Modern English version
Book 4 - The Sin of Sloth
see also Prologue, Book 1, Book 2, Book 5, Book 6, Book 7, and Book 8
© Copyright 2010
(Middle English text from MacAulay)
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Aeneus and Dido
Ulysses and Penelope
The Foolish Virgins
Pygmalion and his Statue
Iphis and Ianthe
Moses and Tarbis (told by Amans)
Demophon and Phyllis
Lovers must Excel in Arms
Achilles and Polyxena (told by Amans)
An Acommodating Absolution
Nauplius and Ulysses
Saul and the Sorceress
The Education of Achilles
Hercules and Achelous
Penthesilea, Pyrrhus, and Philomene
Love begets Industry
The Two Varieties of Labor
Discoverers and Inventors
The Three Philosopher's Stones
The First Alchemists
Letters and Language
Ceyx and Alcyone
Sleeping and Waking
The Prayer of Cephalus
Argus and Mercury
Despondency and Obstinacy
Iphis and Araxarathen
is used instead of margin indications to identify speakers in dialogue
Blue for Amans
Orange for Genius
On to the next vice we now go
Which in men's lives can cause much woe;
Of Sloth, Procrastination takes
The prize for prince of man's mistakes,
Some tasks he will completely shun,
And leave some other things undone.
What he could do now may well stay
Undone for months; day after day
He'll say "Tomorrow", that's the lie
He tells that he more time may buy,
And later says: "God grant me grace,"
When he ought to have won the race,
When he's still on the starting block.
Thus trouble at his door will knock
Until at last he'll come to grief,
And may not then obtain relief.
Procrastination is, with love,
A bad thing to be guilty of:
It may be, some time he'll delay
And lose his chance to win the day.
Now, son, as to this thing, if you
Believe that you may hitherto
Have ever been this way in love
Speak up. Yes, father, I've been of
Procrastination guilty, for
I know that I've stood in his corps,
As if his uniform I wore:
For when in my pursuit, to show
The spine to set a date, to go
And speak unto my sweet young maid,
Procrastination, I'm afraid,
Excuses makes: "To be forthright,
You ought to try some other night."
Thus am I hindered by his sleight,
With tarrying he'll waste my time:
On an occasion that is prime,
He'll say, "Some other time is better;
Maybe you should send a letter,
Wherein you might well convey
More than your mouth would dare to say."
And thus, from Sloth, I've let time slide,
And could not even say, "I tried."
And thus Procrastination oft
Has made me in the head so soft,
That what I had in mind to speak
Or do, he made my will so weak,
That on my plans I could not act.
I don't know what I mostly lacked,
The courage or the confidence:
Nevertheless in every sense,
Although I know much time has passed,
Yet has that love remained steadfast,
Which for my lady I still feel;
For though my words may not reveal
My wants, for those I've always prayed;
In one place my heart's always stayed
And sought unceasingly for grace
For what I may not yet embrace.
And God knows that's not what I want;
But though I am no great savant,
I know my grace so seldom comes
Because of Sloth. My feast of crumbs
I to that sin, more than the rest,
Impute the blame for love unblest.
As to Procrastination, as
I have explained to you, it has
My downfall been, so I beseech
That more unto me you would teach;
And so if some good tales you know
That knowledge on me might bestow,
Procrastination to forswear,
That you might tell one is my prayer.
That you might unto truth be led,
My son, of tales that I have read,
I'll an example in this vein
First tell, then its import explain.
Aeneas and Dido
About this vice as it pertains
To love, Aeneas, in whose veins
Anchises' noble blood did course,
Went with his mighty naval force
From Troy, and unto Carthage sailed,
And there he for a while availed
Himself of lodging, where he paid
A visit to the throne, and made
Acquaintance with the queen who reigned
Thereon, whose fame has never waned,
It is to Dido I refer;
From how Aeneas spoke to her,
She for him only pines and sighs;
Her heart all other love denies,
So that she did all he desired.
But after that, as it transpired
He went to Italy by ship
And at the end of this brief trip,
Made preparations forth to ride.
But not long able to abide
The pain of love's ambrosial throes,
While in this cheerless state she chose
To write to him and say, "My dear,
I want to make it crystal clear,
If you delay returning here
Because of tarrying to much,
That you I might not see and touch
Then I would be in such a state
As there was, in a sorry strait,
One time a Swan, who'd lost her mate,
Who stuck a feather in her brain
And thus was from her sorrow slain;
Menander in a poem sings
About how, with her flapping wings,
She writhed in pain upon the ground
As one who was from grief profound,
From lack of love, about to die.
And from your absence, so will I.
You think I'm kidding? Mark my word!"
Lo, this from her Aeneas heard
With many other words unminced:
But being not thereby convinced,
And to Procrastination prone,
He his departure did postpone:
Meanwhile she who him once did trust
Now felt an ever growing lust,
And when she saw him tarry so,
Her heart became so filled with woe,
That she unto herself complained,
Reciting how she had been drained
Of all desire to live; said she:
"Who's ever found such fault, but me,
Of Sloth in any worthy knight?
My destiny is death by slight
Of him who should have been my life."
To end her pain she took a knife,
When she could see no other way,
And thrust it through her heart to slay
The grief she felt from his delay.
And thus she, in her burying,
Found respite from his tarrying.
From this I hope you learn, my son,
That sloth in love you ought to shun,
For it can make one's love feel spurned;
A fact that Dido dearly learned,
Whose death shall be remembered ever,
Now, however, I'll endeavor
More about this sin to show;
The following is apropos,
A tale about which you should know.
Ulysses and Penelope
Ulysess, on the Trojan the coast,
Was at the siege, among the host
Of knights where, in the battle's din,
He'd for a very long time been;
And in this span of time we see
How very much Penelope,
His faithful wife, of discontent
From his long absence, did lament.
Wherefore to Ilium she sent
A note, as thusly she implored:
"My worth love, and too my lord,
It's always been the case that when
A woman's left alone, then men
Will in that case more brazen be
In wooing her, in hopes that she
Would bow unto their will, that they
In love might with her have their way,
While her lord somewhere else does stay.
This does most certainly apply
To me, for so much time's gone by,
Since first you from our household strayed,
That well nigh every man has made
His way to where I am, while you
Have been away - at least those who
In love are able to disport -
Me with great pestering to court:
And there are some who threaten me
That if they ever chance to see
A way their lust to satisfy,
I'd have no power to deny
Their carnal fantasies of love.
And others tell me stories of
How you've been killed, and others say:
"Before your beauty wastes away
Let me a new love to you show."
In spite of what has happened, though,
I give thanks unto all the gods,
That I, in spite of all the odds,
Have not been made to blush, so far:
But nonetheless the chances are,
That more procrastination could
Result in something bad that would
Leave me with an abiding taint."
Lo, thus this lady her complaint
Wrote to her absent husband, and
She prayed that he would understand
And meditate upon the fact
That she was his, and quickly act
To make good on his love, and come
Right home to her, and that he from
More letter writing would refrain,
More time and paper down the drain
To throw, and that he keep his troth
Without the contretemps of Sloth.
Unto her lord and love and liege
To Troy, that city under siege,
This letter was delivered, and
He whose mind had a good command
Of logic and of wisdom too,
With noble heart gave it his due
Because of how long he'd been gone,
He was both happy and distressed:
But love his heart had so possessed
With pure imagination, no
Concerns about his Trojan foe
Which his attention might divide,
Could make him brush his heart aside
And what his wife had said ignore;
And this just made him all the more
Resolved that when the time was right,
When he no longer had to fight,
He would return without delay:
And so to him a single day
Seemed like a thousand years, till he
The visage of Penelope,
Whom he desired so much, might see.
And when at last victory came
When all Troy's towers were aflame,
He not a single moment wasted,
But at once he homeward hasted,
Where before his eyes he found
His worthy wife all safe and sound:
And thus did cease all discontent
Since he Delay could not prevent,
Which otherwise does, on the whole,
Great harm to many a noble goal.
Now of Grosseteste that noted scholar,
He, who wore the cleric's collar,
Undertook to forge a head
Of brass, that would foretell, he said,
Events, to help avert destruction.
Seven years on this production
He'd worked, but Procrastination
Of a miniscule duration,
From the time he'd first begun
Caused him to lose all he had done.
And this can happen too with love:
The suitor who is guilty of
Delay, without, beneath the wall,
At night will often stand there, all
Alone and cold, who could have been,
If he had been on time, within.
The Foolish Virgins
Sloth's profitless, so say the Psalms
For when I-Came-To-Late-For-Alms
Arrived, and in the line stood last,
He met Too-Bad-You'll-Have-To-Fast.
And this was proven well one night
When of ten virgins, five to light
Their lamps, for when the bridegroom came,
Were lacking oil to make them flame;
Procrastination was the reason
These five were not for the season
Well prepared, and thus lost out.
My son, I tell you, have no doubt,
It cannot be more plainly stated,
True love must be cultivated:
For if you are not conditioned
In love, to be well positioned,
Moving fast without Delay,
Then you will find out that you may
Not win her love, or if you're able,
Might neglect to make it stable.
Father, I can't disagree
But never was there unto me
A time assigned, where I would see
A chance that any grace I'd get;
For then all my limbs I would let
Be ripped out of their joints, if I
Kept not my promises to try
To be there at the time expected,
That my lady had elected.
But to that she's not progressed,
That such an a tryst she would suggest;
Should I to tardiness confess?
For I could have no guilt, I guess,
Of time lost, when she will, despite
All efforts I may make, not bite
On any lure that I might cast;
"Slow" she'd prefer, when I'd like "fast".
The more I try to make it clear
I'm game, the less she likes to hear.
I'm searching, but I never find;
I haste, and ever am behind.
It makes me wonder when and how
I ever will succeed. But now,
As far as my confession goes,
Since you'd know best, do you suppose
You could some counsel offer me.
My counsel, Son, to you would be,
That with what time is left to you,
Go forth your business to pursue,
While you all tardiness eschew;
For Sloth is mighty to impede
The work of every man; indeed,
It's claimed that many vices stem
From tardiness, which nurtures them,
And if men fail when they postpone,
They'll say, "If I had only known."
And now if you would like to learn
More of the sin of Sloth, I'll turn
Unto a vice that you should spurn;
It's one that makes men's lives a mess
When they its properties possess,
For of all virtue it's devoid,
By it men's honor is destroyed.
Of Sloth this second vice is known
As Cowardice, whereby is shown
A dearth of courage and a lack
Of those bones which hold up the back,
To dare, by it are men restrained;
And nothing ventured, nothing gained;
Who nothing dares to undertake,
By all rights will no profit make.
The nature of this vice is such
That it will dare not risk too much,
He's lacking in both word and deed
Which he'd require to succeed;
He very little manhood shows,
But only trepidation knows;
It's only peril that he'll see,
He thinks a wolf's behind each tree,
And from his fantasies he makes
Excuses for his lack of breaks,
And feigns that it's from danger that
He always fails and falls down flat,
By cowardice his fate is sealed.
He has the sore that can't be healed,
A lack of heart his fate confounds;
Though opportunity abounds,
His foot unto the ground he glues;
So that by reason he must lose,
Who will not hazard an attempt.
From all this, love is not exempt,
My son, and in her service some
Neglectful are, who suffer from
A lack of heart, and who when it
Were best to speak of love, submit
To fear, as though their tongues were bound,
And like the bell which makes no sound,
Because it's clapper is not there;
When it's time their love to declare
They're heartless and they cannot talk,
So that to speak of love they balk;
And thus success they cannot know.
And so, my son, if you've been slow,
And of the sin of slothfullness
Have guilt, come clean now and confess.
My father, I do truly know
That I have been one of the slow,
As far as it to love pertains.
My heart bears hesitation's stains,
As though I hovered over hell,
Such fear I feel, I dare not tell
My thoughts, and from my purpose veer
When I approach my lady dear,
And miss my opportunity.
My son, no more the coward be
For who in love's quest never wavers
He's the one whom fortune favors,
And rewards him, with the prize,
Who ever without ceasing tries
To win, and lets his lady know;
As by example I'll now show.
Pygmalion and his Statue
I find that one time there was one
Whom we know as Pygmalion
Who was a good catch for a mate:
He works of sculpture could create
Much better than his peers, but he
Could not in any woman see
Embodied his ideal of love.
And so he made a sculpture of
A woman with a perfect face,
And with a posture of such grace,
A figure never was so fair.
She seemed a living creature there,
For of the whitest ivory she
Was carved, with such felicity,
That she was ruddy in the cheek
With lips of red. And by technique
Like this, his own self he beguiles.
With an alluring look she smiles,
And by those charms he had made hers,
She his imagination stirs,
So much so that with all his heart
He finds that this pure work of art
He loves, and for her love he begs,
But she moves neither lips nor legs.
All day, in whatsoever place
He is, she stands there on her base.
And he, when it is time to eat,
Prays of her that she share his meat,
And lifts unto her lips the cup;
When all the dishes are cleaned up,
He brings her to his bedroom, and
When darkness falls upon the land,
He lays her naked in his bed,
Where sleepless he lays down his head.
Her cold hard lips he kisses often
Wishing someday they would soften,
Oft he whispers in her ear,
And oft his arm now there now here
He lays, as if her to embrace,
And with all this he asks for grace,
As though his words she'd understand:
He starts to feel frustration, and
Tormented so by love's sweet bane,
None can relieve him of his pain.
But in his anguish and distress
He such persistence did possess,
And prayed so long both day and night,
That all his prayers about his plight
Made Venus want to grant him grace;
Thus one night when he felt her face,
The cold and hardness was transformed
Her features softened were and warmed,
like human flesh, all full of life.
And thus he won a lusty wife,
Who was obedient and young;
And if he would have held his tongue
And nothing said, he would have failed:
But by his speaking he prevailed
And had all he desired in bed,
For love succeeds by what is said.
