Poems 184 to 244 of ‘The Canzoniere’
This work may be freely reproduced, stored, and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose.
where every virtue lives and reigns,
are my sworn enemies now: Love conspires
to bring about my death as is his custom:
Nature holds her by such a slender thread,
there is barely enough strength to sustain her:
she is so diffident, that she no longer deigns
to live on in this vile and wearisome world.
So that the life from hour to hour grows less
in those dear lovely chaste limbs
that are the mirrors of true gracefulness:
and if Mercy does not tighten Death’s rein,
alas, I see only too well what state vain hope
will come to, by which I used to live.
round her lovely neck, noble and white,
seems to have formed a dear necklace
by which all hearts are softened, mine consumed,
in the form of a natural diadem that lights
the air all round: and the silent furnace of Love
draws a subtle liquid fire from there
that warms me in the most ungentle weather.
A purple covering with a sky-blue hem
scattered with roses covers the lovely creature:
a novel dress, a rare and singular beauty.
Report places her, and hides her, in the rich
and scented vales of Arabian hills,
who flies in truth so nobly through our skies.
that I can see with my eyes,
all their power would have been given
to praising her, blending both styles in one:
making Aeneas troubled and sad,
Achilles, Ulysses and the other demi-gods,
and him who ruled the Empire so well
for fifty years, and him whom Aegisthus killed.
That ancient flower of arms and virtue, Scipio,
suffered a similar fate to this new flower
of chastity and of every beauty!
Ennius sang of him in rough metres
as I do her: and oh may my art
not annoy her, and she not scorn my praise!
Notes: Augustus ruled for fifty years: Agamemnon
was murdered by Aegisthus: Scipio Africanus Major
(c236-c183BC) was eulogised by Ennius in his Annals.
of fierce Achilles, Alexander said:
‘O fortunate one, who found so clear
a voice to write of you so nobly!’
But this pure white dove of mine
whose equal the world will never know,
gains little enough glory from my frail style:
so is his fate fixed for every man.
She most worthy of Homer or Orpheus,
or the shepherd that Mantua still honours,
that they would have sung of her alone,
is cruelly entrusted by unfortunate stars
to him who adores her lovely name,
but perhaps diminishes her praise by speaking.
that you loved once, alone retains
its lovely green, and is unequalled
since Adam first saw his ill and ours.
‘Let’s stop to gaze’: O, Sun, I call on you
in prayer: yet you still go, and make the hills
turn to shadow, and carry off the day,
taking from me what I most long for.
The shadow, falling on that humble hill
where my gentle fire is still sparkling
where the great laurel was a tiny shoot,
deepening while I speak, takes the sweet sight
of that blessed place from my eyes,
where its lady lives, and this heart of mine.
on a bitter sea, at winter’s midnight,
between Scylla and Charybdis: at the helm
sits that Lord, or rather my enemy.
At each oar there’s a cruel eager thought,
that scorns the tempest and its end:
the sail’s torn by an eternal moist wind
of sighs, of hopes, and of desire.
A rain of tears, a mist of disdain
drench and slacken the already tired shrouds,
woven from error and ignorance.
My two usual guiding lights are so hidden:
reason and art so drowned by the waves,
that I begin to despair of finding harbour.
with two gold horns, on green grass,
between two streams, in a laurel’s shade,
at sunrise, in the unripe season.
Her aspect was so sweet and proud
I left all my labour to follow her:
as a miser, in search of treasure,
makes his toil lose its bitterness in delight.
‘Touch me not,’ in diamonds and topaz,
was written round about her lovely neck:
‘it pleased my Lord to set me free.’
The sun had already mounted to mid-day,
my eyes were tired with gazing, but not sated,
when I fell into water, and she vanished.
longing for nothing greater, no longer longing,
so I’m made happy, my lady, by seeing you
in this brief and fragile life of mine.
I never saw you as lovely as today,
if my eyes truly reflect my heart:
sweet in my thought the hour, and blessed,
overcoming every other hope and wish.
And if it’s flight were not so fast,
I’d ask no more: if there are creatures
that live only on air, and such things believed,
others on water or fire, their taste and touch
sated by things deprived of sweetness,
then why not I on the dear sight of you?
things noble and novel beyond nature:
see how sweetness rains down on her,
see the light that heaven shows on earth,
see how our lady’s choicest dress is gilded
and pearled with so much art, and like no other,
how sweetly she moves her eyes and feet
among the shaded cloister of lovely hills.
The green grass and flowers of a thousand hues,
scattered beneath that ancient dark oak-tree,
pray that her lovely foot will touch or bend them:
and heaven with its clear and wandering sparks
blazes around, visibly delighting
at being made calm by such lovely eyes.
