SiStan ChapLee

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The last dragon has been killed by Wonder Woman

La profezia ("The Prophecy," but the original title is A League of One) is a master DC Comics story entirely written and drawn, or rather painted, by Christopher Moeller. It tells about the last dragon, a female, superbly designed specimen called Drakul Karfang, sort of a Smaug who survived the Middle Ages and now could easily and definitively be defeated by modern super-heroes, but a prophecy interferes that makes things much more thorny.

The book, recently published in Italy by DC Comics - Lion - RW, also includes a completely different story by Moeller: Acciaio freddo (Cold Steel), in which Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, etc., take part in an alien war, figthing from inside gigantic robots like Gundam or the Transformers: among the most beautiful mechas ever seen.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Understandable worries (3)

[8: 53]

Hor sieda ogni altro in pace, e da sicura
Parte miri otïoso il mio periglio;
Su, su, datemi l'arme - e l'armatura
Gli fu recata ad un girar di ciglio.
L'antichissimo franco, a cui non fura
La quarta etade il senno e 'l buon consiglio,
La fronte allhora alzò da l'ampio seggio
E disse: - Il meglio in questo rischio è 'l peggio -.

[Godfrey of Bouillon speaks]
"Now sit peacefully, all of you, and watch
The dangers I undergo safely from afar.
C'mon! My weapons!" His armor was
Brought him in the twinkling of an eye.
The amazingly old Frank, (*) whose age
Did not rob him of wisdom and discretion,
Now lifted his forehead from on his chair
And said, "Here the best is for the worse." (**)

(*) Giovanni/John, a character who did not appear in Gerusalemme Liberata. Modelled after Nestor in the Iliad, he is some 300 years old, thus providing a "living link" with the Epic of Charlemagne, whom he actually met; he even fought by the Frank Emperor's side. Gerusalemme Conquistata adds much fantasy and science fiction to the Liberata.
(**) That is, Godfrey's replacing Tancred in the duel against Argantes would be the best solution. . . as well as the worse, in case he happened to be defeated or killed. See the next post.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Understandable worries (2)

[8: 52]

E tace ogni altro più honorato e degno;
E di lor dubbio il pio signor s'accorse,
E tutto pien di generoso sdegno,
Dal loco ove sedea, repente sorse.
Ponendo al suo fratel freno e ritegno,
Che spesso per honore a morte corse:
- Né vita (disse) più né imperio hor merto
Se gli oltraggi e l'indugio ho invan sofferto.

The most honored and worthy all keep quiet.
Seeing their hesitation, the pious lord (*)
Now full of generous indignation,
All of a sudden stood up from his seat.
Forcing his brother (**) to stay put, who
Often defied death for the sake of honor,
He said, "I don't deserve life and power
If I stood offences and delays in vain.
. . .

(*) Godfrey of Bouillon, "pious" i.e. righteous towards God and his own people, like Aeneas.
(**) Baldwin, a historical personage: the future King Baldwin I of Jerusalem, 1100-1118.
The third brother, Eustace (he also a historical personage), is among those who have been taken prisoners by Armida (a fictional character, indeed doubly fictional in Gerusalemme Conquistata as the daughter of a man and a mermaid).

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 3: 913-972

A germinating seed
already implies preparing
means of maintenance.
Herb is energy, as well
as the varying veg
between herbs and trees,
of an uncertain class.
[920] Not all anyway are
the result of seeds:
the spear grass is not
(the crown of Romans)
nor is the reed, relaxing
the horny cowboy,
nor the mint—myriads
are the seedless sons
of rabbit-like Earth
insofar as the root
[930] is an ersatz seed.
The reed grows green
one whole year, then
out of its root rises
something seed-powered
or a servo-seed.
Olive doesn’t
result from reed
but reed from reed
as stated by Shaddai.
[940] That which was
conceived and created
from darkness to daylight
season after season
will be born again
virtually forever.
Phew! Few words
suddenly sounded and
the infertile Earth
elaborated labor
[950] and feracious with fruits
opened her womb.
Like a weeping widow
who puts off her weeds
and puts on Prada
and fancy fashion,
so the melancholy-looking
dreary Domina
wove with verdant
[960] plants a supercharged
gown with garlands.
Remember member
by member God’s marvels
and host in your heart
his works by wheeling
your eyes everywhere:
He willed the Whole.
No plant is superfluous
no herb is left behind,
[970] they all can recall
your Father’s face and
call back the banished.

