SiStan ChapLee

Friday, February 3, 2017

[GBM] The power of Love

Max Ernst, The Blessed Virgin
Chastising the Infant Jesus

The plot of Marino's Adonis starts with Juno 'classically' furious because of the nth high jinks of Jove. This time, she charges Love (Cupid) with it before his mother, Venus, who in her turn reacts by spanking her son. Throughout the whole poem the personality of Love will oscillate between a bad boy and the all-powerful cosmic energy.


"Alas, how come," the Cypriot goddess said,
"I can never have one hour of peace with you?
Is any cerastes more vicious and spiteful
than you bred by the Nile's desert sands?
What insane Fury, what bloodstained Harpy
is as much rabid in the caves of Styx?
Whence the venom by which you infect
all hearts? Speak, serpent of Paradise!"

The last insult clearly refers to Genesis. It would be misguiding to simply label it an "anachronism." As it had already been remarked in the previous GBM post, the mix of pagan sources and Christian theology / spirituality is in fact a major feature of the poem, although the latter aspect is often less apparent. The reflection on the meaning of this fusion -- that proved quite scandalous at that time -- will constantly accompany us in the reading of Adonis. In this case, the ambivalence of Love is further stressed as the source of all joy and all evils in human life. Marino, besides, implies that the story he is telling us is no fairy tale, no pastime, but the grand, sacred history of humankind, whose deep dynamics have been conveyed by the different literatures.

Precisely one century before, about the 1520s, Ludovico Ariosto too did love to entwine classical and Christian elements; but in the 17th century this was no longer an 'innocent play,' all the more so as Marino even outclassed Ariosto.