Tintoretto’s Allegory of Fortune


Where sits she thus?
Upon Leviathan’s back
She sits,
The loathesome
Stone-hearted King
of the children
Of pride.

Prostrate are they all,
Enraptured at her feet
As in some crack-house
Of the soul;
So in her thrall,
Enthroned upon his scaly
Reptilian back,
Oblivious and

Upon him thus she rides,
Her damask skin
In crimson plush arrayed,
Her bare velvet breasts
Round as her luscious
She, all beauty,
Golden hair with pearls
Entwined, jewels rare
About her wrists
The coiled serpent’s tail
About her loins

So fair she is,
That they, more
Dreadful still,
Under the
Blackening sky,
Devoid of hope,
Cannot tear
Themselves away
Though all is
Lost to her.

Behold her left hand:
She strokes
Her creamy breast
And a fountain of milk,
Everything desirable
And sweet in life,
Streams forth.
But see, in her right hand,
The sharp and snarling
Whip, the spiky goad of
Needs impossible
To satisfy.

Try as they may,
Dire circle of misfortune
And infamy, neither Iron
Crown of State nor
Papal Diadem – luminous
As her ravishing breast –
Proffered abjectly,
Can stave their
Devastation nor stay
Her wanton and

Old and young,
Puissant and powerless,
None can break free,
From her rhapsodic
And addicting gaze.
Aching for the sweet milk
Of her swollen breast
Cruelly showering their feet,
Only to receive instead
The stinging lash
Viciously above them raised.
They cannot leave.
They cannot stay away.

Devoured by
Their own hunger,
By ravening emptiness,
They offer everything –
Tiara, heart, and crown,
Youth, happiness, virtue,
Wisdom, hope, ambition –
To her, who offers nothing
But their ruin, her
Appetite as endless
As her beauty.

So it is.
Who rise to meet
Her gaze are doomed
To grovel, vanquished,
At her feet.

Larry Mellman

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