SiStan ChapLee

Friday, January 31, 2014

With many thanks (1)

In the end, Godfrey gives in; though quite reluctantly, but pressed by his brother Eustace and many knights, he accepts to send a group of them to help Armida. She triumphs . . .  [5: 84]

Rende lor poscia in più soavi note
Gratie per gratie di cotanta stima,
Mostrando che sarian famose e note
Ad ogni gente e 'n ogni estranio clima;
E ciò ch'esprimer lingua altrui non pote
Par che muta eloquenza in atto esprima,
E tien la fraude sua nel cor secreta,
Più ch'in guisa mortale adorna e lieta.

She then thanks(*) them, with sweeter words, for their good graces, which are so praiseworthy that -- she stresses -- they will be known and famous to all peoples and in every foreign country(**); and what the tongue cannot express is expressed by her speechless gestures. Meanwhile, adorned and happy more than any mortal might ever look, she keeps her fraud hidden in her heart.

(*) In Italian: "rendere grazie, ringraziare," directly linked to the concept of "good graces."
(**) Literally: climate, and we'll see why.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Italian Nietzsche (15)

"Oh, wow, listen: a reversal! That's cheap originality!"
Attention, please. Not all reversals do naturally bring truth, but the greatest moments in the history of thought have been reversals.
. . .
Overturning is easy. Yeah, easier said than done! But why do so few stretch out their hands to overturn things?

 __Giovanni Papini, L'altra metà (1911), 2: The Other Half

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Torquato Tasso: The Biography

Fabio Pittorru, Torquato Tasso. L'uomo, il poeta, il cortigiano [The Man, the Poet, the Courtier], Milan, IT: Bompiani, 1982, pages 416, with 8 pictures

"The Biography" means, first of all, that there is no other such book currently available in Italy! Yeah, no biography of Tasso has been printed or reprinted of late. Fabio Pittorru's book has been found in a remainders bookshop, namely "Bardamù" in Perugia.

But it also deserves the compliment in the post title because it is a very good biography, full of data not only on Tasso's life and adventures, but also on the history, society, personages, and culture of his times. With clever insights and suggestions. No doubt is left about Tasso's bisexuality, that proves to be the actual reason of many of his troubles. But especially, it becomes clear that he was not mad at all: just the other way round, he was interned in an asylum -- for seven years -- so as to make him possibly go insane, and therefore an unreliable source, since he had threatened to "speak out" and tell inconvenient truths about the Este Court in Ferrara. Thank God he succeeded in "saving his soul," as his late masterpieces show. Very interesting is the paragraph on 'our friend' Il Mondo Creato (p. 386):

The poem started by Tasso in Manso's villa, after a suggestion by the host's mother, is very important for many reasons. After so much Renaissance neo-paganism, it can be considered the first Catholic long poem inspired by the new kind of religiousness coming from the Council of Trent. The proof of its importance can be found in the flourishing of Catholic poems all around Europe after Le sette giornate del mondo creato [The Seven Days of the World's Creation]. John Milton's Paradise Lost can even be seen as a sequel to Tasso's poem. Besides, this work marks the definitive triumph, in Italian literature, of the endecasillabo sciolto [blank verse].

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Brothers in arms (2)

[5: 80, Eustace speaks]

Ah, non sia ver, per Dio, che si ridica
In Francia, o dove in pregio è cortesia,
Che si fugga da noi rischio o fatica
Per cagion così giusta e così pia.
Io, per me, qui depongo elmo e lorica,
Qui mi scingo la spada, e più non fia
Ch'adopri indegnamente arme e destiero
O 'l nome usurpi mai di cavaliero.

"Ha, by God, may it never happen that in France, or wherever Courtesy is valued, they say we are fleeing from risks or toils for such a just and holy enterprise! As far as I am concerned, I would rather lay down both helm and armor, and renounce the sword, e never again will I unworthily employ my arms and horse, or usurp the title of Knight!"

"Between the Sublime and the Ridiculous, there is just one step," according to a French saying. In over-stressing the values of chivalry, Eustace already paves the way to Don Quijote.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Imago Mundi

The Codex Seraphinianus by Luigi Serafini, an Italian architect and designer, is one of the most intriguing modern books for collectors. Written/drawn in the 1970s, first published in 1981, then reprinted in later years, and again in 2013 with a brand new "Introduction," it deals with the main topics of any encyclopedia: Botany, Zoology, Biology, Chemistry, Technology, History, Ethnology, Religions, Usages & Customs, etc.

