SiStan ChapLee

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The 7 Days of CryAction 2: 560-627

by Nivalis70, The Magic Trio

[560] Signs of salvation
God did give us
making no mistakes
for the death or damage
of mourning mortals.
Let silly tongues stop
hissing against Heaven!
No star stares evilly
to harm anybody
by choice or character.
[570] Not choice, caused
by sense and soul like
in anguished animals.
Not character, as created
by Dominus who never
makes anything adulterated.
Never by simply shifting
could stars counter-act
or by slanted sight
or by metamorphosis—
[580] though they maintain
that stars show sentiments
when a baby is born or dies.
Some set joyfully
some rise ruefully
some snap and subside.
Otherwise humankind
would be more reliable
than heaven, and uglify
Sanatana Dharma.
[590] Jupiter doesn’t jump
like a karma chameleon
changing its colors
from shape to shape
in the name of neighbors.
Goodness necessarily
unifies the universe
thanks to God’s finger.
The stars suffer
no love nor loathing
[600] built on baseness;
no askance looks
no mess among three,
four, six signs while
focusing on one’s friend
or enemy. No hate nor
disdain in the sky.
With the penta-planets
the stars maybe mingle
as beneficent bodies.
[610] Yes, they show us
what to do or avoid
in this slippery life
but they are no tyrants
and help us always.
A steersman will wisely
keep his ship still
with rough roaring sea
and ominous Orion.
A pilgrim properly
[620] recovers from the rain
in a solitary inn.
Ill people pay attention
to due or deadly days.
Sowers in each season
follow in their fatigues
the bountiful birth
or setting of stars.

(to be continued on Jan. 10)

Friday, December 18, 2015

The counsel of Nicaea (3)

Nicaea imagines that one day Tancred may walk past the trees on which she carved her love sentences -- and past her very grave.

[8: 8]

Forse averrà, se 'l Ciel benigno ascolta
Gli humani preghi e se di noi gli cale,
Che venga in queste selve ancor talvolta,
Qual prima il vidi, il nostro adorno male:
E i begli occhi volgendo ove sepolta
Giacerà questa spoglia inferma e frale,
Tardo premio conceda a' miei martìri
D'amare lacrimette e di sospiri.

"Maybe, if Heaven benevolently listens
To human prayers and cares about us,
My comely evil (*) will happen to come
To this forest, similarly as I first saw him;
Turning his beautiful eyes towards the place
Where my frail remains will be buried,
He will grant my suffering a late reward
Made of little, bitter tears and sighs."

(*) Tancred. She actually says "our": a refined figure of speech that suggests Nicaea's talking to her own heart, and at the same time -- by avoiding the word "my" -- tries to attenuate her feelings. It is worth noticing, too, her doubts about God's providence; such doubts are an 'interfaith' attitude in Tasso's works (Nicaea being a Muslim, in this case).
But, poor Nicaea, this is just daydream. As a matter of fact, Tancred does not even know about her love; he [SPOILER] will mourn Clorinda's death, instead. And while in Gerusalemme Liberata we find a final, tender rendezvous of Erminia ( = Nicaea) and Tancred, nothing like that will happen here in the Conquistata.

The next post will be online on January 5.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The counsel of Nicaea (2)

Nicaea's sorrows begin again as soon as she wakes up the next morning.

[8: 6]

Piange e sospira, e quando i caldi raggi
Fuggon le gregge a la dolce ombra assise,
Ne la scorza de' pini o pur de' faggi
Segnò l'amato nome in mille guise;
E de la sua fortuna i gravi oltraggi
E i vari casi in dura scorza incise,
E 'n rileggendo poi le propie note
Spargea di pianto le vermiglie gote.

She weeps and sighs, and when the flocks
Shun the sun's rays in the sweet shades,
On the bark of pines and beech trees
She keeps writing her beloved's name. (*)
The deep inner scars of her fortune,
The many accidents she also carved,
And then rereading her own sentences,
She sprinkled her red cheeks with tears.

(*) This scene overturns the parallel episode in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, when Angelica -- with her new love Medoro -- joyfully writes messages on the trees; so that [SPOILER] when Paladin Roland happens to find their love messages, he will suffer so much as to go insane (the furioso in the title).

Monday, December 14, 2015

Dali realizes Michelangelo's abandoned project

The anniversary of the end of Vatican Council II has just been celebrated in conjunction with the beginning of the Holy Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis. Salvador Dali's Ecumenical Council was 'held' i.e. painted in 1960, before the actual Council started (1962). Dalí hoped that the event might be "ecumenical" in the broadest sense of the word, not only as a Council of the "worldwide widespread" Catholic Church as the Greek adjective etymologically implies. His post-1951 commitment to Christian lifestyle was -- honestly -- not very serious, but this had already been the rule with many Renaissance artists, at that.

