Poems 245 to 305 of ‘The Canzoniere’
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a lovely gift, divided, by an older, wiser lover
between two young lovers, equally,
with such sweet speech and with a smile
that would make even a savage being love,
made each of them change their aspect
with its sparkling and amorous rays.
‘The sun has never seen such lovers’
he said, smiling then and sighing:
and, embracing both, he turned away.
So the roses and the words depart,
the heart is left still joyful and in fear:
O happy eloquence, O glad day!
the green laurel and the curling gold,
makes the spirit wander from the body
at seeing her fresh and pretty looks.
This white rose born among sharp thorns,
when shall we see its equal in this world,
this glory of our age? O living Jove,
command that I die before her, I pray:
so I may not see that great earthly harm,
the world left here without its sun,
and my eyes, that have no other light:
and my soul without thought of any other,
and my ears that cannot hear any other,
lacking her sweet virtuous words.
her whom I love on earth, my style’s too high,
setting her above all other nobleness,
sacred, wise, graceful, chaste and beautiful.
To me it seems otherwise: and I fear
she’s offended that my speech is over humble,
worthy of something nobler and more subtle:
and whoever doubts that let him come and see:
he’ll truly say: ‘This man here must aspire
to things that exhausted Athens and Arpinum,
Mantua and Smyrna, the Greek and Roman lyre.
Mortal tongue cannot express her divinity:
Love drives him and draws him on,
not by his choice, but by his destiny.’
Note: Athens, Arpinum, Mantua, and Smyrna, the birthplaces
respectively of Demosthenes, Cicero, Virgil, and according
to one tradition Homer.
among us, and Heaven, come and gaze at her,
who is the only sun, not only to my eyes,
but to the blind world, that cares nothing about virtue.
And come quickly, since Death takes away
the best ones first, and leaves the worst:
she who is awaited in the kingdom of the gods,
this beautiful mortal thing will not last, but pass away.
He will see, if he arrives in time, every virtue,
every beauty, every royal manner
joined in one body with miraculous blending:
then he will say that all my rhymes are mute,
my skill conquered by excess of light:
but if he comes too late, he will grieve forever.
to that day I left my lady, grave and pensive,
and my heart with her! And there’s nothing
I think of so willingly and so often.
I see her again standing humbly
among lovely ladies, like a rose
among lesser flowers, not joyous or sad,
like one who’s afraid, feeling no other ill.
She had laid aside her customary grace,
the pearls, the garland and the bright dress,
the smile, the song, the sweet human speech.
So I was left living in uncertainty:
sad omens now, dark thoughts and dreams
assail me, and, please God, they are in vain.
in sleep, with that sweet angelic face of hers,
now she saddens me, makes me afraid,
nor can I free myself from grief and fear:
for often I seem to see, in her face,
true pity mingled with a heavy pain,
and hear things that make my heart believe
I must disarm myself of hope and joy.
‘Don’t you remember that final evening,’
she said, ‘I left your weeping eyes
and, forced to by the hour, went away?’
‘I did not wish to say it then nor could I:
now I say it as a true and certain thing:
do not hope to see me more on earth.’
Is it true that the kindly light is quenched,
before its time, that made my life
content in painful and hopeful times?
How is it then such dark news is not echoed,
by other messengers, and felt by her alone?
Now God, and Nature, do not consent,
and let my sad intelligence be false.
Let me still hope for my sweet sight
to be adorned with her lovely face,
that supports me, and honours our age.
If she has left her lovely dwelling-house
to leap to her eternal place of rest,
I pray my final day will not be long.
and fear and hope: and in sighs and verses
pour out my cares: Love uses his weapons
against my heart, that’s so afflicted.
Now will that lovely sacred face ever
restore its first light to these eyes
(alas, I do not know if I deserve it)
or condemn them to eternal weeping:
and in going to heaven, as is her due,
has she no care for those on earth,
to whom she is the sun, there is no other?
In such fear, in such perpetual war
I live, and no longer know what I once was,
like he who fears and errs on a winding road.
now may I never see or hear you more?
O blonde hair with which Love snared
my heart, and, so caught, led it to its death:
O lovely face granted me by harsh fate,
that made me always sad, and never joyful:
O concealed deception, loving fraud,
to give a pleasure that only brought me pain!
And if sometimes those lovely gentle eyes
where my life and thoughts have their dwelling,
brought me perhaps some chaste sweetness,
suddenly, Fortune sent horsemen or ships
always ready to do me a disservice,
dispelling all my good, carrying me far away.
of my sweet beloved enemy,
I do not know what to think or say
my heart’s so torn between hope and fear.
Others have been harmed by being beautiful:
she is more noble, lovely, chaste than others:
perhaps God wishes to take so virtuous a friend
away from earth, and make her a star in heaven:
or a sun rather: and, if it is so, my life,
my brief repose and long trouble
have reached their end. O harsh departure,
why have you worked me harm from afar?
