The Beginning of the Story

The Beginning of the Story [8]

1   The woods in brooding shadows shrank;
Vines choked the air – thorned, tangled, rank;
Phoebus but skimmed atop, then sank
Repulséd, so the denseless stank!

2   The clumps of trees close hurdled there
Wrought eerie spells of woeful care;
The birds sang such a mournful air,
The firmest yielded to despair.

3   About the trees, stout creepers flung
Their barbed lengths, while thereamong.
Fruits of offending burr were hung –
Who touched these, painfully were stung.

4   And if, at all, some flow'rs did grow,
The freshest on the leaves would show
Yet still a wilted hue, as though
To match the stinking pall below.

5   Cypress abounded; fig trees, too;
Gruesome the shadows that they threw;
No fruits on these, but large leaves grew,
Darkening yet the jungle view.

6   Among the beasts that prowled the ground,
Basilisks, snakes, did most abound;
Hyenas, tigers – all that hound
On brute or man who strays around.

7   This forest stood right by the road
To Pluto Hadean abode,
Whereon Cocytus, as it flowed,
Spat out betimes its venomous load.

8   Deep in these darksome woods there grew
A tree of dreary, pallid hue.
A piteous youth was bound thereto
Whom ill stars ever did pursue.

9   One in full prime, t'was plain to see,
Although with bands gashed ruthlessly;
His face shone clear through misery –
Narcissus or Adonis he.

10   Clear shone his skin, silk – smooth and fair,
True arcs his brows and lashes were,
While godly glowed his locks of hair;
His was, indeed, perfection rare.

11   Had oreads nearby dwelt, in place
Of Harpies, harsh in mien and ways,
Their pity or love might yet embrace
This blend of beauty and disgrace.

12   He, cursed by Fate, and sore distressed,
To gushing tears his eyes addressed,
As sighs and plaints long lain suppressed [9]
Rose with the heaving of his breast:

13   Where be Thy vengeful might, O Sky!
Seemeth it passive now to lie,
While Evil hoists its banner high,
Over Albania's realm to fly. [10]

14   There, hapless state, and even 'yond,
Treason has flung his tyrant-bond;
Virtue the while lies moribound,
Stifled in sloughs of deep despond.

15   All noble deeds are hurled amain
Amidst indignity and disdain!
The wise, when to the gravehole ta'en,
Must coffinless therein remain.

16   Whereas the wicked and the mean
On thrones of honor sit serene,
And before those of bestial mien,
Incense is burnt, sweet-scented, clean.

[8] The more appropriate heading of the narrative proper would be "The Life and times of Florante and Laura". However, "The Beginning of the Story" would conform to Mabini's "Puno ng Salita".

[9] The original "di nagtatanaw tama" must have been a figure of speech according to some Tagalogs who interpreted it variously as "not to meet with luck" or "to suffer denial – of food, or pleasure, or some special desire." The translator has preferred to render it literally, "the sight has been denied," since the main thought of the stanza is still retained.

[10] This stanza begins an extended apostrophe by Florante ending with stanza 32 and resuming in stanzas 39 to 60.


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