THE sun, the glory of the smiling firmament, the measurer of our fleeting time, and the true eye of the universe, from whom likewise the horned moon and all the stars receive their radiance, had at last hidden his red and burning rays beneath the waters of the sea, and the chaste daughter of Latona, circled around by bright and beaming stars, was already lighting up the clustering shadows of the obscure night, and the shepherds, quitting the wide and open fields and the fresh herbage and the cool and limpid streams, had taken their way back with their flocks to their wonted folds, and, worn out and weary as they were, had sunk into deep slumber on the beds of soft and yielding rushes, when the fair and noble troop of companions, letting go thought of everything else, hastened to the place of meeting. And when it had been signified to the Signora that all had come, and that it was now time to recommence the story-telling, she, escorted in courteous and reverent wise by the other ladies, went joyful and smiling with soft and measured step to the hall of meeting. Then having graciously greeted the company of friends with glad—some face, she ordered them to bring out the vase of gold. In this were put the names of five ladies, and of these the first to come out was that of Eritrea, the second that of Alteria, the third that of Lauretta, the fourth that of Arianna, and the last that of Cateruzza. When this was done they all began to dance to the music of the flutes, and to pass from one to another pleasant and loving words. Immediately after the end of the dance, three damsels, by leave of the Signora, began the following song.
Madonna, when the springs of passion rise,
And through thy fair sweet bosom surge and swell;
And in those lucent sacred eyes,
Which tell me I may live, and eke my death may tell;
From those gracious looks and kind,
A gracious hope my longings find.
Now calm, and now spurred on by rage,
With hope and fear a fight I wage;
Eftsoons my hope the vantage gains,
And I am rid of all my pains,
And know no stroke of fate can lure,
Or drive me from my course secure.
Wherefore I bless the passing days;
Great nature, and the stars I praise,
That thy fair self my passion fired,
Thy service sweet my song inspired.
As soon as the three damsels had brought to an end their amorous canzonet, which seemed to break up the air around into sighs of passion, the Signora made a sign to Eritrea, who had been chosen for the first place this evening, that she should make a beginning of her story-telling. The damsel, seeing that she could in no wise excuse herself, put aside all bashfulness, and began to speak in turn that the order which had hitherto prevailed might not be disturbed.