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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A temporary farewell to arms (2)

[6: 75-77]

Meanwhile, Tancred tries to soften Richard's bitter resentment and anger: . . .

"Ha, will you today stain your valiant hands with innocent blood, and by wounding His people to death, stab Christ himself, of whom they are members and parts? Will a vain glory, and honor, which darkens and fades as the ebbs and flows of sea waves, affect you more than the love and zeal for that glory which becomes eternal in heaven?

No, by God! Overcome yourself, get rid of this fierce and proud mind of yours! Surrender, if a noble longing for honor is what really moves you, because a palm and a crown are kept for you in heaven. And if, in our earlier years, you judged me worthy of being followed as a model, please remember that, being curbed by the modesty of fortune, I despised both gold and lands."

A significant summary of the values at the basis of Christian chivalry. A heartfelt religious creed, here even with reference to St. Paul's theology (see Acts of the Apostles 9: 4, Romans 12: 5, I Corinthians 6: 15, etc.), is associated with the feeling of comradeship among soldiers.
Tancred/Tancredi is a historical personage who actually took part in the First Crusade, though Tasso 'duly' makes him a bit nobler than he was. He was an Italian-Norman knight, related to Robert Guiscard who, in his turn, also inspired the fictional character of Richard. Tancred here refers to the campaign in Cilicia, a region in the South-East of current Turkey, that (as it is told in stanza 78, here not reported) had been conquered by him, but then usurped by Baldovinus, Godfrey's brother; that, incidentally, provides us with a less idealized picture of the Crusade.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The fine side of mental hospitals

Torquato Tasso spent seven years in the St. Anne Asylum in Ferrara as a punishment for being politically dangerous. Another former mental hospital, that of Santa Maria della Pietà (St Mary of Pity) in Rome, has been the subject of a photography contest launched by the Municipality in order to focus the citizens' attention on the surrounding Park, that would deserve to be better known and enjoyed. The panel of judges was headed by the professional photographer Marco Delogu. And the winner was . . .  our old friend, the psychologist and photographer Laura Spizzichino with the picture here above, in spite -- and this is another remarkable detail -- of the small number of "+1's" she had received by the visitors of the online gallery. She was awarded the prize just yesterday: congratulations, and keep up with the good work!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sunday Guest: Éowyn the She-Knight

After reading The Lord of the Rings -- in English, a precious gift from a dear friend -- some comments may be 'expected,' but the book is so wonderful, complex, and overwhelming that it really seems impossible to choose a limited number of topics. So one drawing, dedicated to one of its most fascinating characters, will serve as a heartfelt tribute.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Tasso loved drinking wine

wine glasses from Murano (Venice)
late 16th or early 17th century

German Passglas
(glass to be passed on)
early 16th century

From Attilia Dorigato, Vetri: Rinascimento e Barocco, Novara, IT: Istituto Geografico De Agostini, 1985, 80 pages with 77 pictures. In the series "documenti d'Antiquariato," in collaboration with Sotheby's Fine Art Auctions

Friday, September 26, 2014

A temporary farewell to arms (1)

[6: 75-77]

Tancredi intanto il suo acerbo despitto
E 'l suo disdegno mitigar procura:
. . .

Deh, vorrai forse d'innocente sangue
La valorosa mano hoggi macchiarte,
E con le piaghe del suo volgo essangue
Trafigger Cristo, ond'ei son membra e parte?
Gloria vana, et honor ch'imbruna e langue,
E come onda di mar se 'n viene e parte,
Potranno in te più che l'amore e 'l zelo
Di quella gloria che s'eterna in cielo?

Ah non, per Dio; vinci te stesso, e spoglia
Questa feroce mente tua superba.
Cedi, s'alto desio d'honor t'invoglia,
Ché 'n ciel palma e corona a te si serba.
E se pur degno ond'altri essempio toglia
Me giudicasti in quella età più acerba,
Rammenta ch'io sprezzai sotto quel freno
Di modesta fortuna oro e terreno.

