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Horse is a novel: "Discoursing is like coursing"
All the literature is a secret of rhythm, a way of capturing time that we recognize from the very beginning: in the epic means of the metrical effects of the verse, in prose narrarive by those effects that male us eager to know what comes next. The horse as an emblem of speed, even speed of the mind, runs through the whole history of literature, heralding the entire problematics of our own technological viewpoint.
Boccaccio's novella (VI, 1)1)
“Madonna Oretta, quando voi vogliate, io vi porterò, gran parte della via che a andare abbiamo, a cavallo con una delle belle novelle del mondo.” Al quale la donna rispuose: “Messere, anzi ve ne priego io molto, e saramrni carissimo.” Messer lo cavaliere, al quale forse non stava meglio la spada allato che ’l novellar nella lingua, udito questo, cominciò una sua novella, la quale nel vero da sé era bellissima, ma egli or tre e quatro e sei volte replicando una medesima parola e ora indietro tornando e talvolta dicendo: “Io non dissi bene” e spesso ne’ nomi errando, un per un altro ponendone, fieramente la guastava: senza che egli pessimamente, secondo le qualita delle persone e gli atti che accadevano, profereva. Di che a madonna Oretta, udendolo, spesse volte veniva un sudore e uno sfinimento di cuore, come se inferma fosse stata per terminare; la qual cosa poi che più sofferir non poté, conoscendo che il cavaliere era entrato nel pecoreccio né era per riuscirne, piacevolemente disse: “Messer, questo vostro cavallo ha troppo duro trotto, per che io vi priego che vi piaccia di pormi a pie.”
Mistress Oretta, if you please, I shall carry you a great part of the way we have to go on horseback, with one of the best stories in the world.” “Sir,” she replied, “I pray you to do so; that will be most agreeable.” Hearing this, master cavalier, who perhaps fared no better with sword at side than with tale on tongue, began his story, which was indeed a very fine one. But what with his repeating of the same word three or four or six times over, his recapitulations, his “I didn’t say that right,” his erring in putting one name for another, he spoiled it dreadfully. Also his delivery was very poor, quite out of keeping with the circtunstances and the quality of his persons. Mistress Oretta, hearing him, was many times taken with a sweat and a sinking of the heart, as if she were sick and about to die. At last, unable to endure the torment any longer and seeing that the gentleman was entangled in a maze of his own making, she said pleasantly: “Sir, this horse of yours has hard a trot, and I pray you to set me on my feet again.”
Horse in novella is not only a means of transport with its own pace, but also an emblem of speed, even speed of mind. Defects of the clumsy storyteller are offenses against rhythm, because he does not use the expressions appropriate either to the characters or to the events. Sometimes it's better to use simple expressions with their own rhythm instead of trying to do best with the introduction of difficult words or concepts. Correctness of style is a question of quick adjustment, of agility of both thought and expression.
domenica 17 gennaio 2016 14:59
Calvino Six Memos Pagina 1
De Quincey, "The English Mail-Coach" - "The Vision of Sudden Death"2)
In 1849 he already understood everything we now know about the motorized highway world, including death dealing highspeed crashes.
Glance of eye, thought of man, wing of angel, which of these had speed enough to sweep between the question and the answer, and divide the one from the other? Light does not tread upon the steps of light more indivisibly than did our all conquering arrival upon the escaping efforts of the gig.
During a night journey with a gigantic coach man who is fast asleep, a man - De Quincey - understood that the traveler was putting at the mercy of the mechanical inexorability of a machine. Due to a dose of laudanum (a tincture formed by opium and alcohol), the man calculated how much was the horse uncontrollable and how could the animal run over an unfortunate carriage with a joung couple. He screamed, to be seen, and said himself: "Mine had been the first step; the second was for the joung man; the third was for God." And in this moment he created a perfect meditation about quickness (the text): he succeeds in conveying a sense of an extremely short period of time that nonetheless contains both the calculation of the technical inevitability of the crash and the imponderable— God’s part in the matter—in virtue of which the two vehicles do not collide. De Quincey stopped the time wth a scream, and in this instant he concentrated a long meditation about eternity.
Leopardi, "Zibaldone" 27 Ottobre 1821 - 03 Novembre 18213)
The motif that interests us here is not physical speed, but the relationship between physical speed and speed of mind. Even Leopardi talked about mental quickness in his "Zibaldone di Pensieri":
La velocità, per esempio, de’ cavalli o veduta, o sperimentata, cioè quando essi vi trasportano . . . e piacevolissima per se sola, cioè per la vivacità, l’energia, la forza, la vita di tal sensazione. Essa desta realmente una quasi idea dell’infinito, sublima l’anima, la fortifica . . . (27 Ottobre 1821).
