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Best Famous Canzone Poems

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Written by Francesco Petrarch | Create an image from this poem



Vergine bella che di sol vestita.


Beautiful Virgin! clothed with the sun,
Crown'd with the stars, who so the Eternal Sun
Well pleasedst that in thine his light he hid;
Love pricks me on to utter speech of thee,
And—feeble to commence without thy aid—
Of Him who on thy bosom rests in love.
Her I invoke who gracious still replies
To all who ask in faith,
Virgin! if ever yet
The misery of man and mortal things
To mercy moved thee, to my prayer incline;
Help me in this my strife,
Though I am but of dust, and thou heaven's radiant Queen!
Wise Virgin! of that lovely number one
Of Virgins blest and wise,
Even the first and with the brightest lamp:
O solid buckler of afflicted hearts!
'Neath which against the blows of Fate and Death,
Not mere deliverance but great victory is;
Relief from the blind ardour which consumes
Vain mortals here below!
Virgin! those lustrous eyes,
Which tearfully beheld the cruel prints
In the fair limbs of thy beloved Son,
Ah! turn on my sad doubt,
Who friendless, helpless thus, for counsel come to thee!
[Pg 319]O Virgin! pure and perfect in each part,
Maiden or Mother, from thy honour'd birth,
This life to lighten and the next adorn;
O bright and lofty gate of open'd heaven!
By thee, thy Son and His, the Almighty Sire,
In our worst need to save us came below:
And, from amid all other earthly seats,
Thou only wert elect,
Virgin supremely blest!
The tears of Eve who turnedst into joy;
Make me, thou canst, yet worthy of his grace,
O happy without end,
Who art in highest heaven a saint immortal shrined.
O holy Virgin! full of every good,
Who, in humility most deep and true,
To heaven art mounted, thence my prayers to hear,
That fountain thou of pity didst produce,
That sun of justice light, which calms and clears
Our age, else clogg'd with errors dark and foul.
Three sweet and precious names in thee combine,
Of mother, daughter, wife,
Virgin! with glory crown'd,
Queen of that King who has unloosed our bonds,
And free and happy made the world again,
By whose most sacred wounds,
I pray my heart to fix where true joys only are!
Virgin! of all unparallel'd, alone,
Who with thy beauties hast enamour'd Heaven,
Whose like has never been, nor e'er shall be;
For holy thoughts with chaste and pious acts
To the true God a sacred living shrine
In thy fecund virginity have made:
By thee, dear Mary, yet my life may be
Happy, if to thy prayers,
O Virgin meek and mild!
Where sin abounded grace shall more abound!
With bended knee and broken heart I pray
That thou my guide wouldst be,
And to such prosperous end direct my faltering way.
[Pg 320]Bright Virgin! and immutable as bright,
O'er life's tempestuous ocean the sure star
Each trusting mariner that truly guides,
Look down, and see amid this dreadful storm
How I am tost at random and alone,
And how already my last shriek is near,
Yet still in thee, sinful although and vile,
My soul keeps all her trust;
Virgin! I thee implore
Let not thy foe have triumph in my fall;
Remember that our sin made God himself,
To free us from its chain,
Within thy virgin womb our image on Him take!
Virgin! what tears already have I shed,
Cherish'd what dreams and breathed what prayers in vain
But for my own worse penance and sure loss;
Since first on Arno's shore I saw the light
Till now, whate'er I sought, wherever turn'd,
My life has pass'd in torment and in tears,
For mortal loveliness in air, act, speech,
Has seized and soil'd my soul:
O Virgin! pure and good,
Delay not till I reach my life's last year;
Swifter than shaft and shuttle are, my days
'Mid misery and sin
Have vanish'd all, and now Death only is behind!
Virgin! She now is dust, who, living, held
My heart in grief, and plunged it since in gloom;
She knew not of my many ills this one,
And had she known, what since befell me still
Had been the same, for every other wish
Was death to me and ill renown for her;
But, Queen of Heaven, our Goddess—if to thee
Such homage be not sin—
Virgin! of matchless mind,
Thou knowest now the whole; and that, which else
No other can, is nought to thy great power:
Deign then my grief to end,
Thus honour shall be thine, and safe my peace at last!
[Pg 321]Virgin! in whom I fix my every hope,
Who canst and will'st assist me in great need,
Forsake me not in this my worst extreme,
Regard not me but Him who made me thus;
Let his high image stamp'd on my poor worth
Towards one so low and lost thy pity move:
Medusa spells have made me as a rock
Distilling a vain flood;
Virgin! my harass'd heart
With pure and pious tears do thou fulfil,
That its last sigh at least may be devout,
And free from earthly taint,
As was my earliest vow ere madness fill'd my veins!
Virgin! benevolent, and foe of pride,
Ah! let the love of our one Author win,
Some mercy for a contrite humble heart:
For, if her poor frail mortal dust I loved
With loyalty so wonderful and long,
Much more my faith and gratitude for thee.
From this my present sad and sunken state
If by thy help I rise,
Virgin! to thy dear name
I consecrate and cleanse my thoughts, speech, pen,
My mind, and heart with all its tears and sighs;
Point then that better path,
And with complacence view my changed desires at last.
The day must come, nor distant far its date,
Time flies so swift and sure,
O peerless and alone!
When death my heart, now conscience struck, shall seize:
Commend me, Virgin! then to thy dear Son,
True God and Very Man,
That my last sigh in peace may, in his arms, be breathed!

