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ilcavalcanti text integral passage complete quotation of the sources comedies works historical literary works in prose and in verses

Translated by Ezra Pound


AT last I am reduced to self compassion,
For the sore anguish that I see me in;
At my great weakness; that my soul hath been
Concealed beneath her wounds in such a fashion:

Such mine oppression that I know, in brief,
That to my life ill's worst starred ills befall;
And this strange lady on whose grace I call
Maintains continuous my stour of grief,

For when I look in her direction,
She turns upon me her disdeigning eyen
So harshly that my waiting heart is rent

And all my powers and properties are spent,
Till that heart lieth for a sign ill-seen,
Where Amor's cruelty hath hurled him down.


LADY, my most rash eyes, the first who used
To look upon thy face, the power-fraught,
Were, Lady, those by whom I was accused
In that harsh place where Amor holdeth court.

And there before him was their proof adduced,
And judgment wrote me down: "Bondslave" to thee,
Though still I stay Grief's prisoner, unloosed,
And Fear hath lien upon the heart of me.

For the which charges, and without respite,
They dragged me to a place where a sad horde
Of such as love and whom Love Tortureth

Cried out, all pitying as I met their sight,
"Now art thou servant unto such a Lord
Thou'lt have none other one save only Death."


THOU hast in thee the flower and the green
And that which gleameth and is fair of sight,
Thy form is more resplendent than sun's sheen;
Who sees thee not, can ne'er know worth aright.

Nay, in this world there is no creature seen
So fashioned fair and full of all delight;
Who fears Amor, and fearing meets thy mien,
Thereby assured, he solveth him his fright.

The ladies of whom thy cortèconsisteth
Please me in this, that they've thy favour won;
I bid them now, as courtesy existeth,

Holding most dear thy lordship of their state,
To honour thee with powers commensurate,
Sith thou art thou, that art sans paragon.


WHO is she coming, drawing all men's gaze,
Who makes the air one trembling clarity
Till none can speak but each sighs piteously
Where she leads Love adown her trodden ways?

Ah God! The thing she's like when her glance strays,
Let Amor tell. "T is no fit speech for me.
Mistress she seems of such great modesty
That every other woman were called "Wrath."

No one could ever tell the charm she hath
For toward her all the noble Powers incline,
She being beauty's godhead manifest.

Our daring ne'er before held such high quest;
Be ye! There is not in you so much grace
That we can understand her rightfully.


BEAUTY of woman, of the knowing heart,
And courtly knights in bright accoutrement
And loving speeches and the small birds' art,
Adorned swift ships which on high seas are sent,

And airs grown calm when white the dawn appeareth
And white snow falling where no wind is bent,
Brook-marge and mead where every flower flareth,
And gold and silver and azure and ornament:

Effective 'gainst all these think ye the fairness
And valour of my Lady's lordly daring?
Yea, she makes all seem base vain gathering,

And she were known above whome'er you'd bring
As much as heaven is past earth's comparing;
Good seeketh out its like with some address.

[ VI ]

[ --- ]


I SAW the eyes, where Amor took his place
When love's might bound me with the fear thereof,
Look out at me as they were weary of love.
I say: The heart rent him as he looked on this,

And were't not that my Lady lit her grace,
Smiling upon me with her eyes grown glad,
Then were my speech so dolorously clad
That Love should mourn amid his victories.

The instant that she deigned to bend her eyes
Toward me, a spirit from high heaven rode
And chose my thought the place of his abode

With such deep parlance of love's verities
That all Love's powers did my sight accost
As though I'd won unto his heart's mid-most.

[ VIII ]

[ --- ]


SITH need hath bound my heart in bands of grief,
Sith I turn flame in pleasure's saffron fire,
I sing how I lost a treasure by desire
And left all virtue and am low descended.
I tell, with senses dead, what scant relief
My heart from war hath in his life's small might.
Nay ! were not death turned pleasure in my sight,
Then Love would weep to see me so offended.
Yet, for I'm come upon a madder season,
The firm opinion which I held of late
Stands in a changed state,
And I show not how much my soul is grieved
There where I am deceived
Since through my heart, midway, a mistress went
And in her passage all mine hopes were spent.


