Our friend the brussel sprout . . .

I have become inordinately fond lately of the oven-roasted brussel sprout, even to the point of serving it to students* last week (and they ate them all). Split them, strip off the outer leaf, toss them in olive oil (I’m sure italian dressing would be fine), dump them in the roasting pan at 400 with the meat (pork loin, beef sirloin, whatever) and about an hour later serve it up.
Tonight I zapped a half dozen briefly in the microwave, and then tossed them in with a leftover bit of way-underdone steak (it was fine hot from the grill, but bloody leftovers never thrill me). I’m sure I’ll be pleased!

*I’m working my way through dinners with the Rome crew, 3 or 4 at a time. Getting to know them now helps!

Danteblogging Paradiso Canto IV

Canto IV
Dante starts Canto IV with a problem known to us by the name of a slightly later philosopher — Buridan’s paradox.

Between two morsels for the appetite,
  just an appealing, just as far away,
  before a free man ever took one bite
He’d ide of hunger
(Par IV.1-4)

This Canto is being trapped between two goods. – like poor Piccarda. How can we blame her if she had a good intention of keeping her vow and was confronted with violence (19-20)?
We have another Dante coinage in this canto, too – india, “endeitied,” to describe the Seraphim, Moses, Samuel, the Johns, and even Mary. [The word is not “india,” the place, but “in-dia.”] That may be Dante’s version of what the Orthodox call theosis, becoming like God, but I’m not enough of a theologian to say.
This is also our introduction to the fact that the lower place in the spheres is not entirely – hmm – the real way to look at it. We won’t really understand that until we get to the Empyrean, to the Celestial Rose, where everyone we meet as we pass through the spheres shows up again – or really is. How to understand that mystery?

That is why Holy Scripture condescends
  to your minds and attributes to the Lord
  a hand or foot, intending something more
(Par IV.43-45).

Things are complicated in Heaven – even while they’re perfectly simple.
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Danteblogging Paradiso Canto III

Canto III
Canto III starts off with a tercet about a sun — Beatrice — but then turns to a series of reflections — a mirror, sunlit water, a reminiscence of Narcissus and the pool. After all, Dante and Beatrice have risen to the sphere of the Moon, where the souls of those who failed to fulfill their vows rest. The Moon in its phases represents inconstancy — in some models the last sphere of mutability, in others the border between change and changelessness. The souls appear as shadows or appear to be shadowy. The lack of clarity is helpful.
Their interlocutor is Piccarda, sister of Forese Donati, who we met in Purgatory (XXIII, XXIV). That makes her a relative of Dante’s by marriage, and the first example we meet of families broken into parts. Some families have representatives in all three canticles — I don’t remember if the Donati had anyone in Hell. If they don’t, it might be because Forese and Piccarda’s brother wasn’t dead yet — he forced her to leave a convent of the Poor Clares and marry a political ally. So her sin is giving up the vow she made to be a Bride of Christ.
Dante asks if those who dwell in this slowest sphere (II.51 – being closest to the earth it is rotating most slowly) if they want to be further up, to know more, and be more loved by God (II.65-66). Piccarda replies with the keynote of Paradiso:

E’n la sua volontade è nostra pace;
  ell’è quel mare al qual tutto si move
  ciò ch’ella cria o che natura face.

In His will is our peace:
  that is the sea whereto all creatures fare,
  fashioned by Nature or the hand of God
(Par II.85-87)

I think the departure of Piccarda is incredibly beautiful and expresses the calm of the Moon:

Così parlommi, e poi cominciò Ave
cantando, e cantando vanio
  come per acqua cupa cosa grave.

So did she speak, then she began to sing,
  “Hail, Mary,” and so singing she was gone,
  like a smooth heavy object vanishing
Into a shadowy pool.

come per acqua cupa cosa grave. Gorgeous.
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Danteblogging Paradiso Canto II

Canto II
Once again we see Dante using the image of a boat — though this time he addresses sailors, warning them to stay back: I venture waters never sailed by man! (Par II.7) He is about to sail the stars, and he does it with love and vision.

