Printer Friendly

The skies of the soul's exile: devotional language and Baroque rhetoric in Guido Casoni's Ragionamenti interni.

Armando Maggi, in "The Soul's Exile: Devotional Literature and Renaissance Culture in Guido Casoni's Ragionamenti interni," studies how, in Casoni's devotional text, "cielo" at once signifies God's presence in the creation and man's exile from God. Paradoxically, the world and its imposing skies are the locus where God approaches us and distances Himself from us. "Cielo" is indeed a complex signifier, for it testifies both to a presence and a radical absence. In brief, this post-Tridentine author (1561-1642) evidences the extent to which the view of humankind's exile from heaven endures and informs writing.

In a perfect silence of a dark night we cannot help but walk out and climb that mountain there, which seems to elevate the earth up toward the sky. See, thousands of bright eyes stare down on us. If this night's thick shadows weaken our external sight, they also render our inner eyes more alert and penetrating. In this visible blindness our soul longs for another and more real sky, heaven, God's residence and the angels' shelter. Whereas the sky we are contemplating now is a chasm of harmonious but transient forms, the other, invisible, sky is a superb theater of divine presences. As the earth is the center of the universe upon which this nocturnal spectacle unfolds its infinite gems, so is our soul the vantage point whence we are reminded of the majestic abode of the divinity.

These are, in synthesis, the opening pages of Guido Casoni's Ragionamenti interni, a series of seven religious meditations published in the first quarter of the seventeenth century according to the guidelines of Catholic Counter-reformation. (1) As we will see later, echoes from Roberto Bellarmino's and Francois de Sales's mystical texts are detectable in the Ragionamenti, whose seven chapters have the following titles: "Delle grandezze di Dio"; "Della solitudine"; "Della mutazione delle cose" (two parts); "Delle ricchezze"; "Della virginita"; "Della bellezza umana." Casoni's Ragionamenti has a distinct circular structure, which will become apparent at the end of this essay. Whereas the first section dwells on the mystical meanings of God's creation, the last narrows its focus on the beauties of the author's beloved. In particular, the first chapter on the infinite spaces of the sky plays a pivotal role within the entire Ragionamenti and lays out the essential points of the author's devotional poetics. (2) Casoni initiates his seven-step process of self-discovery by engaging his soul in a dialogue on the meaning of a "bella notte sotto sereno cielo" (Casoni, Ragionamenti 240).

This essay studies how, in Casoni's devotional text, "cielo" at once signifies God's presence in the creation and man's exile from God. Paradoxically, the world and its imposing skies are the locus where God approaches us and distances himself from us. "Cielo" is indeed a complex signifier. It testifies both to a presence and a radical absence.

Casoni is certainly one of the least known and most original authors of Italian seventeenth-century literature. As Giovanni Pozzi stresses in La parola dipinta, Casoni still awaits an adequate critical analysis, although he has been the object of some noteworthy, albeit brief, studies. (3) Casoni is primarily known for two radically different texts, which seem the product of two distinct authors. In 1591, the young Casoni publishes Della magia d'amore, one of the last and most erudite treatises on love of the Italian Renaissance in the tradition of Ficino's De amore. (4) Some thirty years later, in his collection of devotional works (Opere: first edition 1623, second edition 1626), Casoni abjures the rhetoric of sixteenth-century Neoplatonism and becomes a spokesman of baroque devotional thought. In other words, Casoni is an author between two worlds and two idioms. Unlike any other Italian writer active at the turn of the century, Casoni testifies to the death of a glorious culture and rhetoric, the Renaissance, and the imposition of a new expression, the ideology of the Catholic Reformation. These two elements are clearly present in his Opere.

The most famous piece in Opere is certainly La passione di Cristo, a visual poem divided into twelve symbolic forms, each of them synthesizing an essential moment of the incarnate Word's passion: the column, two scourges, the cross, the hammer, three nails, the sponge, the spear, the stair, two dice.In Opere (1626), La passione directly precedes Ragionamenti interni and is an important introduction to Casoni's devotional poetics. Written as a visual and verbal spiritual exercise, La passione is a sermon that the author delivers to his own soul so that it may transcend the forms of the world and attain the inner manifestations of the Word's biography, which was first written in heaven and then became visible to us through the Word's incarnation. Of particular significance is Casoni's initial statement in prose in which he opposes Christian truth to pagan false images:

Simmia poeta greco formo co' suoi versi un uovo, due ali, una scure e una siringa [...] e in esse verso intorno l'antiche deita favolose. Ma l'autore, levando la poesia dalle tenebre di queste favole e alzandola alla luce della verita, ha formato con versi gli stromenti della passione di Cristo.

(La passione 225)

Casoni here compares La passione to the figurative poems of the Greek Simmia. Whereas the forms of classical poetry evoked false and depraved mythic narratives, Casoni's Catholic poem manifests the world's true forms, which coincide with the final moments of Christ's biography (column, hammer, nails, cross, blood). Pagan myths were external reflections, visual distortions. (7) The ancients saw their immoral myths reflected in the vault of a night sky, which served as a luminous tapestry of infinite and variable stories. Thanks to the Word's revelation, Christians know that truth exists as an inner manifestation whose forms echo the moments of Christ's sacrifice and death. In other words, the sky of the ancients is now an internal landscape of spiritual forms recounting a story of sacrifice, violence, and death. The Christian forms of truth are in fact forms of mourning.

Casoni, however, underscores that our visible sky has not ceased to speak divine truth. In the first poetic section of La passione, whose form outlines a column, the poet invites his soul to weep and see the "high piety" that once descended from heaven (cielo) and was later offended by our human impiety:
 Alma pietosa lagrimando mira
 l'alta Pieta dal ciel discesa,
 da impieta terrena offesa.
 Vedi lacero il Pio,
 uomo innocente e Dio.
 Deh, contempla e rimira
 la colonna che il ciel sostiene
 tutta pene e di sangue tinta.
 (La passione 1-8, 227)


The Word, says Casoni, came down from heaven (il cielo) and as a column still sustains the heaven and connects it to the earth's destiny. The Word, who keeps the heaven as a mantle, is now bloodstained:
 Mira, mira dolente
 [................]
 Lui, che ha il cielo per manto,
 addobato di sangue;
 Lui, che da moto al cielo,
 Ora immoto e legato.
 (La passione 10; 18-22, 227)


How does our visible sky manifest the Word's wounded being? The contamination between "cielo" as sky and "cielo" as heaven seems to allude to a biographical mark within the creation itself, as if the creation retained and manifested the existence of the incarnate Word, as if our visible firmament were in fact the mantle of the crucified Son. What is the relationship, if any, between "cielo" as heaven and "cielo" as sky? And what is the meaning of a heaven/sky stained with the Word's blood? One could simply dismiss these questions by saying that the visible "cielo" is a metaphor of the other, superior and invisible "cielo." The two skies are certainly linked to one another through some sort of similitude; namely, we imagine that heaven is somehow like the firmament, but a merely metaphorical association misses the historical mark of the Word's bleeding body, which is somehow inscribed in our visible heaven.

In book twelve of the Confessions, a dense analysis of the creation according to Genesis, Augustine, commenting on Psalm 115:16, had asked himself the same question:

Sed ubi est coelum coeli, Domine, de quo audivimus in voce Psalmi: Coelum coeli Domino; terram autem dedit filiis hominum (Psal. CXIII, 16)? Ubi est coelum quod cernimus, cui terra est hoc omne quod cernimus? [...] sed ad illud coelum coeli, etiam terrae nostrae coelum terra est. Et hoc utrumque magnum corpus non absurde terra est, ad illud nescio quale coelum quod Domino est, non filiis hominum. Et nimirum haec terra erat invisibilis et incomposita, et nescio quae profunditas abyssi super quam non erat lux [...].

Super itaque erant tenebrae, quia lux super aberat [...].

