LAO. Some other time, oh my sister, thou wilt hear what happened to
those nine blind men, who were at first nine most beautiful and amorous
youths, who being so inspired by the loveliness of your face, and having
no hope of receiving the reward of their love, and fearing that such
despair would reduce them to final ruin, went away from the happy
Campanian country, and of one accord, those who at first were rivals for
your beauty, swore not to separate until they had tried in all possible
ways to find something more beautiful than you or at least equal to you;
besides which, that they might discover that mercy and pity which they
could not find in your breast armed with pride; for they believed this
was the only remedy which could bring them out of that cruel captivity.
The third day after their solemn departure, as they were passing by the
Circean mount, it pleased them to go and see those antiquities, the
cave and fane of that goddess. When they were come there, the majesty of
the solitary place, the high, storm-beaten rocks, the murmur of the sea
waves which break amongst those caves, and many other circumstances of
the locality and the season combined, made them feel inspired; and one
of them I will tell thee, more bold than the others, spoke these words:
“Oh might it please heaven that in these days, as in the past more happy
ages, some wise Circe might make herself present who, with plants and
minerals working her incantations, would be able to curb nature. I
should believe that she, however proud, would surely be pitiful unto our
woes. She, solicited by our supplications and laments, would condescend
either to give a remedy or to concede a grateful vengeance for the
cruelty of our enemy.”
Hardly had he finished uttering these words than there became visible to
them a palace, which, whoever had knowledge of human things, could
easily comprehend that it was not the work of man, nor of nature; the
form and manner of it I will explain to thee another time. Whence,
filled with great wonder and touched by hope that some propitious deity,
who must have placed this before them, would explain their condition and
fortunes, they said with one accord they could meet with nothing worse
than death, which they considered a less evil than to live in so much
anguish. Therefore they entered, not finding any door that was shut
against them nor janitor who questioned them. They found themselves in a
very richly ornamented room, where with royal majesty, (as one may say,
Apollo was found again by Phaeton appears she, who is called his
daughter, and at whose appearance they saw vanish all the figures of
many other deities who ministered unto her. Then, received and comforted
by this gracious face, they advanced, and overcome by the splendour of
that majesty, they bent their knee to the earth, and altogether, with
the diversity of tones which their various genius suggested, they laid
open their vows to the goddess. By her finally, they were treated in
such a manner that, blind and homeless, with great labour having
ploughed the seas, passed over rivers, overcome mountains, traversed
plains for the space of ten years, and at the end of which time having
arrived under that temperate sky of the British Isles, and come into the
presence of the lovely, graceful nymphs of Father Thames, they (the
nine), having made humble obeisance, and the nymphs having received them
with acts of purest courtesy, one, the principal amongst them, who
later on will be named, with tragic and lamenting accents laid bare the
common cause in this manner:
Of those, oh gentle Dames, who with closed urn,
Present themselves, whose hearts are pierced
Not for a fault by nature caused,
But through a cruel fate,
That in a living death,
Does hold them fast, we each and all are blind.
Nine spirits are we, wandering many years,
Longing to know; and many lands
O’ertravelled, one day were surprised
By a sore accident,
To which if you attend,
You’ll say, oh worthy, oh unhappy lovers!
An impious Circe, who presumes to boast
Of having for her sire this glorious sun,
Welcomed us after many wanderings:
Opened a certain urn,
With water sprinkled us,
And to the sprinkling added an enchantment.
Waiting the finish of this work of hers
We all were quiet, mute, attent,
Until she said, “Oh ye unhappy ones,
Blind be ye all,
Gather that fruit
Those get who fix their thoughts on things above.”
Daughter and Mother of horror and darkness and woe
They cried, who sudden were struck blind,
It pleased you then, so proud and harsh,
To treat these wretched lovers,
Who put themselves before you,
Ready to consecrate to you their hearts.
But when the sudden fury somewhat stayed,
Which this new case had brought on them,
Each one within himself withdrew,
While rage to grief gave place;
To her they turned for pity,
With chosen words companioning their tears.