Written by Francesco Petrarch | Create an image from this poem



Amor, se vuoi ch' i' torni al giogo antico.


If thou wouldst have me, Love, thy slave again,
One other proof, miraculous and new,
Must yet be wrought by you,
Ere, conquer'd, I resume my ancient chain—
Lift my dear love from earth which hides her now,
For whose sad loss thus beggar'd I remain;
Once more with warmth endow
That wise chaste heart where wont my life to dwell;
And if as some divine, thy influence so,
From highest heaven unto the depths of hell,
Prevail in sooth—for what its scope below,
'Mid us of common race,
Methinks each gentle breast may answer well—
Rob Death of his late triumph, and replace
Thy conquering ensign in her lovely face!
Relume on that fair brow the living light,
Which was my honour'd guide, and the sweet flame.
Though spent, which still the same
Kindles me now as when it burn'd most bright;
For thirsty hind with such desire did ne'er
Long for green pastures or the crystal brook,
As I for the dear look,
Whence I have borne so much, and—if aright
I read myself and passion—more must bear:
This makes me to one theme my thoughts thus bind,
An aimless wanderer where is pathway none,
With weak and wearied mind
[Pg 237]Pursuing hopes which never can be won.
Hence to thy summons answer I disdain,
Thine is no power beyond thy proper reign.
Give me again that gentle voice to hear,
As in my heart are heard its echoes still,
Which had in song the skill
Hate to disarm, rage soften, sorrow cheer,
To tranquillize each tempest of the mind,
And from dark lowering clouds to keep it clear;
Which sweetly then refined
And raised my verse where now it may not soar.
And, with desire that hope may equal vie,
Since now my mind is waked in strength, restore
Their proper business to my ear and eye,
Awanting which life must
All tasteless be and harder than to die.
Vainly with me to your old power you trust,
While my first love is shrouded still in dust.
Give her dear glance again to bless my sight,
Which, as the sun on snow, beam'd still for me;
Open each window bright
Where pass'd my heart whence no return can be;
Resume thy golden shafts, prepare thy bow,
And let me once more drink with old delight
Of that dear voice the sound,
Whence what love is I first was taught to know.
And, for the lures, which still I covet so,
Were rifest, richest there my soul that bound,
Waken to life her tongue, and on the breeze
Let her light silken hair,
Loosen'd by Love's own fingers, float at ease;
Do this, and I thy willing yoke will bear,
Else thy hope faileth my free will to snare.
Oh! never my gone heart those links of gold,
Artlessly negligent, or curl'd with grace,
Nor her enchanting face,
Sweetly severe, can captive cease to hold;
These, night and day, the amorous wish in me
Kept, more than laurel or than myrtle, green,
When, doff'd or donn'd, we see
Of fields the grass, of woods their leafy screen.
[Pg 238]And since that Death so haughty stands and stern
The bond now broken whence I fear'd to flee,
Nor thine the art, howe'er the world may turn,
To bind anew the chain,
What boots it, Love, old arts to try again?
Their day is pass'd: thy power, since lost the arms
Which were my terror once, no longer harms.
Thy arms were then her eyes, unrivall'd, whence
Live darts were freely shot of viewless flame;
No help from reason came,
For against Heaven avails not man's defence;
Thought, Silence, Feeling, Gaiety, Wit, Sense,
Modest demeanour, affable discourse,
In words of sweetest force
Whence every grosser nature gentle grew,
That angel air, humble to all and kind,
Whose praise, it needs not mine, from all we find;
Stood she, or sat, a grace which often threw
Doubt on the gazer's mind
To which the meed of highest praise was due—
O'er hardest hearts thy victory was sure,
With arms like these, which lost I am secure.
The minds which Heaven abandons to thy reign,
Haply are bound in many times and ways,
But mine one only chain,
Its wisdom shielding me from more, obeys;
Yet freedom brings no joy, though that he burst.
Rather I mournful ask, "Sweet pilgrim mine,
Alas! what doom divine
Me earliest bound to life yet frees thee first:
God, who has snatch'd thee from the world so soon,
Only to kindle our desires, the boon
Of virtue, so complete and lofty, gave
Now, Love, I may deride
Thy future wounds, nor fear to be thy slave;
In vain thy bow is bent, its bolts fall wide,
When closed her brilliant eyes their virtue died.
"Death from thy every law my heart has freed;
She who my lady was is pass'd on high,
Leaving me free to count dull hours drag by,
To solitude and sorrow still decreed.
Written by Francesco Petrarch | Create an image from this poem