My brief tale is almost complete,
and, half-way through my years, my time is done.
that’s what calm and happy lovers do:
evening for me is doubly grief and tears,
the morning is for me the happier hour:
when sometimes we see them in one moment,
the one sun and the other like two Orients,
so alike in beauty and in radiance
even that heaven is in love with earth,
as it was once when the boughs were green
that have rooted so in my heart, always,
so that I love another more than myself.
This is what two contrary hours achieve:
what calms me gives me reason to desire it:
and what brings me pain to fear and hate it.
whose glances and words consume me,
and who then, to increase my pain, flees,
hiding those eyes so sweet and painful to me.
So my weary and afflicted spirits
little by little are exhausted,
and she roars like a lioness in my heart,
through the night when I need to sleep.
The soul, that Death drives from its place,
parts from me, and free of that net,
goes towards her who menaces.
I wonder if there are times indeed,
in my calls to it, my tears, embraces,
when her sleep is troubled, if she hears me.
on that lovely face I sigh and long for,
when Love as if saying: ‘What are you thinking of?’,
interposed her proud hand, my second love.
My heart, caught like a fish on a hook,
and so made a living example,
or like a fledgling limed on a branch,
with senses occupied, did not engage it.
But sight, deprived of its object,
still made its way, as in a dream,
to that face without which all’s imperfect.
My soul between one and the other glory,
felt a new heavenly joy beyond knowing,
and such unheard of sweetness.
sweetly glowing, from two lovely eyes,
and sighing from her wise heart there came
such gentle rivers of noble eloquence,
I seem to be consumed by that memory
whenever I turn to it, recalling
how I felt my spirits fainting
at that variance to her harsh custom.
My soul, always nourished on grief and pain,
(how great the power of a settled habit!)
was so weakened by this double pleasure,
that merely tasting the unaccustomed joy,
trembling now with fear, now with hope,
between the two, it often sought to leave me.
(river-banks know it, and fields and woods)
to escape these dull and clouded minds,
who have lost the road to heaven:
and if my wish in this were granted,
beyond the sweet air of Tuscan country,
I’d still be among those misted hills
where the Sorgue aids my tears and song.
But my fortune, always my enemy,
returns me to this place where I hate
to see my lovely treasure in the dust.
Fate was a friend to the hand that wrote,
at that time, and perhaps not unworthily:
Love saw it, and I know, and my lady.
all filled with chastity and sweetness,
that near those gracious nests of Love,
my heart scorns every other sight.
There is none more appreciated, or equal
to her, in any age, on any foreign shore:
not Helen who with her errant beauty brought
trouble to Greece, the last despair to Troy:
nor Lucretia, the lovely Roman, who pierced
her chaste and disdainful breast with steel:
not Polyxena, Hypsipyle, or Argia.
Her excellence, if I do not err, is Nature’s
great glory, and is my supreme delight,
except she came so late, and swiftly passes.
for her wisdom, virtue, courtesy,
should fix her eyes on my enemy,
that the world knows as my lady.
There, how to acquire honour, and be loved
by God, how chastity and grace conjoin,
is learned, and the truest way to climb
to heaven, that waits and hopes for her,
there, the speech no style can capture,
the lovely silences, her dear ways,
no human wit can unfold in words:
but the infinite beauty that dazzles others,
is not learned there: since those sweet eyes
are achieved by destiny and not by art.
true chaste behaviour in a lovely woman.’
‘Reverse that: there was never anything
dear or lovely without chaste actions :
and she who lives deprived of her honour,
is no lady and no longer living: and if she
seems so, yet her life is harsh, her path
is worse than death, with more bitter pain.
I only wondered at Lucretia in this,
that she must kill herself with a dagger,
that her grief alone was not enough.’
However many philosophers came to speak
of it: all their wisdom would fall to earth:
and we would see hers soar above them.
the honour of emperors and poets,
how many sad and happy days you brought me
in this brief mortal life of mine!
True lady, you who care for nothing
if not honour, which you receive beyond all others,
who do not fear Love’s traps, or nets or snares,
or other’s deceit, worthless against your wisdom.
Nobility of blood, other things dear to us,
pearls, rubies, or gold, you despise
all, equally, as vile burdens to us.
That noble beauty, which has no compare
in this world, annoys you, except as it adorns,
and decks the lovely treasure of your chastity.
for myself assails me in thought,
that I’m forced sometimes
to weep with other tears than once I did:
for seeing my end nearer every day,
I’ve asked God a thousand times for those wings
with which our intellect
can rise from this mortal prison to heaven.
But till now nothing has eased me,
no prayers, or sighs, or tears I produce:
and that is what has to be,
since he who had strength to stand, but fell on the way,
deserves to lie on the ground and find his level.
