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Sunday, July 31, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 4: 389-458

by ilT + Selkis

The same considerations
[390] can be made on the moon;
its body is very big
and—except for the sun—
no other shines as much
but it not always appears
and its brightness varies
either full-surfaced
or dimly diminishing.
By waxing and waning
it partly disappears:
[400] Eternal Intelligence
with his articulate art
provided a clear proof
(the metamorphic moon)
of Man’s manifoldness
with our fickle lives
without one Tenor
and any fixed firmness.
Both begin by growing
up to the uppermost point
[410] then both burn out
turning into nothingness.
Let no guy glorify
himself or boast of
wealth or power
with pissing pride
fiercely full of shit
for a Congress chair.
Down with our decaying
side, up with the soul
[420] that lives limitless!
Remember the randomness
of man-things and maintain
your hold of Leholam.
If a dismal moon
can sadden our spirits
let us rather rue
the vanishing of virtue—
a theological treasure—
and the end of Edenic
[430] decorum and dignity.
Really the revolutions
of this planet pattern
the Nietzschean nuts
as moonish as the moon.
Man’s mind—some say—
having two halves:
powerful and passive,
the former forms a sun
the latter illuminated
[440] defeats darkness
in the moon’s manner
which shines secondarily.
Our mortal mental part
(provided this applies)
thanks to the other’s light
spots shapes in itself;
but the superior source
won’t be afraid of death,
to the extent that heathens
[450] grasped it as God.
No god—others objected—
but a creature, although
as splendid as the sun.
But let reason rest
in peace, prone before
the philosophy of faith
that treats intellectual
truth directly in Dios.

Summer break: 7Days posts will resume on Aug. 28

Friday, July 29, 2016

Trees are tough (3)

[16: 21]

Torna la turba, e misera e smarrita
Varia e confonde sì le cose e i detti
Ch'ella nel raccontar n'è poi schernita,
Né son creduti i mostrüosi effetti.
Allhor vi manda il sovran duce ardita
E forte squadra de' guerrieri eletti,
Acciò ch'a l'altra sia secura scorta
Quando il timor l'assale e la sconforta.

The group [of carpenters] comes back [from the enchanted forest], and being miserable and puzzled, they make such a mess of things and words that they are mocked by all others, who do not believe in those hideous phenomena. Then the supreme leader [Godfrey] sends a strong and bold squad of chosen knights with them to encourage them in case they are assailed and disheartened by fear.

This half-humorous interlude is sociologically remarkable insofar as it shows the air of superiority of the knights towards the carpenters, obviously considered ignorant, fearful and superstitious. As it is even clearer in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, knights of either religion -- Christianity and Islam -- had more things in common with the knights of the other front than with the peasants of their own people. It would be interesting to know in what measure this was the case not only in literature but in true life, too, during the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Summer break: The posts on Gerusalemme Conquistata will resume on Aug. 23

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Trees are tough (2)

[16: 20]

Qual semplice bambin mirar non osa
Dove insolite larve habbia presenti,
O come pave ne la notte ombrosa
Imaginando pur mostri e portenti,
Tal huom temea d'estrania horribil cosa,
Non conoscendo pur quel ch'ei paventi;
Se non che 'l timor forse a' sensi finge
Maggior prodigio di chimera o sfinge.

As a naive kid does not dare to look
Where he makes out strange apparitions,
Or as he trembles in a shadowy night
Imagining monsters and phenomena,
So did the men fear some alien horror
While not even knowing what it was --
Unless fear itself showed to their senses
Marvels greater than a chimera or sphinx.

Psychological horror was one of the trademarks of Tasso's poetry: suggesting, often by means of sounds, without describing in detail the source of that creepy feeling. The English term "alien" well renders both meanings of the Italian adjective estraneo (here in the outdated feminine form estrania), especially as used by Tasso.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 4: 328-388