([...] where is that Heaven of Heavens, O Lord, which we hear of in the words of the psalmist: The heaven of heavens is the Lord's; but the earth hath he given to the children of men. Where art thou, O heaven, which we see not? [...] In comparison of that Heaven of Heavens, even the heaven of this our earth is but earth: yea, both these great bodies may not absurdly be called earth, in comparison of that I know not what manner of heaven, which is the Lord's, and not given to the sons of men. And now was this earth invisible and without form, and there was, I know not what profoundness of the deep, upon which there was no light [...]. Darkness therefore was all over hitherto, because light was not upon it [...].)

(Confessions, vol. 2, bk. 12, ch. 2, 289-91; ch. 3, 291)

In the beginning, Augustine writes, was darkness and absence of form. Invisible and formless ("informe"), the real was a profoundness of the deep ("profunditas abyssi"). God granted form as light. During the third day of the creation, the Lord gave a "visible figure" ("speciem visibilem") both to the earth and "the heaven to this earth" ("coelum terrae"). As we read in Genesis, "Dixit autem Deus: Fiant luminaria in firmamento caeli, et dividant diem ac noctem [...] ut luceant in firmamento caeli, et illuminent terram" ("God said, 'Let there be lights in the vault of heaven to divide day from night. [...] Let them be lights in the vault of heaven to shine on the earth'" (Gen. 1:14-15). God made the "figure" of the firmament to limit the profoundness of the deep, which was the creation. The creation was and is an abyss. The "figure" of the sky works both as a limit to the abyss (the vault that divides day from night) and a reminder of that very abyss. The firmament sheds light over the profoundness of the creation and thus contains it, limits it. However, Augustine also remarks that God used the same word "coelum" both for the firmament ("firmamentum vocasti coelum") and the "heaven of heavens" ("coelum coeli"), which he had created before creating the world (Confessions, vol. 2, bk. 12, ch. 8, 301). By using the same word, God alluded to some similarity between our visible heaven and his heaven of heavens. The expression "heaven of heavens" itself sounds like an echo, a reminder. We could read the word "heaven" as an index, that is, a mark of remembrance, just as a hole in a wall may signify that someone shot a bullet in the past. (8)

We have seen that Ragionamenti interni, which in Opere directly follows La passione, opens with the description of a starry sky during a night walk up the slopes of a mountain. Reminiscent of Petrarch's famous letter on his ascent of Mount Ventoux (Rerum familiarum libri, 4.1), the first section of Casoni's volume by the title "Delle grandezze di Dio" begins with a meditation on the central divergence between outer and inner sight. While he is admiring the beauty of the night sky, Casoni is reminded of what Augustine calls "heaven of heavens":

Vagheggio il cielo, sede di Dio, musico canoro delle sue grandezze, albergo de gli angeli, stanza de' beati, purissima regione tutta stelleggiata di lumi, palchi divini adorni di rose d'oro, piagge beate, ove i ruscelli della gloria con dolce mormorio spiegano le lodi del Creatore; e veggio ch'egli infaticabile nel continuo girarsi, inquieto senza fine di quiete, ha l'essere senza nodrimento, il corpo senza compositione, il moto senza stanchezza, e simile a se stesso in ogni sua parte non e generabile e pure ha parte nella generatione delle cose inferiori, e semplice e nondimeno co'l suo moto e operatore dei misti, contiene in se il tutto.

(Ragionamenti 243)

By looking at the stars, the author embarks on an imaginary description of the heaven of heavens divided into two subsequent rhetorical phases. Casoni first imagines ("vagheggio") a sort of luxurious baroque landscape, made of comforting interiors ("albergo de gli angeli," "stanza de' beati") and a sumptuous nature ("palchi divini," "piagge beate," "ruscelli della gloria"). Casoni finally concludes with a theoretical definition of the divinity, who at once inhabits the heaven of heavens and identifies with it. The above passage from the first chapter of the Ragionamenti thus details a three-part metaphorical expression, which Giovanni Pozzi explains as follows:

Nella metafora il significante [...] che funge da figurante, evoca in toto, oltre il figurato, anche il significato [...] che gli e connesso, comprendendovi pure quegli elementi che non sono comunicabili all'altro termine dell'analogia [...]. Cosi avviene perche gli effetti del senso letterale prodotti dal figurante non sono esclusi dal processo che permette la riunione dei due significati in un solo significante.

(La rosa 15)

Let us apply Pozzi's analysis to Casoni's Ragionamenti. A night sky (figurante) helps us imagine the heaven of heavens (figurato), whose meaning is God. These two distinct facets ("figurato" and "significato," in Pozzi's words) are contained in a visual and verbal signifier (the word "cielo" and the actual night sky). Language and nature have an intrinsically metaphorical character, which may trigger a chain of rhetorical procedures. To meditate upon a night sky means to bring to the fore its potential linguistic senses. It is almost superfluous to point out that, in this three-phase rhetorical process (reality spurs an act of the imagination, which ends in an intellectual and spiritual insight), Casoni formulates a form of literary meditation akin to Saint Ignatius's spiritual exercises. Starting off from a given signifier (the stars in the sky, a passage from the scriptures), one goes on to explore its infinite visual similes (from sky to heaven of heavens, from a biblical episode to its echoes in our biography). This process of rhetorical expansion leads to a cathartic perception of the truth on which both the signifier and its similes are founded. (9)

We have said that the opening chapter of Ragionamenti interni certainly alludes to Petrarch's well-known epistle on Mount Ventoux. The two texts, however, present differences of great relevance. Whereas Petrarch travels with his younger brother and two servants in the morning, Casoni comes out at night alone in an undefined landscape dominated by the imposing vision of the sky. More importantly, in Petrarch's account, the slow and difficult ascension results more enlightening than the vision from the mountain itself. In fact, once he reaches the peak, Petrarch stands there like a dazed person. Rather than rejoicing in his accomplishment, he recalls that, in book ten of the Confessions, Augustine had criticized those who "eunt [...] mirari alta montium, et ingentes fluctus maris [...] et gyros siderum, et relinquunt se ipsos [...]" ("go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, the lofty billows of the sea [...] and the circular motions of the stars, and yet pass themselves by [...]" (Confessions, bk. 10, ch. 8, 99-101). Ashamed of himself, Petrarch descends from the mountain in silence. The lesson he has learned from his ascension is the refusal of the ascension itself. True spiritual enlightenment can only occur in the blindness of one's soul. (10)

In the baroque Ragionamenti, on the other hand, the imposing beauties of a night landscape are the very source of the traveler's enlightenment. We have seen that Casoni's spiritual process of rhetorical purification is based on three basic moments, whose conclusion sees the soul arise to a mystical insight on divine being:

[...] se t'alzerai, anima mia, sopra te stessa e sopra la natura umana, fatta quasi simile a gli angeli, ti nodrirai di contemplare Dio, e nella contemplatione d'amarlo goderai in terra una certa sembianza del Paradiso. Cosi la mente angelica adorna della bellezza ideale, fu da gli antichi detta paradiso e Zoroastre invitando l'anima a sublimarsi co'l mezo della contemplatione alla divina bellezza, esclama, cerca il Paradiso e altrove, estendi gli occhi, e dricciali in su.

(Ragionamenti 246)

Reminiscent of his past Neoplatonic formation, Casoni contaminates baroque devotional culture with a reference to sixteenth-century hermetic tradition, whose insistence on the mind's solipsistic enlightenment seems similar to Casoni's solitary nocturnal musings. (11) But the connection with Renaissance Neoplatonism is here merely rhetorical. Both traditions speak of some spiritual rapture, but their modalities are deeply different. In fact, the above passage and the whole first chapter of Ragionamenti must be read in the light of basic tenets of seventeenth-century Catholic mysticism.