I don’t envy Jove ambrosia and nectar,
only by gazing, in that kind rain, I forget
all other sweets, and drink deep of Lethe.
At times I hear things to say, spoken in my heart,
so that I always find things to sigh for:
snatched up by Love’s hand, I don’t know where,
from one face I drink a double sweetness:
so that a voice, pleasing even in heaven,
sounds in such dear and graceful words,
that he who did not hear could never dream them.
Then together, in less than a span, appears
whatever art, wit, Nature, and Heaven
can visibly create in this life of ours.
waking the flowers in that shadowy wood,
by its soft breath, through which my pain
and my fame must both increase together.
I flee from my sweet native Tuscan air
to find where my weary heart can rest:
I seek my sun that I hope to see today,
to light my dark and troubled thoughts.
It grants such sweetness that Love
brings me back to it with force:
till it so dazes me I’m slow to flee.
I’d ask for wings not weapons to escape:
but heaven consumes me with this light,
so I suffer at a distance, near to I burn.
but I’m not free of sweetly baited hooks,
nor tear myself from the green limed branches
of that tree that ignores both sun and cold.
The sea will have no water, the sky no stars
before I ever cease to fear and long for
its lovely shade, or cease to love and hate
the noble wound of love I cannot hide.
I have no hope my troubles will ever end,
until I’m boneless, nerveless and fleshless,
or my sweet enemy takes pity on me.
Every impossible thing will happen first,
since only she or death can heal the wound
that Love, with her lovely eyes, made in my heart.
through green leaves to strike my face,
makes me recall how Love dealt me
the first wound, so deep but sweet:
and I see the lovely looks, else hidden from me,
that disdain or diffidence keep concealed,
and the hair fastened now with gems and pearls,
once loosened, pale blonde surpassing gold:
she scattered it so sweetly and then
gathered it in such a graceful way,
that remembering I still tremble inwardly:
time twisted it in a still tighter knot,
and tied my heart with so strong a cord,
that Death alone can free me from it.
that green laurel where Love wounded Apollo’s
heart, and set the sweet yoke on my neck,
so that freedom’s slow to be restored to me,
had the same power on me as Medusa had
when she turned the old Moroccan giant to flint:
nor can I now be free of that lovely knot,
that exceeds the sun, not just amber or gold:
I mean the blonde hair, and the noose of curls,
that binds the soul, armed with humility
not weapons, so gently and so tightly.
Her shadow alone turns my heart to ice,
and paints my face a fearful white:
her eyes have the power to turn me to marble.
Note: Medusa created the Atlas Mountains.
the gold Love spins and weaves with his own hand
near the lovely eyes, and binds my weary heart
with those very tresses, and lightens my spirits.
There’s no marrow in my bones, nor blood
in my veins that doesn’t feel the tremor,
when I’m near one who too often sets death
and life together in the balance,
seeing the fire blazing where I’m burned,
the knots glistening where I’m held,
now at her left shoulder, now her right.
I can’t explain what I don’t understand:
my mind’s troubled by those double lights,
and oppressed and wearied by such sweetness.
shutting my life in so small a space,
hand on which Nature and Heaven lavished
all art, and all care, to do it honour,
with five pearls of orient colour,
and only to wound me bitterly and cruelly,
those long gentle fingers, that Love consents
to show me naked, now, for my enrichment.
White, graceful glove dear to me,
that hides polished ivory and fresh rose,
who ever saw such sweet spoils on earth?
If only I had as much of her lovely veil!
O the fickleness of human things!
But this is theft, and she comes whom I must not plunder.
that hides itself again to my great hurt,
but the other and the two arms, are quick
and ready to tighten on the soft timid heart.
Love sets a thousand snares, and none in vain,
wandering among that chaste new form
adorning her in high and heavenly ways,
to which our mind and art could add nothing:
calm eyes and starry brows,
that lovely angelic mouth, filled
with pearl and rose and sweet words,
that make others tremble in amazement,
her brow, and hair that seen
in summer, at mid-day, outdoes the sun.
with lovely gold and silk embroidery,
that almost at the height of bliss I thought
‘Whose hand was it that this surrounded?’
Nor does that day that made me rich
and poor, in an instant, ever return to mind,
without my being filled with grief and anger,
filled with shame and love’s disgrace,
because the noble prize I sought was not
more tightly grasped, and I was not
more firm against an angel’s mere request:
or, fleeing, without wings on my feet,
did not at least take vengeance on that hand
that drew so many tears from my eyes.
Note: The embroidered object is her glove.
flows from lovely clear smooth living ice,
and so drains and dries the veins and heart
that I melt away almost invisibly.
Death, his arm already lifted for the blow,
like an angry thundering sky, or a roaring lion,
comes following my life that flies,
and I am mute, and tremble, filled with fear.
