Satire of Divine providence in Giordano Bruno's 'The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast'  

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"Ambrogio on the one hundred twelfth thrust shall finally have driven home his business with his wife, but shall not impregnate her this time, but rather another, using the sperm into which the cooked leek that he has just eaten with millet and wine sauce shall have been converted."

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

In one passage of The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast (1584), Giordano Bruno satirizes Divine providence and divine omnipotence by enumerating an improbable amount of things Mercury has ordered Jove to do in a random Italian village:

"Mercury [...] relates a number of things he has to see carried out, by the order of Providence, about the little hamlet of Cicala. They are none of the cleanest the number of melons that are to ripen in Franzino's garden and that are not to be gathered till over-ripe, of jujubes that are to be picked from Giovanni Bruno's tree, that are to fall to the earth, or that are to be eaten by worms ; how Vasta, in curling the hair on her temples, is to overheat the iron and burn fifty-seven of them, but is not to scorch her head and so on. These unpleasant details, however, are only a prelude to a philosophical conception of the divine action. God, it is said, does not provide for this and that individual as occasion arises." [...].

Bruno also predicts in great detail the result all actions will produce. For example, a certain Ambrogio shall "on the one hundred twelfth thrust finally have driven home his business with his wife, but shall not impregnate her this time, but rather another, using the sperm into which the cooked leek that he has just eaten with millet and wine sauce shall have been converted."

In another example he details that "from the dung of her ox fifty-two dung beetles shall be born, of which fourteen shall be trampled and killed by Albenzio's foot, twenty-six shall die upside down, twenty-two shall live in a hole, eighty shall make a pilgrim's progress around the yard, forty-two shall retire to live under the stone, sixteen shall roll their ball of dung whenever they please, and the rest shall scurry around at random."

The excerpts are translations by Arthur D. Imerti and Ingrid D. Rowland.

More extensive excerpts and notes:

That today at noon two of the melons in Father Franzino’s melon patch will be perfectly ripe, but that they won’t be picked until three days from now, when they will no longer be considered good to eat. Jove requests that at the same moment, on the jujube tree at the base of the Monte Cicala in the house of Giovanni Bruno, thirty perfect jujubes will be picked, and he says that several shall fall to earth still green, and that fifteen shall be eaten by worms. That Vasta, wife of Albenzio Savolino, when she means to curl the hair at her temples, shall burn fifty-seven hairs for having let the curling iron get too hot, but she won’t burn her scalp and hence shall not swear when she smells the stench, but shall endure it patiently. That from the dung of her ox two hundred and fifty-two dung beetles shall be born, of which fourteen shall be trampled and killed by Albenzio’s foot, twenty-six shall die upside down, twenty-two shall live in a hole, eighty shall make a pilgrim’s progress around the yard, forty-two shall retire to live under the stone by the door, sixteen shall roll their ball of dung wherever they please, and the rest shall scurry around at random.
Laurenza, when she combs her fair, shall lose seventeen hairs and break thirteen, and of these, ten shall grow back within three days and seven shall never grow back at all. Antonio Savolino’s bitch shall conceive five puppies, of which three shall live out their natural lifespan and two shall be thrown away, and of these three the first shall resemble its mother, the second shall be mongrel, and the third shall partly resemble the father and partly resemble Polidoro’s dog. In that moment a cuckoo shall be heard from La Starza, cuckooing twelve times, no more and no fewer, whereupon it shall leave and fly to ruins of Castle Cicala for eleven minutes, and then shall fly off to Scarvaita, and as for what happens next, we’ll see to it later.
That the skirt Mastro Danese is cutting on his board shall come out crooked. That twelve bedbugs shall leave the slats of Constantino’s bed and head toward the pillow: seven large ones, four small, and one middle-sized, and as for the one who shall survive until this evening’s candlelight, we’ll see to it. That fifteen minutes thereafter, because of the movement of her tongue, which she has passed over her palate four times, the old lady of Fiurulo shall lose the third right molar in her lower jaw, and it shall fall without blood and without pain, because that molar has been loose for seventeen months. That Ambrogio on the one hundred twelfth thrust shall finally have driven home his business with his wife, but shall not impregnate her this time, but rather another, using the sperm into which the cooked leek that he has just eaten with millet and wine sauce shall have been converted. Martinello’s son is beginning to grow hair on his chest, and his voice is beginning to crack. That Paulino, when he bends over to pick up a broken needle, shall snap the red drawstring of his underpants….http://genealogyreligion.net/every-hair-is-numbered