But, first of all, it doesn't need to be translated because it is wholly written in a made-up language, in spite of a useless 'Rosetta Stone' also being provided. And the wonderful illustrations picture a non-existing world, though it would be so fine if it did exist -- and it does, under the surface. A world full of beauty (plants more fascinating than in James Cameron's Avatar, buildings surpassing the newest and boldest architectures in China and other Eastern countries, . . .), of wonders, of tenderness and love, of mystery and surprise, and with its dark sides (pollution, death, torture, war, . . .).

Very many sources may be listed, but 4 can be suggested as the main ones: Pieter Bruegel the Elder via Benito Jacovitti (comic artist, 1923-1997), M. C. Escher, Bruno Munari (designer, 1907-1998), Alberto Savinio (Surrealist painter, 1881-1952).

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sunday Guest: Reepicheep

From: CS Lewis' Prince Caspian (The Chronicles of Narnia)

The quote: "I am afraid it would not do," said Peter very gravely. "Some humans are afraid of mice---"
"I had observed it, Sire," said Reepicheep.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Italian Nietzsche (14)

Philosophers are right [in creating a reassuring world]. I don't simply want to blame them, but to integrate them: to make people sense that there is a different world, negative and bad, that might perhaps make us understand something about the other one, the good, enlightened world. What philosophers didn't do so far, that's what I mean to. What Nietzsche did only with reference to Evil, I want to do with reference to all brethren of Evil.

__Giovanni Papini, L'altra metà (1911), 2: The Other Half.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Brothers in arms (1)

Armida gets what she wants. Here speaks up Eustace (more literally Eustatius, a variant of Eustachius), a member of the "soldiers of fortune," i.e. Special Corps, contractors, etc., as well as a younger brother of Godfrey of Bouillon himself. Eustace has obviously fallen in love with Armida -- like basically all knights in the Christian encampment. His words are beyond criticism, but they don't tell the whole truth . . .  [5: 78]

Non che lascin lor alta e nobil cura
I duci qui de' suoi guerrier soggetti,
Torcendo il piè da l'oppugnate mura
E sian gli uffici lor da lor negletti;
Ma fra noi cavalier d'alta ventura,
Senza alcun propio peso, e meno astretti
A le leggi degli altri, elegger diece
Difensori del giusto a te ben lece.

"Let no captain here quit the high, noble guide of the warriors of whom he is in command, abandoning the walls we put under siege and thus neglecting his own duty. But among us knights of good fortune, who are not in charge, and are less tied to the others' laws,(*) you [Godfrey] can freely choose ten defenders of [Armida's] rights."

(*) This greater freedom of action of the mercenary troops -- then and nowadays -- will be clearly shown by the knight who is about to become their head: Richard the Norman, the main hero in the poem, who [WARNING: SPOILER] will kill a comrade during a brawl, disobey Godfrey, have sex with the partly-non-human Armida, and in the end, declare his homosexuality. Just in case this post happened to be read by any average Italian scholar considering Tasso a bigot.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Italian Nietzsche (13)

. . .  in the philosophers' minds, that which is "different," the hated plurality, is immediately associated to error (error is manifold, truth is one) and to evil (crime is a case of non-compliance, a negation of the unitary rule); the "impossible" arises just in the minds of mad people, and uselessness is seen as folly.

__Giovanni Papini, L'altra metà (1911), 2: The Other Half

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

No woman no cry (2)

The fire of love "serpe" (snakes) in the knights' hearts: a verb much beloved by Tasso, here suggesting a temptation like the one carried out by the Serpent in Eden. Armida, in fact, corresponds to Lilith, the non-human demon with a woman's face, as it can be seen in so many Medieval and Renaissance - and later - paintings on the original sin.

And the fire of love "s'apprende," clings to the knights' hearts. This is a literal quotation from Dante, Inferno 5: 100 ("doth . . . seize" in Longfellow's translation), where Francesca Da Rimini tells her tragic love story, that made her wind up in hell. So, it would sound like an alarm bell in the knights' ears -- if only they could hear it.