Beatrice gazed upward, and I gazed at her
  and in the instant of an arrow’s flight–
  sunk in the target, whistling off the nock–
I saw I’d reached a place that turned my sight
  toward something to behold in awe…
(Par II.22-26).

It’s not all that common for Dante to enjamb a sentence across two tercets, but that’s in the Italian, too. Thus they go zooming to the sphere of the moon, and Dante asks what causes the dark spots. What we see as the Old Man in the Moon, Italians call Cain. Dante see the marks as marring the lunar body (II.49). There begins a disputatio — a scholastic debate.
Dante see the spots as caused by thin or denser matter (II.60). Beatrice denies this, and compares it to the variable brightness of the fixed stars (II.64). She says:

If that were caused by various densities,
  a single starry power would dwell in all,
  portioned in some place, some more, some less.

She examines his argument and finds it false. Instead, she points out, but their diverse virtues — not “dense” and “rare,” but variety. Ah – so it’s a theological explanation, though she has claimed it is all Realism. This is what our physicist friend meant who talked to the students last week. He pointed out how excellent the observed data of ancient and medieval astronomy was, how careful the reasoning and the mathematics, and how crippling the dogma.
He meant dogma in this sense — why are the spheres spheres? That is, why did it take until Kepler for someone to try elliptical orbits? Well, because the Greeks believed the fixed stars were changeless and perfect, and surely spheres were more appropriate.
Similarly, Beatrice can’t believe that the moon is marred — it must be something else. Despite that, she says:

Experience, if you let it be your guide,
  the fount for every stream of human art,
  can set you free from this objection too.
(Par II.94-96)

If that’s not an Aristotelian talking I don’t know what it is. But Aristotelians go wrong where their observation gives way to a preconception — like spheres.
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Danteblogging Paradiso Canto I

Paradiso Canto I
I climb to Paradiso – and none too soon!
Dante begins by invoking God not by name but by pronoun — colui che tutto muove, “the One who moves everything” (Par I.1), and returns to his theme of the inadequacy of language and mind, but embedded in a claim of his right to speak:

I have been in that heaven He makes most bright,
  and seen things neither mind can hold nor tongue
  utter, when one descends from such great height
(Par I.4-6)

Dante’s going to try, though. This time, rather than invoke the aid of the Muses or of Imagination, he calls on Apollo, but in a weird way. He asks for Apollo to inspire him, to “breathe your song, as when you drew the vain/Marsyas from the sheath of his own limbs” (Par I.20-21). That’s a gory memory – Apollo flayed Marsyas for challenging him. Dante’s relationship to the Classical world is fraught — and never entirely positive.
Beatrice and Dante stare at the Sun with vision like eagles (who in medieval bestiaries could look directly at the Sun without flinching) they talk about Order, and how flame flies upward. They will soon be on their way from the Terrestrial Paradise to the sphere of the Moon, just as fire rises.
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Danteblogging Purgatory XXXIII – the last canto

The seven ladies walk on ahead of Beatrice, Matelda, Statius and Dante. Beatrice addresses Dante again, this time calling him “brother” (23), and asking why he doesn’t ask questions. Dante admits that he is tongue tied in the presence of his superior.

She said to me, “I wish that you would now
  loose yourself from your fear, be free of shame,
  and speak no longer as a dreamer does.”
(Purg XXXIII.31-33)

Still fear! Even bathing in Lethe didn’t cure Dante of that.
Beatrice explains the pageant — the Church and Empire will be restored, but she gives Dante one explicit instruction for his poem:

And when you write them you must keep in mind
  never to hide how you have seen the tree
  robbed for the second time in Eden here.
(Purg XXXIII.55-57)

In other words, Dante is not to conceal the state of the Church and Empire, not to pretty things up. Goodness knows he accepted that charge! Popes in Hell and a vision of a Whore in the Terrestrial Paradise!
Matelda had already brought Dante through Lethe, which washed away his memory of his sins. Now the party comes to Eunoë, which givees good memories — memories of Dante’s acts of charity. Dante and Statius drink and are made ready to move on. The canticle ends with a wonderful evocation of poetry — for once Dante’s language doesn’t fail him, but his space does!

