Thursday, October 23, 2008

cold hell

Was listening to a podcast I'm intermittently fond of, BBC Radio 4's In Our Time. Don't know why it's called that as they are never talking about Our Time, but anyway this week they discussed Dante's Inferno. The host asked one of the scholars why--once Dante and Virgil make it past various lakes of boiling blood and pitch etc--why, at the very center of hell, the ninth and lowest circle is frozen over. This is the circle of traitors, where a three-headed Satan eats Cassius and Brutus in two mouths, and Judas with the third mouth. So I typed up what the guy said.

It is stillness--there is no life, and no movement, and no dynamism.

Now we come to something of infinite sadness there at the bottom of the pit--we come to something of infinite sadness, because everything is still, every possibility, every spiritual possibility, every--every possibility of establishing a love link--Dante speaks about a [??] vinco d'amore, a chain of love, which binds men rationally together--that has all now evaporated and been destroyed. So the first thing to say certainly about the pit there is that that horrific image of stillness -- the only movement is Satan's wings, that ensures that Hell is frozen over -- there is man's ultimate response to the creativity of God himself, and man's own energy--man's response to that, that tragic response, is caught there by Dante in nothingness, in stillness, in deadness.

John Took, Professor of Dante Studies at University College London

So is the idea that where trust is broken, where that human link is broken, all creativity and life stops? If so I really like that. In case Refraction Arts ever revives The North Project, which we should, I wonder if we could work this in.

Friday, October 3, 2008

feeling blakeish

Don't know where I've been not to know it, but this made me happy of Blake's:

Prayer is the study of Art.
Praise is the Practice of Art.
Fasting &c., all relate to Art.
The outward Ceremony is Antichrist.

Got so pleased about this I started reading Peter Ackroyd's Blake biography and it is excellent. Great stories about him being sent as a teen apprentice to spend day after day drawing the tombs in Westminster Abbey. The statues were painted then, and Ackroyd thinks this (plus stained glass etc) influenced Blake as a colorist. Someone needs to film this I feel, the late 18th c Abbey with all the painted stones. Anyway I need to see it.

BTW for the 1.25 people who read this: I was quite wrong about Don Paterson's Orpheus not being available in the US -- it is, and I'm getting it. Here is another piece.

Consider the flowers: true only to the earth
yet we lend them a fate, from the borders of fate,
and supervise their fadings, their little deaths.
How right that we should author their regret:

everything rises -- and yet we trudge along
laying our heavy selves upon the world.