On the Fifth of November

Now the devout James coming from the remote north
ruled over the Troy-descended people and the wide-stretching realms
of the English, and now an inviolable covenant
had joined the English kingdoms with Caledonian Scots:
and the peace-maker, happy and rich, was seated
on his new throne, untroubled by secret conspiracy or foe:
when the cruel tyrant reigning over Acheron, which flows with fire,
the father of the Eumenides, the wandering outcast from celestial Olympus,
by chance strayed through the vast circle of the earth,
enumerating the companions of his wickedness and his faithful slaves,
future participants of his rule after their woeful deaths.
Here he stirs ominous tempests in middle air;
there he contrives hatred among harmonious friends,
and arms invincible nations against mutual cordiality,
and turns flourishing kingdoms from olive-bearing peace;
and whatever lovers of pure virtue he spies,
those he seeks to add to his empire, and master of guile,
he tries to corrupt the heart inaccessible to sin
and lays silent plots and stretches unseen snares,
so that he may assault the incautious, as the Caspian tigress
pursues her anxious prey through the waste wildernesses
in the moonless night and under the stars winking in their drowsiness.
With like fears does Summanus harass the people and the cities,
he, wreathed with a smoking tornado of blue flames.
And now the white coasts with their wave-resounding cliffs
appear, and the land highly esteemed by the sea god,
to which Neptune's son gave his name so long ago,
who, having sailed across the sea, did not hesitate to challenge
fierce Hercules with furious battle
before the unmerciful times of conquered Troy.

But as soon as he beholds this land blessed with wealth
and joyful peace, and with fields rich in the gifts of Ceres,
and, what pained him more, a people revering the sacred divinity
of the true god, at length he breaks into sighs
emitting Tartarean fires and ghastly sulphur.
Such sighs does grim and monstrous Typhoeus, enclosed by Jove
under Sicilian Aetna, breathe from his destructive mouth.
His eyes flash and his inflexible row of teeth
hisses like the crash of arms and the blow of spear against spear.
And then, “Throughout the travelled world I found this worthy of tears only,”
he said; “this nation alone is rebellious toward me,
and contemptuous of my yoke and stronger than my art.
Yet if my attempts have power over anyone, it
shall not endure thus with impunity for long; it shall not go unavenged.”
No further did he speak, but floats away on pitch-black wings through
the liquid air; wherever he flies adverse winds precede in a mass,
clouds are thickened, and repeated thunderbolts flash.

And now his speed has surmounted the frosty Alps,
and he reaches the borders of Italy; on his left side
was the stormy Apennine range and the ancient Sabines;
on his right Etruria with its infamous magic potions, and besides
he sees the furtive kisses which you are giving to Thetis, O Tiber;
next he stands still on the citadel of Quirinus, born of Mars.
Already had evening twilight bestowed uncertain light,
when the wearer of the triple crown walks around the entire city,
and carries the gods made of bread, and on men's shoulders
is elevated; kings precede him on bended knee,
and a most lengthy train of mendicant brothers;
and unable to see, they bear wax candles in their hands,
those born and enduring life in Cimmerian darkness.
Next they enter the temples glittering with many torches
(it was that eve sacred to St. Peter) and the noise of those singing
often fills the hollow domes and the void of those places.
How Bacchus howls, and the followers of Bacchus,
chanting their orgies on Theban Aracynthus,
while astonished Asopus trembles under the glassy waves,
and afar off Cithaeron itself echoes from its hollow rock.

Then at last, these things performed in a solemn fashion,
silent Night left the embraces of old Erebus,
and now drives her headlong horses with a goading whip—
blind Typhlos and spirited Melanchaetes,
torpid Siope, sprung from an infernal father,
and shaggy Phrix with bristly hair.
Meanwhile the tamer of kings, the heir of hell,
enters his chambers (for the secret adulterer
does not spend sterile nights without a gentle concubine);
but sleep was scarcely closing his ready eyes,
when the dark lord of the shadows, the ruler of the dead,
the plunderer of man stood before him, concealed by a false shape.
His temples flashed with the gray hairs he had assumed;
a long beard covered his breast; his ash-colored attire
swept the ground with a long train; and his hood hung down
from his shaven crown; and so that none might be absent from his frauds
he bound his lustful loins with hempen rope,
thrusting his slow feet into open sandals.
In like manner, as rumor has it, Francis used to wander alone
in the vast, loathsome desert through the haunts of wild beasts;
he carried the pious word of salvation to the people of the wood,
himself impious, and tamed the wolves and the Libyan lions.

But clothed in such garb, the cunning serpent,
deceitful, separated his accursed lips with these words:
“Are you sleeping, my son? Does slumber still overpower your limbs?
O negligent of faith and neglectful of your flocks!
while a barbarous nation born under the northern sky
ridicules your throne and triple diadem, O venerable one,
and while the quivered English contemn your laws!
Arise, up, arise, lazy one, whom the Roman emperor adores,
and for whom the unlocked gate of arched heaven lies open;
crush their swelling pride and insolent arrogance,
and let the sacrilegious know what your curse may be capable of,
and what custody of the Apostolic key may avail;
and remember to avenge the scattered armada of the Spanish
and the banners of the Iberians swallowed up by the broad deep,
and the bodies of so many saints hanged on infamous gallows
recently by the reigning Amazonian virgin.
But if you prefer to become indolent in your soft bed
and refuse to crush the increasing strength of the foe,
he will fill the Tyrrhene Sea with a vast army
and set his glittering standards on the Aventine hill:
he will destroy and burn with flames the remains of the ancients,
and with profane feet will trample upon your sacred neck,
you whose shoes kings were glad to give their kisses.
Yet you will not challenge him to wars and open conflict;
such would be useless labor; you are shrewd to use deception,
of which any kind is fitting in order to spread traps for heretics;
and now the great king calls the nobles with foreign speech
to council, and those sprung from the stock of celebrated men
and old venerable sires with their robe of state and gray hairs.
You will be able to scatter them limb by limb throughout the air
and to give them up to cinders, by the fire of nitrous
powder exploded beneath the last chambers where they have assembled.
Immediately therefore advise whatever faithful there are in England
of the proposed deed; will any of your followers
dare not dispatch the commands of the supreme Pope?
And instantly may the fierce Gaul and the savage Spaniard
invade them, smitten with dread and stupefied by calamity.
Thus at last the Marian era will return to that land
and you will rule again over the warlike English.
And, so you fear nothing, accept the gods and subordinate goddesses,
as many deities as are honored on your feast days.”
The deceiver spoke, and laying his disguise aside,
he fled to Lethe, his abominable, gloomy kingdom.

