SiStan ChapLee

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The 16th-17th century War of the Worlds

In a very short story that belongs to science fiction, mixed with Old West, fantasy, and horror, H. G. Wells masterfully succeeds in conveying some of the darkest sides of Renaissance and Baroque society.

First published in 1903, Wells' short story The Valley of Spiders has no exact time period indicated, but is apparently set in the 16th or 17th century: the three male protagonists are in fact armed with swords, and their hypocritical leader keeps a little reliquary hanging about his neck. Conquistadores? The place is a sort of magic valley in the middle of nowhere, with a quite general flora and fauna: thorn bushes, wild dogs, wild boars. . .  but it should be about America since the escaping "prey" they follow is a "half-caste girl" (literal quotations). The leader means to reach and rape her for the simple sake of it, even if he has "whole cityfuls of people to do his basest bidding--girls, women." A parallel might be made with Don Rodrigo and Lucia in Alessandro Manzoni's 19th century novel I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed), set in 1628-30 in Italy, then mostly ruled by corrupt Spaniards. It is, too, the same period in which G. B. Marino's long poem Adone was published (1623), and the descriptions match perfectly.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Is it her or not? (6)

[GC 17: 52]

Così disse ella; e 'l Re con lieto cenno:
- Nobile donna, al tuo valor concedo,
A tua tua fede et al tuo grave senno
Dafne, che sol per te sicura io credo.
E maggior doni a tua virtù si denno,
Se fia cacciato d'Asia il fier Goffredo;
E parte non oblìo l'opre leggiadre
Del tuo marito e del tuo saggio padre -.

So spoke her. And the King, nodding pleased:
"Noble Lady, I here grant to your valor,
To your loyalty, your judgment, Daphne,
Which I deem safe in your hands only.
Greater gifts will be given your power
If the fierce Godfrey is thrown out of Asia;
Nor do I forget the wonderful deeds
Of your husband and of your wise father."

The Sultan of Egypt lavishly grants her the land that she already possesses. (In the final printed text, again, "Daphne" was replaced with Seleucia.) Anyway, Godfrey of Bouillon will not be chased away from the Holy Land, least of all by her.
The last line seems to indicate that the Queen of Daphne is actually not Armida; but it may be interpreted humorously. Armida's father, in Gerusalemme Conquistata, was a man who had been seduced by a mermaid.
In Gerusalemme Liberata (17: 44 ff) the dialog was completely different. The sexy witch Armida accused the knight Rinaldo of having freed the Christian hostages and destroyed her own army -- just skating over her previous love story with him -- and promised "the top reward I can give" to the Muslim warrior who would behead him. The response of the male listeners can be easily imagined.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 6: 76-147

Dagon, after Lovecraft

After unfolding the sky
and leveling the lands
and fixing the firmament
that divided the waters;
[80] after the unification
of the liquid element
labeling soil and sea
and the putting of plants
God improved his plan
by decorating day and
darkness with lamps
and strewing with stars
in different figures
the universe, whose
[90] motions are marvelous.
Into the water wombs
fish were inseminated
flyers into the atmosphere
then the Creator decreed
an ever-fulfilled law,
Let all living souls
emerge from the earth
some standing on all fours
some snaking prone
[100] and let all proliferate
in whatever environment
with their respective societies.”
So God created big cats
and woolly big horns
and the lower reptilians
that snake in circles. Does
this imply Anima mundi?
Was Earth an expectant
mother in a delivery room?
[110] Did Gnosticism guess
right in its proud lies
and the philosophers who
gave Mundus a mind?
A spirit—they say—soaks
heaven and earth and
the sphere of the sun
Luna and constellations
and oxygen and sea
feeding them as their
[120] mega-metabolism.
Those who dared endow
the soil with a soul
and made Gaia a god
or a sentient zoo
misunderstood Moses
twisting his Torah.
Dryness was soulless
but its Manager gave it
the power of production.
[130] “Let grass germinate
and trees furnish fruits”
not because vegetables
were all ready already!
No oak cypress or palm
as hidden underground
sprouted all of a sudden:
Of past and present things
Logos is life and physis.
So “germinate” genuinely
[140] meant in God’s mind:
Let the earth receive
what it currently lacks”
but will presently possess.
Living souls” supposes
no pre-existent psyche
but a capacity coming
from the Forger’s word.

