Hypnerotomachia Poliphili presents a mysterious arcane allegory in which Poliphilo pursues an erotic fantasy through a dreamlike landscape, and is at last reconciled with his love by the Fountain of Venus.The book was printed by Aldus Manutius in Venice in December 1499.
The action of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili takes place in a dream. The books opens on the hero, Poliphilo, who has spent a restless night because his beloved, Polia, has shunned him. At the break of day, he finally falls into a deep slumber and his "Hypnerotomachia," or, as it can be roughly translated, "struggle for love in a dream," begins.
Poliphilo dreams about being in a threatening dark forestand narrates the many things he saw during his quest forspiritual love Polia. He tells of ancient marvels, architecturalmonuments, about forests, gardens, fountains and rivers.On his way he encounters confusion, order, illusion, fear,determination, and finally wisdom through an intoxicatingcall of the senses. It is a dream about a duality of nature(forest) and culture (architecture).
The action is particularly absurd, however, even by the standards of the genre. Poliphilo is transported into a wild forest. He gets lost, escapes, and falls asleep once more. He then awakens in a second dream, dreamed inside the first. Within it, he is taken by some nymphs to meet their queen. There he is asked to declare his love for Polia, which he does. He is then directed by two nymphs to three gates. He chooses the third, and there he discovers his beloved. They are taken by some more nymphs to a temple to be engaged.
Along the way they come across no less than five triumphal processions celebrating the union of the lovers. Then they are taken to the island of Cythera by barge, with Cupid as the boatswain; there they see another triumphal procession celebrating their union. The narrative is uninterrupted, and a second voice takes over, as Polia describes he erotomachia from her own point of view. This takes up one fifth of the book, after which the hero resumes his narrative. They are blissfully wed, but Polia vanishes into thin air as Poliphilo is about to take her into his arms.