So Fontegaia is drawing to a close, along with (I think) maybe this whole long-poem jag I've been on for - if you count all these long poems - 20 years.
I hate to come across as intentionally arcane, obscure, obfuscatory in Fontegaia. That's not my aim; I'm a very simple fellow. If it's obscure in the end, it's a failure. But then, often my previous self-explications de texte have left me with a bad aftertaste.
Nevertheless, I feel like expatiating briefly... - so what is "Siena" in this poem?
1. the home of the little Fontegaia fountain
2. a nexus of medieval & Renaissance visual art
3. a sort of little sister to Dante's Florence
4. an early example of a "free city", with a republican government & proto-democracy
5. a government of elected officials (for a few decades, 13th-14th cent.) known as "the Nine"
6. the town with the most-famous & ancient "Palio" horse race
7. a center of Franciscan Christianity (St. Catherine of Siena, St. Bernardino)
8. a kind of outpost or offshoot of Byzantine art & culture
9. a place that was specifically pointed out to me...
Taking all this into account, then, Siena serves as a kind of sounding-board, or catalyst, where these elements (& others) interact to form new things.
Right now (in this final chapter) you see a lot of imagery around numbers - esp. "nine". I don't want to get too explicit (since I'm still in progress!). But I'm trying to suggest some relations between poetry & knowledge, poetry & civil society (political philosophy), poetry & religion.
Dante famously wrote that "Beatrice is a Nine". No one's ever been quite sure what he meant - but the prevailing notion is that he's referring to some representation of the Trinity (3 being a factor of 9).
Maybe I'm working out something similar. "J" - the mysterious muse or instigator (in many guises) of all my quatrain efforts, since Stubborn Grew through Fontegaia - can be understood as a kind of mark or hieroglyph : a curling spiral, or inverted nine, or...
The "Palio" horserace - focus of chapt. 2 of Fontegaia - is a sort of extended riff on poetry-as-Pegasus. Now Pegasus, & Medusa, & Perseus, & Cassiopeia, & Ethiopia, & the 9 Muses, are all intertwined in the original Greek myths.
The Muses were actually a mythical figuration of the Apollonian (rational) spirit in poetry : they each represented a different facet of the ancient organization of knowledge & the arts (history, comedy, tragedy, lyric, astronomy, dance, etc.). Orpheus, the Greek ur-poet, was a representative or missionary of Apollo (thus his fate - torn apart by the maenads of Dionysius, the devotees of irrational passion, fury).
In Fontegaia, I'm developing (sketching out, let's say) a dual transformation : first, shifting between Hellenic & Hebraic elements (or muses); second, shifting between Apollonian & Dionysian aspects.
The underlying argument is that poetry figures reality holistically : as measure : dance. The dance is actually underwritten by the fusion of nature, good will, and knowledge. The agent (& also consequence) of this fusion is what is called "grace" and "wisdom". The innate or potential actuality of human good will is represented (in social experience) as conscience and natural law - that is, the global/universal awareness of good & evil (irrespective of race, ethnicity, cultural traditions, local conditions, etc).
Law & government are essentially the formalization of this innate natural law or (potential) good will - actualized on behalf of the whole, of the common good. When knowledge of the good unites with good will, the outcome is wisdom, expressed as grace. Without good will, law & government fail, are futile.
In the poem, "Siena" is both governed by "the Nine" and expressed by "the nine (muses)". The "ring-dance" of the Sienese maidens in the civic fresco by Lorenzetti is meant to be an image of the synthesis of art & political actuality, of poetry & history, of Apollo (knowledge, light) & Dionysius (passion, rhythm)... in measure.
"9" as a visual icon - the spiral, "J", the fountain - presents a kind of symbolic "square root" of this number. But this is so complicated I'd rather not get into it here, right now.
[p.s. I realize my presentation of "grace" here leaves out the whole theological dimension. In a theological sense, this is the other side of the coin : grace itself is the agent of the fusion of knowledge and good will - since without divine grace, the human will is too corrupt to receive (to understand) truth or knowledge.]