A first plausible reference is to Roberto Bellarmino's De ascensione mentis in Deum ("The Mind's Ascent to God"), first published in Latin in 1615. (12) Written in the tradition of Bonaventure and John Climacus, this treatise became an instant success, with five Latin editions in the first year of publication plus an Italian translation by Angelo della Ciana, Bellarmino's nephew. The Jesuit Bellarmino (1542-1621), whose influential catechism Dottrina cristiana breve was used by Jesuit missionaries for more than three centuries, is a key figure of seventeenth-century Catholic culture. Bellarmino's religious treatises exerted a decisive influence on the seventeenth-century Jesuit Daniello Bartoli, author, among other texts, of the important La ricreazione del savio and L'uomo di lettere. Divided into fifteen steps, De ascensione opens with an analysis of the relationship between the soul and the divinity. Our ascent to the divinity can only start, Bellarmino states in the fourth section of step one, with the essential realization that our soul is in fact an image of God: "Lift up your mind, my soul, to your exemplar and consider that the whole excellence of an image lies in its similarity to its exemplar." (13)

Just as the soul is an image of a divine exemplar, so does the creation mirror God's incommensurable greatness, which is the topic of the second step of Bellarmino's De ascensione. Similar to Casoni's first meditation ("Delle grandezze di Dio"), this section of Bellarmino's treatise opens with a contrast between the earth and the sky: "What, I ask, is the size of the earth in comparison with the vastness of the heaven above? [...] Who can grasp in thought the size of the heavens where so many thousands of stars shine?" (Bellarmino, The Mind's Ascent 67; De ascensione 21). Although the earth is nothing but a grain of sand in comparison to the vastness of the heavens, both Bellarmino and Casoni underscore that, just as our soul is an image of the divinity's infinite greatness, so too does the earth reflect the vast beauty of the heavens. Quoting from Psalm 115:16, which we have already found in a passage from Augustine's Confessions, Bellarmino states: "Throughout the Holy Scriptures we read that God made the heavens and the earth as the principal parts of the world [...]. 'The heaven of heaven is for God,' says the Prophet, 'but the earth he gave to the sons of men.' This is the reason why heaven is full of glittering stars and the earth abounds with the immense riches of metals, precious stones, grasses, trees, and many kinds of animals" (Bellarmino, The Mind's Ascent 77; De ascensione 39-40). (14) Casoni formulates this point as follows:

[...] vedo questa machina grande della terra essere centro de' cieli, base del mondo, vaso del mare, genitrice de' frutti, vestita d'erbe e trappunta di fiori, nodrice de gli animali e patria dell'uomo [...]. Diviso meco in qual maniera i vegetabili con odorato parto de' fiori, fatti ricchi di fronde e abondanti di frutti, servono all'uomo non meno di vaghezza che d'alimento. Considero la varieta de gli animali, albergatori della terra, abitatori dell'acque e cittadini dell'aria.

(Ragionamenti 241-42)

God, we could say, envisioned his creation as a set of perfect reflections. Since the creatures, as Bellarmino and Casoni insist, are mirrors of a divine exemplar, so too the earth and the sky reflect God's heaven of heavens. (15) In other words, the creation manifests God's existence and his presence. God lives in and around his creatures. It is now evident that a night ascent of a mountain that seems to touch the heavens is similar to the soul's ascent toward the divinity. (16) In chapter four of step seven, which is a meditation "on the heavens, sun, moon, and stars," Bellarmino writes: "I now come to nighttime, when the heavens through the moon and the stars provide us a step for climbing to God." (17)

But the above harmonious reflection among similes (earth, soul, sky, and heavens) is predicated upon an essential paradox. Both Bellarmino and Casoni reiterate that human beings are pilgrims on earth, for this world is the place of their exile from the divinity (Bellarmino, De ascensione 28). In Casoni's words, the creation is at once the "orma" (mark, sign) of its Creator and the "illusione" (illusion) that prevents us from ascending to the divinity: "[...] questa vita mortale e un lampo che svanisce e un'aura che fugge [...] altro non e che sogno" (Casoni, Ragionamenti 253). I have already explained that in Casoni's baroque religiosity "cielo" works as an index, as a sign of absence and remembrance. "Cielo" is a figure or image (the firmament) that in fact hides a withdrawn presence (the divinity and his heaven of heavens). "Cielo," we could say, is a visible figure of speech based on dissimulation, because its beautiful appearance in fact hides a divine absence. (18) The act of contemplating a night sky thus summons a form of intellectual blindness, a sense of inner obscurity:

O anima contemplatrice, vedi com'egli [Dio], non essendo natura intellettuale ne intelligente, supera ogni intelligenza e eccede ogni cognizione, si come la tua cognizione resta adombrata e'l tuo discorso offuscato, mentre sollevi te stessa ad una nobile meraviglia.

(Casoni, Ragionamenti 250)

The soul's beclouded discourse ("discorso offuscato"), its shadowy knowledge ("cognizione adombrata") is the clearest insight granted to the soul. A pleasant feeling of sleepiness and fatigue accompanies this conclusive awareness. The night wanderer is ready to go back home and rest:

Ma gia il sonno, misteriosa imagine della morte, pace dell'animo, alta quiete della viata umana, scherzando tra l'ombre dense della notte profonda, m'invita a scendere a piedi del monte per ritornare alla stanza che posta nel piu vicino colle mi s'e preparata al riposo.

(Casoni, Ragionamenti 253)

Sleep signifies that the soul has exhausted its linguistic potentials, that its attempt to respond to the divinity's absence through reasoning has come to a conclusion. Being a form of prayer, this night ascent can only end with a sense of calm suspension, of hopeful expectation. As some critics have pointed out, Casoni's texts seem to echo Francois de Sales's mystical views (Pozzi, La parola dipinta 214; Guaragnella 176-77). In Traite de l'amour de Dieu (first edition 1616), Francois de Sales (1567-1622) distinguishes between meditation and contemplation. Meditation, says the French mystic, is the mother of love, whereas contemplation is her child (Oeuvres, bk. 6, ch. 3a, 617). If meditation is a synonym for prayer (the night ascent of a mountain, the vision of a night sky), contemplation makes the soul curl up like a flower exposed to the sun's rays (Traite de l'amour de Dieu bk. 6, ch. 7a, 631). In this condition of pleasant solitude, the soul rests as if it were asleep (Traite de l'amour de Dieu, bk. 6, ch. 8, 632-35). (19) What is the meaning of this form of contemplation? The night wanderer perceives his exile from the divinity as an essential part of the creation itself. God resides both in the firmament and in the human race's exile from Him. Exile is the core of the wanderer's existence. This paradoxical awareness follows the wanderer from the slopes of the mountain back to his solitary room, where he will spend the rest of the night.

However, as Bellarmino underscores in the seventh step of De ascensione mentis, "[t]here are two times--day and night--by which we ascend from heaven to God on the wings of contemplation" (Bellarmino, The Mind's Ascent 119; De ascensione 109). One is the "harmony of the stars," the other is the sun as "the dwelling place of God." Both skies are equal sources of contemplation. If a night sky compels us to look upwards, the sun's light invites us to turn our gaze downwards at the earth' beauty. I have already stressed that, according to Casoni, a sense of mirroring in fact exists between sky and earth. In the second chapter of Ragionamenti interni ("Della solitudine"), Casoni walks back to the anonymous mountain in the morning and contemplates the nature that lies hidden in the shadows of the night. This new section opens as follows:

Io pure a passo lento, involto in placidi pensieri sono giunto al tuo piede, o verdeggiante Sentino, che sorgendo sovra le nubi pretendi quasi con la cima di baciare il cielo. Ma poiche t'avvedi essere un picciolo granello d'arena rispetto alla di lui inaccessibile altezza, negletto ti stilli per dolore in lagrime interne, le quali, dalle caverne del tuo seno gocciolando, a' tuoi piedi formano questo fonte, il quale [...] manda fuori l'acque limpide e chiare che [...] scorrono in grembo al lago vicino, ove il fiume mischiando le sue con l'acque di lui esce piu copioso d'onde e acquista il nome di Mischio.