(to be continued on May 1)

Friday, April 22, 2016

Understandable worries (1)

[8: 50]

Goffredo intanto gli occhi gravi e tardi
Volge con mente allhor dubbia e sospesa;
Né perché molto pensi e molto guardi
Sa chi debba anteporre a l'alta impresa.
Vi mancano i più forti e più gagliardi:
Di Tancredi non s'è novella intesa,
Et erra in lungo essiglio, e i rischi sprezza,
Quel nuovo fior di gloria e di bellezza.

Godfrey meanwhile turns worried looks
All around, his puzzled mind in suspense;
All thinking and looking can't help him
Choose whom to appoint for the enterprise.
The strongest and boldest are missing: (*)
No one heard about Tancred any more,
And away in exile, despising risks,
Is the new flower of glory and beauty. (**)

(*) Many had followed the witch Armida, falling into her trap. Tancred himself is now a prisoner of Armida, though he did not come to her castle on purpose: he was trying to reach a mysterious woman warrior whom he believed to be his beloved Clorinda.
(**) Richard, the main hero of Gerusalemme Conquistata (corresponding to Rinaldo in the Liberata); he has been banished by Godfrey for having killed a comrade, Gernand, in a brawl.
The adjective "new" implies "after the heroes in the poems of Homer and of chivalry." The character of Richard in GC is based on Achilles, bisexuality included.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Da Vinci & other monster creators

A delightful booklet has just been published, that should be a joy for all the people who love the Renaissance, either because of the 15th and 16th century 'specimens' showed here (by Piero Di Cosimo, Paolo Uccello, Bosch, Veronese, Hugo Van Der Goes, Ulisse Aldrovandi, Salvator Rosa, . . . including some basically unknown drawings by Leonardo Da Vinci) or because the pictures, of any epoch, deal with subjects that were greatest hits during the Renaissance: classical mythology, fantasy & magic, strange creatures, true freaks, faraway peoples.

Gloria Fossi (ed.), 100 mostri nell'arte, Florence: Giunti, 2016, euros 8.90

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

And in fact, Argantes. . . (6)

[8: 49]

Tronca Argante gli indugi al fero suono
Del corno, onde quel monte e 'l pian rimbomba
Come al romor di spaventoso tuono,
E fugge al nido il corvo e la colomba.
Già i principi fedeli accolti sono
Ne la gran tenda al chiaro suon di tromba.
Qui le disfide rinovò l'araldo,
Trovando in pochi il cor sì fermo e saldo.

Argantes is now stirred by the fierce sound
Of a horn that shakes the mountain(*) and plain
Like the noise of a frightening thunder
Making both crows and doves flee to their nests.
Already the faithful(**) princes are gathered
In the wide tent by the blaring trumpet.
The herald recalled the challenge rules;
Only few hearts remained firm and steady.

(*) Jerusalem
(**) Both in Gerusalemme Liberata and in the first handwritten version of this line, Tasso employed the word "Christian." The change probably aims at stressing the fight of "the faithful" against "the infidels" since, at that time, both Christians and Muslims used these terms to indicate respectively themselves and the others. The -- supposed, planned, expected -- duel of Tancred and Argantes would not (as the parallel fight in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, c. 38, Rinaldo vs Ruggiero, should have done) determine the result of the whole war; it was only a private challenge, but it had a great symbolical meaning anyway.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 3: 835-912

God added, “Let Arda
germinate grass
and fructifying trees
consistent with seeds.”
And the Mega-Mother
[840] now freed from foam
and relaxing, restarted
to labor all of a sudden.
Yes, Gods command
worked as a law
of nature unchangeable
in the erasing of eras
and functioning forever.
The pregnant Parent’s
firstborn is the seed;
[850] when it grows green
it becomes like grass
then develops virtus
as herb or whatever
up to perfection
each in its own age.
In spite of similarity
they don’t look identical
nor very different.
Not helped, the Mother
[860] did this, not needing
other than Omega.
Some see the sun as
the cause of growth
by warming her womb
and having her energies
finally surface:
Cannot they recall that
our biosphere was born
sooner than the sun?
[870] Let they quit the cult
of the Sun therefore
as the great gardener.
Stop being surprised
please stop praying
no more monuments
and idols and temples
no more religions
of pagan peoples who
(overpowered) overseas
[880] under an unknown sky
in the Wild West
worship the Sun by writing
madly made murals.
Let they know, God knows
how, about the awful
job of Jehovah
the psyche-delic smith;
let they (if any trouble lies
hard in their hearts) see
[890] that that shiny sun
the all-illuminating
the Terra-trotter
the launcher of light
the eye in the sky
the lender of life
the luminous leader
is younger than hay
a grandson of grass.
Yep! the shearable sheep
[900] and buff buffaloes
found their food before
even earlier than man.
Let LORD, who prepared
to oxen and horses
a ready-made repast,
give you gourmandism
on Trimalcionian tables:
He in fact who feeds
and fattens your flocks
[910] will also in silver
and platinum plates
tickle your taste.

