05 February 2009

Canto XX

As you'll have noticed, when I don't understand something, I skip it. This is so liberating! So I skip the first eight lines of this canto, written in a mixture of, I think, Provençal and Latin and a little English.

In the next section the speaker talks of a trip to Freiburg to see Lévy, apparently an expert, the expert, on Provençal, to find out the meaning of the word Noigandres. Not something that's ever troubled me, but it seems it might be a corruption of "d'enoi ganres". Doh! Of course! How could I miss it? (Hey it's fun being a philistine about this!)

The rest of the canto is particularly impenetrable. I suspect that if I knew more about troubadours or the Odyssey, I might recognise more than I do. But here's an interesting section: shortly after the mention of "lotophagoi" (lotus-eaters) there's what seems to be a reflection on the cost of war, even in Homeric times:
"What gain with Odysseus,
They that died in the whirlpool
And after many vain labours,
Living by stolen meat, chained to the rowingbench,
That he should have a great fame
And lie by night with the goddess?
Their names are not written in bronze
Nor had they meats of Kalupso
Or her silk skirts brushing their thighs.
Give! What were they given? Ear-wax.
Poison and ear-wax

And then it all drifts away (from me) again, ending with the repeated word "Borso", who (I've checked) must be Borso d'Este the first Duke of Ferrara. There's more about him to come. But I like this teasing bit from Wikipedia:
He was in general appreciated by his subjects: the only cause of grievance was his project to build a mountain from scratch in 1471, a project he was later forced to abandon.

It's left me wanting more.

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