I see those merciful arms,
I which I believe, still open wide,
but fear grips me
at other’s example, and I tremble at my state,
that spurs me higher, and perhaps I near the end.
One thought speaks within me, and says:
‘What do you hope for? Where do you seek help?
Wretch, are you not aware
how much to your dishonour the time passes?
Take the wise decision: take it:
and tear from your heart
each root of pleasure,
that brings no joy, and allows no breath.
If you’ve long been weary and disgusted
with that false fugitive sweetness
that the traitorous world grants more to others,
why place your hopes any longer
in what is free of peace and certainty?
While your body is alive,
you have your thoughts in your control:
grasp them while you may,
since it’s dangerous to delay as you know,
and beginning now is not soon enough.
You know well what sweetness came
to your eyes at the sight of her
who I might still wish,
for our peace, had never been born.
Remember clearly, as you must,
how her image ran to your heart,
there where perhaps
the flame of no other torch could enter:
she kindled you: and if the deceiving fire
has lasted many years awaiting that day
that will never come, of our salvation,
lift your thoughts to a more blessed hope,
gaze at the heavens as they turn about,
immortal and adorned:
for if your longing, so happy at its ills,
can be eased down here
by the glance of an eye, by speech, or song,
what is that joy above, if this is such?’
From another side a sweet and bitter thought,
with its wearying and delightful burden,
seated in my soul,
oppresses the heart with desire, feeds it with hope:
that solely for glorious kindly fame,
feels nothing when I freeze or when I burn,
or if I’m pale and thin:
and if I kill it, it’s reborn more fiercely.
From when I first slept in my cradle
it came to me, increasing day by day,
and I fear the tomb will enclose us both.
Yet when my soul is stripped of these limbs,
that desire cannot travel with it:
and if Latin or Greek
speak of me after death, it is mere air:
and so, because I fear
to always gather what an hour will scatter,
I wish to leave the shadows, grasp the true.
But that other desire with which I’m filled
seems to destroy the other as it is born:
and time is flying,
so that writing of her does not calm me:
and the light of lovely eyes that melts me
gently in their serene warmth,
controls me with a rein
against which no wit or force avails.
What joy then if my boat has all sails spread
if it’s still dragged on the rocks by those two cables?
You who free me from all other ties,
that bind me to the world in diverse ways,
my Lord, why will you not free
my face ever of this blush of shame?
Like a man who dreams,
death seems to be before my eyes:
and I would make defence, yet have no weapons.
I see what I have done, truth badly understood
does not deceive me, rather Love compels me,
he who never lets those who believe
in him too much follow the path of honour:
and I feel a gracious disdain, bitter and severe,
from time to time, in my heart,
that reveals every hidden thought
on my forehead, where others see:
to love a mortal being with such faith
as is owed to God alone, is the more
denied to those who seek more merit.
And it cries out still in a loud voice
to reason, lead astray by the senses:
but though mind hears, and thought
attends, habit spurs it on,
and pictures to the eyes
her who was born only to make me perish,
by pleasing me too much, and herself.
I do not know what span heaven allotted me
when I was newly come to this earth
to suffer the bitter war
that I contrive to wage against myself:
nor through the corporeal veil can I
anticipate the day that ends my life:
but I see my hair alter
and my desires change within me.
Now that I think the time for death
is near, or at least not far,
I’m like one that loss makes shrewd and wise,
thinking of how it was he left the path
of right, that brings us to our true harbour:
and I feel the goad
of shame and grief turning me about:
yet the other does not free me,
that pleasure so strong in me by custom
that it dares to bargain with death.
Song, you know I grow colder
with fear than frozen snow,
knowing I must truly die:
and that by indecision I’ve always turned
to ashes the best part of my life’s brief thread:
nor was there ever a heavier burden
that that which I sustain in this state:
for with death at my side
I search for new help in living,
and see the better, and cling to the worst.
Note: re: the last line, Seneca’s‘Inferna tetigit possit ut supera assequi.’
beneath a sweet, humble, angelic form,
however much they retain their severity,
gain slight honour from me as their prize:
when the flowers, the grasses and the leaves
are new born, and when they die again,
in broad day and darkest night, I weep on,
since fate, Love, and my lady bring me grief.
I only live on hope, remembering
I’ve seen a little water’s constant flow
wear away marble and the solid stone.
No heart’s so hard that tears, prayers,
love, can’t sometimes move it,
no will so cold that it can’t be warmed.
266. ‘Signor mio caro, ogni pensier mi tira’
My dear lord, every thought in me,
as always, with devotion, turns to seeing you,
but fate holds me (what more could she do to me?)
reined in, and twists me round and round.
Then sweet desire that Love breathes into me
leads me to death, so that I barely feel it:
and between my two guiding lights I cry out,
wherever I am, day and night, sighing so.
Fondness for my lord, love of my lady,
are the two chains I’m bound with,
in much distress, so that I torment myself.
