Canto XI: Chronos the Cruel

Canto XI: Chronos the Cruel

  [The chorus sang the following verse.]

Now sing ye!  Sing ye, sweet-voiced Janae!  Tell
The story of the time when first the Dog
Completed that long circuit starting with
The wedding gift of Sacred Sardo to
Our Parents.  Though the Dog doth never age,
Because He liveth there among the Lights
Celestial, ev'ry other thing that on
The Earth doth walk, or flyeth through the skies,
Or swimmeth in the Deep, doth sorely feel
The ravages of Time, the drying of
The Sun, and soon the scythe of Satre*, He           [*Saturn]
That cutteth off the life of everything
That liveth.  Even thus the Phoenix feels
The years, and knoweth when the time is nigh,
When once again She cometh back to here,
To Sacred Sardo, seeking to alight
Upon the mountain peak that gave Her birth,
The dread volcano Arci.  So She first
Returned; in sooth the Armored Soldier of
The Deep had held the Watch eight hundred years
And forty when the Dog approached His home.*         [*7160 BCE]

[For the remainder of the Canto, Aquila (contralto) took the part of Jan'e and Cinxia  (soprano) took the part of Jana; Luscinia (soprano) sang the narration.  The three stepped out of the chorus, forming a tableaux in the foreground.]

It happened in the springtime of that year;
A certain day did dawn when Jana and
Her Jan'e both awoke and greeted there
The morning Sun and then saluted one
Another.  Aye, they hugged each other, as
They did most ev'ry morning time, and when
They'd kissed, then Jana smiled and shyly asked
Him, "Dost Thou love me yet, my Jan'e Dear?"

He stroked Her cheek and spake these words to Her,
"My Jana, Goddess, Sister Twin and Wife,
Why art Thou worried?  Know My love's secure."

"Alas, We're very old," She answered, "and
The Dog will soon return to That Place where
He was when first we came upon this isle,
Our Sacred Sardo.  Knowest Thou how long
That's been?  One full millennium and near
To half another.  Canst Thou truly love
A one so ancient, now a withered crone?"

So Jan'e, hugging Jana's shoulders, said,
"Then Know it to be so, My Sister; Time
Hath not decreased My ardent love for Thee."

"Indeed, I wish it to be so," she sighed,
"But I can scarce believe it, knowing now
The ravages of life upon this Earth.
My eyesight now is weakened so I'm spared
The sight of mine own shriveled form, though what
I see confirms the message of my hands:
My hair becometh thinner all the time,
My skin is wrinkled, dry and leathery,
And hangeth loose upon my bones.  This womb,
Which nurtured all our children, hangeth like
An empty purse; there is no need to wear
A leather cover to conceal my lips
Below, for Time hath made of mine own flesh
A flap to hide my furrow from the folk."

"I too have aged," said Jan'e.  I have not
The strength that once was Mine.  No longer do
My arms at all what once they did with ease.
And Thou art well aware that never now
I walk without the stick.  And even what
The smallest child can do, to chew his food
Himself, will soon be far too much for Me,
For few the number of the teeth still tight
Within My jaws.  But these infirmities
Change not My love for Thee, My Holy Wife."

"For that I'm grateful," Jana smiled and spake.
"And these My breasts, that Thou didst love so much,
I feel them hanging limp against My waist.
I hold them now, and in My hands they seem
Like empty leather sacks -- like Me, outworn
With use.  They were so full then, when with them
My children were contented; likewise well
Contented with My ample breasts wert Thou,
But nowadays they're barren, ugly, dry..."

Then Jana took Her breast, the left, within
His hand and stroked it gently, "Nay, that is
Not true, for yet your bosom stirreth up
My blood, till surging swiftly through my veins,
My body burneth hot, consuming me."

She chuckled.  "Sayest Thou the young girls' breasts
Are not enchanting, holding not Your eyes?"

"No, truly, that I would not say.  But Thou
Dost know as well as I the games We've played
With Thine, for many hours We've entertained
Each other, finding places they will reach
For fun and pleasure, either Thine or Mine."

Now Jana burst out laughing, and to Her
She pulled Her Jan'e, saying words like these:
"Indeed, you speak the truth, we have not lacked
For fresh ideas.  But if My breasts can still
Inflame Thee so, then tell Me why it is
Thou wishest not to couple.  Though We sleep
Together, yet Thou doth not lie on Me
As once Thou didst, for then I knew Thy love."

Then Jan'e turned from out His Wife's embrace,
And darkly looked away, until He spake:
"That is no fault of Thine, my Jana Dear,
For it is cursed Time, who robbed my strength."
He turned again toward His Goddess Wife,
And, sadly looking down, within His hand
He held His member, speaking angry words.
"This wretched Snake, He rarely waketh from
His winter sleep.  No fault of Thine, dear Wife,
For though I feel desire, My heart is not
As strong as once it was, and waketh not
The Serpent from its slumber.  Knowest Thou
The many times I've wanted Thee, but could
Not coax the Snake to go inside His hole.
Though Thou hast not complained, I know full well
It leaveth Thee still wanting, just as much
As I still hunger.  Ah this wretched age!"

Then Jana stroked Her partner's hair and took
The Serpent from His hand.  He sadly sighed
And quietly they sat a while in thought,
Caressing one another.  Then She spoke:
"We've been on Sacred Sardo many years,
And many children have We raised, so now
The island thriveth well.  But ruthless Time,
He driveth on, and all I see ahead
Is more decay; I think this earthly life
Will never be again a boon to us."

Then Jan'e turned to Jana, asking this:
"But what is it Thou thinketh we should do?"

The Goddess thought awhile and then She spoke:
"My Husband, Dost Thou think Our Parents and
The other Gods, would welcome Us again,
Would let Us once again ascend the Sky
To Heaven, there to dwell again with Them?"

"Thus would We slip the snare of Time," He mused.
"Indeed, I think our task on Sardo is
Complete; perhaps the time hath come to leave
It to Our Children.  Wife, if truly this
Is what Thou dost desire, accept Thou, then,
This My consent and hear My plan.  The Gods,
Our ancestors Divine shall be invoked,
And We will tell Them what We wish, and if
They do agree, then soon We'll be with Them,
Immortal, ageless.  If, however, We're
Denied Our wish, then, surely as the day,
We'll crumble into dust upon this isle."

[continue to Canto XII]

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Last updated: Sat April 21, 2012