An English translation and a brief comment will be provided next Tuesday, Sept. 30.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Un(s)even: Day Three, by dhr

(a detail)

A neo-Renaissance tribute to Renaissance: here comes the "Hydryad," the nymph of Water and Plants!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Lethal Weapon (2)

[6: 74]

Grave talhor degli altri arnesi e carco
Ruperto hebbe, e 'l fratello, il petto e 'l dorso;
Ma di questa ei sol volge in grave incarco,
Che diè vittoria a' suoi, non pur soccorso;
Et armato n'andria leggero e scarco
Come l'huom nudo o pur destiero al corso,
E sembraria pardo o leone al salto,
Dando a feri nemici il fero assalto.

Sometimes Rupert or his own brother had their
Bodies burdened with Richard's parts of armor,
But he alone handles his heavy sword, which
Often gave victory, not only help, to his army.
Armed with nothing more than it, he could go
Light as a naked man or a running steed,
And would look like a jumping leopard or lion
Fiercely attacking his fierce enemies.

This stanza/octave also has been added in Gerusalemme Conquistata. Since a key-episode in the final section of the poem will be Rupert's death, caused by the fact that he had Richard's armor on (as it had happened to Patroclus in the Iliad), here Tasso allusively prepares that scenario by mentioning other occasions in which Rupert was given Richard's armor -- mentioning it, moreover, in this "fatal hour" in which Richard must leave the Christian camp, that will be the beginning of all troubles.
The hint at Richard's brother is simply a filler: what really matters is Rupert receiving Richard's armor. This implicitly refers to their love (again, like Patroclus and Achilles in the Iliad), although, in the general structure of GC, this "gay" novelty will basically pop up all of a sudden, almost out of the blue, after Richard has undergone the same adventures as the heterosexual Rinaldo had in Gerusalemme Liberata, his love story with the beautiful witch Armida included.
The theme of the special, lethal, unique sword of the hero -- maybe savagely using it with no armor on, like Conan -- is a "must have" in fantasy literature. In this case, however, it is only about an "appetizer"; Richard will benefit from a much more powerful armory in the last Cantos of the poem.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Un(s)even: Day Two, by dhr

(a detail)

If the "firmament" marks the limit of the visible universe, what lies beyond it -- anything it may be -- is Mystery.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunday Guest: Gollum (il cacciatore di Frodo)

What's that whitish 90%-human-like thingy in the movies supposed to mean? This, here above, is what one of the most preciousss fantasy creaturesss of all time looks like in Tolkien's books, gollum! His very way of climbing is the same as Dracula's.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Lethal Weapon (1)

[6: 73]

Ciò detto, l'arme chiede, e 'l capo e 'l busto
Di finissimo acciaio adorno ei rende,
E 'n sembiante magnanimo et augusto,
Come folgore suol, riluce e splende;
Né grave di quel peso, o 'n parte onusto,
La sua fatale spada al fianco appende:
Quella ond'apriva il genitor Guglielmo
Dal forte braccio ogni lorica et elmo.

. . .
He says, then asks for his weapons, adorning
His head and chest with the finest steel,
And, with a magnanimous and kingly look,
He now shines and blazes like lightning;
Not burdened by that weight, not even in part,
He girds on his fatal sword -- the very one
By which his father, William the Strong-Armed,
Used to crack open any armor and helm.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Un(s)even: Day Two, by Selkis

(a detail)

What were the mysterious "waters above the firmament" (Genesis 1: 7)? Cosmic plasma, as Tasso's descriptions may make us think?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Imagine all the peoples . . .

