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Torquato Tasso - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Goethe’s Works, vol. 3 (Goetz von Berlichingen, Iphigenia in Tauris, Tarquato Tasso, etc) 
Goethe’s Works, illustrated by the best German artists, 5 vols. (Philadelphia: G. Barrie, 1885). Vol. 3.
Part of: Goethe’s Works, 5 vols.
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A Garden adorned with busts of the Epic Poets. To the right a bust of Virgil: to the left, one of Ariosto.
PrincessandLeonora,habited as shepherdesses
Smiling thou dost survey me, Leonora.
And with a smile thou dost survey thyself.
What is it? Let a friend partake thy thought!
Thou seemest pensive, yet thou seemest pleas’d.
Yes, I am pleas’d, my princess, to behold
Us twain in rural fashion thus attir’d.
Two happy shepherd-maidens we appear.
And like the happy we are both employ’d.
Garlands we wreathe; this one, so gay with flowers,
Beneath my hand in varied beauty grows:
Thou hast with higher taste and larger heart
The slender phant laurel made thy choice.
The laurel wreath, which aimlessly I twin’d,
Hath found at once a not unworthy head;
I place it gratefully on Virgil’s brow.
[She crowns the bust of Virgil.
With my full joyous wreath the lofty brow
Of Master Ludovico, thus I crown—
[She crowns the bust of Ariosto.
Let him whose sportive sashes never fade.
Receive his tribute from the early spring
My brother is most kind to bring us here
In this sweet season to our rural haunts:
Here, by the hour, in freedom unrestrain’d.
We may dream back the poet’s golden age.
I love this Belriguardo; in my youth
Full many a jovous day I linger’d here,
And this bright sunshine, and this verdant green,
Bring back the feelings of that bygone time.
Yes, a new world surrounds us! Grateful now
The cooling shelter of these evergreens.
The tuneful murmur of this gurgling spring
Once more revives us. In the morning wind
The tender branches waver to and fro.
The flowers look upwards from their lowly beds.
And smile upon us with their childlike eves.
The gardener, fearless grown, removes the roof
That screen’d his citron and his orange trees,
The azure dome of heaven above us rests:
And, in the far horizon, from the hills
The snow in balmy vapor melts away.
Most welcome were to me the genial spring,
Did it not lead my friend away from me.
My princess, in these sweet and tranquil hours,
Remind me not how soon I must depart.
Yon mighty city will restore to thee,
In double measure, what thou leavest here.
The voice of duty and the voice of love
Both call me to my lord, forsaken long;
I bring to him his son, who rapidly
Hath grown in stature and matur’d in mind
Since last they met,—I share his father’s joy.
Florence is great and noble, but the worth
Of all her treasur’d riches doth not reach
The prouder jewels that Ferrara boasts.
That city to her people owes her power;
Ferrara grew to greatness through her princes.
More through the noble men whom chance led here,
And who in sweet communion here remain’d.
Chance doth again disperse what chance collects;
A noble nature can alone attract
The noble, and retain them, as ye do.
Around thy brother, and around thyself,
Assemble spirits worthy of you both,
And ye are worthy of your noble sires.
Here the fair light of science and free thought
Was kindled first, while o’er the darken’d world
Still hung barbarian gloom. E’en when a child,
The names resounded loudly in mine ear,
Of Hercules and Hippolyte of Este.
My father oft with Florence and with Rome
Extoll’d Ferrara! Oft in youthful dream
Hither I fondly turn’d; now am I here.
Here was Petrarca kindly entertain’d,
And Ariosto found his models here.
Italia boasts no great, no mighty name,
This princely mansion hath not call’d its guest.
In fostering genius we enrich ourselves:
Dost thou present her with a friendly gift,
One far more beautiful she leaves with thee.
The ground is hallow’d where the good man treads;
When centuries have roll’d, his sons shall hear
The deathless echo of his words and deeds.
Yes, if those sons have feelings quick as thine;
This happiness full oft I envy thee.
Which purely and serenely thou, my friend,
As few beside thee, dost thyself enjoy.
When my full heart impels me to express
Promptly and freely what I keenly feel,
Thou feel’st the while more deeply, and—art silent.
Delusive splendor doth not dazzle thee,
Nor wit beguile; and flattery strives in vain
With fawning artifice to win thine ear;
Firm is thy temper, and correct thy taste,
Thy judgment just, and, truly great thyself,
With greatness thou dost ever sympathize.
Thou should’st not to this highest flattery
The garment of confiding friendship lend.
Friendship is just; she only estimates
The full extent and measure of thy worth.
Let me ascribe to opportunity,
To fortune too, her portion in thy culture,
Still in the end thou hast it, it is thine,
And all extol thy sister and thyself
Before the noblest women of the age.
That can but little move me, Leonora,
When I reflect how poor at best we are,
To others more indebted than ourselves.
My knowledge of the ancient languages,
And of the treasures by the past bequeath’d.
I owe my mother, who, in varied lore
And mental power, her daughters far excell’d.
Might either claim comparison with her,
’Tis undeniably Lucretia’s right.
Besides, what nature and what chance bestow’d
As property or rank I ne’er esteem’d.
’Tis pleasure to me when the wise converse,
That I their scope and meaning comprehend;
Whether they judge a man of bygone times
And weigh his actions, or of science treat,
Which, when extended and applied to life,
At once exalts and benefits mankind.
Where’er the converse of such men may lead,
I follow gladly, for with ease I follow.
Well pleas’d the strife of argument I hear,
When, round the powers that sway the human breast,
Waking alternately delight and fear,
With grace the lip of eloquence doth play:
And listen gladly when the princely thirst
Of fame, of wide dominion, forms the theme.
When of an able man, the thought profound,
Develop’d skilfully with subtle tact,
Doth not perplex and dazzle, but instruct.
And then, this grave and serious converse o’er,
Our ear and inner mind with tranquil joy
Upon the poet’s tuneful verse repose,
Who through the medium of harmonious sounds
Infuses sweet emotions in the soul.
Thy lofty spirit grasps a wide domain;
Content am I to linger in the isle
Of poesy, her laurel groves among.
In this fair land, I’m told, the myrtle blooms
In richer beauty than all other trees;
Here, too, the Muses wander, yet we seek
A friend and playmate ’mong their tuneful choir
Less often than we seek to meet the bard,
Who seems to shun us, nay, appears to flee,
In quest of something that we know not of,
And which perchance is to himself unknown.
How charming were it, if in happy hour
Encountering us, he should with ecstasy
In our fair selves the treasure recognize,
Which in the world he long had sought in vain!
To your light raillery I must submit;
So light its touch it passeth harmless by.
I honor all men after their desert,
And am in truth toward Tasso only just.
His eye scarce lingers on this earthly scene,
To nature’s harmony his ear is tun’d.
What history offers, and what life presents,
His bosom promptly and with joy receives,
The widely scatter’d is by him combin’d,
And his quick feeling animates the dead.
Oft he ennobles what we count for naught;
What others treasure is by him despis’d.
Thus moving in his own enchanted sphere,
The wondrous man doth still allure us on
To wander with him and partake his joy;
Though seeming to approach us, he remains
Remote as ever, and perchance his eye,
Resting on us, sees spirits in our place.
Thou hast with taste and truth portray’d the bard,
Who hovers in the shadowy realm of dreams.
And yet reality, it seems to me,
Hath also power to lure him and enchain.
In the sweet sonnets, scatter’d here and there,
With which we sometimes find our trees adorn’d,
Creating like the golden fruit of old
A new Hesperia, perceiv’st thou not
The gentle tokens of a genuine love?
In these fair leaves I also take delight.
With all his rich diversity of thought
He glorifies one form in all his strains.
Now he exalts her to the starry heavens
In radiant glory, and before that form
Bows down, like angels in the realms above.
Then stealing after her through silent fields,
He garlands in his wreath each beauteous flower;
And should the form he worships disappear,
Hallows the path her gentle foot hath trod.
Thus like the nightingale, conceal’d in shade,
From his love-laden breast he fills the air
And neighboring thickets with melodious plaints:
His blissful sadness and his tuneful grief
Charm every ear, enrapture every heart—
And Leonora is the favor’d name
Selected for the object of his strains.
Thy name it is, my princess, as ’tis mine.
It would displease me were it otherwise.
Now I rejoice that under this disguise
He can conceal his sentiment for thee,
And am no less contented with the thought
That this sweet name should also picture me.
Here is no question of an ardent love,
Seeking possession, and with jealous care
Screening its object from another’s gaze.
While he enraptur’d contemplates thy worth,
He in my lighter nature may rejoice.
He loves not us,—forgive me what I say,—
His lov’d ideal from the spheres he brings,
And doth invest it with the name we bear;
His feeling we participate; we seem
To love the man, yet only love in him
The highest object that can claim our love.
In this deep science thou art deeply vers’d,
My Leonora, and thy words in truth
Play on my ear, yet scarcely reach my soul.
Thou Plato’s pupil! and not comprehend
What a mere novice dares to prattle to thee?
It must be then that I have widely err’d;
Yet well I know I do not wholly err.
For love doth in this graceful school appear
No longer as the spoil’d and wayward child;
He is the youth whom Psyche hath espous’d:
Who sits in council with the assembled gods,
He hath relinquish’d passion’s fickle sway,
He clings no longer with delusion sweet
To outward form and beauty, to atone
For brief excitement by disgust and hate.
Here comes my brother! let us not betray
Whither our converse hath conducted us;
Else we shall have his raillery to bear.
As in our dress he found a theme for jest.
Princess, Leonora, Alphonso.
Tasso I seek, whom nowhere I can find;
And even here, with you, I meet him not.
Can you inform me where he hides himself?
I have scarce seen him for the last two days.
’Tis his habitual failing that he seeks
Seclusion rather than society.
I can forgive him when the motley crowd
Thus studiously he shuns, and loves to hold
Free converse with himself in solitude;
Yet can I not approve that he should thus
Also the circle of his friends avoid.
If I mistake not, thou wilt soon, O prince,
Convert this censure into joyful praise.
To-day I saw him from afar; he held
A book and scroll, in which at times he wrote,
And then resum’d his walk, then wrote again.
A passing word, which yesterday he spoke,
Seem’d to announce to me his work complete;
His sole anxiety is now to add
A finish’d beauty to minuter parts,
That to your grace, to whom he owes so much,
A worthy offering he at length may bring.
A welcome, when he brings it, shall be his,
And long immunity from all restraint.
Great, in proportion to the lively joy
And interest which his noble work inspires,
Is my impatience at its long delay.
After each slow advance he leaves his task;
He ever changeth, and can ne’er conclude,
Till baffled hope is weary; for we see
Reluctantly postpon’d to times remote
A pleasure we had fondly deem’d so near.
I rather praise the modesty, the care
With which thus, step by step, he nears the goal.
His aim is not to string amusing tales,
Or weave harmonious numbers, which at length,
Like words delusive, die upon the ear.
His numerous rhymes he labors to combine
Into one beautiful, poetic whole;
And he whose soul this lofty aim inspires,
Must pay devoted homage to the Muse.
Disturb him not, my brother, time alone
Is not the measure of a noble work;
And, is the coming age to share our joy,
We of the present must forget ourselves.
Let us, dear sister, work together here!
As for our mutual good we oft have done.
Am I too eager—thou must then restrain;
Art thou too gentle—I will urge him on.
Then we perchance shall see him at the goal,
Where to behold him we have wish’d in vain.
His fatherland, the world, shall then admire
And view with wonder his completed work.
I shall receive my portion of the fame,
And Tasso will be usher’d into life.
In a contracted sphere, a noble man
Cannot develop all his mental powers.
On him his country and the world must work.
He must endure both censure and applause,
Must be compell’d to estimate aright
Himself and others. Solitude no more
Lulls him delusively with flattering dreams.
Opponents will not, friendship dare not, spare:
Then in the strife the youth puts forth his powers,
Knows what he is, and feels himself a man.
Thus will he, prince, owe everything to thee,
Who hast already done so much for him.
Talents are nurtur’d best in solitude,—
A character on life’s tempestuous sea.
Oh, that according to thy rules he would
Model his temper as he forms his taste,
Cease to avoid mankind, nor in his breast
Nurture suspicion into fear and hate!
He only fears mankind who knows them not,
And he will soon misjudge them who avoids.
This is his case, and so by slow degrees
His noble mind is trammell’d and perplex’d.
Thus to secure my favor he betrays,
At times, unseemly ardor; against some
Who, I am well assur’d, are not his foes,
He cherishes suspicion; if by chance
A letter go astray, a hireling leave
His service, or a paper be mislaid,
He sees deception, treachery and fraud,
Working insidiously to sap his peace.
Let us, beloved brother, not forget
That his own nature none can lay aside.
And should a friend, who with us journeyeth,
Injure by chance his foot, we would in sooth
Rather relax our speed, and lend our hand
Gently to aid the sufferer on his way.
Better it were to remedy his pain,
With the physician’s aid attempt a cure,
Then with our heal’d and renovated friend
A new career of life with joy pursue.
And yet, dear friends, I hope that I may ne’er
The censure of the cruel leech incur.
I do my utmost to impress his mind
With feelings of security and trust.
Oft purposely in presence of the crowd,
With marks of favor I distinguish him.
Should he complain of aught, I sift it well,
As lately when his chamber he suppos’d
Had been invaded; then, should naught appear,
I calmly show him how I view the affair.
And, as we ought to practise every grace—
With Tasso, seeing he deserves it well,
I practise patience; you I’m sure will aid.
I now have brought, you to your rural haunts,
And must myself at eve return to town.
For a few moments you will see Antonio;
He calls here for me on his way from Rome.
We have important business to discuss,
Resolves to frame, and letters to indite,
All which compels me to return to town.
Wilt thou permit that we return with thee?
Nay, rather linger here in Belriguardo,
Or go together to Consandoli;
Enjoy these lovely days as fancy prompts.
Thou canst not stay with us? Not here arrange
All these affairs as well as in the town?
So soon, thou takest hence Antonio, too,
Who hath so much to tell us touching Rome.
It may not be, ye children; but with him
So soon as possible will I return:
Then shall he tell you all ye wish to hear,
And ye shall help me to reward the man
Who, in my cause, hath labor’d with such zeal.
And when we shall once more have talk’d our fill,
Hither the crowd may come, that mirth and joy
May in our gardens revel, that for me,
As is but meet, some fair one in the shade
May, if I seek her, gladly meet me there.
And we meanwhile will kindly shut our eyes.
Ye know that I can be forbearing too.
(Turned towards the scene.)
I long have notic’d Tasso: hitherward
Slowly he bends his footsteps; suddenly,
As if irresolute, he standeth still;
Anon, with greater speed he draweth near,
Then lingers once again.
Disturb him not,
Nor when the poet dreams and versifies
Intrude upon his musings,—let him roam.
No, he has seen us, and he comes this way.
Princess, Leonora, Alphonso, Tassowith a volume bound in parchment.
Slowly I come to bring my work to thee,
And yet I linger ere presenting it.
Although apparently it seem complete,
Too well I know it is unfinish’d still.
But if I cherish’d once an anxious fear
Lest I should bring thee an imperfect work,
A new solicitude constrains me now:
I would not seem ungrateful, nor appear
Unduly anxious; and, as to his friends,
A man can say but simply, “Here I am!”
That they, with kind forbearance, may rejoice.
So I can only say, “Receive my work!”
[He presents the volume.
Thou hast surpris’d me, Tasso, with thy gift.
And made this lovely day a festival.
I hold it then at length within my hands,
And in a certain sense can call it mine.
Long have I wish’d that thou could’st thus resolve,
And say at length “’Tis finish’d! here it is.”
Are you contented? then it is complete:
For it belongs to you in every sense.
Were I to contemplate the pains bestow’d
Or dwell upon the written character.
I might, perchance, exclaim. “This work is mine.”
But when I mark what ’tis that to my song
Its inner worth and dignity imparts,
I humbly feel I owe it all to you.
If Nature from her liberal stores on me
The genial gift of poesy bestow’d,
Capricious Fortune, with malignant power,
Had thrust me from her; though this beauteous world
With all its varied splendor lur’d the boy,
Too early was his youthful eye bedimm’d
By his lov’d parents’ undeserv’d distress.
Forth from my lips when I essay’d to sing,
There ever flow’d a melancholy song,
And I accompanied, with plaintive tones,
My father’s sorrow and my mother’s grief.
’Twas thou alone, who from this narrow sphere
Rais’d me to glorious liberty, reliev’d
From each depressing care my youthful mind,
And gave me freedom, in whose genial air
My spirit could unfold in harmony;
Then whatsoe’er the merit of the work,
Thine be the praise, for it belongs to thee.
A second time thou dost deserve applause,
And honorest modestly thyself and us.
Fain would I say how sensibly I feel
That what I bring is all deriv’d from thee!
The inexperienc’d youth—could he produce
The poem from his own unfurnish’d mind?