Che debb' io far? che mi consigli, Amore?


What should I do? what, Love, dost thou advise?
Full time it is to die:
And longer than I wish have I delay'd.
My mistress is no more, and with her gone my heart;
To follow her, I must need
Break short the course of my afflictive years:
To view her here below
I ne'er can hope; and irksome 'tis to wait.
Since that my every joy
By her departure unto tears is turn'd,
Of all its sweets my life has been deprived.
Thou, Love, dost feel, therefore to thee I plain,
How grievous is my loss;
I know my sorrows grieve and weigh thee down,
E'en as our common cause: for on one rock
We both have wreck'd our bark;
And in one instant was its sun obscured.
What genius can with words
Rightly describe my lamentable state?
Ah, blind, ungrateful world!
Thou hast indeed just cause with me to mourn;
That beauty thou didst hold with her is fled!
Fall'n is thy glory, and thou seest it not;
Unworthy thou with her,
While here she dwelt, acquaintance to maintain.
Or to be trodden by her saintly feet;
For that, which is so fair,
Should with its presence decorate the skies
But I, a wretch who, reft
Of her, prize nor myself nor mortal life,
[Pg 234]Recall her with my tears:
This only of my hope's vast sum remains;
And this alone doth still support me here.
Ah, me! her charming face is earth become,
Which wont unto our thought
To picture heaven and happiness above!
Her viewless form inhabits paradise,
Divested of that veil,
Which shadow'd while below her bloom of life,
Once more to put it on,
And never then to cast it off again;
When so much more divine,
And glorious render'd, 'twill by us be view'd,
As mortal beauty to eternal yields.
More bright than ever, and a lovelier fair,
Before me she appears,
Where most she's conscious that her sight will please
This is one pillar that sustains my life;
The other her dear name,
That to my heart sounds so delightfully.
But tracing in my mind,
That she who form'd my choicest hope is dead
E'en in her blossom'd prime;
Thou knowest, Love, full well what I become:
She I trust sees it too, who dwells with truth.
Ye sweet associates, who admired her charms,
Her life angelical,
And her demeanour heavenly upon earth
For me lament, and be by pity wrought
No wise for her, who, risen
To so much peace, me has in warfare left;
Such, that should any shut
The road to follow her, for some length of time,
What Love declares to me
Alone would check my cutting through the tie;
But in this guise he reasons from within:
"The mighty grief transporting thee restrain;
For passions uncontroll'd
Forfeit that heaven, to which thy soul aspires,
Where she is living whom some fancy dead;
[Pg 235]While at her fair remains
She smiles herself, sighing for thee alone;
And that her fame, which lives
In many a clime hymn'd by thy tongue, may ne'er
Become extinct, she prays;
But that her name should harmonize thy voice;
If e'er her eyes were lovely held, and dear.
Fly the calm, green retreat;
And ne'er approach where song and laughter dwell,
O strain; but wail be thine!
It suits thee ill with the glad throng to stay,
Thou sorrowing widow wrapp'd in garb of woe.
Written by Francesco Petrarch | Create an image from this poem



Mai non vo' più cantar, com' io soleva.


