Petrarch

Poems 306 to 366 of ‘The Canzoniere’

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

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Contents


306. ‘Quel sol che mi mostrava il camin destro’

That sun that showed me the right road

to climb to heaven with glorious steps,

turning to the highest Sun, has shut my light

and her terrestrial prison beneath a little stone:

so I have become a wild creature, lonely

and weary, with wandering feet,

carrying a heavy heart and wet downcast eyes

through the world, a mountainous desert to me.

So I go searching again for every place

I saw her: and only you, who afflict me,

Love, come with me, and show me the way.

I do not find her: yet I always see

her sacred footsteps on the heavenly path,

far from Lake Avernus and the Styx.

307. ‘I’ pensava assai destro esser su l’ale,’

I thought I had wings enough to take flight,

not through their power, but he who unfurled them,

equal to turning, singing, towards that lovely knot

from which Death freed me, to which Love tied me.

I found myself slow for that path, and weak

as a little branch that a great load bends,

and said: ‘He who flies too high will fall:

what heaven denies us is not good for man.’

But no wings of wit can fly, much less

a heavy style or tongue, where Nature flew

weaving that sweet knot of mine.

Love followed with so much care

in adorning her, I was not worthy

to see it even: yet it was my good fortune.

308. ‘Quella per cui con Sorga ò cangiato Arno,’

For her I changed the Arno for the Sorgue,

servile wealth for honest poverty,

turned into bitterness her sacred sweetness,

on which I lived, now it consumes and wastes me.

Since then I’ve many times tried in vain

to depict her in song for centuries that would see

her noble beauty, for those who’d prize her soul:

but her lovely face is beyond my pen.

Those things to praise in her that are none

but hers alone, scattered in her like stars in the sky

I even dare to outline, now, one or two:

but when I come to the divine part of her,

that was a clear, brief sun to the world,

there I lack the courage, wit and art.

309. ‘L’altro et novo miracol ch’a’ dí nostri’

The new and noble miracle that in our day

appeared in the world, and did not wish to stay,

which heaven merely showed then took away,

in order to adorn its heavenly cloister,

Love wishes me to paint and reveal for those

who have not seen it, first freeing my tongue,

then bringing a thousand times in vain

to the work, wit, time, pen, paper, and ink.

Verse has not yet reached its highest point:

I know that myself: or anyone who has tried,

before now, to speak or write of love.

He who can think, should silently value truth,

that exceeds all styles, and then sigh:

‘Blessed are those eyes that saw her living.’

310. ‘Zephiro torna, e’l bel tempo rimena’

Zephyr returns and brings fair weather,

and the flowers and herbs, his sweet family,

and Procne singing and Philomela weeping,

and the white springtime, and the vermilion.

The meadows smile, and the skies grow clear:

Jupiter is joyful, gazing at his daughter:

the air and earth and water are filled with love:

every animal is reconciled to loving.

But to me, alas, there return the heaviest

sighs that she draws from the deepest heart,

who took the keys of it away to heaven:

and the song of little birds, and the flowering fields,

and the sweet, virtuous actions of women

are a wasteland to me, of bitter and savage creatures.

311. ‘Quel rosignol, che sí soave piagne,’

That nightingale who weeps so sweetly,

perhaps for his brood, or his dear companion,

fills the sky and country round with sweetness

with so many piteous, bright notes,

and it seems all night he stays beside me,

and reminds me of my harsh fate:

for I have no one to grieve for but myself,

who believed that Death could not take a goddess.

Oh how easy it is to cheat one who feels safe!

Who would have ever thought to see two lights,

clearer than the sun, make earth darken?

Now I know that my fierce fate

wishes me to learn, as I live and weep:

nothing that delights us here is lasting.

312. ‘Né per sereno ciel ir vaghe stelle,’

Not the stars that wander the calm sky,

nor ships scattered over the peaceful sea,

nor armoured knights crossing the field,

nor bright slender creatures among the trees:

nor fresh news of some hoped-for good

nor words of love in high and ornate style,

nor among clear fountains and green grass

the sweet singing of lovely virtuous women:

nor anything at all can touch the heart,

she buried with her in that sepulchre,

who was sole light and mirror to my eyes.

It pains me to live so heavily and long

who call for death, in my great desire, again,

to see one it were better never to have seen.

313. ‘Passato è ’l tempo omai, lasso, che tanto’

The time is past, alas, now, when I found

coolness in the very midst of fire:

she is past, for whom I wrote and wept,

but leaves me still with pen and weeping.

The face is past, so gracious and so holy,

but as she passed her sweet eyes pierced my heart:

the heart once mine, that followed her in passing

that she had wrapped in her lovely mantle.

She took it beneath the earth, into the sky

where she triumphs now, wreathed in the laurel,

that her pure chastity was worthy of.

If only I too could be with her, set free from this,

the mortal veil that holds me here by force, be

without a sigh, there, among spirits that are blessed!

314. ‘Mente mia, che presaga de’ tuoi damni,’

My mind, you foresaw the harm to come,

already pensive, sad, in happy times,

intently seeking in that beloved sight,

continually, for your future trouble:

by her actions, words, face, dress,

her fresh pity mingled with sadness,

warned by all this, could you not have said:

‘This is the last day of the sweet years.’

O wretched soul, what sweetness it was!

How we burned at the moment when I saw

those eyes that I might never see again,

when, in parting, to guard that noblest body,

like two most faithful friends, I left with them

my dearest thoughts, and my heart!

315. ‘Tutta la mia fiorita et verde etade’

All my green and flowering time was past,

and I felt the fire that burned my heart

already cooling, since I had reached

the place where life descends its final slope.

Already little by little my dear enemy

was beginning to feel more free

of all suspicion, and her sweet virtue

had turned my bitter pain to joy.

The time was near when Love meets

Chastity, and to lovers it is given

to sit together, and talk face to face.

Death was envious of my happy state,

or rather my hopes: and rode midway

to the encounter, like a well-armed enemy.

316. ‘Tempo era omai da trovar pace o triegua’

It was time now after such a war, to make

a peace or truce: perhaps it was in the making,

if he, who renders equal all that’s unequal,

had not turned back my happy footsteps:

as a mist is scattered by the wind,

so her life suddenly was past,

she who’d guided me with her lovely eyes,

whom I must follow now in thought alone.

Peace would have happened soon, I, altering

my manner with the years and my hair: and then

no suspicion for her when I spoke of my pain.

I’d have talked with true sighs of my

long trouble, that I’m certain now she

sees from heaven, grieving with me still!

317. ‘Tranquillo porto avea mostrato Amore’

Love had shown me a tranquil harbour

after my long dark storm, among the years

of the age of true maturity, that banish vice,

and dress themselves in virtue and honour.

Already my heart shone clear to her lovely eyes,

and my deep loyalty no longer vexed her.

Ah, cruel Death, how quick you were to spoil

the fruit of so many years in a few short hours!