There are a lot of books, usually for kids, devoted to mythologies of all kinds, either the European classical lore or those of specific times and areas, or miscellaneous. Christopher Dell's guide deals with many mythologies, from Ancient Greece to the Far East, from Egyptian gods to Nordic heroes, both in their 'noblest' and in their 'folk' expressions, but, unlike many other books, does not fall into the mistake of pontificating on traditions that don't belong us: it simply provides some basic pieces of information, then lets its wonderful pictures 'speak.' Readers, or rather watchers will find hundreds of paintings, prints, sculptures, etc., either famous works or nearly unknown masterpieces. An interesting feature of this collection is that it shows many works of the 18th century, surely not often capitalized in the history of sacred art.

Christopher Dell, Mitologie. Guida ai mondi immaginati, Milan: L'ippocampo, 2013 [orig. ed., Mythology: The Complete Guide to Our Imagined Worlds, Thames & Hudson, 2012], 352 pages with hundreds of pictures, euros 25

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What are friends for (3)

[6: 70, 73]

Sorrise allhor Riccardo, e con un volto
In cui tra l'ira lampeggiò lo sdegno:

[ripete la solita prosopopea: "io qui, io là", poi...]

Ma s'a' meriti miei questa mercede
Goffredo rende, e vuole homai legarme
Pur com'io fossi un huom del volgo, e crede
A l'indegna pregion deluso trarme:
Venga egli, o mande, io terrò fermo il piede.
Giudici fian tra noi la sorte e l'arme;
Fera tragedia vuol che s'appresenti
Per lor trastullo a le nemiche genti -.

Then Richard sneered, and with an expression in which disdain flashed among wrath, he said [the usual thundering self-commendation, then . . . ] "But if this is the reward that Godfrey gives to my merits, and he now means to tie me as if I were one of the vulgar herd, and thinks he can trick(*) me and drag me to a shameful jail, let him come here, or send anybody else: I will keep steady. Judges between the two of us will be Luck(**) and Arms: a fierce tragedy is to be(***) acted to the benefit of our enemies, to their delight!"

(*) Here the Italian verb deludere, currently meaning "to disappoint," maintains its original meaning (from Latin ludere, to play) as the English word "delusion" still does.
(**) Sorte has a quite wide range of meanings, from mere chance to one's deepest rooted destiny. A typical Renaissance concern, revived e.g. in Tolkien's sagas.
(***) The verb vuol might be translated as "(he, Godfrey) wants," but more probably, it is an impersonal construction referring to something that is likely to happen. In this passage, once again, the tension of Renaissance heroism vs Christian virtues can be clearly perceived. Tasso believed in both.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Un(s)even: Day One, by dhr

A detail of the Cosmic Egg. But, what is coming out of the shell? You'll discover that as soon as the book is published ^__^

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunday Guest: the Photo-psychologist strikes back

by Laura Spizzichino

by Laura Spizzichino

. . .  but, this time, we'll leave visitors free to find out the Freudian implications on their own ;-)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Un(s)even: Day One, by Selkis

The label "Un(s)even" will identify a set of illustrations on Tasso's long poem Il Mondo Creato made by The Magic Trio (Nivalis, Selkis, and ilT), possibly to be published in a book, sooner or later. Selkis has been the fastest: here is a detail of her rendition of Canto 1, i.e. Day One in the creation of the universe. It is about the separation of light from darkness as well as the creation of angels, who, according to the Church Fathers, were meant by God's command, "Let there be light!" In fact, He did not refer to the sun, stars, etc., that would be made no sooner than on the fourth day.

Friday, September 12, 2014

What are friends for (2)

[6: 69]

Sarà lo sdegno e sarà l'ira eterna
S'a te perdon si niega, altrui la pace.
Ma benché in parte troppo ascosa e 'nterna
Il pensier de' mortali occulto giace,
Pur ardisco affermar (a quel ch'io scerna):
Il Duce pio, che non s'infinge o tace
La sua somma giustitia, hor the soggetto,
Non morto vuole, e 'n sua prigion ristretto -.