Never more shall I sing, as I have sung:
For still she heeded not; and I was scorn'd:
So e'en in loveliest spots is trouble found.
Unceasingly to sigh is no relief.
Already on the Alp snow gathers round:
Already day is near; and I awake.
An affable and modest air is sweet;
And in a lovely lady that she be
Noble and dignified, not proud and cold,
Well pleases it to find.
Love o'er his empire rules without a sword.
He who has miss'd his way let him turn back:
Who has no home the heath must be his bed:
Who lost or has not gold,
Will sate his thirst at the clear crystal spring.
I trusted in Saint Peter, not so now;
Let him who can my meaning understand.
A harsh rule is a heavy weight to bear.
[Pg 100]I melt but where I must, and stand alone.
I think of him who falling died in Po;
Already thence the thrush has pass'd the brook
Come, see if I say sooth! No more for me.
A rock amid the waters is no joke,
Nor birdlime on the twig.
Enough my grief
When a superfluous pride
In a fair lady many virtues hides.
There is who answereth without a call;
There is who, though entreated, fails and flies:
There is who melts 'neath ice:
There is who day and night desires his death.
Love who loves you, is an old proverb now.
Well know I what I say.
But let it pass;
'Tis meet, at their own cost, that men should learn.
A modest lady wearies her best friend.
Good figs are little known.
To me it seems
Wise to eschew things hazardous and high;
In any country one may be at ease.
Infinite hope below kills hope above;
And I at times e'en thus have been the talk.
My brief life that remains
There is who'll spurn not if to Him devote.
I place my trust in Him who rules the world,
And who his followers shelters in the wood,
That with his pitying crook
Me will He guide with his own flock to feed.
Haply not every one who reads discerns;
Some set the snare at times who take no spoil;
Who strains too much may break the bow in twain.
Let not the law be lame when suitors watch.
To be at ease we many a mile descend.
To-day's great marvel is to-morrow's scorn.
A veil'd and virgin loveliness is best.
Blessed the key which pass'd within my heart,
And, quickening my dull spirit, set it free
From its old heavy chain,
And from my bosom banish'd many a sigh.
Where most I suffer'd once she suffers now;
Her equal sorrows mitigate my grief;
[Pg 101]Thanks, then, to Love that I
Feel it no more, though he is still the same!
In silence words that wary are and wise;
The voice which drives from me all other care;
And the dark prison which that fair light hides:
As midnight on our hills the violets;
And the wild beasts within the walls who dwell;
The kind demeanour and the dear reserve;
And from two founts one stream which flow'd in peace
Where I desire, collected where I would.
Love and sore jealousy have seized my heart,
And the fair face whose guides
Conduct me by a plainer, shorter way
To my one hope, where all my torments end.
O treasured bliss, and all from thee which flows
Of peace, of war, or truce,
Never abandon me while life is left!
At my past loss I weep by turns and smile,
Because my faith is fix'd in what I hear.
The present I enjoy and better wait;
Silent, I count the years, yet crave their end,
And in a lovely bough I nestle so
That e'en her stern repulse I thank and praise,
Which has at length o'ercome my firm desire,
And inly shown me, I had been the talk,
And pointed at by hand: all this it quench'd.
So much am I urged on,
Needs must I own, thou wert not bold enough.
Who pierced me in my side she heals the wound,
For whom in heart more than in ink I write;
Who quickens me or kills,
And in one instant freezes me or fires.
Written by Francesco Petrarch | Create an image from this poem


[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.

Written by Francesco Petrarch | Create an image from this poem


[Pg 124]


Italia mia, benchè 'l parlar sia indarno.