If she were only living I’d have laid down

the ancient burden of my sweet thoughts,

speaking them to those chaste ears:

and she perhaps would have replied to me

with some sacred words, in sighing,

both of our faces altered, and our hair.

318. ‘Al cader d’una pianta che si svelse’

At the fall of a tree that was levelled

like one that steel or storm uproots,

scattering its highest leaves on the ground,

showing its wretched roots to the sun,

I saw another that Love chose for object,

a subject in me for Calliope and Euterpe:

that wound around my heart, as its true home,

as ivy twines around a trunk, or wall.

That living laurel, where my highest thoughts

made their nest, though my burning sighs,

never moved a leaf of those branches,

translated to the sky, has left its roots

in its faithful home, where one still calls

in heavy metres, with no one to reply.

Note: The first tree is Laura, the second her image in his verse. Calliope was the muse of epic, and Euterpe of lyric, poetry: Petrarch implying that his love was both lyrical and epic in the context of his life.

The Nine Muses: Calliope, Hendrick Goltzius

‘The Nine Muses: Calliope’ - Hendrick Goltzius (Dutch, 1558 - 1617), The Yale University Art Gallery

319. ‘I dí miei piú leggier’ che nesun cervo,’

These days of mine, faster than a hind,

fly like shadows, and I have seen no more good

than an eye-wink, and few are the calm hours,

whose bitterness and sweetness I keep in mind.

Wretched world, violent and changeable,

wholly blind is he who sets his hopes on you:

my heart was stolen away from you, and now is taken

by one who is already earth, and looses sinew from bone.

But the better form of her that lives, still,

and lives forever, in the high heavens,

makes me more in love now with all her beauties:

and I see, only in thought, as my hair whitens,

what she is today, and in what place she is,

and what it was to see her graceful veil.

320. ‘Sento l’aura mia enticha, e i dolci colli’

I feel the ancient breeze, and see sweet hills

appear, where the lovely light was born

that held these eyes of mine while heaven pleased,

with longing and delight, now tears and sadness.

O fallen hopes: O foolish thoughts!

The grass is widowed and the water clouded,

cold and void the nest she dwelt in,

where I wished to live, and once dead rest,

hoping, after the sweet weeping

and the lovely eyes, that torched my heart,

for some repose after such toil.

I served a mean and cruel lord:

and burned when my fire was before me,

now I go weeping for her scattered dust.

321. ‘É questo ’l nido in che la mia fenice’

Is this the nest in which my phoenix

spread her gold and purple plumage,

she who held my heart beneath her wing,

and from it still elicits words and sighs?

O the first root of my sweet ills,

where is the lovely face, living and joyful

from which that light came that set me burning?

You, unique on earth, are happy in heaven.

And you have left me wretched and alone,

so that grief-filled I always turn to honour

and adorn that place that you made sacred:

seeing night darkening round the hills

from which you took your final flight,

where those eyes of yours once made it day.

322. ‘Mai non vedranno le mie luci asciutte’

I’ll never see those verses where Love

seems to blaze, those Pity has created

with her own hand, with dry eyes,

or with the slightest peace of mind.

Spirit, unconquered on the grieving earth,

who now distil such sweetness from heaven,

who re-conduct my erring verses

to that style that Death interrupted:

I thought to show you further labours

from my tender leaves: but what cruel planet

envied us being together, O my noble treasure?

Who hides you from me, too soon, and denies you

you whom I see in my heart, honour with my tongue,

you in whom, sighing sweetly, the soul finds rest?

323. ‘Standomi un giorno solo a la fenestra,’

One day, standing alone at my window,

from which I saw so many novel things,

I was almost weary merely from gazing,

I saw a wild creature appear from my right,

with human features enough to make Jove burn,

hunted by two hounds, one white, one black:

that gnawed the two flanks

of that gentle creature so fiercely

that in no time at all it led to such a pass,

that she was enclosed by stone,

bitter death had conquered great beauty:

and I was left sighing at her harsh fate.

Then I saw a ship in the deep ocean,

with silken ropes, and golden sails,

the rest equal to ivory and ebony:

the sea was calm, and the breeze was gentle,

and the sky as when no cloud veils it,

and she carried a rich cargo of virtue:

then a sudden tempest

from the east churned air and waves,

so that the ship foundered on a reef.

Oh what a heavy sadness!

A brief hour conquered, a small space hid,

that noble treasure without a peer.

In a fresh grove, the sacred branches

of a laurel flowered, young and slender,

it seemed a tree of paradise:

and such sweet singing of varied birds

issued from its shade, such noble joy,

that I was lifted above this world:

and gazing intently,

the sky altered all round, and darkened,

lightning struck, and suddenly

that happy plant

was torn up by its roots: so my life is saddened,

since I cannot ask for such another shade.

In that same grove a crystal fountain sprang

from beneath a stone, and sprinkled

sweet fresh water, murmuring gently:

no shepherd or flocks ever approached

that lovely place, secret, shadowy and dark,

but nymphs and Muses singing to its tones:

there I sat: and while

I absorbed the sweetness of that harmony,

and of the sight, I saw a cave yawn wide,

and carry with it

the fountain and its site: so I feel the grief,

and the memory alone dismays me.

I saw a strange phoenix, both its wings

clothed in crimson, and its head with gold,

solitary and alone in the wood,

I first thought its form heavenly and immortal

to the sight, till it reached the uprooted laurel,

and the fountain that the earth had swallowed:

all things fly towards their end:

seeing the leaves scattered on the ground,

and the broken trunk, and that dry spring,

it turned its beak on itself,

almost disdainfully, and in a moment vanished:

so that my heart burns with pity and love.

Lastly I saw a lovely graceful lady

go pensive among the flowers and grass,

so I can’t think of her without burning, trembling:

humble in herself, she was proud before Love:

and she had on so white a gown,

so woven it seemed gold mixed with snow:

but the crown of her head

was hidden by a dark mist:

then, stung by a little snake in the heel,

she bowed like a flower when picked,

glad and confident to depart.

Ah, nothing but weeping lasts in this world!

Song, you might well say:

‘These visions have given

my lord a sweet desire to die.’

Note: Laura reputedly died of the Black Death, in 1348, the plague being the ‘storm from the East.’

The Plague on the Island of Aegina, Matthijs Pool

‘The Plague on the Island of Aegina’ - Matthijs Pool (German, 1696 - 1727), The Rijksmuseum

324. ‘Amor, quando fioria’

Love, when my hope

was flowering, the reward for great loyalty,

she, whose mercy I waited for, was taken from me.

Ah, pitiless death, ah cruel life!

One plunged me in grief,

and bitterly quenched my hopes:

the other holds me here against my will,

and she who has gone

I cannot follow: she will not let me.

But, in every moment, my lady

is seated in the centre of my heart,

and what my life is now, she sees.

325. ‘Tacer non posso, et temo non adopre’

I can’t be silent, yet I fear to use

my tongue lest it contradicts my heart,

though it wishes to do honour

to its lady listening from heaven.

How can I, unless you teach me, Love,

how to match mortal words to things

divine, that high humility

conceals, and gathers to itself?