(to be continued on June 4)

Friday, May 26, 2017

[GBM] Love's spa

From Gustave Dore's illustrations
for Orlando Furioso

After resting his first night in Cyprus, Adonis reaches the royal palace of Venus (that is not the same as her temple in the island) and/or palace of Love, a most exclusive spa. The fact that it outshines the Sun's is a jibe against Apollo, the main antagonist of the goddess of love in the poem, especially after the Homeric episode of Vulcan's net. As for Venus' palace, it would be difficult to describe its shape: in fact, it will vary in the different sections of the poem, probably because Marino worked out different patterns in different times. Here in canto 2 it looks like a square castle with four towers in its corners, plus a spherical building in its middle. There are four gardens within the walls, and a garden inside the sphere. The towers and the sphere symbolize the five senses, the main sense being Touch.


Even if, as usual, there appears shut
the main entrance of the residence,
the powerful outward light of that
superb building does dazzle Adonis.
The Sun's most famous royal palace
as compared to its shiny splendor
would look mean and dark; the young man's     Adonis'
bosom is filled with endless amazement.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Is it her or not? (5)

We will momentarily skip some stanzas in order to keep following the ones dealing with Armida and/or the Queen of Daphne. During the official banquet of the Sultan of Egypt with the Muslim leaders, the Lady "in whom valor and chastity reign" (17: 50) talks to him, and says. . .

[GC 17: 51]

- Gran Re, morto il mio sposo, anch'io ne vegno
Per la fede, et ardisco a voi mostrarme.
Donna son io, ma real Donna: indegno
Già di reina il guerreggiar non parme.
Se per arte real si merta il regno
E dansi ad una man lo scettro e l'arme,
Saprà la mia, se torpe il ferro o langue,
Ferire e trar da le ferite il sangue -.

"Great King, my spouse is dead, (*) and here I come
For our faith, daring to appear before you all.
A woman I am, but a royal Lady: (**) unworthy
Of a queen it does not seem to wage war.
If a kingdom is deserved by royal skills,
And scepter and weapons are given the hand,
My hand -- if (***) the sword proved lazy or weak --
Can wound, and draw blood out of the wounds."

(*) This detail was not mentioned in the parallel text in Gerusalemme Liberata 17: 43. Does she hint at her broken love story with Richard?
(**) She uses the same word, donna, in two senses: "woman," like in current Italian, and "lady" like in Medieval Italian, from Latin domina, see e.g. Dante. "Woman" was then expressed with femmina, from Latin foemina, see "female." N.B. When Tasso wrote both the Liberata and the Conquistata, it was the epoch of Queen Elizabeth I, quite fiercely hated in continental, Catholic Europe.
(***) She is ready to kill her enemies with her nails. But the word here was (not se) in GL, and with other differences, so that the whole sentence read: "My hand, that is not lazy or weak with a sword, . . ." In spite of the Queen's bold resolution, however, we won't see her in action during the battle, while Armida actually fought against Rinaldo in GL.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 6: 1-75

Songday 6

Where renowned Olympus
the hotel ton theon
above vapors and winds
raises its serene head
and Alpheus in its waves
carried glorious dust
of boxers bathing,
Pisa proposed prizes
for its Games, gathering
[10] wrestlers and racers
steeds and charioteers who
with overheated wheels
turned around the metae
as the followers of fame;
and the supreme poets
partook in the contest
with sweetest songs
making audiences say
that they proved peerless.
[20] The first days often
passed without a winner,
only in the last session
over the top of toils
when shame menaced
a just judgment gave
the bard his due reward
and his name became
a mass media mania.
Similarly in this sort
[30] of Wisdom Quiz Show
where sitting supreme
is the Vicar of Christ
promoter of Mercy,
a much more demanding
attempt awaits me
in this definitive Day
when possibly a prize
will relieve my labors,
penalties to opponents.
[40] A game not equivalent
to wrestling in a ring
or singing in San Remo
is my desperate try
insofar as the hazard is
not despise but death.
Therefore friends! please
hand me your help,
enter together with me
this limitless theater
[50] of creation: reflecting
on the art of Adonai
let us lift our minds
towards his Jerusalem
and its superior prizes.
No laurel garland
I want, that would swiftly
lose its green and glory,
nor of pale olive leaves
(a specimen from Germany
[60] Hercules exported);
I long for health and peace
on earth and in heaven.
Meanwhile this crown
is set before your eyes
and will hopefully honor
your deeds. Please learn
fruitfully O friends
about exotic ethology
predators and herds
[70] and Man the Maker’s
last-born made with humus
but to become a king
even deathless unless
Sin convinced him to get
both exile and loss.

