Poems 62 to 122 of ‘The Canzoniere’
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after the nights spent wandering,
with that fierce desire that burned in my heart,
gazing on limbs adorned to do me harm,
now may it please you by Your light I turn
to the greater life and the sweeter work,
so that my harsh adversary having cast
his nets in vain, may be discredited.
Now, my Lord, the eleventh year revolves
since I was bowed under that pitiless yoke,
which to those most subject to it is most fierce.
Have pity on my unworthy suffering:
lead back my wandering thoughts to a better place:
remind them how you hung, today, upon the cross.
that sets people thinking of death,
pity moved you: so that, greeting me
with kindness, you have kept my heart alive.
That frail life, that still exists in me
was the clear gift of your lovely eyes,
and your voice, angelically sweet.
I recognise my being comes from them:
for like a lazy beast stirred by a stick,
they likewise woke my heavy mind.
Lady, you have both the keys of my heart
in your hand: and I am content,
ready to sail with every breeze:
everything of yours is sweet honour to me.
lowering your eyes, bowing your head,
or being more ready than anyone to flee,
turning your face from honest worthy prayers,
or by some other ingenuity, seek escape
so from my heart, from which Love grafts
more branches of that first laurel, I’d agree
there was just cause for your disdain:
for a noble plant in arid soil
is embarrassed by it, so naturally
delights in being moved somewhere else:
and though your destiny prevents you
being elsewhere, you can at least provide
that you’re not always somewhere you hate.
that day when Love came to wound me,
and step by step made himself the lord
of my life, and took his place at the head.
I did not think that rasping power of his
could ever lessen by a jot the firmness
or the strength of my well-tempered heart:
but so it is when we overestimate the truth.
From now on all defence comes too late,
other than to prove whether Love
listens to mortal prayers much, or little.
I do not pray, since there is no purpose,
that my heart should ever burn less fiercely,
but only that she might share part of the fire.
compressed on all sides by the raging winds,
will quickly be converted into rain:
and already part-crystal are the rivers,
and where there was grass in the valleys
there’s nothing to be seen but frost and ice.
And on my heart that grows colder than ice
my heavy thoughts form such a cloud,
as sometimes rises from these valleys,
closed off from the more kindly winds,
surrounded by the slow-moving rivers,
when there falls from heaven a gentler rain.
In a little while it passes, all that heavy rain,
and the warmth disperses snow and ice,
giving a swollen surface to the rivers:
never was the sky hidden by such dense cloud
that, meeting with the fury of the winds,
it did not fly from off the hills and valleys.
But, alas, for me there are no flowering valleys,
rather I weep in clear skies or in rain,
and in the chill and in the gentle winds:
when that day comes my lady’s without ice
inside, and outside is without the usual cloud,
dry ocean will be seen, and lakes and rivers.
As long as the sea receives the rivers
and the wild creatures love the shady valleys,
her lovely eyes will be concealed by cloud
that makes in mine one continuous rain,
and in her heart the unyielding ice
which draws from mine such sighing winds.
I should be able to excuse the winds,
for love of that one, that between two rivers
confined me among sweet green and lovely ice,
so that I pictured through a thousand valleys
that shade where I was, so that no heat or rain
troubled me there nor any breaking cloud.
But never did cloud fly before the winds
as on that day, nor rivers ever with rain,
nor ice when the sun unlocks the valleys.
where the waves weep, broken by the wind,
I suddenly glimpsed the noble leaves
that force me to write so many pages.
Love that was seething in my spirit
through remembering that golden hair,
pushed me so I fell, as if no longer living,
into a stream hidden in the grass.
Alone though I was among the woods and hills,
shame was with me, for the gentle heart
is enough in itself, and needs no other spur.
I’m at least glad to have changed my tale
from eyes to feet, since if these are made wet
the others are dried by a more courteous April.
makes me sorrow for the evil that is past,
crying: ‘Arise, you wretch, what is it you do?’:
and shows me the way to climb to Heaven.
But with this thought another one contends
and says to me: ‘Why do you run away?
If you recall, the time now is passing
in which you might turn and see our lady.’
I understand what it says, and I turn
to ice inside, like a man who hears
news which suddenly overwhelms him.
The first thought returns, the other flies:
which will win, who knows: but they’ve fought
till now, and more than one single time.
are never of any value against you,
you’ve so many snares, so many false promises,
so many grasps of your fierce claws.
But recently, what was marvellous to me
(I tell it, as someone unaware of it,
and who noted it, on those salt waters
between Elba and Giglio and the Tuscan shore),
I fled your hand, and on the passage,
driven by the wind and sky and waves,
I went unknown and as a stranger: when
behold your ministers, from who knows where,
to show me how wrong is he who hides
from destiny, and how wrong he who fights it.
that has been false so many times before:
if there is no one who will listen with pity,
why should I send the same prayers to heaven?
But if it should chance that I’m not prevented
from ending these sad songs
before my ending,
let it not weigh heavy with my lord if I
ask to sing freely among the grass and flowers:
‘Drez et rayson es qu’ieu ciant e ’m demori,
It’s right and just I should sing and be happy’.
For it is right that I should sing sometimes,
since I have sighed so very long
that it’s never soon enough to begin
to counter so much grief with smiles.
And if I could only grant those sacred eyes
through sweet speech of mine
Oh I’d be blessed beyond all other lovers!
More so if I could say without a lie:
‘Donna mi priegha, per ch’io volgio dire,
My lady asks me, so I desire to speak.’
Wandering thoughts, that step by step
have led me to such high poetry,
see how my lady’s heart is cold enamel,
so hardened that I cannot pass inside.
She does not deign to gaze so low
as to care for our words
against heaven’s wishes,
so that I’m already tired of the struggle:
and as my heart becomes hard and rough,
‘così nel mio parlar voglio esser aspro,
so I would wish my speech to be rougher.’
