Triumph of Love
So filled with marvels was this heart of mine
That like a man who cannot speak I stood,
Waiting in silence for another's voice,
Till my friend said to me: "What thinkest thou?
Why dost thou ever gaze? Knowest thou not
That I am of the throng, and must move on?"
"Brother," I answered, "well thou knowest me:
So eagerly do I desire to learn
That the desire itself impedes my learning."
And he: "Thy silence I can comprehend:
Thou dost desire to know these other folk,
And I will tell thee, if it be allowed.
Behold him there to whom the rest pay honour,
For he is Pompey. With him is Cornelia:
Of the vile Ptolemy she complains and weeps.
Beyond him, the great Grecian king sees not
The evil Clytemnestra nor Aegisthus:
Now canst thou tell if love be blind indeed!
See Hypermnestra, faithful in her love;
See Pyramus and Thisbe in the shade,
Leander swimming, Hero at the window.
Ulysses moves in thought, a kindly soul:
His faithful wife entreats him to return,
But ardent Circe will not let him go.
Then comes Hamilcar's son, :vhom for so long
Nor Rome nor all of Italy could defeat;
Yet he fell captive to an Apulian maid.'
She who, with locks shorn closely, everywhere
Follows her lord, in Pontus ruled as queen,
But is herself in servitude to love.
Portia refmes her love by fire and steel;
Julia complains that Pompey's love for her
Has faded, yielding to a second flame.
Now look this way: behold the patriarch,
Mocked and yet constant, who through seven years
Served to win Rachel, then for seven more:
A mighty love that hardship could not quell!
Behold his father, and his father's sire,
Who with his wife went out to a new land.
See then how love in evil cruelty
Overcame David, leading him to a sin
He was to weep for in a dark retreat.
See how the cloud of love likewise obscures
The clear fame of the wisest of his sons,
Leading him far astray from the Lord above.
Of another son, who loves and yet loves not,
Tamar, 0'erwhelmed by her disdainful grief,
Turns in complaint to her brother Absalom.
Closely beyond her, Samson you may see,
Stronger than he is wise, who foolishly
Laid low his head upon a hostile lap.
There too is Holophernes, overcome
In spite of swords and lances, by the words
And the cheeks of a widow, and by love and sleep.
And see her then, as with her serving-maid
She bears on her return the dreadful head,
In haste, at midnight, giving thanks to God.
See Shechem, stained with the doubly flowing blood
O slaughter and of rite, and with him see
His father and his people caught by fraud
All this the outcome of a sudden love.
See how Ahasuerus seeks to cure
His love, that he may find some quietness:
One knot he severs, and another ties,
Finding a remedy for his distress
E' en as one nail may drive another out.
If thou wouldst witness in a single heart
Delight and dole, bitter and sweet, behold
Herod, beset by love and cruelty. .
See how he burns, how then he turns to rage:
Repenting him of his own fearsome sin,
He cries for Mariamne, who hears not.
Here are three ladies fair who loved right well,
Procris and Artemisia, and with them
Deidamia. Here are other three
Whose love was evil: and Semiramis,
Byblis and Myrrha are oppressed with shame
For their unlawful and distorted love.
Here too are those who fill our books with dreams:
Lancelot, Tristram, and the other knights
Whose wand' rings lead the common folk astray;
Guinevere and Iseult, among the rest;
The twain of Rimini, who together go,
Forever uttering their sad laments."
Thus did he speak; and I, as one who dreads
A coming ill, and trembles ere he hears
The sound of the trumpet, and feels future wounds,
Was pale as one removed from the tomb,
When by my side appeared a youthful maid,
Purer by far than e'en the whitest dove.
She took me captive: I, who would have sworn
To make defense against men bearing arms,
Was bounden by her words and by her ways.
And as I now remember, then my friend
Came closer to me, and he laughed at me
Thinking thereby to give me greater dole
And whispered to me: "Now thou too art free
Thyself to speak to any of us all,
For all of us are stained with the same pitch."
I was as one of those who more regret
Another's good than one's own ill, seeing her,
My capturer, in liberty and peace.
And as I know too well, and all too late,
Her beauty wrought a deadly snare for me,
Burning with envy, jealousy, and love.
I could not take my eyes from her fair face
As one who is ill, and yet desires a food
Sweet to the taste, but certain to do harm
To every other pleasure blind and deaf,
Following her through paths so perilous
That I still tremble when I think of them.
Since then mine eyes have been downcast and wet,
My heart oppressed with care, my shelter nought
Save founts and streams, and mountains, woods, and rocks.
Ever since then the pages that I fill
With thoughts and tears and ink are soon destroyed,
And others written for no better fate.
Ever since then I know the life of love,
By love imprisoned, with love's hopes and fears
Writ on my brow for him who will to read.
The fair one whom I hunt eludes me still,
Careless of me and of my sufferings,
Proud of her power and my captivity.
And yet, if I discern aright, this lord,
The lord of love, who dominates the world,
Fears her, and leaves me thus bereft of hope.
I have no strength or courage for defense:
He in whom I had hoped still leads her on
In cruelty to others and to me.
No one can bind her with the bonds of love:
Rebellious and untamed she goes her way
Alone, love's banners meaning nought to her.
A bearing that is hers and only hers,
Her smile, her words, and even her disdains
Make her, in truth, a sun among the stars.
Her locks, now bound in gold, now free to the wind,
Her eyes, illumined with celestial light,
Inflame me, making me content to burn.
Who could find words to tell of what she is,
Of her benignity and gentlehood?
My words are but as brooks are to the sea.
No one like her has e'er been seen before
Nor yet will ever be beheld again,
No tongue can say of her what should be said.
Thus I am captive, and thus she is free.
I entreat day and night (0 evil star!),
And of a thousand prayers she scarce hears one.
Hard is the law of Love! but though unjust
One must obey it, for that law prevails
Throughout the universe, and lasts for aye.
Now know I how the heart is rent in twain,
And how it can make peace or war or truce,
And how it may conceal its malady,
And how my blood retreats, and leaves me pale
When I am filled with fear, or rushes red
Into my cheeks, when I am stirred by shame.
I know the serpent hiding in the grass,
And how uncertainty may banish sleep,
How without illness one may faint and die.
I know the seeking of my lady's ways,
And fear of finding her; and I know how
I am transformed into her I love.
I know the changing of my mood and will
And colour, 'mid long sighs and brief delight,
My very soul divided from my heart.
I can deceive myself a thousand times
Within a day; and, following her, I freeze
When I am near her, burning when afar.
I know how Love can roar throughout the mind,
Expelling thought; and in how many ways
The heart may suffer till it faint and fail
I know how little hemp it takes to bind
A gentle soul, when it is all alone
And there is none to help in its defense.
I know how Love may fly and bend his bow,
How now he threatens, and how now he strikes,
And how he steals and bears his theft away.
I know how mutable his actions are,
How arm'd his hands, how blinded are his eyes,
His promises how empty of all faith,
And how his fire feeds still upon my frame
And lives, a hidden passion, in my veins,
Burning me evermore, and threatening death:
A little sweetness ends in bitterness.