SiStan ChapLee

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 5: 1431-1501

She sets her transforming
body and laying limbs
in that bounteous bed,
in a false sepulcher she
customizes her cradle,
she soaks the nest and
herself with scents,
celebrates the exequies
and—now growing weak—
[1440] sings psalms to the sun
adoring and asking for
the fire that will finally
re-energize her.
Her scented soul she
entrusts to the tomb
believing without doubts.
Now vital thanatos
burns her body with
the help of Helios beams,
[1450] she is Agni and Agnus
promptly passing away
to rise as soon as possible.
The sparks are like stars
the phoenix fainter and fainter
Selene slows down
tired Nature sort of fears
the bird in that birth, though
marvelous, may be lost.
But soon the uncertain
[1460] boundary is broken,
having changed into ash
she gathers her grains
into a solida secret
force functioning as DNA.
Matter is animated
and becomes an oval
then regains its frame
and fragmenting the egg
there pops up the phoenix.
[1470] Gradually the chrysalid
is fledged with feathers
as becomes the butterflies
from anchored cocoons.
She needs no nourishment
from human hands but
drinks dews down from
gold stars and silver moon
like a crystalline rain.
Among a thousand odors
[1480] she drinks those dews
till due development;
but as a bird in bloom
she longs for her land.
The relics of her previous
burnt-out body she
anoints with holy oil
(incense, myrrh, balm)
rolling them into a ball
with her multi-use mouth
[1490] then claws her luggage
and hastens eastward.
An uncountable crowd
of birds flies beside her
or rather a true army as
conspicuous as a cloud;
not one of those fighters
would dare defy her,
they adore their queen;
not the hawk would, nor
[1500] the so-called carrier
of Jupiters thunderbolts.

(to be continued on May 7)

Friday, April 28, 2017

[GBM] Home sweet home

from the "DantEsq." set (see)

Cyprus is described as an Edenic island, a very typical subject in Renaissance literature: All animals live in peace with one another (see Isaiah 11), roses have no thorns, the season is forever Spring---though inconsistently, but for poetical reasons, Marino will afterward switch to Summer. Here Adonis meets Clizio, a young shepherd who will be his guide to Venus' palace, and whose role is "played" by a friend of Marino, Giovan Vincenzo Imperiali. Clizio "Homerically" asks Adonis about his name, his origin, and his adventures; then welcomes him to Cyprus, which happens to be Adonis' homeland, whence his mother Myrrha was chased after her sexual scandal. But as he and we will learn, Adonis is already destined to become the king of the island.

1.139. 7 - 140. 8

"Strange," he says, "almost beyond belief,
are your events, O gentle pilgrim.

But don't dislike to change your home
with this pleasant place: Take it easy
for, if you love hunting as you show,
you'll find wrathless, clawless beasts.     not all of them
I don't think Heaven has uselessly
saved you from such a deadly danger
or to no high purpose, traveling long,     king for one day, then killed
did your lost boat reach our coasts."

Thursday, April 27, 2017

[GBM] "The poet's purpose is Marvel"

The post title translates Giovan Battista Marino's famous manifesto statement "È del poeta il fin la meraviglia." Yep, a great admirer of Ovid -- "no one ever soared so high as him" -- Marino would probably have liked the character of Venom, which not only is metamorphic in itself, but has taken on all kinds of shapes in these last decades: the many variants of Spider-Man's costume, the different men who have been called Venom, Carnage, Anti-Venom, Peter Parker's girlfriends, the Scorpion, a Tyrannosaurus, etc. A true triumph of Venom metamorphoses can be enjoyed in the 2015 "Guardians of the Galaxy" story The Planet of the Symbiotes, text by Brian Michael Bendis, art by Valerio Schiti.* Here the critter appears, in order, as a Medieval cloak, as a sort of manta ray (picture above), as Groot ("I am Venom!"), as Rocket Raccoon, as Drax, even as a wise and benevolent alien entity (Klyntar) like those in the movie The Abyss, and finally as the new armor of Flash Thompson. And each time, fascinating.