O my own Italy! though words are vain
The mortal wounds to close,
Unnumber'd, that thy beauteous bosom stain,
Yet may it soothe my pain
To sigh forth Tyber's woes,
And Arno's wrongs, as on Po's sadden'd shore
Sorrowing I wander, and my numbers pour.
Ruler of heaven! By the all-pitying love
That could thy Godhead move
To dwell a lowly sojourner on earth,
Turn, Lord! on this thy chosen land thine eye:
See, God of Charity!
From what light cause this cruel war has birth;
And the hard hearts by savage discord steel'd,
Thou, Father! from on high,
Touch by my humble voice, that stubborn wrath may yield!
Ye, to whose sovereign hands the fates confide
Of this fair land the reins,—
(This land for which no pity wrings your breast)—
Why does the stranger's sword her plains invest?
That her green fields be dyed,
Hope ye, with blood from the Barbarians' veins?
Beguiled by error weak,
Ye see not, though to pierce so deep ye boast,
Who love, or faith, in venal bosoms seek:
When throng'd your standards most,
Ye are encompass'd most by hostile bands.
O hideous deluge gather'd in strange lands,
That rushing down amain
O'erwhelms our every native lovely plain!
Alas! if our own hands
Have thus our weal betray'd, who shall our cause sustain?
Well did kind Nature, guardian of our state,
Rear her rude Alpine heights,
A lofty rampart against German hate;
But blind ambition, seeking his own ill,
[Pg 125]With ever restless will,
To the pure gales contagion foul invites:
Within the same strait fold
The gentle flocks and wolves relentless throng,
Where still meek innocence must suffer wrong:
And these,—oh, shame avow'd!—
Are of the lawless hordes no tie can hold:
Fame tells how Marius' sword
Erewhile their bosoms gored,—
Nor has Time's hand aught blurr'd the record proud!
When they who, thirsting, stoop'd to quaff the flood,
With the cool waters mix'd, drank of a comrade's blood!
Great Cæsar's name I pass, who o'er our plains
Pour'd forth the ensanguin'd tide,
Drawn by our own good swords from out their veins;
But now—nor know I what ill stars preside—
Heaven holds this land in hate!
To you the thanks!—whose hands control her helm!—
You, whose rash feuds despoil
Of all the beauteous earth the fairest realm!
Are ye impell'd by judgment, crime, or fate,
To oppress the desolate?
From broken fortunes, and from humble toil,
The hard-earn'd dole to wring,
While from afar ye bring
Dealers in blood, bartering their souls for hire?
In truth's great cause I sing.
Nor hatred nor disdain my earnest lay inspire.
Nor mark ye yet, confirm'd by proof on proof,
Bavaria's perfidy,
Who strikes in mockery, keeping death aloof?
(Shame, worse than aught of loss, in honour's eye!)
While ye, with honest rage, devoted pour
Your inmost bosom's gore!—
Yet give one hour to thought,
And ye shall own, how little he can hold
Another's glory dear, who sets his own at nought
O Latin blood of old!
Arise, and wrest from obloquy thy fame,
Nor bow before a name
[Pg 126]Of hollow sound, whose power no laws enforce!
For if barbarians rude
Have higher minds subdued,
Ours! ours the crime!—not such wise Nature's course.
Ah! is not this the soil my foot first press'd?
And here, in cradled rest,
Was I not softly hush'd?—here fondly rear'd?
Ah! is not this my country?—so endear'd
By every filial tie!
In whose lap shrouded both my parents lie!
Oh! by this tender thought,
Your torpid bosoms to compassion wrought,
Look on the people's grief!
Who, after God, of you expect relief;
And if ye but relent,
Virtue shall rouse her in embattled might,
Against blind fury bent,
Nor long shall doubtful hang the unequal fight;
For no,—the ancient flame
Is not extinguish'd yet, that raised the Italian name!
Mark, sovereign Lords! how Time, with pinion strong,
Swift hurries life along!
E'en now, behold! Death presses on the rear.
We sojourn here a day—the next, are gone!
The soul disrobed—alone,
Must shuddering seek the doubtful pass we fear.
Oh! at the dreaded bourne,
Abase the lofty brow of wrath and scorn,
(Storms adverse to the eternal calm on high!)
And ye, whose cruelty
Has sought another's harm, by fairer deed
Of heart, or hand, or intellect, aspire
To win the honest meed
Of just renown—the noble mind's desire!
Thus sweet on earth the stay!
Thus to the spirit pure, unbarr'd is Heaven's way!
My song! with courtesy, and numbers sooth,
Thy daring reasons grace,
For thou the mighty, in their pride of place,
Must woo to gentle ruth,
[Pg 127]Whose haughty will long evil customs nurse,
Ever to truth averse!
Thee better fortunes wait,
Among the virtuous few—the truly great!
Tell them—but who shall bid my terrors cease?
Peace! Peace! on thee I call! return, O heaven-born Peace!

See Time, that flies, and spreads his hasty wing!
See Life, how swift it runs the race of years,
And on its weary shoulders death appears!
Now all is life and all is spring:
Think on the winter and the darker day
When the soul, naked and alone,
Must prove the dubious step, the still unknown,
Yet ever beaten way.
And through this fatal vale
Would you be wafted with some gentle gale?
Put off that eager strife and fierce disdain,
Clouds that involve our life's serene,
And storms that ruffle all the scene;
Your precious hours, misspent in others' pain,
On nobler deeds, worthy yourselves, bestow;
Whether with hand or wit you raise
Some monument of peaceful praise,
Some happy labour of fair love:
'Tis all of heaven that you can find below,
And opens into all above.
Basil Kennet.
Written by Francesco Petrarch | Create an image from this poem



I' vo pensando, e nel pensier m' assale.


