Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription

Document Title: The Collected Works of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, vol. 2 (1886)
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of publication: 1886
Publisher: Ellis and Scrutton
Printer: Hazell, Watson, and Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury
Edition: 2

The full Rossetti Archive record for this transcribed document is available.

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Manuscript Addition: Charles H. Forbes / from G. S. F.
Editorial Description: inscription written in cursive black ink.
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All rights reserved

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Printed by Hazell, Watson, & Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury.
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With the Italian Poets preceding Him.





Dante's Vita Nuova, etc.

Poets of Dante's Circle.


Poets chiefly before Dante.
Note: All of the signatures in this edition are prefixed with “ VOL. II.
Sig. b
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Advertisement to the Edition of 1874.

In re-entitling and re-arranging this book (originally

published in 1861 as The Early Italian Poets ,) my

object has been to make more evident at a first glance

its important relation to Dante. The Vita Nuova,

together with the many among Dante's lyrics and those

of his contemporaries which elucidate their personal

intercourse, are here assembled, and brought to my

best ability into clear connection, in a manner not

elsewhere attempted even by Italian or German

Note: In the 2nd line of this page, the punctuation appears inappropriately within, rather than without, the close paranthesis bracket, a practice that is consistent throughout the 1874 edition but was corrected only inconsistently in the 1886.
Note: In the 6th line of this page "elucidate" appears with the letters c and d transposed.
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Preface to the First Edition


I need not dilate here on the characteristics of the

first epoch of Italian Poetry; since the extent of

my translated selections is sufficient to afford a complete

view of it. Its great beauties may often remain un-

approached in the versions here attempted; but, at

the same time, its imperfections are not all to be

charged to the translator. Among these I may refer

to its limited range of subject and continual obscurity,

as well as to its monotony in the use of rhymes or

frequent substitution of assonances. But to compensate

for much that is incomplete and inexperienced, these

poems possess, in their degree, beauties of a kind which

can never again exist in art; and offer, besides, a

treasure of grace and variety in the formation of their

metres. Nothing but a strong impression, first of their

poetic value, and next of the biographical interest of

some of them (chiefly of those in my first division),

would have inclined me to bestow the time and trouble

which have resulted in this collection.
Much has been said, and in many respects justly,

against the value of metrical translation. But I think

it would be admitted that the tributary art might find
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a not illegitimate use in the case of poems which come

down to us in such a form as do these early Italian

ones. Struggling originally with corrupt dialect and

imperfect expression, and hardly kept alive through

centuries of neglect, they have reached that last and

worst state in which the coup-de-grâce has almost been

dealt them by clumsy transcription and pedantic super-

structure. At this stage the task of talking much more

about them in any language is hardly to be entered

upon; and a translation (involving as it does the

necessity of settling many points without discussion,)

remains perhaps the most direct form of commentary.
The life-blood of rhythmical translation is this com-

mandment,—that a good poem shall not be turned

into a bad one. The only true motive for putting

poetry into a fresh language must be to endow a fresh

nation, as far as possible, with one more possession

of beauty. Poetry not being an exact science, liter-

ality of rendering is altogether secondary to this chief

law. I say literality,—not fidelity, which is by no

means the same thing. When literality can be com-

bined with what is thus the primary condition of success,

the translator is fortunate, and must strive his utmost

to unite them; when such object can only be attained

by paraphrase, that is his only path.
Any merit possessed by these translations is derived

from an effort to follow this principle; and, in some

degree, from the fact that such painstaking in arrange-

ment and descriptive heading as is often indispensable

to old and especially to “occasional” poetry, has here

been bestowed on these poets for the first time.
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That there are many defects in this collection,

or that the above merit is its defect, or that it

has no merits but only defects, are discoveries so

sure to be made if necessary (or perhaps here and

there in any case), that I may safely leave them in

other hands. The series has probably a wider scope

than some readers might look for, and includes now

and then (though I believe in rare instances) matter

which may not meet with universal approval; and whose

introduction, needed as it is by the literary aim of my

work, is I know inconsistent with the principles of

pretty bookmaking. My wish has been to give a full

and truthful view of early Italian poetry; not to make

it appear to consist only of certain elements to the

exclusion of others equally belonging to it.
Of the difficulties I have had to encounter,—the

causes of imperfections for which I have no other

excuse,—it is the reader's best privilege to remain

ignorant; but I may perhaps be pardoned for briefly

referring to such among these as concern the exigencies

of translation. The task of the translator (and with

all humility be it spoken) is one of some self-denial.

Often would he avail himself of any special grace of

his own idiom and epoch, if only his will belonged to

him: often would some cadence serve him but for

his author's structure—some structure but for his author's

cadence: often the beautiful turn of a stanza must be

weakened to adopt some rhyme which will tally, and

he sees the poet revelling in abundance of language

where himself is scantily supplied. Now he would

slight the matter for the music, and now the music for
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the matter; but no,— he must deal to each alike. Some-

times too a flaw in the work galls him, and he would

fain remove it, doing for the poet that which his age

denied him; but no,—it is not in the bond. His path

is like that of Aladdin through the enchanted vaults:

many are the precious fruits and flowers which he must

pass by unheeded in search for the lamp alone; happy

if at last, when brought to light, it does not prove

that his old lamp has been exchanged for a new one,

—glittering indeed to the eye, but scarcely of the same

virtue nor with the same genius at its summons.
In relinquishing this work (which, small as it is, is

the only contribution I expect to make to our English

knowledge of old Italy), I feel, as it were, divided from

my youth. The first associations I have are connected

with my father's devoted studies, which, from his own

point of view, have done so much towards the general

investigation of Dante's writings. Thus, in those early

days, all around me partook of the influence of the

great Florentine; till, from viewing it as a natural

element, I also, growing older, was drawn within the

circle. I trust that from this the reader may place

more confidence in a work not carelessly undertaken,

though produced in the spare-time of other pursuits

more closely followed. He should perhaps be told

that it has occupied the leisure moments of not a few

years; thus affording, often at long intervals, every

opportunity for consideration and revision; and that on

the score of care, at least, he has no need to mistrust

it. Nevertheless, I know there is no great stir to be

made by launching afresh, on high-seas busy with new
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traffic, the ships which have been long outstripped and

the ensigns which are grown strange.
It may be well to conclude this short preface with

a list of the works which have chiefly contributed to

the materials of the present volume. An array of

modern editions hardly looks so imposing as might a

reference to Allacci, Crescimbeni, etc.; but these older

collections would be found less accessible, and all they

contain has been reprinted.
I. Poeti del primo secolo della Lingua Italiana.

2 vol. (Firenze. 1816.)
II. Raccolta di Rime antiche Toscane. 4 vol.

(Palermo. 1817.)
III. Manuale della Letteratura del primo Secolo,

del Prof. V. Nannucci. 3 vol. (Firenze. 1843.)
IV. Poesie Italiane inedite di Dugento Autori: raccolte

da Francesco Trucchi. 4 vol. (Prato. 1846.)
V. Opere Minori di Dante. Edizione di P. I. Fra-

ticelli. (Firenze. 1843, etc.)
VI. Rime di Guido Cavalcanti; raccolte da A. Cic-

ciaporci. (Firenze. 1813.)
VII. Vita e Poesie di Messer Cino da Pistoia. Edi-

zione di S. Ciampi. (Pisa. 1813.)
VIII. Documenti d'Amore; di Francesco da Barbe-

rino. Annotati da F. Ubaldini. (Roma. 1640.)
IX. Del Reggimento e dei Costumi delle Donne; di

Francesco da Barberino. (Roma. 1815.)
X. Il Dittamondo di Fazio degli Uberti. (Milano.

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Note: The word PAGE is printed at the top of each column of numbers in the table of contents.
  • A certain youthful lady in Thoulouse

    Una giovine donna di Tolosa . . . . 123
  • A day agone as I rode sullenly

    Cavalcando l'altrier per un cammino . . . 40
  • A fresh content of fresh enamouring

    Novella gioia e nova innamoranza . . . 369
  • A gentle thought there is will often start

    Gentil pensiero che parla di vui . . . . 90
  • A lady in whom love is manifest

    La bella donna dove Amor si mostra . . . 142
  • Alas for me who loved a falcon well

    Tapina me che amava uno sparviero . . . 398
  • Albeit my prayers have not so long delay'd

    Avvegna ched io m'aggio più per tempo . . . 164
  • A little wild bird sometimes at my ear

    Augelletto selvaggio per stagione . . . . 401
  • All my thoughts always speak to me of Love

    Tutti li miei pensier parlan d'Amore . . . 46
  • All the whole world is living without war

    Tutto lo mondo vive senza guerra . . . 255
  • All ye that pass along Love's trodden way

    O voi che per la via d'amor passate . . . 36
  • Along the road all shapes must travel by

    Per quella via che l'altre forme vanno . . . 215
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  • A man should hold in very dear esteem

    Ogni uomo deve assai caro tenere . . . 324
  • Among my thoughts I count it wonderful

    Pure a pensar mi par gran meraviglia . . . 270
  • Among the dancers I beheld her dance

    Alla danza la vidi danzare . . . . 364
  • Among the faults we in that book descry

    Infra gli altri difetti del libello . . . . 177
  • And every Wednesday as the swift days move

    Ogni Mercoledì corredo grande . . . . 344
  • And in September O what keen delight

    Di Settembre vi do diletti tanti . . . . 339
  • And now take thought my Sonnet who is he

    Sonetto mio, anda o' lo divisi . . . . 341
  • And on the morrow at first peep o' the day

    Alla domane al parere del giorno . . . . 346
  • As I walked thinking through a little grove

    Passando con pensier per un boschetto . . . 396
  • As thou wert loth to see before thy feet

    Se non ti caggia la tua Santalena . . . 202
  • A spirit of Love with Love's intelligence

    Ispirito d'Amor con intelletto . . . . 367
  • A thing is in my mind

    Venuto m' è in talento . . . . 274
  • At whiles yea oftentimes I muse over

    Spesse fiate venemi alla mente . . . . 51
  • A very pitiful lady very young

    Donna pietosa e di novella etate . . . . 65
  • Ay me alas the beautiful bright hair

    Ohimè lasso quelle treccie bionde . . . . 173
  • Ballad since Love himself hath fashioned thee

    Ballata poi che ti compose Amore . . . . 208
  • Beauty in woman the high will's decree

    Beltà di donna e di saccente core . . . . 118
  • Because I find not whom to speak withal

    Poich' io non trovo chi meco ragioni . . . 110
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  • Because I think not ever to return

    Perch' io non spero di tornar giammai . . . 149
  • Because mine eyes can never have their fill

    Poichè saziar non posso gli occhi miei . . . 100
  • Because ye made your backs your shields it came

    Guelfi per fare scudo delle reni . . . . 330
  • Being in thought of love I chanced to see

    Era in pensier d' amor quand' io trovai . . . 124
  • Be stirring girls we ought to have a run

    State su donne che debbiam noi fare . . . 394
  • Beyond the sphere which spreads to widest space

    Oltre la spera che più larga gira . . . . 94
  • By a clear well within a little field

    Intorno ad una fonte in un pratello . . . 230
  • By the long sojourning

    Per lunga dimoranza . . . . . 319
  • Canst thou indeed be he that still would sing

    Sei tu colui ch' hai trattato sovente . . . 62
  • Dante Alighieri a dark oracle

    Dante Alighieri son Minerva oscura . . . 227
  • Dante Alighieri Cecco your good friend

    Dante Alighier Cecco tuo servo e amico . . . 183
  • Dante Alighieri if I jest and lie

    Dante Alighier s'io son buon begolardo . . . 205
  • Dante Alighieri in Becchina's praise

    Lassar vuol lo trovare di Becchina . . . 192
  • Dante a sigh that rose from the heart's core

    Dante un sospiro messagger del core . . . 128
  • Dante if thou within the sphere of Love

    Dante se tu nell' amorosa spera . . . . 228
  • Dante since I from my own native place

    Poich' io fui Dante dal mio natal sito . . . 109
  • Dante whenever this thing happeneth

    Dante quando per caso s'abbandona . . . 167
  • Death alway cruel Pity's foe in chief

    Morte villana di Pietà nemica . . . . 38
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  • Death since I find not one with whom to grieve

    Morte poich' io non trovo a cui mi doglia . . 104
  • Death why hast thou made life so hard to bear

    Morte perchè m' hai fatto sì gran guerra . . . 303
  • Do not conceive that I shall here recount

    Non intendiate ch' io qui le vi dica . . . 371
  • Each lover's longing leads him naturally

    Naturalmente chere ogni amadore . . . 163
  • Even as the day when it is yet at dawning

    Come lo giorno quando è al mattino . . . 358
  • Even as the moon among the stars doth shed

    Come le stelle sopra la Diana . . . . 366
  • Even as the others mock thou mockest me

    Con l'altre donne mia vista gabbate . . . 49
  • Fair sir this love of ours

    Messer lo nostro amore . . . . . 308
  • Flowers hast thou in thyself and foliage

    Avete in voi li fiori e la verdura . . . . 117
  • For a thing done repentance is no good

    A cosa fatta già non val pentire . . . . 196
  • For August be your dwelling thirty towers

    D'Agosto sì vi do trenta castella . . . . 338
  • For certain he hath seen all perfectness

    Vede perfettamente ogni salute . . . . 74
  • For grief I am about to sing

    Di dolor mi conviene cantare . . . . 259
  • For January I give you vests of skins

    Io dono vai nel mese di Gennaio . . . . 335
  • For July in Siena by the willow-tree

    Di Luglio in Siena sulla saliciata. . . 338
  • For no love borne by me

    Non per ben ch' io ti voglia. . . . 400
  • For Thursday be the tournament prepared

    Ed ogni Giovedì torniamento . . . . 344
  • Friend well I know thou knowest well to bear

    Amico saccio ben che sai limare . . . . 137
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  • Glory to God and to God's Mother chaste

    Lode di Dio e della Madre pura . . . . 216
  • Gramercy Death as you've my love to win

    Morte mercè sì ti priego e m'è in grato . . . 200
  • Guido an image of my lady dwells

    Una figura della donna mia . . . . 121
  • Guido I wish that Lapo thou and I

    Guido vorrei che tu e Lape ed io . . . . 127
  • Guido that Gianni who a day agone

    Guido quel Gianni che a te fù l'altrieri . . . 138
  • Hard is it for a man to please all men

    Greve puot' uom piacere a tutta gente . . . 272
  • He that has grown to wisdom hurries not

    Uomo ch' è saggio non corre leggiero . . . 269
  • Her face has made my life most proud and glad

    Lo viso mi fa andare allegramente. . . 288

  • I am afar but near thee is my heart

    Lontan vi son ma presso v' è lo core . . . . 356
  • I am all bent to glean the golden ore

    Io mi son dato tutto a tragger oro . . . 168
  • I am enamoured and yet not so much

    Io sono innamorato ma non tanto. . . . 184
  • I am so passing rich in poverty

    Eo son si ricco della povertate . . . . 307
  • I am so out of love through poverty

    La povertà m' ha sì disamorato . . . 198
  • I come to thee by daytime constantly

    Io vegno il giorno a te infinite volte . . . 144
  • I felt a spirit of Love begin to stir

    Io mi sentii svegliar dentro dal core . . . 69
  • If any his own foolishness might see

    Chi conoscesse sì la sua fallanza . . . . 295
  • If any man would know the very cause

    Se alcun volesse la cagion savere . . . . 271
  • If any one had anything to say

    Chi Messer Ugolin biasma o riprende . . . 362
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  • If as thou say'st thy love tormented thee

    Se vi stringesse quanto dite amore . . . . 327
  • If Dante mourns there wheresoe'er he be

    Se Dante piange dove ch' el si sia . . . . 227
  • If I'd a sack of florins and all new

    S' io avessi un sacco di fiorini . . . . 188
  • If I entreat this lady that all grace

    S' io prego questa donna che pietate . . . 133
  • If I were fire I'd burn the world away

    S' io fossi foco arderei lo mondo . . . . 195
  • If I were still that man worthy to love

    S' io fossi quello che d'amor fù degno . . . 127
  • If thou hadst offered friend to blessed Mary

    Se avessi detto amico di Maria . . . . 122
  • If you could see fair brother how dead beat

    Fratel se tu vedessi questa gente . . . . 370
  • I give you horses for your games in May

    Di Maggio sì vi do molti cavagli . . . . 337
  • I give you meadow-lands in April fair

    D'Aprile vi do la gentil campagna . . . 336
  • I have it in my heart to serve God so

    Io m'aggio posto in core a Dio servire . . . 279
  • I hold him verily of mean emprise

    Tegno di folle impresa allo ver dire . . . . 267
  • I know not Dante in what refuge dwells

    Dante io non odo in qual albergo suoni . . . 111
  • I laboured these six years

    Sei anni ho travagliato . . . . . 293
  • I look at the crisp golden-threaded hair

    Io miro i crespi e gli biondi capegli . . . 381
  • I'm caught like any thrush the nets surprise

    Babbo Becchina Amore e mia madre . . . . 193
  • I'm full of everything I do not want

    Io ho tutte le cose ch' io non voglio . . . 189
  • In February I give you gallant sport

    Di Febbraio vi dono bella caccia . . . 335
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  • In March I give you plenteous fisheries

    Di Marzo sì vi do una peschiera . . . . 336
  • In June I give you a close-wooded fell

    Di Giugno dovvi una montagnetta . . . 337
  • I play this sweet prelude

    Dolce cominciamento . . . . . 354
  • I pray thee Dante shouldst thou meet with Love

    Se vedi Amore assai ti prego Dante . . . 129
  • I thought to be for ever separate

    Io mi credea del tutto esser partito . . . 108
  • I've jolliest merriment for Saturday

    E il Sabato diletto ed allegranza . . . . 345
  • I was upon the high and blessed mound

    Io fui in sull' alto e in sul beato monte . . . 172
  • I would like better in the grace to be

    Io vorrei innanzi in grazia ritornare . . . 201
  • Just look Manetto at that wry-mouthed minx

    Guarda Manetto quella sgrignutuzza . . . 147
  • Ladies that have intelligence in Love

    Donne che avete intelletto d'Amore . . . 54
  • Lady my wedded thought

    La mia amorosa mente . . . . . 312
  • Lady of Heaven the Mother glorified

    Donna del cielo gloriosa madre . . . . 306
  • Lady with all the pains that I can take

    Donna io forzeraggio lo podere . . . . 352
  • Last All-Saints' holy-day even now gone by

    Di donne io vidi una gentile schiera . . . 97
  • Last for December houses on the plain

    E di Dicembre una città in piano . . . 340
  • Let baths and wine-butts be November's due

    E di Novembre petriuolo e il bagno . . . 340
  • Let Friday be your highest hunting-tide

    Ed ogni Venerdì gran caccia e forte . . . 345
  • Let not the inhabitants of hell despair

    Non si disperin quelli dello Inferno . . . 203
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  • Lo I am she who makes the wheel to turn

    Io son la donna che volgo la rota . . . . 151
  • Love and the gentle heart are one same thing

    Amore e cor gentil son una cosa . . . . 58
  • Love and the Lady Lagia Guido and I

    Amore e Monna Lagia e Guido ed io . . . 130
  • Love hath so long possessed me for his own

    Sì lungamente m' ha tenuto Amore . . . 75
  • Love I demand to have my lady in fee

    Amore io chero mia donna in domino . . . 207
  • Love's pallor and the semblance of deep ruth

    Color d'amore e di pietà sembianti . . . 87
  • Love since it is thy will that I return

    Perchè to piace Amore ch' io ritorni . . . 101
  • Love steered my course while yet the Sun rode high

    Guidommi Amor ardendo ancora il Sole . . . 229
  • Love taking leave my heart then leaveth me

    Amor s'eo parto il cor si parte e dole . . . 328
  • Love will not have me cry

    Amor non vuol ch' io clami . . . . 284
  • Many there are praisers of poverty

    Molti son quei che lodan povertade . . . 212
  • Marvellously elate

    Maravigliosamente . . . . . 280
  • Master Bertuccio you are called to account

    Messer Bertuccio a dritto uom vi cagiona . . . 361
  • Master Brunetto this my little maid

    Messer Brunetto questa pulzelletta . . . 96
  • Mine eyes beheld the blessed pity spring

    Videro gli occhi miei quanta pietate . . . 86
  • My body resting in a haunt of mine

    Poso il corpo in un loco mio pigliando . . . 320
  • My curse be on the day when first I saw

    Io maladico il dì ch' io vidi imprima . . . 115
  • My heart's so heavy with a hundred things

    Io ho sì tristo il cor di cose cento . . . . 190
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  • My lady carries love within her eyes

    Negli occhi porta la mia donna amore . . . 59
  • My lady looks so gentle and so pure

    Tanto gentile e tanto onesta pare . . . . 74
  • My lady mine I send

    Madonna mia a voi mando . . . . 286
  • My lady thy delightful high command

    Madonna vostro altero piacimento . . . 296
  • Nero thus much for tidings in thine ear

    Novella ti so dire odi Nerone . . . . 148
  • Never so bare and naked was church-stone

    Nel tempio santo non vid' io mai pietra . . . 199
  • Never was joy or good that did not soothe

    Gioia nè ben non è senza conforto . . . . 310
  • Next for October to some sheltered coign

    Di Ottobre nel cantà ch' ha buono stallo. . . 339
  • No man may mount upon a golden stair

    Non vi si monta per iscala d' oro . . . . 141
  • Now of the hue of ashes are the Whites

    Color di cener fatti son li Bianchi . . . 206
  • Now these four things, if thou

    Quattro cose chi vuole . . . . . 375
  • Now to Great Britain we must make our way

    Ora si passa nella Gran Bretagna . . . 384
  • Now when it flowereth

    Oramai quando flore . . . . . 277
  • Now with the moon the day-star Lucifer

    Quando la luna e la stella diana . . . . 343
  • O Bicci pretty son of who knows whom

    Bicci novel figliuol di non so cui . . . . 220
  • Often the day had a most joyful morn

    Spesso di gioia nasce ed incomenza . . . 321
  • Of that wherein thou art a questioner

    Di ciò che stato sei dimandatore . . . . 178
  • O Lady amorous

    Donna amorosa . . . . . . 349
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  • O Love O thou that for my fealty

    O tu Amore che m' hai fatto martire . . . 169
  • O Love who all this while hast urged me on

    Amor che lungamente m' hai menato . . . 347
  • On the last words of what you write to me

    Al motto diredan prima ragione . . . . 180
  • O Poverty by thee the soul is wrapped

    O Povertà come tu sei un manto . . . . 154
  • O sluggish hard ingrate what doest thou

    O lento pigro ingrato ignar che fai . . . 159
  • O thou that often hast within thine eyes

    O tu che porti negli occhi sovente . . . . 131
  • Pass and let pass this counsel I would give

    Per consiglio ti do dè passa passa . . . . 363
  • Prohibiting all hope

    Levandomi speranza . . . . . 329
  • Remembering this how Love

    Membrando ciò che Amore . . . . 289
  • Right well I know thou'rt Alighieri's son

    Ben so che fosti figliuol d'Alighieri . . . 220
  • Round her red garland and her golden hair

    Sovra li fior vermigli e i capei d' oro . . . 229
  • Sapphire nor diamond nor emerald

    Diamante nè smeraldo nè zaffino . . . . 283
  • Say wouldst thou guard thy son

    Vuoi guardar tuo figliuolo . . . . 380
  • Set Love in order thou that lovest me

    Ordina quest' Amore o tu che m' ami . . . 258
  • So greatly thy great pleasaunce pleasured me

    Si m'abbellìo la vostra gran piacenza. . . 181
  • Song 'tis my will that thou do seek out Love

    Ballata io vo che tu ritruovi Amore . . . 44
  • Stay now with me and listen to my sighs

    Venite a intender li sospiri miei . . . . 82
  • Such wisdom as a little child displays

    Saver che sente un picciolo fantino . . . 314
  • Image of page xxxvii page: xxxvii
  • That lady of all gentle memories

    Era venuta nella mente mia . . . . 85
  • That star the highest seen in heaven's expanse

    Quest' altissima stella che si vede . . . . 211
  • The devastating flame of that fierce plague

    L' ardente fiamma della fiera peste. . . 156
  • The dreadful and the desperate hate I bear

    Il pessimo e il crudel odio che' io porto . . . 194
  • The eyes that weep for pity of the heart

    Gli occhi dolenti per pietà del core . . . 79
  • The flower of virtue is the heart's content

    Fior di virtù si è gentil coraggio . . . . 332
  • The fountain-head that is so bright to see

    Ciascuna fresca e dolce fontanella . . . . 140
  • The King by whose rich grace His servants be

    Lo Re che merta i suoi servi a ristoro . . . 217
  • The lofty worth and lovely excellence

    Lo gran valore e lo pregio amoroso . . . 291
  • The man who feels not more or less somewhat