By virtue of Armida, the god Eros "surpasses himself." Here a reference can be seen to Dante, Purgatorio 31: 83 (though in this case the wording is not exactly the same), where the enchanting woman is no less than Beatrix. So, Armida really tries her best; and not by chance, this verse of Dante occurs in an episode set in the forest on top of the mountain of purgatory, that is precisely Paradise.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sunday Guest: the Werewolf

From: CS Lewis' Prince Caspian (The Chronicles of Narnia)

The quote: "I'm hunger. I'm thirst. Where I bite, I hold till I die, and even after death they must cut out my mouthful from my enemy's body, and bury it with me. I can fast a hundred years and not die. I can lie a hundred nights on the ice and not freeze. I can drink a river of blood and not burst. Show me your enemies."

Genres: Lewis was greatly skilled for horror, though he had to restrain himself in this -- as well as in sexual themes -- in the Chronicles of Narnia. His novel Perelandra includes some of the best horror scenes of Western literature, imho. And indeed, some of the words of the Werewolf quoted here above may well apply to 'the thing once known as' Prof. Weston in Perelandra.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Italian Nietzsche (12)

Philosophers, who, after all -- like all 'desk people' -- are the servants and secretaries of humankind, look for that ideal world that may better deny (or explain, as they say) the unphilosophical reality. Since humanity fears Nothingness, they try to snatch Being . . .  and since they [the philosophers] lack the sacred courage to be crazy, they blab about reason and rationality even between a woman's legs, . . .  too coward to unleash the Beast, they stand for Virtue and praise Goodness; since their are not heroic and disinterested enough to act without reason, the show us everywhere our convenience, and take their own advantage meanwhile.

__Giovanni Papini, L'altra metà (1911), 2: The Other Half

Friday, January 17, 2014

No woman no cry (1)

[5: 75]

Ma 'l chiaro humor, che di lucenti stille
Sparge ligustri e rose in cui discende,
Opra effetto di foco, e 'n mille e mille
Petti serpe celato, e vi s'apprende.
O miracol d'Amor, che sue faville
Tragge dal pianto, e i cor ne l'acqua accende!
Sempre ha sovra natura alta possanza,
Ma 'n virtù di costei se stesso avanza.

But the clear humor that, with shining drops,
Spreads the roses and privets(*) where it falls,
Works as fire, and in a thousand and thousand
Chests it snakes hidden, and there clings.
Oh, the miracle of Love, who can draw
Sparks from tears, igniting hearts with water!
He is always over-powerful over nature,
But surpasses himself by virtue of this Lady.

(*) A paraphrasis to indicate women's, here Armida's, breast. Her crying (because of Godfrey's negative answer) gives Tasso the opportunity to display a typically Baroque erotic imagery. But, as we will see, these verses are full of hidden hints.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

St. Hildegard, martyr of the Vatican

This is the only existing Italian version of St. Hildegard of Bingen's visionary book Scivias, written in the 1140s. It was published in 2002 by LEV, the Vatican publishing house, in a pocket version but with the price of a "prestigious book," that is absolutely not the case, as the translation is largely abridged, arbitrarily cropping away most of the text, and it would need a strong editing for a better understanding; errors are not lacking either. Hildegard's visions anyway are so fascinating that they succeed in communicating something deep even in this badly butchered version.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Off Topic: Richard the Turd

A tribute to the Shakespearean tragedy currently on stage in Italy in a wonderful adapted version, starring Alessandro Gassman as Richard III.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Nobody knows the troubles I've seen (3)

As a matter of fact, in some verses here not reported, Godfrey also promised Armida that the Crusaders will help her as soon as their main mission is over. But she (pretends she) isn't out of danger by that . . .  [5: 72]

E perché legge d'honestate e zelo
Non vuol che qui sì lungamente indugi,
A cui ricovro intanto? ove mi celo,
O quai contra il Tiranno havrò refugi?
Nessun sì chiuso loco è sotto il cielo
Che a l'or non s'apra; hor perché tanti indugi?
Veggio la morte, e se 'l fuggirla è vano,
Incontra lei n'andrò con questa mano.

