza antiugonotta edita e commentata, Lavis (TN): La Finestra Editrice, 2012, pages iii + 314

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Off Topic: Poe prophesies Philip K. Dick

(from A Dream, 1827)

That holy dream -- that holy dream,
     While all the world were chiding,
Hath cheered me as a lovely beam
     A lonely spirit guiding.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

[GBM] Love hurts

Frida Kahlo, The Wounded Deer, 1946

While answering Venus' questions, Love hugs her until an arrow in his sheath 'accidentally' wounds her, and at the same time he shows her Adonis (who sleeps in the shade, near a brook). The goddess can't help falling in love with Adonis.


She turns toward him whom Love indicates—
can easily see him as he lies nearby—
and shouts,  "Alas! Alas! I've been betrayed,
O ungrateful, O cruel, O cheating son!     almost paraphrasing King Lear*
Ha, what is this sweet wound I feel?
Ha, what welcome fire exhausts me?
What extraordinary beauty is shown me?     nova (see Dante)
Mars and heaven, I don't belong there now!"

* Incidentally, Adone was published in the First-Folio year 1623.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The 7 Days of CryAction 7: 206-248

by ilTM + Selkis

Now let’s see our lore.
Seven times a day do
saints slip ’cause of Adam
and the load of flesh but
[210] Mercy supports them:
number 7 accompanies us.
Enoch the 7th Patriarch
did not meet Death, thus
hinting at the holy Church
that outlived even Rome.
Moses, 7th after Abraham
was entrusted the Torah:
Conversion and Astraea
and the Word’s avatara
[220] in the flesh in Bethlehem
and his salutary teaching
and his sublime Law
were Moses’ must-see.
The seventy-seventh
descendant of Adam was
Mary’s unexpected son.
Peter also apprehended
the secret strength of 7
the flag of forgiveness
[230] tho’ not immediately
because he first faltered
but was confirmed by Kyrios
who unlocked his box
of eleos and eternity
and fostered forgiveness
70 times seven times.
To the curse of Cain
imbued with Abel’s blood
Peter’s pardon echoes
[240] like a countermelody.
LORD’s love overcomes
Lamech’s sinful fury
and his scarce sympathy;
against sin’s metastasis
grace gains ground.
To criminals needing
infinite indulgence
divine Love will listen.

(to be continued on Feb. 11)

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Notes on "Romeo and Juliet" (16)

Act V
Scene iii

Lines 85-6  For here lies Juliet, and her beauty makes
This vault a feasting presence full of light.
Wonderful verse.

Line 111-2  And shake the yoke of inauspicious stars
From this world-wearied flesh . . .
Romeo's words voice much of the 17th century European culture

Lines 117-8  Thou desperate pilot, now at once run on
The dashing rocks thy sea-sick weary bark
a variation on Dante's Ulysses (Inferno 26)?

Lines 153-4  A greater power than we can contradict
Hath thwarted our intents . . .
again a major topic in Renaissance culture, when the concepts of Providence and/or fate and/or chance acquired a trait more tragic than in the Middle Ages

[Snatching ROMEO's dagger.]  This is thy sheath . . .
with a sexual reference, all the more so as the Latin word for sheath was vagina

Line 292  That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love!
one more basic feature of the Renaissance mind: agudezas (witty subtleties), paradoxes, and not rarely, sad ones; here Shakespeare provides one of the possibly finest examples of this genre

Line 307  Some shall be pardon'd and some punished
but we won't know whom, in either case

[The end. From next week, on Fridays, the new column called Turin-Paris will accompany us: G. B. Marino's adventures and works in the first two decades of the 17th century. A fascinating insight into culture, science, religion, history, society.]

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

[GC] Meet Satan's brother

by Caravaggio

Canto 18 of Torquato Tasso's Gerusalemme Conquistata opens Homerically with the supreme God who looks down on the war, or rather, the wars -- not only the First Crusade but, at the same time, the battles taking place between Christians and Muslims in Spain, with a glorification of King Alfonso of Aragon. But meanwhile 'the Enemy does not sleep,' and decides to give battle to the Crusaders in Jaffa. Interestingly enough, this huge hellish warrior is not Satan but. . . his brother, the one who creates the tempests. Clearly another Homeric reference, i.e., to Hades/Pluto and Poseidon/Neptune, whose third brother, in fact, was Zeus/Jupiter as hinted at at the beginning. The name of this sea demon will turn out to be Fortuna, that means both Fortune and fortunale, "storm." The connection between a battlefield and a devil creating a storm may come from Dante, Purgatorio 5.

