SiStan ChapLee

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Summer break

Dear friends and visitors,

during the month of August the posts on Tasso's works will be momentarily suspended, but a special 'summer column' will be published each week in its stead, on Sundays and Wednesdays. So stay tuned: hope it will amuse you.

Meanwhile, if you mean to spend the month with a good book, here's a couple of 'random' hypotheses:

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Off Topic: The Diamond Age of Sci-Fi

Jules Verne, Un giornalista americano nel 2889, Rome: Edizioni Paoline, 1970. The original French title was Les voyages extraordinaires: Hier et demain. Contes et nouvelles. The Italian title, meaning "An American Journalist in [the Year] 2889," comes from the first short story included in the collection. Good translations by an unfortunately not better specified "G. d. C."

An absolute though currently unheard-of masterpiece of Verne, in which an amazing number of scientific and social 'prophecies' are told in a very bright and humorous style. Including a wonderful catastrophist story, "The Eternal Adam," possibly his only sample in this genre. Plus two interesting non-SF stories, one sad, one joyful, both with religious undertones.

Face to face (6)

We won't meet Aletes anymore. As to Argantes, he will become one of the main heroes in the story - and in Gerusalemme Conquistata even more so than in Gerusalemme Liberata. His character too, like Solyman's, will undergo a deep change.

In this episode as it was told in GL, Argantes was given a precious sword by Godfrey as a tribute to a noble ambassador; and immediately after the diplomatic failure, he maintained that he would use that very sword to kill Godfrey in battle. In GC, this excess of impious arrogance has been deleted.

The landscape with the "friendly quiet of the silent moon" conveys a Tassian atmosphere if any. In the handbooks of Italian literature, this kind of descriptions are usually associated with Giacomo Leopardi's poetry at the beginning of the 19th century, but Tasso was the true 'inventor' of it. Btw, the reasons why the atheist and anti-Catholic Leopardi loved the supposedly ultra-Catholic works by Tasso would be worth dealing with. And it will be, at some other time.

Monday, July 29, 2013

7-year-old people

Face to face (5)

[3: 92]

Così di messaggier fatto è nemico,
Sia fretta intempestiva o sia matura:
La ragion de le genti o l'uso antico
S'offenda o no, poco ei vi pensa o 'l cura.
Senza indugiar, va col silentio amico
De la tacita luna a l'alte mura,
Lasciando quelle d'Emäus a tergo,
E sprezzando le piume e 'l fido albergo.

So, [after the diplomatic mission has failed, Argantes] turns from messenger to enemy, be it sudden haste, or pondered; he little thinks or cares whether he may offend the right of peoples or the old customs by that. Without delay, in the friendly quiet of the silent moon, he goes towards the high walls [of Jerusalem], leaving Emmaus' walls behind, scorning both cushions(*) and the usual dwelling.

(*) literally: feathers

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sunday Guest: Severinus Boethius

The dialogue / essay / etc. De Consolatione Philosophiae, "The Consolation of Philosophy," written in about 524 AD by the Roman inventor, translator, philosopher, politician and martyr Severinus Boethius would deserve a whole blog on its own. Here, just one half-serious reflection on language, dealing with one word.

In the very last page of DCF, Boethius says that God sortitus est His all-embracing and all-seeing power: Quam comprehendendi omnia visendique praesentiam . . .  ex propria Deus simplicitate sortitus est.

Etymologically the verb has sors (fors) as a root, meaning "fortune, luck." So, a literal translation would imply that God "somehow luckily happened to receive" His own power --- that would sound as a sound blasphemy to Boethius' ears. But, who knows, in that verb a more modern version of it might already be peeping out. In the dialect of Piedmont, N-W Italy, in fact, it may recall the expression a l'è sörtì, i.e. "it came out." Then imitated in French as est sorti, or vice versa ^__^'

So, in this case, God would make His power come out of His own simple (therefore undivided, eternal, etc.) substance. That fits.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Face to face (4)

[3: 79]

Sappi che tanto habbiam sin hor sofferto
In mare e 'n terra, a l'aria chiara e scura,
Solo che fosse il dubbio calle aperto
A queste sacre e venerabil mura,
Per acquistar gratia divina e merto
Togliendo lor da servitù sì dura;
Né mai grave ne fia per fin sì degno
Esporre honor mondano, e vita, e regno.