If from the tall top
of a giant you gazed
[330] at a valley below
what about the oxen
or the plow-people?
They turned into ants,
their limbs shrinking
to dim dimensions:
so totally lessened
is our sense of sight
in spaces stretching
far away from us.
[340] If from a cliff
you watch the waves
what is any island
that lies lost there
or a commercial cargo
whose white smoke
looks like wings
over the cobalt back?
Dimmer than a dove
is such a big bulk:
[350] there vanishes in vacuum
the might of Man.
Mountains and meadows
show no distinction
since no grottoes give
the effect of relief,
everything is equalized
by disturbing distance
that deceives the eye.
Towers look round
[360] in spite of their sides
towards Aquilo and Auster
and East and West.
Undoubtingly believe
that infinitely far icons
deceive your sight.
So, massive is the sun
and this shows its size:
There are scores of stars
each full of photons
[370] but all together do not
tear the night’s attire
while the sole sun rising
or even when, waited for,
it is almost about to,
destroys darkness
snobbing the stars;
the air, thick with chill,
is warmed and melted,
sweet clearness shines
[380] and a balmy breeze
mounts murmuring and
down pours the dew.
Marvelous the Master’s
skills who setting the sun
so far, tempered the heat
thus saving the soil
from temperature extremes
and safeguarding fertility.

(to be continued on July 31)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Trees are tough (1)

Muslims in Jerusalem prepare to defend themselves against a new attack. But precisely in order to attack, the Crusaders need new siege devices, and therefore wood: they will have to get it in the only place handy, that is the forest that has been enchanted by Wizard Ismen, though they obviously don't know about this.

[16: 19]

Ma in questo mezzo il pio Signor non vuole
Che la forte città in van si batta,
Se non è prima la sua maggior mole
Et alcuna de l'altre ancor rifatta.
E i fabri al bosco invia, che porger sole
Ad uso tal pronta materia ed atta.
Questi a l'oscura selva andar con l'alba,
Quando l'oscuro ciel primier s'inalba.

Meanwhile, the pious Lord (*) does not mean to attack the strong city in vain, unless the bigger device and some more are rebuilt. So, he sends the carpenters to that wood that can provide them with suitable materials. They went to the dark forest (**) at dawn, when the dark sky just begins to get clearer.

(*) Godfrey of Bouillon, the head of the Crusaders. He is called "pious" -- meaning "righteous, devoted to duty, and God-fearing" in Latin -- after Aeneas, who in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance was considered the model leader par excellence, a providential or even Christian leader ante litteram.
(**) Here the reference to Dante's selva oscura is expressly pointed out. The last line seems to add solemnity and a feeling of sacred expectation to the episode by hinting at John 20: 1.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

War strategies (5)

[16: 18]

Hor questo udendo, il Re più s'assecura,
Sì che non teme le nemiche posse.
Già riparate in parte havea le mura,
Che de' montoni l'impeto percosse;
Con tutto ciò, non rallentò la cura
Di ristorarle ove sian rotte o mosse.
Le turbe tutte, e cittadine e serve,
S'impiegan qui: l'opra continua ferve.

By learning this, the King feels much safer
And fears no longer the enemy forces.
He had partly repaired the city walls
That had been hit by the battering rams,
And now did not slow down the efforts
To restore them where broken or fallen.
All the people, both citizens and slaves,
Are employed: the work proceeds feverishly.

Monday, July 18, 2016

A newly discovered text of Tasso on angels

digital background by Selkis

A so far unpublished text, or possibly so, by Torquato Tasso can be found in this book that has just been published in Italy: Liber Angelorum, "The Book of Angels," edited by Dr. Grazia Cavasino. It transcribes/translates a mysterious manuscript discovered in 2010, that includes a set of miscellaneous texts mostly from the Middle Ages to the 17th century, about apparitions of angels and holistic worldviews.

Il "Liber Angelorum." Testo e contesto dell'inedito di Valambros, ed. Grazia Cavasino, YouCanPrint, 2016, pages 112 with illustrations, euros 12, can be ordered here or here.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The 7Days of CryAction 4: 278-327

Thus the Father gave
clear rules to Ra
[280] and made the Moon
with her argent halo
the numen of night.
In front of each other
were the two sky torches,
the sun rose right then
while Selene halved—
but if the sun sets
Selene shows her
fine face in the East.
[290] In different forms
she won’t wane at dawn
for in her full shape
in her perfect figure
crowned with candor
she’s the night sovereign
superior to the stars
the ersatz of Sun.
He is the day’s David
who just-married comes
[300] out outstandingly
with a cooler crown
fencing his forehead,
and truly titanically
crosses the sky, he
the lord of light.
Milder is the moon
but secret is its size
compared with constellations
or included in itself
[310] in a refined ring:
like a sea? like the sky?
How can it illuminate
the boundless balconies
of earth sea ’n’ sky?
A perfect circumference
to Ethiopians Indians
Hyperboreans it appears
by setting or rising
or high in the sky;
[320] its size gets not smaller
because of one’s site
on the world web
nor bigger because of
closeness (as usual).
And the sun always looks
at the same distance
from any inhabitant.