THO' all thy piteous mercy fall away
Not for thy failing shall my faith so fall,
That Faith speaks on of services unpaid
To the unpitied heart.
What that heart feeleth? Ye believe me not.
Who sees such things? Surely no one at all,
For Love me gives a spirit on his part
Who dieth if portrayed.
Thence when that pleasure so assaileth me,
And the sighing faileth me,
Within my heart a rain of love descendeth
So fragrantly, so purely
That I cry out, "Lady, thou hold'st me surely!"


A LOVE-LIT glance, with living powers fraught,
Renewed within me love's extreme delight,
So love assils me with unwonted might,
And cordially he driveth me in thought

Towards my lady with whom 'vaileth not
Mercy nor pity nor the suffering wrought,
So oft and great, her torments on me fall
That my heart scarce can feel his life at all.

But when I feel that her so sweet regard
Passeth mine eyes and to the heart attaineth
Setting to rest therein spirits of joy,

Then do I give her thanks and without retard;
Love asked her to do this, and that explaineth
Why this first pity doth no annoy.


YOU, who do breach mine eyes and touch the heart,
And start the mind from her brief reveries,
Might pluck my life and agony apart.
Saw you how love assaileth her with sighs,

And lays about him with so brute a might
That all my wounded senses turn to flight.
There's a new face upon the seigniory,
And new is the voice that maketh loud my grief.

Love, who hath drawn me down through devious ways,
Hath from your noble eyes so swiftly come!
'Tis he hath hurled the dart, wherefrom my pain,

First shot's resultant! and in flanked amaze
See how my affrighted soul recoileth from
That sinister side wherein the heart lies slain.


AH why! why were mine eyes not quenched for me,
Or stricken so that from their vision none
Had ever come within my mind to say
"Listen, dost thou not hear me in thine heart?"

Fear of new torments was then so displayed
To me, so cruel and so sharp of edge
That my soul cried, "Ah mistress, bring us aid,
Lest th' eyes and I remain in grief always."

But thou hast left them so that Amor cometh
And weepeth over them so piteously
That there's a deep voice heard whose sound in part

Turned unto words, is this: "Whoever knoweth
Pain's depth, let him look on this man whose heart
Death beareth in his hand cut cruciform."


IF Mercy were the friend of my desires,
Or Mercy's source of movement were the heart,
Then, by this fair, would Mercy show such art
And power of healing as my pain requires.

From torturing delight my sighs commence,
Born of the mind where Love is situate,
Go errant forth and naught save grief relate
And find no one to give them audience.

They would return to the eyes in galliard mode,
With all harsh tears and their deep bitterness
Transmuted into revelry and joy;

Were't not unto the sad heart such annoy,
And to the mournful soul such rathe distress
That none doth deign salute them on the road.


SO vilely is this soul of mine confounded
By strife grown audible within the heart
That is toward her some frail Love but start
With unaccustomed speed, she swoons astounded.

She is as one in whom no power aboundeth;
Lo, she forsakes my heart through fearfulness,
And any seeing her, how prone she is,
Would deem her one whom death's sure cloak surroundeth.

Through th' eyes, as through the breach in wall, her foes
Came first to attack and shattered all defense,
Then spoiled the mind with their down-rained blows.

Whoe'er he be who holdeth joy most close
Would, should he see my spirit going hence,
Weep for the pity and make no pretence.


THOU fill'st my mind with griefs so populous
That my soul irks him to be on the road.
Mine eyes cry out, "We cannot bear the load
Of sighs the grievous heart sends upon us."

Love, sensitive to thy nobility,
Saith, "Sorrow is mine that thou must take thy death
From this fair lady who will hear no breath
In argument for aught save pitying thee."

And I, as one beyond life's compass thrown,
Seem but a thing that's fashioned to design,
Melted of bronze or carven in tree or stone.

A wound I bear within this heart of mine
Which by its mastering quality is grown
To be of that heart's death an open sign.


IF I should pray this lady pitiless
That Mercy to her heart be no more foeman,
You'd call me clownish, vile, and say that no man
Was so past hope and filled with vanities.

Where find you now these novel cruelties?
For still you seem humility's true leaven.
Wise and adorned, alert and subtile even,
And fashioned out in ways of gentleness?

