Petrarch

Poems 62 to 122 of ‘The Canzoniere’

© Copyright 2002 A. S. Kline, All Rights Reserved

This work may be freely reproduced, stored and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose.


Contents


62. ‘Padre del ciel, dopo i perduti giorni,’

Heavenly Father, after the lost days,

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.

63. ‘Volgendo gli occhi al mio novo colore’

Turning your eyes on my strange colour

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.

64. ‘Se voi poteste per turbate segni’

If you, with signs of your unease,

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.

65. ‘Lasso, che mal accorto fui da prima’

Alas, how unprepared I was at first

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.

66. ‘L’aere gravato, et l’importuna nebbia’ (sestina)

The heavy air, and the oppressive cloud,

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.

67. ‘Del mar Tirreno a la sinistra riva,’

On the left shore of the Tyrrhenian Sea,

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.

68. ‘L’aspetto sacro de la terra vostra’

The sacred aspect of your native place,

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.

69. ‘Ben sapeva io che natural consiglio’

Love, I well know our natural defences

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.

70. ‘Lasso me, ch’i’ no so in qual parte pieghi’

Ah me, I don’t know where to seek for hope

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

some delight

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.

Dante (Study for Dante’s Dream), Dante Gabriel Rossetti

‘Dante (Study for Dante’s Dream)’ - Dante Gabriel Rossetti (English, 1828 - 1882)

71. ‘Perchè la vita è breve’

Because this life is short,

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,

immeasurable happiness

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.

72. ‘Gentil mia donna, i’ veggio’

My gentle lady, I see

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.

73. ‘Poi che per mio destino’

Since through destiny

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.

74. ‘Io son già stanco di pensar sí come’

I am already wearied with thinking

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.

75. ‘I begli occi ond’i’ fui percosso in guisa’

Those lovely eyes, that struck me in such guise

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.

76. ‘Amor con sue promesse lusignando’

Love, with his beguiling promises

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.’

77. ‘Per mirar Policleto a prova fiso’

Polyclitus gazing fixedly a thousand years

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.

Saint John the Evangelist, Lippo Memmi, workshop of Simone Martini

‘Saint John the Evangelist’ - Lippo Memmi, workshop of Simone Martini (Italian, 1284 - 1344), The Yale University Art Gallery

78. ‘Quando giunse a Simon l’alto concetto’

When Simone had matched the high concept

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.

79. ‘S’al principio risponde il fine e ’l mezzo’

If the middle and the end of these fourteen years,

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.

80. ‘Chi è fermato di menar sua vita’ (Sestina)

He who is set on living out his life

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.

81. ‘Io son sí stanco sotto ’l fascio antico’

I’m so wearied by the ancient burden,

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

82. ‘Io non fu’ d’amar voi lassato unquancho’

I have never tired of love for you,

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.

83. ‘Se bianche non son prima ambe le tempie’

If both my temples time it seems is greying

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.

84. ‘Occhi, piangete: accompagnate il core’

Weep, eyes: accompany the heart

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.’

85. ‘Io amai sempre, at amo forte anchora’

I’ve always loved, and I love deeply still,

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.

86. ‘Io avrò sempre in odio la fenestra’

I always hate that window from which Love

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.

87. ‘Sí tosto come aven che l’arco scocchi,’

As soon as ever he has launched his arrows,

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.

88. ‘Poi che mia speme è lunga a venir troppo’

Because my hope takes too long to mature,

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.’

89. ‘Fuggendo la pregione ove Amor m’ebbe’

Fleeing the prison where Love for many years

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!

90. ‘Erano i capei d’oro a l’aura sparsi’

She let her gold hair scatter in the breeze

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.

91 ‘La bella donna che cotanto amavi’

The lovely lady who you loved so dearly

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.

92. ‘Piangete, donne, et con voi pianga Amore:’

Weep, ladies, and let Love weep with you:

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.

93. ‘Più volte Amor m’avea già detto: Scrivi’

How often Love’s already said to me: ‘Write,

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.’

94. ‘Quando giugne per gli occhi al cor profondo’

When through my eyes the image of my lady

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.

