As it does to all poets, Fortune
Or Destiny allotted him a rare lot:
He walked along Ferrara roads
And at the same time trod the moon.
Dross of dreams, shapeless muck
Left behind by the Nile of sleep:
But dreams it was which wove the skein
Of that illuminated labyrinth:
An enormous diamond in which a man
May lose himself most fortunately
Through ambits of indolent music
Beyond the scope of his flesh and name.
The whole of Europe got lost.
That maliciously ingenious art
Made possible Milton’s weeping the end
Of Brandimarte and Dalinda’s fall…
Orlando is now a risible place
Of dilated uninhabited leagues
Of innocent but idle marvels:
A dream that no one now will dream
Shrunk by Islamic arts
To mere erudition, mere history,
It is left alone to dream itself.
(Glory is one of the forms of oblivion.)
Through the window the uncertain light
Fading now, of one more afternoon
Falls upon the book, and again
Its gilt glows and is consumed.
In the empty room the silent book
Travels into time, and leaves behind
The hours of dawn and the hours of dusk
And my life, that hasty dream.
Borges, from “Ariosto and the Arabs,” trans. Anthony Kerrigan
As it does to all poets, Fortune
In Waldman’s translation: “As Astolfo [on the moon’s surface] passed among these mounds he asked his guide about some of them. Noticing a lofty pile of tumid bladders from which seemed to emanate a hubbub of cries, he was told that these were the ancient crowns of the Assyrians and of Lydia, of the Persians and Greeks—once so illustrious, now forgotten even to their very names. Next he saw a heap of gold and silver hooks: gifts made in hope of reward to kings, to greedy princes, to patrons. He asked about garlands he saw which concealed a noose: all flattery, he was told. Verses written in praise of patrons wore the guise of exploded cicadas.”
Berlioz, Benvenuto Cellini (1838), Overture
BBC Symphony Orchestra • Colin Davis (1972)
Ganymede & Jupiter, Benvenuto Cellini
Mozart, Mitridate (1770), Act II, No. 13: Lungi da te, mio bene…
Ann Murray, Sifare
[Yvonne Kenny, Aspasia]
Ponnelle [set design] • Concentus Musicus Wien • Harnoncourt (1986)
Lungi da te, mio bene,
Se vuoi ch’io porti il piede,
Non rammentar le pene
Che provi, o cara, in te.
Parto, mio bella, addio,
Che se con te più resto
Ogni dovere obblio
Mi scordo ancor di me.
|—||Nikolaus Harnoncourt (from the notes to the Royal Concertgebouw recording of Le nozze di Figaro, 1994)|
Offline until the 26th.
Until then, submitting, applying, writing, visiting, & waiting, like everyone else on the East Coast, on the 17-year-brood to pop its trillion-headed neck out of the soil and shriek its love song.
Two years ago, around 6 o’clock in the morning, I walked a mile or so through South Hackensack with an evangelist for the “Funeral Mother” of the “Church of God Zion.” (He talked like a reasonable person, considering, but I still haven’t found the church.) The last sentence was on my mind this morning.
“Beautiful morning,” he said. He was looking down at the sidewalk. It was already 85 degrees.
“Don’t mind if I walk with you for a few blocks.”
“[My name, after a significant pause.]”
“Are you a Christian?”
“No. My father’s a minister. Lutheran. But I’m not a Christian.” What an invitation.
He went on for some time about the heresy of Holy Communion and the orthodoxy of something he called “The Passover Meal.” I wasn’t following.
“Think of it this way,” he said. He was feeling helpful. “Do you eat at McDonald’s?”
“Well,” he went on, undaunted, “McDonald’s is bad for you, but it tastes good.”
I still wasn’t following. “I bring my own lunch to McDonald’s sometimes. What does that mean?”
He didn’t hear, and the conversation turned to the devil—his tricks, wiles, corrupting presence in the liturgy, etc.
“The devil hasn’t tempted me since I was 16, and I no longer understand the people he bothers. If I feel any sympathy for them, it’s because what they mistake for the devil’s voice is actually their own fear and misery. There is no devil—or if there is, he’s too weak to be of any consequence.”
Over the highway, after we’d walked together for a mile or so, he shook my hand and turned back, who knows where. Maybe he lives there.
10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?
Warlock, by Oakley Hall.
“Some men drink to warm themselves,” the judge said. “I drink to cool the brain. I drink to get the people out of it. You are nothing to me, boy. You are only a badge and an office, is all you are. Get yourself killed, it is nothing to me.”
“All right,” Gannon said.
The judge nodded. “Just a process,” he said. “That’s all you are. What are men to me?” He rubbed his hand over his face as though he were trying to scrape his features off.
Gannon saw that Blaisedell was watching him expressionlessly. Above Blaisedell’s head was a mezzotint of a man thrashing at some ocean waves with a long sword.
Blood is as stirring to the human imagination as silver.
I’ve posted other passages.
35. Favorite poet?
In English: Chaucer, Marvell, Lovelace, Clare, Donne.
I like Whitman’s evasiveness, Frost’s bitterness (and convolutedness: “I have kept hidden…A broken drinking goblet like the Grail / Under a spell so the wrong ones can’t find it, / So can’t get saved, as Saint Mark says they mustn’t”; maybe his maleness), Moore’s slyness & unpretentiousness, Eliot’s phantasmagoria, Stevens’ self.
52. Name a book that made you angry.
So many. News from Nowhere by William Morris. I remember throwing it across the room when I was 18 (around page 10), and haven’t opened it since.
Mozart, Lucio Silla, K. 135 (1772), Act I, No. 5: “Il desio di vendetta…”
Peter Schreier, Silla
Concentus Musicus Wien • Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1990)
Il desio di vendetta, e di morte
Si m’infiamma, e si m’agita il petto,
Che in quest’alma ogni debole affetto
Disprezzato si cangia in furor.
Forse nel punto estremo
Della fatal partita
Mi chiederai la vita,
Ma sarà il pianto inutile,
Inutile il dolor.
Ariosto, Orlando Furioso, Canto XIX, 84-85
(Marfisa, Ruggiero’s sister, draws the short straw when her ship touches shore in Alexandretta, “the city of killer women.” Astolfo & the twins Grifon & Aquilant watch as she battles ten men in a tournament—and then, since it’s the custom in that land, has to sleep with ten women all through the next night. Otherwise it’s slavery and death. She avoids slavery and death.)
One of her poems under Goethe’s name is the well-known ‘Suleika,’ also one of Schubert’s most famous songs (D. 720)