Now, gentlemen, betake you to your arms,
And see that Malta be well fortified;
And it behoves you to be resolute;
For Calymath, having hover’d here so long,
Will win the town, or die before the walls.
FIRST KNIGHT. And die he shall; for we will never yield.
I’m in Malta as you read – with a friend, a kindleful of siege-related novels (more than I can think to read in the four days I’ll spend here) and Marlowe’s characters whispering in my ear. Governor Ferneze and his knights, as you just read… And a while later, the definitely not dead Calymath:
Thus have we view’d the city, seen the sack,
And caus’d the ruins to be new-repair’d,
Which with our bombards’ shot and basilisks
We rent in sunder at our entry:
And, now I see the situation,
And how secure this conquer’d island stands,
Environ’d with the Mediterranean sea,
Strong-countermin’d with other petty isles,
And, toward Calabria, back’d by Sicily
(Where Syracusian Dionysius reign’d),
Two lofty turrets that command the town,
I wonder how it could be conquer’d thus.
And yes – despite my friend’s doubts, I’m aware of the difference between Marlowe’s imaginary Malta and the place we are visiting, and even between 1565 Malta and present day. But… well – they’re all here, aren’t they? Stratified and encrusted, full of echoes and reverberations, right?
I had a friend once, who used to say that I traveled by historical-literary-sentimental bounds and leaps… What can I say? He may well have been right.