The Triumph Of Chastity.

A poem by Francesco Petrarca

Quando ad un giogo ed in Un tempo quivi.

When to one yoke at once I saw the height
Of gods and men subdued by Cupid's might,
I took example from their cruel fate,
And by their sufferings eased my own hard state;
Since Phoebus and Leander felt like pain,
The one a god, the other but a man;
One snare caught Juno and the Carthage dame
(Her husband's death prepared her funeral flame--
'Twas not a cause that Virgil maketh one);
I need not grieve, that unprepared, alone,
Unarm'd, and young, I did receive a wound,
Or that my enemy no hurt hath found
By Love; or that she clothed him in my sight,
And took his wings, and marr'd his winding flight;
No angry lions send more hideous noise
From their beat breasts, nor clashing thunder's voice
Rends heaven, frights earth, and roareth through the air
With greater force than Love had raised, to dare
Encounter her of whom I write; and she
As quick and ready to assail as he:
Enceladus when Etna most he shakes,
Nor angry Scylla, nor Charybdis makes
So great and frightful noise, as did the shock
Of this (first doubtful) battle: none could mock
Such earnest war; all drew them to the height
To see what 'mazed their hearts and dimm'd their sight.
Victorious Love a threatening dart did show
His right hand held; the other bore a bow,
The string of which he drew just by his ear;
No leopard could chase a frighted deer
(Free, or broke loose) with quicker speed than he
Made haste to wound; fire sparkled from his eye.
I burn'd, and had a combat in my breast,
Glad t' have her company, yet 'twas not best
(Methought) to see her lost, but 'tis in vain
T' abandon goodness, and of fate complain;
Virtue her servants never will forsake,
As now 'twas seen, she could resistance make:
No fencer ever better warded blow,
Nor pilot did to shore more wisely row
To shun a shelf, than with undaunted power
She waved the stroke of this sharp conqueror.
Mine eyes and heart were watchful to attend,
In hope the victory would that way bend
It ever did; and that I might no more
Be barr'd from her; as one whose thoughts before
His tongue hath utter'd them you well may see
Writ in his looks; "Oh! if you victor be
Great sir," said I, "let her and me be bound
Both with one yoke; I may be worthy found,
And will not set her free, doubt not my faith:"
When I beheld her with disdain and wrath
So fill'd, that to relate it would demand
A better muse than mine: her virtuous hand
Had quickly quench'd those gilded fiery darts
Which, dipp'd in beauty's pleasure, poison hearts.
Neither Camilla, nor the warlike host
That cut their breasts, could so much valour boast
Nor Cæsar in Pharsalia fought so well,
As she 'gainst him who pierceth coats of mail;
All her brave virtues arm'd, attended there,
(A glorious troop!) and marched pair by pair:
Honour and blushes first in rank; the two
Religious virtues make the second row;
(By those the other women doth excel);
Prudence and Modesty, the twins that dwell
Together, both were lodgèd in her breast:
Glory and Perseverance, ever blest:
Fair Entertainment, Providence without,
Sweet Courtesy, and Pureness round about;
Respect of credit, fear of infamy;
Grave thoughts in youth; and, what not oft agree,
True Chastity and rarest Beauty; these
All came 'gainst Love, and this the heavens did please,
And every generous soul in that full height.
He had no power left to bear the weight;
A thousand famous prizes hardly gain'd
She took; and thousand glorious palms obtained.
Shook from his hands; the fall was not more strange
Of Hannibal, when Fortune pleased to change
Her mind, and on the Roman youth bestow
The favours he enjoy'd; nor was he so
Amazed who frighted the Israelitish host--
Struck by the Hebrew boy, that quit his boast;
Nor Cyrus more astonish'd at the fall
The Jewish widow gave his general:
As one that sickens suddenly, and fears
His life, or as a man ta'en unawares
In some base act, and doth the finder hate;
Just so was he, or in a worse estate:
Fear, grief, and shame, and anger, in his face
Were seen: no troubled seas more rage: the place
Where huge Typhoeus groans, nor Etna, when
Her giant sighs, were moved as he was then.
I pass by many noble things I see
(To write them were too hard a task for me),
To her and those that did attend I go:
Her armour was a robe more white than snow;
And in her hand a shield like his she bare
Who slew Medusa; a fair pillar there
Of jasp was next, and with a chain (first wet
In Lethe flood) of jewels fitly set,
Diamonds, mix'd with topazes (of old
'Twas worn by ladies, now 'tis not) first hold
She caught, then bound him fast; then such revenge
She took as might suffice. My thoughts did change
And I, who wish'd him victory before,
Was satisfied he now could hurt no more.
I cannot in my rhymes the names contain
Of blessèd maids that did make up her train;
Calliope nor Clio could suffice,
Nor all the other seven, for th' enterprise;
Yet some I will insert may justly claim
Precedency of others. Lucrece came
On her right hand; Penelope was by,
Those broke his bow, and made his arrows lie
Split on the ground, and pull'd his plumes away
From off his wings: after, Virginia,
Near her vex'd father, arm'd with wrath and hate.
Fury, and iron, and love, he freed the state
And her from slavery, with a manly blow;
Next were those barbarous women, who could show
They judged it better die than suffer wrong
To their rude chastity; the wise and strong--
The chaste Hebræan Judith follow'd these;
The Greek that saved her honour in the seas;
With these and other famous souls I see
Her triumph over him who used to be
Master of all the world: among the rest
The vestal nun I spied, who was so bless'd
As by a wonder to preserve her fame;
Next came Hersilia, the Roman dame
(Or Sabine rather), with her valorous train,
Who prove all slanders on that sex are vain.
Then, 'mongst the foreign ladies, she whose faith
T' her husband (not Æneas) caused her death;
The vulgar ignorant may hold their peace,
Her safety to her chastity gave place;
Dido, I mean, whom no vain passion led
(As fame belies her); last, the virtuous maid
Retired to Arno, who no rest could find,
Her friends' constraining power forced her mind.
The Triumph thither went where salt waves wet
The Baian shore eastward; her foot she set
There on firm land, and did Avernus leave
On the one hand, on th' other Sybil's cave;
So to Linternus march'd, the village where
The noble Africane lies buried; there
The great news of her triumph did appear
As glorious to the eye as to the ear
The fame had been; and the most chaste did show
Most beautiful; it grieved Love much to go
Another's prisoner, exposed to scorn,
Who to command whole empires seemèd born.
Thus to the chiefest city all were led,
Entering the temple which Sulpicia made
Sacred; it drives all madness from the mind;
And chastity's pure temple next we find,
Which in brave souls doth modest thoughts beget,
Not by plebeians enter'd, but the great
Patrician dames; there were the spoils display'd
Of the fair victress; there her palms she laid,
And did commit them to the Tuscan youth,
Whose marring scars bear witness of his truth:
With others more, whose names I fully knew,
(My guide instructed me,) that overthrew
The power of Love: 'mongst whom, of all the rest,
Hippolytus and Joseph were the best.


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