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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

In the dark, dark forest (2)

[16: 3]

Ma quando parte il sol, tosto ivi adombra
Notte, nube, caligine et horrore
Dal monte che sovrasta, e gli occhi ingombra
D'oscuritate, e di spavento il core;
Né mai greggia od armento a l'acque, a l'ombra
Guida bifolco mai, guida pastore,
Né v'entra peregrin, se non smarrito,
Ma lunge passa, e la dimostra a dito.

But as soon as the sun leaves, the shadow
Comes of night, cloud, darkness, and horror
From the dominating mountain, (*) filling
The eyes with darkness, the heart with fear;
To these waters and shades no flock or herd
Is ever led by farmers or shepherds (**)

And no pilgrims enter here, except lost, (***)
But walk farther, and point at the forest. (****)

(*) A 'general' one, or Mount Sion itself, since the forest lies east of it.
(**) Unattended woods were often used as pastures.
(***) A clear hint at Dante. Especially in Medieval Italy the lands between towns were covered with forests, that were very dangerous because of wolves and bandits; in fact, people usually traveled in convoy. That explains Dante's fear (Inferno 1: 6) when he suddenly realizes he is alone in a dark forest (v. 10).
(****) As a marvel, a haunted place. Horror descriptions are one of Tasso's specific traits in Italian literature.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 3: 1230-1302

(Robert J. Wickenheiser Collection,
University of South Carolina)

Almost as honorable
as these are the trees
that mirror his Mother:
see the cypress, the palm
the scented cedar
the performing plane
even besmirched Myrrh.
All these and others
prove professionally
useful to humankind
[1240] as gifts from geology
or its Dominus indeed.
Some bear buildings
some, ships or cars
some, Shakn spears
and war weapons;
some feed our fires
some offer shades
to poor pilgrims or
shut springs in between
[1250] or triumphal tables.
But punctual properties
definite distinctions
and lascivious loves
behind their barks
require idle ideas;
the whims about which
have far-reaching roots
which cling to the coat
which start straight
[1260] happily heaven-wards
which augment their arms
and twist and twine
which snake submissive
not daring to dart
without a whole prop
are for muddy-minded.
Anyway those having
branches in the blue
also have all around
[1270] roots reaching deep
since Nature strengthens
the tallest trees against
the wooing winds.
Biological barks look
very varied, either
rough or Raphaelesque,
some rely on one rind
some wear several.
The most marvelous
[1280] thing is to find out
the different features
of all of Adams ages
since teenage plants
have a smooth surface
but more tired trunks
weep with wrinkles.
Some, cut off, regrow;
some, excised by iron,
will almost always die.
[1290] Plants uprooted
by tremendous twisters
rose again and regained
their Mother’s moss—
witness twice saw this
phenomenon in Pharsalia.
Not only did others
regain the same soil
but a burnt pine perhaps
shifted wood to wood
[1300] and went among oaks,
a very amazing miracle
if Nature makes miracles.

(to be continued on June 5)

Friday, May 27, 2016

In the dark, dark forest (1)


Sorgea in ombrosa valle alta foresta
Incontra 'l sol ch'a l'orizzonte ascende;
E spargea d'ogni intorno ombra funesta,
Foltissima di piante antiche, horrende;
E luce dubbia e scolorita e mesta
V'havea ne l'ora che più 'l sole risplende,
Quale in nubilo ciel talhor si vede
Se 'l dì a la notte o s'ella al dì succede.

In a shady valley a high(*) forest lay
In the direction of the rising sun,
Which spread dismal shadows all around,
Thick with very ancient and horrid trees;
An uncertain, and faded, and sad light 
It cast even when the sun shone brightest,
As it can be seen in a cloudy sky
In the hours halfway between day and night.

(*) The adjective alta might also mean "deep" if it is taken in a Latinizing sense, as is often the case with Tasso. If the forest is set east of Jerusalem, it should lie immediately beyond Getsemani.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

50% history, 50% Fantasia

Recap: 1099 AD, the attack against Jerusalem has begun. The Crusaders use powerful siege engines, that however are destroyed by the city defenders. The wood engines can obviously be rebuilt, but here comes a 'secret weapon' of the Muslim army: Wizard Ismen.