Ceaseless I think, and in each wasting thought
So strong a pity for myself appears,
[Pg 227]That often it has brought
My harass'd heart to new yet natural tears;
Seeing each day my end of life draw nigh,
Instant in prayer, I ask of God the wings
With which the spirit springs,
Freed from its mortal coil, to bliss on high;
But nothing, to this hour, prayer, tear, or sigh,
Whatever man could do, my hopes sustain:
And so indeed in justice should it be;
Able to stay, who went and fell, that he
Should prostrate, in his own despite, remain.
But, lo! the tender arms
In which I trust are open to me still,
Though fears my bosom fill
Of others' fate, and my own heart alarms,
Which worldly feelings spur, haply, to utmost ill.
One thought thus parleys with my troubled mind—
"What still do you desire, whence succour wait?
Ah! wherefore to this great,
This guilty loss of time so madly blind?
Take up at length, wisely take up your part:
Tear every root of pleasure from your heart,
Which ne'er can make it blest,
Nor lets it freely play, nor calmly rest.
If long ago with tedium and disgust
You view'd the false and fugitive delights
With which its tools a treacherous world requites,
Why longer then repose in it your trust,
Whence peace and firmness are in exile thrust?
While life and vigour stay,
The bridle of your thoughts is in your power:
Grasp, guide it while you may:
So clogg'd with doubt, so dangerous is delay,
The best for wise reform is still the present hour.
"Well known to you what rapture still has been
Shed on your eyes by the dear sight of her
Whom, for your peace it were
Better if she the light had never seen;
And you remember well (as well you ought)
[Pg 228]Her image, when, as with one conquering bound,
Your heart in prey she caught,
Where flame from other light no entrance found.
She fired it, and if that fallacious heat
Lasted long years, expecting still one day,
Which for our safety came not, to repay,
It lifts you now to hope more blest and sweet,
Uplooking to that heaven around your head
Immortal, glorious spread;
If but a glance, a brief word, an old song,
Had here such power to charm
Your eager passion, glad of its own harm,
How far 'twill then exceed if now the joy so strong.
Another thought the while, severe and sweet,
Laborious, yet delectable in scope,
Takes in my heart its seat,
Filling with glory, feeding it with hope;
Till, bent alone on bright and deathless fame,
It feels not when I freeze, or burn in flame,
When I am pale or ill,
And if I crush it rises stronger still.
This, from my helpless cradle, day by day,
Has strengthen'd with my strength, grown with my growth,
Till haply now one tomb must cover both:
When from the flesh the soul has pass'd away,
No more this passion comrades it as here;
For fame—if, after death,
Learning speak aught of me—is but a breath:
Wherefore, because I fear
Hopes to indulge which the next hour may chase,
I would old error leave, and the one truth embrace.
But the third wish which fills and fires my heart
O'ershadows all the rest which near it spring:
Time, too, dispels a part,
While, but for her, self-reckless grown, I sing.
And then the rare light of those beauteous eyes,
Sweetly before whose gentle heat I melt,
As a fine curb is felt,
To combat which avails not wit or force;
[Pg 229]What boots it, trammell'd by such adverse ties,
If still between the rocks must lie her course,
To trim my little bark to new emprize?
Ah! wilt Thou never, Lord, who yet dost keep
Me safe and free from common chains, which bind,
In different modes, mankind,
Deign also from my brow this shame to sweep?
For, as one sunk in sleep,
Methinks death ever present to my sight,
Yet when I would resist I have no arms to fight.
Full well I see my state, in nought deceived
By truth ill known, but rather forced by Love,
Who leaves not him to move
In honour, who too much his grace believed:
For o'er my heart from time to time I feel
A subtle scorn, a lively anguish, steal,
Whence every hidden thought,
Where all may see, upon my brow is writ.
For with such faith on mortal things to dote,
As unto God alone is just and fit,
Disgraces worst the prize who covets most:
Should reason, amid things of sense, be lost.
This loudly calls her to the proper track:
But, when she would obey
And home return, ill habits keep her back,
And to my view portray
Her who was only born my death to be,
Too lovely in herself, too loved, alas! by me.
I neither know, to me what term of life
Heaven destined when on earth I came at first
To suffer this sharp strife,
'Gainst my own peace which I myself have nursed,
Nor can I, for the veil my body throws,
Yet see the time when my sad life may close.
I feel my frame begin
To fail, and vary each desire within:
And now that I believe my parting day
Is near at hand, or else not distant lies,
Like one whom losses wary make and wise,
I travel back in thought, where first the way,
[Pg 230]The right-hand way, I left, to peace which led.
While through me shame and grief,
Recalling the vain past on this side spread,
On that brings no relief,
Passion, whose strength I now from habit, feel,
So great that it would dare with death itself to deal.
Song! I am here, my heart the while more cold
With fear than frozen snow,
Feels in its certain core death's coming blow;
For thus, in weak self-communing, has roll'd
Of my vain life the better portion by:
Worse burden surely ne'er
Tried mortal man than that which now I bear;
Though death be seated nigh,
For future life still seeking councils new,
I know and love the good, yet, ah! the worse pursue.
Written by Francesco Petrarch | Create an image from this poem


