Theorem

marco1

There is a song here in Italy that somehow is considered the bible on the nature of love. It dates back to the early nineties of last century, and since then, generations of Italian lovers of every age can’t help but muse on those lines of wisdom, particularly when a love affair bitterly comes to an end. “What did that Marco Ferradini say?” ” Take a woman, treat her badly………ahhh, I should have followed his advice!” I know that from these few  words you might jump to the conclusion that this song is a plea for the macho cause, but it is not. The subject is: women. What women want? What can a man do to make a woman love him? The main narrating voice, who very likely, has been recently dumped, tells his friend his ideas on love and women, a theorem, in fact:

Take a woman,tell her you love her
Write her love songs,send her roses and poems
Give her heart juices too
Make her feel important
Give her the best of the best you’ve got
Try to be a tender lover
Be always near her
Get her out of troubles

And be sure she will leave you
Who is too much loved will not give love in return
And be sure she will leave you
Who loves less is always the strongest one, everyone knows.

Take a woman,treat her badly
Make her wait you for hours
Don’t show up and when you call her
Act as if you were doing her a favor
Make her feel less important
Balance well  love and cruelty
Try to be a tender lover
But out of the bed show no mercy

And then you’ll see, she will love you
Who loves less, more love gets in return
And then you’ll see, she will love you
Who loves less is the strongest one, everyone knows.

marco3These assertions are so bewildering, that nobody ever remembers the words his friend uses to soothe his sorrow. It is a weak conclusion, in fact.  More or less he says: you speak like this, because you are embittered, you don’t need to change to find a woman who loves you, after all, what is a man without love and so on. I had to check the lyrics on google,actually, I had even forgotten there was this final part. However, is there any truth in these words or is it only a male point of view? After years and years of feminist battles, in the secrecy of our heart do we keep craving for unattainable, unreliable, selfish, but irresistibly charming men?

We do. We have to admit it. This truth is not only in the lines of Marco Ferradini’s song, but above all, you may read it clearly in the immortal pages of all those novels we have read and loved. A gallery of irresistible, fascinating rascals that has made us throb and dream: Mr Lovelace, Mr Wickham,John Willoughby, Heathcliff, Mr Rochester only to mention some of the most popular ones and I’m sure that in the past of every woman there is at least one of those fellows, before deciding to marry somebody more trustworthy and even-tempered sort of man like Mr Edgar Linton.

marco2In a famous passage of Wuthering Heights, Nelly Dean and Catherine Earnshaws discuss about the nature of love. Catherine has already accepted to marry the rich, sober, composed Edgar Linton and she wants to know from her whether it was the right choice. Their dialogue looks very much like a session at a psychologist, as Nelly only asks questions in order to make her reach that degree of awareness that will make her openly confess her true love for somebody else, Heatchcliff : ” He is more myself than I am” , Cathy will eventually acknowledge and adds: “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same; and Linton’s is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.’ These words confirm Marco Ferradini’s theorem. Women want “lightning” even if it is destructive and “fire” even if you may get burnt, hence even if Cathy resolves upon marrying his “moonbeam” Mr Linton, the fire of her impossible passion for Heathclill will inevitably destroy her.

 

 

The Rime of our Life

viaggio3

“A wiser and sadder man, he rose the morrow morn”….”wiser and sadder”, these two words mark the passage of the young  Wedding Guest of Coleridge’s “Rime to the Ancient Mariner” into the world of adulthood, the bitter age of experience, as Blake would call it, and this is because of a weird story told by a mysterious man, an Ancient Mariner. The narration seems to have affected  the mind of the young man so much, that in the end he falters just like one who “hath been stunned” and “is of sense forlon”. He forgets about the allure of the wedding party he had so much longed to go and proceeds back  home, where after a sound sleep,  he wakes up the following day a completely new type of person: “a wiser and sadder man”, in fact. It must have been a very powerful story indeed to produce such a reaction, even if at first glance it seems only the narration of a voyage with a lot of incidents, in a magic atmosphere, with some  religious symbolism scattered here and there. So, what had the Wedding Guest understood between the lines of the story?

viaggio12First of all why Coleridge had named his young character, Wedding Guest, rather than, I don’t know….The Student, The Lover or other stereotypes we are familiar with. What is the category of the Wedding Guest Like?  What does a Wedding Guest do? Well, I guess a Wedding Guest loves parties, noise, people. He enjoys a life focused mostly on relations, symbolized by the wedding party itself and on the rites that those relations share: food, drink, music, good conversation etc. .He actually enjoys the feast of life and somehow he believes that this is what really matters. And he is young. His youth makes him arrogant, hence he despises the man who had dared stop him just to tell a ghastly story, because he is old, nay more than old: ancient.

