When Love, fond Love, commands the strain,
The coyest muse must sure obey;
Love bids my wounded breast complain,
And whispers the melodious lay:
Yet when such griefs restrain the muse's wing,
How shall she dare to soar, or how attempt to sing?
Oh! could my heart express its woe,
How poor, how wretched should I seem!
But as the plaintive accents flow,
Soft comfort spreads her golden gleam;
And each gay scene, that Nature holds to view,
Bids Laura's absent charms to memory bloom anew.
Though Fate's severe decrees remove
Her gladsome beauties from my sight,
[Pg 122]Yet, urged by pity, friendly Love
Bids fond reflection yield delight;
If lavish spring with flowerets strews the mead,
Her lavish beauties all to fancy are displayed!
When to this globe the solar beams
Their full meridian blaze impart,
It pictures Laura, that inflames
With passion's fires each human heart:
And when the sun completes his daily race,
I see her riper age complete each growing grace.
When milder planets, warmer skies
O'er winter's frozen reign prevail;
When groves are tinged with vernal dyes,
And violets scent the wanton gale;
Those flowers, the verdure, then recall that day,
In which my Laura stole this heedless heart away.
The blush of health, that crimson'd o'er
Her youthful cheek; her modest mien;
The gay-green garment that she wore,
Have ever dear to memory been;
More dear they grow as time the more inflames
This tender breast o'ercome by passion's wild extremes!
The sun, whose cheering lustre warms
The bosom of yon snow-clad hill,
Seems a just emblem of the charms,
Whose power controls my vanquish'd will;
When near, they gild with joy this frozen heart,
Where ceaseless winter reigns, whene'er those charms depart.
Yon sun, too, paints the locks of gold,
That play around her face so fair—
Her face which, oft as I behold,
Prompts the soft sigh of amorous care!
While Laura smiles, all-conscious of that love
Which from this faithful breast no time can e'er remove.
If to the transient storm of night
Succeeds a star-bespangled sky,
And the clear rain-drops catch the light,
Glittering on all the foliage nigh;
[Pg 123]Methinks her eyes I view, as on that day
When through the envious veil they shot their magic ray.
With brightness making heaven more bright,
As then they did, I see them now;
I see them, when the morning light
Purples the misty mountain's brow:
When day declines, and darkness spreads the pole;
Methinks 'tis Laura flies, and sadness wraps my soul.
In stately jars of burnish'd gold
Should lilies spread their silvery pride,
With fresh-blown roses that unfold
Their leaves, in heaven's own crimson dyed;
Then Laura's bloom I see, and sunny hair
Flowing adown her neck than ivory whiter far.
The flowerets brush'd by zephyr's wing,
Waving their heads in frolic play,
Oft to my fond remembrance bring
The happy spot, the happier day,
In which, disporting with the gale, I view'd
Those sweet unbraided locks, that all my heart subdued.
Oh! could I count those orbs that shine
Nightly o'er yon ethereal plain,
Or in some scanty vase confine
Each drop that ocean's bounds contain,
Then might I hope to fly from beauty's rays,
Laura o'er flaming worlds can spread bright beauty's blaze.
Should I all heaven, all earth explore,
I still should lovely Laura find;
Laura, whose beauties I adore,
Is ever present to my mind:
She's seen in all that strikes these partial eyes,
And her dear name still dwells in all my tender sighs.
But soft, my song,—not thine the power
To paint that never-dying flame,
Which gilds through life the gloomy hour,
Which nurtures this love-wasted frame;
For since with Laura dwells my wander'd heart,
Cheer'd by that fostering flame, I brave Death's ebon dart.
More Poems by Francesco Petrarch
Comments, Analysis, and Meaning on CANZONE XV
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