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Cavalieri
Rappresentatione di Anima e di Corpo
English
Title-Page
Prologue Proem
Act I
Act II
Act III
Italian
Title Page
Prologo Proem
Act I
Act II
Act III

Prologue

 
Chorus
O Lord holy, and true,
that of the world has command:
O Lord holy, and strong,
tamer of death,
giver of life;
supreme infinite goodness:
to you Lord, to you
glory, and praise be given;
to you greatest Lord, supreme and worthy,
be eternal glory, and everlasting reign.
 

Proem

 
Awareness and Prudence, Young Men,
 
Awareness
You who seem in appearance to be a sensible and prudent young man, tell me please, how does this mortal Life seem to you, that men prize so much? How do you understand it? I desire your opinion: for I too would live in a way that, when it comes to an end, I do not find myself, as happens to many, deceived by false hope.
 
Prudence
I cannot fully satisfy your desire, because my unripe years have not brought me to see much on this subject: yet as I have been able to sense from afar and through what I have learned from wise men who have examined it with perceptive eyes; it seems to me that it is a show and appearance of vanity; a fine clothing that covers the deformity of the feeble body: and a grassy meadow that hides in its green herbage the poisonous snake. And you, what would you say it was?
 
Awareness
I am still unskilled but I would say it was a narrow field but full of hard stones: a leafy wood, but full of sharp thorns: a shady hill, but full of high rocks, and, in short, a great forest, but full of forest beasts.
 
Prudence
I would call it a vale of weeping: a fountain without thoughts: a river swollen with tears: and a sea stormy with misery.
 
Awareness
I again, if I am sensible, find that this life of ours is like a bubble in the water, that suddenly disappears: like vapour in the air, that is quickly lost: and like the flower that in the hedge wilts in a moment.
 
Prudence
I liken it to an old house threatened with ruin: to a high tower built on sand: to a tree with many branches, but without roots.
 
Awareness
To me it seems a ship without a rudder: old age without a stick: a horse without a bridle: and a blind man without a guide.
 
Prudence
I compare it to order disordered: to quietness disquieted: to weariness that is useless: to health that is unhealthy: and to wealth that is poor.
 
Awareness
Say then that it is beauty deformed: honour dishonoured: ambition anxious: height precipitous: and nobility obscure.
 
Prudence
Add that it is a sack with a hole: a vessel that is empty: a mirror that is stained: and a window that is broken.
 
Awareness
Do not miss out that it is a golden hook with bait: a sharp thorn-bush that pricks: a bitter apple that disgusts: and a cup of wine that makes drunk.
 
Prudence
In fact it is a journey full of snares: a city full of discord: a kingdom divided: a principate that is a tyranny: and a pilgrimage that is troublesome.
 
Awareness
Say too that it is a castle in the air: a ship in the middle of the sea: a cloud against the sun: and a wind that passes and turns not.
 
Prudence
Agree and say that it is a dark whirlpool, where many sink: a narrow sea, where many are in danger: an ocean without harbour, where one sails at great risk.
 
 
Awareness
Consider that it is a cavern of snakes: a cave of thieves: a grotto of murderers: and a refuge of malefactors.
 
Prudence
Do you not see that it is a town square full of rumours: a winding street full of errors: and an old wall full of cracks.
 
Awareness
Call it, then, a yoke that is not pleasant: a weight that is not light: and a chain that is strong.
 
Prudence
Or really it is pitch that is daubed: mud that sticks: and dust that blinds.
 
Awareness
Surely it is a desert of sand: a wilderness that is terrible: a country uninhabited.
 
Prudence
Do you not think that it changes like the moon?
That it passes by like a courier? That it turns like a wheel?
 
Awareness
And yet it is clear that it is a city of blood: a lusting of the flesh: a pleasing of the eyes: and pride of heart.
 
Prudence
Certainly call it a love of fools: a desire of the
wicked: pleasure of the impassioned.
 
Awareness
Name it a table that is poor: a cistern that is cracked: a bed that is hard: and a chest that is empty.
 
Prudence
Liken it to a Siren that sings: to a harlot that sports: to a magician that charms.
 
Awareness
Hold it as sorrow that laughs: laughter that weeps: content that laments.
 
Prudence
And I, to tell you its name, say that it is a deceitful life: a dead life: a death that breathes:
and a Hell for the living.
 
Awareness
And I conclude that this miserable life is nothing else but a funeral procession of living bodies: a most rapid race for death: and a noble appearance for the worms.
 
Prudence
And in fact to this Worldly Life all titles can be given, and more unworthy names, that all agree are best.
 
Awareness
Now tell me, if it is so, whence does it arise that many hold it in such esteem, and enjoy it so much that they would wish never to die?
 
Prudence
This arises because sins have obscured their view, and placed a veil over their eyes so that they cannot understand the truth of things: and so taking false for true and bad for good they are deluded amid their errors: and then death comes and takes them where they find they have in their hands nothing but wind, or rather torments, and punishment.
 
Awareness
Indeed how very unhappy are men who live in this way, for they sleep soundly in mistaking such danger. O how well they would do if some time they should wake up from so mortal a lethargy!
 
Prudence
O what, O what salvation there would be for all people if they would start to consider beyond the outward appearance, the miseries and imperfections of this deceiving life! For by being too fond of its false beauties, it comes to an end (a terrible thing) and disappears in the sorrows of Hell, and in the cruel arms of death.
 
Awareness
O what happiness there would be for everyone if they rose from the senses to where Intellect is! And would see that not riches, not Pleasure, not honour content the heart in this life, but only good that is found with God: and they would discover that Time flies in the winking of an eye: and with true Counsel they would learn that this little light of life passes in a moment: that the Body with its senses always worries the Soul for love of the mire. That Paradise shines over their heads. That Hell burns under their feet. That the World deludes and deceives, and Life entices and kills. And that in fact whatever fights bravely on earth against the insults of temptations of the enemy, wins eternal and glorious crowns in Heaven.
 
Prudence
Most true. For knowledge and understanding of what is due from you is most important, depending on that sum of all things; from which it follows that some have taken this into consideration. And see that now in this place there will be represented a living and wonderful example that will show our conclusions to be true: and the same things will be seen to happen as is shown figuratively as human people, while with new and strange images they will delight, at the same time will serve as an idea in which each one will be able to see and form a picture in the heart, in which he will clearly recognise that this Life, this World, these earthly grandeurs are truly dust, smoke and shadow: and finally that there is nothing else that is firm or great but virtue, the grace of God, and the eternal Kingdom of Heaven. But see an old man comes to start the matter. Let us give place and leave.
 
 
 
Awareness
So let us do.

 


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