“ITALIAN CHRONICLES”- PASSIONATE TIDES FROM THE MIDDLE AGES AND THE RENAISSANCE

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“ITALIAN CHRONICLES”

PASSIONATE TIDES FROM THE MIDDLE AGES AND THE RENAISSANCE

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Some writers leave great impressions on us, we cannot forget the things that are poured from their lines all through our lives. The images that get enliven before our eyes as we read lead us through our journey of life. However, some writers’ works fly away from our minds for no reason at all. They might be great writers and we might get great pleasure as we read their books, the result does not change. The mind stores things in its own way it seems, the events and characters of these works fade away quickly. Unfortunately, Marie-Henri Beyle, with his pen name Stendhal, is a writer of this category for me, I do not know why. I have read his two great works, two of the most unforgettable classical works of all time, “The Red and The Black” and “Charterhouse of Parma”. I cannot remember most of the details, and this gives me great pain naturally. 

Love, which has no end but itself, the soul never stops feeling, a kind of blaze kindled by a heavenly spark, never leaving following one’s instincts.    

The heart has a language of its own, it does not know riches, lineage, authority. Lovers are tied with a wordless enchanment, which can only be felt in the world of heart.

When I saw Stendhal’s “Italian Chronicles” at the bookstore, I felt an unstoppable excitement to meet a writer I love again, perhaps for this reason and I turned the pages with the same excitement. In these chronicles of The Middle Ages and the Renaissance, very deep feelings, passions that are lived in the life full of imprisoning cages are expressed in a very plain way besides the intoxications and cruelties brought by power. The writer claims he translates directly from Italian manuscripts and they are real life stories. These  stories which are full of pain are told in a very plain style after the manner of a historian nearly. In the age of speed these kinds of love, pain and passion have no meaning maybe. Stendhal expresses these feelings are very far away in the nineteenth  century, even in France. He writes at the beginning of the story called “Duchess de Palliano”:

_ “I see that in England, especially in France, Italian love, the mad love that was experienced in the sixteenth and seventeeth centuries are mentioned a lot. In our time this beautiful love is dead, absolutely dead in the classes that try to behave according to French traditions, manners that are fashionable in Paris and London.” 

He later explains that this love “aims to get satisfaction.” The purpose of love is nothing else than itself. 

 

Everywhere is full of obstacles for lovers, sometimes the families are enemies as in “Romeo and Juliet”, which takes place in Italy, too. The passion for revenge, the desire to be richer, to look more religious and get worldly advantages are always on the way of the lovers and these sometimes mislead them. The stories are also full of poison, tortures,wars of power, traps and disguise and they are mingled with love in a way. Pride is a great obstacle as well, pride that prevents our understanding love or forgiveness of ourselves or our lovers. One remembers “Tosca”, a great Italian opera by Puccini, which is about two lovers that could not be together because of the passion of power and authority of some people. An artist, Cavaradossi and a singer, Tosca are in love, but he is arrested and tortured because a runaway was helped. Tosca gives them information, the chief constable wants Tosca, she seems to accept his disgusting offer but stabs him. Contrary to the chief constable’s promise, Cavaradossi is executed and Tosca jumps off the castle. “Aida”, another Italian composer, Verdi’s work, is about the great love of two enemies, an Egyptian commander Radames and the slave Aida, Ethiopian king’s daughter. Radames was punished because he told her some war secrets, he was to be buried alive and Aida, instead of running away with his father, hid in his tomb and preferred dying with him. The heart has a language of its own, it does not know riches, lineage, authority. Lovers are tied with a wordless enchanment, which can only be felt in the world of heart.

In these stories we also notice how the world treats to women hypocritically. Things that are normal or to be boasted for men are thought to be shameful for women and they are punished severely for them. In “Duchess de Palliano”, the duke, her husband, is always in love with other women and everybody knows about that. When she accepts the love addresses of one of her husband’s men, she is found guilty and her brother kills her. He does it because he has to do it, this is the law in a way and if the brother or the husband does not do it, they are considered dishonoured people. In “Head Priestess of Castro”, Elena de Campireali falls in love with Branciforte, the son of a soldier and highwayman, but her father and brother try to kill him and her brother says that he will have to kill his sister if she has a love affair. She waits for him at her balcony, reminding us “Romeo and Juliet”. The woman was always thought as the measure of honour for the families, whatever the man did was honourable when it came to love, but the woman was always a source of problem and had to be punished unless she stayed at home meekly. They are prostitutes or witches outside home or when they try to do things unexpected from them. This punishment of women is also mentioned in an essay in “The Rose and the Dynamite” by Heinrich Boll in a different way. In one of his essays, Boll writes that it is said that Saint Dominicus had only one sin he confessed on his deathbed and it was that he mostly accepted the visit of  the women who were beautiful. He was famous for having lots of witches burnt. Witches,”women who were more beautiful, more intelligent or more independent than people could stand.” Religion and political power hand in hand, can direct people however they find it profitable for themselves and people behave as they want out of fear. When people know that nobody is going to punish them, they do whatever they want. In the stories we see that when a pope dies, people commit lots of crime because until the new pope is chosen, there is no law.

Love is a very easy thing to attain now, most people would think maybe. This book makes us question our ideas of love and whispers what it is to burn with love as also expresses the difficult times people had for judgement, for honour. Was it the difficulties that made love, passion so precious, the obstacles that were on their ways? Things that we have easily are not that valuable and deep feelings cannot be felt in the noisy bustle of everyday lives. We have to dive deep and wait, wait for the right time, right place patiently. Our modern ears need the melody of passionate, dangerous loving of “The Highwayman”, Loreena Mckennitt’s fascinating song in which she tells us how a person can be loved more than one’s own life. Love, which has no end but itself, the soul never stops feeling, a kind of blaze kindled by a heavenly spark, never leaving following one’s instincts.      

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