Sospetto d'Herode

Libro Primo.


Casting the times with their strong signes,
Death's Master his owne death divines.
Strugling for helpe, his best hope is
Herod's suspition may heale his .
Therefore he sends a fiend to wake
The sleeping Tyrant's fond mistake;
Who feares (in vaine) that he whose Birth
Meanes Heav'n, should meddle with his Earth.


Muse, now the servant of soft Loves no more,
Hate is thy Theame, and Herod , whose unblest
Hand (o what dares not jealous Greatnesse?) tore
A thousand sweet Babes from their Mothers Brest:
The Bloomes of Martyrdome. O be a Dore
Of language to my infant Lips, yee best
Of Confessours: whose Throates answering his swords,
Gave forth your Blood for breath, spoke soules for words.


Great Anthony! Spains well-beseeming pride,
Thou mighty branch of Emperours and Kings.
The Beauties of whose dawne what eye may bide,
Which with the Sun himselfe weigh's equall wings.
Mappe of Heroick worth! whom farre and wide
To the beleeving world Fame boldly sings:
Deigne thou to weare this humble Wreath that bowes,
To be the sacred Honour of thy Browes.


Nor needs my Muse a blush, or these bright Flowers
Other then what their owne blest beauties bring.
They were the smiling sons of those sweet Bowers,
That drinke the deaw of Life, whose deathlesse spring,
Nor Sirian flame, nor Borean frost deflowers:
From whence Heav'n-labouring Bees with busie wing,
Suck hidden sweets, which well digested proves
Immortall Hony for the Hive of Loves.


Thou, whose strong hand with so transcendent worth,
Holds high the reine of faire Parthenope ,
That neither Rome , nor Athens can bring forth
A Name in noble deedes Rivall to thee!
Thy Fames full noise, makes proud the patient Earth,
Farre more then matter for my Muse and mee.
The Tyrrhene Seas, and shores sound all the same,
And in their murmures keepe thy mighty Name.


Below the Botome of the great Abysse,
There where one Center reconciles all things;
The worlds profound Heart pants; There placed is
Mischifes old Master, close about him clings
A curl'd knot of embracing Snakes, that kisse
His correspondent cheekes: these loathsome strings
Hold the perverse Prince in eternall Ties
Fast bound, since first he forfeited the skies,


The Judge of Torments, and the King of Teares:
Hee fills a burnisht Throne of quenchlesse fire:
And for his old faire Roabes of Light, hee weares
A gloomy Mantle of darke flames, the Tire
That crownes his hated head on high appeares;
Where seav'n tall Hornes (his Empires pride) aspire.
And to make up Hells Majesty, each Horne
Seav'n crested Hydra's horribly adorne.


His Eyes, the sullen dens of Death and Night,
Startle the dull Ayre with a dismall red:
Such his fell glances as the fatall Light
Of staring Comets, that looke Kingdomes dead.
From his black nostrills, and blew lips, in spight
Of Hells owne stinke, a worser stench is spread.
His breath Hells lightning is: and each deepe grone
Disdaines to thinke that Heav'n Thunders alone.


His flaming Eyes dire exhalation,
Unto a dreadfull pile gives fiery Breath;
Whose unconsum'd consumption preys upon
The never-dying Life, of a long Death.
In this sad House of slow Destruction,
(His shop of flames) hee fryes himselfe, beneath
A masse of woes, his Teeth for Torment gnash,
While his steele sides sound with his Tayles strong lash.


Three Rigourous Virgins waiting still behind,
Assist the Throne of th'Iron-Sceptred King.
With whips of Thornes and knotty vipers twin'd
They rouse him, when his ranke Thoughts need a sting.
Their lockes are beds of uncomb'd snakes that wind
About their shady browes in wanton Rings.
Thus reignes the wrathfull King, and while he reignes
His Scepter and himselfe both he disdaines.


Disdainefull wretch! how hath one bold sinne cost
Thee all the Beauties of thy once bright Eyes?
How hath one blacke Eclipse cancell'd, and crost
The glories that did guild thee in thy Rise?
Proud Morning of a perverse Day! how lost
Art thou unto thy selfe, thou too selfe-wise
Narcissus ? foolish Phaeton ? who for all
Thy high-aym'd hopes, gaind'st but a flaming fall.


