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Friday, October 30, 2015

This is a thriller night (10)

[7: 123]

Poi rimirando il campo, ella dicea:
- O belle a gli occhi miei tende latine!
Aura spira da voi che mi ricrea
E mi conforta pur ch'io m'avvicine:
Così a la mia vita faticosa e rea
Qualche honesto riposo il ciel destine,
Come in voi solo il cerco, e solo hor parme
Che trovar pace io possa in mezzo a l'arme.

Then, looking at the camp, she said,
"O Western tents, so beautiful to see! (*)
From you a comforting(**) breeze blows
That now encourages me to approach you.
Yes, to my tiring and so far ill-fated life
May Heaven give some honest rest: (***)
I look for this here only, only now it seems
To me that I can find peace in war."

(*) "O brave new world!"
(**) The verb ricrea (cfr. "recreation") echoes Dante, Paradiso 31: 43.
(***) These two lines surely had an autobiographical undertone.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Michelangelo? Let me see. . .

This book of 'some' years ago (different editions available; in Italy, it was published by Rusconi in 1988 with a cover showing the Tondo Doni), the work of a great scholar, Linda Murray, provides -- first of all -- an unbelievably rich and clear focus on the many, tangled historical events that occurred during Michelangelo's life, that means nearly a century, in Italy as well as in the rest of Europe.

The gallery of the artist's works presented here is among the most complete ones, including frescoes, sculptures, drawings, architectural projects, either fulfilled or not. Her comments are enlightening especially as far as the last three arts are concerned. As for the frescoes, the reader's expectations to get keys for the Sistine Chapel, Vault and Last Judgment, were so high that some disappointment followed; on the other hand, there would have been needed one book just to list the endless theories involved, while Murray chose to limit herself to basic data. Bur, rpt, from all other viewpoints, such a precious, well documented, well woven insight into the whole of Michelangelo's life and works has rarely been achieved elsewhere.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

This is a thriller night (9)

[7: 122]

Nicaea waits for her messenger to come back from the Christian camp, where he met Tancred and told him that a mysterious woman asks for the permission to talk to him.

Era la notte, e 'l suo stellato velo
Chiaro spiegava e senza nube alcuna,
E già spargea rai luminosi e gelo
Di vive perle la sorgente luna.
L'innamorata donna iva co 'l cielo
Le sue fiamme sfogando ad una ad una,
E secretari del suo amore antico
Fea i muti campi e quel silentio amico.

It was Night, who spread her starry
Veil wholly clear, without any clouds;
Already luminous rays and chill
Of living pearls came from the moon.
Meanwhile the woman in love vented
Her inner fires with the sky, one by one,
Making confidants of her long-time love
The mute fields and that friendly stillness.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The 7 Days of CryAction 1: 571-664

by Selkis + ilT, The Magic Trio

As a superb Sultan
out of subterranean strata
provides precious metals,
or from auriferous acres,
and pearls and purple from
undersea, add rubies
amethysts and emeralds
and the shiniest hardiest
stones from Orient—
[580] the Ruler of Rta
hidden in Empyrean
ungone-to by all geniuses
who study the stars—
owns eternal depots
of sublime light to share.
Heaven itself indeed
is limpid light, light
are temple and throne
as well as the weapons
[590] of his chosen corps.
As for manufactured light
He commented, “Cool!”
and that’s true:
pulchritude surpassing
the charm of assemblages
and harmonious measures
of both soil and sky.
Not in a viride-scent valley
preposterous Paris
[600] would know about it:
Let him see Hesperus
also called Lucifer
and her lovely light,
let him choose chastity
and hyper-urania!
Now, Dios divided
light from Unlight
by means of names.
He willed one day
[610] between both limits,
a day whose end
was not set by Sun
while twirling—
since it didn’t exist.
The sovereign smith
gave it space and signs;
forging Four and Three
He filled time with one
morn multiplied by seven
[620] and stuffed space too.
This self-sufficient figure
equals eternity, not only time:
it is time terminal.
Yet snobbish is Sunday
black sheep of Shaddai
odd without the others,
branded by its Maker…
no! lo, LORD’s Day
shunning the Sun’s name,
[630] unmingled with “miseri profani
involved in trivia:
LORD’s D-Day
one day disjointed
from the drive of days
and years and centuries,
and sick of sequels.
You His seekers,
don’t follow phantasmata
of Day down to Hades.
[640] Follow the phantasmagorical
dazzle of Day 8
which will not set
and thwarts twilight
and avoids alternation
with enemy night:
everlasting happiness
for one endless day
or aeon, eternal anyway.
Blared in the beginning
[650] by prophetical spirits;
then when, like a lion,
Christus Rex rose again
and humiliated hell.
His Conqueror Church
from Rome teaches this
and celebrates with chants
and tinkers with trophies.
From a sublime see
there booms the blessing
[660] of the boundary-less
Leader. Luckily enough
Clement VIII on the eighth
day enlightens hearts
and slow-minded souls. 

