Bibliotherapy

The Night Watch of Venus

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‘Aphrodite Anadyomene’. Fresco from Pompei, Casa di Venus, 1st century AD., dug out in 1960. It is supposed that this fresco could be the Roman copy of a famous portrait of Campaspe, mistress of Alexander the Great. Picture by Stephen Haynes.

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Today’s sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA is a poem, the ‘Pervigilium Veneris‘, ‘The Night Watch of Venus’, here in the translation of David Camden.

The ‘Pervigilium Veneris‘, a poem of not quite a hundred lines celebrating a spring festival in honour of the goddess of love, is remarkable for its beauty but also its serious and philosophical side. The poem ends on a disquieting note as the poet, homesick, asks anxiously: ‘when his spring will come?’

‘One would like to know the name of the author of the poem, which seems to mark a transition from the classical to the medieval style. The noted scholar, Mr. Fort argues for Tiberianus, who flourished in the fourth century of our era, and whose short poem ‘Amnis ibat‘, quoted by Mr. Fort, certainly shows a similarity in technique to the Pervigilium Veneris.’ W. H. PORTER in Hermathena, Vol. 20, No. 45 (1930), pp. 386-402.

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English Translation

Let him love tomorrow who has never loved and let he who has loved love tomorrow.

New spring, singing spring! The world is born in spring!
Loves harmonize in spring, birds marry in spring,
And the forest releases a marriage shower of leaves.
Tomorrow the union of loves among arboreal shades
interweaves lively youths in a cottage with her myrtle vine:
Tomorrow Dione, propped upon her lofty throne, declares the laws.

Let him love tomorrow who has never loved and let he who has loved love tomorrow.

Then a sea of celestial blood in a foaming circle,
Between cerulean crowds and biped horses,
Gives birth to Dione, shaking the waves of a husband’s rainstorm.

Let him love tomorrow who has never loved and let he who has loved love tomorrow.

She paints the year purple with flowery buds,
She presses her nipples rising from the breath of Favonius
Hard onto the warm bed, she of the shining dew,
Which left the air at night, scatters the moist drops.
Behold! They quiver like tears trembling from an old pain:
The falling drop delays its descent in a small circle.
Behold! The floral purples revealed its modesty:
That moisture, which the stars distill as dew in calm nights,
At dawn freed her maidenly nipples from the moist robe.
She commands that, with the dawn, the humid roses marry maidens,
Born of Cypriot blood, and of breezes, and of the purples of the Sun.
Blush, which lay hidden veiled under a garment of fire,
Married only in vow, she will not be ashamed to display tomorrow.

Let him love tomorrow who has never loved and let he who has loved love tomorrow.

The goddess commanded the Nymphs to go to the sacred myrtle grove:
The boy accompanies them: but one cannot believe that
Love is resing if he brought his arrows.
Go, Nymphs! He laid down his arms, Love is resting!
He was ordered to go unarmed, bare he was ordered to go,
Neither with bow, nor arrow, nor fire to hurt.
But nevertheless, Nymphs, beware, because Cupid is beautiful:
Even naked, it is the same Love, always in arms.

Let him love tomorrow who has never loved and let he who has loved love tomorrow.

Venus sends maidens of equal modesty to you.
We request only one thing: grant, maiden Delia,
That your grove not be covered with blood from fierce slaughters.
She herself wanted to ask you, if she could persuade a chaste woman,
She herself wanted you to come, if it were fitting for a virgin.
In three nights you would have to see the festive choirs 
Intermingled in groups to go through your forests,
Between crowns of flowers, between cottages of myrtle.
Neither Ceres nor Bacchus is absent, nor is the god of poets.
The whole night will have to be stopped and guarded with songs.
May Dione reign in the forests! Withdraw, Delia!

Let him love tomorrow who has never loved and let he who has loved love tomorrow.