I’ve carried in my breast, a green laurel,
a noble column, one for fifteen, one for eighteen
years, and may not sever myself from them.
Note: Laura is the green laurel, Cardinal Giovanni
Colonna the noble column.
ah me, the graceful noble manner of her:
ah me, the speech that made every harsh
and bitter mind humble, and every coward brave!
And, ah me, the sweet smile, from which the arrow
of death, the only good I hope for now, issued:
regal soul, worthiest to reign,
if only you had not descended so late among us!
It is fitting that I burn for you, and breathe for you,
since I am yours: and if I am parted from you,
I suffer less from all my other grief.
You filled me with hope and with desire,
when I departed, living, from the highest delight:
but the wind did not carry my words to you.
The time has truly come to die,
and I have lingered longer than I wish.
My lady is dead, and my heart with her:
and if I wish to follow,
I must interrupt this cruel life,
since I have no more hope
of seeing her here, and waiting galls me.
Now all my joy
has turned to weeping at her going,
all sweetness has been taken from my life.
Love, you feel how deep and bitter
is this loss, where I grieve with you:
and know the weight and pain of my ill,
or rather ours, because a reef
has shattered the vessel,
and in a moment our sun is darkened.
What ingenuity with words
could express my grievous state?
Ah, blind, thankless world,
you’ve good reason to weep with me,
since what was beautiful in you is lost with her.
Fallen is your glory, and you do not see it,
nor were you worthy, while she
lived here, to have known her,
nor even to have been touched by her sacred feet,
because so lovely a thing
had to adorn heaven with her presence.
But I, alas, who without her
cannot love mortal life or myself,
weep cruelly for her:
this is all I have of all my hopes,
and this alone is what still keeps me here.
Ah me, that lovely face is turned to dust,
that used to be the pledge to us,
down here, of heaven and its good:
her form, invisible in paradise,
freed from that veil,
that shadowed the flower of her years,
later to be worn once more,
and never more relinquished.
when we shall see her again
dear and lovely, more, by as much
as eternal beauty exceeds mortal.
She returns, more lovely and more graceful
a lady, within me, where
she feels the sight of herself is more exalted.
This is one pillar of my life,
the other her bright name
that sounds so sweetly in my heart.
But recalling in my mind
that my hope is truly dead, living
while she flowered,
Love knows what I become, and she (I hope)
can see it now who is so near to Truth.
Ladies, you who have seen her beauty
and the angelic life
that heavenly one lived on earth,
show me your grief, and be overcome
by pity, not for here who leapt
into such peace, but for me left in this war:
so that if the way
to follow her is barred to me for long
only Love, speaking with me,
stops me from severing the knot.
For he reasons like this inside me:
‘Rein in the great grief that transports you,
lest your over-riding desire
loses you heaven, to which your heart aspires,
where she lives who seems dead to others,
and smiles to herself at her
own lovely leavings, and only sighs for you:
and prays that her fame, that breathes
still in many places, through your words,
is not extinguished,
rather that, if her eyes were ever dear
and sweet to you, your voice illuminate her name.’
Flee the fresh and blithe,
don’t go near laughter or song,
my song, but weep:
don’t take your place among happy people,
widow, disconsolate, in your black dress.
that cast a shade for my weary thoughts:
I have lost what I do not hope to find again
in north or south wind, from ocean to ocean.
You have taken my double treasure from me, Death,
which made me live joyfully, and go nobly,
and the earth cannot restore it, nor empire,
nor oriental gem, nor power of gold.
But if destiny consents to this,
what can I do, except display my sad soul,
wet eyes forever, and my bowed head?
O this life of ours, which is so fair, outwardly,
how easily it loses in a morning
what many years with great pain have acquired!
Note: Giovanni Colonna died on the 3rd July 1348,
three months after Laura.
as you seem to, you first need
to make another attempt
new and marvellous, to tame me.
Find my beloved treasure under ground,
hidden from me, so I’m impoverished,
and that wise chaste heart
which use to house my life:
and if it’s true you’re as powerful
in heaven as they say,
and in the abyss (since I believe
all noble people among us feel
you have that worth and power),
snatch back from death what it has snatched
and restore your banner once more to that lovely face.
Restore that living flame that was my guide
to her lovely aspect, and the gentle flame
that still, alas, inflames me,
being spent: what then did it do, burning?
No stag or hart was ever seen seeking
a stream or fountain with such desire,
as I that sweet source
from which such bitterness came: and more
to come if I know myself, and my longing, truly,
that makes me maddened merely by thinking,
and makes me wander where the way is lacking,
and in my weary mind,
chase things I cannot hope to gain.
Now I scorn to come to your call,
you who’ve no command beyond your kingdom.
Make me feel that gentle breeze
without, as I feel it still within:
that had the power,
singing, to quieten scorn and anger,
to calm the tempestuous mind,
and clear every dark and vile mist,
elevate my style
above itself, where now it has no being.