From Death's sad shades, to the Life-breathing Ayre,
This mortall Enemy to mankinds good,
Lifts his malignant Eyes, wasted with care,
To become beautifull in humane blood.
Where Jordan melts his Chrystall, to make faire
The fields of Palestine , with so pure a flood,
There does he fixe his Eyes: and there detect
New matter, to make good his great suspect.


He calls to mind th'old quarrell, and what sparke
Set the contending Sons of Heav'n on fire:
Oft in his deepe thought he revolves the darke
Sibills divining leaves: hee does enquire
Into th'old Prophesies, trembling to marke
How many present prodigies conspire,
To crowne their past predictions, both hee layes
Together, in his pondrous mind both weighes.


Heavens Golden-winged Herald, late hee saw
To a poore Galilean virgin sent:
How low the Bright Youth bow'd, and with what awe
Immortall flowers to her faire hand present.
Hee saw th'old Hebrewes wombe, neglect the Law
Of Age and Barennesse, and her Babe prevent
His Birth, by his Devotion, who began
Betimes to be a Saint, before a Man.


Hee saw rich Nectar thawes, release the rigour
Of th'Icy North, from frost-bount Atlas hands
His Adamantine fetters fall: greene vigour
Gladding the Scythian Rocks, and Libian sands.
Hee saw a vernall smile, sweetly disfigure
Winters sad face, and through the flowry lands
Of faire Engaddi hony-sweating Fountaines
With Manna , Milk, and Balm, new broach the Mountaines.


Hee saw how in that blest Day-bearing Night,
The Heav'n-rebuked shades made hast away;
How bright a Dawne of Angels with new Light
Amaz'd the midnight world, and made a Day
Of which the Morning knew not: Mad with spight
Hee markt how the poore Shepheards ran to pay
Their simple Tribute to the Babe, whose Birth
Was the great businesse both of Heav'n and Earth.


Hee saw a threefold Sun, with rich encrease,
Make proud the Ruby portalls of the East.
Hee saw the Temple sacred to sweet Peace,
Adore her Princes Birth, flat on her Brest.
Hee saw the falling Idols, all confesse
A comming Deity. Hee saw the Nest
Of pois'nous and unnaturall loves, Earth-nurst;
Toucht with the worlds true Antidote to burst.


He saw Heav'n blossome with a new-borne light,
On which, as on a glorious stranger gaz'd
The Golden eyes of Night: whose Beame made bright
The way to Beth'lem , and as boldly blaz'd,
(Nor askt leave of the Sun) by Day as Night.
By whom (as Heav'ns illustrious Hand-maid) rais'd
Three Kings (or what is more) three Wise men went
Westward to find the worlds true Orient .


Strucke with these great concurrences of things,
Symptomes so deadly, unto Death and him;
Faine would hee have forgot what fatall strings,
Eternally bind each rebellious limbe.
Hee shooke himselfe, and spread his spatious wings:
Which like two Bosom'd sailes embrace the dimme
Aire, with a dismall shade, but all in vaine,
Of sturdy Adamant is his strong chaine.


While thus Heav'ns highest counsails, by the low
Footsteps of their Effects, hee trac'd too well,
Hee tost his troubled eyes, Embers that glow
Now with new Rage, and wax too hot for Hell.
With his foule clawes hee fenc'd his furrowed Brow,
And gave a gastly shreeke, whose horrid yell
Ran trembling through the hollow vaults of Night,
The while his twisted Tayle hee gnaw'd for spight.


Yet on the other side, faine would he start
Above his feares, and thinke it cannot be.
Hee studies Scripture, strives to sound the heart,
And feele the pulse of every Prophecy.
Hee knowes (but knowes not how, or by what Art)
The Heav'n expecting Ages, hope to see
A mighty Babe, whose pure, unspotted Birth,
From a chast Virgin wombe, should blesse the Earth.


But these vast Mysteries his senses smother,
And Reason (for what's Faith to him?) devoure.
How she that is a maid should prove a Mother,
Yet keepe inviolate her virgin flower;
How Gods eternall Sonne should be mans Brother,
Poseth his proudest Intellectuall power.
How a pure Spirit should incarnate bee,
And life it selfe weare Deaths fraile Livery.