This big painting (some 3 meter high), anyway, is at least an interesting tribute to Michelangelo. The interior of St Peter's Basilica apparently turns into the Heavenly Jerusalem. The picture is dominated by Christ seemingly coming out of his sepulcher, whose shape is here modelled by the arches. The Rising Christ, in fact, should have provided the original subject matter for the altar wall in the Sistine Chapel, where the Last Judgment can now be seen; several preparatory, and revolutionary, drawings by Michelangelo have survived. Dalí drew inspiration from them, though adding a sense of sacred mystery through the detail of Christ's hidden face. (For a remote source, see Exodus 33: 20.) Moreover, the general pattern of this Ecumenical Council recalls that of Michelangelo's Judgment.

Another interesting element in the painting, though not strictly related to Michelangelo, is the Annunciation on the right; imho, one of the best renditions of this subject in the history of Christian art.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The 7 Days of CryAction 2: 482-559

by ilT+Selkis, The Magic Trio

A lascivious Swan
seduced Lady Leda,
the Eagle clawed
not bolts but a boy.
What about Ariadne
and a thousand tales
that Hellas welcomed
from Egypt and Babylon?
[490] Alexander’s follower
added to astrology
Berenice’s blond hair.
Mocking mortals
make—with marble
or wood from a wood—
earthly idols, and even
abuse angels on high
and glorious gyrations
(light is the stars’ glory
[500] that differentiates them).
Please stop twisting
splendors into lies
thus falling from light
to devilish darkness:
climb up God by light
and make Him out
in his scattered sparks!
God only can Google
all stars in the sky,
[510] He tags them
and they volunteer
in his imperial army.
As sentries tarrying
late after curfew
to watch what’s up,
the stars surround
the sky’s castle
as the King commanded.
He however did not draw
[520] bears dragons lions
like eternal engravings
or any other objects of
sea creek mount or wood:
just the Cross of Christ’s
triumph against Styx
can be seen in the sky
with its four flashes,
unknown to our old
Ages that only conceived
[530] Boöte, Bears, and so on.
The New Era knows, tho,
and the other hemisphere
shows its peoples the Cross.
Omen of overcoming
to the righteous king,
it appeared in the air
when Helen’s son saw
the new Pharaoh fall
from a trembling bridge
[540] and rescued Rome
and destroyed idols.
Another thundering one
would judge Julian
and postea disappear
like Susan Storm.
But that celestial Cross
is a sign of steady
(hopefully) heritage,
a God-written Tabula
[550] to victors and vanquished
giving glory and health.
Egypt did envision
this though in darkness
when among its abracadabras
listed a Cross also.
GloriaPatri also printed
it in cosmic cardinals
since its shape signifies
East West North South.

(to be continued on Dec. 20)

Friday, December 11, 2015

The counsel of Nicaea (1)

[8: 4]

Cibo non prende già, ché de' suoi mali
Solo si pasce e sol di pianto ha sete;
Ma 'l sonno, che de' miseri mortali
È co 'l suo dolce oblio posa e quiete,
Sopì co' sensi i suoi dolori, e l'ali
Distese sovra lei placide e chete,
Né però cessa Amor, con varie forme,
La sua pace turbar mentr'ella dorme.

She does not eat food, only feeding
On her evils and thirsty for tears;
But Sleep, of wretched mortals
The rest with his sweet oblivion,
Dozed off her senses and sorrows
Spreading his silent wings on her.
Just, Love doesn't stop, in many shapes,
Disturbing her peace while she sleeps.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The best of post-Atlantean art

To celebrate the opening of a new bookshop in the neighborhood, an "esoteric bookshop" (in spite of the oxymoron implied by the very term), it was inwardly mandatory to buy something. Let's see . . .  something unusual: a book on Renaissance art! :-D

The keys provided by Rudolf Steiner's essays are surely different from the standard ones, e.g. Giorgio Vasari had not thought about presenting Michelangelo's works in the context of a "fifth post-Atlantean epoch." This high-sounding phrase basically means that Steiner loved the Northern European art of the 16th century better than Italian art -- and from this viewpoint he actually has something to teach, especially to Italians who tend to go self-referential when it is about the Renaissance. Steiner's most interesting insights concern late Medieval sculpture in Germany and Rembrandt's paintings, focusing in general on facial expressions and the use of light and shading, both of which turn out to be much more than embellishments.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

On unintended pilgrimage (3)

[8: 3]

Fuggì tutta la notte, e tutto 'l giorno
Errò senza consiglio e senza guida,
Non vedendo o udendo altro d'intorno
Che 'l propio pianto e le dolenti strida.
Ma ne l'hora che 'l Sol dal carro adorno
Scioglie i corsieri e 'n grembo al mar gli annida,
Giunse del bel Giordano a le chiare acque
E scese in riva al fiume, e qui si giacque.

She kept fleeing all night long, and all the day
She erred without advice, without a guide,
Seeing and hearing nothing all around
Except her own sighing and sad screams.
But when the Sun unleashed his horses from
His chariot and sheltered them in the sea,
She reached the Jordan River's clear waters,
And came down to its banks, and lay there. 