(to be continued on July 24)

Friday, July 15, 2016

War strategies (4)

[16: 17, Ismen speaks to the Emir]

Tu vincerai sedendo, e la fortuna
Non credo io che tentar molto convegna.
Ma se 'l tuo figlio altier, che posa alcuna
Non vole, e benché honesta ancor la sdegna,
S'accende, come suol, d'ira importuna,
Trova modo pur tu ch'a freno il tegna,
Ché molto non andrà che 'l cielo amico
A te pace darà, guerra al nemico -.

"You will win (*) remaining seated; I guess
That it would not be wise try our luck.
But if your proud son (**) -- who does not like
Any pause, however honorable --
Burns with inopportune wrath as usual, 
Please find a way to hold him at bay,
For a friendly Heaven (***) will soon give
Peace to you and war to our enemies."

(*) Thus in the manuscript, as already in Gerusalemme Liberata. In the final printed text of the Conquistata the verb will be changed into guerreggierai, "you will wage war," that however seems less effective.
(**) The powerful Muslim knight Argantes, who in the Conquistata -- unlike in the Liberata -- takes on the role of one of Emir Ducat's sons; the latter being a historical personage, while Argantes is merely fictional.
(***) Or, cielo may simply mean the sky, i.e. the weather; see stanza no. 14.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Once upon a time, there existed Tasso Tourism

Tasso hugs his sister Cornelia again
(it happened in Sorrento, 1577;
he introduced himself as a pilgrim,
and said that Torquato was dead
in order to test his sister's love);
picture by Alfred De Curzon

A dear friend, Elena (see her website), has recently been in one of the most famous tourist places in southern Italy, Procida Island in the Bay of Naples. There a museum called Casa di Graziella (Graziella's Home) even exists in honor of the novel Graziella by Alphonse De Lamartine, published in 1852. Well, Lamartine's pages reveal that places related to Tasso were among the goals of foreign travellers' Grand Tours in Italy. For example, the passage reported below reads:
Finally, after satisfying my hunger for Rome, I wanted to visit Naples: Virgil's grave and Tasso's "cradle" especially attracted me. In my eyes, landscapes are always embodied in human beings, so Naples was Virgil and Tasso. It seemed to me that they had been alive not later than yesterday, and that their very ashes were still warm. In my mind I already foretasted Posillipo and Sorrento, Mount Vesuvius and the Sea, through the atmospheres of their beautiful and tender genius.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

War strategies (3)

[16: 16]

Again Wizard Ismen speaking to King (Emir) Ducat. According to astrology -- or more simply, weather forecast -- a heavy drought will bring the Crusaders to their knees, but not so with the inhabitants of Jerusalem, because. . .

Né solo intorbidasti i chiari fonti
Ma da marmoree conche e lucide urne,
Con l'industria de' tuoi, che fûr sì pronti
Per molti mesi a l'opere diurne,
Sotto le valli e sotto i cavi monti
Per tenebrose vie, quasi notturne,
In due gran laghi l'acque hai qui condutte,
Di fuor lasciando l'altre parti asciutte.

"Not only did you poison the fresh springs [making them useless for the Crusaders], but, out of marble basins and water tables, thanks to the industriousness of your men who worked hard for many months, day by day, now under the valleys and the mountains through dark channels you gathered the waters in two great lakes, while the surface lands have been left dry."

This was an actual war strategy. But especially, we have here an example of the great interest of the Renaissance in hydraulics, see Leonardo Da Vinci.
On the other hand, important hydraulic systems had been realized in the Holy Land already in the first millennium BC. Many data about this can be found in the detailed German pilgrim's guide Im Land des Herrn (here), of which an Italian -- and later, English -- version is about to be published by Edizioni Terra Santa (here).
From the Middle Ages, Crusaders and pilgrims ascribed basically all majestic public works in the Holy Land to King Solomon, 10th century BC, but modern archeology provides a more complex picture.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 4: 196-277