La rapidità e la concisione dello stile, piace perché presenta all’anima una folla d’idee simultanee, o così rapidamente succedentisi, che paiono simultanee, e fanno ondeggiar l’anima in una tale abbondanza di pensieri, o d’immagini e sensazioni spirituali, ch’ella o non è capace di abbracciarle tutte, e pienamente ciascuna, o non ha tempo di restare in ozio, e priva di sensazioni. La forza dello stile poetico, che in gran parte è tutt’uno colla rapidità, non è piacevole per altro che per questi effetti, e non consiste in altro. L’eccitamento d’idee simultanee, può derivare e da ciascuna parola isolata, o propria o metaforica, e dalla loro collocazione, e dal giro della frase, e dalla soppressione stessa di altre parole o frasi etc. (3 Novembre 1821).
Speed, for example, of horses, whether seen or experienced, that is, when they are carrying you . . . is most pleasurable in itself; that is, for the vivaclty, the energy, the strength, the sheer life of such a feeling. Indeed it almost gives you an idea of the infinite - elevates the soul, fortifies it.
Speed and conciseness of style please us because they present the mind with a rush of ideas that are simultaneous, or that follow each other so quickly they seem simultaneous, and set the mind afloat on such an abundance of thoughts or images or spiritual feelings that either it cannot embrace them all, each one fully, or it has no time to be idle and empty of feelings. The power ofpoetic style, which is largely the same thing as rapidity, is pleasing for these effects alone and consists in nothing else. The
Calvino Six Memos Pagina 2
same thing as rapidity, is pleasing for these effects alone and consists in nothing else. The excitement of simultaneous ideas may arise either from each isolated word, whether literal or metaphorical, from their arrangement, from the turn of a phrase, or even from the suppression of other words and phrases.
It's surprising that Leopardi made a quite positive meditation. Despite this, it's simple to see that his message of infinity and eternity overflew all the passage. Leopardi also seems to narrate his method of composition: this "abundance of simultaneous thoughts" that formed words and phrases, and the quickness and the power of that thoughts and images, like the speed that is most pleasurable in the horse and lead the reader to infinity.
Galilei, "Il Saggiatore"4)
Also Galilei used the figure of the horse, maybe for the very first time in the contest of speed of thoughts.
If discoursing on a difficult problem were like carrying weights, when many horses can carry more sacks of grain tha a single horse, I would agree that many discourses would do more than a single one; but discoursing is like coursing, not like carrying, and one Barbary courser can go faster than a hundred Frieslands.
Discoursing for Galileo means reasoning, and very often deductive reasoning. Good thinking means quickness, agility in reasoning, economy in argument, but also the use of imaginative examples. In a study that once Calvino made on metaphor in Galileo, he counted at least eleven significant examples in which he talks of horses—as an image of motion, and therefore as an instrument in kinetic experiments; as a form of nature in all its complexity and also in all its beauty; as a form that sparks oil the imagination in the hypothetical situation of horses subjected to the most unlikely trials or growing to gigantic proportions—and all this apart from the comparison of reasoning with racing: “Discoursing is like coursing.”
Umberto Boccioni, "The City Rises"5)
For the Futurists and in particular for Boccioni the horse is a dear and beloved figure and is used as a symbol of the dynamism to give the idea of movement, as the values on which it intends to base a vision of the future world: quickness seen as hallmark of modern industrial.
The most important paint of horses by Boccioni is "The City Rises", painted in 1910/11, in
Calvino Six Memos Pagina 3
The most important paint of horses by Boccioni is "The City Rises", painted in 1910/11, in which the artist drew buildings in construction in a suburb with chimneys in the upper part, even if the most of the space is occupied by men and horses, melted together in a dynamic effort. Boccioni thus emphasizes some among the most typical elements of futurism, the exaltation of human work and the importance of the modern town, built around modern necessities. The painting portrays the construction of a new city, with developments and technology. The subject became the celebration of the idea of industrial progress with its unstoppable advance. Summary of what it is the horse unnecessarily detained by men attached to his bridle. It's very peculiar that the subject was a horse and not a machine: Boccioni was still bound to symbolism.
The tragic death of the author of the Manifesto of the sculpture was touched by an ironic destiny: Boccioni, who had devoted twenty of his works, including sculptures, paintings and drawings to the theme of the horse, which he considered the symbol of fate, died at age 33 falling off a horse during the First World War.
Calvino Six Memos Pagina 4