After a long while, Tasso resumes his descriptions of the Holy Land. He could only rely on indirect literary sources for this, but he could transmit all of his feeling of Nature -- one of the best known features of his poetry -- to those mostly imagined landscapes.
Typical of Renaissance literature and art is the mix between Biblical and Greek/Roman mythological elements.

Monday, December 7, 2015

From our Jesuit reporter

Satan as was seen by St Ignatius

The 'indirect and partly unauthorized' autobiography of St Ignatius of Loyola can also be read as a fascinating reportage on Renaissance society in the first half of the 16th century. He provides a lively representation of everyday life, Church life, culture, the role of women, wealth and poverty, power, war -- the endless one between Emperor Charles V and King Francis I -- as well as the relationship between the Christian world and the Muslim world, drawing on his own experiences across Spain, Italy, Holy Land, including some hints at Northern Europe.
Things often prove different than the way commonplace would have them.

An excellent Italian version has just been re-published: Roberto Calasso (transl. and ed.), Il racconto del Pellegrino, Milan: Adelphi, 2015, pages 108, euros 10

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The 7 Days of CryAction 2: 399-481

by ilT+Selkis, The Magic Trio

Close to his knee
[400] are very small stars
virtually Virgilian,
slightly-lit lights
but of farfetched fame
as the escorts of Summer
who push productivity:
Campesino! Confer
seeds on She-Soil!”
More: a celestial Charioteer
with herpetological ends;
[410] Aesculapius in Anguis;
an Arrow ardent with
five estrellas; the Eagle;
the Dolphin; divine Pegasus
who bore Bellerophon.
Cepheus daughter, and Delta,
and the triangle typical
of three-topped Sicily
that ignites the head
of skinned Aries while
[420] approaching planets.
Next to the un-Bear-able
is the killer whale before which
stripped Andromeda stood
in beach bondage;
it still searches (for) her
though far and safe
under Aquilo.
Agni-armed Orion
hides by night as soon
[430] as Scorpion rises.
Then a sparkling River;
the Hare avoiding
Canine teeth, while
an under-sized Dog
saddens in anger
atmosphere and fields—
appearing afterward
to us, but before to
antipodal Australia.
[440] Argo with dark prow
turns and returns—
but with shining stern.
Hydra Crater Crow Chiron
Wolf, anointed Altar.
Another Crown cheers
this side of the sky
and moreover a merman:
Dagon who was adored
by passed-away Syrians
[450] unsatisfied with
worshiping him on earth
but projecting their prayers
onto astronomy too.
Fantasies of fools
and original joke
that twisted Tellus!
Fallacious figures
of circles and stars
perverting Providence.
[460] Vain ideas and hopes
of proud pithecanthropus.
Vain boldness and hubris,
to summarize the stars
to distinguish dust
to measure measureless
lands skies and seas
to detect the depth
of abysmal abysses
to state man’s life limits
[470] to drive Dharma
by dominating Nature
and freely-given will
not subject to any star.
The will wins, however,
and grasps the Kingdom
through flaming love
not the love and flames
by which Antiquity
with silly simulacra
[480] tried to turn heaven
into an untidy temple.

(to be continued on Dec. 13)

Friday, December 4, 2015

On unintended pilgrimage (2)

[8: 2]

Qual dopo lunga e faticosa caccia
Tornan stanchi et anhelanti i cani
Che la fera perduta habbian di traccia,
Nascosta in selva dagli aperti piani,
Tal pieni d'ira e di vergogna in faccia
Riedon già lassi i cavalier christiani.
Ella pur fugge e, timida e smarrita,
Non si volge a mirar s'anco è seguita.

As after a long and laborious hunt
The hounds come back, tired and panting,
Because they lost the track of their prey (*)
Which hid in a wood from the plain,
So, with angry and ashamed faces,
The tired Christian knights now return.
She keeps fleeing, fearful and bewildered,
Without checking whether they still chase her.

(*) Dante used a simile like that in Inferno 17: 127-132, but referring to falconry. Here Tasso needed a kind of hunt that involved many people together, possibly after a boar (see Renaissance tapestries). Hunt images are quite frequent in his works; they conveyed several concepts he was fond of: Nature, nobility, action, danger, fear, death.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

A Portrait of the Artist as a Holy Shroud

It is no secret that Albrecht Dürer saw himself as a sort of Christ, but this aspect can be further specified: as the Christ of the Holy Shroud (then usually kept in Chambéry, France; from 1578 in Turin, Italy). In his super-famous self-portrait of the year 1500, the artist even modified the shape of his own forehead and nose so as to look more like Him. A less known but even more interesting detail can be seen in Dürer's Lamentation of Christ, painted in the same period, 1500-1503, currently in Munich. Many Renaissance paintings show the dead Jesus lying on a white shroud, but Dürer -- possibly the only case, or a very rare one -- adds the marks of his blood. In the 16th century, in fact, the mysterious image, because of its color, was interpreted as the effect of Jesus' blood on the linen cloth.