Mercy and Love combined might still stand
as a double column, to protect me
between the weary heart, and the mortal wound:
but I don’t believe so, nor see it in her face,
that sweet lady and enemy of mine:
nor do I blame her in this, but my ill fate.
if all believed she who’s above all others
still does not, she who alone I wish to do so:
she does not seem to believe, and yet she sees.
Infinite beauty, yet of such little faith,
do you not see my heart in my eyes?
If my fate were not otherwise, I surely must
find mercy at the fountain of pity?
My passion, for which you care so little,
and your praises that pervade my verses,
may yet perhaps set thousands on fire:
since, my sweet flame, in my thoughts, I see,
long after us, this tongue, grown cold, yet your
two lovely closed eyes, there, glowing still.
writes, and thinks, so many diverse things:
my eyes of longing, and you, among the senses
that guide sacred noble words to the heart:
how much later, or earlier, do you wish
you had taken the road, that’s so hard to follow,
so as not to have met those two bright eyes
or the steps of those beloved feet?
Now with such clear light, and so many signs,
there should be no error on this brief way,
that makes us worthy of an eternal home.
Strive towards heaven, O my weary heart,
through the mist of her sweet disdain,
following true footsteps and divine light.
sweet ills, sweet troubles, and sweet burdens,
sweet speech, and sweetly understood,
now with sweet fire, now filled with sweet airs:
soul, don’t complain, but suffer in silence,
and temper the sweet bitterness that hurt you
with the sweet honour loving her has brought you
to whom I say: ‘You alone please me.’
Perhaps someone will one day say sighing,
blushing with sweet envy: ‘In his time
this man suffered for the greatest of loves.’
Another: ‘O fortune, inimical to my eyes,
why did I not see her? Why was she
not born later, or I, much earlier, in her time?’
by whom love lives, and without whom I’d die:
if I said so, let my days be few and harsh,
and my poor soul bound in vile slavery:
if I said so, let ever star oppose me,
and Fear and Jealousy
be always at my side
and my enemy
always fiercer towards me and more lovely.
If I said so, may Love spend all his golden
arrows on me, and his lead ones on her:
if I said so, let heaven and earth, men and gods
oppose me, and she become more cruel:
if I said so, let her with her blind torch
who sends me straight to death,
be as she always was,
nor ever show me more
sweetness or pity, in actions or speech.
If I ever said so, let me find this short
bitter path full of what I least desire:
if I said so, let the fierce ardour that delays me
grow in me just as much as hard ice in her:
if I said so, may my eyes never see
the bright sun, or his sister,
nor girl or woman,
but a dreadful storm
like Pharaoh pursuing the Hebrews.
If I said so, however much I sigh,
let Pity and Courtesy be dead to me:
if I said so, let her speech be harsh, that once
was sweetly heard when she conquered me:
if I said so, let her hate me who I would
alone, shut in a cell,
from the days of childhood
to the freeing of my soul
adore: if I could do so.
But if I did not say so, let her who opened
my heart so sweetly to hope in my young days,
still steer my weary little boat
at the helm of her in-born pity,
nor alter, but be as she was
when I could do nothing
but lose myself
(nor could be more lost).
He does wrong who soon forgets such faith.
I have never said so, nor could say it
for gold or cities or for towers.
Let truth conquer, then, and stay in the saddle
and let falsehood be beaten to the earth.
You know all about me, Love: if she
doesn’t know, say what you must.
I’ll call him blessed,
three, four, six times blessed,
who, called to languish, died first.
I’ve served for Rachel and not for Leah:
and could not endure
to live with any other,
but when the heavens call me could suffer
to ascend with her in Elijah’s chariot.
as all the years before now have been spent,
with no other studies, no new thoughts:
but now that my lady does not grant me
her former help, as she once did,
you see, Love, with what arts you honour me.
I don’t know what there is for me
but disdain, if I make myself a thief at my age
of that lovely graceful light
without which I’d not live in such pain.
I wish I’d acted in my youth
in the way I have to do now,
since youthful error is less shameful.
Those gentle eyes that used to give me life,
with their divine and noble beauty
were so courteous to me in the beginning,
that like a man without wealth of his own,
but secretly helped from outside,
I lived without offending anyone.
Now, though it troubles me,
I’ve become harmful and importunate:
since a poor starving man
does things that in a happier state
he blames in others.
If envy closes Pity’s hand against me,
being in love, and helpless, must excuse me.
I’ve already tried a thousand ways or more
to see if any mortal thing but her
could keep me alive a single day.
The spirit, since it has no rest elsewhere,
runs towards the angelic flames:
and I, who am made of wax, turn to fire:
and I turn my thoughts about
to where I might gaze on her I desire:
and as a bird on a branch
is soonest caught when least afraid,
so from her lovely face
I steal another and another glance:
nourish myself on that food and burn.