(to be continued on Apr. 24)

Friday, April 15, 2016

And in fact, Argantes. . . (5)

[8: 47]

- Fate (dicea) che 'l predator romano,
Lo qual spogliati ha i vostri regni ed arsi,
Io atterri vinto e sanguinoso al piano,
Bruttando ne la polve i crini sparsi;
E veggia vivo anchor, da questa mano,
Ad onta del suo Dio, l'arme spogliarsi;
E cerchi a me co' suoi dolenti preghi
Ch'in pasto a' cani le sue membra io nieghi -.

And he said, "Make(*) this western(**) predator,
Who ransacked and burned your kingdoms, fall
Gory to the ground, defeated by me,
And soil his helmet-less hair with dust;
May he, while still alive, see himself stripped
Of his arms by me, in spite of his God;
May he desperately implore me that
I don't let his flesh be thrown to the dogs!"

(*) Both this verb and the adjective "your" in the following line are in the plural in Italian, implying "gods" as the subject. Again, while emulating Homer's style, Tasso 'forgets' that Argantes is a Muslim. In fact, it often occurs that Tasso, either following or actually translating from Homer (from a Latin version of the Iliad) or from Virgil, preserves details that are inconsistent with his own poetry, e.g. God the Father thundering from on top of -- Olympus! This curious literary phenomenon appears much more frequently in Gerusalemme Conquistata than in the Liberata. In the parallel episode in GL 7: 53-54, Argantes simply "shouted," did not "call his gods," and simply affirmed that "he would" defeat Tancred, without asking his 'gods' to help him do it.
Last but not least, Argantes' J'Accuse in line 2 is honestly true.

(**) Argantes says "Roman" in a very broad sense; Tancred -- a historical personage, unlike Argantes -- was a Norman from Southern Italy. But Muslims usually called the Crusaders, and the Westerners in general, "Franks."

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

And in fact, Argantes. . . (4)

[8: 46]

Tal ne l'arme ei fiammeggia, e bieche e torte
Volge le luci ebre di sangue e d'ira;
Spirano gli atti feri horror di morte,
E minaccie di morte il volto spira.
Alma non è così secura e forte
Che non paventi ov'un sol guardo ei gira.
Nuda ha la spada, e la solleva e scote,
E 'nvocando gli dèi l'ombre percuote.

Such (*) in his armor he blazes, and turns dark
Eyes all around, longing for blood and wrath;
All his acts radiate the horror of death,
Death is threatened by his countenance.
No soul is so strong and self-confident
As to not be afraid of one of those looks.
He unsheathes his sword, lifts and shakes it
And calling his gods, (**) he stabs the shadows.

(*) Like a comet.
(**) In his impulse to 'go Homeric,' Tasso forgets that Argantes is a Muslim. But, what matters more, the simple episode of a warrior getting ready for a duel, basically a filler, turns into an epic scene. The "dark side" of Argantes is shown here, that makes him look like the devil in person (as was already the case with Rodomont in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso), but his personality is complex -- in Gerusalemme Conquistata even more than in the Liberata -- and we will see his noble, heroic side elsewhere. On the other hand, the fury of Argantes also functions as an ironic counterbalance to Tancred, who has been entrapped like a fool in Armida's castle and won't even be able to pop up in time for the meeting.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 3: 770-834