What do I say? Where am I? Do I deceive myself
because my exalted passion runs so high?
Though I traverse the sky from sphere to sphere
there is no planet that forces me to grieve.
If a mortal veil dims my sight
what fault is it of the stars,
or anything of beauty?
With me is what harms me day and night,
what brings me pain from its pleasure,
‘la dolce vista e ’l bel guardo soave,
the sweet sight and the lovely gentle look.’
Everything with which the world’s adorned
issued pure from the eternal Maker’s hand:
but I who cannot discern how to enter in,
am dazzled by beauty shown me all around:
and whenever I turn to the real splendour,
my eyesight cannot see true,
as if it has been weakened,
through its own fault, not by the day
when I first turned towards that beauty
‘nel dolce tempo de la prima etade,
in the sweet season of my early youth.’
Notes. The last lines of the verses are quotations
in chronological order from the poetic tradition
leading to Petrarch, namely from a poem attributed
to Arnaut Daniel, from Guido Cavalcanti,
from Dante, Cino da Pistoia, and from Petrarch 23.
and thought trembles at the high enterprise,
I place little of my trust in either:
but hope that the sorrow
I cry silently might be accepted
where I long for, and where it ought to be.
Lovely eyes where Love has made his nest,
I direct my weak verse towards you,
of itself slow, but spurred by great delight:
and he who speaks of you
takes a noble subject as his theme,
which lifts him on loving wings
far from all base thought.
Now on these wings I fly to speak
of what I’ve long carried hidden in my heart.
Not that I’m blind
as to how my praise might harm you:
but my great passion cannot be opposed,
that which was born in me
when I saw that which is beyond all thought
beyond what others have spoken, or myself.
This cause of my sweet bitter state
none can understand as well as you.
When I melt like snow in the hot sun,
your gentle disdain
is perhaps because my unworthiness offends.
Oh, if that fear
did not quench the flame where I burn,
how blessed I’d be! For in your presence
it’s sweeter to die than live without you.
While I am not consumed
so frail an object in so fierce a fire,
it’s not true worth that prevents my ruin
but a little touch of fear,
that chills the errant blood in my veins,
restoring the heart so that it burns longer.
O hills, O Valleys, O rivers, O woods, O fields,
O witnesses to my hard life,
how many times have you heard me call for death!
Ah wretched fate
staying destroys me, and fleeing is no help.
But if a greater fear
did not restrain me, a short swift way
would bring this harsh bitter pain to an end:
and the blame would be hers who does not care.
Sadness why do you lead me
out of my path, to say what I do not wish.
Allow me to go where it pleases me to go.
I don’t complain of you
eyes, bright beyond what is mortal,
nor of him who tied me in this knot.
You see what colours Love often likes to paint
in the midst of my features,
and can imagine what he does inside,
where he stands over me night and day
with the power he gathered from you,
blessed and happy lights,
except that you cannot turn to see yourselves:
though as often as you turn again to me,
you see what you are in another.
If you could only see
the divine, unbelievable beauty
that I speak of, as those who gaze can,
would fill your heart: perhaps its natural power
is kept remote from you to spare you.
Blessed is the soul that sighs for you
heavenly lights, so that I give thanks for life
that otherwise is worthless!
Alas, why do you so rarely
grant me what does not sate me?
Why do you not more often
consider how Love wastes me?
And why do you immediately rob me
of the good that now and then my spirit feels?
I say from time to time
through your pity, I feel
a strange new sweetness in my soul,
that clears my dead weight
of harmful thoughts, so that
of a thousand only one is left:
that is alone enough to live in joy.
And if this good could stay a while
no state would be equal to mine:
though such honour maybe
would make others envious, and me proud.
Alas, that must be why
sorrow attacks laughter in the end,
and why I interrupt that burning rapture
to return to myself, and think of myself again.
The loving thought
that lives within, is revealed to me in you,
such that it draws away all other joy:
then words and deeds
arise in me so that I hope I might
be made immortal, though the flesh dies.
Anguish and pain flee at your appearance,
and meet again in me when you depart.
But since my loving memory
prevents them entering
they do not sink beyond the surface:
so that if good fruit at times
is born of me, the seed’s first sown by you:
I’m an almost sterile soil in myself,
but tilled by you, so the praise is all yours.
Song, you do not release me, but stir me
to speak of what tempts me from myself:
therefore be certain not to exist alone.
a sweet light that streams from your eyes
that shows me the way that leads to Heaven:
and as it is accustomed to,
in there, where I sit alone with Love,
the heart is shining almost visibly.
This is the sight that leads me to do good,
and drives me towards a glorious end,
only by this distinguished from the crowd:
no human tongue could ever
say what those two divine lights
make me feel,
and when winter scatters frost around,
and when after it the year renews
that is the time of my first troubling.
I think: if there are other works
as fine above, where the eternal Mover
of the stars leaned down from to reveal
his labours to the earth,
open the prison where I am confined,
that shuts from me the road to such life.
Then I turn again to my habitual war,
grateful to Nature and the day I was born
for reserving so much good for me,
and she who exalted my heart
with such hopes: for till then I lay
there, a harmful burden to myself,
but from that day was pleasing to myself,
filling with sweet and noble thought
that heart to which lovely eyes hold the key.
There is no joyous state
that Love or fickle Fortune ever granted
to those they loved most in the world,
that I would not exchange
for those eyes’ glance, from which there comes
my peace, as a whole tree comes from its root.
Wandering sparks of my life,
angelic, blessed, from which delight takes fire,
that consume me and sweetly destroy me:
as every other light
must flee and vanish before your splendour,
so with my heart,
when such great sweetness descends within,
all other things, all thought must go,
and only Love remains there with you.