I feed on my own death, and live in flame.
Strange food, and marvellous salamander:
yet no miracle, since Love so wishes.
I was a happy lamb once
lying among the flock of lovers: now Love
and Fortune make an end of me, as usual:
like roses and violets
in the spring, and snow and ice in the winter.
So, if I do gain nourishment
here and there for my brief life,
she may well call it theft,
but so rich a lady should be content,
if another gains life from her, and she not feel it.
Who does not know how I’ve lived, and always lived,
from that day I first saw her lovely eyes,
which made me change my life and habits?
By searching earth and sea and every shore
who can discover all of human nature?
See, one lives on perfumes by the great river:
I, living here supply
fire and light and feed my spirit.
Love, I say to you truly,
it’s unworthy of a lord to be so mean.
You have your arrows and bow:
send death by your hand, and not because I yearn,
since dying well honours a life complete.
A flame enclosed burns hottest: and if it grows
it cannot be concealed in any way:
Love, I know this, I proved it at your hands.
You saw truly, how silently I burned:
now I annoy myself with my own cries,
that irritate those distant and near by.
O world, O idle thought:
what my harsh fate has led me to!
O from what wandering light
was that firm hope born in my heart,
with which she takes and binds me,
she who leads me through your power to my end!
Yours is the fault, and mine the hurt and pain.
So I bear the torment of loving truly,
and I beg pardon for another’s sin:
rather my own, who should have turned my eyes
from such great light, and closed my ears
to the siren sounds: and yet I don’t regret
that the heart overflows with such sweet poison.
I wait for him to shoot
the last shaft who hit me with the first:
and if I’m right it would be
a kind of pity to kill me soon,
since he is not disposed
to do other with me than he has already:
it’s good to die if by dying we escape from pain.
My song, I’ll remain
in the field, it’s dishonour to die while fleeing:
and I blame myself
for such woes: so sweet my fate,
weeping, sighing, and death.
Servant of Love, who reads this verse,
there’s no good in the world to match my ill.
rushing on from where you take your name,
carrying me downwards, night and day,
to where Love leads me, and you Nature alone,
run on ahead: neither sleep nor tiredness
can restrain your course: and before
you meet the sea, directly, look clearly
where the grass is greener, air more serene.
There you’ll see our sweet living sun
that adorns and flowers your eastern bank;
perhaps (why hope?) lingering in grief for me.
Kiss her feet, or her lovely white hands:
say, and by kissing explain these words:
‘The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’
parting from what I can never part from,
go with me, within me, I always carry
that dear burden Love entrusted to me.
In myself I wonder at myself sometimes,
always going, and yet never moving
from the lovely yoke I often strain at in vain,
and the further I move away, the more it nears.
And like a deer struck by an arrow,
with the poisoned tip in its side,
I run, more painfully the faster I flee,
so, with that shaft buried in my flank,
that destroys me and yet delights me,
I’m consumed with grief, tired with flight.
searching every cliff above the seas,
not from the Red-Sea coast to the Caspian’s waves,
is there another phoenix in earth or heaven.
What benign raven or ill-omened ox
spells my destiny, what Fate preserves me?
I’ve only found Pity deaf, wretchedly,
where I had hoped to be happy.
Who would not speak of her: he who sees her,
his whole heart’s filled with love and sweetness,
she has so much, and grants it to so many:
and she makes my sweetness harsh and bitter,
or feigns she does not care or does not see
how my temples whiten before their time.
Pleasure draws me: Habit carries me on,
Hope beguiles me, and he comforts me,
and holds his hand out to my weary heart:
and the wretch takes it, and does not see
how blind and disloyal is our guide:
the senses reign, and reason is dead:
from one errant desire another rises.
Virtue, Honour, Beauty, her gentle ways,
and sweet words brought me among the branches
where the heart’s so gently caught.
Thirteen twenty-seven, at the beginning
of the first hour, on the sixth day of April,
I entered the labyrinth, and see no escape.
embracing shadows, and chasing the summer breeze,
I swim the sea without floor or shores,
plough waves, build on sand, write in air:
and I gaze after the sun, until, with its splendour,
it extinguishes all my powers of sight,
and I hunt a wandering and fugitive deer,
on a slow, rickety and infirm ox.
Weary and blind to all harm except my own
that I search after, trembling, day and night,
I call to Love, my Lady, and Death alone.