Could he invent the conduct of the war,
The gallant bearing and the martial skill
Which every hero on the field display’d,
The leader’s prudence, and his followers’ zeal,
How vigilance the arts of cunning foil’d,—
Hadst thou not, valiant prince, infus’d it all,
As if my guardian genius thou hadst been,
Through a mere mortal, deigning to reveal
His nature high and inaccessible?
Enjoy the work in which we all rejoice!
Enjoy the approbation of the good!
Rejoice too in thy universal fame!
This single moment is enough for me.
Of you alone I thought while I compos’d:
You to delight was still my highest wish,
You to enrapture was my final aim.
Who doth not in his friends behold the world,
Deserves not that of him the world should hear.
Here is my fatherland, and here the sphere
In which my spirit fondly loves to dwell:
Here I attend and value every hint;
Here speak experience, knowledge and true taste;
Here stand the present and the future age.
With shy reserve the artist shuns the crowd,—
Its judgment but perplexes. Those alone
With minds like yours can understand and feel.
And such alone should censure and reward!
If thus the present and the future age
We represent, it is not meet that we
Receive the poet’s song unrecompens’d.
The laurel wreath, fit chaplet for the bard,
Which e’en the hero, who requires his verse
Sees without envy round his temples twin’d,
Adorns, thou seest, thy predecessor’s brow.
[Pointing to the bust of Virgil.
Hath chance, hath some kind genius twin’d the wreath,
And brought it hither? Not in vain it thus
Presents itself: Virgil I hear exclaim,
“Wherefore confer this honor on the dead?
They in their lifetime had reward and joy;
Do ye indeed revere the bards of old?
Then to the living bard accord his due.
My marble statue hath been amply crown’d,
And the green laurel branch belongs to life.”
[Alphonsomakes a sign to his sister; she takes the crown from the bust of Virgil, and approachesTasso:he steps back.
Thou dost refuse? Seest thou what hand the wreath,
The fair, the never-fading wreath, presents?
Oh, let me pause; I scarce can comprehend
How after such an hour I still can live.
Live in enjoyment of the high reward,
From which thy inexperience shrinks with fear.
(Raising the crown.) Thou dost afford me, Tasso, the rare joy
Of giving silent utt’rance to my thought.
The beauteous burden from thy honor’d hands.
On my weak head, thus kneeling, I receive.
[He kneels down; thePrincessplaces the crown upon his head.
(Applauding.) Long live the poet, for the first time crown’d!
How well the crown adorns the modest man!
It is an emblem only of that crown
Which shall adorn thee on the capitol.
There louder voices will salute thine ear;
Friendship with lower tones rewards thee here.
Take it—oh, take it quickly from my brow!
Pray thee remove it! It doth scorch my locks;
And like a sunbeam, that with fervid heat
Falls on my forehead, burneth in my brain
The power of thought; while fever’s fiery glow
Impels my blood. Forgive! it is too much.
This garland rather doth protect the head
Of him who treads the burning realm of fame.
And with its grateful shelter cools his brow.
I am not worthy to receive its shade,
Which only round the hero’s brow should wave.
Ye gods, exalt it high among the clouds.
To float in glory inaccessible.
That, through eternity, my life may be
An endless striving to attain this goal!
He who in youth acquires life’s noblest gifts,
Learns early to esteem their priceless worth;
He who in youth enjoys, resigneth not
Without reluctance what he once possess’d;
And he who would possess, must still be arm’d.
And who would arm himself, within his breast
A power must feel, that ne’er forsaketh him
Ah, it forsakes me now! In happiness
The inborn power subsides which tutor’d me
To meet injustice with becoming pride,
And steadfastly to face adversity.
Hath the delight, the rapture of this hour.
Dissolv’d the strength and marrow in my limbs?
My knees sink feebly! yet, a second time,
Thou seest me, princess, here before thee bow’d.
Grant my petition, and remove the crown.
That, as awaken’d from a blissful dream.
A new and fresh existence I may feel.
If thou with quiet modesty canst wear
The glorious talent from the gods receiv’d,
Learn also now the laurel wreath to wear,
The fairest gift that friendship can bestow,
The brow it once hath worthly adorn’d,
It shall encircle through eternity.
Oh, let me then asham’d from hence retire!
Let me in deepest shades my joy conceal,
As there my sorrow I was wont to shroud
There will I range alone: no eye will there
Remind me of a bliss so undeserv’d.
And if perchance I should behold a youth
In the clear mirror of a crystal spring.
Who, in the imag’d heaven, ’midst rocks and trees.
Absorb’d in thought appears, his brow adorn’d
With glory’s garland: there, methinks, I see
Elysium mirror’d in the magic flood.
I pause and calmly ask. Who may this be?
What youth of bygone times, so fairly crown’d?
Whence can I learn his name? his high desert?
I linger long, and musing fondly think:
Oh, might there come another, and yet more
To join with him in friendly intercourse!
Oh, could I see assembled round this spring
The bards, the heroes of the olden time!
Could I behold them still united here
As they in life were ever firmly bound!
As with mysterious power the magnet binds
Iron with iron, so do kindred aims
Unite the souls of heroes and of bards.
Himself forgetting, Homer spent his life
In contemplation of two mighty men;
And Alexander in the Elysian fields
Doth Homer and Achilles haste to seek.
Oh, would that I were present to behold
Those mighty spirits in communion met.
Awake! awake! let us not feel that thou
The present quite forgettest in the past.
It is the present that inspireth me;
Absent I seem alone, I am entranc’d!
When thou dost speak with spirits, I rejoice
The voice is human, and I gladly hear.
[A Page steps to thePrince.
He is arriv’d! and in a happy hour;
Antonio! Bring him hither;—here he comes!
Princess, Leonora, Alphonso, Tasso, Antonio.
Thou’rt doubly welcome! thou who bring’st at once
Thyself and welcome tidings.
Scarce dare I venture to express the joy
Which in your presence quickens me anew.
In your society I find restor’d
What I have miss’d so long. You seem content
With what I have accomplish’d, what achiev’d;
So am I recompens’d for every care,
For many days impatiently endur’d,
And many others wasted purposely.
At length our wish is gain’d,—the strife is o’er.
I also greet thee, though in sooth displeas’d;
Thou dost arrive when I must hence depart.
As if to mar my perfect happiness,
One lovely part forthwith thou takest hence.
My greetings too! I also shall rejoice
In converse with the much experience’d man.
Thou’lt find me true, whenever thou wilt deign
To glance awhile from thy world into mine.
Though thou by letter hast announc’d to me
The progress and the issue of our cause,
Full many questions I have yet to ask
Touching the course thou hast pursu’d therein.
In that strange region a well-measur’d step
Alone conducts us to our destin’d goal.
Who doth his sovereign’s interest purely seek,
In Rome a hard position must maintain;
For Rome gives nothing, while she grasps at all;
Let him who thither goes some boon to claim,
Go well provided, and esteem himself
Most happy, if e’en then he gaineth aught.
’Tis neither my demeanor nor my art
By which thy will hath been accomplish’d, prince.
For where the skill which at the Vatican
Would not be over-master’d? Much conspir’d
Which I could use in furth’rance of our cause.
Pope Gregory salutes and blesses thee.
That aged man, that sovereign most august,
Who on his brow the load of empire bears,
Recalls the time when he embrac’d thee last
With pleasure. He who can distinguish men
Knows and extols thee highly. For thy sake
He hath done much.
So far as ’tis sincere,
His good opinion cannot but rejoice me.
But well thou knowest, from the Vatican
The pope sees empires dwindled at his feet;
Princes and men must needs seem small indeed.
Confess what was it most assisted thee.
Good! if thou will’st: the pope’s exalted mind.
To him the small seems small, the great seems great.
That he may wield the empire of the world,
He to his neighbor yields with kind goodwill.
The strip of land, which he resigns to thee,
He knoweth, like thy friendship, well to prize.
Italia must be tranquil, friends alone
Will he behold around him, peace must reign
Upon his borders, that of Christendom
The might which he so potently directs
May smite at once the Heretic and Turk.
And is it known what men he most esteems,
And who approach him confidentially?
The experienc’d man alone can win his ear,
The active man his favor and esteem.
He, who from early youth has serv’d the state,
Commands it now, ruling those very courts
Which, in his office of ambassador,
He had observ’d and guided years before.
The world lies spread before his searching gaze,
Clear as the interests of his own domain.
In action we must yield him our applause,
And mark with joy, when time unfolds the plans
Which his deep forethought fashion’d long before.
There is no fairer prospect in the world
Than to behold a prince who wisely rules;
A realm where every one obeys with pride,
Where each imagines that he serves himself,
Because ’tis justice only that commands.
How ardently I long to view that realm!
Doubtless that thou may’st play thy part therein;
For Leonora never could remain
A mere spectator: meet it were, fair friend,
If now and then we let your gentle hands
Join in the mighty game—Say, is’t not so?
(ToAlphonso.) Thou would’st provoke me,—thou shalt not succeed.
I am already deeply in thy debt.
Good; then to-day I will remain in thine!
Forgive, and do not interrupt me now.
Say, hath he for his relatives done much?
No more nor less than equity allows.
The potentate, who doth neglect his friends,
Is even by the people justly blam’d.
With wise discretion Gregory employs
His friends as trusty servants of the state,
And thus fulfils at once two kindred claims.
Doth science, do the liberal arts enjoy
His fostering care? and doth he emulate
The glorious princes of the olden time?
He honors science when it is of use,—
Teaching to govern states, to know mankind;
He prizes art when it embellishes,—
When it exalts and beautifies his Rome,
Erecting palaces and temples there,
Which rank among the marvels of this earth.
Within his sphere of influence he admits
Naught inefficient, and alone esteems
The active cause and instrument of good.
Thou thinkest, then, that we may soon conclude
The whole affair? that no impediments
Will finally be scatter’d in our way?
Unless I greatly err, ’twill but require
A few brief letters and thy signature
To bring this contest to a final close.
This day with justice then I may proclaim
A season of prosperity and joy.
My frontiers are enlarg’d and made secure;
Thou hast accomplish’d all without the sword,
And hence deservest well a civic crown.
Our ladies on some beauteous morn shall twine
A wreath of oak to bind around thy brow.
Meanwhile our poet hath enrich’d us too;
He, by his conquest of Jerusalem,
Hath put our modern Christendom to shame.
With joyous spirit and unwearied zeal,
A high and distant goal he had attain’d;
For his achievement thou behold’st him crown’d.
Thou solvest an enigma. Two crown’d heads
I saw with wonder on arriving here.
While thou dost gaze upon my happiness,
With the same glance, oh, could’st thou view my heart,
And witness there my deep humility!
How lavishly Alphonso can reward
I long have known; thou only provest now
What all enjoy who come within its sphere.
When thou shalt see the work he hath achiev’d,
Thou wilt esteem us moderate and just.
The first, the silent, witnesses are we,
Of praises, which the world and future years
In tenfold measure will accord to him.
Through you his fame is certain. Who so bold
To entertain a doubt when you commend?
But tell me, who on Ariosto’s brow
Hath plac’d this wreath?
It hath done well.
It more becomes him than a laurel crown.
As o’er her fruitful bosom Nature throws
Her variegated robe of beauteous green,
So he enshrouds in Fable’s flowery garb,
Whatever can conspire to render man
Worthy of love and honor. Power and taste.
Experience, understanding, and content,
And a pure feeling for the good and true,
Pervade the spirit of his every song,
And there appear in person, to repose
’Neath blossoming trees, besprinkled by the snow
Of lightly-falling flowers, their heads entwin’d
With rosy garlands, while the sportive Loves
With frolic humor weave their magic spells.
A copious fountain, gurgling near, displays
Strange variegated fish, and all the air
Is vocal with the song of wondrous birds;
Strange cattle pasture in the bowers and glades;
Half hid in verdure, Folly slyly lurks:
At times, resounding from a golden cloud.
The voice of Wisdom utters lofty truth,
While Madness, from a wild harmonious lute,
Scatters forth bursts of fitful harmony,
Yet all the while the justest measure holds.
He who aspires to emulate this man,
E’en for his boldness well deserves a crown.
Forgive me if I feel myself inspir’d,
Like one entranc’d forget both time and place,
And fail to weigh my words; for all these crowns,
These poets, and the festival attire
Of these fair ladies, have transported me
Out of myself into a foreign land.
Who thus can prize one species of desert,
Will not misjudge another. Thou to us
Some future day shalt show in Tasso’s song
What we can feel, and thou canst comprehend.
Come now, Antonio! many things remain
Whereof I am desirous to inquire.
Then till the setting of the sun thou shalt
Attend the ladies. Follow me. Farewell!
[Antoniofollows thePrince. Tassothe ladies.
I with uncertain footsteps follow thee.
O princess; there arise within my soul
Thoughts without rule and measure. Solitude
Appears to beckon me; complaisantly
She whispers: “Hither come, I will allay,
Within thy breast, the newly-waken’d doubt.”
Yet catch I but a glimpse of thee, or takes
My listening ear one utterance from thy lip,
At once a new-born day around me shines,
And all the fetters vanish from my soul.
To thee I freely will confess, the man
Who unexpectedly appear’d among us
Hath rudely wak’d me from a beauteous dream;
So strangely have his nature and his words
Affected me, that more than ever now
A want of inward harmony I feel,
And a distracting conflict with myself.
’Tis not to be expected that a friend,
Who long hath sojourn’d in a foreign land,
Should in the moment of his first return
The tone of former times at once resume;
He in his inner mind is still unchang’d,
And a few days of intercourse will tune
The jarring strings, until they blend once more
In perfect harmony. When he shall know
The greatness of the work thou hast achiev’d
Believe me, he will place thee by the bard,
Whom as a giant now he sets before thee.
My princess, Ariosto’s praise from him
Has more delighted than offended me.
Consoling ’tis to know the man renown’d,
Whom as our model we have plac’d before us;
An inward voice then whispers to the heart
“Canst thou obtain a portion of his worth,
A portion of his fame is also thine.”
No, that which hath most deeply mov’d my heart,
Which even now completely fills my soul,
Was the majestic picture of that world,
Which, with its living, restless, mighty forms
Around one great and prudent man revolves.
And runs with measur’d steps the destin’d course
Prescrib’d beforehand by the demigod.
I listen’d eagerly, and heard with joy
The wise discourse of the experienc’d man;
But ah! the more I heard, the more I felt
Mine own unworthiness, and fear’d that I
Like empty sound, might dissipate in air,
Or vanish like an echo or a dream.
And yet erewhile thou didst so truly feel
How bard and hero for each other live,
How bard and hero to each other tend,
And toward each other know no envious thought.
Noble in truth are deeds deserving fame,
But it is also noble to transmit
The lofty grandeur of heroic deeds,
Through worthy song, to our posterity.
Be satisfied to contemplate in peace,
From a small, shelt’ring state, as from the shore,
The wild and stormy current of the world.
Was it not here, amaz’d, I first beheld
The high reward on valiant deeds bestow’d?
An inexperienc’d youth I here arriv’d,
When festival on festival conspir’d
To render this the centre of renown.
Oh, what a scene Ferrara then display’d!
The wide arena, where in all its pomp
Accomplish’d valor should its skill display,
Was bounded by a circle, whose high worth
The sun might seek to parallel in vain.
The fairest women sat assembled there,
And men the most distinguish’d of the age.
Amaz’d the eye ran o’er the noble throng;
Proudly I cried, “And ’tis our Fatherland,
That small, sea-girded land, hath sen; them here.
They constitute the noblest court that e’er
On honor, worth, or virtue, judgment pass’d.
Survey them singly, thou wilt not find one
Of whom his neighbor needs to feel asham’d!”
And then the lists were open’d, chargers pranc’d,
Esquires press’d forward, helmets brightly gleam’d,
The trumpet sounded, shivering lances split,
The din of clanging helm and shield was heard,
And for a moment eddying dust conceal’d
The victor’s honor and the vanquisa’d’s shame.
Oh, let me draw a curtain o’er the scene,
The all too brilliant spectacle conceal,
That in this tranquil hour I may not feel
Too painfully mine own unworthiness!
If that bright circle and those noble deeds
Arous’d thee then to enterprise and toil,
I could the while, young friend, have tutor’d thee
In the still lesson of calm sufferance.
The brilliant festival thou dost extol,
Which then and since a hundred voices prais’d,
I did not witness. In a lonely spot,
So tranquil that unbroken on the ear
Joy’s lightest echo faintly died away,
A prey to pain and melancholy thoughts,
I was compell’d to pass the tedious hours.
Before me hover’d on extended wing
Death’s awful form, concealing from my view
The prospect of this ever-changing world.
Slowly it disappear’d, and I beheld,
As through a veil, the varied hues of life,
Pleasing but indistinct: while living forms
Began once more to flicker through the gloom.
Still feeble, and supported by my women,
For the first time my silent room I left,
When hither, full of happiness and life,
Thee leading by the hand, Lucretta came.
A stranger then, thou, Tasso, wast the first
To welcome me on my return to life.
Much then I hop’d for both of us, and hope
Hath not, methinks, deceiv’d us hitherto.
