Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

entry June 2015
The Sibyl's Time

This painting is by Neapolitan artist Fulvio De Marinis. (See that link for information on him in these pages. There is another link below the painting to a gallery of his works on the website of Napoli Underground.) The poem on the right-hand side is by Selene Salvi. Her original Italian is on the website of Napoli Underground (NUg) at this link. Selene is also a gifted artist and has a presence in Naples: Life, Death & Miracles here. This English translation is mine.
- Jeff Matthews

Fulvio De Marinis:   
"Il Tempo della Sibilla"

Oil, gold and Cuman sand on canvas su tela, 40x100 cm.

This is a link to the Napoli Underound website where you will find a gallery of other works by the same artist.

The Sibyl's Time

They call me by many names,
but to you who hear my shadowed words
I am Demò, she who loves her people.
Crazed, twisted, forever aged, but not chaste, not since I bore to light in the Beginning
the Reaper Time with his serpent tooth.*1
Since then I live forgotten and alone
amidst the spired maze,
my only roof the frozen stars.
I tell my story, not for pity,
but to warn you not to trust
who does not know the bane of Age.
Long ago, I danced in other worlds
before men died in endless siege for woman.
There the god who loosens knots
chose to loose my heart.
A handful of dust and haughty youth
both condemned me.
I left my red island forever*2
and forgot my days of joy.
Ever weary I dragged my exiled body
in swamp, thick wood, boundless deep and steep crag.
Too soon the shadows overtook my steps,
too soon he who said he loved me
now in bother turned away his glance.
I know your fate, but those horrid spasms
that besiege my black breast
are not the divine winds that move my words,
for now within me sadly dwells just Sickness.
I await the last grain of sand,
await my ancient lover's dart to free me.
Then you shall find me in a green stalk of grain,
in a tiny rooting beast,
in the white face of the Moon.

[translation notes:]

1"...not since I bore...tooth." This is a very dense line. If you enjoy working these things out for yourself, STOP READING HERE! In pre-Patriarchal religions, goddesses were immortal and beyond or outside of time. The poet's vision is that the Sibyl was one of these and that she, in fact, (in the original Italian) un preciso momento, diedi alla luce Tempo-che-passa dal dente ricurvo... that is, at the beginning of time gave birth to Chronos, the Greek god and personification of time, Time-That-Passes (Saturn to the Romans). There are two later images here that are really the same: Father Time and the Grim Reaper, both of whom wield a harvesting scythe, described by Virgil (book 4 of The Georgics) as the "tooth that turns inward," familiar in English as the serpent tooth or serpent's tooth.

2 "...I left my red island forever"
   (separate note at this link)

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