My soul weeps through her sighs for grievous fear,
And all those sighs, which in the heart were found,
Deep drenched with tears do sobbing thence depart,

Then seems that on my mind there rains a clear
Image of a lady, thoughtful, bound
Hither to keep death-watch upon that heart.


I FEAR me lest unfortune's counter thrust
Pierce through my throat and rip out my despair.
I feel my heart and that thought shaking there
Which shakes the aspen mind with his distrust,

Seeming to say, "Love doth not give thee ease
So that thou canst, as of a little thing,
Speak to thy Lady with full verities,
For fear Death set thee in his reckoning."

By the chagrin that here assails my soul
My heart's parturèd of a sigh so great
It cryeth to the spirits: "Get ye gone!"

And of all piteous folk I come on none
Who seeing me so in my grief's control
Will aid by saying e'en: "Nay, Spirits, wait!"


SURELY thine intellect gives no embrace
To him who hath bred this day's dishonesty;
How art thou shown for beggared suddenly
By that red spirit showing in thy face!

Perhaps it is some love within thee breedeth
For her who's folly's circumspection,
Perhaps some baser light doth call thee on
To make thee glad where mine own grief exceedeth.

Thou art my grief, my grief to such extent
That I trust not myself to meet Milady,
Starving myself of what Love sweetest lent me

So that before my face that key's forbent
Which her disdeign turned in my heart and made me
Suitor to wrath and sadness and lamenting.



THOU mayest see, who seest me face to face,
That most dred spirit whom Love summoneth
To meet with man when a man meets with Death;
One never seen in any other case.

So close upon me did this presence show
That I thought he would slay my heart his dolour
And my sad soul clad her in the dead colour
That most accords the will and ways of woe.

Then he restrained him, seeing in true faith
The piteous lights forth-issue from your eyes
The which bore to my heart their foreign sweetness,

While the perceptive sense with subtle fleetness
Rescued those others who had considered death
The one sure ending for their miseries.


ALAS, my spirits, that ye come to find me
So painful, poor, waylaid in wretchedness,
Yet send no words adorned with deep distress
Forth from my mind to say what sorrows bind me.

Alas, ye see how sore my heart is wounded
By glance, by fair delight and by her meekness;
'Las! Must I pray ye that ye aid his weakness,
Seeing him power-stripped, naked, confounded.

And now a spirit that is noble and haut
Appeareth to that heart with so great might
That all th' heart's virtues turn in sudden flight.

Woe! and I pray you greet my soul as friend,
Who tells through all her grief what things were wrought
On her by Love, and will be to the end.



[ Born of the perception of beauty, he arouseth that power of the mind whence is born that quality of love which ennobleth every sense and every desire; misunderstanded of base minds who comprehend not his power, he is the cause of that love in woman which teacheth modesty. Thus from him is born that love in woman whence is born Mercy, and from Mercy "as a gentle rain from heaven" descend those spirits which are the keys of every spirit, perforce of the one spirit which seeth. ]

SUBTLE the spririt striking through the eyes
Which rouseth up a sprit in the mind
Whence moves a spirit unto love inclined
Which breeds in other sprites nobilities.

No turbid spirit hath the sense which sees
How greatly empowered a spirit he appeareth;
He is the little breath which that breath feareth,
Which breedeth virginal humilities.

Yet from this spirit doth another move
Wherein such tempered sweetness rightly dwells
That Mercy's spirit followeth his ways,

And Mercy's spirit as it moves above
Rains down those spirits that ope all things else,
Perforce of One who seeth all of these.


[ --- ]


NOW can I tell you tidings of mine eyes,
News which such pleasure to my heart supplieth
That Love himself for glory of it sigheth.

This new delight which my heart drinketh in
Was drawn from nothing save a woman seen
Who hath such charm and a so courtly mien
And such fair fashion that the heart is fain
To greet her beauty, which nor base nor mean
Can know, because its hue and qualities demand
Intelligence in him who would understand.

I see Love grow resplendent in her eyes
With such great power and such noble thought
As hold therein all gracious ecstasies,
From them there moves a soul so subtly wrought
That all compared thereto are set at naught
And judgment of her speaks no truth save this:
"A splendour strange and unforeseen she is."