Italian text[1]

Ti dirò. Ha ordinato [Giove], che oggi a mezzo giorno doi meloni, tra gli altri, nel melonaio di Franzino sieno perfettamente maturi; ma che non sieno colti se non tre giorni appresso, quando non saran giudicati buoni a mangiare. Vuole che Vasta moglie di Albenzio, mentre si vuole increspar gli capelli de le tempie, vegna (per aver troppo scaldato il ferro) a bruggiarne cinquanta sette: ma che non si scotte la testa; e per questa volta non bia- stemi quando sentirà il puzzo, ma con pazienza la pas- se. Che dal sterco del suo bove nascano ducento cin- quanta doi scarafoni, de quali quattordeci sieno calpestrati et uccisi per il piè di Albenzio, vinti sei muoiano di rinversato, venti doi vivano in caverna, ot- tanta vadano in peregrinaggio per il cortile, quarantadoi si retireno a vivere sotto quel ceppo vicino a la porta, se- deci vadano isvoltando le pallotte per dove meglio li vien comodo, il resto corra a la fortuna. A Laurenza quando si pettina, caschino diece sette capelli, tredeci se gli rompano, e di quelli, diece rinascano in spacio di tre giorni, e gli sette non rivegnano piú. La cagna d’Antonio Savolino concepa cinque cagnolini, de quali tre a suo tempo vivano, e doi sieno gittati via; e di que’ tre il pri- mo sia simile a la madre, il secondo sia vario, il terzo sia parte simile al padre e parte a quello di Polidoro. In quel tempo il cuculo s’oda cantare da la Starza, e non faccia udire piú né meno che dodici cuculate e poi si parta e vada a le roine del castello Cicala per undeci minuti d’ora: e da là se ne vole a Scarvaita; e di quello che deve essere appresso provederemo poi. Che la gon- na che mastro Danese taglia su la pianca, vegna strop- piata. Che da le tavole del letto di Costantino si partano dodeci cimici, e sene vadano al capezzale: sette de gli piú grandi, quattro de piú piccioli, uno de mediocri; e di quello che di essi ha da essere questa sera al lume di can- dela, provederemo. Che a quindeci minuti de la medesi- ma ora per il moto de la lingua, la quale si varrà la quarta volta rimenando per il palato, a la vecchia di Fiurulo ca- sche la terza mola che tiene nella mascella destra di sotto: la qual caduta sia senza sangue e senza dolore; perché la detta mola è gionta al termine della sua trepi- dazione, che ha perdurato a punto diece sette annue revoluzioni lunari. Che Ambruoggio nella centesima e duodecima spinta abbia spaccio et ispedito il negocio con la mogliera, e che non la ingravide per questa volta: ma ne l’altra con quel seme in cui si convertisce quel porro cotto che mangia al presente con la sapa e pane di miglio. Al figlio di Martinello comincieno a spuntar i peli de la pubertade nel pettinale, et insieme insieme comincie a gallugarli la voce. Che a Paulino mentre vorrà alzar un’ago rotta da terra, per la forza che egli farà se gli rompa la stringa rossa de le braghe, per la qual cosa se bestemmiarà voglio che sia punito appresso con questo: che questa sera la sua minestra sia troppo sali- ta, e sappia di fumo; caggia e se gli rompa il fiasco pieno di vino: per la qual causa se bestimmiarà, prove- deremo poi. Che di sette talpe le quali da quattro giorni fa son partite dal fondo de la terra prendendo diversi ca- mini verso l’aria, due vegnano a la superficie de la terra nell’ora medesima, l’una al punto di mezzo giorno, l’altra a quindeci minuti e diece nove secondi appresso, disco- ste l’una da l’altra tre passi, un piede e mezzo dito, ne l’orto di Anton Faivano; del tempo e luogo de l’altre si provederà al piú tardi.

Tutto dumque quantunque minimo, è sotto infinitamente grande providenza; ogni quantosivoglia vilissima minuzzaria, in ordine del tutto et universo è importantissima: perché le cose grandi son composte de le picciole, e le picciole de le picciolissime, e queste de gl’individui e minimi.

Ambrogio excerpt in Italian

"Che Ambrogio ne la centesima e duodecima spinta abbia spaccio ed ispedito il negozio con la mogliera, e che non la ingravide per questa volla, ma ne l'altra con quel seme, in cui si convertisce quel porro cotto, che mangia al presente con la sapa e pane miglio."




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