(to be continued on Nov. 1) 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Fearful Asymmetry

The genius of Michelangelo was so great that new, unheard-of sides of his art can be discovered after half a millennium. Art historian and teacher Marco Bussagli has recently published a book (Milan: Edizioni Medusa, 2014, 176 pages with 66 photos and illustrations) in which he studies a puzzling detail: many characters painted or sculpted by Michelangelo have a mesiodens, a "tooth in-between," that is a supernumerary incisor between the two upper ones. A rare phenomenon, already known by Renaissance medicine. From an aesthetic/artistic point of view, such a feature simply destroys the symmetry and therefore the perfection of the human shape, with all philosophical consequences, especially in the Renaissance, and more especially in Michelangelo the "body-builder." An analysis of where he modified the dental arch of his models, though seemingly a very secondary subject, does lead to an overall reinterpretation of his art and biography as well as of his anthropological and religious views, shedding light -- and convincingly so -- on several controversial issues.

This is a thriller night (8)

[7: 118]

- Esser mio messaggiero a te convene
(Dice ella al servo suo pronto e sagace).
Vattene al campo, e con sicura spene
Trova Tancredi, ove languendo ei giace.
A cui dirai che donna a lui se 'n vene
Che gli apporta salute, e chiede pace
E benigna accoglienza e fida aita,
Perché l'una sia salva e l'altra vita.

"Now I need you as my messenger,"
She says to her quick and clever servant. 
"Go to the Christian camp, and securely
Find Tancred, where he lies wounded.
You will tell him that a woman comes
Who brings health, and asks for peace,
Kind reception and trustworthy help,
So that both lives may be preserved."

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

This is a thriller night (7)

Her voice -- that was very like the knight
Clorinda's -- made her deceit easier:
Who might think that armed on horseback
Is one of the other harmless women?
So the gatekeeper immediately obeys
And with her two servants, she leaves.
For safety's sake they start riding down
The valley on a long and crooked path.

When she sees herself in a solitary
And low place, she slows down a little
Since the first risks have been left behind
And nobody should stop her presently. 
Now however she minds things that
She had not thought about earlier,
And now it seems to be very dangerous
To reach the Camp with such a mask on.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The 7 Days of CryAction 1: 489-570

So Light lay there together
[490] with our neighbor night:
Light enlightening angels
and souls, not senses.
Sensible rays reflect
a picture of true Light,
Light rejoicing in Jehovah
while, far away, the sun
carries clouded beams.
Eternal Light was there
and perhaps Seraphs
[500] and millions of months
swirling in his Eyes.
before Tellus and time,
created by Phos the First
were radiant angels.
The heavenly leaders
the Powers and Peers
so many electric corps
majestic and immortal
[510] God’s squads could not
live long in darkness.
Created Minds means
created light, who lives
celebrating and singing
(as Life and Light does)
a musical movie
by pronouncing praise
to supreme Splendor
in that tranquil temple.
[520] Such Light/Land was promised
to the righteous, who will receive
the immortal-light-y of saints;
vice versa the villains will
have pain in Pandemonium.
Bereshit the Spirit passed
over abyss and aqua
preparing the process,
partaking in the King’s part
by empowering the waves
[530] as a seabird who shells
out of her energized egg
a still misshapen son.
LORD said, “Let’s have light!”
and word implied work.
It was not thrill of tongue
that reshapes the air
and conveys its voice:
his wheeling Will
follows his Word-within.
[540] So the very first voice
of God the Father forged
dizzy dazzling light
in a ball, then—Bang!
divided it on Day 4.
He overcame horror
colored the cosmos
showed the sky
royally revealed
further phenomena
[550] by spreading sight,
the feast of physis
the ecstasy of elements
the sap of sense and mind:
invisibilia Ipsius intellecta.
Suddenly South and North
and East and West
were watered by light
as by a busy tractor
faster than thought,
[560] geared by God.
No car compares with you
O magnificent Light, the friend
of nature and mankind,
mirror of the Most High,
encouraging and elevating!
You carry charismas
to us un-merry mortals
from eternal treasures
generously given us by
[570] the Parent of Presents.

