01 February 2009

Canto XI

Another canto based on the life of Sigismondo Malatesta (his name has many variant spellings) and his various campaigns. Once again it's impressionistic rather than a clear narrative but we learn that he had 1300 soldiers (this is quoted in Italian as mille tre cento cavalli - I just wonder if the mille tre is a reference to Don Giovanni (in the catalogue aria, the number of his conquests in Spain) but there's no reason to believe it is.

Sigismondo goes to Tarentum and there's another mixing of registers:
I mean Sidg went to Tarentum
And he found 'em, the anti-Aragons,
busted and weeping into their bears,
And they, the papishes, came up to the wall,
And that nick-nosed s.o.b. Feddy Urbino
Said: 'Per che e fuor di questo ... Sigis ... mundo'
'They say he dodders about the streets
'And can put his hand to neither one thing nor the other.'

The text here has the sense of being the observation of someone within Sigismondo's troops, who quite admires him, and is relating anecdotes from the campaigns.
And one day he was sitting in the chiexa,
On a bit of cornice, a bit of stone grooved for a cornice,
Too narrow to fit his big beam,
hunched up and noting what was done wrong,
And an old woman came in and giggled to see him
sitting there in the dark
She nearly fell over him

Towards the end of the canto a new character, Barbo, fatty Barbo, comes in. It seems he became Pope Paul II, although his choice of name would have been Formosus. It looks as if Sigismondo had the chance to kill him. I feel he's going to regret not taking it.

And one brilliant line among many:
In the gloom, the gold gathers the light against it.

It's been another canto where the poetry could illuminate the bare bones of a factual account.

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