by ilT + Selkis

[The sea is. . .]
Beautiful before God
because of its burrows.
Beautiful because
it receives all rivers
but limits itself.
Beautiful as the box
of rains and humors
falling as frost or snow;
once heated, it exhales
its vapors upwards
[780] up to the place where
indirect rays give
no more heat, and there
the vapors converge
and descend in drops
that fertilize the Earth’s
dryness, and she conceives
so many manners of
beasts flowers and trees.
Who will dare deny this
[790] considering a cauldron
that fizzes and fumes
so as to fill the air
with its subtlest spirits?
The very sea waters
can be cooked in sponges
for thirsty traders
when they sail offshore.
Absolutely handsome in
the immutable Minds eye
[800] is Poseidon offering
all beaches in his bosom.
He connects the countries
in all latitudes
and paves a viable way
to ships which ship
interesting items
all over the world,
as nerds are in need
and redskins are robbed.
[810] Many more hidden
manifold marvels are
listed in recent reports.
Can I reach a rock
so high above the shore
or a peak proper
and overlook the ocean
so as to sip the sight
as God did that day?
But beautiful as it may be
[820] according to Abba,
more rapturous is the rite
of the faithful who fill
a shrine like sea waves
and voice their vows
and piously pray
whispering like waters.
May the Pope present
a friendly face throughout
the luminous liturgy
[830] and kick Christianity
Urbi et Orbi, and open
the Trinitarian treasures
and give away graces
and sponsor the Poet.

(to be continued on Apr. 17)

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Time of caucus --- and Cacus!

Hercules kills Cacus
by John Sibbick

Commonplace first: Reading the Classics is worth the trouble. These very days Ovid's Fasti (Feasts) in Latin, bought by chance, are proving a gold mine from both a literary and a historical/cultural viewpoint.

Let us examine just one interesting episode in book 1, namely Hercules killing the monster called Cacus. The monster is not described except by saying that 'he' is terrifying and very strong. His behavior is more meaningful, though: Cacus lives in a hidden cave, "almost impossible to be found even by wild beasts," and spits fire from his mouth. In one word, a dragon. This may explain why a reader and admirer of Ovid, Dante, in Inferno 25 shows him as a centaur with a dragon perching on his shoulders. The centaur is a personal interpretation of Dante's from other sources, according to which Cacus was "half human and half beast," but the dragon can well come from Ovid's Fasti. In this line, in the 1980s the great British illustrator John Sibbick, famous especially as a paleo-artist, was in his own right when he portrayed Cacus as a modern dragon, i.e. a dinosaur.

Another feature of Ovid's Cacus, who hangs parts of human corpses all around his den, would be reused by Ariosto in Orlando Furioso as a model for the Egyptian ogre.

For more insights into Dante and the fantasy genre:

Friday, April 8, 2016

And in fact, Argantes. . . (3)

[8: 45]

Lieto più che mai fosse, allhor le prende
Né del gran peso è la persona onusta;
E l'acuta sua spada al fianco appende
Ch'è di tempra finissima e vetusta.
Qual con sanguigna chioma horrida splende
La cometa crudel per l'aria adusta,
Ch'i regni muta e i feri morbi adduce,
A' purpurei tiranni infausta luce,
. . .

Unusually happy, he then takes them on, (*)
Nor can such weight oppress his body;
He also girds on his very sharp sword,
A work of the finest and oldest kind.
As with its horrid coma, blood-like,
A cruel comet shines in the burning air
Overthrowing kings and causing plagues,
Unhappy light to purple-clad tyrants. . . (**)

(*) The set of pieces of his armor.
(**) The Renaissance experienced a true comet-mania. The Italian word chioma (from Latin coma) does not mean "tail" but "hair," that makes a comet appear as a terrifying head. John Milton would use this imagery to describe the villains par excellence, the devils, starting from Azazel in Paradise Lost, bk 1, who "shone like a meteor."

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Off Topic: Victor Hugo's alien vampire

The most famous episode in Victor Hugo's novel Toilers of the Sea (1866) is possibly the one in which the protagonist, Gilliatt, fights against a big octopus. On closer inspection, the "monster" is not very big (its tentacles are only one meter long) and. . . it is not even an octopus. Its description in fact is full of inaccuracies: it has no beak but a normal mouth that also functions as an anus since the animal lacks the siphon, and uses its suckers to actually suck the victim's blood!

It would not work, as a solution, to think that Hugo did not have good scientific sources available. This might be true for a Medieval writer -- see Dante's zoology -- but the octopuses' anatomy had been studied and represented in detail from the Renaissance, not to speak of the developments of Biology in the 18th and 19th centuries, all the more so in the eyes of such a French Enlightenment author as Hugo. Besides, he himself reports that he has seen live specimens.