[Tancred speaks to Richard:] ". . .  It will bring about a never-ending scorn and wrath, if pardon is denied you, and peace to all others. But even though the thoughts of mortals lie hidden too deep, I dare affirm, as far as I can see: The pious Captain [Godfrey], who does not feign, and does not conceal his lofty justice, now wants you subdued, not dead, as a prisoner in his jails."

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

What are friends for (1)

[6: 68]

Ma poi che le sentenze e i detti accolse
Tancredi, più fra lor non si ritenne,
Ma spronando un destrier, subito volse
In guisa tal che parve haver le penne.
Riccardo, poi ch'irato indi si tolse,
Pensoso e tardo al caro albergo venne;
Qui Tancredi trovollo, e qui solingo.
- Di molte cose (dice) un fascio io stringo.

When Tancred listened to all those words and opinions, he did not tarry there, but, spurring a steed, he immediately ran away, so fast that he seemed to be winged. Richard, after having left in anger, had reached his own(*) billet, slowly and thoughtfully. Tancred found him right there, alone, and said, "I will tie many things in a bundle(**) . . ."

(*) Literally, "dear," with a Greek phrase; cf. "Tell me the dear name," that is, your name.
(**) Quoting from Petrarca's Triumphus Fam[a]e, "The Triumph of Fame."

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Great Wedding

Mythology and fantasy together -- but, on the other hand, mythology was Greek and Latin fantasy, and fantasy was Nordic mythology -- in a novel that is the epitome of CS Lewis' narrative, as well as one of his masterpieces, according to himself and many fans. (Incidentally, no Italian version of the book exists.)

In Till We Have Faces many themes re-emerge from his previous works, both the heroic deeds from Narnia and the cosmic powers from the Space Trilogy, but the most significant parallel might be made with the supernatural voyage in The Great Divorce, now however telling the story from the opposite viewpoint: that of a “wrong,” though not strictly evil, personage. And precisely she, Orual aka Maia,(*) is probably the most interesting female character ever invented by Lewis -- his wife Joy being usually considered the basic source of inspiration for this important development. It is from behind her eyes, and her mask, that we see the myth of Eros and Psyche “retold,” and enjoy the adventures of her herself as an unusual warrior Queen; and we cannot but side with her in spite of her mistakes, however bad.

Simplifying things to the utmost, the story tells the progress of Queen Orual from "being" the dark goddess Ungit (her "natural," fallen self; or, Death) to "being" Psyche (her true Self; or, Life) thanks to the mysterious "surgery" of the god(s). The tragedy of Genesis 3 provides an important key to the novel, but another unique feature of Till We Have Faces is that the Christian theological background is left mostly implied,(**) and more than that, a sense of Greek fatality seems to permeate everything, like in the novels by the writer's dear friend JRR Tolkien. And it is very meaningful to note that the words with which Orual expresses her griefs and doubts will be echoed by Lewis himself in A Grief Observed after Joy's death.

For a learned, witty, post-modern operation of myth-retelling like this, Italian readers can also enjoy Giovanni Pascoli's Poemi Conviviali (Convivial Poems, of 1905), among which a Psyche is included, in a version very different from Lewis', though equally based on Apuleius' Metamorphoses.

(*) More in the Sanskrit sense of māyā than as the Greek mythological personage.
(**) Except, basically, for some quick hints at verses from the Book of Job and the New Testament, as well as at John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, especially the untrod path leading to a river, with a wonderful palace beyond it. Anyway, the theme of sacrifice, ransom, bearing for one another, is much better developed in TWHF than in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, imho.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sunday Guest: Aslan unveiled

From: CS Lewis' The Last Battle (The Chronicles of Narnia)

The quote: [WARNING: SPOILER] "There was a real railway accident," said Aslan softly. "Your father and mother and all of you are -- as you used to call it in the Shadowlands -- dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning."
And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them.