". . .  You have to understand that we have suffered [so much] so far, by sea and by land, in the clear and in the dark air, only in order to re-open the now dangerous way to these holy and venerable walls, thus obtaining divine grace and merit by freeing them from such a hard servitude. Nor will it ever look heavy to us to jeopardize worldly honor, and life, and our own kingdoms for such a worthy purpose."

Godfrey's reply to Aletes (this is only a brief section of it) needs no comments. It gets here clearer that no "clash of civilizations" proper is under way, but simply a local war for the Holy Land. In Gerusalemme Liberata, the head of the Crusaders was a "pure" hero in both senses of the word. In Gerusalemme Conquistata his personality is more complex; these anyway are the values he does believe in.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Face to face (3)

The first two verses in this octave make indirectly reference to Dante, Paradiso 13: 120. It is the old intellectualistic illusion - then formalized by Descartes, and often followed still nowadays - that the mind can understand things perfectly provided that feelings, emotions, etc., don't interfere. That implies a misunderstanding of both mind and feelings. On the other hand, these words are here put in the mouth of Aletes, who is trying to deceive Godfrey.

But the words about Fortune, though spoken by the same Aletes, are surely agreed on by Tasso himself. Indeed, they express the - probably - main conviction of Renaissance Man, whatever party he may belong to. Here also a quote from Dante is likely, see Inferno 7: 67-96, but it was anyway the subject of endless texts and works of art during the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Dante, following Severinus Boethius, subjugates Fortune to God's Providence by changing it, or rather her, into an angel. Ariosto, on the contrary, shapes the whole plot of his Orlando Furioso according to the rules of the wheel of Fortune, even identifying God and chance on one occasion. Tasso tries to retrieve Dante's optimism, but he can't, both because of his own temper and because of the cultural milieu that had meanwhile developed. So, in Gerusalemme Conquistata he wonders, at first, whether Fortune is the influence of the stars, or simply chance, or a devil; and he finally creates a devil called Fortune.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Face to face (2)

This is part of the - quite tense - dialogue between Godfrey of Bouillon and two ambassadors sent by the powerful King of Egypt, who has not sent his troops yet, and meanwhile suggests a peaceful solution (as it will happen, but later on, through an agreement between Saladin and Frederick II Hohenstaufen). This is also one of the few episodes in GC that remained basically unchanged from Gerusalemme Liberata.

A man called Aletes speaks. His name possibly mocks the Greek word meaning "truthful." The other ambassador is Argantes himself: Tasso had to twist the whole plot to keep him in this role here, since in GC Argantes has become one of the sons of the King of Jerusalem, while in GL he was a "Circassian" (Russian) ally!

To be continued . . .

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Face to face (1)

[3: 67]

Ma se l'affetto gli occhi a voi non benda,
Né la mente v'adombra e la ragione,
Scorgerai ch'ove guerra inutil prenda
Hai di temer, non di sperar cagione:
Ché fortuna ha sua rota e sua vicenda,
Mandandoci venture hor triste hor buone:
E per troppo salir si smonta, e spesso
A l'erta cima il precipitio è presso.

" . . .  But, if affection doesn't blindfolds you all, and doesn't cloud your mind and reason, you [Godfrey] will see that, if you start a useless war, you have a ground for fear, not for hope. In fact, Fortune has her wheel and her ups and downs, and sends us now good now ill lucks; and after too much climbing, one has to descend, and often the precipice is immediately after the steep peak."

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Pride and Prejudice

A quick sketch made after spending some moments of relax in a city park. Seen with unbiased eyes, pigeons are wonderful creatures (they are dinosaurs, holy cow!): the red eyes and legs, the marbled wings, the velvet grey body, and especially that iridescent neck.

What sullies their reputation, alas, is the fact that they are 'full of shit,' in fact they also exhibit a funny attitude of 'pride' as they walk, as no less than Dante pointed out in Purgatorio 2: 124-129.

Once again, Tasso stands out with his both scientific and poetical attention to the marvels of the world, undaunted against commonplace. He describes pigeons / doves on various occasions. Here are three verses from his long poem Il Mondo Creato (5: 820-822).

E tali son le candide colombe,
A cui sì prezioso e bel monile
Fa la natura di colori e d'auro.

And such(*) are the white doves,
To which a most precious and beautiful necklace
Does Nature make, in colors and gold.

(*) That is, threatened by the birds of prey, like the species mentioned in the verses above.

Time Machine (2)

And, 'at last,' we can see the outer surface of the tent. If the pictures inside allowed us a voyage back in time in the preceding years, the objects outside make us travel backwards in time for centuries - a couple of millenniums, approximately - up to the Trojan War.