Her gentle soul had only been, a little while

within that prison she’s now freed from,

at that time when I first saw her:

so that I suddenly ran,

since it was spring of the year and my life,

to gather flowers in the fields around,

hoping, so adorned, to please her eyes.

The walls were alabaster, the roof of gold,

the entrance ivory, the windows sapphires,

from which the first sigh

came to my heart, and the last shall come:

from there Love’s armed messengers issued

with fire and arrows, so that I,

crowned with laurel,

tremble to recall it, as if it were today,.

Made from cut diamond, never flawed,

a noble throne was seen within,

where the lovely lady sat alone:

in front a crystal

column, and all her thoughts there

written, and shining from it so clearly,

it made me joyful, and often full of sighs.

I found myself met with piercing, eager, bright

weapons, with the victorious green banner,

against which in the field

Jove, Apollo, Polyphemus, Mars, were lost,

whose tears are always fresh and green,

and no hope of aid for me, and taken,

I let myself be led

where I know no way or art to free myself.

But like a man who sometimes weeps, and yet

sees something that delights his eyes and heart,

so I began to gaze with like desire

at her, for whom I am in prison,

she standing on a balcony,

and the sole perfect creature of her age,

so that I and my ills were lost in oblivion.

I was on earth, and my heart in paradise,

sweetly forgetting every other care,

and felt my living form

become a statue petrified by wonder,

when a lady, swift and confident,

of mature years, and youthful face,

seeing me so intent,

by the action of my brow and eyes, said:

‘Take counsel from me, I say, take counsel,

for I have greater powers than you know:

and create joy or sadness in a moment,

more swiftly than the wind,

and rule and watch while the world turns.

Hold your eyes steady like an eagle on the sun:

while you listen to my words.

The day that she was born, the planets

that produce happy effects among you

were in a special and noble array,

turned to each other in love:

Venus, and Jupiter of benign aspect,

took a lovely and auspicious place,

and the evil, harmful lights

were scattered over almost all the sky.

The sun had never shone on so fair a day:

the air and earth rejoiced, and the waves

in the seas and rivers were at rest.

Among so many friendly stars,

one distant cloud displeased me:

which I fear will melt away in tears

if Pity does not nobly change heaven’s course.

When she entered this low earthly life,

which, to tell the truth, was not worthy of her,

a new sight to see,

already saintly, and sweet yet bitter,

she seemed a fine white pearl enclosed in gold:

then as she crawled, then took faltering steps,

wood, water, earth, and stone

grew green, clear, soft, and the grass

proud and new under her hands and feet,

and made the fields flower with her lovely eyes,

and quietened the winds and the storm

with a voice still not formed,

with a tongue still wet with her mother’s milk:

showing clearly to the deaf, blind world

how much of heaven’s light was already in her.

When she grew in age and virtue,

in her youth’s later flowering,

such grace and beauty

was never seen, I think, under the sun:

her eyes filled with joy and virtue,

her speech with sweetness and welcome.

All tongues are mute,

to say of her what you alone know.

So bright is her face with celestial rays,

your gaze cannot stay fixed on her:

and your heart is so full of fire

with her lovely earthly prison,

that no one ever burned so sweetly:

but it seems to me her swift departing

will soon be a cause of bitter days for you.’

This said, she turned to her fickle wheel

with which she spins the thread of our life,

the sad and certain prophetess of my doom:

for, my Song, after not many years,

she through whom I hunger so for death,

cruel and bitter Death extinguished,

who could not find a lovelier one to kill.

326. ‘Or ài fatto l’extremo di tua possa,’

Now you have done the worst that you can,

O cruel Death: now you’ve impoverished

Love’s kingdom: now the flower and light

of beauty is quenched, and shut in a little earth:

now you’ve despoiled our life, and stripped it

of all adornment, and the sovereign of his virtue:

but her fame and worth that can never die

are not in your power: dwell in her bones:

since the nobler part’s in heaven, and her brightness

like a lovelier sun, makes joyful and glorifies,

and by the good on earth is always remembered.    

May your heart, there, be conquered,

new angel, in victory, by pity for me,

as your beauty here conquered me.

327. ‘L’aura et l’odore e ’l refrigerio et l’ombra’

The breeze, the scent, the coolness and the shade

of the sweet laurel and its flowering aspect,

a lamp, and resting place for my weary life,

he who empties the world has wholly taken.

As the sun whom his sister eclipses for us,

so my noble light has vanished,

I beg Death to aid me against Death,

love has so overwhelmed me with dark thought.

Lovely lady, you have slept a brief sleep:

now you have woken among blessed spirits,

where the soul enters into its Maker:

and if my verses have any power,

your name, sacred among noble minds,

will become an eternal memory down here.

328. ‘L’ultimo, lasso, de’ miei giorno allegri,’

Alas, the last of my happy days,

I’ve seen so few of in this brief life,

was done, and made my heart wet snow,

an omen perhaps of sad, dark days.

I felt like someone sick in vein and pulse

and thoughts, attacked by local fever,

not knowing then how swiftly the end

of my imperfect happiness would come.

The lovely eyes, joyful and bright in heaven

in that light from which life and salvation flow,

leaving me in sadness and poverty,

said to mine, with a new lovely glimmer:

‘O dear friends, be at peace. There,

no more, but elsewhere we shall meet.’

329. ‘O giorno, o hora, o ultimo momento,’

O day, O hour, O ultimate moment,

O stars conspiring to impoverish me!

O loyal gaze, what did you wish to tell me,

as I departed, never to be content?

Now I know my hurt, now I feel it:

who hoped (ah, hope weak and vain)

to lose a part, not all, in departing:

what hopes are blown away by the wind!

Already heaven had willed the opposite,

to quench the kindly light that gave me life,

and it was written in her sweet bitter look:

but a veil was placed before my eyes,

that made me fail to see what I had seen,

so that my life was suddenly made sad.

330. ‘Quel vago, dolce, caro, honesto sguardo’

That loving, sweet, dear, virtuous gaze

seemed to say: ‘Take of me what you can,

since you’ll never see me here again,

when you’ve once moved those feet, slow to go.’

Intellect, swifter than the leopard,

yet slow to anticipate your grief, why

did you not see in her eyes what you

see now, that burns and consumes me?

Silently gleaming beyond their custom,

they said: ‘O friendly eyes that for so long

and with such sweetness made us your mirror,

heaven waits for us: to you it seems too early:

but he who tied the knot, here, dissolves it,

and wills that you, to grieve you, grow older.’

331. ‘Solea de la Fontana di mia vita’

I used to wander far from the fountain

of my life, and search land and sea,

not as I wished, but following my star:

and always as I went, Love aided me,

in those exiles where bitterness is seen,

feeding my heart on hope and memory.

Now alas, I lift my hands in surrender

to my evil and violent destiny

that deprives me of that sweet hope.

Only memory is left,

and I feed desire on that alone:

so the soul might be less weak and lean.

