Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Aminta: The Golden Age
By Torquato Tasso (1544–1595)
“O bella età dell’ oro”

Translation of Leigh Hunt
  [The young shepherd’s boyish despair is touching in its mournful resignation, but it fails to move Sylvia’s heart. Vainly does he rescue her from the ruthless hands of a satyr who had already bound her to a tree. Released by Amintas, she flees without giving him a word of thanks. But while the youth’s friends are with difficulty restraining him from killing himself at this fresh and seemingly final blow, bad news comes from the forest. Sylvia’s useless dart is brought back from thence, with her white veil covered with blood: she has to all appearance been devoured by the fierce wolves she so intrepidly pursued. “Why was I not allowed to die before I could hear such tidings?” cries Amintas. “Give me that veil, the one only wretched thing left me of my Sylvia, to be my companion in the short journey that lies before me.” And grasping it, he goes and casts himself headlong down a precipice.
  Shortly after his departure, Sylvia, not dead, not even wounded, reappears on the scene, and calmly explains how the mistaken report of her death had arisen. “Ah!” says Daphne, the friend who all along had blamed her coldness, “you live, but Amintas is dead.” Her words are confirmed by the messenger who comes in, after the way of the classic drama, to narrate the catastrophe. Sylvia’s heart is melted; she regrets her severity, and says that if a hater’s falsely reported death has killed Amintas, it is only fit that she should herself be slain by the true tidings of the death of so true a lover.]
                    “Let me
First bury him, then die upon his grave.
Farewell, ye shepherds! plains, woods, streams, farewell!”
[Elpino, the favorite of the Muses, enters in the last act to explain how Amintas, stunned, not killed, by his fall, was brought to life by the tears of Sylvia, whose aged father has been sent for to bless their happy union.
The lyrics of the Chorus are very melodious. Most celebrated of all is its song at the end of the first act.]

            O LOVELY age of gold!
            Not that the rivers rolled
    With milk, or that the woods wept honey-dew;
            Not that the ready ground
            Produced without a wound,        5
    Or the mild serpent had no tooth that slew;
            Not that a cloudless blue
            For ever was in sight,
            Or that the heaven, which burns
            And now is cold by turns,        10
    Looked out in glad and everlasting light;
    No, not that even the insolent ships from far
Brought war to no new lands, nor riches worse than war:
            But solely that that vain
            And breath-invented pain,        15
    That idol of mistake, that worshiped cheat,
            That Honor,—since so called
            By vulgar minds appalled,—
    Played not the tyrant with our nature yet.
            It had not come to fret        20
            The sweet and happy fold
            Of gentle human-kind;
            Nor did its hard law bind
    Souls nursed in freedom; but that law of gold,
    That glad and golden law, all free, all fitted,        25
Which Nature’s own hand wrote: What pleases is permitted.
            Then among streams and flowers
            The little wingèd powers
    Went singing carols without torch or bow;
            The nymphs and shepherds sat        30
            Mingling with innocent chat
    Sports and low whispers; and with whispers low,
            Kisses that would not go.
            The maiden, budding o’er,
            Kept not her bloom un-eyed,        35
            Which now a veil must hide,
    Nor the crisp apples which her bosom bore;
    And oftentimes, in river or in lake,
The lover and his love their merry bath would take.
            ’Twas thou, thou, Honor, first        40
            That didst deny our thirst
    Its drink, and on the fount thy covering set;
            Thou bad’st kind eyes withdraw
            Into constrainèd awe,
    And keep the secret for their tears to wet;        45
            Thou gather’dst in a net
            The tresses from the air,
            And mad’st the sports and plays
            Turn all to sullen ways.
    And putt’st on speech a rein, in steps a care.        50
    Thy work it is,—thou shade, that will not move,—
That what was once the gift is now the theft of love.
            Our sorrows and our pains,
            These are thy noble gains.
    But, O thou Love’s and Nature’s masterer,        55
            Thou conqueror of the crowned,
            What dost thou on this ground,
    Too small a circle for thy mighty sphere?
            Go, and make slumber dear
            To the renowned and high:        60
            We here, a lowly race,
            Can live without thy grace,
            After the use of mild antiquity.
            Go, let us love; since years
    No truce allow, and life soon disappears.        65
    Go, let us love: the daylight dies, is born;
            But unto us the light
Dies once for all, and sleep brings on eternal night.

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