[Pg 67]


Lasso me, ch i' non so in qual parte pieghi.


Me wretched! for I know not whither tend
The hopes which have so long my heart betray'd:
If none there be who will compassion lend,
Wherefore to Heaven these often prayers for aid?
But if, belike, not yet denied to me
That, ere my own life end,
These sad notes mute shall be,
Let not my Lord conceive the wish too free,
Yet once, amid sweet flowers, to touch the string,
"Reason and right it is that love I sing.
Reason indeed there were at last that I
Should sing, since I have sigh'd so long and late,
But that for me 'tis vain such art to try,
Brief pleasures balancing with sorrows great;
Could I, by some sweet verse, but cause to shine
Glad wonder and new joy
Within those eyes divine,
Bliss o'er all other lovers then were mine!
But more, if frankly fondly I could say,
"My lady asks, I therefore wake the lay.
Delicious, dangerous thoughts! that, to begin
A theme so high, have gently led me thus,
You know I ne'er can hope to pass within
Our lady's heart, so strongly steel'd from us;
She will not deign to look on thing so low,
Nor may our language win
Aught of her care: since Heaven ordains it so,
And vainly to oppose must irksome grow,
Even as I my heart to stone would turn,
"So in my verse would I be rude and stern.
What do I say? where am I?—My own heart
And its misplaced desires alone deceive!
Though my view travel utmost heaven athwart
No planet there condemns me thus to grieve:
Why, if the body's veil obscure my sight,
Blame to the stars impart.
[Pg 68]Or other things as bright?
Within me reigns my tyrant, day and night,
Since, for his triumph, me a captive took
"Her lovely face, and lustrous eyes' dear look.
While all things else in Nature's boundless reign
Came good from the Eternal Master's mould,
I look for such desert in me in vain:
Me the light wounds that I around behold;
To the true splendour if I turn at last,
My eye would shrink in pain,
Whose own fault o'er it cast
Such film, and not the fatal day long past,
When first her angel beauty met my view,
"In the sweet season when my life was new.
Written by Francesco Petrarch | Create an image from this poem



Se 'l pensier che mi strugge.


Oh! that my cheeks were taught
By the fond, wasting thought
To wear such hues as could its influence speak;
Then the dear, scornful fair
Might all my ardour share;
And where Love slumbers now he might awake!
Less oft the hill and mead
My wearied feet should tread;
[Pg 115]Less oft, perhaps, these eyes with tears should stream;
If she, who cold as snow,
With equal fire would glow—
She who dissolves me, and converts to flame.
Since Love exerts his sway,
And bears my sense away,
I chant uncouth and inharmonious songs:
Nor leaves, nor blossoms show,
Nor rind, upon the bough,
What is the nature that thereto belongs.
Love, and those beauteous eyes,
Beneath whose shade he lies,
Discover all the heart can comprehend:
When vented are my cares
In loud complaints, and tears;
These harm myself, and others those offend.
Sweet lays of sportive vein,
Which help'd me to sustain
Love's first assault, the only arms I bore;
This flinty breast say who
Shall once again subdue,
That I with song may soothe me as before?
Some power appears to trace
Within me Laura's face,
Whispers her name; and straight in verse I strive
To picture her again,
But the fond effort's vain:
Me of my solace thus doth Fate deprive.
E'en as some babe unties
Its tongue in stammering guise,
Who cannot speak, yet will not silence keep:
So fond words I essay;
And listen'd be the lay
By my fair foe, ere in the tomb I sleep!
But if, of beauty vain,
She treats me with disdain;
Do thou, O verdant shore, attend my sighs:
Let them so freely flow,
That all the world may know,
My sorrow thou at least didst not despise!
[Pg 116]And well art thou aware,
That never foot so fair
The soil e'er press'd as that which trod thee late;
My sunk soul and worn heart
Now seek thee, to impart
The secret griefs that on my passion wait.
If on thy margent green,
Or 'midst thy flowers, were seen
Some traces of her footsteps lingering there.
My wearied life 'twould cheer,
Bitter'd with many a tear:
Ah! now what means are left to soothe my care?
Where'er I bend mine eye,
What sweet serenity
I feel, to think here Laura shone of yore.
Each plant and scented bloom
I gather, seems to come
From where she wander'd on the custom'd shore:
Ofttimes in this retreat
A fresh and fragrant seat
She found; at least so fancy's vision shows:
And never let truth seek
Th' illusion dear to break—
O spirit blest, from whom such magic flows!
To thee, my simple song,
No polish doth belong;
Thyself art conscious of thy little worth!
Solicit not renown
Throughout the busy town,
But dwell within the shade that gave thee birth.
Written by Francesco Petrarch | Create an image from this poem