As a runner on the way, if he lacks food,

is forced to slow his course,

losing the strength that gave him speed,

so, lacking dear nourishment

in my weary life, and bitten by death

that denuded the world and saddened my heart,

sweet bitterness, and lovely painful pleasure

so alter me from hour to hour, that I hope

and fear I will not complete the brief road.

I escape being a cloud or dust in the wind,

in order to no longer be a wanderer:

and so be it, if death is my fate.

But this mortal life never pleased me

(as Love knows with whom I often speak)

except through her who was his light and mine:

and since that spirit through whom I lived,

dying on earth, was reborn in heaven, the height

of my longing is (and let it be!) to follow her.

But it always grieved me deeply, since

I was unable to foresee my state,

that Love showed it me in those lovely eyes

to give me noble counsel:

for some have died disconsolate and sad,

who earlier might have died in blessedness.

In those eyes where my heart used to live

till my harsh fate became invidious,

and banished it from so rich a dwelling,

Love had described, with his own hand

in words of pity, what would happen

soon to my desire, so long on its journey.

It would have been a sweet and lovely death

if in dying my life had not died wholly,

rather I’d gone on living as my better part:

now my hopes are scattered

by Death, and a little earth weighs down my good:

and I live on: and never think of it without fear.

If my little intellect had stayed with me,

when needed, and other desires had not

sent it straying on another road,

I might have read in my lady’s look:

‘You’ve reached the end of all your sweetness

and the beginning of your great bitterness.’

Understanding that, sweetly freed

in her lifetime from my mortal veil

and this harmful burden of the flesh,

I might have gone before her,

to see her throne prepared in heaven:

now I follow after, with whitened hair.

Song, if you find a man at peace with love,

say: ‘Die while you’re happy,

since early death is no grief, but a refuge:

and he who can die well, should not delay.’

332. ‘Mia benigna fortuna e ’l viver lieto,’ (Double Sestina)

My kindly fate, and a life made happy,

the clear days, and the tranquil nights,

the gentle sighs, and the sweet style

that alone sounded in my verse and rhyme,

suddenly changed to grief and weeping,

making me hate my life, and long for death.

Cruel, bitter, and inexorable Death,

you give me reason never to be happy,

but to live my life instead with weeping,

darkened days, and the saddened nights.

My heavy sighs will not go into rhyme,

and my harsh pain defeats every style.

What has become of my loving style?

It speaks of anger, it reasons about death.

Where are the verses, where is the rhyme,

the gentle thoughtful heart heard, and was happy:

where are the tales of love these many nights?

Now I talk and think of nothing but weeping.

Once my desire so sweetened my weeping,

it touched with sweetness all my sour style,

and kept me awake through the long nights:

now the weeping’s more bitter to me than death,

hoping no more for that glance, chaste and happy,

the noble subject of my lowly rhyme.

Love set a clear theme for my rhyme:

those lovely eyes, but now my weeping,

remembering with grief times that were happy:

so that I change my thoughts and my style,

and pray to you again, pallid Death,

to rescue me from such painful nights.

He has fled from me these cruel nights,

so have the usual sounds from my hoarse rhyme,

that knows no other theme than death,

so that my singing changes to weeping.

Love’s kingdom has no more varied style

that is as sad now as ever it was happy.

No one alive has ever been so happy,

no one lives more sadly these days and nights:

and he doubles the grief, in a double style

who draws from the heart such sad rhyme.

I lived on hope, now I live by weeping,

and have no hope against Death, but Death.

Death has killed me, and only Death

can make me see that face again, so happy

that the sighs pleased me and the weeping,

the sweet breeze, and the rain of nights,

while I wove choice thoughts in rhyme,

Love elevating my weak style.

Now if I had so pity-inducing a style

that I could bring my Laura back from Death,

as Orpheus did Eurydice, without rhyme,

then I would live, and be still more happy!

If it cannot be, one of these nights

will close for ever my two founts of weeping.

Love, I’ve had many years, and much weeping

about my grave ills in the saddest style,

nor from you do I ever hope for kinder nights:

and so I’m moved to pray to Death

to take me from here, and make me happy,

to where she is, whom I sing and weep in rhyme.

If it can rise so high, in weary rhyme,

to reach her who’s beyond pain and weeping,

and with her beauty makes heaven happy,

she’ll understand my altered style,

which pleased her perhaps before Death

brightened her day, and brought me dark night.

Oh you who sigh for easier nights,

who hear of Love or speak of him in rhyme,

pray he’ll no longer be deaf to me, sweet Death,

refuge from misery and end of weeping:

that he’ll change for once his ancient style,

that makes men sad, and could make me happy.

He could make me happy in a single night:

and, in harsh style and in anguished rhyme,

I pray my weeping will end in death.

333. ‘Ite, rime dolenti, al duro sasso’

My sad verse, go to the harsh stone

that hides my precious treasure in the earth,

call to her there, she will reply from heaven,

though her mortal part is in a low, dark place.

Say to her I’m already tired of living,

of navigating through these foul waves:

but gathering up the scattered leaves,

step by step, like this, I follow her,

only I go speaking of her, living and dead,

yet alive, and made immortal now,

so that the world can know of her, and love her.

Let it please her to watch for my passing,

that is near now: let us meet together, and her

draw me, and call me, to what she is in heaven.

334. ‘S’omesto amor pò meritar mercede,’

If honest love can merit a reward,

and Mercy still can do as she used to do,

I’ll be rewarded, since my loyalty,

to my lady and the world, is clear as the sun.

She was afraid of me, now she knows

(not merely believes) that what I wish now

is what I always wished: then she heard words

or saw my look, now she sees my heart and mind.

And I hope at last she grieves in heaven,

at my endless sighs, and so it seems,

turning towards me so full of pity:

and I hope that when my remains are buried

she’ll come for me, with those of our people,

she, the true friend of Christ and Virtue.

335. ‘Vide fra mille donne una già tale,’

Among a thousand ladies I saw one,

such that a loving fear assailed my heart,

as I gazed, with no false imagining,

at one equal in looks to a heavenly spirit.

Nothing about her was earthly or mortal,

as though she cared only for heavenly things.

My soul so often burning for her and freezing,

longing to fly to her, opened both its wings.

But she flew too high for my earthly weight,

and in a little while was nowhere to be seen:

thinking of it still makes me frozen, numb.

Oh lovely, noble, and gleaming windows,

through which he who saddens many people

found a way to enter so lovely a form!

336. ‘Tornami a la mente, anzi v’è dentro, quella’

She comes to mind, rather is already there,

she who cannot even be banished by Lethe,

such as I saw here in the flower of her years,

all burning with the rays of her planet.

I see her, lovely and chaste, as if at our first

meeting, gathered in herself, and so distant,

that I cry: ‘It is truly her: she is still alive.’

and beg the gift of her of her sweet tongue.

Sometimes she answers, sometimes not a word.

Like a man who errs, and then sees clearly,

I say in my mind: ‘You are deceived about her.

Know that in thirteen hundred and forty eight,

on the sixth day of April, in the first hour,

that soul, so blessed, issued from its body.’