The goddess ordered the court to stand with Hyblan flowers;
The chief herself will say her laws, the Graces will attend.
Hybla, scatter the flowers, whatever the year brought;
Hybla, obtain a floral dress, how great is the plain of Etna.
From the fields and the springs the girls will come here,
Whoever the forests, whoever the lakes, whoever the mounts inhabits.
The mother of the winged boy commanded all to attend,
And she commanded the girls to never trust Love, even naked.

Let him love tomorrow who has never loved and let he who has loved love tomorrow.

And may green shades be led with newborn flowers.
It will be tomorrow when Aether has contracted nuptials for the first time,
To create the year with spring clouds all,
The father, as a marital storm, fertilized the lap of his nurturing wife,
Where the fruit developed in great body would nourish everything.
Venus, in heart and mind, with her pervading spirit,
Governs inside, procreator of hidden forces,
And through earth, sky, and sea
She established a course for the seminal route
And she ordered the world to know of the birth.

Let him love tomorrow who has never loved and let he who has loved love tomorrow.

She herself turned her Trojan sons into Latins:
She herself gave her son a Laurentine girl as a wife,
And soon to Mars she gives the chaste maiden of the sanctuary:
She herself made the Romulean marriages with the Sabines,
Whence came the Ramnes and Quirites, and for the race of Romulus 
She would create their descendant, Caesar.

Let him love tomorrow who has never loved and let he who has loved love tomorrow.

Passion fertilizes the fields, the countryside feels Venus;
Love himself, son of Dione, was born in the country.
This one, while the field gives birth, she received in her lap:
She herself nourished him with delicate kisses of flowers.

Let him love tomorrow who has never loved and let he who has loved love tomorrow.

Behold now that sheep tend their bodies under Spanish broom,
Each is protected by the conjugal bind that holds them.
Behold the flocks bleeting with their husbands in the shade:
And the goddess commanded the songbirds not to be quiet.
Already the loquacious ones of hoarse voice, the swans, resonate in the pools:
In the shade of a poplar, the wife of Tereus responds to them,
So that you think that the pains of love are counted with musical voice,
And  you deny that she laments her sister with a cruel husband.
She sings, we are silent. When does my spring come?
When will I become as a wanderer, so that I may cease my silence?
I destroyed the Muse by being silent, not even Phoebus looks back at me.
Thus like Amyclas, when they were silent, silence was lost.

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Latin Original

Cras amet qui numquam amavit quique amavit cras amet.

Ver novum, ver iam canorum, vere natus orbis natus est,
Vere concordant amores, vere nubunt alites,
Et nemus comam resolvit de maritis imbribus.
Cras amorum copulatrix inter umbras arborum
inplicat casa virentes de flagello myrteo:
Cras Dione iura dicit fulta sublimi throno.

Cras amet qui numquam amavit quique amavit cras amet.

Tunc cruore de superno spumeo pontus globo
Caeruleas inter catervas, inter et bipedes equos
Fecit undantem Dionem de maritis imbribus.

Cras amet qui numquam amavit quique amavit cras amet.

Ipsa gemmis purpurantem pingit annum floridis,
Ipsa surgentes papillas de Favoni spiritu
Urget in toros tepentes, ipsa roris lucidi,
Noctis aura quem relinquit, spargit umentis aquas.
En micant lacrimae trementes de caduco pondere:
Gutta praeceps orbe parvo sustinet casus suos.
En pudorem florulentae prodiderunt purpurae:
Umor ille, quem serenis astra rorant noctibus,
Mane virgineas papillas solvit umenti peplo.
Ipsa iussit mane ut udae virgines nubant rosae:
Facta Cypridis de cruore deque flabris deque Solis purpuris
Cras ruborem, qui latebat veste tectus ignea,
Unico marita voto non pudebit solvere.

Cras amet qui numquam amavit quique amavit cras amet.

Ipsa Nymphas diva luco iussit ire myrteo:
It puer comes puellis: nec tamen credi potest
Esse amorem feriatum, si sagittas vexerit.
Ite, Nymphae, posuit arma, feriatus est Amor:
Iussus est inermis ire, nudus ire iussus est,
Neu quid arcu, neu sagitta, neu quid igne laederet.
Sed tamen, Nymphae, cavete, quod Cupido pulcher est:
Totus est in armis idem quando nudus est Amor.