Before their separate ways they went,
A man-child was unto them sent,
Who was as Paphus known, whose name
With just one minor change became
That of the city Paphos, found
Upon a certain isle renowned.
This tale we learn a lesson from
That words may nature overcome.
So if from speaking you forbear,
To lose out painfully prepare,
For Sloth will cause men endless woe
But even more than this, we know
The god of love will grant his grace.
To those who constancy embrace,
And many a wonder proves it's true:
Pay heed now, and a tale to you
I'll tell, picked out from a wide range
Of stories, one that's rather strange,
And one that aptly illustrates
Love's many faceted odd fates.
Iphis and Ianthe
King Ligdus, Telethusa's mate,
A disagreement had: "Should fate,"
He said, "Your unborn child decree
To be a girl, I guarantee,
And let me make this very plain,
That such a daughter shall be slain."
She took this very hard, indeed.
But Isis, in her hour of need,
Appeared to her, and to her spoke,
The moment that her water broke,
And said "I've only come to bless,
And help you out in your distress.
To stay with you I would be glad."
And then a baby girl she had;
Then Isis said, "This little one
You ought to keep; that it's a son
You need to say." Thus Iphis they
Chose for its name, and in this way
The king was fooled; by him unseen
The child was taken from the queen
Who there within her chamber stayed,
While it with clothing was arrayed
As for a king's son would be fitting.
Later, of its sex unwitting,
When it was just ten years old,
A marriage, as things did unfold,
To a duke's daughter was arranged;
She with Ianthe vows exchanged.
In bed these children often laid;
Both ten years old, they only played,
But later, as the years went by,
These playmates could no more deny,
Their sexuality, as in
All creatures, Nature does begin
To cause them on her laws to muse,
Arousing them, so that they use
Those parts that erstwhile they ignored;
So Cupid, of love's games the lord,
So touched was by their tender love
That he regarded it above
The normal laws that nature uses,
And this way their lust excuses.
For there's nothing more love loathes
Than men who dress in women's clothes,
Against what nature has decreed:
On their behalf to intercede
Decides this god, of love the lord,
That they with nature might accord;
So when he sees the time is right
When they have kissed, at passion's height,
He Iphis turns into a man,
So love that's natural he can
Enjoy with his young lusty wife;
And then they led a joyful life,
Which was to nature no offence.
So from this tale we get the sense
That love is favorable to
Those whose hearts actively pursue,
With steadfast diligence that prize
They always keep before their eyes.
My son, this story is imbued
With wisdom, for we may conclude
Thereby that from persistent pains
Is how love's glory one attains,
If we with Sloth don't have to bother.
As I live and breathe, my father,
Introspecting to the max,
Concerning whether I've been lax
In speaking out, as I before
Have told you, I could do no more
To clear out obstacles that might
Prevent love's miracle, which night
And day I constantly petition.
Father, if for my contrition
There are other things pertaining
To this sin I should be gaining
Knowledge of, then I would pray
That you not hesitate to say
What other forms this vice may take.
Yes, in his pit there's one more snake,
My son, one who, it's plain to see,
Has lost most of his memory,
So that he can no thought retain
That he should keep inside his brain,
Whereof himself he'll often grieve:
And whoso would his word believe,
When he's so addled in the head
May be most easily misled.
To serve acedia, the sin
I speak of, that to Sloth is kin,
We call Forgetfulness; who in
His heart no virtue can retain
Where it, by reason, should remain,
So thoroughly his wits does he
Forget, that when he makes his plea,
His heart, no more than does his pouch,
Remember how he meant to vouch
For his sincerity in love
And yet he has no knowledge of
Why all his pleading is in vain
So that he single must remain,
For if he even said a third
Of what he meant, he might have stirred
Some interest; and not been deterred.
And so tell on, have you been one
Of those whom Sloth has thus undone?
Yes, father, oft that's how things are,
That when I'm from my lady far,
And think to try and win her grace,
Then I'm in an exotic place
Where upside down the whole world seems,
And so I write down all the themes
I want to cover when I call,
So that I might remember all
Of that which to her I would tell:
That lasts about like snow in hell;
For when I come and see her face,
It's like I my own mind misplace;
Of all that I had thought to say
My tongue can none of it convey,
Which I had planned, try as I might,
So do I tremble at her sight.
For just as someone unto whom
A ghost appeared, such is my doom;
So that from fear I cannot get
My wits about me, but forget
Myself. Who am I, I don't know,
Nor whence I came, nor where I go,
Like one whose wits have been laid waste,
Or like the book where are erased
The words, and nothing may be read,
So have my faculties all fled,
That turn my musings into speech,
All that's gone out of my heart's reach.
I stand, as they say, "deaf and dumb,"
It is a shame that it has come
To this: where I've known what to say,
My mind dissolves in disarray,
Just like a man who is in doubt
Concerning how things might turn out,
Afraid of what the future holds.
Thus my composure often folds
When I was best prepared to stand:
But then, when I've recovered, and
I'm in another place alone,
And filled with much remorse, I moan
Unto myself, and thus I speak:
"Ha! Fool, where was your heart last week,
When you were with your lady dear?
Was it her eyes that you did fear?
For there's no need to fear her hand:
I know her temperament, and
She is no more inclined to rage
Than is a child three years of age.
Why have you been by one so cowed,
Who with such virtue is endowed,
One in whom is no fury found,
One who with innocence is crowned,
And has no blemishment of blame?
Ha, foolish heart, fie on your shame!
Ha, timid heart, naive in love,
Whose speech you have no mastery of,
You are so tongue-tied, that your pleas
Upon your lips, unspoken, freeze,
Just when the time is opportune.
How could you think that she would swoon
When her for grace you don't beseech,
But rather, lose your power of speech?"
At love's caprices thus I fret,
Which helps me quickly nowhere get;
I trip on my own trailing train
And only aggravate my pain.
For always when I sometimes think,
How it's on me to swim or sink,
I speak thus: "O you fool of fools,
You fare as one between two stools
Who'd sit, but falls down to the ground.
It never has nor will be found,
That twixt forgetfulness and dread
By any will success be bred."
And thus, my holy father, I
Do hang my own self out to dry
Concerning my forgetfulness,
But other things I, nonetheless,
Reflect upon, and take to heart,
And search out many things to chart
My course in life, please be assured,
With toil devoid of Sloth procured.
But whether it's famine, or it's feast,
One thought I'll not forget, at least;
In spite of what my mood is, I
One second shall not let go by,
That my mind is not occupied
With her whom I would make my bride.
Moses and Tarbis
From this no Sloth shall me deter
Till death takes me away from her,
Although I on my finger wore
A ring, like Moses with the lore
Of Ethiopia created
When with Tarbis he had mated,
Which Oblivion was called,
Because the memory it stalled,
When on one's finger it was worn,
So that one's love, not just unborn,
But as though ne'er conceived, would seem:
So Moses Tarbis dead would deem
When on her hand she had this ring,
And would remember not one thing,
Her memory was wiped so clean,
As in the history books is seen:
Thus he went quietly away
And never, following that day,
Did she give him another thought:
For all about him she forgot.
But this could not apply to me
For at all times close by is she;
In spite of what Sloth may imply
Unto my heart she's ever nigh,
For she is always on my mind;
My heart is never far behind
And follows her where'er she goes,
And for her ever fonder grows;
That is, for better or for worse,
At once my blessing and my curse;
For whensoever I'm with her
My faculties are all a blur,
Some times my mind is filled with fear
And sometimes overcome with cheer,
Discordant with the time or place.
For when I see her lovely face
And think how she is such a prize,
As though I were in paradise,
I am so smitten at the sight
Of her, that for a time I might
Not speak, and let her know my mind:
For I'm so tongue-tied I can't find
The words to to tell her what I mean,
My memory is wiped so clean;
Though half an hour there I stand,
My speech I still cannot command,
My tongue cannot the words produce,
I stand there thinking, "What's the use?"
For nothing works that I can think
To try; Thoughts I was on the brink
Of saying, when I showed up there,
All disappeared into thin air,
And there I stood, confused and floored,
For I, of nothing that I'd scored,
Could sing to her a single note
From that love symphony I wrote:
Composure I cannot maintain
When I most need to be urbane.
And so, concerning Sloth, I've said
Enough, and you've not been misled;
I'm ready for your failing score
For my forgetfulness, and for
The cowardice I show as well.
So now your verdict to me tell,
And I'll do as you counsel me.
My son, I've listened well, now we
Shall talk about what must be done:
For love will not grant grace to one
Who for it does not dare to plead.
For I think everyone's agreed,
That without speech men's thoughts are known
To God, yet prayers we still are prone
To say, for very few are blessed
Who will of Him make no request:
With those who fail to ask of Him,
The chances are extremely slim
That to their needs He will give thought;
Instead He'll let them come to naught.
So always be prepared to act,
And don't let anything distract
In love, from seeking your success:
For there is, of forgetfulness,
Which many a love has caused to fail,
A good example in a tale,
On which it's piteous to dwell,
Which I shall now unto you tell
Demophon and Phyllis
King Demophon, when he by ship
Was making unto Troy a trip,
It happened that Aeolus blew
Him on a course that took him to
Amphipolis which is a place
That's on the southern coast of Thrace.
And then the fates did intervene:
The daughter of Lycurgus, queen
Of all the land was on a visit
To the city; an exquisite
Castle had she, near the strand
Where Demophon came onto land.
Dame Phyllis was her name, and she
Was young, a lovely sight to see;
With pretty eyes and voice and arms,
On Demophon she worked her charms
When he arrived, and made him glad;
He quite a reputation had
For womanizing; from the start
He on this lady set his heart;
So that within a day or so
He thought, however things might go,
He'd see what fortune had in store,
And from his heart began to pour
Sweet words; he whispered in her ear
So softly she could feel no fear;
He unto her his troth did plight
To be forever her own knight.
And thus he stayed at her abode,
There while his ship at anchor rode;
To talk of love his time he savors
As from her he pleads for favors.
Hearing all that he had said,
And how he swore and how he pled,
Was in her innocence a treat
So nice, it swept her off her feet;
As all reliable and true
She did his wily words construe,
So just before her bubble bursts,
She grants him all for which he thirsts.
And thus he did his time enjoy
Till it was time to head for Troy;
At which time she got quite depressed
And made him swear he'd do his best
To come back, if he did not die,
Again, before a month went by,
Then kisses kindled passion's fires:
Regardless, though, of their desires,
He to his ship returned and went
To Troy, as was his first intent.
As months pass by her days grow bleaker,
Her love grows while his gets weaker;
Sleep she loses and she barely
Eats, while he thinks only rarely
Of her, so this youthful lady,
Thinking something might be shady,
Sends a letter begging for
Him to return unto her, for
She misses him so much that she
To live without him may not be
Much longer able; then she mentions
How he told her his intentions,
Making promises and swearing
How he always would be caring
For her, making her so madly
Fall in love, that if he sadly
Stayed much longer she might die,
Thus making all his oaths a lie.
On sending him this letter she
Some comfort took, and some degree
Of hope held out, as she would wait
And see if he would take the bait
And come back with no more delay.
But it's a sorry thing to say,
It slipped his mind, just as before;
Too late he left the Trojan shore.
But she, who could not do the same,
Awaited at the shore of shame;
Upon the sea she casts her eyes:
She sees him not, she him espies,
Thus like the waves that rose and crashed
Her hopes arise and then they're dashed:
Sometimes he comes, and sometimes nay:
But fasting all the bright long day
She stayed there well into the night,
And then she had set up a light,
A lantern in a place aloft,
A tower she retired to oft,
In hopes that he, on his returning,
Would espy the lantern burning,
And thus find his way all right,
To come to where she was at night.
In vain she waited for her lord,
For Venus had her hope ignored,
And by her light she did convey,
That daybreak was not far away,
So that it was not long till she
Daylight up in the sky would see.
Then she the whole horizon scanned;
And when she saw no ship near land,
Nor out as far as she could view,
She ran down from the tower to
A garden, all alone to cry,
Where many a plaintive woeful sigh
She made, As though no life was left
For her who was of hope bereft,
She nearly faints from all her pains,
And from her eyes a torrent rains
Of tears, that fall down on her face
In streams of disappointed grace;
And so in this bitter deadly dawn,
She called the name of Demophon
And said: "Alas, Was there a knight
Who ever could so cruelly slight
His lady, causing such distress,
From his Sloth and forgetfulness
To break his his promises and trust?"
Then up to heav'n her eyes she thrust,
And cried out, "O thou knight unkind,
Here from your slothful ways you'll find,
If you would care to come and see,
A lady dead for love of thee,
For here shall I mine own life take;
A life which, if you did not break
My heart, you could have saved. Adieu!"
She said. Then on a limb she threw
A sash of silk that she had brought,
And, being hopelessly distraught,
Tied it around her white neck and
There hung herself by her own hand.
By this all of the gods were moved,
And so was Demophon reproved,
For at the gods' command was made
A token of how he delayed
To come to her who for him yearned.
For Phyllis instantly they turned
Into a tree, that all men may
Remember when its name they say.
For after Phyllis, filbert was
The name they gave to it, because
That way the shame of Demophon
Would to this day be carried on.
Now after Demophon returned,
And of the fate of Phyllis learned,
Which was on everybody's tongue,
In great regret his head he hung;
His Sloth he then began to curse,
Too late the damage to reverse.
Lo thus ,my son, you now may see
How dangerous this vice can be;
No man can measure the degree
Of harm forgetfulness can wreak,
Of which you earlier did speak.
But yet Sloth has another mask
Concerning which I'd like to ask
If you have guilt upon your plate:
He, who Sloth does approximate,
His paralegal is, whose trait
We designate as Negligence:
Who will all of the evidence
Not factor in, and when his case
He loses, only then he'll trace
The cause to his own lack of care:
Then it's to late, though, to repair
The damage his neglect has done:
His lawsuits never will be won.