337. ‘Quel, che d’odore et di color vincea’

That which in scent and colour overcame

the fragrant and the shining Orient,

fruit, flowers, grass, and leaves (in which

the West has the prize for all rare excellence),

my sweet laurel, where every beauty

used to live, every burning virtue,

saw my lord, and my goddess,

seated in its virtuous shade.

More, I placed the nest of choicest thought

in that kindly tree: and in fire and ice

I trembled, burning, I was so happy.

This world was filled with her perfect worth,

when God reclaimed her to adorn the heavens:

and she was a being sent from Him.

338. ‘Lasciato ài, Morte, senza sole il mondo’

Death, you have left the world without a sun

dark and cold, Love blind and unarmed,

Graciousness naked, and Beauty ill,

me disconsolate, with my heavy burden,

Courtesy banned, and Honesty in the deep.

I alone grieve, but not only I have cause,

that the brightest seed of virtue’s gone:

with the first value quenched, where is there another?

The air, and earth, and sea should weep

for the human race, that without her

is a field without flowers, a ring with no gem.

The world did not know her while she lived:

I knew, I who am left to my weeping,

and Heaven, so beautified by her I weep for.

339. ‘Conobbi, quanto il ciel li occhi m’aperse,’

I knew, when Heaven opened my eyes,

when I learnt and Love unfurled my wings,

new gracious things, but mortal,

that the stars showered on one alone:

the rest of her was so other, so various

in form, noble, heavenly and immortal,

that my intellect was all unequal to it,

my weak sight could not endure it.

And whatever I have said of her or written,

so that now for that praise she prays to God

for me, was a little drop in an infinite ocean:

because our style cannot rise beyond our wit:

and when a man fixes his eyes on the sun,

the brighter it shines the less that he can see.

340. ‘Dolce mio caro et precïoso pegno,’

My sweet, dear and precious pledge

that nature took from me, and Heaven guards,

ah why is your mercy so slow to reach me,

that used to sustain my very life?

Once my sleep at least was worthy

of seeing you, but now you let me burn

without cool relief: and who delays you?

Surely no anger or disdain exists up there:

though here, in truth, a deeply pitying heart

sometimes feeds on others torments,

so that Love’s defeated in his own kingdom.

You who see within me, and feel my ills,

and who alone can end such sadness,

ease my sorrows with your shade.

341. ‘Deh qual pietà, qual angel fu sí presto’

Ah what mercy, what angel was so swift

to carry my grief to the heavens? I feel

my lady turn to me still, as before,

in that sweet chaste way of hers,

so filled with humility, empty of pride,

to ease my wretched and gloomy heart,

so that in short I turn away from death,

and live, and living no longer hurts me.

Blessed be her who can bless others

with sight of her, more so with words,

understood by the two of us alone:

‘My faithful friend, I grieve with you,

but I was harsh only for our own good.’

this she said, and other things to halt the sun.

342. ‘Del cibo onde ’l signor mio sempre abonda,’

I feed my weary heart on that food,

sorrow and grief, in which my lord abounds,

and often I tremble, and often turn pale,

thinking of my deep and bitter wound.

But she, who in her life had no rival,

comes to the bed where I languish,

so that it’s pain to me to dare to look,

and with pity she sits on the edge.

She dries my eyes, with that hand that roused

such desire in me, and with her words

brings sweetness never felt by mortal man:

‘What point in knowledge, I say, that brings distress?

No more weeping: have you not wept enough?

Now you might live, since I am not dead!’

343. ‘Ripensando a quell, ch’oggi il cielo honora,’

Thinking of her, who now honours Heaven,

the gentle glance, the bowing head of gold,

the face, the voice of angelic modesty

that sweetened my life, and now grieves me,

I find it a great wonder that I still live:

nor would I be living if she who made us doubt

whether she was more lovely or more virtuous,

was not quick to rescue me, towards dawn.

O how sweet, and chaste, and kind her greeting:

and how intently she listens and takes note

of the long story of my pain!

Then when the clear daylight seems to strike her,

she returns to Heaven, knowing every path,

and her eyes and both her cheeks are wet.

344. ‘Fu forse un tempo dolce cosa amore,’

Love was once a sweet thing perhaps,

I don’t know when: now it’s so bitter,

nothing more so: he knows it well who knows

how heavy it has made me with my grief.

She who was the glory of our age, and now

of Heaven, that she all adorns and brightens,

made rest brief and rare for me, in her life:

and now has taken all repose from me.

Cruel Death has stolen all my good:

nor can the great bliss of her freed

lovely spirit comfort me in my dark state.

I wept and sang: not knowing how to change

my verse, but day and night I welcomed grief

to my soul, pouring it from my tongue and eyes.

345. ‘Spinse amor et dolor ove ir non debbe’

Love and grief drove my tongue astray

where it should not go, in its lamenting,

to say of her, for whom I sang and burned,

that which, even if true, would be wrong:

her blessedness should calm my sad state,

and console my heart, seeing her

so at home with Him who was

always in her heart when she was living.

And I do calm and comfort myself:

not wishing to see her in this inferno,

wishing rather to die or live alone:

whom I have seen in the mind’s eye lovelier

than ever, flying, on high with the angels,

to the feet of her, and my, eternal Lord.

346. ‘Li angeli electi et l’anime beate’

The angels elect and the blessed spirits,

citizens of heaven, surrounded my lady,

filled with wonderment and reverence,

on that first day she passed beyond us.

‘What light is this, and what new beauty?’

they said amongst themselves, ‘since in all this age

no dress so adorned has ever risen

to this high place, out of the sinful world.’

She is a paragon to those most perfect spirits,

happy to have changed her residence,

and then from time to time she turns,

looking to see if I am following her, and seems to wait:

so that all my thoughts and desires yearn towards heaven

since I hear her praying for me to hasten there.

347. ‘Donna che lieta col Principio nostro’

Lady, who dwell now, with our Creator,

happily, as your virtuous life deserved,

seated on a noble, glorious throne, adorned

with more than purple robes and pearls,

O high and rare prodigy among women,

you see my love, before the face of Him

who sees all things, and that pure faith

for which such tears and ink were shed:

and know that my heart was yours on earth

as much as now, in heaven, and I never wished

for anything from you but your eyes’ sun:

so as to make amends for the long war

in which I turned to you only, from the world,

pray that I soon may come to dwell with you.

348. ‘Da’ piú belli occhi, et dal piú chiaro viso’

From lovelier eyes, and from a brighter glance,

than ever shone, and from lovelier hair,

that made gold and the sun seem less lovely,

from a sweeter speech, and sweeter smile,

from hands, from arms that conquered,

without moving, those who were ever most

rebellious in Love, from lovelier slender feet,

from the whole form made in Paradise,

my spirit took its life: now Heaven’s King

and his winged messengers take delight:

and I who remain am naked and blind.

I have only one comfort in my bitter pain:

that she, who sees my every thought,

may win me grace, so I may be with her.