From a Baroque viewpoint, Venom's effectiveness as a symbol lies in various of its features.
It is ever-changing like Reality.
It is something powerfully physical, with super-developed senses, and a great hunger.
It is a dangerous war machine, equipped with both natural and hi-tech resources.
And, it is beautiful in its horror. Like Reality.
Not by chance, two passages from Dante that are often implied or hinted at in Marino's poem Adone are Inferno 17 (Geryon) and 25 (where Dante expressly competes with Ovid). But the main shape-shifter, either in himslef or as a cause in others, is- - -Love, who shares all of Venom's features listed above. And one of Love's most frequent epithets in Adone is precisely "venom."

* Ora disponibile in Italia nel cartonato Guardiani della Galassia: Ritorno dall'oblio, Marvel / Panini Comics, 2017, euro 12

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Is it her or not? (1)

Gardone Riviera

In stanzas 41-43 of canto 17 of Gerusalemme Conquistata a 'mysterious' female character suddenly appears among the Muslim armies ready to march towards Jerusalem and defend it. To the readers of Gerusalemme Liberata (see 17: 33 ff), a very well known personage: the witch Armida, determined to avenge herself on the Christian knight Rinaldo who has 'dared' reject her love after having been kidnapped by her. Just, in the shift from the Liberata (year 1581) to the Conquistata (1593) many things have changed.

A brief summary is all the more needed as the Armida's Love Story section has been skipped in our posts because it belongs to the pages missing in the manuscript. The knight's name has meanwhile become Riccardo/Richard, that however is a minor detail. But especially, in Gerusalemme Conquistata Armida is immobilized 'forever' with a symbolic chain by the two Christian volunteers who go and rescue Richard, so. . .  who is this warrior queen popping up? A certain Queen of Daphne, we are told.

The definitive exclusion of Armida from Richard's life clearly corresponds to an ideological choice of the senescent Tasso, who, by this, means to show that Vice is defeated by Virtue. Wow, great. It is also true, however, that moralizing writers -- see Dante to C. S. Lewis -- are usually freer in their literary activity than their own theories should allow them. In this case, as we will see in the next posts, the justification of the warrior queen's partaking in the battle is quite forced. And the suspicion remains that she is Armida, in one -- not even the last -- of her amazing disguises.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 5: 1363-1430

website: here

Now that the solar aura
blazes and blows
she starts to sing a holy
song so as to attract
and accelerate light.
No chant from Cirrha
no Apollonian harmony
[1370] no Hermetic ragtime
no Beatles can beat her.
When Phoebus definitively
shines in the luminous sky
along his wonted orbit
she applauds him happily
with sequined wings
singing twenty-four/seven:
like a cuckoo clock she
tells the time, finally worships
[1380] the sun and falls silent—
among supernatural plants
and fascinating shades
the priestess who preserves
all secrets of philosophy
so bow before her O men.
After a thousand years
now growing very old
(she who could cross
hail and hurricanes)
[1390] to join rejuvenation
and shun sorry times
she leaves the leafy wood
and longing for Life
flies towards our West
where Death dominates.
She soars slowly towards
her fellow Phoenicia
with an analogous name
where in the wilderness
[1400] she looks for a loft
and hides in the woods.
She then detects a date
palm (scientifically: Phoenix,
again the same name)
resistant to the teeth of
any scaly snake or hawk
or all sorts of behemoths
while in their wineskins
the winds keep quiet
[1410] in order not to disturb
that magic atmosphere
and no whirl envelops
the air preventing her
from seeing the sun.
Here she makes her home
or better still her tomb
where to regenerate
and recreate herself.
She gets organic
[1420] juices and spices
the industry of Indians
the products of Pygmies
and the best goods given
by prosperous Sheba:
costly cardamom
beauty-farm balsam
cassia and acanthus
mystical incense
tender nard and
[1430] mythical myrrh.