Stunn’d by the tumult, dazzled by the glare,
Impetuous passions stirring in my breast,
I by thy sister’s side pursu’d my way
In silence through the stately corridors,
Then in the chamber enter’d, where ere long
Thou didst appear supported by thy women.
Oh, what a moment! Princess, pardon me!
As in the presence of a deity
The victim of enchantment feels with joy
His frenzied spirit from delusion freed,
So was my soul from every phantasy,
From every passion, every false desire
Restor’d at once by one calm glance of thine.
And if, before, my inexperienc’d mind
Had lost itself in infinite desires,
I then, with shame, first turn’d my gaze within,
And recogniz’d the truly valuable.
Thus on the wide sea-shore we seek in vain
The pearl, reposing in its silent shell.
’Twas the commencement of a happy time.
And had Urbino’s duke not led away
My sister from us, many years had pass’d
For us is calm, unclouded happiness
But now, alas! we miss her all too much.
Miss her free spirit, buoyancy and ire.
And the rich war of the accomplish’d woman.
Too well I know since she departed hence
None hath been able to supply to thee
The pure enjoyment which her presence gave.
Alas, how often hath it griev’d my soul!
How often have I in the silent grove
Pour’d forth my lamentation! How! I cried.
Is it her sister’s right and joy alone
To be a treasure to the dear one’s heart?
Does then no other soul respond to hers,
No other heart her confidence deserve?
Are soul and wit extinguish’d? and should one,
How great soe’er her worth, engross her love?
Forgive me, princess! Often I have wish’d
I could be something to thee,—little, perhaps,
But something; not with words alone, with deeds
I wish’d to be so, and in life to prove
How I had worshipp’d thee in solitude,
But I could ne’er succeed, and but too oft
In error wounded thee, offending one
By thee protected, or perplexing more
What thou didst wish to solve, and thus, alas!
E’en in the moment when I fondly strove
To draw more near thee, felt more distant still.
Thy wish I never have misconstru’d, Tasso;
How thou dost prejudice thyself I know;
Unlike my sister, who possess’d the art
Of living happily with every one,
After so many years, thou art in sooth
Thyself well nigh unfriended.
But after say, where shall I find the man,
The woman where, to whom as unto thee
I freely can unbosom every thought?
Thou should’st in my brother more confide.
He is my Prince!—Yet do not hence suppose
That freedom’s lawless impulse swells my breast.
Man is not born for freedom, and to serve
A prince deserving honor and esteem
Is a pure pleasure to a noble mind.
He is my sovereign, of that great word
I deeply feel the full significance.
I must be silent when he speaks, and learn
To do what he commandeth, though perchance
My heart and understanding both rebel.
That with my brother never can befall.
And in Antonio, who is now return’d,
Thou wilt possess another prudent friend.
I hop’d it once, now almost I despair.
His converse how instructive, and his words
How useful in a thousand instances!
For he possesses, I may truly say.
All that in me is wanting. But, alas!
When round his cradle all the gods assembled
To bring their gifts, the Graces were not there;
And he who lacks what these fair powers impart,
May much possess, may much communicate,
But on his bosom we can ne’er repose.
But we can trust in him, and that is much.
Thou should’st not, Tasso, in one man expect
All qualities combin’d; Antonio
What he hath promis’d surely will perform.
If he have once declar’d himself thy friend,
He’ll care for thee, where thou dost fail thyself
Ye must be friends! I cherish the fond hope
Ere long this gracious work to consummate.
Only oppose me not, as is thy wont.
Then, Leonora long hath sojourn’d here,
Who is at once refin’d and elegant;
Her easy manners banish all restraint,
Yet thou hast ne’er approach’d her as she wish’d.
To thee I hearken’d, or believe me, princess,
I should have rather shunn’d her than approach’d,
Though she appear so kind, I know not why,
I can but rarely feel at ease with her;
E’en when her purpose is to aid her friends,
They feel the purpose, and are thence constrain’d.
Upon this pathway, Tasso, nevermore
Will glad companionship be ours! This track
Leadeth us on through solitary groves
And silent vales to wander; more and more
The spirit is untun’d, and fondly strives
The golden age, that from the outer world
For aye hath vanish’d, to restore within,
How vain soever the attempt may prove.
Oh, what a word, my princess, hast thou spoken!
The golden age, ah, whither is it flown,
For which in secret every heart repines?
When o’er the yet unsubjugated earth
Men roam’d, like herds, in joyous liberty;
When on the flowery lawn an ancient tree
Lent to the shepherd and the shepherdess
Its grateful shadow, and the leafy grove
Its tender branches lovingly entwin’d
Around confiding love; when still and clear,
O’er sands forever pure, the pearly stream
The nymph’s fair form encircled; when the snake
Glided innoxious through the verdant grass,
And the bold youth pursu’d the daring faun;
When every bird winging the limpid air,
And every living thing o’er hill and dale
Proclaim’d to man,—What pleases is allow’d.
My friend, the golden age hath pass’d away;
Only the good have power to bring it back;
Shall I confess to thee my secret thought?
The golden age, wherewith the bard is wont
Our spirits to beguile, that lovely prime,
Existed in the past no more than now;
And did it e’er exist, believe me, Tasso,
As then it was, it now may be restor’d.
Still meet congenial spirits, and enhance
Each other’s pleasure in this beauteous world;
But in the motto change one single word,
And say, my friend:—What’s fitting is allow’d.
Would that of good and noble men were form’d
A great tribunal, to decide for all
What is befitting! then no more would each
Esteem that right which benefits himself.
The man of power acts ever as he lists,
And whatsoe’er he doth is fitting deem’d.
Would’st thou define exactly what is fitting,
Thou should’st apply, methinks, to noble women;
For them it most behoveth that in life
Naught should be done unseemly or unfit;
Propriety encircles with a wall
The tender, weak, and vulnerable sex.
Where moral order reigneth, women reign,
They only are despis’d where rudeness triumphs;
And would’st thou touching either sex inquire,
’Tis order woman seeketh; freedom, man.
Thou thinkest us unfeeling, wild and rude?
Not so! but ye with violence pursue
A multitude of objects far remote.
Ye venture for eternity to act,
While we, with views more narrow, on this earth
Seek only one possession, well content
If that with constancy remain our own.
For we, alas! are of no heart secure,
Whate’er the ardor of its first devotion.
Beauty is transient, which alone ye seem
To hold in honor; what beside remains
No longer charms,—what doth not charm is dead.
If among men there were who knew to prize
The heart of woman, who could recognize
What treasures of fidelity and love
Are garner’d safely in a woman’s breast
If the remembrance of bright single hours
Could vividly abide within your souls;
If your so searching glance could pierce the veil
Which age and wasting sickness o’er us fling;
If the possession which should satisfy
Waken’d no restless cravings in your hearts:
Then were our happy days indeed arriv’d,
We then should celebrate our golden age.
Thy words, my princess, in my breast awake
An old anxiety half lull’d to sleep.
What mean’st thou, Tasso? Freely speak with me.
I oft before have heard, and recently
Again it hath been rumor’d,—had I not
Been told, I might have known it,—princes strive
To win thy hand. What we must needs expect
We view with dread, nay, almost with despair.
Thou wilt forsake us,—it is natural:
Yet how we shall endure it, know I not.
Be for the present moment unconcern’d!
Almost, I might say, unconcern’d forever.
I am contented still to tarry here,
Nor know I any tie to lure me hence.
And if thou would’st indeed detain me, Tasso,
Live peaceably with all, so shalt thou lead
A happy life thyself, and I through thee.
Teach me to do whate’er is possible!
My life itself is consecrate to thee.
When to extol thee and to give thee thanks
My heart unfolded, I experienc’d first
The purest happiness that man can feel.
My soul’s ideal I first found in thee.
As destiny supreme is rais’d above
The wile and counsel of the wisest men,
So tower the gods of earth o’er common mortals.
The rolling surge which we behold with dread
Doth all unheeded murmur at their feet
Lake gentle billows; they hear not the storm
Which blusters round us, scarcely heed our prayers,
And treat us as we helpless children treat.
Letting us fill the air with sighs and plaints.
Thou hast, divine one! often borne with me,
And like the radiant sun, thy pitying glance
Hath from mine eyelid dried the dew of sorrow.
’Tis only just that women cordially
Should meet the poet, whose heroic song
In strains so varied glorifies the sex.
Tender or valiant, thou hast ever known
To represent them amiable and noble;
And if Armida is deserving hate,
Her love and beauty reconcile us to her.
Whatever in my song doth reach the heart
And find an echo there, I owe to one,
And one alone! No image undefin’d
Hover’d before my soul, approaching now
In radiant glory, to retire again.
I have myself, with mine own eyes, beheld
The type of every virtue, every grace;
What I have copied thence will aye endure;
The heroic love of Tancred to Clorinda,
Erminia’s silent and unnotic’d truth,
Sophronia’s greatness and Olinda’s woe;
These are not shadows by illusion bred;
I know they are eternal, for they are.
And what is more deserving to survive,
And silently to work for centuries,
Than the confession of a noble love
Confided modestly to gentle song?
And shall I name to thee another charm
Which, all unconsciously, this song may claim?
It doth allure us still to listen to it:
We listen, and we think we understand;
We understand, and yet we censure not,
So with thy song, thou winnest us at last.
Oh, what a heaven thou dost open to me,
My princess! if this radiance blinds me not,
I see unhop’d-for and eternal bliss
Descending gloriously on golden beams.
No further, Tasso! many things there are
That we may hope to win with violence;
While others only can become our own
Through moderation and wise self-restraint.
Such, it is said, is virtue, such is love,
Which is allied to her. Think well of this!
And art thou then allow’d to raise thine eyes?
Around thee dar’st thou gaze? Thou art alone!
O’erheard these pillars what the princess spake?
And hast thou witnesses, dumb witnesses
Of thine exalted happiness to fear?
The sun arises of a new life-day,
Whose splendor dims the light of former days.
The goddess, downward stooping, swiftly bears
Aloft the mortal. What a wide expanse
Is to mine eye discover’d, what a realm!
How richly recompens’d my burning wish!
In dreams the highest happiness seem’d near,
This happiness surpasses all my dreams.
The man born blind conceiveth as he may
Of light and color; when upon his eye
The daylight pours, he hails a new-born sense.
Full of vague hope and courage, drunk with joy,
Reeling I tread this path. Thou giv’st me much;
Thou givest lavishly, as earth and heaven,
With bounteous hand, dispense their costly gifts,
Demanding in return what such a boon
Alone empowers thee to demand from me.
I must be moderate, I must forbear,
And thus deserve thy cherish’d confidence,
What have I ever done that she should choose me?
What can I do to merit her regard?
Her very confidence doth prove thy worth.
Yes, princess, to thine every word and look,
Be my whole soul forever consecrate!
Ask what thou wilt, for I am wholly thine!
To distant regions let her send me forth
In quest of toil, and danger, and renown;
Or in the grove, present the golden lyre,
Devoting me to quiet and her praise.
Hers am I, me possessing, she shall mould!
For her my heart hath garner’d every treasure.
Oh, had some heavenly power bestow’d on me
An organ thousandfold, I scarcely then
Could utter forth my speechless reverence.
The painter’s pencil, and the poet’s lip,
The sweetest that e’er sipp’d the vernal honey,
I covet now. No! Tasso shall henceforth
Wander no more forlorn, ’mong trees, ’mong men,
Lonely and weak, oppress’d with gloomy care!
He is no more alone, he is with thee.
Oh, would that visibly the noblest deed
Were present here before me, circled round
With grisly danger! Onward I would rush,
And with a joyous spirit risk the life
Now from her hand receiv’d—the choicest men
As comrades I would hail, a noble band,
To execute her will and high behest,
And consummate what seem’d impossible.
Rash mortal! wherefore did thy lip not hide
What thou didst feel, till thou could’st lay thyself
Worthy, and ever worthier, at her feet?
Such was thy purpose, such thy prudent wish!
Yet be it so! ’Tis sweeter to receive,
Free, and unmerited, so fair a boon,
Than, with self-flatt’ry, dream one might perchance
Successfully have claim’d it. Gaze with joy!
So vast, so boundless, all before thee lies!
And youth, with hope inspir’d, allures thee on
Towards the future’s unknown, sunny realms!
My bosom, heave! propitious seasons smile
Once more with genial influence on this plant!
It springeth heavenward, and shooteth out
A thousand branches that unfold in bloom.
Oh, may it bring forth fruit,—ambrosial fruit!
And may a hand belov’d the golden spoil
Cull from its verdant and luxuriant boughs!
Gladly I welcome thee, it seems indeed
As though I saw thee for the first time now!
Ne’er was arrival more auspicious. Welcome!
I know thee now, and all thy varied worth.
Promptly I offer thee my heart and hand.
And trust that thou wilt not despise my love.
Freely thou offerest a precious gift;
Its worth I duly estimate, and hence
Would pause awhile before accepting it.
I know not yet if I can render thee
A full equivalent. Not willingly
Would I o’erhasty or unthankful seem;
Let then my sober caution serve for both.
What man would censure caution? Every step
Of life doth prove that ’tis most requisite;
Yet nobler is it, when the soul reveals,
Where we, with prudent foresight, may dispense.
The heart of each be here his oracle,
Since each his error must himself atone.
So let it be! My duty I’ve perform’d.
It is the princess’ wish we should be friends,
Her words I honor’d and thy friendship sought.
I wish’d not to hold back, Antonio,
But I will never be importunate.
Time and more near acquaintance may induce thee
To give a warmer welcome to the gift,
Which now thou dost reject, almost with scorn.
Oft is the moderate man nam’d cold by those
Who think themselves more warm than other men,
Because a transient glow comes over them.
Thou blamest what I blame,—what I avoid.
Young as I am I ever must prefer
Unshaken constancy to vehemence.
Most wisely said! Keep ever in this mind.
Thou’rt authoriz’d to counsel and to warn,
For, like a faithful, time-approved friend,
Experience holds her station at thy side.
But trust me, sir, the meditative heart
Attends the warning of each day and hour,
And practises in secret every virtue,
Which in thy rigor thou would’st teach anew.
’Twere well to be thus occupied with self,
If it were only profitable too.
His inmost nature no man learns to know
By introspection; still he rates himself,
Sometimes too low, but oft, alas! too high.
Self-knowledge comes from knowing other men;
’Tis life reveals to each his genuine worth.
I listen with applause and reverence.
Yet to my words I know thou dost attach
A meaning wholly foreign to my thought.
Proceeding thus, we ne’er shall draw more near.
It is not prudent, ’tis not well, to meet
With purpos’d misconception any man,
Let him be who he may! The princess’ word
I scarcely needed;—I have read thy soul:
Good thou dost purpose and accomplish too.
Thine own immediate fate concerns thee not;
Thou think’st of others, others thou dost aid,
And on life’s sea, vex’d by each passing gale,
Thou hold’st a heart unmov’d. I view thee thus;
What then were I, did I not draw tow’rds thee?
Did I not even keenly seek a share
Of the lock’d treasure which thy bosom guards?
Open thine heart to me, thou’lt not repent;
Know me, and I sure am thou’lt be my friend:
Of such a friend I long have felt the need.
My inexperience, my ungovern’d youth
Cause me no shame; for still around my brow
The future’s golden clouds in brightness rest.
Oh! to thy bosom take me, noble man;
Into the wise, the temperate use of life
Initiate my rash, my unfledg’d youth.
Thou in a single moment would’st demand
What time and circumspection only yield.
In one brief moment love has power to give
What anxious toil wins not in lengthen’d years.
I do not ask it from thee, I demand.
I summon thee in Virtue’s sacred name,
For she is zealous to unite the good;
And shall I name to thee another name?
The princess, she doth wish it.—Leonora.
Me she would lead to thee, and thee to me.
Oh, let us meet her wish with kindred hearts!
United let us to the goddess haste,
To offer her our service, our whole souls,
Leagu’d to achieve for her the noblest aims.
Yet once again!—Here is my hand! Give thine!
I do entreat, hold thyself back no longer,
O noble man, and grudge me not the joy.
The good man’s fairest joy, without reserve,
Freely to yield himself to nobler men!
Thou goest with full sail! It would appear
Thou’rt wont to conquer, everywhere to find
The pathways spacious and the portals wide.
I grudge thee not or merit or success,—
Only I see indeed, too plainly see,
We from each other stand too far apart.
It may be so in years and timetried worth;—
In courage and good-will I yield to none.
Good-will doth oft prove deedless; courage still
Pictures the goal less distant than it is.
His brow alone is crown’d who reaches it,
And oft a worthier must forego the crown.
Yet wreaths there are of very different fashion:
Light, worthless wreaths, which, idly strolling on,
The loiterer oft without the toil obtains.
What a divinity to one accords,
And from another sternly doth withhold,
Is not obtain’d by each man as he lists.
To Fortune before other gods ascribe it;
I’ll hear thee gladly, for her choice is blind.
Impartial Justice also wears a band,
And to each bright illusion shuts her eyes.
Fortune ’tis for the fortunate to praise!