Match my hopes to my desire:
and as the soul’s made stronger in reasoning,
render to the eyes and ears their proper object,
without which their work’s
imperfect, and my life is death.
You exercise power over me in vain,
while the earth itself holds my first love.
Make me see the lovely glance again,
that was sunlight on the ice that burdened me:
let me find you again on that path
where my heart passed without wandering:
take your golden arrows, and your bow,
and let me hear, as I used to do,
with the sound of her words,
that by which I learnt what thing love is:
move her tongue, where at every hour
the hooks were cast that took me, and the bait
I always long for: and hide your snare
among her blonde and curling hair,
for my will can be trapped no other way:
scatter her tresses in the breeze with your hand,
and fasten me there, and I will be content.
No one will ever free me from that gold net,
artfully neglected, carelessly wild,
nor from the burning spirit
of her sweet bitter gaze,
that kept my amorous desire green
day and night, more than laurel or myrtle,
whether the woods were clothed
or naked of leaves, the fields of grass.
But since Death’s is so proud a state
it cuts the knot I feared to escape from,
nor can you find throughout the world
one who might tie a second,
what joy to you, Love, to repeat your tricks?
The season’s past, the weapons lost,
at which I trembled: what can you do, now?
Your weapons were those eyes, where burning
arrows issued from invisible fire,
with little fear of reason,
that gives no human defence against heaven:
and her thoughts, her silence, smiles and jests,
her virtuous dress and courteous speech,
those words that understood
make the base soul noble,
the angelic form, humble and gentle,
so often praised on every side:
her pose, sitting or standing, that often
put others in doubt
as to which should be more praised.
With these weapons you won every hard heart:
now you are disarmed: I am secure.
You bind, now one way, now another,
those spirits heaven assigns to your rule:
but you could only bind me
with one knot, heaven wished no more.
That one is broken: freedom does not delight me,
I weep and moan instead: ‘Ah noble pilgrim
what divine judgment
created me before, dissolved you first?
God, who snatched you from the world so soon,
showed me such high and noble virtue
solely to inflame my desire.’
Now, Love, I do not fear
at all, any new savagery from your hand:
you bend the bow in vain, you shoot wide:
your power fell with the closing of her eyes.
Death has released me, Love, from all your laws:
she who was my lady has climbed the sky,
leaving my life free and saddened.
from hour to hour, for twenty years,
Death loosened, and I never felt such grief,
and know now man cannot die of tears.
Love, not wishing to lose me yet,
hid another snare in the grass,
and kindled a fresh fire with new tinder,
so I escaped but only with great pain.
And if I’d not had long experience
of trouble, I’d have been caught, and burned,
more so since the wood’s no longer green.
Death has freed me again, and broken
the knot, the fire is quenched and scattered:
against it neither force nor wit has power.
and death comes on behind with its dark day,
and present things and past things
embattle me, and future things as well:
and remembrance and expectation grip my heart,
now on this side, now on that, so that in truth,
if I did not take pity on myself,
I would have freed myself already from all thought.
A sweetness that the sad heart knew
returns to me: yet from another quarter
I see the storm-winds rattling my sails:
I see no chance of harbour, and my helmsman
is weary now, and my masts and ropes are broken,
and the beautiful stars, I used to gaze on, quenched.
Why do you look behind at those times
that cannot come again? Why do you go
adding wood to the fire where you burn?
The gentle words and the sweet glances
that you described and painted one by one,
have gone from earth: and you know
it’s too late, untimely, to search for them.
Ah do not renew what only kills, don’t follow
longing thoughts in error, but those sure
and solid ones that lead to a good end.
Look to the heavens, since nothing here pleases:
that beauty that we saw was fatal for us,
if living or dead it did not bring us peace.
is it not enough that Love, Fate and Death
make war on me around, and at, the gates,
without me finding other battles within?
And you, my heart, are you still what you were,
disloyal only to me, receiving wild company,
and forging alliances, so quickly
and so readily with my enemies?
In you Love hides his secret messages,
in you Fate reveals all his triumph,
and Death the memory of that blow
that must shatter all my advances:
in you wrong thought arms itself with error:
so I charge you alone with all my ills.
or rather climbed to heaven, and shines there:
there I’ll see her again, there she waits,
and grieves perhaps that we’re so late.
My ears, her angelic words resound there,
where there are those who understand them better.
My feet, your power does not extend there,
where she is who set you in motion.
Then why do you fight this war with me?
Already every reason’s lost to you,
for seeing, hearing, walking the earth:
Blame Death: or rather give praise to Him
who binds and frees, opens and shuts again,
and, after the tears, makes known another joy.
departing so swiftly, has left the soul
in great sadness, and gloomy horror,
I search for words to ease my pain.