Now rosy dawn, throwing open the eastern gates,
dresses the gilded world with returning light;
and hitherto grieving for the sad death of her swarthy son,
she sprinkles the mountain tops with ambrosial tears,
then the keeper of the starry court banished sleep,
repeating his nocturnal visions and delightful dreams.

There is a place enclosed in the eternal darkness of night,
once the vast foundation of a ruined dwelling,
now the den of savage Murder and double-tongued Treason,
whom fierce Discord bore at one birth.
Here among the unhewn stones and broken rock lie
the unburied bones of men and corpses pierced by steel;
here malicious Deceit sits forever with distorted eyes,
and Contentions and Calumny, its jaws armed with fangs,
Fury and a thousand ways of dying are seen,
and Fear and pale Horror hasten around the place,
and nimble ghosts howl perpetually through the mute silences,
and the conscious earth stagnates with blood.
Besides, Murder and Treason themselves lie hid, quaking,
in the inmost depths of the cave with no one pursuing them through it,
the rough cave, full of rocks, dark with deathly shadows.
The guilty ones disperse and run away with backward glance;
these defenders of Rome, faithful through the long ages,
the Babylonian high-priest summons, and thus he speaks:
“A race odious to me lives on the western limits
in the surrounding sea; prudent nature has thoroughly denied
that unworthy people to join our world.
Thither, so I command, journey with swift pace,
and may the king and his nobles together, that impious race,
be blown into thin air by the Tartarean powder,
and whoever for true faith have glowed with love
invite as partners of the plot and accomplices of the deed.”
He ended, and the stern twins obeyed with eagerness.

Meanwhile turning the heavens in a spacious arc,
the Lord, who shines forth from his ethereal height, looks down
and laughs at the efforts of the evil crew,
and orders the defense of his people to be upheld.

They say there is a section where fertile Europe is separated
from Asian land, and looks toward Mareotidan waters;
here is situated the lofty tower of Titanean Fame,
brazen, broad, resounding, closer to the glowing stars
than Athos or Pelion piled on Ossa.
A thousand doors and entrances lie open, and as many windows,
and spacious courts shine through the thin walls;
here the accumulated people raise various whispers;
how the swarms of flies make noise about the milk pails
by buzzing, or through the sheepfolds of woven reed,
when the lofty Dog Star assails the summer height of the sky.
Indeed Fame herself, avenger of her mother, sits in her topmost fortress;
her head, girt with innumerable ears, projects out from that place,
attracting the faintest sound and seizing the lightest
murmur from the farthest limits of the wide world.
And you, O Argus, unjust guardian of the heifer
Io, did not roll so many eyes in your fierce face,
eyes never faltering in silent sleep,
eyes gazing over the adjacent lands far and wide.
With them is Fame accustomed always to survey places deprived of light,
and even those impervious to the radiant sun.
And with a thousand tongues the blabbing one pours out
things heard and seen to anyone who chances by, and now lying, she lessens
the truth, and now she increases it with fabricated rumors.
Nevertheless, Fame, you deserved the praises of my song,
for one good deed than which no other speaks more truly,
worthy to be sung by me, nor shall I repent having commemorated you
at such length in my song. To be sure, we unharmed English
bestow on you what is just for your services, O inconstant goddess.
God who restrains the eternal fires from their agitation
with his dispatched thunderbolt, the earth trembling, exhorts you:
“Fame, are you silent? or does the impious throng of Papists
hide you, conspired against me and my English,
and a new massacre designed against scepter-bearing James?”
No more said, she discerned at once the Thunderer's commands,
and swift enough before, she puts on strident wings,
and clothes her slender body with variegated feathers;
in her right hand she carries a loud trumpet of Temesan brass.
With no delay, she now oars on her wings through the yielding air,
and seems not content to outrun the swift clouds by her flight;
now the winds, now the horses of the sun she leaves behind her back.
But first, in her usual way, through the English cities
she spreads ambiguous rumors and uncertain whispers;
directly, in clear voice, she divulges the deceits and the detestable
work of treason, and likewise deeds frightful when spoken,
and she adds the authors of the crime, nor, being garrulous, is she silent
about the places prepared for secret ambush; men are stunned by the reports,
and youths as well as maidens and weak old men
tremble, and the significance of such great ruin
has penetrated quickly to every age.
But meanwhile the heavenly Father from on high has compassion
on his people, and thwarts the cruel and daring attempts
of the Papists; the captives are dragged to fierce punishments;
but pious incense and grateful honors are paid to God;
all the happy streets smoke with genial bonfires;
the youthful throng moves in dancing groups: and throughout the whole year
no day occurs that is more celebrated than the fifth of November.

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