[18: 4]

But the great Rebel did not guard sleepily,
he who commands to storm and lightning
and, almost equal to his hellish brother,
upsets the sea and makes the air flare up;
sitting in Lebanon, he looked at the one
and the other shore, and the seas, the fields,
and Aelia, Jaffa, and the ships and port,     Aelia Capitolina: Jerusalem
from a rocky range facing East and West.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

The 7 Days of CryAction 7: 127-205

by ilTM-Selkis
after Disney-Dali's Destino

He slept serene in man:
Why is humanity uneasy?
Restless is our race, so
[130] are Nature’s trends:
fire revolves fidgety
beyond the biosphere,
air attacked by winds
is split into shards,
water waves peacelessly,
and apparently steady
earth staggers and shakes
causing the collapse of
towns and mountains
[140] as its belly breaks
and revealing the hell—
pape Satan aleppe!
prepares Armageddon.
In their Creator alone
created things are tranquil;
He rests in himself
needing nothing more
because He is the Holon
and presides at the spa
[150] that will welcome us.
If He slept on our soil
we’ll subside in Walhalla.
When He wonderfully
merged into humanity,
to our stressful existence
He gave sweet salvation:
now Grace and Glory
make man amuse himself.
Consequently Day Six
[160] was creation’s sunset
no new items were made.
She-Creator consistently
gave birth to birds ’n’ suns
and all present processes
by clicking on link 6.
Let those who studied
anthropological algebra
show the significancy of 6
the mother of so many
[170] facts and figures
throughout our planet.
Number 7 instead does
not bring forth a thing
and comes from nowhere,
simply try and see.
We can do without the
arrogant achievements
of mundane wisdom;
let’s stick to the Scriptures’
[180] views about the week.
The Jews used to honor
the sixth day in tents
manufactured with fronds
and in the holy holiday
celebrated with shofars
so that the seventh day
also acquired importance.
Seventh years similarly
had a mystic meaning:
[190] in the preceding six
it was to lawful to furrow
ones fields with plows
and sow seeds generously
but in the seventh they
were content with the
fruits of untilled Nature.
Slavery lasted six years
then Jacob and the Jews
were free. The fierce yoke
[200] of absolutist Assyrians
outre-Euphrate in Babylon
oppressed them 60 years
plus nine, then ancient
freedom flashed again
when 7 multiplied 10.

(to be continued on Feb. 4)

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Notes on "Romeo and Juliet" (15)

Act V
Scene i

After the end of Act IV there has been a pause, a silence of two days, like the waiting time while Jesus lay in the sepulchre.

Line 44  An alligator stuff'd . . .
in the Wunderkammer of this alleged Medieval apothecary, a specimen from America is also exhibited

Line 56  Being holiday . . .
in that season they could be celebrating either Saint John the Baptist or Saint James or Saint Mary Magdalene; all of them much revered "at that time" (be it the Middle Ages or the Renaissance)

Line 57  . . . Who calls so loud?
the Apothecary reacts like a conjured spirit

Lines 80-1  There is thy gold . . .
Doing some murder in this loathsome world
with a general meaning, but also a hint at the conquest of the New World; see Adam's vision of the future in Milton's Paradise Lost

Scene ii

Line 10  Where the infectious pestilence did reign
it had not been mentioned until now, however

Scene iii

Lines 1-9
"It is not clear why Paris is so anxious not to be seen" (Collins Classics edition). Maybe they feared some 'shame' on Juliet's part; for example, that she had committed suicide after having sinned with another man? But they would not dare say it (see line 51).

Lines 45-8  Thou detestable maw, thou womb of death,
Gorg'd with the dearest morsel of the earth,
Thus I enforce thy rotten jaws to open,
Broken open the tomb
one more reference to Jesus Christ -- and partly, a sad parody: see line 49

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

[GBM] Stronger than love

from Rubens, reworked

Venus, momentarily forgetting about Adonis while holding her son on her knee, starts to question him on the reason why he is so bold as to upset even the hearts of the gods. Love first answers (3.31) that he does so "out of ignorance," since he is a little baby; Venus replies that he is as old as Time, and was born before the stars. Love (3.33) then adds, "Where is my sin, if I show everybody the beautiful things?" (le cose belle, see Dante, Inferno 34.137). Now, therefore, Venus is curious about his inability to arouse Minerva. His answer has something Freudian to it.


