SiStan ChapLee

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Fairy days for Future

by Selkis (site)

Often revolutionary and ahead of his time, John Milton already showed this feature in his early masque Comus, of 1634. Here are two interesting details. For a starter (lines 447 ff), an interpretation of the myth of Medusa as would be proposed by Sigmund Freud:
What was that snaky-headed Gorgon shield
That wise Minerva wore, unconquered virgin,
Wherewith she freezed her foes to congealed stone,
But rigid looks of chaste austerity. . .?

Later on (lines 768 ff), we hear a call to ecology and social justice much before Greta Thunberg:
If every just man that now pines with want
Had but a moderate and beseeming share
Of that which lewdly-pampered Luxury
Now heaps upon some few with vast excess,
Nature's full blessings would be well-dispensed
In unsuperfluous even proportion. . .

In a 1645 sonnet in praise of Henry Lawes, who wrote the music for Comus, Milton would even say:
Dante shall give Fame leave to set thee higher
Than his Casella, whom he wooed to sing,
Met in the milder shades of Purgatory.

That materially is a mistake because Dante met Casella not in the upper woods of the island/mountain of purgatory, but at the very beginning while still on the shore (canto 2). The mistake anyway is revealing, as Milton would find inspiration for his own Eden in Paradise Lost precisely in Dante's natural descriptions in the second cantica of the Divine Comedy.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Off Topic: Cave canem, et saurum

Shotaro Ishinimori's 1971 manga Genshi shonen Ryu, "Ryu the Cave Boy," has been published in Italy. Better late than never. A famous TV cartoon was based on it in the 1970s, that is among the dear memories of many people of my generation. But on some rare occasions, like this, reality is better than memory. In fact, the TV version simplified the story quite drastically, not only by making Ryu's adventures less brilliant than in the original comic, but also by having the episodes actually set in the Stone Age, though with dinosaurs, or rather one dinosaur in the neighborhood: the super-villain. It was called "TirĂ no" in the Italian dubbing, but its name was simply "Saur/Reptile," that sounds like ryu in Japanese. The Doppelganger and nemesis of the cave boy. Powerful and fierce, but only loosely resembling a tyrannosaur, Saur rather pays tribute to Godzilla.

Ryu's time, anyway, is much more complex, at the same time prehistoric and not. In 550 pages, Shotaro Ishinomori succeeds in assembling a lot of 1960s must-sees, from Atlantis to the Yeti, from the Earth just recently photographed from space to the UFOs, to the mysteries in the Inca temples. Some scenes may have influenced Jurassic Park. Witty references and humor are interwoven with heroism and tragedy. Very interesting are the literary and artistic sources reworked by the author, including western ones such as E. R. Burrough's Tarzan, Walt Disney's Fantasia, and -- the true surprise -- H. Melville's Moby Dick. Not only does Kiba, the hero's adversary then right-hand man, remind us of Queequeg, but, moreover. . .

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Divine search engine

G. B. Marino, The Massacre of the Innocents, canto 3. The most striking feature of the she-angel called Vision is that her forehead is a video screen.
Crystal is her forehead, clear and spotless,
where written or drawn are all things which
Nature makes or will ever be able to make,
shapes that can be created, or created already.
God's very hand did write them, the text
being in an ink of light, in letters of gold.
Here to his beloved ones He often shows—
as on white paper—what He to others hides.

Monday, June 17, 2019

A vision of Vision

G. B. Marino, The Massacre of the Innocents, canto 3. The kingdom of Dream is peopled with symbolic and bizarre creatures, as was usually the case in Renaissance literature and art. The most interesting character is a female one, Vision, whom in fact the angel has come to contact. Her wings recall famous passages from the book of Prophet Ezekiel, ch. 1, and the Book of Revelation, ch. 4, both of which had already been reused by Dante in Purgatorio 29.91-105 (see here William Blake's illustration).
Among the black crowd of spectres winged
there flies, shining and white, a young lady
whose limbs are veiled by a diaphanous
garment; of a wonderful kind her beauty.
Silvery her wings, and like a peacock's, are
embellished with eyes—her name being Vision,
the escort of Truth, of Prophets the friend,
ancient ambassador for the King of heaven.

Monday, June 10, 2019

The Dream-Quest

G. B. Marino, The Massacre of the Innocents, canto 3. Since Joseph has to be warned while sleeping, the angel, first of all, reaches the realm of dreams. The place is set in Ethiopia, encircled by very high mountains; that is remarkable because in literature that location was often ascribed to Adam's Paradise, see Ariosto's Orlando Furioso and, in part, Dante's Purgatorio. The last variation on the theme of the "mountains of madness" would be worked out by Howard P. Lovecraft, shifting them to Antarctica and replacing Eden with a quite different kind of primordial habitat.
A valley there, in Ethiopia the Black,
surrounded by a crown of high rocks
within which evening falls after noon,
opens its branches, blooms against the sun.
Here, with a lazy and indolent crowd
the King of Dreams got his home, deep;
and here, among dark, solitary caves
a quiet shelter is given the Night.     agudeza

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Close Encounters of the Third Heaven

G. B. Marino, The Massacre of the Innocents, canto 3. An angel -- an ordinary one, not Gabriel or Michael -- is sent by God to warn Joseph, Mary's husband, that they must immediately leave Bethlehem in order to escape Herod's fury. In Marino's version, the angel will not simply appear to Joseph in a dream; a longer, often surprising psychological process will take place. Now, anyway, he flies toward the Earth quite like a shooting star or a UFO. His description comes from Homer's Hermes via the angel (Gabriel) sent to Godfrey of Bouillon in Torquato Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered.
The night soon vanished, though the bigger
lamp still remained buried below the Earth;     the sun
but that heavenly fire, soaring in its flight
like a vice-sun, burns and flares up and,
beating its wings while curled up in itself,
imprints a long trail of light across the air.
The shepherd, deceived, gets off his bed
in the glimmer of that morning-like ray.