Dürer never visited the Sainte-Chapelle but he didn't need to, since the cult of the Holy Shroud was widespread at that time, and the relic was represented everywhere. There even existed specialized artists who used -- sometimes, quite clumsy -- patterns to make their works, even if they had never seen the real object.

The Catholic Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566) seems to include references to the Shroud in its detailed description of Jesus' wounds: " . . . nulla fuit ejus corporis pars, quae gravissimas poenas non senserit, nam et pedes et manus clavis cruci affixae, caput spinis compunctum, et arundine percussum, facies sputis foedata, alapis caesa, totum corpus flagellis verberatum est."

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

On unintended pilgrimage (1)

[8: 1]

Nicea, fuggendo tra l'ombrose piante
D'antica selva dal cavallo è scorta;
Né più governa il fren la man tremante,
E mezza quasi par tra viva e morta.
Per tante strade si raggira e tante
Il buon destrier, ch'in sua balìa la porta,
Ch'al fin dagli occhi altrui pur si dilegua,
Ond'è soverchio homai ch'altri la segua.

Escaping among the shady trees of an
Ancient forest, she is led by her horse; (*)
Her hand cannot govern the bridles,
She looks midway between alive and dead.
So many paths, here and there, are chosen
By the good steed who has her at his mercy
That she finally disappears from sight:
It would be no use to chase her now.

(*) Letting one's horse choose the way was a topos in the poems of chivalry -- though the knights did so on purpose, unlike Nicaea here. There has been one real case too, at least: St. Ignatius of Loyola, who sometimes drew his inspiration from the heroes of Renaissance literature; see his autobiography A Pilgrim's Journey.
The phrase antica selva, "ancient forest," quotes from Dante, Purgatorio 28: 23. Tasso's reference to shady trees also recalls Dante's "dark forest," anyway. Interestingly enough, John Milton will resort to this same type of scenery, "woody maze," etc., in the description of the Wilderness in which Jesus is tempted in Paradise Regained, therefore not strictly a desert.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Rarely seen Tassean "relics" in Rome

Picture 1. Torquato Tasso's big bust -- one meter and a half high, more or less -- in a prestigious hall called Sala della Protomoteca in the Capitol (at the end of the building on the right, then on the right, on top of the stairs). It was not possible to find further data, but the sculpture basically looks like a 19th century work. The busts in the hall in fact exalt the 'glory' of Italy: Dante, Ariosto, Leonardo Da Vinci, etc., as it was often the case after the National Unity in 1861.  

Picture 2. The Baroque statue of Pope Clement VIII in the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva; unfortunately, it is set in a recess in a chapel, closed with an iron grating, in the right nave, so that it can only be seen and photographed from a certain distance. Clement VIII is the Pontiff to whom Tasso dedicated his 10,000-line poem Il Mondo Creato, "On the Seven Days of the World's Creation" (1592), whose free and updated version is in the process of being published in this site as The 7 Days of CryAction. In the history of the Church, Clement VIII's papacy is usually associated with Giordano Bruno's burning at the stake. It happened in 1600, five years after Tasso's death, though.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The 7 Days of CryAction 2: 325-398

The Zodiac, characterized
by its sliding signs,
intersects the Equator
(that intersects the Earth)
and the Tropics too,
[330] thus with a triple link.
It always half-appears
with six starry signs
above Earth, the other half
hiding with six signs.
Each sign got the same
room but different times,
as six fall and flee
at dead darkness of night,
six see the sky back.
[340] Icons of stars and gold
designed in dark Egypt
by brilliant bluffers;
Greece imagined monsters
and filled with fabulous
whims the whole sky.
The figuratively first­
Fleece-less and faint
is Helle’s vehicle
that imports Spring.
[350] The knee-bending Bull
through its hot horns
fertilizes our fields.
Two joined Gemini
send fire from stars.
Cancer slackens
the sun’s speed.
The grim-looking Lion
threatens from on top.
Next, a shining Señorita
[360] with Wheat, then Libra
balances light and dark.
A super-sized Scorpion
seems to place scales
all around Astraea.
Sagittarius shoots
cruelly. Capricorn
follows fiercely as
a second stop sign
letting lazy nights in.
[370] Then the Trojan teens
phosphorescent amphora
and the entwined tails
of flashing Fishes.
So the ancient age
conceived Coeli.
Further figures
in the four directions
would be detected.
Close to the clear
[380] Pole in the proximity
the Little Bear led
Phoenician phenomenons.
Seven-starred hide,
the Great tarrying Bear
was a hope omen
to Greeks in jeopardy.
Boötes calmly calls her;
a deino-Saur snakes
thru the Bear’s body.
[390] Next: Cepheus, Ariadne’s
crown, brawny Hercules,
Lyre, Swan. Another son
of Jove high in the sky,
whipped by the wind,
checks out Cassiopeia,
with winged feet
taking off triumphantly
fast and furious.

(to be continued on Dec. 6)

Friday, November 27, 2015

This is a thriller night (18)

At last, after this long sequence from Nicaea's viewpoint, we see Tancred's reaction.
N.B. Nicaea disguised herself as Commander Clorinda just in order to be free enough to be able to leave Jerusalem undisturbed. But she didn't know that Tancred, whom she is in love with, is secretly in love precisely with Clorinda in his turn. On the other hand, Nicaea had her servant tell Tancred that "some woman" asked for a meeting, without naming her (as Clorinda). Renaissance soap opera!

[7: 131]

Tancredi, a cui pur dianzi il cor sospese
Quell'aviso primiero, udendo hor questo,
Com'egli era magnanimo e cortese,
Da l'altrui rischio e dal suo amore è desto;
Onde vestito del suo grave arnese
Monta a cavallo, e tacito esce e presto.
E seguendo gli inditii e l'orme nove
Rapidamente a tutto corso il move.

Fine del Settimo Canto

Tancred, whose heart was kept in suspense
By the first message, (*) after this new one, (**)
As a magnanimous and courteous knight
Is quickened by her risk and his own love;
Therefore, wearing his heavy armor, he (***)
Straddles his horse and goes, silent and swift.
And following the most recent traces
And imprints, he soon gallops his horse.

The End of Canto Seven

(*) By Nicaea's servant.
(**) That his men have caught sight of Clorinda -- formally, a head of the enemy army -- near the encampment.
(***) He was still convalescing after his duel against Argantes. In fact, a new duel has been planned as soon as both warriors had recovered. Some stanzas ago, Tasso also stressed that, paradoxically, the "herb healer" Nicaea had to take care of Argantes while she was in love with Tancred.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Regaining Paradise Regained

John Milton's fame didn't gain much from Paradise Regained, often considered the dumb brother of Paradise Lost. (The same fate as Tasso's Gierusalemme Conquistata, incidentally.) Now, by rereading it after a millennium has passed, literally, and after accumulating a bit more of experience in the fields of literature, Renaissance, and Bible, Paradise Regained appears, at last, as the true masterpiece it is, starting from its 'mature' style, complex while crystal clear.

It probably depends on the reader's focus, e.g. without fixating on the title. In fact, Christ's mission of regaining salvation for Man by dying on the cross had already been dealt with in Paradise Lost, but PR examines another side of the issue: the perception of Jesus' identity in the eyes of those who met him and, especially, of himself -- the development of his self-consciousness. An absolutely fascinating subject, that would 'officially' emerge only in the 19th century. From this viewpoint, the poem is among the best things ever written in Christian literature, either fiction or theology. Not by chance PR, as much as PL, deserved a careful study and a powerful artistic rendition by Milton's top reader, William Blake.

Far from being 'absent,' anyway, the Cross provides the tonic note of the whole poem, the foundation of all of Jesus' answers to Satan. Another wonderful theme in PR is its insight into the whole of human history in few pages. Milton cheats when he plays the one who despises classical culture the very moment he stuffs his verse with it; and it is thrilling to hear Jesus talk about matters so different from the Gospel texts. A side effect of this is a new appreciation of Books 11 and 12 in PL, which disappointed many readers. Yes, here Milton is sometimes lengthy, etc., but his keys for the Bible are not silly at all. Paradise Regained, finally, includes some interesting hints at Medieval and Renaissance literature.

The cover page of the Collins edition, above, is a recolor version of an engraving by Gustave Doré. But especially, the picture has been turned upside down so as to have a "Messianic tree shoot" in the forefront (Isaiah 4: 2 -- formerly a root in Dore's illustration).

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

This is a thriller night (17)

[7: 130]

Fugge Nicea, temendo al suono, al grido,
E la donzella sua paurosa e mesta,
D'augelli in guisa a cui del dolce nido
Preciso è il calle; e quel seguir non resta.
Ecco già da le tende il servo fido
Con la tarda novella aggiunge in questa;
E l'altrui fuga anchor dubbio accompagna,
E gli sparge il timor per la campagna.

Nicaea flees, frightened by the voices(*) and yells,
Together with her shy and saddened maid,
Like birds finding the way to their nests
Interrupted; the man(**) doesn't stop chasing.
And lo! from the tents(***) the trustworthy
Servant comes with his news -- too late,
So, though puzzled, follows the women:
Fear disperses them across the fields.

