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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Thieves and poets in the Temple

This rare 1995 edition (that looks even older than that) provides us a full insight into G. B. Marino's years in Paris, 1615-23. When he arrived there, it was the epoch after Henry IV's assassination (1610) and before the rise (1617) of his young son, Louis XIII, who had to fight for the throne against his own mother, Queen Maria De' Medici, quite unwilling to quit from her role as a Regent. Both the 'short long poem' Il Tempio and the pamphlet La Sferza were written in Italian, then a prestigious language across Europe.

Il Tempio, some 1,800 lines, describes a fantastic "Temple" built by Marino's verse in honor of the Queen -- something midway between the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and an experimental building based on Dante's three worlds. The poem obviously does not keep a low profile while exalting Maria De Medici's beauty, wisdom, and power; but it must also be stressed that she was a real ruler, unlike such heroines as Ariosto's Bradamante or Tasso's Clorinda. A real case of Renaissance women's liberation. The big mosaics in the temple are four, summarizing the main events in the Queen's life: her birth, the wedding, the death of her husband, the reign. Unfortunately, because of courtly rhetoric, the stanzas dealing with the killer of Henry IV, Fran├žois Ravaillac, do not examine his actual psychological and social background, that would have been interesting. Noticeable are, under the temple's dome, the four statues representing female beauties from all over the world, Europe, Asia, Africa, and America.

La Sferza, i.e. the "Scourge" (see John 2.15) against the Huguenot leaders, apparently calls King Louis to a crusade against the Protestants in France, now that the Thirty Years' War was looming. More in depth, however, the text is marked by some contradictions, in either its logic or its contents, that make its thesis more ambiguous. The climax is reached when Marino blames the Huguenots for mixing the blasphemous to the sacred, that was precisely the reason why he had fled to Paris, far from the Pope's 'claws,' and why he would be condemned by the Inquisition in 1623, as soon as he would go back to Italy. La Sferza implied a Machiavellian view on religion that was frowned upon in the Counter-Reformation era. It was also meant as a call for help to the powerful Jesuits as his future 'attorneys,' in case, but it did not suffice.

Even if Il Tempio, all in all, is less original than Marino's poem Il Ritratto -- the "Portrait of Duke Charles Emmanuel of Savoy" (1608; see) -- it is nonetheless a very rich and intriguing work thanks to its witty reinterpretations of classical sources, fresh references to contemporary history and culture, and refined analysis of the Queen's personality. Although less boldly than in his later masterpiece Adone, in this "Temple," too, Christian concepts are freely used to describe worldly or even erotic circumstances.

P.S. Louis XIII is the King who will be portrayed as an idiot by Dumas in his Musketeers saga. He was no idiot at all.

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