Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

1. entry June 2015  2. entry May 2018

There are two entries on this page, both dealing with the myths of ancient Naples and both featuring paintings by Neapolitan artist Fulvio De Marinis: 1. The Sibyl's Time, directly below)     2. Parthenope (link)

The Sibyl's Time

This painting is by Neapolitan artist Fulvio De Marinis. (See that link for information on him in these pages. There is another link below the painting to a gallery of his works on the website of Napoli Underground.) The poem on the right-hand side is by Selene Salvi. Her original Italian is on the website of Napoli Underground (NUg) at this link. Selene is also a gifted artist and has a presence in Naples: Life, Death & Miracles here. This English translation is mine.
- Jeff Matthews

Fulvio De Marinis:   
"Il Tempo della Sibilla"

Oil, gold and Cuman sand on canvas, 40x100 cm.

The Sibyl's Time

They call me by many names,
but to you who hear my shadowed words
I am Demò, she who loves her people.
Crazed, twisted, forever aged, but not chaste, not since I bore to light in the Beginning
the Reaper Time with his serpent tooth.*1
Since then I live forgotten and alone
amidst the spired maze,
my only roof the frozen stars.
I tell my story, not for pity,
but to warn you not to trust
who does not know the bane of Age.
Long ago, I danced in other worlds
before men died in endless siege for woman.
There the god who loosens knots
chose to loose my heart.
A handful of dust and haughty youth
both condemned me.
I left my red island forever*2
and forgot my days of joy.
Ever weary I dragged my exiled body
in swamp, thick wood, boundless deep and steep crag.
Too soon the shadows overtook my steps,
too soon he who said he loved me
now in bother turned away his glance.
I know your fate, but those horrid spasms
that besiege my black breast
are not the divine winds that move my words,
for now within me sadly dwells just Sickness.
I await the last grain of sand,
await my ancient lover's dart to free me.
Then you shall find me in a green stalk of grain,
in a tiny rooting beast,
in the white face of the Moon.

[translation notes:]

"...not since I bore...tooth." This is a very dense line. If you enjoy working these things out for yourself, STOP READING HERE! In pre-Patriarchal religions, goddesses were immortal and beyond or outside of time. The poet's vision is that the Sibyl was one of these and that she, in fact, (in the original Italian) un preciso momento, diedi alla luce Tempo-che-passa dal dente ricurvo... that is, at the beginning of time gave birth to Chronos, the Greek god and personification of time, Time-That-Passes (Saturn to the Romans). There are two later images here that are really the same: Father Time and the Grim Reaper, both of whom wield a harvesting scythe, described by Virgil (book 4 of The Georgics) as the "tooth that turns inward," familiar in English as the serpent tooth or serpent's tooth.

2 "...I left my red island forever"
   (separate note at this link)

2. PARTHENOPE - added May 26, 2018  

This striking work by Fulvio De Marinis has been acquired by an art gallery in Positano. It is called Partenope (Parthenope in English), and manifests the legend of the siren who founded the city named for her, later to be called Neapolis (Naples). The work is here (below) accompanied by a brief bit of poetry, which is how De Marinis displays it on the FB page of Opus Continuum. I don't know what the new owners of the work may decide to do. The poetry is an Italian translation of Alexandra, a longer work by Lycophron, a Greek tragic poet, grammarian, and commentator on comedy who lived around 250 B.C. Alexandra is notoriously obscure, the bane of translators and, indeed, so difficult to translate that one critic said, "It makes The Iliad look like See Dick and Jane Sack Troy." It is one long prophecy uttered by Cassandra (another name for Alexandra) and tells of the events following the fall of Troy and of all the various Greek and Trojan heroes. Real events are mixed into the myth to show, among many other things (and the case in point here), how Parthenope (Naples) and other places in the west of Italy were founded. The English version, here, is a translation of lines 732-737 of Alexandra, by A.W. Mair (1875-1928). It appeared in Callimachus and Lycophron, pub.1921, W. Heinemann ; New York : G. P. Putnam.

And there one day in honour of the first goddess of the sisterhood
shall the ruler of all the navy of Mopsops array for his mariners a torch-race, in obedience to an oracle, which one day the people of the Neapolitans shall celebrate, even they who shall dwell on bluff crags beside Misenum's sheltered haven untroubled by the waves.

Notes: the sisterhood refers to the group of three sirens who are famous on the Tyrrhenian coast. Parthenope is the best known, the "first goddess". Mopsops was an ancient king of Attica. See this link for more on Sirens.

The painting is oil on canvas and measures 50x80 cm/20x32 in.

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