It’s good to have a good classics friend work with you. That way when the ERC nerds gather to read about Bireno abandoning Olympia, he can say “Cool, that’s just like Catullus LXIV.”
Catullus is most famous, at least among school boys, for his amusing-but-line-crossing obscene break-up poems. It is a rite of passage for all Latin students to puzzle over a phrase in Catullus until a shocked, giggling “OH!” bursts forth. He was emo and savage, devoted and cruel.
But he was quite a poet in addition to having a potty mouth to make a sailor blush. One of his greats is Catullus LXIV, a multi-level mini-epic which tells the story of Theseus and Ariadne within the tale of Peleus and Thetis (the parents of Achilles). Go read Opera Antiqua for a lengthy treatment of the poem, including some commentary on its use in Orlando Furioso. Continue reading Orlando Furioso Canto X: Catullus Edition
I like to hammer on the Orlando-Achilles connection a lot, but it’s important to remember that the poem is a grand mash-up of myth and legend. One heroic aspect that I haven’t mentioned yet (since I started blogging in Canto IX) is Perseus. Canto XI brings that back into focus for us.
I posit a difficult-to-make connection between Orlando’s showdown with the orc and Achilles going beyond all bounds against the river Scamander in Iliad XX. The far easier connection is to the Perseus legend. Everyone who grew up watching Clash of the Titans (the real one, not the crappy remake) knows this scene! We’ve got a beautiful maiden chained to a rock, we’ve got a miffed god, we’ve got a sea monster that no one can kill. Continue reading Orlando Furioso Canto XI: Perseus and the Orc
My last few posts on St. Benedict have emphasized his balance and the moderating tendency in his rule. It is important to remember that this is a concession to weakness–the weakness of human nature in general and of beginners in particular. In this chapter on humility, we see some of that terrifying thirst for excellence that would have made him right at home with the stylites. He just didn’t want to lay it on anyone else as a law.
I also mentioned the omnipresence of Jacob’s ladders in monastic writing. The reference is to Genesis 28, where Jacob, in flight from Esau, sleeps at Bethel and has a heavenly vision of angels ascending and descending as on a ladder. Christian authors (and Hellenized Jews like Philo) often took this as a symbol of spiritual progress. Continue reading Rule of St. Benedict: Humility