Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Watch of Venus

Loveless ones should love tomorrow; and the lover should be loved!

Spring is new and spring is songful, Earth is risen in the springtime!
Loves are mingled in the springtime; songbirds marry in the springtime,
And the woodland lets her hair loose in the waters of the springtime.
At the dawn the one who couples love to love will build her dwellings,
Woven out of myrtle branches in the shadow of the woodland.
Yes, tomorrow Aphrodite utters laws from up in heaven.

Loveless ones should love tomorrow; and the lover should be loved!

’Twas tomorrow that the Ocean brought up Venus from his bosom,
When a rain of blood from heaven, in a ball of frothy billows,
Fell among his sunless masses, and among his standing horses.

Loveless ones should love tomorrow, and the lover should be loved!

Venus paints the purple season with her gems that glow like flowers;
Venus implicates the rosebuds – as the Zephyr blows about them –
Into knots of fervid blossoms, and she drops her dewy water;
Drops the shining dew of morning, scattered in the nightly breezes.
Now these trembling tears of moisture sparkle in their drooping fullness,
And these falling balls of water break and slide in little droplets.
See the purple petals open, laying bare their shameful blushes!
Water sown in quiet nighttime, scattered by the constellations,
Frees the wet and virgin rosebuds from their garments in the morning;
Venus bids the dampened virgins join in wedlock in the morning.
See the bride of Venus’ ichor, of the kisses of the Archer,
And of gemstones, and of fire, and the purple of the sunlight!
She will not be shy tomorrow; though she’s faithful to her consort,
She’ll not shy to loose her redness from its swaddling of fire.

Loveless ones should love tomorrow; and the lover should be loved!

Now the goddess bids her wood-nymphs to her hidden groves of myrtle;
Now the Lad goes out with maidens, but it never shall be trusted
That the archer Love be idle, till he lay aside his arrows.
‘Go, ye nymphs, he’s dropped his arrows, Love the archer wanders idle!
He is bidden to go harmless, he is bidden to go naked;
He is stripped of bow and arrow, nor with fire will he hurt you.
But, ye nymphs, be ever wary: beautiful is naked Eros!
Love is strong in arms and armour when he goes among you naked.’

Loveless ones should love tomorrow; and the lover should be loved!

Virgin of the woods, Diana! Venus sends you stainless maidens,
And I ask you just a trifle: keep away, O pure Diana!
Keep the pastures of the forest clean of hunters’ bloody killing;
Let the shadows of the forest spill upon untrampled flowers.
Venus had preferred to bring you, but she cannot sway a maiden;
She had liked you to be present, were it fitting for a virgin.
You’d have seen the singing choirs on the three nights of her feasting
Going through the thronging masses in the pastures of your woodland;
Going through the flowered garlands and the cottages of myrtle.
Neither Ceres, nor the Free One, nor the poets’ god were absent,
And we’d revel till the morning, all awake in constant singing.
Rule, O Venus, in the woodland! Keep away, O fierce Diana!

Loveless ones should love tomorrow; and the lover should be loved!

Now upon the flowered hillside Venus holds a seat of judgment;
She will sit and utter judgment, all the Graces flocked around her.
Hillside, pour up all your flowers, all the flowers of the season;
Hillside, put on flowered clothing, all across the plain of Etna.
Here will be the country’s maidens, and the maidens of the mountains,
And the maids who haunt the forests, and the sacred springs and woodlands.
Now the mother of desire bids the maidens flock around her;
She has bid them to be wary of the naked lad of longing.

Loveless ones should love tomorrow; and the lover should be loved!

’Twas tomorrow that the Heaven first embraced the Earth in marriage,
And begat the train of seasons from the waters of the springtime.
Then a rain of seed from Heaven poured into his fertile consort,
And the mixture fed the children of the Earth’s tremendous body.
Yea, and Venus the Creatrix, breathing through all minds and sinews,
Rules them with her hidden powers; rules them from within their bodies.
Through the earth and through the heavens, through the sea that yawns below us,
She has poured herself a passage on a stream of liquid seedlings;
And has bid the teeming cosmos know the mysteries of breeding.

Loveless ones should love tomorrow; and the lover should be loved!

Venus joined the sons of Trojans to the sons of native Latins;
Venus gave her son in marriage to Lavinia the maiden;
Venus gave a stainless virgin from her temple to the war-god;
Venus joined the Sabine women to the striplings of the Romans,
Whence the Quirites and Ramnes; and to give them future glory,
She begat the mighty Caesar and his progeny Augustus.

Loveless ones should love tomorrow; and the lover should be loved!

Pleasure makes the country fertile, and the country quakes with Venus;
And they say that Love her stripling is a child of the country.
When the fields gave birth to Eros, Venus took him to her bosom,
Gave him suck and gentle kisses; gentle kisses of the flowers.

Loveless ones should love tomorrow; and the lover should be loved!

See the bulls relax their haunches in the shadow of the broom-trees,
Each one safe beside his lover; sewn to her in carnal union.
See the bleating sheep beside them, twined in couples in the shadows!
Now the goddess bids the songbirds to erupt from barren silence;
Now the swans disturb the waters, crying in their husky voices;
Now the lovely Philomela sings beneath the poplar’s shadow.
So delightful is her singing, you might think she sings of loving,
And you’d never know she suffers, weeping for her tortured sister.
She is singing, I am quiet. When, ah, when will come my springtime?
When will I be like the swallow, so I might no more be quiet?
I have lost the Muse in silence, and the Sun has scorned to light me;
Just as silence wrecked the city that had languished in her quiet.

Loveless ones should love tomorrow; and the lover should be loved!