Cras amet qui numquam amavit quique amavit cras amet.

Conpari Venus pudore mittit ad te virgines.
Una res est quam rogamus: cede, virgo Delia,
Ut nemus sit incruentum de ferinis stragibus.
Ipsa vellet te rogare, si pudicam flecteret,
Ipsa vellet ut venires, si deceret virginem.
Iam tribus choros videres feriantis noctibus
Congreges inter catervas ire per saltus tuos,
Floreas inter coronas, myrteas inter casas.
Nec Ceres, nec Bacchus absunt, nec poetarum deus.
Detinenter tota nox est perviclanda canticis:
Regnet in silvis Dione: tu recede, Delia.

Cras amet qui numquam amavit quique amavit cras amet.

Iussit Hyblaeis tribunal stare diva floribus;
Praeses ipsa iura dicet, adsidebunt Gratiae.
Hybla, totus funde flores, quidquid annus adtulit;
Hybla, florum sume vestem, quantus Aetnae campus est.
Ruris hic erunt puellae vel puellae fontium,
Qaeque silvas, quaeque lucos, quaeque montes incolunt.
Iussit omnes adsidere pueri mater alitis,
Iussit et nudo puellas nil Amori credere.

Cras amet qui numquam amavit quique amavit cras amet.

Et recentibus virentes ducat umbras floribus.
Cras erit quom primus primus Aether copulavit nuptias,
Ut pater totis crearet vernis annum nubibus:
In sinum maritus imber fluxit almae coniugis,
Unde fetus mixtus omnis omnis aleret magno corpore.
Ipsa venas atque mente permeanti spiritu
Intus occultis gubernat procreatrix viribus,
Perque coelum perque terras perque pontum subditum
Pervium sui tenorem seminali tramite
Inbuit iusstque mundum nosse nascendi vias.

Cras amet qui numquam amavit quique amavit cras amet.

Ipsa Troianos nepotes in Latinos transtulit:
Ipsa Laurentem puellam coniugem nato dedit,
Moxque Marti de sacello dat pudicam virginem:
Romuleas ipsa fecit cum Sabinis nuptias
Unde Ramnes et Quirites proque prole posterum
Romuli matrem crearet et nepotem Caesarem;

Cras amet qui numquam amavit quique amavit cras amet.

Rura fecundat voluptas, rura Venerem sentiunt;
Ipse Amor, puer Dionae, rure natus dicitur.
Hunc, ager cum parturiret, ipsa suscepit sinu:
Ipsa florum delicatis educavit osculis.

Cras amet qui numquam amavit quique amavit cras amet.

Ecce iam subter genestas explicant agni latus,
Quisque tutus quo tenetur coniugali foedere.
Subter umbras cum maritis ecce balantum greges:
Et canoras non tacere diva iussit alites.
Iam loquaces ore rauco stagna cygni perstrepunt:
Adsonat Terei puella subter umbram populi,
Ut putes motus amoris ore dici musico,
Et neges queri sororem de marito barbaro.
Illa cantat, nos tacemus. Quando ver venit meum?
Quando fiam uti chelidon, ut tacere desinam?
Perdidi Musam tacendo, nec me Phoebus respicit.
Sic Amyclas, cum tacerent, perdidit silentium.

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Latin singing of the poem

A Musical Adaptation with the composer’s own English translation

Virgil Thomson’s “Feast of Love” for baritone and chamber orchestra. Setting of Pervigilium Veneris, an anonymous 2nd or 4th c. text, translated by Virgil Thomson. Thomas Meglioranza, baritone. Boston Modern Orchestra Project. Gil Rose, conductor.


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Translation source: http://www.forumromanum.org/literature/pervigiliume.html 🌿More about the ‘Pervigilum Veneris’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pervigilium_Veneris 🌿 Latin original Source: http://thelatinlibrary.com/pervig.html
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