Let him ascribe to her a hundred eyes
To scan desert,—stern judgment, and wise choice.
Call her Minerva, call her what he will,
He holds as just reward her golden gifts,
Chance ornament as symbol of desert.
Thou need’st not speak more plainly. ’Tis enough!
Deeply I see into thine inmost heart,
And know thee now for life. Oh, would that so
My princess knew thee also! Lavish not
The arrows of thine eyes and of thy tongue!
In vain thou aimest at the fadeless wreath
Entwin’d around my brow. First be so great
As not to envy me the laurel wreath!
And then perchance thou may’st dispute the prize.
I deem it sacred, yea, the highest good;
Yet only show me him, who hath attain’d
That after which I strive; show me the nero,
Of whom on history’s ample page I read;
The poet place before me, who himself
With Homer or with Virgil may compare;
Ay, what is more, let me behold the man
Who hath deserv’d threefold this recompense,
And yet can wear the laurel round his brow
With modesty thrice greater than my own.—
Then at the feet of the divinity
Who thus endow’d me, thou should’st see me kneel,
Nor would I stand erect, till from my brow,
She had to his the ornament transferi’d.
Till then thou’rt doubtless worthy of the crown.
Let me be justly weigh’d: I shun it not:
But your contempt I never have deserv’d.
The wreath consider’d by my prince my due.
Which for my brow my princess’ hand entwin’d,
None shall dispute with me, and none asperse!
This haughty tone, methinks, becomes thee not,
Nor this rash glow, unseemly in this place.
The tone thou takest here becomes me too.
Say, from these precincts is the truth exil’d?
Within the palace is free thought imprison’d?
Here must the noble spirit be oppress’d?
This is nobility’s appropriate seat,
The soul’s nobility! and may she not
In presence of earth’s mighty ones rejoice?
She may and shall. Nobles draw near the prince
In virtue of the rank their sires bequeath’d;
Why should not genius then, which partial Nature
Grants, like a glorious ancestry, to few?
Here littleness alone should feel confus’d,
And envy shun to manifest its shame:
As no insidious spider should attach
Its noisome fabric to these marble walls.
Thyself dost show that my contempt is just!
The impetuous youth, forsooth, would seize by force
The confidence and friendship of the man!
Rude as thou art, dost think thyself of worth?
I’d rather be what thou esteemest rude,
Than what I must myself esteem ignoble.
Thou’rt still so young that wholesome chastisement
May tutor thee to hold a better course.
Not young enough to bow to idols down,
Yet old enough to conquer scorn with scorn.
From contests of the lip and of the lyre,
A conquering hero, thou may’st issue forth.
It were presumptuous to extol my arm;
As yet ’tis deedless; still I’ll trust to it.
Thou trustest to forbearance, which too long
Hath spoil’d thee in thine insolent career.
That I am grown to manhood, now I feel:
It would have been the farthest from my wish
To try with thee the doubtful game of arms:
But thou dost stir the inward fire; my blood,
My inmost marrow boils; the fierce desire
Of vengeance seethes and foams within my breast.
Art thou the man thou boast’st thyself,—then stand.
Thou know’st as little who, as where thou art,
No fane so sacred as to shield contempt.
Thou dost blaspheme, thou dost profane this spot,
Not I, who fairest offerings,—confidence,
Respect and love, for thine acceptance brought.
Thy spirit desecrates this paradise;
And thy injurious words this sacred hall;
Not the indignant heaving of my breast,
Which boils to wipe away the slightest stain.
What a high spirit in a narrow breast!
Here there is space to vent the bosom’s rage.
The rabble also vent their rage in words.
Art thou of noble blood as I am, draw!
I am, but I remember where I stand.
Come then below, where weapons may avail.
Thou should’st not challenge, therefore I’ll not follow.
To cowards welcome such impediments.
The coward only threats where he’s secure.
With joy would I relinquish this defence.
Degrade thyself: degrade the place thou canst not.
The place forgive me that I suffer’d it!
[He draws his sword.
Or draw or follow, if, as now I hate,
I’m not to scorn thee to eternity!
Tasso, Antonio, Alphonso.
In what unlook’d-for strife I find you both?
Calm and unmov’d, O prince, thou find’st me here,
Before a man whom passion’s rage hath seiz’d.
As a divinity I worship thee
That thus thou tam’st me with one warning look.
Relate, Antonio, Tasso, tell me straight;—
Say, why doth discord thus invade my house?
How hath it seiz’d you both, and hurried you
Confus’d and reeling from the beaten track
Of decency and law? I stand amaz’d.
I feel it, thou dost know nor him, nor me.
This man, reputed temperate and wise,
Hath tow’rds me, like a rude, ill-manner’d churl,
Behav’d himself with spiteful insolence.
I sought him trustfully, he thrust me back;
With constancy I press’d myself on him,
And still, with growing bitterness imbu’d,
He rested not till he had turn’d to gall
My blood’s pure current. Pardon! Thou, my prince,
Hast found me here, possess’d with furious rage.
If guilty, to this man the guilt is due;
With violence he fann’d the fiery glow
Which, seizing me, hath injur’d both of us.
Poetic frenzy hurried him away!
Thou hast, O prince, address’d thyself to me,
Hast question’d me: be it to me allow’d
After this rapid orator to speak.
Oh, yes, repeat again each several word;
And if before this judge thou canst recall
Each syllable, each look,—then dare to do so!
Disgrace thyself a second time, and bear
Witness against thyself! I’ll not disown
A single pulse-throb, nor a single breath.
If thou hast somewhat more to say, proceed;
If not, forbear, and interrupt me not.
Whether at first his fiery youth or I
Began this quarrel, whether he or I
Must bear the blame, is a wide question, prince,
Which stands apart, and need not be discuss’d.
How so? The primal question seems to me,
Which of the two is right and which is wrong.
Not so precisely, as the ungovern’d mind
Might first suppose.
Thy hint I honor; but let him forbear:
When I have spoken he may then proceed:
Thy voice must then decide. I’ve but to say,
I can no longer with this man contend:
Can nor accuse him, nor defend myself,
Nor give the satisfaction he desires;
For as he stands, he is no longer free.
There hangeth over him a heavy law,
Which, at the most, thy favor may relax.
Here hath he dar’d to threat, to challenge me,
Scarce in thy presence, sheath’d his naked sword;
And if between us, prince, thou hadst not stopp’d,
Obnoxious to reproof I now had stood,
Before thy sight, the partner of his fault.
(ToTasso.) Thou hast not acted well.
Mine own heart, prince,
And surely thine, doth speak me wholly free.
Yes, true it is, I threaten’d, challeng’d, drew;
But how maliciously his guileful tongue,
With words well chosen, pierc’d me to the quick;
How sharp and rapidly his biting tooth
The subtle venom in my blood infus’d;
How more and more the fever he inflam’d—
Thou thinkest not! cold and unmov’d himself,
He to the highest pitch excited me.
Thou know’st him not, and thou wilt never know him!
Warmly I tender’d him the fairest friendship;
Down at my feet he flung the proffer’d gift;
And had my spirit not with anger glow’d,
Of thy fair service and thy princely grace
I were for aye unworthy. If the law
I have forgotten, and this place, forgive!
The spot exists not where I dare be base,
Nor yet where I debasement dare endure.
But if this heart in any place be false,
Or to itself or thee,—condemn, reject,—
And let me ne’er again behold thy face.
How easily the youth bears heavy loads,
And shaketh misdemeanors off like dust!
It were indeed a marvel, knew I not
Of magic poesy the wondrous power,
Which loveth still with the impossible
In frolic mood to sport. I almost doubt
Whether to thee, and to thy ministers,
This deed will seem so insignificant.
For Majesty extends its shield o’er all
Who draw near its inviolate abode,
And bow before it as a deity;
As at the altar’s consecrated foot,
So on its sacred threshold rage subsides;
No sword there gleams, no threat’ning word resounds.
E’en injur’d innocence seeks no revenge.
The common earth affordeth ample scope
For bitter hate, and rage implacable.
There will no coward threat, no true man flee;
Thy ancestors, on sure foundations bas’d
These walls, fit shelter for their dignity;
And, with wise forecast, hedg’d the palace round
With fearful penalties. Of all transgressors,
Exile, confinement, death, the certain doom.
Respect of persons was not, nor did mercy
The arm of justice venture to restrain.
The boldest culprit felt himself o’eraw’d.
And now, after a lengthen’d reign of peace,
We must behold unlicens’d rage invade
The realm of sacred order. Judge, O prince,
And punish! for unguarded by the law,
Unshielded by his sov’reign, who will dare
To keep the narrow path that duty bounds.
More than your words, or aught that ye could say,
My own impartial feelings let me heed.
If that your duty ye had both fulfill’d,
I should not have this judgment to pronounce;
For here the right and wrong are near allied.
If that Antonio hath offended thee,
Due satisfaction he must doubtless give,
In such a sort as thou shalt chose to ask.
I gladly would be chosen arbiter.
Meanwhile thy misdemeanor subjects thee
To brief confinement. Tasso. I forgive thee,
And therefore, for thy sake, relax the law.
Now leave us, and within thy chamber bide,
Thyself thy sole companion, thy sole guard.
Is this, then, thy judicial sentence, prince?
Discern’st thou not a father’s lenity?
(ToAntonio.) With thee, henceforth, I have no more to say.
Thine earnest word, O prince, delivers me,
A freeman, to captivity. So be it!
Thou deem’st it right. Thy sacred word I hear
And counsel silence to mine inmost heart.
It seems so strange, so strange,—myself and thee,
This sacred spot, I scarce can recognize.
Yet him I know full well.—Oh, there is much
I might and ought to say, yet I submit.
My lips are mute. Was it indeed a crime?
At least, they treat me as a criminal.
Howe’er my heart rebel, I’m captive now.
Thou tak’st it, Tasso, more to heart than I.
To me it still is inconceivable;
And yet not so, I am no child. Methinks
I should be able to unravel it.
A sudden light breaks in upon my soul;—
As suddenly it leaves me in the dark:—
I only hear my sentence and submit.
These are, indeed, superfluous, idle words!
Henceforth inure thy spirit to obey.
Weak mortal! To forget where thou didst stand!
Thou didst forget how high the abode of gods,
And now art stagger’d by the sudden fall.
Promptly obey, for it becomes a man
Each painful duty to perform with joy.
Take back the sword thou gavest me, what time
The cardinal I follow’d into France.
Though not with glory, not with shame I word it.—
No, not to-day. The bright auspicious gift,
With heart sore troubled, I relinquish now.
Thou know’st not, Tasso. how I feel towards thee.
My lot is to obey, and not to think!
And destiny, alas! demands from me
Renunciation of this precious gift
Ill doth a crown become a captive’s brow.
I from my head myself remove the wreath
Which seem’d accorded for eternity.
Too early was the dearest bliss bestow’d,
And is, alas, as if I had been boastful,
Too early taken away.
Thou takest back what none beside could take,
And what no God a second time accords,
We mortals are most wonderfully tried;
We could not bear it, were we not endow’d,
By Nature, with a kindly levity,
Calmly necessity doth tutor us
With priceless treasures lavishly to sport;
Our hands we open of our own free will—
The prize escapes us, ne’er to be recall’d.
A tear doth mingle with this parting kiss,
Devoting thee to mutability!
This tender sign of weakness may be pardon’d!
Who would not weep when what was deem’d immortal
Yields to destruction’s power! Now to this sword
(Alas, it won thee not!) ally thyself,
And round it twin’d, as on a hero’s bier
Reposing, mark the grave where buried lie
My short-liv’d happiness, my wither’d hopes!
Here at thy feet, O prince, I lay them down;
For who is justly arm’d if thou art wroth?
Who justly crown’d, on whom thy brow is bent?
I go a captive, and await my doom.
[On a sign from thePrince,a page raises the sword and wreath and bears them away.
Whither doth frenzied fancy lead the boy?
And in what colors doth he picture forth
His high desert and glorious destiny?
Rash, inexperienc’d, youth esteems itself
A chosen instrument, and arrogates
Unbounded license. He has been chastis’d,
And chastisement is profit to the boy.
For which the man will render cordial thanks.
He is chastis’d too painfully I fear.
Art thou dispos’d to practise lenity,
Restore to him his liberty, O prince,
And then the sword may arbitrate our strife.
So be it, if the public voice demands.
But tell me, how didst thou provoke his ire?
In sooth, I scarce can say how it befell.
As man, I may perchance have wounded him;
As nobleman, I gave him no offence.
And in the very tempest of his rage
No word unseemly hath escap’d this lip.
Of such a sort your quarrel seem’d to me;
And your own word confirms me in my thought.
When men dispute we justly may esteem
The wiser the offender. Thou with Tasso
Should’st not contend, but rather guide his steps;
It would become thee more. ’Tis not too late
The sword’s decision is not call’d for here.
So long as I am bless’d with peace abroad,
So long would I enjoy it in my house.
Restore tranquillity, thou canst with ease.
Leonora Sanvitale may at first
Attempt to soothe him with her honey’d lip;
Then go thou to him; in my name restore
His liberty; with true and noble words
Endeavor to obtain his confidence.
Accomplish this with all the speed thou canst;
As a kind friend and father speak with him.
Peace I would know restor’d ere I depart;
All if thou wilt—is possible to thee.
We gladly will remain another hour,
Then leave it to the ladies’ gentle tact
To consummate the work commenc’d by thee.
So when we come again, the last faint trace
Of this rash quarrel will be quite effac’d.
It seems thy talents will not rust, Antonio!
Scarcely hast thou concluded one affair,
And on thy first return thou seek’st another.
In this new mission may success be thine!
I am asham’d; my error in thy words,
As in the clearest mirror, I discern!
How easy to obey a noble prince
Who doth convince us while he doth command!
(Alone.) Where tarries Leonora? Anxious fear,
Augmenting every moment, agitates
My inmost heart. Scarce know I what befell;
Which party is to blame I scarcely know.
Oh, that she would return! I would not yet
Speak with my brother, with Antonio,
Till I am more compos’d, till I have heard
How matters stand, and what may be the issue.
What tidings, Leonora? Tell me all:
How stands it with our friends? Say, what befell?
More than I knew before I have not learn’d.
Contention rose between them; Tasso drew;
Thy brother parted them: yet it would seem
That it was Tasso who began the fray.
Antonio is at large, and with his prince
Converses freely. Tasso, in his chamber,
Abides meanwhile, a captive and alone.
Doubtless Antonio irritated him,
And met with cold disdain the high-ton’d youth.
I do believe it, when he join’d us first
A cloud already brooded o’er his brow.
Alas, that we so often disregard
The pure and silent warnings of the heart!
Softly a God doth whisper in our breast,
Softly, yet audibly, doth counsel us,
Both what we ought to seek and what to shun
This morn Antonio hath appear’d to me
E’en more abrupt than ever—more reserv’d.
When at his side I saw our youthful bard,
My spirit warn’d me. Only mark of each
The outward aspect—countenance and tone,
Look, gesture, bearing! Everything oppos’d;
Affection they can never interchange.
Yet Hope persuaded me, the flatterer:
They both are sensible, she fondly urg’d,
Both noble, gently nurtur’d, and thy friends.
What bond more sure than that which links the good?
I urg’d the youth; with what devoted zeal,
How ardently he gave himself to me!
Would I had spoken to Antonio then!
But I delay’d: so recent his return,
That I felt shy, at once and urgently,
To recommend the youth to his regard;
On custom I relied and courtesy,
And on the common usage of the world,
E’en between foes which smoothly intervenes.
I dreaded not from the experienc’d man
The rash impetuosity of youth.
The ill seem’d distant; now, alas, ’tis here!
Oh, give me counsel! What is to be done?
Thy words, my princess, show that thou dost feel
How hard it is to counsel. ’Tis not here
Between congenial minds a misconception;
A word, if needful an appeal to arms,
Peace in such case might happily restore.
Two men they are, who therefore are oppos’d,
I’ve felt it long, because by Nature cast
In moulds so opposite that she the twain
Could never weld into a single man.
And were they to consult their common weal,
A league of closest friendship they would form,
Then as one man their path they would pursue,
With power, and joy and happiness through life.
I hop’d it once, I now perceive in vain.
To-day’s contention, whatsoe’er the cause,
Might be appeas’d, but this assures us not,
Or for the morrow, or for future time.
Methinks ’twere best that Tasso for awhile
Should journey hence. To Rome he might repair.
To Florence also bend forthwith his course;
A few weeks later I should meet him there,
And as a friend could work upon his mind;
Thou couldest here meanwhile Antonio,
Who has become almost a stranger to us,
Once more within thy friendly circle bring;
And thus benignant time, that grants so much,
Might grant, perchance, what seems impossible.
A happiness will thus, my friend, be thine,
Which I must needs forego. Say, is that right?
Thou only would’st forego what thou thyself,
As things at present stand, could’st not enjoy.
So calmly shall I banish hence a friend?
Rather retain whom thou dost seem to banish.
The duke will ne’er consent to part with him.
When he shall see as we do, he will yield.
’Tis painful in one’s friend to doom oneself.