Justly, grief leads me to lament:
since she, the cause, and Love know
I have no other remedy in my heart
against the troubles with which life is filled.
Death, you have taken this from me:
and you, blessed earth, that cover, and guard,
and hide that lovely human face,
where do you leave me, blind, disconsolate,
now that the sweet, loving, gentle light
of my eyes is no more with me?
my life must change, unwillingly:
the sad heart’s anguished so with grief and fear,
now desire still lives, but hope is dead:
so my life’s confused, discomforted,
completely, and I weep night and day,
weary, rudderless in a stormy sea,
on an uncertain course with no true pilot.
An imaginary guide leads me, since my true
one is under the earth, or rather in heaven,
from where she shines brighter than ever in the heart:
but not to my eyes, because a sad veil
conceals that longed-for light from them,
and makes my hair white before my time.
when Love has the greatest power in us,
she left her earthly veil behind on earth
and my breath of life departed from me,
living, lovely and naked she leapt to heaven:
from where she reigns over me, and controls me.
Ah, why can’t I reach my last mortal day,
that is the first day of a nobler life?
So that, as I my thought runs after her,
my soul might follow, quick, light and joyful,
and I might be far from all this trouble.
All that delays me is truly harm to me,
making a greater burden for the self.
Oh how sweet to have died three years ago today!
move gently in the summer breeze,
or soft murmurs of the clear waves
are heard from a fresh flowering river-bank,
where I sit thinking of love and writing,
then I see her whom heaven shows, earth hides,
and I hear and understand that she still lives,
though far away, responding to my sighs.
‘Ah, why are you so aged before your time?’
she asks with pity, ‘why does a sad stream
always flow from your grieving eyes?
Don’t weep for me, my days, in dying,
became eternal ones, and when the light
within seemed to darken, my eyes opened.’
her whom I wish to see now, and cannot,
nor where I have such freedom for myself,
or can fill the sky with so much grieving:
nor did I ever see a valley so blessed
with places to sigh in and so secret:
nor do I think Love had so sweet a nest
in Cyprus or any other country.
The waters speak of love, the air, the branches,
the little birds, the fish, the flowers, the grass,
all begging me together to love for ever.
But you, true born, that call me from the sky,
with the memory of your bitter death,
pray that I scorn the world, and its sweet bait.
fleeing from others, and, if I could, myself,
bathing the grass and my breast with tears,
troubling the air I touch with sighs!
How often, alone and anxious I’ve gone
through dark and shadowy places,
seeking my noble joy, whom Death has taken,
in thought, so that I often call out to her!
Now in the shape of a nymph or other goddess
rising from the Sorgue’s crystal depths,
she comes to sit on the river-bank:
now I have seen her on the fresh grass,
treading the flowers like a living woman,
showing she pities me by her look.
to console me in the grieving night
with eyes that Death has not dimmed,
but has adorned beyond all mortal things:
how pleased I am that you consent
to lighten my sad days with sight of you!
Now I begin to find your beauty present,
once more, as it used to be,
where I have sung of you so many years,
now, as you see, where I go weeping:
not weeping for you, but for my loss.
I only find one solace in my trouble:
when you return, I know and understand you,
by your gestures, voice, your face, your dress.
turn pale, and dimmed the loveliest eyes:
freed the spirit brightest with blazing virtues,
from the most graceful and the loveliest knot.
You’ve taken all my good in a moment,
sealed the gentlest voice ever heard
with your silence, filled me with sorrow:
so whatever I see and hear annoys me.
My lady does return to console such grief,
here where Pity once more leads her:
and I find no other help in this life.
And if I could describe how she speaks,
and shines, I’d make not just men’s hearts
I say, but bears’ and tigers’ burn with love.
that brings my dead lady back to me,
the medicine is so transient for my grief:
still, while I see her, nothing hurts me.
Love, that holds and binds me to this cross,
trembles when he sees her within the threshold
of my soul, where she kills me, still so noble,
so sweet in looks, and with a voice so gentle.
I see her, the lady of the highest house,
with her calm brow driving sad thoughts
away from my dark and heavy heart.
The soul, that cannot endure such light,
sighs and says: ‘O blessed be the hour
you opened up this path with your eyes!’
nor lady burning for her beloved husband
give such faithful counsel to an anxious mind
with such sighing, and with such concern,
as she, gazing on my heavy exile
from her eternal refuge in the sky,
offers me, with her usual affection,
her brow shining with two-fold pity:
now a mother’s, now a lover’s: anxious
or burning with virtuous fire: showing me
in her speech what path to flee or follow,
in all the changes of this life of ours,
begging me to ennoble my soul quickly:
and only while she speaks, do I rest.
sighing breath, she who used to be my lady,
now in heaven, and seeming still here,
living, feeling, walking, loving, breathing,
what warm passion I would rouse
by speaking! So pityingly and anxiously
she returns to me, fearing lest I weary
on the way, turn back, or go astray.