    Chi non sente d' Amore o tanto o quanto . . 186
  • The other night I had a dreadful cough

    L' altra notte mi venne una gran tosse . . . 222
  • The sweetly-favoured face

    La dolce ciera piacente . . . . . 299
  • The thoughts are broken in my memory

    Ciò che m'incontra nella mente more . . . 50
  • The very bitter weeping that ye made

    L' amaro lagrimar che voi faceste . . . 88
  • There is a time to mount to humble thee

    Tempo vien di salire e di scendere . . . 262
  • There is a vice prevails

    Par che un vizio pur regni . . . . 377
  • There is a vice which oft

    Un vizio è che laudato . . . . . 373
  • There is among my thoughts the joyous plan

    Io ho pensato di fare un gioiello . . . . 342
  • Image of page xxxviii page: xxxviii
  • Think a brief while on the most marvellous arts

    Sè 'l subietto preclaro O Cittadini . . . 257
  • This book of Dante's very sooth to say

    In verità questo libel di Dante . . . . 176
  • This fairest lady who as well I wot

    Questa leggiadra donna ched io sento . . . 170
  • This fairest one of all the stars whose flame

    La bella stella che sua fiamma tiene . . . 399
  • This is the damsel by whom Love is brought

    Questa è la giovinetta ch' amor guida . . . 210
  • Thou sweetly-smelling fresh red rose

    Rosa fresca aulentissima . . . . . 245
  • Thou that art wise let wisdom minister

    Provvedi saggio ad esta visione . . . . 179
  • Thou well hast heard that Rollo had two sons

    Come udit' hai due figliuoli ebbe Rollo . . . 388
  • Though thou indeed hast quite forgotten ruth

    Se m'hai del tutto obliato mercede . . . 132
  • Through this my strong and new misaventure

    La forte e nova mia disavventura . . . . 134
  • To a new world on Tuesday shifts my song

    E il Martedì li do un nuovo mondo . . . 343
  • To every heart which the sweet pain doth move

    A ciascun' alma presa e gentil core . . . 33
  • To hear the unlucky wife of Bicci cough

    Chi udisse tossir la mal fatata . . . . 221
  • To see the green returning

    Quando veggio rinverdire . . . . . 301
  • To sound of trumpet rather than of horn

    A suon di tromba innanzi che di corno . . . 143
  • To the dim light and the large circle of shade

    Al poco giorno ed al gran cerchio d'ombra . . . 113
  • Two ladies to the summit of my mind

    Due donne in cima della mente mia . . . 112
  • Unto my thinking thou beheld'st all worth

    Vedesti al mio parere ogni valore . . . . 116
  • Image of page xxxix page: xxxix
  • Unto that lowly lovely maid I wis

    A quella amorosetta forosella . . . . 139
  • Unto the blithe and lordly fellowship

    Alla brigata nobile e cortese . . . . 333
  • Upon a day came Sorrow in to me

    Un dì si venne a me Melancolìa . . . . 107
  • Upon that cruel season when our Lord

    Quella crudel stagion che a giudicare . . . 325
  • Vanquished and weary was my soul in me

    Vinta e lassa era già l' anima mia . . . 171
  • Weep Lovers sith Love's very self doth weep

    Piangete amanti poi che piange Amore . . . 37
  • Were ye but constant Guelfs in war or peace

    Così faceste voi o guerra o pace . . . . . 333
  • Wert thou as prone to yield unto my prayer

    Così fossi tu acconcia di donarmi . . . . 368
  • Whatever good is naturally done

    Qualunque ben si fa naturalmente . . . 186
  • Whatever while the thought comes over me

    Quantunque volte lasso mi rimembra . . . 83
  • What rhymes are thine which I have ta'en from thee

    Quai son le cose vostre ch' io vi tolgo . . . 175
  • Whence come you all of you so sorrowful

    Onde venite voi così pensose . . . . 98
  • When God had finished Master Messerin

    Quando Iddio Messer Messerin fece . . . 360
  • When I behold Becchina in a rage

    Quando veggio Becchina corrucciata . . . 191
  • When Lucy draws her mantle round her face

    Chi vedesse a Lucia un var cappuzzo . . . 263
  • When the last greyness dwells throughout the air

    Quando l' aria comincia a farsi bruna . . . 399
  • Whether all grace have failed I scarce may scan

    Non so s' è mercè che mo veno a meno . . . 326
  • Whoever without money is in love

    Chi è senza denari innamorato . . . . 197
  • Image of page xl page: xl
  • Who is she coming whom all gaze upon

    Chi è questa che vien ch' ogn' uom la mira . . 119
  • Whoso abandons peace for war-seeking

    Chi va cherendo guerra e lassa pace . . . 315
  • Who utters of his father aught but praise

    Chi dice di suo padre altro che onore . . . 204
  • Why from the danger did not mine eyes start

    Perchè non furo a me gli occhi dispenti . . . 136
  • Why if Becchina's heart were diamond

    Se di Becchina il cor fosse diamante . . . 187
  • Within a copse I met a shepherd-maid

    In un boschetto trovai pastorella . . . . 145
  • Within the gentle heart Love shelters him

    Al cor gentil ripara sempre Amore . . . 264
  • With other women I beheld my love

    Io vidi donne con la donna mia . . . . 120
  • Woe's me by dint of all these sighs that come

    Lasso per forza de' molti sospiri . . . . 91
  • Wonderful countenance and royal neck

    Viso mirabil gola morganata . . . . 182
  • Yea let me praise my lady whom I love

    Io vo del ver la mia donna lodare . . . 266
  • Ye graceful peasant-girls and mountain-maids

    Vaghe le montanine e pastorelle . . . . 392
  • Ye ladies walking past me piteous-eyed

    Voi donne che pietoso atto mostrate . . . 99
  • Ye pilgrim-folk advancing pensively

    Deh peregrini che pensosi andate . . . . 93
  • You that thus wear a modest countenance

    Voi che portate la sembianza umile . . . 61
  • Your joyful understanding lady mine

    Madonna vostra altera canoscenza . . . 316

Image of page [1] page: [1]
Note: ”Appealing” in line 16 appears to be a typo; in all likelihood, the “l” should be an “r.”

In the first division of this volume are included all the

poems I could find which seemed to have value as

being personal to the circle of Dante's friends, and as

illustrating their intercourse with each other. Those

who know the Italian collections from which I have

drawn these pieces (many of them most obscure) will

perceive how much which is in fact elucidation is here

attempted to be embodied in themselves, as to their

rendering, arrangement, and heading: since the Italian

editors have never yet paid any of them, except of

course those by Dante, any such attention; but have

printed and reprinted them in a jumbled and dishearten-

ing form, by which they can serve little purpose except

as testi di lingua—dead stock by whose help the makers

of dictionaries may smother the language with decayed

words. Appealing now I believe for the first time in

print, though in a new idiom, from their once living

writers to such living readers as they may find, they

require some preliminary notice.

The Vita Nuova (the Autobiography or Autopsycho-

logy of Dante's youth till about his twenty-seventh year)

is already well known to many in the original, or by

means of essays and of English versions partial or entire.

It is, therefore, and on all accounts, unnecessary to say

Sig. 1
Image of page 2 page: 2
much more of the work here than it says for itself.

Wedded to its exquisite and intimate beauties are per-

sonal peculiarities which excite wonder and conjecture,

best replied to in the words which Beatrice herself is

made to utter in the Commedia: “Questi fù tal nella sua

vita nuova.”* Thus then young Dante was. All that

seemed possible to be done here for the work was to

translate it in as free and clear a form as was consistent

with fidelity to its meaning; to ease it, as far as possible,

from notes and encumbrances; and to accompany it for

the first time with those poems from Dante's own lyrical

series which have reference to its events, as well as with

such native commentary (so to speak) as might be

afforded by the writings of those with whom its author

was at that time in familiar intercourse. Not chiefly to

Dante, then, of whom so much is known to all or may

readily be found written, but to the various other mem-

bers of his circle, these few pages should be devoted.

It may be noted here, however, how necessary a

knowledge of the Vita Nuova is to the full comprehen-

sion of the part borne by Beatrice in the Commedia.

Moreover, it is only from the perusal of its earliest and

then undivulged self-communings that we can divine the

whole bitterness of wrong to such a soul as Dante's, its

poignant sense of abandonment, or its deep and jealous

refuge in memory. Above all, it is here that we find the

first manifestations of that wisdom of obedience, that

natural breath of duty, which afterwards, in the Com-

, lifted up a mighty voice for warning and testi-

mony. Throughout the Vita Nuova there is a strain like

the first falling murmur which reaches the ear in some

remote meadow, and prepares us to look upon the sea.

Boccaccio, in his Life of Dante, tells us that the great

poet, in later life, was ashamed of this work of his

youth. Such a statement hardly seems reconcilable with

the allusions to it made or implied in the Commedia;

Transcribed Footnote (page 2):

* Purgatorio, C. xxx.

Image of page 3 page: 3
but it is true that the Vita Nuova is a book which only

youth could have produced, and which must chiefly

remain sacred to the young; to each of whom the figure

of Beatrice, less lifelike than lovelike, will seem the

friend of his own heart. Nor is this, perhaps, its least

praise. To tax its author with effeminacy on account of

the extreme sensitiveness evinced by this narrative of

his love, would be manifestly unjust, when we find that,

though love alone is the theme of the Vita Nuova, war

already ranked among its author's experiences at the

period to which it relates. In the year 1289, the one

preceding the death of Beatrice, Dante served with the

foremost cavalry in the great battle of Campaldino, on

the eleventh of June, when the Florentines defeated the

people of Arezzo. In the autumn of the next year,

1290, when for him, by the death of Beatrice, the city as

he says “sat solitary,” such refuge as he might find from

his grief was sought in action and danger: for we learn

from the Commedia (Hell, C. xxi.) that he served in the

war then waged by Florence upon Pisa, and was present

at the surrender of Caprona. He says, using the reminis-

cence to give life to a description, in his great way:—

  • “I've seen the troops out of Caprona go
  • On terms, affrighted thus, when on the spot
  • They found themselves with foemen compass'd so.”
(Cayley's Translation.)
A word should be said here of the title of Dante's

autobiography. The adjective Nuovo, nuova, or Novello,

novella, literally New, is often used by Dante and other

early writers in the sense of young. This has induced

some editors of the Vita Nuova to explain the title as

meaning Early Life . I should be glad on some accounts

to adopt this supposition, as everything is a gain which

increases clearness to the modern reader; but on con

sideration I think the more mystical interpretation of

the words, as New Life (in reference to that revulsion

of his being which Dante so minutely describes as

Note: The hyphen is missing after “con” in the fourth-to-last line above.
Image of page 4 page: 4
having occurred simultaneously with his first sight of

Beatrice), appears the primary one, and therefore the

most necessary to be given in a translation. The pro-

bability may be that both were meant, but this I cannot


Transcribed Footnote (page 4):

* I must hazard here (to relieve the first page of my translation

from a long note) a suggestion as to the meaning of the most

puzzling passage in the whole Vita Nuova,—that sentence just at

the outset which says, “La gloriosa donna della mia mente, la

quale fù chiamata da molti Beatrice, i quali non sapeano che si

chiamare.” On this passage all the commentators seem helpless,

turning it about and sometimes adopting alterations not to be

found in any ancient manuscript of the work. The words mean

literally, “The glorious lady of my mind who was called Beatrice

by many who knew not how she was called.” This presents the

obvious difficulty that the lady's name really was Beatrice, and

that Dante throughout uses that name himself. In the text of my

version I have adopted, as a rendering, the one of the various

compromises which seemed to give the most beauty to the mean-

ing. But it occurs to me that a less irrational escape out of the

difficulty than any I have seen suggested may possibly be found by

linking this passage with the close of the sonnet at page 69 of the

Vita Nuova, beginning, “I felt a spirit of Love begin to stir,” in the

last line of which sonnet Love is made to assert that the name of

Beatrice is Love. Dante appears to have dwelt on this fancy with

some pleasure, from what is said in an earlier sonnet (page 38)

about “Love in his proper form” (by which Beatrice seems to be

meant) bending over a dead lady. And it is in connection with

the sonnet where the name of Beatrice is said to be Love, that

Dante, as if to show us that the Love he speaks of is only his own

emotion, enters into an argument as to Love being merely an acci-

dent in substance,—in other words, “Amore e il cor gentil son una

cosa.” This conjecture may be pronounced extravagant; but the

Vita Nuova, when examined, proves so full of intricate and fan-

tastic analogies, even in the mere arrangement of its parts (much

more than appears on any but the closest scrutiny), that it seems

admissible to suggest even a whimsical solution of a difficulty

which remains unconquered. Or to have recourse to the much

more welcome means of solution afforded by simple inherent

beauty: may not the meaning be merely that any person looking

on so noble and lovely a creation, without knowledge of her name,

must have spontaneously called her Beatrice,— i.e., the giver of

blessing? This would be analogous by antithesis to the transla-

tion I have adopted in my text.

Image of page 5 page: 5
Among the poets of Dante's circle, the first in order,

the first in power, and the one whom Dante has styled

his “first friend,” is Guido Cavalcanti, born about 1250,

and thus Dante's senior by some fifteen years. It is

therefore probable that there is some inaccuracy about

the statement, often repeated, that he was Dante's fellow-

pupil under Brunetto Latini; though it seems certain

that they both studied, probably Guido before Dante,

with the same teacher. The Cavalcanti family was

among the most ancient in Florence; and its importance

may be judged by the fact that in 1280, on the occasion

of one of the various missions sent from Rome with the

view of pacifying the Florentine factions, the name of

“Guido the son of Messer Cavalcante de' Cavalcanti”

appears as one of the sureties offered by the city for the

quarter of San Piero Scheraggio. His father must have

been notoriously a sceptic in matters of religion, since

we find him placed by Dante in the sixth circle of Hell,

in one of the fiery tombs of the unbelievers. That

Guido shared this heresy was the popular belief, as is

plain from an anecdote in Boccaccio which I shall give;

and some corroboration of such reports, at any rate as

applied to Guido's youth, seems capable of being gathered

from an extremely obscure poem, which I have trans-

lated on that account (at page 156) as clearly as I found

possible. It must be admitted, however, that there is to

the full as much devotional as sceptical tendency implied

here and there in his writings; while the presence of

either is very rare. We may also set against such a

charge the fact that Dino Compagni refers, as will be

seen, to his having undertaken a religious pilgrimage.

But indeed he seems to have been in all things of that

fitful and vehement nature which would impress others

always strongly, but often in opposite ways. Self-reliant

pride gave its colour to all his moods; making his ex-

ploits as a soldier frequently abortive through the head-

strong ardour of partisanship, and causing the perversity

of a logician to prevail in much of his amorous poetry.
Image of page 6 page: 6
The writings of his contemporaries, as well as his own,

tend to show him rash in war, fickle in love, and pre-

sumptuous in belief; but also, by the same concurrent

testimony, he was distinguished by great personal beauty,

high accomplishments of all kinds, and daring nobility of

soul. Not unworthy, for all the weakness of his strength,

to have been the object of Dante's early emulation, the

first friend of his youth, and his precursor and fellow-

labourer in the creation of Italian Poetry.
In the year 1267, when Guido cannot have been much

more than seventeen years of age, a last attempt was

made in Florence to reconcile the Guelfs and Ghibellines.

With this view several alliances were formed between

the leading families of the two factions; and among

others, the Guelf Cavalcante de' Cavalcanti wedded his

son Guido to a daughter of the Ghibelline Farinata degli

Uberti. The peace was of short duration; the utter

expulsion of the Ghibellines (through French interven-

tion solicited by the Guelfs) following almost immediately.

In the subdivision, which afterwards took place, of the

victorious Guelfs into so-called “Blacks” and “Whites,”

Guido embraced the White party, which tended strongly

to Ghibellinism, and whose chief was Vieri de' Cerchi,

while Corso Donati headed the opposite faction. Whether

his wife was still living at the time when the events of

the Vita Nuova occurred, is probably not ascertainable;

but about that time Dante tells us that Guido was ena-

moured of a lady named Giovanna or Joan, and whose

Christian name is absolutely all that we know of her.

However, on the occasion of his pilgrimage to Thoulouse,

recorded by Dino Compagni, he seems to have conceived

a fresh passion for a lady of that city named Mandetta,

who first attracted him by a striking resemblance to his

Florentine mistress. Thoulouse had become a place of

pilgrimage from its laying claim to the possession of the

body, or part of the body, of St. James the Greater;

though the same supposed distinction had already made

the shrine of Compostella in Galicia one of the most

Image of page 7 page: 7
famous throughout all Christendom. That this devout

journey of Guido's had other results besides a new love

will be seen by the passage from Compagni's Chronicle.

He says:—
“A young and noble knight named Guido, son of Messer Caval-

cante Cavalcanti,—full of courage and courtesy, but disdainful,

solitary, and devoted to study,—was a foe to Messer Corso

(Donati), and had many times cast about to do him hurt. Messer

Corso feared him exceedingly, as knowing him to be of a great

spirit, and sought to assassinate him on a pilgrimage which Guido

made to the shrine of St. James; but he might not compass it.

Wherefore, having returned to Florence and being made aware of

this, Guido incited many youths against Messer Corso, and these

promised to stand by him. Who being one day on horseback

with certain of the house of the Cerchi, and having a javelin in his

hand, spurred his horse against Messer Corso, thinking to be fol-

lowed by the Cerchi that so their companies might engage each

other; and he running in on his horse cast the javelin, which

missed its aim. And with Messer Corso were Simon, his son, a

strong and daring youth, and Cecchino de' Bardi, who with many

others pursued Guido with drawn swords; but not overtaking

him they threw stones after him, and also others were thrown at

him from the windows, whereby he was wounded in the hand.

And by this matter hate was increased. And Messer Corso spoke

great scorn of Messer Vieri, calling him the Ass of the Gate; be-

cause, albeit a very handsome man, he was but of blunt wit and

no great speaker. And therefore Messer Corso would say often,

‘To-day the Ass of the Gate has brayed,’ and so greatly dis-

parage him; and Guido he called Cavicchia.* And thus it was

spread abroad of the jongleurs; and especially one named Scam-

polino reported worse things than were said, that so the Cerchi

might be provoked to engage the Donati.”

Transcribed Footnote (page 7):

* A nickname chiefly chosen, no doubt, for its resemblance to

Cavalcanti. The word cavicchia, cavicchio, or caviglia, means a

wooden peg or pin. A passage in Boccaccio says, “He had tied

his ass to a strong wooden pin” ( caviglia). Thus Guido, from his

mental superiority, might be said to be the Pin to which the

Ass, Messer Vieri, was tethered at the Gate, (that is, the gate of

San Pietro, near which he lived). However, it seems quite as

likely that the nickname was founded on a popular phrase by

which one who fails in any undertaking is said “to run his rear on

a peg” ( dare del culo in un cavicchio ). The haughty Corso Donati

Image of page 8 page: 8
The praise which Compagni, his contemporary, awards

to Guido at the commencement of the foregoing extract,

receives additional value when viewed in connection

with the sonnet addressed to him by the same writer

(see page 141), where we find that he could tell him of

his faults.
Such scenes as the one related above had become

common things in Florence, which kept on its course

from bad to worse till Pope Boniface VIII. resolved on

sending a legate to propose certain amendments in its

scheme of government by Priori, or representatives of

the various arts and companies. These proposals, how-

ever, were so ill received, that the legate, who arrived in

Florence in the month of June 1300, departed shortly

afterwards greatly incensed, leaving the city under a

papal interdict. In the ill-considered tumults which en-

sued we again hear of Guido Cavalcanti.
“It happened (says Giovanni Villani in his History of Florence)

that in the month of December (1300) Messer Corso Donati with

his followers, and also those of the house of the Cerchi and their

followers, going armed to the funeral of a lady of the Frescobaldi

family, this party defying that by their looks would have assailed

the one the other; whereby all those who were at the funeral

having risen up tumultuously and fled each to his house, the whole

city got under arms, both factions assembling in great numbers, at

their respective houses. Messer Gentile de' Cerchi, Guido Caval-

canti, Baldinuccio and Corso Adimari, Baschiero della Tosa and

Naldo Gherardini, with their comrades and adherents on horse and

on foot, hastened to St. Peter's Gate to the house of the Donati.

Not finding them there they went on to San Pier Maggiore, where

Messer Corso was with his friends and followers; by whom they

were encountered and put to flight, with many wounds and with

much shame to the party of the Cerchi and to their adherents.”
By this time we may conjecture as probable that

Dante, in the arduous position which he then filled as

chief of the nine Priori on whom the government of
Transcribed Footnote (page 8):

himself went by the name of Malefammi or “Do-me-harm.” For

an account of his death in 1307, which proved in keeping with his

turbulent life, see Dino Compagni's Chronicle, or the Pecorone of

Giovanni Fiorentino (Gior. xxiv. Nov. 2.)

Image of page 9 page: 9
Florence devolved, had resigned for far other cares the

sweet intercourse of thought and poetry which he once

held with that first friend of his who had now become

so factious a citizen. Yet it is impossible to say how

much of the old feeling may still have survived in Dante's

mind when, at the close of the year 1300 or beginning

of 1301, it became his duty, as a faithful magistrate of

the republic, to add his voice to those of his colleagues

in pronouncing a sentence of banishment on the heads

of both the Black and White factions, Guido Cavalcanti

being included among the latter. The Florentines had

been at last provoked almost to demand this course from

their governors, by the discovery of a conspiracy, at the

head of which was Corso Donati (while among its leading

members was Simone de' Bardi, once the husband of

Beatrice Portinari), for the purpose of inducing the Pope

to subject the republic to a French peace-maker ( Paciere),

and so shamefully free it from its intestine broils. It

appears therefore that the immediate cause of the exile

to which both sides were subjected lay entirely with the

“Black” party, the leaders of which were banished to the

Castello della Pieve in the wild district of Massa Tra-

beria, while those of the “White” faction were sent to

Sarzana, probably (for more than one place bears the

name) in the Genovesato. “But this party” (writes

Villani) “remained a less time in exile, being recalled on

account of the unhealthiness of the place, which made

that Guido Cavalcanti returned with a sickness, whereof

he died. And of him was a great loss; seeing that he

was a man, as in philosophy, so in many things deeply

versed; but therewithal too fastidious and prone to take

offence.”* His death apparently took place in 1301.
When the discords of Florence ceased, for Guido, in

death, Dante also had seen their native city for the last

Transcribed Footnote (page 9):

* “Troppo tenero e stizzoso.” I judge that “tenero” here is

rather to be interpreted as above than meaning “impression-

able” in love affairs, but cannot be certain.

Image of page 10 page: 10
time. Before Guido's return he had undertaken that

embassy to Rome which bore him the bitter fruit of un-

just and perpetual exile: and it will be remembered that

a chief accusation against him was that of favour shown

to the White party on the banishment of the factions.
Besides the various affectionate allusions to Guido in

the Vita Nuova, Dante has unmistakeably referred to

him in at least two passages of the Commedia. One of

these references is to be found in those famous lines of

the Purgatory (C. xi.) where he awards him the palm of

poetry over Guido Guinicelli (though also of the latter he

speaks elsewhere with high praise), and implies at the

same time, it would seem, a consciousness of his own

supremacy over both.
  • “Against all painters Cimabue thought
  • To keep the field. Now Giotto has the cry,
  • And so the fame o' the first wanes nigh to nought.
  • Thus one from other Guido took the high
  • Glory of language; and perhaps is born
  • He who from both shall bear it by-and-bye.”

The other mention of Guido is in that pathetic passage

of the Hell (C. x.) where Dante meets among the lost

souls Cavalcante de' Cavalcanti:—
  • “All roundabout he looked, as though he had
  • Desire to see if one was with me else.
  • But after his surmise was all extinct,
  • He weeping said: ‘If through this dungeon blind
  • Thou goest by loftiness of intellect,—
  • Where is my son, and wherefore not with thee?’
  • And I to him: ‘Of myself come I not:
  • He who there waiteth leads me thoro' here,
  • Whom haply in disdain your Guido had.’*

  • Raised upright of a sudden, cried he: ‘How
  • Didst say He had? Is he not living still?

Transcribed Footnote (page 10):

* Virgil, Dante's guide through Hell. Any prejudice which

Guido entertained against Virgil depended, no doubt, only on his

strong desire to see the Latin language give place, in poetry and

literature, to a perfected Italian idiom.

Image of page 11 page: 11
  • Doth not the sweet light strike upon his eyes?’
  • When he perceived a certain hesitance
  • Which I was making ere I should reply,
  • He fell supine, and forth appeared no more.”

Dante, however, conveys his answer afterwards to the

spirit of Guido's father, through another of the con-

demned also related to Guido, Farinata degli Uberti,

with whom he has been speaking meanwhile:—
  • “Then I, as in compunction for my fault,
  • Said: ‘Now then shall ye tell that fallen one
  • His son is still united with the quick.
  • And, if I erst was dumb to the response,
  • I did it, make him know, because I thought
  • Yet on the error you have solved for me.’”
  • (W. M. Rossetti's Translation.)