Whatever sweetness was ever found
in the hearts of venturesome lovers, gathered
all on one place, is nothing to what I feel,
whenever you turn
the black and white of those lovely eyes,
in which Love so delights, sweetly towards me:
and I believe that from my infant cradle
this was the remedy Heaven sent
for my imperfections, and adverse Fortune.
That veil does me wrong
and that hand which so often comes
between those eyes and my great delight,
so that day and night I pour out
my deep passion to ease my heart,
that takes the form of your varying aspect.
Because I see, and am sad,
that my natural gifts help me little
and make me unworthy of a kindly glance,
I make myself such
as befits my exalted hope,
and the noble fire in which I burn.
If, despising what the world desires,
I can make myself by careful study
swift to good and slow to its contrary,
perhaps benign judgement
will one day bring me fame.
Surely the end of my weeping,
my grieving heart does not hope for from elsewhere,
will come at last from that sweet tremor of lovely eyes
the final hope of courteous lovers.
Song, one sister went a little before you,
and I sense another appearing to me
where I live: so I’ll lay out more paper.
the burning passion that has forced me to sigh
for so long now forces me to speak,
Love, you who create my longing,
be my guide, and show me the road,
and let my verse match my desire:
but not so that the heart may be out of tune
through overwhelming sweetness, as I fear,
because of what I feel where none can see,
since speaking strikes and inflames me:
nor do I find this great fire in my mind lessen,
as it sometimes would,
by use of intellect, at which I tremble and fear,
rather I’m consumed by the sound of words,
as a snow man is in the sun.
At the start I thought
to find some brief repose and a truce
by speaking of my ardent desire.
This hope, setting me on fire
to talk of what I felt,
abandoned me in time, and vanished.
And yet I must follow the high theme
continuing the loving notes,
so powerful the wish that drives me on:
and reason is dead
that held the reins, so nothing can oppose this.
Show me, Love, how to speak
in such a way at least that if it reach
the ears of my sweet enemy,
it might make her the friend of pity, if not of myself.
I say that in those ages
when spirits were on fire with true honour,
some men’s efforts turned
to diverse countries,
crossing hills and waves, and searching
for things of honour, and culled its finest flower,
but now that God, and Love, and Nature
wish to set every gentle virtue
in those bright eyes, through which I live in joy,
I have no need to cross
this river or that, or change countries.
I always return to them
as to the fount of all my blessings,
and when in desire I rush towards death,
the sight of them alone brings me salvation.
As the weary steersman
at night, in a rising wind, lifts his eyes
to the stars of those two Bears near the Pole,
so, in the tempest
of Love I endure, your shining eyes
are my sign, and my only comfort.
Alas, what I glimpse of them from time to time,
as Love directs me, is still more
than what is given freely to me,
and I make what little I myself
am from their eternal rule.
I have not moved a step
without them, since I first saw them:
and I hold them as the crown of my being,
taking my own value to be worthless.
I could never imagine,
nor ever tell, the effect
that those sweet eyes have on my heart:
every other delight
of this life is so much less
and every other beauty falls far behind.
Tranquil peace, without any torment,
such as lies in the eternal Heavens
comes from their loving smile.
If I could see close to,
for only one day, how Love
governs them so sweetly,
while the spheres above ceased to move,
and think of nothing else nor of myself,
and not lose them by the blinking of an eye.
Alas, how I go desiring
what can never exist in any way,
and live in desire beyond all hope:
if only that knot
with which Love ties my tongue
whenever excess of light blinds mortal sight,
were untied, I would take courage
to speak words in so new a way
it would make those who heard them weep:
but that deep piercing
turns my wounded heart elsewhere,
so I grow pale,
and the blood vanishes who knows where,
and I am not what I was: and I see
that this is the blow with which love kills me.
Song, my pen is already weary
of this long sweet speech with you,
but not my thoughts of speaking to myself.
of how my thoughts are never weary of you,
and how I’ve not abandoned life itself yet,
to flee so heavy a weight of sighs:
and how my tongue is never lacking sound
to speak of your face and your hair,
and your lovely eyes I always talk of,
calling on your name day and night:
and how my feet are never tired and weary
of following your footsteps everywhere,
spending so many paces uselessly:
and how from it comes all the ink and paper
where I go writing of you: if that is wrong,
it is Love’s fault, not a defect of my art.
that only they themselves could heal the wound,
and not the power of herbs, nor magic art,
nor some lodestone from far beyond our seas,
have so closed the road to other love,
that one sweet thought alone fills my mind:
and if my tongue wishes to pursue it,
that guide, and not the tongue is to be blamed.
Those are the lovely eyes that make
my lord’s enterprise victorious
on every side, above all my heart’s:
those are the lovely eyes that always live
in my heart among the blazing sparks,
so that speaking of them never makes me tired.
led me back to my ancient prison,
and gave the keys to my enemy
who still keeps me in exile from myself.
I did not realise it, alas, until it truly
happened, and now with great toil
(who’d believe it though I speak on oath?)
I regain my liberty with sighs.
And like a truly close-kept prisoner
I carry the marks of chains on my limbs,
and eye and forehead spell what’s in my heart.
When you are aware of my pallor,
you’ll say: ‘If I see and judge correctly,
this man was not far away from death.’
with the others who were famous in his art,
would not have seen the least part
of the beauty that has vanquished my heart.
But Simone must have been in Paradise
(from where this gentle lady came)
saw her there, and portrayed her in paint,
to give us proof here of such loveliness.
This work is truly one of those that might
be conceived in heaven, not among us here,
where we have bodies that conceal the soul.
Grace made it: he could work on it no further
when he’d descended to our heat and cold,
where his eyes had only mortal seeing.