That the Great Angell-blinding light should shrinke
His blaze, to shine in a poore Shepheards eye.
That the unmeasur'd God so low should sinke,
As Pris'ner in a few poore Rags to lye.
That from his Mothers Brest hee milke should drinke,
Who feeds with Nectar Heav'ns faire family.
That a vile Manger his low Bed should prove,
Who in a Throne of stars Thunders above.


That hee whom the Sun serves, should faintly peepe
Through clouds of Infant flesh: that hee the old
Eternall Word should bee a Child, and weepe.
That hee who made the fire, should feare the cold;
That Heav'ns high Majesty his Court should keepe
In a clay-cottage, by each blast control'd.
That Glories selfe should serve our Griefs, and feares:
And free Eternity, submit to yeares.


And further, that the Lawes eternall Giver,
Should bleed in his owne lawes obedience:
And to the circumcising Knife deliver
Himselfe, the forfeit of his slaves offence.
That the unblemisht Lambe, blessed for ever,
Should take the marke of sin, and paine of sence.
These are the knotty Riddles, whose darke doubt
Intangles his lost Thoughts, past getting out.


While new Thoughts boyl'd in his enraged Brest,
His gloomy Bosomes darkest Character,
Was in his shady forehead seen exprest.
The forehead's shade in Griefes expression there,
Is what in signe of joy among the blest
The faces lightning, or a smile is here.
Those stings of care that his strong Heart opprest,
A desperate, Oh mee , drew from his deepe Brest.


Oh mee! (thus bellow'd hee) oh mee! what great
Portents before mine eyes their Powers advance?
And serves my purer sight, onely to beat
Downe my proud Thought, and leave it in a Trance?
Frowne I; and can great Nature keep her seat?
And the gay starrs lead on their Golden dance?
Can his attempts above still prosp'rous be,
Auspicious still, in spight of Hell and me?


Hee has my Heaven (what would he more?) whose bright
And radiant Scepter this bold hand should beare.
And for the never-fading fields of Light
My faire Inheritance, hee confines me here,
To this darke House of shades, horrour, and Night,
To draw a long-liv'd Death, where all my cheere
Is the solemnity my sorrow weares,
That Mankinds Torment waits upon my Teares.


Darke, dusty Man, he needs would single forth,
To make the partner of his owne pure ray:
And should we Powers of Heav'n, Spirits of worth
Bow our bright Heads, before a King of clay?
It shall not be, said I, and clombe the North ,
Where never wing of Angell yet made way
What though I mist my blow? yet I strooke high,
And to dare something, is some victory.


Is hee not satisfied? meanes he to wrest
Hell from me too, and sack my Territories?
Vile humane Nature means he now t'invest
(O my despight!) with his divinest Glories?
And rising with rich spoiles upon his Brest,
With his faire Triumphs fill all future stories?
Must the bright armes of Heav'n, rebuke these eyes?
Mocke mee, and dazle my darke Mysteries?


Art thou not Lucifer ? hee to whom the droves
Of Stars, that guild the Morne in charge were given?
The nimblest of the lightning-winged Loves?
The fairest, and the first-borne smile of Heav'n?
Looke in what Pompe the Mistresse Planet moves
Rev'rently circled by the lesser seaven,
Such, and so rich, the flames that from thine eyes,
Oprest the common-people of the skyes.


Ah wretch! what bootes thee to cast back thy eyes,
Where dawning hope no beame of comfort showes?
While the reflection of thy forepast joyes,
Renders thee double to thy present woes.
Rather make up to thy new miseries,
And meet the mischiefe that upon thee growes.
If Hell must mourne, Heav'n sure shall sympathize
What force cannot effect, fraud shall devise.


And yet whose force feare I? have I so lost
My selfe? my strength too with my innocence?
Come try who dares, Heav'n, Earth , what ere dost boast,
A borrowed being, make thy bold defence.
Come thy Creator too, what though it cost
Mee yet a second fall? wee'd try our strengths.
Heav'n saw us struggle once, as brave a fight
Earth now should see, and tremble at the sight.