349. ‘E’ mi par d’or in hora udire il messo’

From time to time I seem to hear that messenger

that my lady sends, calling me to her:

so I alter inside and outside myself,

and in not so many years am so humbled,

that I almost fail to recognise myself:

all my old ways of living are banished.

I’d be content if I knew the moment when

I must go, but certainly the time is near.

O happy the day, when, issuing from this

earthly prison, leaving my weak, and heavy,

and mortal dress broken and scattered,

departing from such dense shadows,

flying so far into the blue serene,

I’ll see my Lord, and that lady of mine.

350. ‘Questo nostro caduco et fragil bene,’

This fragile and fallen good of ours,

this wind and shadow, Beauty by name,

was never, at least not in our age, complete

except in one body, and that was to my pain:

since Nature does not wish, nor is it fitting,

to make one rich, by impoverishing others:

yet all its wealth was everywhere in her

(pardon me you who are lovely, or think so).

There was never such beauty, ancient or modern,

nor will be, I believe: but so concealed

the world in error hardly noticed it.

She left us soon: and I am glad to lose

that little glimpse of her that heaven gave me,

only to take more pleasure in her sacred light.

351. ‘Dolci durezze, et placide repulse,’

Sweet harshness, and quiet rejection,

full of chaste love and sympathy:

gracious disdain, that (now I realise)

tempered my foolish and inflamed desire,

gentle speech, in which the height of courtesy

and the height of honesty shone together:

flower of virtue, fountain of beauty,

that uprooted all base thoughts from my heart:

a divine glance to make a man happy,

now fiercely reigning-in the eager mind

from what is rightly disapproved of,

now quick to comfort my frail life:

that lovely variety was the root

of my salvation, which else was far away.

352. ‘Spirto felice che sí dolcemente’

Happy spirit that glanced so sweetly

from those eyes, brighter than the sun,

and formed the sighs and speech,

so alive they still echo in my mind:

I once saw you, burning with virtue’s fire,

moving your feet among the grass and flowers,

not like a woman, but as the angels do,

a form that is more vivid to me than ever:

which you then left on earth, the sweet veil

that came to you at birth by high destiny,

in order to return to your Maker.

At your parting, Love and Courtesy departed

from the world, the sun fell from the sky

and death itself began to seem so sweet.

353. ‘Vago augelleto che cantando vai,’

Little wandering bird that goes singing

your time gone by, with weeping notes,

seeing the night and the winter near,

and the day and all the joyful months behind,

if, knowing your own heavy sorrows,

you could know of my state like your own,

you would fly to this disconsolate breast

to share your grievous sadness with me.

I cannot say our measures would be equal,

since perhaps the one you cry for still has life,

which in my case Death and heaven have denied:

but the fading season and the hour,

with the memory of sweet years and bitter,

invite me to speak to you, of pity.

354. ‘Deh porgi mano a l’affannato ingegno,’

Love, give your help to my troubled mind,

and my labouring and feeble pen,

to speak of her who is made immortal,

a citizen of the heavenly kingdom:

grant me, my lord, with my speech to hit

the target in praising her, as it could not alone,

since there’s no virtue or beauty in the world

that she is not worthy of possessing.

He replies: ‘Whatever heaven and I can give,

and good counsel and honest converse,

was all in her, whom death deprived us of.

No form was equal to hers since the day Adam

first opened his eyes: and now let this be enough:

I say it weeping, and weeping you must write.’

355. ‘O tempo, o ciel volubil, che fuggendo’

O time, O fickle sky, that flickers by,

deceiving blind and miserable mortals,

O days swifter than arrows or the wind,

now from experience I know your guile:

but I excuse you, and blame myself,

since Nature unfurled your wings for flight,

gave eyes to me, and I held them fixed

on my ills, from which came grief and shame.

And I know the hour: it’s already past,

for turning towards a more secure place,

and putting an end to infinite pain:

the soul does not leave your yoke, Love,

but its own ills: with what labour you know:

virtue comes not by chance, but by true art.

356. ‘L’aura mia sacra al mio stanco riposo’

My sacred breeze so often breathes

on my weary rest, that I take courage

to tell her of the ills I felt and feel, as,

had she lived, I would not have dared to do.

I begin with that loving glance,

which was the start of this long torment,

then follow with how love gnaws me,

wretched or content, day by day, hour by hour.

She is silent, and gazes at me intently,

the picture of pity: sighing at times,

her face adorned by virtuous tears:

so that my mind overcome with grief,

angered with itself, because of her weeping,

returns to itself, shaken from sleep.

357. ‘Ogni giorno mi par piú di mill’anni’

Every day seems a thousand years to me

following my dear and faithful guide,

who led me, in the world, and now leads me,

a better way, to the life without trouble:

and I cannot be detained by the deceits

of this world, that I know: and such light

shines into my heart at last from heaven,

I begin to count my losses and the days.

Nor do I need to fear the threat of death,

since the King suffered much greater pain

to make me follow firmly and with courage:

and now it has newly entered every vein

of her who was granted me by fate,

yet did not trouble her serene brow.

358. ‘Non pò far Morte il dolce viso amaro,’

Death cannot make that sweet face bitter,

but her sweet face can make Death sweet.

What better guide do I need to dying?

She shows me that from which I learn all good:

and He who was not sparing of His blood,

who with his foot shattered the gates of Hell,

seems by His dying to comfort me.

So come, Death: your coming is dear to me.

And don’t delay, now is the right time:

unless it had come at that point in time

when my lady passed from this life.

I’ve not been alive one day since then:

I was hers in life, and hers to the end,

and, with her footsteps, my days are gone.

359. ‘Quando il soave mio fido conforto’

When my gentle faithful comforter

to grant some peace to my weary life,

settles herself on the left edge of my bed,

with her sweet wise reasoning,

I grow pale at her pity and my fear,

saying: ‘O happy soul, where have you come from?’

She takes a little branch of palm

and one of laurel from her lovely breast,

and says: ‘From the serene

heavenly empyrean and those sacred places

I moved, and came alone, to bring solace.’

I thank her humbly in words and manner,

and then ask: ‘How did you know my state?’

And she replies: ‘The sad waves of weeping

with which you never seem to be sated,

and the breeze of sighs, reach heaven

through all of space, and trouble my peace:

it displeases you so greatly

that I have left this misery,

and reached a better life:

it should please you, if you loved me,

as much as you professed in words and looks.’

I reply: ‘I don’t weep other than for myself

who am left behind in darkness and torment,

certain always that you have leapt to heaven,

as if it were something I had seen nearby.

Why would God and Nature have set

so much virtue in a youthful heart,

if the eternal welcome

were not destined for your good deeds,

O rare spirit,

who lived nobly amongst us here,

and then suddenly flew to heaven?

But what can I do other than weep for ever,

wretched and alone, who am nothing without you?

I wish I had died at the breast or in my cradle

in order not to prove the temper of love!’

And she: ‘Why always weep and grieve yourself?

How much better to lift your wings from earth,

and weigh mortal things

more justly, and those sweet deceptive

words of yours,

and follow me, if you truly love me so,

pluck one of these branches today!’

