Chiare, fresche e dolci acque.
TO THE FOUNTAIN OF VAUOLUSE—CONTEMPLATIONS OF DEATH.
Ye limpid brooks, by whose clear streams
My goddess laid her tender limbs!
Ye gentle boughs, whose friendly shade
Gave shelter to the lovely maid!
Ye herbs and flowers, so sweetly press'd
By her soft rising snowy breast!
[Pg 117]Ye Zephyrs mild, that breathed around
The place where Love my heart did wound!
Now at my summons all appear,
And to my dying words give ear.
If then my destiny requires,
And Heaven with my fate conspires,
That Love these eyes should weeping close,
Here let me find a soft repose.
So Death will less my soul affright,
And, free from dread, my weary spright
Naked alone will dare t' essay
The still unknown, though beaten way;
Pleased that her mortal part will have
So safe a port, so sweet a grave.
The cruel fair, for whom I burn,
May one day to these shades return,
And smiling with superior grace,
Her lover seek around this place,
And when instead of me she finds
Some crumbling dust toss'd by the winds,
She may feel pity in her breast,
And, sighing, wish me happy rest,
Drying her eyes with her soft veil,
Such tears must sure with Heaven prevail.
Well I remember how the flowers
Descended from these boughs in showers,
Encircled in the fragrant cloud
She set, nor midst such glory proud.
These blossoms to her lap repair,
These fall upon her flowing hair,
(Like pearls enchased in gold they seem,)
These on the ground, these on the stream;
In giddy rounds these dancing say,
Here Love and Laura only sway.
In rapturous wonder oft I said,
Sure she in Paradise was made,
Thence sprang that bright angelic state,
Those looks, those words, that heavenly gait,
That beauteous smile, that voice divine,
Those graces that around her shine:
[Pg 118]Transported I beheld the fair,
And sighing cried, How came I here?
In heaven, amongst th' immortal blest,
Here let me fix and ever rest.
Ye waters clear and fresh, to whose blight wave
She all her beauties gave,—
Sole of her sex in my impassion'd mind!
Thou sacred branch so graced,
(With sighs e'en now retraced!)
On whose smooth shaft her heavenly form reclined!
Herbage and flowers that bent the robe beneath,
Whose graceful folds compress'd
Her pure angelic breast!
Ye airs serene, that breathe
Where Love first taught me in her eyes his lore!
Yet once more all attest,
The last sad plaintive lay my woe-worn heart may pour!
If so I must my destiny fulfil,
And Love to close these weeping eyes be doom'd
By Heaven's mysterious will,
Oh! grant that in this loved retreat, entomb'd,
My poor remains may lie,
And my freed soul regain its native sky!
Less rude shall Death appear,
If yet a hope so dear
Smooth the dread passage to eternity!
No shade so calm—serene,
My weary spirit finds on earth below;
No grave so still—so green,
In which my o'ertoil'd frame may rest from mortal woe!
Yet one day, haply, she—so heavenly fair!
So kind in cruelty!—
With careless steps may to these haunts repair,
And where her beaming eye
Met mine in days so blest,
A wistful glance may yet unconscious rest,
And seeking me around,
May mark among the stones a lowly mound,
That speaks of pity to the shuddering sense!
Then may she breathe a sigh,
[Pg 119]Of power to win me mercy from above!
Doing Heaven violence,
All-beautiful in tears of late relenting love!
Still dear to memory! when, in odorous showers,
Scattering their balmy flowers,
To summer airs th' o'ershadowing branches bow'd,
The while, with humble state,
In all the pomp of tribute sweets she sate,
Wrapt in the roseate cloud!
Now clustering blossoms deck her vesture's hem,
Now her bright tresses gem,—
(In that all-blissful day,
Like burnish'd gold with orient pearls inwrought,)
Some strew the turf—some on the waters float!
Some, fluttering, seem to say
In wanton circlets toss'd, "Here Love holds sovereign sway!"
Oft I exclaim'd, in awful tremor rapt,
"Surely of heavenly birth
This gracious form that visits the low earth!"
So in oblivion lapp'd
Was reason's power, by the celestial mien,
The brow,—the accents mild—
The angelic smile serene!
That now all sense of sad reality
O'erborne by transport wild,—
"Alas! how came I here, and when?" I cry,—
Deeming my spirit pass'd into the sky!
E'en though the illusion cease,
In these dear haunts alone my tortured heart finds peace.
If thou wert graced with numbers sweet, my song!
To match thy wish to please;
Leaving these rocks and trees,
Thou boldly might'st go forth, and dare th' assembled throng.
Clear, fresh, and dulcet streams,
Which the fair shape, who seems
To me sole woman, haunted at noon-tide;
Fair bough, so gently fit,
(I sigh to think of it,)
[Pg 120]Which lent a pillar to her lovely side;
And turf, and flowers bright-eyed,
O'er which her folded gown
Flow'd like an angel's down;
And you, O holy air and hush'd,
Where first my heart at her sweet glances gush'd;
Give ear, give ear, with one consenting,
To my last words, my last and my lamenting.
If 'tis my fate below,
And Heaven will have it so,
That Love must close these dying eyes in tears,
May my poor dust be laid
In middle of your shade,
While my soul, naked, mounts to its own spheres.
The thought would calm my fears,
When taking, out of breath,
The doubtful step of death;
For never could my spirit find
A stiller port after the stormy wind;
Nor in more calm, abstracted bourne,
Slip from my travail'd flesh, and from my bones outworn.
Perhaps, some future hour,
To her accustom'd bower
Might come the untamed, and yet the gentle she;
And where she saw me first,
Might turn with eyes athirst
And kinder joy to look again for me;
Then, oh! the charity!
Seeing amidst the stones
The earth that held my bones,
A sigh for very love at last
Might ask of Heaven to pardon me the past:
And Heaven itself could not say nay,
As with her gentle veil she wiped the tears away.
How well I call to mind,
When from those boughs the wind
Shook down upon her bosom flower on flower;
And there she sat, meek-eyed,
In midst of all that pride,
Sprinkled and blushing through an amorous shower
Some to her hair paid dower,
[Pg 121]And seem'd to dress the curls,
Queenlike, with gold and pearls;
Some, snowing, on her drapery stopp'd,
Some on the earth, some on the water dropp'd;
While others, fluttering from above,
Seem'd wheeling round in pomp, and saying, "Here reigns Love.
How often then I said,
Inward, and fill'd with dread,
"Doubtless this creature came from Paradise!"
For at her look the while,
Her voice, and her sweet smile,
And heavenly air, truth parted from mine eyes;
So that, with long-drawn sighs,
I said, as far from men,
"How came I here, and when?"
I had forgotten; and alas!
Fancied myself in heaven, not where I was;
And from that time till this, I bear
Such love for the green bower, I cannot rest elsewhere.
More Poems by Francesco Petrarch
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