When it's too late amends to make,
Then he wakes up, and here's his take,
"Had I known how things would go down!"
Thus woebegone he wears a frown,
For only when the stately steed
Is stolen, then will he proceed
To make secure the stable door:
He tends in all things to ignore
The chance that things could turn out bad.
Insult to injury to add,
He never learns from his mistakes,
For he no pride in prowess takes,
But is with mediocrity
Content, imagining that he
Was tricked, when things don't go as planned.
And thus you can well understand,
My son, if you're like this in love
You probably will fall short of
That which you wanted to achieve.
I, of that verdict I'll receive
For negligence, am not afraid,
When blind Justitia's scales are weighed;
My father, as concerns the lasses,
I'm not of the learned classes,
But in love am so intense,
I always strive for excellence,
Consulting those who know the most
So that I confidence can boast,
In all pertaining to love's craft.
But I have not yet found the haft,
That's best adapted to that blade;
For never was a finding made
Of what thing would most likely be,
Of luck in love, a guarantee.
And so far I have never found
A man who for me could expound
On how in love to prosper, which
Would always work without a glitch;
And when it comes to my own wit,
Though it's a shame, I must admit
I've ne'er upon a method lit,
That would unto me guarantee
Success in love to some degree:
For it's a fact, believe you me,
If such a way existed, I
As certainly as that I'll die,
Would not a thing like that have missed.
I feel like it does not exist:
But even so it may just be
That I'm so simple I can't see
The truth if in my face it stared,
And thus will never be prepared
Such esoterica to learn.
But this I hope you can discern,
That though I may no genius be,
It's not for lack of industry,
For I am busy night and day
To seek and learn all that I may
To win in matters of the heart:
And yet I still stand at the start,
Of that course which I would complete,
And knowing not what fate I'll meet,
Is that which mostly torments me.
But I, let God my witness be,
Can give to you this guarantee,
That I'm in no way guilty of
Neglect, as you have seen, in love:
So by Saint Agostina say,
My father, what you think, I pray.
In good faith Son, I think it's nice
That you have kept free from this vice,
For which there is no good excuse,
For in one hour it can reduce
To naught all that for one long year
A man has labored for, I fear,
When to the end he was so near.
For through the sloth of negligence
No feat of any consequence,
Nor virtuous achievement has
Not been lost and defeated, as
An old example great, that I
In history find, will verify.
Phoebus, god to the sun assigned,
That on the earth has always shined
And caused all life to grow thereon,
Was with a child named Phaėton
Blessed, who when he grew up desired,
As with his mother he conspired,
A goddess known as Clymene,
To be instructed, so that he
His father's chariot might guide,
Across the fair bright sky to ride.
And both of them for this thing pled
Unto the father, and he said:
I wouldn't mind, but there are just
Three things that you should know: you must
Regard as serious all three
Instructions, that must always be
Observed, and followed without fail.
First never too severely flail
Your horse, and next the reins do not
Let slacken, always hold them taut;
And lastly always be aware,
And steer your chariot with care;
That from your path you never stray
You always must attention pay,
Watch undistracted where you go
That you not go too high nor low
At any time, and with your horse
Veer from your flaming chariot's course."
Since Phoebus gave the go ahead,
Away, all cocky, Phaėton sped,
In this great chariot, through the sky:
But riding, as he was, so high,
With vanity his judgment fails,
So that gross negligence prevails,
When he of hazards takes no heed;
And thus does pride the fall precede.
For he allows the horse sans reins
To run about, and takes no pains
To curb his lawless wanton gate,
Then suddenly, when it's too late,
And for no cause that he would know,
This fiery cart he drove to low
And all beneath began to burn;
In panic those on fire all turn
To god, as cries for help they raise,
That he might stop this monstrous blaze.
Phoebus, who negligence observing
Phaėton, from his promise swerving,
Drive his chariot off course,
Arranged for him, but not the horse,
To in the Eridanos drop
And drown. Now for a moment stop
And think how due to negligence
He fell from lack of diligence
Which caused him off his course to go.
The moral is don't aim too low.
It is a vice for the elite
To stoop too low, and it's not meet
For underlings to reach too high,
To this a proverb does apply
About a craftsman, Daedalus,
Who had a son named Icarus,
While in a labyrinth they are
Imprisoned with a Minotaur
Upon the isle of Crete, from where
Escape could only be by air;
And so at once they both began
A means of getting out to plan.
This Daedalus was taught from birth
In all the crafts then known on earth,
With feathers he could work, and wings
He'd made, and other flying things.
And so he made two more, with one
Designed especially for his son;
He let him know he'd not used tacks,
But that the feathers were with wax
Glued on, and if he flew too high,
Thus coming to the sun too nigh,
The wax might melt from all the heat.
Their preparations all complete,
They blithely from their prison flew;
But then to get a better view,
This Icarus imagined soaring,
All of that advice ignoring
Which his father to him taught
Until his wings became so hot
The wax did melt, and down he went;
He then could not his fate prevent
And fell into the sea below.
We've seen this same scenario
In many cases where men fell
From lack of care when things go well,
In love as well as other things.
And now, good father, if there springs
To mind of sloth some other trait,
I pray you would now that relate.
My son, because I know that you
Unto your conscience will be true,
As all men should, by reason's creed,
If you will promise to take heed
I'll tell you of a \vice accursed,
That has no virtue interspersed
From which excuses might be spun,
And is by far the slackest one
Among sloth's vices, quite above
A little bit of labor of
The slightest difficulty, there
Is one that is beyond compare,
Called idleness, by far the worst,
By which all other kinds are nursed,
Which seeks all effort to postpone.
In winter of the cold he'll groan
In summer of the heat he frets;
Whether he freezes or he sweats,
If he's inside, or out of doors,
You'll never see him doing chores,
Unless you call dice throwing work.
For he expects, this lazy jerk,
That he'd get money and respect,
When he no patron would select,
To in his service be retained,
Unless his contract terms contained
That he would, while in his employ,
Aristocratic perks enjoy
That he may all the more stand still,
Indulging idleness at will.
He'll not exert himself too hard
To win his mistress's regard,
But only sits around and wishes;
Like a cat who'd relish fishes
But declines to wet his claws,
So he would do, and that's the cause
Why he's left often in the cold.
My son, if you of such a mold
Are made, make your confession now.
Nay, father, unto god I vow,
That as it unto love pertains
I've always taken ample pains,
And always will, while I still may.
Now, son, I'd like to hear you say,
What kind of effort have you made
Your favorite lady to persuade
To be your one and only love.
My father, her requests above
All else, at any time or place,
Whatever be her mood, apace
For her I'll into action swing
And try, her happiness to bring.
And if of me she'll nothing ask,
Then to my mind whatever task
That I could do, does first occur,
I bow and offer unto her
My services, wherever we
Within her residence may be.
And when she goes to hear the mass,
That time I'll not allow to pass
Without approaching her, in case
I might conduct her to that place
Of prayer, and then with her return.
In this way I might hope to earn
The right someday to better fare,
As I, who may not feel her bare,
May lead her on my arm now, dressed:
The problem is I'm then obsessed
With images that flood my mind;
For then to longing I'm inclined
And at such times as this I'm bound
To think, "Ah lord, how she is round,
How she is soft, how she is small,
If only I could have her all
With no resistance to me shown."
And then I sit and sigh and moan,
For all my busyness of thought
In idleness is turned to naught.
In spite of all this when I see
To serve my lady in some way,
I'll jump on it without delay.
For I will always be alert
To times when it's right to exert
Myself, and when to let it go:
So when the time is apropos
To work for her, I'll on her fawn,
And when she bids me go, I'm gone,
And when she calls, I'll come to her.
Thus does she cause me to defer
My idleness, until I die.
For I must with her needs comply,
Men say that need no law constrains,
Thus I'm compelled, when she complains,
To serve her, wherein she is pained;
My eyes are always on her trained,
Her every wish is my command,
When she sits down, I do not stand,
And when she rises, so do I:
But when she sets her hand to try
Her weaving or embroidery,
That's when I cannot help but see
How long her fingers, and how thin;
Depending on the mood I'm in,
Sometimes I'll sing and sometimes sigh,
A pleasing countenance will I
Attempt to show her, and when she
No longer wants to be with me,
But pass her time in other ways,
Then maybe I'll search for bouquets
That it might seem a shorter day.
For I am loath to go away.
Then since in simple things I take
Delight, a bit of sport I'll make
By playing with her little hound
Now on the bed, now on the ground,
Now with her birds up in their cage;
For there is not so staid a page,
Nor such a solemn chambermaid,
That I can't make their frowns to fade,
So of themselves they'll better feel:
See how I spin my busy wheel;
No idle state you'll find me in.
And if she wants to take a spin
Upon her pony then, although
I've not been bidden, still I go,
And lift her in my arms aloft
And set her in her saddle soft.
And lead her forth then by the bridle,
For I never would be idle.
And if in her carriage she
Desires to go, there I will be,
Without delay, prepared to ride
And travel with her by her side;
And I will talk from time to time,
Or I might sing that song sublime,
Which Ovid in his books wrote down
Which said, "O what a happy frown,
O what insolvent opulence
Belongs to love that's so intense
It makes a servant out of kings!
And yet despite the grief it brings,
No man can but its law obey."
And thus we ride forth on our way,
And I'm completely occupied
With heart and body, by her side,
As I've explained to you before.
My father, let me know therefore,
If I have guilt for idleness.
My son, unless you more confess
Than what I've so far heard you say,
You'll have no penance here to pay.
But nonetheless we know its true,
That these days there are many who
Have hearts that are so indolent,
Love's requisites they are content
To disregard, until they turn
Away from idleness and learn
That they must passive put away,
Love's law aggressively obey,
And serve with fervor in her court.
But, son, you are not of that sort.
Love shall good servants justify:
But if instead you do not try,
Through busyness, to win her grace
But idle are, you're like the case
Of a king's daughter, ill-advised
Till she by Cupid was chastised:
Whereof a tale you now shall hear
That ought to make this matter clear.
A king in the Rubenid line,
Armenian but in decline,
Gave birth unto a daughter who
Was very beautiful to view,
Who as Rosiphelee was known;
She brought a luster to his throne,
For she was wise and she was fair
And set to be her father's heir.
But sloth was her one blemish when
It came to feeling love for men.
For no man could the words pronounce,
Which could awaken her, to pounce
Upon the chance to fall in love,
And him to be enamored of;
In that school she would not enroll.
For her, love was no urgent goal,
And its concerns held no allure,
Until when Venus gave to her
An education from love's court,
Which made her yearn for love's disport,
And which by Cupid was devised:
For neither could but be surprised
That one still in her lusty prime,
For thoughts of marriage had no time,
Nor any friends among the boys,
A thing high on the list of joys
For maids so sensual and young.
So this is how her heart was stung:
He that brings low the haughty heart
By hurtling his galvanic dart,
That's Cupid, who of love is god,
Made for her a chastising rod
To drive away her apathy;
And so within a short time she
Did happen on a fate and found,
Her attitude all turned around
From one of such insouciance:
And you'll now see the circumstance.
One springtide, in the month of May,
She for a stroll would go one day,
Quite early, ere the sun arose;
With few attendants out she goes,
That eyes might not upon her pry,
Unto the park that was nearby;
All softly on the grass she made
Her way, until upon a glade
She came, through which a river ran.
She liked this place and said, "I can
Relax here in the cooling shade":
Those with her to withdraw she bade,
And all alone she then reflects
On what she for herself expects.
The fragrant flowers in bloom she sees,
And hears the birds sing in the trees,
She sees the beasts of every kind,
The buck, the doe, the hart, the hind,
Each male with his own mate she viewed;
And so a tug-of-war ensued
Twixt love and her own heart that day,
From which she could not run away.
Just then a group of ladies came
In sight, who were all dressed the same;
Behind them golden tresses flowed,
As on the forest's edge they rode:
They sat on horses smooth of gait,
That were all white, robust, and great;
They all, with both feet on one side,
Upon their saddles rode with pride,
With pearls and such a gilded sheen,
She never had such riches seen;
All finely clothed in skirts and shawls
They were, as in palatial halls;
All white, with blue below the waist,
And then embroideries, with taste,
Upon them here and there were placed,
Their figures were all svelte and lithe,
With faces so refined and blithe
Above all brilliant things they soar;
Jeweled crowns upon there heads they wore,
As though each was a royal queen,
So costly all the wealth obscene
That Croesus had would not suffice,
For one small crown, to pay the price:
Thus prancing past with jaunty pride,
This regal daughter saw them ride;
From sheer surprise she backwards stepped
And in the foliage hidden kept,
And stayed still while they rode on by:
Compared to her they seemed so high,
Of those with so much to admire
She felt unworthy to inquire
From whence they came or what they were:
But more than wealth she would prefer
To know why they were thusly clad
And stuck her head out just a tad;
And as she looked about her, she
Saw coming, 'neath the linden tree
A rider who brought up the rear.
The horse on which she rode was sere
And thin, with sores upon its back,
And limped as though upon a tack
He walked, which caused the woman stress;
Thus was this sorry horse a mess,
Between its eyes a star of white
Was seen, but on his back a quite
Dilapidated saddled, worn,
On which this woeful bitch was borne;
In spite of this a bridle rich
There was upon this palfrey, which
With gold and jewels was bedecked.
Her coat was tattered from neglect,
And round her midriff twenty score
Of horses' halters, maybe more,
All hanging to the ground, she wore.
And when this rider closer came,
And she could better see the same,
The woman's visage fair did seem
Fresh, lusty, and with youth agleam;
And so this lady, standing there
Reflecting on this woman fair,
Concluded that she very well
Might have some tidings she could tell
About the troupe that just went by;
Thus, "Hold on!" she did boldly cry,
And said, "Oh, sister, let me know
Who were those riding through here, so
Extremely lavishly arrayed?"