The date which Dante fixes for his vision is Good Friday

of the year 1300. A year later, his answer must have

been different. The love and friendship of his Vita

had then both left him. For ten years Beatrice

Portinari had been dead, or (as Dante says in the Con-

) “lived in heaven with the angels and on earth with

his soul.” And now, distant and probably estranged

from him, Guido Cavalcanti was gone too.
Among the Tales of Franco Sacchetti, and in the De-

cameron of Boccaccio, are two anecdotes relating to

Guido. Sacchetti tells us how, one day that he was

intent on a game at chess, Guido (who is described as

“one who perhaps had not his equal in Florence”) was

disturbed by a child playing about, and threatened pun-

ishment if the noise continued. The child, however,

managed slily to nail Guido's coat to the chair on which

he sat, and so had the laugh against him when he rose

soon afterwards to fulfil his threat. This may serve as

an amusing instance of Guido's hasty temper, but is

rather a disappointment after its magniloquent heading,

which sets forth how “Guido Cavalcanti, being a man of

great valour and a philosopher, is defeated by the cun-

ning of a child.”
Image of page 12 page: 12
The ninth Tale of the sixth Day of the Decameron

relates a repartee of Guido's, which has all the profound

platitude of mediæval wit. As the anecdote, however,

is interesting on other grounds, I translate it here.
“You must know that in past times there were in our city cer-

tain goodly and praiseworthy customs no one of which is now left,

thanks to avarice, which has so increased with riches that it has

driven them all away. Among the which was one whereby the

gentlemen of the outskirts were wont to assemble together in

divers places throughout Florence, and to limit their fellowships to

a certain number, having heed to compose them of such as could

fitly discharge the expense. Of whom to-day one, and to-morrow

another, and so all in turn, laid tables each on his own day for all

the fellowship. And in such wise often they did honour to strangers

of worship and also to citizens. They all dressed alike at least

once in the year, and the most notable among them rode together

through the city; also at seasons they held passages of arms, and

specially on the principal feast-days, or whenever any news of

victory or other glad tidings had reached the city. And among

these fellowships was one headed by Messer Betto Brunelleschi,

into the which Messer Betto and his companions had often in-

trigued to draw Guido di Messer Cavalcante de' Cavalcanti; and

this not without cause, seeing that not only he was one of the best

logicians that the world held, and a surpassing natural philo-

sopher (for the which things the fellowship cared little), but

also he exceeded in beauty and courtesy, and was of great gifts as

a speaker; and everything that it pleased him to do, and that best

became a gentleman, he did better than any other; and was ex-

ceeding rich and knew well to solicit with honourable words

whomsoever he deemed worthy. But Messer Betto had never

been able to succeed in enlisting him; and he and his companions

believed that this was through Guido's much pondering which

divided him from other men. Also because he held somewhat of

the opinion of the Epicureans, it was said among the vulgar sort

that his speculations were only to cast about whether he might

find that there was no God. Now on a certain day Guido having

left Or San Michele, and held along the Corso degli Adimari as far

as San Giovanni (which oftentimes was his walk); and coming to

the great marble tombs which now are in the Church of Santa

Reparata, but were then with many others in San Giovanni; he

being between the porphyry columns which are there among those

tombs, and the gate of San Giovanni which was locked;—it so

chanced that Messer Betto and his fellowship came riding up by

the Piazza di Santa Reparata, and seeing Guido among the sepul-
Image of page 13 page: 13
chres, said, ‘Let us go and engage him.’ Whereupon, spurring

their horses in the fashion of a pleasant assault, they were on him

almost before he was aware, and began to say to him, ‘Thou,

Guido, wilt none of our fellowship; but lo now! when thou shalt

have found that there is no God, what wilt thou have done?’ To

whom Guido, seeing himself hemmed in among then, readily re-

plied, ‘Gentlemen, ye are at home here, and may say what ye

please to me.’ Wherewith, setting his hand on one of those high

tombs, being very light of his person, he took a leap and was over

on the other side; and so having freed himself from them, went

his way. And they all remained bewildered, looking on one

another; and began to say that he was but a shallow-witted

fellow, and that the answer he had made was as though one

should say nothing; seeing that where they were, they had not

more to do than other citizens, and Guido not less than they. To

whom Messer Betto turned and said thus: ‘Ye yourselves are

shallow-witted if ye have not understood him. He has civilly and

in few words said to us the most uncivil thing in the world; for

if ye look well to it, these tombs are the homes of the dead, see-

ing that in them the dead are set to dwell; and here he says that

we are at home; giving us to know that we and all other simple

unlettered men, in comparison of him and the learned, are even

as dead men; wherefore, being here, we are at home.’ Thereupon

each of them understood what Guido had meant, and was

ashamed; nor ever again did they set themselves to engage him.

Also from that day forth they held Messer Betto to be a subtle

and understanding knight.”
In the above story mention is made of Guido Caval-

canti's wealth, and there seems no doubt that at that

time the family was very rich and powerful. On this

account I am disposed to question whether the Canzone

at page 154 (where the author speaks of his poverty)

can really be Guido's work, though I have included it as

being interesting if rightly attributed to him; and it is

possible that, when exiled, he may have suffered for the

time in purse as well as person. About three years

after his death, on the 10th June 1304, the Black party

plotted together and set fire to the quarter of Florence

chiefly held by their adversaries. In this conflagration

the houses and possessions of the Cavalcanti were

almost entirely destroyed; the flames in that neigh-

bourhood (as Dino Compagni records) gaining rapidly
Image of page 14 page: 14
in consequence of the great number of waxen images

in the Virgin's shrine at Or San Michele; one of which,

no doubt, was the very image resembling his lady to

which Guido refers in a sonnet (see page 121). After

this, their enemies succeeded in finally expelling from

Florence the Cavalcanti family,* greatly impoverished

by this monstrous fire, in which nearly two thousand

houses were consumed.
Guido appears, by various evidence, to have written,

besides his poems, a treatise on Philosophy and another

on Oratory, but his poems only have survived to our

day. As a poet, he has more individual life of his own

than belongs to any of his predecessors; by far the best

of his pieces being those which relate to himself, his

loves and hates. The best known, however, and perhaps

the one for whose sake the rest have been preserved,

is the metaphysical canzone on the Nature of Love,

beginning, “Donna mi priega,” and intended, it is said,

as an answer to a sonnet by Guido Orlandi, written as

though coming from a lady, and beginning, “Onde si

muove e donde nasce Amore?” On this canzone of

Guido's there are known to exist no fewer than eight

commentaries, some of them very elaborate, and written

by prominent learned men of the middle ages and re-

the earliest being that by Egidio Colonna, a

beatified churchman who died in 1316; while most of

the too numerous Academic writers on Italian literature

speak of this performance with great admiration as

Guido's crowning work. A love-song which acts as such

a fly-catcher for priests and pedants looks very suspi-
Transcribed Footnote (page 14):

* With them were expelled the still more powerful Gherardini,

also great sufferers by the conflagration; who, on being driven

from their own country, became the founders of the ancient

Geraldine family in Ireland. The Cavalcanti reappear now and

then in later European history; and especially we hear of a

second Guido Cavalcanti, who also cultivated poetry, and travelled

to collect books for the Ambrosian Library; and who, in 1563,

visited England as Ambassador to the court of Elizabeth from

Charles IX. of France.

Image of page 15 page: 15
cious; and accordingly, on examination, it proves to be

a poem beside the purpose of poetry, filled with meta-

physical jargon, and perhaps the very worst of Guido's

productions. Its having been written by a man whose

life and works include so much that is impulsive and

real, is easily accounted for by scholastic pride in those

early days of learning. I have not translated it, as being

of little true interest; but was pleased lately, neverthe-

less, to meet with a remarkably complete translation of

it by the Rev. Charles T. Brooks, of Cambridge, United

States.* The stiffness and cold conceits which prevail

in this poem may be found disfiguring much of what

Guido Cavalcanti has left, while much besides is blunt,

obscure, and abrupt: nevertheless, if it need hardly be

said how far he falls short of Dante in variety and per-

sonal directness, it may be admitted that he worked

worthily at his side, and perhaps before him, in adding

those qualities to Italian poetry. That Guido's poems

dwelt in the mind of Dante is evident by his having

appropriated lines from them (as well as from those of

Guinicelli) with little alteration, more than once, in the

Towards the close of his life, Dante, in his Latin

treatise De Vulgari Eloquio , again speaks of himself as

the friend of a poet,—this time of Cino da Pistoia. In

an early passage of that work he says that “those who

have most sweetly and subtly written poems in modern

Italian are Cino da Pistoia and a friend of his.” This

friend we afterwards find to be Dante himself; as among

the various poetical examples quoted are several by

Cino followed in three instances by lines from Dante's
Transcribed Footnote (page 15):

* This translation occurs in the Appendix to an Essay on the

Vita Nuova of Dante, including extracts, by my friend Mr. Charles

E. Norton, of Cambridge, U.S.,—a work of high delicacy and ap-

preciation, which originally appeared by portions in the Atlantic

, but has since been augmented by the author and pri-

vately printed in a volume which is a beautiful specimen of

American typography.

Image of page 16 page: 16

own lyrics, the author of the latter being again described

merely as “Amicus ejus.” In immediate proximity to

these, or coupled in two instances with examples from

Dante alone, are various quotations taken from Guido

Cavalcanti; but in none of these cases is anything said

to connect Dante with him who was once “the first of

his friends.”* As commonly between old and new, the

change of Guido's friendship for Cino's seems doubtful

gain. Cino's poetry, like his career, is for the most part

smoother than that of Guido, and in some instances it

rises into truth and warmth of expression: but it con-

veys no idea of such powers, for life or for work, as

seem to have distinguished the “Cavicchia” of Messer

Corso Donati. However, his one talent (reversing the

parable) appears generally to be made the most of,

while Guido's two or three remain uncertain through the

manner of their use.
Cino's Canzone addressed to Dante on the death of

Beatrice, as well as his answer to the first sonnet of the

Vita Nuova, indicate that the two poets must have become

Transcribed Footnote (page 16):

* It is also noticeable that in this treatise Dante speaks of Guido

Guinicelli on one occasion as Guido Maximus, thus seeming to

contradict the preference of Cavalcanti which is usually supposed

to be implied in the passage I have quoted from the Purgatory. It

has been sometimes surmised (perhaps for this reason) that the

two Guidos there spoken of may be Guittone d'Arezzo and Guido

Guinicelli, the latter being said to surpass the former, of whom

Dante elsewhere in the Purgatory has expressed a low opinion.

But I should think it doubtful whether the name Guittone, which

(if not a nickname, as some say) is substantially the same as Guido,

could be so absolutely identified with it: at that rate Cino da

Pistoia even might be classed as one Guido, his full name, Guitton-

cino, being the diminutive of Guittone. I believe it more probable

that Guinicelli and Cavalcanti were then really meant, and that

Dante afterwards either altered his opinion, or may (conjecturably)

have chosen to imply a change of preference in order to gratify

Cino da Pistoia, whom he so markedly distinguishes as his friend

throughout the treatise, and between whom and Cavalcanti some

jealousy appears to have existed, as we may gather from one of

Cino's sonnets (at page 176); nor is Guido mentioned anywhere

with praise by Cino, as other poets are.

Image of page 17 page: 17

acquainted in youth, though there is no earlier mention

of Cino in Dante's writings than those which occur in

his treatise on the Vulgar Tongue. It might perhaps be

inferred with some plausibility that their acquaintance

was revived after an interruption by the sonnet and

answer at pages 110-111, and that they afterwards cor-

responded as friends till the period of Dante's death,

when Cino wrote his elegy. Of the two sonnets in

which Cino expresses disapprobation of what he thinks

the partial judgments of Dante's Commedia, the first seems

written before the great poet's death, but I should think

that the second dated after that event, as the Paradise, to

which it refers, cannot have become fully known in its

author's lifetime. Another sonnet sent to Dante elicited

a Latin epistle in reply, where we find Cino addressed

as “frater carissime.” Among Cino's lyrical poems are

a few more written in correspondence with Dante, which

I have not translated as being of little personal interest.
Guittoncino de' Sinibuldi (for such was Cino's full

name) was born in Pistoia, of a distinguished family, in

the year 1270. He devoted himself early to the study

of law, and in 1307 was Assessor of Civil Causes in his

native city. In this year, and in Pistoia, first cradle of

the “Black” and “White” factions, their endless contest

again sprang into activity; the “Blacks” and Guelfs of

Florence and Lucca driving out the “Whites” and

Ghibellines, who had ruled in the city since 1300.

With their accession to power came many iniquitous

laws in favour of their own party; so that Cino, as a

lawyer of Ghibelline opinions, soon found it necessary

or advisable to leave Pistoia, for it seems uncertain

whether his removal was voluntary or by proscription.

He directed his course towards Lombardy, on whose

confines the chief of the “White” party in Pistoia, Filippo

Vergiolesi, still held the fortress of Pitecchio. Hither

Vergiolesi had retreated with his family and adherents

when resistance in the city became no longer possible;

and it may be supposed that Cino came to join him, not
Sig. 2
Image of page 18 page: 18
on account of political sympathy alone; as Selvaggia

Vergiolesi, his daughter, is the lady celebrated through-

out the poet's compositions. Three years later, the

Vergiolesi and their followers, finding Pitecchio unten-

able, fortified themselves on the Monte della Sambuca,

a lofty peak of the Apennines; which again they were

finally obliged to abandon, yielding it to the Guelfs of

Pistoia at the price of eleven thousand lire. Meanwhile

the bleak air of the Sambuca had proved fatal to the

lady Selvaggia, who remained buried there, or, as Cino

expresses it in one of his poems,
  • “Cast out upon the steep path of the mountains,
  • Where Death had shut her in between hard stones.”
Over her cheerless tomb Cino bent and mourned, as

he has told us, when, after a prolonged absence spent

partly in France, he returned through Tuscany on his

way to Rome. He had not been with Selvaggia's family

at the time of her death; and it is probable that, on his

return to the Sambuca, the fortress was already sur-

rendered, and her grave almost the only record left

there of the Vergiolesi.
Cino's journey to Rome was on account of his having

received a high office under Louis of Savoy, who pre-

ceded the Emperor Henry VII. when he went thither to

be crowned in 1310. In another three years the last

blow was dealt to the hopes of the exiled and persecuted

Ghibellines, by the death of the Emperor, caused almost

surely by poison. This death Cino has lamented in a

canzone. It probably determined him to abandon a

cause which seemed dead, and return, when possible, to

his native city. This he succeeded in doing before 1319,

as in that year we find him deputed, together with six

other citizens, by the Government of Pistoia to take

possession of a stronghold recently yielded to them.

He had now been for some time married to Margherita

degli Ughi, of a very noble Pistoiese family, who bore

him a son named Mino, and four daughters, Diamante,
Image of page 19 page: 19

Beatrice, Giovanna, and Lombarduccia. Indeed, this

marriage must have taken place before the death of

Selvaggia in 1310, as in 1325-26, his son Mino was

one of those by whose aid from within the Ghibelline

Castruccio Antelminelli obtained possession of Pistoia,

which he held in spite of revolts till his death some two

or three years afterwards, when it again reverted to the

After returning to Pistoia, Cino's whole life was

devoted to the attainment of legal and literary fame. In

these pursuits he reaped the highest honours, and taught

at the universities of Siena, Perugia, and Florence;

having for his disciples men who afterwards became

celebrated, among whom rumour has placed Petrarch,

though on examination this seems very doubtful. A

sonnet by Petrarch exists, however, commencing “Pian-

gete donne e con voi pianga Amore,” written as a lament

on Cino's death, and bestowing the highest praise on

him. He and his Selvaggia are also coupled with Dante

and Beatrice in the same poet's Trionfi d'Amore (cap. 4).

Though established again in Pistoia, Cino resided

there but little till about the time of his death, which

occurred in 1336-7. His monument, where he is repre-

sented as a professor among his disciples, still exists in

the Cathedral of Pistoia, and is a mediæval work of great

interest. Messer Cino de' Sinibuldi was a prosperous

man, of whom we have ample records, from the details

of his examinations as a student, to the inventory of his

effects after death, and the curious items of his funeral

expenses. Of his claims as a poet it may be said that

he filled creditably the interval which elapsed between

the death of Dante and the full blaze of Petrarch's suc-

cess. Most of his poems in honour of Selvaggia are full

of an elaborate and mechanical tone of complaint which

hardly reads like the expression of a real love; never-

theless there are some, and especially the sonnet on her

tomb (at page 172), which display feeling and power.

The finest, as well as the most interesting, of all his
Image of page 20 page: 20

pieces, is the very beautiful canzone in which he

attempts to console Dante for the death of Beatrice.

Though I have found much fewer among Cino's poems

than among Guido's which seemed to call for translation,

the collection of the former is a larger one. Cino pro-

duced legal writings also, of which the chief one that

has survived is a Commentary on the Statutes of Pistoia,

said to have great merit, and whose production in the

short space of two years was accounted an extraordinary

Having now spoken of the chief poets of this division,

it remains to notice the others of whom less is known.
Dante da Maiano (Dante being, as with Alighieri, the

short of Durante, and Maiano in the neighbourhood of

Fiesole) had attained some reputation as a poet before

the career of his great namesake began; his Sicilian lady

Nina (herself, it is said, a poetess, and not personally

known to him) going by the then unequivocal title of

“La Nina di Dante.” This priority may also be inferred

from the contemptuous answer sent by him to Dante

Alighieri's dream sonnet in the Vita Nuova (see page

178). All the writers on early Italian poetry seem to

agree in specially censuring this poet's rhymes as coarse

and trivial in manner; nevertheless, they are sometimes

distinguished by a careless force not to be despised, and

even by snatches of real beauty. Of Dante da Maiano's

life no record whatever has come down to us.
Most literary circles have their prodigal, or what in

modern phrase might be called their “scamp”; and among

our Danteans, this place is indisputably filled by Cecco

Angiolieri, of Siena. Nearly all his sonnets (and no

other pieces by him have been preserved) relate either

to an unnatural hatred of his father, or to an infatuated

love for the daughter of a shoemaker, a certain married

Becchina. It would appear that Cecco was probably

enamoured of her before her marriage as well as after-

wards, and we may surmise that his rancour against his

father may have been partly dependent, in the first
Image of page 21 page: 21
instance, on the disagreements arising from such a con-

nection. However, from an amusing and lifelike story

in the Decameron (Gior. ix. Nov. 4) we learn that on one

occasion Cecco's father paid him six months' allowance in

advance, in order that he might proceed to the Marca

d'Ancona, and join the suite of a Papal Legate who was

his patron; which looks, after all, as if the father had

some care of his graceless son. The story goes on to

relate how Cecco (whom Boccaccio describes as a hand-

some and well-bred man) was induced to take with him

as his servant a fellow-gamester with whom he had

formed an intimacy purely on account of the hatred

which each of the two bore his own father, though in

other respects they had little in common. The result

was that this fellow, during the journey, while Cecco was

asleep at Buonconvento, took all his money and lost it at

the gaming-table, and afterwards managed by an adroit

trick to get possession of his horse and clothes, leaving

him nothing but his shirt. Cecco then, ashamed to return

to Siena, made his way, in a borrowed suit and mounted

on his servant's sorry hack, to Corsignano, where he had

relations; and there he stayed till his father once more

(surely much to his credit) made him a remittance of

money. Boccaccio seems to say in conclusion that Cecco

ultimately had his revenge on the thief.
In reading many both of Cecco's love-sonnets and

hate-sonnets, it is impossible not to feel some pity for

the indications they contain of self-sought poverty, un-

happiness, and natural bent to ruin. Altogether they

have too much curious individuality to allow of their

being omitted here: especially as they afford the earliest

prominent example of a naturalism without afterthought

in the whole of Italian poetry. Their humour is some-

times strong, if not well chosen; their passion always

forcible from its evident reality: nor indeed are several

among them devoid of a certain delicacy. This quality

is also to be discerned in other pieces which I have not

included as having less personal interest; but it must
Image of page 22 page: 22

be confessed that for the most part the sentiments ex-

pressed in Cecco's poetry are either impious or licentious.

Most of the sonnets of his which are in print are here

given;* the selections concluding with an extraordinary

one in which he proposes a sort of murderous crusade

against all those who hate their fathers. This I have

placed last (exclusive of the Sonnet to Dante in exile) in

order to give the writer the benefit of the possibility

that it was written last, and really expressed a still

rather blood-thirsty contrition; belonging at best, I fear,

to the content of self-indulgence when he came to enjoy

his father's inheritance. But most likely it is to be

received as the expression of impudence alone, unless

perhaps of hypocrisy.
Cecco Angiolieri seems to have had poetical intercourse

with Dante early as well as later in life; but even from

the little that remains, we may gather that Dante soon

put an end to any intimacy which may have existed

between them. That Cecco already poetized at the time

to which the Vita Nuova relates, is evident from a date

given in one of his sonnets,—the 20th June 1291, and

from his sonnet raising objections to the one at the close

of Dante's autobiography. When the latter was written

he was probably on good terms with the young Alighieri;

but within no great while afterwards they had discovered

that they could not agree, as is shown by a sonnet in

which Cecco can find no words bad enough for Dante,

who has remonstrated with him about Becchina.† Much
Transcribed Footnote (page 22):

* It may be mentioned (as proving how much of the poetry of

this period still remains in MS.) that Ubaldini, in his Glossary to

Barberino, published in 1640, cites as grammatical examples no

fewer than twenty-three short fragments from Cecco Angiolieri,

one of which alone is to be found among the sonnets which I have

seen, and which I believe are the only ones in print. Ubaldini

quotes them from the Strozzi MSS.

Transcribed Footnote (page 22):

† Of this sonnet I have seen two printed versions, in both of

which the text is so corrupt as to make them very contradictory in

important points; but I believe that by comparing the two I have

given its meaning correctly. (See page 192 .)

Image of page 23 page: 23
later, as we may judge, he again addresses Dante in an

insulting tone, apparently while the latter was living in

exile at the court of Can Grande della Scala. No other

reason can well be assigned for saying that he had

“turned Lombard”; while some of the insolent allusions

seem also to point to the time when Dante learnt by

experience “how bitter is another's bread and how steep

the stairs of his house.”
Why Cecco in this sonnet should describe himself as

having become a Roman, is more puzzling. Boccaccio

certainly speaks of his luckless journey to join a Papal

legate, but does not tell us whether fresh clothes and the

wisdom of experience served him in the end to become

so far identified with the Church of Rome. However,

from the sonnet on his father's death he appears (though

the allusion is desperately obscure) to have been then

living at an abbey; and also, from the one mentioned

above, we may infer that he himself, as well as Dante,

was forced to sit at the tables of others: coincidences

which almost seem to afford a glimpse of the phenomenal

fact that the bosom of the church was indeed for a time

the refuge of this shorn lamb. If so, we may further

conjecture that the wonderful crusade-sonnet was an

amende honorable then imposed on him, accompanied

probably with more fleshly penance.
Though nothing indicates the time of Cecco Angiolieri's

death, I will venture to surmise that he outlived the

writing and revision of Dante's Inferno, if only by the

token that he is not found lodged in one of its meaner

circles. It is easy to feel sure that no sympathy can

ever have existed for long between Dante and a man

like Cecco; however arrogantly the latter, in his verses,

might attempt to establish a likeness and even an

equality. We may accept the testimony of so reverent

a biographer as Boccaccio, that the Dante of later years

was far other than the silent and awe-struck lover of the

Vita Nuova; but he was still (as he proudly called him-

self) “the singer of Rectitude,” and his that “indignant
Image of page 24 page: 24

soul” which made blessed the mother who had born

Leaving to his fate (whatever that may have been) the

Scamp of Dante's Circle, I must risk the charge of a con-

firmed taste for slang by describing Guido Orlandi as

its Bore. No other word could present him so fully.

Very few pieces of his exist besides the five I have

given. In one of these,† he rails against his political

adversaries; in three,‡ falls foul of his brother poets;

and in the remaining one,§ seems somewhat appeased

(I think) by a judicious morsel of flattery. I have already

referred to a sonnet of his which is said to have led to

the composition of Guido Cavalcanti's Canzone on the

Nature of Love. He has another sonnet beginning, “Per

troppa sottiglianza il fil si rompe,” ǁ in which he is cer-

tainly enjoying a fling at somebody, and I suspect at

Cavalcanti in rejoinder to the very poem which he him-

self had instigated. If so, this stamps him a master-

critic of the deepest initiation. Of his life nothing is

recorded; but no wish perhaps need be felt to know

much of him, as one would probably have dropped his

acquaintance. We may be obliged to him, however, for

his character of Guido Cavalcanti (at page 137), which is

boldly and vividly drawn.
Next follow three poets of whom I have given one

specimen apiece. By Bernardo da Bologna ( page 139)

no other is known to exist, nor can anything be learnt of

his career. Gianni Alfani was a noble and distinguished

Florentine, a much graver man, it would seem, than one

could judge from this sonnet of his (page 138), which

belongs rather to the school of Sir Pandarus of Troy.
Dino Compagni, the chronicler of Florence, is repre-
Transcribed Footnote (page 24):
  • * “Alma sdegnosa,
  • Benedetta colei che in te s' incinse!”
( Inferno, C.viii.)
Transcribed Footnote (page 24):

† Page 206.