Go, Ballatetta, forth and find my Lady,
Ask if she have this much of mercy ready,
This namely, that she turn her eyes toward thee?
Ask in his name whose whole faith rests in her,
And if she gracious, this much grace accord thee,
Offer glad-voiced incense of sweet savour
Proclaiming of whom thou receiv'st such favour.


LIGHT do I see within my Lady's eyes
And loving spirits in its plenisphere
Which bear in strange delight on my heart's care
Till Joy's awakened from that sepulchre.

That which befalls me in my Lady's presence
Bars explanations intellectual,
I seem to see a lady wonderful
Forth issue from Her lips, one whom no sense
Can fully tell the mind of and one whence
Another fair, swift born, moves marvellous,
From whom a star goes forth and speaketh thus:
"Lo, thy salvation is gone forth from thee."

There where this Lady's loveliness appeareth,
There's heard a voice which goes before her ways
And seems to sing her name with such sweet praise
That my mouth fears to speak what name she beareth,
And my heart trembles for the grace she weareth,
While far in my soul's deep the sighs astir
Speak thus : "Look well! For if thou look on her,
Then shalt thou see her virtue risen in heaven."


I PRAY ye gentles, ye who speak of grief,
Out of new clemency, for my relief
That ye disdain not to attend my pain.

I see my heart stand up before mine eyes,
While my self-slaying mournful soul receiveth
Love's mortal stroke and in that moment dies,
Yea, in the very instant he perceiveth
Milady, and yet that smiling sprite who cleaveth
To her in joy, that very one is he
Who sets the seal of my mortality.

But should ye hear my sad heart's lamentation
Then would a trembling reach your heart's midmost.
For Love holds with me such sweet conversation
That Pity, by your sighs, ye would accost.
To all less keen than ye the sense were lost,
Nor other hearts could think soft nor speak loudly
How dire the throng of sorrows that enshroud me.

Yea from my mind behold what tears arise
As soon as it hath news of Her, Milady,
Forth move they making passage through the eyes
Wherethrough there goes a spirit sorrowing,
Which entereth the air so weak a thing
That no man else its place discovereth
Or deems it such an almoner of Death.


WEEPING ye see me, in Grief's company,
One showing forth Love's jurisdiction.
Of pity-shrouded hearts I find not one
Who sigheth, seeing me disconsolate.

New is the grief that's come upon my heart,
And mournful is the press of my deep sighs,
And oft Death greeteth me, by tricksome art
Drawn close upon me with his agonies,
Yea close, drawn close till every dullard sees;
I hear their murmuring, "How grief hath bent
This man ! And we from the apparent testament,
Deem stranger torments in him sublimate."

Within my heart this grievous weight descended
Hath slain that band of spirits which was bent
Heartward, that th' heart might by them be defended.
When the sad heart had summoned them they'd left
Mine eyes of every other guard bereft
Till Rumour, courier through the mind, ran crying,
"A vileness in the heart, Oyez! lies dying.
On guard lest vileness strike at your estate!"


THE eyes of this gentle maid of the forest
Have set my mind in such bewilderment
That all my wistful thoughts on her are bent.

So doth she pierce me when mine eyes regard her
That I hear sighs a-trembling in mine heart
As from her eyes aye sources of mine ardour
The quaint small spirits of Amor forth-dart
From which small sprites such greater powers start
That when they reach me my faint soul is sent
Exhausted forth to swoon in banishment.

I feel how from mine eyes the sighs forth-fare
When my mind reasoneth with me of her,
Till I see torments raining through the air.
Draggled by griefs, which I by these incur,
Mine every strength turns mine abandoner,
And I know not what place I am toward,
Save that Death hath me in his castle-yard.

And I am so outworn that now for mercy
I am not bold to cry out even in thought,
And I find Love, who speaking saith of her, "See,
She is not one whose image could be wrought.
Unto her presence no man could be brought
Who did not well to tremble for the daring."
And I? Would swoon if I should meet her faring.

Go ! Ballad mine, and when thy journey has won
Unto my Lady's presence wonderful,
Speak of mine anguish in some fitting fashion,
Sorrowfully thus, "My sender is sorrowful,
Lo, how he saith, he hath no hope at all
Of drawing pity from such courtesy
As keeps his Lady's gracious company."