(*) Or maybe, clatter. Suono generally means any "sound."
(**) The sentry who first noticed Nicaea and mistook her for Clorinda. The verb restare used in the sense of "stopping" comes from Dante, passim. (It means "remaining" in current Italian.)
(***) The Christian camp.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The 7 Days of CryAction 2: 254-324

by Selkis + ilT, The Magic Trio

One day—as sacred fame
meant in many tongues—
fire will fill the world
which with water and land
will collapse in ash.
Then rivers will evaporate,
[260] not even Kraken will
be safe from flames.
We meanwhile trust in
the Harmony-maker who
chose waters from waters.
Waters, in sum; so the stars
and seven spheres inside
wave underwater.
Their super-skilled Smith
didn’t design a square
[270] nor a cosmic cone
nor pyramid nor cylinder
in his crafts-no-man’s-ship
but wheel within wheel
so the most sublime
contain the tiniest.
A painter primarily
sketches a scheme
then gilds and pigments
then adds details
[280] and perfects portraits;
so Elohim embellished
all, tho not yet studding
that sphere with stars:
its signs and designs
would be printed there
when He built bases
on Day Four for
Moon, Sun, and so on,
Arcturus and Orion
[290] and all Jovial jewels
high-lighting those
who would name them.
That swirling sphere
was pinched in two points,
two constant Poles:
the one’s always on high,
the other stays in Styx
hidden underground.
God did this. Then Man
[300] conceived circles
divided in five strips
and with similar strips
divided the Earth.
The circle that in-sects
heaven into two halves
equidistant from Poles
is Equator that equalizes
night’s and day’s duration.
The other, that turns towards
[310] two spots where the sun
restarts the same route,
was pegged as the Path
of Animals by anthropoi.
Two lesser round lines,
the sun’s rebound barriers,
are termed Tropics.
Two Poles: nomen, omen.
So-called Colures are
two faulty circumferences.
[320] The line of limit
between darkness and day
is Horizon, and Meridian
the sun’s site at midday
varying via latitude.

(to be continued on Nov. 29)

Friday, November 20, 2015

This is a thriller night (16)

[7: 129]

In the manuscript:
Così costei che de l'amor la sete
Onde l'infermo core arde e sfavilla
Temprar ne l'accoglienze honeste e liete
Credeva, e far la mente ivi tranquilla,
Hor che contra a lei vien chi glie 'l diviete
(Quasi membrando chi primier rapilla)
Se stessa e 'l suo desire ella abbandona,
E 'l veloce destier timida sprona.

In the final printed version:
Così costei che l'amorosa sete
Onde l'infermo core arde e sfavilla
Temprar ne l'accoglienze honeste e liete
Credeva, e far la mente in lor tranquilla,
Hor che contra lei vien chi glie 'l diviete
(Quasi obliando chi primier rapilla)
Se stessa e 'l suo desir quasi abbandona,
E 'l veloce destier timida sprona.

[As a doe, etc.]
So Nicaea, who thought her thirst of love
Because of which her sick heart burns
Would be quenched by an honest, happy
welcome (*) brightening up her mind,
Sees those (**) who prevent her from doing so
And, almost forgetting her first "kidnapper," (***)
Almost leaves herself and her desire
Behind and, trembling, spurs her swift steed.

(*) From Tancred. The words "accoglienze [h]oneste e liete" are a literal quotation from Dante, Purgatorio 7: 1.
(**) The Christian sentries.
(***) Tancred, to whom she had been given as a war slave; he honored her and then freed her. Meanwhile, she fell in love with him.

The translation refers to the final printed text. Tasso's editing basically aims at improving syntax and style, with a couple of exceptions. In line 6, the frightened woman "almost forgets" the man he loves, does not "almost remember" him as in the manuscript, probably an oversight due to two alternative feelings the poet wanted to express at the same time. In line 7, Tasso adds that she "almost" leaves her desire behind, not completely. The concept, though not the wording, may recall Dante, Purgatorio 2: 75.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

To hell with the Bible -- in a positive sense

Beccafumi -- whose real name was Domenico Di Giacomo Di Pace -- belongs to the long series of Renaissance "lesser masters" whose fame has been eclipsed from the general public by the holy trinity Raphael, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo. A feature shared by such "lesser masters," farther from the eyes of big sponsors (the Popes and/or the Medici, etc.), was the greater freedom they enjoyed in reworking traditional subjects. On the other hand, precisely because their skills in anatomy and perspective could not compete with The Fantastic Three, they focused on the originality of contents.

This having been said, the painting above can be seen in the Dome of Pisa, Tuscany; it was made in 1537. The official subject matter is the punishment of anti-Moses rebels in the wilderness, a theme of a major relevance for the Renaissance Catholic Church especially after the beginning of Luther's Reformation, but even earlier, see e.g. the lower frescoes in the Sistine Chapel.

In Beccafumi's version there's something strange at the very first sight. The scene in the background works plainly: people in the wilderness/desert, being struck by flames out of the sky. But then, we notice a non-existent forest in the middle (on the right) and an unbelievable dark-red river in the foreground, where angry people try to float, and meanwhile fight. Looks like the situation was worse than expected! In fact, the blood river, the forest, and the sands under a shower of flames correspond perfectly to the three parts of the seventh circle in Dante's Inferno (violence of all kinds). Oh, yes, it is always thrilling to "read" a Renaissance painting.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

This is a thriller night (15)

[7: 128]

Sì come cerva ch'assetata il passo
Mova a cercar d'acque lucenti e vive
Ove un bel fonte distillar d'un sasso
O vide un fiume tra frondose rive,
S'incontra i cani all'hor che 'l corpo lasso
Ristorar crede a l'onde, a l'ombre estive,
Si rivolge fuggendo, e sua paura
La stanchezza oblïar face e l'arsura
. . .