Now if it please thee, gracious sorceress,
If zeal for glory chance to move thy heart,
Or milk of kindness soften it,
Be merciful to us,
And with thy magic herbs,
Heal up the wound imprinted on our hearts.
If wish to succour rules thy beauteous hand,
Make no delay, lest some of us
Unhappy ones reach death, ere we
Praising thy act
Can each one say,
So much did she torment, yet more did heal.
Then she replied: Oh curious prying minds,
Take this my other fatal urn,
Which my own hand may not unclose;
Over the wide expanse of earth,
Wander ye still,
Search for and visit all the various kingdoms.
Fate hath decreed, it ne’er shall be unclosed
Till lofty wisdom, noble chastity
And loveliness with these combined,
Shall set their hands to it;
All other efforts vain,
To make this fluid open to the sky.
Then should it chance to sprinkle beauteous hands,
Of those who come anear for remedy,
Its god-like virtues you may prove,
And turning cruel pain
Into a sweet content,
Two lovely stars upon the earth you’ll see.
Meanwhile be none of you cast down or sad,
Although long while in deep obscurity
All that the heavens contain remain concealed,
For good so great as this,
No pain, however sharp,
Can be accounted worthy of the cost.
That Good to which through blindness you are led,
Should make appear all other-having, vile,
And every torment be as pleasure held,
Who, hoping to behold
Graces unique and rare,
May hold in high disdain all other lights.
Ah, weary ones! Too long, too long our limbs
Have wandered o’er the terrene globe,
So that to us it seems
As if the shrewd wild beast,
With false and flattering hopes,
Our bosoms has encumbered with her wiles.
Wretched henceforth, we see, though late, the witch
Concerned to keep us all with promises
(And for our greater hurt), at bay;
For surely she believes
No woman can be found
Beneath the roof of heaven so dowered as she.
Now that we know that every hope is vain,
We yield to destiny and are content,
Nor will withdraw from all our strivings sore;
And staying not our steps,
Though trembling, tired and vexed,
We languish through the days that yet are ours.
Oh graceful nymphs, that on the grassy banks
Of gentle Thames do make your home,
Do not disdain, ye beauteous ones,
To try, although in vain,
With those white hands of yours
To uncover that which in our urn is hid.
Who knows? perchance it may be on these shores,
Where, with the Nereids, may be seen
The rapid torrent from below ascend
And wind again
Back to its source,
That heaven has destined there she shall be found.
One of the nymphs took the urn in her hand, and without trying to do
more offered it to one at a time, but not one was found who dared to be
the first to try (to open it), but all by common consent, after simply
looking at it, referred and proposed it with respect and reverence to
one alone; who, finally, not so much to exhibit her own glory as to
succour those unhappy ones, and while in a sort of doubt, the urn opened
as it were spontaneously of itself. But what shall I say to you of the
applause of the nymphs? How can you imagine that I can express the
extreme joy of the nine blind men, when, hearing that the urn was open,
they felt themselves sprinkled with the desired waters, they opened
their eyes and saw the two suns, and felt they had gained a double
happiness; one, the having recovered the light they had lost, the other
that of the newly discovered light which alone could show them the image
of the highest good upon earth. How, I say, can you expect me to
describe the joy and exulting merriment of voices of spirit and of body
which they themselves all together could not express? For a time it was
like seeing so many furious bacchanals, inebriated with that which they
saw so plainly, until at last, the impetus of their fury being somewhat
calmed, they put themselves in a row.
_The first played the guitar and sang the following_:
Oh cliffs, oh deeps, oh thorns, oh snags, oh stones,
Oh mounts, oh plains, oh valleys, rivers, seas,
How dear and sweet you show yourselves,
For by your aid and favour,
To us the sky’s unveiled.
Oh fortunate and well-directed steps,
_The second with the mandoline played and sang_:
Oh fortunate and well-directed steps,
Oh goddess Circe, oh transcendent woes,
With which ye did afflict us months and years;
They were the grace of heaven,
For such an end as this,
After such weariness and such distress.