IF all my life be but some deathly moving,
Joy dragged from heaviness;
Seeing my deep distress
How doth Love's spirit call me unto loving?

How summon up my heart for dalliance?
When 'tis so sorrowful
And manacled by sighs so mournfully
That e'en the will for grace dare not advance?
Weariness over all
Spoileth that heart of power, despoiling me.
And song, sweet laughter, and benignity
Are grown three grievous sighs,
Till all men's careless eyes
May see Death risen to my countenance.

Love that is born of loving like delight
Within my heart sojourneth
And fashions a new person from desire
Yet toppleth down to vileness all his might,
So all Love's daring spurneth
That man who knoweth service and its hire.
For Love, then why doth he of me inquire?
Only because he sees
Me cry on Death for ease,
While Death doth point me on toward all mischance.

And I can cry for Grief so heavily
As hath man never,
For Grief drags to my heart a heart so sore
With wandering speech of her, who cruelly
Outwearieth me ever . . . .
O Mistress, spoiler of my valour's store!
Accursed by the hour when Amor
Was born in such a wise
That my life in his eyes
Grew matter of pleasure and acceptable!


THE grace of youth in Toulouse ventureth;
She's noble and fair, with quaint sincerities,
Direct she is and is about her eyes
Most like to our Lady of sweet memories.

So that within my heart desirous
She hath clad the soul in fashions peregrine.
Pilgrim to her he hath too great chagrin
To say what Lady is lord over us.

This soul looks deep into that look of hers,
Wherein he rouseth Love to festival,
For deep therein his rightful lady resteth.

Then with sad sighing in the heart he stirs,
Feeling his death-wound as that dart doth fall
Which this Tolosan by departure casteth.


BEING in thought of love I came upon
Two damsels strange
Who sang, "The joyous rains
Of love descend within us."

So quiet in their modest courtesies
Their aspect coming softly on my vision
Made me reply, "Surely ye hold the keys
O' the virtues noble, high, without omission.
Ah, little maids, hold me not in derision,
For the wound I bear within me
And this heart o' mine ha' slain me.
I was in Toulouse lately."

And then toward me they so turned their eyes
That they could see my wounded heart's ill ease,
And how a little spirit born of sighs
Had issued forth from out the cicatrice.
Perceiving so the depth of my distress,
She who was smiling, said,
"Love's joy hath vanquished
This man. Behold how greatly!"

Then the other piteous, full of misericorde,
Fashioned for pleasure in love's fashioning:
"His heart's apparent wound, I give my word,
Was got from eyes whose power's an o'er great thing,
Which eyes have left in his a glittering
That mine cannot endure.
Tell me, hast thou a sure
Memory of those eyes?"

To her dread question with such fears attended,
"Maid o' the wood," I said, "my memories render
Tolosa and the dusk and these things blended:
A lady in a corded bodice, slender
-- Mandetta is the name Love's spirits lend her --
A lightning swift to fall,
And naught within recall
Save, Death! My wounds! Her eyes!"

Then she who had first mocked me, in better part
Gave me all courtesy in her replies.
She said, "That Lady, who upon thine heart
Cut her full image, clear, by Love's device,
Hath looked so fixedly in through thine eyes
That she's made Love appear there;
If thou great pain or fear bear,
Recommend thee unto him!" Speed Ballatet' unto Tolosa city
And go in softly neath the golden roof
And there cry out, "Will courtesy or pity
Of any most fair lady, put to proof,
Lead me to her with whom is my behoof?
Then if thou get her choice
Say, with a lowered voice,
"It is thy grace I seek here."


YOU, who within your eyes so often carry
That Love who holdeth in his hand three arrows,
Behold my spirit, by his far-brought sorrows,
Commends to you a soul whom hot griefs harry.

A mind thrice wounded she already hath,
By this keen archer's Syrian shafts twice shot.
The third, less tautly drawn, hath reached me not,
Seeing your presence is my shield 'gainst wrath.

Yet this third shot had made more safe my soul,
Who almost dead beneath her members lies;
For these two arrows give three wounds in all:

The first: delight, which payeth pain his toll;
The second brings desire for the prize
Of that great joy which with the third doth fall.


