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EARTH, WATER, AIR, FIRE, CHORUS, FRANCE, HOPE, VIRTUE, PEACE, MERCURY
EARTH Not with rampart-girdled cities, nor with channels filled with flowing rivers or the glory of forests shall I visit mighty France, but from my entrails I shall reveal gifts hidden over the course of centuries, beginning with the triumphant Caesars, I kept concealed in deep caverns; and denied to Macedon’s victory and the Persian’s power; as crafted royal beauties, these gifts shall I pour out for her alone, freed from the tragic misfortunes wherewith she was so many years oppressed.
WATER Many the waves I boast, many the fish that fly on their fins through my realms, many the ships that part my billows and fight contrary winds with their lofty superstructures, many are the gusts that the swelling ocean brings from Africa, and no fewer are the troops and the glorious prizes wherewith I have enlarged the power of France, that student of the virtues, so that no other nation may be mightier nor more successful in savage warfare, nor proudly strive to assert its imperial destiny by force of arms.
AIR All the fruit that the fecund earth puts forth I nourish with my enlivening breath, all that the sun beholds. Phoebus, who lights all things, lives in my embrace: I encompass all things, both those that Thetis hides in the ocean’s recesses and those that cut their feathered way through my cloudy realms. Not one of the things subject to me which I hold in my grasp refuses to submit to my commands, and equal to my mighty rule is my delight in doing all that France commands.
FIRE All subtle essences and living force, shining with gold and bright with glory, contained within the flames I generate, the very heat I breathe. I have bestowed on mighty France and on Henri, that dear nursling of the gods, not so that some man may wield the sceptre of kings decorated with the royal insignia that world’s rich entrails, so rewarding to the ploughshare, produce, but so that he may blaze in brightest, trophied splendour, as the sky shines with fiery stars, nor shall the earth ever nourish any child that is his peer.
CHORUS Priam’s virgin daughter saw in dreams the conflagration, gravid in its womb, that would burn in the funeral pyre of ill-fated Troy besieged ten years by the deceitful machinations of the Greeks. A Persian beheld, if reports lie not, his pregnant daughter giving birth to a wild vine whose broad shade covered Asia’s fertile fields with a happy omen. It is manifest that whatever future Jupiter has decreed, whatever is thought to have pleased the Fates, whether cities or doomed realms are shaken by dread wars, every man conceives in himself his own fate. Some are driven by cruel hunger, and others without warning are carried off by sudden plague. Now the earth trembles in agitation, the winds whip up the waves, thunderbolts are hurled from heaven’s heights, or unprecedented apparitions terrify, and in the deep of the night strange monsters always greet the dreamer while amidst the darkness, while near the hand of chilly Bootes, the Bear does reverence to Phoebus’ warmth with its icy light, and the sun seeks the chaste dawn’s peaceful embraces, the impious Fates by visions portend the imminent, wretched end of his life/
The sky shone blood-red when the King of Macedon savaged Greece with his impious arms, and, fleeing the disaster of his nation at Saguntum, the son returned to the womb of the mother who bore him. When his destruction was impending and Crassus was threatening with his steel, the Etruscan saw it rain. A sword-shaped star in the heaven showed that the Holy City’s walls were doomed to fall, and armies marching about in many quarters of the sky issued the same warning. Violent fire dancing on their spear-points forecast civil war for the Romans, as did crows devouring their chicks with eager bites, and the bray of trumpets heard in the skies. By such portents did Destiny threaten a sad fate for France. Nor do marvels fail to announce earthly events that occur with a better fate, as when ants brought their grains to a sleeping boy (just as for eloquent Plato honey and honeycombs were signs worthy of an eloquent and wise man) and a bramble bush burned with harmless flames, although it provided no fuel for the fire or, while living, experienced any scorching damage, but rather the friendly heat caressingly embraced it with its easy touch. Likewise a harmless stick assumed the shape of a deadly snake, and, swollen with its swift, toxic tongue, it swallowed some serpents and thereafter resumed its erstwhile shape. The floods of the passable ocean parted in twain, so that the roaring sea might make way for the marching throng, which was kindly fed by heaven-sent food and drink issued by clouds, and the pathways only became obstructed when the captains hostile to Judah have chase. Such indications promise salvation for France, if vain hope is not deceiving my mind, since the gods are wont to be moved by prayer.