Then I responded: ‘I wish to ask,

what do those two branches signify?’

And she: ‘You can answer that yourself,

you whose pen honours one more than others’ do:

the palm is victory, and I, still young,

conquered myself and the world: the laurel

signifies triumph, of which I’m worthy,

by grace of that Lord who gave me strength.

Now you, if other things weary you,

turn to Him, pray to him for help,

so we may be with Him at the end of your path.’

I say: ‘Is this the blonde hair, and the golden knot

that still ties me, and those lovely eyes

that were my sun?’ She says: ‘Don’t err

like a fool, nor speak or think that way.

I am a naked spirit, and delight myself in heaven:

what you look for is dust, and for many years,

but it is given to me to seem such

as will draw you from your trouble: and still

will be so, lovelier than ever,

dearer to you, as cruel and kind,

gaining together your salvation and mine.’

I weep: and she dries my face

with her hand, and then she sighs

sweetly, and speaks

words that might shatter stone:

and afterwards departs, along with sleep.

360 ‘Quel’antiquo mio dolce empio signore’

That ancient sweet cruel lord of mine

being summoned before the queen

who holds the divine place

in our being, seated in the head,

there, I present myself blind with grief,

and fear and horror, like gold

being refined in the fire,

like a man who fears death and begs for justice:

and I begin: ‘My lady, I set foot

when young in this kingdom,

in which I received only

anger and disdain: and the torments I suffered

here were such and so varied

that at last my infinite patience

was overcome, and I held life in contempt.

So that my life till now has been passed

in flame and pain: and how many worthy

honest roads I’ve scorned,

how many feasts, to serve this cruel flatterer!

And what wit has speech ready enough

to express my unhappy state,

and, since he is ungrateful to me,

so many grave and just complaints?

O little sweetness, much gall with him!

How much bitterness he added to my life

with his false sweetness

that drew me to the crowd of lovers!

So if I’m not mistaken, he was disposed

to raise me high above the earth:

and snatched away my peace and brought me war.

He has made me love God less

than I should, and care less for myself:

for a lady’s sake equally

he has made me careless of every thought.

In this he is my only counsellor

always sharpening my youthful desire

with a wicked edge, so that

I long for rest from his cruel and bitter yoke.

Wretch, why did heaven give me

this bright high wit, and my other gifts?

So that my hair is altering,

but I can’t alter my obstinate will:

so that this cruel one

I accuse robs me of my freedom,

and turns my bitter life to a sweet habit.

He has made me search out desert places,

fierce rapacious thieves, bristling thorns,

harsh peoples and customs,

and every error that traps the traveller,

hills, valleys, marshes, seas and rivers,

a thousand nets stretched out in every place:

winter in a strange month,

with present danger and fatigue:

neither he nor my other enemy

whom I fled, left me alone a single moment:

so if I’ve not yet met

a harsh and bitter death,

heavenly mercy has cared

for my salvation and not that tyrant

who feeds on my grief and my hurt.

So I have never had a peaceful hour from him,

nor hope to have, and sleep is banished

from my nights, and can’t be won

by herbs or magic incantations.

By force and deception he has been made lord

over my spirit: and no hourly bell has sounded

wherever I’ve been, in whatever town,

that I’ve not heard. He knows I speak the truth:

and no woodworm’s ever gnawed old wood

as he my heart, in which he nests,

and threatens me with death.

So the tears and suffering were born,

the words and sighs,

that weary me, and others too perhaps.

You judge, who know both me and him.’

My adversary speaks with bitterness,

saying; ‘O lady, hear the other side,

so that the truth, this ungrateful one

deviates from, is heard complete.

In his youth this man was given to the art

of selling words, or rather lies:

nor seemed to feel any shame,

snatched from that harm to my delight,

complaining of me, who kept him pure and clean,

against his will that often wished him ill,

now he grieves,

in this sweet life that he calls misery:

he leapt to fame of sorts

purely through me, who inspired his intellect

which he could never have inspired himself.

He knows that Agamemnon and noble Achilles

and Hannibal, bitter foe to your country,

and Scipio, the brightest star of all

in valour and destiny,

like men of ordinary fortune,

allowed themselves to love lowly servants:

while from a thousand

choice women, of excellence, I selected one,

whose like will not be seen beneath the moon,

though Lucretia were to return to Rome:

and I gave her such

sweet speech, so soft a singing voice,

that base or heavy thought

could not last long before her.

These were all my tricks against him.

This was the wormwood, the anger and disdain,

sweeter yet than any other’s all.

I gather evil fruit from good seed:

so are those who serve ingratitude rewarded.

I took him under my wing,

that ladies and knights were pleased with his words:

and made him rise

so high, that among keen and fervent wits

I made his name and his verses

celebrated, with delight, in every place:

who might have been a hoarse

mutterer now in this court, a common man:

I exalted him and made him known

for the things he learnt from her, and those I taught,

from her who was unique in this world.

And to explain my great service to him, complete,

I drew him back from a thousand dishonest actions,

he who could never now

be pleased with anything vile:

a reticent young man, modest in action

and thought, now he’s made a man ruled

by her so that her noble

traits stamp his heart, and make him like her.

What he has of the pilgrim and the nobleman

came from her, and me, whom he blames.

No nocturnal phantom

was ever to us as full of error as him:

who ever since he’s known us

has been blessed by God and man.

Of this the proud man laments and complains.

Yet, and this says it all, I gave him wings

to fly towards the heavens, by means

of those mortal things,

that are steps to the Maker, for he who values them:

and if he’d gazed intently at the number

and quality of virtues in that hope of his,

he could have been lifted by one

in another’s guise to the high Primal Cause.

and that he has often said in his rhymes.

Now he’s forgotten me, and that lady

who I gave him as a column

to support his fragile life.’ – At this I raise

a tearful cry, and shouted:

‘He gave me her, true, but took her back too soon.’

He replies: ‘Not I, but He took her to Himself.’

At last both speak to the Judge’s chair,

I with trembling, he with high cruel voice,

each concluding, for his part, with:

‘Noble Lady, I await your judgement.’

Then smilingly she says:

‘I am pleased to have heard your pleas,

but need more time for such a verdict.’

361. ‘Dicemi spesso il mio fidato speglio,’

Often my faithful mirror shows me

my weary spirit, and my altered skin,

and my weakened skill and strength, saying:

‘Don’t fool yourself any more: you are old.

Obedience to Nature in everything is better

than to contest time and power with her.’

Suddenly then, as water quenches fire,

I wake from a long and heavy sleep:

and see how truly our life flies

and we cannot be here more than once:

and her words echo deeply in my heart,

she who is freed now from the lovely knot,

but was unique in her age of the world,

and stole, if I do not err, all others’ fame.

362. ‘Volo con l’ali de’ pensieri al cielo’

I fly to heaven on wings of thought

so often that I seem to be one of those

whose whole treasure is there,

leaving its torn veil behind on earth.