(to be contined on Apr. 30)

Friday, April 21, 2017

[GBM] Welcome to Cyprus

No sooner said than done: Neptune causes a---Baroque, Shakespearean, but here uselessly terrifying---tempest that pushes Adonis' boat all the way up to the coasts of the island of Cyprus, where he is to meet Venus. The island epitomizes a core concept of the whole poem: heaven on earth, or more than that, earth better than heaven.


This is the land that the goddess     Venus
miraculously born of the waves     M.'s topic of amazing births, e.g. Christ
once liked and loved so strongly
as to despise her divine home and
enjoy here, among shades and waters,
a better heaven, to the other's envy;
after the immortal model of her divine
shape, they made altar and temple.     we will see them

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Ummah (8)

The military parade near Gaza ends with another of the main heroes in the Muslim army. We had already heard about him, but here his story is told us, and is a quite peculiar one.

[GC 17: 40]

Ma duce è un fero armeno, il qual traggitto
Al paganesmo ne l'età novella
Fe' da la vera fede; et ove ditto
Fu già Clemente, hora Emiren s'appella.
Per altro, huom fido e caro al Re d'Eggitto
Sovra quanti per lui calcâr la sella;
È duce insieme e cavalier sovrano
Per cor, per senno e per robusta mano.

The leader is a fierce Armenian, who 
In his young age shifted to paganism
From true faith; whereas he used to
Be called Clement, now is Emiren. (*)
Loyal however and dear to Egypt's King
Above all the men who ride for him;
He is the leader and the supreme knight
By courage, and wisdom, and strength.

(*) Conversions from Christianity to Islam, and the other way round, were not well accepted at all, not even by the followers of the target religion -- some mean reason was usually supposed to be the cause of the faith change. But Emiren is so valiant that Tasso, in the last two lines, even gives him the same features as Godfrey of Bouillon (see both GL 1: 1 and GC 1: 1).
Emiren's former Christian name was changed into "Severo" in the final printed version of Gerusalemme Conquistata, maybe because Clement (VIII) was the name of the Pope elected in 1592, precisely while Tasso was polishing the poem. The reference might have sounded ironic, though involuntarily so.
There also is a little joke. Severo means "stern, inflexible": Tasso simply replaced the former name, "clement," with its opposite.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter

"O world of wonders! (I can say no less)
That I should be preserved in that distress
That I have met with here! O blessed be
That hand that from it hath delivered me!
Dangers in darkness, devils, hell, and sin,
Did compass me, while I this vale was in:
Yea, snares and pits, and traps, and nets, did lie
My path about, that worthless, silly I
Might have been catched, entangled, and cast down;
But since I live, let Jesus wear the crown."

___John Bunyan

Friday, April 14, 2017

[GBM] Neptune as a believer, not only a god

Galleria Sabauda, Torino

Neptune willingly accepts to help Love in the Adonis Affair, all the more so as he learns that Adonis' and Venus' beautiful daughter, Beroe, is destined one day to become one of his wives in his crowded harem. The sea god then exalts the cosmic power of Love: a pre-Christian philosophical and religious attitude that became fashionable again in the Renaissance after the rediscovery of Lucretius' Latin poem De Rerum Natura. Marino's phrasing, anyway, also recalls lines from Dante and the Christian hymns to the Holy Spirit.


"You, supreme power in the sky circles,
the dispenser of joys and pleasures,
the emperor of noble desires     not always noble
and enlightener of dark thoughts,
sweet rest from tears and sighs,    or often, their cause
sweet link of the hearts and wills,
from whom Nature draws its order,     Ṛta (Sanskrit)
O god of marvels---what can't you do?"

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Ummah (7)

[17: 36]

Ecco poi, fin da gli Indi e da l'albergo
De l'Aurora venuto, Adrasto il fiero,
Che di serpente indosso ha per usbergo
Il cuoio verde e maculato a nero;
E smisurato a un elefante il tergo
Preme così come si suol destriero.
Gente guida costui di qua dal Gange,
Che si lava nel mar che l'Indo frange.

