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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Entrapped (4)

[8: 41.3 - 42.8]

Non risponde, ma preme il guerrier forte
Nel cor profondo i dolorosi affanni,
E fra se stesso accusa Amore, la Sorte,
La sua sciocchezza e l'altrui feri inganni.
E talhor dice in tacite parole:
- Leve perdita fia perdere il sole.

Ma di più vago sol più dolce vista,
Misero, i' perdo, e non so già se mai
In loco tornerò che l'alma trista
Si rassereni a gli amorosi rai -.
Poi gli sovvien d'Argante, e più s'attrista
E - Troppo (dice) al mio dover mancai;
Et è ragion ch'ei mi disprezzi e scherna.
O mia gran colpa, o mia vergogna eterna! -

The strong knight(*) does not reply, and pushes
His painful anxiety to his heart's depths
While he keeps accusing Love, Fortune,
His own foolishness and the others' tricks.
He also happens to think to himself,
"It would be the least to lose the sun,

But, alas, I will lose the sweet sight
Of a more beautiful sun. (**) Who knows
If I'll ever go back where my soul
Will be cheered up by the rays of love."
He then recalls Argantes and his sadness
Worsens: "I forgot about my duty. (***)
He will despise me, and rightly so.
Oh my great fault, oh my endless shame!"

(*) Tancred
(**) Clorinda, the Muslim she-knight with whom he has secretly fallen in love.
(***) He had to fight the second 'match' against the Muslim hero Argantes. His absence would -- and will -- be a shame for the whole Christian army.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 3: 619-693

No exact experience
[620] of mortal man may
show how the Caspian
surrounded by soil
is linked to all others:
only a superhuman pilgrim
will ascend to the sky
and transfix its spheres
beyond Hubble’s line
and in perpetual peace
join angelical minds.
[630] That mind can monitor
tremendous trenches
and under-crust, the core
hidden by Nature:
it—he saw the Caspian
Sea’s underground galleries
as we already knew about
Alpheus Tigris et caetera.
Like a famous founder
of towns or architect who
[640] for the sake of supplies
digs deep pipes for
subterranean streams
from springs or swamps
God dug the deep sea
paths inside the planet.
The divine Daedalus
made one sea among
not only such sets as
Cadiz Africa Sardinia
[650] Ligurian and Thyrrenan
Ionian Adriatic Aegean
and islands and harbors
and Myrthoum and Pontus
and Hellespont and Swamp
but Arabia India Persia
are incredibly connected
to a central Ocean.
The enclosed Caspian
Sea seemingly separated
[660] like a private pilgrim
hides this liquid hook.
God didn’t say “earth”
but “let dryness be seen”
defining it dryness
even earlier than
any sun was able to
dry it: our Grandmother
took her talcum powder
since He spoke and
[670] waters furiously fell
leaving her slimy like
Florida at first.
But dryness denoted
her main mood
her eternal essence.
Water is cold, hot is
fire, wet is weather
and earth is dry.
The bull by bellowing
[680] the panther by roaring
the horse by whinnying
the earth by dryness;
about early elements
the mind can comprehend
nothing nobler.
Subject to our senses
are transient things
in ever-waged war
below lunar beams
[690] so pureness has parted
and nothing is true:
matters all mixed up,
copulation of causes.

(to be continued on Apr. 3)

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Bargello, the Renaissance you 90% didn't visit

The Museo del Bargello in Florence (website) offers one of the most rich and interesting collections of Renaissance art and culture: sculptures by Michelangelo, Donatello, Benvenuto Cellini, Jean de Boulogne aka Giambologna, as well as original pottery, jewellery, armors -- even Turkish specimens -- and weapons, etc. etc. The scandal is that very few people visit this wonderful place: they all line like sheep in front of the Uffizi and the Accademia.

The Bargello masterpiece is probably Michelangelo's Bacchus, often underrated also because the artist himself, in his 'autobiography' written by Ascanio Condivi, strove to dismiss it for political reasons. Why? Go and discover!

