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ACT III, SCENE i
No care is gnawing at me, nor does repose give me relief. Savage Cupid rejoices in my tears. Gloomily he forbids my cheerful laughter, and yet it pleases me to rejoice in weeping, to weep in rejoicing. Nor do I know by what fire my heart is scorched. Fair beauty has not touched my unschooled breath, nor, little boy, has my tongue insulted you so that your bowstring should wound my heart. But my blind love blazes with passion for unknown girls, nor does such a wicked fire scorch my hidden marrow that I would lightheartedly run headlong onto every breast. The wanton god displeases me, as does soft Erycina who kindly accepts a man, whoever may come along. Let Juno chose me a bride, and saffron-clad Hymen kindle the gleaming wedding-torch, let holy Lucina make my marriage-bed, and let my tender bride embrace my youthful neck with chaste hand, let us exchange our souls, lips fixed upon lips. Blessed indeed is he, and born under prospering stars, if the friendly celestials shall have given him such great goods. Mighty divinity, whichever one is looking upon my flames, be favorable!
ACT III, SCENE ii
LYGDUS, TELESTES, NISUS
LYG. Does this fair girl thus far surpass the highest goddesses?
TELEST. Thus reputation, perhaps false, reports.
NIS. Be still, hold your tongue, Nisus, lest the talkative wind bring to these old men my words, not to be heard. Here you may safely overhear whatever they chatter.
TELEST. And rumor, long a-growing, reports wonderful things. Beauty is her least endowment. Whoever tells or hears the rest is silent, fixed, motionless in astonishment.
LYG. You speak of marvelous things.
TELEST. If it is her pleasure to ply the thread with nimble thumb, with her needle to represent gods, men, flowers, birds, cattle, little fish, you would think her adroit Pallas, or she who surpassed the goddess (though unlucky), skilled Arachne. Such beauty is intermingled with her excellent art.
NIS. What a fierce fire is wasting my sick limbs!
LYG. Oh you very lucky father of Ianthe!
TELEST. She can fashion many things with threads of varied hue. She has depicted Niobe being transported with proud step, and she has painted her drenching her face with tardy tears. You would believe that swollen arrogance possessed her grave eyes, then suddenly they are lifeless and you may imagine that, turned to marble, she is weeping for her offspring and her husband.
LYG. Oh the enviable girl!
NIS. An unconquerable fire scorches my wasted liver.
TELEST. And in her blessedness she has endowments greater than these. With what holy tunes she caresses the avid breezes while she strums her light lyre with a dancing finger! You would imagine the goddesses have spurned their horsey springs to learn her tunes, more skillful than their own, you would imagine Phoebus’ bested lyre to have fallen silent, or, lest Apollo think his divinity insulted, that a single harmony possessed the holy Muses, from which most her excellent songs resound, from which she gives her music.
NIS. Oh darting fire in my veins, furious Aetna can give no greater to the forges of Sicily!
LYG. Lo how everything conspires to bless Telestes! All my own hope has gone for naught. I had hoped that Iphis would be a man worthy of all Crete, who would vanquish his enemies with his victorious hand, or who would master the swollen waters of the vast main. Now, just so much as hearing of bloody wars he falls into a panic. A strange Cretan, he is ignorant of the nearby water, or why the beasts of the ice never come to the seas they hate. If someone shows him a ship, he stops in his tracks and thinks it’s a monster. But he is fairer than his fair mother, he embroiders, he sings, and whatever suits a woman he ably performs. I believe the gods have changed this woman into a man, lest the Fates snatch him away too suddenly.
TELEST. But why are we idly frittering? A vague rumor perhaps has invented that which over-easy trust desires to believe. “A single eyewitness is better than ten hearsay reports.”
LYG. I scarcely know who could say something truer.
TELEST. With swift step let a single trusty messenger fetch the both of them.
LYG. And, that my thirst may be quenched from the same fountain, let the tutor come, I want to pay him the thanks he has earned.
TELEST. Excellent advice indeed, let a servant carry out my just mandates. [Exeunt Lygdus and Telestes.]
ACT III, SCENE iii
Does fair Ianthe so surpass the highest goddesses (for her father has given her this name)? Does her regal beauty posses the eyes of lofty Juno? Does she have the terrifying sharp glance of grave Minerva? Does the fair beauty of soft Venus summon a man against his will? Does the bashful vigor of virginal Diana sit on her keen brow? These things are great, she herself is greater, but I am greatest, I am blessed because Ianthe has honored my nuptial bed, constructed by her steady faith and the divinity enclosed in her mind. Lo, I enjoy heaven, I walk as lofty as the stars, in my arms I seem to be embracing my Ianthe. I call all goddesses to witness, but the goddesses are jealous. [Enter Telethusa.] I humbly worship you, goddess; concede to me in my misery the sacred divinity of these goddesses, I pray you show favor to a suppliant.
TELETH. Let whatever you request be granted, neighbor Nisus.
NIS. May I be permitted to enjoy the heaven for which I hope, Telethusa.