[Gerusalemme Conquistata 16: 1]

Ma cadde a pena in cenere l'immensa
Machina ch'espugnò l'ecclese mura,
Che di nov'arti Ismeno in sé ripensa
Perché più resti la città secura:
E 'mpedir la selva horrida e densa,
Ch'ebbe già lieta vista, hor l'ha sì scura,
Perché contra Sion, battuta e scossa,
Nova mole rifarsi indi non possa.

As soon as the enormous engine that
Overcame the high walls falls in ashes, (*)
Ismen already thinks about new tricks
To make the city of Jerusalem safer:
To "block" the thick, frightening forest
(So beautiful in past times, now so dark) (**)
So that against Sion, beaten and shaken,
No new powerful machines may be made.

(*) The Italian text reported above follows the manuscript (see the May 13 post for details); in the final printed version (1593) the wording was partly modified, but the meaning -- and the English translation -- does not vary.
(**) Selva [o]scura, "dark forest": Dante set the very beginning of his Divine Comedy in an imaginary, frightening landscape near Jerusalem (How did he arrive there? God knows). Now the Crusaders, in Tasso's half imaginary half historical poem, have the rare opportunity to see Dante's "dark forest" with their own eyes; and in a very modern approach, pragmatically use its wood to build war engines.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Il Mondo Creato: A "basil" source

St Basil's Sermons on Genesis, more precisely a commentary on the six (or seven) days of creation, was absolutely one of the main sources for Torquato Tasso's long poem Il mondo creato. The Italian edition shown here also provides the original Greek text, that -- among other things -- lets the reader get familiar with the theological/cosmological technical terms of the Eastern Christian tradition. A fascinating book where the Bible, philosophy, and science 'dialogue' with one another in a multidisciplinary approach. Tasso read Basil's Sermons in a Latin translation, and added a fourth key in his turn: literature. It is also worth noticing that St. Basil "the Great," considered the Church Father by the Orthodox Churches, plays a relatively secondary role in the Western tradition, therefore Tasso's use of his work is doubly significant.

Speaking of which, the new, free English version of Il mondo creato, i.e. The 7 Days of CryAction, has just been published (see the May 15 post).

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Dodos and other things in the "List"

So, the Pixar team were not the first people who gave "artistic dignity" to dodos! The detail above is taken from a painting made in 1626, when these birds were not yet extinct: Paradise, by Roelant Savery. The painting is on exhibition at the State Museum in Berlin.

This is just one out of a thousand interesting items in one of the last books published by the great Italian semiologist and writer Umberto Eco (the author of The Name of the Rose), who passed away on February 19. It was called Vertigine della lista, something like "List Vertigo," and dealt with the different meanings of all kind of "sets" of things, in both literature and art: lists of names, descriptions of long series of objects, pictures of groups of animals, etc., from Homer to J. L. Borges, from Roman frescoes to 21st century art installations.

All started from a cycle of lectures given by him at the Louvre Museum in Paris in 2009. Apparently a very specific topic, this was in fact one of Eco's favorite viewpoints on culture, as his novels clearly show. In his magic hands, what might look like academic pedantry turns into a fascinating travel through history, thought, and beauty. The book also, and obviously, provides precious insights into the Renaissance.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

7 Days: 3 opportunities

 The 7 Days of CryAction is a complete, updated, reworked, customized and treacherous English version of Torquato Tasso's long poem Il Mondo Creato (On the Seven Days of the World's Creation), some 10,000 lines. Tasso wrote it in 1592 but it was first published after his death in 1607, becoming a success all over Europe, possibly influencing no less than John Milton.
This reboot version, while following the original text closely, line by line, rereads it as a very modern work dealing with Darwin, DNA, dinosaurs, Marvel comics, jihadists, world religions, the jet set, ecology, UFOs, Lovecraft, . . .

Well, it is now possible to read the whole text of the 7 Days in two ways:
1. By keeping following the posts published in this blog
2. By ordering a paper edition to the publisher, GuardaStelle, email guardastelled(at)libero(dot)it
3. By downloading the Kindle edition here.