O LADY mine, doth not thy sight allege
Him who hath set his hand upon my heart,
When parched responses from my faint throat start
And shudder for the terror of his edge?

He was Amor, who since he found you, dwells
Ever with me, and he was come from far;
An archer is he as the Scythians are
Whose only joy is killing someone else.

My sobbing eyes are drawn upon his wrack,
And such harsh sighs upon my heart he casteth
That I depart from that sad me he wasteth,

With Death drawn close upon my wavering track,
Leading such tortures in his sombre train
As, by all custom, wear out other men.


[ --- ]


THE harshness of my strange and new misventure
Hath in my mind distraught
The wonted fragrance of love's every thought.

Already is my life in such part shaken
That she, my gracious lady of delight,
Hath left my soul most desolate forsaken
And e'en the place she was, is gone from sight;
And there rests not within me so much might
That my mind can reach forth
To comprehend the flower of her worth.

This noble thought is come well winged with death,
Namely, that I shall ne'er see her again,
And this harsh torment, with no pity fraught,
Increaseth bitterness and in its strain
I cry, and find none to attend my pain,
While for the flame I feel,
I thank that lord who turns grief's fortune wheel.

Full of all anguish and within Fear's gates
The spirit of my heart lies sorrowfully,
Thanks to that Fortune who my fortune hates,
Who 'th spun death's lot where it most irketh me
And given hope that's ta'en in treachery,
Which ere it died aright
Had robbed me of mine hours of delight.

O words of mine foredone and full of terror,
Whither it please ye, go forth and proclaim
Grief. Throughout all your wayfare, in your error
Make ye soft clamour of my Lady's name,
While I downcast and fallen upon shame
Keep scant shields over me,
To whomso runs, death's colours cover me.


BECAUSE no hope is left me, Ballatetta,
Of return to Tuscany,
Light-foot go thou some fleet way
Unto my Lady straightway,
And out of her courtesy
Great honour will she do thee.

Tidings thou bearest with thee sorrow-fain
Full of all grieving, overcast with fear.
On guard ! Lest any one see thee or hear,
Any who holds high nature in disdain,
For sure if so, to my increase of pain,
Thou wert made prisoner
And held afar from her,
Hereby new harms were given
Me, and after death even
Dolour and griefs renewed.

Thou knowest, Ballatetta, that Death layeth
His hand upon me whom hath Life forsaken;
Thou knowest well how great a tumult swayeth
My heart at sound of her whom each sense crieth
Till all my mournful body is so shaken
That I cannot endure here,
Would'st thou make service sure here?
Lead forth my soul with thee
(I pray thee earnestly)
When it parts from my heart here.

Ah, Ballatetta, to thy friendliness
I do give o'er this trembling soul's poor case.
Bring thou it there where her dear pity is,
And when thou hast found that Lady of all grace
Speak through thy sighs, my Ballad, with thy face
Low bowed, thy words in sum:
"Behold, thy servant is come,
This soul who would dwell with thee,
Asundered suddenly
From Him, Love's servitor."

O smothered voice and weak that tak'st the road
Out from the weeping heart and dolorous,
Go crying out my most sad mind's alarm
Forth with my soul and this song piteous
Until thou find a lady of such charm,
So sweetly intelligent
That e'en thy sorrow is rent.
Take thy fast place before her.
And thou, Soul mine, adore her
Alway, with all thy might.



NAY, when I would have sent my verses to thee
To say how harshly my heart is oppressed,
Love in an ashen vision manifest
Appeared and spake: "Say not that I foredo thee,

For though thy friend be he I understand
He will not yet have his mind so enured
But that to hear of all thou hast endured,
Of that blare flame that hath thee 'neath its hand,

Would blear his mind out. Verily before!
Yea, he were dead, heard, life, ere he should hear
To the last meaning of the portent wrought.

And thou; thou knowest well I am Amor
Who leave with thee mine ashen likeness here
And bear away from thee thine every thought."


[ To Dante, in answer to the first sonnet of the Vita Nuova. ]

THOU sawest, it seems to me, all things availing,
And every joy that ever good man feeleth.
Thou wast in proof of that lord valorous
Who through sheer honour lords it o'er the world.