See no inconsistency
in our Father’s fixing
light before the sun-lamp;
there was light without
[200] any sun and any stars.
As body serves soul
and chariot, charioteer,
the two globes were given
to light—and it flashed.
It flashes first of all
to immaculate intellects
in its Blakean birth
then to superficial senses
by driving day and night
[210] never tarrying or tired
along crooked curves.
Yes, pure light preceded
the sun-delimited days:
while He himself divided
its dazzle from darkness
He asked the sun to
note night and day.
He offers the objects
to our spirits; the sun then
[220] distinguishes them.
Administered to the moon
is His splendor too
so as to hew the hours.
We dare therefore
intellectually at least
separate sun and light
as in fire we find
both lighting and heat.
It already happened
[230] when Ruby received
its shine separately
from pyrogenous power
that remains in rest:
God is so great that
He can isolate either.
In the day of donating
eternal prizes and pains
He will unfix the fire:
light will lie together
[240] with the well-graced,
heat will go to hell.
Metamorphic Moon
shows and tells the same
with different dresses;
by losing light, she
doesn’t get disembodied
but puts on and off
her silver splendor
therefore her flesh
[250] is not her aura.
The same with the Sun
but his light lies still
as a gift from God.
The Moon’s mantle
is basically borrowed
and follows her phases.
So He told them how
to divide the days from
their neighbor nights
[260] abstaining from cocktails
friendship and feasts
of Light and Night united.
Day includes darkness;
analogously in the night
Nosferatu Nature
must subject shadows
to the shine of stars.
Westward shadows
at dawn, then eastward,
[270] minimal at midday,
bypassing the Bears.
Night yells and yields
to the photons’ fury,
it is simply a shadow
of the opaque orb
that soon at sunrise
flies and fades away.

(to be continued on July 17)

Friday, July 8, 2016

War strategies (2)

[16: 14, Ismen speaks to the King]

Soggiunge appresso: - Hor cosa aggiungo a queste
Fatte da me, ch'a me non meno aggrada:
Quando fia il Sol nel gran Leone celeste,
Vibrerà Marte seco ardente spada,
Né potran più temprar l'arsure infeste
Aure o nembi di pioggia o di rugiada;
Ma 'l Cane insieme uscito, horrida fiamma
Spargerà, che la terra e 'l cielo infiamma.

He then says, "I will add to these things
Made by me, a not less pleasant one:
When the Sun is in the heavenly Lion,
Mars will wield a fiery sword, nor will
The obnoxious heat be tempered 
By air, or by rainy or dewy clouds;
The Dog will just then spread frightful
Flames to burn both the earth and the sky."

The Italian verses reported above correspond to the final printed text in which Tasso, further reworking the manuscript, modified many minor details and completely changed the last two lines. The final version, rather than the manuscript as we usually do, has been chosen because its details are better finished.
Astrology, together with magic, was a 'great hit' in Renaissance culture. Astrology was officially condemned, even mocked at -- see the Catholic Catechism of the Council of Trent (published in 1566) -- but the Popes themselves resorted to it. Moreover, it was the most "ecumenical" subject across the whole Mediterranean civilizations as astrology books were written, read, and shared by both Christians and Muslims and Jews. Tasso well witnessed this ambivalence in judgment in his long poem Il Mondo Creato, that he wrote in the same years in which he was preparing Gerusalemme Conquistata.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

War strategies (1)

[16: 13]

Il mago, poi che homai nulla più manca,
Da quel notturno incanto al re se 'n riede.
-  Signor, lascia ogni dubbio e 'l cor rinfranca,
C'homai secura è questa eccelsa sede;
Né rinovar può gente ardita e Franca
L'alte machine sue, com'ella crede -.
Così gli dice, e poi di parte in parte
Narra i successi de la magica arte.

Now that all is fixed, the wizard goes back
To the king(*) after the nocturnal spell.
"My Lord, do away with doubts, cheer up!
This high seat(**) is now perfectly safe,
Nor can our enemy, however Frank, (***)
Build new siege devices as they think,"
He says, then explains to him in detail
The successful works of his wizardry.

(*) Emir Ducat, a historical personage.
(**) The king's stronghold in Jerusalem, more or less corresponding to the Antonia Fortress.
(***) The pun works, or fails to work, in both languages. As a matter of fact, not even in Italian does franco precisely mean "valiant." As a people's name, "Franks" was employed by Muslims as a synonym of Westerners, Crusaders in general; the term is used still nowadays by Palestinian Arabs.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 4: 146-195