(Casoni, Ragionamenti 255)

In the first chapter of Ragionamenti, the mountain had no name because the focus of the wanderer's gaze was on the firmament and the earth was deprived of light. In this new section, Casoni enlightens the previously dark landscape with a biographical connotation. We now learn that his Ragionamenti are taking place in his native town of Serravalle, at the feet of the mount Sentino, from which springs the river Mischio. (20)

Echoing the first sentence of "Delle grandezze di Dio," this new description of a morning walk reiterates that the Sentino is a mountain that leads man's gaze up to the sky. As in La passione di Cristo the figure of a column unites the earth with the heavens, so does mount Sentino manifest that a mystical connection exists between the earth and the abyss of the skies. In this second chapter on solitude, Casoni makes the Sentino into a metaphor for a contrite Catholic who, by shedding tears of deep regret, gives life to the Mischio, the river of the town of Serravalle. In other words, the wanderer's exile and isolation from the divinity is here a universal awareness and concern. Mount Sentino is also the column on which the incarnate Word was flogged and through which we can ascend from our earthly condition to the heavens. The creation is marked with the memory of the Word's passion and death.

Casoni also underscores that the tears of the Sentino are a spring that enlivens this peaceful landscape. As in chapter one Casoni had acquired a sense of inner peace by fathoming and embracing his radical exile from the Creator, so do the tears of the Sentino make the countryside a place for inner understanding and acceptance. Metaphorically speaking, Casoni states that this landscape makes him appreciate "la soavita che distilla dal dolcissimo fonte della vita solitaria" (Casoni, Ragionamenti 256).

Let us summarize Casoni's complex series of metaphorical transliterations. Mount Sentino is like a human being that has perceived his or her personal responsibility for the Word's sacrifice. By mourning the Word's death, the mountain manifests tears of repentance which fructify in an outer landscape, which is like the inner landscape of a soul that has devoted itself to solitude. Casoni phrases this point as follows:

O solitudine[...] instromento per fabbricare nell'anima un paradiso, scala per ascendere al cielo, tu fai che l'uomo fugge la compagnia de gli altri uomini per avere la conversatione de gli angeli [...] giace tra l'erbe per sollevarsi tra le stelle; riposa all'ombra per fruire la luce dell'eterno sole. Sono gli antri i suoi palagi, le fronde i suoi riposi, le foreste i suoi giardini. Osserva la velocita del vento come figura della vita nostra fugace.

(Casoni, Ragionamenti 257)

Solitude is thus the condition that makes visible the reflection between earth and sky, between outer and inner landscape, between the event of the Word's suffering and death, and our exile and atonement. (21) Solitude, we could say, is like the column of the Word's torture and of the soul's ascent ("O solitudine [...] scala per ascendere al cielo"). Solitude is the inner condition of a mountain mourning its sins and distance from the persecuted Word.

The column of the soul's solitude, on which the marks of the Word's blood are imprinted, enables the dialogue between earth and sky, between our exile and divine abode. In the following chapter ("Della mutazione delle cose," part one), Casoni stresses that the mutations of our visible sky remind us of the world's instability and transience. In other words, the sky serves as a mirror of our human condition. The sky is not only a visible echo of the heaven of heavens (God used the word "coelum" to indicate both his dwelling and the firmament); it also compels us to face our impermanence:

[...] aprendosi il cielo e lampeggiando sosteneva co i focosi baleni la vece del sole che, cinto da nebbia torbida e oscura, compartiva a' mortali poca e incerta luce; fremeano i tuoni, uscendo dal guazzoso seno delle nubi squarciate [...]. Vedi anima mia come facilmente s'e cangiata la prospettiva del cielo, come repente s'e mutata questa scena del mondo.

(Casoni, Ragionamenti 267)

The sky is like an immense stage, whose "perspective" opens on mutable settings. The sky, we could say, gives perspective to the scenes of the world. At the beginning of this essay, I stated that the opposition and dialogue between earth and sky ("terra" and "cielo") is an essential topos of Casoni's poetics. In Ode in onor della sacratissima Sindone, the highest poetic meditation on the shroud of Turin ever written, Casoni contends that, by holding the marks of the Word's death, the "Sindone" is the mirror of the heavens' eternal beauties:
 O sacra spoglia, o prezioso velo,
 paradiso terreno,
 eletto in terra a gareggiar col cielo

 Tu sei tela celeste, alle superne
 menti pompa e tesoro,
 Specchio divino delle bellezze eterne.
 Nelle tue fila d'oro
 fa lucido riflesso
 il sol di gloria, al sol di gloria istesso.
 Cosi talora in densa nube suole
 col pennel della luce
 quasi pittor del sol ritrarsi il sole. (22)


In the shroud of Turin, the moment of the incarnate Word's death exists as an everlasting remembrance of a renewed alliance between earth and heaven, as Paul writes in the Epistle to the Colossians (1:20). The shroud, Casoni writes, "competes with heaven" (gareggia col cielo) because it retains here, on earth, the visible sign of the Word's human biography. (23) The Word lives with the Father and the Holy Spirit in the heaven of heavens, but his human biography, the outline of his corpse, is preserved here on earth. This admirable figure, Casoni writes in this poem, sees even though it does not have eyes ("non ha lumi e pur mira"). As a relic or official statement of a new pact between earth and heaven, the shroud guards the dialogue between humans and the divine.

The concept of the Word's bloodstained corpse as a unifying image, as the figure of a new speech of salvation, is particularly dear to Casoni. In Teatro poetico, a series of brief compositions each made of two parts, a narrative prose and a subsequent poem often in the form of a monologue, Casoni expresses this point in a poem in six octaves ("La croce"), in which he addresses the cross of Christ. (24) The first four verses of octave five read as follows:
 Cosi in mezo de l'aria in te sospeso
 sta chi congiunge in un la terra e'l cielo,
 che muore eterno e visto, e non inteso,
 e Dio vivente in lacerato velo.
 (Casoni, Teatro poetico 217)


The "torn veil" of verse four is both the veil of the sanctuary that was split in two from top to bottom at the moment of the Word's death (Matthew 27:51) and the tormented body of the living God murdered on the cross as it is recorded on the shroud. Lying "suspended" in the air, the dead Word is a veil over the skies. The shroud in which he was buried both covers and enlightens the skies.

We have said that, according to Casoni's Ragionamenti, God paradoxically posits his dialogue with us as a form of radical exile. God is and is not in the creation. He exists among us as the memorial of his Word's death. We are pilgrims, Casoni reiterates throughout his Opere, and as a pilgrim the Son of God lived among us. Let us remember that the Word's last words on the cross spoke of solitude and abandonment (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). Being God's creation, the earth cannot help but express the solitude and exile that the Word voiced at the moment of his death. Exile is in fact what connects humans and the divine, since the Word himself shared our condition of outcast. The final section of Teatro poetico ("Clemenza divina") is "the most spectacular" expression of Casoni's interpretation of the earth-heaven reflection (Pozzi, La parola dipinta 209). (25) Unlike the previous chapters of the Teatro, this conclusive part on God's amorous clemency is divided into two subchapters, both revolving around the Virgin mother of the Word and her contemplation of his corpse. In the first poetic section, composed of five octaves, Mary intercedes with the Word on behalf of the created world. (26) Opening her arms, the Virgin offers her naked breast as shield to protect the creation against the Word's wrath. (27) Through Mary the Word became incarnate and saved his own creation from the decadence of sin. The fleeting forms of the skies, Mary reminds the Word, are also products of his creation. In octave four, one of the most inspired expressions of seventeenth-century Italian devotional literature, Casoni gives a poetic form to the concepts expressed in the first part of Ragionamenti interni:
 Le fiamme lucidissime e divine,
 in cui riflette il tuo gran lume un poco,
 i cieli che finiti e senza fine
 ne' vari moti lor non mutan loco,
 tant'alme e tante forme pellegrine,
 l'uomo, tua imago, l'invisibil foco,
 l'immobil terra, l'acqua e l'aria pura
 son pur del tuo amor parti e fattura.

