Desperate Fate

The truth is a coy bird, insinuating itself into our words and thoughts; then just as quickly deserting us in a migration that carries it beyond our understanding.   Cunning and quick, it arrives like a revelation and leaves with such secrecy we despair of every finding it again.   

Enviable and yearned for, it hides within every nuance of life, waiting for recognition and its inevitable extraction.  An invisible mystery, it is the buried spark, the perceptive fire.  It proves that reality lurks, like coiled smoke:   the dark glamour of hidden honesty.

We wear the truth like jewelry, where its nimble and diamond light waits for discovery by the astute viewer.  Its quicksilver reflection is mirrored in the faceted iris; in the curl of the mouth – the twisting journey of revelation.  In a crowded room, its sly brilliance is concealed from all except those who would look and listen.

Troubadours used to carry songs like feathers:  multi-colored and decorative, they were meant to be plucked at a moment’s notice, all for the sake of payment and entertainment.  They were fair lies and petty diversions, sung to ladies in their bowers, to the courtiers who lived within the court’s dishonest shadows.  The songs – foolish and sentimental – were played for the youth that blithely and blindly played on the cusp of the Renaissance.

“Fortuna Desperata” was written in the late 15th century.  The authorship has been debated:  there are two or three possibilities.  It is sad and romantic:  the misery of unrequited love runs through it like a gilded sword.  And the blood from such a seductive wound had nourished chivalry for generations.

From The Heart

But this song is dark and real – a portrait of hearts poisoned by fate.  Could the writer have found this story within his own melancholy?  Was he a witness to the event, or the cause? Or did he see it in a stranger’s face – in an expression that could not keep its sadness hidden; that could not deny its desperate fate?

Fortuna desperata 

Desperate fate,
iniquitous and maledicted
who blackened the good name
of a woman beyond compare.

O relentless death
inimical and cruel
that abased her,
who stood higher than the stars.

All alone and in despair
I can do nothing else than weep
and I desire my sorrow
to come to an end.


9 responses to “Desperate Fate

  1. Love the jewelry metaphor for truth, but the entire paragraph taken at once makes truth sound like a living thing!

  2. I hunted down the Italian original and noticed from the second-person verb endings that the first two stanzas are speaking to fate and death, rather than about them. The English translation seems more remote.

  3. The song sounds too personally painful to be a poet’s imaginative thoughts. While it’s too bad the true author’s name is unknown, the mystery does add to its cachet.

  4. amelie – while I was writing, I kept visualizing the truth like bright earrings winking from behind dark, shadowy hair. It was an image I couldn’t get out of my head, until I had written it down.

    Steve – the version I’ve listened to is in Italian; it was so lovely that I had to see if I could find the lyrics, and I would personally like to thank Wikipedia for providing me with at least one version. The idea of speaking to such ruling powers – fate and death – seems particularly medieval to me; a discussion that balances between the spiritual and secular.

    Hangaku – reading these lyrics remind me of reading ‘All Quiet On The Western Front’; the reality has been questioned by some, but there are certain elements that to me only a person who actually experienced these circumstances could have written down. Painfully evocative, and even more so.

  5. “The truth is a coy bird…”
    What a beautiful opening to this exploration of the nature of truth.

  6. “Troubadours used to carry songs like feathers…” You have a wonderful way with words, Aubrey. Even today troubadours still carry songs that help us understand the truths in out lives…

  7. a damn good blog; one wonders what prompted it; and what a gem that poem is: you do not often come \across poems or songs on this most worthy of topics

  8. A woman’s reputation is a fragile, precious jewel, that a whisper, an eyebrow raised, can shatter. Who but she, herself, can know the truth? Rare are those who bother to enquire. Rumours spread and, day by day, a whiff of smoke becomes a raging fire.

  9. Aubrey: Thanks for another beautiful post (but that goes almost with saying ;))

    The 13th-15th centuries were desperate times, as the balance of power in the mediterreanean shifted inexorably (or not) towards the Roman West and the Ottomans. The sack of Constantinople, the crusade against the Cathars, and finally the conquest of the Byzantine Empire (& Andalusia) …all this must have smashed many a dream. And some of these must have been women’s dreams, since the Cathars favored women more than the Catholics did (not to mention the effects of the sack of Baghdad).

    How odd fate is…the gnostics have returned in no small part via the Reformation, and one reads of women’s liberation movements even in the Middle East. And, yes, more troubadours than can easily be counted are to be found on the likes of these mere mortal blogs…. 😉 RT

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