Posted by: glue | July 23, 2009

I Trionfi

A proposal for designing the figure:  appropriate the tradition of Triumphs.

The topos of this occasion was established by Petrarch’s pastoral “I Trionfi,” with echoes as recent as Shelley’s “The Triumph of Life,” the poem on which he was working at the time of his accidental death.  It is significant that Shelley’s poem provided the tutor text for the collection of criticism that defined the deconstructive methodology of the Yale School of criticism (Bloom).

Chastity as the subject of a triumph was derived from Petrarch’s famous poem, I Trionfi, the main outline of which supplied themes for decorative art and triumphal processions, and finally for the game of triumphs played with the tarocchi.  There were six triumphs in I Trionfi.  First was the triumph of Cupid over gods and men, even over the great god Jove, and Petrarch too, who was lovesick for his Laura.  When artists illustrated this triumph they showed Cupid on a great car drawn by white horses, aiming darts or arrows at the lovers who are the unhappy captives accompanying his triumph.  The second triumph is that of Chastity, which celebrates Laura’s refusal of Petrarch’s love.  The tradition of courtly love required the lover to choose a married woman for the object of his affections, and the lady to remain coldly aloof.  Chastity is a silver-clad figure with ermine on her banner, who rides on a car drawn by unicorns and overcomes fickle Fortune.  Fortune appears in the illustrations sometimes as a figure standing on a ball and carrying a sail, sometimes simply as a storm at sea.  Chastity’s chief captive is Cupid himself, for the basic formula in a series of triumphs is that the leading figure in each becomes the chief captive or victim of the triumph which follows (45).

Popcycle Frescoes

Popcycle Frescoes

The earliest documented reference to trump cards (tarot) is in an account book from the court at Ferrara, dated 1442 (Giles, 4).

It is relevant in our context that frescoes on the walls of the Palazzo Schifanoja, Ferrara, based on the theme of triumphs, provided a structuring device for Ezra Pound’s CANTOS.

Each panel of the frescoes is discrete yet joined thematically to the others.  So THE CANTOS.  Since one looks at these frescoes in any order, sequence is not as important as correlation. Therefore the sooner one has a notion of THE CANTOS as a unity, the better one can appreciate detail and chart harmony of structure.  Yeats reports an alignment of:
Schifanoja                    Cantos
Triumphs                    Archetypes
Zodiac                Descent, Metamorphosis
Events at Ferrara            Nonrecurring Events
Since THE CANTOS have an archetypal hero and heroine, and an anti-type of each, the ‘triumphs’ are ultimately the triumphs of the same characters in successive disguise, or behind actor’s masks, personae.  The hero is simply homo faber, the maker, the preparer of great events.  Pound has used the phrase directio voluntatis so often that we are free to consider the hero a personification of the factive, powerfully directed will, with the wit necessary to effect his undertaking.  He is Odysseus, John Adams, Confucius, Senator Thomas Benton, Niccolo d’Este, Sigismundo Malatesta, Sir Edward Coke, Sordello, and many another; to recognize him is to have stepped into the poem.  The heroine is Penelope, Abigail Adams, Helen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isotta degli Atti:  her role is more complex than that of the hero.  She shares ambiguously the natures of Venus and the Sirens, and is alternately lovely and treacherous (Davenport).



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