viaggio10The generational gap between the two would be unbridgeable but for the supernatural powers the old mariner is endowed with, which help him win the will of the young man, who, from then on, will listen to the story willy-nilly like a “three-year child”. Then the old man will use all his mastery to create that “suspension of disbelief” he needs to catch the heart of the Wedding Guest.Therefore, a gallery of extraordinary characters and events takes form : an unexpected, destructive tempest, a heavenly albatross, tremendous cold and then unbearable heat,the appalling ghosts of Death and Life in Death, crawling snakes, zombies, a mysterious hermit, only to mention the most important ones. It is the story of a voyage, and what is a voyage but the most explicit metaphor of life? The old mariner wants to open the young man’s eyes to make him understand that life will be far from being a never-ending party, an incessant whirl of joyous emotions, as rubs and bitter disappointments will be always behind the corner.

viaggio13The first part of the ballad focuses on the narration of the first days of the mariner’s voyage, when he was just like the Wedding Guest, and somehow it can be considered a metaphor of youth. When you are young, you look forward to hoisting your sails and begin your journey. At first you start to glide on the tranquil waters near the harbour with all the cheerfulness  and thoughtfulness typical of innocence. As the winds start to make your boat move and you see all the familiar places far away, the adrenaline and the excitement grow .You finally feel free to experience the world and you are confident enough to believe that you will always be able to drive your boat exactly where you want. You are so sure that life will always be an exciting, marvellous adventure, that your first, unavoidable tempest will catch you by surprise and fear and wonder will overwhelm you.Before realizing what to do, you’ll find yourself in strange, unfamiliar places, far away from where you had expected to be.

viaggio14The ship of the Ancient Mariner, in fact, is driven by the blasts of a tremendous storm to the South Pole. The sudden mist that surrounds the sailor and his crew is the symbol of their disorientation, so that when huge icebergs come floating by – when you are Young your first obstacles always seem enormous and insurmountable – terror paralyzes their mind. Experience  teaches that somehow there is always a way out, especially if you manage to find the right determination to take advantage of favourable circumstances that could be both of a natural or spiritual kind. The spirituality is represented here by the coming of the Albatross, that with its presence soothes the profound solitude of the inhabitants of the ship, who see it as sign of good omen as, since its arrival, a “good wind” has started to spring. A natural helping hand which pushes the ship northward, back home.Maybe.

Typical of youth is a certain lightness of behaviour, you live for the present and you don’t think about the future consequences of your actions. Everything seems to be for granted, so when the danger of the tempest is soon forgotten and you start to sail in more tranquil waters, that shallow and arrogant traits of that age start to surface again. So the Mariner narrates to have killed one day that Albatross, that bird which had swept away the fog of their confusion and fear, giving them the comfort of hope. He did that with no apparent reason. He was a kind of…bored.
viaggio8When you are young, the making of connections is very important. They very often become more influential and trustworthy than the family itself. Being part of a community of friends makes you feel safe and accepted, but what happens when, for some reasons, you find yourself out of it? In the case of the Mariner, the Killing of the albatross places him in a condition of seclusion and solitude. He has to face the reactions of his world of connections, here symbolized by the crew. At first, the crew condemn the action the mariner as they believe that “it made the breeze to blow”, but as soon as they see the sun rise after so many days of wondrous cold, they “all averred, he had killed the bird that brought the fog and mist”. Human nature is mutable and the mariner wants the Wedding Guest to be fully aware of that, before it is too late. He must learn to rely on himself and not on people, because if things go wrong, he will pay for all and will be let alone. In fact, when they find themselves stuck in the middle of the ocean “under a hot and copper sky”, with no water to drink and their tongues “withered at the root”, the blame falls on the Mariner alone. He becomes the only scapegoat and those, who used to be his friends,hang about his neck the dead body of the albatross as stigma.

viaggio11The crew had condemned the ominous consequences the action of the Ancient Mariner had had on them, rather than its moral implications, that’s why all the sailors are punished and die, as the ghost of Death will win them all in a game of dice with the only exception of the Ancient Mariner, who will be left in the power of the other frightening ghost: Life in Death. It is the death of his youthful innocence and the beginning of a new, tiring journey that will make him grow a new awareness on the meaning and the repercussions of his actions. It will take him a long time, a time made of prayers and expiation that covers more than the half of the whole ballad, till he succeeds in going back to where he had started, but he won’t be the same person again. He couldn’t. This is what happens when we become adult, experience makes us wiser but sadder at the same time, as we grow more aware of the world that surrounds us. Then, one day, we may become parents or teachers, “modern” Ancient Mariners, willing to help our Wedding Guests in their progress to maturity.