Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Dorin Popa writes


I have always believed
in coming back

big boats were harrowingly shipwrecked
and I have believed in coming  back

from me all  turned away their faces
night and day were the same
bitter and sweet seemed alike
mother had long in her tears
buried me
but I have still believed
in coming back

with my last strength,
I kicked my last strength
my wings and my body
riddled with arrows
I have still believed
in coming back

I was moving away
I was moving away trembling with anger
I am moving away obsessively repeating
that I still can,
that I still can come back





                                                         Saint Sebastian -- Carlo Crivelli


  1. A “utopia” [from the Greek for “not place”] is a community that is essentially perfect. The word was coined by Thomas More for his 1516 book about a fictional island society in the Atlantic Ocean, “De optimo rei publicae deque nova insula Utopia” (Of a republic's best state and of the new island Utopia); originally it was called “Libellus vere aureus, nec minus salutaris quam festivus, de optimo rei publicae statu deque nova insula Utopia” (A truly golden little book, no less beneficial than entertaining, of a republic's best state and of the new island Utopia") but perhaps he shortened the title to maximize its commercial appeal. Perhaps Moore meant to use the word “Eutopia” (good place), but in an addendum, “Wherfore not Utopie, but rather rightely my name is Eutopie, a place of felicitie,” he defended his choice. Possibly the neologism was intended to signal that the work was a satire of English society of his time rather than a philosophical depiction of the good society. In 1890, William Morris used the word’s actual meaning in his socialist novel “News from Nowhere,” describing a future society. A few years later, in 1905, H.G. Wells published “A Modern Utopia,” a novel narrated by the Owner of the Voice, who described a planet beyond Sirius that was exactly like Earth, inhabited by "all the men and women that you know and I" but with "different habits, different traditions, different knowledge, different ideas, different clothing, and different appliances." In all of these cases, however, the utopia was depicted in fantastic terms, so Dorin’s notion of “ruthless steel of Utopia” is a deliberate paradox.

  2. St. Sebastianus (derived from the Greek “sebastos” – venerable), the patron saint of archers, soldiers, athletes, and martyrs, was first mentioned in a 4th-century sermon by Aurelius Ambrosius (St Ambrose), bishop of Mediolanum ( Milano); he was later discussed (ca. 1260) by Jacobus de Voragine, the compiler of “Legenda sanctorum” (Readings of the Saints), all of the available lore about everyone whom the church had venerated (popularly called the “Legenda Aurea” [Golden Legend], it was one of the most-read books in medieval Europe); the material was further amplified in the encyclopedic “Acta Sanctorum” (Acts of the Saints) which the Jesuit priest Heribert Rosweyde began in 1607 and was continued after his death in 1629 by his fellow Jesuit, Jean Bolland (and which is ongoing). According to these sources, all much later than his supposed death (ca. 288), Sebastianus was a Christian from Gallia Narbonensis (southern France) who was educated in Milano before becoming a captain of the imperial bodyguard, the Praetoriani (the Praetorian Guards). When Chromatus, the prefect of Roma, condemned the twins Marcus and Marcellianus for refusing to sacrifice to pagan gods in 286, their parents, St. Tranquillinus and St. Martia, tried to persuade them to renounce Christianity; but Sebastianus intervened and converted the parents, and Tranquillinus then converted Chromatus. Sebastianus then converted his only son, St. Tiburtius, and cured St. Zoe, the mute wife of another official, St. Nicostratus, causing both of them to convert as well. Nicostartus then arranged for Sebastianus to convert the other 16 prisoners, and Chromatus freed them all. Chromatius retired to Campania and sheltered his son. However, Tibertius was discovered and tried by the prefect Fabianus, but instead of renouncing his faith he confirmed it by walking barefoot over red-hot coals without suffering any injury, protecting himself only by the sign of the cross. He was either beheaded or buried alive. Marcus and Marcellian were concealed for a time by St. Castulus, the imperial chamberlain, but Fabianus had them bound head downwards to two pillars; they hung there for a full day with their feet nailed to the pillars, until they were pierced with lances and killed. Zoe was hung to a tree and burned to death. Nicostratus and five others were drowned in the Tiber. Castulus was tortured and buried alive in a sand pit. The emperor himself, Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus Augustus, ordered Sebastianus to be bound to a stake and killed by archers from Mauritania (modern Morocco). "And [according to Jacobus] the archers shot at him till he was as full of arrows as an urchin ["hericius," hedgehog] is full of pricks, and thus left him there for dead." Castulus’ widow, St. Irene (derived from the Greek word for “peace”) went to retrieve his body for burial, but instead took him back to her home and nursed him back to health. Two years later, after haranguing Diocletianus for his cruelty to Christians, the emperor ordered him to be beaten to death with cudgels. His body was thrown into the common sewer, but he Lucina to recover it and bury it in the catacombs at the entrance to the cemetery of Calixtus (where pope Damasus I built the Basilica Apostolorum in 367; rebuilt in the 17th century, it is now the San Sebastiano fuori le mura [Saint Sebastian outside the walls]); after the future Holy Roman emperor Lothair I had intervened to secure the election of Eugenius II in 824, the new pope gave the Frankish archchaplain Hilduin the remains of Sebastianus, who deposited them at St. Medard, his Benedictine abbey in Soissons, France, in 826, From there, in 934, his skull was sent to the new Benedictine monastery at Ebersberg, in Bavaaria; encased in silver, it was used as a cup to present wine to the faithful during the annual feast of St. Sebastianus.

  3. His earliest representation in art was in a 6th-century mosaic in the Sanctus Martinus in Coelo Aureo (Saint Martin in Golden Heaven) basilica in Ravenna, Italy (now the basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo); a few decades later pope Gregorius I ordered the blackening of the mosaics because they distracted worshipers from their prayers. According to 8th-century historian Paulus Diaconus (Paul the Deacon), in 680 a plague in Langobardorum (the kingdom of the Lombards) was halted when king Gumburt erected an altar to Sebastianus in Pavia, his capital; especially after Jacobus repeated that information, his name became closely connected to protection against plagues, as part of the Christianization of pagan myths, particularly the association of the archer god Apollo as the deliverer of pestilence . The arrow motif itself, which eventually became his principal artistic emblem, did not begin to appear until ca. 1000, but he became one of the most frequently depicted subjects by Late Gothic and Renaissance artists after the Black Death plagues had killed perhaps 75-200 million Europeans between 1346–1353. However, in addition to his association with plague relief, he also provided artists one of their few opportunities to portray male nudes or semi-nudes. Giorgio Vasari, the 16th-century biographer of the artists of the Italian Renaissance, claimed that the Sebastianus paintings aroused inappropriate thoughts among female churchgoers, and the naked saint largely gave way in the following century to depictions of Irene chastely tending him.


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