Before this contextual diversion, I should refer the reader who would like something more practical to this piece in The Guardian. :-)
The rest of this drawing on Edith Templeton,
The Surprise of Cremona,
page references to the
[Australian] Readers Book Club edition, 1955
In preparing for a visit to Mantova, I have been preoccupied by a history of development of the city by one family: by the extent to which the city is presented in many photos as fortress walls, moats, riches, art, beauty, complexity, accumulated by a few for themselves — on the backs of bleeding many.
Such is tourism: Who built the pyramids, did the emperor really also bury the potters along with the terracotta warriors (well Qin Shi Huangdi buried scholars anyway)? Is this where the Red Guards marched? Don't tell me about the genocide of Aborigines, that's old, I'm here and I'm going to climb that rock because it belongs to all Australians. And after that I'll go to see the Roman Forum, where was it that Caesar was stabbed? Ah touropia, wherefore art thou touropia, let me make a selfie with you.
"Eating cheese in Mantua is a thoughtful business,
made for pondering over Virgil."photo from
In part I enjoy her writing because she asks questions I have been asking myself, in part because she takes one on adventures in her head to unimagined places.
By Mantova she has warmed again to Dante, so scoffed at in Cremona. But here she focuses on the Roman poet, Virgil, child of the peasant soil outside Mantova, made godly in Mantova a thousand years ago, placed on pillars and posters around Mantova, forever influential in European poetry.
Edith discusses at length Virgil's Aeneid. Wikipedia tells you it is the story of Aeneas, Templeton tells you it is the measuring of Aeneas alongside Dido, queen of Carthage.
I note that as recounted by a classical scholar
Aeneas cannot 'tell' he must 'recount'.
"The creation of Dido is revolutionary because Dido is the first ill-used woman in literature. A woman who has loved for thirty years and not been ill-used has not lived at all. Therefore Dido is as universally important as Hamlet, Faust and Don Juan.... [T]he heart of Dido's tragedy does not lie in the fact that Aeneas left her. It lies in his unworthiness."Pages of erudite reinterpretation and relating to the modern (pages 146-157) lead us here:
"I now put her on the scales and see what happens... I put Dido on her funeral pyre, with the sword in her breast, bleeding to death.... I see her rising again in the light of our own times... a fine beautiful woman, not very bright, not very distinguished... Although this time he has not left her for the Italian shore, she knows just as surely that his love for her has died... I see her placing her red bag beside herself and laying herself on the rails and I hear the roar of the approaching train. I have witnessed the end of Anna Karenina."But, um, yes, Mantova is mainly about the city, the river Mincio and the Gonzagas. For part 2!
From Radio Prague
Another thing that we should say at this stage is that this [quotation at link] is not a translation. Edith Templeton does write in English. How is it that she came to write in English?"She left the country and married an Englishman. In the 30s she worked in London. She worked first in the office of the US Army chief surgeon and then she became a captain of the British Army, working as an interpreter. Later on she moved to India, because her second husband was a doctor. In fact he was physician to the King of Nepal. So she lived in many different countries - later on Portugal and now she's living on the Italian Riviera, so she's a very, very cosmopolitan writer.