TELETH. How ardent is your mind, making these prayers! Perhaps I have the power to accomplish what the goddesses themselves cannot, for I know many things hidden to the blind sky.
NIS. Tell me whether you are wont to roam the wandering heaven. Tell me whether you are wont to see the holy gods. For they say a divinity has come from high Olympus, they exclaim she wants to bless wretched mankind.
TELETH. You vain boy, what strange words do you speak, wrapped in riddling? Why do mock me with your vague talk, though I am eager?
NIS. Oh mind, so dull and heedless! It imposed upon itself that divine name, Ianthe, this holy girl dwells in the house of Dictaean Telestes.
TELETH. Go on. [Aside.] Now I perceive where the sick boy is heading.
NIS. On humble knee I shall worship at her chaste altars, a keen and constant love will burn the liver covered by the votive fire.
TELETH. She is worthy to be loved who has deserved Jove for a suitor.
NIS. Oh if I were permitted to see her, and to drink in her holy beauty with my thirsty eye!
TELETH. Soon you will relieve your greedy thirst with the seeing. In a brief while she will make her quick way here.
ACT III, SCENE iv
NISUS, TELETHUSA, TUTOR, IPHIS, IANTHE
NIS. Behold, is not the goddess there?
TELETH. Oh a lover’s very swift vision and speedy eye!
TUT. And remember the rest that you know, Ianthe.
TELETH. Steady your failing feet lest your steps totter.
NIS. Venus and Diana, Pallas and Juno at once, I am worshiping.
TELETH. Fool, why are you mad?
TUT. Concern for you troubles my mind, Iphis.
IPH. Why do you fear for me?
NIS. Her rosiness, mixed with rose-whiteness, is aglow.
TUT. Because you have no taste for anything manly, anything vigorous. The things of which you are capable do not befit men, you should overcome the cliffs and the strait with your running. Why are you amazed at these thing?
IPH. My mind scarcely grasps such great things, nor does it embarrass me to do lesser ones. Perhaps a cittern suited Achilles’ strong hands, and warlike Minerva embroiders with her needle.
TUT. But singing Achilles was swift of foot, a spear quivered in Minerva’s embroidering hand. I do not wish you to scorn the lyre, but learn other things.
TELETH. Teach him what he chooses. Whoever compels by fear creates dread, and, commanding love, engenders hatred.
TUT. Pardon me, I did not see you. How fare you, Telethusa? Iphis, you must strive to fulfil your mothers prayers. May the well-disposed divinity favor you, and grant you your customary favor.
ACT III, SCENE v
TUTOR, LYGDUS, TELETHUSA, TELESTES, NISUS, IPHIS, IANTHE
By the gods! As if I came here knowing it all. Lo, Lygdus is here.
LYG. Greetings, you strange zither-player. Whoever learns your arts, though he be a keen fellow, turns out a delicate lady.
TUT. Nature is making the mistake, Lygdus, not you two. Iphis sings, though not having been educated to do so. His mind, though trained, shudders at the manly arts, and, though Achilles’ arms are given him, he seeks out soft nonsense.
LYG. I doubt he has dared anything great.
TUT. I want to repeat some things to you, you judge. As often as I want to range the rocks of a precipitous cliff or the steep ridge of a lofty mountain with a fearless heart and swift foot, he, panicky, refuses to follow me but flees, hoping for the depths of a grassy dale. I am not boasting, I have often outrun the fleet mountain goats, or run down from a mountain faster than a swift tiger coursing the Parthian fields, while Iphis bewails his feet, hurt by the rocks. Once I chose to visit the sea and the region hard by the ocean, when the fearful boy said in amazement, “What water is this?” “The ocean’s,” I said. Swelling the water with his tears, he lamented “You show me this water!” With new entreaties I encouraged the weeping boy. When I wished to be borne on the nearby deep in rough weather, the seething floods subdued, and it was my pleasure to place a tight yoke on raging Neptune, and to give laws that must be obeyed to the night-wandering stars, gently laughing, with tears, he said “I should have regard for that which suits me.” It pleased me to visit places crowed with young men, and the arena red with human blood. My timid companion grew pale, and, shivering, cast off the armor fitted to his limbs. Other proud lads put their armed bodies in motion, and, gesticulating, danced in the pyrrhic fashion. “I do not have Milo’s limbs,” exclaimed the boy.
LYG. Oh the god’s just punishment! In all ways the evil corresponds to my sin and crime. My insolent mind wanted a male child, almost commanding the gods. It has what it wants (oh the sorrow!), but a masculine one filled with a female mind. Will notorious Crete now always bring forth new monsters?
TELETH. Patiently, by toleration, mitigate whatever sin your raging wrath committed.
TELEST. Do not speak of ancient evils. Let us seize the present good with happy faces.
TELETH. If it pleases you, let the genius of our house favor us with wine and a banquet (such as our humble household will provide).
TUT. We all follow. [Exeunt Lygdus, Telethusa, Tutor, Iphis, Ianthe.]
ACT III, SCENE vi
NIS. I wish a few words with you, Telestes.
