SiStan ChapLee

Friday, June 30, 2017

[GBM] Speechless

S. Dalí, Three Sphinxes of Bikini

The Judgment of Paris in G. B. Marino's version: The three goddesses, led by Mercury, appear before Paris. Marino summarizes here some of the main features of his poetry and worldview: beauty that raises marvel, but accompanied by terror, and paradox, a subject that is often linked with metamorphosis, the ever-shifting and ambiguous nature of reality. In this case, the young shepherd "looks" and, by doing so, "looks like" a tree.


Amazed at such amazing things, he     rimirando/mirabil
tightens his lips, bends his eyelashes,
and on his furrowed, scared forehead
sculpts—together with terror—wonder.
On the next trunk he leans his head,
so like that very trunk he looks.
Breaking his song, he lets fall his
loud flute, now silent, at his feet.     see Dante, Inferno 21.86

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The conspiracy (3)

Here a bad narrative junction occurs. Vafrino cannot find out the exact nature of the conspiracy against Godfrey of Bouillon, so he goes on spying across the Muslim encampment until, all of a sudden -- "Fortune (what he himself could not do) untied the inner knots of his doubts" (GC 17: 61). And the episode ends like that, for now, without providing us further information.

This is one of the points in which the shift from Gerusalemme Liberata to Gerusalemme Conquistata spoils the result. In the Liberata (19: 65 ff), in fact, Vafrino sees Armida first, then Erminia, in the Muslim tents; and learns a lot by listening to the dialogs that happen there. Erminia, who soon recognizes him (she had lived as a prisoner among the Crusaders), asks him to bring her back to the Christian camp since she, though a Muslim, has fallen in love with the knight Tancred; and while asking so, she reveals the secret plot against Godfrey in detail.

In the Conquistata, however, Tasso reworks both female characters thoroughly. Armida 'officially' disappears from the stage at a certain point, even if it can be suspected that she 'reappears in disguise' as the Queen of Daphne (see posts titled "Is it her or not?"). Erminia in the new poem has a different name, Nicaea, and her story too is much modified. As a consequence, our 'private eye' Vafrino remains without either of his main contacts for his mission, and finally has to find a solution out of the blue.

According to many scholars, the ones who love better to parrot one another rather than read the texts, Gerusalemme Conquistata as a whole is a failure; a sorry, badly reworked version of the Liberata. This is simply false. The Conquistata is richer, bolder, more original, more modern, more interesting -- and to show it is one of the major purposes of this blog. But in this case, Tasso clearly did not feel like inventing some new, complex episode to replace Vafrino's meetings with Armida and Erminia. Never mind, Torquato, just keep enchanting us! ;-)

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 6: 357-410

Like a marble ball that
accelerates after being hit
and meeting a declivity
[360] starts to roll downward
while its frictionless form
makes it go faster and faster
until its show is stopped
by the flat land below;
so, activated by the Voice,
Nature runs throughout
all that is made/unmade
preserving every phylum
deathless till Doomsday.
[370] The heir of a horse
remind his father’s features,
a calf looks like a cow.
A lion cub is characterized
by mane and mortal claws
and together, he inherits
anger and magnanimity
(that makes gentlemen spare
an unsaddled adversary)
and love for loneliness
[380] so shunning society
he wanders in the wild
deserts and forests
across Numidia, Mauritania
or even Europe when free
living lions still existed.
Like Alfieri’s fierce Saul
almost unapproachable
he does not accept to get
benefits from foreigners,
[390] disgusted by leftovers
as Della Vigna by living.
His throat is so developed
his voice so violent that
it paralyzes his preys,
even swiftest sprinters
are shocked and caught;
but after lunch he relaxes
and frolics with friends
not afraid of anything.
[400] Age makes him clumsy
and slow to the extent
that he attacks the towns
to eat unprotected people.
This cat however cruel
even raging and roaring
when wrath upsets him
is frightened by flames
and is afraid of roosters
especially if their plumage
[410] shines snow-white.