So, for twenty years long and heavy trouble,
I’m paid with tears and sighs and grief:
under that star I swallowed bait and hook.
rare virtue, not of our human race,
a wise head under a mass of blonde hair,
high divine beauty in a humble girl:
a singular and foreign gracefulness,
a singing voice that the heart can feel,
heavenly action, and a clear ardent spirit,
to defeat all harshness, and make pride bow down:
and those lovely eyes that dazzle the heart,
able to lighten the abyss and the night,
tear soul from body, and grant it to another:
with speech full of sweet and noble intellect,
with sighs that are so sweetly broken:
I was transformed by magic such as this.
that made it care for what is noble and new,
and made it scorn what many prize.
Then still unsure of its fated path,
thoughtful, in solitude, young and free,
it came in springtime to a lovely wood.
There was a tender flower born in that wood
a day before, and rooted in such a place
that no spirit could approach it and be free:
for there were snares, in a manner new,
and pleasure driving me along my path,
so loss of freedom there would win the prize.
Dear, sweet, noble and hard-won prize,
that drew me swiftly into the green wood
that makes us stray from the middle path!
And I’ve searched the world from place to place
for verses, stones, juice of herbs, strange and new,
that one day might set my mind free.
But, alas, I see the body will be free
of that knot, that is the greater prize,
before medicine, ancient or new,
heals the wounds received in that wood,
so full of thorns I issued from that place
limping, who entered happily on my path.
Full of snares and brambles, a hard path
for me to follow, where nimble, free
sound feet were needed in every place.
But you, Lord, with that mercy we prize,
stretch your hand towards me in this wood:
let your sun dispel the shadows strange and new.
Care for my being: guard it from these new
wanderings that, interrupting my life’s path,
have made me a dweller in the shadowy wood:
render, if you can, my errant soul, free
and unfettered, and let yours be the prize
if I find it, at last, with You, in a better place.
Now hear in this place, my questions ever new:
is there anything in me to prize, is this the path,
is my soul free, or imprisoned in the wood?
high intellect, and a heart that’s pure,
the fruit of wisdom in her youth’s flower,
a joyful spirit in a thoughtful face,
her planets have brought together in this lady,
or rather the ruler of the stars: with true honour,
worthy praise, high esteem, and great value,
to exhaust all the crowd of divine poets.
Love finds himself met with Chastity in her,
adorned with natural beauty’s dress,
and an aspect that speaks with its silences,
and most of all her eyes, that together
light the nights, and dim the daylight,
make honey bitter, and wormwood sweet.
when wretched mortals take their rest,
I find myself weeping, redoubling my ills:
so I spend the time that’s mine in tears.
My eyes are drowned in sad moisture,
the heart with pain: and I am the worst
of creatures, the arrows of love pierce me
so all over, now that peace is exiled.
Alas, with one sun following on another,
one shadow after another, I’ve already passed
the greater part of this death, that they call life.
Another’s failing grieves me more than my own:
that living Pity, and solace of my faith,
sees the fire burning, and will not help me.
making such fervent verses heard,
that pity’s warmth might be felt
in that hard heart that freezes in mid-summer:
and that the cruel cloud, that chills
and veils it, might disperse with the breeze
of my ardent voice, or others might hate her
for hiding those eyes that destroy me.
Yet I seek no pity for myself, nor hatred
for her: I do not wish it, nor is it possible
(such are my stars, and my cruel fate):
but I sing her heavenly beauty, so
that, when I’m free of this flesh, the world
will know the sweetness of my death.
she who has no equal in the world,
her face has the same effect on others,
as the daylight has on the lesser stars.
Love seems to whisper in my ear,
saying: ‘Life will be beautiful while she
is visible in this world: then I’ll see it troubled,
virtue and my kingdom will die with her.
As if Nature were to take the sun and moon
from the sky, winds from the air, leaves
and grass from the earth, intellect and speech
from man, and fish and waves from the seas:
so much and more would things be dark and lonely,
if Death closed her eyes and hid her away.’
with the birds’ fresh singing and lament,
and the murmuring of liquid crystal
down the fresh, clear swift rivers.
She, with her snowy face and golden hair,
whose love has never failed or deceived,
wakes me with the sound of dancing,
combing her ancient lover’s white fleece.
So I rouse myself to greet the Dawn,
and the sun with her, and that other more so
who dazzled my early years, and still does so.
I have seen both rise together in other days,
in the same moment, at the same hour,
he making the stars vanish, and she him.
Note: Aurora, the Dawn, loved the mortal Tithonus,
obtaining immortality for him, but not eternal youth.
the gold for her blonde hair? From what thorn
did he pluck the rose, from what fields the fresh
and tender frost, and give them force and power?
From where, those pearls to part and restrain
her sweet words in their chaste wandering?
And so much heavenly beauty on her brow,
more so than in the calmest skies?
From what angels, and with what hopes,
came that celestial singing that disarmed me,
so that I’ve never been anything but disarmed?