Yet with thy friend thou’lt also save thyself.
I cannot give my voice that this shall be.
An evil still more grievous then expect.
Thou giv’st me pain,—uncertain thy success.
Ere long we shall discover who doth err.
Well, if it needs must be so, say no more.
He conquers grief who firmly can resolve.
Resolv’d I am not; nathless let it be,
If he for long doth not absent himself.
And let us, Leonora, care for him,
That he may never be oppress’d by want,
But that the duke, e’en in a distant land,
May graciously assign him maintenance.
Speak with Antonio: with my brother he
Can much accomplish, and will not remember
The recent strife against our friend or us.
Princess, a word from thee would more avail.
I cannot, well thou knowest, Leonora,
Solicit favors for myself and friends,
As my dear sister of Urbino can.
A calm, secluded life I’m fain to lead,
And from my brother gratefully accept
Whate’er his princely bounty freely grants.
For this reluctance once I blam’d myself;
I’ve conquer’d now, and blame myself no more.
A friend full oft would censure me, and say,
Unselfish art thou, and unselfishness
Is good, but thou dost carry it so far,
That even the requirements of a friend
Thou canst not rightly feel. I let it pass,
And even this reproach must also bear.
It doth the more rejoice me that I now
Can be in truth of service to our friend;
My mother’s heritage descends to me,
And to his need I’ll gladly minister.
Princess, I too can show myself his friend.
In truth he is no thrifty manager;
My skilful aid shall help him where he fails.
Well, take him then,—if part with him I must,
To thee before all others be he given:
I now perceive, it will be better so.
This sorrow also must my spirit hail
As good and wholesome? Such my doom from youth;
I am inur’d to it. But half we feel
Renunciation of a precious joy,
When we have deem’d its tenure insecure.
Happy according to thy high desert
I hope to see thee.
Who then is happy?—So indeed I might
Esteem my brother, for his constant mind
Still with unswerving temper meets his fate;
Yet even he ne’er reap’d as he deserv’d.
My sister of Urbino, is she happy?
With beauty gifted and a noble heart!
Childless she’s doom’d to live; her younger lord
Values her highly and upbraids her not;
But happiness is stranger to their home.
Of what avail our mother’s prudent skill,
Her varied knowledge and her ample mind?
Her could they shield from foreign heresy?
They took us from her: now she is no more,
And dying, left us not the soothing thought,
That reconcil’d with God, her spirit pass’d.
Oh, mark not only that which fails to each;
Consider rather what to each remains!
And, princess, what doth not remain to thee?
What doth remain to me, Leonora? Patience!
Which I have learn’d to practise from my youth.
When friends and kindred, knit in social love,
In joyous pastime whil’d the hours away,
Sickness held me a captive in my chamber;
And in the sad companionship of pain
I early learn’d the lesson—to endure!
One pleasure cheer’d me in my solitude,
The joy of song. I commun’d with myself,
And lull’d with soothing tones the sense of pain,
The restless longing, the unquiet wish;—
Till sorrow oft would grow to ravishment,
And sadness’ self to harmony divine.
Not long, alas! this comfort was allow’d,
The leech’s stern monition silenc’d me;
I was condemn’d to live and to endure,
E’en of this sole remaining joy bereft.
Yet many friends attach’d themselves to thee,
And now thou art in health, art joyous too.
I am in health; that is, I am not sick;
And many friends I have, whose constancy
Doth cheer my heart; and ah, I had a friend—
Thou hast him still.
But soon must part with him.
That moment was of deep significance
When first I saw him. Scarce was I restor’d
From many sorrows; sickness and dull pain
Were scarce subdued; with shy and timid glance
I gaz’d once more on life, once more rejoic’d
In the glad sunshine, and my kindred’s love,
And hope’s delicious balm inhal’d anew;
Forwards I ventur’d into life to gaze,
And friendly forms saluted me from far:
Then was it, Leonora, that my sister
First introduc’d to me the vouthful bard,
She led him hither, and, shall I confess?—
My heart embrac’d him, and will hold for aye.
My princess! Let it not repent thee now!
To apprehend the noble is a gain
Of which the soul can never be bereft.
The fair, the excellent we needs must fear;
’Tis like a flame, which nobly serveth us
So long as on our household hearth it burns.
Or sheds its lustre from the friendly torch.
How lovely then! Who can dispense with it?
But if unwatch’d it spreads destruction round.
What anguish it occasions! Leave me now;
I babble, and ’twere better to conceal,
Even from thee, how weak I am and sick.
The sickness of the heart doth soonest yield
To tender plaints and soothing confidence.
If in confiding love a cure be found,
I’m whole, so strong my confidence in thee
Alas! my friend. I am indeed resolv’d:
Let him depart! But ah! I feel already
The long protracted anguish of the day
When I must all forego that glads me now
His beauteous form, transfigur’d in my dream,
The morning sun will dissipate no more;
No more the blissful hope of seeing him,
With jovous longing, fill my waking sense;
Nor to discover him, my timid glance
Search wistfully our garden’s dewy shade.
How sweetly was the tender hope fulfill’d
To spend each eve in intercourse with him!
How, while conversing, the desire increas’d,
To know each other ever more and more;
And still our souls, in sweet communion join’d,
Were daily tun’d to purer harmonies.
What twilight-gloom now falls around my path!
The gorgeous sun, the genial light of day,
Of this fair world the splendors manifold,
Shorn of their lustre, are envelop’d all
In the dark mist, which now environs me.
In bygone times, each day compris’d a life;
Hush’d was each care, mute each foreboding voice.
And happily embark’d, we drifted on
Without a rudder o’er life’s lucid wave.
Now, in the darkness of the present hour,
Futurity’s vague terrors seize my soul.
The future will restore to thee thy friend,
And bring to thee new happiness, new joy.
What I possess, that would I gladly hold;
Change may divert the mind, but profits not.
With youthful longing I have never join’d
The motley throng who strive from fortune’s urn
To snatch an object for their craving hearts.
I honor’d him, and could not choose but love him,
For that with him my life was life indeed,
Fill’d with a joy I never knew before.
At first I whisper’d to my heart, beware!
Shrinking I shunn’d, yet ever drew more near.
So gently lur’d, so cruelly chastis’d!
A pure substantial blessing glides away,
And for the joy that fill’d my yearning heart
Some demon substitutes a kindred pain.
If friendship’s soothing words console thee not,
This beauteous world’s calm power and healing time
Will imperceptibly restore thy heart.
Ay, beauteous is the world, and many a joy
Floats through its wide dominion here and there.
Alas! that ever, by a single step,
As we advance, it seemeth to retreat,
Our yearning souls along the path of life
Thus step by step alluring to the grave!
To mortal man so seldom is it given
To find what seem’d his heaven-appointed bliss;
Alas, so seldom he retains the good
Which, in auspicious hour, his hand had grasp’d;
The treasure to our heart that came unsought
Doth tear itself away, and we ourselves
Yield that which once with eagerness we seiz’d.
There is a bliss, but ah! we know it not;
We know it, but we know not how to prize.
(Alone.) The good and noble heart my pity moves;
How sad a lot attends her lofty rank!
Alas, she loses,—thinkest thou to win?
Is his departure hence so requisite?
Or dost thou urge it for thyself alone,—
To make the heart and lofty genius thine,
Which now thou sharest,—and unequally?
Is’t honest so to act? What lack’st thou yet?
Art thou not rich enough? Husband and son,
Possessions, beauty, rank—all these thou hast,
And him would’st have beside? What! Lov’st thou him?
How comes it else that thou canst not endure
To live without him? This thou dar’st confess!
How charming is it in his mind’s clear depths
One’s self to mirror. Doth not every joy
Seem doubly great and noble, when his song
Wafts us aloft as on the clouds of heaven?
Then first thy lot is worthy to be envied!
Not only hast thou what the many crave,
But each one knoweth what thou art and hast!
Thy fatherland doth proudly speak thy name;
This is the pinnacle of earthly bliss.
Is Laura’s then the only favor’d name
That aye from gentle lips shall sweetly flow?
Is it Petrarca’s privilege alone,
To deify an unknown beauty’s charms?
Who is there that with Tasso can compare?
As now the world exalts him, future time
With honor due shall magnify his name.
What rapture, in the golden prime of life,
To feel his presence, and with him to near,
With airy tread, the future’s hidden realm!
Thus should old age and time their influence lose,
And powerless be the voice of rumor bold,
Whose breath controls the billows of applause.
All that is transient in his song survives;
Still art thou young, still happy, when the round
Of changeful time shall long have borne thee on.
Him thou must have, yet takest naught from her.
For her affection to the gifted man
Doth take the hue her other passions wear;
Pale as the tranquil moon, whose feeble rays
Dimly illumine the night-wanderer’s path;
They gleam, but warm not, and diffuse around
No blissful rapture, no keen sense of joy.
If she but know him happy, though afar,
She will rejoice, as when she saw him daily.
And then, ’tis not my purpose from this court,
From her, to banish both myself and friend.
I will return, will bring him here again.
So let it be!—My rugged friend draws near;
We soon shall see if we have power to tame him.
War and not peace thou bringest: it would seem
As cam’st thou from a battle, from a camp,
Where violence bears sway, and force decides,
And not from Rome, where solemn policy
Uplifts the hand to bless a prostrate world,
Which she beholds obedient at her feet.
I must admit the censure, my fair friend,
But my apology lies close at hand;
’Tis dangerous to be compell’d so long
To wear the show of prudence and restraint.
Still at our side an evil genius lurks,
And with stern voice demands from time to time
A sacrifice, which I, alas, to-day
Have offer’d, to the peril of my friends.
Thou hast so long with strangers been concern’d,
And to their humors hast conform’d thine own,
That once more with thy friends thou dost their aims
Mistake, and as with strangers dost contend.
Herein, beloved friend, the danger lies!
With strangers we are ever on our guard,
Still are we aiming with observance due
To win their favor, which may profit us;
But with our friends we throw off all restraint;
Reposing in their love, we give the rein
To peevish humor; passion uncontroll’d
Doth break its bounds; and those we hold most dear
Are thus amongst the first whom we offend.
In this calm utterance of a thoughtful mind
I gladly recognize my friend again.
Yes, it has much annoy’d me, I confess—
That I to-day so far forgot myself.
But yet admit, that when a valiant man
From irksome labor comes with heated brow,
Thinking to rest himself for further toil
In the cool eve beneath the long’d-for shade,
And finds it, in its length and breadth, possess’d
Already, by some idler, he may well
Feel something human stirring in his breast.
If he is truly human, then, methinks,
He gladly will partake the shade with one
Who lightens toil, and cheers the hour of rest,
With sweet discourse and soothing melodies.
Ample, my friend, the tree that casts the shade,
Nor either needs the other dispossess.
We will not bandy similes, fair friend.
Full many a treasure doth the world contain,
Which we to others yield and with them share;
But there exists one prize, which we resign
With willing hearts to high desert alone;
Another, that without a secret grudge,
We share not even with the highest worth—
And would’st thou touching these two treasures ask—
They are the laurel and fair woman’s smile.
How! Hath yon chaplet round our stripling’s brow
Given umbrage to the grave, experienc’d man?
Say, for his toil divine, his lofty verse,
Could’st thou thyself a juster meed select?
A ministration in itself divine,
That floateth in the air in tuneful tones,
Evoking airy forms to charm our soul—
Such ministration, in expressive form,
Or graceful symbol, finds its fit reward.
As doth the bard scarce deign to touch the earth,
So doth the laurel lightly touch his brow.
His worshippers, with barren homage, bring
As tribute meet a fruitless branch, that thus
They may with ease acquit them of their debt.
Thou dost not grudge the martyr’s effigy,
The golden radiance round the naked head;
And, certes, where it rests, the laurel crown
Is more a sign of sorrow than of joy.
How, Leonora! Would thy lovely lips
Teach me to scorn the world’s poor vanities?
There is no need, my friend, to tutor thee
To prize each good according to its worth.
Yet it would seem that, e’en like common men,
The sage philosopher, from time to time,
Needs that the treasures he is bless’d withal,
In their true light before him be display’d.
Thou, noble man, wilt not assert thy claim
To a mere empty phantom of renown.
The service that doth bind thy prince to thee,
By means of which thou dost attach thy friends,
Is true, is living service, hence the meed
Which doth reward it must be living too.
Thy laurel is thy sovereign’s confidence,
Which, like a cherish’d burden, gracefully
Reposes on thy shoulders,—thy renown,
Thy crown of glory, is the general trust.
Thou speakest not of woman’s smile, that, surely,
Thou wilt not tell me is superfluous.
As people take it. Thou dost lack it not:
And lighter far, were ye depriv’d of it,
To thee would be the loss than to our friend.
For say, a woman were in thy behalf
To task her skill, and in her fashion strive
To care for thee, dost think she would succeed?
With thee security and order dwell;
And as for others, for thyself thou carest;
Thou dost possess what friendship fain would give;
Whilst in our province he requires our aid.
A thousand things he needs, which to supply
Is to a woman no unwelcome task.
The fine-spun linen, the embroider’d vest,
He weareth gladly, and endureth not,
Upon his person, aught of texture rude,
Such as befits the menial. For with him
All must be rich and noble, fair and good;
And yet all this to win he lacks the skill;
Nor even when possess’d, can he retain;
Improvident, he’s still in want of gold;
Nor from a journey e’er returneth home,
But a third portion of his goods is lost.
His valet plunders him, and thus, Antonio,
The whole year round one has to care for him.
And these same cares endear him more and more.
Much-favor’d youth, to whom his very faults
As virtues count, to whom it is allow’d
As man to play the boy, and who forsooth
May proudly boast his charming weaknesses!
Thou must forgive me, my fair friend, if here
Some little touch of bitterness I feel.
Thou say’st not all, say’st not how he presumes,
And proves himself far shrewder than he seems.
He boasts two tender flames! The knots of love,
As fancy prompts him, he doth bind and loose.
And wins with such devices two such hearts!
Well! Well! This only proves
That ’tis but friendship that inspires our hearts.
And e’en if we return’d him love for love,
Should we not well reward his noble heart,
Who, self-oblivious, dreams his life away
In lovely visions to enchant his friends?
Go on! Go on! Spoil him yet more and more,
Account his selfish vanity for love;
Offend all other friends with honest zeal
Devoted to your service; to his pride
Pay voluntary tribute; quite destroy
The beauteous sphere of social confidence!
We are not quite so partial as thou think’st;
In many cases we exhort our friend.
We wish to mould his mind, that he may know
More happiness himself, and be a source
Of purer joy to others. What in him
Doth merit blame is not conceal’d from us.
Yet much that’s blamable in him ye praise.
I’ve known him long, so easy ’tis to know him,
Too proud he is to wear the least disguise.
We see him now retire into himself.
As if the world were rounded in his breast;
Lost in the working of that inner world,
The outward universe he casts aside,
And his rapt spirit, self-included, rests.
Anon, as when a spark doth fire a mine,
Upon a touch of sorrow or of joy,
Anger or whim, he breaks impetuous forth.
Now he must compass all things, all retain,
All his caprices must be realiz’d;
What should have ripen’d slowly through long years.
Must, in a moment, reach maturity;
And obstacles, which years of patient toil
Could scarce remove, be levell’d in a trice.
He from himself th’ impossible demands,
That he from others may demand it too;
Th’ extreniest limits of existing things
His soul would hold in contiguity,
This one man in a million scarce achieves,
And he is not that man; at length he falls,
No whit the better, back into himself.
Others he injures not, himself he injures.
Yet others he doth outrage grievously.
Canst thou deny that in his passion’s height.
Which o’er his spirit oft usurps control,
The prince and e’en the princess he contemns,
And dares at whom he may to hurl abuse?
True, for a moment only it endures;
But then the moment quickly comes again.
His tongue, as little as his breast, he rules.
To me, indeed, it seems advisable
That he should leave Ferrara for awhile;—
Himself would benefit, and others too.
Perchance,—perchance too not. But now, my friend,
It is not to be thought of. For myself.
I will not on my shoulders bear the blame.
It might appear as if I drove him hence.
I drive him not. As far as I’m concern’d,
He at the court may tarry undisturb’d:
And if with me he will be reconcil’d,
And to my counsel if he will give heed,
We may live peaceably enough together.
Now thou dost hope to work upon a mind
Which lately thou didst look upon as lost.
We always hope, and still in every case
’Tis better far to hope than to despair;
For who can calculate the possible?
Our prince esteems him; he must stay with us;
And if we strive to fashion him in vain,
He’s not the only one we must endure.
So free from passion and from prejudice
I had not thought thee;—thy conversion’s sudden.
Age must, my friend, this one advantage claim,
That, though from error it be not exempt,
Its balance it recovers speedily.
Thou didst at first essay to heal the breach
Between thy friend and me. I urge it now.
Do what thou canst to bring him to himself,
And to restore things to their wonted calm.
Myself will visit him, when I shall know
From thee that he is tranquil, when thou thinkest
My presence will not aggravate the evil.