(to be continued on July 2)

Saturday, June 24, 2017

(What) the devil's art history

Digital pattern by Selkis

E. T. A. Hoffmann's 1815-16 novel The Devil's Elixirs is set in the late 18th century, partly in Germany partly in Italy. But the origin of this dark story of incests, murders, and Doppelgängers dates back to an Italian painter called Francesko [sic], who lived in the Renaissance. He is said to have been a disciple of Leonardo Da Vinci, and that's where the historical problems begin. First of all, Leonardo's personality as described here does not fit in well with his actual personage, and moreover, Hoffmann seems to ignore that he spent his later years in France, where he also died. But especially, Francesko's "genius and excess" lifestyle -- see Caravaggio -- and the very art market he works for recall the Baroque Era rather than the early 16th century. As a matter of fact, a brief mind calculation of the years from the main events back to Francesko's time period gives as a result the 17th century, too.

Now, a master of the weird tale like Hoffmann can do whatever he likes best with history, but the impression is that he did not twist the data on purpose, he simply followed German Romantic commonplace in his recreation of "Renaissance Italy." More consistent are the references to another star of 15th-16th century art: Hieronymus Bosch.

Friday, June 23, 2017

[GBM] Princes in disguise

from Salvador Dalí

The Judgment of Paris in G. B. Marino's version: Jupiter indicates the young shepherd as the most fitting person to choose "the most beautiful" goddess among Juno, Minerva, and Venus, insofar as he is both handsome and honest and intelligent (2.61). A son of King Priam, Paris has been removed from Troy immediately after his birth because of a prophecy according to which he would cause the ruin of the city. The Father of the Gods, however, abstains from explaining this clearly; we know it from mythology. In the story of the appointed judge, Marino stresses: 1. The ubiquitous role of Destiny, or rather Doom, and 2. The theme of male beauty and homosexuality, with a reference to Ganymede; see his love story with Zeus in canto 5, described in a then scandalously detailed form. Marino himself seems to have been bisexual.
Jupiter speaks:


"In the woods there lives a Phrygian shepherd,    western Turkey
who is such only in name and duties---
yeah, if an envying Fate did not keep     N.B. he twists the issue
his noble birth hidden in rough clothes,
the whole world would know about his lofty
condition, his high and royal lineage:     precisely like Adonis
A son of Priam, emperor of Troy, so
an elder brother to my Ganymede."

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The conspiracy (2)

With a narrative device typical of theater plays, and of future detective stories, Vafrino finds himself eavesdropping near a tent -- or a room -- precisely while the people inside talk about a crime they are planning. Here the newly appointed head of the Muslim army, Emiren, introduces to the Sultan of Egypt a warrior who promises to murder Godfrey of Bouillon, the head of the Christian army. (Of all these characters, only Godfrey is historical, though his leadership in the Crusade was less undisputed than in the poem.)

[17: 58.1 - 59.4]

Parla il Duce a colui: - Dunque securo
Sei tu così di dar morte a Goffredo? -
Risponde quegli: - Io sono, e 'n corte giuro
Non tornar mai, se vincitor non riedo.
Preverrò ben color che meco fûro
Al congiurare, e premio altro non chiedo
Se non ch'io possa un bel trofeo de l'arme
Drizzar nel Cairo, e sotto, un breve carme:

"Queste arme in guerra al capitan francese,
Distruggitor de l'Asia, Ormondo i' trassi
Quando gli trassi l'alma, e fûr sospese
Perché memoria ad ogni età trapassi".

The Sultan tells him, "So, you are absolutely sure you will put Godfrey to death?" He answers, "I am. And I swear, I will not come back to this Court if I can't do so in triumph. I will act swifter even than my comrades in the conspiracy -- and, I ask for no other reward than having the permission to raise a glorious trophy in Cairo, (*) with such words written underneath: These weapons from the Frank leader, the destroyer of Asia, (**) I, Ormond, took away when I took away his soul; they have been hanged here so that a memory may be kept throughout the ages."

(*) As in the manuscript of Gerusalemme Conquistata (and already in the Liberata); but Babilonia in the final printed text, i.e. Babel/Babylon, that had a greater symbolic meaning since in the Middle Ages and Renaissance the Biblical name of the enemy Empire par excellence was reused as a synonym of the Muslim community and power as a whole.
(**) In a very general sense, the current Turkey -- in the route towards Jerusalem -- and the Middle East. Trophies like this were very common in the poems of chivalry.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 6: 316-356

But our Era experienced
that in all latitudes there
swarms Man, the tough
descendant of Adam.
[320] The planet doesn’t look
at all like a timbrel as
Aristotle shot at random
nor like a turtle shell
but its crust is round
like an apple peel.
Not an island, insofar
as it does not seat inside
Ocean but vice versa—
that’s true but trivial,
[330] so let thought focus
on meaningful matters.
Who cares about acres
like a land surveyor,
let us please stop playing
the part of Pantokrator.
He only can hand the Earth
He measured the seas
and streams and skies
He estimated mountains
[340] He weighed woods
He supported the planet
and placed people in it
who behave like locusts
His ceiling is the sky
He, the universal Sotér.
Let nobody conjecture
how many miles the shadow
of opaque Terra stretches;
how it deprives Diana
[350] of splendor thru eclipses
or whether it overshadows
Venus’ fascinating face.
We all are now wondering
at God’s voice invading
every cell of his creatures
and reaching to their ends.

(to be continued on June 25)

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Green like power, red like blood

Quetzal Quest: The Story of the Capture of the Quetzal, the Sacred Bird of the Aztec and the Mayas, the 1939 book by Prof. Victor Von Hagen (1908 - 1985; here in its very good Italian version of 1984), retraces the history of the fateful contact between Europe and America following a green thread: the amazing feathers used by the Aztecs to embellish the headdresses of their leaders. One of such "crowns" was given Hernán Cortés, and is now kept in the Museum of Ethnology in Vienna, Austria. Moctezuma the proud, bloodthirsty conqueror had met one worse than him.

From the first feathers and aviaries seen by the Conquistadores to the European explorers who found the actual bird in the forests of Central America in the 19th century, there have passed centuries marked by violence, exploitation, and mostly unilateral influences, as well as scientific discoveries. Very interesting are the sections devoted to the books, both those that were produced by the natives, and the European volumes that described the languages and societies of the American peoples, starting almost immediately after the first contact.

Quetzal Quest, in its rich text and pictures, puts the whole story together especially from a cultural viewpoint, focusing on the habits, the arts & crafts, the political structures, the natural environments, the chronicles, the very lives of people/s who proved unlucky enough to be waiting for the wrong "god" in the right time. The Indian convert, interpreter, and "courtesan" Doña Marina -- her real name has remained unknown -- could have played the role of the protagonist in some Renaissance long poem or tragedy.

Friday, June 16, 2017

[GBM] Beware of beauty contests

Learning that this tree in Cyprus developed from the (in)famous golden apple, Adonis asks the shepherd, Clizio, to tell him the whole story. This long section, basically the whole of canto 2 of Adone, is the first of the many narrative digressions in the poem---which, not by chance, wound up to be thrice as long as the Divine Comedy. G. B. Marino draws on the many romanticized versions of the myth of the Judgment of Paris that had been worked out already by the later Greek authors, all the way up to the Renaissance poets.
The main facts are well-known: Having not been invited to the wedding of Peleus and Tethis (the future parents of Achilles), the goddess of discord, Eris, throws among the guests a golden apple with an inscription: "To the most beautiful one." Three goddesses, Juno, Minerva, and Venus, appl-y for the position, and fiercely so. Jupiter diplomatically gets out of the quarrel passing the buck to a young outcast, Paris, who however happens to be an abandoned son of King Priam. Paris, bribed by Venus, will choose her in exchange for the love of Helen, the fascinating wife of King Menelaus of Sparta, and therefore cause the War of Troy.
This mix of beauty, youth, love, cunning, rage, and doom, is absolutely in line with Marino's philosophy, all the more so in a story like Adonis'. Later in this poem, Adonis himself will become the King of Cyprus by winning a fixed beauty contest!
As it can be easily foreseen, Marino will insist on the erotic side of the myth, the chaste Juno and Minerva included.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The conspiracy (1)

Now Tasso links the plot back to a previous episode: Vafrino being sent as a spy from the Christian camp near Jerusalem to the Muslim camp in Gaza.