From what sun was that high kindly light born
of lovely eyes, from which came war and peace,
that seared my heart with ice and fire?
bring me unarmed to the field again,
where I am always beaten? If I escape
it’s a miracle: if I die, it’s no loss.
No loss at all, but profit: so sweetly stands
the sparkle and clear light in my heart
that dazzles and consumes me, so I blaze,
and have already burned for twenty years.
I fear Death’s messengers, when I see
her lovely eyes appear, and shine from afar:
then when they have neared me,
Love blesses and pierces me so sweetly
I can hardly recall it, far less repeat:
that no tongue or wit could express its truth.
happy and pensive, together or alone,
where is my life, where is my death?
Why is she not with you as she once was?’
‘We are happy with her memory alone:
grieving for her sweet company,
taken from us by Envy and Jealousy,
who mourns another’s good as his own ill.’
‘What can restrain a lover, or bind him?’
‘Nothing, the soul: Anger and Harshness, the body:
so it proves now with her, at other times with us.
But often the heart may be read in the face:
so we saw her noble beauty clouded,
and her eyes all bathed in tears.’
darkening the air and my mind,
together with the sky, and stars, and moon
I endure a harsh and painful night.
Then, alas, I relate all my troubles
one by one, so that no one hears me,
and quarrel with blind fate, and the world,
with Love, and my lady, and myself.
Sleep’s banished: there is no chance of rest:
but sighs and complaints till the dawn,
and tears, the soul sends to the eyes.
Then daybreak comes, and brightens the dark air,
but not me: the sun, that burns the heart
and blesses, alone can ease my pain.
sweet yearning, and courteous desire:
if chaste wishes burning in a noble fire,
long wandering in the blind labyrinth:
if a brow that pictures every thought,
or a voice broken by the pain within,
or troubled by fear or by shame:
if a loving pallor tinged with purple:
if holding something dearer than oneself:
if sighing and weeping every day,
fed by grief, by anger and distress:
if burning from afar, and freezing near,
are the reasons why love makes me ill,
mine is the hurt lady, and yours the guilt.
or twelve stars rather, one sun in their midst,
happy and alone, in a little boat
I think there was never another like it.
Not I believe the one that carried Jason
to the golden fleece, now all would like to wear,
nor the shepherd’s whom Troy still grieves for:
those two who made such a noise in the world.
Then I saw the ladies in a triumphal car,
my Laura, with her shy sacred look,
sitting apart, and singing sweetly.
Not a human sight, nor mortal vision:
happy the Tiphys, or Automedon,
who steered such a gracious crew!
Note: Paris was the shepherd prince who caused
the Trojan War. Tiphys was the helmsman
of Jason’s Argo, Automedon was Achilles’charioteer.
was ever as lonely, since I cannot see
her lovely face, and recognise no other sun,
nor do my eyes seek any other object.
The height of my delight is always to weep,
laughter is grief, wormwood and gall my food,
my nights troubled, the clear sky dark for me,
and my bed a harsh battlefield.
Sleep, as men say, is truly allied to death,
and the heart derives from it sweet thought
that keeps it still alive.
In all the world only you happy, kindly land,
green flowering river-banks, cool shadows,
possess the good I weep for.
stirring it, and being softly stirred in turn,
scattering that sweet gold about, then
gathering it, in a lovely knot of curls again,
you linger around bright eyes whose loving sting
pierces me so, till I feel it and weep,
and I wander searching for my treasure,
like a creature that often shies and kicks:
now I seem to find her, now I realise
she’s far away, now I’m comforted, now despair,
now longing for her, now truly seeing her.
Happy air, remain here with your
living rays: and you, clear running stream,
why can’t I exchange my path for yours?
and set, in the centre of my heart,
a green laurel, so its colour truly
outshone every emerald and made it pale.
The pen’s furrow, the sighs from my side,
and the sweet moisture raining from my eyes,
so adorn it, that a fragrance rises to the skies,
that could never come from any other foliage.
Fame, Honour, Virtue, Grace,
chaste beauty in a heavenly dress,
are the roots of this noble plant.
So I carry it in my heart, wherever I am,
a happy burden: and with true prayer
I adore it, bowing as if to something holy.
delight in weeping than I took in singing,
for the cause and not the effect, is in
my senses, longing for my noble one.
So I bear mildness and severity,
cruel or humble or courteous actions,
equally, no weight burdens me,
no weapon tipped with disdain touches me.
Let Love, my lady, world and fortune
treat me as they have always done,
and I will never think myself unhappy.
Alive, or dead, or languishing, there’s no
state better than mine beneath the moon,
so sweet is the root of my bitterness.
no longer hides the living sun from my eyes,
where chaste clear Love reveals
his sweet strength and his sacred custom:
from them he drew such floods of tears,
in shortening the thread of my life,
not only bridges, fords, oars, sails,
failed to rescue me, but feathered wings.