Note. Polyclitus was the Greek artist of the fifth
century BC. Simone Martini the Sienese painter
(1283-1344) was a friend of Petrarch and painted
a (lost) portrait of Laura to which this poem refers.
I had in mind with the design beneath his hand,
if he had given to this noble work
intelligence and voice with the form,
he would have eased my heart of many sighs,
that make what’s dearer to others vile to me:
since she’s revealed to the sight, so humble,
promising peace to me in her aspect.
But when I come to speak with her,
benignly though she seems to listen,
her response to me is still lacking.
Pygmalion, what delight you had
from your creation, since the joy I wish
but once, you possessed a thousand times.
in which I’ve sighed, should echo the beginning,
I’ll still have no more help from breeze or shade,
though I felt my passion’s flame increase.
Love, with whose thoughts I am ever one,
under whose yoke I must ever breathe,
so governs me I am only half a man,
turning my eyes too often towards my harm.
So I go wasting from day to day,
so secretly that only I’m aware
that it’s her look that destroys my heart.
I don’t know how long this final sorrow
I’ve brought the spirit to can stay with me,
since death is near, and life is fleeting.
on the treacherous sea and near the rocks,
saved from death by a little vessel,
cannot be far from his own end:
unless he knows how to return to port
while the tiller still directs the sails.
The gentle breeze to which my tiller and sails
were entrusted, entering beloved life
and hoping to reach a better port,
carried me then among a thousand rocks:
and the causes of my sorrowful end
were not just outside but inside the vessel.
Trapped for a long time in this blind vessel
I wandered, not lifting my eyes to the sails
carrying me, before my time, to my end:
then it pleased Him who brought me into life
to call me back, far enough from the rocks
that some way off I could see the port.
As a light at night, burning in port,
is seen on the high seas by any vessel
if it’s not hidden by a storm or rocks,
so, from above my swelling sails,
I saw the emblem of that other life,
and then I sighed towards my end.
Not that I am yet certain of my end:
who wishes while day remains, to reach port
make’s a long voyage in so short a life:
I’m afraid, sailing so frail a vessel,
mostly I wish the wind not to fill my sails
that wind that drove me on the rocks.
If I escape alive from dangerous rocks,
and my exile comes to a good end,
I’d be content to furl my sails,
and cast anchor in any port!
If only I don’t blaze, a burning vessel:
it’s so hard for me to leave the old life.
Lord of my end, and of my life,
before my vessel shatters on the rocks,
drive me to port, with storm-tossed sails.
of these faults of mine, and my sinful ways,
that I’ve a deep fear of erring on the road,
and falling into my enemy’s hands.
A great friend came to rescue me,
with noble and ineffable courtesy:
then flew away, far from my sight,
so that I strive to see him, but in vain.
But his voice still echoes down here:
‘Come unto me: all you that labour
behold the path, if no one blocks the way.’
What grace, what love, O what destiny
will grant me the wings of a dove,
to lift from the earth, and be at rest?
Note: See Matthew xi.28
my Lady, nor will I while I live:
but hatred of my self has reached its end,
and I am weary of continual weeping:
and I’d rather have a plain stone sepulchre,
than your name be written as author of my hurt,
on some marble: where my body’s laid
without my spirit, that might still remain with you.
So, if a heart full of loving loyalty
can satisfy you, without causing harm,
favour me now by granting mercy.
If your disdain wanders some other way
seeking to be sated, and finds nothing worthy:
then Love and I will receive sufficient thanks.
little by little are still not quite white
I’ll not be safe: I’ll still adventure where
Love sometimes aims his bow and fires.
I no longer fear he’ll maim or kill me,
or capture me, even though he traps me,
nor open up my heart because it’s pierced
by his venomous and cruel arrows.
No tears can flow now from my eyes,
though they know by now which way to flow,
since sorrow’s never closed the way to them.
I can be heated easily by fierce rays
and yet not set ablaze: that sharp, cruel form
can trouble my sleep but cannot wake me.
that is about to die for your failings.
‘So we are, always weeping: we must mourn
for another’s fault rather than our own.’
Yet it was through you that Love first entered,
where he still lives as though it were his home.
‘We opened the way because of that hope
that came from within that heart that is to die.’
These claims are not, as they may seem, equal:
for it was you, so eager at first sight,
who did harm to yourself, and to that one.
‘Now that is what saddens us more than anything,
that perfect judgement is so rare,
and we are blamed for another’s fault.’
and love that sweet place more, from day
to day, where I’m often forced to return
weeping, whenever Love deceives me.
And I’m deep in love with that day and hour
when all base cares were swept from round me:
and love her more, whom a lovely face adorns,
loving to do good following her example.
But who’d think to see those sweet enemies
I love so much, combined together to attack
my heart, on this side and on that?
Love, with what forces now you conquer me!
And had not my hope grown with my desire,
I’d drop down dead where I most wish to live.
has already shot a thousand arrows at me,
though not a single one of them was mortal:
it’s good for death to come while life’s still happy.
And surviving in this earthly prison
causes me, infinite pain, alas:
and more because my grief will be immortal,
since the soul’s not separated from the heart.
Wretch, it should realise by now,
through long experience, that time
can never be turned back, or be restrained.
I often guide it with such words as these:
‘Go, sad one, he does not go before his time
who leaves the happiest of his days behind.
the expert archer can see from afar
which shots have gone astray, and those
he’s sure will hit the target he assigned:
so you knew the arrows from your eyes,
lady, had pierced straight to my deepest part,
and I’d be forced to weep eternally
because of the wound my heart received.
And I am certain of what you said then:
‘Wretched lover, where will crying lead him?
Behold the arrow by which Love hoped he’d die.’
Now, seeing how grief has bound me,
all that my enemies do with me now,
is not to kill me but increase my pain.
and what is left of life is so fleeting,
I wish I’d realised it in time
and fled away, faster than at a gallop:
and I do flee, though weak and wracked
from side to side, as desire twists me:
safe now, but bearing in my face
the marks received in love’s struggle.