Two other too-scarcely-known museums to enjoy in Florence and be thrilled are Casa Buonarroti (website) and the recently renewed Museo del Duomo (website); the latter's modern settings are as fascinating as the very works they exhibit.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Entrapped (3)

[8: 40.1 - 41.2]

Tale il guerriero allhor (qual che si fosse
De la strana prigion l'ordigno e l'arte)
Entrò da sé, ché troppo ardir il mosse;
E fu rinchiuso ond'huom per sé non parte.
Ben con robusta man la porta ei scosse,
Ma fûr le sue fatiche in vano sparte,
E voce intanto udì ch' - Indarno (grida)
Uscir procuri, o prigionier d'Armida.

Qui menerai (non temer già di morte)
Nel sepolcro de' vivi i mesi e gli anni -.

[Like a fish in a net]
The warrior then -- whatever the shape
And technique of that strange jail was --
Went in of his own will, spurred by boldness:
He was shut in, unable to free himself.
He did shake the door with all of his
Strength, but his efforts proved useless;
And heard a voice shouting, "In vain you try
To escape, prisoner of Armida!
Don't be afraid of death: you will spend
Months and years in the grave of the living."

Armida's castle -- see the works by St. Teresa of Avila -- is an all too clear symbol of sin, the darkness in which humankind is enveloped and whence we cannot escape without the help of God's grace. A more literal translation of line 4 would in fact read: "He was shut in a place whence no man can leave on his own."
From a poetic viewpoint, it is worth noticing that Tasso here breaks the boundaries of the octave, and adopts a syncopated rhythm in some lines (this is more obvious in the original Italian text, while the English translation simplifies things a bit).

Monday, March 21, 2016

Batman Furioso

JLA: Riddle of the Beast is a comic book by DC Comics in which its most famous characters: Batman, Robin, Superman, Wonder Woman, etc., are 'transplanted' into a fantasy setting of the Lord-of-the-Rings kind. Once again, the hypothesis is strengthened that books of this kind are the true, or rather the only successors of Renaissance literature. To be sure, the fantasy genre was widespread and much beloved in the Middle Ages too (see), but in the Renaissance the warriors acquired super-heroic features and the stories became more dynamic, gory, and erotic, especially because of a direct influence of Homer's poems and Greek literature in general.

Riddle of the Beast -- JLA being for Justice League of America -- was written by Alan Grant; the fantastic model sheets for the characters' alternative look were prepared by Michael Wm. Kaluta, while the plates were drawn and painted by a set of great comic artists. It has been a joy to find among them, as the only Italian, Saverio Tenuta who happened to be one of my teachers at the Scuola Internazionale di Comics, International School of Comics, in Rome. The really "dark knight" Batman above right has been portrayed by him.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 3: 541-618

by Nivalis70, The Magic Trio

In Judea they enjoy
the Sea scorched by
the Father’s flame
and Jordan’s origin;
closer to Cairo there lie
in the wilderness waters
spelled (?) Semhovitë.
But stop about Syria.
India id est Ethiopia,
[550] sun notwithstanding,
has its lakes; they tell
that you drink and rave
then fall asleep as in
Lethe and lethargize.
Beyond Herculesbarrier
between Cancer and the belt
that girds whole Gea
in newly found lands
a Lake doesnt get shallower
[560] and deeper daily or
monthly or even yearly
but—like a lad who
grows up progressively
and progressively passes—
rises in half a century
and empties in fifty years.
Italy! Will I ignore
your ever-praised pools,
great natures and names?
[570] Trasimeno and the one
that mirrors Mantua,
the bigger Lario and Benaco
similar to actual seas
and many many more,
Rieti’s renowned ponds
where islands verily
seemed to be swimming
or Tarquinia where woods
waded waters and changed
[580] their positions into
a ring or a triangle.
But why do I switch
from Adonai to Nature’s
effects by filling pages
not with his majesty
but other opera omnia,
with other wonders
than God’s? Or is God
another name of Nature?
[590] Nature’s art is
its Maker’s masterpiece;
Nature is his daughter
who makes us be amazed
at the superior power
of Fathomless her father.
He gave sea its concept
and waving to waters
united—out of numerous
streams one sea came
[600] partly screened from us.
One liquid element:
between the heavy earth
and the ephemeral air
is its seat, circumscribed
by fixed frontiers.
Solely one is the sea
with endless depths,
in the eyes of explorers
who sun-like circuited
[610] the Earth west to east
or from Pole to Pole.
Can the Caspian Sea
be out of all others
so enclosed by coasts?
Yes” the eye would
answer, as it anciently did
separating the Red Sea
from India. Foolishly.