He said, "Alas! She arms her face with
such a frightening, stern countenance
that, when I draw my bow to hit her,
I fear her look, masculine and fierce.
Moreover, of her great helmet she keeps     plus the Aegis (stanza 38)*
shaking the threatening and horrid crest,
and fills me with such a deep terror
that my shocked hand drops the weapons."

* "Hairy with snakes, on her breast there hangs
a skull, oh! dismal and furious, from
whose eyes such a great fear comes that     Dante, Inferno 1.53
I freeze completely when I see it!"

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The 7 Days of CryAction 7: 66-126

by Nivalis70 (website)

The planet had been put
the sky had been set
the six days were done
as a true masterpiece
[70] when Elohim halted
and precisely on Saturday
Ho On was on vacation.
He’d make no more
just save the existent
and put on Providence.
But He felt unsatisfied:
He could not be contented
with the sky, tho splendid
with satellites and stars
[80] He dropped astronomy
He shunned the sun
He dismissed the moon
and as for planet Earth
He recovered no relax
in spite of its stillness.
Where could the Creator
of clockworks calm down?
Only never-ending things
won’t adequately be quit
[90] the more so as motions
suppose a steady point.
The sky doesn’t stop
rolling around two poles
but it would not wheel
without a blocked core,
that promoted the myth of
Atlas on whose shoulders
the sky firmly flowed.
All wandering animals
[100] couldn’t climb or run
without a steady section,
the main end of muscles
providing the pivot.
So, it fitted the First Mover
to be motionless, moreover
to stop in something firm
but that was not Terra:
What other object then?
what’s steadier than Earth?
[110] Man it is, God’s goal
as the end of energy
(basically not braking but
He did cease creating).
Man is harder than Arda
because he really reflects
the Numen and he needs
to let his frailty fall so
as to enjoy eternity in
the cinematic Kingdom.
[120] Thus He also hinted
at his own doom of death
and foretold from Day 7
that before his suffering
Christ who sarx egéneto
would rest, like the rest,
in restorative sleep.

(to be continued on Jan. 28)

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Notes on "Romeo and Juliet" (14)

Act IV
Scene iii

[Enter JULIET and NURSE.]
the Nurse's silence is deafening

Lines 4-5  . . . my state,
Which . . . is cross and full of sin
another Christological hint, conveyed by a pun ("cross"), with reference to Juliet; see e.g. Colossians 2.13-14

Lines 30 ff  How, if, when I am laid into the tomb,
I wake before the time . . .
this impressive monolog of Juliet will inspire many episodes in Edgar A. Poe's works

Scene iv

Line 3  . . . The second cock hath crow'd
see Mark 14.72

Line 6  . . . Go, you cot-quean, go
"This is a notable example of the Nurse's frankness, and it shows how much freedom she is given" (the note in the Collins Classics edition), maybe because she and Capulet had been lovers? See also Capulet's cry in line 24: "Nurse! Wife!" -- the Nurse first.

Scene v

Line 28  Death lies on her . . .
Lines 35-6  O son, the night before thy wedding day
Hath Death lain with thy wife . . .
Italian, Spanish-speaking readers, etc., must remember that in English imagination "Death" is considered a male character, so that these metaphors have an explicit sexual meaning

Line 55  Beguil'd, divorced, wronged, spited, slain!
learning about Juliet's death, Count Paris does not think about her, but himself; so does Capulet in line 59 

Lines 94-5  The heavens do lour upon you for some ill;
Move them no more by crossing their high will
Friar Lawrence knows that Juliet's death is a fake news story, but this harsh remark seems to burst out of his subconscious, and forewarns us of the impending doom that will be the actual end. Immediately afterward, a humorous dialog between the musicians creates a pause that helps the audience digest the sad events while letting them 'breathe' a little, before the sadder events to come.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

A Neapolitan in Turin, and Paris

A Wilde boy

Quite soon -- more or less, when the Notes on Romeo and Juliet are over -- a new weekly column will start: "Turin-Paris," dealing with G. B. Marino's life and works before Adone (first draft 1616, final version 1623), that is, the time period between 1609 and 1617. We will, first of all, translate and comment passages from the Dicerie sacre (Sacred Orations) that he wrote in Turin, NW Italy, at the court of the Savoy Dukes: the speech of thanks when he was appointed a Knight of the Order of Saint Maurice, and two essays that supported the cultural and religious policy of the Savoys, especially with reference to the Sindone, the Holy Shroud.