 (Casoni, Teatro poetico 221) (28)


Just as the flames of a starry night are a vague reflection of the Word's abode, so are human beings mirrors of the Son. This essential concept finds a final formulation in the second part of this chapter, in which Casoni reiterates that the Word descended from heaven to earth so that these two halves of his creation could be reunited. In its poetic section, which is similar to a medieval laude, an anonymous speaker engages Mary in a dialogue on the mystery of her son's birth, death, and resurrection. Made of seven octaves entirely structured on the word rhymes "terra" and "cielo," this second poem focuses on the meaning of the Word's human biography. (29) Echoing Jacopone of Todi, the first two verses of the first octave read as follows:
 Maria, chi e quel bambin ch'e in terra? Terra.
 Dissi chi e quel ch'e ignudo al cielo? Cielo.

 (Casoni, Teatro poetico 223)


In these two hendecasyllables, Casoni has synthesized the whole parable of the Word's experience. The Word came to us as a baby born from a woman's womb. Like every other human being, he was made of earth (Genesis 2:7). But, dying naked on the cross, the Word, made of earth, arose to heaven. Casoni offers a final rendition of this fundamental theme in the closing octave, a poetic tour de force:
 Patira questo Dio fatt'uomo in terra,
 perche l'uom farsi Dio bramo nel cielo.
 Egli, ch'e nume e sacerdote in terra
 fara di sangue un sacrificio al cielo.
 Ei la vittima sia penosa in terra,
 caro olocausto, ostia amorosa al cielo,
 lacero, morto, al fin sepolto in terra,
 plachera il cielo, e salvera la terra.

 (Casoni, Teatro poetico 224) (30)


The Word buried in the earth and arisen to heaven saves the earth from the exile it embodies since the fall. The Word has granted a meaning to the exile that rules over the creation after the original sin. Exile is now a means through which the pilgrims of the earth walk toward the Word, since the Word was made of earth and from the earth arose back to the Father.

The theme of exile and reconciliation runs through the rest of Ragionamenti interni. In its fourth section ("Della mutazione delle cose," part two), Casoni likens the interaction between the soul in exile and the heavens to the interplay between the moon and the sun. In Bellarmino's De ascensione, we find a very similar treatment of this allegory. After offering an astronomical description of this natural occurrence, (31) both Bellarmino's De ascensione and Casoni's Ragionamenti explain how the intercourse between the two planets signifies the soul's relationship with the divinity. Bellarmino writes:

The moon stands for man; the sun stands for God; when the moon is opposite the sun, then the light borrowed from the sun looks only at the earth and in a way turns its back to heaven [...]. On the other hand, when the moon is in conjunction with the sun, it is perfectly subordinated to the sun; it is entirely bright on its upper side and looks toward heaven alone and turns its back after a fashion on the earth and disappears completely from human eyes.

[...] If you, my soul, under the inspiration of his grace find yourself subordinated to the Father of lights [...] do not imitate fools who change like the moon. (Bellarmino, The Mind's Ascent 125-26; De ascensione 120)

Casoni addresses the soul at the beginning of his exegesis:

Rivolgiti anima mia alla considerazione di te medesima, perche vedrai come tu sia il ritratto di questo pianeta, poscia che mentre ricevi nella tua parte superiore il lume da Dio, tuo sole eterno, e a lui t'unisci, miri, vagheggi e contempli le cose celesti e sei parimente lucido spettacolo al cielo, stando con aspetto felice in congiunzione con Dio, ma se conversa alle sensualita [...] nella parte superiore tutta ombrosa ti mostri al cielo, allora [...] sei in opposizione co'l celeste tuo sole.

(Casoni, Ragionamenti 282-83) (32)

Like the moon in conjunction with the sun, the soul enlightened by the Word's death understands that its distance from the divinity is not a mark of abandonment, but rather a paradoxical sign of closeness. According to Casoni, a soul in conjunction with its sun is a luminous surface that reflects the sky's rays ("lucido spettacolo al cielo"). Some sort of luminosity inhabits the soul's exile.

The light lying dormant in the created world, in its forms doomed to decay and oblivion and in its creatures exiled from the heaven of heavens, is the core of chapter five of the Ragionamenti, called "Delle ricchezze." Some readers could assume that such a cliched title would introduce a trite contrast between spiritual and worldly wealth. In fact, this brief section is one of the most inspired parts of the Ragionamenti. Walking out at dawn toward the mountain encountered in the first and the second chapters, Casoni sees that the sun is shining through the morning dew. At dawn, dew grants a layer of golden radiance to nature. Addressing dawn as he were speaking to his soul, Casoni writes:

Contempla [...] questo colle, com'ei lentamente s'inalza, quasi ] bramoso di salutarti per ricevere le stille della tua rugiada, con la quale inargenti i suoi fiori. Vedi quest'erba tutta fiorita, vedila trappunta e stelleggiata di fiori, si che pare seminata di stelle.

(Ragionamenti 288)

Dawn is the awareness that visits the soul at the moment of its conjunction with its inner sun. Thanks to this enlightenment, the created world acquires a luminosity that makes it a reflection of the skies. Stars, Casoni says, seem to shine in the grass. This goldlike presence in the air at dawn brings to the fore the clarity within things themselves. Dawn's visible clarity is similar to the clarity that visits the soul during its contemplation of the skies/heavens:

Contempla, dico, il cielo, per natura semplice, per essenza sottile, per qualita lucido e per materia purissimo, ch'ogn'ora movendosi non mai dal suo luogo si muove, finito senza fine, tutto suo, tutto in se, sempre a se stesso simigliante, vita del mondo, padre delle stagioni [...]. Non altro che la purissima rugiada che stilla dalla contemplatione delle cose celesti e dall'abborrimento delle ricchezze terrene puo estinguere la sete quasi che inestinguibile dell'oro [...] chi vuole avere ricchezze bisogna prima avere se stesso.

(Casoni, Ragionamenti 290-93)

This passage, which directly echoes the first page of the Ragionamenti on the contemplation of a nighttime sky, unmistakably blends the two meanings of the word "cielo." By contemplating the heavens, the soul understands that it does not possess itself. The "dew" that flows down from the heavens is an inner gift that sheds light over the soul's nothingness. Nothingness is the soul's luminosity. The "dawn" of the soul's awareness manifests an inner and outer world enlightened by nothingness. Let us bear in mind that, as Augustine states in the Confessions, light was the form that God gave to the abyss of the creation.

The light at dawn is also the setting of the next chapter, "Della virginita," which compares the light descending from the heavens to the inner light of the virginal soul: "Quella [la luce dell'alba] manifesta il corpo lucido distinguendolo dall'opaco; questa sparge da gli occhi i raggi dell'animo casto e luminoso, e lo discerne da quello che di terrene e tenebrose macchie e oscurato. La luce e porpora del cielo; la virginita e il lume della vita" (Casoni, Ragionamenti 295). One could say that Casoni's Ragionamenti does not consist of seven meditations loosely connected to each other through some metaphorical and thematic recurrences, for it describes a process of inner enlightenment in which the author literally and metaphorically "walks outside" of himself and meditates upon the relationship among created world, human soul, and the Word. In a condition of inner and outer solitude, the subject understands that exile is the sense of his existence. But exile from the Word is also the place where the subject perceives the presence of the incarnate Word as a form of remembrance (the Word's isolation, suffering, and death). Exile is a luminous presence within the creation and human beings. The name of this inner brilliance is "virginity," in the sense that virginity is a clear state of purity that mirrors the purity of the heavens.