This woman, who seemed so dismayed,
Said in a quiet voice, "I'll say
To you, my lady, those are they
Who in their lives were unto love
True servants, and were worthy of
That which their hearts were set upon.
Farewell now, for I must be gone:
My lady, to my service I
Must go in haste, and so good bye
To you I'll say now, for I fear
I may no longer tarry here."
"Oh, my good sister, yet I pray,
Tell me why you're equipped this way
With all these halters that you bear."
"Madam, once, it is true I swear,
I was the daughter of a king;
But I was slothful in love's spring,
And would her bidding not obey,
For which I now do sorely pay.
For I who on love's joys missed out
Now ride this wretched horse about,
With all my clothing torn in shreds
When May's fresh bloom before us spreads;
And while these ladies ride so sprightly,
I must ride behind, unsightly
In this manner, as you see,
And all their halters haul with me,
Like I was just their stable boy.
And so I am devoid of joy,
Regarded as devoid of worth,
For I missed out on loving's mirth,
When I was in the prime of life
And would not, in the season rife,
Regard those who could teach love's lore"
"Now tell me then, just one thing more,
What purpose serves that bridle fine,"
She turned away as tears of brine
Began to flow, and thusly spake:
"This bridle, serving as a brake,
So rich upon my horse's head, -
Madam, before, ere I was dead,
When I could still a suitor please,
An agony my heart did seize;
For I began a love to feel,
And when I knew that it was real,
A knight within love's net I caught:
But that affair was destined not
More than a fortnight long to last
For my life started ebbing fast,
And then it was too late. Too bad
I had before not loved this lad:
For death so quickly on me came,
There was no time, it was a shame
Our love we could not relish more.
But I'm relieved on this one score
That my intentions were the best,
And so by love at least I'm blessed
To have a bridle such as this.
So now you've heard my answer, miss:
You unto god I now commend,
Madam, and to all warning send,
To be not indolent in love,
My bridle take sage notice of."
And with those words she faded fast,
Just like a cloud that won't long last,
And disappeared clean out of sight:
Fear this did in her heart incite,
"Alas!" this caused her to exclaim
"My situation is the same.
But if another day I see,
I'll make amends, believe you me!"
And thus this lady homeward went,
Her attitude to reinvent,
Her heart more on her sleeve to wear,
So that she would no halters bear.
Lo, Son, from this you might well learn
Away from idleness to turn
Regarding love, as I've explained;
For you have surely knowledge gained,
That for those born of noble stock
Love is their passion 'round the clock;
With genteel hearts, to keep well honed
Their lust, love must not be postponed.
For as this lady was chastised,
Just so the knight should be advised,
Who idle is, and slack to serve
In love, that he may well deserve
A greater pain that was her lot
When she the burden had to trot
Around with all those halters; I
Advise you to be warned thereby.
But most importantly those who
Are of the fairer sex, a cue
From this example that I've told
Should take, for it is true, behold,
My lady Venus, whom I serve,
Her greatest blessings will reserve
For women who will entertain
A paramour, and true remain
To Cupid's law; yet seldom in
Such love do men find peace; chagrin
Will always plague them; gossiping
And envy false will always spring,
In tandem often with disease:
But there's a love that's well at ease,
And that's when marriage ends the chase;
For such can dare to show its face
All openly in every place.
And so it's strange that maidens would
Delay, and not do all they could,
That their best efforts be increased
To hasten towards that nuptial feast
And be from love's false games released.
Men may from riches lost rebound,
But no man can recover ground
That fades away when time is lost:
So should a maiden count the cost
Incurred when she her love constrains,
And for a long time thus remains,
Before her youthful lusty heart
A course to marriage starts to chart.
For thus a year or two or three
She's lost, when she could wedded be,
While she might still fulfill her life
By bearing children as a wife,
And thus perpetuate the race.
But who delays her proper place
To take, but passes up the chance,
Might well be passed up by romance
Another day, to her most dear.
Whereof a tale meant for her ear,
Upon this thing more light to shed,
I think I'll tell, that I have read.
The story's told, among the Jews
As we the bible's tales peruse,
About a noble leader known
As Jephthah who against the throne
Of Ammon, that cruel evil king,
Did fight; and victory to bring,
Within his heart he made a vow
To God and said, "Oh Lord, if thou
Wilt grant unto me victory,
Then I, to praise thy memory,
The first one I am greeted by,
A woman or a man, when I
Unto my home in peace return,
Will choose to sacrifice and burn,
An offering unto thy name."
Thus he with valor overcame
His foe, and every battle won,
For with his might he made them run
Wherever they did lie in wait.
No man can interfere with fate.
This leader had a daughter dear,
And rumors reached this lady's ear,
As they were spread through the land,
About her father's triumph, and
She waits for him expectantly
With dancing and with songs of glee,
For she would all the rest precede,
And be in front the watch to lead
In Mizpah's tower at the gate;
And when he came his grief was great
To see his daughter, as he tore
His clothes, while down his cheeks did pour
Great streams of tears: "Oh God!" he cries,
"Now I know there's no worldly prize
That comes without a bitter blow.
All I could want I had, my foe
I triumphed over by thy grace,
So when I came toward this place
There was no gladder man than I:
But now, my lord, you see that my
Rejoicing is to sorrow turned,
For now to be hewn down, and burned
Must be my daughter's doom this day,
Because my vow I must obey,
And she's the one I must now slay."
This maiden, when she knew her fate,
And saw her father's woeful state,
She tried as best she could to say
Words that his his anguish would allay,
And bade him not to be untrue
To what he'd promised god he'd do.
And yet with fear her heart was filled
To know that she would soon be killed;
Then kneeling down in grief profound
Before father, on the ground,
She said, "Since it must be that I
Must for this reason surely die,
I would for just one favor pray,
That I for forty days away
Might go where I, in my travail
May my virginity bewail."
For she had for so long maintained
He maidenhood intact, unstained;
And thus was lost her fruitful spring,
That she no children forth did bring
As called for by the law divine,
So that the race would not decline.
Her penalty to mollify,
For losing so much time, to cry
With other maidens, by his leave,
She'd go into the hills to grieve,
And afterwards return to face
Her death with dignity and grace.
The father heard his daughter's plea
And to respect her wishes he
At once for every maiden sent
Who with his daughter would lament.
And so to tell this stories end,
Across the hills and dales they wend
With weeping and with tales of woe,
And all who were without a beau
In sympathy their sorrow show,
For her who never children bore
And thus her youth had lost; what's more
That youth she never could revive:
For soon her last day would arrive
When she must take her final breath,
And nothing could prevent her death.
Lo, thus she died a woeful maid
For reasons I've before you laid,
As you have understood above.
My father, as to sloth in love
At least where maidens are concerned
I think you've left no stone unturned
And of that very much I've learned;
Of women, you've not been too kind
To them that tarry so behind.
But I more insight still must seek
Concerning men, how you will speak
Of those who in love seek no quest
So that they may deserve the best:
To speak in words with no disguise,
I know not what "quest" signifies.
Lovers Must Excel in Arms
My son, to make clear my intent
I'll say exactly what I meant,
How in the past their love men bought
When battles in strange lands they fought,
Where they with their own efforts wrought
In arms full many a worthy deed,
As we in sundry places read.
For pure and worthy love to gel
It must be cultivated well:
But nonetheless one also reads
With noble and deserving deeds
One oft this plodding process speeds.
So who seeks love's grace, on that ground
Where are these worthy women found,
He may not then himself exempt
From noble quests, but must attempt
To gain what thanks he may deserve,
Where men of arms are wont to serve,
Be it across the sea sometimes:
By ship or land in foreign climes
He must travail to stake his claim,
And many a foray make for fame,
Perhaps in Prussia it might be,
Or Greece, or even Tartary;
So that the heralds him acclaim,
"Well known for valiance is his name!"
And then he gives them silk and gold
So that his fame might far be told,
And bring unto his lady's ear
Word of how he had conquered fear;
That of his prowess she might know
Which men had loudly lauded so,
That in love she'll be more inclined
To put reluctance out of mind,
When out as brave him all men make,
And she knows well that, for her sake
No deeds of valor would he shun.
Of this travail I speak, my son:
Confess now, in this be it known
If you to idleness are prone.
Yes, and I've always been that way,
My father, and I'd have to say
That no man has done less than I
In this regard; I can't deny
That credited to my account
In this regard is an amount
That is of such a tiny size,
I may not win love's lusty prize.
But in confession this I swear,
That for my lady's love I care
More than for all of Cairo's gold:
To slay all of the heathen fold
The benefit I do not see,
Although a sea of blood there'd be.
I find it written, how Christ said
That no man should want others dead.
Beyond the sea how great the cost,
If I at home my lady lost!
Once they great walls of brine did breach,
To whom Christ bade that they should preach
To all the world, his faith to spread:
But now they cower down instead
And wallow in their decadence
With women, wine, and sweet incense.
Thus to us vices they forbid
Which they themselves recline amid;
They send us off to fight and kill
Those whom they should, as is God's will,
Unto the faith of Christ convert.
I swear this does me disconcert,
What games they'd like to see me play:
For if a Saracen I slay,
His soul I also cause to die
And that Christ surely would decry.
But that's enough, I'll say no more
And speak instead of Trojan lore;
But first to Cupid I propose
To pledge: in love I'll serve like those
Who gain fame as they slaughter foes;
And though both ways I could excel,
Still I will be aware quite well
Of when its best my time to bide
And not forth on some quest to ride:
Regardless of some man's brave deed,
Cupid decides when he'll succeed.
Achilles and Polyxena
For I have heard it spoken of
How brave Achilles left for love
His men and all his arms at Troy
To have with Polyxena joy,
When he did fall in love with her;
No matter what the fortunes were
His fellow Greeks encountered there
Whether they good or evil fare,
Against Troy no arms would he bear.
And so I'd like to think, dear sire,
A soldier might sometimes desire
To rest from war and disappear;
If I have hope in something near
Then why go far with shield and spear,
Adventure in strange lands to choose,
Only at home my love to lose?
Would it not be a foolish feat,
To win the chaff and lose the wheat?
But if it would my lady please,
My love to prove beyond the seas
Travailing, then if I could I
Would even fly across the sky
And navigate the deepest sea
For all else matters not to me
When thinking of the thanks I'd get.
What good is meat when there is set
A table that is lacking drink?
Why should I care what men might think
About how great is my travail
If sadly in the end I fail
In what I am travailing for.
Success like this no one could score
Unless one's stars were well aligned.
But if such fortune I should find
In any business that bestows
This world's acclaim, then I suppose
No idleness should thwart me in
The quest my lady's love to win.
But this is what I see these days
That Cupid, in his biased ways,
Whose job it is love's deck to stack
Has gotten things so out of whack,
That those who least deserve to love
Will get the greatest portion of
His grudging grace; And thus I find
That he who should be far behind,
Will oft far out in front be found:
So on love's ship I'm turned around,
And know not on which side I sail.
I cannot know how not to fail;
In chance my fortunes I must place;
I'm, as they say, a hopeless case;
In spite of what I do or say,
It always seems to be this way,
The more determined I proceed
The more I kneel, the more I plead
With words well chosen and rehearsed,
The less I'm blessed, the more I'm cursed;
For all my work I'm not to blame.
And I believe that is a shame;
For I can say, in thought and deed
My actions for me surely plead;
For even though I've been put off,
I always at rejection scoff.
But though persistence I may show,
Does profit therefrom ever flow?
If toil does no reward induce,
Persistence seems of little use.
To what avail are all the deeds,
When labor to no laurels leads?
One's life, one's fortune, and one's fame
Can be condensed into a name.
And since I've yet success to see
"Idle", I guess, my name should be,
In light of what I could secure:
So my forgiveness to assure,
My penance, father, now proclaim
For my excuses and my blame.
An Accomodating Absolution
My son, I've listened carefully
To what you have confessed to me:
And that to war you do not hurry,
I don't think you have to worry,
Only that you fail in love.
And my advice to you, thereof,
Is patience; do not go too fast;
For every day your dice are cast;
Who knows what will be rolled by fate.
It's better, for the tide to wait
Than row against the current strong:
Though you might think it takes to long,
It may be, as the heavens roll,
The stars that your love's fate control
May not yet rightly be aligned.
But this opinion I'm inclined
To give to Venus, in whose name
I serve - that since I hither came
At her request, as far as love,
Whatever else you're guilty of,
Your conscience may now be excused
Concerning sloth, for you have used
Great diligence, and have expended
Effort that should be commended.
Nonetheless if there's a failing
Born of sloth whereby to bailing
Out on arms you are disposed
As you have heretofore disclosed
In arguments you've just now made,
About how brave Achilles strayed
Away awhile from arms for love,
You shall another tale know of,
Which makes a case contrary to
Your own, which illustrates the view
That when men off to battle ride,
They then must put all lust aside;
For them the bed must be forsaken
And the shield and spear be taken;
Then comes joy when they've prevailed,
And are as worthy knights regaled.
And now, as I this story tell,
I think you'll understand quite well,
Why when they are engaged in fights.
Knights must abandon love's delights.
Nauplius and Ulysses
Of proper wartime conduct thus
I read, how once king Nauplius,
The father of Palamedes
Came to Ulysses with his pleas
That he and other Greeks might go
With him to fight the Trojan foe,
Where there a major siege would be.
But thinking of Penelope
His wife, whom he would not forsake,
Would no commitment to them make.
Then he a wily stratagem
Concocted to bamboozle them,
So that he might at home abide,
His lusty woman by his side:
So at the dawning of the day
When he arose from where he lay
Upon his bed, he wandered out
Into the field and stared about,
Pretending like his mind was lost:
As though he had some wires crossed,
A plow he yoked, not with an Ox
But rather with a great big fox,
And with much salt the land he sows
But not fooled ,Nauplius, who knows
What's going on, against this ruse
Another stratagem will use.