Transcribed Footnote (page 24):

† Pages 122, 137, 180.

Transcribed Footnote (page 24):

§ Page 143.

Transcribed Footnote (page 24):

‖ This sonnet, as printed, has a gap in the middle; let us hope

(in so immaculate a censor) from unfitness for publication.

Image of page 25 page: 25

sented here by a sonnet addressed to Guido Cavalcanti,*

which is all the more interesting, as the same writer's

historical work furnishes so much of the little known

about Guido. Dino, though one of the noblest citizens

of Florence, was devoted to the popular cause, and held

successively various high offices in the state. The date

of his birth is not fixed, but he must have been at least

thirty in 1289, as he was one of the Priori in that

year, a post which could not be held by a younger man.

He died at Florence in 1323. Dino has rather lately

assumed for the modern reader a much more important

position than he occupied before among the early Italian

poets. I allude to the valuable discovery, in the Ma-

gliabecchian Library at Florence, of a poem by him

in nona rima, containing 309 stanzas. It is entitled

“L'Intelligenza,” and is of an allegorical nature inter-

spersed with historical and legendary abstracts.†
I have placed Lapo Gianni in this my first division on

account of the sonnet by Dante (page 126), in which he

seems undoubtedly to be the Lapo referred to. It has

been supposed by some that Lapo degli Uberti (father of

Fazio, and brother-in-law of Guido Cavalcanti) is meant;

but this is hardly possible. Dante and Guido seem to

have been in familiar intercourse with the Lapo of the

sonnet at the time when it and others were written;

whereas no Uberti can have been in Florence after the

year 1267, when the Ghibellines were expelled; the

Uberti family (as I have mentioned elsewhere) being the

one of all others which was most jealously kept afar and

excluded from every amnesty. The only information

which I can find respecting Lapo Gianni is the statement
Transcribed Footnote (page 25):

* Crescimbeni ( Ist. d. Volg. Poes. ) gives this sonnet from a

MS., where it is headed “To Guido Guinicelli”; but he surmises,

and I have no doubt correctly, that Cavalcanti is really the person

addressed in it.

Transcribed Footnote (page 25):

† See Documents inédits pour servir à l'histoire littéraire de l'Italie,

&c. par
A.F. Ozanam ( Paris, 1850), where the poem is printed


Image of page 26 page: 26
that he was a notary by profession. I have also seen it

somewhere asserted (though where I cannot recollect,

and am sure no authority was given), that he was a

cousin of Dante. We may equally infer him to have

been the Lapo mentioned by Dante in his treatise on the

Vulgar Tongue, as being one of the few who up to that

time had written verses in pure Italian.
Dino Frescobaldi's claim to the place given him here

will not be disputed when it is remembered that by his

pious care the seven first cantos of Dante's Hell were

restored to him in exile, after the Casa Alighieri in

Florence had been given up to pillage; by which

restoration Dante was enabled to resume his work.

This sounds strange when we reflect that a world with-

out Dante would almost be a poorer planet. Meanwhile, beyond

this great fact of Dino's life, which perhaps hardly

occupied a day of it, there is no news to be gleaned of

Giotto falls by right into Dante's circle, as one great

man comes naturally to know another. But he is said

actually to have lived in great intimacy with Dante, who

was about twelve years older than himself; Giotto having

been born in or near the year 1276, at Vespignano,

fourteen miles from Florence. He died in 1336, fifteen

years after Dante. On the authority of Benvenuto da

Imola (an early commentator on the Commedia), of

Vasari, and others, it is said that Dante visited Giotto

while he was painting at Padua; that the great poet

furnished the great painter with the conceptions of a

series of subjects from the Apocalypse, which he painted

at Naples; and that Giotto, finally, passed some time

with Dante in the exile's last refuge at Ravenna. There

is a tradition that Dante also studied drawing with

Giotto's master Cimabue; and that he practised it in

some degree is evident from the passage in the Vita

, where he speaks of his drawing an angel. The

reader will not need to be reminded of Giotto's portrait

of the youthful Dante, painted in the Bargello at Florence,
Image of page 27 page: 27
then the chapel of the Podestà. This is the author of

the Vita Nuova. That other portrait shown us in the

posthumous mask,—a face dead in exile after the death

of hope,—should front the first page of the Sacred Poem

to which heaven and earth had set their hands, but

which might never bring him back to Florence, though

it had made him haggard for many years.*
Giotto's Canzone on the doctrine of voluntary poverty,

—the only poem we have of his,—is a protest against a

perversion of gospel teaching which had gained ground

in his day to the extent of becoming a popular frenzy.

People went literally mad upon it; and to the reaction

against this madness may also be assigned (at any rate

partly) Cavalcanti's poem on Poverty , which, as we have

seen, is otherwise not easily explained, if authentic.

Giotto's canzone is all the more curious when we remem-

ber his noble fresco at Assisi, of Saint Francis wedded

to Poverty.† It would really almost seem as if the

poem had been written as a sort of safety-valve for the

painter's true feelings, during the composition of the

picture. At any rate, it affords another proof of the

strong common sense and turn for humour which all

accounts attribute to Giotto.
I have next introduced, as not inappropriate to the

series of poems connected with Dante, Simone dall'

Antella's fine sonnet relating to the last enterprises of

Henry of Luxembourg, and to his then approaching end,

—that deathblow to the Ghibelline hopes which Dante

so deeply shared. This one sonnet is all we know of

its author, besides his name.
Giovanni Quirino is another name which stands

Transcribed Footnote (page 27):

  • * “Se mai continga che il poema sacro
  • Al quale ha posto mano e cielo e terra,
  • Sì che m' ha fatto per più anni macro,
  • Vinca la crudeltà che fuor mi serra,” etc.
( Parad. C. xxv.)

Transcribed Footnote (page 27):

† See Dante's reverential treatment of this subject, ( Parad.

C. xi.)

Image of page 28 page: 28
forlorn of any personal history. Fraticelli (in his well-

known and valuable edition of Dante's Minor Works)

says that there lived about 1250 a bishop of that name,

belonging to a Venetian family. It is true that the tone

of the sonnet which I give (and which is the only one

attributed to this author) seems foreign at least to the

confessions of bishops. It might seem credibly thus

ascribed, however, from the fact that Dante's sonnet pro-

bably dates from Ravenna, and that his correspondent

writes from some distance; while the poet might well

have formed a friendship with a Venetian bishop at the

court of Verona.
For me Quirino's sonnet has great value; as Dante's

answer* to it enables me to wind up this series with the

name of its great chief; and, indeed, with what would

almost seem to have been his last utterance in poetry, at

that supreme juncture when he
  • “Slaked in his heart the fervour of desire,”

as at last he neared the very home
  • “Of Love which sways the sun and all the stars.”†
I am sorry to see that this necessary introduction to

my first division is longer than I could have wished.

Among the severely-edited books which had to be con-

sulted in forming this collection, I have often suffered

keenly from the buttonholders of learned Italy, who will

not let one go on one's way; and have contracted a

horror of those editions where the text, hampered with

numerals for reference, struggles through a few lines at

the top of the page only to stick fast at the bottom in a
Transcribed Footnote (page 28):

* In the case of the above two sonnets, and of all others inter-

changed between two poets, I have thought it best to place them

together among the poems of one or the other correspondent,

wherever they seemed to have most biographical value; and the

same with several epistolary sonnets which have no answer.

Transcribed Footnote (page 28):

† The last line of the Paradise (Cayley's Translation).

Image of page 29 page: 29
slough of verbal analysis. It would seem unpardonable

to make a book which should be even as these; and I

have thus found myself led on to what I fear forms, by

its length, an awkward intermezzo to the volume, in the

hope of saying at once the most of what was to say;

that so the reader may not find himself perpetually

worried with footnotes during the consideration of some-

thing which may require a little peace. The glare of too

many tapers is apt to render the altar-picture confused

and inharmonious, even when their smoke does not

obscure or deface it.
Image of page [30] page: [30]


In that part of the book of my memory before the

which is little that can be read, there is a rubric,

saying, Incipit Vita Nova .* Under such rubric I find

written many things; and among them the words which

I purpose to copy into this little book; if not all of them,

at the least their substance.
Nine times already since my birth had the heaven of

light returned to the selfsame point almost, as concerns

its own revolution, when first the glorious Lady of my

mind was made manifest to mine eyes; even she who

was called Beatrice by many who knew not wherefore.†

She had already been in this life for so long as that,

within her time, the starry heaven had moved towards

the Eastern quarter one of the twelve parts of a degree;

so that she appeared to me at the beginning of her

ninth year almost, and I saw her almost at the end of
Transcribed Footnote (page [30]):

* “Here beginneth the new life.”

Transcribed Footnote (page [30]):

† In reference to the meaning of the name, “She who confers

blessing.” We learn from Boccaccio that this first meeting took

place at a May Feast, given in the year 1274 by Folco Portinari,

father of Beatrice, who ranked among the principal citizens of

Florence: to which feast Dante accompanied his father, Alighiero


Image of page 31 page: 31

my ninth year. Her dress, on that day, was of a most

noble colour, a subdued and goodly crimson, girdled

and adorned in such sort as best suited with her very

tender age. At that moment, I say most truly that the

spirit of life, which hath its dwelling in the secretest

chamber of the heart, began to tremble so violently that

the least pulses of my body shook therewith; and in

trembling it said these words: Ecce deus fortior me, qui

veniens dominabitur mihi
.* At that moment the animate

spirit, which dwelleth in the lofty chamber whither all

the senses carry their perceptions, was filled with won-

der, and speaking more especially unto the spirits of

the eyes, said these words: Apparuit jam beatitudo

.† At that moment the natural spirit, which

dwelleth there where our nourishment is administered,

began to weep, and in weeping said these words: Heu

miser! quia frequenter impeditus ero deinceps
I say that, from that time forward, Love quite

governed my soul; which was immediately espoused to

him, and with so safe and undisputed a lordship (by

virtue of strong imagination) that I had nothing left for

it but to do all his bidding continually. He oftentimes

commanded me to seek if I might see this youngest

of the Angels: wherefore I in my boyhood often went

in search of her, and found her so noble and praise-

worthy that certainly of her might have been said those

words of the poet Homer, “She seemed not to be the

daughter of a mortal man, but of God.Ӥ And albeit her

image, that was with me always, was an exultation of

Love to subdue me, it was yet of so perfect a quality
Transcribed Footnote (page 31):

* “Here is a deity stronger than I; who, coming, shall rule

over me.”

Transcribed Footnote (page 31):

† “Your beatitude hath now been made manifest unto you.”

Transcribed Footnote (page 31):

‡ “Woe is me! for that often I shall be disturbed from this time


Transcribed Footnote (page 31):
  • § Οὐδὲ ἐῴκει
  • Ἀνδρός γε θνητοϋ παϊς ἔμμεναι, ἀλλὰ θεοϊο.
( Iliad, xxiv. 258.)
Image of page 32 page: 32

that it never allowed me to be overruled by Love with-

out the faithful counsel of reason, whensoever such

counsel was useful to be heard. But seeing that were

I to dwell overmuch on the passions and doings of such

early youth, my words might be counted something

fabulous, I will therefore put them aside; and passing

many things that may be conceived by the pattern of

these, I will come to such as are writ in my memory

with a better distinctness.
After the lapse of so many days that nine years

exactly were completed since the above-written appear-

ance of this most gracious being, on the last of those

days it happened that the same wonderful lady ap-

peared to me dressed all in pure white, between two

gentle ladies elder than she. And passing through a

street, she turned her eyes thither where I stood sorely

abashed: and by her unspeakable courtesy, which is

now guerdoned in the Great Cycle, she saluted me with

so virtuous a bearing that I seemed then and there to

behold the very limits of blessedness. The hour of her

most sweet salutation was certainly the ninth of that day;

and because it was the first time that any words from

her reached mine ears, I came into such sweetness that

I parted thence as one intoxicated. And betaking me

to the loneliness of mine own room, I fell to thinking of

this most courteous lady, thinking of whom I was over-

taken by a pleasant slumber, wherein a marvellous vision

was presented to me: for there appeared to be in my

room a mist of the colour of fire, within the which I dis-

cerned the figure of a lord of terrible aspect to such as

should gaze upon him, but who seemed therewithal to

rejoice inwardly that it was a marvel to see. Speaking

he said many things, among the which I could under-

stand but few; and of these, this: Ego dominus tuus.*

In his arms it seemed to me that a person was sleeping,

covered only with a blood-coloured cloth; upon whom
Transcribed Footnote (page 32):

* “I am thy master.”

Image of page 33 page: 33

looking very attentively, I knew that it was the lady of

the salutation who had deigned the day before to salute

me. And he who held her held also in his hand a thing

that was burning in flames; and he said to me, Vide cor

.* But when he had remained with me a little

while, I thought that he set himself to awaken her that

slept; after the which he made her to eat that thing

which flamed in his hand; and she ate as one fearing.

Then, having waited again a space, all his joy was turned

into most bitter weeping; and as he wept he gathered

the lady into his arms, and it seemed to me that he went

with her up towards heaven: whereby such a great

anguish came upon me that my light slumber could not

endure through it, but was suddenly broken. And

immediately having considered, I knew that the hour

wherein this vision had been made manifest to me

was the fourth hour (which is to say, the first of the

nine last hours) of the night.
Then, musing on what I had seen, I proposed to

relate the same to many poets who were famous in that

day: and for that I had myself in some sort the art of

discoursing with rhyme, I resolved on making a sonnet,

in the which, having saluted all such as are subject

unto Love, and entreated them to expound my vision,

I should write unto them those things which I had seen

in my sleep. And the sonnet I made was this:—
  • To every heart which the sweet pain doth move,
  • And unto which these words may now be brought
  • For true interpretation and kind thought,
  • Be greeting in our Lord's name, which is Love.
  • Of those long hours wherein the stars, above,
  • Wake and keep watch, the third was almost nought,
  • When Love was shown me with such terrors fraught
  • As may not carelessly be spoken of.

  • Transcribed Footnote (page 33):

    * “Behold thy heart.”

    Sig. 3
    Image of page 34 page: 34
  • He seemed like one who is full of joy, and had
  • 10 My heart within his hand, and on his arm
  • My lady, with a mantle round her, slept;
  • Whom (having wakened her) anon he made
  • To eat that heart; she ate, as fearing harm.
  • Then he went out; and as he went, he wept.
This sonnet is divided into two parts. In the first part

I give greeting, and ask an answer; in the second, I signify

what thing has to be answered to. The second part com-

mences here: “Of those long hours.”
To this sonnet I received many answers, conveying

many different opinions; of the which, one was sent by

him whom I now call the first among my friends, and

it began thus, “Unto my thinking thou beheld'st all

worth.”* And indeed, it was when he learned that I was

he who had sent those rhymes to him, that our friendship

commenced. But the true meaning of that vision was

not then perceived by any one, though it be now evident

to the least skilful.
From that night forth, the natural functions of my

body began to be vexed and impeded, for I was given

up wholly to thinking of this most gracious creature:

whereby in short space I became so weak and so reduced

that it was irksome to many of my friends to look

upon me; while others, being moved by spite, went

about to discover what it was my wish should be con-

cealed. Wherefore I (perceiving the drift of their

unkindly questions), by Love's will, who directed me

according to the counsels of reason, told them how it

was Love himself who had thus dealt with me: and I

said so, because the thing was so plainly to be discerned

in my countenance that there was no longer any means

of concealing it. But when they went on to ask, “And
Transcribed Footnote (page 34):

* The friend of whom Dante here speaks was Guido Cavalcanti.

For his answer, and those of Cino da Pistoia and Dante da Maiano,

see their poems further on.

Image of page 35 page: 35

by whose help hath Love done this?” I looked in their

faces smiling, and spake no word in return.
Now it fell on a day, that this most gracious creature

was sitting where words were to be heard of the

Queen of Glory;* and I was in a place whence mine

eyes could behold their beatitude: and betwixt her and

me, in a direct line, there sat another lady of a pleasant

favour; who looked round at me many times, marvelling

at my continued gaze which seemed to have her for its

object. And many perceived that she thus looked; so

that departing thence, I heard it whispered after me,

“Look you to what a pass such a lady hath brought

him”; and in saying this they named her who had been

midway between the most gentle Beatrice and mine

eyes. Therefore I was reassured, and knew that for

that day my secret had not become manifest. Then

immediately it came into my mind that I might make

use of this lady as a screen to the truth: and so well

did I play my part that the most of those who had

hitherto watched and wondered at me, now imagined

they had found me out. By her means I kept my secret

concealed till some years were gone over; and for my

better security, I even made divers rhymes in her

honour; whereof I shall here write only as much as

concerneth the most gentle Beatrice, which is but a very

little. Moreover, about the same time while this lady

was a screen for so much love on my part, I took the

resolution to set down the name of this most gracious

creature accompanied with many other women's names,

and especially with hers whom I spake of. And to this

end I put together the names of sixty the most beautiful

ladies in that city where God had placed mine own

lady; and these names I introduced in an epistle in the

form of a sirvent, which it is not my intention to tran-

scribe here. Neither should I have said anything of

this matter, did I not wish to take note of a certain
Transcribed Footnote (page 35):

* I.e., in a church.

Image of page 36 page: 36

strange thing, to wit: that having written the list, I

found my lady's name would not stand otherwise than

ninth in order among the names of these ladies.
Now it so chanced with her by whose means I had

thus long time concealed my desire, that it behoved her

to leave the city I speak of, and to journey afar: where-

fore I, being sorely perplexed at the loss of so excellent

a defence, had more trouble than even I could before

have supposed. And thinking that if I spoke not

somewhat mournfully of her departure, my former

counterfeiting would be the more quickly perceived, I

determined that I would make a grievous sonnet*

thereof; the which I will write here, because it hath

certain words in it whereof my lady was the immediate

cause, as will be plain to him that understands. And

the sonnet was this:—
  • All ye that pass along Love's trodden way,
  • Pause ye awhile and say
  • If there be any grief like unto mine:
  • I pray you that you hearken a short space
  • Patiently, if my case
  • Be not a piteous marvel and a sign.
  • Love (never, certes, for my worthless part,
  • But of his own great heart,)
  • Vouchsafed to me a life so calm and sweet
  • 10That oft I heard folk question as I went
  • What such great gladness meant:—
  • They spoke of it behind me in the street.

Transcribed Footnote (page 36):

* It will be observed that this poem is not what we now call a

sonnet. Its structure, however, is analogous to that of the sonnet,

being two sextetts followed by two quatrains, instead of two

quatrains followed by two triplets. Dante applies the term

sonnet to both these forms of composition, and to no other.

Image of page 37 page: 37
  • But now that fearless bearing is all gone
  • Which with Love's hoarded wealth was given me;
  • Till I am grown to be
  • So poor that I have dread to think thereon.
  • And thus it is that I, being like as one
  • Who is ashamed and hides his poverty,
  • Without seem full of glee,
  • 20And let my heart within travail and moan.
This poem has two principal parts; for, in the first,

I mean to call the Faithful of Love in those words of

Jeremias the Prophet, “O vos omnes qui transitis per

viam, attendite et videte si est dolor sicut dolor meus,”

and to pray them to stay and hear me. In the second I tell

where Love had placed me, with a meaning other than that

which the last part of the poem shows, and I say what I

have lost. The second part begins here, “Love, (never,

A certain while after the departure of that lady, it

pleased the Master of the Angels to call into His glory a

damsel, young and of a gentle presence, who had been

very lovely in the city I speak of: and I saw her body

lying without its soul among many ladies, who held a

pitiful weeping. Whereupon, remembering that I had

seen her in the company of excellent Beatrice, I could

not hinder myself from a few tears; and weeping, I

conceived to say somewhat of her death, in guerdon of

having seen her somewhile with my lady; which thing I

spake of in the latter end of the verses that I writ in this

matter, as he will discern who understands. And I

wrote two sonnets, which are these:—

  • Weep, Lovers, sith Love's very self doth weep,
  • And sith the cause for weeping is so great;
  • Image of page 38 page: 38
  • When now so many dames, of such estate
  • In worth, show with their eyes a grief so deep:
  • For Death the churl has laid his leaden sleep
  • Upon a damsel who was fair of late,
  • Defacing all our earth should celebrate,—
  • Yea all save virtue, which the soul doth keep.
  • Now hearken how much Love did honour her.
  • 10 I myself saw him in his proper form
  • Bending above the motionless sweet dead,
  • And often gazing into Heaven; for there
  • The soul now sits which when her life was warm
  • Dwelt with the joyful beauty that is fled.
This first sonnet is divided into three parts. In the first,

I call and beseech the Faithful of Love to weep; and I say

that their Lord weeps, and that they, hearing the reason

why he weeps, shall be more minded to listen to me. In the

second, I relate this reason. In the third, I speak of honour

done by Love to this Lady. The second part begins here,

“When now so many dames”; the third here, “Now


  • Death, alway cruel, Pity's foe in chief,
  • Mother who brought forth grief,
  • Merciless judgment and without appeal!
  • Since thou alone hast made my heart to feel
  • This sadness and unweal,
  • My tongue upbraideth thee without relief.
  • And now (for I must rid thy name of ruth)
  • Behoves me speak the truth
  • Touching thy cruelty and wickedness:
  • 10 Not that they be not known; but ne'ertheless
  • I would give hate more stress
  • With them that feed on love in very sooth.
Image of page 39 page: 39
  • Out of this world thou hast driven courtesy,
  • And virtue, dearly prized in womanhood;
  • And out of youth's gay mood
  • The lovely lightness is quite gone through thee
  • Whom now I mourn, no man shall learn from me
  • Save by the measures of these praises given.
  • Whoso deserves not Heaven
  • 20May never hope to have her company.*
This poem is divided into four parts. In the first I

address Death by certain proper names of hers. In the

second, speaking to her, I tell the reason why I am moved

to denounce her. In the third, I rail against her. In the

fourth, I turn to speak to a person undefined, although

defined in my own conception. The second part commences

here, “Since thou alone”; the third here, “And now (for

I must)”; the fourth here, “Whoso deserves not.”
Some days after the death of this lady, I had occasion

to leave the city I speak of, and to go thitherwards where

she abode who had formerly been my protection; albeit

the end of my journey reached not altogether so far.

And notwithstanding that I was visibly in the company

of many, the journey was so irksome that I had scarcely

sighing enough to ease my heart's heaviness; seeing that

as I went, I left my beatitude behind me. Wherefore

it came to pass that he who ruled me by virtue of
Transcribed Footnote (page 39):

* The commentators assert that the last two lines here do not

allude to the dead lady, but to Beatrice. This would make the

poem very clumsy in construction; yet there must be some covert

allusion to Beatrice, as Dante himself intimates. The only form

in which I can trace it consists in the implied assertion that such

person as had enjoyed the dead lady's society was worthy of heaven,

and that person was Beatrice. Or indeed the allusion to Beatrice

might be in the first poem, where he says that Love “ in forma

vera” (that is, Beatrice,) mourned over the corpse: as he after-

wards says of Beatrice, “ Quella ha nome Amor.” Most probably

both allusions are intended.

Image of page 40 page: 40
my most gentle lady was made visible to my mind, in

the light habit of a traveller, coarsely fashioned. He

appeared to me troubled, and looked always on the

ground; saving only that sometimes his eyes were

turned towards a river which was clear and rapid, and

which flowed along the path I was taking. And then

I thought that Love called me and said to me these

words: “I come from that lady who was so long thy

surety; for the matter of whose return, I know that it

may not be. Wherefore I have taken that heart which

I made thee leave with her, and do bear it unto another

lady, who, as she was, shall be thy surety;” (and when

he named her I knew her well.) “And of these words

I have spoken if thou shouldst speak any again, let it be

in such sort as that none shall perceive thereby that thy

love was feigned for her, which thou must now feign

for another.” And when he had spoken thus, all my

imagining was gone suddenly, for it seemed to me that

Love became a part of myself: so that, changed as it

were in mine aspect, I rode on full of thought the whole

of that day, and with heavy sighing. And the day being

over, I wrote this sonnet:—
  • A day agone, as I rode sullenly
  • Upon a certain path that liked me not,
  • I met Love midway while the air was hot,
  • Clothed lightly as a wayfarer might be.
  • And for the cheer he showed, he seemed to me
  • As one who hath lost lordship he had got;
  • Advancing tow'rds me full of sorrowful thought,
  • Bowing his forehead so that none should see.
  • Then as I went, he called me by my name,
  • 10 Saying: “I journey since the morn was dim
  • Thence where I made thy heart to be: which now
  • I needs must bear unto another dame.”
  • Wherewith so much passed into me of him
  • That he was gone, and I discerned not how.
Image of page 41 page: 41
This sonnet has three parts. In the first part, I tell how

I met Love, and of his aspect. In the second, I tell what

he said to me, although not in full, through the fear I had

of discovering my secret. In the third, I say how he dis-

appeared. The second part commences here, “Then as I

went”; the third here, “Wherewith so much.”
On my return, I set myself to seek out that lady whom

my master had named to me while I journeyed sighing.