My tears were so deep and wide,
and the shore was so far away,
I could not reach it, even in fancy.
Now Pity brings me not the palm, or laurel,
but the peaceful olive and clear weather,
dries my tears, and wishes me still to live.
without tears, not envying anyone,
since if any lover had better fortune,
his thousand joys were not worth my torment.
Now, the lovely eyes of which I never will
regret the pain, and wish not one pain less,
are misted over, so heavily, so darkly,
that my life’s sun is almost quenched.
O Nature, merciful and savage mother,
how can you will such contrary things
to create and then un-create so lightly?
All power flows from one living fountain:
and how can You consent, O heavenly Father,
to another spoiling your beloved gift?
and made him less than Philip his father:
what matter if Pyrgoteles and Lysippus
alone could sculpt him, or Apelles paint him?
Anger had Tydeus in such a rage
that dying he gnawed at Menalippus:
anger made Sulla’s eyes not only dull,
but blind: and in the end destroyed him.
Anger led Valentinianus to the same pain:
and brought mighty Ajax to kill
many others, and at last himself.
Anger’s a brief madness, he who does not
curb it’s a long time mad, and it often leads
those who possess it to shame, and sometimes death.
Notes: Alexander the Great’s father was Philip II
of Macedon. Lysippus, Pyrgoteles and Apelles
were artists at Alexander’s court (4th century BC).
Tydeus was one of the seven against Thebes. Sulla
the Roman dictator (c138-78BC).Valentinianus
was Roman Emperor. Ajax the Greater
committed suicide after failing to win the arms of Achilles.
that made my eyes weak and dim, beamed
from one of the two loveliest eyes there ever were,
as I gazed on it in dark and troubled grief!
As I turned back to satisfy my hunger
to see her whom alone in this world I care for,
Heaven and Love were never kinder to me,
even if all other times of grace were counted:
since from my lady’s right eye, rather
the right hand sun, delightful sickness
entered into mine, and did not grieve me:
and something with intelligence and wings,
passed, like a star shooting through the sky:
and Nature and Pity guided its course.
Note: Laura’s eye infection of 231 is cleared
by a piece of sympathetic magic, as Petrarch
receives the infection.
from those grave diurnal storms of mine,
you are a fountain now of nocturnal tears
which I carry hidden by day from shame.
O little couch that was rest and comfort
in so many torments, from what sad urns
does Love bathe you, with those ivory hands
so wrongly cruel to me alone!
I do not flee from privacy and rest
as much as from my self and from my thoughts,
which lifted me in flight when I followed them:
and I yearn for the hostile and odious crowd
(who would ever have thought it?) as a refuge:
I have such fear of finding myself alone again.
and I know my journey is towards her
so that I’m more annoying than before
to her who is the queen of my heart:
no skilful sailor ever guided his boat
through reefs, with thanks for his precious cargo,
as often as I have done my frail craft,
through the battering received from her harsh pride.
But tearful rain and fierce storms
of endless sighs now drive my vessel on,
through my sea vile with wintry darkness,
bringing harm to her, grief and torment
to itself, nothing else, beaten by the waves,
stripped of its sails and its rudder.
but I was a man burning, with fire in his breast,
whose grief increased as his reason grew less,
and is almost overcome now by pain.
I once could rein in my hot desire,
so as not to trouble that calm lovely face:
I can no more: from my hand you take the reins,
and the desperate soul has gathered courage.
So if it ventures beyond your limits,
it is your doing, who stir me so and spur me,
I try every harsh path to my salvation:
and the rare celestial gifts my lady shows
are more to blame: now at least let her feel
she has to pardon my crime in herself.
nor there, beyond the circuit of the moon,
were so many stars ever seen at night,
nor do so many birds live in the woods,
nor so many grasses on the field or bank,
as I have thoughts in my heart each evening.
From day to day I wish my final evening
would sever my living earth from the waves,
and let me fall asleep on some green bank,
for no man has ever suffered under the moon,
such troubles as I have: and the woods
know, that I go searching day and night.
I have never had one tranquil night,
but go along sighing morning and evening,
since Love made me a citizen of the woods.
Before I rest, the sea will be free of waves,
and the sun illuminated by the moon,
and flowers will die in April on every bank.
Consumed with grief I go from bank to bank
thoughtful all day, then weep through the night:
and may have no more rest than has the moon.
As soon as I see the darkness of evening,
my breast sighs, and from my eyes come waves
to drench the grass, and bow down the woods.
Cities are hostile to my thoughts, the woods
are friendly: thoughts that along this high bank
I pour out to the murmuring of the waves,
through the sweet silence of the night:
so that I wait through the day for evening,
when the sun departs and makes way for the moon.
