To see a commentary note, click on a blue square. To see the Latin text, click on a green square. .
ACT II, SCENE i
LYG. How the tender tears fallen from her tender cheeks moved me, and her prayers upon prayers! How pleasantly she blazed with her entreaties, how sweet she was in her sad lamentation! Pretty Telethusa, grant unneccesary words along with your darling tears to me in my repentance, and our daughter will live.
TELEST. If my consort had offered to me such words with her mouth so tender, even my helpless enemy would have lived. Such a heavy lamentation could have softened savage Dis, and calmed the winds, wild though they be.
LYG. She has overcome me, more savage than the raging south winds. But a mighty fate (although a heavy one) compelled me to relieve a heavier evil by means of a lighter one. For who would have regard for my daughter, when hunger was destroying her veins, or (which I loathe more) when she was gobbling food acquired by common prostitution?
TELEST. And when she was sick with old age wearing out her limbs.
LYG. Let her first drink down a dire lethal poison, which can erase such sins along with her life by a swift death.
ACT I, SCENE ii
NURSE, LYGDUS, TELESTES
NURSE [Talking to the infant Iphis which she is carrying.] Sweet darling, take a kiss, take and give a kiss with your tender lips, rush swiftly to my mouth, I want to sip the honey from their rosy flowers.
LYG. Silence, nurse, your wish is pointless, let my unhappy consort abandon her hateful entreaties. What I command stands determined.
NURSE Lygdus, do you want to be happy?
LYG. The gods are unwilling.
NURSE Restrain your harsh mind, accept in friendly spirit a gift sent you by the gods.
LYG. A plague sent from the terrible Styx.
TELEST. Lygdus, how this silly madness in unbecoming to you! Take your time and listen.
NURSE Telethusa, a mother, places a male child at its father’s feet.
LYG. More than blessed Lygdus, whom the gods refused to let be tainted by the murder of his child! You must repay the gods for granting your prayers with goods that any man would crave. Oh the fair delusion, and the dream deceiving my waking eyes! But you seemed to me to be carrying a male child, nurse, a son so often demanded by my pious prayers. Oh Father, governor of the orb on high, behold a man, exceedingly happy, who enjoys good things while dreaming himself to be blessed! Lo, what great things the gods on high have sent you!
TELEST. O father, ruler of this great world, behold a very man, who, dreaming himself to be blessed, enjoys these good things! Lygdus, see what great things the gods have sent you.
LYG. So is it true? I will pay due thanks to favoring heaven. Let the tender offspring of an unspeakable father live, escaping the horrid darkness of death and the womb.
TELEST. With what light laughter this jewel who did not deserve being oppressed by the darkness of the Styx greets the golden light!
LYG. Sad death always sits on his trembling eyes.
NURSE How his tiny face resembles his mother! Cheeks are like cheeks, eye like eye, everything like everything. If only his tender young age would allow it, you could call him her consort.
LYG. Retire, nurse, take the pretty little pledge back to his mother. Tell her my breast is surging with joy, that I have paid my humble thanks to the peaceful gods, and that I wish that from his tender young years the boy learns those things which befit men. May the gods grant that I see him grown to adulthood!
NURSE I shall do this thing. [Exit Nurse.]
LYG. Nor do I hope for small things. An infant which has safely survived such evils will do unusual things, he will show a new example to amazed mankind and a shuddering world.
TELEST. The boy is tender, surpassing your Adonis, soft Venus, and one to whom Cupid, that wanton lad, must defer. I swear by greatest Jove and by you, mighty Lucina who brings relief to pregnant woman, whatever the boy shall have been, grant a similar one to me and an unyoked heifer will feed your altars.
ACT II, SCENE iii
LYGDUS, TELESTES, MESSENGER
<LYG. So is your wife’s gravid belly swollen?
TELEST. On the brink of giving birth, with pious entreaties she has already prayed often to Lucina.
MESS. I have wandered about sprawling Phaestus. Where shall I find him now? My weary steps are faltering. Lo, there is Telestes. Master, now it’s true that Fortune is inconstant, she accomplishes what wise industry cannot.
TELEST. Tell me how your mistress fares, and what news you have to relate.