Thou livest in a place where baseness dieth,
And holdest reason in the piteous mind;
So gently move the people in this sleep
That the heart bears it 'thout the feel of grief.

Love bore away the heart, because in his sight
Was Death grown clamorous for one thou lovest,
Love fed her with thy heart in dread of this,

Then, when it seemed to thee he left in sadness,
A dear dream was it which was there completed
Seeing it contrary came conquering.


WERE I that I once was worthy of Love
(Of whom I find naught now save the remembrance)
And if the lady had another semblance,
Then would this sort of sign please me enough.

Do thou, who art from Love's clear realm returned,
Where Mercy giveth birth to hopefulness,
Judge as thou canst from my dim mood's distress
What bowman and what target are concerned.

Straining his arc, behold Amor the bowman
Draweth so gaily that to see his face
You'd say he held his rule for merrriment,

Yet hear what's marvelous in all intent:
The smitten spirit pardoneth his foeman
Which pardon doth that foeman's power debase.

[ Anyone who can, from the text as it stands, discern what happens to whom in the final lines of this sonnet, is at liberty to emend my translation. ]


DANTE, I pray thee, if thou Love discover
In any place where Lappo Gianni is, --
If 't irk thee not to move thy mind in this,
Write me these answered: "Doth he style him Lover?";

And, "Doth the lady seem as one approving?";
And, "Makes he show of service with fair skill?";
For many a time folk made as he is, will
To assume importance, make a show of loving.

Thou know'st that in that court where Love puts on
His royal robes, no vile man can be servant
To any lady who were lost therein;

If servant's suffering doth assistance win,
Our style could show unto the least observant,
It beareth mercy for a gonfalon.


DANTE, a sigh, that's the heart's messenger
Assailed me suddenly as I lay sleeping;
Aroused, I fell straightaway into fear's keeping,
For Love came with that sigh as curator.

And I turned straight and saw the servitor
Of Monna Lagia, who came there a-crying,
"Ah pity! Aid me!" and at this his sighing
I took from Pity this much power and more:

That I found Love a-filing javelins
And asked him of both torment and solution,
And in this fashion came that Lord's replies:

"Say to the servant that his service wins.
He holds the Lady to his pleasure won.
If he'd believe it, let him watch her eyes."


[ To Dante, rebuking him for his way of life after the death of Beatrice. ]

I DAILY come to thee uncounting times
And find thee ever thinking over vilely;
Much doth it grieve me that thy noble mind
And virtue's plenitude are stripped from thee;

Thou wast so careless in thy fine offending,
Who from the rabble alway held apart,
And spoke of me so straightly from the heart
That I gave welcome to thine every rime.

And now I care not, sith thy life is baseness
To give the sign that thy speech pleaseth me,
Nor come I to thee in guise visible,

Yet if thou'It read this Sonnet many a time,
That malign spirit which so hunteth thee
Will sound forloyn and spare thy affrighted soul.


[ Guido Cavalcanti to Nerone Cavalcanti. ]

[ He suggests to his kinsman Nerone that there may be one among all the Buondelmonti of \v horn they might in time make a man. ]

NEWS have I now for thee, so hear, Nerone,
How that the Buondelmonti shake with fear,
And all the Florentines can not assure them,
Seeing thou hast in thee the lion-heart.

They fear thee more than they would fear a dragon,
Seeing that face of thine, how set it is
That neither bridge nor walls could hold against it
Lest they were strong as is King Pharo's tomb.

Oh how dost of smoky sins the greatest
In that thou wouldst drive forth such haughty blood
Till all be gone, gone forth without retention.

But sooth it is, thou might'st extend the pawn
Of one whose soul thou mightest give salvation
Wert thou more patient in thine huckstering.


IN wood-way found I once a shepherdess,
More fair than stars are was she to my seeming.

Her hair was wavy somewhat, like dull gold.
Eyes? Love-worn, and her face like some pale rose.
With a small twig she kept her lambs in hold,
And bare her feet were bar the dewdrop's gloze;
She sang as one whom mad love holdeth close,
And joy was on her for an ornament.