(to be continued on Oct. 25)

Friday, October 16, 2015

This is a thriller night (6)

[7: 116-117]

La voce feminil sembiante a quella
De la guerrera agevolò l'inganno:
Chi crederìa vedere armata in sella
Una de l'altre, ch'arme oprar non sanno?
Sì che 'l portier tosto ubbidisce, et ella
N'esce veloce, e i due che seco hor vanno.
E per lor sicurezza entro la valle
Discendono per obliquo e lungo calle.

Poi che la donna in solitaria et ima
Parte si vede, alquanto i passi allenta,
Ch'i primi rischi haver passati estima
Né d'esser ritenuta homai paventa.
Hor pensa a quello a che pensato in prima
Non bene haveva, et hor le s'appresenta
Pericoloso più che pria non parve
L'entrar nel campo in sì mentite larve.

An English translation will be provided on Oct. 20.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

This is a thriller night (5)

[7: 115]

Nicea, benché 'l suo dubbio alquanto sceme,
Non va per quelle vie molto sicura,
Ché d'esser conosciuta a la fin teme,
E dal suo troppo ardir nasce paura.
Ma pur, giunta a la porta, il timor preme
Et inganna colui che n'ha la cura:
- Io son Clorinda (disse), apri la porta,
Che 'l Re m'invia dove l'andare importa -.

Although Nicaea silences her doubts,
She does not advance very secure
Since she thinks she will be recognized,
And from boldness now fear comes out.
Yet, coming to the gates, she represses
Fear, and deceives the gatekeeper
Saying, "I am Clorinda. Open the door!
The King sends me where needed most."

Monday, October 12, 2015

La Demoiselle de Rome

This (picture 1) is maybe not Picasso's masterpiece, but has some interesting connections with the Renaissance. Titled Straw Hat with Blue Leaves, 50 x 61 cm, it was painted on May 1, 1936; it is exhibited in the Picasso Museum in Paris. Portraits became a major art genre in the 16th century, often structured precisely like this work by the Spanish/French master. The leaves, moreover, seem to recall another typical Renaissance 'creature,' the poetess or, more in general, the cultured woman, that was one of the most significant social achievements then.

The most famous poetess and salon organizer in Rome, as well as an important supporter of a Catholic Reformation, was Vittoria Colonna (picture 2), the widow of an officer in the army of Emperor Charles V. She was even rumored to have a love story with Michelangelo -- that sounds quite unlikely as she was very chaste and he was gay. Now, since her second name means "column, pillar," can we infer that Picasso portrayed her? It is anyway worth to have a careful look at Picasso's whole production because he often dealt with Greek mythology, and he did so with all the genius and humor of his colleagues of a half millennium before.

Another cultured woman of the late Renaissance was the mother of Count Giovanni Battista Manso, in Naples, who inspired Torquato Tasso to write his long poem Il Mondo Creato . . .  of which the regular followers of this blog may already have heard a bit.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The 7 Days of CryAction 1: 423-488