"And since the laws of honesty and [religious?] zeal prevent me from lingering here for so long, where will I shelter meanwhile? Where can I hide, where can I find a refuge against the Tyrant? No place on earth is so closed that gold cannot open it . . .  So, why so many delays? I see Death, and if fleeing from him proves useless, I will go and meet him by this my hand."

Threatening to commit suicide, or actually trying to, is a quite usual psychological strategy in the poems of chivalry. In the case of Tasso, however, it was something more than literary commonplace, given that he once wrote to a friend, "I would have already killed myself, if my Christian faith hadn't prevented me from doing so."

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Italian Nietzsche (11)

All people, if they must be able to find themselves in the dark forest(*) of the world, i.e., to live, need to stick to what lasts, to similarity, to harmony, to the solid and stable sides of things. All people, to be able to keep on living, need ideals, promises, illusions, deceits; and to be able to stand the world 'on this side,' they must believe in a world beyond, a world in which everything is ordre et volupté like in Baudelaire's song. To get such worlds, they ask the mythologists, the priests, and even - less frequently - the metaphysicians.

__Giovanni Papini, L'altra metà (1911), 2: The Other Half

(*) Almost literally from Dante, Inferno 1: 2. It is worth noticing that here the "dark forest" is not a symbol of "sin" (which?!) as the 'official' interpretation 'explains,' but a symbol of everyday life, exactly like in the first-ever Commentary to Inferno written in 1322 by Jacopo Alighieri, one of Dante's sons.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sunday Guest: the Hag

From: CS Lewis' Prince Caspian (The Chronicles of Narnia)

The quote: ". . .  I'm only a poor old woman, I am, . . .  His Majesty, bless his handsome face, has no need to be afraid of an old woman that's nearly doubled up with the rheumatics and hasn't two sticks to put under her kettle. I have some poor skill . . .   in small spells and cantrips that I'd be glad to use against our enemies if it was agreeable to all concerned."

Phenomenology: According to Prof. Salwa Khoddam, this Hag would be no less than the White Witch in disguise (it would be some disguise, really). She's not, imho. We're here confronted with the double side of the concept of Witch: either a ugly Medieval hag playing with "small spells" or a beautiful and powerful wiccan like in ancient religions, Renaissance literature, and current New Age trends. These two natures can anyway be united in one person, see Dante, Purgatorio 19: 7-24, 58, or Ariosto's Alcina.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Italian Nietzsche (10)

The other half is therefore the study of the negative concepts, the research and analysis of that which is antithetical to the acknowledged, desired, normal, useful, and blessed concepts.

__Giovanni Papini, L'altra metà (1911), 2: The Other Half

Friday, January 10, 2014

Nobody knows the troubles I've seen (2)

This is a very fine example of Tasso's subtlety. At first sight, the text is all too plain: Armida is understandably disappointed by Godfrey's answer. But her attitude and words are more dangerous than that. In lowering her head, Armida 'mirrors' Godfrey's gesture in 5: 67, like the Serpent in Eden who - as it can be seen in Medieval and Renaissance art - took on Eve's face.

But especially, her reference to people "changing their natures and minds" sarcastically foreshadows the metamorphosis that the knights who will follow her will undergo. In that episode (Gerusalemme Liberata, Canto 10; see picture here below), Tasso will rework Dante, Inferno 25, not only by having men turning into fish rather than snakes, but adding the psychological horror it entails. In Gerusalemme Conquistata, however, the scene has been shortened and modified.

by Nivalis70
published in Emanations: Third Eye,
International Authors, 2013

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Italian Nietzsche (9)

But there are other important consequences:
- true action lies in speculation, in pure thought . . . ;
- truth must be searched for in poetry, in art; and beauty in philosophy.  . . .
And the last and most important consequence (according to me, at least):
- for actually knowing and understanding being, let us examine non-being; for understanding what is here, examine what is there; for the day, the night; for the Yes, the No; . . .

__Giovanni Papini, L'altra metà (1911), 1: The Law of Contraries

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Italian Nietzsche (8)

The law of contraries explains the perpetual and self-repeating becoming of the universe. As soon as things have fully become themselves, they turn into their own opposite, then the same occurs to the latter. Motion, but no liberation. This also explains how our life is a tragic circle, in which our achievements incessantly slip away from us, and we get the contrary of what we aim at -- a tread mill(*) working in the void for nothing.

