Friday, December 11, 2009

Adventrous voyagers

Brecht's Life of Galileo at the Asolo is rich in the ingredients that made the rift in the Renaissance between Aristotelian knowledge and the new insights of natural philosophy so deep and fraught with implication. We are definitely seeing a Galileo shaped by the Brechtian imagination -- more emphasis is placed on his attention to the practical arts than upon the influence of Plato -- many of Galileo's key works take the form of dialog, for example.

It's a fine play, resonant with Galilean wit and acerbity, and receives a thoughtful, elegant staging at the Asolo.

You might wish to review the play. Thanks to Shaw and AGE, we know where to find it.

For the relation to Milton, who alludes to the "Tuscan artist" three times in his epic, there's much to say. In the Italian, Milton may have recognized a brother in anti-authoritarian arms.

Brecht felt the words of Galileo to his young student were of the essence of his scientific spirit:
"...the old age is past, and this is a new age. During the last hundred years it has been as though men were expecting something. The cities are narrow and so are men’s minds. Superstition and plague. But now we say: because it is so, it will riot remain so. For everything moves, my boy.

I like to think that it began with ships. Ever since men could remember they crept only along the coasts; then suddenly they left the coasts and sped straight out across the seas.

On our old continent a rumour started: there are new continents! And since our ships have been sailing to them the word has gone round all the laughing continents that the vast, dreaded ocean is just a little pond. And great desire has arisen to fathom the causes of all things: why a stone falls when you drop it, and how it rises when you throw it in the air. Every day something new is discovered. Even centenarians let the youngsters shout the latest novelty into their ears."
And in that light, consider Milton's embarkation, in the first invocation of Paradise Lost:

I thence

Invoke thy aid to my adventrous Song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above th' Aonian Mount, while it pursues [ 15 ]
Things unattempted yet in Prose or Rhime.

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