He would then move to France in order to escape the clutches of the Pope, who insistently asked for a meeting with Marino so as to have an opportunity to talk about some debatable aspects in his works. According to some scholars, indeed, the puzzling fact that Marino had been jailed in Turin was not caused by some -- hard to believe -- conflict with Duke Charles Emmanuel, but was a stratagem that aimed at preventing an abduction to Rome. Anyway, once in Paris, Marino wrote a pamphlet called Sferza, "Whip," in defense of King Louis XIII against the Huguenot leaders. An interesting, however party, insight into the situation of Europe on the eve of the bloody, historically crucial Thirty Years' War (1618-1648).

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

G. B. Marino keeps disturbing

[GBM] "That was the true Light"

from Bronzino

Cyprus, 1000 BC or so, Midsummer. Immediately after bumping into the sleeping Adonis, Venus calls her son, Love, to her. Throughout the poem -- Marino's Adone -- Love shifts from one shape to another, with basically three options: a baby Cupid, a lustful teenager (like here), and a cosmic power. Line 4 includes a cutting remark against Apollo, who acts as Venus' self-righteous adversary in the poem. The myth of Love and Psyche will be developed in canto 4.


With such great and clear splendor his
beautiful heavenly body always shines
that any other light loses, and would
(Sun not excluded) look weak and feeble.
No wonder if Psyche, with her eyes still
closed by sleep, felt her heart burn, and
in comparison with that eternal light,     see John 1.9
saw the golden lamp flicker and fade.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The 7 Days of CryAction 7: 1-65

The "Hero of Two Worlds"

Songday 7

Rome when its mega-empire
was spread West to East
and to Libya and England,
to its imperialist people
showed two theaters together
that gyrated and joined
so the spectators on either
side, hidden to each other,
when the stands united
[10] making one ring
could watch each other
and seeing those circles
full of sitting citizens
they were in awe before
that technological trick.
This other swivel theater
of ours, made by Adonai
as his counter-Colosseum
contains in one sphere
[20] two huge hemispheres
invisible to each other
and the opposite peoples
cannot observe each other:
they both believed that
in the other half of Earth
all lands were wilderness
if not wholly underwater.
The stars turn and turn
but the varying scenery
[30] will never reveal to us
our antipodal brothers
or show them our homes
along these sort of stairs
with relative latitudes.
What proves impossible
to turning constellations
is fulfilled by Thought
turning swiftly in itself
like perpetual motion:
[40] It flies over the veil
of geography, and in God
admires a real-size map
so that the lands lessen
in the eyes of the spirit
and all peoples appear.
On the cosmic stands
a mystical pilgrim can
see Scandinavia as well
as Africa and Far East,
[50] the Great Bear about
Arcturus and, together,
the opposite Pole’s stars;
not because the globe
shrinks but inside Shaddai
the Emanation expands
and surveys the universe.
This saw Saint Benedict—
who left a luminous path
in the sky by passing away—
[60] following his thoughts.
Such a soul will search
the position of Paradise
in some strange climate
with extraordinary trees
where Adam was destined.

(to be continued on Jan. 14)

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Notes on "Romeo and Juliet" (13)

Act IV
Scene i 

Lines 6-7  Immoderately she weeps for Tybalt's death,
And therefore have I little talk'd of love
actually, Paris has never talked of love, not even before Tybalt's death

Line 75  That cop'st with death himself to scape from it
Friar Lawrence likens Juliet to Christ, see e.g. the Easter hymn of the Catholic Church, Victimae paschali laudes: "Mors et vita duello / conflixere mirando." Juliet herself in line 84 asks for a "new-made grave" like the one in which Jesus was laid (John 19.41). 

Line 110  In thy best robes, uncovered on the bier
"uncovered": a providential family custom -- not so in E. A. Poe's House of Usher

Scene ii

Line 15  See where she comes from shrift with merry look
Juliet may look merry because of the Friar's plan; but, more probably, the guilty Nurse tries to deceive herself with false hopes

Line 46-7  . . .  My heart is wondrous light
Since this same wayward girl is so reclaim'd
a parallel, according to Capulet; and a sad parody, from Shakespeare's viewpoint, of the parable of the lost son (Luke 15.32)

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

[GC] You better not make him angry

Milton's Satan
by Richard Westall

After demolishing the gates by hurling a huge rock, Argantes attacks the Christian fort in Jaffa, creating mayhem. In Gerusalemme Conquistata Tasso stresses his "devilish" look and power -- therefore making him like Rodomonte in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, who, in fact, inspired John Milton for his Satan. The last line reworks Dante's description of Charon (Inferno 3.109) in a sort of technological version.

[17: 133.3 to 134.2]

. . .
and the knight, looking like horrid night
in his own dark, gloomy countenance—
or, like you in its shadows in the depths—     you = devils, its = night's
now swiftly ran forward threatening
and tossed his spear; nothing stopping him,
he shone in his frightening weapons.
The steel did flame in fierce flashes,
with dark sparks Argantes' eyes blazed     oxymoron
. . .

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

[GBM] The spark of love

Venus and Adonis by A. Canova

Adonis falls asleep in the small valley ("it" below, in line 1, refers to a hill). And Venus bumps into him. The episode reverses the scene, frequent in art, in which a satyr, etc., admires Venus or another beautiful woman asleep. As it has been told much time ago, the whole love affair between Venus and Adonis is caused by Love/Cupid's thirst for revenge after having been spanked by his mother. The last line has a general, symbolical meaning insofar as the arrow will actually wound Venus no sooner than in stanza 43.


At the foot of it, Chloris has her gardens;     a nymph
here the goddess of Love often returns
to gather the wet and dewy herbs to     odori (herbs) like in some dialects
give lukewarm baths to her white feet.
And lo! on a bridal bed of flowers
she—arriving by chance—sees the boy.
But, as she turns her eyes toward Adonis,
cruel Love turns his arrow toward her.

(to be continued after the Christmas holidays)

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 6: 1804-1874

by ilTM + Selkis

He, again: “I gave you
angiospermous plants
self-sown by seeds
which will nourish you
solidly with sparrows
hens hummingbirds and
[1810] the heavier hulks
manned by their animae.”
In our prelapsarian planet
food also was felicitous
not gurgling with gore
nor the juice of injustice,
provided to anthropoi and
their fellow animals alike
that gladly obeyed them.
Nobody was murdered by
[1820] poisonous plants or snakes
every item made on Earth
was healthy and sweet.
No bloody teeth and claws
of wolves lions bears
no vulture ate corpses
for no dude was dead
no rotten carcass made
the atmosphere stink.
Throughout green fields—
[1830] as swans nowadays
do or dogs sometimes
led by Nature’s cues
to find fitting drugs—
spring grass was enough
for wolverines as well.
No assassin hunters
no hidden snares
against gorgeous game;
Mowgli-friendly felines
[1840] with satisfied faces
followed Eve’s footsteps
waiting for her will.
Not just a jungle king
over pythons ’n’ parrots
and over flying fish
was Man, but the master
of his innermost instincts
and Freudian thoughts,
yep, a reliable leader.
[1850] When however they
rebelled against the Rule
beasts boycotted them
and their frail frames
(the dowry of Death)
needed underdone steaks
mortal food for mortals
in a less happy hotel,
that is, after the Flood
had erased everything.
[1860] But Man maintained
his divine iconography,
did not lose leadership
over animals: he legally
or rather self-serving
provides prey and clothing
to his hyperactive limbs.
This is not abuse at all
but a norm of Nature
of Dios indeed who destined
[1870] to Man beasts birds
above and fish below.
Consummatum est. He saw
that his works were OK
and napped in nirvana.

(Christmas holidays: to be continued on Jan. 7)

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Notes on "Romeo and Juliet" (12)

Scene v

Lines 97-9  . . . a poison, I would temper it,
That Romeo should, upon receipt thereof,
Soon sleep in quiet.  . . .
again, Juliet describes what in a short while will be her own condition by referring (here, ironically) to Romeo

Lines 111-12  [Juliet] Madam, in happy time, what day is that?
[Lady Capulet] Marry, my child . . .
a pun based on the ambivalence of "marry"

Line 114  . . . at Saint Peter's Church
Saint Peter the 13th century Dominican martyr, not the apostle; a church in Verona that is currently deconsecrated, and also known as San Giorgetto, "Little Saint George"

Line 156 . . . Out, you baggage!
like bagascia still nowadays in Italian parlance, especially in Rome

Lines 201-2  Or . . . make the bridal bed
In that dim monument where Tybalt lies
it will actually happen so

Lines 210-11  Alack, alack, that heaven should practise stratagems
Upon so soft a subject as myself!
possibly one of the most powerful expressions, in literature, of Man's cry against God

Line 234  Ancient damnation! O most wicked fiend!
Juliet insults the Nurse identifying her with the Serpent of original sin: see the speech formulas culpa vetus, damnatio originalis, pessimus hostis, etc., in theological Latin 

(to be continued after the Christmas holidays)

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

[GBM] Freudian landscape

artwork by Nguyen Thi Hoai Tho (woman)

In the island of Cyprus, after saying goodbye to the friendly shepherd, Clizio, Adonis looks for a fresh place where to spend the hottest hours of the day. He finds a small valley and a spring whose features can easily be termed as Freudian. The landscape reveals the events in advance. In fact, Venus, who is 'older' than Adonis, will behave as both a lover and a mother with him, that's quite different from her relationship with the phallocratic Mars, not to speak of her despised husband, Vulcan. -- Adonis' biological mother is Myrrha; she appears seldom in the poem, but in some key episodes. See here for Marino's rehabilitation of this usually infamous character.


There spurts a spring, all around which
a she-poplar spreads protective shades;     dead Phaethon's sisters
where Nature, the lavish nurturer, fills
a marble cup with a lively liquid.
Fresh, sweet milk are those pure waves,
the breast a cave, a canal the nipple.
On the edge, to drink the distilled fluid
the grass and flowers open thirsty lips.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Renaissance artists played (with) by Dario Fo

Correggio's Venus
reworked by Dario Fo

The 1997 Italian Nobel Prize in Literature, Dario Fo (1926-2016), mostly known as an irreverent playwright and performer, attended a prestigious school of art when he was young, the Brera Academy in Milan. In his late years he then lectured and published books on many Renaissance artists: Andrea Mantegna, Correggio, Raffaello, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, illustrating them with his own witty, fascinating drawings, paintings, and collages.

His book Correggio che dipingeva appeso in cielo [Correggio, who painted hanging in the sky] pays due honor to an original artist with a great culture and many skills, who was idolized during his life, then forgotten to the extent that many of his works were ascribed to other painters: Dosso Dossi, Giorgione, Lorenzo Lotto, Raffaello, Tiziano. . .  Dario Fo guides the reader in a well-documented tour among Correggio's masterpieces, highlighting their most innovative features while providing interesting insights into the painter's biography and his epoch. The books ends with a basically unknown, explosive text by Galileo Galilei: a dialog between an old-minded professor and a bold peasant, who talks in dialect, about the new pattern of the universe.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 6: 1756-1803

He himself then blessed
his miniature model,
Be encircled by children
colonize the whole planet
[1760] and exert ecology.
Feel responsible for fish
underwater, fowls in the air,
all Talking Animals too
are your suitable subjects.”
Adam hardly existed and
already was a sovereign
nor was this authority
written on dry wood
or in a paper protocol
[1770] easy to be bypassed
but Nature herself had
God’s acts in attachment:
Emperors Adam and Eve
rule over lands and sea
they will explore space.”
We were born Basiles
so why serve our passions
and despise our dignity
and be subjects of Sin?
[1780] We prefer the prison
of Satan in spite of our
having been appointed
the chiefs of creation.
Why do we throw away
that which in our ousía
is most remarkable?
To our empire, in theory,
no limits were left:
Look at your backbone
[1790] you will see wings!
Nothing can brake brains.
We can fly beyond not only
the Earth’s atmosphere
but the stars themselves,
far less deep indeed is
the ocean than our genius
capable of setting cables
across undersea sands and
studying abyssal biology
[1800] before resurfacing
like Captain Nemo.
This is how human minds
look after God’s garden.

(to be continued on Dec. 17)