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THE SHIELD OF FRANCE
Why are new walls arising with marble gates,
With lofty towers? Why are the fields abounding with wine
Being fissured with trenches? They are laying foundations,
Stones that can be o’erleaped in a bound! Is Romulus from his sheer citadel
Ready to found a new kingdom and to bring the Roman Empire
To France? Or with seven gates is Cadmus preparing to shut
The homeland of Hercules and Bacchus to men, after killing the serpent
With its monstrous offspring? Or is Carthaginian Dido
Preparing to surround her Sidonian nation with the bull’s hide
And her city with a wall, extending her sovereignty
With far-flung rule, so she may place a yoke on the haughty Spaniard?
Or have these your walls arisen, Son of the gods, terror of Spain,
Whose equal in wisdom no foreign land
Or even France can boast, or the ancient shores of Aquitaine
Has seen, and La Rochelle is astonished at your triumphss?
The Tiber marvels, as do the Rhine and the Danube.
The rich Pactolus, rolling its golden sands to the sea, wonders.
The Tagus is envious, or so does any exiled stranger
As he glides into our waters.
They marvel at the stream of the Seine, a mighty channel,
Happy in its power, a river happy in its castles.
The Loire, the Rhone yield to it, as do the Meuse and the Garonne.
Even the Tiber yields, along with the Rhine and the Elbe.
The Tagus will soon give way (unless my songs deceive
Me, a happy bard in this), and the rapacious Danube will soon do the same.
Whoever you are who have come, whithersoever fate lucky bears you
Or unlucky drags you, whether you arrive happily or are driven in exile,
Whether the Thames sends you, or the Main and the Oder;
Whether you are Scottish, faithful through many ages,
Or Dacian and hostile Spaniard, this fostering hospitable nymph
Receives you all, welcomes you to her spacious halls,
Most lovely, and embraces all grateful men in her beautiful arms.
She tells you to be hers, soothing your astonished hearts
With kind words, and she shows you so many astounding things.
I sing no empty song, for I have seen her myself,
Surrounded with crops and grain, her brow wreathed with Bacchus.
In her hair are woven rich clusters of grapes and bright heads of grain,
And around her lovely neck hangs Amalthea’s rich cornucopia.
She is beautiful of face and wants to seem so,
Wearing lilies on her brow. Even bright Venus gives way to her,
Beautiful with blushes marking her white cheeks,
With scarlet lips, bright eyes. In her right hand
She wields a dreadful sword, in her left a sounding harp.
At times she loves to direct the happy chorus
Or ride the horse in a ring with foamy bit.
At times she likes to rush with arms into savage
Battle and to drive the broken ranks with her spears
And to break the brazen files and bestrew the ground
With ranked lines of men, then fly winged through conquered cities.
Once we saw how the nymph drove timid hares
And, carefree, mocked the worthless Spaniard.
But, as soon as she saw me watching, thus she spoke:
“Stop in your tracks here, boy, and you will see the peace
That Ulysses made for us, Ulysses, the only hope of my kingdom,
Of my fortunes. Only because of him am I, and am I called, called
A blessed nymph and parent, mother and child alike;
A parent dear to her child, a child dear to his parent,
A solace and glory to me. For many ages this nymph has born no
Such child as him he whom see with wonder, this Ulysses.
Just stop here and I will show you so many marvelous things,
Such things that I have never seen, eternal as I am.
Five lustra ago gentle peace nourished the French,
And the fertile fields made the farmers happy
With their crops, until both father and son were dead,
The one by a hateful lance, the son by a boil on his sickly
Ears. Straightway the black home of Hades sent out
Raging Furies, and Discord, with hair of twisted snakes
Lurked in ambush and pulled wild brains
In different ways. Brother was glad to hand brother
On to death. Glad were in-laws to see in-laws die,
As were hateful daughters, raving fathers and sons all die,
All driven by hellish Furies. All ties of
Friendship were broken; young men rushed to violent riot
And raged with fire and steel. The Fury flew through the cities
Feeding on homes; guests fled the rotten houses,
And soldiers mixed massacres and piles of dead
With the ashes, the young and strong and the feeble and old
Alike, dragging the healthy and sick together
In one doom. With no distinction of gender or age,
The barren aged together with those carrying children,
The married and the maidens all fall, the wife with the dear
Husband and the infant ripped from the mother’s breast,
Even those innocents who had never seen the starry sky,
All spilled their lives, children and parents.
How many heroes, how many men—too many to enumerate — hundred of thousands
Given to death. No water there was in the stream of the Seine,
But human gore. The Rhone, the Garonne, and the Loire
Stained their flow with gore, and the Ocean, made red,
Rolled its waves along, warm with blood.