(to be continued on Mar. 27)

Friday, March 18, 2016

Entrapped (2)

[8: 39]

Qual, dove ad humil turba e mezzo ignuda
Stagna in placidi seni il nostro mare,
Fugge da tempesta e s'impaluda
Il pesce, e vive pur ne l'acque amare,
E vien che da se stesso ei si rinchiuda
In palustre prigion, né pò tornare
Ché quel serraglio è con mirabile uso
Sempre a l'entrare aperto, a l'uscir chiuso
. . .

As among humble and half-naked people
Our Sea(*) becomes swampy and quiet;
And there the fish flee away from storms
While remaining under salty waters,
Till they chance to shut themselves inside
A marshy prison whence they cannot exit
Because that trap is conceived so as to
Offer open entrances and no way out
. . .

(*) The Mediterranean. The place described is the Swamps of Comacchio (Ferrara) as it was expressly indicated in the parallel passage in Gerusalemme Liberata 7: 46; the fish therefore being eels, snared by means of a typical system of nets called cogollo.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Entrapped (1)

[8: 38]

Fra l'ombre de la notte e de gli incanti
Il vincitor no 'l segue più né 'l vede,
Né può cosa vedersi a lato o avanti,
E muove dubbio e malsicuro il piede;
E su l'entrar d'un uscio i passi erranti
A caso mette, né d'entrar s'avede:
Ma sente poi che suona a lui di retro
La porta, e 'n luogo il serra oscuro e tetro.

Among those shadows of night and magic
The winner(*) does not follow nor see him(**)
Nor can he see a thing around himself,
So he takes uncertain, hesitant steps. (***)
Wandering at random, Tancred then
Crosses a doorstep without realizing it;
Just, he hears a door suddenly creak
And close him inside a wholly dark place.

(*) Tancred and (**) the anonymous warrior.
(***) Curiously enough, the words in the manuscript, here reported, had been spelled like in current Italian: muove (moves, takes a step) and malsicuro (hesitant), but in the printed edition they were edited according to a now outdated spelling, i.e. move and mal securo.
Mysterious castles with dark interiors, creaking doors, sudden traps. . . would become commonplace after Horace Walpole, but they were not in the 16th century.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Bacon & the eggs of the Renaissance

Francis Bacon's art looks like an endless variation on the theme of HP Lovecraft's sci-fi/horror story The Colour Out of Space.
But especially, he can be listed among the major continuators of Renaissance art in the XX century, namely:
- Salvador Dalí as the champion of the perfection of oil technique, used to work out a renewed version of classical mythology, Raphaelesquely in brief;
- M. C. Escher as a modern artisan in the magic of geometry, after Luca Pacioli, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Albrecht Dürer;
- Bacon himself as a mix of splendor and anguish, with this difference, that in the Renaissance splendor usually appeared in the foreground while anguish lay hidden in the background, but the other way round for the British artist. In this sense, he can be compared with Michelangelo and Tasso.

It might be worth considering that Dalí, Leonardo, Dürer, Bacon, Michelangelo, and Tasso were gay or bisexual. Possibly, belonging to a minority and having to fight to defend oneself increases one's genius; or more properly, they already had a lot of genius from birth, but their condition gave them extra suffering and wrath, that are the "eggs" whence most masterpieces originate.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 3: 469-540