But what thou dost, that do within the hour;
Alphonso will return to town ere night;
I must attend him there. Meanwhile, farewell!
(Alone.) For once, dear friend, we are not of one mind,
Our separate interests go not hand in hand.
I’ll use the time to compass my design,
And will endeavor to win Tasso. Quick!
(Alone.) Art thou awaken’d from a dream, and is
The fair delusion suddenly dissolv’d?
Thee, in fruition of the highest joy,
Hath sleep o’ermaster’d, and now holds thy soul
Tortur’d and bound with heavy fetters? Ay,
Thou art awake, and dreamest? Where the hours
That round thy head with flowery garlands play’d?
The days, when unrestrain’d thy yearning soul
Freely explor’d the heaven’s o’erarching blue?
Thou’rt living still, art sensible to touch,
Feelest, yet know’st not if thou livest still.
Say, for mine own, or for another’s fault,
Am I, as criminal, thus captive here?
Have I been guilty that I suffer thus?
Is not my fancied crime a merit rather?
With kindly feeling I encounter’d him,
Persuaded, by the heart’s delusive hope,
He must be man who bears a mortal form:
With open arms I sped to his embrace,
And felt no human breast, but bolts and bars.
Oh, had I but with prudent forecast weigh’d.
How I most fitly could receive the man.
Who from the first inspir’d me with mistrust!
Let me, however, whatsoe’er betide,
Forever to this one assurance cling:—
’Twas she herself! She stood before my view!
She spoke to me! I hearken’d to her voice!
Her look, her tone, her words’ sweet import, these,
These are forever mine; nor time nor fate,
Nor ruthless chance can plunder me of these!
And if my spirit hath too swiftly soar’d,
If all too promptiv in my breast I gave
Vent to the flame, which now consumes my heart,
So let it be,—I never can repeat,
E’en though my fortune were forever wreck’d
To her devoted, I obey’d with joy
The hand that beckon’d me to ruin’s brink.
So let it be! Thus have I prov’d myself
Deserving of the precious confidence
That cheers my soul,—ay, cheers it in this hour,
When cruel fate unlocks the sable gates
Of long-protracted woe.—Yes, now ’tis done!
For me the sun of gracious favor sets,
Never to rise again; his glance benign
The prince withdraws, and leaves me standing here,
Abandon’d on this narrow, gloomy path.
The bateful and ill-boding feather’d throng,
Obscene attendants upon ancient night,
Swarm forth and whirl round my devoted head.
Whither, oh, whither, shall I bend my steps,
To shun the loathsome brood that round me flit,
And ’scape the dread abyss that yawns before?
Dear Tasso, what hath chanc’d? Hath passion’s glow,
Hath thy suspicious temper urg’d thee thus?
How hath it happen’d? We are all amaz’d.
Where now thy gentleness, thy suavity,
Thy rapid insight, thy discernment just,
Which doth award to every man his due;
Thine even mind, which beareth, what to bear
The wise are prompt, the vain are slow, to learn;
The prudent mastery over lip and tongue?
I scarcely recognize thee now, dear friend.
And what if all were gone, forever gone!
If as a beggar thou should’st meet the friend
Whom just before thou hadst deem’d opulent!
Thou speakest truth, I am no more myself.
Yet am I now as much so as I was.
It seems a riddle, yet it is not one.
The tranquil moon, that cheers thee through the night,
Whose gentle radiance, with resistless power,
Allures thine eye, thy soul, doth float by day
An insignificant and pallid cloud.
In the bright glare of daylight I am lost,
Ye know me not, I scarcely know myself.
Such words, dear friend, as thou hast utter’d them,
I cannot comprehend. Explain thyself.
Say, hath that rugged man’s offensive speech
So deeply wounded thee, that now thou dost
Misjudge thyself and us? Confide in me.
I’m not the one offended. Me thou seest
Thus punish’d here because I gave offence.
The knot of many words the sword would loose
With promptitude and ease, but I’m not free.
Thou’rt scarce aware,—nay, start not, gentle friend,—
’Tis in a prison thou dost meet me here.
Me, as a schoolboy, doth the prince chastise.—
His right I neither can, nor will dispute.
Thou seemest mov’d beyond what reason warrants.
Dost deem me then so weak, so much a child,
That this occurrence could o’erwhelm me thus?
Not what has happen’d wounds me to the quick,
’Tis what it doth portend that troubles me.
Now let my foes conspire! The field is clear.
Many thou holdest falsely in suspect;
Of this, dear friend, I have convinc’d myself.
Even Antonio bears thee no ill-will,
As thou presum’st. The quarrel of to-day—
Let that be set aside: I only view
Antonio as he was and yet remains.
Still hath his formal prudence fretted me,
His proud assumption of the master’s tone.
Careless to learn whether the listener’s mind
Doth not itself the better track pursue,
He tutors thee in much which thou thyself
More truly, deeply feelest; gives no heed
To what thou sayest, and perverts thy words.
Misconstru’d thus, by a proud man, forsooth,
Who smiles superior from his fancied height!
I am not yet or old or wise enough
To answer meekly with a patient smile.
It could not hold, we must at last have broken;
The evil greater had it been postpon’d.
One lord I recognize, who fosters me,
Him I obey, but own no master else.
In poesy and thought I will be free,
In act the world doth limit us enough.
Yet often with respect he speaks of thee.
Thou meanest with forbearance, prudent, subtle.
’Tis that annoys me; for he knows to use
Language so smooth and so conditional,
That seeming praise from him is actual blame,
And there is nothing so offends my soul,
As words of commendation from his lip.
Thou should’st have heard but lately how he spoke
Of thee and of the gift which bounteous nature
So largely hath conferr’d on thee. He feels
Thy genius, Tasso, and esteems thy worth.
Trust me, no selfish spirit can escape
The torment of base envy. Such a man
Pardons in others honor, rank and wealth;
For thus he argues, these thou hast thyself,
Or thou canst have them, if thou persevere,
Or if propitious fortune smile on thee.
But that which Nature can alone bestow,
Which aye remaineth inaccessible
To toil and patient effort, which nor gold,
Nor yet the sword, nor stern persistency
Hath power to wrest,—that he will ne’er forgive.
Not envy me? The pedant who aspires
To seize by force the favor of the muse?
Who, when he strings the thoughts of other bards,
Fondly presumes he is a bard himself?
The prince’s favor he would rather yield,
Though that he fain would limit to himself,
Than the rare gift which the celestial powers
Have granted to the poor, the orphan’d youth.
Oh, that thy vision were as clear as mine!
Thou read’st him wrongly, thou’rt deceiv’d in him.
And if I err, I err with right good will!
I count him for my most inveterate foe,
And should be inconsolable, were I
Compell’d to think of him more leniently.
’Tis foolish in all cases to be just;
It is to wrong one’s self. Are other men
Towards us so equitable? No, ah, no!
Man’s nature, in its narrow scope, demands
The twofold sentiment of love and hate.
Requires he not the grateful interchange
Of day and night, of wakefulness and sleep?
No, from henceforward I do hold this man
The object of my direst enmity;
And naught can snatch from me the cherish’d joy
Of thinking of him ever worse and worse.
Dear friend, I see not if this feeling last,
How thou canst longer tarry at the court.
Thou know’st the just esteem in which he’s held.
I’m fully sensible, fair friend, how long
I have already been superfluous here.
That thou art not, that thou canst never be!
Thou rather knowest how both prince and princess
Rejoice to have thee in their company.
The sister of Urbino, comes she not,
As much for thine as for her kindred’s sake?
They all esteem thee, recognize thy worth.
And each confides in thee without reserve.
O Leonora! Call that confidence!
Of state affairs has he one single word.
One earnest word, vouchsaf’d to speak with me?
In special cases, when he has advis’d
Both with the princess, and with others too,
To me, though present, no appeal was made.
The cry was ever then. Antonio comes!
Consult Antonio! To Antonio write!
Thanks here, methinks, were juster than complaint.
Thus in unchalleng’d freedom leaving thee,
He to thy genius fitting homage pays.
He lets me rest, because he deems me useless.
Thou art not useless, e’en because thou restest.
Care and vexation, like a child belov’d.
Thou still dost cherish, Tasso, in thy breast.
It oft has struck me, and the more I think,
The more convinc’d I feel: on this fair soil,
Where fate auspicious seem’d to plant thy lot,
Thou dost not flourish.—May I speak, my friend?
May I advise thee?—Thou should’st hence depart.
Spare not thy patient, gentle leech! Extend
The draught medicinal, nor think thereon
If it is bitier.—This consider well,
Kind, prudent friend, if he can yet be cur’d!
I see it all myself, ’tis over now!
Him I indeed could pardon, he not me;
He’s needful to them, I, alas! am not.
And he has prudence, I, alas! have none.
He worketh to my injury, and I
Cannot and will not counterwork. My friends
Leave things to chance, they see things otherwise,
They scarcely struggle, who should stoutly fight.
Thou think’st I should depart, I think so too:—
Then farewell, friends!—This, too, I must endure.
You’re parted from me.—Oh, to me be given
The courage and the strength to part from you!
Seen from a distance things show less confus’d,
That in the present serve but to perplex.
Perchance, when absent, thou wilt recognize
The love which here environs thee, wilt learn
The worth of friends, and feel how the wide world
Cannot replace those dearest to the heart.
I shall experience this! Alas! I’ve known,
The world from early youth, how, pressing on,
She lightly leaves us, helpless and forlorn,
Like sun and moon and other deities.
Dear friend, if thou wilt lend an ear to me,
This sad experience thou wilt not repeat.
If I may counsel thee, thou wilt at first
Repair to Florence,—there thou’lt find a friend
Will cherish thee most kindly—’tis myself!
Thither I travel soon to meet my lord,
And there is nothing would afford us, Tasso,
A richer pleasure than thy company.
I need not tell thee, for thyself dost know,
How noble is the prince who ruleth there;
What men, what women, too, our favor’d town
Doth cherish in her bosom. Thou art silent!
Consider well my counsel, and resolve!
Full of sweet promise are thy words, dear friend,
And in accordance with my secret wish.
But ’tis too sudden; let me pause awhile,—
Let me consider! I will soon resolve!
I leave thee now, and with the fairest hope
For thee, for us, and also for this house.
Only reflect, and weigh the matter well;
Thou scarcely wilt devise a better plan.
Yet one thing more, tell me, beloved friend,
How is the princess minded towards me? Speak!
Was she displeas’d with me? Give me her words.—
Hath she severely blam’d me? Tell me all!
She knows thee well, and therefore has excus’d thee.
Say, have I lost her friendship? Flatter not.
A woman’s friendship is not lightly lost.
Without reluctance will she let me go?
If ’twill promote thy welfare, certainly.
Shall I not lose the favor of the prince?
His nature’s noble, thou may’st trust in him.
And shall we leave the princess all alone?
Thou leavest her; and though perhaps not much,
I know full well that I was something to her.
An absent friend is sweet society,
When of his welfare we are well assur’d.
My plan succeeds, I see thee happy now;
Thou wilt not hence depart unsatisfied.
The prince commands; Antonio seeks thee, Tasso.
He censures in himself the bitterness
With which he wounded thee. I do entreat.
Receive him with forbearance, when he comes.
I have no cause to shun the interview.
And oh! dear friend, that Heaven would grant me this:
To make it clear to thee ere thou departest.
That in thy fatherland there is not one
Pursues thee, hates, or covertly molests.
Thou art deceiv’d, and as for others’ pleasure
Wont art thou still to poetize, alas!
Thou in this case dost weave a cunning web
To blind thyself, the which to rend asunder,
I’ll do mine utmost, that with vision clear
Thou may’st pursue life’s glad career untrammel’d.
Farewell! I hope for happy words ere long.
(Alone.) I must believe, forsooth, that no one hates me,—
That no one persecutes, that all the guile,
The subtle malice that environs me,
Is but the coinage of my own sick brain!
I must acknowledge that myself am wrong!
And am unjust to many, who in sooth
Deserve it not! What! This confess e’en now,
When clearly in the open face of day
Appear their malice and my rectitude!
I ought to feel most deeply, how the prince
To me with generous breast his grace imparts.
And in rich measure loads me with his gifts,
E’en at the time when he is weak enough
To let his eyes be blinded by my foes,
Yea, doubtless, and his hand be fetter’d too!
His own delusion he cannot perceive,
That they deluders are, I may not prove;
And that uncheck’d he may delude himself.
And they delude him whensoe’er they please,
I still must hold my peace,—must yield forsooth!
And who thus counsels me? With prudent zeal.
And thoughtful kindness, who doth urge me thus?
Leonora’s self, Leonora Santivale.
Considerate friend! Ha, ha, I know thee now!
Oh, wherefore did I ever trust her words?
She was not honest, when she utter’d forth
To me her favor and her tenderness,
With honey’d words! No, hers hath ever been
And still remains a crafty heart, she turns
With cautious, prudent step where fortune smiles.
How often have I willingly deceiv’d
Myself, in her! And yet it was in truth
But mine own vanity deluded me!
I knew her, but self-flatter’d, argu’d thus:—
True, she is so towards others, but towards thee
Her heart is honest, her intention pure.
Mine eyes are open now,—alas, too late!
I was in favor—on the favorite
How tenderly she fawn’d! I’m fallen now,
And she, like fortune, turns her back on me.
Yes, now she comes, the agent of my foe,
She glides along, the little artful snake,
Hissing, with slipp’ry tongue, her magic tones.
How gracious seem’d she! More than ever gracious!
How soothingly her honey’d accents flow’d!
Yet could the flattery not long conceal
The false intention; on her brow appear’d
Too legibly inscrib’d the opposite
Of all she utter’d. Quick I am to feel
Whene’er the entrance to my heart is sought
With a dishonest purpose. I should hence!
Should hie to Florence, with convenient speed.
And why to Florence? Ah, I see it all,
There reigns the rising house of Medici;
True, with Ferrara not in open feud,
But secret rivalry, with chilling hand,
Doth hold asunder e’en the noblest hearts.
If from those noble princes I should reap
Distinguish’d marks of favor, as indeed
I may anticipate, the courtier here
Would soon impugn my gratitude and truth;
And would, with easy wile, achieve his purpose.
Yes, I will go, but not as ye desire;
I will away, and farther than ye think.
Why should I linger? Who detains me here?
Too well I understood each several word
That I drew forth from Leonora’s lips!
With anxious heed each syllable I caught;
And now I fully know the princess’ mind—
That too is certain; let me not despair!
“Without reluctance she will let me go,
If it promote my welfare.” Would her heart
Were master’d by a passion that would whelm
Me and my welfare! Oh, more welcome far
The grasp of death than of the frigid hand
That passively resigns me!—Yes, I go!—
Now be upon thy guard, and let no show
Of love or friendship bind thee! None hath power
Now to deceive thee, if not self-deceiv’d.
Tasso, I come to say a word to thee,
If thou’rt dispos’d to hear me tranquilly.
I am denied, thou know’st, the power to act;
It well becomes me to attend and listen.
Tranquil I find thee, as I hop’d to find,
And speak to thee in all sincerity.
But in the prince’s name I first dissolve
The slender band, that seem’d to fetter thee.
Caprice dissolves it, as caprice impos’d;
I yield, and no judicial sentence claim.
Next, Tasso, on my own behalf I speak.
I have, it seems, more deeply wounded thee,
Than I,—myself by divers passions mov’d,—
Was conscious of. But no insulting word
Hath from my lip incautiously escap’d.
Naught hast thou, as a noble, to avenge,
And, as a man, wilt not refuse thy pardon.
Whether contempt or insult galls the most,
I will not now determine; that doth pierce
The inmost marrow, this but frets the skin.
The shaft of insult back returns to him
Who wing’d the missile, and the practis’d sword
Soon reconciles the opinion of the world—
A wounded heart is difficult to cure.
’Tis now my turn to press thee urgently;
Oh, step not back, yield to mine earnest wish,
The prince’s wish, who sends me unto thee.
I know the claims of duty, and submit.
Be it, as far as possible, forgiven!
The poets tell us of a magic spear,
Which could a wound, inflicted by itself
Through friendly contact, once again restore,
The human tongue hath also such a power;
I will not peevishly resist it now.
I thank thee, and desire that thou at once
Would’st put my wish to serve thee to the proof.
Then say if I in aught can pleasure thee;—
Most gladly will I do so; therefore speak.
Thine offer tallies with my secret wish.
But now thou hast restor’d my liberty,
Procure for me, I pray, the use of it.
What meanest thou? More plainly state thy wish.
My poem, as thou knowest, I have ended;
Yet much it wants to render it complete.
To-day I gave it to the prince, and hop’d
At the same time to proffer my request.
Full many of my friends I now should find
In Rome assembled; they have writ to me
Their judgments touching divers passages;
By many I could profit; others still
Require consideration; and some lines
I should be loath to alter, till at least
My judgment has been better satisfied.
All this by letter cannot be arrang’d,
While intercourse would soon untie the knots.
I thought myself to ask the prince to-day:
Th’ occasion fail’d; I dare not venture now,
And must for this permission trust to thee.