[Pg 76]


Poichè per mio destino.


Since then by destiny
I am compell'd to sing the strong desire,
Which here condemns me ceaselessly to sigh,
May Love, whose quenchless fire
Excites me, be my guide and point the way,
And in the sweet task modulate my lay:
But gently be it, lest th' o'erpowering theme
Inflame and sting me, lest my fond heart may
Dissolve in too much softness, which I deem,
From its sad state, may be:
For in me—hence my terror and distress!
Not now as erst I see
Judgment to keep my mind's great passion less:
Nay, rather from mine own thoughts melt I so,
As melts before the summer sun the snow.
At first I fondly thought
Communing with mine ardent flame to win
Some brief repose, some time of truce within:
This was the hope which brought
Me courage what I suffer'd to explain,
Now, now it leaves me martyr to my pain:
But still, continuing mine amorous song,
Must I the lofty enterprise maintain;
So powerful is the wish that in me glows,
That Reason, which so long
Restrain'd it, now no longer can oppose.
Then teach me, Love, to sing
In such frank guise, that ever if the ear
Of my sweet foe should chance the notes to hear,
Pity, I ask no more, may in her spring.
If, as in other times,
When kindled to true virtue was mankind,
The genius, energy of man could find
Entrance in divers climes,
Mountains and seas o'erpassing, seeking there
Honour, and culling oft its garland fair,
[Pg 77]Mine were such wish, not mine such need would be.
From shore to shore my weary course to trace,
Since God, and Love, and Nature deign for me
Each virtue and each grace
In those dear eyes where I rejoice to place.
In life to them must I
Turn as to founts whence peace and safety swell:
And e'en were death, which else I fear not, nigh,
Their sight alone would teach me to be well.
As, vex'd by the fierce wind,
The weary sailor lifts at night his gaze
To the twin lights which still our pole displays,
So, in the storms unkind
Of Love which I sustain, in those bright eyes
My guiding light and only solace lies:
But e'en in this far more is due to theft,
Which, taught by Love, from time to time, I make
Of secret glances than their gracious gift:
Yet that, though rare and slight,
Makes me from them perpetual model take;
Since first they blest my sight
Nothing of good without them have I tried,
Placing them over me to guard and guide,
Because mine own worth held itself but light.
Never the full effect
Can I imagine, and describe it less
Which o'er my heart those soft eyes still possess!
As worthless I reject
And mean all other joys that life confers,
E'en as all other beauties yield to hers.
A tranquil peace, alloy'd by no distress,
Such as in heaven eternally abides,
Moves from their lovely and bewitching smile.
So could I gaze, the while
Love, at his sweet will, governs them and guides,
—E'en though the sun were nigh,
Resting above us on his onward wheel—
On her, intensely with undazzled eye,
Nor of myself nor others think or feel.
Ah! that I should desire
Things that can never in this world be won,
[Pg 78]Living on wishes hopeless to acquire.
Yet, were the knot undone,
Wherewith my weak tongue Love is wont to bind,
Checking its speech, when her sweet face puts on
All its great charms, then would I courage find,
Words on that point so apt and new to use,
As should make weep whoe'er might hear the tale.
But the old wounds I bear,
Stamp'd on my tortured heart, such power refuse;
Then grow I weak and pale,
And my blood hides itself I know not where;
Nor as I was remain I: hence I know
Love dooms my death and this the fatal blow.
Farewell, my song! already do I see
Heavily in my hand the tired pen move
From its long dear discourse with her I love;
Not so my thoughts from communing with me.