It happened that Ulysses had
A son, and Nauplius this lad
Would cause to be placed on the ground
All tightly tied up upon the mound
In front of where his father in
The furrow would plow up his kin.
For in this way he thought to see,
By his reaction, whether he
Was rational or, mad and wild.
So then his men went for the child;
And so they Telemachus fetched,
And in his father's path they stretched,
All tied up helplessly, his son.
But when he saw the child, he spun
His plow aside without delay,
And Nauplius began to say,
And half in ridicule cried out:
"Ulysses, you've now been found out:
What is it with this silly show?
For openly we all now know
That you've affected this whole thing,
Though it is shameful for a king,
When for the idleness of lust
He would his honor and his trust
Abandoning, prefer to stay
And from war's action shy away:
For wanting more his love to win
Than to his honor save is sin.
So you should put your honor first
For if you don't you will be cursed
By every other worthy king
Of Greece, who would your praises sing
If idleness you would discard,
And lose not honor and regard:
For that would be a double shame
Mostly for soiling your good name,
That for the idleness of love
You would so set your lusts above
Your name, and cast your arms aside,
Which of your manhood is the pride
And is what you should most desire."
But he, whose heart was all on fire
For his dear wife, when this he heard,
He answered not a single word,
But half ashamed to home returned,
And put that passion out that burned
Within his heart, that he might take
A break from love for honor's sake;
Not bothered by what others thought
To Troy with them he went and fought,
No longer trying to refuse.
For surely if a king pursues
Not after honor, then his fate
No worldly ease can compensate,
For honor cannot be replaced;
Duty in arms must be embraced.
For it is well in every way
That men put all their fear away
And go to war devoid of dread.
For of this, I have heard it said,
Great king, with Nauplius agrees,
And sails toward the siege of Troy;
This sovereign was the only joy,
Of Laodamia his wife,
Who loved him, sadly, more than life;
To him did all her heart belong,
So to convince him it was wrong
For him to leave her like this now,
She sent a letter telling how
She had from men wise counsel sought
To find out what those sages thought,
And they gave her to understand
That in a strange and foreign land
A destiny did him await,
And death would surely be his fate
If he set foot on Trojan soil.
This kismet caused her to recoil
So that with all her heart she prayed,
And other arguments she made
Why he at home with her should stay.
Her letter, though, he threw away,
He did not care to pay attention
To her female apprehension;
And proceeds, her pleas ignoring
On to Troy to go a-warring,
And was first, as it occurred,
To disembark, for he preferred
To die with honor as a knight,
Than live in glory where he might
His name and reputation lose.
Lo, thus will knighthood always choose
For honor and prestige to bleed,
Which cowardice cannot impede.
Saul and the Sorceress
I find it written of king Saul,
A sorceress did Samuel call,
While in Samaria, and brought
Him up through witchcraft that she wrought,
A long time after he had died;
And he advice to Saul supplied,
On fighting with the Philistines,
By painting most unpleasant scenes:
"The first day of the battle you
Shall surely lose your life, and too
Shall Jonathan thy son be slain."
But though it should be fraught with pain
This king, by courage driven, would
Not ever shrink from what he should
For honor and his people do -
No peril could persuade him to;
And so he and his son, defeat,
On top of mount Gilboa meet
As with their foe they there contend:
For in those days men would defend
Their honor, which they sacred held,
As something which all else excelled.
And so the father with his son
Go forth in fellowship as one,
And by their love of arms they bleed,
As men may in the bible read;
Their honor shall all men commend
For all time till the world shall end.
The Education of Achilles
And further into this to delve,
I'll tell about a child of twelve
To show that, more than anything,
From bravery and daring spring
Great prowess on the battlefield.
On this an ancient tale will yield
Much insight, and you'll be amazed,
At how the centaur, Chiron, raised
Achilles to a hero's height
More marvelous than any knight.
For at that time Chiron was found
Within a forest, where around
This beast, half man half horse, did roam,
And which to other beasts was home,
Like lions, leopards, tigers too,
With deer and rabbits running through;
All these, as ancient writers tell,
Upon Mount Pelion did dwell;
Back then this was discussed a lot.
This child was by his parents brought
To Chiron where he would be taught;
And there to make his courage be
More resolute and fierce, when he
Out in the forest went to play
And look around for game to slay,
The Centaur said to him: "You may
Not any animal pursue
That probably would run from you,
Like deer and rabbits that in fright
Would rather flee away than fight;
But beasts that will a man confront
Those are the ones that you shall hunt;
The lion and the tiger tease,
Your venison shall come from these,
As is befitting for a knight."
Then Chiron to Achilles quite
A challenging assignment gave,
One which he would not ever waive,
That each day such a savage beast
He'd kill or badly wound at least,
So that he, as a token, might
Bring blood with him back home that night.
And so from Chiron's discipline,
Achilles learned at death to grin,
That when he had in hand his spear,
For wild beasts he had no more fear
Than if a lion were an ass:
And that's what caused him to surpass
All other warriors in deeds,
Whose lesser valor he exceeds;
His reputation him precedes.
Lo thus. my son, you realize
That knighthood's eminent emprise
Is born of bravery and daring,
And it serves him well in snaring
What, in love, he has in mind,
While leaving others far behind.
For whoso will not sloth eschew,
Nor will the work of knighthood do,
I know not how he hopes to love;
But every work needs somewhat of
A small incentive, for I know
Examples of those long ago
Who seeking love well understood
How to approach it as they should.
My father, thereof I would hear.
My son, by now it should be clear,
Where the intent is true and kind,
That if one has just one in mind
To love, then for no sloth should he
A traitor to true manhood be.
For if you read of Lancelot
And others like him without blot,
You'll see how it was long ago
With men of arms, who love did know,
The kind of love they could not gain
From idleness, and with no pain.
As witness to what I maintain,
There is a special story told
Wherein a hero is extolled
For all the efforts that he made
Through which his true love was displayed.
Hercules and Achelous
There was a king once, of great fame
In Calydonia, his name
Was called Oenius, and he
A gorgeous daughter had, and she
Was known as Deianira, who
None others held a candle to,
There also was a hero, he
Who was the son of Mercury,
Who put two pillars up that we
May still see in the desert sand,
In India where still they stand;
Of worthy Hercules I speak
Known for his powerful physique
And for the marvels which he wrought.
This hero as a suitor sought
The hand of Deianira, and
Unto her father said he planned
To have his daughter for a spouse.
The king knew of his royal house
And fearful of his awesome power.
Dared not keep him from her bower;
Nonetheless to him he said:
"Achelous already pled
To marry her, and they agreed,
And that is how it was decreed."
But having said that, he suggested,
Which of them the other bested
In a fight, would be her man,
And so proceeded with this plan.
A giant was Achelous,
A subtle man, and devious.
Well versed in spells and sorcery,
A master of duplicity:
And when of Hercules he heard,
And from the king he got the word
That he with Hercules must fight,
He felt he could not trust in sleight
Alone, when push did come to shove,
But that which voids all fear is love
For every noble heart love stirs
So much that no concern deters
Him from pursuing his desire,
And so with his heart all on fire
He sent word to the king that he
Would surely at the battle be.
They set the day, and chose the field,
And both knights armed with sword and shield
Together came in battle's guise,
And looked in one another's eyes.
On foot, the space between them closed,
There was no stone, no roots exposed,
To trip them as their love they proved
But all was covered or removed.
Not many strokes delivered they.
For Hercules, who would display
His strength, for this occasion kept,
All suddenly up on him leapt
And with his arms began to squeeze.
The giant falling to his knees,
Knows not how long he might survive
In such a grip. To stay alive
he thinks of how he might escape
By magic, so he takes the shape
And likeness of an eel, and slips
Out of his grasp, and forth he skips;
Then to return and fight again,
He turns into a bull, and then
Begins to roar with such a sound
It seemed an earthquake shook the ground
The dirt he paws and tramples on,
The large horns on his head, anon,
He tosses, raging, here and there.
But Hercules this does not scare;
And when he in his eyes did look,
Him by both of his horns he took
And slammed him down upon the ground
So hard he could not move around,
So that with no sleight could he slip
Out of this painful crushing grip,
Until he finally gave in,
And Hercules the prize did win.
The king to him then did award
His daughter fair whom he adored,
And for him who had fought so hard
She had the most profound regard.
For fighting fiercely in the fray,
In lusty arms he got to lay,
Which otherwise he'd do without,
For he with bravery won the bout.
Penthesilea, Pyrrhus, and Philomene
And in addition listen well,
For I another tale will tell
How love and arms are intertwined.
In lore and portraiture enshrined,
We Penthesilea can see;
The queen of Amazons was she,
Who for the love of Hector and
For honor too, unto the land
Of Troy she came with spear and shield,
And rode out on the battlefield;
With her a band of maidens came;
To save the city was their aim,
Which under siege was by the Greeks.
Neath Patagonia's lofty peaks,
Which rise up near earth's nether end
At that same time another friend,
King Philomene, who would travail
For Troy, at once began to sail,
For he would help this noble town;
And all of this was for renown
And for the sake of worldly fame,
Which would redound unto his name:
And so he did, and in due time
Of love he won a prize sublime,
A gift in perpetuity.
For here's what happened presently:
Pyrrhus, who was Achilles' son,
Into this worthy queen did run
And with his sword cut short her reign,
As by his own hand she was slain;
Whereon this Patagonian king
Poor Penthesilea did bring,
This queen of Amazonia, and
Such maidens as, within her band,
Were left alive, unto his ship,
And they together made the trip
To where her body was interred
With honor, and then it occurred
That for his valor they accord
Great praise, and grant him a reward:
This tribute every year there'd be
To him and his posterity:
Three maidens fair to make him glad.
And in this way success was had.
He who with arms his fortune sought,
With his travail his pleasure bought;
For otherwise he would have failed,
Had it not been that he travailed.
Aeneas too in Italy,
King Turnus fought, his enemy;
And if with all his energy,
Against his foe he had not fought,
Then fair Lavinia he'd not
Have won, but since he did prevail,
Him as her husband she did hail.
From these examples you have heard,
Lo, now, my son, by this, my word,
You should be able to behold
That those men daring to be bold
In love, will find a favored place
At love's feast, savoring love's grace;
For women who are well bred prize
Men of great bravery who rise
To heights of great refinement, for
It's noble men they most adore.
My father, by your words I've been
Inspired, a quandary I'm in
However, "noble" I would learn
The meaning of; to you I turn.
My son, the origins to seek,
We need to know how people speak
About this word. Society
Bestows the term "nobility"
Based on how rich a man may be,
Which is a transitory thing.
And thus one's ancestry may bring
Such honors, as I'm sure you've heard,
But nothing could be more absurd.
When emphasis on reason's placed,
On riches it may not be based,
A thing that subject is to change:
For one day fate may rearrange
Things for a man who owns the world,
So that tomorrow he is hurled
Down to the depths of poverty,
So by this standard there can be,
With nobleness no permanence.
But there is yet another sense,
Which holds men are created thus,
For Adam, who preceded us
Along with Eve his wife, those two
Were noble persons through and through;
So that from one's ancestral line
A noble station to assign,
With reason seems not to agree.
For using reason we can see
That what is meted out to men
By nature is no different when
They first into the world are born;
To those with riches blessed or shorn;
At birth all naked is the lot
Of both, the lord no more has got
To clothe himself at that time, than
A child born of the poorest man.
And when they both shall pass away
I know not who has less that day
Of worldly goods. but as to guilt
The lord is loaded to the hilt,
When God shall hear him give account,
For he, of lusts, a large amount
Has had. And though the body goes
In diverse ways through deaths last throes,
Yet for them both is but one end,
Toward which every man shall wend,
As well the beggar as the lord
All leveled straight across the board:
She who is our First Mother, earth,
Receives both, to whom she gave birth,
Devouring every man the same,
No favors for great wealth nor fame.
In nature all tends to decay;
Nobility all fades away.
For lack of virtue there's no grace,
Where of great wealth in many a place,
When men imagine they're secure,
Is lost, and all at once they're poor:
But when the heart with virtue teems,
There is no worldly hurt, it seems,
Which might suppress it by surprise,
Until the time the body dies;
And then he shall be rich indeed,
With treasure by God guaranteed;
And that may be nobility,
Which has the greatest guaranty.
For if a man's propensity
Toward good intentions tends to go,
Which from the soul's recesses grow,
And knowing vice from virtue he
Elects to be from vices free,
Eschewing sloth, with virtue treasured,
That's how noble men are measured,
Not by any other thing
Which they may to the table bring.
In spite of that if we survey
What is the case with love today,
The noble poor will always lose,
When some rich rogue his love pursues;
For love is seldom granted an
Exemplary unmoneyed man,
Though in the right place is his heart.
But if he has an equal part.
Of goodness and of wealth as well,
Then he will all the more excel.
Love begets Industry
To make a girl with pleasure moan
Men as good workers must be known,
For no nobility nor gold
Can help an idle man, I'm told.
But if a man with money would
Travail to the degree he should,
That often makes it so he might
Enjoy both honor and delight.
For it has always been the case
That true love gives to men much grace
By driving sin and vice away,
Or as old works of wisdom say
It makes unmannered men refined,
And lets the coward courage find,
True valor is the outgrowth of
The sure and certain law of love
For him who can his passions rule;
And womankind can also school
A man in matters such as these,
If he'll just heed their expertise,
And from their words great wisdom glean.
For love's delights are always green;
In this, with noble folk, I hear,
There's nothing that can interfere
There is no beast on earth, I trust,
If he should be consumed with lust,
Who'd try to make it unsurpassed,
And marvelous while it might last.
So in the end I must conclude,
That they as idle must be viewed,
Since sloughing off they're guilty of
In duties which pertain to love.