So my advice is: ‘You who are on your way,
retrace your steps: and you Love sets alight
don’t wait there, among extremes of heat:
though I live, not one in a thousand escapes:
she was strong, that enemy of mine,
and yet I saw her wounded in the heart.’
had done with me whatever it was he wished,
it would be a long story to recount
how my newfound freedom troubled me.
My heart told me it did not know how
to live alone a day: and then that traitor Love
appeared in my path, so well disguised
he’d have deceived a wiser man than me.
So that many times, sighing within,
I said: ‘Ah me, the yoke, the log, the chains,
were much sweeter than this walking free.
Alas for me, I saw my ills too late:
and how hard it is for me today to turn
away from error, where I entwined myself!
that twined it in a thousand sweet knots,
and wavering light, beyond measure, would burn
in those beautiful eyes, which are now so dim:
and it seemed to me her face wore the colour
of pity, I do not know whether false or true:
I who had the lure of love in my breast,
what wonder if I suddenly caught fire?
Her way of moving was no mortal thing,
but of angelic form: and her speech
rang higher than a mere human voice.
A celestial spirit, a living sun
was what I saw: and if she is not such now,
the wound’s not healed, although the bow is slack.
has suddenly departed from us,
and has climbed to Heaven, I trust,
since every act of hers was sweet and gentle.
It is time to recover both the keys
of your heart, that in life she possessed,
and follow her on the swift true road:
no earthly charge should prevent you.
Now you are free from the greater burden,
the others may be easily laid down,
while you climb like a free pilgrim.
You know truly now how all creatures
run towards death, and how the soul
must be lightened for the perilous gate.
Note: Possibly addressed to Petrarch’s brother
Gherardo who became a Carthusian in 1343.
Weep, lovers, throughout the world,
for he is dead, who while he lived on earth,
had one intent, that of honouring you.
I only pray, for myself, that bitter grief
should not be such as stifles my tears,
and that it should allow as many sighs
as I may need, to ease my heart.
Weep, poetry, again: weep, my verses,
because our beloved master, Cino,
has just now departed from us.
Weep Pistoia, and her perverse citizens
who have lost so sweet a neighbour:
and Heaven, where he has gone, rejoice.
Note: The poet Cino da Pistoia (d.1337) is also mentioned
in poem 287. He had been exiled from Pistoia.
write what you’ve seen in letters of gold,
of how I can make my followers turn pale,
and, in the same moment, be alive and dead.
There was a time you felt it yourself,
and were an example to the choir of love:
then other labours snatched you from my hand:
though I still touched you as you fled.
And if the lovely eyes, where I showed myself
to you, and where my sweetness stayed
after I had broken your hard heart,
remake my bow that shatters everything,
perhaps your face won’t always be dry:
for I feed myself on tears, as you know.’
enters my heart’s depths, she banishes all others,
and the power my spirit radiates
leaves my limbs, leaves them inert weights.
And often a second miracle is born
from the first: what was driven away,
fleeing from itself, arrives in a place
where it takes vengeance and delights in exile.
So a deathly pallor appears in two faces,
since the vigour that showed them as living,
is no longer where it used to be in either.
And I recalled this on the day I saw
two lovers undergo that transformation,
and look as pale as I used to look.
Note: ‘in a place’: in her heart.
the thoughts imprisoned in my heart,
there’s no spirit in this world so cruel
it would not be saddened out of pity.
But you, eyes of beauty, from which I felt
the blow, not wearing a helmet or a shield,
you see me naked, inside and out,
though my grief is not poured out in tears.
Since your vision shines in me,
like a ray of sunlight through glass,
my desire is enough, without my speaking.
Alas, faith never harmed Mary or Peter,
faith, that’s an enemy to me alone:
as I know none but you could understand.
and with the sighs of this long war,
that I’ve come to hate hope and desire,
and all the other nets that snare my heart.
But that sweet joyful face whose image I carry
engraved in my breast, and see wherever I gaze,
constrains me: I’m forced back against my will
into those torments that I first knew.
I erred then when the ancient path
of liberty was closed to me, removed:
what ill he follows who’s led by the eye,
then free and freely runs towards his ill:
the spirit that sinned a single time
must march now to another’s orders.
in parting from me, the state I was in
before that first arrow made the wound
the one from which I never can be healed!
My eyes were so enamoured of their sorrow,
that reason’s rein was of no worth,
since I held all things mortal in disdain:
alas, I so accustomed them, from the start!
I don’t allow myself to listen except to those
who speak of her, my death: and only go filling
the air with her name, that sounds so sweet.
Love spurs me on to no other place,
my feet know no other road, nor can the hand
praise anyone but her in my writing.
so that you can restrain his course again:
but who can tie your heart, so it can’t break free,
if you love honour and loathe its contrary?
Don’t sigh: no one can take your worth
from you, even if you’re prevented from going:
since as public knowledge is aware,
your heart’s there, and no other’s before it.
Enough that it will be found in the field
on the appointed day, beneath the armour
that time, love, virtue and blood have given,
calling out: ‘I’m filled with noble desire
as is my lord, who could not follow me,
and is sick and languishes, not being here.’
Note: Addressed to Orso dell’ Anguillara
on his being unable to attend a tournament.
has, so many times, turned to disappointment,
raise your heart to a happier state,
towards that great good that never cheats us.
This earthly life’s like a meadow, where
a snake hides among the grass and flowers:
and if anything is pleasing to the eye,
it leaves the spirit more entangled.
So you, who’ve always sought a mind
at peace, before the final day,
follow the few, and not the common crowd.
