EJN Remembrance #7: Te Decet Hymnus in Sion


Edward G. Nilges, “Cartoon for Edward Joseph Nilges”, pencil on paper, 7.5 cm x 12 cm, Sep 10 2010

Edward G. Nilges, “Study for Edward Joseph Nilges 1915-1945”, pencil, wash and fuser on paper, 7.5 cm x 12 cm, Sep 10 2010

Edward G. Nilges, “Study for Edward Joseph Nilges, Captain United States Army”, pencil, wash and fuser on paper, toned and white-shaded using Gimp, 7.5 cm x 12 cm, Sep 10 2010

Edward G. Nilges, “Te Decet Hymnus in Sion for Edward Joseph Nilges, 442 Regimental Combat Team ‘Nisei’, ‘Go For Broke'”, drawings using pencil, wash and fuser on paper, toned and white-shaded using Gimp, assembled using Microsoft Paint and Microsoft Office Picture Manager, Sep 10 2010

Mentre ch’i’ rovinava in basso loco,
dinanzi a li occhi mi si fu offerto
chi per lungo silenzio parea fioco.

Quando vidi costui nel gran diserto,
“Miserere di me,” gridai a lui,
“qual che tu sii, od ombra od omo certo!”

Rispuosemi: “Non omo, omo già fui,
e li parenti miei furon lombardi,
mantoani per patrïa ambedui.

Nacqui sub Iulio, ancor che fosse tardi,
e vissi a Roma sotto ‘l buono Augusto
nel tempo de li dèi falsi e bugiardi.

Poeta fui, e cantai di quel giusto
figliuol d’Anchise che venne di Troia,
poi che ‘l superbo Ilïón fu combusto.

Ma tu perché ritorni a tanta noia?
perché non sali il dilettoso monte
ch’è principio e cagion di tutta goia?”

While I was fleeing to a lower place,
before my eyes a figure showed,
faint, in the wide silence.

When I saw him in that vast desert,
‘Have mercy on me, whatever you are,’
I cried, ‘whether shade or living man!’

He answered: ‘Not a man, though once I was.
My parents were from Lombardy —
Mantua was their homeland.

‘I was born sub Julio, though late in his time,
and lived at Rome, under good Augustus
in an age of false and lying gods.

‘I was a poet and I sang
the just son of Anchises come from Troy
after proud Ilium was put to flame.

‘But you, why are you turning back to misery?
Why do you not climb the peak that gives delight,
origin and cause of every joy?’

Dante Divine Comedy

I decided to do another drawing which has opened up a can of worms, for the gracile genes of my patrilineal grandmother enter in to make my uncle less Eisenhower and his father, and I struggle against the strange or daemonic in this. “Male and Female he created them”. But it is all mixed together and the artist easily can offend. All I can say is that I’m aware of this.

Thinking of that scene in Angels in America where the Mormon grandmother comes alive in the diorama and says that the descendant would simply not understand “the pain”.

The Dante is the meeting of Dante and Vergil. It also appears in TS Eliot.

Robert Motherwell, Elegy for the Spanish Republic

While Edward was studying Fascism at John Carroll University with the holy monks, Robert Motherwell was realizing that the first use of civilian bombing and the failure to defend a legitimate League of Nations member in Spain meant that history had just shuddered into reverse.

But Catholics were fed, and in the 1950s I was fed, the usual diet of lies and cans of worms, that the holy nuns had been immolated inside churches as if that, if true, justifies lex talonis.

Nothing is sacred, nothing is what was called in Anglo Saxon “saelig” (silly blessed holy)? Perhaps, but then again I still see children being fussed over by Yuppie mamas in Soho. So I shall complete this painting Ins’allah.

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