Capitolo 13

Veronica Franco

(A Challenge To A Lover Who Has Offended Her)

No more words! To deeds, to the battlefield, to arms!
For, resolved to die, I want to free myself
from such merciless mistreatment.
Should I call this a challenge? I do not know,
since I am responding to a provocation;
but why should we duel over words?
If you like, I will say that you've challenged me;
if not, I challenge you; I'll take any route,
and any opportunity suits me equally well.
Yours be the choice of place or of arms,

and I will make whatever choice remains;
rather, let both be your decision.
At once, I am sure, you will realize
how ungrateful and faithless you have been
and how wrongfully you have betrayed me.
And unless my rage yields to overwhelming love,
With these very hands I will, in all boldness,
tear your living heart from your very breast.
The deceiving tongue that lies to do me harm
I will tear out by its root, after it's been bitten

against the palate with repentant teeth;
and if this brings no relief to my life,
abandoning all hope, I will rejoice
at having turned to bloodshed for my revenge.
Then, with the same knife, my own breast,
satisfied and appeased by slaying you,
I may cut open, regretting my deed.
Now, while I'm intent on pursuing revenge,
enter the arena, cruel, rebellious lover,
and present at once whatever arms you wish.

Do you wish, for the field, the secret inn
that, hardhearted and deceptive, once watched
over so many of my now bitter delights?
Here before me now stands the bed
where I took you in my arms, and which still
preserves the imprint of our bodies, breast to breast.
In it I find now neither joy nor sleep,
but only weeping, by night and by day,
which transforms me into a river of tears.

But this very place, which once was
the cherished shelter of my joys,
where I now live alone, in torment and grief,
choose this as a battleground, so that the news
of your betrayal will reach no other place
but die here with you, cruel, faithless man.
Come here, and, full of most wicked desire,
braced stiff for your sinister task,
bring with daring hand a piercing blade.
Whatever weapon you hand over to me,

I will gladly take, especially if it is sharp
and sturdy and also quick to wound.
Let all armor be stripped from your naked breast,
so that, unshielded and exposed to blows,
it may reveal the valor it harbors within.
Let no one else intervene in this match,
let it be limited to the two of us alone,
behind closed doors, with all seconds sent away.
This is the custom of noble knights,
who, without clamor, strive to clear their names

when they consider their honor to be stained:
either they reach an agreement on their own,
or, if they can find no road to peace,
they may sate their thirst for each other's blood.
This is the style in which I like to fight,
and this manner fulfills and satisfies
my desire for bitter revenge.
Although I hope, without any doubt, to spill
a river of your blood-indeed, I am certain
I can, without shedding a drop of my own

what if you were to offer me peace?
What if, all weapons laid aside, you took
the path opened to a love match in bed?
Must I continue to battle against you,
since whoever refuses pardon when asked
wends his erring way reputed a coward?
When you finally came to this point
with me, 1'd not, perhaps, depart
from what is decent and proper to do.
Perhaps I would even follow you to bed,

and, stretched out there in skirmishes with you,
I would yield t9 you in no way at all.
To take revenge for your unfair attack,
1'd fall upon you, and in daring combat,
as you too caught fire defending yourself,
I would die with you, felled by the same blow.
Oh, empty hopes, over which cruel fate
forces me to weep forever!
But hold firm, my strong, undaunted heart,
and with that felon's final destruction,

avenge your thousand deaths with his one.
Then end your agony with the same blade.

[ll. 1-91; pp. 133-137]

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Franco, Veronica Poems and Selected Letters.
2010 Selected Poetry
The Poets Garret
Tir Na nOg Poetry Community