Though you could well say to me: ‘Brother
you show the way to others, from which
you’ve often strayed, and now more than ever.’
when she pleases, and the other sun at noon:
window that the cold wind rattles
when days are brief, when winds are northerly:
and the stone, where on long days my lady
sits thinking, and reasoning with herself,
when many places are covered by the shadow
of her lovely self, or trodden by her foot:
and the lovely pass where Love caught me:
and the fresh season that, from year to year,
renews my former wound, on that day:
and the face, and the words that remain
fixed deep in the centre of my heart,
make my eyes dim with tears.
no one, will make us his sad prey,
and that the world abandons us readily,
and keeps faith with us only a little while:
I see small thanks for all my languishing,
already the last day thunders in my heart:
and through all this Love will not release me,
asking the usual tribute from my eyes.
I know how the days, the minutes and the hours,
carry off the years: and there’s no trickery,
only forces greater than any magic art.
My passion and my reason have fought
for fourteen years: and the better one will win,
if souls down here can foresee the good.
made him a gift of Pompey’s honoured head,
Caesar, hiding his obvious delight,
had tears in his eyes, so it is written:
and Hannibal, seeing harsh Fortune
so hostile to his troubled empire,
smiled among his sad and weeping people
to lessen the bitter injury.
And so it is that every mind
veils its passion with its opposite,
cloaked with a bright or a dark look:
therefore if you see me smile or sing,
I do it since that is the only way
to hide the anguish of my weeping.
Note. See poem 44 for Pompey.
Hannibal grieved for Carthage.
how to make use of his victorious action:
so, my dear lord, I beg you to take care
the same thing doesn’t happen to you.
The she-bear raging for her cubs,
who found the fields bitter this May,
gnaws inwardly, and whets her teeth and claws
to revenge her hurt on us.
While she is attacked by this new grief,
don’t hang up your honoured sword,
but follow where your fortune calls,
straight by the road that can grant you
honour and fame in this world,
for thousands of years after your death.
Note: Addressed to Stefano Colonna after his victory
in May 1333 over the Orsini (The ‘Bears’).
The Colonna were Petrach’s patrons. Hannibal
was unable to fully exploit his victories in Italy
against the Romans, for example after Cannae in 216BC.
when Love too started to war against you,
produces fruit now, equal to the flower,
so that my hopes come to shore.
And so my heart tells me to write something
that regard for your name might increase,
since no other method is so certain
to recreate a living person from the marble.
Do you think that Caesar or Marcellus
or Paulus or Africanus will ever live
by means of the anvil and the hammer?
My dear Pandolfo, in the end those works
are fragile, but my labour’s such
as can by fame make a man immortal.
Note: Addressed to Pandolfo Malatesta,
Lord of Rimini. Petrarch names four
since no one understands, and I am mocked:
and one can be annoyed in a pleasant place.
Always sighing provides no relief:
snow’s already falling in the Alps all round:
and day is nearly here, so I’m awake.
A sweet honest action is a fine thing:
and it pleases me to see a loving woman
walking nobly and disdainfully,
not stubbornly and proudly:
Love rules his empire without a sword.
Let the man who’s lost his way turn back:
the man without a home, sleep on the grass:
the man without gold, or has lost it,
let him quench his thirst with glass.
I trusted in Saint Peter’s care: no more now:
let him understand who can, I understand.
An lasting evil is a burdensome thing:
when I can I free myself, and am alone.
Phaethon fell in the River Po, and died:
and the blackbird has already crossed the river:
ah, come and see it. Now I don’t wish to:
a rock amongst the waves is no joke,
or birdlime in the branches. It troubles me
when a sovereign pride
hides many virtues in a lovely lady.
There are some who answer when no one calls:
others vanish and flee those who beg them:
some there are who melt in the ice:
others who long for death day and night.
An ancient proverb: ‘Love those who love you’,
I know well what I’m saying: now let it go,
others must learn from their own hopes.
A humble lady makes a sweet friend suffer.
It’s hard to judge a fig. It seems to me
wise not to start too grand an undertaking:
and there are decent places in every land.
Infinite hope always kills:
and I have often been in trouble.
What little’s left to me
will not displease the one I give it to.
I put my trust in Him who rules the world,
and gives his followers shelter in the wood,
who with compassionate rod
will let me wander, least among his flock.
Perhaps not all who read this understand:
he often catches nothing who spreads his net:
and he who’s over-subtle breaks his neck.
Let not the law be slow for those who wait.
One goes down many miles to be at rest.
Things seem great wonders, and then are scorned.
A hidden loveliness is always sweeter.
Blessed be the key that turned in my heart,
and freed my soul, and cast away
such heavy chains,
and took infinities of sighs from me!
Another sorrows where I sorrowed more,
and makes my sorrow sweet by sorrowing,
so I thank Love
I feel what was no more, and it’s no less.
Shrewd and wise words in silence,
the sound that takes away all my cares,
a dark prison where there is much light:
violets at night along the shore,
wild beasts inside the walls,
sweet fear, and lovely custom,
a stream that flows in peace from two springs,
where I yearned, and gathered where I was:
Love and Jealousy have snatched my heart,
and the signs of that sweet face
that lead me on along a smoother path
towards my hope, and an end to trouble.
O my good returned, and all that follows,
now peace, now war, now truce,
but don’t abandon me in mortal dress.
I laugh and weep at all my torments past,
since I have so much faith in what I hear.
I like the present, and expect much better,
and go counting the years, and mute and crying.
I nest on a sweet branch, in such a way
that I can thank and praise the great refusal
that conquered the deep feeling at last,
and carved on my soul: ‘I would be heard,
and known for speaking’, and has erased
(the urge is so strong
I have to speak) ‘You weren’t bold enough’:
I write inside my heart more than on paper
for her who hurt my heart and then healed it:
for her who made me die and live,
who in a moment freezes me and warms me.