A lake wider than all
[470] below the Seven Bulls
recalls the Caspian Sea
by having all around
cities and counties
and prehistoric peoples;
they pierce the birds
that over or underwater
look for pisciform preys
or different food.
Fishy Botnia, not far from
[480] Coca Kola Island
in its maddening mounts
hosts quasi-seas and feeds
the environmental ethnics—
piss off Pantagruel.
The very Venus Lake
lies below the Bears
and into its big bosom
twenty-four rivers flow
but one exit is left
[490] to the waters’ whoosh
and they run thundering
seawards between rocks.
That sea is the See of
many islands and idols
to worship Wotan.
There Mälar remains
across Scandinavia.
Vättern waves nearby
imitating lightning
[500] and hot hammering
with its waters
that fall from top
and recall cannons
crushing cities.
Luxurious lakes
with a lot of lodes
of iron and argentum.
It is normal in Norway
that a lake may leash
[510] a misshapen Serpent.
In Ireland an ill man
can’t spit his soul as long
as he lies in some lake.
Another in Britain ebbs
and flows unlike the sea:
more sea means less lake
but the latter gets littler
when the ocean over-comes.
In Scotland are the Tay and
[520] the surprising swamp
that under a cloudless sky
and no winds whatever,
suddenly swells.
Many more in Germany
Gaul and Geneva.
Nor did the Lugean lake
in chaunted Carnia
lose its old fame:
they fish there at first
[530] then dryness comes
and they saw and reap
and entangle thrushes,
so it alternately turns
into swamp field forest.
What about Arcadia?
Even in the New West
in sun-burnt soils
there exist extraordinary
pools that are popularly
[540] spoken of as seas.

(to be continued on Mar. 20)

Friday, March 11, 2016

Madison Square Garden (3)

Tancred and the anonymous knight fight savagely. Then. . .

[8: 37]

Onde fugge veloce a tutto corso
E ne la fuga pon l'ultima speme;
Ma Tancredi il persegue, e già su 'l dorso
La man gli stende, e 'l piè co 'l piè gli preme.
Quando ecco (al fuggitivo alto soccorso)
Sparir le faci et ogni stella insieme;
Né rimaner a l'orba notte in campo
Sotto povero ciel facella o lampo.

The other knight therefore speeds away
Placing his extreme hope in fleeing;
But Tancred chases him, stretching a hand
To grasp his back while trying to trip him.
When lo! -- a big help to the chased one --
All torches and stars suddenly disappear
And in the blind night there remain
No lamp or flash under a poor sky. (*)

(*) From Dante, Purgatorio 16: 2.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Madison Square Garden (2)

[8: 30]

L'intrepido guerriero infiamma e desta
A la battaglia l'ardimento e l'ire,
Ne su 'l debol cavallo assiso ei resta
Quando il nemico a piede ha tanto ardire:
Vien chiuso ne lo scudo, e l'elmo ha in testa,
La spada nuda, e 'n atto è di ferire.
Gli muove incontra il cavalier feroce
Con occhi ardenti e con terribil voce.

The brave-hearted warrior spurs his own
Valiance and wrath for the battle,
Nor does he remain on his -- tired -- horse
As his enemy advances boldly on foot: (*)
He comes behind his shield, with helmet
And unsheathed sword, ready to strike.
The fierce knight now moves against him
With burning eyes and frightening shouts.

(*) It was against the rules of chivalry to fight on horseback against a dismounted adversary, or an adversary who lost his horse during the battle itself. Whenever this 'unkindness' occurred, poets did stress it, or took it for granted that the knight who behaved like that was a "villain" in the original sense of the word: a "rough peasant" (villano in Italian, from Latin villa) i.e. a boor.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 3: 388-468

by ilT + Selkis

When waves began,
full of liquid hills
[390] were the stony shells
as well as the valleys
among the mountains;
fields similar to seas
hosted silver surfaces
but immediately emptied
as soon as He spoke.
The waters were pushed
in diverse directions
and gathered together
[400] or rather, precisely
then the divine hand
created the containers
to room rivers and seas.
Beyond the barrier
that giddies Gibraltar
there attended no Atlas
nor that stormy Ocean
that terrorizes traders
and grins to Geryon
[410] Ireland and England:
only when He willed
did shores show up
and welcome waters.
Shut up O experience
of misguided minds
in this recent Renaissance
petty though proud!
Remember the number
of aeons ephemeral but
[420] much older than Man!
Be silent, explorer
of hidden Indias,
about lakes and lagoons
where water stagnates:
God signified “seas”
as the vast volumes
of water—one volume
indeed, the one depot
of the liquid element.
[430] For example, fire
fragmented in flames
gnaws green wood
thus creating coal
or dazzling light and
eventually dies as ash,
but below the moon
it makes one mass.
Or, air flies anywhere
even bubbling below
[440] the waves’ womb
and sneaks inside
caves and caverns
in the planet’s pits
but owns its own seat.
Water, as well, disperses
in different wet docks
but the salty substance
owns its own site.
Smaller sheets of water
[450] solely symbolically
are shown as “seas,”
noticeably in the North
where Aquilo’s fury freezes
meadows and mountains
all white with snow.
There are—Fame tells—
stupendous ponds and
between breathtaking banks
sea-deep swamps:
[460] turning into ice
like Herculean enamel
they wing the wheels
of weighty vehicles
drawn by (here not drawn)
dignified deer with
amazing antlers, who
make carts career
where ships used to sail.

