Excerpt from “Il Pastor Fido: Or, The Faithful Shepherd” by Giovanni Battista Guarini

O simpleton! and who forbids thy bliss?
Life is too short to let it pass away
With but a single lover; men besides
(Whether from cruelty or nature’s fault)
Are far too sparing of their favors to us;
And we’re no longer precious in their eyes
Than while the bloom of youth adorns our face.
Take youth and beauty from us, we remain
Like the forlorn abodes bees once possess’d,
Of all their honey rifled, barren trunks
That stand unheeded, all their sweetness gone.
Leave therefore men to prattle as they please,
Because they neither know nor ever feel
The troubles wretched women bear. Our case
Alas! is much unlike to that of men.
They in perfection as in age increase;
Wisdom the loss of every grace supplies;
But when our youth and beauty (which so oft
Conquer the wit and strength of men) are fled,
All’s gone with us; nor is it in thy power
To think or speak of aught so poor or vile
As an old woman. Therefore ere thou come
To this our universal misery,
Know thine own worth, nor play so poor a part
To live in sorrow, when thou may’st in joy.
What would superior strength avail the lion,
Or judgment men, unless ‘twere turn’d to use?
As then our beauty is our only strength,
Let us use it while we may,
And snatch those joys that haste away;
The changeful year its loss regains,
Spring clothes anew the desert plains,
But when the spring of beauty’s o’er,
Nought can our faded charms restore;
When age’s snow our heads shall cover,
Love may return but not a lover.

From: Guarini, Battista and Clapperton, William, Il Pastor Fido: Or, The Faithful Shepherd: A Pastoral Tragi-Comedy, attempted in English blank verse , from the Italian of Signor Cavalier Giovanni Battista Guarini, 1809, C. Stewart: Edinburgh, pp. 104-105.

Date: 1585 (Italian original); 1809 (translation)

By: Giovanni Battista Guarini (1538-1612)

Translated by: William Clapperton (c1779-18??)


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