And lo, coming from India and the home
Of Aurora (dawn), the fierce Adrast, who
Wears as an armor the green leather,
Decorated with black spots, of a dragon;
Of an enormous elephant he presses
The back -- instead of a horse as usual.
People he leads here from the Ganges,
That flows into the same sea as Indus does.

Missing in Gerusalemme Liberata, Adrast is the most picturesque villain in Gerusalemme Conquistata. But the description of his war actions will draw on a much less exotic source: Virgil's Aeneid. The detail of his armour in serpent/dragon skin comes from Ariosto's Rodomont.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 5: 1298-1362

A place in the perfumed
and ever-sunny Orient is
[1300] categorically the gate
of day-porter Apollo; not
by the suns summer rising
nor where it first appears
dim in mid-winter but in
the direction of dawn
after equinoctial nights.
With far-stretching fields
a flat tableland rises
with no slopes or drops
[1310] but whose forehead
is set twelve times
higher than Himalaya.
There a dark forest
consecrated to the Sun
has evergreen leaves,
embraced by the Ocean;
when the fire scarred
the sky cause of Phaëton
this forest was safe
[1320] and after the Flood
it remained emersed.
Here Disease doesn’t come
nor does Age or Death
nor gruesome Greed
nor Sin or fierce Ares
or maniacal Murder,
far are Fears and Pain
and Poverty in rags
and troubled Thoughts
[1330] and thorny Concerns.
Here Storm doesn’t show
her mad mutant power
nor do darkened clouds
frighten the fields,
no raging rain falls.
Murmuring in the middle
a crystal clear spring lives
rich with sweet waters
which opportunely overflow
[1340] once a month.
Here the lofty trunk
of a leafy tree is laden
with un-fallable fruits.
In the wood there dwells
the phenomenal phoenix
who doesn’t die forever
anatomically angelical
the sister of stars
the victress of Time.
[1350] As the Sun’s ancilla
she has a natural duty:
when the reddish dawn
starts to ascend the sky
forcing the stars to fade
she washes seven times
her frame in the stream
and seven times sips;
then flies to the highest
branch and Buddha-like
[1360] watches the wood
till turning eastward she
waits for the sun’s rays. 

(to be continued on Apr. 23, after Easter)

Friday, April 7, 2017

[GBM] Sea girls just want to have fun

The description of the water nymphs in Neptune's palace reworks Ovid, Metamorphoses 2.8-14: "Caeruleos habet unda deos, Tritona canorum / Proteaque ambiguum ballaenarumque prementem / Aegaeona suis inmania terga lacertis / Doridaque et natas, quarum pars nare videtur, / pars in mole sedens viridis siccare capillos, / pisce vehi quaedam: facies non omnibus una, / non diversa tamen, qualem decet esse sororum."


Beautiful all, yes, but all different,
some with cerulean hair, some green,
some have it gathered up, some loose,
and some plait it with sea weeds;
with transparent, sparkling cloaks
they veil pure and crystalline limbs;
similar-looking, nimble and graceful,
prove the daughters of one father.     Neptune (a playboy)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Diachronic Messenger

Norman Messenger's 2012 book The Land of Neverbelieve has just now been shipped to Italy (as Il Paese che Non c'è). A delightful and educational publication, it summarizes basically all of the Western traditions about fantastic places and creatures, from Medieval Bestiaries to James Cameron's movie Avatar possibly via Luigi Serafini's cult book, the Codex Seraphinianus. The cross point of such traditions has been the Renaissance, which could -- in both senses -- "draw" at the same time on Medieval lore, rediscovered classical myths, and actual discoveries of unexpected lands, tangible this time, that marked the beginning of modern mentality.