No less did the raging soldier devastate farm and field,
The countryside, when the timid farmer had fled his plow,
And the shepherd his flock, the vintner his wine-soaked fields,
And the cowherd his cows. They made a desert in a desert.
“Even more my poor maternal heart was wounded
By Austrian deceit and the Spanish king, who was stirring up war,
Tired of dwelling by Tagus and the grim wilds of the Guadiana.
“Fomenter of the fighting he was, ferocious tiger,
Viper, savage Tisiphone, more savage than
Savage Megaera, the cause of so many men’s death,
Who had often plotted the ruin of our power.
He was indeed the source of the dire pact against
My husband and my father. But the Duke, offspring of Lorraine,
Relied on Spanish power and the multitude of his men,
Who gave their names under oath to this mimic king
And dared to violate the marriage chamber
And extinguish the torches of our marriage.
They wanted to make me, so chaste, an adulteress in a strange bed.
Whether the adulterer be the Spaniard or someone else whose
Lust for power made him swap a comic slipper for a tragic boot.
Sixteen hundred years it was, in the fifteenth lustrum,
And now the fifth year of the Lord was rolling on,
When suddenly from the heavens the maiden born
From the brow of Jove saw me with pity and said:
“‘Since dread old age and barbarism, hateful to me,
Have now held my former realms for many centuries,
Let this now be my people, be my Tritonian land,
France, the glory of Mars, the rich daughter of the Muses,
Conqueror of the Thracians in war, of the Muses in song,
Under my guidance. Let Juno favor the Samian land
And Venus favor Paphos, France is under my care.
Indeed, I will give you a man who will expel bitter grief,
Blot out the Nymph’s tears and drive from the kingdom
These rebel leaders, all these partners of the Holy League
And bring back reverence for the True King. He will
Bring back the old glory of your homeland, restore
The sinking kingdom and smash the haughty Spaniards.’
“Thus she spoke, and donning her helmet, the work of Steropes and Brontes,
She brandished her brazen spear in her right hand
And held in her left the Athenian arts and the olive branch,
Bent on employing now the arts of peace, now her powerful weapons.
The winged Bellona makes her way through
The lambent air and finally lands on the Armorican shore,
Passing over Nantes and the stream yoked
With Caesar’s bridge. All the Dryads and Nereids surround her,
Also the Naiads of the Loire, the Veude, the Vienne,
She came to the PLACE, whose name is RICH (this is an omen.
There, when the fifth year of this dread League was passing,
She took off the form of a god and donned mortal limbs
And human shape. With crying she filled the air
Around your cradle, Great Duke. Your nurse, all unknowing, was
Astonished and gave you, a child, her breast and kissed you.
She marveled at the shape and form of the goddess in you,
The eyes of Athena and her face. O! What glory awaits you,
I know that some people are not pleased that I shorten some syllables that are long in [Latin] authors and I lengthen short syllables. However occasionally this is done in proper or foreign names, and authors for metrical reasons, not from necessity, occasionally lengthen or shorten syllables. For the same reason I should be allowed to do the opposite. Why should the genitive case of that most noble river, i.e. Sēquănæ, be excluded from Epic poetry? It would have been easy to shorten the syllable mo in Mŏsa: Cui Mŏsă, cui Lĭgĕris cessit, Rhŏdănisque Gărumnaque (22). But I did not like this line. In the same way for Gārumn(a) et Lĭgĕris foedābant (88,; the a is elided before the et) I could have written Ātq(ue) Ărăr, et Lĭgĕris foedābant, et rŭbĕr auctus, except that in so doing the gravity and majesty of the whole verse is ruined. There is no question that the [Latin] authors themselves, if the meter had demanded it, would have made the syllable se in Sequana short and the mo in Mosa long.
HUME’S POEMS IN DEFENSE
TO ONE WHO SAYS THAT HIS HEROIC POEMS IN PRAISE OF THE GREAT DUKE RICHELIEU ARE OBSCURE AND PUFFED-UP
If I write a poem, Zoilus, which is obscure and puffed-up,
Say too that Virgil’s are obscure and puffed-up.
You will see nothing here save Virgil’s lofty words,
Virgil’s meter, and Virgil’s manner.
I sing great deeds in lofty (but easy) verse,
Mighty actions in an epic poem.
TO ANOTHER, WHO SAYS THAT THESE POEMS ARE MORE OBSCURE THAN OVID’S
Are Ovid’s verses, Zoilus, not as obscure?
But Virgil’s are, Zoilus, far more.
I sing no fictitious gods, no god’s dark fires,
But a real great-spirited hero.