Beyond this though, my son, If I
On moral principles should try
To tie love to vitality,
In search of wisdom one may see,
That in the holy books it's said,
"Who love's not might as well be dead";
For love, above all other things,
Is that from which all virtue springs,
In all that to man's deeds pertains;
For love, with idleness maintains
No intercourse, for sloth is held
In great contempt, as is compelled
By every moral code, disdain
Of which no man should bear the stain:
For every man who has a brain
Should be engaged, he'll realize,
Upon some worthy enterprise,
For idleness, man's worst malaise,
Will never bring him any praise.
As testimony to this thing
Wise Solomon, that noble king,
On whose insights we may rely,
Said, "As the birds are born to fly,
So man is made to labor hard."
And this one may not disregard
If one's intention is to thrive.
So every man who's now alive,
From those who once worked ceaselessly,
At school or as an employee,
May learn, and their zeal emulate,
For if we needed to create
That which by them was first found out
It well might not be brought about.
For in those days their lives were long,
Their mental powers very strong,
With value on achievement placed,
So this world's challenges they faced
With one advantage - an innate
Ambitious nature was their trait.
And into memory to call
Their names, and anecdotes of all
Their virtues, and each worthy deed,
In sundry volumes we must read.
The Two Varieties of Labor
True knowledge in all fields was by
That inspiration from on high
Provided to men here on earth
In it's perfection - things of worth
By which He'd light cognition's flame:
Thus learning in it's first wave came
With beneficial books and stuff
Through those who at that time enough
Perceived about what God did give,
Of which those people who now live,
Are learning every day again.
Ere seeds were thrown around by men
Producing crops to harvest, then
There was no corn, though it was needed,
In the fields around unseeded;
Ere the wisdom was found out
Which those first authors wrote about;
To every man it should be clear
That there was lots of labor here.
None in two venues were asleep,
One into agriculture deep
Did go, and handiwork as well,
The others on their studies dwell
To ponder, meditate, and muse
And all their wits try hard to use;
And for this they are now revered,
Those fields in which they pioneered
We study now, and from them learn:
Our admiration they did earn
By works with which they paved the way
That are still relevant today;
Their names we ever shall revere
As we into old volumes peer.
Discoverers and Inventors
Ham, Noah's son, whose son was cursed,
Was he who fashioned letters first
And wrote in Hebrew with his hand:
He nature well did understand
And nurtures him who learning seeks.
The alphabet used by the Greeks
Cadmus was first to fabricate.
Tages, of things ordained by fate,
Was first the future to divine:
And traits could Philemon assign
From faces, with courageous candor.
Pandas, Claudian, Menander,
Pandulf, and Sulpicius,
Solinus, Esdras, Josephus,
Eutropius and Fregedaire,
And Termegistus, are all there
As authors who composed one time:
Herodotus was first to rhyme,
With rhythm elegant, sublime;
Still from his works we quarry quotes.
For choral music all the notes,
The natural, the flat, the sharp,
Discovered Jubal; And the harp
Of pleasing sound, like angels singing
Found Apollo, health too bringing.
Zeuxis first did portraits draw,
Promethus in sculpture saw
A shape within his mind and wrought
In stone that of which he had thought.
In steel and Iron Tubal lead
In forging well the way ahead
And Jabal, who was gentle - Not!
First fashioned nets, and fishes caught:
In hunting he conceived the chase
Which now is known in many a place:
As first to pitch, with ropes and stakes,
A tent of cloth he credit takes.
In food Verconius, was versed,
Creating delicacies first.
Minerva first perfected weaving,
Her own hand great things achieving;
And Delbora linen wove:
Then women of great talent strove.
But those productive farm machines
That give the laborer the means
To till the land and plant the vines,
From which come vegetables and wines,
The sustenance for all mankind,
In hoary ancient tomes I find
That Saturn of his own devising
First found, and what's more surprising
Bargaining he founded too,
And coins into the mix he threw
As money out of metal made,
Facilitating needful trade.
But how that metal came to be
Through man's wit and God's grace, we see
Some alchemists in olden days
First improvised in sundry ways
How to extract it from the ground,
Then later other methods found.
With diligence the things they tried
They organized and codified;
Base metals they, in this pursuit,
To silver and to gold transmute;
They called their science alchemy;
And to explain how this can be,
It is on seven bodies based,
With spirits, four in number, placed
In combinations opportune.
These bodies are the sun and moon
And other planets. We are told
The sun related is with gold,
The moon is linked with silver and
Mars iron has, I understand.
Lead does to Saturn have a link,
And brass to Jupiter, I think;
To Venus copper is assigned,
And Mercury is twice combined,
Quicksilver serving, unconfined,
Not only as a metal base,
But as as a fluid takes its place
As first of those elixirs four;
The second, in elixir's lore,
Is sal ammoniac, then third
Comes sulphur then, to fourth deferred,
The last in an alchemic brew,
Is orpiment of yellow hue.
With hot fires by strong bellows blown,
In mixtures all these things are thrown
As they diversely are combined.
For alchemists are of a mind
That gold and silver, if you please,
Are opposite extremities,
Upon a spectrum whose degrees
Are occupied by metals sharing
Similarities, and paring
From them their impurities,
The rust corrosion guarantees,
Foul odors, brittleness, and such,
Then they should start becoming much
Like gold or silver to the touch.
But one a certain line must tread
Twixt form and essence; if the lead
Is to be turned to gold instead
It must in seven steps be done
And if we skip a single one
The rest will be of no avail;
If followed, though, they may not fail.
For they, who did this art invent,
To quite a lot of trouble went,
Its boundaries to circumscribe
So that with nature it would jibe,
Not based upon assumptions flawed.
Thus those who down this path would trod,
Must take at every turn great pains
So that no step undone remains.
It's first required to refine,
And only then can they combine;
Dissolving then is what they do
Towards condensation, with a view,
And then to sublimate their brew
Is what they next must focus on,
Then calcination, whereupon,
As in the ancient texts we read,
Fixation yields the golden bead.
Thus fired with tempered heat that stone
Which as "philosopher's" is known
May then at last by them be grown,
As many alchemists have claimed.
And if you'd care to hear them named,
That stone which, with two others paired
At that time learned men prepared,
As old books to their claims give weight;
Their natures I shall now relate.
The Three Philosopher's Stones
Those alchemists in olden days
By various and sundry ways
Three stones created long ago.
The first one, if the name you'd know,
Was lapis vegetabilis
Whose signal virtue is the kiss
Of healing unto man to give,
That he in perfect health might live,
Free from disease of every sort
Till nature his full life cuts short.
The second stone with powers claimed
Is lapis animalis named,
A special virtue it bestows
On eye and ear and mouth and nose,
That sight, smell, taste, and hearing hence
Men might have with a heightened sense,
One's balance, and the sense of touch,
Are, too, improved and sharpened much:
The senses five are heightened all,
Their atrophy it does forestall.
But that which most holds men in thrall
We lapis mineralis call,
Which all the metals by men mined
It tempers, till they are refined
And by its power purified,
Till every flaw is cast aside
Of hardness and corrosion too
Then when this cleanliness we view,
This substance number three performs
A miracle, as it transforms
The natures which they first displayed
By its pure force, and they are made,
In substance and appearance too
Like gold and silver, forged anew.
For those two are the pure extremes
Which every lesser metal seems
To be inclined to emulate,
Helped by the fire to change its state
With this third stone, which men declare
Does to the sun and moon compare;
For to the yellow and the white
This stone for changing has the might.
It makes base metals into gold,
Hot liquids into solids cold
It turns, and it is his intent
All imperfection to prevent
In that elixir which is known
As alchemy, that potent stone
That wise men once discovered. But
The knowledge has been lost of what
It takes, that feat to replicate,
There's no one now who can create
That which was anciently attained
Yet men these days are not restrained
From trying to repeat this deed,
And fail much more than they succeed,
So those who start out with great riches,
Finding every which way glitches,
End with poverty and debt:
They spend five pounds one pound to get,
And thus their money all is lost;
I know not how, with such great cost,
And enterprise like this can thrive:
There better ways are to survive,
Than teetering upon the brink,
With that which goes not as they think.
But that does not mean there's no truth
To what was known in mankind's youth
As it was by men first embraced;
The names still are on placards placed
Of those who these deep truths first traced;
And thus the fame is spread abroad
Of those who were imbued by god,
With daring, dignity, and light,
Of whom the names I shall recite:
The First Alchemists
One Hermes Trismegistus first
Himself in alchemy immersed;
Jabir next with his mighty pen,
And Ortolan and Morien
Went on, with Avicenna, to
Add much of value that was new
And true in alchemy's domain;
Their writings could not be more plain
About this craft that few can learn;
And many men these days now yearn,
To duplicate what they had done,
But comprehension they have none.
It's not enough just to presume
That from their words results will bloom,
An so they fall sort of success,
From using more or using less -
There's always some excuse for this,
And so the principles they miss
That could them to perfection lead,
Which is by nature's laws decreed.
They who in Arabic and Greek
And in Chaldean, truth did seek,
Of its quintessence, to convey
In an authoritative way
All that which you've just heard me say,
For everything they pioneered,
They'll be forevermore revered.
Letters and Language
But getting closer here to home,
We find among our kin in Rome,
Among those with ability
As well as zealous industry,
Carmente, with a pregnant mind,
The Latin alphabet designed,
On which the Roman tongue was based,
Which he of Samothrace embraced
With Donatus and Didymus,
Who formed the rules of grammar thus:
To conjugate and to decline,
And sounds and accents to assign,
That it should an example be
Of beauty and consistency.
With other lights Rome was aglow,
For Tullius and Cicero
Then gave on rhetoric their views
How men the proper words can choose
So that they eloquently flow,
Which is a vital thing to know:
Then from the language of the Jew
Jerome, that saint who Hebrew knew,
The bible, which God's law declares,
Made, of all Latin speakers, heirs;
And many others books from Greece
And Persia, many a treasured piece
Of wisdom, to the Latin tongue
Translated. Praises too are sung
Of other Latin scholars who
The fruits of their great labors too,
At institutions of renown
In sundry treatises wrote down,
So that which they discovered we
Can read, and thus enlightened be
In sciences and in the arts;
Thus Ovid in his poems imparts
To lovers, by that which he taught,
If they should find their love to hot,
The way in which it should be cooled.
Therefore, my son, you should be schooled
By Ovid, if love brings you grief,
For then you might obtain relief.
My father, if my love improved,
To read his books I might be moved.
But if they teach me to restrain
My love, then it would be a pain
To learn a thing that could not be.
For like unto a growing tree,
If men should take its root away
Just so my heart would die that day
That I the power to love would lose.
So there's but one path I can choose:
My love intently to pursue,
And all passivity eschew.
My good son, what you say is true
If there is any certain path
To love, you've surely done the math:
For who would not forgo his rest
And for his need no work invest,
By reason cannot in his quest
For love expect the prize to win;
For daring nothing to begin,
What could he possibly attain?
Beyond this, though, I'll now explain,
Since it is well for you to know,
That sloth has other forms of "slow",
Which are a hindrance to love's cause,
If they make your heart prone to pause.
There is yet one more in the brood
Of Sloth, who to his bed seems glued,
And he as Somnolence is known,
Who prostrate lies in homage prone
Before Sloth as his confidant,
But almost always he will want
To sleep, when he should stay awake.
With love he liberties will take:
"From staying up, you I won't keep,
Just kindly let me go to sleep,
To make love please my arm don't twist."
Thus oft he goes to bed unkissed,
For making love, at her request,
He will not sacrifice his rest.
For although few men would prefer
To sleep, than to make love to her,
That's his way, and so on those nights
When lusty men in love's delights
Will revel, where the women lay,
He will slip furtively away,
And go to bed all out of steam,
And in his sloth he'll often dream
Of how he' mired in the muck,
And always seems down on his luck;
And in a rut is always stuck,
How he'll climb an embankment steep
And fall down in a vale that's deep.
Whoever sees him in such dreams,
Will say that like a ship he seems
When it against the current goes,
For he snores loudly through his nose;
And sizzles like a pancake hot
That someone in the pan forgot.
At other times when, rarely, he
Will chance to dream erotically,
In heaven he pretends to be
And brags about his great technique:
And then of this and that he'll speak,
Of all his expertise in love,
And lots of other nonsense of
The kind we oft hear from pretenders
Thus to love he service renders;
That's why he gets no reward.
But son, in love to be adored,
You mustn't in this trap get caught.
Oh, father, certainly I'd not.
Believe me, I would first be shot,
Before in me this vice would sprout
And give me such a sleepy snout;
I'd rather have both eyes put out.
In fact I would prefer to die
Than have it talked about that I
Was such a one, may god forbid;
For when my mother had a kid
Within her womb, and it was I,
I'd rather Atropos cut my
Life's fiber so that I might die
Before I any breath could take,
And call my birth a big mistake.
But now, as to my life's beginning,
I've no fear that Clotho's spinning;
Nor Lachesis with her tape,
Did such a fortune for me shape,
When they at my nativity
Determined what my fate would be:
That I'd not be found counting sheep,
But shun the truancy of sleep.
So as to love, in this regard
I hope you see that I'm not marred
By somnolence in any way.
For, father Genius, I can say
For certain that unto this day,
Whenever it was right for me,
Wherever her abode may be,
To come and see my lady fair,
I was not slow nor sleepy there:
For then I would great pleasure take,
If she would want to stay awake
And in her chamber dance and sing;
To have the holdings of a king
Could not compare, not all his land,
With what it's like to hold her hand.
For when her hand in mine I grip
With such glee do I dance and skip,
It seems my feet don't touch the floor;
The roe, lightfooted on the moor,
Could not be near as light as me:
On that account you well can see
Why I'd think sleeping was a sin.