__Giovanni Papini, L'altra metà (2011), 1: The Law of Contraries

(*) In English in the text.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Nobody knows the troubles I've seen (1)

[5: 70]

A quel parlar chinò la donna e fisse
Le luci a terra, e stette immota alquanto:
Poi sollevolle rugiadose, e disse,
Accompagnando atti gentili al pianto:
- Misera! et a qual altra il ciel prescrisse
Vita mai grave, et immutabil tanto
Che si cangia in altrui mente e natura
Pria che si cangi in me sorte e ventura?

After listening to these words, she lowered her eyes(*) and kept them fixed to the ground, staying perfectly still for a while. She then raised her now dewy eyes and, adding discreet gestures to her tears, she said, "Poor me! To which other woman did Heaven ever predetermine such a heavy existence, and so immutable that the very mind and nature of anybody else can change faster than my destiny and luck?"

(*) Eyes are here literally called "lights" because sight was described as a stream of rays moving from the organ to the objects; that may look naive but, more in depth, see Heisenberg's principle. As to literary sources, cf. Dante, Inferno 5: 110-112.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Off Topic: Mobile Deck

The 2011 movie Age of the Dragons, directed by Ryan Little, reworks Moby Dick by shifting the story to a fantasy setting, the Whale being changed into a huge White Dragon chased among snowy mountains on board of a sort of Medieval tank. Good special effects, but the greatest intellectual pleasure consists in seeing how the original Melvillean roles and events are remixed. A flick that would probably deserve more interest.

Alessandro Sanna's Moby Dick [Verona, IT: ABE - Alessandro Berardinelli Editore, 2012, euros 39] lies halfway between an illustrated book and a comic book, with big, unnumbered pages full of wonderful pictures, but no balloons. Here the process of reinterpretation goes much deeper than in Age of the Dragons. The story can be read in two directions, starting from the beginning or from the end, with 26 and 26 plates and a double splash page at the meeting point. The - conventionally - first story is drawn the Western way, left to right, and it even involves ( . . .  inwolves . . . ) lycanthropy from a surprising and surprisingly fitting viewpoint. The second story is drawn like Japanese comics, right to left, and tells the birth, life, and adventures of Moby Dick before his uncertain face-off against the Pequod. Sanna's style masters the very difficult technique of watercolors creating evocative, dynamic scenes with quick, essential strokes. A successful meeting of Western and Eastern art, far from the boring electronic perfectionism now prevailing.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Sunday Guest: Bacchus

From: CS Lewis' Prince Caspian (The Chronicles of Narnia)

The quote: "There's a chap who might do anything -- absolutely anything."  . . .  And everybody was laughing, and everybody was shouting out, "Euan, euan, eu-oi-oi-oi."

The challenge: Deeply fond of classical mythology, the self-controlled Briton Lewis is among the very few Christian authors who included the Dionysiac in their worldview. Here, Bacchus even takes part in Aslan's pageant! A triumph of refined eroticism can be found in Lewis' masterpiece, Perelandra. Another who, actually more than him, completed Catholic tradition and mysticism with the Bacchic paradise of senses was the hot-blooded Catalan Salvador Dalí.

Friday, January 3, 2014

And the answer is . . . (2)

[5: 68]

- S'al servigio di Dio, ch'a ciò n'elesse,
Volta la mia non fosse, e l'altre spade,
Potei qui fra le genti a te concesse
Aïta ritrovar nonché pietade.
Ma se queste sue mura, e queste oppresse
Greggi non torniam prima in libertade,
Giusto non è, con iscemar le genti,
Ch'io di nostra vittoria il corso allenti.

[Godfrey's reply to Armida:] "If my sword, as well as the others, were not at the service of God, Who chose us for this, you could find here, among these people given to you,(*) not only piety but actual aid. But if we don't first secure the liberty of these walls and these oppressed 'flocks,' I would do wrong to slow down the run of our Victory by diminishing the troops."

(*) He obviously means "me," as it can be read in the final printed version, in fact. In spite, or rather, just because of the seriousness of his words, Godfrey/Tasso incurs a Freudian slip. And it isn't the only occurrence of this psychological phenomenon in the poem.