N. Messenger plays with the many registers of the sources, from time to time by reworking Medieval imagery, or inventing funny mixes of animals and utensils, or the other way round, imagining species that could more or less exist under certain evolutionary conditions. A pro of being a Briton (cfr. J. K. Rowling) is that he does not create a mushy "paradise for children" full of exclusively nice and harmless things. A subtle feeling of anxiety adds to the true Renaissance flavor of the book.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Ummah (6)

[GC 17: 34]

Né te, Altamoro, entro al pudico letto
Potuto ha ritener la sposa amata:
Pianse, e percosse il biondo crine e 'l petto
Per distornar la tua fatale andata.
- Dunque (dicea), crudel, più che 'l mio aspetto
Del mar l'horrida faccia a te fia grata?
Fian l'arme al braccio tuo più caro peso
Che 'l dolce figlio a' dolci scherzi inteso? -

Nor you, Altamoor, (*) in your chaste (**) bed
Could be detained by your beloved spouse:
She wept, and hit her blond hair and breast
To prevent your fate-ordained journey. (***)
"So," she said, "cruel man, more than my face
Will you like the sea's frightening face?
Will weapons be a dearer weight to your arms
Than your sweet child with his sweet games?" (****)

(*) The wise and valiant King of Samarkand (in current Uzbekistan. Nowadays, the old, 'legendary' city of Samarkand has become 'fashionable' again since it is included in China's project for a New Silk Road.) A fictional character, Altamoor will not die in the Crusade.
(**) In the ancient sense of the word, i.e. a faithful marriage, without betrayals.
(***) From Dante, Inferno 5: 22.
(****) The Muslim hero Argantes will have to face the same dilemma later on in Gerusalemme Conquistata -- not so in the Liberata. Both episodes, as well as that of Mandricardo in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, are inspired by Homer's Hector. It is not clear, however, why Altamoor should reach the Holy Land, from central Asia, by sea.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 5: 1244-1297

by Nivalis70 (website)

We are also awakened
and called to diakrisis
against the foul fiend
by those geese that justly
saved Roma Regina
announcing the ambush
[1250] of brute barbarians
who in bedtime climbed
its illustrious hill where
the powerful Rock stood
and Jupiter’s temple.
Not to speak of swans
who sing most sweetly
the day before death
letting our spirits hope
in the halls of heaven;
[1260] or Eastern silkworms
with wings and feelers
supreme shape-shifters.
My lovely Ladies, you
weave and re-weave with
myrtles and mythology
fabulous fabrics by
means of import threads
to beautify your bodies
with delightful dresses.
[1270] Oh please consider
the words you often heard,
that we will rise again
in an immortal mantle
and all woven with gold
you will be Sun-shine
in heaven, embellished
not with pearls or purple.
Now I’ll sing solely
about you, the outstanding
[1280] born-again bird.
I’ll put a worshiped pyre
of verse to convey
your voice everywhere
sweeping splendidly
thru this serene sky
far away from Arabia.
Among the bird bands
when they first flew
engineered by God, He
[1290] formed the phoenix too
if folklore is reliable.
In her vicissitudes
unique, dead, then risen
God the Father finxit
his semper vivens Son
who would be born again
as was written in eternity.

(to be continued on Apr. 9)

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Oscar Wilde translates G. B. Marino

G. B. Marino as Dorian Gray

The aversion of many, then the official charges against Giovan Battista Marino and Oscar Wilde were due, though with different weights and consequences, to the same reasons: arrogance, aestheticism, homosexuality, obscenity, the mixing of Christianity and paganism.

And interestingly enough, when both authors 'pretended' to justify the message of their main works according to standard morals, they basically used the same words. Marino wrote: "Smoderato piacer termina in doglia" (Adone 1.10, line 8). Wilde seems to have been translating it literally with reference to The Picture of Dorian Gray: "All excess. . . brings its own punishment" (The Complete Letters of O. W., New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2000, p. 430). Just, he more perfidiously points out: "All excess, as well as all renunciation. . ."