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BALAGTAS, Francisco

Florante de Laura

In this dark wood thick with gloom

The thick weave of thorny vines…

Rays of Phoebus cannot pierce,

Almost, the solid wilderness.

Great trees loom, disclosing

Sadness only, grief, despair.

Mournful birds dispel

The cheerful air, the stoic pose.

Convolutions of the vine

On branch and twig bristle with thorns.

Their fruit, as if downed with knives,

Wounds the passerby.

And flowers for the looming trees,

Specks of bright shooting through leaves)

Wear the color of mourning,

Sharpen the dizzying stench.

Clumps of cypress and young fig

Cast a terrifying shade

Fruitless, they spread great leaves.

Darkness deepens on the weed.

And beasts that roam

Are shapes of serpent, basilisk,

Hyena, tiger — beasts that prey

On man and beast.

Florante’s Lament

Vengeful Heaven, where is your wrath?

now my land is overcome, prostrate,

and in beloved Albania’s infinite skies,

lately the flag of evil flies.

“Within and without my country of grief,

betrayal reigns, is enshrined, esteemed;

degraded everywhere, the heart’s goodness

is consigned to the lowly pauper’s grave.

“All manner of good and deed are cast

into the sea of mockery and perturbation,

each good man is treated without respect,

without burial rite entombed.

“But, oh, the cheat, the traitor, the black

of heart, are enthroned in praise,

and for each scoundrel incense is burned,

and offered up in fragrant smoke.

“Betrayal, dishonesty hold high

their heads, and the righteous is timid, bowed,

dismayed, reason itself is on its knees,

fatigued, and to weep is all that’s left for it.

“And each mouth that opens

to speak the truth and right

is quickly stopped and cut

by the arrogant blade of death.

“O traitorous ambition for honor and riches!

O hunger for airy and fleeting praise!

You are the reason for all this sinfulness,

this misfortune that has befallen me.

“By the crown of King Linceaeus

and the riches of my father, the duke,

Count Adolfo was so bold to pour evil

upon Albania’s sovereign land.

“All these, O merciful Heaven

you witness, why suffer them persist?

O Source of sense and righteousness,

why permit them drown in ruthlessness?

Lift your right and righteous hand,

swing the shining blade of your rage,

upon all evil in Albania’s kingdom pour

the full vengeance of your justice.

“Why, O Heaven, do you turn

a deaf ear to my suit and honest plea?

Why from this poor and luckless being

avert your face and shut your ears?

“And who could ever fathom,

O Great God, your sacred mystery?

The good will not happen on earth

if it is not Your Will.

“Alas, where now turn

for handhold, bring my heart’s lament,

If Heaven refuses to listen

to my plaintive cry, my faint complaint?'

To Celia

If I recall and read again

those days in love’s long-faded script,

would there be not a mark or trace

but Celia’s, imprinted on my breast?

The Celia whom I’ve always

feared might forget our love,

who took me down these hapless depths,

the only reason for this turn of fate.

Again would I neglect to read

the pages of our tenderness,

or call to mind the love she poured,

the bitter struggle I gave for it?

Our sweet days gone,

my love is all that’s left;

ever shall it dwell within

till I’m laid down in my grave.

Now as I lie in loneliness,

behold wherein I seek relief:

each bygone day I revisit, I find

joy in the likeness of your face.

This likeness painted with love

and longing has lodged within

my heart, sole token left with me

not even death can steal.

My soul haunts the paths

and fields you blessed with your footsteps;

and to Beata River and shallow Hilom stream

my heart never fails to wander.

Not rarely now my vagrant grief

sits under the mango tree we passed,

and looking at the dainty fruits

you wanted picked I forget my ache.

The whole of me could only

be intimate with sighs when you were ill;

for I knew as Eden kept a room us,

my hidden hurt was heaven still.

I woo your image that resides

in the Makati river we frequented;

to the happy berth of boats I trace your steps,

among the stones that touched your feet.

All these return before me now,

the joy of years, the blissful past,

where I would soak and steep myself

before I’m caught in brackish neap.

Always I could hear what you would say:

Three days and our eyes won’t meet.

And the eager answer from my leaping heart:

There’s only me but you prepare a feast.

So what was there in our

joyful past that memory could miss:

in constant retrun the tears do flow,

I sigh and weep: O hapless fate!

Where is Celia, joy of my heart?

Why could our blissful love not last?

Where is the time when just her look

was heaven’s glimpse, my soul, my life?

Why, when we parted,

did this luckless life not cease?

Your memory is death, O Celia,

but in my heart you will not fade.

This long torment you brought,

I couldn’t bear, O departed Joy;

but it took me by the hand to poetry and song,

about a life so trodden low, now lost.

Celia, my messages are mute,

my muse is dumb, her voice faint;

without my taunt she would not speak,

pray listen to me with mind and ear.

This first spring that breaks

from my parched mind I offer at your feet:

deign receive, from this kneeling heart,

even if you won’t savor it.

If all this fell into slur and insult,

my gain is great from invested effort,

if complaint it is you now peruse,

remember, too, it is the author’s gift.

O joyful nymphs of Bai, the placid lake,

Sirens whose voices bring music to my ears,

I come now to your sparkling shrine,

my forlorn muse implores you.

Rise now to shore and field,

accompany with lyre this humble song

that speaks: if fate this life may snip,

its fervent wish is that love won’t cease.

Gleaming bloom of my mind,

Celia whose symbols are M, A, and R;

here I am adoring at the Virgin Madonna’s

altar, F and B, your loyal servant.