_The third with the lyre played and sang_:
After such weariness and such distress;
If such a port the tempests have prescribed,
Then is there nothing more that we can do,
But render thanks to heaven,
Who closely veiled our eyes,
And pierced anon with such a light as this.
_The fourth with the viola sang_:
And pierced anon with such a light as this;
Blindness worth more than every other sight,
Pains sweeter far than other pleasures are,
For to the fairest light
Thou art thyself a guide,
Show to the soul all lower things are null.
_The fifth with the Spanish drum sang_:
Showing the soul all lower things are null,
Seasoning with hope the high thought of the mind,
Was one who pushed us to the only path,
And so did show us plain,
The fairest work of God,
Thus does a fate benign present itself.
_The sixth with a lute sang_:
Thus does a fate benign present itself,
Who wills not that to good, good should succeed,
Or pain forerunner be of pain,
But turning round, the wheel,
Now rising, now depressed,
As day and night succeed alternately.
_The seventh with the Irish harp_:
As day and night succeed alternately;
While the great mantle of the lights of night,
Blanches the chariot of diurnal flames,
As He who governs all,
With everlasting laws,
Puts down the high and raises up the low.
_The eighth with the violin_:
Puts down the high and raises up the low,
He who the infinite machine sustains,
With swiftness, with the medium or with slow,
Apportioning the turning
Of this gigantic mass,
The hidden is unveiled and open stands.
_The ninth with the rebeck_:
The hidden is unveiled and open stands,
Therefore deny not, but admit the triumph,
Incomparable end of all the pains
Of field and mount,
Of pools and streams and seas,
Of cliffs and deeps, of thorns and snags and stones.
After each one in this way, singly, playing his instrument, had sung his
sistine, they danced altogether in a circle and sang together in praise
of the one Nymph with the softest accents a song which I am not sure
whether I can call to memory.
GIU. I pray you, my sister, do not fail to let me hear so much of it as
you can remember!
_Song of the Illuminati_:
“I envy not, oh Jove, the firmament,”
Said Father Ocean, with the haughty brow:
“For that I am content
With that which my own empire gives to me.”
Then answered Jove, “What arrogance is thine.
What to thy riches have been added now,
Oh god of the mad waves,
To make thy foolish boasting rise so high?”
“Thou hast,” said the sea-god, “in thy command,
The flaming sky, where is the burning zone,
In which the heavenly host
Of stars and planets stand within thy sight.
“Of these, the world looks most upon the sun,
Which, let me tell you, shineth not so bright,
As she who makes of me,
The god most glorious of the mighty whole.
“And I contain within my bosom vast,
With other lands, that, where the happy Thames
Goes gliding gaily on,
Which has of graceful nymphs a lovely throng.
“There will be found ‘mongst those where all are fair,
Will make thee lover more of sea than sky,
Oh Jove, High Thunderer!
Whose sun shines pale beside the starry night.”
Then answered Jove, “God of the billowy sea!
That one should ere be found more blest than I
Fate nevermore permits,
My treasures with thine own run parallel.
“The sun is equal to thy chiefest nymph,
By virtue of the everlasting laws,
And pauses alternating,
Amongst my stars she’s equal to the sun.”
I believe that I have recalled it entirely.
GIU. You can see that no sentence is wanting to the perfecting of the
proposition, nor rhyme to the completion of the stanzas. Now if I by the
grace of heaven have received beauty, a greater favour I consider is
mine, in that whatever beauty I may have had it has been in a certain
way instrumental in causing that Divine and only one to be found. I
thank the gods, because in that time, when I was so tender (verde), that
the amorous flames could not be lighted in my breast, by reason of my
intractability, such simple and innocent cruelty was used in order to
yield more graces to my lovers than otherwise it would have been
possible for them to obtain, through any kindness of mine however great.
LAO. As to the souls of those lovers, I assure you that as they are not
ungrateful to the sorceress Circe for their blindness, grievous
thoughts, and bitter trials, by means of which they have reached so
great a good, so they can be no less grateful to thee.
GIU. So I desire and hope.
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Based on Keywords: ornamented, snags, verde, supplications, bacchanals, minerals, storm-beaten, attent, sea-god, forerunner, circean