Note: Petrarch uses plain man’s proverbs, and speech,
to produce a poem less easy to understand than his
usual poetic speech, and to convey the paradoxes
of his situation.
descended from the sky to the green bank,
there where I passed, alone, to my destiny,
When she saw I was without companion,
or guard, she stretched a noose, woven of silk,
in the grass, with which the way was turfed.
Then I was captured: and later it did not displease me,
so sweet a light issued from her eyes.
those lovely eyes have warred with me so long,
that, alas, I fear this burden of care
will destroy my heart that knows no truce.
I want to flee: but those loving beams
that are in my mind day and night,
shine so that, in this fifteenth year,
they daze me more than on the first day:
and their image is so scattered round me
I cannot turn away so as not to see
their light, or one the same lit from it.
Such a forest grows from the one laurel
that my adversary leads me, with marvellous art,
wandering among the branches, as he wishes.
on which I saw Love once set her feet,
turning those sacred eyes towards me,
that make the air round her at peace:
a statue made of steel would wear away
with time, before that sweet act of hers,
that fills both my memory and my heart,
could cease to stand before me:
however many times I might recall it
I’d still bow down to look for the print
her lovely foot made, in its courteous passage.
But if Love is not asleep in the worthy heart,
beg him, Sennuccio, when you see him,
for some little tears, or for her sigh.
Note: Senuccio del Bene d.1349, see poems 112, 113, 287.
more than a thousand times night and day,
I think of where I saw those sparks burning
that make the fire in my heart eternal.
Then I’m calm: and I’m brought to this,
that at the ringing of nones, vespers, dawn,
I find my thoughts of them so serene
that I recall and care for nothing else.
The gentle breeze from her bright face
moves with the sound of wise words
making a sweet harmony where it blows,
as if a gentle spirit from Paradise
seems always to comfort me, in that air,
so that my heart won’t let me breathe elsewhere.
I armed myself with my former thoughts.
hemmed in like a man in a battle,
who protects himself, and shuts the passes,
I turned and saw a shadow sunlight made
at my side, and recognised, on earth,
her who, if my judgement does not err,
is more worthy of an immortal state.
I said in my heart: ‘Why be afraid?
But the thought was hardly formed inside
when the light appeared, by which I am destroyed.
Like thunder and lightning both together,
so I saw her lovely shining eyes
joined as one with her sweet greeting.
appeared to me where I was sitting thinking
deeply of love: and I, to do her honour,
approached her with a pale and reverent face.
As soon as she was aware of my state,
she turned towards me with such fresh colour
as would have disarmed Jove
in all his fury, and quenched his anger.
I gathered myself together: and she walked on,
speaking, so that I could not endure her words,
nor the sweet sparks from her eyes.
Now I find myself full of such varied
pleasures, thinking of that greeting,
I feel no grief, nor have done since then.
I am treated, and what my life is like:
I burn, and am consumed, as I used to be:
the breeze whirls me, and I am as I was.
Here I saw her all humility, and its opposite,
now harsh, now soft, now pitiless, now kind:
now clothed in nobility, now in grace,
now tame, now disdainful and wild.
Here she sang sweetly, and here she sat:
here she turned, and here took a step back:
here, with her lovely eyes, she pierced my heart:
here she spoke a word, and here she smiled:
here her face changed. Alas, both night and day,
our lord, Love, holds me, with such thoughts.
Note: Sennuccio, see poems 108, 111, 113, 287.
(if only I were here entire, and pleasing you),
I’ve come escaping the storms and winds
this cruel weather has suddenly sent us.
Here I’m safe: and want to tell you why
I’m not afraid of the lightning as before,
and why I find my burning passion
not lessened at all, much less quenched.
As soon as I came to the regions of love
and saw where the pure, sweet breeze was born
that clears the air, and banishes the thunder,
Love rekindled the fire in my soul,
where she is mistress, extinguishing the fear:
so what would it be to gaze in her eyes?
Note: Sennucchio is ‘half’ of Petrarch himself.
Petrarch is near Laura’s birthplace.
all shame has fled, all good is banished,
the house of grief, the mother of error,
I’ve also fled, to prolong my life.
Here I’m alone: and as Love invites me,
culling now rhymes and verse, now herbs and flowers,
I muse to myself, and often reflect
on better times: and that alone delights me.
I don’t care about the crowd, or Fortune,
or myself any longer, or base things,
nor feel the heat within me or without.
I only miss two people: and wish that one
was humbly reconciled to me in heart,
and the other as firm of foot as ever.
I saw a true lady, and that lord with her
who reigns among men, and among gods:
the Sun was on one side, I on the other.
Since she found herself excluded from the sphere
of the more beautiful friend, filled with joy
she turned to my eyes, and I truly wish
she’d never be more severe to me than that.
Suddenly the jealousy that, at first sight
of such a noble adversary, had been born
in my heart, turned to happiness.
A little cloud came to wreathe itself
around his saddened and tearful face:
so much had his defeat displeased him.
that my eyes drew from her lovely face,
so I’d have closed them willingly
that day, never to see any lesser beauty,
I left what I loved more: and have so set
my mind on contemplating her alone,
that I see no one else, and what is not her
I hate and despise, through constant habit.
Thoughtful and late, I came with Love alone
into a valley that’s closed all round,
that leaves me refreshed with sighs.
No ladies there, but fountains and stones,
and I find the image of that day
my thoughts depict, wherever I gaze.
Note: The closed valley: Valchiusa in Italian,
Vaucluse in French.
from which its proper name is derived,
had through natural aversion turned
its face to Rome and its back to Babel,
my sighs would have a gentler path
to follow to where their hope’s alive:
now they scatter, and yet each arrives
where I commanded, and not one fails.
