26 January 2009

Canto X

More about Sigismondo, in the same style - anecdotes, quotations, simulated eye-witness accounts of what was going on. Sigismondo attacked in a sermon:
... that pot-scraping little runt Andreas
Benzi, da Siena
Got up to spout the bunkum
That that monstrous swollen, swelling s.o.b.
Papa Pio Secundo
Aeneas Sivius Piccolomini
da Siena
Had told him to spout, in their best bear's-greased latinity

Sigismondo is burnt in effigy, seems to have rubbed the Pope up the wrong way.

It's all quite vague to me still, the course of events. The number of names that are scattered throughout the canto are confusing. Again, if you knew what it was about, it would make more sense, but I'm (possibly foolishly) confident that this will be part of something bigger, something that explains it better.

Something that struck me yesterday, when I was reviewing that entry, was the thought of how unbelievably different this kind of poetry must have been to its first readers. As I suggested then, it out-Eliots Eliot, and when you compare it with the mainstream of English 20th century poetry - the Georgians, the war poets, Yeats Auden - it's entirely different. I'm currently reading The Rest is Noise - a survey of 20th century music, and Alex Ross mentions there that when Schoenberg's serialism started, people hated it, partly because they feared all music would be like this from now on. Of course it wasn't. People are still writing harmonically, and hardly anyone's writing pure 12-note music. Similarly, this kind of poetry hasn't driven out all other kinds. So far as I know, hardly anyone writes like this (or like Joyce in Finnegans Wake) now. But in both fields I guess the experimentation has given later artists a wider range of techniques.

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