An Oration Addressed to the Venetian Doge Francesco Venier
on the Occasion of the Arrival of the Most Serene Queen of Sarmantia
1556 — Delivered before the Doge Francesco Venier and the Venetian Senate, celebrating the arrival of Bona Sforza, Queen of Poland
If I were able to comprehend the enormous joy evinced by the Venetian Senate on the occasion of your long-expected arrival, most serene and happiest queen, I would say on this day, which has been taken up with welcoming you warmly into the city, that your arrival has brought greater pleasure and delight and that the city has radiated more happiness and festivity than during any prior visit by a king or emperor. Therefore since by the decree of this most noble Senate the privilege of conveying to you the will of the entire populace, their affection for you, and their obvious delight has been assigned to me, I must only lament that the thoughts that first arose in my heart and mind I can now neither explain to you in words nor elucidate with an oration- because, I believe, of the very enormity of such joy. But the serenity of our faces and the happiness of our hearts are the greatest testimony to the appearance of majesty. For there you have the most reliable witnesses of our sentiments. For that which is harbored in the heart shines forth as though through a window, and that which you cannot hear because of this speaker’s lack of eloquence can be perceived through comments from the populace and from the eyes of everyone here just as joy is palpable in the looks of those who are rejoicing. Thus it is that, since everyone is over. come with incredible joy, and you with your joyous gaze have brought kudos and felicity, all men think that this illustrious day should not only be marked, as they say with a white stone, but everyone thinks the day should be commemorated each year with solemn honors. For no matter how ignorant one may be by nature, is there anyone who would not embrace the memory of the queen of the Sarmatians? Who would not marvel at the greatness of her august and holy presence? Who would not worship and revere her as though she were a goddess?
In order to respond to so many distinguished and renowned women, which I can do, I shall say that the saying “the fickle herd can feed on heavenly air” certainly can never be, since, while the divine beauty of your mind and body has slipped away from my heart and mind, the memory of your name will remain so deeply ingrained in everyone’s mind that no age will ever obliterate it.
But to say something myself to celebrate the greatness of your fame, which has traveled to the ends of the earth while I have remained silent, I would gladly spend all the days of my life. Nor is there anything that could please me more or that I could hope for more than that, not because I think your name would be embellished by my work and industry, but so that in glorifying you I might hope that my life too might be consigned to immortality.
Now old age, which lies heavy on my shoulders, has weakened the powers of my mind and has turned me away from, and made me rudely ill. disposed toward, the settling of my debts. I believe it will be no less valued and esteemed, therefore, to promise that I will never cease to beseech God almighty on behalf of the greatness of your most felicitous reign and your daily felicity of mind and body. Thus, most sacred queen, this magnanimous republic has decreed that, as a token of its admiration for the incredible gifts of your mind, you are to receive its highest tribute, and you will be decorated most generously with the honors due you. For your singular prudence in ruling your people during peacetime and the fortitude of your admirable mind amid the winds of war, in which you easily surpass both Tamaris, queen of the Scythians, and Hysicratea, queen of Pontus, merit this honor and can bring greater glory.
But why does the slowness of this tongue of mine not travel to the place where the most sublime desires of mind and genius escape, to this placid sea, this serenity of air, this sweet and lightly spiraling breeze to show favor to the wishes of our august Senate? Who does not see that your entrance in the future into the heart of this city will be happier since the heavens, the land, and the very seas themselves seem to welcome and honor this queen with joy: and not only the Senate and the Venetian people, but foreign nations and peoples all over the world attend her with every honor? I have spoken.
Source: “The Public Lectures,” from Letters and Orations, by Cassandra Fedele, edited and translated by Diana Robin. (c) 2000 The University of Chicago. Published by The University of Chicago Press. All Rights Reserved.