FRANCE, HOPE, VIRTUE, PEACE, MARS
FRANCE Whatever lands the Tigris waters in its meanderings, or the Danube that mixes its waters with the sea through its six mouths, or the lands visited by the proud Tiber, boasting of its emperors’ glory, or the fierce Struma, supported no nation more mighty in its strength, or more blessed thanks to the presence of the kindly godhead, since I have emerged from so many evils. I approached God’s tribunal, humbly pouring forth my entreaties from the deepest recesses of my heart, and tears which were signs that I was no false penitent, begging that His kindly hand might free me from the strange forms of felonies which I had expiated. Soon, relieved of my physical pains, I felt an onbreathing of the good things of my erstwhile prosperity and sensed that heavenly signs had now given me the hope that God’s vengeful wrath had already abated, that the weapons readied by my fierce enemies had been turned back against their own persons, and that no longer was I being destroyed by such great massacres of my citizenry. Rather they were humbly begging pardon for their iniquitous anger and as pilgrims had given surety that they were seeking to regain the peace whose covenant they had shattered with their bold handiwork, when they perceived that the glory of the erstwhile existence in which I previously gloried had been returned to me and that Virtue hated their sons. This they seemed to be promising as a gift of Hope.
Oh Pleasure, you were the first to cast the seeds of evil, ignorant of praise’s foolishness. May you drag out your life banished far from my borders and all the land that acknowledges the supernals’ praises. May you be compelled to quit the homes of mankind, impoverished. Overwhelmed together with your companions, may you be buried beneath the floods of the Styx until, consumed by your misfortunes, you leave the lands free for the supernals’ praise, having suffered all the agonies which you compel those to suffer whom you captivate with your blandishments!
But what pretty virgins are making their entry, supporting each other with mutual embraces, who with determined brow sit above the spheres of unkind Happenstance, and regard the accumulations of Fortune, now favorable, now adverse, with steadfast eyes? O welcome day, you height of happiness, who return to me my companions with their partner Peace, taken away thanks by my fault.
HOPE Your prayers are heard by heaven, by which you have made the vengeful gods well-disposed towards yourself.
VIRT. By the command of the gods, I return to drive out the vicissitudes of adverse fortune, which, with Pleasure as your companion, you acquired by your guilt, when you obliged me, the mother of praise and victory, to leave these lands, together with Peace, which keeps life safe from harm.
PEACE Now our long absence has taught mortal men what they owe to the mighty Founder of the universe when they pride themselves on my blessings. They are discovering that those pure of sin and those tainted by guile are equally embraced by my law.
FRANCE Deceived by the fraud of sordid lust and lapsed in luxury, I perceived I was caught up in cunning nets, and that a grave punishment was threatening me, well-deserved by my error. If you forgive my guilt, then neither when Phoebus shows his light nor when he bathes his car in Thetis’ waves shall I forsake your commandments.
VIRT. If you pass your life under the guidance of the supernals’ inspiration, neither the Indus, mighty for its wealth and gems, nor Tyre, noble for its royal colors, or the Arabs, ennobled by the fragrances of nard, will call me away from these homes, as long as Phoebus brings back the day and plunges it in the sea.
FRANCE And command that Peace be joined to us by sempiternal covenant within our frontiers.
PEACE Noone whom Virtue leads under her auspices and heaven nurtures will long for my presence. with unshakable loyalty, I shall tread in Virtue’s eternal footsteps as her companion, and at my return let whatever the sky covers under its convex bowl flourish. Let the air shine clearer: the clouds swept away, it will shine with purer light. Let happy Phoebus release joys that have been imprisoned, and let the stars shine more fairly as they produce happiness. Let all fertile fields grow green with flowers, and let the land everywhere be filled with bright colours, spring woodlands with boughs already growing green And may you hear the pleasing birds soften the cares of mortals by the sweetness of their singing.
HOPE Put away your mourning, France, forget your long hardship, nor let the ghost of that daughter of Dis, the Fury, stand any longer against the light, nor the clangour of trumpets crash in your ears, or the uproar of war. Let let the funereal cypress give place to fresh green laurel crowns, and laments to paeans, weeds of mourning to raiments, let them yield to the lasting goods of profound peace. May Ceres populate abandoned fields with settlers, nor should Father Liber ever abandon your hills, nor Latonia your forests, and let your cities always revere the traditional commandments of the law. Let scarlet robes clothe the sacred servants of the laws and palaces raise themselves after having been laid low by strife’s impious gales. Ye Muses, you Minerva and you Mercury, grandson of Atlas, restore to your followers the neglected arts and law, and return to your devotees the first gifts of the sciences, exchanging an epoch of misery for the Golden Age.
MARS I who opposed your victories before in the doubtful struggle of combat, now divest you of the weaponry of war you used to carry, and put on you a helmet impervious to gunshots, and ramparts around your heart that no hand of hostile assailant can break. Let this sword be fatal to those who attack you, and let it slay whatever kings insolently oppose you and whoever advances his banners against you. By this machine which contains the world, you may claim it as the gods’ gift. May you always abound in the goods of lasting peace and, free of all domestic squabbles, seek external wars, laying low the treacherous Turks who raise up their head with disdain for heaven.
FRANCE O you, who are as dear to me as the breath of life, suffer me to enjoy the long-sought, close embrace of your arms, and allow me to plant courteous kisses on your lovely brow.
PEACE O how welcome this embrace is to me, how welcome these kisses from a France divesting herself of her evil ways of life! Happily enjoy now our blessings, you who have followed this leader, and if you abandon her you will be caught up in fresh miseries, now that warfare is expelled from your bounds and Discord, that mother of dire Sedition, is exiled so that she might bear mighty sway in the house of Dis, having been driven out of the lands which all the supernals have decreed shall be under your sway.
FRANCE O you, whom I shall acknowledge as mother of all the gifts whereby I shall be blessed, prescribe my life’s laws, which I shall follow as long as breath animates my limbs or I am permitted to enjoy the light of the sun, laws which, should I abandon them, an afflicted life will accrue to my body until all the penalties avenging my misdeeds come for my destruction, and I am made just as much much more wretched than the most wretched as you have have made me nobler than all the proud kings this rich earth and wise heaven has produced. Let my punishment be the gloomy kingdom of Hell, and let the Cretan judge, who has avenged with punishment whatever unspeakable forms of crime the Underworld has ever witnessed, be deaf to me and my fawning prayers.
VIRT. Let your prime law be to defend the laws and encourage my labors with a reward of dignities [ . . . ] whether he derives his pedigree from royal stock or, born to an impoverished husbandman, wretchedly inhabits a chilly hovel. These things make assured all the transitory things which kings possess.
FRANCE. Freed by these laws, make no delay in giving prayerful thanks to the godhead with gladness of heart.
VIRT. With sound of lute and harp the songs of the faithful will ring out, until I shall praise the God Who rules to earth’s farthest confines, the divinity Whose name is terrible to the impious, Who has compelled rebellious citizens to submit to us, and by force of arms has brought together the illustrious races we have subdued to bear our yoke. I shall confess this God, Director of heaven and earth, loftier than any of the empty gods whom Man’s error has fabricated.
CHORUS Those whose unfeigned piety worships God, the Father of things, will receive blessings more numerous than the grains of sand on the seashore,
As will he who rejoices in what has been divinely instituted, and humbly conform his behaviour to the laws to which the great ocean and the stars submit.
And the progeny born to such a father will establish His rule through the wide world, for the generous hand of God will favour this holy race.
Hither shall hasten an Age blessed with riches, and a bountiful succession of events will continue until his final old age, and shall guide him, strong in his wonted vigor.
And God will give light to His people that sat in darkness, while Fortune’s swift tempest insolently rejoices in exchanging the lowest with the highest.
Praise be to God, who kindly revives the pure and pious with abundance poured by his generous hand, and protects them under his shadow, as with a shield.