As a very thirsty doe who wanders
Looking for shining, living waters
Where she noticed a spring that leaks
Through rocks or a river between trees,
And meets hounds when she thought
She was about to enjoy waves and shadow,
So she turns and runs, and fear makes
Her forget about weariness and thirst
. . .

The whole stanza paraphrases the very beginning of Psalm 42 in a typical Tassean way, that is, 1. By adding details and stressing feelings, 2. By shifting the whole to a completely different context, 3. By enriching the text with literary cross-references, in this case the myth of Actaeon; 4. By giving the episode a tragical end.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The 7 Days of CryAction 2: 157-253

Yep, reason hobbles behind
slippery senses: the stars
show a problematic path.
[160] Why do figs fall
and feathers fly, while
medium-weighty water
circles the Earths core?
To non-observable objects
our brains are blind,
often miss the observable
and are dazzled by divinity.
The substance of the sky
let us learn from the One
[170] who made it like smoke
but more massive
than compact crystal
in mighty mountains,
more than metal that hardens
and matches a mirror.
With such a substance
He created the Crystalline
(if the earthly expresses
the heavenly) which He
[180] rolled round the stars:
the Great Ball’s border,
overflowed by waters.
What “waters” were set
above the astra, and why?
When will they fall?
Are they your angels
who psalmodically praise
your never-ending Name?
Or, does ice exalt You?
[190] Are “waters” awkward matter
then outlined by You?
Are there weighty waters
where not even air ascends?
Have cosmic laws changed?
You did open the doors
of horrid rain and
envelop the Earth
during the Deluge;
the Armenian mounts
[200] saved the seed of Man.
Are therefore, over there,
waters as Gods servants
to send us disasters?
or as fire fighters
to secure society?
We do need fire for
our existence and tools,
we need water as well,
and they skip each other.
[210] Much smaller is the seat
of our Ancient Mother
who lay overlaid
by atavistic abysses
and now shows sections
of her flanks and face,
still mostly submerged.
Waters are not only
kept in her dark core
or running underground,
[220] they also fill her sur-face.
Hence lagoons and lakes
and whispering springs
and bank-reaching rivers.
See East: Hydaspes Indus
the glorious Ganges
Araxes Bactrus Caspian Cyrus
Don frequently frozen
flowing into a salty sea
and Phasis into Pontus.
[230] West: Danube Guadalquivir
that goes beyond Gibraltar
while Danube divides
the unity of Europe.
How many more from
Hyperborea Pyrenees Alps
bordering Belgians and Celts!
South: the Nile inundates
Ethiopia, enriches Egypt;
add Cremetes Egon Nisava.
[240] Some mix in the Mediterranean
some occupy Ocean
Ocean surrounding
and slapping the soil.
Providence provided
so numerous humors
to make mainlands safe
from fiendish Fire;
so that he, tho triumphant
in his impetus and ire
[250] cannot conquer all things
and usurp all seats
before the dreadful day
of Jehovah’s judgment.

(to be continued on Nov. 22)

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Forse adesso / Now maybe

Forse adesso si troverà meno buffonesco quel poema in cui si narra di Parigi assediata dai guerrieri musulmani. Si potrebbe addirittura cominciare a imparare qualcosa (il modo intelligente di dialogare, ad esempio). 

Now maybe that long poem that dealt with Paris being besieged by Muslim warriors will no longer seem so silly. We could even start learning something (intelligent dialogue, for instance).

* * *

P.S. More in detail:

Now, maybe, a certain 16th century poem dealing with Paris being besieged by Muslims could stop appearing so-ooo funny. In the Renaissance, they knew what all of this meant; and incidentally, the West's approach to Islam, and vice versa, was less idiot than nowadays. Both sides knew HOW to make war (not terrorism) AND how to exchange culture meanwhile. They were neighbors, they were parts of one world, the two sides of the international coin; they shared values -- not only oil, weapons, TV.

Modern Europe, and particularly France, should definitely reconsider the so-called "Enlightenment" attitude according to which "Alright, we will tolerate you in our countries, but we despise you." In the 16th century, it was the other way round on both sides, "We may be fighting you, but we will respect you if you show you deserve it." It was chess play, not drones piloted from afar against people, like God's fire against Sodom -- political leaders did not play God then.

That twitting ISIS guy said one truth: "This is only the beginning."

Friday, November 13, 2015

This is a thriller night (14)

[7: 127]

Al più giovin fratello, a cui fu il padre
Co' due germani da Clorinda ucciso,
Viste le spoglie candide e leggiadre,
Fu di vedere l'alta guerrera aviso;
E contra l'irritò l'occulte squadre,
Né frenando del core moto improviso
(Come l'ira volea, subita e folle)
Gridò: - Sei morta! - e l'hasta in van lanciolle.

