No Comment, Quotation — July 12, 2009, 5:39 am

Campanella – Il mondo è il libro

alchemis

Il mondo è il libro dove il Senno Eterno
scrisse i proprii concetti, e vivo tempio
dove, pingendo i gesti e ‘l proprio esempio,
di statue vive ornò l’imo e ‘l superno;

perch’ogni spirto qui l’arte e ‘l governo
leggere e contemplar, per non farsi empio,
debba, e dir possa: – Io l’universo adempio,
Dio contemplando a tutte cose interno. -

Ma noi, strette alme a’ libri e tempii morti,
copiati dal vivo con più errori,
gli anteponghiamo a magistero tale.

O pene, del fallir fatene accorti,
liti, ignoranze, fatiche e dolori:
deh, torniamo, per Dio, all’originale!

The world’s the book where the eternal Sense
Wrote his own thoughts; the living temple where,
Painting his very self, with figures fair
He filled the whole immense circumference.

Here then should each man read, and gazing find
Both how to live and govern, and beware
Of godlessness; and, seeing God all-where,
Be bold to grasp the universal mind.

But we tied down to books and temples dead,
Copied with countless errors from the life, -
These nobler than that school sublime we call.

O may our senseless souls at length be led
To truth by pain, grief, anguish, trouble, strife!
Turn we to read the one original!

Tommaso Campanella, Modo di filosofare (ca. 1620) (J.A. Symonds transl. 1899)

This sonnet by Galileo’s contemporary and fervent defender, Tommaso Campanella, is clearly derived from a reading of some of the great astronomer’s texts that I discussed yesterday about how to “read” the “book of nature,” and can easily be understood through reference to them.

Listen to the Sonata Quarta of Johann Heinrich Schmelzer, from his Sonatae unarum fidium (1664) and then to a brief excerpt from his sonata marking the relief of the Turkish siege of Vienna, Victori der Christen (1683). Schmelzer was an Austrian composer who wrote in the stylus fantasticus that had been pioneered by Giorlamo Frescobaldi a generation earlier and carried north of the Alps by Frescobaldi’s student Johann Jakob Froberger. The son of an army officer, Schmelzer grew up with first-hand experience of the religious wars that plagued Middle Europe in the first half of the seventeenth century. The experience is said to have helped shape his introspective style which stresses the pursuit of a highly personalized vision of harmony. Athanasius Kircher, the great Baroque polymath who sought to develop Galileo’s ideas about the possibility of a universal language, was fascinated by the stylus fantasticus. Here is how he described it: “It is especially suited to instruments. It is the most free and unrestrained method of composing, it is bound to nothing, neither to any words nor to a melodic subject, it was instituted to display genius and to teach the hidden design of harmony and the ingenious composition of harmonic phrases and fugues.” The style found some of its best expression in Schmelzer’s work.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

August 2015

In the Shadow of the Storm

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Measure for Measure

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Trouble with Israel

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Camera on Every Cop

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Part Neither, Part Both·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Eight months pregnant I told an old woman sitting beside me on the bus that the egg that hatched my baby came from my wife’s ovaries. I didn’t know how the old woman would take it; one can never know. She was delighted: That’s like a fairy tale!”
Mother with Children, by Gustav Klimt © akg-images
Article
What Recovery?·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Between 2007 and 2010, Albany’s poverty rate jumped 12 points, to a record high of 39.9 percent. More than two thirds of Albany’s 76,000 residents are black, and since 2010, their poverty rate has climbed even higher, to nearly 42 percent.”
Photograph by Will Steacy
Article
Rag Time·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

From a May 23 commencement address delivered at Hofstra University. Doctorow died on Tuesday. He was 84.
“We are a deeply divided nation in danger of undergoing a profound change for the worse.”
Photograph by Giuseppe Giglia
Article
The Trouble with Israel·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“We think we are the only people in the world who live with threat, but we have to work with regional leaders who will work with us. Bibi is taking the country into unprecedented international isolation.”
Photograph by Adam Golfer
Post
Greece, Europe, and the United States·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“A progressive Europe—the Europe of sustainable growth and social cohesion—would be one thing. The gridlocked, reactionary, petty, and vicious Europe that actually exists is another. It cannot and should not last for very long.”

Photograph by Stefan Boness

Percentage of Americans who say they would have cosmetic surgery if they could afford it:

69

An upside-down rainbow appeared over England.

Hackers breached Ashley Madison, a website that facilitates extramarital relationships, compromising the private information of millions of users. “This could be a boon,” said one lawyer, “for divorce attorneys.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today