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[Pg 74]


Gentil mia donna, i' veggio.


Lady, in your bright eyes
Soft glancing round, I mark a holy light,
Pointing the arduous way that heavenward lies;
And to my practised sight,
From thence, where Love enthroned, asserts his might,
Visibly, palpably, the soul beams forth.
This is the beacon guides to deeds of worth,
And urges me to seek the glorious goal;
This bids me leave behind the vulgar throng,
Nor can the human tongue
Tell how those orbs divine o'er all my soul
Exert their sweet control,
Both when hoar winter's frosts around are flung,
And when the year puts on his youth again,
Jocund, as when this bosom first knew pain.
Oh! if in that high sphere,
From whence the Eternal Ruler of the stars
In this excelling work declared his might,
All be as fair and bright,
Loose me from forth my darksome prison here,
That to so glorious life the passage bars;
Then, in the wonted tumult of my breast,
I hail boon Nature, and the genial day
That gave me being, and a fate so blest,
And her who bade hope beam
Upon my soul; for till then burthensome
Was life itself become:
But now, elate with touch of self-esteem,
High thoughts and sweet within that heart arise,
Of which the warders are those beauteous eyes.
No joy so exquisite
Did Love or fickle Fortune ere devise,
In partial mood, for favour'd votaries,
But I would barter it
For one dear glance of those angelic eyes,
Whence springs my peace as from its living root.
O vivid lustre! of power absolute
[Pg 75]O'er all my being—source of that delight,
By which consumed I sink, a willing prey.
As fades each lesser ray
Before your splendour more intense and bright,
So to my raptured heart,
When your surpassing sweetness you impart,
No other thought of feeling may remain
Where you, with Love himself, despotic reign.
All sweet emotions e'er
By happy lovers felt in every clime,
Together all, may not with mine compare,
When, as from time to time,
I catch from that dark radiance rich and deep
A ray in which, disporting, Love is seen;
And I believe that from my cradled sleep,
By Heaven provided this resource hath been,
'Gainst adverse fortune, and my nature frail.
Wrong'd am I by that veil,
And the fair hand which oft the light eclipse,
That all my bliss hath wrought;
And whence the passion struggling on my lips,
Both day and night, to vent the breast o'erfraught,
Still varying as I read her varying thought.
For that (with pain I find)
Not Nature's poor endowments may alone
Render me worthy of a look so kind,
I strive to raise my mind
To match with the exalted hopes I own,
And fires, though all engrossing, pure as mine.
If prone to good, averse to all things base,
Contemner of what worldlings covet most,
I may become by long self-discipline.
Haply this humble boast
May win me in her fair esteem a place;
For sure the end and aim
Of all my tears, my sorrowing heart's sole claim,
Were the soft trembling of relenting eyes,
The generous lover's last, best, dearest prize.
My lay, thy sister-song is gone before.
And now another in my teeming brain
Prepares itself: whence I resume the strain.

Poem by Francesco Petrarch
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