The Feast of Love

(1964)

"The Feast of Love" is a long song by Virgil Thomson. The text from the Pervigilium Veneris by an anonymous writer from the 2nd or 4th century A.D. Translated from the original Latin by Virgil Thomson.

The Feast of Love


Tomorrow all know love;
Love knows all tomorrow.
O, spring, singing spring!
Singing in spring, lovers love and all birds mate;
Under spring’s warm rain Diana's woods unbind their hair.
Tomorrow shall all know love;
The unknowing shall know as well as the knowing.
She who loves coupling lovers has made them myrtle tents
And under bird-filled trees leads dance with song;
Tomorrow all shall love; Venus commands.
All shall love tomorrow,
All who have never loved.
In west wind’s warmth, clusters blush and swelling buds burst open;
Star-lit globes of heavenly moisture tremble, hesitate, explode;
By dawn the virgin vests are all undone.
As Venus tears their robes away
And purple flowers burst into flame,
The shameless rose, glowing like gems and fire,
From out its moistened sheath reveals her hidden splendor.
Holy Diana, Venus brings to thy wood
Maidens of no less modesty than thine;
Absent thyself tonight: shed no beast’s blood.
She would invite thee, wert thou less chaste;
For three nights wouldst thou hear their festive sound,
As joyful companies traverse thy glades.
All night they dance to celebrate the spring
With braided garlands and with myrtle boughs,
With Ceres and with Bacchus, god of song,
Venus triumphs in Diana's wood.
Love is for all tomorrow;
Tomorrow the unknowing and the knowing know love.
Tomorrow remember the union primeval,
When fluid from Zeus shot through the foam
To beget among rearing sea horses
Dione* out of the sea.
Love shall find all tomorrow;
Tomorrow the unknowing as well as the knowing shall love.
And now from out of the clouds of spring,
Rains fill the lap of our mother-earth,
Then moves through sea and sky back to the land for feeding all.
Venus, who governs all on land or sea,
Has given each living thing a fecund seed,
Commanding all to love and to give birth.
Venus’s voluptuous ways people the countryside,
When Love was born, a country boy.
There love doth multiply the herds;
Bulls rest with cows on yellow broom,
Ewes lie in the shade with rams,
And singing is neglected by no bird.
Where swans call raucously from pool to pool,
Ticus’s daughter, by the polar sings,
As if her passionate sweet song
Were all of love, not of her sister’s death.
She sings, not I; my voice is lost.
When shall the soaring swallow mount again?
O, glance at me, Apollo, lest I remain
Forever mine, a ruin on the plain!
Tomorrow all know love:
Love knows all tomorrow.
Spring, singing spring!
Singing in spring, lovers love and all birds mate;
Under spring's warm rain Diana’s woods unbind their hair.
Tomorrow shall all know love;
The unknowing shall know as well as the knowing.
She who loves coupling lovers has made them myrtle tents
And under bird-filled trees leads dance with song;
Tomorrow all shall love; Venus commands.
All shall love tomorrow.
All who have never loved.


—from the Pervigilium Veneris, anonymous Latin stanzas of the second or fourth A.D. Translated by Virgil Thomson.


*Venus the earth-mother


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