He wrote them later: "After the death of a friend, years ago, I had for some time a most vivid feeling of certainty about his continued life; even his enhanced life. I have begged to be given even one hundredth part of this same assurance about H[er]. There is no answer. Only the locked door, the iron curtain, the vacuum, absolute zero. 'Them as asks don't get.' I was a fool to ask."

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The hidden side of Tasso's works

. . .  the binding! There are specialized laboratories, like StudioArcha, where they can restore books and other supports of any size and epoch, from Coptic times to the Middle Ages and on, made with either paper or parchment, on request from private citizens and institutions, from all over the world; or the other way round, they can 'tailor' new books in any sort of techniques, either ancient or recent.

Friday, September 5, 2014

A fine reward! (3)

[6: 67] Richard's reply to John and Godfrey - follows

Dunque non sia guerrier ned huom ch'ardisca
Stendere in me l'imperïosa mano
Perch'i suoi detti io tema o reverisca,
O correrà di sangue intorno il piano;
Ma la sua nova gloria e l'età prisca
Con gli altri essalti il cavalier soprano -.
Così diceva, e si partìa guardando
Se v'è chi pensi vendicar Gernando.

"So, let no knight or any other man dare stretch out his imperious(*) hand against me, hoping to make me fear or revere his words; otherwise, this very plain will be flooded with blood -- but may, instead, the Supreme Knight(**), as well as all others, exalt his(***) new glory and old age." By so saying, he left, glancing whether anyone meant to avenge Gernand.

(*) Imperiosa in the manuscript, but more consistently ingiuriosa, offensive (in both senses), in the printed version.
(**) Godfrey of Bouillon
(***) The veiled threat hidden in this apparent good wish has a general meaning in theory, but more specifically, it addresses John. In this episode, Richard seems to have lost all virtues of chivalry; or rather, he has not yet attained them.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Magic Trio Project: Step 1: The logo

Here it is, designed by Tiziana/Selkis by using the first letters of our names, instead of "MT," because the latter might recall too many other logos. There's something heraldic -- and duly magic -- to it:

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Snake eye, tongue of fire

An Italian edition -- not the most recent one -- of a 2003 French book,  Histoires de Monstres et Dragons, "officially" for children 8 years old and older, but very interesting for grown-ups who love the fantasy lore. It includes the stories: The Sea Serpent, The Seven-Headed Beast, Beauty and the Beast, The Tarrasque (a sort of dragon), The Basilisk in the Pond, The Beast of Gévaudan (in France), The Kiss of the Winged Wyrm, reworked according to modern perception and beautifully illustrated by Bruno Pilorget, Nicolas Duffaut, Aljoscha Blau, Dominic Groebner.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A fine reward! (2)

[6: 66] Richard's reply to John and Godfrey - follows

Ma se guerra apparecchia o guerra move
A Siòn, a l'Egitto, al Perso, al Mauro,
Comandi: io corro a l'animose prove
Senza premio sperar di regni o d'auro.
O qui si pugni o si guerreggi altrove,
Non voglio io di prigione ampio restauro,
Né del mio travagliar questo riposo
Perch'altri [ei]* faccia grande, altri famoso.

* "he," added in the printed version to make the text clearer

"If (Godfrey) prepares or wages a war against Jerusalem, or Egypt, or Persia, or Africa, let him freely command me: I will throw myself into the bold enterprise, without even asking for a kingdom or gold as a reward. Let us fight here or elsewhere, but I reject a long punishment in prison, nor will I have any break from my toils so as to let him make somebody else great and famous!"

Monday, September 1, 2014

Gettin' ready, with a Gift

by Luca

OK, August is definitively through, and tomorrow Torquato Tasso will be back online :-) Speaking of which, the summer holidays ended with a surprise from Luca: a big portrait of Venom (some 30 x 40 cm) that actually is a study in anatomy, i.e. the very landmark of Renaissance art. A wonderful Gift -- that in German means Venom.