TELEST. What news have you?
NIS. I can’t get out my words, I am dumbfounded and paralyzed.
TELEST. Speak your pain for my ears, Nisus.
NIS. My pain is greater than can be spoken. From my confused speech you may gather my condition. My swollen eyes blaze with panic fear, and a torrid fire excites my dripping tears. My countenance does not remain the same, nor my color.
TELEST. Entrust whatever weighs upon you to my trusty breast.
NIS. I do not seek a comrade in my ills, I seek a physician.
TELEST. A physician does not give a remedy for an ill he does not know.
NIS. Nor does a physician wish to relieve a man he hates.
TELEST. What Moor or nomad Scythian will not favor you?
NIS. Then favor me yourself, and in friendly, oh in friendly wise attend my disease, and alleviate the evil with your healing potions. By strewing extra fires put out the flame, drain off the flood by an onpouring of water.
TELEST. You issue doubtful words with your tricksy riddling.
NIS. Whatever you once craved as a lover, now grant to me, in love. Recall the ardent flames in your breast, your prayers, your tears, your entreaties, your consort and the gods, invoked so often. With those former eyes look on this lover, then you will readily consent to my entreaties, you will freely grant Ianthe to me in my desire. I ask for her. She alone will extinguish my fires, dry my floods.
TELEST. Neighbor, you ask me for something worthy, which I should have been the first to request. Nobody would refuse you for a son-in law. But you know that mutual love with will be firm. Unless she favors you, my favor scarce does you good. Let her enjoy the husband she herself desires, forced marriage is welcome to nobody. You must act so that she herself thinks you worthy of her.
NIS. I shall do so, may the friendly divinity bless my endeavor! [Exit Nisus.]
ACT III, SCENE vii
TELESTES, TELETHUSA, LYGDUS
TELEST. So does Nisus adore my Ianthe? And does he seriously request to marry her?
TELETH. What great thing is he pondering in his mind? Better to have relieved his cares with a banquet and sweet wine.
LYG. Are you in the habit of thus deserting your friends?
TELEST. Enough of these things. Do you know that Nisus is a suitor of my Ianthe?
LYG. You’re joking.
TELEST. And just now he solicited me myself with a fervid entreaty.
TELETH. I knew this already. I observed his wandering eyes suddenly fixed on those of the girl. He hesitated in mid-step, amazed, and the deep sorrow resounded from the bottom of his breast. Pallor and blushing played upon his face in turns.
TELEST. Why these things? Tell me whether he deserves to be called my son-in-law.
TELETH. You are snatching at this marriage over-hastily, stop for a while, and you should examine everything with a cautious eye. Violent things do not endure. Perhaps his vehement love, unless it grows warm — Delay will reveal more, and, fearing for a daughter of her age, you should wait a while.
TELEST. Nor do I wish such great things to be accomplished hastily, every day bring something unexpected.
LYG. [Drawing Telestes aside.] I will commit some secrets to your trusty breast.
TELETH. [To herself.] Thus while suspicious Telestes contrives delays and deceives the doubtful lad, I’ll weave my wiles and cleverly make Nisus Iphis’ suitor.
TELEST. I do not wish to refuse your request, nor to grant it.
TELETH. Why am I hesitating at my leisure? Delay is a hindrance for a person preparing a scheme. [Exit Telethusa.]
ACT III, SCENE viii
TELEST. My doubtful mind wanders through varied things.
LYG. What doubt seizes your mind?
TELEST. Whether my daughter should wed a soft woman who likes nothing manly, a feeble, inconsequential person. His hands are fit for the spindle, his fingers for the lyre.
LYG. The same will, the same arts with which they are endowed, do these not promised that they will be like-minded. For this reason the marriage-knot will be tied the tighter, and the fire of their love will burn the hotter. Besides these things, a similar beauty adorns their faces, their eyes shoot forth similar beams, a single time bore them both, and from on high a single Apollo saw them both born. Thus you may think that even from the beginning the highest gods sanctified their union with no light bond.
TELEST. I am almost yielding.
LYG. As far as I now can see, a mutual heat touches the unschooled breast of each of them. Hence make the time pass swiftly with their gentle jokes, they play the lyre together in turn, they sing in turn. The pain of one wounds them both, they both rejoice in mutual goods. They strike each others’ tender cheeks with slight slaps, they often snatch kisses with their soft lips, so that we must believe they are happy now. Now you may easily bring to completion the good things that have begun, if grave Juno might unite them in a marriage-bed.
TELEST. Lygdus, let Iphis and Ianthe make propitious sacrifice to the fortune of this day, let them be permitted to enjoy their mutual embracings. And may the celestials add this good, may they make each other blessed.
LYG. Give me your hand.
TELEST. No day will ever violate these pacts.
LYG. Supreme governor of the universe,
TELEST. Apollo, shining from the lofty heaven,
LYG. his sister, illuminating the night,
TELEST. and the rest of you gods,
BOTH Be witnesses to this new agreement. [Exeunt Lygdus and Telestes.]
Go to Act IV