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This is the Night-Watch of Venus, a song for the eve of the Roman festival of Venus, which was celebrated from 1–3 April. You can sing it to the tune of ‘Oh my Darling, Clementine.’ (I’ve lengthened the meter by a syllable in the translation.)

The authorship of the poem is uncertain, but it was probably written by Tiberianus, who lived in the late third or early fourth century. The original is copied below according to G. P. Goold’s text.


*     *     *

Cras amet qui numquam amavit quique amavit cras amet.

Ver novum, ver jam canorum, vere natus orbis est;
Vere concordant amores, vere nubunt alites,
Et nemus comam resolvit de maritis imbribus.
Cras amorum copulatrix inter umbras arborum
Implicat casas virentes de flagello myrteo;
Cras Dione jura dicit fulta sublimi throno.

Cras amet qui numquam amavit quique amavit cras amet.

Tunc cruore de superno spumeo pontus globo
Cærulas inter catervas inter et bipedes equos
Fecit undantem Dionen de marinis fluctibus.

Cras amet qui numquam amavit quique amavit cras amet.

Ipsa gemmis purpurantem pingit annum floridis;
Ipsa surgentes papillas de Favoni spiritu
Vrget in nodos tepentes; ipsa roris lucidi,
Noctis aura quem relinquit, spargit umentes aquas.
Emicant lacrimæ trementes de caduco pondere;
Gutta præceps orbe parvo sustinet casus suos.
En pudorem florulentæ prodiderunt purpuræ!
Vmor ille quem serenis astra rorant noctibus
Mane virgineas papillas solvit umenti peplo.
Ipsa jussit mane ut udæ virgines nubant rosæ :
Facta Cypridis de cruore deque Amoris osculis
Deque gemmis deque flammis deque solis purpuris
Cras ruborem qui latebat veste tectus ignea
Vnico marita nodo non pudebit solvere.

Cras amet qui numquam amavit quique amavit cras amet.

Ipsa nymphas diva luco jussit ire myrteo.
It Puer comes puellis; nec tamen credi potest
Esse Amorem feriatum, si sagittas vexerit:
‘Ite, nymphæ, posuit arma, feriatus est Amor!
Jussus est inermis ire, nudus ire jussus est,
Neu quid arcu, neu sagitta, neu quid igne laederet.
Sed tamen nymphæ cavete quod Cupido pulcher est:
Totus est in armis idem, quando nudus est Amor.’

Cras amet qui numquam amavit quique amavit cras amet.

‘Compari Venus pudore mittit ad te virgines:
Vna res est quam rogamus: cede, virgo Delia,
Vt nemus sit incruentum de ferinis stragibus,
Et rigentibus virentes ducat umbras floribus.
Ipsa vellet te rogare, si pudicam flecteret;
Ipsa vellet ut venires, si deceret virginem.
Jam tribus choros videres feriatis noctibus
Congreges inter catervas ire per saltus tuos,
Floreas inter coronas, myrteas inter casas.
Nec Ceres nec Bacchus absunt, nec poëtarum deus.
Detinenda tota nox est, pervigilanda canticis:
Regnet in silvis Dione! tu, recede, Delia!’

Cras amet qui numquam amavit quique amavit cras amet.

Jussit Hyblæis tribunal stare diva floribus:
Præses ipsa iura dicet, adsidebunt Gratiæ.
Hybla, totos funde flores, quidquid annus adtulit;
Hybla, florum sume vestem, quantus Ætnæ campus est.
Ruris hic erunt puellæ vel puellæ montium,
Quaeque silvas, quæque lucus, quæque fontes incolunt:
Jussit omnes adsidere Pueri mater alitis,
Jussit, et nudo, puellas nil Amori credere.

Cras amet qui numquam amavit quique amavit cras amet.

Cras erit quo primus Æther copulavit nuptias,
Vt pater totum crearet vernis annum nubibus:
In sinum maritus imber fluxit almae coniugis,
Vnde fetus mixtus omnes aleret magno corpore.
Ipsa venas atque mentem permeanti spiritu
Intus occultis gubernat procreatrix viribus;
Perque cælum perque terras perque pontum subditum
Pervium sui tenorem seminali tramite
Imbuit iussitque mundum nosse nascendi vias.

Cras amet qui numquam amavit quique amavit cras amet.

Ipsa Trojanos nepotes in Latinos transtulit;
Ipsa Laurentem puellam coniugem nato dedit,
Moxque Marti de sacello dat pudicam virginem;
Romuleas ipsa fecit cum Sabinis nuptias,
Vnde Ramnes et Quirites, proque prole posterum
Romuli, patrem crearet et nepotem Cæsarem.

Cras amet qui numquam amavit quique amavit cras amet.

Rura fecundat voluptas, rura Venerem sentiunt;
Ipse Amor, puer Dionæ, rure natus dicitur.
Hunc, ager cum parturiret, ipsa suscepit sinu,
Ipsa florum delicatis educavit osculis.

Cras amet qui numquam amavit quique amavit cras amet.

Ecce, jam subter genestas explicant tauri latus,
Quisque tutus, quo tenetur, coniugali fœdere!
subter umbras cum maritis, ecce, balantum greges!
Et canoras non tacere diva jussit alites:
Jam loquaces ore rauco stagna cygni perstrepunt;
Adsonat Terei puella subter umbram populi,
Vt putes motus amoris ore dici musico,
Et neges queri sororem de marito barbaro.
Illa cantat, nos tacemus. Quando ver venit meum?
Quando fiam uti chelidon, ut tacere desinam?
Perdidi Musam tacendo, nec me Phœbus respicit:
Sic Amyclas, cum tacerent, perdidit silentium.

Cras amet qui numquam amavit quique amavit cras amet.

The Codex Salmasianus, one of our most
important witnesses for the poem.

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