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Friday, July 3, 2015

The choice of Nicaea (2)

[7: 90]

E crederebbe al ciel oscuro e fosco
(In guisa ogni temenza Amor disgombra)
Errar secura, e 'n mar turbato, e 'n bosco
Ardita disprezzar tempesta, ed ombra,
E di belve africane artiglio e tosco;
Ma duolsi poi che chiara fama adombra
E fan dubbia contesa in gentil core
Due possenti nemici: Honore e Amore.

She would dare under a dark and clouded sky
(So strongly Love can dispel all fears)
To wander quietly; and in a sea, or wood,
To despise storms boldly, or shadows, and
The claws and poisons of African beasts.
But she regrets, then, the fading of fame,
And two strong enemies in a noble heart
Quarrel on equal terms: Honor and Love.

The fight between Love (feelings, 'subjective' motives) and Honor (duty, 'objective' motives) is typical of Renaissance poetry. Usually, Love wins first, then Honor takes revenge. See e.g. Ludovico Ariosto, Orlando Furioso 42: 53 ff, where the role of Honor is played by Sdegno, Disdain, literally the contrary of degno, "worth," meaning that one's former love is no longer worth caring about.