Knight Tannhauser and Venus

Canto I

“Oh noble knight and troubadour
why dost thou through the darkness creep
as though you were a common thief
intending harm on those asleep?”

“It is the entrance to a cave I seek,
where I among the naiads whiled
and drank the wine of one so fair;
from her sweet presence I was exiled.

“Venus is the one of whom I speak;
I gladly sank to any depth,
and pledged my very soul to her,
my honor, dignity, life’s breath.

“I now desire to gain her love
once more, melt into arms that blest,
embraced me with her love divine
as wanderer and welcome guest.

“Those tousled locks of flame-red hair,
that skin of alabaster white,
her tempting smile and open arms
enchanted me, the lovelorn knight.

“We loved, but then I wished to see
the human world and hear the flutes
there played by unsoiled shepherd boys,
and eat again sweet earthly fruits--

“but she grew full of wrath and spoke:
“Remorse will gnaw you at each turn,
no love shall cheer you, fickle man;
soon humbled, then you shall return.”

“I dream now of her locks cascading--
oh, memories so slowly creep
through my tormented, spellbound mind!
No peace--except in death or sleep.”

Canto II
(The knight’s reminiscence)
Venus seduces the Knight Tannhauser

Rest here with me, thou weary knight.
Take off thine armor, sheath thy sword.
Am I a monster thou wouldst smite?
I am but Venus, much adored

by gods and mortal men alike.
Thy songs have well preceded thee;
I heard of thee, O troubadour,
and now at last thou came to me.

If thou hast ever longed for love,
then enter freely this enchanted
cave; nymphs invite thee to a dance,
All these pleasures shall be granted.

Horned fauns and sibyls dance to tunes
by god Pan himself; hear his pipe?
Come, join us in a madrigal.
Why hesitate? The time is ripe.

O dearest knight, now nears the night,
the night of love that smiles upon
our pleasures. Sweeter than the day
are thou, O night of love! The dawn

must call an end to tenderness,
therefore, do not waste fleeting time
that should be used for sweet caress
and freely given love sublime.

Reach out for me; embrace me now;
Thy passion will become the fire
that sear me. Give me thy kisses!
O night, that fills us with desire.

Canto III
Tannhauser responds to Venus’ Temptation

O Goddess, remove thy garment
of gossamer. Strip down to nothing
so I can see thy nakedness.
Thy weblike gown is coarsest clothing

that only mars thy lovely form;
shall I remove it, Goddess fair?
I long to press my manly chest
against thy godly bosom bare

Purse thy lips, complete our oneness--
allow probing tongues to touch
in deep erotic kisses. We grope--
like vines we twist, now lips on lips. . . .

Canto IV

Oh, noble Knight, unhappy man!
your tale of Venus in her cave
is more than just a wild phantasm
that soon may take thee to thy grave...

but tell me, Sire, what art thou called?
Hast thou no loving wife nor kin
to give thee comfort and new hope?
Have faith, the Lord remits all sin.

I am ashamed to speak my name
that once rang true and was well known
throughout this land and far beyond,
I sung before the royal throne.

My name? Tannhauser. Cursed it be!
A maiden once spoke it out loud;
with love it pealed from paling lips--
too soon concealed by death’s dark shroud.

A love I had . . . Elizabeth,
so pure and faithful unto death;
to my forever lasting shame--
for me she took her final breath.

I wandered far through woods and plains,
until I rested at this place
where I now stand to tell my tale
of how I saw that wondrous face--

I met the goddess--nay--temptress
who took my heart and swooning mind,
made me her vassal--nay, her slave,
until her love for me declined.

An all-consuming opiate
she hath become to me; each kiss
hurled me toward hell’s flames, into
the gaping, sneering fiend's abyss.

Alas, the goddess, tired of me,
told me to leave her fair domain,
return to my crude upper world
to never see her face again.

I spoke these words as though they would
bring me relief in my despair.
“Rejoice, oh man! I thank Thee, God!”
Still, how can I forget her hair,

enticing locks, that frame her face?
No hope! I can not deny the charm
she cast upon my mind--the demon
who came to cause me utter harm.

Canto V
Tannhauser Abandons Love

Love was my assailant, the trickster
that had disguised itself as pure;
but now my heart is skewered
by passion that I will not endure;

Shall I give in or fan the flames
that rage through this man’s savage breast?
No! Cupid, take thine erring sting
the arrow; though thou didst thy best--

Thou couldst not hit a wide barn door,
yet, thou didst manage to wound me.
How deep and wide? It will suffice
to leave a mark, thanks to thee.

The moon grows pale, my spirit sighs;
I play my harp with certitude,
coaxing melancholic notes
from it that subdue my sullen mood.

As a mirage I now can see thee
once again, Goddess, O, so fair,
how pure moonlight doth become thee
as it adds brightness to thy hair.

But, as for you, my Aphrodite,
today’s love pain will soon become
a bitter memory, I hope--
To Thee-- I shall no more succumb.


Jerry Kemp

Jerry has written and published two books: A Bouquet of Poetic Thoughts II and Galloping Pegasus, four humorous novellas.  Retired from his horse ranch and other activities, Jerry lives with his wife, two dogs, two cats, and numerous birds at the outskirts of the Sonoran desert in Arizona.  Celebrating his 82nd birthday in October 2016, ignoring the onset of Parkinson’s symptoms, Jerry continues on in his pursuit of happiness. He still paints, enjoys classical music and poetry by the old masters and, of course--writing.