The seventh and final chapter ("Della bellezza umana") describes a spiritual closure. From the vault of the firmament and the light of a luminous dawn, Casoni finally focuses on the face of his beloved Lauretta. Like a night sky, her beauty is a reflection of God's beauty:

[...] ti prego per quel celeste lume dell'ideale bellezza ch'in te risplende, per quelle dolcissime tue luci, che sono nel cielo del tuo bel volto l'oriente di due Soli amorosi, che tu riceva nell'orecchie invisibili dell'anima tua queste voci, testimoni addolorati delle mie sciagure, e della tua perfidia.

(Casoni, Ragionamenti 300)

This opening section sounds like a trite formulation of baroque love poetry. The beloved woman's cruelty causes deep sorrow in her lover. But why and how is Lauretta cruel? She is not cruel because she denies her sexual favors to the author, something that would contradict the previous chapter on the importance of virginity. Offering a unique interpretation of some essential topoi of baroque love poetry, Casoni believes that Lauretta is cruel because her physical beauty, which echoes the harmony of the heavens, testifies to the distance between his soul and the divinity. In other words, Lauretta is cruel because she manifests the author's exile from God. Summarizing all the themes covered throughout the first six chapters of the Ragionamenti, Casoni states that Lauretta's visible beauty transcends the harmony of every possible aspect of the created world, including the firmament:

[...] ne il canto de gli uccelli, ne il susurro delle fronde, ne il mormorio dell'acque, ne il concento del mondo, ne il concento delle sue parti, ne la musica delle sfere celesti, ne l'armonia di te stessa [anima] arrivano alla soavita della melodia che dalla pellegrina belta della mia Lauretta dolcemente risulta. (Casoni, Ragionamenti 304)

If in chapter one the vision of the firmament had made the wanderer perceive the created world as a place at once inhabited and abandoned by the divinity, in this final analysis of his beloved's beautiful forms the author concludes that no solace derives from the visible world. In our analysis of chapter one, we saw that a certain comfort or pleasant fatigue overwhelmed the author at the end of his night walk and compelled him to go back to his bedroom. Here, at the conclusion of the entire book, the solitary Casoni realizes that to seek solace in the contemplation of the visible beauties (the firmament, dawn, the forms of Lauretta) is a misleading experience. Exile from the "cruel" Lauretta is the core of the human condition. No bedroom awaits the writer at the end of the Ragionamenti. A cave is the place where he will bury his lament. The last two sentences of the entire Ragionamenti read as follows:

[...] il giorno gia cadente se ne fugge all'occaso, la speranza di rivedere in questo luogo la mia sospirata Lauretta e gia fuggita. Portano seco l'aure fugaci i miei giusti lamenti. Fuggiro dunque ancor io quest'antro, e piangendo turbero con le mie voci dogliose il silenzio di queste selve. (Casoni, Ragionamenti 310)

At the beginning of this essay I stated that Casoni's Ragionamenti interni has a circular structure. If in the first chapter the author walks out at night, while chapters two through six take place at dawn and during the day. At the end of the final chapter, it is dusk time and night is approaching. Unlike the conclusion of chapter one, however, the end of the book does not describe a reassuring experience. The author walks back to a cave, the symbol of a solitary, monastic form of self-scrutiny. Casoni will trouble the "silence of these woods" with his cries. If the last word of a book has any meaning, "selve" and its singular "selva" have a special place in the Italian tradition. No clarity accompanies the wanderer back to his abode. "Selve" visualizes a sense of perdition, of utter confusion. It signifies exile.

University of Chicago

Works Cited

Accetto, Torquato. Della dissimulazione onesta. Ed. Salvatore Silvano Nigro. Torino: Einaudi, 1997.

Augustine, St. Confessions. Trans. William Watts. 2 vols. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1997.

Balliani, Camillo. Ragionamenti sopra la Sacra Sindone. Torino: Pizzamiglio, 1646.

Bartoli, Daniello. Dell'huomo di lettere difeso e emendato. Firenze: Stamperia di S.A.S. alla Condotta, 1645.

--. La ricreatione del savio. Venezia: Prodocimo, 1676.

Bellarmino, Roberto. De ascensione mentis in Deum. Antverpiae: Ex Officina Platiniana, 1615.

--. Spiritual Writings. Trans. John Patrick Donnelly and Roland J. Teske. New York: Paulist Press, 1989.

Casoni, Guido. De la magia d'amore. Venezia: Zoppini, 1592.

--. Ode. Venezia: Ciotti, 1602.

--. Opere. Venezia: Baglioni, 1626.

--. Emblemi politici. Venezia: Baglioni, 1632.

Corradini, Marco. "La ricerca metaforica di Guido Casoni." Aevum 61. 3 (1987): 503-16.

Del Nente, Ignazio. Eremo interno del cuore. Firenze: Borghigiani, 1642.

Doglio, Maria Luisa. "'Grandezze e meraviglie' della Sindone nella letteratura del Seicento." Il potere e la devozione. La Sindone e la biblioteca reale di Torino. Ed. Vera Comoli and Giovanna Giacobello Bernard. Milano: Electa, 2000. 17-28.

Francois de Sales. Oeuvres. Paris: Gallimard, 1969.

--, and Jane de Chantal. Letters of Spiritual Directions. Trans. Peronne Marie Thibert. New York: Paulist Press, 1988.

Gentili, Antonio, and Mauro Ragazzoni. La spiritualita della riforma cattolica. Vol. 5/C. Bologna: Centro Editoriale Dehoniano, 1993.

Guaragnella, Pasquale. Gli occhi della mente. Stili nel Seicento italiano. Bari: Palomar, 1997.

Harran, Don. "Guido Casoni on Love and Music: A Theme 'for All Ages and Studies.'" Renaissance Quarterly 54.3 (2001): 883-913.

Hesiod. Homeric Hymns. Epic Cycle. Homerica. Trans. Hugh G. Evelyn-White. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2000.

Ignatius of Loyola. Spiritual Exercises and Selected Works. Trans. George E. Ganss. New York: Paulist Press, 1991.

Marino, Giovanbattista. Dicerie sacre e la strage de gl'innocenti. Ed. Giovanni Pozzi. Torino: Einaudi, 1960.

Molinari, Donatella. "Per un'idea dei rapporti fra poesia e iconismo. La passione di Christo di Guido Casoni." Lingua e stile 14 (1979): 431-35.

The New Jerusalem Bible. New York: Doubleday, 1998.

Paleotti, Alfonso. Esplicatione del lenzuolo ove fu involto il Signore. Bologna: Rossi, 1598.

Patrizi, Francesco. Magia philosophica, hoc est Zoroaster et eius 320 oracula chaldaica. Hamburgi: Biblioteca Ranzoviana, 1593.

Petrarca, Francesco. Opere latine. Ed. Antonietta Fubano. Torino: Utet, 1987.

Philosophical Writings of Peirce. Ed. Justus Buchler. New York: Dover Publications, 1955.

Portier, Lucienne. "Les calligrammes de Guido Casoni." Revue des etudes italiennes 43.1-2 (1997): 67-77.

Pozzi, Giovanni. La rosa in mano al professore. Freiburg: Edizioni universitarie, 1974.

--. La parola dipinta. Milano: Adelphi, 1981. Rime di diversi celebri poeti dell'eta nostra. Ed. Giovanbattista Licino. Bergamo: Comino Ventura, 1587.

Solaro, Agaffino. Sindone evangelica, istorica e teologica. Torino: Cavalleris, 1627. Theocriti aliorvmqve poetarvm idyllia: eiusdem epigrammata. Simmiae Rhodii Ouum, Alae, Securis, Fistula. Geneva: Stephanus, 1579.

(1) Casoni, "Delle grandezze di Dio," Ragionamenti interni, in Opere (1626, first edition 1623), 240-41. Casoni was born in Serravalle (Treviso) in 1561. After his father's death (around 1590), he had to take care of his family. He worked as a notary in Serravalle. Member of the Venetian Academy of the Unknown (Academia degli Incogniti), Casoni befriended Giovan Francesco Loredan and Tomaso Garzoni, the author of the Piazza Universale, which influenced Casoni's first important text, De la magia d'amore (first edition in 1591). Casoni published Ode in 1602, a series of thirty-eight poems, and Emblemi politici in 1622. His collected works were printed first in 1623 and again in 1626. Casoni also edited Tasso's Gerusalemme liberata. He died in 1642.