MESS. Your consort, compelled by her womb’s raging pain and her evil complaints, has assaulted all the gods with her ardent prayer. Thrice she has invoked the help-bringing divinity, and added her triple name. Heard at length, she has been relieved of her ripe burden. You would say the gods themselves, savage out of jealousy, did not want such a daughter to be born to men. Mighty Nature squandered her greatest treasures and deplores herself as impoverished, since she has established such a superb model. Her doubting mother has sent to you, and mixing entreaties with prayers implores you lest your beautiful child must die.
TELEST. Let this unspeakable crime begone, my mind shudders at the dire sin. Let her live, and let her life make her father blessed.
MESS. How I shall bear these peaceful tidings to my mistress! [Exit Messenger.]
ACT II, SCENE iv
LYGDUS, TELESTES, TELETHUSA
LYG. How quickly this wise man hoped for was confirmed! The god accomplished his prayers when he had scarce framed them.
TELETH. I acknowledge the divinity, and I account myself more blessed than he, for Lygdus is my consort.
LYG. The gods bless me though I am undeserving. Perhaps they are exhausting my consort with heavy evils, though she deserves better. I want to see her, Telestes. May I ask you to be my companion? You see our house hard by.
TELEST. Who would deny these things to a friend?
LYG. How do you fare, my wife? [He draws back the curtain.] Does care torture you in your illness, or the pang of childbirth?
TELETH. The one and the other could have done this. But my misery has moved the kindly gods. You could have seen them sitting by my bed and cheering my failed spirit with their gentle words. You might think it was the gods who gave birth to this infant, so easy was my birthing. Dear child of the gods, which such a throng from high heaven protects, let not the envious Fates over-hastily steal the poor thing from me. Does such an ardent love of pretty little things possess the Parcae? Are good men so few, men so undeserving, that Charon should immediately snatch them into his never-filled barque? Why do the gods of heaven give these things to mankind, if it were a crime to enjoy them?
TELEST. These things are done by our crimes, not by a ferocious god. Whoever wishes himself to be blessed will be happy. But silly madness has armed the hands of all men against infants who do not deny their breasts as targets.
LYG. I adore the favorable gods, who refused to let me be tainted by savage destruction. Telestes, I shall discharge all the vows I have made to the gods.
TELEST. I shall give myself to you as a companion.
TELETH. Make offerings also, may the welcome flame appease the celestials with its odor, may its aroma sweeten the air.
ACT II, SCENE v
And I myself pay due thanks to the god. Let the breezes be sundered, let the rising north wind fall silent, let my prayers seek out the celestial gods without fear. Oh Father of your thrice-blessed ethereal home, at whom all things shudder, Juno, whom pregnant women call Juno, Isis who inhabits shining Pharos, I pray you turn your eager ears to my prayers. Whatever new thing I undertake under your auspices, may it not lack a good conclusion. Your commandments compel me to conceal my daughter, fated to die by murder, and cheat my husband by a pious deception. Let this harmless trick remain hidden, and let no tongue babble this holy crime. You, you have granted me this child in safety, preserve her now that she is given. Thus a double prayer-sacrifice will fall at your altars, that you preserve the gifts you have granted.
ACT II, SCENE vi
TELESTES, LYGDUS, TELETHUSA
TELEST. The heifer is wholly consumed, nor does anything remain, except a well-disposed divinity.
LYG. As he persisted in being kindly, he gave the heifer to the flames with a well-omened sign of approval.
TELEST. How everything was auspicious, the liver was propitious and the innards more than holy!
LYG. How the fragrant odor flooded the serene sky with its billowing cloud!
TELEST. How the ash was white, befouled by no stain!
LYG. So let us continue. Let us place at grave Lucina’s altars all the prayer-offerings we have vowed.
TELEST. But where’s the priest?
LYG. Every man is a priest at his private altar. I shall perform the rites.
TELEST. Sprinkle the blood, Then let the dittany-herb, consecrated to Juno, garland the altar.
LYG. Thus, thus it is accomplished.
TELETH. Behold, the goddess of the hunt has given a favorable omen, and peacefully dispels the black fumes.
TELEST. Oh the kindly divinity!
LYG. Oh the benign celestials!
TELEST. But why are your failing eyes closing? See, sick Telethusa does not suffer these long delays.
TELETH. I pray you depart. Approaching sleep beclouds my eyes. Let a friendly hand draw the curtain. [The curtain is drawn closed.]
TELEST. It was foolish to dispel her sleep with our hated uproar. Let us retire.
LYG. Come. [Exeunt Lygdus and Telestes.]
Go to Act III