Year 2 - n.3 - June 2002


The Crib Characters: Benino


       zoom on the image

At the beginning of the crib story, a character immediately catches our attention, moving for his young age and for his behaviour: lying on the poor grass bed, having his arm bent to hold up the thrown back head, a young shepherd gives himself up to the sweetness of sleep. Some tame sheep are grazing beside him. The sleeper and the sheep make up an idyllic picture that mixes together the art of the ancient pastoral poetry and the simplicity of the evangelic page. The scene is charming forthe observer.

Looking at this scene, an expert on Latin and Greek will remember immediately Teocrito’s and Virgilio’s famous name; above all the he will remember, among school memories, the first verse of Virgilio’s first bucolic “Tětyre, tů patulač recubŕns sub tčgmine fŕgi”. He will remember Virgilio lived in Naples and was buried there, near the entrance of the cave which took to Pozzuoli ; then if he has read the great philologist Domenico Comparetti’s book “Virgilio in the Middle Age”, he will remember all the legends told in Naples on this great poet who was also the most erudite among learned people of his time and expert in magic arts. The expert on Latin and Greek will link the famous fourth bucolic, which speaks about the coming of a new area joined to the birth of a child, to the other ones that speak about a pastoral world, in which man will live in harmony with nature. If he is Neapolitan, not only for birth, but also for deep sensibility, he will surely remember Iacopo Sannazzaro, a Renaissance poet, who wrote the Arcadia  and the De part Virginis (a poem on the Virgin Mary’s childbirth), as if the Baby Jesus’s birth was inseparably linked to the shepherds’world. Sannazzaro made a church build on the rocky mountain, which overhung the sea of Margellina. He wanted to dedicate it to the “Vergine Partoriente”. Sannazzaro was buried behind the great altar of the church of “Santa Maria del Parto”. In this church there is also an artistic wooden crib that shows traveller what, together the Virgilian poetry, charmed him mostly: Baby Jesus’s birth.

But dear Reader, if you are patient, I will still speak to you about it in the next numbers. Maybe you will ask me: “Who doesn’t understand what you have told?” But I tell you, with a little regret, maybe Sannazaro’s joy in front of Baby Jesus’s image is purer and truer; it is the same joy that I felt at Christmas Eve when, unaware of  wisdom and poetry, the sparks that I made shine, under my father’s gaze, in front of Baby Jesus’s image were enough to make me happy. But the unawareness is a condition not a choice: and now knowledge is a duty. We will continue our analysis, aware that with the rational investigation there is the risk of profanation.

   (to be continued)

   Italo Sarcone  Naples, 13th June 2002-06-24

   In die festo Beati Antonii de Padua, Doctoris Ecclesiae


Italo Sarcone