by Selkis + ilT, The Magic Trio

What about that abyss,
if peeping is up to us?
The sun sent no light
to antipodes, in our places
shadow did not soar
towards sky’s tent then…
No pugnacious powers
[430] were the abyss: absurd!
No Darkness disputing
against Tagathon:
if evil were as efficacious
as good, a grim endless
war would ensue, death
of victor and vanquished.
Just—if Good conquers
why doesn’t it erase Evil?
Could an evil-less Earth
[440] only enjoy goods?
Death’s jaws, jobless?
Bios overcoming and killing
Thanatos? No traces left
of Adam’s deception?
Let no turd tongue
against God
by shooting shit
say that evil’s source
is Him the high
[450] Giver of gifts.
Contraries cannot
engender each other:
if indeed the one falls
the other triumphs.
Fellow follows fellow
fire comes from fire.
So don’t try to trace
sunbeam back to shadow
light back to gloominess
[460] health back to illness,
don’t be deceived
by ersatz truth.
Evil is no entelecheia,
don’t look for it far away
not all around
like a tangible thing
but inside your soul
as the stain of sin,
voluntary and welcome.
[470] You are the author
of your evils ever and ever,
languidly loving them
idol-latrizing them.
But shame and exile
pitiable poverty
dismaying death
are not evils—to hell
with fear! Felicity in vain
is sought in its opposite
[480] (tho it is truly bad
to want and be without).
Dearth implies dark.
But “darkness” in Genesis
just foreboded a feature
of sunless atmosphere.
If darkness is birthless
then evil is previous; but
can Worst be the winner?

(to be continued on Oct. 18)

Friday, October 9, 2015

This is a thriller night (4)

[7: 114]

Con le mentite spoglie occulta, ascosa,
E per secreta via con lor si parte.
Pur in molti s'aviene, e l'aria ombrosa
Splender di ferro vede in qualche parte;
Ma impedir quel viaggio altri non osa
Che la fortuna sua mena in disparte,
E la notte gli affida, o pur la tigre
Temuta insegna è fra le genti impigre.

Hidden under false garments she leaves
With them(*) through a secret passage.
She bumps into several people, and sees
Iron shining in the dark in some places;
But no one prevents her from going, (**)
All being taken away by her good luck;
Night helps them, or else the waking men
Are afraid of the device of the tiger. (***)

(*) Nicaea with her two servants.
(**) Echoing Dante, Inferno 5: 22.
(***) Clorinda's device. There is another narrative inconsistency here, because Clorinda will not notice that her armor has disappeared!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

This is a thriller night (3)

[7: 112]

Co 'l durissimo acciar preme et offende
Il delicato collo e l'aurea chioma,
E la tenera man lo scudo prende,
Pur troppo grave e inusitata soma;
Così tutta di ferro homai risplende
E 'n atto militar se stessa doma.
Gode Amor, ch'è presente, e così ride
Come alhorch'egli avolse in gonna Alcide.

With hard steel, she presses and offends
Her delicate neck and her golden hair;
Her tender hand seizes the shield,
A too heavy and unusual weight. (*)
Now she shines enveloped in iron
And masters herself as soldiers do.
Eros is there, and enjoys, and laughs
As he did while giving Hercules a skirt. (**)

(*) Hinting at 1 Samuel 17: 38-39.
(**) When, as a punishment for a murder, he served Queen Omphale among her slaves. The episode has been depicted, for example, by Lucas Cranach the Elder in different versions.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The invisible sea serpent

In the Sistine Chapel, the prophet Jonah is even bigger than Christ! On the other hand, the "big fish" that supposedly swallowed him is depicted too small to be able to do so. But a hypothesis surfaces: maybe the "fish" on the right is only the head of a sea serpent, whose long body is hidden-and-marked by the lines of the draperies -- the castor-oil plant in the background working as the tail end, in case. As a consequence, Jonah is at the same time inside and outside the beast, a subtle symbol of the dead and risen Christ (Matthew 12: 40). Such a visual joke would not be a novelty in Michelangelo, if we recall e.g. the arms in the Tondo Doni, that may belong to Joseph as well as to Mary.