The 7 Days of CryAction 3: 1148-1229

by Selkis (The Magic Trio)

When Shaddai sang
the forests frizzed
[1150] with Boolean branches,
so did green giants
whose hair is in the air
cedars conifers palms
(the winners’ wow)
and conical cypresses.
The willows as well
unfolded their leaves,
and the plants employed
for competitors’ crowns:
[1160] roses laurels myrtles
that rose together
with private properties
signed (signaturae)
by Our Father’s finger.
Only in that origin
utterly without thorns
did the red rose open;
but to its beauty
anguish was added
[1170] as pain to pleasure
a storyteller of sin
when the soil started
to nourish nettles.
But how come certain
species—sort of rebels
against Divinity­—deny
both seed and syrup?
Hercules’ head poplar
broadly broadcast
[1180] either dark or white
is fatally fruitless,
elm and willow as well,
while not seedless:
if you carefully look
under their leaves
you’ll admire moskons
(a name given by Greek
inventors of terms)
which serve as seeds
[1190] precisely as in plants
with roots. Biblical rules
were limited by LORD
to the “truest” of trees
like olive and vine
ought to oil and wine
rightly renowned as
the comfort against crying
and the holy ointment.
Who could then tell
[1200] about the super-powers
and tangled taxonomy
of shipped specimens
or continental, cultivated
in Spain or New Spain
or commonly at home,
a nice natural history?
Verily, a vine stretching
its twisted tentacles
towards a friendly elm—
[1210] a vine is a viable
Legenda of human life
much more fitting than
all earthly or heavenly ones.
Proudly humble, it recalls
the Father of Physis
or his sempiternal Son
the self-styled vine
(Ho Theos as the tiller)
who fixed the faithful
[1220] as his sacred shoots.
We like vines or olives
are called to yield copious
fruits in our fertility
letting no era or event
wither our hope, but
with flourishing faces
to grow good deeds
only for Gods glory
the shaper of souls.

(to be continued on May 29)

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Big Gap

The posts devoted to Torquato Tasso's long poem Gerusalemme Conquistata (for newcomers: the 1593 reboot version of his more famous Gerusalemme Liberata, 1581) will now suddenly jump from Canto 8 to Canto 16. Why? Because no complete edition of Gerusalemme Conquistata is currently available. Yeah, "you" are right: it is a scandal.

The translations we are working out are based on the printed version of the manuscript (Gerusalemme conquistata: Ms. Vind. Lat. 72 della Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli, ed. by Claudio Gigante, Alessandria: Edizioni dell'Orso, 2010, that is volume III.1 of the National Edition of Torquato Tasso's Works) but in the manuscript approximately one third of the text is missing. A complete copy of the poem can be found in the Internet, but without any critical apparatus. So, we will keep following the manuscript, and provide "summaries of the last episodes" as they will be needed.

There can be a number of reasons why a manuscript is incomplete, often quite trivial ones. In this case, the missing section -- Cantos 9 to 15 -- corresponds basically to the episodes of the Conquistata that followed the Liberata more closely. While working on the Conquistata, Tasso used a printed copy of the Liberata where he inserted variations and added new stanzas. Possibly, therefore, Cantos 9 to 15 of GC belonged to a different set than the other sections (those which had been more radically modified), and have not been preserved together.

Be it as it may, it is a great thing to have two thirds of the GC manuscript available; and the next volume in the National Edition should come out one day. Meanwhile, again many thanks to Prof. Gigante for his painstaking work.

N.B. The next GC post (not any kind of post) will be online on May 24.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Understandable worries (6)

[8: 56, John speaks]

Di questo sacro e mal guardato nido
Cacciammo empi ladroni un'altra volta,
Gloria et honor portando al nostro lido,
Più caro d'auree spoglie o preda accolta.
Però se voi talhor rampogno e sgrido,
Faccio 'l per troppo amor di chi m'ascolta;
Ch'altre arme, altre contese, altri perigli,
E i miglior di voi conobbi, o figli.

"Out of this holy and ill-watched place (*) we already chased such ungodly robbers in past times, thus bringing back to our own countries glory and honor, which is more precious than any gold loot.(**) So, if I sometimes take the liberty of reprimanding you, I do so because of the excess of love I feel for all those who hear me, for I saw other arms, other battles, other dangers, and warriors greater than you, O sons."

