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18 February 2009

Canto XXIV

Returning after a break and Oh no, we're in pre-renaissance Italy again. From what I read, mainly here, this is a fascinating era, as Orson Welles/Graham Greene recognised in The Third Man. Madness, war, nepotism, simony, etc. But I know nothing! Which makes it frustrating, knowing that I could find out more and recognise some of the references, if I put myself out.

This canto starts with two sections about "Zohanne of Rimini", portrayed as a kind of fixer, and winner of races, including "the palio at Milan". There are extracts from two letters recommending payment for his efforts. These are dated "Feb 1422" and "27 nov. 1427".

Then there's a journey to Jerusalem, made by "he in his young youth, in the wake of Odysseus" in 1413. I'm not sure whose journey. There's echoes of the crusades, but it's too late to be part of one.

I am clutching at dates in this canto. The next one is:
Was beheaded Aldovandrino (1415, vent'uno Maggio)
Who was cause of this evil

and there's a quick riff on beheadings.

Next date: "And in '31 married Monna Ricarda".

Then into old French but still 1431: a grant of arms, I think.

Back to English (mainly):
And in '32 came the Marchese Saluzzo
To visit them, his son in law and his daughter,
And to see Hercules his grandson, piccolo e putino,
And in '41 Polenta went up to Venice
Against Niccolo's caution
And was swallowed up in that city

The quotation is to illustrate how the English is straightforward but the bigger argument is hard to understand. Also, something I haven't pointed out, Ez's fondness for inversion in word order ("came the Marchese"). Was there in Canto I ("Circe's this craft" - ie this craft is Circe's) this turn of phrase, and pops up often ("Was beheaded Aldovandrino"). I guess it might be a rendering of Latin word order, where inflection gives the sense, but it's another of those habits that doesn't help.

It goes on in similar vein to the end of the canto. Surely before long I'll be able to say something.

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