My heart trembles sometimes with a sweet chill

hearing her, for whom I grow pale, say to me:

‘Friend, I can love you now and honour you,

because your life has altered with your hair.’

She leads me to her Lord: then I bow,

begging humbly that He consent

for me to stay and see both these faces.

He replies: ‘Your fate is already settled:

and to delay there still for twenty years or thirty,

might seem long to you, yet is but a moment.’

363. ‘Morte à spento quel sol ch’abagliar suolmi,’

Death has quenched the sun that dazzled me,

and those eyes are in the darkness, fixed, entire:

she is earth, who made me hot and cold:

my laurels are bare, like the oaks and elms:

in all this I see my good: and yet I grieve.

There’s no one now to make my thoughts

bold or timid, to make them burn or freeze,

to make them fill with hope, or brim with pain.

Out of the hand of him who hurt and healed me,

who once granted me so long a torment,

I find myself in sweet and bitter freedom:

and turn to the Lord I adore and thank,

who governs the world with a blink of his eye:

I’m weary of living, and sated with it too.

364. ‘Tenemmi Amor anni ventuno ardendo,’

Love held me burning, twenty-one years,

happy in the fire, and in grief full of hope:

then, when my lady leapt to heaven with

my heart, another ten years, weeping.

Now I’m weary, and reclaim my life

from that error that almost crushed

the seeds of virtue: and, God on high,

I grant my final years devotedly to you:

penitent and sad at my years ill spent,

that should have been put to better use,

in fleeing trouble and finding peace.

Lord, who first imprisoned me in this cell,

release me, save me from eternal harm,

who know my fault, and do not excuse it.

365. ‘I’vo piagendo i miei passati tempi’

I go weeping for my time past,

that I spent in loving something mortal,

without lifting myself in flight, for I had wings

that might have freed me for spaces not so low.

You who see my shameful and impious sins,

King of Heaven, invisible, immortal,

help this frail and straying soul,

and mend its defects through your grace:

So that, if I have lived in war and tempest,

I may die in peaceful harbour: and if my stay

was vain, let my vanishing, at least, be virtuous.

Deign that your hand might rest on that little life

that is left to me, and on my death:

You truly know I have no other hope.

366. ‘Vergin bella, che di sol vestita,’ (His Prayer to the Virgin)

Lovely Virgin, who, clothed in glory,

crowned with stars, so pleased

the high Sun, that he hid his light in you,

love urges me to speak of you:

but I cannot begin without your help,

and His, who lovingly was set in you.

I call on her who always replies truly

to those who call to her with faith:

Virgin, if the final

misery of human life can forever

turn to you for mercy, bow down to hear my prayer,

and help me in this, my war,

though I am earth, and you the queen of heaven.

Wisest Virgin, and of that lovely number

one of the virgins blessed with prudence,

rather the first of them, and with the brightest lamp:

O solid shield for the oppressed peoples

against the blows of Death and Fortune,

under whom we triumph, not just escape:

O coolness for blind heat that flares

among foolish mortals here:

Virgin, turn those lovely eyes,

that saw in sadness the pitiless wounds

in the sweet limbs of your dear Son,

on my uncertain state,

who, without counsel, come to you for counsel.

Virgin, pure, perfect in every way,

daughter and mother to your noble Son,

you who illuminate this life, adorn the other,

through you that Son of the highest Father,

O highest shining window of heaven,

came to save us in these latter days:

and from all the other earthly wombs

you alone were chosen,

Virgin, so blessed,

that Eve’s weeping turned to happiness.

Make me, as you can, worthy of His grace,

O forever blessed,

already crowned in the highest kingdom.

Sacred Virgin, filled with every grace,

that through true and noblest humility

leapt to heaven, where you hear my prayers,

you gave birth to pity’s fountain,

and the sun of justice, you who shine through

this age filled with darkness, thick with error:

three sweet, beloved, names combine in you,

mother, daughter, spouse:

Glorious Virgin,

queen to that King who has loosed our bonds,

and made the world free and happy,

I pray you satisfy my heart

with his sacred wounds, true blessed one.

Virgin sole on earth without a peer,

who enamoured heaven of your beauty,

whom no other equalled or came near,

holy thoughts, chaste and merciful actions

made you sacred to the one true God,

a living temple, fruitful in virginity.

You have the power to render my life joyful,

since with your prayers, O Maria,

sweet, virtuous Virgin,

grace abounds where sin abounded.

I bow to you on my knees, in thought,

I beg you to be my guide

and direct my crooked path to a good end.

Bright Virgin, established in eternity,

star of this tempestuous sea,

faithful guide to every faithful sailor,

consider in what fearful danger

I find myself alone, without a helm,

and already near the final shout.

But my soul trusts in you completely,

sinful, I don’t deny it,

Virgin: but I pray to you

that your enemy derive no mockery from my evils:

you know that our sin made God,

take on human flesh,

in your virgin cloister, to save us.

Virgin, what tears I have already scattered,

what pleadings and what prayers in vain,

solely for my pain and my grave hurt!

From the time I was born on the banks of the Arno,

searching in this place or in that,

my life has been nothing but trouble.

Mortal beauty, actions and speech

have all hampered my soul.

Sacred, kindly Virgin,

do not delay, since perhaps this is my last year.

And my days have flown, swifter

than an arrow

in misery and sin, and I only wait for Death.

Virgin, she is so much earth, and has sunk

my heart in sadness, that living she held weeping,

who never knew even one of my thousand ills:

and for her to know them, what was would

have had to not be: for any other will than hers

would have been death to me, ill fame to her.

Now lady of heaven, our goddess

(if it is right to call you so)

Virgin of noble feelings,

you see all: and what no other can do

is as nothing to your great power,

making an end to sorrow:

that honours you, and is my salvation.

Virgin, in whom is all my hope,

who can and will aid me in my great need,

do not abandon me in this last strait.

No one protects me but he who deigned to make me:

not for my worth, but because His noble image,

that is in me, moves you to care for a man so vile.

Medusa and my error turned me to stone,

dripping with vain moisture:

Virgin, you with holy tears

and mercy fill my weary heart,

so that at least my final tears will be pious,

free of earthly mire,

just as the first were unmarked by its sickness.

Kindly Virgin, and enemy of pride,

may love of our common origin guide you:

to take pity on a humble contrite heart.

Since I used to love a little fallen mortal dust

with such marvellous faith, what

must I do towards your noble person?

If by your hand I rise from this

wretched and vile state,

Virgin, I’ll consecrate my purified

thoughts, intellect and style, to your name,

tongue and heart, tears and sighs.

Urge me to better ways,

and be pleased to accept my altered passions.

The day is coming, and cannot be long,

time runs so fast, and flies,

Virgin, unique, alone,

remorse and death sting my heart.

Commend me to your Son, truly

Man, and truly God,

that he might receive my last breath, in peace.

Petrarch's Tomb

‘Petrarch’s Tomb’ - Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. A Romaunt (p230, London 1869), George Gordon Byron, The British Library


Index of First Lines in Italian