Ah if, like Endymion, lover of the moon,
I was asleep somewhere in the green woods,
and she, who before vespers brings me evening,
came with the moon and Love to that bank,
to remain alone there through a single night:
and daylight and sun stayed beneath the waves!
Over harsh waves, by the light of the moon,
song, born at night among the deepest woods,
you’ll see the greenest bank tomorrow evening.
clear soul, ready vision, a keen eye,
swift foresight, noble thought,
and truly worthy of his breast:
his judgement quickly chose from among
that choice number of ladies, so lovely,
brought to adorn the festive and noblest day,
the most perfect face of them all.
Others greater in years or fortune
drew aside commanded by his hand,
as he warmly welcomed that one.
The eyes and the brow with mortal semblance
he kissed so as to make them all content:
me envious, of that sweet strange action.
Note: The visit of some prince.
over the fresh spring earth stirs the flowers,
and the little birds begin their song,
I feel my thoughts stirred within my soul,
so sweetly by her who has them in her power,
that I must turn again to my own music.
If I could tune my sighs to such gentle music
as Laura makes with the sweetening breeze,
showing her the reason why I’m in her power!
But sooner will winter be the season of flowers,
than love will flourish in that noble soul,
that never cared for my rhymes or song.
How many tears, alas, and how much song
have I scattered in my time, and with what music
have I tried again and again to soften her soul!
She remains a harsh mountain in the breeze,
a sweet one that stirs the grass and flowers,
but has no strength against her greater power.
Men and gods were overcome by the power
of Love, as we read in prose and song:
and I proved at the first opening of the flowers.
Now neither my Lord nor his music
nor my tears or prayers can make this breeze
carry off, from life or torment, this my soul.
In time of greatest need, O wretched soul,
gather all your wits about you, and your power,
while among us there is still this living breeze
Nothing on earth’s impossible for song,
and it can charm the serpent with its music,
besides adorning ice with fresh flowers.
Now the meadows smile with grass and flowers,
it cannot be that her angelic soul
does not hear the sound of loving music.
But if my cruel fate has the greater power,
sing and weep together will be our song,
and with a lame ox go to catch the breeze.
I catch the breeze with a net, seed ice with flowers,
and hold with song a deaf unyielding soul,
indifferent to Love’s power and my music.
that he’ll make you pardon me, my sweet hurt,
my bitter joy, if in perfect loyalty
I stray at all from the straight way.
I cannot deny, lady, and don’t deny
that reason, that restrains all good souls,
is overcome by passion: so he leads me
at times to places where I unwillingly follow.
You, with that heart that heaven illumines
with such clear wit, and such noble virtue,
as ever rained down from a fortunate star,
should say, with pity and without disdain:
‘What else can he do? My looks consume him:
why does he long so, why am I so beautiful?’
in hiding or in fleeing, or making a defence,
has kindled lovely pleasure in my mind
with one burning and loving arrow:
and even though his first bitter blow
was mortal, to further his attack,
he took a shaft formed from pity,
and pierced my heart again and again.
One wound burns and sends out smoke and flame:
the other sends out tears that grief distils,
through my eyes, because of your sad state:
not a single spark of the fire that inflames me
is quenched by this double fountain,
rather desire increases with the pity.
Note. Presumably pity for some illness of Laura’s.
we left her there yesterday, who once
had some care for us, and even pitied us,
who now from our eyes would draw a flood.
Return there, where I only wish to be:
see if the time perhaps has come as yet
to end our grief, that has so increased,
you of my ills companion and prophet.’
‘Now you are truly lost in forgetfulness
and talk as though you heart were with you still,
wretch, full of idle thoughts and foolish!
For in departing from your great desire,
you went away, and it remained with her,
and hid itself within her lovely eyes.’
where she sits pensively or singing,
as one with faith in the celestial spirits,
and bearing fame away from all the world:
my heart that wished to leave me for her
(and with great sense no longer seeks return)
now goes searching out where her lovely feet
have pressed the grass, and these eyes have wet.
He walks with her, and says at every step:
‘Ah if that poor man could be here a while,
who’s tired already of weeping and of life!’
She smiles at this, and fate is unequal:
O advantaged sweet and sacred place,
you are paradise, I a heartless stone.
to which I see a broad and open road,
since I’m in a like frenzy within,
and rage as you do with harsh thoughts:
I don’t know whether to ask God for war or peace,
since the harm is great, or the shame is cruel.
But why worry more? What will become of us
is ordained already in the highest place.
Though I’m not worthy of the great honour
you show me, since Love deceives you,
who often makes clear eyes see awry,
raise your soul to those celestial regions:
that’s my counsel, spur your heart above:
since the road is long and time is short.
Note: A reply to a sonnet by the Paduan poet
Giovanni Dondi asking for advice in love.