Thus spoke th'impatient Prince, and made a pause,
His foule Hags rais'd their heads, and clapt their hands.
And all the Powers of Hell in full applause
Flourisht their Snakes, and tost their flaming brands.
Wee (said the horrid sisters) wait thy lawes,
Th'obsequious handmaids of thy high commands.
Be it thy part, Hells mighty Lord, to lay
On us thy dread commands, ours to obey.


What thy Alecto , what these hands can doe,
Thou mad'st bold proofe upon the brow of Heav'n,
Nor should'st thou bate in pride, because that now,
To these thy sooty Kingdomes thou art driven.
Let Heav'ns Lord chide above lowder then thou
In language of his Thunder, thou art even
With him below: here thou art Lord alone
Boundlesse and absolute: Hell is thine owne.


If usuall wit, and strength will doe no good,
Vertues of stones, nor herbes: use stronger charmes,
Anger, and love, best hookes of humane blood.
If all faile wee'l put on our proudest Armes,
And pouring on Heav'ns face the Seas huge flood
Quench his curl'd fires, wee'l wake with our Alarmes
Ruine, where e're she sleepes at Natures feet;
And crush the world till his wide corners meet.


Reply'd the proud King, O my Crownes Defence!
Stay of my strong hopes, you of whose brave worth,
The frighted stars tooke faint experience,
When 'gainst the Thunders mouth wee marched forth:
Still you are prodigal of your Love's expence
In our great projects, both 'gainst Heav'n and Earth.
I thanke you all, but one must single out,
Cruelty , she alone shall cure my doubt.


Fourth of the cursed knot of Hags is shee,
Or rather all the other three in one;
Hells shop of slaughter shee do's oversee,
And still assist the Execution.
But chiefly there do's shee delight to be,
Where Hells capacious Cauldron is set on:
And while the black soules boile in their owne gore,
To hold them down, and looke that none seethe o're.


Thrice howl'd the Caves of Night, and thrice the sound,
Thundring upon the bankes of those black lakes
Rung, through the hollow vaults of Hell profound:
At last her listning Eares the noise o'retakes,
Shee lifts her sooty lampes, and looking round
A gen'rall hisse, from the whole Tire of snakes
Rebounding, through Hells inmost Cavernes came,
In answer to her formidable Name.


Mongst all the Palaces in Hells command,
No one so mercilesse as this of hers.
The Adamantine Doors, for ever stand
Impenetrable, both to prai'rs and Teares,
The walls inexorable steele, no hand
Of Time , or Teeth of hungry Ruine feares.
Their ugly ornaments are the bloody staines,
Of ragged limbs, torne sculls, and dasht out Braines.


There has the purple Vengeance a proud seat,
Whose ever-brandisht Sword is sheath'd in blood.
About her Hate, Wrath, Warre , and slaughter sweat;
Bathing their hot limbs in life's pretious flood.
There rude impetuous Rage do's storme, and fret:
And there, as Master of this murd'ring brood,
Swinging a huge Sith stands impartiall Death ,
With endlesse businesse almost out of Breath.


For Hangings and for Curtaines, all along
The walls, (abominable ornaments!)
Are tooles of wrath, Anvills of Torments hung;
Fell Executioners of foule intents,
Nailes, hammers, hatchets sharpe, and halters strong,
Swords, Speares, with all the fatall Instruments
Of sin, and Death, twice dipt in the dire staines
Of Brothers mutuall blood, and Fathers braines.


The Tables furnisht with a cursed Feast,
Which Harpyes , with leane Famine feed upon,
Unfill'd for ever. Here among the rest,
Inhumane Erisi-cthon too makes one;
Tantalus, Atreus, Progne , here are guests:
Wolvish Lycaon here a place hath won.
The cup they drinke in is Medusa's scull,
Which mixt with gall and blood they quaffe brim full.


The foule Queens most abhorred Maids of Honour
Medaea, Jezabell , many a meager Witch
With Circe, Scylla , stand to wait upon her.
But her best huswifes are the Parcae , which
Still worke for her, and have their wages from her.
They prick a bleeding heart at every stitch.
Her cruell cloathes of costly threds they weave,
Which short-cut lives of murdred Infants leave.