I greeted her in love without delaying:
"Hast thou companion in thy solitude?
"And she replied to me most sweetly, saying,
"Nay, I am quite alone in all this wood,
But when the birds 'gin singing in their coverts
My heart is fain that time to find a lover."

As she was speaking thus of her condition
I heard the bird-song 'neath the forest shade
And thought me how 't was but the time's provision
To gather joy of this small shepherd maid.
Favour I asked her, but for kisses only,
And then I felt her pleasant arms upon me.

She held to me with a dear wilfulness,
Saying her heart had gone into my bosom,
She drew me on to a cool leafy place
Where I gat sight of every coloured blossom,
And there I drank in so much summer sweetness
Meseemed Love's god connived at its completeness.



THIS most lief lady, where doth Love display him
So full of valour and so vestured bright,
Bids thy heart "Out!" He goes and none gainsay him;
And he takes life with her in long delight.

Her cloister's guard is such that should you journey
To Ind you'd see each unicorn obey it;
Its armed might against thee in sweet tourney
Cruel riposteth, thou canst not withstay it.

Though she be surely in her valliancies
Such that she lacks not now worth's anything,
Still I believe her to be mortal creature;

Whence seems it, that (and here some foresight is)
If thou wert made aware of this, thou'ldst bring
Her to partake somewhat of some such nature.



[ He explains the miracles of the Madonna of Or San Michele, by telling whose image it is. ]

MY Lady's face it is they worship there.
At San Michele in Orto, Guido mine,
Near her fair semblance that is clear and holy
Sinners take refuge and get consolation.

Whoso before her kneeleth reverently
No longer wasteth but is comforted;
The sick are healed and devils driven forth,
And those with crooked eyes see straightway straight.

Great ills she cureth in an open place,
With reverence the folk all kneel unto her,
And two lamps shed the glow about her form.

Her voice is borne out through far-lying ways
'Till brothers minor cry: "Idolatry,"
For envy of her precious neighborhood.



IF Santalena does not come unto you
Down in the plow-lands where the clods are hard,
But falls into the hands of some hot clod-pole
Who'll wear her out and hardly then return her;

Then tell me if the fruit which this land beareth
Is born of draught or heat or from the dampness,
And say what wind it is doth blight and wither
And which doth bring the tempest and the mist.

Say if it please you when at break of morning
You hear the farmer's workman bawling out
And all his family meddling in the noise?

Egad! I think that if your sweet Bettina
Beareth a mellow spirit in her heart
She'll rescue you once more from your last choice.


[ "Hoot Zah!!!" ]

COME, come Manetto, look upon this scarecrow
And set your mind upon its deformations,
Compute th' extent of its sad abberrations,
Say what it looks like where she scarcely dare go!

Nay, were she in a cloak most well concealèd
And snugly hooded and most tightly veiled
If, by her, daylight should once be assailed
Though by some noble woman partly healèd,

Still you could not be so sin-laden or quite
So bound by anguish or by love's abstractions
Nor so enwrapped in naked melancholy

But you were brought to deathly danger, solely
By laughter, till your sturdy sides grew fractions,
'Struth you were dead, or sought your life in flight.


[ Guido Cavalcanti answers to Bernardo da Bologna. ]

[ Concerning Pinella, he replies to a sonnet by Bernardo da Bologna and explains why they have sweet waters in Galicia (Liscian). ]

NOW every cool small spring that springeth sweetly
Takes clarity and virtue in Liscian climes,
Bernard my friend, from one sole source, discretely:
'T is she who answereth thy sharpened rimes.

For in that place where Love's reports are laid
Concerning all who to his sight are led,
He saith that this so gracious and fair maid
Hath to herself all graces gatherèd.

Whereas my grief in this is grown more grave
And sighs have turned me to one light and flame,
I send my burning heart, in her acclaim

Unto Pinella, upon a magic stream
Where fairies and their fair attendants gleam,
In this wrecked barque! where their show is so brave!

[ LI ]

[ --- ]

[ LII ]

[ --- ]

REFERENCE EDITION: "Sonnets and ballate of Guido Cavalcanti", with the translations of them and an introduction by Ezra Pound, Stephen Swift and Co., ltd., King street, Covent Garden, London, 1912.  ( See )

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        Guido Cavalcanti - Opera Omnia  -  edited by ilVignettificio

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