(to be continued on Mar. 13)

Friday, March 4, 2016

Madison Square Garden (1)

[8: 29]

Così dicea l'estrano; e perch'il giorno
Spento era homai sì che vedeasi a pena,
Tante faci apparîr sospese intorno,
Che ne fu l'aria lucida e serena.
Splende il castel come in teatro adorno
Suol fra superbe pompe altera scena,
Con marmorei giganti e mostri eburni
Che mille alzano al ciel lumi notturni.

So spoke the unknown knight; and since
It was so late that they could scarcely see,
Many lamps appeared, hanging all around,
That made the air luminous and clear.
The castle shone like, in a nice theater,
A wonderful and superb scenery
With marble giants and ivory monsters
Lifting numberless nocturnal torches.

The impression of these lamps suddenly lit recalls electric energy (here produced by magic). Palaces with "sci-fi" features have a very long tradition in literature, just think of the Phaeacians in Odyssey, bk 7; while the reference to Baroque theater reflects Tasso's epoch and aesthetics.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Apocalypse vs. Apocalypse

Apocalyptic writers are probably more numerous in English literature than in Italian. Dante believed that Doomsday was approaching, and so did Torquato Tasso, or rather, the latter thought that the universe was "tired" itself rather than threatened by God.

In the list of apocalyptic writers, an unexpected name is Isaac Newton, whose views on the Book of Revelation were so extreme that he -- who loved quiet -- decided not to publish them; and after his death, the libraries that collected his manuscripts refused to collect these. Such comments, written by Newton in the years 1672-75, then in 1680, then in the 1680s, would be rediscovered no sooner than in the 20th century. Most remarkably, he applied his famous method to the interpretation of the Apocalyps (as he spelled it) decades before applying it to the study of the law of gravity.

Another intriguing detail is that the British Bible scholar and scientist believed to live in "so degenerate an age," when "Antichrist was to seduce ye whole Christian world." Similar concepts would be expressed a little more than a century later by William Blake. With one difference: According to Blake, one of the reasons of the world's ungodly decadence was Newtonian science ^__^

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Look who it is! (4)

[8: 28]

Turbossi, udendo il glorïoso nome,
L'empio guerriero, e scolorissi in viso.
Pur, celando il timor, gli disse: - Hor come
Vieni al contrasto, ove rimanga ucciso?
Qui saran le tue forze oppresse e dome
E 'l tuo capo superbo hoggi reciso,
Se non t'inchini a lei che scioglie e lega
Come e chi vuol, né pace o gratia niega -.

Hearing that glorious name, there trembled
The ungodly warrior, and his face turned pale. (*)
But hiding his fears, he said, "Do you dare
Come here to fight, where you will be killed?
Your strength will be tamed and your proud
Head cut off if you don't bow before her,
Who frees and ties whom and how she wills,
Nor will she deny peace and grace." (**)

(*) Ironically quoting Dante, Inferno 5: 131, that also hints at the sinful love affair between the warrior and Armida. In the Bible, phrases referring to sex with prostitutes were a symbol of apostasy from God.
(**) Again echoes from Dante, see Purgatorio 2: 95 and Inferno 5: 81. In the manuscript, whose text is reported here, Tasso wrote niega ("denies") after Dante; in the printed version the verb was spelled as in current Italian, nega.