The house is hers'd about with a black wood,
Which nods with many a heavy headed tree.
Each flowers a pregnant poyson, try'd and good,
Each herbe a Plague. The winds sighes timed-bee
By a black Fount, which weeps into a flood.
Through the thick shades obscurely might you see
Minotaures, Cyclopses , with a darke drove
Of Dragons, Hydraes, Sphinxes , fill the Grove.


Here Diomed's Horses, Phereus dogs appeare,
With the fierce Lyons of Therodamas .
Busiris ha's his bloody Altar here,
Here Sylla his severest prison has.
The Lestrigonians here their Table reare;
Here strong Procrustes plants his Bed of Brasse.
Here cruell Scyron boasts his bloody rockes,
And hatefull Schinis his so feared Oakes.


What ever Schemes of Blood, fantastick frames
Of Death Mezentius , or Geryon drew;
Phalaris, Ochus, Ezelinus , names
Mighty in mischiefe, with dread Nero too,
Here are they all, Here all the swords or flames
Assyrian Tyrants, or Egyptian knew.
Such was the House, so furnisht with the Hall,
Whence the fourth Fury , answer'd Pluto's call.


Scarce to this Monster could the shady King,
The horrid summe of his intentions tell;
But shee (swift as the momentary wing
Of lightning, or the words he spoke) left Hell.
Shee rose, and with her to our world did bring,
Pale proofe of her fell presence. Th'aire too well
With a chang'd countenance witnest the sight,
And poore fowles intercepted in their flight.


Heav'n saw her rise, and saw Hell in the sight.
The field's faire Eyes saw her, and saw no more,
But shut their flowry lids for ever. Night
And Winter strow her way; yea, such a sore
Is shee to Nature, that a generall fright,
An universall palsie spreading o're
The face of things, from her dire eyes had run,
Had not her thick Snakes hid them from the Sun.


Now had the Night's companion from her den,
Where all the busie day shee close doth ly,
With her soft wing, wipt from the browes of men
Day's sweat, and by a gentle Tyranny,
And sweet oppression, kindly cheating them
Of all their cares, tam'd the rebellious eye
Of sorrow, with a soft and downy hand,
Sealing all brests in a Lethaean band.


When the Erinnys her black pineons spread,
And came to Bethlem , where the cruell King
Had now retyr'd himselfe, and borrowed
His Brest a while from care's unquiet sting.
Such as at Thebes dire feast shee shew'd her head,
Her sulphur-breathed Torches brandishing,
Such to the frighted Palace now shee comes,
And with soft feet searches the silent roomes.


By Herod leige to Cesar now was borne
The Scepter, which of old great David swaid.
Whose right by David's linage so long worne,
Himselfe a stranger to, his owne had made:
And from the head of Judahs house quite torne
The Crowne, for which upon their necks he laid
A sad yoake, under which they sigh'd in vaine,
And looking on their lost state sigh'd againe.


Up, through the spatious Pallace passed she,
To where the Kings proudly-reposed head
(If any can be soft to Tyranny
And selfe-tormenting sin) had a soft bed.
She thinkes not fit such he her face should see,
As it is seene by Hell; and seene with dread.
To change her faces stile she doth devise,
And in a pale Ghost's shape to spare his Eyes.


Her selfe a while she layes aside, and makes
Ready to personate a mortall part.
Joseph the Kings dead Brothers shape she takes,
What he by Nature was, is she by Art.
She comes toth' King and with her cold hand slakes
His Spirits, the Sparkes of Life, and chills his heart,
Lifes forge; fain'd is her voice, and false too, be
Her words, sleep'st thou fond man? sleep'st thou? (said she).


So sleeps a Pilot, whose poore Barke is prest
With many a mercylesse o're mastring wave;
For whom (as dead) the wrathfull winds contest,
Which of them deep'st shall digge her watry Grave.
Why dost thou let thy brave soule lye supprest,
In Death-like slumbers; while thy dangers crave
A waking eye and hand? looke up and see
The fates ripe, in their great conspiracy.


Know'st thou not how of th' Hebrewes royall stemme
(That old dry stocke) a despair'd branch is sprung
A most strange Babe! who here conceal'd by them
In a neglected stable lies, among
Beasts and base straw: Already is the streame
Quite turn'd: th' ingratefull Rebells this their young
Master (with voyce free as the Trumpe of Fame )
Their new King, and thy Successour proclaime.


