Orpheus

2014

Song lyrics from Alessandro Striggio's libretto for the opera l'Orfeo. Translated from Italian.

No undertaking by man is tried in vain,
nor against him can Nature further arm herself.
The uneven plain’s watery fields he has ploughed
and scattered the seed of his labours,
to gather golden harvests.
For memory to live of his glory,
Fame, to speak of him, has loosed her tongue,
who controlled the sea with fragile craft,
and disdained the rage of the winds.
Through the airy countries of his journey
craftsman Daedalus spread his light wings.

Neither the sun’s hot rays nor marshy damps
damaged his feathers,
but seeming a new kind of bird
his great enterprise approved by Fortune,
he marvellously achieved his flight,
and both airs and winds paused
to admire such bold determination.

Others stole living fire from the burning chariot,
and from the torch that the day lights on earth when it
has climbed to heaven.
But what heart was ever so ardent,
or equal to his, who today is seen
in these dark cloisters,
singing and boldly moving,
among phantoms, snakes and monsters?
In vain is Charon deaf to his prayers,
in vain does Cerberus growl and bite.