26 September 2019

Roman Holiday

Ars longa, vita brevis.....





Not long back from Italy, immediately surrounded by the bitterness and division of Brexit, I am tempted to write about how ghastly our national circumstances are, and, having followed events closely this week, about just how unspeakable the current Prime Minister can be.....

But you know all that, so I won't even mention it...... We'll just go on holiday together instead.....

The eye of heaven watches over us all....






My little and I are here on us holidays.....





Visiting old friends, and old haunts.....








Remembering the old days, such as the time I had supper in Trastevere, near where I then lived, with Dale MacAdoo and three of Trilussa's old drinking buddies....









And, in case you don't do Roman dialect, Google translate renders the words on the slab above as:


While I read the usual newspaper 
spotted in the shade of a pajar 
or I see a pig and je say: - Goodbye, majale! 
I see a pacifier and I say: - Goodbye, donkey! 

Maybe 'beasts nun me will understand, 
but I feel Armenian satisfaction 
de can of things as they are 
without fear he ended up in prison.


[Somehow it's lacking a touch of exactitude, but you may get the gist.....You can see why he was so popular.....]

{see end of piece for a better translation}



Not far away, in the shadow of Michaelangelo et al in the Palazzo Farnese, a lady in white (with daring red shoes Powell and Pressburger style) does 'cello karaoke with Elgar....








Her vibrato makes me tremble as I remember the Hot Cross Nuns (of Santa Brigida) behind her.....

And not so far away, just across the slinky Tiber in the Villa Farnesina, there's a whole lot of boogie going on at the Wedding Banquet of Cupid and Psyche (caught on Fresco by Raphael in around 1517)....








Folks certainly knew how to party in those days....

Not like now.  It's all a bit too much under the arches of the Teatro di Marcellus, where Iris Origo ended her days.....









But crossing the river via the Isola Tiberina, I note an Egret fishing the greenish waters by the flood detritus.  Just another piece of temporary flotsam in the waters of life, but not a sight I had seen before, so really something of a treat....








I love wandering through Rome.  Apart from any cultural or historical virtue, there is just the excitement of being.  Such a mix of sensory stimuli, from ice cream to empty arches.  Here the Arch of Janus, a clever quadrilateral, facing every which way, frames the basilica of San Giorgio in Velabro, 








In which my little admires the presence of God, in her own way......








Well there's no one else there.... 

Though it isn't far to the crowds, who fess and press to get into the Forum, and who like to compare themselves with the 21 metres of the Arch of Constantine, which has been successfully standing aloof for 1704 years....








Away from this imperial reminder of the power of the Johnson, nowever (sic), there is a spot on the Via Nomentana which Alexander the Brute might do well to consider.  Within the white pillared exterior and under the ornate ceilings of the Villa Torlonia,







And behind blind windows, 








There is a room whose dark furniture and silk drapery belies the fact that here Benighted Mussolini lay, pretending to work late with his office lights on, but really stewing in his discomforts, imagining himself enthroned in greatness, but actually exhaling fetid air from rotting bowels, unable to rest, having sold little shreds of his soul to the dominic who kept cumming through the darkness to trouble his dreams.....







Oh!  Oh!  It frights me to behold!  


But in the park there are gentle kindly faces to relieve my distress.....

So, all is well?







Maybe. 


In the Casina delle Civette, the swallows are already leaving....







And in the Villa Ada, where armed guards wave me away from the Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt, shouting 'No Foto!' at me, I find the derelict Temple of Flora, a memorial to grander times, or a relic of riches no longer viable.









For a moment I think I see a serval draped over a branch, and my mind is daggered by the words, Se vogliamo che tutto rimanga come è, bisogna che tutto cambi......






Words which Archibald Colquhoun translated as: Everything must change so that everything can stay the same......


Later, on the terrace of the Mecenate Palace Hotel, as the sun goes down behind Santa Maria Maggiore, lighting my dry martini most delightfully, I think of Mon Dernier Soupir, the autobiography of Luis Buñuel.  

What kind of holiday would he have had in Rome?








For a start he would have made sure no one could get out of the basilica below me....








And for dessert he would have had a glass of red.....

Not a bad way to forget about everything.....








In the Shade of a Hay Rick

I read my paper, back propped against the hay
Here comes a hog, so I look up and say,
“Goodbye, Pig!” And then across the grass
here comes a donkey; I say, “Goodbye, ass!”

No way of telling if they’ve understood.
Whether they have or not, it does me good
to call things what they are without the dread
of having to go to jail for what I’ve said.


From Giove e le bestie, 1932, 
by Trilussa, Carlo Alberto Salustri 
(Rome, 26 October 1871 - 21 December 1950)

Translated by John Du Val


*    *    *    *

In Memoriam, John Davison

JAD

Teacher, mentor, friend






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