It is not only a poetical device, for Tasso, to say that those lances would "hardly be carried" by Achilles, Ulysses, etc. In fact, he followed the already ancient Greek opinion according to which humankind is getting weaker and weaker. A view still defended e.g. by the Italian poet and scholar Giacomo Leopardi in the early 19th century. As an 'actual' example of this, Tasso adds in Gerusalemme Conquistata a character who didn't exist in the Liberata: Giovanni (John), a some 300 years old warrior who has taken part in the wars of Charlemagne, meeting the Emperor himself as well as Paladin Roland, etc. Sort of a Highlander like in the 1986 movie. This also creates a link between Tasso's poem, set in the late 11th century, and the Carolingian Cycle, about 800 AD, therefore 'invading the turf' of his direct competitor, Ludovico Ariosto's long poem Orlando Furioso.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Time Machine (1)

[3: 52]

Avanti la gran tenda, al suolo affisse,
Gran lance i tronchi avean aurei e dipinti,
Quai porteriano a pena Hettorre, Ulisse,
Aiace, Achille e gli altri a Troia estinti.
Scudi (come l'usanza altri descrisse)
Eran sublimi in cima l'haste avinti,
In cui pinto è leon od orso o drago,
Delfino, aquila, cigno od altra imago.

In front of the big tent, big lances had been driven into the ground, whose trunks were golden and painted - such as even Hector, Ulysses, Ajax, Achilles and the others, killed in Troy, would hardly carry. Shields (according to a custom already described by poets) had been tied high on top of the lances; and a lion or a bear or a dragon, or dolphin, eagle, swan, or another image were portrayed on them.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sunday Guest: The Magic Trio

Gabriel takes on a human appearance
outline: dhr, colors: Selkis

Clorinda, the Muslim heroine
by Nivalis after dhr's model sheet

The Magic Trio is made up of Eva aka Nivalis, Tiziana aka Selkis, and yours truly (see the Trio's website). And their first big international cooperation has been - you guessed! - something about Torquato Tasso. In mid-August the US anthology Emanations: Third Eye, or Emanations III will be published, and it will include an essay called Jerusalem Updated entirely devoted to Tasso's long poem Gerusalemme Liberata (Jerusalem Delivered): brand new translations of selected passages, namely 40 octaves, plus comments(*) and 8 wonderful illustrations by Selkis & Nivalis.

(*) The text has obviously been revised by a mother-tongue editor.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Hunter & Commander (2)

More than once, in GC, will Tasso interrupt a war description and insert a hunting enterprise, though not strictly needed for the plot. Here - again in the pictures painted/woven in that tent in the Christian encampment - Godfrey himself shows off in a victorious fight against a bear.

Meet my publisher!
And, once again, we can notice a 'Viking' bias, especially if we recall by comparison Dante's numerous descriptions of hunts in the Divine Comedy, that usually referred to falconry, and anyway not to men grappling with bears or wolves.

Another strange feature of Gerusalemme Conquistata is precisely this exaltation of violence against Nature, both animals and trees. Nothing more than a narrative device, one would say, since in his long poem Il Mondo Creato, written in the same period (1592-4), Tasso is against any kind of violence: he even shows a very early ecological consciousness, e.g. stressing that some species have disappeared from Europe, like lions.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Hunter & Commander (1)

[3: 39]

Poi, quasi la vittoria allenti il corso,
Vedi fere cacciar, cacciar augelli
In lieta selva, o dove il molle dorso
Rigan d'un colle i lucidi ruscelli.
Miri Goffredo in fera pugna, e l'orso
Che di sua mano ha sanguinosi i velli;
E di sua mano ancor reciso e tronco,
L'horribil teschio è affisso a verde tronco.

Then, as if Victory had slowed down her running, you can now see them hunting beasts, hunting birds in a pleasant forest, or where gleaming brooks furrow(*) the soft back of a hill. You can see Godfrey fiercely wrestling, and the bear whose fur is stained with blood by his hands - and, cut and taken off by his hands, the frightening skull being stuck to a green tree.

(*) or "irrigate, water," if "rigan" is a shortened form for "irrigano"

Thursday, July 18, 2013

This is Istanbul (2)

[3: 23]

Nel gran tempio sorgea sede suprema,
Dove ne l'aureo manto e gemme et ostri
Portava Alessio, al crine alto diadema;
E i Greci eran congiunti a' Duci nostri.
Par ch'ondeggi la turba intorno, e frema;
Sovra, l'Aquila spiega artigli e rostri
E 'n vista ventillar fa rosse piume
Ne l'aura a l'auro, e splende al chiaro lume.

In the great temple a high seat stood,
Where in his golden cloak gems and purples
Did show Alexy, with a high diadem on;
And the Greeks were together with our Chiefs.
Seems like the crowd ripples and sways all around;
Above, the Eagle spreads claws and beaks
And you can see its red feathers flapping
In the air in gold, and it shines in the clear light.

The Emperor of Byzantium, Alexios I Komnenos. The temple is presumably the Hagia Sophia / Holy Wisdom. Verse 8 contains a typical Baroque pun between "l'aura," the air, and "l'auro," the gold (the pun would no more work in current Italian, in which the two words sound "aria" and "oro"). But especially, Tasso here makes explicit reference to Dante's theory of realism in art, cf. Purgatorio 10: 79-81.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

This is Istanbul (1)

[3: 22]

Altrove la città vedeasi intesta
A cui diè Costantin l'imperio e 'l nome,
Tre fronti alzando incoronar la testa,
Donna di genti tributarie e dome;
Quivi Goffredo e i Duci han d'or la vesta
Sovra l'arme lucenti e d'or le chiome,
Quai Gretia le dipinse al biondo Apollo,
E d'oro hanno il monil, di latte il collo.

Elsewhere woven you could see the city
To which Constantin gave the power and the name,
Her head crowned, raise three foreheads,
Lady of tributary and tamed peoples.
There Godfrey and the Chiefs wear gold
On shining weapons, their hair golden
As Greece did paint to blond Apollo,
And gold their jewels, their necks like milk.

This octave contains no special novelties, but it has been chosen for its beauty. It describes another episode shown in the representative tent; the verb "intesta" (woven) may simply mean "told," or more specifically refer to tapestry - therefore, not a painting. Once again, the Mediterranean protagonists have a Nordic look. But the warriors' enchanting features possibly hint at the Bible too, see Song of Songs 4: 4, 11, 14, and 7: 5, etc.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Enter Solyman (6)

Suit: Richard1593

WARNING: SPOILER! In order to get a better understanding of the complex personage called Solyman, we'll have to disclose one of the final scenes in advance. On the other hand, to wait until the proper time might take years.

The noblest deed by Solyman will be his last one. As time goes by, the 'human beast' becomes "a sadder and a wiser man," while the death of his son in battle will demotivate him completely. So, when Richard in his new super-human, super-powered, luminous, flying armor reaches him for the final battle, just WHAT the readers were looking forward to (Iron Man vs Hulk), the Muslim king will let him attack without making a stand. Richard, who is a sanguine knight, cannot understand this, let alone like it, and he shouts: "What's wrong with you?! Where's the Solyman I used to know?!" Solyman's answer is one of the most extraordinary verses I've ever read: "There is nothing wrong with dying."

Monday, July 15, 2013

Enter Solyman (5)

In the two octaves here translated, like on many other occasions, Tasso's 'parity politics' (we would say "par condicio" in Italy) can be appreciated. In fact, throughout the poem, if in a given situation the Christian army prevails, in the next episode the Muslim army will do so, and vice versa.

And precisely Solyman is the epitome of this attitude. Both in Gerusalemme Liberata, Canto 10, and in Gerusalemme Conquistata, Canto 11, he receives The Promise, with three powerful verbs that sum up Tasso's worldview: "Osa, soffri, confida," dare, suffer, trust. And the promise is that a (fictionally) descendant of Solyman, Saladin, will reconquer the lands now conquered or about to be conquered by the Crusaders. Like Dante before him, Tasso glorifies Saladin as a man of culture, and even as a warrior.

This might sound a bit strange to us - to us who have been educated according to the 'teachings' of so-called Enlightenment, namely that Pure Reason is on one side, and it happens to be our own. That is also, incidentally, what led to giving the Nobel Peace Prize to the NSA Lord of the Drones. Well, this is not the way the mind of a Renaissance man worked, but rather: Fortune rules the world. The wheel turns. Today it's my turn, tomorrow it will be yours. And rightly so. Even in a poem like Gerusalemme Conquistata.

To be continued . . .

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sunday Guest: Clive Staples Lewis

C. S. Lewis, Lontano dal pianeta silenzioso [Out of the Silent Planet], accurately and pleasantly translated by Germana Cantoni De Rossi, Milan: Adelphi, 2011, pages 202, euros 11

That kind of book that only an English, and more precisely a British writer can tailor by mixing science fiction, fantasy, and Christian theology, the Destiny of Humankind and humor in a perfect balance. A very interesting work has been done on the literary sources, some of which are declared by the author, like obviously HG Wells, and Milton, Shakespeare (The Tempest), while others are left to the reader to dig out, from (almost surely) HP Lovecraft to (possibly) Baron Munchausen, as well as . . .  JRR Tolkien ante litteram.

The novel has been published in 1938, i.e. a lot before the Golden Age of Science Fiction, but it is strikingly 'mature,' and it has kept 'young' thanks to the sober, therefore ever-evocative scientific descriptions, and the multiple layers of meanings. The most important message is probably the passage from microcosm to macrocosm and back, where a guy called "Ransom" partly discovers and partly creates a link between Earth and the most positive energies of the universe. Just, not very credible is the prophecy according to which a sort of New Age was about to start: in fact, the next big event in human history would turn out to be WWII . . .  But maybe the true Messiah is the spaceship: with No Name, and it finally vanishes into thin air.


And The Message is: You are not alone. There will always be a hross, or a sorn, or a pfifltrigg, or an eldil, and upstream an oyarsa, and upstream Maleldil, who gives you something (resources, pieces of information, . . . ) letting you go ahead in your path and fulfill something. Too little? No, you need a whole cosmic vision to experience this.

With many thanks to 'loyal reader' Carl for suggesting the book.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The next visit will be N. 1,000

Welcome! ^__^

Enter Solyman (4)

Solyman is "il Soldano," i.e. "Sultano," the Sultan, the Turkish King. Together with Argantes, he is the main hero in the Muslim army. It is anyway worth noticing that both Solyman and Argantes (one of the sons of the King of Jerusalem, in GC) play a different political role than in Gerusalemme Liberata. Other characters will also receive a different name, like the Christian knight Rinaldo of GL who becomes Riccardo (Richard) in GC. So, Princess Erminia becomes Nicaea, the same name as the city, and in GC she even turns out to be Solyman's daughter - just, for some unexplained reason, they will never meet, even if both have moved to Jerusalem, independently, because of the war.

Solyman is as unbelievably strong as Argantes, but still more violent: a destroyer, a 'butcher,' a war machine, a juggernaut. In Gerusalemme Liberata he appeared suddenly by night, not described, just a deadly shadow like Alien or Predator. In Gerusalemme Conquistata we first 'see' him painted in the representative tent, but the general impression left by him is the same. The more so as, as it has already been mentioned, in GC the battles undergo a process of 'Vikingalization' after (before!) the manner of Robert E. Howard. Tasso indeed ennobles him by comparing him not only to the mythical giants but to Hercules --- the whole description is a nearly literal translation from Virgil, Aeneid 7: 666-669.

The fierce side, however, is absolutely not the whole of Solyman. We'll find this out on Monday.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Enter Solyman (3)

Besides the special tent containing the Holy Lance, in the Christian encampment there's another special one, whose inner surface is wholly painted - once again, an episode completely lacking in Gerusalemme Liberata. The pictures are a sort of flashback showing the events that preceded the "present" situation: this gives Tasso the opportunity to complete the history of the Crusade, and at the same time produces the interesting effect of the heroes "looking at themselves," like Ulysses who, in the Odyssey, listened to his own adventures being sung. In Orlando Furioso, Ludovico Ariosto even inserted a sculpture that portrayed himself (anonymously).

As to the style of the paintings, it clearly is a Renaissance/Baroque one. Here and elsewhere, Tasso makes - directly or indirectly - reference to Dante, Purgatorio, Canto 10, where the then brand new criterion of successful art as hyperrealist art was provided. Dante had Giotto in his mind, but Renaissance authors like Ariosto and Tasso could adopt such a criterion a fortiori.

And speaking of Dante, GC 3: 17, v. 8: "Gli attende al varco ne l'antica selva," ". . .  lies in wait for them in the ancient forest," contains even two micro-quotes from the Divine Comedy: Inferno 30: 8 and Purgatorio 28: 23.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Enter Solyman (2)

[In those pictures] you can see Italians and Germans, almost "from life," come out and raid the lands by the sea [in Turkey] and there, proving harmful to Bithynia, take away spoil and plunder; and you can see them at the feet of a mountain; then, made sadder, defending the high ruins of a high building - and Solyman who, like a frightful beast, lies in wait for them in the ancient forest.

Hairy under the skin of a lion does he appear, his eyes flashing fury, his gaze surly, with brawny limbs that make him look like one of the ungodly giants; he then elsewhere overthrows and kills and dismembers our men with his weapons dripping their blood; and you can see hundred chiefs and hundred squads stain the soil with their own blood, and make it darker.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Enter Solyman (1)

Now proceeding to translate and comment on passages from Canto 3 of Gerusalemme Conquistata. Once in a while, here on one occasion the final printed version has been preferred: "attende" (he waits) instead of "attendea" (he waited) for a better connection between verb tenses.

[3: 17-18]

Italici e Germani uscir diresti
E correr le campagne al mar vicine
E, quasi fatti a la Bithinia infesti,
Là dentro riportar prede e rapine:
Gli vedi a piè d'un monte; indi più mesti
Difender d'alta mole alte ruine,
E Soliman che, quasi horrida belva,
Gli attende al varco ne l'antica selva.

Con spoglie di leon hispido ei sembra,
E con occhi il furor quasi spiranti,
Con torvo sguardo e con robuste membra,
Onde può somigliar gli empi giganti;
Altrove abbatte i nostri, ancide e smembra
Con l'arme sue del sangue altrui stillanti;
E paion cento Duci e cento squadre
Sanguigne far quelle campagne, et adre.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Off Topic: The Golden Age of Sci-Fi (2)

Carlo Fruttero, Franco Lucentini (eds.), Storie di Fantamore, "Urania" N. 455, February 12, 1967. The anthology includes the following stories:

- Isaac Asimov, Playboy and the Slime God, 1965
the art of Isaac Asimov!

- Lloyd Biggle Jr., First Love, 1965
Black Lagoon, the other way round
- John Wyndham, The Eternal Eve, 1965
the first page is unforgettable
- Bob Shaw, Call Me Dumbo, 1966
appalling, wonderful
- Robert Silverberg, Eve and the 23 Adams, 1957
less funny than it may seem at first sight
- Robert F. Young, Romance in a 21st-century used-car lot, 1960
- Clark Ashton Smith, The Great God Awto, 1939
N.B. 1939

Off Topic: The Golden Age of Sci-Fi (1)

J. G. Ballard, Essi ci guardano dalle torri (They look at us from the towers), "Urania" N. 371, February 14, 1965. Original title: Passport to Eternity, 1963. The book includes the following stories:

- The Watch-Towers cf Dino Buzzati's SF stories
- The Man on the 99th Floor horror, if well rendered
- Escapement just fine / a Capricorn One already in 1963!
- Track 12 cf Primo Levi's SF
- A Question of Reentry so so

Divine Touch-Screen (4)

The Holy Lance, as well as the Holy Sepulcher, recalls another and more important Christian relic: the Holy Shroud ("la sacra Sindone"), currently kept in Torino / Turin, N-W Italy. 'Everything and the opposite of everything' has already been said about that linen cloth that enveloped - or not - Jesus' body. What interests us here is a mysterious connection with Tasso.

The Holy Shroud, whose first appearance dated back to 1349 in France, from 1453 belonged to the Savoia Family, i.e. the same dynasty that in the mid-19th century would unite Italy into one nation (it would fall after, and because of, WWII). On September 14, 1578, the linen cloth was definitively transferred to Turin, and in that very September, Torquato Tasso went to Turin for the first time in his life, asking for the opportunity to become a courtier of theirs. Just a coincidence, for a poet who had just ended to write Gerusalemme Liberata?

Tasso would not remain there for a long time. It was the period in which he suffered from the heaviest psychic problems, and he suddenly fled. He would be internalised in Ferrara on March 11, 1579, up until 1586. But, could he see the relic before? No evidences can be found in his letters, etc., but some descriptions in Gerusalemme Conquistata seem to suggest a positive answer. In GC 2: 27 (see below) the Holy Lance is said to have pierced the "left side" of the body of Jesus, that's what it looks like by examining the Shroud without considering that it is an imprint, so the wound was actually on the right. But the most interesting verses on this subject are still to come.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Divine Touch-Screen (3)

Tasso stresses that the discovery of the Holy Lance, hidden in Antioch, was made possible by a vision of angels that was "unlike" the images produced by phantoms and/or devils. There was a need to be able to recognize the true manifestations of the Divine by distinguishing them from their dangerous devilish imitations [therefore "divine touch-screen," where you do "touch" but it is anyway a "screen"]. This is the discernment of spirits that in the 16th century was brought back to attention by St Ignace de Loyola, the founder of Jesuits, who retrieved the ancient teachings of the Church Fathers.

A precious art that - just to insert a reference to the contemporary situation, once in a while - in the Catholic Church has nearly gone lost after the Sixties, when they thought it was smarter to resort to second-hand psychology and third-rate sociology. Discernment still plays a role in the Orthodox Churches, though.

To be continued . . .

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sunday Guest: Bram Stoker (3)

[ch. 22] “Would it not be well, sir, if one of us could see this monster in her real shape at close quarters?” Precisely this attitude marks the passage from Fantasy to Sci-Fi: see Beowulf when the warriors examine the water monster they have killed

[ch. 28] At length there came a flash so appallingly bright that in its glare Nature seemed to be standing still. So long did it last, that there was time to distinguish its configuration. It seemed like a mighty tree inverted, pendent from the sky. The Anti-Tree, or rather, the True Tree

Here below, a very ancient motif, the Serpent-Woman, but dealt with as only a 20th century writer could afford to. I.e., most favorite quotes from The Lair of the White Worm:

[ch. 20] “Lady Arabella, be she woman or snake or devil, owned the ground she moved in, according to British law …”

[ch. 21] “This one is a woman, with all a woman’s wit, combined with the heartlessness of a cocotte. She has the strength and impregnability of a diplodocus. ”

[ch. 24] Just fancy how any stranger—say a doctor—would regard her, if she were to tell him that she had been to a tea-party with an antediluvian monster, and that they had been waited on by up-to-date men-servants.

[ch. 27] Lady Arabella, who, under the instincts of a primeval serpent, carried the ever-varying wishes and customs of womanhood, which is always old—and always new.
. . .
She tore off her clothes, with feverish fingers, and in full enjoyment of her natural freedom, stretched her slim figure in animal delight. Then she lay down on the sofa—to await her victim!

by Stepharon

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Divine Touch-Screen (2)

Three or four times, devout and godly people saw the blessed(*) angels - or so did it seem to them - coming down and up the lofty ways, unlike phantoms or spectres do. And the divine ray, earlier than the dawning day, shone like in a mirror, and disappeared; and in disappearing, it marked the place with two lines of luminous fire.

. . .

Among a thousand tents a shrine rises up, full of sacred pictures and statues: it can be taken away, and stored, and it is cleansed and washed, so that the Priest may consecrate [the Eucharist] to God. Here [Bishop] Simon wets his face with tears before the shining brightness of sacred lamps, in seeing the Lance and the precious blood that redeemed us, and left Christ bloodless.

(*) Literally: chosen.

Comments on Monday. Tomorrow it will be up to Bram Stoker. Bye.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Divine Touch-Screen (1)

In GC 2: 80 ff the story of the miraculous finding of the Holy Lance (die Heilige Lanze in German) is told. Data about this alleged relic can easily be recovered online; it is past its glory days, anyway. On the basis of some sources of his own time, Tasso describes the visions that led to its discovery during the siege of Antioch, then shows it in the temporary shrine build for it in the Christian encampment, but we won't be told its following vicissitudes. Here just a couple of octaves will be chosen and translated.

[2: 84, 88]

Tre volte o quattro, alme devote e pie
Vider gli angeli eletti, o che lor parve,
E scendere e salir sublimi vie
In altro modo che fantasmi e larve.
E 'l divin raggio anzi il nascente die
Lampeggiò, quasi in specchio, e poi disparve,
Ne lo sparir segnando il sacro loco
Con doppia riga di lucente foco.

. . .

In mezzo a mille tende un templo s'erge
Con imagini sante e simolacri,
Che si leva e ripone e lustra e terge,
Perch'ivi il Sacerdote a Dio consacri:
Quivi Simon di pianto il viso asperge
Al lucente splendor di lumi sacri,
Vista la lancia e 'l pretïoso sangue
Che noi riscosse, e lasciò Cristo essangue.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The first World War (2)

The list here provided by Godfrey is just approximate, not complete: soldiers and knights from Great Britain, Scandinavia, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Sub-Saharan Africa, India, etc., are also engaged in the Crusade, on one side or the other. In Gerusalemme Liberata, even a futuristic voyage to America was described, then unfortunately cancelled in the Conquistata because 16th century readers (intellectuals) had branded it as out of place.

So, it would be right to term the First Crusade, as reshaped by Torquato Tasso, "the first world war." It may also be said to be a "clash of civilizations," and in some respects it is, but, as a matter of fact, both Christians and Muslims do not want to conquer the enemy's countries, they just fight for the control of the Holy Land. Moreover, together with the things dividing the two fronts, there are values - and non-values - that are common to both, as we will see.

The beautiful legend of the Holy Lance will be the subject matter of the next posts.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Off Topic: PredatoR III

Alessandro Gassman is Shakespeare's R III: Richard III. In Perugia, Teatro Morlacchi, on January 8-12, 2014.

Once again, only partially off topic, as the only Shakespearean drama in Italy has been Torquato Tasso's Il Re Torrismondo (King Thorismond).

The first World War (1)

[2: 79]

Ei che feo rivelar l'acuta lancia
Onde fu il manco lato a lui trafitto,
Hor l'arco spezzi, e ciò ch'aventa e lancia
L'Arabo e 'l Perso e 'l Siro e quel d'Eggitto,
E drizzi contra lor d'Italia e Francia
L'arme, e d'Europa, e salvi il volgo afflitto;
S'inalziam la sua lancia, e la sua croce
Per lui spieghiam contra il rubel feroce!

[Godfrey of Bouillon speaks] " . . .  May now He, who let us discover the sharp [Holy] Lance by which His left side was pierced, break the bows and all that is thrown and tossed by Arabs and Persians and Syrians and Egyptians, and move the weapons of Italy and France and whole Europe against them, and save the oppressed people - since we raise His lance, and unfold His cross for Him against fierce rebels!"

N.B. This is a hot potato, but things in Tasso are much more complex and interesting than this: this is just one side of it. Please wait for some analyses more in depth before jumping to conclusions. More talk soon: tomorrow --- and next days, and weeks, and months, and years ^__^

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Black Light

[2: 72, verses 6-8]

. . .
O Mar dove ogni mente indarno spalma,
O Sol dove ha suoi lumi invano affissi,
O tenebre lucenti, o sacri abissi!

O Sea where each mind sails in vain,
O Sun upon which it gazes uselessly,
O shining shadows, O sacred abysses!

The so-called "negative" or "apophatic" theology, i.e. unable to describe anything of God, has a long tradition in the history of Christianity: from the very beginning to nowadays, as a matter of fact, across the very different developments in society and thought. And it gains a special strength in Tasso's Baroque worldview, with a more existentially tragic nuance than, e.g., in Dante.

For this kind of heavenly and at the same time hellish atmospheres, see, still in the early 19th century, Giuseppe Gioachino Belli's sonnet La ggirànnola der 34: "lusce nera . . .  fiamme illuminate . . .  e ll'Angelo . . .  pareva un demonio de l'inferno," black light, illuminated flames, the (statue of the) angel looking like a devil during a firework show. Unconsciously echoing Milton, or maybe consciously?

As to language, Tasso once again uses two synonyms of the same word in two verses, "in vain" in this case, with a chronological difference: one of them is the (now) outdated form "indarno," while the other, "invano," is the form still commonly used.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Tasso Revised Version (4)

[2: 62]

Chi giova al suo vicin, né face inganno,
E non s'avanza con iniqua frode;
Chi l'or non presta avaro, e d'anno in anno
Non fa il ricolto d'auro, e sprezza lode:
Chi non vuol d'innocente o morte o danno
Per caro dono ond'arrichisce e gode:
Mosso non sarà mai; non tema alfine
Se cade il mondo rotto, alte ruine.

Who benefits his neighbor, nor does he deceive,
And does not seek success by unjust fraud;
Who doesn't lend gold to usury, and year by year
Doesn't harvest gold, and despises praise;
Who doesn't like the innocent's death or injury
For any dear gift so as to get rich and enjoy.
He will never be shaken, and let him finally not fear
If the broken world falls in high ruins.

From the viewpoint of language, it is interesting to notice the two words used to say gold, i.e. "or[o]" that is the still current Italian term, and "auro" that follows the Latin aurum more closely. In fact, Tasso employed so many Latinizing words and structures that some critics said he would better write the poem directly in Latin - see Milton who, "in writing Paradise Lost, forgot he was English."

The "world falling in ruins" is a typical Tassian refrain, see especially the final verses in his long poem Il Mondo Creato.