And because I would be brief, I will now narrate that

in a short while I made her my surety, in such sort

that the matter was spoken of by many in terms scarcely

courteous; through the which I had oftenwhiles many

troublesome hours. And by this it happened (to wit:

by this false and evil rumour which seemed to misfame

me of vice) that she who was the destroyer of all evil

and the queen of all good, coming where I was, denied

me her most sweet salutation, in the which alone was

my blessedness.
And here it is fitting for me to depart a little from

this present matter, that it may be rightly understood of

what surpassing virtue her salutation was to me. To the

which end I say that when she appeared in any place, it

seemed to me, by the hope of her excellent salutation,

that there was no man mine enemy any longer; and such

warmth of charity came upon me that most certainly in

that moment I would have pardoned whosoever had

done me an injury; and if one should then have ques-

tioned me concerning any matter, I could only have

said unto him “Love,” with a countenance clothed in

humbleness. And what time she made ready to salute

me, the spirit of Love, destroying all other perceptions,

thrust forth the feeble spirits of my eyes, saying, “Do

homage unto your mistress,” and putting itself in their

place to obey: so that he who would, might then have

beheld Love, beholding the lids of my eyes shake. And

when this most gentle lady gave her salutation, Love, so

far from being a medium beclouding mine intolerable

beatitude, then bred in me such an overpowering sweet-
Image of page 42 page: 42
ness that my body, being all subjected thereto, remained

many times helpless and passive. Whereby it is made

manifest that in her salutation alone was there any

beatitude for me, which then very often went beyond

my endurance.
And now, resuming my discourse, I will go on to

relate that when, for the first time, this beatitude was

denied me, I became possessed with such grief that,

parting myself from others, I went into a lonely place to

bathe the ground with most bitter tears: and when, by

this heat of weeping, I was somewhat relieved, I betook

myself to my chamber, where I could lament unheard.

And there, having prayed to the Lady of all Mercies,

and having said also, “O Love, aid thou thy servant”; I

went suddenly asleep like a beaten sobbing child. And

in my sleep, towards the middle of it, I seemed to see

in the room, seated at my side, a youth in very white

raiment, who kept his eyes fixed on me in deep thought.

And when he had gazed some time, I thought that he

sighed and called to me in these words: “ Fili mi, tempus

est ut prætermittantur simulata nostra .”* And thereupon

I seemed to know him; for the voice was the same

wherewith he had spoken at other times in my sleep.

Then looking at him, I perceived that he was weeping

piteously, and that he seemed to be waiting for me to

speak. Wherefore, taking heart, I began thus: “Why

weepest thou, Master of all honour?” And he made

answer to me: “ Ego tanquam centrum circuli, cui simili

modo se habent circumferentiæ partes: tu autem non sic .”†
Transcribed Footnote (page 42):

* “My son, it is time for us to lay aside our counterfeiting.”

Transcribed Footnote (page 42):

† “I am as the centre of a circle, to the which all parts of the

circumference bear an equal relation: but with thee it is not thus.”

This phrase seems to have remained as obscure to commentators

as Dante found it at the moment. No one, as far as I know, has

even fairly tried to find a meaning for it. To me the following

appears a not unlikely one. Love is weeping on Dante's account,

and not on his own. He says, “I am the centre of a circle ( Amor

che muove il sole e l' altre stelle): therefore all lovable objects,

whether in heaven or earth, or any part of the circle's circum-

Image of page 43 page: 43

And thinking upon his words, they seemed to me

obscure; so that again compelling myself unto speech, I

asked of him: “What thing is this, Master, that thou

hast spoken thus darkly?” To the which he made

answer in the vulgar tongue: “Demand no more than may

be useful to thee.” Whereupon I began to discourse

with him concerning her salutation which she had denied

me; and when I had questioned him of the cause, he

said these words: “Our Beatrice hath heard from certain

persons, that the lady whom I named to thee while thou

journeyedst full of sighs is sorely disquieted by thy

solicitations: and therefore this most gracious creature,

who is the enemy of all disquiet, being fearful of such

disquiet, refused to salute thee. For the which reason

(albeit, in very sooth, thy secret must needs have become

known to her by familiar observation) it is my will that

thou compose certain things in rhyme, in the which thou

shalt set forth how strong a mastership I have obtained

over thee, through her; and how thou wast hers even

from thy childhood. Also do thou call upon him that

knoweth these things to bear witness to them, bidding

him to speak with her thereof; the which I, who am he,

will do willingly. And thus she shall be made to know

thy desire; knowing which, she shall know likewise that

they were deceived who spake of thee to her. And so

write these things, that they shall seem rather to be

spoken by a third person; and not directly by thee to

her, which is scarce fitting. After the which, send them,

not without me, where she may chance to hear them;

but have fitted them with a pleasant music, into the

which I will pass whensoever it needeth.” With this

speech he was away, and my sleep was broken up.
Whereupon, remembering me, I knew that I had
Transcribed Footnote (page 43):

ference, are equally near to me. Not so thou, who wilt one day

lose Beatrice when she goes to heaven.” The phrase would thus

contain an intimation of the death of Beatrice, accounting for

Dante being next told not to inquire the meaning of the speech,—

“Demand no more than may be useful to thee.”

Image of page 44 page: 44

beheld this vision during the ninth hour of the day;

and I resolved that I would make a ditty, before I left

my chamber, according to the words my master had

spoken. And this is the ditty that I made:—
  • Song, 'tis my will that thou do seek out Love,
  • And go with him where my dear lady is;
  • That so my cause, the which thy harmonies
  • Do plead, his better speech may clearly prove.
  • Thou goest, my Song, in such a courteous kind,
  • That even companionless
  • Thou mayst rely on thyself anywhere.
  • And yet, an thou wouldst get thee a safe mind,
  • First unto Love address
  • 10Thy steps; whose aid, mayhap, 'twere ill to spare,
  • Seeing that she to whom thou mak'st thy prayer
  • Is, as I think, ill-minded unto me,
  • And that if Love do not companion thee,
  • Thou'lt have perchance small cheer to tell me of.
  • With a sweet accent, when thou com'st to her,
  • Begin thou in these words,
  • First having craved a gracious audience:
  • “He who hath sent me as his messenger,
  • Lady, thus much records,
  • 20 An thou but suffer him, in his defence.
  • Love, who comes with me, by thine influence
  • Can make this man do as it liketh him:
  • Wherefore, if this fault is or doth but seem
  • Do thou conceive: for his heart cannot move.”
  • Say to her also: “Lady, his poor heart
  • Is so confirmed in faith
  • That all its thoughts are but of serving thee
  • Image of page 45 page: 45
  • 'Twas early thine, and could not swerve apart.”
  • Then, if she wavereth,
  • 30 Bid her ask Love, who knows if these things be.
  • And in the end, beg of her modestly
  • To pardon so much boldness: saying too:—
  • “If thou declare his death to be thy due,
  • The thing shall come to pass, as doth behove.”
    Note: In the 1874 and 1861 editions, the 31st line of the poem is incorrectly indented. In the 1886 edition, as in the 1911, the 6th and 7th lines of this stanza are aligned, as they are in the other stanzas.
  • Then pray thou of the Master of all ruth,
  • Before thou leave her there,
  • That he befriend my cause and plead it well.
  • “In guerdon of my sweet rhymes and my truth”
  • (Entreat him) “stay with her;
  • 40 Let not the hope of thy poor servant fail;
  • And if with her thy pleading should prevail,
  • Let her look on him and give peace to him.”
  • Gentle my Song, if good to thee it seem,
  • Do this: so worship shall be thine and love.
This ditty is divided into three parts. In the first, I tell

it whither to go, and I encourage it, that it may go the more

confidently, and I tell it whose company to join if it would

go with confidence and without any danger. In the second,

I say that which it behoves the ditty to set forth. In the

third, I give it leave to start when it pleases, recommending

its course to the arms of Fortune. The second part begins

here, “With a sweet accent”; the third here, “Gentle my

Song.” Some might contradict me, and say that they under-

stand not whom I address in the second person, seeing that

the ditty is merely the very words I am speaking. And

therefore I say that this doubt I intend to solve and clear up

in this little book itself, at a more difficult passage, and then

let him understand who now doubts, or would now contra-

dict as aforesaid.
After this vision I have recorded, and having written

those words which Love had dictated to me, I began to

be harassed with many and divers thoughts, by each of
Image of page 46 page: 46

which I was sorely tempted; and in especial, there were

four among them that left me no rest. The first was

this: “Certainly the lordship of Love is good; seeing

that it diverts the mind from all mean things.” The

second was this: “Certainly the lordship of Love is

evil; seeing that the more homage his servants pay to

him, the more grievous and painful are the torments

wherewith he torments them.” The third was this:

“The name of Love is so sweet in the hearing that it

would not seem possible for its effects to be other than

sweet; seeing that the name must needs be like unto

the thing named: as it is written: Nomina sunt con-

sequentia rerum
.”* And the fourth was this: “The

lady whom Love hath chosen out to govern thee is not

as other ladies, whose hearts are easily moved.”
And by each one of these thoughts I was so sorely

assailed that I was like unto him who doubteth which

path to take, and wishing to go, goeth not. And if I

bethought myself to seek out some point at the which all

these paths might be found to meet, I discerned but one

way, and that irked me; to wit, to call upon Pity, and

to commend myself unto her. And it was then that,

feeling a desire to write somewhat thereof in rhyme, I

wrote this sonnet:—
  • All my thoughts always speak to me of Love,
  • Yet have between themselves such difference
  • That while one bids me bow with mind and sense,
  • A second saith, “Go to: look thou above”;
  • The third one, hoping, yields me joy enough;
  • And with the last come tears, I scarce know whence:
  • All of them craving pity in sore suspense,
  • Trembling with fears that the heart knoweth of.
  • And thus, being all unsure which path to take,
  • 10 Wishing to speak I know not what to say,
  • And lose myself in amorous wanderings:

  • Transcribed Footnote (page 46):

    * “Names are the consequents of things.”

    Image of page 47 page: 47
  • Until, (my peace with all of them to make,)
  • Unto mine enemy I needs must pray,
  • My Lady Pity, for the help she brings.
This sonnet may be divided into four parts. In the

first, I say and propound that all my thoughts are concern-

ing Love. In the second, I say that they are diverse, and I

relate their diversity. In the third, I say wherein they all

seem to agree. In the fourth, I say that, wishing to speak

of Love, I know not from which of these thoughts to take

my argument; and that if I would take it from all, I shall

have to call upon mine enemy, my Lady Pity. “Lady” I

say, as in a scornful mode of speech. The second begins

here, “Yet have between themselves”; the third, “All of

them craving”; the fourth, “And thus.”
After this battling with many thoughts, it chanced on

a day that my most gracious lady was with a gathering

of ladies in a certain place; to the which I was conducted

by a friend of mine; he thinking to do me a great

pleasure by showing me the beauty of so many women.

Then I, hardly knowing whereunto he conducted me, but

trusting in him (who yet was leading his friend to the

last verge of life), made question: “To what end are we

come among these ladies?” and he answered: “To the

end that they may be worthily served.” And they were

assembled around a gentlewoman who was given in

marriage on that day; the custom of the city being

that these should bear her company when she sat down

for the first time at table in the house of her husband.

Therefore I, as was my friend's pleasure, resolved to

stay with him and do honour to those ladies.
But as soon as I had thus resolved, I began to feel a

faintness and a throbbing at my left side, which soon took

possession of my whole body. Whereupon I remember

that I covertly leaned my back unto a painting that ran

round the walls of that house; and being fearful lest my

trembling should be discerned of them, I lifted mine eyes
Image of page 48 page: 48

to look on those ladies, and then first perceived among

them the excellent Beatrice. And when I perceived her,

all my senses were overpowered by the great lordship

that Love obtained, finding himself so near unto that

most gracious being, until nothing but the spirits of sight

remained to me; and even these remained driven out of

their own instruments because Love entered in that

honoured place of theirs, that so he might the better

behold her. And although I was other than at first, I

grieved for the spirits so expelled, which kept up a sore

lament, saying: “If he had not in this wise thrust us

forth, we also should behold the marvel of this lady.” By

this, many of her friends, having discerned my confusion,

began to wonder; and together with herself, kept whis-

pering of me and mocking me. Whereupon my friend,

who knew not what to conceive, took me by the hands,

and drawing me forth from among them, required to

know what ailed me. Then, having first held me at

quiet for a space until my perceptions were come back

to me, I made answer to my friend: “Of a surety I have

now set my feet on that point of life, beyond the which

he must not pass who would return.”*
Afterwards, leaving him, I went back to the room

where I had wept before; and again weeping and

ashamed, said: “If this lady but knew of my condition,

I do not think that she would thus mock at me; nay, I

am sure that she must needs feel some pity.” And in

my weeping I bethought me to write certain words, in

the which, speaking to her, I should signify the occasion
Transcribed Footnote (page 48):

* It is difficult not to connect Dante's agony at this wedding-

feast, with our knowledge that in her twenty-first year Beatrice

was wedded to Simone de' Bardi. That she herself was the bride

on this occasion might seem out of the question, from the fact of

its not being in any way so stated: but on the other hand, Dante's

silence throughout the Vita Nuova as regards her marriage (which

must have brought deep sorrow even to his ideal love) is so

startling, that we might almost be led to conceive in this passage

the only intimation of it which he thought fit to give.

Image of page 49 page: 49

of my disfigurement, telling her also how I knew that she

had no knowledge thereof: which, if it were known, I was

certain must move others to pity. And then, because I

hoped that peradventure it might come into her hearing,

I wrote this sonnet:—
  • Even as the others mock, thou mockest me;
  • Not dreaming, noble lady, whence it is
  • That I am taken with strange semblances,
  • Seeing thy face which is so fair to see:
  • For else, compassion would not suffer thee
  • To grieve my heart with such harsh scoffs as these.
  • Lo! Love, when thou art present, sits at ease,
  • And bears his mastership so mightily,
  • That all my troubled senses he thrusts out,
  • 10 Sorely tormenting some, and slaying some,
  • Till none but he is left and has free range
  • To gaze on thee. This makes my face to change
  • Into another's; while I stand all dumb,
  • And hear my senses clamour in their rout.
This sonnet I divide not into parts, because a division is

only made to open the meaning of the thing divided: and

this, as it is sufficiently manifest through the reasons given,

has no need of division. True it is that, amid the words

whereby is shown the occasion of this sonnet, dubious words

are to be found; namely, when I say that Love fills all my

spirits, but that the visual remain in life, only outside of

their own instruments. And this difficulty it is impossible

for any to solve who is not in equal guise liege unto Love;

and, to those who are so, that is manifest which would clear

up the dubious words. And therefore it were not well for

me to expound this difficulty, inasmuch as my speaking

would be either fruitless or else superfluous.
A while after this strange disfigurement, I became

possessed with a strong conception which left me but

very seldom, and then to return quickly. And it was
Sig. 4
Image of page 50 page: 50

this: “Seeing that thou comest into such scorn by the

companionship of this lady, wherefore seekest thou to

behold her? If she should ask thee this thing, what

answer couldst thou make unto her? yea, even though

thou wert master of all thy faculties, and in no way

hindered from answering.” Unto the which, another

very humble thought said in reply: “If I were master

of all my faculties, and in no way hindered from an-

swering, I would tell her that no sooner do I image to

myself her marvellous beauty than I am possessed with

the desire to behold her, the which is of so great strength

that it kills and destroys in my memory all those things

which might oppose it; and it is therefore that the great

anguish I have endured thereby is yet not enough to

restrain me from seeking to behold her.” And then,

because of these thoughts, I resolved to write somewhat,

wherein, having pleaded mine excuse, I should tell her

of what I felt in her presence. Whereupon I wrote this

  • The thoughts are broken in my memory,
  • Thou lovely Joy, whene'er I see thy face;
  • When thou art near me, Love fills up the space,
  • Often repeating, “If death irk thee, fly.”
  • My face shows my heart's colour, verily,
  • Which, fainting, seeks for any leaning-place
  • Till, in the drunken terror of disgrace,
  • The very stones seem to be shrieking, “Die!”
  • It were a grievous sin, if one should not
  • 10 Strive then to comfort my bewildered mind
  • (Though merely with a simple pitying)
  • For the great anguish which thy scorn has wrought
  • In the dead sight o' the eyes grown nearly blind,
  • Which look for death as for a blessed thing.
This sonnet is divided into two parts. In the first, I

tell the cause why I abstain not from coming to this lady.
Image of page 51 page: 51

In the second, I tell what befalls me through coming to her;

and this part begins here, “When thou art near.” And

also this second part divides into five distinct statements.

For, in the first, I say what Love, counselled by Reason,

tells me when I am near the Lady. In the second, I set

forth the state of my heart by the example of the face. In

the third, I say how all ground of trust fails me. In the

fourth, I say that he sins who shows not pity of me, which

would give me some comfort. In the last, I say why

people should take pity; namely, for the piteous look which

comes into mine eyes; which piteous look is destroyed, that

is, appeareth not unto others, through the jeering of this

lady, who draws to the like action those who peradventure

would see this piteousness. The second part begins here,

“My face shows”; the third, “Till, in the drunken terror”;

the fourth, “It were a grievous sin”; the fifth, “For the

great anguish.”
Thereafter, this sonnet bred in me desire to write

down in verse four other things touching my condition,

the which things it seemed to me that I had not yet

made manifest. The first among these was the grief

that possessed me very often, remembering the strange-

ness which Love wrought in me; the second was, how

Love many times assailed me so suddenly and with such

strength that I had no other life remaining except a

thought which spake of my lady; the third was, how,

when Love did battle with me in this wise, I would rise

up all colourless, if so I might see my lady, conceiving

that the sight of her would defend me against the assault

of Love, and altogether forgetting that which her presence

brought unto me; and the fourth was, how, when I saw

her, the sight not only defended me not, but took away

the little life that remained to me. And I said these

four things in a sonnet, which is this:—
  • At whiles (yea oftentimes) I muse over
  • The quality of anguish that is mine
  • Through Love: then pity makes my voice to pine,
  • Image of page 52 page: 52
  • Saying, “Is any else thus, anywhere?”
  • Love smiteth me, whose strength is ill to bear;
  • So that of all my life is left no sign
  • Except one thought; and that, because 'tis thine,
  • Leaves not the body but abideth there.
  • And then if I, whom other aid forsook,
  • 10 Would aid myself, and innocent of art
  • Would fain have sight of thee as a last hope,
  • No sooner do I lift mine eyes to look
  • Than the blood seems as shaken from my heart,
  • And all my pulses beat at once and stop.
This sonnet is divided into four parts, four things being

therein narrated; and as these are set forth above, I only

proceed to distinguish the parts by their beginnings. Where-

fore I say that the second part begins, “Love smiteth me”;

the third, “And then if I”; the fourth, “No sooner do I

After I had written these three last sonnets, wherein

I spake unto my lady, telling her almost the whole of

my condition, it seemed to me that I should be silent,

having said enough concerning myself. But albeit I

spake not to her again, yet it behoved me afterward to

write of another matter, more noble than the foregoing.

And for that the occasion of what I then wrote may

be found pleasant in the hearing, I will relate it as briefly

as I may.
Through the sore change in mine aspect, the secret

of my heart was now understood of many. Which

thing being thus, there came a day when certain ladies

to whom it was well known (they having been with me

at divers times in my trouble) were met together for the

pleasure of gentle company. And as I was going that

way by chance, (but I think rather by the will of fortune,)

I heard one of them call unto me, and she that called

was a lady of very sweet speech. And when I had

come close up with them, and perceived that they had
Image of page 53 page: 53

not among them mine excellent lady, I was reassured;

and saluted them, asking of their pleasure. The ladies

were many; divers of whom were laughing one to

another, while divers gazed at me as though I should

speak anon. But when I still spake not, one of them,

who before had been talking with another, addressed me

by my name, saying, “To what end lovest thou this lady,

seeing that thou canst not support her presence? Now

tell us this thing, that we may know it: for certainly the

end of such a love must be worthy of knowledge.” And

when she had spoken these words, not she only, but all

they that were with her, began to observe me, waiting

for my reply. Whereupon I said thus unto them:—

“Ladies, the end and aim of my Love was but the

salutation of that lady of whom I conceive that ye are

speaking; wherein alone I found that beatitude which

is the goal of desire. And now that it hath pleased her

to deny me this, Love, my Master, of his great goodness,

hath placed all my beatitude there where my hope will

not fail me.” Then those ladies began to talk closely

together; and as I have seen snow fall among the rain,

so was their talk mingled with sighs. But after a little,

that lady who had been the first to address me, addressed

me again in these words: “We pray thee that thou wilt

tell us wherein abideth this thy beatitude.” And answer-

ing, I said but thus much: “In those words that do

praise my lady.” To the which she rejoined: “If thy

speech were true, those words that thou didst write

concerning thy condition would have been written with

another intent.”
Then I, being almost put to shame because of her

answer, went out from among them; and as I walked,

I said within myself: “Seeing that there is so much

beatitude in those words which do praise my lady

wherefore hath my speech of her been different?” And

then I resolved that thenceforward I would choose for

the theme of my writings only the praise of this most

gracious being. But when I had thought exceedingly,
Image of page 54 page: 54

it seemed to me that I had taken to myself a theme

which was much too lofty, so that I dared not begin;

and I remained during several days in the desire of

speaking, and the fear of beginning. After which it

happened, as I passed one day along a path which lay

beside a stream of very clear water, that there came

upon me a great desire to say somewhat in rhyme: but

when I began thinking how I should say it, methought

that to speak of her were unseemly, unless I spoke to

other ladies in the second person; which is to say, not

to any other ladies, but only to such as are so called

because they are gentle, let alone for mere womanhood.

Whereupon I declare that my tongue spake as though

by its own impulse, and said, “Ladies that have intel-

ligence in love.” These words I laid up in my mind

with great gladness, conceiving to take them as my

commencement. Wherefore, having returned to the city

I spake of, and considered thereof during certain days,

I began a poem with this beginning, constructed in the

mode which will be seen below in its division. The

poem begins here:—
  • Ladies that have intelligence in love,
  • Of mine own lady I would speak with you;
  • Not that I hope to count her praises through,
  • But telling what I may, to ease my mind.
  • And I declare that when I speak thereof,
  • Love sheds such perfect sweetness over me
  • That if my courage failed not, certainly
  • To him my listeners must be all resign'd.
  • Wherefore I will not speak in such large kind
  • 10That mine own speech should foil me, which were base;
  • But only will discourse of her high grace
  • In these poor words, the best that I can find,
  • With you alone, dear dames and damozels:
  • 'Twere ill to speak thereof with any else.
Image of page 55 page: 55
  • An Angel, of his blessed knowledge, saith
  • To God: “Lord, in the world that Thou hast made,
  • A miracle in action is display'd,
  • By reason of a soul whose splendours fare
  • Even hither: and since Heaven requireth
  • 20 Nought saving her, for her it prayeth Thee,
  • Thy Saints crying aloud continually.”
  • Yet Pity still defends our earthly share
  • In that sweet soul; God answering thus the prayer.
  • “My well-belovèd, suffer that in peace
  • Your hope remain, while so My pleasure is,
  • There where one dwells who dreads the loss of her:
  • And who in Hell unto the doomed shall say,
  • ‘I have looked on that for which God's chosen pray.’”
  • My lady is desired in the high Heaven:
  • 30 Wherefore, it now behoveth me to tell,
  • Saying: Let any maid that would be well
  • Esteemed keep with her: for as she goes by,
  • Into foul hearts a deathly chill is driven
  • By Love, that makes ill thought to perish there:
  • While any who endures to gaze on her
  • Must either be ennobled, or else die.
  • When one deserving to be raised so high
  • Is found, 'tis then her power attains its proof,
  • Making his heart strong for his soul's behoof
  • 40 With the full strength of meek humility.
  • Also this virtue owns she, by God's will:
  • Who speaks with her can never come to ill.
  • Love saith concerning her: “How chanceth it
  • That flesh, which is of dust, should be thus pure?
  • Then, gazing always, he makes oath: “Forsure,
  • This is a creature of God till now unknown.”
  • She hath that paleness of the pearl that's fit
  • In a fair woman, so much and not more;
  • She is as high as Nature's skill can soar;
  • 50 Beauty is tried by her comparison.
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  • Whatever her sweet eyes are turned upon,
  • Spirits of love do issue thence in flame,
  • Which through their eyes who then may look on them
  • Pierce to the heart's deep chamber every one.
  • And in her smile Love's image you may see;
  • Whence none can gaze upon her steadfastly.
  • Dear Song, I know thou wilt hold gentle speech
  • With many ladies, when I send thee forth:
  • Wherefore (being mindful that thou hadst thy birth
  • 60 From Love, and art a modest, simple child,)
  • Whomso thou meetest, say thou this to each:
  • “Give me good speed! To her I wend along
  • In whose much strength my weakness is made strong.”
  • And if, i' the end, thou wouldst not be beguiled
  • Of all thy labour, seek not the defiled
  • And common sort; but rather choose to be
  • Where man and woman dwell in courtesy.
  • So to the road thou shalt be reconciled,
  • And find the lady, and with the lady, Love.
  • 70Commend thou me to each, as doth behove.
This poem, that it may be better understood, I will

divide more subtly than the others preceding; and therefore

I will make three parts of it. The first part is a proem to

the words following. The second is the matter treated of.