She points me higher, to what is right: and I,
who understand her chaste attentions
and just prayers, sweet murmurs soft and low,
must follow her commands and submit
to the sweetness I draw from her words,
that have the power to wring tears from stone.
grieving and alone, I’m still comforted,
since you have taken flight on high,
from the dead flesh that held you.
Now you see both poles together,
the wandering planets on their circling path,
and see how limited our view of things,
so that I ease my grief with your joy.
And I truly pray that in the third sphere
you’ll meet Guittone, Messer Cino, and Dante,
our Franceschino, and all the choir of love.
You can tell my lady truly how much sorrow
I live in: and have become like a wild creature,
remembering her lovely face and sacred ways.
Note: Sennuccio del Bene died in 1349. The poets
of love are in the third sphere of Venus, Cino da Pistoia
(d.1337), Dante (d. 1321), Guittone d’Arezzo (d. 1294)
and Franceschino degli Albizzi (d. 1348) Petrarch’s relative.
the sweet plain from the bitter hills
where she was born, who held my heart
in her hand, in youth and in maturity,
who’s gone to heaven, and with that sudden
parting, brought me to this, my eyes weary
with searching far off for her in vain,
and leaving no place free of tears around me.
There’s no bush or stone on these mountains,
no branch or green leaf in these fields,
no flower in this valley or blade of grass,
no drop of moisture comes from these springs,
nor have these woods so wild a creature
it does not know how bitter is my pain.
who was so courteous a friend of heaven,
has returned to her country, too soon
for me, and entered her own sphere.
Now I am beginning to wake and see,
that she resisted my desire for the better,
and tempered that young burning passion
with a sweet and fierce aspect.
I’m not ungrateful to her, and her high counsel,
who with her lovely face and soft disdain
made me, burning, think of my salvation.
O gracious arts, and their effects are true,
one works his tongue, the other her eyes,
I for her glory, and she for my good!
me most delights me, now, and pleases:
now I see my pain was my salvation,
I warred a while for my eternal rest.
O hope, O desire, always deceiving,
a hundred times more so for lovers!
O how much worse if she’d yielded to me,
who now lies in earth, but sits in heaven!
But blind love and my dull mind
led me astray so, that my living journey
forced me to go towards her death,
Blessed is she who turned my course
towards the better path, and carefully reined in
the burning impious will, so I did not perish.
with rosy forehead and her golden hair,
Love assails me, so I grow pale,
and sighing say: ‘There is Laura now.
O happy Tithonus, you know the hour
when you’ll regain your dear treasure:
but when will I who lack my sweet?
To see her once again I have to die.
Your partings cannot be so very harsh,
since every night she returns to you,
and does not scorn your whitened hair:
while she who carried off my thoughts
makes my nights sad, and darkens my days,
and leaves me nothing of her but her name.
Note. For Aurora, the Dawn, and Tithonus
see poem 219.
and the arms, the hands, the ankles, and the face
that left me so divided from myself,
and made me different from other men:
the crisp hair of pure shining gold
and the brightness of the angelic smile,
which used to make a paradise on earth,
are now a little dust, that feels no thing.
And I still live, which I grieve over and disdain,
left without the light I loved so much,
in great ill-fortune, in a shattered boat.
Now make an end of my loving songs:
the vein of my accustomed wit is dry,
and my lyre is turned again to weeping.
in verse would have been held so dear,
I’d have made them, from my first breath,
greater in number, purer in style.
She who made me write them is dead,
she who was the summit of my thoughts,
and I’m unable, and no longer have the skill,
to make harsh gloomy verses sweet and clear.
And in truth my efforts at that time
were to ease the saddened heart
in that manner, not to acquire fame.
I sought to weep, not gain honour from tears:
now would like to please: but that noble one
calls me, silent and weary, after her.
like a noble lady in a humble, lowly place:
now by her ultimate passing I am
not only mortal, but dead, and she divine.
My soul despoiled, deprived of all its good,
Love stripped and denuded of her light,
are pitiful enough to shatter stone,
but there’s no one can tell or write the pain:
they weep inside, where all ears are deaf,
but mine, who so much grief encumbers,
that I have nothing left but sighs.
Truly we are ashes and a shadow,
truly the blind will’s full of greed,
truly all our hopes deceive us.
together about their concern:
‘Pity is here, and repents of being late:
perhaps she speaks of us, with hope, or fear.’
Now the last day and the final hour
have taken this present life from her,
she sees, hears, feels my state, in heaven:
I can have no other hope of her.
O gentle miracle, O happy soul,
O peerless beauty, noble and rare,
returned too soon where it came from!
There she’s crowned in honour for her goodness
who was so famous, shining, in the world
through her great virtues, and my passion.
more, I esteem myself: hold myself dearer,
because of the true prison, and the sweet bitter
blow that I kept concealed so many years.