(to be continued on May 28)

Friday, May 19, 2017

[GBM] The Gold Race

Atalanta and Hippomenes by Guido [Reni]

Canto 2 of Adone opens with a Renaissance "favorite quote": the myth of Hercules at the crossroads, i.e. the choice between the easy path of Vice and the hard path of Virtue. (It also surfaces in the Gospels, see Matthew 7.13-14.) Marino, with his genius, mixes this subject with the myth of Atalanta, the beautiful sprinter who would marry exclusively the man who could run faster than her. Hippomenes, following a suggestion from Venus, drops three golden apples during the race, and they attract Atalanta's attention so as to make her slow down. But in Marino's words other fundamental stories are hinted at, especially the judgment of Paris and the original sin (Genesis 3.6), that include in themselves the whole of human history and predicament.


In the mortals' race, as a new Atalanta
this very naive pilgrim, the soul,
runs fast, and with nimble feet
rushes towards the great journey's end.
But often, its course is diverted by
the flattering senses, which attract it
with the pleasant, joyful object
of this golden apple called the World.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Is it her or not? (4)

In Gerusalemme Conquistata, in the description of the "Queen of Daphne," or "Lady of Seleucia," Tasso adds a stanza that did not appear in the parallel episode of Armida in Gerusalemme Liberata. In fact, it is about a simile between the lady and the mythical phoenix: a subject that Tasso developed in the same time period (1592-3) as he was polishing the Conquistata, i.e. in his long poem Il Mondo Creato. There, the whole final section of canto 5 is devoted to the phoenix. In this very blog, a free translation of that section has just been posted on Sundays in the column The 7 Days of CryAction (link).
So, if the so-called Queen of Daphne recalls the bird that "dies and then is born again," it possibly provides a clue to let us state that she is the resurgent Armida.

[GC 17: 43]

In tal guisa il rinato unico augello
I neri ethiopi a visitar s'invia,
Vario e vago la piuma, e ricco e bello
Di monil, di corona aurea natia,
Sacrando al Sol nel suo felice hostello
La ricca tomba ove s'infiamma e cria.
S'allegra il mondo, e va dietro e da' lati,
Maravigliando, essercito d'alati.

Likewise the born-again, unique bird
Goes and visits the black Ethiopians -- (*)
Varied in its feathers, rich and beautiful
With native jewels and golden crown --
Consecrating to the Sun, in that happy place,
Its rich grave, where it burns and rises. (**)
The world rejoices; behind and beside,
An army of birds in amazement flies.

(*) In a very general sense, as usual in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, the term meant all the inhabitants of the interior of Africa, towards the (then undiscovered) springs of the Nile. See e.g. Dante, Inferno 34: 45. Basically, therefore, "black Ethiopians" is a tautology.
(**) Literally, "it burns itself, and [re-]creates itself."

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 5: 1561-1626

text from The Island of Doctor Moreau;
in the background, Gabriele D'Annunzio's mausoleum

O the happy parent
and heir of herself
both feeder and fed
undistinguished by sex
nor murdered by time!
Venus doesn’t destroy
nor softens you, Thanatos
you love more than Eros
as you rise as the same
[1570] and different, forever.
Chronos meanwhile modified
all streams and ranges
but you remain unmoved
with the selfsame face.
In the turnings of time
listed by billions
so many worthy things
you only saw, and live.
But your main meaning
[1580] as a precious painting
is to signify the Son
true God from true God.
Nature resorts to you
to show the unsteady
that they will surely rise
again from their graves;
though faith is confirmed
by a much higher light
it honors you nonetheless
[1590] before our Forger,
Sun of the physical sun.
Both yielding elements
stirred by winds or waves
with inhabitants existed—
if birds belong to the air
rather than the earth that
gives them food, flight.
The Almighty admired
his creatures: They had
[1600] his goodness engraved
a theological trademark,
He blessed the baby boom,
Let a prolific offspring
wad all waters
and colonize countries
and stuff the sky!”
This clear command
started up the ecosystem;
Ages replaced Ages
[1610] millions of months passed
from the bio-beginning
to the Latter (our?) Day
and no successful phylum
because of floods or fires
or disastrous diseases
or its own instinct or Man’s
traps and slaughters
underwent extinction,
they mate and multiply.
[1620] So viable is the voice
of their guardian God
so that fulfillment may fit
this all-embracing Earth
who welcomes everyone.
Done! Dawn to sunset
He finished the fifth day.

(to be continued on May 21)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Brave new words -- and pictures

Ariel and Caliban

A worthy Italian publisher, orecchio acerbo ("a still very young ear"), just made available a children's version of Shakespeare's play The Tempest based on the 1807 book Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Ann Lamb. Finely translated by Attilio and Maria Grazia Carapezza. Mary Lamb, who adapted The Tempest among other works, had a culturally rich while very hard life (see), including contacts with S. T. Coleridge, and a deep family stress that finally led her to murder her own mother and be interned in an asylum for some periods. Her literary efforts proved successful, but were usually ascribed to her brother until recent times. This Italian edition is also remarkable because of the pictures made by one of the top illustrators of the moment, Fabian Negrin. The pictures are very big, to be unfolded on four pages, and show some key-episodes of the play immersing them in atmospheres that are, at the same time, magic and realistic. Surely not Elizabethan is the choice to portray Miranda naked.

Friday, May 12, 2017

[GBM] Intelligent weapon

After having exalted the innocence of his life in contact with Nature, Clizio offers Adonis a fruit that, although not signaled as forbidden, will prove poisonous. More than that: it could be termed an "intelligent weapon" acting in due time. The fruit is love, that, as Marino will often repeat, is metaphorically a "sweet venom"; but in the case of Adonis, it will actually cause his death in the long run---not very long, indeed. In a little while, in 2.38, Adonis himself will eat and pluck an apple from a very special tree, with a still clearer hint at the story of Eden. [The 40,000-line poem is an aggregate of many works of Marino, with a juxtaposition of different layers, so there occur repetitions, as well as inconsistencies, etc.] Some remarks by CS Lewis in his Preface to Paradise Lost come back to the mind, when he states that Eve by giving Adam the apple after eating it herself, and knowing about its lethal effects, is casually planning a murder.


In the Garden of Pleasure the loving Clizio     paradisus deliciarum in the Latin Bible
picked the fruits and squeezed the wine.
So the youth, inebriated, got subtle     Adonis
flames in his bosom, that ignited him---
but he did not know them, did not suffer:
they in fact lay suppressed until due time     soppresse in the Italian text
like a snake hidden in a frozen soil,
which will not act before warming up.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Is it her or not? (3)

[GC 17: 42]

Somiglia il carro a quel che porta il giorno,
Lucido di piropi e di giacinti;
E frena il dotto auriga al giogo adorno
Quattro unicorni a coppia a coppia avinti.
Cento donzelle e cento paggi intorno
Pur di faretra gli homeri van cinti,
Et a negri destrier premono il dorso
Che sono al giro pronti e lievi al corso.

Her chariot recalls the sun-carrying one,
Shining with pyropes and hyacinths; (*)
Her skilled charioteer bridles, two by two,
Four unicorns tied to an adorned yoke.
A hundred damsels and a hundred pages
Encircle her, a quiver on their shoulders,
While pressing the back of black (**) steeds
Easy to rotate, light in running.

(*) "Classical" precious stones.
(**) They were white in Gerusalemme Liberata 17: 34, but all the other details in the description have remained the same.

Monday, May 8, 2017

[GBM] Adonis Affair: Instigator Caught

In canto 12 of G. B. Marino's Adone we will meet Jealousy: the witch, goddess, monster, or whatever, who, incapable to accept Venus' happiness with Adonis, goes and reports their love affair to Mars. As mythology has it, Mars will plan Adonis' murder making it look like an accident. Meanwhile here's the instigator's identikit from an archaic statuette of questionable authenticity.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 5: 1502-1560

see gallery

Like barbarian armies
reviewed by a Parthian
king with gems and gold
proud and crowned,
his purple cloak adorned
with Syrian pearls,
with golden reins guiding
his frothing horse
[1510] across Assyrian cities
his exceptional empire
so, an astonishing sight,
the born-again bird flies
with a royal bearing.
Her color recalls
the poppy as it opens
its deep red petals
like a veil covering
her breast and back,
[1520] her fan fakes
gold painted with purple,
her feathers fashion
a rainbow between
the clouds including
emerald and ermine
and sky blue and so on;
her eyes are hyacinths
flashing with flames,
carbuncle is her beak,
[1530] her radiate crown
is like Miss Liberty’s
her legs are scaly, her
talons rosy, her shape
copies the peacock and
the Phasis peasant.
Her size is such that no
Arabian animal is bigger
though not slow at all
but fast and featuring
[1540] her mighty majesty.
In times gone in Egypt
a city was sacred to Ra,
where a celebrated temple
had a hundred pillars
quarried from Karnak;
here the bird discharges
her luggage on an altar
delivering her load
to the flames and seven
[1550] times adores Ammon.
The seed burns, smoke
waves sweet-smelling
and flies to the fields
of Pelusium perfuming
Ethiopia up to India.
Puzzled by the spectacle
Egypt greets its visitor
and eternizes her by
modeling her in marble
[1560] engraving her name.

(to be continued on May 14)

Friday, May 5, 2017

[GBM] Los ricos también lloran

The Imperiale Family

As mentioned in the previous post, Clizio is the alter ego of an aristocrat from Genoa, Giovanni Vincenzo Imperiale or Imperiali (1582-1648), now quite unknown but then universally praised as a master of Baroque poetry as well as an important politician and great art collector. Clizio tells Adonis his own story, partly based on Imperiale's. As it was quite usual among urban intellectuals, he blames the Court with its intrigues and exalts the so-called "simple values of country life." Such people obviously would never leave their rich, refined habitat, but it was not all about rhetorical commonplace: Imperiale actually experienced social troubles, so did Marino; the same had already happened to Ludovico Ariosto and Torquato Tasso, and many others. Court life was tough, even dangerous.


"Oh, much more gladly here do I listen
to the whispering of waters and leaves
rather than those noisy, silly halls
whirling with hoarse and vulgar yells!     see Dante, Inferno 3.22 ff, esp. 28
A herb, a fruit, a one-faced Fortune
hide much more quiet in themselves
than the hard-earned bread dispensed by
a mean prince in ill-seasoned dishes."

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Is it her or not? (2)

[GC 17: 41]

Nïun più rimanea, quando improvisa
La Reina di Dafne apparve altera:
Venìa sublime in un gran carro assisa,
Succinta in gonna e faretrata arciera,
E di guerrieri armati in altra guisa
D'acciaio lucente havea fedele schiera,
Che di Bitri e d'Accone e di Berrea,
Di Dafne e d'Epifania addotti havea.

No one (*) was lacking, when suddenly
The lofty Queen of Daphne (**) appeared:
She came sitting high in a great chariot,
A scantily clothed archer with her quiver.
Of warriors armed in different ways,
In shining steel, she had a loyal crowd,
Whom from Bitri (***) and Accon and Berrea
And Daphne and Epiphania (****) she had led.

(*) in the military parade
(**) According to the manuscript, but it was changed into "the Lady of Seleucia" in the final printed text. The queen's features recall the goddess Artemis. And especially, in Greek mythology, Daphne was the name of a woman who was metamorphosed into a tree, that might provide a link between the 'established' Armida and her last appearance, later on.
(***) Not found. Accon is the same as Ptolemais, Berrea Aleppo.
(****) A group of places in an area included in the territories of current Turkey and Syria. The city of Daphne was near Antioch. In the final version of the poem, "Daphne and Epiphania" were replaced by "Palmyra and Apamea," the archaeological sites in Syria, alas.
In the parallel section in Gerusalemme Liberata 17: 34, Armida -- who lived in an island in the Atlantic Ocean -- led a fantasy army. But in Gerusalemme Conquistata Armida's headquarters is in current Lebanon, therefore in this very neighborhood in the Middle East.