(*) Literally, "nest": Jerusalem. John, who currently i.e. in the 11th century is 300 years old, refers to Charlemagne who actually, far from "chasing" the Muslims out of Jerusalem, maintained good relationships with Caliph Harun al-Rashid (the famous Caliph of the Arabian Nights). This e.g. let the Frankish king -- not yet officially Emperor -- to restore the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem in 797.
(**) According to the Bible, wisdom, rather than chivalric honor, is more precious than gold.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 3: 1063-1147

Simple-minded sheep
and goats that graze
in looming mountains
can avoid the harmful
species by their senses—
you can rely on reason
and expanded experience.
Harmful things anyway
[1070] can turn into useful
and what injures Juliet
can refresh Romeo:
Good and evil equilibrate,
nothing exists in vain.
Starlings love hemlock
a frigid food that does not
harm their hot temper,
partridges pick veratrum.
Balance is the best way.
[1080] Mandrake and opium make
you sleepy but excited
famed femmes and heroes
ill with impotence.
Veratrum is verily
famous in philosophy
insofar as it stirs
the speculative spirits,
see Praetus’ daughters
Hercules out of his head
[1090] and Pericles’ pedagogue.
Hemlock also flings back
savannah-hunter’s hunger.
So praise God, instead,
who gears evil to good
unleashing Life from Death.
Don’t dare think that
against his accord
Gea may generate
although classical authors
[1100] talked about Titans.
But infelix fern with
no flowers nor fruits
and rye-grass are
self-made, not from
mere metamorphosis.
They pre-represented those
whose words would
comment on old papers
uselessly by polluting
[1110] truth with turdness
as bastards born
of puritan purity do,
while Christ compared
his faithful followers
to a seed that springs
into real ripeness.
In core accordance
with a Law not low
the Mother momentarily
[1120] edidit DNA:
fields were fertilized
and like stormy seas
crops counter-waved.
Each shoot and shrub
mustard- or mast-high
leafy and lofty trees
all future food prepared
to wretched Man
had risen, growing green
[1130] above and abundantly
enriching the earth
safe from all storms
and thundering tempests.
No untrained tiller
or bored or boasting
no corrupt climate
or lightning or locusts
or witness of Wrath
could fu** the fruits
[1140] or crush the corn.
Nor did Edenlessness
sterilize the soil yet
as plants were precedent
to our Grandsire’s sin
that damned us to duty
hard and have hard
sustenance from sweat.

(to be continued on May 15)

Friday, May 6, 2016

Understandable worries (5)

[8: 55, John speaks]

Così pur far solea l'invitto Carlo,
Ch'io già seguii contra Sansogna in guerra
E contra Desidèro; e se narrarlo
Altrui presume, in van ragiona ed erra.
Quel mio famoso Augusto, ond'hor ti parlo,
Liberò questa sacra e nobil terra;
Et io qui prima (e ben di ciò m'essalto)
Fui con Orlando al periglioso assalto.

"So (*) did the unconquered Charlemagne,
Whom I followed in war against the Saxons
And against Desiderius -- if somebody else
Presumes to recount it, he speaks in vain.
The glorious Emperor I refer to
Freed this very noble and holy land;
I myself was here, oh what a feeling! (**)
With Roland through the perilous fight."

(*) To command the troops but not by jeopardizing his own life.
(**) The Italian wording echoes Dante, Inferno 4: 120, precisely while seeing, in the Limbo, the great heroes of ancient times -- though not Charlemagne and Roland, who are in heaven (Paradiso 18: 43).

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Bruegel the Much Younger

One more wonderful book that reinterprets typical Renaissance themes with modern fantasy and sci-fi variations. In this Journey in the Phantasmagorical Garden of Apparitio Albinus -- that is the title of the English version -- the Chilean writer and artist Claudio Andrés Salvador Francisco Romo Torres gives us the opportunity to meet again some "old acquaintances": the fountain of youth, a Turkish (and Leonardesquely robotic) warrior, a Bruegelian head-like house, the Demiurge, the mandrake, and puzzling animals, and strange islands, all the way up to a mazy universe. Many of these subjects already existed in the Middle Ages, or still before, even a lot of time before, but it happened in the Renaissance that they started to mix with modern scientific accuracy and to originate new, amazing effects, half humorous, half disturbing.