So Jonah as an icon of salvation is the opposite of the damned man who, in Michelangelo's Last Judgment, is encircled and bitten by a snake. The paradoxical role of the Serpent as both the enemy and the symbol of Christ (John 3: 14) was well known to the artist, who painted the episode of the Brass Serpent (Numbers 21: 8-9) in this same Chapel.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The 7 Days of CryAction 1: 327-422

by Selkis, The Magic Trio

The Spirit simultaneously
made matter plus shapes,
with beauty and bounty
[330] He filled her longing,
instilled an instinct that
stopped the struggle
which made her an enemy
of herself in fury,
provided we can put
mud mixed up with fire:
neither was, and water
and air became a-mazed.
Eachearned? no, lost itself
[340] and death devoured
victory. Valley and top
were badly bound,
that messy mass was
On, Nihil, Maya.
Maybe a virtual war,
image of Iblis war,
picture of pólemos
of Made versus Maker.
God created together
[350] hyle kai morphé: which
first, it would be fool
to demon-strate
in academic arena.
First is Gods fine art
over techne and time;
human (he)art just
kids like a kid.
Wool first envelops sheep
then a dyer dyes it;
[360] from a shell, Sidon
picks purple flowers;
the pine tree first
nods with its needles
(or oak, fir, ash tree)
you then shape a ship;
the earth first hides
iron, then industry
finds and forges it
into plow, helmet, sword.
[370] But Gods ante-time
art made earth ’n’ sky
simul, not simulated,
finely filling them with
fire, air, and water, which
embraced heavy earth
whispering meanwhile:
tough though waving,
overlaid by oxygen,
overflown by fire
[380] that skims the sky.
So our gifted God
connected like a chain
extravagant elements.
Between end and end
He hosted the other two
fiends and friends
and the net was neat.
Tellus was still
unseen unsettled
[390] like a trashy theater,
no audience no actors.
No mortal was alive
to see it; distressing
loneliness filled
wilderness with horror.
No leaves no shadow
of tall trees embellished
emerald green hills,
no roses no privets
[400] no hyacinths et cetera
did glorify grass or
surround springs.
Half-hidden underwater
under a veil that veiled
her phantom face
and lumpy limbs
was gloomy Gea.
Ouranos was unrelieved:
no fabulous frills
[410] of gleam and gold
and signs. The Sun
licensed no lamp,
he met no Moon
face to face or wandering
away with hoary horns,
no celestial choirs
of fixed or fleeing stars
encompassing Helios.
Light also was lacking,
[420] darkness defaced
the abyss. The world was
born but not seen.

(to be continued on Oct. 11)

Friday, October 2, 2015

Welcome back home, Michelangelo!

Michelangelo's House in Florence is a unique museum -- "house" rather than "home" since he bought it when he already lived in Rome. The artist's closer relatives themselves started to take care of the building and the collections from the beginning. The museum in fact owns an amazing set of sculptures, drawings, projects, sketches, letters, poems, notes, even invoices in Michelangelo's own handwriting, plus other important works that complete the collection, e.g. reproductions of his paintings that meanwhile have gone lost. We can follow Michelangelo's life and ideas almost as if we were in real time. Above: the wonderful catalog of an exhibition that took place in 2002. It was called Grafia e biografia, "Graphic & Biographic."

See Casa Buonarroti's official website.

The book has been found here.

This is a thriller night (2)

[7: 111]

Pronto il fanciullo e la donzella è presta,
E l'uno e l'altro al suo parlar dà fede.
Nicea si spoglia la feminea veste
Che dagli homeri scende infino al piede;
E con vestire schietto ancora honesta
E bella ch'ogni credenza eccede,
Simile a chi già corse a' pomi d'oro
Et a lei che diè nome al verde alloro.

The boy and the maid readily come
And both believe her explanations.
Nicaea strips of her feminine dress
That covered her, shoulders to feet;
In her petticoat she still looks modest
While beautiful beyond belief, like
She who raced for the golden apples
And she who gave the laurel her name.

The final printed text has been mostly followed here, because it looks more 'reliable' than the manuscript (where, e.g., the woman is still called "Erminia" like in Gerusalemme Liberata).
The similes in the last lines refer to Atalanta and Daphne -- or rather, there has been an interesting change: In the manuscript the last verse read, "she who turned into a laurel," properly Daphne, while the new version mixes (up) the Greek myth with Petrarch's Laura, who took her name from the laurel.
Finally, this stanza -- like scores of other episodes -- shows the falseness of much commonplace according to which Tasso in the remake of his Gerusalemme rejected the erotic sections. No reference to sex has been deleted in the Conquistata: there is even more of it than in the Liberata, as a matter of fact.