And when a different mood she's in,
So that to dance she's not inclined
But in a game of dice she'd find
More pleasure, or have some request
That I might do at her behest,
Like reading her a tale or two,
Whatever she would have me do
I'm always johnny on the spot.
But if I dare to take a shot,
Sometime when things are going slow,
To let her of my feelings know,
I hint around, but talking straight
Will make her say: "It's getting late."
Though it might just have gotten dark,
Thus dousing my love's little spark.
Though for a while we had a blast,
Such joy may not forever last,
And so must I bid her adieu,
My vigil for the night is through:
And if she notice only took,
Of just how piteous is my look,
Whenever I my leave must take,
She out of mercy then might make
Some effort not to always say
"Not now. But have a pleasant day."
To him who's loath to take his leave.
And so, though in the early eve
I'd like the whole night long to stay,
If only I could have my way,
It's only since she tells me: "No."
That I to sleep so soon must go;
So then: "God keep you safe", I say:
And then down on my knees delay
And kiss her then if she is so
Inclined, and then I turn to go;
And sometimes, if I dare, before
I get completely to the door,
I turn again, pretending that
I'd lost a ring, or left my hat,
Or something else, so I could steal
A kiss, my ailing heart to heal,
But seldom have I any luck.
And when I see that I must tuck
My tail between my legs and leave
With all my heart I curse and grieve
That for the eyes sleep was created;
I for one would be elated
Could I always be awake,
So that I'd never have to take
My leave from her who's all my light:
And then I curse as well the night;
With all my might I swear, and say
"Thou sable image, go away,
Which by thy dark and cloudy face
Makes all the world a dismal place,
And let's sleep be the reason why
I now must leave and say goodbye
And from my lady's presence go.
O sleepy night, I hate you so,
And wish to God that you could be
In Hades with Persephone
Along with Pluto, king of Hell:
For till I say, to night, farewell,
Sleep is for me a bitter dish."
And with that I lament and wish,
And say, "Why couldn't it be day?
Because then, unlike now, I may
Behold my lady with my eyes."
And then I think how, for some guys,
The night is filled with pleasure, as
That which will pleasure him he has
Throughout the long nights by his side,
Whereas such pleasures I'm denied.
What is the purpose that sleep serves,
That it men's gratitude deserves
For winning for him any love,
His grace it's but a hindrance of,
It's as he for a time was dead,
To be all motionless in bed.
And so, my father, this way I
The idle sleepy nights decry,
And ever in my sorry tale
I think about the nightingale,
Who sings for love throughout the night,
About this many authors write.
So thus I go to bed at last,
And yet my own heart is bound fast
To hers with love's tenacious chains;
Though I depart, my heart remains,
No lock on earth can shut it out,
There is no need for one to pout,
Who down the highest wall can tear;
Thus is he with her everywhere,
That whether or not she likes it my
Heart in her bed will go and lie,
And softly take her in his arm
And feel how she is soft and warm,
And only wish his body were
To feel how he is feeling her.
And thus do I myself torment
Till sleep I may no more prevent.
But then by thousands of times more
Than when I was awake before,
Am I tormented when I sleep;
But I dream not of seed nor sheep,
For I think not of wool or flax,
But I am troubled to the max
By that love I am smitten by;
So now I laugh and now I cry,
And now I lose and now I win,
And now I end and now begin.
And other times I dream that I
Will intimately with her lie
With all rejection left behind;
And then in sleep such joy I find,
That I pray never to awake.
But afterwards when I forsake
Nocturnal reveries, and rise
Then tears begin to cloud my eyes,
For sunlight in my window streams,
And daylight does dispel my dreams,
So that upon me dawns the thought
My fantasies were all for nought:
But still unto myself I think:
"Perhaps back into sleep I'll sink;
It's only six, I'll dream till seven."
For it seems I sleep in heaven.
Since you brought this up, my son,
There is a story men have spun
About how dreams can truth contain,
Although some unconvinced remain
And say, "On dreams we can't rely."
But they're wrong, and to show you why
Dreams often can betoken things,
Which can affect the fate of kings,
I'll tell a tale, from Ovid drawn,
Which happened in a time long gone.
Ceyx and Alcyone
In Poesy I find this thing:
Ceyx, of Trachinia the king
Had made Alcyone his wife
Who loved him more than her own life;
And he a brother also had
Whom Artemis made very sad;
She Chione his daughter killed,
Which his heart with such anguish filled
That he as well himself did slay,
Which caused the king to grieve that day.
And made his heart's resolve to grow,
Upon a pilgrimage to go
Unto a far and foreign place,
Where he could go to seek for grace
Through sacrificing and through praying,
So that he might, by displaying
To the gods his grief, might have
Them to Daedalion a salve
Of healing medicine apply;
He thought, "At least its worth a try."
This king is ready to depart,
And so by ship he plans to start
Out on a cruise across the sea;
And so that he'd have company
His wife went with him to the ship,
And asked of him how long the trip
Would take, on which he'd now embark,
So she her calendar could mark:
He said, "Within two months, no more."
And thus with haste he from that shore
Departed with his sails unfurled;
And crying she waved, as her world
Sailed off, then to her home returned.
Two months went by, and she concerned
Became, when she no tidings heard
Concerning what might have occurred
To cause him to be late. All worried,
She unto the temples hurried
Many offerings to make.
To Juno she more things did take
Than to the other gods; and for
Her husband whom she did adore
She prayed to find out how he fared.
Juno the goddess heard, and cared
About her torment, and to her
Sent Iris, her swift messenger
That she unto sleep's house might speed
To satisfy with dreams the need
Alcyone, this lady, had
To know if things were good or bad.
This Iris from that lofty height
Where she begins her downward flight,
A rainy cape, made out of light
She dons, jeweled houris to evoke,
A diverse many colored cloak
That sparkled more than men could know;
The heavens like a bow she bent,
And traveling along it went
Down where she found the god of Sleep,
Near where Mount Chimaera did seep
Warm soporific vapors. And
As poets tell, in this strange land
The god of Sleep his house had made
Which wondrous workmanship displayed.
Beneath the hill there is a cave
With all the sunlight of a grave,
So that inside none may detect
Where night and daytime intersect:
There is no candle burning, nor
Is there a single creaky door
To hinder sleep and cause an eye
To be unshut, and sleep deny.
Outside the grounds are stark and bare,
There is no great tree standing there
Whereon a crow or magpie might,
To chatter, caw, or cry, alight.
No cock to crow at light of day,
Nor hounds upon the hill to bay.
But looking down upon the ground
There's one thing growing all around,
The poppy, from whose blooms are fallen
Clouds of sleep inducing pollen.
Water bubbling over stones
A quiet lullaby intones;
A river of forgetfulness,
Whose murmuring relaxes stress,
Called Lethe, runs beneath that hill.
Insouciance it waters will
Give unto Sleep upon his couch,
Where in his chamber he will slouch.
Of ebony that sleepy tree,
Its frame is made, and we can see
A featherbed wrapped in chiffon
Which he may softly sleep upon,
With many a downy pillow too.
Dreams by the thousands spun we view,
All up and down his chamber strewn.
Thus Iris came to this cocoon,
And to the bed, which is all black
She goes, where Sleep is in the sack.
There, Juno's orders to obey,
She tried her message to convey.
And many times her throat she clears
Before she pierced his sleepy ears;
With great reluctance he at last
His dreary eyes up at her cast.
"It shall be done," to her he said.
And from the thousands who in bed
Within his house of sleep did doze,
Three in particular he chose,
Who should this business carry out:
The first of them I'll tell about
Was Morpheus, whose special skill
Is to transform his shape at will
To match that of some person, and
Work his deception in the land
Of dark and soporific night;
Next Phobetor who causes fright
In nightmares; imitating sounds
And countenances he astounds
With realistic renderings;
The third is Phantasos who brings
A talent for transforming things
From that shape which at first he finds
Into grotesquely different kinds.
These three are those who raise, it seems.
Those apparitions haunting dreams,
Which sometimes represent what's real,
And other times deceit conceal.
And thus one night it came to pass
That Morpheus unto this lass,
Alcyone, appeared portraying
Ceyx, her husband, naked laying
Lifeless, cast up on the ground.
These other two, with sights and sound,
Show just exactly how he drowned.
The wild sea, winds all howling loud,
The tempest of the darkened cloud,
All this she dreamt, and saw him die:
Consumed with grief she starts to cry,
While sleeping in her chamber; hearing
All this noise, her women fearing
For her safety, startled rising,
And the situation sizing,
Begged her tell them why she stirred;
And she, just as she'd seen and heard,
Related all about her dream.
And they all tried to make it seem
A favorable course to chart;
But this would not console her heart,
Until the truth of it she knows.
So in the morning she arose
And to the sea, without delay,
Went where she saw the body sway,
Upon the heaving swells that day.
Her lord whose loving arms she craves
Lies floating lifeless on the waves.
At this she loses all control,
And her dream takes a double toll,
As she, to catch him in her arms,
Leaps in and so herself she harms.
Then looking down from heaven above,
The gods, moved by that faithful love
That drove this lady to despair,
And brought misfortune to this pair,
Decreed that this lord and his wife
Should both be turned from death to life
There in the shape of birds upon
The salty flood. When as a swan
Swimming upon the rolling swells,
She sees her lord and passion wells
Within her, for he too became
A bird, whose species was the same,
She is inspired love's games to play,
And in a wife's flirtatious way
Both of her wings spread wide apart;
To show the feelings of her heart
Him she embraced, and kissed him too,
As one time she was wont to do:
Her two wings had to serve for arms,
And for her soft lips' former charms
Her hard beak had to take the place.
But as a bird she found the grace,
In her new avian array
To please him in wifely way,
As she had often done before:
Though all her charms she had no more,
Still did her will remain the same
To serve him. And so they can claim
That dwelling there upon the sea
Together a great progeny,
With many a daughter and a son,
Brought forth, swans comely every one;
And men should always bear mind
Of queen Alcyone, inclined
To faithfulness, her birds live on,
And bear the name of Halcyon.
My son, I hope you will be stirred
To take heed, now this tale you've heard
Of dreams, for when men sleep they see
Oft times what afterwards shall be.
And so it's well for man to sleep
In moderation, but to keep
In mind that Sloth does not belong
To those who wish to sing love's song.
Sleeping and Waking
My father, on my word I swear,
And unto you I this declare,
That in my life till now I've not,
Unless there's something I forgot,
Yet been inclined a nap to take
When it was time to be awake;
For though my eyes might sue for sleep,
Yet would my heart a vigil keep.
But I would make it very clear,
That everything I've told you here
Of waking, that I have made known,
Concerns my lady sweet alone;
For I assure you, it's the case
That when I go to some strange place,
I'm not so keen to stay awake,
For when the women mirth would make,
And she's not anywhere in sight,
In whom I'd want to take delight,
To stay awake I'm not inclined.
But that I might not be maligned,
And gain a reputation, so
That that they could say: "Ha, see him go,
Who's always looking at the ground,
And does so sadly mope around"
Amongst them I will dance and play
And thus my sadness not betray.
For often times I feel this way:
Thoughts of her love from which I wake
At night, will cause my head to ache,
And that's because I see her not,
Whose absence wakens me in thought;
And thus as quickly as I may,
I'll often at the break of day,
From all these others go my way
While they remain in hopes that they
May find their lovers in that throng;
And I go off like nothing's wrong
Unto my bed, where all alone
I may lie down and sigh and groan,
Longing for her as there I lay,
Until I see the light of day.
That could be Somnolence, I guess,
But with the wisdom you possess,
My father, judge if that be true.
My son, I am well pleased with you;
When passion's harvest lover's reap
Bt night, the sluggishness of sleep,
You have forsworn, and take great pain
So that your love will not complain:
For love, when passion's fire's are glowing,
Stays awake in hopes of going
On throughout the longest night.
Whereof to teach you I'll recite
A tale you should be mindful of,
How sleep does not accord with love.
The Prayer of Cephalus
Love which desires to stay awake
By night, may an example take
From Cephalus, when he did lay
In sweet Aurora's arms, and they
Throughout the whole night got it on.
But just before the break of dawn,
Within his heart he sensed the day
Would shortly drive the night away,
So with this prayer, born of his lust,
He seeks to gain the sun god's trust:
"O Phoebus, who controls the day,
Till nighttime drives its light away,
And brightens every creature by
Thy rays that stream down from on high, -
There's one thing that all lovers share,
Which thrives not in thy glowing glare
But needs the privacy of night
Love's flaming passions to ignite;
It only asks for secret haunts,
And silence and seclusion wants,
Desiring not to be exposed:
And so when Venus is disclosed
Upon the fading of thy light
And shines with softness in the night
When birds and beasts are all at rest,
That's when this thing can flourish best.
Thus unto thee who from on high
By day, on lovers keeps an eye,
And may none of their secrets hide,
I thee beseech, as by my side
She lies with whom I love would share,
Thy banner to withdraw. Repair
Unto the sign of Capricorn
And let thy daylight be unborn,
Sojourning in the house, I pray,
Where Saturn's lusty court holds sway,
And in long dark nights lovers play,
So that I might enjoy her charms
Who rests here now within my arms:
For my love, as she loves to be,
Lies here all naked next to me.
She'd like for us to stay awake,
And of night full advantage take.
So if you'd take note of our need,
And would unto my prayer pay heed,
That would be nice. So with less speed
Your horses swift would you hold back?
They could upon an eastward track
Swing down beneath the western sky
And towards the east begin to fly
Across an arc the longer way.
And too, Diane, to thee I pray,
Majestic goddess of the moon,
That you might in an opportune
Position be to grant me grace
In Cancer, which is thine own place;
Opposed to Phoebus might thou face,
For a long time, and take delight
In keeping Venus in thy sight.
For then celestial laws apply,
That rule in realms above the sky,
By which you will be guaranteed
To foster much prolific seed:
And if such grace should be decreed
To me, with all my heart I'd serve
By night, thy vigil to observe."