And once there they are received so sweetly,
as I can tell, that none of them returns:
staying in those regions with delight.
The grief is in my eyes, so that at dawn,
they are taken by such desire for that lovely land,
they grant me tears, and weariness for my feet.
Note: The valley is Vaucluse: Babel, the Papal
Court at Avignon.
and I travel on towards my end:
and yet it seems but yesterday
the beginning of such great distress.
Bitter is sweet to me, and pain is gain,
and life is burdensome: and I pray it overcomes
ill Fortune, and I fear lest Death should close,
before then, those lovely eyes that make me speak.
Alas, I am here now, and would be elsewhere:
and wish to wish for more, and wish no more:
and because I can’t do more, do what I can:
and fresh tears from old desire
show that I’m what I have always been,
no different yet despite a thousand changes.
and more radiant, and of the same age,
with her famous beauty
drew me, unripe, into her company.
Then in thought, in actions, in speech,
(since she is a rare thing in this world)
in a thousand ways,
she was noble and graceful, to my mind.
For her alone I changed from what I was,
once I had suffered her eyes to touch me:
and for love of her I set myself,
early enough, to weary labour:
such that if I reach the longed-for harbour,
I hope to live, through her,
for many years, when others think me dead.
This lady of mine led me for many years,
filled with the burning ardour of youth,
as I now understand,
only to have more certain proof of my worth,
showing me her shadow or her veil or dress
at times, but hiding her face:
and I, alas, believing
I saw enough, passed all my early life
contentedly, and I recall my joy,
now I have seen more of her within.
I say that recently
she revealed to me
what I had not seen until that time,
so that ice sprang up in my heart,
and is there even now,
and will always be till I am in her arms.
But fear and cold did not prevent me
from feeling so much confidence in my heart
that I threw myself at her feet
to gather more sweetness from her eyes:
and she, who had already removed her veil
before me, said to me: ‘Friend, now see
how beautiful I am, and ask
whatever is fitting for your years.’
‘My lady,’ I said, ‘my love has been yours
already for many years, and now I feel
so enamoured, that in this state the power
to wish or not wish has been taken from me.’
Then she replied in a voice
of such marvellous tones, and with that glance
that always makes me fear and hope:
‘Few among the great crowd in this world,
hearing tell of my worth
have not felt at least a spark
for a brief moment in their heart:
but my adversary, whom it truly disturbs,
soon quenches it, so that all virtue dies,
and another lord reigns
who promises a more tranquil life.
But Love who first opened your mind
has told me truly of it,
so that I see your great desire
will make you worthy to end in honour:
and since you are already one of my few friends,
I see signs of a lady
who will make a happier road for your eyes.’
I wished to say: ‘That is not possible’:
but she said: ‘Now see, and raise your eyes a little
to a more hidden place,
a lady who is only ever shown to a few.’
I had to lower my head in shame,
feeling a new and greater flame within:
and she took it in jest
saying: ‘I see how it is with you, indeed.
Just as the sun with his powerful rays
makes all the other stars suddenly vanish,
so now my lovely face
seems less that a greater light outshines.
Yet you do not leave me still,
since one birth produced
us both together, she first, and then me.’
Meanwhile the knot of shame was broken
that had tied my tongue so tightly
in that first moment of disgrace,
when she had noticed my new passion:
and I began: ‘If what I hear is true,
blessed be the Father, and blessed be the day
that the world was graced by you,
and all those hours I ran to find you:
and if I’ve ever turned from the true way,
I regret it deeply, more than I can show:
but if I might hear more so as to become
worthy of you, I burn with that desire.’
She replied thoughtfully, and so held
her sweet gaze fixed on me
that her look entered my heart with her words:
‘As it pleases our eternal Father,
each one of us was born immortal.
Wretch, what is that worth to you?
It would have been better for us if that were lacking.
We were once beloved, lovely,
young and graceful: and now are such
that she beats her wings
to return to her former home:
and I am only a shade. Now I have spoken
all you can understand in this short time.’
Then she moved her feet,
and saying: ‘Don’t fear that I’ll depart’
she culled a garland of green laurel,
which with her own hand
she wound round and round my temples.
Song, if someone calls your speech obscure,
say: ‘I don’t care, since I soon hope
will reveal the truth in a clearer voice.
I only come to wake others,
if he who wrote this
did not deceive me when I left him.’
Note: The two ladies are Glory and Virtue.
The adversary is Pleasure and the new lord
Idleness. The messenger is a further poem.
These kind verses in which you show me
your wit and your courteous affection,
show such concern, to my mind,
that I am forced to reach for my pen
to make you certain that I haven’t felt
the last clutch of him whom I wait for,
as all men do: though without suspecting it
I reached the entrance of his house:
then turned back, since I saw written
above it, that I had not yet reached
the limit prescribed for my life,
though I could not tell you the day or hour.
So now calm your troubled heart,
and find a worthier man to honour so.
Note: Addressed to Antonio di Ferrara who in 1343
wrote a poem lamenting Petrarch’s supposed death.
scorns your rule, and cares nothing for my hurt,
and feels safe between two of her enemies.
You are armed, and she in loose hair and gown
sits barefoot amongst the flowers and grass,
pitiless towards me, and proud towards you.
I’m imprisoned: but if there’s mercy still,
raise your bow, and with a few arrows
take vengeance, my lord, for me and you.
since I first burned, and I am never quenched:
but when I think again about my state,
I feel a chill in the midst of flame.
The proverb is true, that our hair changes
before our vices, and though the senses slow
the human passions have no less intensity:
making a dark shadow to our heavy veil.
Alas, ah me, when will that day be,
when, gazing at the flight of my years,
I issue from the fire, and such long suffering?
Will the day come, ever, that only as I wish
the sweet air that adorns her lovely face
might please these eyes, and only as is fitting?