My Reader, if I had a longer space
  I would keep singing but the merest part
   of that sweet drink I never could drink full–
But because now the pages set upon
  this second canticle’s loom are all complete,
  the rein of art prevents my writing on.
From its most holy waters I returned
  as remade as a new young plant appears
   renewed in every newly springing frond,
Pure, and in trim for mounting to the stars.
(Purg XXXIII.136-145)

There – again, a the last canto of a canticle ends with stars; at the end of the Inferno, Dante was seeing them. Now he will go among them!
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Danteblogging Purgatory XXXII

The Griffin’s procession passes along, with Dante, Matelda, and Statius following at the wheel, passing through the deep but empty wood / (the fault of her who trusted in the snake) (Purg XXXII.31-32). Interesting to remind us – this wood would be full of people if the Terrestrial Paradise hadn’t been removed from us. The Italian of the parenthetical statement is heavy on C-sounds: colpa di quella ch’al serpente crese.
Beatrice descends from the chariot and the whole party circles the dead tree, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The Griffin, who is or symbolizes Christ, addresses the Tree and it re-flowers. Language and knowledge fail Dante:

I’ve never heard it, nor do we here sing
  the hymn those people sang; nor did I last
  to hear the ending of their melody.
(Purg XXXII.61-63)

Dante sleeps, and when he wakes the Griffin is gone and Beatrice is sitting under the newly green tree. Another sacred drama takes place. This time we see the Chariot, which represents the church, perverted. This time the drama is clearly for Dante – Beatrice warns him to write it all down when he gets home. Dante sees an eagle attack the chariot (imperial persecutions?), a fox jump into the box (heresies), then the Eagle takes it over. A dragon comes, then the chariot sprouts horns like those of the Beast in the Apocalypse, then a whore mounts the chariot, and a giant joins her. When the whore gives Dante the eye, the giant lashes her and drives her away into the dimness of the forest.
Esolen reminds us, apocalypse means “uncovering.” This uncovering is a revealing of the constant threat to the Church of power – both its own and political powers. But how strangely conveyed! Surreal!
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The first time I’ve ever posted a video featuring Miss Tammy Wynette

Funny, I’ve owned a KLF CD since about 1995 (I bought it in Atlanta at the weird little music shop underneath the American Road House – and it kind of sums up the sounds of my last decade there), but I’d never seen the video before tonight. Perhaps I was inspired by the brussels sprouts I roasted with the tenderloin for dinner?
A word of advice — watch it this size, even if you click over to YouTube. If you enlarge it, Miss Tammy Wynette gets fuzzy. And she’s having way too much fun to get fuzzy!
And if you just NEED more of the mythos of Mu Mu from the KLF . . . . Well, click here! Viking ships! House music! My late youth! And the Rites of Mu!
Though I think the first thing of theirs I ever danced to was Last Train to Trancentral. Ah, Atlanta.

Danteblogging Purgatory XXXI

Canto XXXI
My colleague is going to have to explain why Dante should love Beatrice in the Terrestrial Paradise. I’m really finding the lady’s scolding quite insufferable. What was Dante supposed to do after she died? (a) enter a monastery? (b) pine away? It’s not clear, but she succeeds in making him weep in repentance and faint. Matelda washes him in the waters of Lethe, and he’s ready to proceed.
Oh well, we have to take it on faith that Beatrice was so beautiful and so good. It’s probably the weather that makes it harder for me to accept Dante’s testimony about that than about so much else in the Purgatorio. In the long run I’m finding the eros that’s supposed to have drawn Dante to the threshold of Heaven an unconvincing motivation.
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Gérôme comes out of the storage closet

Even the French are willing, if the Getty gives them enough money, to display Gerome. He was scathing about the Impressionists, and Modernism got its revenge by packing him off to the storage rooms when taste changed. But you know, the Triumph of Modernism is a pretty tired story itself — and there are other things worth looking at in the world of art.
Here’s a great slide show from the Getty’s version of the show.