In the age when the world was as yet new when early humans lacked experience, without the shrewdness of the present day, beneath a lofty mountain, with a peak that seemed to touch the sky, a people, whose name I do not know, lived on the valley floor who watching oftentimes the changing moon, now full now hollow, with or without horns, travel her natural course across the skies, thinking that from the summit of the mount it would be possible for them to reach her and discover how she waxed and waned, began, some carrying baskets, others sacks, to scurry up the mountain slopes racing each other in their urge to have her first. Then, seeing she remained forever far, exhausted they collapsed upon the ground, wishing in vain they had remained below. Those on the lower hills, viewing them so high, believing they could see them touching her, went chasing after them with hurried strides. This mountain is the wheel of Fortune on top of which, the unenlightened crowd believe that all is peace, and yet there’s none.
Translation Phillip Hill 2017
This is a section of the 3rd Satire by Lodovico Ariosto (1474-1533), which is generally known as “The Fable of the Moon”. (For the original Italian click here) Anybody who knows something about Ariosto, hearing a mention of the moon, will probably think of his wonderful and very funny epic poem, L’Orlando Furioso, where the moon is presented as the place where all lost things end up. (It would have been wonderful if the Apollo missions had come across a cache of odd socks). When the eponymous hero Orlando goes mad for love, another knight called Astolfo flies to the moon to recover Orlando’s lost wits.
You can take the moon in spoonfuls
or in tablets once every two hours.
It works as a hypnotic and a sedative
and also provides relief
for those who have an overdose of philosophy.
A piece of moon in your pocket
is a better charm than a rabbit’s paw:
it helps to find someone to love,
to be rich without anybody knowing
and keeps doctors and hospitals away.
You can give it as a dessert to children
when they can’t get to sleep,
and a few drops of moon in the eyes of the old
help to die well.
Put a tender moon leaf
under your pillow
and you will see what you would like to see
and always carry a little bottle of moon air
for when you feel you’re suffocating
and give the moon’s key
to prisoners, and the disenchanted.
For those sentenced to death
and those condemned to life
there is no better tonic than the moon
in precisely measured doses.
La luna se puede tomar a cucharadas
o como una cápsula cada dos horas.
Es buena como hipnótico y sedante
y también alivia
a los que se han intoxicado de filosofía
Un pedazo de luna en el bolsillo
es mejor amuleto que la pata de conejo:
sirve para encontrar a quien se ama,
para ser rico sin que lo sepa nadie
y para alejar a los médicos y las clínicas.
Se puede dar de postre a los niños
cuando no se han dormido,
y unas gotas de luna en los ojos de los ancianos
ayudan a bien morir
Pon una hoja tierna de la luna
debajo de tu almohada
y mirarás lo que quieras ver.
Lleva siempre un frasquito del aire de la luna
para cuando te ahogues,
y dale la llave de la luna
a los presos y a los desencantados.
Para los condenados a muerte
y para los condenados a vida
no hay mejor estimulante que la luna
en dosis precisas y controladas