Maximianus Italian 6th century
It is now worthwhile to recall some of my youth
and say a bit regarding my old age,
from which a reader may uplift a mind undone
by change and try to grasp a sad affair.
Seduced by love for you, I went mad, Aquilina,
morose and pale, seduced by love for you.
I did not know what love or fiery lust was yet;
instead I suffered from my awkwardness.
She, smoldering, not any less love-struck than me,
would wander unrestrained all through the house.
Beloved carding combs, raw wool were tossed aside,
and love alone became her heart’s obsession.
She found no method that would feed the hidden fire,
no guidance for response with two-way signals.
She showed so much affection in her foolish gaze
with just one glance reliving anxious feelings.
Her tutor chased me. Her grim mother guarded her,
a second punishment for such misfortune.
Throughout it all they scrutinized our eyes and nods—
and coloring that tends to signal thoughts.
When possible, in silence we both stifled longing
and hid our sweet deceits in different ways,
though after modesty emerged on her young face,
deep hidden passion failed to be concealed.
Soon both of us began to seek out times and places,
to converse with eyebrows and our eyes,
to dupe the guards, to put a foot down gingerly,
and in the night to run without a sound.
But not for long! Her mother sensed our secret love
and, getting set to treat the wounds with wounds,
she nagged and slapped; the blaze was kindled by her slaps
like tinder tossed on pyres to stoke the flames.
Our fiery hearts ignite a doubled frenzied passion,
and so an anguish mixed with love is raging,
then, with a panting heart, she looks around for me,
who she believes her purchase through her pleas.
She’s shameless rolling back stained clothes to recollect;
joyful, she even credits them to me.
She says, “I’m glad to suffer pains endured for you.
You’ll be the sweet return on so much blood.
Just let your faith be certain and your will unbroken;
passion that ruined nothing never was.”
I constantly endured these goads, and while in love
I languished, and I had no hope of rescue.
Unthreatened, I was bothered by a silent wound,
though shock and wasting took the place of words.
Boethius, great searcher of important things,
only you, showing pity, bring assistance,
for while you often saw me focused on my worries,
you could not know the reasons for my woes.
Sensing at last that I am gripped by violent sickness,
you softly order opening what’s closed:
“Speak! From whom did you catch this new ignited fever?
Speak! And accept the cure for your claimed pain!
There is no treatment for undiagnosed disease,
and caverns bellow more with smothered flames.”
When it was shameful to confess and talk of sin,
He recognized clear signs of silent pain.
He quickly said, “The matter’s cause is clear enough.
Don’t fret; great strength will give you much forgiveness.”
I broke my shamefaced silence, prostrate at his feet,
while through tears sharing everything in sequence.
“Do it,” he said, “Or could a ‘gift’ of beauty please you?”
“Honor avoids such wishing,” I replied.
He broke up laughing, shouting, “What a wondrous will!
Speak up! When was a love from Venus chaste?
Young man, refrain from sparing your delightful girl!
If you’d be ‘proper’ here, you’ll be improper!”
Tender affairs are fed by scratches and a bite;
a violent business does not shun more blows.
Meanwhile, he pacifies her parents’ hearts with “gifts”
and lures soft touches to my goal with cash.
Blind love of money overcomes parental love;
they both begin to love their daughter’s guilt.
They give us room for secret sings; they acquiesce
to holding hands and filling days with play.
A sanctioned sin becomes cheap; lust becomes depleted.
Exhausted hearts defeated their disease.
She, seeing no pursuit advancing, hates the cause
and leaves dejected with an unspoiled body.
I banished phantom worries from a chastened heart
and quickly found out what a wretch I was.
I said, “Hail holy chastity, and always stay
untouched. Through me you’ll be most modest.”
Once everything had been conveyed to this great man
and he observed I rose above my moods,
he said, “Well done, young man, the lord of your own love!”
and “Gather up some trophies of your scorn.
To you may Cupid’s bow and arms of Venus yield,
and even bold Minerva yield to you.
And so a sanctioned license stole my zeal for sinning,
and even longing for such things departed.
We split up, equally resentful and unhappy;
the reason for the split was modest life.
Translation by A.M. Juster