Lo, thus this lusty Cephalus
Prayed unto Phoebe and Phoebus
To lengthen out the night a bit;
For in this way it would permit,
Him to do, with his time increased,
More justice to the Nighttime Feast,
Without the sluggishness of Sleep,
Which Venus chooses not to keep
For company, for it is he
Who's oft the one to guarantee
A lustless night devoid of games
In bed, when otherwise love's flames
Could be expected to burn brightly
Sloth, which is at night unspritely
Has with Sleep a compact made
So that those debts cannot be paid
Which unto love are due ere ere dawn:
He knows not where the night has gone
Nor how so soon comes on the day,
He sleeps and snores the night away
And waits until it's noon to rise.
But Cephalus did otherwise,
As you, my Son have heard me say.
My father, should one's lover lay
In bed all naked by one's side,
If any man should ever hide
His eyes in sleep, no man is he:
But certainly, concerning me,
I've never been in that position.
For in view of my condition,
I may catch what Sleep I can,
Since I'm a very lonely man,
To dream a lusty dream ere day;
And if it happens that I may
With such a dream my passion sate,
It's almost like I'd had a date,
For I'm denied a love that's real.
So I need not the Sun appeal
To try and slow His chariot's horse,
Nor pray that Her celestial course
The Moon might change, for it would not
Affect to one degree my lot
In love: But when asleep I lie
I can within my own mind's eye
Imagine what I'd like, in dreams.
But when I wake up, then it seems
That I've been hoodwinked by my heart.
So I would like to know what part
Sleep plays to make a man feel whole.
My son, you speak the truth: It's role
At least as far as I have found
Is to insure the body's crowned
With health, when it's not overdone:
But he who sleeps too much, my son,
And fails some common sense to use,
Will soon find out that trouble brews,
And that misfortunes are in store.
But he who old books will explore,
What there of Somnolence is shown,
To such a man may truth be known,
If good instruction he will take,
That oft it's good to stay awake:
Whereof a tale that's told in rhyme
I'll set forth for you at this time.
Argus and Mercury
Ovid once in his stories told,
How Jupiter in days of old
To Io his attentions turned.
And his wife Juno, when she learned
About this was not pleased. And so
She made this maiden seem as though
She had into a cow been changed,
And so out in the fields she ranged
Where there she grazed upon the grass.
And there to watch this once fair lass
This great queen, Argus did assign.
For he to sleep did not incline
Although a hundred eyes had he,
And every one quite well could see.
But how he was beguiled you'll hear.
For Mercury, who did appear
Disguised, desired this cow to steal,
And had a flute with sound surreal.
The notes which thereupon he played
Seemed like they were in heaven made.
And lyrics too he had devised
To please the ears, and thus disguised,
He waited till the time was right.
And when of Argus he caught sight,
Out in the field where Io grazed.
Up to his lips the flute he raised,
And on it played a tune to make
It very hard to stay awake;
And when he thought he'd played too long,
He paused to sing a pleasant song,
Which caused this fool to fall asleep.
There was no open eye to keep
His head from being smitten off
By Mercury, who then did doff
His garb, and stole the cow he kept.
Which happened all because he slept.
From this brief tale we come to know,
That too much sleep can bring much woe,
If it is better that he wakes:
For if one of this vice partakes,
In Somnolence to find delight,
Then on his door men ought to write
His epitaph - not on his tomb;
For such awaits a certain doom
As though he were already dead.
Therefore, my son, hold up your head,
And let not sleep seal shut your eyes,
Unless good sense says it is wise.
My father, touching this as I
Have told you, and I would not lie,
Oft I can't sleep when I am lying
In my bed, though I am trying;
Love is always there beside me
Never wanting to provide me
With the sleep I should be getting,
For my heart he'll be besetting,
And won't let me close my eyes,
Until it's day, and time to rise;
In this way am I robbed of sleep.
And so from Somnolence I keep.
Therefore if there is something more
That you should know, upon this score,
Please ask. My son, there is, for know
That Sloth the mother is of woe.
But she who breeds, and is the nurse,
To man of many a dreadful curse,
Has yet one other, worst of all,
Which causes many a man to fall
So far, he never may arise;
Whereof you should yourself apprise,
Before its nasty sting you feel;
What vice this is I'll now reveal.
Despondency and Obstinacy
When sloth, beginning at day's dawn,
Does all to make the time drag on,
Until some task needs to be done
Before he sees the setting sun,
Then realizing how is gone
All of his time, he sadly on
His situation ponders; so
Despondent does he start to grow
That he thinks it would be in vain
To try the day's goals to attain.
He starts to feel all hope is lost:
Which lays upon his mind a cost
So great that he begins to cry,
And thinks how he would like to die,
When so adverse his fortune seems.
With such despondency he teems
To see his fate, he says, forlorn,
"Alas, that I was ever born!
How can I live? Where shall I go?
For even fortune is my foe.
And since on God I can't depend,
How can I praise to heaven send,
When for my welfare even He
Has no concern? Thus it must be
My destiny to live in strife.
Alas, all wasted is my life,
There is no hope for me." he thinks.
And thus he deep in sorrow sinks,
Since he sans God seems e'er to drift:
But yet, a finger he'll not lift
To help himself when it's required,
But in his laziness stays mired;
To fix things he'll not do his part;
For all the fear that's in his heart.
To fight against his world of pain,
He thinks that it would be in vain.
He feels, when he falls into sin,
God's mercy, he could never win
Since he so badly did transgress;
So he refuses to confess.
And if, when he's in such a state,
Some man would help his grief abate,
I fear the truth he'd never find:
For this case is of such a kind,
That he, his folly to maintain,
With obstinancy will refrain,
From all the truth admitting to
Himself, his laziness runs through
All that he does; he will not bow
To reason, and will not allow
His brain to function in his head:
And so he withers, till he's dead,
Employing not his mental tools.
And thus when obstinacy rules,
There will be a termendous cost,
For all hope will at last be lost,
Until Sloth makes of him an end.
God knows how far he shall descend!
My son, in just this manner there
Be lovers, vexed with too much care,
Who more than necessary fret,
Whenever their way they can't get,
And with frustration cannot cope.
They for success will loose all hope,
Then love they will cease to pursue
Their skin all lusterless in hue
Becomes, and thier hearts lose their lust.
Now of this thing, enquire I must,
If you are one of those, My son.
Good father, know that I am one.
With one exception, it is true;
For otherwise of all that you
Have said, guilt I would have to bear.
My sorrow unconcealed I wear,
It courses through my every vein;
But to alleviate my pain,
There is no penance I can do;
And thus I go around all blue,
With all my faculties impaired,
And as they say, I am despaired
Of winning that sweet love to me
Without whom, I can guarantee,
My heart that is now so distressed,
May never be completely blessed.
For on my word, I shall not lie
About that sorrow in which I
Am mired, because she wants me not,
With so much turbulence of thought
I'm fallen into such despair,
That to the point I've gotten where
I try to find the words in vain,
My lady's mercy to obtain.
But I'm not trying to maintain
That I for all things am to blame;
For never, when the right time came
For me to plead, was I not there
Courageously, my heart to bare:
It seemed, though, that she'd never care,
For all she knew of my intent,
To speak a kind word of consent.
And nonetheless this dare I say
That if a sinful man would pray
That god would hear his fervent cry
To be forgiven, as have I
Oft cried unto my lady fair,
For lack of asking mercy, ne'er
Should he be sent down into Hell.
Thus truly to you I may tell,
That even though I ask and plead
I melancholy am indeed,
And filled with desperation too:
Therefore a penance please will you,
My father, give that mine shall be.
My son, that sorrow that I see
Is in your heart, will not be gone
Till His grace sends thee love anon,
Your own cause grows much worse, I think,
When down into despair you sink.
I know no what else can avail,
To give hope when a heart shall fail.
For such a sore there is no cure;
From this god's vengance may inure.
So men would be advised to learn,
When unto these old books they turn,
About things they'd do well to fear:
Now of this an example hear.
Iphis and Araxarathen
In olden days men use to sing
Of Teucer who of Mese was king.
And whose son, Iphis, was a knight
So overcome with love, he quite
Forgot his obligation to
His lineage, and went to pursue
A common maid of low estate.
For though his worldly wealth was great,
Love's soverign will he could not slight,
Which put him into such a plight
That reason's boundaries he crossed.
He should have known all would be lost;
And sure enough, the more he prayed,
The less love she upon him laid.
He was unwise to let love reign,
And her indifference caused him pain.
When he his heart's desire pursues,
From fear of shame she does refuse,
And takes good care, as well she should,
To save her precious womanhood.
Her status and his lust were not
Compatible, thus they were caught
In constant strife: and though he tried
To plead, and her with presents plied,
Still was success to him denied,
So that at last his hope all died,
Despair caused him to feel so sad
Inside, till it became so bad,
In all things he took no delight,
Not lust, not sleep, not appetite,
And when love's power went away
Then reason was no more in play.
As one who cares to live no more,
Death is that which he wishes for,
And so by night he goes away
And where he went, no one could say;
The night was dark, and no Moon shone ,
Soon to the gate he came alone,
Where lived this lass. Out on the grass
He said this woeful word, "Alas!"
His gloomy lamentations rose
So softly up that no man knows
How deeep his grief, then he did cry:
"Thou Cupid, and Thou Venus, by
Whose bidding in the realm of love
The destiny determines of
All men, you know my whole heart, and
I can't escape from your command
It is to you I ever plead,
And yet my pleas you never heed,
And ne'er incline to me your ear.
So there's no medicine, I fear,
To end the illness of my heart,
And so this life I shall depart.
Ah, thou my woefull lady dear,
Who dwellest with thy father here
And sleepest in thy bed at ease,
Thou knowest naught of my disease.
For we can coexist no more.
Oh lord, what visions are in store,
What dreams do you now have on hand?
Thou sleepest there, and I here stand.
Though death I don't deserve, still I
Shall for the love of thee soon die,
Here shall a king's son lifeless be
For love and for no felony;
Where you will still know joy or sorrow
Here you'll see me dead tomorrow.
O! hard heart, above my reach,
This death, which takes away my speech
Because you will not give me grace,
It shall be known in many a place.
'For love and truth I'm dead.' They'll tell,
'From thy neglect and sloth as well:
Thy cold rejection shall remain
A testament to all my pain,
And to my tragic loss of hope.'"
And with these words he took a rope,
And from the tree beside the gate
To hang himself was his sad fate.
The next day came, the night is gone,
And men come out and see anon
Where he had died, this lord so young;
All marveled that himself he'd hung,
For no man knew the reason why;
They wept as tears filled every eye.
This maiden, when of this she heard,
And realized what had occurred,
At once she knew the reason why
This man who loved her had to die.
To all those who were gathered there,
She cried out, and this was her prayer:
"Upon myself I take the blame
For I'm the reason why it came
To be: the king's son is no more."
Thus all the guilt herself she bore,
And was prepared for all the pain
Which justice might for her ordain:
And if not any other would,
She said that she herself then should
Wreak punishment with her own hand;
Throughout the world in every land
All would say: "She was so distraught
That vengeance on herself she wrought."
With this she weeps, and swoons , and cries,
And up to heaven casts her eyes
And pitiously she thus exclaimed:
"I am that treasure which inflamed
In Iphis passion for my love:
And so may it be spoken of
A thousand winters after this
How such a maiden went amiss,
And so let me no pity know;
Because no pity did I show
To him, who for my love is gone,
Pitiless I must die anon."
With these words to the ground she fell
And lay there in a fainting spell.
The gods above, who heard her plea,
How woefully she fared they see,
And that she need no longer moan
They transformed her into a stone
That looked just like her, in that place,
In both her body and her face.
To see the marvel of this thing
Unto this place there came the king,
And queen as well, and others too;
And when they saw that it was true,
As I've related here above.
How Iphis had expired for love,
Because his feelings were not shared,
A time of mourning was declared
To think on her refusal's cost.
And so that it would not be lost
This image of the maiden fair
With noble company they bear,
With torches and solemnity
To Salamine for all to see;
And forth along with that they carry
His dead body, for they'd bury
Him beneath this image of
That maid, a sepulcher of love:
This corpse and image thus unto
That city they did take; In view
Of where the goddess Venus had
Her temple, they prepared a pad
Upon a pinnacle up high,
To place the image neath the sky,
Where men this miracle might know,
And underneath they made, down low,
A tomb of marble set with stones
Of jasper, where the precious bones
Of Iphis safely would be layed,
So that his fame would never fade.
And so that men the truth shall know,
An epitaph they wrote below;
To make sure that it would be saved
The had the letters all engraved
Upon a marble tablet, saying:
"Here lies Iphis, himself slaying,
For Araxarathen's love."
And as a lasting token of
Those women who cause men to die
This way, above we may espy
Her form, which once was flesh and bone,
Now in the figure of a stone:
He was too soft, and she too hard.
Beware therefore hereafterward;
Both all ye women and ye men,
Take heed of what transpired then:
Lo thus, my son, just like I say,
It causes grief in many a way
For men into despair to fall,
Which is the final sin of all
The progeny of Sloth, as thou
Hast heard, and so it's good that now
You take care not to be enslaved,
In case the grace of hope is waived.
My father, now I know the fruits,
and understand the attributes,
Of those who in Sloth's court cause pain,
And as it does to me pertain
I think I'll ever wary be.
Beyond this, if I may be free
To ask, I would with all my heart
Beseech that to me you'd impart
Whatever more your wisdom brings,
In love as well as other things,
So my confession is complete.
My son, while you sit at my feet
And are of sound and healthy mind,
Among the vices which I find,
There is yet of the seven one
That you'd do very well to shun,
One known to take heavy toll
If it's allow to take control:
Whereof hereafter thou shalt learn
It's form and substance to discern.