Noticeably are the topics of religion and death. There also seemed to appear some tributes to the Italian cult book for collectors Codex Seraphinianus, but, in order to be certain about that, we asked Claudio Romo himself. And he replied: hola dario, claro que conosco el codex serafiniano y es para mi un gran referente!

Claudio Romo, Viaggio nel fantasmagorico giardino di Apparitio Albinus, Modena: #logosedizioni, 2016, pages 56 (20 x 30 cm, more or less), euros 18

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Understandable worries (4)

[8: 54, John the 300 y.o. warrior speaks to Godfrey]

E volto a lui, soggiunse: - Ahi, non sia vero
Ch'in un capo s'arrischi il popol tutto.
Duce sei tu, non pur sommo guerrero;
Pubblico fora e non privato il lutto.
In te la fé s'appoggia e 'l santo impero,
Per te fia 'l regno di Babel destrutto.
Tu molto il senno e poco il ferro adopra,
Ponga altri poi l'ardire e l'arme in opra.

And looking at him, he said, "Far be it
To jeopardize the whole people in one head. (*)
You are our leader, not simply a great knight:
Mourning for you would be shared, not private.
You support faith and the holy(**) empire,
You will destroy the kingdom of Babel. (***)
Employ your wisdom rather than the sword, 
Let others exercise boldness and weapons!"

(*) The wording was slightly modified in the final printed text: ". . . in the head of one man." Capo may mean "head" in both senses.
(**) Interestingly enough, in the final version "holy" was reduced to "our."
(***) The pagan world as a whole, sometimes called Paganìa -- but here, more realistically, the one city of Jerusalem then in the hands of Muslims -- is likened to the kingdom of Nimrod who defied God (Genesis, ch. 10). Still in current Italian una babele has a broadened meaning as "a complete, ungovernable chaos," also from a political viewpoint, e.g. Libya these days.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 3: 973-1061

by ilT + Selkis

Before flowers then hay
think that like hay
human flesh fails
and your skin skims
and glory glooms.
A very lovely lover
enjoys his hay-day
[980] in a luxurious life
with sweet sentiments
and hubrifying hope
frills freely flying
perfumed personality
lean-limbed and strong
on a steroidized steed
as a Rodomont racing
inside an iron mask
whinnying and winning…
[990] “Oh pal, youre so pale
eyes suddenly sunken
muscles trembling
embedded in a bed
your voice vanishes…”
Here comes the heiress
of whoevers wealth
proud of her own pride
followed by her fans
followed by her flock
[1000] of photographers
of false friends
she leaves her villa
or returns radiant
each time stirring
Gorgons and gossip;
crowds crow crow
gazing at her grace
donations and ads.
Add political power
[1010] city counseling
military manoeuvres
royal party-taking
brawny bodyguards
in fashion uniforms
while poor people fear
the price of products
the policies of police
undeserved death
(so do the rich, really).
[1020] Nay! One night later
sides and stomach ache
and fever flames,
the jet-set is jolted
and the sad starlet
is left without life
without outriggers,
all majesty merges
into dream and dark.
Like a feeble flower
[1030] is the Great’s glory,
the fool of Fortune.
The very food of frail
Tom has turned into
symbiotic Venom.
Wheat with hemlock!
and food was feigned
by hues of hell-bore.
Now witches wanted
aconite, there appeared
[1040] mandrake from mud,
the poppy popped up.
Shall we stigmatize
the World-maker who
provided death too?
No, not any aliment
is good for your gut
or for sweetness’ sake
for all kinds of food
have their own availability
[1050] and proper properties.
Bull’s blood was poison
to Themistocles—taming
Persians impromptu
then suddenly submitting
to their authority:
Had that beast better
(in spite of all plows
and worthy works)
not be? or be bloodless?
[1060] Or shouldn’t you shun
poison and have ham?

(to be continued on May 8)