Creator Trinity based on
the Hamilton Bible, 14th century

Summing it up. First Sky,
earth, and light: done.
Night and day: distinct.
The sky also existed
[150] named after “firm,”
the shell of universe.
Dryness, underwater
so far, was partly freed
from waves, and waters
were gathered together.
The planet was pregnant
with Flora full of
grass and fine flowers.
Green the quivering
[160] trees. And nevertheless
no Apollo no Artemis
no launcher of light
no transformer of things
produced by Pomona—
he whom a quid pro quo
of mortals misguided
by senses did sense
as God. But his good
opus was over in Day
[170] Three: Four follows.
Let there be,” He bid,
two lamps to illuminate
the soil by splitting
the duration of day
into light and night.”
He Worded and Worked.
He” who? Won’t you get
the mystical mystery of
two Hypostases? A history
[180] full of philosophy
revealed to holy writers
and now wrapped up
as in a covering cloud.
Won’t you get the great
utility of that utterance?
Now shine,” He said,
and illuminate Earth
and warm her wellness!”
And He forever had
[190] the sun’s rays sent
to the just and the unjust
as He benefits both
giving gifts and grace
even to evildoers
via sun and stars.

(to be continued on July 10)

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Cosmic poetry, Tasso to Teilhard

After Teilhard's short story The Painting (1916);
with a digital background by Selkis;
The Sacred Heart by Pompeo Batoni (1767);
book cover picture from Fra Angelico

The "Christian cosmic" poetical genre was launched in western literature by Torquato Tasso with his long poem Il Mondo Creato, that the regular readers of this blog may happen to have already heard of. Tasso's descriptions most probably inspired the "song" of creation in Milton's Paradise Lost, bk 7. Paradoxically, or maybe not, the genre did not experience a revival after the scientific revolution of the 19th century -- though hints at evolution already existed in Tasso himself, depending on his main source, the Sermons on Genesis by St. Basil the Great, who in his turn depended on Greek science/philosophy. Studying the past paved the way to the future. William Blake's cosmic myths in fact date back to few decades before the epoch of Charles Darwin (he made some illustrations for a book written by Darwin's grandfather, Erasmus).

In a sense, a fascinating poem singing the marvels of the "modern" universe can be considered E. A. Poe's book Eureka, or at least, Poe said that "it is as a poem only that I wish this work to be judged after I am dead." And in this sense, we could read as a Christian and inspired poem Fr. Pierre Teilhard De Chardin's descriptions of the cosmos. The book whose cover is shown above is an Italian version of the French anthology Himne de l'univers; it was first published in 1961, immediately before the Teilhard-mania broke out worldwide (after his death in 1955, since he had been prevented from publishing his theological essays by his superiors of the Jesuit Order). The anthology includes some 80 brief passages from Teilhard's main works, but is remarkable especially because of two literary texts of 1916 and 1919, in which he does not provide theories but powerful 'optical' experiences: The Christ in Matter, three short tales after the manner of R. H. Benson, and The Spiritual Power of Matter, a Jacob-like struggle of the author himself with a mysterious entity. Here are the first lines, though just a translation of a translation:
The Man, followed by a companion, was walking in the desert when the Thing assailed him.
From afar it had looked very small, crawling on the sand, not bigger than a palm of the hand of a baby; a yellow and elusive shadow. . .
The Thing seemed not to bother about the two wayfarers; it wandered whimsically across that wilderness. But suddenly making the direction of its movements clearer, it darted definitely towards them like an arrow.

Friday, July 1, 2016

In the dark, dark forest (11)

[16: 12]

Venieno innumerabili, infiniti
Spirti, parte che 'n aria alberga ed erra,
Parte di quei che son del fondo usciti
Caliginoso de l'opaca terra;
Lenti, e del gran divieto anco smarriti
Ch'impedì loro il trattar l'arme in guerra;
Ma qui venirne hor non si vieta e toglie,
E ne' tronchi albergar e tra le foglie.

And there came countless, endless spirits,
Partly those who dwell and roam in the air,
Partly among those who rise out of the
Dark bottom of the opaque earth --
Slowly, still puzzled by God's ban which
Prevented them from partaking in the war; (*)
But this place is not forbidden to them,
Nor to dwell in the trunks, among the leaves. (**)

(*) Recap: In the long GC section we had to skip, God authoritatively stopped all forays of the devils into the Crusaders' camp, commanding them not to mix up with the battles any more. Declaring the forest "extraterritorial" is a literary trick to let them re-enter the stage.
(**) This line was modified in the final printed version, probably to avoid a repetition of the verb albergare (to dwell) already used in line 2, so that the new text reads: "It is not forbidden to them to come to this place / Among the hard trunks and the sylvan leaves."