95. ‘Cosí potess’io ben chiuder in versi’

If I could imprison in my verses

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.

96 ‘Io son de l’aspectar omai sí vinto,’

I’m so defeated now, in appearance,

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.

97. ‘Ahi bella libertà, come tu m’ai,’

Ah precious freedom, how you’ve shown me

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.

98. ‘Orso, al vostro destrier si pò ben porre’

Orso, you can easily bridle your warhorse,

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.

99. ‘Poi che voi et io piú volte abbiam provato’

Since you and I have seen how our hope

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.’

100. ‘Quella fenestra ove l’un sol si vede’

That window where one sun is seen

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.

101. ‘Lasso, ben so che dolorose prede’

Alas, I well know that he who pardons

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.

102. ‘Cesare, poi che ’l traditor d’Egitto’

When Ptolemy the Egyptian traitor

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.

The Continence of Scipio, Karel van Mander (I)

‘The Continence of Scipio’ - Karel van Mander (I) (Flemish, 1548 – 1606), The Rijksmuseum

103. ‘Vinse Hannibàl, et non seppe usar poi’

Hannibal conquered, and yet did not know

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.

104. ‘L’aspecta vertù, che ’n voi fioriva’

The visible courage, that flowered in you

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 Roman generals.

Landing of Scipio Africanus at Carthage, Anonymous

‘Landing of Scipio Africanus at Carthage’ - Anonymous (ca. 1555), The Rijksmuseum

105. ‘Mai non vo’ piú cantar com’io soleva,’

Now I don’t wish to sing as I used to do,

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.

106. ‘Nova angeletta sovra l’ale accorta’

A new young angel carried by her wings

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.

107. Non veggio ove scampar mi possa omai:’

I see no way now I can free myself:

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.

108. ‘Aventurosa piu d’altro terreno,’

This soil is happier than any other,

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.

109. ‘Lasso, quante fiate Amor m’assale’

Alas, when Love makes his assaults on me,

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.

110. ‘Persequendomi Amor al luogo usato,’

Love pursuing me to my old haunts,

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.

111. ‘La donna che ’l mio cor nel viso porta’

The lady whose looks are always in my mind,

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.

112. ‘Sennuccio, I’ vo’ che sapi in qual manera’

Sennuccio, I want you to know in what manner

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.

113. ‘Qui dove mezzo son, Sennuccio mio’

Here, where I’m half myself, my Sennuccio,

(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.

Villeneuve lez Avignon, William Callow

‘Villeneuve lez Avignon’ - William Callow (British, 1812 - 1908), The Getty Open Content Program

114. ‘De l’empia Babilonia, ond’è fuggita’

From the impious Babylon, from which

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.

115. ‘In mezzo di duo amanti honesta altera’

Between two noble lovers on either side,

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.

116. ‘Pien di quella ineffabile dolcezza’

Full of that ineffable sweetness

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.

Spring of Vaucluse, Hendrik Roosing

‘Spring of Vaucluse’ - Hendrik Roosing (Dutch, 1786 - 1826), The Rijksmuseum

117. ‘Se’l sasso, ond’è piú chiusa questa valle,’

If the rock by which this valley’s closed,

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.

Catherine at the Court of the Pope in Avignon, Cornelis Galle (I)

‘Catherine at the Court of the Pope in Avignon’ - Cornelis Galle (I) (Dutch, 1576 - 1650), The Rijksmuseum

118. ‘Rimansi a dietro il sestodecimo anno’

My sixteenth year of sighs is left behind,

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.

119. ‘Una donna piú bella assai che ’l sole’

A lady lovelier than the sun,

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

another messenger

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.

Idleness (Acedia), Hendrick Goltzius

‘Idleness (Acedia)’ - Hendrick Goltzius (Dutch, 1558 - 1617), The Rijksmuseum

120. ‘Quelle pietose rime in ch’io m’accorsi’

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.

121. ‘Or vedi, Amor, che giovenetta donna’

Now you see, Love, that this young lady

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.

122. ‘Dicesette anni à già rivolto il cielo’

The heavens have revolved for seventeen years

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?


Index of First Lines in Italian