The third is, as it were, a handmaid to the preceding words.

The second begins here, “An angel”; the third here, “Dear

Song, I know.” The first part is divided into four. In

the first, I say to whom I mean to speak of my Lady, and

wherefore I will so speak. In the second, I say what she

appears to myself to be when I reflect upon her excellence,

and what I would utter if I lost not courage. In the third,

I say what it is I purpose to speak so as not to be impeded

by faintheartedness. In the fourth, repeating to whom I

purpose speaking, I tell the reason why I speak to them.

The second begins here, “And I declare”; the third here,
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“Wherefore I will not speak”; the fourth here, “With you

alone.” Then, when I say “An angel,” I begin treating of

this lady: and this part is divided into two. In the first,

I tell what is understood of her in heaven. In the second,

I tell what is understood of her on earth: here, “My lady

is desired.” This second part is divided into two, for, in

the first, I speak of her as regards the nobleness of her soul,

relating some of her virtues proceeding from her soul; in the

second, I speak of her as regards the nobleness of her body,

narrating some of her beauties: here, “Love saith concerning

her.” This second part is divided into two; for, in the

first, I speak of certain beauties which belong to the whole

person; in the second, I speak of certain beauties which

belong to a distinct part of the person: here, “Whatever

her sweet eyes.” This second part is divided into two; for,

in the one, I speak of the eyes, which are the beginning of

love; in the second, I speak of the mouth, which is the

end of love. And that every vicious thought may be dis-

carded herefrom, let the reader remember that it is above

written that the greeting of this lady, which was an act of

her mouth, was the goal of my desires, while I could receive

it. Then, when I say, “Dear Song, I know,” I add a

stanza as it were handmaid to the others, wherein I say

what I desire from this my poem. And because this last

part is easy to understand, I trouble not myself with more

divisions. I say, indeed, that the further to open the mean-

ing of this poem, more minute divisions ought to be used;

but nevertheless he who is not of wit enough to understand

it by these which have been already made is welcome to leave

it alone; for certes, I fear I have communicated its sense to

too many by these present divisions, if it so happened that

many should hear it.
When this song was a little gone abroad, a certain

one of my friends, hearing the same, was pleased to

question me, that I should tell him what thing love is;

it may be, conceiving from the words thus heard a hope

of me beyond my desert. Wherefore I, thinking that

after such discourse it were well to say somewhat of the
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nature of Love, and also in accordance with my friend's

desire, proposed to myself to write certain words in the

which I should treat of this argument. And the sonnet

that I then made is this:—
  • Love and the gentle heart are one same thing,
  • Even as the wise man* in his ditty saith:
  • Each, of itself, would be such life in death
  • As rational soul bereft of reasoning.
  • 'Tis Nature makes them when she loves: a king
  • Love is, whose palace where he sojourneth
  • Is called the Heart; there draws he quiet breath
  • At first, with brief or longer slumbering.
  • Then beauty seen in virtuous womankind
  • 10 Will make the eyes desire, and through the heart
  • Send the desiring of the eyes again;
  • Where often it abides so long enshrin'd
  • That Love at length out of his sleep will start.
  • And women feel the same for worthy men.
This sonnet is divided into two parts. In the first, I

speak of him according to his power. In the second, I speak

of him according as his power translates itself into act.

The second part begins here, “Then beauty seen.” The first

is divided into two. In the first, I say in what subject

this power exists. In the second, I say how this subject and

this power are produced together, and how the one regards

the other, as form does matter. The second begins here

“'Tis Nature.” Afterwards when I say, “Then beauty

seen in virtuous womankind,” I say how this power

translates itself into act; and, first, how it so translates

itself in a man, then how it so translates itself in a woman:

here, “And women feel.”
Having treated of love in the foregoing, it appeared to
Transcribed Footnote (page 58):

* Guido Guinicelli, in the canzone which begins, “Within the

gentle heart Love shelters him.” (See Part II. page 264.)

Image of page 59 page: 59

me that I should also say something in praise of my lady,

wherein it might be set forth how love manifested itself

when produced by her; and how not only she could

awaken it where it slept, but where it was not she

could marvellously create it. To the which end I wrote

another sonnet; and it is this:—
  • My lady carries love within her eyes;
  • All that she looks on is made pleasanter;
  • Upon her path men turn to gaze at her;
  • He whom she greeteth feels his heart to rise,
  • And droops his troubled visage, full of sighs,
  • And of his evil heart is then aware:
  • Hate loves, and pride becomes a worshipper.
  • O women, help to praise her in somewise.
  • Humbleness, and the hope that hopeth well,
  • 10 By speech of hers into the mind are brought,
  • And who beholds is blessèd oftenwhiles.
  • The look she hath when she a little smiles
  • Cannot be said, nor holden in the thought;
  • 'Tis such a new and gracious miracle.
This sonnet has three sections. In the first, I say how

this lady brings this power into action by those most noble

features, her eyes; and, in the third, I say this same as to

that most noble feature, her mouth. And between these two

sections is a little section, which asks, as it were, help for the

previous section and the subsequent; and it begins here, “O

women, help.” The third begins here, “Humbleness.” The

first is divided into three; for, in the first, I say how she

with power makes noble that which she looks upon; and this

is as much as to say that she brings Love, in power, thither

where he is not. In the second, I say how she brings Love,

in act, into the hearts of all those whom she sees. In the

third, I tell what she afterwards, with virtue, operates upon

their hearts. The second begins, “Upon her path”; the third,

“He whom she greeteth.” Then, when I say, “O women,
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help,” I intimate to whom it is my intention to speak, calling

on women to help me to honour her. Then, when I say,

“Humbleness,” I say that same which is said in the first

part, regarding two acts of her mouth, one whereof is

her most sweet speech, and the other her marvellous smile.

Only, I say not of this last how it operates upon the hearts

of others, because memory cannot retain this smile, nor its

Not many days after this (it being the will of the most

High God, who also from Himself put not away death),

the father of wonderful Beatrice, going out of this life,

passed certainly into glory. Thereby it happened, as of

very sooth it might not be otherwise, that this lady was

made full of the bitterness of grief: seeing that such a

parting is very grievous unto those friends who are left,

and that no other friendship is like to that between

a good parent and a good child; and furthermore con-

sidering that this lady was good in the supreme degree,

and her father (as by many it hath been truly averred) of

exceeding goodness. And because it is the usage of that

city that men meet with men in such a grief, and women

with women, certain ladies of her companionship gathered

themselves unto Beatrice, where she kept alone in her

weeping: and as they passed in and out, I could hear

them speak concerning her, how she wept. At length

two of them went by me, who said: “Certainly she

grieveth in such sort that one might die for pity, behold-

ing her.” Then, feeling the tears upon my face, I put up

my hands to hide them: and had it not been that I hoped

to hear more concerning her, (seeing that where I sat,

her friends passed continually in and out), I should

assuredly have gone thence to be alone, when I felt the

tears come. But as I still sat in that place, certain ladies

again passed near me, who were saying among them-

selves: “Which of us shall be joyful any more, who have

listened to this lady in her piteous sorrow?” And there

were others who said as they went by me: “He that

sitteth here could not weep more if he had beheld her
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as we have beheld her”; and again: “He is so altered

that he seemeth not as himself.” And still as the ladies

passed to and fro, I could hear them speak after this

fashion of her and of me.
Wherefore afterwards, having considered and per-

ceiving that there was herein matter for poesy, I resolved

that I would write certain rhymes in the which should be

contained all that those ladies had said. And because I

would willingly have spoken to them if it had not been

for discreetness, I made in my rhymes as though I had

spoken and they had answered me. And thereof I wrote

two sonnets; in the first of which I addressed them as I

would fain have done; and in the second related their

answer, using the speech that I had heard from them, as

though it had been spoken unto myself. And the sonnets

are these:—

  • You that thus wear a modest countenance
  • With lids weigh'd down by the heart's heaviness,
  • Whence come you, that among you every face
  • Appears the same, for its pale troubled glance?
  • Have you beheld my lady's face, perchance,
  • Bow'd with the grief that Love makes full of grace?
  • Say now, “This thing is thus”; as my heart says,
  • Marking your grave and sorrowful advance.
  • And if indeed you come from where she sighs
  • 10 And mourns, may it please you (for his heart's relief)
  • To tell how it fares with her unto him
  • Who knows that you have wept, seeing your eyes,
  • And is so grieved with looking on your grief
  • That his heart trembles and his sight grows dim.
This sonnet is divided into two parts. In the first, I

call and ask these ladies whether they come from her, telling

them that I think they do, because they return the nobler.
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In the second, I pray them to tell me of her; and the second

begins here, “And if indeed.”

  • Canst thou indeed be he that still would sing
  • Of our dear lady unto none but us?
  • For though thy voice confirms that it is thus,
  • Thy visage might another witness bring.
  • And wherefore is thy grief so sore a thing
  • That grieving thou mak'st others dolorous?
  • Hast thou too seen her weep, that thou from us
  • Canst not conceal thine inward sorrowing?
  • Nay, leave our woe to us: let us alone:
  • 10 'Twere sin if one should strive to soothe our woe,
  • For in her weeping we have heard her speak:
  • Also her look's so full of her heart's moan
  • That they who should behold her, looking so,
  • Must fall aswoon, feeling all life grow weak.
This sonnet has four parts, as the ladies in whose

person I reply had four forms of answer. And, because

these are sufficiently shown above, I stay not to explain the

purport of the parts, and therefore I only discriminate them.

The second begins here, “And wherefore is thy grief”; the

third here, “Nay, leave our woe”; the fourth, “Also her

A few days after this, my body became afflicted with

a painful infirmity, whereby I suffered bitter anguish for

many days, which at last brought me unto such weakness

that I could no longer move. And I remember that on

the ninth day, being overcome with intolerable pain, a

thought came into my mind concerning my lady: but

when it had a little nourished this thought, my mind

returned to its brooding over mine enfeebled body. And

then perceiving how frail a thing life is, even though

health keep with it, the matter seemed to me so pitiful
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that I could not choose but weep; and weeping I said

within myself: “Certainly it must some time come to

pass that the very gentle Beatrice will die.” Then, feel-

ing bewildered, I closed mine eyes; and my brain began

to be in travail as the brain of one frantic, and to have

such imaginations as here follow.
And at the first, it seemed to me that I saw certain

faces of women with their hair loosened, which called

out to me, “Thou shalt surely die”; after the which,

other terrible and unknown appearances said unto me,

“Thou art dead.” At length, as my phantasy held on in

its wanderings, I came to be I knew not where, and to

behold a throng of dishevelled ladies wonderfully sad,

who kept going hither and thither weeping. Then the

sun went out, so that the stars showed themselves, and

they were of such a colour that I knew they must be

weeping: and it seemed to me that the birds fell dead

out of the sky, and that there were great earthquakes.

With that, while I wondered in my trance, and was filled

with a grievous fear, I conceived that a certain friend

came unto me and said: “Hast thou not heard? She

that was thine excellent lady hath been taken out of

life.” Then I began to weep very piteously; and not

only in mine imagination, but with mine eyes, which

were wet with tears. And I seemed to look towards

Heaven, and to behold a multitude of angels who were

returning upwards, having before them an exceedingly

white cloud: and these angels were singing together

gloriously, and the words of their song were these:

Osanna in excelsis”; and there was no more that I

heard. Then my heart that was so full of love said unto

me: “It is true that our lady lieth dead;” and it seemed

to me that I went to look upon the body wherein that

blessed and most noble spirit had had its abiding-place.

And so strong was this idle imagining, that it made me

to behold my lady in death; whose head certain ladies

seemed to be covering with a white veil; and who was

so humble of her aspect that it was as though she had
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said, “I have attained to look on the beginning of peace.”

And therewithal I came unto such humility by the sight

of her, that I cried out upon Death, saying: “Now come

unto me, and be not bitter against me any longer: surely,

there where thou hast been, thou hast learned gentleness.

Wherefore come now unto me who do greatly desire

thee: seest thou not that I wear thy colour already?”

And when I had seen all those offices performed that

are fitting to be done unto the dead, it seemed to me

that I went back unto mine own chamber, and looked

up towards Heaven. And so strong was my phantasy

that I wept again in very truth, and said with my true

voice: “O excellent soul! how blessed is he that now

looketh upon thee!”
And as I said these words, with a painful anguish of

sobbing and another prayer unto Death, a young and

gentle lady, who had been standing beside me where

I lay, conceiving that I wept and cried out because of

the pain of mine infirmity, was taken with trembling

and began to shed tears. Whereby other ladies, who

were about the room, becoming aware of my discomfort

by reason of the moan that she made (who indeed was

of my very near kindred), led her away from where I

was, and then set themselves to awaken me, thinking

that I dreamed, and saying: “Sleep no longer, and be

not disquieted.”
Then, by their words, this strong imagination was

brought suddenly to an end, at the moment that I was

about to say, “O Beatrice! peace be with thee.” And

already I had said, “O Beatrice!” when being aroused,

I opened mine eyes, and knew that it had been a

deception. But albeit I had indeed uttered her name,

yet my voice was so broken with sobs, that it was not

understood by these ladies; so that in spite of the

sore shame that I felt, I turned towards them by

Love's counselling. And when they beheld me, they

began to say, “He seemeth as one dead,” and to

whisper among themselves, “Let us strive if we may not
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comfort him.” Whereupon they spake to me many

soothing words, and questioned me moreover touching

the cause of my fear. Then I, being somewhat reassured,

and having perceived that it was a mere phantasy, said

unto them, “This thing it was that made me afeard;”

and told them of all that I had seen, from the beginning

even unto the end, but without once speaking the name

of my lady. Also, after I had recovered from my sick-

ness, I bethought me to write these things in rhyme;

deeming it a lovely thing to be known. Whereof I wrote

this poem:
  • A very pitiful lady, very young,
  • Exceeding rich in human sympathies,
  • Stood by, what time I clamour'd upon Death;
  • And at the wild words wandering on my tongue
  • And at the piteous look within mine eyes
  • She was affrighted, that sobs choked her breath.
  • So by her weeping where I lay beneath,
  • Some other gentle ladies came to know
  • My state, and made her go:
  • 10 Afterward, bending themselves over me,
  • One said, “Awaken thee!”
  • And one, “What thing thy sleep disquieteth?”
  • With that, my soul woke up from its eclipse,
  • The while my lady's name rose to my lips:
  • But utter'd in a voice so sob-broken,
  • So feeble with the agony of tears,
  • That I alone might hear it in my heart;
  • And though that look was on my visage then
  • Which he who is ashamed so plainly wears,
  • 20 Love made that I through shame held not apart,
  • But gazed upon them. And my hue was such
  • That they look'd at each other and thought of death;
  • Saying under their breath
  • Most tenderly, “O let us comfort him:”
  • Sig. 5
    Image of page 66 page: 66
  • Then unto me: “What dream
  • Was thine, that it hath shaken thee so much?”
  • And when I was a little comforted,
  • “This, ladies, was the dream I dreamt,” I said.
  • “I was a-thinking how life fails with us
  • 30 Suddenly after such a little while;
  • When Love sobb'd in my heart, which is his home.
  • Whereby my spirit wax'd so dolorous
  • That in myself I said, with sick recoil:
  • ‘Yea, to my lady too this Death must come.’
  • And therewithal such a bewilderment
  • Possess'd me, that I shut mine eyes for peace;
  • And in my brain did cease
  • Order of thought, and every healthful thing.
  • Afterwards, wandering
  • 40 Amid a swarm of doubts that came and went,
  • Some certain women's faces hurried by,
  • And shriek'd to me, ‘Thou too shalt die, shalt die!’
  • “Then saw I many broken hinted sights
  • In the uncertain state I stepp'd into.
  • Meseem'd to be I know not in what place,
  • Where ladies through the street, like mournful lights,
  • Ran with loose hair, and eyes that frighten'd you
  • By their own terror, and a pale amaze:
  • The while, little by little, as I thought,
  • 50The sun ceased, and the stars began to gather,
  • And each wept at the other;
  • And birds dropp'd in mid-flight out of the sky;
  • And earth shook suddenly;
  • And I was 'ware of one, hoarse and tired out,
  • Who ask'd of me: ‘Hast thou not heard it said? . .
  • Thy lady, she that was so fair, is dead.’
  • “Then lifting up mine eyes, as the tears came,
  • I saw the Angels, like a rain of manna,
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  • In a long flight flying back Heavenward;
  • 60Having a little cloud in front of them,
  • After the which they went and said, ‘Hosanna’;
  • And if they had said more, you should have heard.
  • Then Love said, ‘Now shall all things be made clear:
  • Come and behold our lady where she lies.’
  • These 'wildering phantasies
  • Then carried me to see my lady dead.
  • Even as I there was led,
  • Her ladies with a veil were covering her;
  • And with her was such very humbleness
  • 70That she appeared to say, ‘I am at peace.’
  • “And I became so humble in my grief,
  • Seeing in her such deep humility,
  • That I said: ‘Death, I hold thee passing good
  • Henceforth, and a most gentle sweet relief,
  • Since my dear love has chosen to dwell with thee:
  • Pity, not hate, is thine, well understood.
  • Lo! I do so desire to see thy face
  • That I am like as one who nears the tomb;
  • My soul entreats thee, Come.’
  • 80 Then I departed, having made my moan;
  • And when I was alone
  • I said, and cast my eyes to the High Place:
  • ‘Blessed is he, fair soul, who meets thy glance!’
  • . . . Just then you woke me, of your complai-
  • saùnce.”
This poem has two parts. In the first, speaking to a

person undefined, I tell how I was aroused from a vain

phantasy by certain ladies, and how I promised them to tell

what it was. In the second, I say how I told them. The

second part begins here, “I was a-thinking.” The first part

divides into two. In the first, I tell that which certain

ladies, and which one singly, did and said because of my

phantasy, before I had returned into my right senses. In

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the second, I tell what these ladies said to me after I had

left off this wandering: and it begins here, “But uttered in

a voice.” Then, when I say, “I was a-thinking,” I say how

I told them this my imagination; and concerning this I have

two parts. In the first, I tell, in order, this imagination.

In the second, saying at what time they called me, I covertly

thank them: and this part begins here, “Just then you woke

After this empty imagining, it happened on a day, as

I sat thoughtful, that I was taken with such a strong

trembling at the heart, that it could not have been other-

wise in the presence of my lady. Whereupon I per-

ceived that there was an appearance of Love beside me,

and I seemed to see him coming from my lady; and he

said, not aloud but within my heart: “Now take heed

that thou bless the day when I entered into thee; for it

is fitting that thou shouldst do so.” And with that my

heart was so full of gladness, that I could hardly believe

it to be of very truth mine own heart and not another.
A short while after these words which my heart spoke

to me with the tongue of Love, I saw coming towards me

a certain lady who was very famous for her beauty, and

of whom that friend whom I have already called the first

among my friends had long been enamoured. This

lady's right name was Joan; but because of her comeli-

ness (or at least it was so imagined) she was called of

many Primavera (Spring), and went by that name among

them. Then looking again, I perceived that the most

noble Beatrice followed after her. And when both these

ladies had passed by me, it seemed to me that Love

spake again in my heart, saying: “She that came first

was called Spring, only because of that which was to

happen on this day. And it was I myself who caused

that name to be given her; seeing that as the Spring

cometh first in the year, so should she come first on this

day,* when Beatrice was to show herself after the vision

Transcribed Footnote (page 68):

* There is a play in the original upon the words Primavera

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of her servant. And even if thou go about to consider

her right name, it is also as one should say, ‘She shall

come first’; inasmuch as her name, Joan, is taken from

that John who went before the True Light, saying:

Ego vox clamantis in deserto: ‘Parate viam Domini .’”*

And also it seemed to me that he added other words, to

wit: “He who should inquire delicately touching this

matter, could not but call Beatrice by mine own name,

which is to say, Love; beholding her so like unto

Then I, having thought of this, imagined to write it

with rhymes and send it unto my chief friend; but

setting aside certain words† which seemed proper to be

set aside, because I believed that his heart still regarded

the beauty of her that was called Spring. And I wrote

this sonnet:—
  • I felt a spirit of love begin to stir
  • Within my heart, long time unfelt till then;
  • And saw Love coming towards me fair and fain,
  • (That I scarce knew him for his joyful cheer),
  • Saying, “Be now indeed my worshipper!”
  • And in his speech he laugh'd and laugh'd again.
  • Then, while it was his pleasure to remain,
  • I chanced to look the way he had drawn near,
  • And saw the Ladies Joan and Beatrice
  • 10 Approach me, this the other following,
  • One and a second marvel instantly.

  • Transcribed Footnote (page 69):

    (Spring) and prima verrà (she shall come first), to which I have

    given as near an equivalent as I could.

    Transcribed Footnote (page 69):

    * “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare ye

    the way of the Lord.’”

    Transcribed Footnote (page 69):

    † That is (as I understand it), suppressing, from delicacy to-

    wards his friend, the words in which Love describes Joan as

    merely the forerunner of Beatrice. And perhaps in the latter

    part of this sentence a reproach is gently conveyed to the fickle

    Guido Cavalcanti, who may already have transferred his homage

    (though Dante had not then learned it) from Joan to Mandetta.

    (See his Poems.)

    Image of page 70 page: 70
  • And even as now my memory speaketh this,
  • Love spake it then: “The first is christen'd Spring;
  • The second Love, she is so like to me.”
This sonnet has many parts: whereof the first tells how

I felt awakened within my heart the accustomed tremor, and

how it seemed that Love appeared to me joyful from afar.

The second says how it appeared to me that Love spake

within my heart, and what was his aspect. The third

tells how, after he had in such wise been with me a space, I

saw and heard certain things. The second part begins here,

“Saying, ‘Be now’”, the third here, “Then, while it was

his pleasure.” The third part divides into two. In the

first, I say what I saw. In the second, I say what I

heard; and it begins here, “Love spake it then.”
It might be here objected unto me, (and even by one

worthy of controversy,) that I have spoken of Love as

though it were a thing outward and visible: not only

a spiritual essence, but as a bodily substance also. The

which thing, in absolute truth, is a fallacy; Love not

being of itself a substance, but an accident of substance.

Yet that I speak of Love as though it were a thing

tangible and even human, appears by three things which

I say thereof. And firstly, I say that I perceived Love

coming towards me; whereby, seeing that to come be-

speaks locomotion, and seeing also how philosophy

teacheth us that none but a corporeal substance hath

locomotion, it seemeth that I speak of Love as of a cor-

poreal substance. And secondly, I say that Love smiled;

and thirdly, that Love spake; faculties (and especially

the risible faculty) which appear proper unto man:

whereby it further seemeth that I speak of Love as of a

man. Now that this matter may be explained, (as is

fitting), it must first be remembered that anciently they

who wrote poems of Love wrote not in the vulgar tongue,

but rather certain poets in the Latin tongue. I mean,

among us, although perchance the same may have been

among others, and although likewise, as among the
Image of page 71 page: 71

Greeks, they were not writers of spoken language, but

men of letters, treated of these things.* And indeed it

is not a great number of years since poetry began to be

made in the vulgar tongue; the writing of rhymes in

spoken language corresponding to the writing in metre of

Latin verse, by a certain analogy. And I say that it is but

a little while, because if we examine the language of oco

and the language of ,† we shall not find in those tongues

any written thing of an earlier date than the last hundred

and fifty years. Also the reason why certain of a very

mean sort obtained at the first some fame as poets is,

that before them no man had written verses in the

language of sì: and of these, the first was moved to

the writing of such verses by the wish to make himself

understood of a certain lady, unto whom Latin poetry

was difficult. This thing is against such as rhyme con-

cerning other matters than love; that mode of speech

having been first used for the expression of love alone.‡

Wherefore, seeing that poets have a license allowed

them that is not allowed unto the writers of prose, and
Transcribed Footnote (page 71):

* On reading Dante's treatise De Vulgari Eloquio , it will be

found that the distinction which he intends here is not between

one language, or dialect, and another; but between “vulgar

speech” (that is, the language handed down from mother to son

without any conscious use of grammar or syntax), and language

as regulated by grammarians and the laws of literary composition,

and which Dante calls simply “Grammar.” A great deal might

be said on the bearings of the present passage, but it is no part of

my plan to enter on such questions.