(2) It is important to bear in mind that the Italian "cielo" or "cieli" express the English distinction between "sky" (or "skies") and "heaven" (or "heavens").

(3) In La parola dipinta, Pozzi synthesizes this point as follows: "Il Casoni, autore fondamentale nell'affermarsi di nuove forme poetiche sull'inizio del secolo, ancora attende uno studio adeguato" (206). On the same issue, see Guaragnella 125.

(4) On Casoni's use of metaphor, see Corradini. On music in De la magia d'amore, see Harran.

(5) On La passione, see Portier; Molinari; Pozzi, La parola dipinta 206-14.

(6) I find Simmia's poems in Theocriti aliorvmqve poetarvm idyllia 386-87. Simmia's first poem in the form of an egg (ovum) is dedicated to Diana and relates the story of Mercury's invention of music. As we read in the Homeric hymns, Hermes killed a tortoise, "cut off its limbs, and scooped out [its] marrow" ("To Hermes" in Hesiod. Homeric Hymns 41-42, 367). Then, Hermes added nine strings to the emptied shell. The image of the egg signifies both the birth of music and Hermes's tortoise. Simmia explains that the wings do not belong to Cupid, Venus's son, but rather to Eros who, according to Hesiod's Theogony, came to be after Chaos (Simmiae Rhodii Ouum 408-09; Hesiod, Theogony in Hesiod. Homeric Hymns 115-20). The ax refers to Epeus who, following Athena's instructions, built the Trojan horse (Simmiae Rhodii Ouum 416-17). Finally, the syringe is a reference to Pan (Simmiae Rhodii Ouum 426-27). My transcriptions from Casoni's texts present only some basic corrections. I modify the syntax according to our modern style. I eliminate the Latin "h" ("huomo," "Christo") and correct other Latin graphic forms such as "ti" plus vocal (silentio, contemplatione, satiare). I maintain all possible phonetic variants.

(7) Let us remember, however, that in a fundamental section of La magia d'amore, which he wrote before turning thirty, the young Neoplatonic Casoni had praised the beauty of the stories deployed on the canvas of a night sky. By contemplating how the myths unfold in the sky, Casoni perceived the harmony that holds the universe together. See, for instance, how Casoni analyzes the love relationship between the planets and the signs of the Zodiac: "Conobbe parimente quanto amore sia tra i pianeti e i segni celesti, li quali albergano nel zodiaco e sono visitati uno al mese dal Sole, poiche la Luna porta sviscerato amore al Cancro, il quale gia morsico Ercole nella Lerna palude. Onde mentre ella viene da lui gratamente accolta per darli liberale segno dell'amor suo, sparge piu amplamente e con maggior virtu e potere gli influssi suoi ch'in altro loco faccia, onde meritamente e chiamato casa della Luna. Come anco nell'istesso modo ama Mercurio la Vergine, che gia fu chiamata Erigone, figlia di Icario, e i Gemini Castore e Poluce, che tanto seppero e tanto vissero" (ch. 3, 23v). I have completed the first modern edition of De la magia d'amore (Palermo: Sellerio, forthcoming).

(8) Philosophical Writings of Peirce: "An index is a sign which would, at once, lose the character which makes it a sign if its object were removed, but would not lose that character if there were no interpretant. Such, for instance, is a piece of mould with a bullet-hole in it as a sign of a shot [...] An index is a sign which refers to its object not so much because of any similarity or analogy with it [...] as because it is in dynamical (including spatial) connection both with the individual object, on the one hand, and with the senses or memory of the person for whom it serves as a sign (104 and 107).

(9) In the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius dedicates the first day of the second week to the mystery of the Word's incarnation. This meditation, which is performed at midnight, regards the visualization of "the Three Divine Persons, seated, so to speak, on the royal throne of their divine Majesty. They are gazing on the whole face and circuit of the earth; and they see all the peoples in such great blindness, and how they are dying and going down to hell" (Spiritual Exercises and Selected Works 149). At the beginning of each contemplation, a "prelude" stresses the historical aspect of this particular visualization. Ignatius writes: "The First Prelude is to survey the history of the matter I am to contemplate. Here is how the Three Divine Persons gazed on the whole surface or circuit of the world, full of people" (148).

(10) The Dominican Ignazio Del Nente, one of the most interesting figures of seventeenthcentury Italian spirituality, discusses this point in his fascinating Eremo interno del cuore, a dialogue between Jesus and the soul. For instance: "Quando dunque tu vuoi adorare Dio in spirito e verita, non e necessario che ti rivolga col pensiero sopra le stelle, o sopra i cieli, ma basta che ti raccolga nel tuo interno e nella cella del tuo cuore" (110).

(11) Patrizi, Magia philosophica, hoc est Zoroaster et eius 320 oracula chaldaica: "Oportet te festinare ad lucem et patris lumina" (40r); "Ducat animae profunditas immortalis, oculosque affatim. Omnes sursum extende" (41r).

(12) On Bellarmino's De ascensione, see Gentili and Ragazzoni 326-27. The authors define this treatise as "un autentico gioiello della letteratura ascetica" (326).

(13) Bellarmino, De ascensione 10: "Erige nunc, anima mea, mentem ad exemplar tuum, et cogita, omne bonum imaginis in similitudine ad exemplar suum positum esse" (The Mind's Ascent to God, in Spiritual Writings 60). Like Bellarmino, in the first part of "Delle grandezze di Dio" Casoni speaks of the human being as a microcosm made in the image of God: "Ammiro la gloriosa fattura delle mani divine, la nobilissima creatura dell'uomo, imagine di Dio, illuminato dalla ragione, nuovo mondo al mondo, onore della natura, nodo ch'unisce il mortale con l'immortale, re delle cose inferiori" (Ragionamenti 242-43).

(14) Bellarmino dwells on the infinite wealth of the earth in step two, chapter 3: "How much variety there is in the individual grain, plants, flowers, and fruits! Do not their shapes, colors, odors, and tastes differ in almost infinite ways? Is this not equally true among the animals?" (The Mind's Ascent 70; De ascensione 27).

(15) Casoni, Ragionamenti 253: "[...] nel mondo le creature sono specchio di Dio, e nel cielo sara Dio specchio delle creature."

(16) In Eremo interno, Del Nente writes a marvelous chapter on the "solitudo montis," where he describes how Jesus invites the soul to ascend to a solitary mountain: "Io ti chiamo, o mia cara e redenta, alla solitudine d'un monte alpestre nel quale non si vedono mai orme ne di uomo ne di donna, accio viva in questo mondo sola a me, e non vegga altro bene in tutta la tua vita che il cielo e Dio" (67).

(17) Bellarmino, De ascensione 108 and 118; The Mind's Ascent 125.Bartoli, Dell'huomo di lettere, pt. 1, ch. 2, likens the sky to a text written in a secret language. Only a wise and pious intellectual can decode its message: "Tutti mirano il cielo, ma non tutti l'intendono: e v'e fra chi l'intende e chi no quel divario che corre fra due de' quali l'uno d'una scrittura arabica tratteggiata d'oro e miniata d'azzurro altro non vede che il lavorio di ben composti caratteri, l'altro di piu ne legge i periodi e ne intende i sensi" (10). Bartoli also echoes Bellarmino's analysis of the heavens in La ricreazione del savio (bk. 1, ch. 9, 152-75).

(18) Accetto writes inspired pages on this subject in Della dissimulazione onesta: "[...] tutto il bello non e altro che una gentil dissimulazione [...]. Giova [...] una certa dissimulazione della natura, per quanto si contiene tra lo spazio degli elementi, dov'e molto vera quella proposizione che afferma di non esser tutt'oro quello che luce; ma cio che luce nel Cielo ben corrisponde sempre" (ch. 9, 31-32). Dissimulation, Accetto holds, will come to an end when "la verita stessa aprira le finestre del Cielo" (ch. 23, 64).