[GC 17: 56]

Di qua, di là sollecito s'aggira
Per le vie, per le piazze e per le tende;
I guerrieri, i destrier, l'arme rimira,
L'arte, gli ordini osserva e i nomi apprende;
Né di ciò pago, a maggior cose aspira,
Spia gli occulti pensier, e parte intende.
Tanto s'avolge, e così piano e cheto,
Che s'apre il varco al ragionar secreto.

Here and there he attentively roams
Along the streets and squares and tents;
At the warriors, horses, weapons he looks,
Watches the arrangement, learns the names--
And still unsatisfied, he aims at more:
Spies on hidden thoughts, and partly finds.
So deep does he sneak in, so quietly so,
That he comes across a secret talk.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 6: 233-315

by ilTM + Selkis

The animal soul is blood
which thickens into flesh
which decays into clay:
perishable are the souls
of wild beasts, or better
still, they are demi-dead.
God ordered the soil
[240] to lend living souls,
the soul becomes blood
then flesh then fimus
and the other way round
fimus to flesh to blood
and blood becomes soul,
so their soul is soil,
don’t deem it older than
their body and therefore
accessing afterlife.
[250] Mind metamorphoses
and time turnings,
just leave learned talk
in deserved silence.
Big Doctors dare say
that Reason corresponds
to the soul of hissing
snakes, barking beagles
and dream of themselves
having been kings, knights
[260] across different times
and even a damsel or
a fish a birch a Bush
behaving as blockheads
more than tunas or trunks.
Not even one of them
however misunderstanding
said “soul equal earth”
but following the fake
signs of sense and motion
[270] some said, “It’s air”
some preferred fire
some maintained humor
some volunteered vapor;
so the Magna Mater
pregnant then prolific
with all living souls
was rudely dishonored
by those contentious
out-of-date authors.
[280] We contrariwise
honor the mighty Mother
and call animal souls
her daughters.
nothing new or ancient
about the Earth’s figure
can be stated for sure
by a tribunal of truth.
Some see it in the shape
of a sphere, some instead of
[290] a cylinder or hard disk
or a basket, a barnyard
or empty inwardly and
embellished on both sides.
Dante abducted to alien
portals as he reports,
saw or guesses he saw
this exasperating planet
as a fallow flowerbed
anyway clearly a ring.
[300] For some people the Poles
and the equatorial stripe
were desert and deserted;
they painted the latter
and the icy surfaces
as Lovecraftian places.
The torrid Equator left
two zones subject to the sun
not directly heating them
in the remaining areas
[310] whose climate is milder:
of which we inhabit one
in a narrow biome between
perpetual cold and heat
and the other hemisphere
hosts Bear-less barbarians.

(to be continued on June 18)

Friday, June 9, 2017

[GBM] A not original sin

Palazzo Della Penna, Perugia (Italy)

In front of Love's palace, Adonis notices a strange tree. As he and we will learn (stanza 40), it has developed from the golden apple that Venus received from Paris in the infamous Judgment; the goddess herself planted it here. As soon as Adonis sees the tree, he instinctively repeats Eve's action as in Genesis 3.6.


It has diamond-like roots and trunk,
emerald leaves, and silver flowers.     flowers and fruits together
Golden are its never-lacking fruits,
and purple adds to the gold's beauty.
Satisfying, after sight, taste also
did Adonis, curious, now feel like;
therefore he picked one---and as if
filled with ambrosia it proved sweet.     the food of the gods

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

"Go, see, win!"

In Gaza, the valiant Armenian -- and formerly Christian -- leader Emiren is appointed as the head of the whole Muslim rescue army by the Sultan of Egypt. Reminder: Emiren is a fictional character, and the true Sultan never took part in the First Crusade.