So, the most likely hypothesis remains that he modified the monster's anatomy on purpose, turning a common octopus into a symbol of the "alien," irrational, and evil side of Nature, as he repeatedly stresses in the book. A foray into science fiction, whose father is often considered to be Hugo's compatriot Jules Verne. On the other hand, a (truly) giant octopus/squid as a harbinger of ill omen had already appeared some fifteen years before in Herman Melville's Moby Dick.

Last but not least, as in an updated version of Medieval Bestiaries, Hugo also sees the self-camouflaging octopus as a symbol of hypocrisy and simulation; that is precisely the way in which Torquato Tasso described this animal in his long poem Il Mondo Creato.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

And in fact, Argantes. . . (2)

[8: 44]

La notte che precede, il pagan fero
A pena inchina per dormir la fronte;
E sorge poi ch'anchora è 'l ciel sì nero
Che non dà luce in su la cima al monte.
- Portami (grida) l'arme - al suo scudiero,
E quello haveale apparecchiate e pronte:
Non le solite sue, ma del Re sono
Dateli queste, e pretïoso è 'l dono.

The night before, the fierce pagan has
Scarcely laid down his head to sleep;
And rises when the sky is still so dark
That the mountain's top is not illumined.
"Bring me my arms!" he cries to his squire,
Who already kept them set and ready:
Not his usual ones, since these are a gift
Of the King, (*) a very precious gift.

(*) Emir Ducat of Jerusalem. These lines were identical in Gerusalemme Liberata, but there seems to have occurred a shift in meaning meanwhile, insofar as in the Liberata the precious weapons were a gift of the other king, Godfrey of Bouillon, who gave them to Argantes when the latter came to the Christian camp as an ambassador. That episode has been modified by Tasso here in the Conquistata, so the very same words must now be interpreted in a different way, and Argantes' own king -- and father, in GC -- Ducat becomes the giver.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 3: 694-769

by Selkis + ilT

Earth dry and cold
water wet and cold
air hot and wet
fire hot and dry,
features two by two
link the elements
[700] and total they mix
in a temporary peace.
Dancing dandies
are tied and tie
in a choral circle
that turns and returns;
so the Basics’ Ball
raves within a ring
where water is joined
to soil by coldness
[710] while by wetness
it approaches air
which in between
is as wet as water
and as hot as Agni.
Two enemy natures
by bonds of battle
joust and are joined.
Oh the worlds wonderful
uncrakably knotted
[720] chain, certainly
harder than adamas
the Almightys art!
Oh the transient things
omnipotent order!
You vary but observe
old universal laws
equal from Equator
to the Poles, partially
recallingwhile racing
[730] the divine dharma.
When the waters were
gathered in gurgite vasto
God saw that the sea was
splendid: not by sight
but in his mind admiring
his valuable works.
Such a relaxing sight
is a serene sea that
whispers whitish.
[740] A stupendous sight
too if it ripples regularly,
sapphire or purple,
not harassing in anger
the contiguous coasts
but hugging the earth
with friendly foams.
That’s however not how
God gazed at it
nor bailing beauty;
[750] He loved the logos
in his own wonders.
The surrounding sea
waters the earth forever
and through tunnels
deep inside the soil
divides itself as if
in human mines.
Spontaneously stored
there, it then snakes
[760] pushed by its spirit
and springs outside again
but its taste has turned
fully into freshwater—
since to meet metals
has added heat to it
so that it often boils
in the islands’ inland
both by the beach
and farther far.

(to be continued on Apr. 10)

Friday, April 1, 2016

And in fact, Argantes. . . (1)

[8: 43]

Così d'amor, d'honor cura mordace
Quinci e quindi al guerrier l'animo rode.
Hor mentre egli s'afflige, Argante audace
Le molli piume di calcar non gode:
Tanto è nel fero petto odio di pace,
Desìo di sangue ostile, amor di lode
Ché, de le piaghe sue non sano anchora,
Brama che 'l novo dì porti l'Aurora.

Thus the double, biting thought of love
And honor gnaws at the warrior's heart.
And while Tancred grieves, bold Argantes
Does not enjoy resting on soft pillows:
So great is within him the hate of peace,
The desire for blood, the love of praise
That, though not yet healed of his wounds,
He longs for Aurora to bring the day.