Transcribed Footnote (page 71):

i.e. the languages of Provence and Tuscany.

Transcribed Footnote (page 71):

‡ It strikes me that this curious passage furnishes a reason,

hitherto (I believe) overlooked, why Dante put such of his lyrical

poems as relate to philosophy into the form of love-poems. He

liked writing in Italian rhyme rather than Latin metre; he thought

Italian rhyme ought to be confined to love-poems: therefore what-

ever he wrote (at this age) had to take the form of a love-poem.

Thus any poem by Dante not concerning love is later than his

twenty-seventh year (1291-2), when he wrote the prose of the Vita

the poetry having been written earlier, at the time of the

events referred to.

Image of page 72 page: 72
seeing also that they who write in rhyme are simply

poets in the vulgar tongue, it becomes fitting and reason-

able that a larger license should be given to these than

to other modern writers; and that any metaphor or

rhetorical similitude which is permitted unto poets, should

also be counted not unseemly in the rhymers of the

vulgar tongue. Thus, if we perceive that the former

have caused inanimate things to speak as though they

had sense and reason, and to discourse one with another;

yea, and not only actual things, but such also as have

no real existence (seeing that they have made things

which are not, to speak; and oftentimes written of those

which are merely accidents as though they were sub-

stances and things human); it should therefore be

permitted to the latter to do the like; which is to say,

not inconsiderately, but with such sufficient motive as

may afterwards be set forth in prose.
That the Latin poets have done thus, appears through

Virgil, where he saith that Juno (to wit, a goddess hostile

to the Trojans) spake unto Æolus, master of the Winds;

as it is written in the first book of the Æneid, Æole,

namque tibi, etc.;
and that this master of the Winds

made reply: Tuus, o regina, quid optes—Explorare labor,

mihi jussa capessere fas est.
And through the same poet,

the inanimate thing speaketh unto the animate, in the

third book of the Æneid, where it is written: Dardanidæ

, etc. With Lucan, the animate thing speaketh to the

inanimate; as thus: Multum, Roma, tamen debes civilibus

. In Horace, man is made to speak to his own

intelligence as unto another person; (and not only hath

Horace done this, but herein he followeth the excellent

Homer,) as thus in his Poetics: Dic mihi, Musa, virum,

. Through Ovid, Love speaketh as a human creature,

in the beginning of his discourse De Remediis Amoris:

as thus: Bella mihi, video, bella parantur, ait. By which

ensamples this thing shall be made manifest unto such

as may be offended at any part of this my book. And

lest some of the common sort should be moved to jeering
Image of page 73 page: 73

hereat, I will here add, that neither did these ancient

poets speak thus without consideration, nor should they

who are makers of rhyme in our day write after the

same fashion, having no reason in what they write;

for it were a shameful thing if one should rhyme under

the semblance of metaphor or rhetorical similitude, and

afterwards, being questioned thereof, should be unable

to rid his words of such semblance, unto their right

understanding. Of whom, (to wit, of such as rhyme

thus foolishly,) myself and the first among my friends

do know many.
But returning to the matter of my discourse. This

excellent lady, of whom I spake in what hath gone

before, came at last into such favour with all men, that

when she passed anywhere folk ran to behold her;

which thing was a deep joy to me: and when she drew

near unto any, so much truth and simpleness entered

into his heart, that he dared neither to lift his eyes nor

to return her salutation: and unto this, many who have

felt it can bear witness. She went along crowned and

clothed with humility, showing no whit of pride in all

that she heard and saw: and when she had gone by, it

was said of many, “This is not a woman, but one of the

beautiful angels of Heaven:” and there were some that

said: “This is surely a miracle; blessed be the Lord,

who hath power to work thus marvellously.” I say, of

very sooth, that she showed herself so gentle and so full

of all perfection, that she bred in those who looked upon

her a soothing quiet beyond any speech; neither could

any look upon her without sighing immediately. These

things, and things yet more wonderful, were brought to

pass through her miraculous virtue. Wherefore I, con-

sidering thereof and wishing to resume the endless tale of

her praises, resolved to write somewhat wherein I might

dwell on her surpassing influence; to the end that not

only they who had beheld her, but others also, might know

as much concerning her as words could give to the under-

standing. And it was then that I wrote this sonnet:—
Image of page 74 page: 74
  • My lady looks so gentle and so pure
  • When yielding salutation by the way,
  • That the tongue trembles and has nought to say,
  • And the eyes, which fain would see, may not endure.
  • And still, amid the praise she hears secure,
  • She walks with humbleness for her array;
  • Seeming a creature sent from Heaven to stay
  • On earth, and show a miracle made sure.
  • She is so pleasant in the eyes of men
  • 10That through the sight the inmost heart doth gain
  • A sweetness which needs proof to know it by:
  • And from between her lips there seems to move
  • A soothing essence that is full of love,
  • Saying for ever to the spirit, “Sigh!”
This sonnet is so easy to understand, from what is

afore narrated, that it needs no division; and therefore,

leaving it, I say also that this excellent lady came into

such favour with all men, that not only she herself was

honoured and commended, but through her companion-

ship, honour and commendation came unto others.

Wherefore I, perceiving this and wishing that it should

also be made manifest to those that beheld it not, wrote

the sonnet here following; wherein is signified the power

which her virtue had upon other ladies:—
  • For certain he hath seen all perfectness
  • Who among other ladies hath seen mine:
  • They that go with her humbly should combine
  • To thank their God for such peculiar grace.
  • So perfect is the beauty of her face
  • That it begets in no wise any sign
  • Of envy, but draws round her a clear line
  • Of love, and blessed faith, and gentleness.
  • Merely the sight of her makes all things bow:
  • 10 Not she herself alone is holier
  • Than all; but hers, through her, are raised above.
  • Image of page 75 page: 75
  • From all her acts such lovely graces flow
  • That truly one may never think of her
  • Without a passion of exceeding love.
This sonnet has three parts. In the first, I say in what

company this lady appeared most wondrous. In the second,

I say how gracious was her society. In the third, I tell of

the things which she, with power, worked upon others.

The second begins here, “They that go with her”; the third

here, “So perfect.” This last part divides into three. In

the first, I tell what she operated upon women, that is, by

their own faculties. In the second, I tell what she operated

in them through others. In the third, I say how she not

only operated in women, but in all people; and not only

while herself present, but, by memory of her, operated won-

drously. The second begins here, “Merely the sight”;

the third here, “From all her acts.”
Thereafter on a day, I began to consider that which I

had said of my lady: to wit, in these two sonnets afore-

gone: and becoming aware that I had not spoken of her

immediate effect on me at that especial time, it seemed

to me that I had spoken defectively. Whereupon I

resolved to write somewhat of the manner wherein I was

then subject to her influence, and of what her influence

then was. And conceiving that I should not be able to

say these things in the small compass of a sonnet, I

began therefore a poem with this beginning:—
  • Love hath so long possessed me for his own
  • And made his lordship so familiar
  • That he, who at first irked me, is now grown
  • Unto my heart as its best secrets are.
  • And thus, when he in such sore wise doth mar
  • My life that all its strength seems gone from it,
  • Mine inmost being then feels throughly quit
  • Of anguish, and all evil keeps afar.
  • Image of page 76 page: 76
  • Love also gathers to such power in me
  • 10 That my sighs speak, each one a grievous thing,
  • Always soliciting
  • My lady's salutation piteously.
  • Whenever she beholds me, it is so,
  • Who is more sweet than any words can show.

Quomodo sedet sola civitas plena populo! facta est quasi

vidua domina gentium!

I was still occupied with this poem, (having composed

thereof only the above-written stanza,) when the Lord

God of justice called my most gracious lady unto Him-

self, that she might be glorious under the banner of that

blessed Queen Mary, whose name had always a deep

reverence in the words of holy Beatrice. And because

haply it might be found good that I should say some-

what concerning her departure, I will herein declare

what are the reasons which make that I shall not do so.
And the reasons are three. The first is, that such

matter belongeth not of right to the present argument, if

one consider the opening of this little book. The second

is, that even though the present argument required it,

my pen doth not suffice to write in a fit manner of this

thing. And the third is, that were it both possible and

of absolute necessity, it would still be unseemly for me

to speak thereof, seeing that thereby it must behove me

to speak also mine own praises: a thing that in who-

soever doeth it is worthy of blame. For the which

reasons, I will leave this matter to be treated of by some

other than myself.
Nevertheless, as the number nine, which number hath
Transcribed Footnote (page 76):

* “How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! how

is she become as a widow, she that was great among the nations!”

Lamentations of Jeremiah , i, I.

Image of page 77 page: 77
often had mention in what hath gone before, (and not, as

it might appear, without reason,) seems also to have

borne a part in the manner of her death: it is therefore

right that I should say somewhat thereof. And for this

cause, having first said what was the part it bore herein,

I will afterwards point out a reason which made that

this number was so closely allied unto my lady.
I say, then, that according to the division of time in

Italy, her most noble spirit departed from among us in

the first hour of the ninth day of the month; and

according to the division of time in Syria, in the ninth

month of the year: seeing that Tismim, which with us is

October, is there the first month. Also she was taken

from among us in that year of our reckoning (to wit, of

the years of our Lord) in which the perfect number was

nine times multiplied within that century wherein she

was born into the world: which is to say, the thirteenth

century of Christians.*
And touching the reason why this number was so

closely allied unto her, it may peradventure be this.

According to Ptolemy, (and also to the Christian verity,)

the revolving heavens are nine; and according to the

common opinion among astrologers, these nine heavens

together have influence over the earth. Wherefore it

would appear that this number was thus allied unto her

for the purpose of signifying that, at her birth, all these

nine heavens were at perfect unity with each other as to

their influence. This is one reason that may be brought:

but more narrowly considering, and according to the

infallible truth, this number was her own self: that is to

say by similitude. As thus. The number three is the
Transcribed Footnote (page 77):

* Beatrice Portinari will thus be found to have died during the

first hour of the 9th of June 1290. And from what Dante says at

the commencement of this work, (viz. that she was younger than

himself by eight or nine months,) it may also be gathered that her

age, at the time of her death, was twenty-four years and three

months. The “perfect number” mentioned in the present passage

is the number ten.

Image of page 78 page: 78

root of the number nine; seeing that without the inter-

position of any other number, being multiplied merely

by itself, it produceth nine, as we manifestly perceive

that three times three are nine. Thus, three being of

itself the efficient of nine, and the Great Efficient of

Miracles being of Himself Three Persons (to wit: the

Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit), which, being

Three, are also One:—this lady was accompanied by the

number nine to the end that men might clearly perceive

her to be a nine, that is, a miracle, whose only root is

the Holy Trinity. It may be that a more subtile person

would find for this thing a reason of greater subtilty:

but such is the reason that I find, and that liketh me best.
After this most gracious creature had gone out from

among us, the whole city came to be as it were widowed

and despoiled of all dignity. Then I, left mourning in

this desolate city, wrote unto the principal persons

thereof, in an epistle, concerning its condition; taking

for my commencement those words of Jeremias: Quo-

modo sedet sola civitas! etc.
And I make mention of this,

that none may marvel wherefore I set down these words

before, in beginning to treat of her death. Also if any

should blame me, in that I do not transcribe that epistle

whereof I have spoken, I will make it mine excuse that

I began this little book with the intent that it should

be written altogether in the vulgar tongue; wherefore,

seeing that the epistle I speak of is in Latin, it belongeth

not to mine undertaking: more especially as I know that

my chief friend, for whom I write this book, wished also

that the whole of it should be in the vulgar tongue.
When mine eyes had wept for some while, until they

were so weary with weeping that I could no longer

through them give ease to my sorrow, I bethought me

that a few mournful words might stand me instead of

tears. And therefore I proposed to make a poem, that

weeping I might speak therein of her for whom so much

sorrow had destroyed my spirit; and I then began “The

eyes that weep.”
Image of page 79 page: 79
That this poem may seem to remain the more widowed

at its close, I will divide it before writing it; and this

method I will observe henceforward. I say that this poor

little poem has three parts. The first is a prelude. In the

second, I speak of her. In the third I speak pitifully to the

poem. The second begins here, “Beatrice is gone up”; the

third here, “Weep, pitiful Song of mine.” The first

divides into three. In the first, I say what moves me to

speak. In the second, I say to whom I mean to speak. In

the third, I say of whom I mean to speak. The second

begins here, “And because often, thinking”; the third

here, “And I will say.” Then, when I say, “Beatrice is

gone up,” I speak of her; and concerning this I have two

parts. First, I tell the cause why she was taken away

from us: afterwards, I say how one weeps her parting;

and this part commences here, “Wonderfully.” This part

divides into three. In the first, I say who it is that weeps

her not. In the second, I say who it is that doth weep her.

In the third, I speak of my condition. The second begins

here, “But sighing comes, and grief”; the third, “With

sighs.” Then, when I say, “Weep, pitiful Song of mine,”

I speak to this my song, telling it what ladies to go to, and

stay with.
  • The eyes that weep for pity of the heart
  • Have wept so long that their grief languisheth
  • And they have no more tears to weep withal:
  • And now, if I would ease me of a part
  • Of what, little by little, leads to death,
  • It must be done by speech, or not at all.
  • And because often, thinking, I recall
  • How it was pleasant, ere she went afar,
  • To talk of her with you, kind damozels,
  • 10 I talk with no one else,
  • But only with such hearts as women's are.
  • And I will say,—still sobbing as speech fails,—
  • That she hath gone to Heaven suddenly,
  • And hath left Love below, to mourn with me.
Image of page 80 page: 80
  • Beatrice is gone up into high Heaven,
  • The kingdom where the angels are at peace;
  • And lives with them: and to her friends is dead.
  • Not by the frost of winter was she driven
  • Away, like others; nor by summer-heats;
  • 20 But through a perfect gentleness, instead.
  • For from the lamp of her meek lowlihead
  • Such an exceeding glory went up hence
  • That it woke wonder in the Eternal Sire,
  • Until a sweet desire
  • Entered Him for that lovely excellence,
  • So that He bade her to Himself aspire;
  • Counting this weary and most evil place
  • Unworthy of a thing so full of grace.
  • Wonderfully out of the beautiful form
  • 30 Soared her clear spirit, waxing glad the while;
  • And is in its first home, there where it is.
  • Who speaks thereof, and feels not the tears warm
  • Upon his face, must have become so vile
  • As to be dead to all sweet sympathies.
  • Out upon him! an abject wretch like this
  • May not imagine anything of her,—
  • He needs no bitter tears for his relief.
  • But sighing comes, and grief,
  • And the desire to find no comforter,
  • 40 (Save only Death, who makes all sorrow brief,)
  • To him who for a while turns in his thought
  • How she hath been among us, and is not.
  • With sighs my bosom always laboureth
  • In thinking, as I do continually,
  • Of her for whom my heart now breaks apace;
  • And very often when I think of death,
  • Such a great inward longing comes to me
  • That it will change the colour of my face;
  • And, if the idea settles in its place,
  • Image of page 81 page: 81
    Note: The initial “I” in line 64 does not appear to have been printed.
  • 50All my limbs shake as with an ague-fit:
  • Till, starting up in wild bewilderment,
  • I do become so shent
  • That I go forth, lest folk misdoubt of it.
  • Afterward, calling with a sore lament
  • On Beatrice, I ask, “Canst thou be dead?”
  • And calling on her, I am comforted.
  • Grief with its tears, and anguish with its sighs,
  • Come to me now whene'er I am alone;
  • So that I think the sight of me gives pain.
  • 60And what my life hath been, that living dies,
  • Since for my lady the New Birth's begun,
  • I have not any language to explain.
  • And so, dear ladies, though my heart were fain,
  • scarce could tell indeed how I am thus.
  • All joy is with my bitter life at war;
  • Yea, I am fallen so far
  • That all men seem to say, “Go out from us,”
  • Eyeing my cold white lips, how dead they are.
  • But she, though I be bowed unto the dust,
  • 70Watches me; and will guerdon me, I trust.
  • Weep, pitiful Song of mine, upon thy way,
  • To the dames going and the damozels
  • For whom and for none else
  • Thy sisters have made music many a day.
  • Thou, that art very sad and not as they
  • Go dwell thou with them as a mourner dwells.
After I had written this poem, I received the visit of

a friend whom I counted as second unto me in the

degrees of friendship, and who, moreover, had been

united by the nearest kindred to that most gracious

creature. And when we had a little spoken together,

he began to solicit me that I would write somewhat
Sig. 6
Image of page 82 page: 82

in memory of a lady who had died; and he disguised

his speech, so as to seem to be speaking of another who

was but lately dead: wherefore I, perceiving that his

speech was of none other than that blessed one herself,

told him that it should be done as he required. Then

afterwards, having thought thereof, I imagined to give

vent in a sonnet to some part of my hidden lamentations;

but in such sort that it might seem to be spoken by this

friend of mine, to whom I was to give it. And the son-

net saith thus: “Stay now with me,” etc.
This sonnet has two parts. In the first, I call the

Faithful of Love to hear me. In the second, I relate my

miserable condition. The second begins here, “Mark how

they force.”
  • Stay now with me, and listen to my sighs,
  • Ye piteous hearts, as pity bids ye do.
  • Mark how they force their way out and press through;
  • If they be once pent up, the whole life dies.
  • Seeing that now indeed my weary eyes
  • Oftener refuse than I can tell to you
  • (Even though my endless grief is ever new,)
  • To weep and let the smothered anguish rise.
  • Also in sighing ye shall hear me call
  • 10 On her whose blessèd presence doth enrich
  • The only home that well befitteth her:
  • And ye shall hear a bitter scorn of all
  • Sent from the inmost of my spirit in speech
  • That mourns its joy and its joy's minister.
But when I had written this sonnet, bethinking me

who he was to whom I was to give it, that it might

appear to be his speech, it seemed to me that this was

but a poor and barren gift for one of her so near kindred.

Wherefore, before giving him this sonnet, I wrote two

stanzas of a poem: the first being written in very sooth

as though it were spoken by him, but the other being
Image of page 83 page: 83

mine own speech, albeit, unto one who should not look

closely, they would both seem to be said by the same

person. Nevertheless, looking closely, one must perceive

that it is not so, inasmuch as one does not call this

most gracious creature his lady, and the other does, as

is manifestly apparent. And I gave the poem and the

sonnet unto my friend, saying that I had made them

only for him.
The poem begins, “Whatever while,” and has two parts.

In the first, that is, in the first stanza, this my dear friend,

her kinsman, laments. In the second, I lament; that is,

in the other stanza, which begins, “For ever.” And thus

it appears that in this poem two persons lament, of whom

one laments as a brother, the other as a servant.
  • Whatever while the thought comes over me
  • That I may not again
  • Behold that lady whom I mourn for now,
  • About my heart my mind brings constantly
  • So much of extreme pain
  • That I say, Soul of mine, why stayest thou?
  • Truly the anguish, soul, that we must bow
  • Beneath, until we win out of this life,
  • Gives me full oft a fear that trembleth:
  • 10 So that I call on Death
  • Even as on Sleep one calleth after strife,
  • Saying, Come unto me. Life showeth grim
  • And bare; and if one dies, I envy him.
  • For ever, among all my sighs which burn,
  • There is a piteous speech
  • That clamours upon death continually:
  • Yea, unto him doth my whole spirit turn
  • Since first his hand did reach
  • My lady's life with most foul cruelty.
  • 20 But from the height of woman's fairness, she,
  • Going up from us with the joy we had,
  • Image of page 84 page: 84
  • Grew perfectly and spiritually fair;
  • That so she spreads even there
  • A light of Love which makes the Angels glad,
  • And even unto their subtle minds can bring
  • A certain awe of profound marvelling.
Note: The preceding two works are not "sonnets" per se, consisting of thirteen-line stanzas.
On that day which fulfilled the year since my lady

had been made of the citizens of eternal life, remem-

bering me of her as I sat alone, I betook myself to

draw the resemblance of an angel upon certain tablets.

And while I did thus, chancing to turn my head, I

perceived that some were standing beside me to whom

I should have given courteous welcome, and that they

were observing what I did: also I learned afterwards

that they had been there a while before I perceived

them. Perceiving whom, I arose for salutation, and

said: “Another was with me.”*
Afterwards, when they had left me, I set myself

again to mine occupation, to wit, to the drawing figures

of angels: in doing which, I conceived to write of this

matter in rhyme, as for her anniversary, and to address

my rhymes unto those who had just left me. It was

then that I wrote the sonnet which saith, “That lady”:

and as this sonnet hath two commencements, it be-

hoveth me to divide it with both of them here.
I say that, according to the first, this sonnet has three

parts. In the first, I say that this lady was then in my

memory. In the second, I tell what Love therefore did

with me. In the third, I speak of the effects of Love. The

second begins here, “Love knowing”; the third here,

“Forth went they.” This part divides into two. In the

one, I say that all my sighs issued speaking. In the other,

I say how some spoke certain words different from the

others. The second begins here, “And still.” In this
Transcribed Footnote (page 84):

* Thus according to some texts. The majority, however, add

the words, “And therefore was I in thought:” but the shorter

speech is perhaps the more forcible and pathetic.

Image of page 85 page: 85
same manner is it divided with the other beginning, save

that, in the first part, I tell when this lady had thus come

into my mind, and this I say not in the other.

  • That lady of all gentle memories
  • Had lighted on my soul;—whose new abode
  • Lies now, as it was well ordained of God,
  • Among the poor in heart, where Mary is.
  • Love, knowing that dear image to be his,
  • Woke up within the sick heart sorrow-bow'd,
  • Unto the sighs which are its weary load,
  • Saying, “Go forth.” And they went forth, I wis;
  • Forth went they from my breast that throbbed and ached;
  • 10 With such a pang as oftentimes will bathe
  • Mine eyes with tears when I am left alone.
  • And still those sighs which drew the heaviest breath
  • Came whispering thus: “O noble intellect!
  • It is a year today that thou art gone.”
Second Commencement.

  • That lady of all gentle memories
  • Had lighted on my soul;—for whose sake flowed
  • The tears of Love; in whom the power abode
  • Which led you to observe while I did this.
  • Love, knowing that dear image to be his, etc.
Then, having sat for some space sorely in thought

because of the time that was now past, I was so filled

with dolorous imaginings that it became outwardly mani-

fest in mine altered countenance. Whereupon, feeling

this and being in dread lest any should have seen me,

I lifted mine eyes to look; and then perceived a young

and very beautiful lady, who was gazing upon me from

a window with a gaze full of pity, so that the very sum

of pity appeared gathered together in her. And seeing

that unhappy persons, when they beget compassion in
Image of page 86 page: 86

others, are then most moved unto weeping, as though

they also felt pity for themselves, it came to pass that

mine eyes began to be inclined unto tears. Wherefore,

becoming fearful lest I should make manifest mine

abject condition, I rose up, and went where I could not

be seen of that lady; saying afterwards within myself:

“Certainly with her also must abide most noble Love.”

And with that, I resolved upon writing a sonnet, wherein,

speaking unto her, I should say all that I have just said.