[GC 17: 47]

Mentre Emiren, chinando il capo al petto,
Pur s'inginocchia, il Re così gli dice:
- Te' questo scettro. A te, Emiren, commetto
Le genti, e tu sostieni in lor la mia vice;
E porta, liberando il Re soggetto,
Su' Franchi l'ira mia, cui tutto lice.
Va', vedi, vinci, e non lasciar de' vinti
Avanzo, e mena presi i non estinti -.

While Emiren, bowing his head low,
Also kneels, the King speaks so to him,
"Take this scepter! To you, Emiren, I entrust
These peoples: Be my vicar among them,
And by freeing the sieged King, (*) bring
My all-powerful wrath against the Franks. (**)
Go, see, win! (***) Of the vanquished leave
No remnant, and capture all survivors."

(*) Emir Ducat in Jerusalem. A historical personage.
(**) The term meant the Crusaders/Westerners in general.
(***) Clearly echoing Julius Caesar's Veni vidi vici.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 6: 148-232


A different duty concerned
the waters: to work out
[150] animals, not “animas
as dryness was ordered to.
This, if I read it rightly,
because ichthyic creatures
have a less perfect life
a less noble nature, and
in a grosser background
their senses are slower:
weak hearing and sight
a benumbed memory
[160] no mental images
no reciprocal recognizing,
in their low life Flesh
& Belly is the boss.
While the land animals
empress is the Soul
to which some ascribe
an immortal intellect:
well-structured senses
an updated data base
[170] maximum memory
fantastic faculties.
Their voice tones express
their feelings perfectly;
happy or sad sounds
convey their condition
or need of nourishment
or “I must mate, now”
all that can no longer lie
under fleece or leather
[180] for example bleats
and neighs and snarls
and howls in the woods
or by rivers running
and lowing and roaring…
a thousand more Nature
can invent by varying.
A water inhabitant
is not only silent but
untamable ’n’ unsociable
[190] nor can human caresses
persuade it to accept
any gift from the grand
lord of the lower world.
In sum: HaShem created
(animated) bodies underwater
(entelechy) souls on earth.
That’s why an ox knows
Dominus, so does a donkey,
while a goldfish is ignorant
[200] because of the bare
obtuseness of its habitat.
Donkeys detect the voices
and paths, as the poor one
of Biblical Bileam did
in his owner’s wanderings;
and a sharper hearing—
many say—no mammal
has with clumsy limbs.
Camels, odd carriers
[210] of bags and Bedouins,
well remember wrongs
and have their revenge:
having been beaten
they keep wrath in store
hidden but suddenly
render evil for evil.
Hear! “Virtue” for many
entails to be relentless
in judgment and grudge.
[220] Now see this simile
depicting precisely you
whose wrath is a sparkle
under apparent ash but
when a lighter blazes
the flame is made up
and hate is hurled out.
So proud was produced
the soul in that spitter
and you do imitate it.
[230] But the birth of human
soul will be told afterwards,
now animals matter.

(to be continued on June 11)

Friday, June 2, 2017

[GBM] Born to Be Wild

In collaboration with Michelangelo
and Selkis (website)

On the gates at the main entrance of Love's palace two mythological episodes are carved---and it is interesting to wonder why these ones, among the dozens of love stories provided by Greek mythology. The first panel (2.23-27) in fact shows Proserpina being abducted by Pluto, the god of Hades; the second (2.28-32), the birth and triumph of Bacchus. Many of Marino's favorite themes seem to be summarized in these two stories: on the one hand, love as a violent passion, in a Freudian connection with death, and on the other hand, the marvel of natural and/or supernatural processes, the physical joys of life, Nietzsche's "Dionysian."


On the other side you can see, carved,
the young god worshiped by Ganges     Bacchus (see The Lusiads)
when still undeveloped, not born yet,
Jove pulls him out of his mother's womb---    Semele, incinerated
his father becomes his mother---then fed    inside one of Jupiter's legs
by the Nisa nymphs, he honors the woods.
A strange and marvelous fetus, who
was conceived once, twice delivered.