The younger brother, whose father had been
Killed by Clorinda with two more brothers,
By seeing that white, beautiful surcoat
Thought the noble she-warrior was there.
He incited against her the hidden squads
And unable to restrain his own feelings
(Driven by sudden and insane rage) shouted,
"You're dead!" and threw his spear, in vain.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Young Woman and the Sea

Artemisia Gentileschi was celebrated as a great artist (picturae miraculum invidendum facilius quam imitandum) during her lifetime; now she has been turned into a forerunner of feminism, but it would be worth rediscovering her as an artist and have a look at her works. The painting above, The Triumph of Galatea, made in 1645-50 in collaboration with Bernardo Cavallino, may not be her most significant work but it is interesting as a late example of Renaissance approach to imagery. The general structure recalls Raphael's Galatea, but more specifically, the nymph's posture resembles that of Michelangelo's Jonah in the Sistine Chapel. With a major difference though: Jonah expresses hesitation while Galatea looks inspired and self-confident.
Very "core-Reinassance-like," so quite unlike most of Artemisia's Baroque paintings, are some funny details like the nymph's vehicle, probably a spider-crab's shell, with "spurts" of red coral that hint at its origin from Medusa's blood. But the wittiest novelty is the Triton playing a transverse flute.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

This is a thriller night (13)

[7: 126]

Ma come volle la sua dura sorte,
I duo fratei qui tesi havean gli aguati
Di cui pose Clorinda il padre a morte,
Et hora difendean quel passo armati
Là 've menar solean notturne scorte
Armenti e gregge dagli herbosi prati;
E se l'altro passò, fu perch'ei torse
Lunge il cavallo, e subito trascorse.

But as fixed by her fate, there were
In ambush precisely the two brothers (*)
Whose father Clorinda herself had killed,
And they now defended that pass
Where the shepherds used to lead
Herd and flocks from pastures by night. 
(Her servant succeeded in passing for
His horse galloped farther and swift.) (**)

(*) The first draft of Gerusalemme Conquistata indicated their names, Alcandro and Poliferno, as Gerusalemme Liberata already did (6: 107), but Tasso now uses a more general phrase because he -- or his editor -- realized that only one brother had been killed by Clorinda, see GL 3: 35 and GC 4: 41.
(**) The words e subito trascorse, lit. "and it/he immediately passed on," recall Dante, Inferno 25: 34 and Purgatorio 29: 16. Noticeably, Tasso feels the need to explain the different "fates" of Nicaea's servant and Nicaea herself since, for the plot's sake, the former had to be able to pass and the latter had not to.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The eternity of the Ephemeral

If we wished to have a look at the "ephemeral devices" built, and then destroyed, during the Renaissance for celebrations, triumphs, Carnivals, etc., we could simply examine Bernini's sculptures, though belonging to some decades later. He was the first who re-created in precious, lasting materials that kind of witty, crazy and super-detailed pageants that were the joy of 16th century society, both the learned and the common people. It could be termed Pop Art. Princes used to entrust the top artists like Arcimboldo, or even Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo with this job, and they -- except Michelangelo -- were proud to devote their time and skills to it.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The 7 Days of CryAction 2: 78-156

by Selkis + ilT, The Magic Trio

False is the thought
of some Greek savants,
[80] that cosmos consumed
all mass of matter
therefore He stopped
after one Whole.
Nor numberless are
the universes as you
say in your books, Bruno.
God, who made morphé
and hyle in grand style,
could bear bubbles as
[90] many as fill the foam:
before endless Energy
Big Bangs are bubbles.
One however was made
as Unum is the Mirror
who emanated it.
One is the Order tho
in several spheres.
The supreme sphere
motionless (here Man’s
[100] sense senses angels)
is no-body but bare
flaming light:
here’s the Empyrean.
The following one
a body for Beobachtung
turns in nine circles
but its mysterious matter
fills fiery quivers
with sharp syllogisms
[110] of academic adversaries.
Others, out of mud
would weave it,
soon to decay and die;
just its fill-in form
and its longing lets it
almost look like
the eternal entities.
Others choose a chosen
liquor from lees
[120] and shape the stars
having light from fire
and firmness from earth.
Others free from death
the newborn universe
not by nature—necessarily
dominated by Doom—
but thanks to Ho Theos
who warmly supports it.
Another, an ancient one,
[130] by alternating the elements
makes and unmakes it
according to hate or love:
Hate thru triumph yields
the sensible substance,
while hate being beaten
by lion-hearted love,
love masters the minds.
Another tires an Intellect
among mishmash, which
[140] the maddened mind
tries in vain to treat.
Another makes masses
out of different figures:
pyr out of pyramids
soil out of squares
the sublime breath of air
out of twenty-sided solids
water out of eight
so that ephemeral figures
[150] should secure weight.
Another conceives sky
as queer quintessence
devoid of death
and eternally running
in circles around around
its Mover like a lover.

(to be continued on Nov. 15)