It seems imprudent to absent thyself
Just at the moment when thy finish’d work
Commends thee to the princess and the prince.
A day of favor is a day of harvest:
We should be busy when the corn is ripe.
Naught wilt thou win if thou departest hence,
Perchance thou’lt lose what thou hast won already.
Presence is still a powerful deity,—
Learn to respect her influence,—tarry here!
I nothing have to fear; Alphons is noble,
Such hath he always prov’d himself tow’rds me;—
To his heart only will I owe the boon
Which now I crave. By no mean, servile arts
Will I obtain his favor. Naught will I receive
Which it can e’er repent him to have given.
Then do not now solicit leave to go;
He will not willingly accord thy suit,
And much I fear he will reject it, Tasso.
Duly entreated, he will grant my prayer;
Thou hast the power to move him, if thou wilt.
But what sufficient reason shall I urge?
Let every stanza of my poem speak!
The scope was lofty that I aim’d to reach,
Though to my genius inaccessible.
Labor and strenuous effort have not fail’d;
The cheerful stroll of many a lovely day,
The silent watch of many a solemn night,
Have to this pious lay been consecrate.
With modest daring I aspir’d to near
The mighty masters of the olden time;
With lofty courage plann’d to rouse our age
From lengthen’d sleep to deeds of high emprise;
Then with a Christian host I hop’d to share
The toil and glory of a holy war,
And that my song may rouse the noblest men
It must be worthy of its lofty aim.
What worth it hath is to Alphonso due;
For its completion I would owe him thanks.
The prince himself is here, with other men,
Able as those of Rome to be thy guides.
Here is thy station, here complete thy work;
Then haste to Rome to carry out thy plan.
Alphonso first inspir’d my muse, and he
Will be the list to counsel me. Thy judgment,
The judgment also of the learned men
Assembled at our court, I highly value;
Ye shall determine when my friends at Rome
Fail to produce conviction in my mind.
But them I must consult. Gonzaga there
Hath summon’d a tribunal before which
I must present myself. I scarce can wait.
Flaminio de’ Nobili, Angelio
Da Barga, Antoniano, and Speron Speroni!
To thee they must be known.—What names they are!
They in my soul, to worth which gladly yields,
Inspire at once both confidence and fear.
Self-occupied, thou think’st not of the prince.
I tell thee that he will not let thee go;
And if he does, ’twill be against his wish.
Thou wilt not surely urge what he to thee
Unwillingly would grant. And shall I here
Still mediate what I cannot approve?
Dost thou refuse me then my first request
When I would put thy friendship to the proof?
Timely denial is the surest test
Of genuine friendship; love doth oft confer
A baneful good when it consults the wish,
And not the happiness of him who sues.
Thou in this moment dost appear to me
To overprize the object of thy wish,
Which, on the instant, thou would’st have fulfill’d.
The erring man would oft by vehemence
Compensate what he lacks in truth and power.
Duty enjoins me now, with all my might,
To check the rashness that would lead thee wrong.
I long have known this tyranny of friendship,
Which of all tyrannies appears to me
The least endurable. Because forsooth
Our judgments differ, thine must needs be right.
I gladly own that thou dost wish my welfare;
Require me not to seek it in thy way.
And would’st thou have me, Tasso, in cold blood,
With full and clear conviction, injure thee?
I will at once absolve thee from this care!
Thou hast no power to hold me with thy words.
Thou hast declar’d me free; these doors, which lead
Straight to the prince, stand open to me now.
The choice I leave to thee. Or thou or I!
The prince goes forth, no time is to be lost;
Determine promptly! Dost thou still refuse,
I go myself, let come of it what will.
A little respite grant me; not to-day;
Wait, I beseech thee, till the prince returns!
If it were possible, this very hour!
My soles are scorch’d upon this marble floor,
Nor can my spirit rest until the dust
Of the free highway shrouds the fugitive.
I do not entreat thee! How unfit I am
Now to appear before the prince, thou seest,
And thou must see, how can I hide from thee,
That I’m no longer master of myself;
No power on earth can sway my energies;
Fetters alone can hold me in control!
No tyrant is the prince; he spake me free.
Once to his words how gladly I gave ear!
To-day to hearken is impossible.
Oh, let me have my freedom but to-day,
That my vex’d spirit may regain its peace!
Back to my duty I will soon return.
Thou mak’st me dubious. How shall I resolve?
That error is contagious, I perceive.
If thy professions I’m to count sincere,
Perform what I desire, as well as thou canst.
Then will the prince release me; and I lose
Neither his favor nor his gracious aid.
For that I’ll thank thee, ay, with cordial thanks.
But if thy bosom bear an ancient grudge,
Would’st thou forever banish me this court,
Forever would’st thou mar my destiny,
And drive me friendless forth into the world,
Then hold thy purpose and resist my prayer!
O Tasso!—for I’m doom’d to injure thee—
I choose the way which thou thyself dost choose;
The issue will determine who doth err!
Thou wilt away! I warn thee ere thou goest:
Scarce shalt thou turn thy back upon this house,
Ere thou shalt yearn in spirit to return,
While wilful humor still shall urge thee on.
Sorrow, distraction and desponding gloom
In Rome await thee. There as well as here
Thou’lt miss thine aim. But this I do not say
To counsel thee. Alas! I but predict
What soon will happen, and invite thee, Tasso,
In the worst exigence to trust to me.
I now, at thy desire, will seek the prince.
(Alone.) Ay, go, and in the fond assurance go,
That thou hast power to bend me to thy will.
I learn dissimulation, for thou art
An able master, and I prompt to learn.
Thus life full oft compels us to appear,
Yea, e’en to be like those, whom in our hearts
We haughtily despise. How clearly now
I see the subtle web of court intrigue!
Antonio desires to drive me hence,
Yet would not seem to drive me. He doth play
The kind, considerate friend, that I may seem
Incapable and weak; installs himself
My guardian too, degrading to a child,
Him whom he could not bend to be a slave.
With clouds of error thus he darkens truth,
And blinds alike the princess and the prince.
They should indeed retain me, so he counsels,
For with fair talents Nature has endow’d me;
Although, alas, she has accompanied
Her lofty gifts with many weaknesses,
With a foreboding spirit, boundless pride,
And sensibility too exquisite.
It cannot now be otherwise, since Fate,
In her caprice, has fashion’d such a man;
We must consent to take him as he is,
Be patient, bear with him, and then, perchance,
On days auspicious, as an unsought good,
Find pleasure in his joy-diffusing gift;
While for the rest, why e’en as he was born,
He must have license both to live and die.
Where now Alphonso’s firm and constant mind?
The man who braves his foe, who shields his friend,
In him who treats me thus can I discover?
Now I discern the measure of my woe!
This is my destiny,—towards me alone
All change their nature,—ay, the very men,
Who are with others steadfast, firm and true,
In one brief moment, for an idle breath,
Swerve lightly from their constant quality.
Has not this man’s arrival here, alone,
And in a single hour, my fortune marr’d?
Has he not, even to its very base,
Laid low the structure of my happiness?
This, too, must I endure,—even to-day!
Yea, as before all press’d around me, now
I am by all abandon’d; as before
Each strove to seize, to win me for himself,
All thrust me from them, and avoid me now.
And wherefore? My desert and all the love,
Wherewith I was so bounteously endow’d,
Does he alone in equal balance weigh?
Yes! all forsake me now. Thou too! Thou too!
Beloved princess, thou too leavest me!
Hath she, to cheer me in this dismal hour,
A single token of her favor sent?
Have I deserv’d this from her?—Thou, poor heart,
Whose very nature was to honor her!—
How, when her gentle accents touch’d mine ear,
Feelings unutterable thrill’d my breast!
When she appear’d, a more ethereal light
Outshone the light of day. Her eyes, her lips
Drew me resistlessly, my very knees
Trembled beneath me, and my spirit’s strength
Was all requir’d to hold myself erect
And curb the strong desire to throw myself
Prostrate before her. Scarcely could I quell
The giddy rapture. Be thou firm, my heart
No cloud obscure thee, thou clear mind! She, too,
Dare I pronounce what yet I scarce believe?
I must believe, yet dread to utter it.
She too! She too! Think not the slightest blame,
Only conceal it not. She too! She too!
Alas! This word, whose truth I ought to doubt
Long as a breath of faith sarviv’d in me;
This word, like fate’s decree, doth now at last.
Engrave itself upon the brazen rim
That rounds the full-scroll’d tablet of my woe
Now first, mine enemies are strong indeed;
Forever now I am of strength bereft.
How shall I combat when she stands oppos’d
Amidst the hostile army? How endure
If she no more reach forth her hand to me?
If her kind glance the suppliant meet no more?
Ay, thou hast dar’d to think, to utter it,
And ere thou could’st have fear’d,—behold ’tis true!
And now, ere yet despair, with brazen talons,
Doth rend asunder thy bewilder’d brain,
Lament thy bitter doom, and utter torth
The unavailing cry—She too! She too!
Obedient to thy wish, I went to Tasso
A second time: I come from him but now.
I sought to move him, yea, I strongly urg’d;
But from his fix’d resolve he swerveth not;
He earnestly entreats that for a time
Thou would’st permit him to repair to Rome.
His purpose much annoys me, I confess;—
I rather tell thee my vexation now,
Than let it strengthen, smother’d in my breast.
He fain would travel, good! I hold him not.
He will depart, he will to Rome; so be it!
Let not the crafty Medici, nor yet
Scipio Gonzaga wrest him from me though!
’Tis this hath made our Italy so great,
That rival neighbors zealously contend
To foster and employ the ablest men.
Like chief without an army, shows a prince
Who round him gathers not superior minds;
And who the voice of Poesy disdains
Is a barbarian, be he who he may.
Tasso I found, I chose him for myself,
I number him with pride among my train;
And having done so much for him already,
I should be loath to lose him without cause.
I feel embarrass’d, prince, for in thy sight
I bear the blame of what to-day befell;
That I was in the wrong. I frankly own,
And look for pardon to thy clemency:
But I were inconsolable could’st thou,
E’en for a moment, doubt my honest zeal
In seeking to appease him. Speak to me
With gracious look, that so I may regain
My self-reliance and my wonted calm.
Feel no disquietude, Antonio;—
In no wise do I count the blame as thine;
Too well I know the temper of the man,
Know all too well what I have done for him,
How often I have spar’d him, and how oft
Towards him I have o’erlook’d my rightful claims.
O’er many things we gain the mastery,
But stern necessity and lengthen’d time
Scarce give a man dominion o’er himself.
When other men toil in behalf of one,
’Tis fit this one with diligence inquire
How he may profit others in return.
He who hath fashion’d his own mind so well,
Who hath aspir’d to make each several science
And the whole range of human lore, his own,
Is he not doubly bound to rule himself?
Yet doth he ever give it e’en a thought?
Continu’d rest is not ordain’d for man!
Still, when we purpose to enjoy ourselves,
To try our valor, fortune sends a foe,
To try our equanimity, a friend.
Does Tasso e’en fulfil man’s primal duty,
To regulate his appetite, in which
He is not, like the brute, restrain’d by nature?
Does he not rather, like a child, indulge
In all that charms and gratifies his taste?
When has he mingled water with his wine?
Comfits and condiments, and potent drinks,
One with another still he swallows down,
And then complains of his bewilder’d brain,
His hasty temper, and his fever’d blood,
Railing at nature and at destiny.
How oft I’ve heard him in a bitter style
With childish folly argue with his leech!
’Twould raise a laugh, if aught were laughable
Which teases others and torments one’s self.
“Oh, this is torture!” anxiously he cries,
Then in splenetic mood, “Why boast your art?
Prescribe a cure!” “Good!” then exclaims the leech.
“Abstain from this or that.” “That can I not.”
“Then take this potion.” “No, it nauseates me;
The taste is horrid, nature doth rebel.”—
“Well then, drink water.” “Water! never more!
Like hydrophobia is my dread of it.”
“Then your disease is hopeless.” “Why, I pray?”
“One evil symptom will succeed another,
And though your ailment should not fatal prove,
’Twill daily more torment you.” “Fine, indeed;
Then wherefore play the leech? You know my case,
You should devise a remedy, and one
That’s palatable too, that I may not
First suffer pain before reliev’d from it.”
I see thee smile, my prince, ’tis but the truth;
Doubtless thyself hast heard it from his lips.
Oft I have heard, and have as oft excus’d.
It is most certain, an intemperate life.
As it engenders wild, distemper’d dreams,
At length doth make us dream in open day.
What’s his suspicion but a troubled dream?
He thinks himself environ’d still by foes.
None can discern his gift who envy not,
And all who envy, hate and persecute.
Oft with complaints he has molested thee:
Notes intercepted, violated locks,
Poison, the dagger! All before him float!
Thou dost investigate his grievance,—well,
Doth aught appear? Why, scarcely a pretext.
No sovereign’s shelter gives him confidence.
The bosom of no friend can comfort him.
Would’st promise happiness to such a man,
Or look to him for joy unto thyself?
Thou would’st be right, Antonio, if from him
I sought my own immediate benefit.
But I have learn’d no longer to expect
Service direct and unconditional.
All do not serve us in the selfsame way;
Who needeth much, according to his gifts
Must each employ, so is he ably serv’d.
This lesson from the Medici we learn’d;
’Tis practis’d even by the popes themselves.
With what forbearance, magnanimity
And princely patience, have they not endur’d
Full many a genius, who seem’d not to need
Their ample favor, yet who needed it!
Who knows not this, my prince? The toil of life
Alone can tutor us life’s gifts to prize.
In youth he hath already won so much;
He cannot relish aught in quietness.
Oh, that he were compell’d to earn the blessings
Which now with liberal hand are thrust upon him!
With manly courage he would brace his strength,
And at each onward step feel new content.
The needy noble has attain’d the height
Of his ambition, it his gracious prince
Raise him, with hand benign, from poverty,
And choose him as an inmate of the court.
Should he then honor him with confidence,
And before others raise him to his side,
Consulting him in war, or state affairs,
Why then methinks, with silent gratitude,
The modest man may bless his lucky fate.
And with all this, Tasso enjoys besides
Youth’s purest happiness:—his fatherland
Esteems him highly, looks to him with hope.
Trust me for this,—his peevish discontent
On the broad pillow of his fortune rests.
He comes, dismiss him kindly, give him time
In Rome, in Naples, wheresoe’er he will,
To search in vain for what he misses here,
Yet here alone can ever hope to find.
Back to Ferrara will he first return?
He rather would remain in Belriguardo.
And, for his journey, what he may require,
He will request a friend to forward to him.
I am content. My sister, with her friend,
Return immediately to town, and I,
Riding with speed, hope to reach home before them.
Thou’lt follow straight when thou for him hast car’d;
Give needful orders to the castellan,
That in the castle he may here abide
So long as he desires, until his friend
Forward his equipage, and till the letters,
Which we shall give him to our friends at Rome,
Have been transmitted. Here he comes. Farewell!
(With embarrassment.) The favor thou so oft has shown me, prince,
Is manifest, in clearest light, to-day.
The deed which, in the precincts of thy palace,
I lawlessly committed, thou hast pardon’d;
Thou hast appeas’d and reconcil’d my foe;
Thou dost permit me for a time to leave
The shelter of thy side, and rich in bounty.
Wilt not withdraw from me thy generous aid.
Inspir’d with confidence, I now depart,
And trust that this brief absence will dispel
The heavy gloom that now oppresses me.
My renovated soul shall plume her wing.
And pressing forward on the bright career,
Which, glad and bold, encourag’d by thy glance,
I enter’d first, deserve thy grace anew.
Prosperity attend thee on thy way!
With joyous spirit, and to health restor’d,
Return again amongst us. Thus thou shalt
To us, in double measure, for each hour
Thou now depriv’st us of, requital bring.
Letters I give thee to my friends at Rome,
And also to my kinsmen, and desire
That to my people everywhere thou should’st
Confidingly attach thyself;—though absent,
Thee I shall certainly regard as mine.
Thou dost, O prince, o’erwhelm with favors one
Who feels himself unworthy, who e’en wants
Ability to render fitting thanks.
Instead of thanks I proffer a request!
My poem now lies nearest to my heart.
My labors have been strenuous, yet I feel
That I am far from having reach’d my aim.
Fain would I there resort, where hovers yet
The inspiring genius of the mighty dead,
Still raining influence; there would I become
Once more a learner, then more worthily
My poem might rejoice in thine applause.
Oh, give me back the manuscript, which now
I feel asham’d to know within thy hand.
Thou wilt not surely take from me to-day
What but to-day to me thou hast consign’d.
Between thy poem, Tasso, and thyself
Let me now stand as arbiter. Beware—
Nor, through assiduous diligence, impair
The genial nature that pervades thy rhymes:
And give not ear to every critic’s word!
With nicest tact the poet reconciles
The judgments thousandfold of different men,
In thoughts and life at variance with each other;
And fears not numbers to displease, that he
Still greater numbers may enchant the more.
And yet I say not but that here and there
Thou may’st, with modest care, employ the file.
