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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.