Two Venuses

14 08 2008

Heav’nly, illustrious, laughter-loving queen, sea-born, night-loving, of an awful mien;
Crafty, from whom necessity first came, producing, nightly, all-connecting dame:
‘Tis thine the world with harmony to join, for all things spring from thee, O pow’r divine.
The triple Fates are rul’d by thy decree, and all productions yield alike to thee:
Whate’er the heav’ns, encircling all contain, earth fruit-producing, and the stormy main,
Thy sway confesses, and obeys thy nod, awful attendant of the brumal God:
Goddess of marriage, charming to the sight, mother of Loves, whom banquetings delight;
Source of persuasion, secret, fav’ring queen, illustrious born, apparent and unseen:
Spousal, lupercal, and to men inclin’d, prolific, most-desir’d, life-giving., kind:
Great sceptre-bearer of the Gods, ’tis thine, mortals in necessary bands to join;
And ev’ry tribe of savage monsters dire in magic chains to bind, thro’ mad desire.
Come, Cyprus-born, and to my pray’r incline, whether exalted in the heav’ns you shine,
Or pleas’d in Syria’s temple to preside, or o’er th’ Egyptian plains thy car to guide,
Fashion’d of gold; and near its sacred flood, fertile and fam’d to fix thy blest abode;
Or if rejoicing in the azure shores, near where the sea with foaming billows roars,
The circling choirs of mortals, thy delight, or beauteous nymphs, with eyes cerulean bright,
Pleas’d by the dusty banks renown’d of old, to drive thy rapid, two-yok’d car of gold;
Or if in Cyprus with thy mother fair, where married females praise thee ev’ry year,
And beauteous virgins in the chorus join, Adonis pure to sing and thee divine;
Come, all-attractive to my pray’r inclin’d, for thee, I call, with holy, reverent mind.

-Orphic Hymn to Venus, translated by Thomas Taylor

Therefore, let there be two Venuses in the World Soul, the first heavenly and the second vulgar. Let both have a love: the heavenly for contemplating divine Beauty, the vulgar for creating the same in the Matter of the World. For such beauty as the former sees, the latter wishes to pass on as well as it can to the Machine of the World. Or rather both are moved to procreate beauty, but each in its own way. The heavenly Venus strives, through its intelligence, to reproduce in itself as exactly as possible the beauty of the higher things; the vulgar Venus strives, through the fertility of its divine seeds, to reproduce in the Matter of the World the beauty which is divinely conceived within itself. The former love we sometimes call a god for the reason that it is directed toward divine things; but we usually call it a daemon since it is halfway between lack and plenty. The other we always call a daemon since it seems to have a certain affection for the body, and to be more inclined toward the lower region of the world. Which is certainly foreign to God but appropriate to the nature of daemons.

-Marsilio Ficino, Commentary on the Symposium


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