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Friday, February 9, 2018

Turin-Paris: First things first

Giovan Battista (or Giambattista) Marino published his Dicerie sacre in 1614. As he himself explains, the word Dicerie must be understood in the high sense of the Latin dìcere, that is, to make a speech in a solemn context -- even if, he stresses, meanwhile the meaning of the Italian word in its common usage had already shifted to "talks"; and nowadays, we may add, even "gossip." So, the title here will have to be interpreted as Sacred Orations.

He published them in Turin, NW Italy, the then capital city of the small Duchy of Savoy, squeezed between France and the many Italian States, most of which ruled by the Spaniards as a consequence of the 16th century European wars. The Duchy would become a Kingdom -- of Piedmont, a.k.a. of Sardinia -- in the 18th century, and in the mid-19th century would conquer the other territories of Italy, leading to the National Unification in 1861. In this sense, Marino's due prophecies on the "future glories" of the Savoys proved much more successful than Dante's political prophecies. The situation of northern Italy in the early 17th century would also provide the setting for the Italian historical novel par excellence, Alessandro Manzoni's I promessi sposi (The Betrothed), whose final version was published in 1842.

The Dicerie sacre are three, though the author promised many more to come, which would never come, like many of his amazing projects (a long poem called Jerusalem Destroyed on the events of 70 AD; a remake of Ovid's Metamorphoses, etc.). In the 1617 book the "Orations" are set in order of importance, that is the reverse of the order in which they had been written; here, we will follow the latter so as to focus on the developments in Marino's life and works. After examining selected passages from them, we will study his Sferza, the "Whip" against the Huguenot leaders, written at the court of King Louis XIII of France where Marino had arrived after leaving Savoy, basically to escape the Pope. His coming back to Italy in 1623 would happen in coincidence with the publishing of his great, and our beloved poem Adone. . .  and with the poet's ruin by the hand of the Inquisition.

- Giovan Battista Marino, Dicerie sacre, ed. by Erminia Ardissino, Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 2014, pages 394
- Diego Varini, I rovesci della pace. Prospezioni per un Marino politico, con la Sferza antiugonotta edita e commentata, Lavis (TN): La Finestra Editrice, 2012, pages iii + 314