I promise thee at once, that in brief space,
Thou shalt receive a copy of thy poem.
Meanwhile I will retain it in my hands,
That I may first enjoy it with my sisters.
Then, if thou bring’st it back more perfect still,
Our joy will be enhanc’d, and here and there,
We’ll hint corrections, only as thy friends.
I can but modestly repeat my prayer;
Let me receive the copy with all speed.
My spirit resteth solely on this work,
Its full completion it must now attain.
I praise the ardor that inspires thee, Tasso!
Yet, were it possible, thou for awhile
Should’st rest thy mind, seek pleasure in the world,
And find some means to cool thy heated blood.
Then would thy mental powers restor’d to health,
Through their sweet harmony, spontaneous yield,
What now, with anxious toil, in vain thou seekest.
My prince, it seems so, but I am in health
When I can yield myself to strenuous toil,
And this my toil again restores my health.
Long hast thou known me, thou must long have seen
I thrive not in luxurious indolence.
Rest brings no rest to me. Alas, I feel it;
My mind, by nature, never was ordain’d,
Borne on the yielding billows of the hour,
To float in pleasure o’er time’s ample sea.
Thine aims, thy dreams, all whelm thee in thyself.
Around us there doth yawn full many a gulf,
Scoop’d by the hand of destiny; but here,
In our own bosoms, lies the deepest;—ay!
And tempting ’tis to hurl one’s self therein!
I charge thee, Tasso, snatch thee from thyself!
The man will profit, though the bard may lose.
To quell the impulse I should vainly strive,
Which ceaseless in my bosom, day and night
Alternates ever. Life were life no more
Were I to cease to poetize, to dream.
Would’st thou forbid the cunning worm to spin,
For that to nearer death he spins himself?
From his own being he unfoldeth still
The costly texture, nor suspends his toil,
Till in his shroud he hath immur’d himself.
Oh, to us mortals may some gracious power
Accord the insect’s enviable doom,
In some new sunny vale, with sudden joy,
To spread our eager pinions!
List to me!
Thou givest still to others to enjoy
Life with a twofold relish. Learn thyself
To know the worth of life, whose richest boon
In tenfold measure is bestow’d on thee.
Now fare thee well! The sooner thou returnest
All the more cordial will thy welcome be.
(Alone.) Hold fast, my heart, thy work has been well done!
The task was arduous, for ne’er before
Didst thou or wish or venture to dissemble.
Ay, thou didst hear it, that was not his mind,
Nor his the words; to me it still appear’d,
As if I heard again Antonio’s voice.
Only give heed! Henceforth on every side
Thou’lt hear that voice. Be firm, my heart, be firm!
’Tis only for a moment. He who learns
The trick of simulation late in life,
Doth outwardly the natural semblance wear
Of honest faith; practise, and thou’lt succeed.
(After a pause.)
Too soon thou triumphest, for lo! she comes!
The gentle princess comes! Oh, what a feeling!
She enters now, suspicion in my breast
And angry sullenness dissolve in grief.
(Towards the end of the Scene the others.)
Thou thinkest to forsake us, or remainest
Rather behind in Belriguardo, Tasso.
And then thou wilt withdraw thyself from us?
I trust thine absence will not be for long.
To Rome thou goest?
Thither first I wend,
And if, as I have reason to expect,
I from my friends kind welcome there receive,
With care and patient toil I may, at length,
Impart its highest finish to my poem.
Full many men I find assembled there,
Masters who may be styl’d in every art.
Ay, and in that first city of the world.
Hath not each site, yea, every stone a tongue?
How many thousand silent monitors,
With earnest men, majestic, beckon us!
There if I fail to make my work complete,
I never shall complete it. Ah, I feel it—
Success doth wait on no attempt of mine!
Still altering, I ne’er shall perfect it.
I feel, yea, deeply feel, the noble art
That quickens others, and does strength infuse
Into the healthy soul, will drive me forth,
And bring me to destruction. Forth I haste!
I will to Naples first.
Darest thou venture?
Still is the rigid sentence unrepeal’d
Which banish’d thee, together with thy father.
I know the danger, and have ponder’d it.
Disguis’d I go, in tatter’d garb, perchance
Of shepherd, or of pilgrim, meanly clad.
Unseen I wander through the city, where
The movements of the many shroud the one.
Thee to the shore I hasten, find a bark,
With people of Sorrento, peasant folk,
Returning home from market, for I too
Must hasten to Sorrento. There resides
My sister, ever to my parents’ heart,
Together with myself, a mournful joy.
I speak not in the bark, I step ashore
Also in silence, slowly I ascend
The upward path, and at the gate inquire:
Where may she dwell, Cornelia Sersale?
With friendly mien, a woman at her wheel
Shows me the street, the house; I hasten on;
The children run beside me, and survey
The gloomy stranger, with the shaggy locks.
Thus I approach the threshold. Open stands
The cottage door; I step into the house—
O Tasso! if ’tis possible, look up,
And see the danger that environs thee!
I spare thy feelings, else I well might ask,
Is’t noble so to speak as now thou speakest?
Is’t noble of thyself alone to think,
As if thou didst not wound the heart of friends?
My brother’s sentiments, are they conceal’d?
And how we sisters prize and honor thee,—
Hast thou not known and felt it? Can it be
That a few moments should have alter’d all?
O Tasso, if thou wilt indeed depart,
Yet do not leave behind thee grief and care.
How soothing to the sorrowing heart to give,
To the dear friend who leaves us for a season,
Some trifling present, though ’twere nothing more
Than a new mantle, or a sword perchance!
There’s naught, alas, that we can offer thee,
For thou ungraciously dost fling aside
E’en what thou hast. Thou choosest for thyself
The pilgrim’s scallop shell, his sombre weeds.
His staff to lean on, and departing thus,
In willing poverty, from us thou takest
The only pleasure we could share with thee.
Then thou wilt not reject me utterly?
O precious words! O comfort dear and sweet!
Do thou defend me! Shield me with thy care!—
Oh, send me to Consandoli, or here,
Keep me in Belriguardo, where thou wilt!
The prince is lord of many a pleasant seat,
Of many a garden, which the whole year round
Is duly kept, whose paths ye scarcely tread
A single day, perchance but for an hour.
Then, choose among them all the most remote
Which through long years ye have not visited.
And which perchance e’en now untended lies.
Oh, send me thither! There let me be yours!
And I will tend thy trees! With screen and tile
Will shield thy citrons from autumnal blasts,
Fencing them round with interwoven reeds!
Flowers of the fairest hue shall in the beds
Strike deep their spreading roots; with nicest care
Each pathway, every corner shall be kept.
And of the palace also give me charge!
At proper times the windows I will open,
Lest noxious vapor should the pictures mar;
The walls, with choicest stucco-work adorn’d,
I with light feather-work will free from dust;
There shall the polish’d pavement brightly shine,
There shall no stone, no tiling be misplac’d;
There shall no weeds sprout from the crevices!
I find no counsel in my troubled breast,
And find no comfort for thyself and—us.
Around I look to see if some kind god
Will haply grant us succor, and reveal
Some healing plant, or potion, to restore
Peace to thy ’wilder’d senses, peace to us!
The truest word that floweth from the lip,
The surest remedy hath lost its power.
Leave thee I must,—yet doth my heart refuse
From thee to part.
Ye gods! And is it she?
She who thus pities, who thus speaks with thee?
And could’st thou e’er mistake that noble heart?
And in her presence, was it possible,
That thee despondency could seize, could master?
No, no, ’tis thou! I am myself again!
Oh, speak once more! Sweet comfort let me hear
Again from thy dear lips! Speak, nor withdraw
Thy counsel from me.—Say, what must I do,
That I may win the pardon of the prince,
That thou thyself may’st freely pardon me,
That ye may both with pleasure take me back
Into your princely service? Speak to me.
It is but little we require from thee.
And yet that little seemeth all too much.
Freely should’st thou resign thyself to us.
We wish not from thee aught but what thou art,
If only with thyself thou wert at peace.
When joy thou feelest, thou dost cause us joy,
When thou dost fly from it, thou grievest us;
And if sometimes we are impatient with thee,
’Tis only that we fain would succor thee,
And feel, alas, our succor all in vain,
If thou the friendly hand forbear to grasp,
Stretch’d longingly, which yet doth reach thee not.
’Tis thou thyself, a holy angel still,
As when at first thou didst appear to me!
The mortal’s darken’d vision, oh, forgive,
If while he gaz’d, he for a moment err’d;
Now he again discerns thee, and his soul
Aspires to honor thee eternally.
A flood of tenderness o’erwhelms my heart—
She stands before me! She! What feeling this?
Is it distraction draws me unto thee?
Or is it madness? or a sense sublime
Which apprehends the purest, loftiest truth?
Yes, ’tis the only feeling that on earth
Hath power to make and keep me truly bless’d,
Or that could overwhelm me with despair,
What time I wrestled with it, and resolv’d
To banish it forever from my heart.
This fiery passion I had thought to quell,
Still with mine inmost being strove and strove,
And in the strife my very self destroy’d,
Which is to thee indissolubly bound.
If thou would’st have me, Tasso, listen to thee,
Restrain this fervid glow, which frightens me.
Restrains the goblet’s rim the bubbling wine
That sparkling foams, and overflows its bounds?
Thine every word doth elevate my bliss,
With every word more brightly gleams thine eye,
Over my spirit’s depths there comes a change;
Reliev’d from dark perplexity I feel
Free as a god, and all I owe to thee!
A charm unspeakable, which masters me,
Flows from thy lips. Thou makest me all thine.
Of mine own being naught belongs to me.
Mine eye grows dim in happiness and light,
My senses fail; no more my foot sustains me,
Thou draw’st me to thee with resistless might,
And my heart rushes self-impell’d to thee.
Me hast thou won for all eternity,
Then take my whole of being to thyself.
[He throws himself into her arms, and clasps her to his bosom.
(Throwing him from her and retiring in haste.) Away!
(Who has for some time appeared in the background, hastening forward.) What hath befallen? Tasso! Tasso!
[She follows thePrincess.
(About to follow her.) O God!
(Who has for some time been approaching withAntonio.) He is distracted, hold him fast.
If that a foeman—as thou deem’st thyself
Environ’d by a multitude of foes—
Beside thee stood, how would he triumph now!
Unhappy man! I am not yet myself!
When something quite unparallel’d occurs,
When something monstrous first arrests our sight,
The stagger’d spirit stands a moment still,
For we know nothing to compare it with.
(After a long pause.) Fulfil thine office, I perceive ’tis thou!
Ay, thou deserv’st the prince’s confidence.
Fulfil thine office, since my doom is seal’d.
With ling’ring tortures, torture me to death!
Draw! draw the shaft, that I may feel the barb
That lacerates, with cruel pangs, my heart!
The tyrant’s precious instrument art thou;
Be thou his gaoler,—executioner,—
For these are offices become thee well!
(Towards the scene.)
Yes, tyrant, go! Thou could’st not to the last
Thy wonted mask retain; in triumph go!
Thy slave thou hast well pinion’d, hast reserv’d
For predetermin’d and protracted pangs:
Yes, go! I hate thee. In my heart I feel
The horror which despotic power excites,
When it is grasping, cruel and unjust.
(After a pause.)
Thus, then, at last I see myself exil’d,
Turn’d off, and thrust forth like a mendicant!
Thus they with garlands wreath’d me, but to lead
The victim to the shrine of sacrifice!
Thus, at the very last, with cunning words,
They drew from me my only property,
My poem,—ay, and they retain it too!
Now is my one possession in your hands,
My bright credential wheresoe’er I went;
My sole resource ’gainst biting poverty!
Ay, now I see why I must take mine ease.
’Tis a conspiracy, and thou the head.
Thus that my song may not be perfected,
That my renown may ne’er be spread abroad,
That envy still a thousand faults may find,
And my unhonor’d name forgotten die;
Therefore I must consent to idleness,
Therefore must spare my faculties, myself.
O precious friendship! Dear solicitude!
Odious appear’d the dark conspiracy
Which ceaseless round me wove its viewless web,
But still more odious does it now appear!
And, thou too, Siren! who so tenderly
Didst lead me on with thy celestial mien,
Thee now I know! Wherefore, O God, so late!
But we so willingly deceive ourselves,
We honor reprobates, who honor us.
True men are never to each other known;
Such knowledge is reserv’d for galley-slaves,
Chain’d to a narrow plank, who gasp for breath,
Where none hath aught to ask, nor aught to lose,
Where for a rascal each avows himself,
And holds his neighbor for a rascal too,—
Such men as these perchance may know each other.
But for the rest, we courteously misjudge them,
Hoping they may misjudge us in return.
How long thine hallow’d image from my gaze
Veil’d the coquette, working, with paltry arts!
The mask has fallen!—Now I see Armida
Denuded of her charms,—yes, thou art she,
Of whom my bodeful verse prophetic sang!
And then the little, cunning go-between!
With what profound contempt I view her now!
I hear the rustling of her stealthy step,
As round me still she spreads her artful toils.
Ay, now I know you! And let that suffice!
And misery, though it beggar me of all,
I honor still,—for it hath taught me truth.
I hear thee with amazement, though I know
How thy rash humor, Tasso, urges thee
To rush in haste to opposite extremes.
Collect thy spirit and command thy rage!
Thou speakest slander, dost indulge in words
Which to thine anguish though they be forgiven,
Yet thou canst ne’er forgive unto thyself.
Oh, speak not to me with a gentle lip,
Let me not hear one prudent word from thee!
Leave me my sullen happiness, that I
May not regain my senses, but to lose them.
My very bones are crush’d, yet do I live;—
Ay! live to feel the agonizing pain.
Despair enfolds me in its ruthless grasp,
And, in the hell-pang that annihilates,
These sland’rous words are but the feeble cry,
Wrung from the depth of my sore agony.
I will away! If honest, point the path,
And suffer me at once to fly from hence.
In thine extremity I will not leave thee;
And should’st thou wholly lose thy self-control,
My patience shall not fail.
And must I then
Yield myself up a prisoner to thee?
Resign’d I yield myself, and it is done;
I cease to struggle, and ’tis well with me—
Now let mine anguish’d heart recall how fair
What, as in sport, I madly flung away.
They hence depart—O God! I there behold
The dust, ascending from their chariot wheels—
The riders in advance—ay, there they go,
E’en to the very place from whence I came!
Now they are gone—they are estrang’d from me.
Oh, that I once again had kiss’d his hand!
Oh, that I once again might say farewell!
Once only might I falter: O forgive!
Once only hear the word: Go, thou’rt forgiven!
Alas! I hear it not;—I ne’er shall hear it—
Yes, I will go! Let me but say farewell,
Only farewell! Give me, oh, give me back
Their long’d-for presence for a single moment!
Perchance I might recover! Never more!
I am rejected, doom’d to banishment!
Alas! I am self-banish’d, never more
To hear that gentle voice, that tender glance
To meet no more—
Yet hear the voice of one
Who, not without emotion, stands beside thee!
Thou’rt not so wretched, Tasso, as thou thinkest.
Collect thyself! Too much thou art unmann’d.
And am I then as wretched as I seem?
Am I as weak as I do show myself?
Say, is all lost? Has sorrow’s direful stroke,
As with an earthquake’s sudden shock, transform’d
The stately pile into a ruin’d heap?
Is all the genius flown that did erewhile
So richly charm, and so exalt my soul?
Is all the power extinguish’d which of yore
Stirr’d in my bosom’s depths? Am I become
A nothing? A mere nothing? No, all’s here!
I have it still, and yet myself am nothing!
I from myself am sever’d, she from me!
Though to thyself thou seemest so forlorn,
Be calm, and bear in mind what still thou art!
Ay, in due season thou remindest me!—
Hath history no example for mine aid?
Before me doth there rise no man of worth
Who more hath borne than I, that with his fate,
Mine own comparing, I may gather strength.
No, all is gone!—But one thing still remains;
Tears, balmy tears, kind nature has bestow’d.
The cry of anguish, when the man at length
Can bear no more—yea, and to me beside,
She leaves in sorrow melody and speech,
To utter forth the fulness of my woe:
Though in their mortal anguish men are dumb,
To me a God hath given to tell my grief.
[Antonioapproaches him and takes his hand.
O noble man! thou standest firm and calm,
While I am like the tempest-driven wave.
But be not boastful of thy strength. Reflect!
Nature, whose mighty power hath fix’d the rock,
Gives to the wave its instability.
She sends her storm, the passive wave is driven,
And rolls, and swells, and falls in billowy foam.
Yet in this very wave the glorious sun
Mirrors his splendor, and the quiet stars
Upon its heaving bosom gently rest.
Dimm’d is the splendor, vanish’d is the calm!
In danger’s hour I know myself no longer,
Nor am I now asham’d of the confession.
The helm is broken, and on every side
The reeling vessel splits. The riven planks,
Bursting asunder, yawn beneath my feet!
Thus with my outstretch’d arms I cling to thee!
So doth the shipwreck’d mariner at last
Cling to the rock, whereon his vessel struck.