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Friday, February 27, 2015

Helen of Turkey (1)

[7: 36]

Qui Nicea, che lagna e si querela
D'empia fortuna, il Re chiamar facea;
E la trovâr che doppia e larga tela
D'aureo e serico stame ella tessea.
Subito a quel chiamar si veste e vela,
Qual ninfa in vista o qual terrena dea,
Lasciando l'opre in cui le guerre antiche
E de' Turchi ha conteste aspre fatiche.

To this place the King summoned Nicaea,
Who kept mourning her unhappy doom;
They went and found her weaving a large,
Double cloth with gold and silk threads.
She immediately dresses and veils herself,
Looking like a nymph or an earthly goddess,
Abandoning her work in which she wove
The ancient wars and hard toils of Turks.


Notes
Here Nicaea, the daughter of the Muslim king Solyman, plays the role of no less than Helen of Sparta, usually known as Helen of Troy. There is an interesting historical connection, insofar as Troy was positioned in current Turkey (though, of course, its ruins had not yet been discovered then).
A basic difference between these two beautiful ladies is that Helen had ambivalent feelings about her destiny, despising herself as the cause of the war while keeping having sex with Paris, whereas Nicaea is a chaste and solely unhappy character.