Barberini's Ode in Praise of Galileo

When the moon is full ripe in the sky, and golden
Doorways in heavenís vault open on a parade of
Blazing fiery bolts, pure
Wonder is born, a thrall of sight.

The captive gaze drawn to Hespera, Evening Star,
To dire Mars, to perfect eternal paths etched
Amidst the milky splendid hues;
To thy Cynosura, great tail of light.

But if Scorpio, or Canis, great star,
You would truly grasp; or Jupiterís attendants
Or the father, Saturn, truly discover,
Then you must be taught, mastered, by the glass
    of Galileo Galilee.

And yet, when great Sol heaves himself up
And day, light, is born — when the pure Ganges of his waters
Diffracts, diffuses, alone, in dazzling fractal brilliance,
Then the patterned bursts of light and mind slow us,
    blind our understanding.

No life of worldly reason, of engineering and iron,
Of mortal cloaked power — bristling and fierce —
Of savage struggle and being
Accomplishes fulfillment, joy, earns, finally, triumph.

Itís this: the great skill is to sow, to desire, peace,
To burnish and fortify and cherish this world about us.
To lust for the Peruviansí gold
Is to be seduced by gold.

Thus, sumptuous Spanish Sicily makes
The feast-tables ready, fattening on the false hopes of dice
And lies, seeking to banish the storied past
And, too, the ancient crossroad gods.

To not be eaten away, eroded, by fate-daring hubris
Mind and heart must conceive as one, in all ways.
Else our world is ghosts, else emptiness and void,
Sight turned, stolen, tempted, gone.

And not always is the heavensí radiance
Splendid. Reflect on the black spots
Of great Sol (who would credit them?) revealed
By your art, Galelei, defects.

Flashing regal scepter, glorious
Ornate gem: this seeming baffling companion of our skies
Brings us thereby to
Worshipped honor, obliged duty.

Riches, splendid, beaming, a hidden
Song, a proud exultant abode.
There is armor, arcs, and gold:
This the people willingly seize.

But if our inmost thoughts are revealed, Ďtis seen
How often, joyfully, the mind, perturbed,
Is pierced. Prometheus
Did by no means rend the great omened heart above.

Of what attitude, courage, does the king then
Foresee? Hidden, believe? Thrust away? All men
Are pure, so also false. Itís in just this way
That duty masks delight.

Truth limns the fleeing, the power,
Even when the harvests burst. Sickened
Hateful temptation, or anger,
Often delights even more the enemyís enmity.

The arrow-strike of the Macedonian king can be seen
To have not stricken great Jupiter. In vain
Did Xerxes press, with hope, deferred, as the 300
At Thermopylae bound their shared shoulders.

We learn that humbling disaster, a courtly cue,
Quells applause. How harmful, pleasing,
Fleeting, dripping with honey-favor,
Speech is drunk as slandering poison.

A thousand pressed together upon the murdering pikes.
How could Lynceus behold so far
The danger to shun? Straining, aging
Mercury struggled, slept.

One hundred, then, shut windows, fleeting
Sensations, gold as empty as an entrancing
Song, build the edifice of loss,
Grave and heavy, proffered by Argos, the hundred-eyed.

Sent to Galileo, by Barberini, as a fan/patron
While Barberini was a cardinal, before becoming Pope Urban VIII
After Galileo, and his telescopes, had illuminated for the first
time sun spots, the moons of Saturn, the mountains of a
now-imperfect moon, etc.
Approximately 1615
Translated by D.N. Cline 2011