(19) Francois rephrases this concept in a letter written on January 16, 1610: "Staying in God's presence and placing ourselves in God's presence are, to my mind, two different things. In order to place ourselves in His presence, we have to withdraw our soul from every other object and make it attentive to that presence at this very moment [...]. But once we are there, we remain there, as long as either our intellect or our will is active in regard of God [...]. For my part, I think we remain in God's presence even while we are asleep, because we fall asleep in His sight, as He pleases, and according to His will, and He puts us down on our bed like a statue in its niche" (Francis de Sales, Jane de Chantal, Letters of Spiritual Directions 151-53).

(20) Casoni mentions the mountain Sentino and the river Mischio in other texts. In De la magia d'amore, he speaks of the "lucide onde del Mischio" and the "ninfe del famoso Sentino" (8r). Casoni also dedicates an entire poem to the Mischio in Ode 69-73. The introductory note explains: "Il fiume Mischio, detto da' poeti latini Mesulus [...] scorre con placido corso per Serravalle, patria dell'autore, e e celebrato da Marc'Antonio Flaminio, poeta serravallese [...] e da Nicolo Rinucci" (69). The second stanza states: "Tu da gemino fonte,/ a pie del gran Sentino / negli alti gioghi suoi fiorito monte,/ sorgendo cristallino,/ con graziosi errori / nutri novello Eurota eterni allori" (70). Casoni praises the beauty of the Mischio in Emblemi politici (42).

(21) Augustine, De libero arbitrio 3.5.13. Petrarca's De otio religioso is another important source of Casoni's book. I quote from: De otio religioso, in Opere latine. For Petrarca, the soul is exposed to infinite demonic assaults ("violenti spirituum incursus" 654), which shows the soul's intrinsic nothingness (bk 1, 658). Petrarca contends that, since the earth is immensely distant from the sky, the soul must strive to reunite them. Only the sky can save the earth ("[...] fingite animis ut terra salva sit necessarium esse coelo illam iungi" bk. 1, 660).

(22) I find this poem at the end of Solaro's Sindone evangelica, istorica e teologica. The three pages of this poem are not numbered. Solaro quotes from Casoni's poem on pages 31 and 34 of Sindone evangelica. On page 5, like Casoni, Solaro calls the shroud "earthly paradise" (paradiso terreno). Doglio mentions Casoni's text in her detailed article "'Grandezze e meraviglie' della Sindone nella letteratura del Seicento" (19-20). In seventeenth-century Italian devotional literature, the shroud of Turin expresses a cluster of metaphors. In the popular but not very original Esplicatione del lenzuolo ove fu involto il Signore, the Archbishop of Bologna Paleotti holds that the outlined body of the incarnate Word is a hieroglyphic text: "Vuol dunque il Salvatore col mezzo di quella Sindone darci ad intendere i sentimenti suoi nella maniera che scrivevano gli egizii i concetti loro, scolpendo o dipingendo figure d'animali diversi, ed usandole per lettere" (56). The shroud as mirror is a topos of the devotional literature. In the lengthy Ragionamenti sopra la Sacra Sindone, the Dominican Balliani writes: "[La Sindone] sara mirabilissimo specchio per contemplare, e contemplando conformarci alla Santissima e innocentissima umanita di Cristo per noi morta e sepolta" ("Ragionamento I" 39-40). The shroud, Balliani explains in a later chapter, is a "compendio della legge evangelica scritta con lettere di sangue" ("Ragionamento X" 373).

(23) Casoni must have been familiar with the poetry of the monk Angelo Grillo on the holy shroud. See, in particular, the opening lines of the following poem: "Ne stelle in ciel d'immortal lume accese / si miran mai con si benigno aspetto / quando talor qualche felice effetto / producon l'alte e generose imprese,/ come nel sacro LIN l'opposte e stese / figure sante con perpetuo affetto / si miran, e n'avien ch'empian difetto / d'alma contrita, e spengan l'alte offese/ [...]/ E non e lino il sacro LIN, ma il cielo/ che, benche nebbia il renda fosco, e 'l viso / gli copra d'atro e sanguinoso velo" (Grillo, "Delle rime," in Rime di diversi celebri poeti 91). In Dicerie sacre, Marino calls the shroud "un Cielo": "Diro che tu sia un Cielo [...]. Chi vuol vedere il cerchio del Sole, miri quella corona di spine: chi vuol vedere la meza Luna, miri l'apertura di quel costato" (part one, chapter three, 182).

(24) The main topic of Teatro poetico is love's contradictory forms: "Amore, che nato co 'l natale del mondo [...] sparge co 'l volo dell'ali sue porporine vari influssi" (Opere 172).

(25) Pozzi refers to the second section of this final chapter.

(26) Casoni, Teatro poetico 219: "Cosi gia Cristo nostro Signore si mostro cinto dalle nubi del suo giusto sdegno co 'l fulmine in mano per purgare con l'incendio il mondo delle sue colpe quando, per intercessione della Beata Vergine, rifulse il lampo della sua misericordia, si rassereno il cielo e respiro il mondo."

(27) Casoni, Teatro poetico 220: "O del gran Padre eterno eterna prole,/ Figlio concetto in cielo e in terra nato,/ mio vivo sol, ond'ha la luce il sole,/ mio caro parto, ond'e il mio sen beato,/ Tu minacciante, io supplice? E pur suole / esser lo sdegno tuo da me placato./ Apro le braccia, e questo petto ignudo / Ti scopro, al mondo intercessore o scudo."

(28) Casoni repeats the same words and concepts in Le battaglie pacifiche, a complex and long work that has received no critical attention: "Se la varieta e bellezza della natura, la quale ha fatti vari i cieli, diversi i loro moti, e differenti i loro purissimi lumi, che ha diversificati gli elementi, rese mutabili le stagioni, variati gli animanti e abbellito l'uomo con la diversita de' membri, di potenze dell'anima, de gli affetti, e di mille altre variabili eccellenze, che lo rendono un mondo maraviglioso al mondo, chi sara che possa lodare la lealta in amore?" (Opere 28).

(29) Grillo writes a sonnet on the shroud of Turin entirely based on the word rhymes "spoglie" and "spoglia": "In questa santa ed onorata spoglia / sacra e piu degna di qual'altre spoglie" (Rime di diversi celebri poeti 83).

(30) Guaragnella 177-78.

(31) Bellarmino, De ascensione, step seven, ch. four, 119; Casoni, Ragionamenti 282.

(32) The dialogue between the sun, the moon, and the other planets had been the subject of the third chapter of Della magia d'amore ("Come amore sia astrologo"), a dense and at times convoluted analysis based on Renaissance astronomy and Florentine Neoplatonism. Casoni merges astronomy and devotional rhetoric in the second part of this lengthy chapter of Ragionamenti. After having posited the moon as a symbol of the soul's instability, Casoni goes on to prove that the sun itself is variable (283-85). Casoni's extensive astrological discussion opens as follows: "E non meno variabile il sole, poich'egli ogni giorno cangia l'Oriente co 'l meriggio e 'l meriggio con l'occaso; muta casa ogni mese co 'l mutare un segno celeste e va cambiando gli anni co 'l naturale suo corso; compare nell'oriente e cangia la notte in giorno; cade nell'occidente e tramuta il giorno in notte" (Casoni, Ragionamenti 283).
COPYRIGHT 2002 Annali d'Italianistica, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Annali d'Italianistica
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:4EUIT
Date:Jan 1, 2002
Words:10880
Previous Article:Out of Babylon: the Ffigura of exile in Tasso and Petrarch.
Next Article:Augusto Fraschetti (a cura di). Roman Women.
Topics:

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters