The Nacreous Oughts

11 April 2008

   "Confession of Golias"

Boiling in my spirit's veins
    With fierce indignation,
From my bitterness of soul
    Springs self-revelation:
Framed am I of flimsy stuff,
    Fit for levitation,
Like a thin leaf which the wind
    Scatters from its station.

While it is the wise man's part
    With deliberation
On a rock to base his heart's
    Permanent foundation,
With a running river I
    Find my just equation,
Which beneath the self-same sky
    Hath no habitation.

Carried am I like a ship
    Left without a sailor,
Like a bird that through the air
    Flies where tempests hale her;
Chains and fetters hold me not,
    Naught avails a jailer;
Still I find my fellows out
    Toper, gamester, railer.

To my mind all gravity
    Is a grave subjection;
Sweeter far than honey are
    Jokes and free affection.
All that Venus bids me do,
    Do I with erection,
For she ne'er in heart of man
    Dwelt with dull dejection.

Down the broad road do I run,
    As the way of youth is;
Snare myself in sin, and ne'er
    Think where faith and truth is;
Eager far for pleasure more
    Than soul's health, the sooth is,
For this flesh of mine I care,
    Seek not ruth where ruth is.

Prelate, most discreet of priests,
    Grant me absolution!
Dear's the death whereof I die,
    Sweet my dissolution;
For my heart is wounded br
    Beauty's soft suffusion;
All the girls I come not nigh,
    Mine are in illusion.

'Tis most arduous to make
    Nature's self surrender;
Seeing girls, to blush and be
    Purity's defender!
We young men our longings ne'er
    Shall to stern law render,
Or preserve our fancies from
    Bodies smooth and tender.

Who, when into fire he falls,
    Keeps himself from burning?
Who within Pavia's walls
    Fame of chaste is earning?
Venus with her finger calls
    Youths at every turning,
Snares them with her eyes, and thralls
    With her amorous yearning.

If you brought Hippolitus
    To Pavia Sunday,
He'd not be Hippolitus
    On the following Monday;
Venus there keeps holiday
    Every day as one day;
'Mid these towers in no tower dwells
    Venus Verecunda. [a modest Venus]

In the second place I own
    To the vice of gaming:
Cold indeed outside I seem,
    Yet my soul is flaming:
But when once the dice-box hath
    Stripped me to mv shaming,
Make I songs and verses fit
    For the world's acclaiming.

In the third place, 1 will speak
    Of the tavern's pleasure;
For I never found nor find
    There the least displeasure;
Nor shall find it till I greet
    Angels without measure,
Singing requiems for the souls
    In eternal leisure.

In the public-house to die
    Is my resolution;
Let wine to my lips be nigh
    At life's dissolution:
That will make the angels cry,
    With glad elocution,
"Grant this toper, God on high,
    Grace and absolution!"

With the cup the soul lights up,
    Inspirations flicker;
Nectar lifts the soul on high
    With its heavenly ichor:
To my lips a sounder taste
    Hath the tavern's liquor
Than the wine a village clerk
    Waters for the vicar.

Nature gives to every man
    Some gift serviceable;
Write I never could nor can
    Hungry at the table;
Fasting, any stripling to
    Vanquish me is able;
Hunger, thirst, I liken to
    Death that ends the fable.

Nature gives to every man
    Gifts as she is willing;
I compose my verses when
    Good wine I am swilling,
Wine the best for jolly guest
    Jolly hosts are filling;
From such wine rare fancies fine
    Flow like dews distilling.

Such my verse is wont to be
    As the wine I swallow;
No ripe thoughts enliven me
    While my stomach's hollow;
Hungry wits on hungry lips
    Like a shadow follow,
But when once I'm in my cups,
    I can beat Apollo.

Never to my spirit yet
    Flew poetic vision
Until first my belly bad
    Plentiful provision;
Let but Bacchus in the brain
    Take a strong position,
Then comes Phoebus flowing in
    With a fine precision.

There are poets, worthy men,
    Shrink from public places,
And in lurking-hole or den
    Hide their pallid faces;
There they study, sweat, and woo
    Pallas and the Graces,
But bring nothing forth to view
    Worth the girls' embraces.

Fasting, thirsting, toil the bards,
    Swift years flying o'er them;
Shun the strife of open life,
    Tumults of the forum;
They, to sing some deathless thing,
    Lest the world ignore them,
Die the death, expend their breath,
    Drowned in dull decorum.

Lo! mv frailties I've betrayed,
    Shown you every token,
Told you what your servitors
    Have against me spoken;
But of those men each and all
    Leave their sins unspoken,
Though they play, enjoy to-day,
    Scorn their pledges broken.

Now within the audience-room
    Of this blessed prelate,
Sent to hunt out vice, and from
    Hearts of men expel it;
Let him rise, nor spare the bard,
    Cast at him a pellet:
He whose heart knows not crime's smart,
    Show my sin and tell it!

I have uttered openly
    All I knew that shamed me,
And have spued the poison forth
    That so long defamed me;
Of my old ways I repent,
    New life hath reclaimed me;
God beholds the heart-'twas man
    Viewed the face and blamed me.

Goodness now hath won my love,
    I am wroth with vices;
Made a new man in my mind,
    Lo, my soul arises!
Like a babe new milk I drink-
    Milk for me suffices,
Lest my heart should longer be
    Filled with vain devices.

Thou Elect of fair Cologne, [ie Rainald of Dassel]
    Listen to my pleading!
Spurn not thou the penitent;
    See, his heart is bleeding!
Give me penance! what is due
    For my faults exceeding
I will bear with willing cheer,
    All thy precepts heeding.

Lo, the lion, king of beasts,
    Spares the meek and lowly;
Toward submissive creatures he
    Tames his anger wholly.
Do the like, ye powers of earth,
    Temporal and holy!
Bitterness is more than's right
    When 'tis bitter solely.

--the Archpoet (tr J. A. Symonds)

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