Envious Fates, you shattered the spindle
suddenly, that wound a clear and gentle
thread around my bonds, and that rare gold arrow,
so that death itself pleases beyond belief!
There’s no man who was ever so in love
with happiness, with liberty, with kindly life,
that he would not have altered his natural ways,
and chosen rather to be in grief for ever
than sing another, and from that wound
die happy, and live in so sweet a knot.
Beauty and Chastity, in such peace
that her sacred spirit never knew rebellion,
from the moment they were joined in her:
and now they are split and parted by Death:
one is in heaven, that glories and praises it:
the other in earth, that veils those eyes,
from which such loving arrows issued.
The gentle ways, and the wise humble speech
that came from a noble place, the sweet glance
that pierced my heart (it still shows the mark),
have vanished: and if I’m slow
to follow, perhaps it’s that her name
may be hallowed by my weary pen.
that have scattered all my thoughts in passing,
and doused the fire where I, freezing, burned,
and ended my repose full of torments,
broke my faith in loving illusions,
and made two separate parts of all my good,
one in heaven, the other left in earth,
and lost all the profits of my wealth,
I rouse myself, and find myself so naked,
that I envy every extreme fate:
I have such grief and fear for myself.
O my star, O Fortune, O Fate, O Death,
O day always sweet and cruel to me,
to what an evil state you have brought me!
this way and that, with the slightest gesture?
Where are the beautiful lashes and the two stars
that gave their light to my life’s path?
Where is the worth, the knowledge and the wit,
the modest, honest, humble, sweet speech?
Where are the beauties focused in her,
that had their way with me so long?
Where is the gentle shadow of a human face
that gave its hour of rest for my weary soul,
and where my every thought was written?
Where is she who held my life in her hand?
How this wretched world and how my eyes
miss her, that have no hope of ever being dry!
who embrace her, the sight of whom I’ve lost,
and deny me the look of that lovely face,
where I found peace from all my warfare!
How much I bear towards heaven that shut in,
imprisoned, and gathered so eagerly to itself,
the spirit from those lovely loosened limbs,
and so rarely frees it again for others!
How much envy towards those spirits
that have her sweet sacred company now,
which I always sought for with such longing!
How much towards pitiless harsh Death,
who, extinguishing my life with hers,
stays in her lovely eyes, and does not call me!
river so often swollen with my tears,
wild beasts, wandering birds and fish,
reined in by these two green river-banks,
air warmed and calmed by my sighs,
sweet path that ends in such bitterness,
hill that pleased me, that now saddens,
where by habit Love still leads me:
I recognise familiar forms in you,
not, alas, in me, whose happy life,
has become the house of endless grief.
I saw my good from here: and with these steps
turn to see where she went naked to the sky,
leaving what’s left of her beauty in the earth.
she was whom I seek, and cannot find on earth:
there, among those who are in the third circle,
I saw her once more, more beautiful and less proud.
She took my hand, and said: ‘If my desire
is not in error, you will be with me again in this sphere:
I am she who made such war on you,
and finished my day before the evening.
My good is not comprehended by human intellect:
I wait only for you, and what you so loved,
my lovely veil, is joined to earth and stays there.’
Oh why did she fall silent, opening her hands?
Since at the sound of such pure, compassionate speech
little was needed for me to remain in heaven.
among these banks, friendly to our thoughts,
and to settle our old arguments
went talking with the river and with me:
flowers, leaves, turf, shade, cave, wave, gentle breeze,
closed valley, high hills and sunlit slopes,
a refuge from my lovers’ troubles,
from my overwhelming, heavy fate:
O wandering dwellers in the green wood,
O nymphs, and you whom the fresh weed-filled depths
of liquid crystal feed and grant a home:
my day was so clear, and now’s so dark,
like Death that made it so: in this world
each has his destiny from the day he’s born.
by loving worms, burned in loving fire,
I searched for traces of a wandering creature
through the solitary enclosing hills:
and was so ardent singing of the grief
of Love, of her who seemed so cruel:
but wit and verse came meagrely,
in those days, to my young and feeble mind.
That fire is dead, and a little marble hides it:
a fire that if it had increased with time
(as it has in others) as far as my old age,
armed with verses, where everything disarms me,
I would, with that mature style, have made stones
shatter with my speaking, and weep with sweetness.
than which Nature made none lovelier,
turn your mind from heaven to my dark life,
whose happy thoughts have turned to weeping.
The false opinion of my heart that made
your glance bitter and harsh to me sometimes,
has vanished: now in utter safety turn
your eyes towards me, and hear my sighs.
Gaze at the great rock, where the Sorgue is born,
and see one there among the grass and streams,
who’s fed on memory of you, and grief, alone.
Abandon and ignore where your home lies,
and the place where our love was born,
so you do not see what would displease you.
Note: He wishes her not to see Avignon’s corruption.
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