Triumph of Love
THE SEASON when my sighing is renewed
Had come, stirring the memory of that day
Whereon my love and suffering began.
The sun was warming one and the other horn
Of Taurus, and Tithonus' youthful bride
Sped in the coolness to her wonted station;
Springtime and love and scorn and tearfulness
Again had brought me to that Vale Enclosed
Where from my heart its heavy burdens fall;
And there, amid the grasses, faint from weeping,
0'ercome with sleep, I saw a spacious light
Wherein were ample grief and little joy.
A leader, conquering and supreme, I saw,
Such as triumphal chariots used to bear
To glorious honour on the Capitol.
Never had I beheld a sight like this --
Thanks to the sorry age in which I live,
Bereft of valor, and o'erfilled with pride --
And I, desirous evermore to learn,
Lifted my weary eyes, and gazed upon
This scene, so wondrous and so beautiful
Four steeds I saw, whiter than whitest snow,
And on a fiery car a cruel youth
With bow in hand and arrows at his side.
No fear had he, nor armor wore, nor shield,
But on his shoulders he had two great wings Of
a thousand hues; his body was all bare.
And round about were mortals beyond count:
Some of them were but captives, some were slain,
And some were wounded by his pungent arrows.
Eager for tidings, I moved toward the throng,
So that I came near to becoming one
Of those who by his hand had lost their lives.
Then I moved closer still, to see if any
I recognized among the pressing host
Following the king ne'er satisfied with tears.
None did I seem to know; for if there were
Among them any I had known, their looks
Were changed by death or fierce captivity.
Toward me there came a spirit somewhat less
Distressed than the others, calling me by name,
And saying: "These are the gains of those who love!"
Wond'ring, I said to him: "How knowest thou
My face? for thee I cannot recognize."
And he: "The heavy bonds that weigh me down
Prevent thee, and the dimness of the air.
But I am a friend to thee, and I was born,
As thou, within the land of Tuscany."
His words and the noble manner of his speech
Revealed to me what his changed looks had hidden.
So we took seat in a high and open place;
And he began: "Long have I thought to see
Thee here among us: from thine early years
Thy life foretold that this would be thy fate."
" 'Twas even so; but then the toils of love
Dismayed me so that I abandoned them,
My garments and my heart already rent."
When I had spoken, and when he had heard
My answer, not without a smile he said:
"Oh my son, what a flame is lit for thee!"
I did not understand him then, but now
So surely in my head his words are fixed
That ne'er more deeply was aught writ in marble.
And in the boldness of my youth-when mind
And tongue are quick in utterance-I asked:
"Pray, of your courtesy, what folk are these?"
"Ere long," he answered, "thou thyself shalt know,
Thyself being one of them: thou knowest not
How firm a bond is being made for thee.
Thy looks shall fade, and white shall be thy hair,
Before the bond I speak of is unloosed,
However much thy neck and feet rebel.
And yet, to satisfy thy youthful wish,
I'll answer, telling of our master first,
Who rives ~s thus of life and liberty.
For this is he whom the world calleth Love:
Bitter, thou see'st, as thou wilt see more clearly
When he shall be thy lord, as he is ours
Gentle in youth and fierce as he grows old,
As who makes trial knows, and thou shalt know
In less than a thousand years, I prophesy.
Idleness gave him birth, and wantonness,
And he was nursed by sweet and gentle thoughts,
And a vain folk made him their lord and god.
Some of his captives die forthwith; and some
More pitilessly ruled, live out their lives
Under a thousand chains and a thousand keys.
He who so lordly and so proud appears,
First of us all, is Caesar, whom in Egypt
Cleopatra bound, amid the flowers and grass.
Now over him there is triumph; and 'tis well,
Since he, though conqueror of the world, was vanquished,
That Love, who vanquished him, should have the glory.
Next comes his son--he too was one who loved,
Although more nobly -- Caesar Augustus he,
Who took his Livia from her generous spouse.
The third is Nero, pitiless and unjust:
See how he marches full of wrath and scorn.
A woman conquered him, strong though he seems.
See the good Marcus, worthy of all praise,
His tongue and heart full of philosophy
And yet Faustina bends him to her will.
Those two who walk in fear and in suspicion
Are Dionysius and that Alexander
Whose jealous thoughts led him unto his death.
The next is he who by Antandros wept
Creusa's death, and took another bride
From that same prince who slew Evander's son.
Thou wilt have heard of one who would not yield
To a stepmother's passionate pursuit
And gained through flight escape from her entreaties:
And yet his chaste and rightful steadfastness
Brought him to death: for to such hatred turned
The love of Phaedra, terrible and malign.
Herself she slew, perchance avenging thus
Theseus, Hippolytus, and Ariadne,
Who, as thou know'st, sped, loving, to her death.
Blaming another, one condemns oneself:
For he who takes delight in fraudulence
May not lament if he too be deceived.
Behold then Theseus, captive, though so famed,
Led between sisters twain who both met death:
One set her love on him, he loved the other.
With him is Hercules: for all his strength
Love captured him. Achilles follows on,
who in his loving met with bitter grief
That is Demophoon, and that is Phyllis;
And that is Jason: with him is Medea,
Who followed him, and Love, o'er land and sea,
To father and to brother pitiless,
And toward her lover wild and fierce, as though
She might be thus more worthy of his love.
Hypsipyle comes after, and bemoans
The barbarous love that reft her of her own.
And then comes she who bears the vaunt of beauty,
The shepherd with her from whose fateful sight
Of her fair face came the tempestuous storms
That with their raging overturned the world.
And then Oenone thou may'st hear lament
For Paris; and for Helen, Menelaus.
Hermione for her Orestes calls,
Laodamia for Protesilaus.
Argia, faithfully, for Polynices,
Unlike Amphiaraus' covetous wife.
Hark to the sighs and weeping, hark to the cries
Of these poor loving ones, who gave their souls
Into the power of him who leads them thus.
Nor could I ever name them all to thee:
Not only human folk but gods are here,
Filling the shadows of the myrtle grove.
See lovely Venus, and with her see Mars,
His feet and arms and neck laden with chains.
Yonder are Pluto and Proserpina.
Behold the jealous Juno, and the blond
Apollo, who once scorned the youthful bow
That dealt him such a wound in Thessaly.
What shall I say? To put it briefly, then,
All Varro' s gods are here as prisoners,
And, burdened with innumerable bonds,
Before the chariot goes Jupiter."