Illustration from Boccaccio’s De Casibus Virorum Illustrium

For how long had I stared at these walls in silence?
My entire world confined to a despairing vision
Of masses of grey stone always damp to the touch
A barred window above excluding any natural light
The taciturn warden who brings me my slop twice daily
The only sounds the tantalising jangle of heavy keys
But I know that there is no escape possible from here
So I console myself with thoughts from the past

Because it hasn’t always been this way, not so long ago
I lived in palaces with ante-chambers larger than this cell
My wealth and prestige derived from illustrious ancestors
I spoke and Popes, Emperors would listen attentively
My sage counsel would be deliberated by the Senate
I held the world in the palm and from my fingertips
Flowed power in its purest untrammelled essence

Reminiscing of yesteryears glories I lulled myself asleep
And then the dank cell was filled with the softest glow
Emanating from the beautiful visage of a celestial presence
Raising myself from the hard mattress I tried to speak
But the Angel or Goddess placed her finger on my lips
And told me to be quiet and to still my racing heart

“Do you not recognise me, you who spoke so eloquently
On my behalf on many occasions, defending my ways
Against the slanders of the uncouth and ignorant?
I would say you have no reason to be afraid of me
But that wouldn’t be strictly correct, because I am Destiny,
Lady Fortuna, she who must spin the Wheel of Fortune

If you require consolation in your present plight
Do not ransack your memory for vanished luxuries,
You who toyed around with ideas of ethics and philosophy
Were you so enraptured with the transitory pleasures
Of this realm of the senses that you forgot you were human
Eternally subject to the constant Divine Law and Way
That requires that everything that goes up must come down?

One minute you are at the top, Lord of all you survey
The next, after I turn the wheel that requires turning,
You inadvertently offend those you strive to serve
And bemoan the nature of your temporary lodgings
As if it wasn’t the empty space that makes the room
And the state of mind that defines the state of grace
Realise that complete reality isn’t some trajectory
It is nothing more and nothing less than a circle.”

Yes, it was always you

Yves Klein-Fire 5-1961

You were always on the lookout for trouble and if none came your way you created it. At school, if the teacher ever left the class you were the eye of the hurricane, calm and unmoving while all around you the other children were screaming, crying, rocking anxiously in the corner and you were the cause of this chaos. All it took was a look, a clenched fist, a snarling threat of violence that you were only too happy to follow through with at the slightest hint of non compliance. You had a way of making people do things they really, really didn’t want to do. Yes,it was always you.
You dreamed of terrorising the clever ones with all their book smarts using fancy words in their plum posh accents. So polite, always ‘Yes Sir’ this and ‘No Madam’ that. Teachers’ pets them all, how you hated them and their self assured ways. You were sturdy, slow moving and you had trouble following the inky squiggles and peculiar shapes against the too white pages when the sadistic teachers picked you, yes it was always you, to read to the class, self consciously stumbling over the syllables, your ears pricked, tuning into the inevitable sniggers, whispers and giggles that accompanied this object lesson in humiliation. As your clumsy tongue faltered over the sounds you were thinking that one day you would make them pay, big time and with dizzying rates of interest, like the interest that the heavies of the loan sharks made your Dad pay that time he lost big at the track. One day you thought.
Then one day while holding court with your bully boy friends at an abandoned barn you discovered the power of fire to install a bowel loosening fear in people. You weren’t afraid however, no not at all, with you it was the absolute opposite. Never had you felt such pleasure, a nerve tingling, tension releasing wave of intoxication came over you as you watched the tongues of fire adoringly lap the dry tinder. A wall of heat caressed your face and you smiled. You loved the way that fire consumed only, the purity and intensity of its singular nature. You were awestruck by its immense force but you were the master of this destruction.
Your craven, idiot friends had run away at the first sign of trouble, of course. You found one of them hiding behind a tree, gibbering to himself. You pulled him away and told him to get a hold of himself and then you smelt the excrement. You asked him if he had shit himself but he only babbled. You punched him hard in the mouth in disgust and that made you feel better. After the delicious aroma of the fire the stench of his panicked defecation was unbearable to you.
People around town said that you would end in jail or the madhouse or an early grave, but they were wrong. Because it was people like you who began to run the show and suddenly book smarts and the right accent didn’t mean automatic success anymore. It meant that you would prosper in your dream job of burning books, watching the print fade to grey before the pages curled into a dense mass of ashes and all the time with a never dimming smile upon your unblinking, incurious face.

Forgive me if I took the love as read

Heinz Hajek-Halke

Forgive me if I took the love as read
Our fate and bodies entangled together
It’s my nature to leave things unsaid

To preserve the mystery of the mussed up bed
To forge a chain that nothing can sever
Forgive me if I took the love as read

One of us has been cruelly misled
Confusion reigns as to whether
It’s my nature to leave things unsaid

Blood and love run wine dark red
Weightier than an Egyptian feather
Forgive me if I took the love as read

Desire riots barefoot in the head
I thought we would transverse the forever
It’s my nature to leave things unsaid

Perhaps everything is something instead
The resolution has to be now or never 
Forgive me if I took the love as read
It’s my nature to leave things unsaid

Floating City III

Vittore Carpaccio-The Lion of St. Mark 1516

The souls encased within the stone of statues,
Chimerical monsters, phantasmagorical creations, heraldic beasts,
Slowly exhale, stir sleepily, vividly animate, move rapidly,
Alight off the columns,
Descend from church alcoves,
Climb down from rooftops
To roam through the squares, palazzos and streets
Which they have always dominated symbolically
But now is the time to colonize the city concretely.


Sandro Botticelli-Map of Hell circa 1485
Sandro Botticelli-Map of Hell circa 1485

Dante’s Divine Comedy is one of the  undisputed masterpieces of world literature and the crowning achievement of the medieval world-view. Representing the allegorical journey of the soul through the three realms of the afterlife, Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise, the Comedy offers a series of vividly dramatic scenes that has ignited the imagination of artists throughout the centuries, especially the unforgettable voyage through the seven circles of Hell, where Dante with his guide Virgil hear the stories of sinners as they undergo the eternal torments of the damned.

Sandro Botticelli produced a number of exquisite silverpoint illustrations, probably commissioned by Lorenzo De Medici during the latter years of the 15th Century, however the project was never completed. William Blake taught himself Italian to be able to read the Comedy in the original and spent his final days feverishly working on a series of sublime watercolours. Gustave Dore’s sombre and majestic otherworldly etchings are probably the greatest completed visual rendition of Dante’s narrative. In the twentieth century Tom Phillips produced a unique take in his limited edition of Inferno.

Below are examples of the four artists work based around episodes set in the Inferno. I have also included  Stockhausen’s Luzifers Abschied, which has to rank as the strangest, most left field, left handed experimental piece of music (or any other media, for that matter) included in Cakeland; just in case anyone wants to really immerse themselves in the infernal atmosphere of the artworks.

Sandro Botticelli-Illustration for Divine Comedy circa 1485
Sandro Botticelli-Illustration for Inferno circa 1485

William Blake-The Inscription over the Gate 1824-7
William Blake-The Inscription over the Gate 1824-7

William Blake-The Simoniac Pope 1824-7
William Blake-The Simoniac Pope 1824-7

Gustave Dore-Lucifer 1861
Gustave Dore-Lucifer 1861

Gustave Dore-Traitors 1861
Gustave Dore-Traitors 1861

Tom Phillips-Canto XIX 1981
Tom Phillips-Canto XIX 1981

Tom Phillips-Canto XIV-1982
Tom Phillips-Canto XIV-1982