Alexander VI Dines with the Cardinal of Capua by Stephen Vincent Benet
Next, then, the peacock, gilt With all its feathers. Look, what gorgeous dyes Flow in the eyes! And how deep, lustrous greens are splashed and spilt Along the back, that like a sea-wave's crest Scatters soft beauty o'er th' emblazoned breast!
A strange fowl! But most fit For feasts like this, whereby I honor one Pure as the sun! Yet glowing with the fiery zeal of it! Some wine? Your goblet's empty? Let it foam! It is not often that you come to Rome!
You like the Venice glass? Rippled with lines that float like women's curls, Neck like a girl's, Fierce-glowing as a chalice in the Mass? You start -- 'twas artist then, not Pope who spoke! Ave Maria stella! -- ah, it broke!
'Tis said they break alone When poison writhes within. A foolish tale! What, you look pale? Caraffa, fetch a silver cup! . . . You own A Birth of Venus, now -- or so I've heard, Lovely as the breast-plumage of a bird.
Also a Dancing Faun, Hewn with the lithe grace of Praxiteles; Globed pearls to please A sultan; golden veils that drop like lawn -- How happy I could be with but a tithe Of your possessions, fortunate one! Don't writhe
But take these cushions here! Now for the fruit! Great peaches, satin-skinned, Rough tamarind, Pomegranates red as lips -- oh they come dear! But men like you we feast at any price -- A plum perhaps? They're looking rather nice!
I'll cut the thing in half. There's yours! Now, with a one-side-poisoned knife One might snuff life And leave one's friend with -- "fool" for epitaph! An old trick? Truth! But when one has the itch For pretty things and isn't very rich. . . .
There, eat it all or I'll Be angry! You feel giddy? Well, it's hot! This bergamot Take home and smell -- it purges blood of bile! And when you kiss Bianca's dimpled knee, Think of the poor Pope in his misery!
Now you may kiss my ring! Ho there, the Cardinal's litter! -- You must dine When the new wine Is in, again with me -- hear Bice sing, Even admire my frescoes -- though they're nought Beside the calm Greek glories you have bought!
Godspeed, Sir Cardinal! And take a weak man's blessing! Help him there To the cool air! . . . Lucrezia here? You're ready for the ball? -- He'll die within ten hours, I suppose -- Mhm! Kiss your poor old father, little rose!