What busy motions, what wild Engines stand
On tiptoe in their giddy Braynes? th' have fire
Already in their Bosomes; and their hand
Already reaches at a sword: They hire
Poysons to speed thee; yet through all the Land
What one comes to reveale what they conspire?
Goe now, make much of these; wage still their wars
And bring home on thy Brest more thanklesse scarrs.


Why did I spend my life, and spill my Blood,
That thy firme hand for ever might sustaine
A well-pois'd Scepter? does it now seeme good
Thy Brothers blood be-spilt life spent in vaine?
'Gainst thy owne sons and Brothers thou hast stood
In Armes, when lesser cause was to complaine:
And now crosse Fates a watch about thee keepe,
Can'st thou be carelesse now? now can'st thou sleep?


Where art thou man? what cowardly mistake
Of thy great selfe, hath stolne King Herod from thee?
O call thy selfe home to thy selfe, wake, wake,
And fence the hanging sword Heav'n throws upon thee.
Redeeme a worthy wrath, rouse thee, and shake
Thy selfe into a shape that may become thee.
Be Herod , and thou shalt not misse from mee
Immortall stings to thy great thoughts, and thee.


So said, her richest snake, which to her wrist
For a beseeming bracelet shee had ty'd
(A speciall Worme it was as ever kist
The foamy lips of Cerberus ) shee apply'd
To the Kings Heart, the Snake no sooner hist,
But vertue heard it, and away shee hy'd,
Dire flames diffuse themselves through every veine,
This done, Home to her Hell shee hy'd amaine.


Hee wakes, and with him (ne're to sleepe) new feares:
His Sweat-bedewed Bed had now betrai'd him,
To a vast field of thornes, ten thousand Speares
All pointed in his heart seem'd to invade him:
So mighty were th'amazing Characters
With which his feeling Dreame had thus dismay'd him,
Hee his owne fancy-framed foes defies:
In rage, My armes, give me my armes , hee cryes.


As when a Pile of food-preparing fire,
The breath of artificiall lungs embraves,
The Caldron-prison'd waters streight conspire,
And beat the hot Brasse with rebellious waves:
He murmures, and rebukes their bold desire;
Th'impatient liquor, frets, and foames, and raves;
Till his o'reflowing pride suppresse the flame,
Whence all his high spirits, and hot courage came.


So boyles the fired Herods blood-swolne brest,
Not to be slakt but by a Sea of blood.
His faithlesse Crowne he feeles loose on his Crest,
Which on false Tyrants head ne're firmly stood.
The worme of jealous envy and unrest,
To which his gnaw'd heart is the growing food
Makes him impatient of the lingring light.
Hate the sweet peace of all-composing Night.


A Thousand Prophecies that talke strange things,
Had sowne of old these doubts in his deepe brest.
And now of late came tributary Kings,
Bringing him nothing but new feares from th'East,
More deepe suspicions, and more deadly stings,
With which his feav'rous cares their cold increast.
And now his dream (Hels firebrand) stil more bright,
Shew'd him his feares, and kill'd him with the sight.


No sooner therefore shall the Morning see
(Night hangs yet heavy on the lids of Day)
But all his Counsellours must summon'd bee,
To meet their troubled Lord without delay.
Heralds and Messengers immediately
Are sent about, who poasting every way
To th'heads and Officers of every band;
Declare who sends, and what is his command.


Why art thou troubled Herod? what vaine feare
Thy blood-revolving Brest to rage doth move?
Heavens King, who doffs himselfe weake flesh to weare,
Comes not to rule in wrath, but serve in love.
Nor would he this thy fear'd Crown from thee Teare,
But give thee a better with himselfe above.
Poore jealousie! why should he wish to prey
Upon thy Crowne, who gives his owne away?


Make to thy reason man; and mocke thy doubts,
Looke how below thy feares their causes are;
Thou art a Souldier Herod ; send thy Scouts
See how hee's furnish't for so fear'd a warre.
What armour does he weare? A few thin clouts.
His Trumpets? tender cryes. his men to dare
So much? rude Shepheards. What his steeds? alas
Poore Beasts! a slow Oxe, and a simple Asse.

Il fine del libro primo.
Author of original: 
Giambattista Marino
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