And as this sonnet is very evident, I will not divide it:—
  • Mine eyes beheld the blessed pity spring
  • Into thy countenance immediately
  • A while agone, when thou beheldst in me
  • The sickness only hidden grief can bring;
  • And then I knew thou wast considering
  • How abject and forlorn my life must be;
  • And I became afraid that thou shouldst see
  • My weeping, and account it a base thing.
  • Therefore I went out from thee; feeling how
  • 10 The tears were straightway loosened at my heart
  • Beneath thine eyes' compassionate control.
  • And afterwards I said within my soul:
  • “Lo! with this lady dwells the counterpart
  • Of the same Love who holds me weeping now.”
It happened after this that whensoever I was seen of

this lady, she became pale and of a piteous countenance,

as though it had been with love; whereby she remem-

bered me many times of my own most noble lady, who

was wont to be of a like paleness. And I know that

often, when I could not weep nor in any way give ease

unto mine anguish, I went to look upon this lady, who

seemed to bring the tears into my eyes by the mere sight

of her. Of the which thing I bethought me to speak

unto her in rhyme, and then made this sonnet: which

begins, “Love's pallor,” and which is plain without being

divided, by its exposition aforesaid:—
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  • Love's pallor and the semblance of deep ruth
  • Were never yet shown forth so perfectly
  • In any lady's face, chancing to see
  • Grief's miserable countenance uncouth,
  • As in thine, lady, they have sprung to soothe,
  • When in mine anguish thou hast looked on me;
  • Until sometimes it seems as if, through thee,
  • My heart might almost wander from its truth.
  • Yet so it is, I cannot hold mine eyes
  • 10 From gazing very often upon thine
  • In the sore hope to shed those tears they keep;
  • And at such time, thou mak'st the pent tears rise
  • Even to the brim, till the eyes waste and pine;
  • Yet cannot they, while thou art present, weep.
At length, by the constant sight of this lady, mine

eyes began to be gladdened overmuch with her company;

through which thing many times I had much unrest, and

rebuked myself as a base person: also, many times I

cursed the unsteadfastness of mine eyes, and said to them

inwardly: “Was not your grievous condition of weeping

wont one while to make others weep? And will ye now

forget this thing because a lady looketh upon you?

who so looketh merely in compassion of the grief ye

then showed for your own blessed lady. But whatso

ye can, that do ye, accursed eyes! many a time will

I make you remember it! for never, till death dry you

up, should ye make an end of your weeping.” And

when I had spoken thus unto mine eyes, I was taken

again with extreme and grievous sighing. And to the

end that this inward strife which I had undergone might

not be hidden from all saving the miserable wretch who

endured it, I proposed to write a sonnet, and to com-

prehend in it this horrible condition. And I wrote this

which begins, “The very bitter weeping.”
The sonnet has two parts. In the first, I speak to my

eyes, as my heart spoke within myself. In the second, I

remove a difficulty, showing who it is that speaks thus: and

Image of page 88 page: 88
this part begins here, “So far.” It well might receive other

divisions also; but this would be useless, since it is manifest

by the preceding exposition.
  • “The very bitter weeping that ye made
  • So long a time together, eyes of mine,
  • Was wont to make the tears of pity shine
  • In other eyes full oft, as I have said.
  • But now this thing were scarce rememberèd
  • If I, on my part, foully would combine
  • With you, and not recall each ancient sign
  • Of grief, and her for whom your tears were shed.
  • It is your fickleness that doth betray
  • 10 My mind to fears, and makes me tremble thus
  • What while a lady greets me with her eyes.
  • Except by death, we must not any way
  • Forget our lady who is gone from us.”
  • So far doth my heart utter, and then sighs.
The sight of this lady brought me into so unwonted a

condition that I often thought of her as of one too dear

unto me; and I began to consider her thus: “This lady

is young, beautiful, gentle, and wise: perchance it was

Love himself who set her in my path, that so my life

might find peace.” And there were times when I

thought yet more fondly, until my heart consented unto

its reasoning. But when it had so consented, my thought

would often turn round upon me, as moved by reason,

and cause me to say within myself: “What hope is this

which would console me after so base a fashion, and

which hath taken the place of all other imagining?”

Also there was another voice within me, that said:

“And wilt thou, having suffered so much tribulation

through Love, not escape while yet thou mayst from so

much bitterness? Thou must surely know that this

thought carries with it the desire of Love, and drew its

life from the gentle eyes of that lady who vouchsafed
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thee so much pity.” Wherefore I, having striven sorely

and very often with myself, bethought me to say some-

what thereof in rhyme. And seeing that in the battle

of doubts, the victory most often remained with such as

inclined towards the lady of whom I speak, it seemed to

me that I should address this sonnet unto her: in the

first line whereof, I call that thought which spake of her

a gentle thought, only because it spoke of one who was

gentle; being of itself most vile.*
In this sonnet I make myself into two, according as my

thoughts were divided one from the other. The one part I

call Heart, that is, appetite; the other, Soul, that is, reason;

and I tell what one saith to the other. And that it is fitting

to call the appetite Heart, and the reason Soul, is manifest

enough to them to whom I wish this to be open. True it is

that, in the preceding sonnet, I take the part of the Heart

against the Eyes; and that appears contrary to what I say

in the present; and therefore I say that, there also, by the

Heart I mean appetite, because yet greater was my desire to

remember my most gentle lady than to see this other, although

indeed I had some appetite towards her, but it appeared

slight: wherefrom it appears that the one statement is not

contrary to the other. This sonnet has three parts. In the

first, I begin to say to this lady how my desires turn all

towards her. In the second, I say how the soul, that is, the

reason, speaks to the Heart, that is, to the appetite. In the

third, I say how the latter answers. The second begins

here, “And what is this?” the third here, “And the

heart answers.”

Transcribed Footnote (page 89):

* Boccaccio tells us that Dante was married to Gemma Donati

about a year after the death of Beatrice. Can Gemma then be “the

lady of the window,” his love for whom Dante so contemns? Such

a passing conjecture (when considered together with the inter-

pretation of this passage in Dante's later work, the Convito) would

of course imply an admission of what I believe to lie at the heart

of all true Dantesque commentary; that is, the existence always

of the actual events even where the allegorical superstructure has

been raised by Dante himself.

Image of page 90 page: 90
  • A gentle thought there is will often start,
  • Within my secret self, to speech of thee:
  • Also of Love it speaks so tenderly
  • That much in me consents and takes its part.
  • “And what is this,” the soul saith to the heart,
  • “That cometh thus to comfort thee and me,
  • And thence where it would dwell, thus potently
  • Can drive all other thoughts by its strange art?”
  • And the heart answers: “Be no more at strife
  • 10 'Twixt doubt and doubt: this is Love's messenger
  • And speaketh but his words, from him received;
  • And all the strength it owns and all the life
  • It draweth from the gentle eyes of her
  • Who, looking on our grief, hath often grieved.”
But against this adversary of reason, there rose up

in me on a certain day, about the ninth hour, a strong

visible phantasy, wherein I seemed to behold the most

gracious Beatrice, habited in that crimson raiment which

she had worn when I had first beheld her; also she

appeared to me of the same tender age as then. Where-

upon I fell into a deep thought of her: and my memory

ran back, according to the order of time, unto all those

matters in the which she had borne a part; and my

heart began painfully to repent of the desire by which

it had so basely let itself be possessed during so many

days, contrary to the constancy of reason.
And then, this evil desire being quite gone from me,

all my thoughts turned again unto their excellent Beatrice.

And I say most truly that from that hour I thought con-

stantly of her with the whole humbled and ashamed

heart; the which became often manifest in sighs, that

had among them the name of that most gracious creature,

and how she departed from us. Also it would come to

pass very often, through the bitter anguish of some one

thought, that I forgot both it, and myself, and where I

was. By this increase of sighs, my weeping, which before

had been somewhat lessened, increased in like manner;
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so that mine eyes seemed to long only for tears and to

cherish them, and came at last to be circled about with

red as though they had suffered martyrdom: neither

were they able to look again upon the beauty of any face

that might again bring them to shame and evil: from

which things it will appear that they were fitly guer-

doned for their unsteadfastness. Wherefore I (wishing

that mine abandonment of all such evil desires and vain

temptations should be certified and made manifest,

beyond all doubts which might have been suggested by

the rhymes aforewritten) proposed to write a sonnet

wherein I should express this purport. And I then

wrote, “Woe's me!”
I said, “Woe's me!” because I was ashamed of the

trifling of mine eyes. This sonnet I do not divide, since its

purport is manifest enough.
  • Woe's me! by dint of all these sighs that come
  • Forth of my heart, its endless grief to prove,
  • Mine eyes are conquered, so that even to move
  • Their lids for greeting is grown troublesome.
  • They wept so long that now they are grief's home,
  • And count their tears all laughter far above;
  • They wept till they are circled now by Love
  • With a red circle in sign of martyrdom.
  • These musings, and the sighs they bring from me,
  • 10 Are grown at last so constant and so sore
  • That love swoons in my spirit with faint breath;
  • Hearing in those sad sounds continually
  • The most sweet name that my dead lady bore,
  • With many grievous words touching her death.
About this time, it happened that a great number of

persons undertook a pilgrimage, to the end that they

might behold that blessed portraiture bequeathed unto us

by our Lord Jesus Christ as the image of His beautiful

countenance* (upon which countenance my dear lady
Transcribed Footnote (page 91):

* The Veronica ( Vera icon, or true image); that is, the napkin

Image of page 92 page: 92

now looketh continually). And certain among these

pilgrims, who seemed very thoughtful, passed by a path

which is well-nigh in the midst of the city where my

most gracious lady was born, and abode, and at last

Then I, beholding them, said within myself: “These

pilgrims seem to be come from very far; and I think

they cannot have heard speak of this lady, or know any-

thing concerning her. Their thoughts are not of her,

but of other things; it may be, of their friends who are

far distant, and whom we, in our turn, know not.” And

I went on to say: “I know that if they were of a country

near unto us, they would in some wise seem disturbed,

passing through this city which is so full of grief.” And

I said also: “If I could speak with them a space, I am

certain that I should make them weep before they went

forth of this city; for those things that they would hear

from me must needs beget weeping in any.”
And when the last of them had gone by me, I be-

thought me to write a sonnet, showing forth mine inward

speech; and that it might seem the more pitiful, I made

as though I had spoken it indeed unto them. And I

wrote this sonnet, which beginneth: “Ye pilgrim-folk.”

I made use of the word pilgrim for its general significa-

tion; for “pilgrim” may be understood in two senses,

one general, and one special. General, so far as any

man may be called a pilgrim who leaveth the place of

his birth; whereas, more narrowly speaking, he only is
Transcribed Footnote (page 92):

with which a woman was said to have wiped our Saviour's face on

His way to the cross, and which miraculously retained its likeness.

Dante makes mention of it also in the Commedia (Parad. xxi. 103),

where he says:—

  • “Qual è colui che forse di Croazia
  • Viene a veder la Veronica nostra
  • Che per l'antica fama non si sazia
  • Ma dice nel pensier fin che si mostra:
  • Signor mio Gesù Cristo, Iddio verace,
  • Or fu sì fatta la sembianza vostra?” etc.

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a pilgrim who goeth towards or frowards the House of

St. James. For there are three separate denominations

proper unto those who undertake journeys to the glory of

God. They are called Palmers who go beyond the seas

eastward, whence often they bring palm-branches. And

Pilgrims, as I have said, are they who journey unto the

holy House of Gallicia; seeing that no other apostle was

buried so far from his birth-place as was the blessed

Saint James. And there is a third sort who are called

Romers; in that they go whither these whom I have

called pilgrims went: which is to say, unto Rome.
This sonnet is not divided, because its own words suffi-

ciently declare it.
  • Ye pilgrim-folk, advancing pensively
  • As if in thought of distant things, I pray,
  • Is your own land indeed so far away—
  • As by your aspect it would seem to be—
  • That this our heavy sorrow leaves you free
  • Though passing through the mournful town mid-way;
  • Like unto men that understand to-day
  • Nothing at all of her great misery?
  • Yet if ye will but stay, whom I accost,
  • 10 And listen to my words a little space,
  • At going ye shall mourn with a loud voice.
  • It is her Beatrice that she hath lost;
  • Of whom the least word spoken holds such grace
  • That men weep hearing it, and have no choice.
A while after these things, two gentle ladies sent unto

me, praying that I would bestow upon them certain of

these my rhymes. And I (taking into account their

worthiness and consideration,) resolved that I would

write also a new thing, and send it them together with

those others, to the end that their wishes might be more

honourably fulfilled. Therefore I made a sonnet, which

narrates my condition, and which I caused to be con-

veyed to them, accompanied with the one preceding, and
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with that other which begins, “Stay now with me and

listen to my sighs.” And the new sonnet is, “Beyond

the sphere.”
This sonnet comprises five parts. In the first, I tell

whither my thought goeth, naming the place by the name of

one of its effects. In the second, I say wherefore it goeth up,

and who makes it go thus. In the third, I tell what it saw,

namely, a lady honoured. And I then call it a “Pilgrim

Spirit,” because it goes up spiritually, and like a pilgrim

who is out of his known country. In the fourth, I say

how the spirit sees her such (that is, in such quality) that I

cannot understand her; that is to say, my thought rises

into the quality of her in a degree that my intellect cannot

comprehend, seeing that our intellect is, towards those

blessed souls, like our eye weak against the sun; and this

the Philosopher says in the Second of the Metaphysics. In

the fifth, I say that, although I cannot see there whither

my thought carries me—that is, to her admirable essence—

I at least understand this, namely, that it is a thought of

my lady, because I often hear her name therein. And, at

the end of this fifth part, I say, “Ladies mine,” to show

that they are ladies to whom I speak. The second part

begins, “A new perception”; the third, “When it hath

reached”; the fourth, “It sees her such”; the fifth,

“And yet I know.” It might be divided yet more nicely,

and made yet clearer; but this division may pass, and

therefore I stay not to divide it further.

  • Beyond the sphere which spreads to widest space
  • Now soars the sigh that my heart sends above;
  • A new perception born of grieving Love
  • Guideth it upward the untrodden ways.
  • When it hath reached unto the end, and stays,
  • It sees a lady round whom splendours move
  • In homage; till, by the great light thereof
  • Abashed, the pilgrim spirit stands at gaze.
  • It sees her such, that when it tells me this
  • Image of page 95 page: 95
  • 10 Which it hath seen, I understand it not,
  • It hath a speech so subtile and so fine.
  • And yet I know its voice within my thought
  • Often remembereth me of Beatrice:
  • So that I understand it, ladies mine.
After writing this sonnet, it was given unto me to

behold a very wonderful vision:* wherein I saw things

which determined me that I would say nothing further of

this most blessed one, until such time as I could dis-

course more worthily concerning her. And to this end

I labour all I can; as she well knoweth. Wherefore if

it be His pleasure through whom is the life of all things,

that my life continue with me a few years, it is my hope

that I shall yet write concerning her what hath not

before been written of any woman. After the which,

may it seem good unto Him who is the Master of Grace,

that my spirit should go hence to behold the glory of its

lady: to wit, of that blessed Beatrice who now gazeth

continually on His countenance qui est per omnia sæcula

.† Laus Deo.

Transcribed Footnote (page 95):

* This we may believe to have been the Vision of Hell, Purga-

tory, and Paradise, which furnished the triple argument of the

Divina Commedia . The Latin words ending the Vita Nuova

are almost identical with those at the close of the letter in which

Dante, on concluding the Paradise, and accomplishing the hope

here expressed, dedicates his great work to Can Grande della


Transcribed Footnote (page 95):

† “Who is blessed throughout all ages.”

Image of page 96 page: 96



Sent with the Vita Nuova.
  • Master Brunetto, this my little maid
  • Is come to spend her Easter-tide with you;
  • Not that she reckons feasting as her due,—
  • Whose need is hardly to be fed, but read.
  • Not in a hurry can her sense be weigh'd,
  • Nor mid the jests of any noisy crew:
  • Ah! and she wants a little coaxing too
  • Before she'll get into another's head.
  • But if you do not find her meaning clear,
  • 10 You've many Brother Alberts* hard at hand,
  • Whose wisdom will respond to any call.
  • Consult with them and do not laugh at her;
  • And if she still is hard to understand,
  • Apply to Master Janus last of all.

Transcribed Footnote (page 96):

* Probably in allusion to Albert of Cologne. Giano (Janus),

which follows, was in use as an Italian name, as for instance Giano

della Bella; but it seems possible that Dante is merely playfully

advising his preceptor to avail himself of the twofold insight of

Janus the double-faced.

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Of Beatrice de' Portinari, on All Saints' Day.

  • Last All Saints' holy-day, even now gone by,
  • I met a gathering of damozels:
  • She that came first, as one doth who excels,
  • Had Love with her, bearing her company:
  • A flame burned forward through her steadfast eye,
  • As when in living fire a spirit dwells:
  • So, gazing with the boldness which prevails
  • O'er doubt, I knew an angel visibly.
  • As she passed on, she bowed her mild approof
  • 10 And salutation to all men of worth,
  • Lifting the soul to solemn thoughts aloof.
  • In Heaven itself that lady had her birth,
  • I think, and is with us for our behoof:
  • Blessed are they who meet her on the earth.

Transcribed Footnote (page 97):

* This and the six following pieces (with the possible exception

of the canzone at page 101) seem so certainly to have been written

at the same time as the poetry of the Vita Nuova , that it becomes

difficult to guess why they were omitted from that work. Other

poems in Dante's Canzoniere refer in a more general manner to his

love for Beatrice, but each among those I allude to bears the

impress of some special occasion.

Sig. 7
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To certain Ladies; when Beatrice was lamenting

her Father's Death.*
  • Whence come you, all of you so sorrowful?
  • An it may please you, speak for courtesy.
  • I fear for my dear lady's sake, lest she
  • Have made you to return thus filled with dule.
  • O gentle ladies, be not hard to school
  • In gentleness, but to some pause agree,
  • And something of my lady say to me,
  • For with a little my desire is full.
  • Howbeit it be a heavy thing to hear:
  • 10 For Love now utterly has thrust me forth,
  • With hand for ever lifted, striking fear.
  • See if I be not worn unto the earth;
  • Yea, and my spirit must fail from me here,
  • If, when you speak, your words are of no worth.

Transcribed Footnote (page 98):

* See the Vita Nuova , at page 60.

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To the same Ladies; with their Answer.
  • Ye ladies, walking past me piteous-eyed,
  • Who is the lady that lies prostrate here?
  • Can this be even she my heart holds dear?
  • Nay, if it be so, speak, and nothing hide.
  • Her very aspect seems itself beside,
  • And all her features of such altered cheer
  • That to my thinking they do not appear
  • Hers who makes others seem beatified.
  • “If thou forget to know our lady thus,
  • 10 Whom grief o'ercomes, we wonder in no wise,
  • For also the same thing befalleth us.
  • Yet if thou watch the movement of her eyes,
  • Of her thou shalt be straightway conscious.
  • O weep no more; thou art all wan with sighs.”
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He will gaze upon Beatrice.
  • Because mine eyes can never have their fill
  • Of looking at my lady's lovely face,
  • I will so fix my gaze
  • That I may become blessed, beholding her.
  • Even as an angel, up at his great height
  • Standing amid the light,
  • Becometh blessed by only seeing God:—
  • So, though I be a simple earthly wight,
  • Yet none the less I might,
  • 10 Beholding her who is my heart's dear load,
  • Be blessed, and in the spirit soar abroad.
  • Such power abideth in that gracious one;
  • Albeit felt of none
  • Save of him who, desiring, honours her.
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A Complaint of his Lady's scorn.
  • Love, since it is thy will that I return
  • 'Neath her usurped control
  • Who is thou know'st how beautiful and proud;
  • Enlighten thou her heart, so bidding burn
  • Thy flame within her soul
  • That she rejoice not when my cry is loud.
  • Be thou but once endowed
  • With sense of the new peace, and of this fire,
  • And of the scorn wherewith I am despised,
  • 10And wherefore death is my most fierce desire;
  • And then thou'lt be apprised
  • Of all. So if thou slay me afterward,
  • Anguish unburthened shall make death less hard.
  • O Lord, thou knowest very certainly
  • That thou didst make me apt
  • To serve thee. But I was not wounded yet,
  • When under heaven I beheld openly
  • The face which thus hath rapt
  • My soul. Then all my spirits ran elate
  • 20 Upon her will to wait.
  • And she, the peerless one who o'er all worth
  • Is still her proper beauty's worshiper,

  • Transcribed Footnote (page 101):

    * This poem seems probably referable to the time during which

    Beatrice denied her salutation to Dante. (See the Vita Nuova, at

    page 41 et seq.)

    Image of page 102 page: 102
  • Made semblance then to guide them safely forth:
  • And they put faith in her:
  • Till, gathering them within her garment all,
  • She turned their blessed peace to tears and gall.
  • Then I (for I could hear how they complained,)
  • As sympathy impelled,
  • Full oft to seek her presence did arise.
  • 30And mine own soul (which better had refrained)
  • So much my strength upheld
  • That I could steadily behold her eyes.
  • This in thy knowledge lies,
  • Who then didst call me with so mild a face
  • That I hoped solace from my greater load:
  • And when she turned the key on my dark place,
  • Such ruth thy grace bestowed
  • Upon my grief, and in such piteous kind,
  • That I had strength to bear, and was resign'd.
  • 40For love of the sweet favour's comforting
  • Did I become her thrall;
  • And still her every movement gladdened me
  • With triumph that I served so sweet a thing:
  • Pleasures and blessings all
  • I set aside, my perfect hope to see:
  • Till her proud contumely—
  • That so mine aim might rest unsatisfied—
  • Covered the beauty of her countenance.
  • So straightway fell into my living side,
  • 50 To slay me, the swift lance:
  • While she rejoiced and watched my bitter end,
  • Only to prove what succour thou wouldst send.
  • I therefore, weary with my love's constraint,
  • To death's deliverance ran,
  • That out of terrible grief I might be brought:
  • For tears had broken me and left me faint
  • Beyond the lot of man,
  • Image of page 103 page: 103
  • Until each sigh must be my last, I thought.
  • Yet still this longing wrought
  • 60So much of torment for my soul to bear,
  • That with the pang I swooned and fell to earth.
  • Then, as in trance, 'twas whispered at mine ear,
  • How in this constant girth
  • Of anguish, I indeed at length must die:
  • So that I dreaded Love continually.
  • Master, thou knowest now
  • The life which in thy service I have borne:
  • Not that I tell it thee to disallow
  • Control, who still to thy behest am sworn.
  • 70 Yet if through this my vow
  • I remain dead, nor help they will confer,
  • Do thou at least, for God's sake, pardon her.
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He beseeches Death for the Life of Beatrice.
  • Death, since I find not one with whom to grieve,
  • Nor whom this grief of mine may move to tears,
  • Whereso I be or whitherso I turn:
  • Since it is thou who in my soul wilt leave
  • No single joy, but chill'st it with just fears
  • And makest it in fruitless hopes to burn:
  • Since thou, Death, and thou only, canst decern
  • Wealth to my life, or want, at thy free choice:—
  • It is to thee that I lift up my voice,
  • 10 Bowing my face that's like a face just dead.
  • I come to thee, as to one pitying,
  • In grief for that sweet rest which nought can bring
  • Again, if thou but once be entered
  • Into her life whom my heart cherishes
  • Even as the only portal of its peace.
  • Death, how most sweet the peace is that thy grace
  • Can grant to me, and that I pray thee for,
  • Thou easily mayst know by a sure sign,
  • If in mine eyes thou look a little space
  • 20 And read in them the hidden dread they store,—
  • If upon all thou look which proves me thine.
  • Since the fear only maketh me to pine
  • After this sort,—what will mine anguish be
  • When her eyes close, of dreadful verity,
  • In whose light is the light of mine own eyes?
  • Image of page 105 page: 105
  • But now I know that thou wouldst have my life
  • As hers, and joy'st thee in my fruitless strife.
  • Yet I do think this which I feel implies
  • That soon, when I would die to flee from pain,
  • 30I shall find none by whom I may be slain.
  • Death, if indeed thou smite this gentle one
  • Whose outward worth but tells the intellect
  • How wondrous is the miracle within,—
  • Thou biddest Virtue rise up and begone,
  • Thou dost away with Mercy's best effect,
  • Thou spoil'st the mansion of God's sojourning
  • Yea, unto nought her beauty thou dost bring
  • Which is above all other beauties, even
  • In so much as befitteth one whom Heaven
  • 40 Sent upon earth in token of its own.
  • Thou dost break through the perfect trust which hath
  • Been alway her companion in Love's path:
  • The light once darkened which was hers alone,
  • Love needs must say to them he ruleth o'er,
  • “I have lost the noble banner that I bore.”
  • Death, have some pity then for all the ill
  • Which cannot choose but happen if she die,
  • And which will be the sorest ever known.
  • Slacken the string, if so it be thy will,
  • 50 That the sharp arrow leave it not,—thereby
  • Sparing her life, which if it flies is flown.
  • O Death, for God's sake, be some pity shown!
  • Restrain within thyself, even at its height,
  • The cruel wrath which moveth thee to smite
  • Her in whom God hath set so much of grace.
  • Show now some ruth if 'tis a thing thou hast!
  • I seem to see Heaven's gate, that is shut fast,
  • Open, and angels filling all the space
  • About me,—come to fetch her soul whose laud
  • 60Is sung by saints and angels before God.
Image of page 106 page: 106
  • Song, thou must surely see how fine a thread
  • This is that my last hope is holden by,
  • And what I should be brought to without her.
  • Therefore for thy plain speech and lowlihead
  • Make thou no pause: but go immediately,
  • (Knowing thyself for my heart's minister,)
  • And with that very meek and piteous air
  • Thou hast, stand up before the face of Death,
  • To wrench away the bar that prisoneth
  • 70 And win unto the place of the good fruit.
  • And if indeed thou shake by thy soft voice
  • Death's mortal purpose,—haste thee and rejoice
  • Our lady with the issue of thy suit.
  • So yet awhile our earthly nights and days
  • Shall keep the blessed spirit that I praise.
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On the 9 th of June 1290.
  • Upon a day, came Sorrow in to me,
  • Saying, “I've come to stay with thee a while;”
  • And I perceived that she had ushered Bile
  • And Pain into my house for company.
  • Wherefore I said, “Go forth—away with thee!’
  • But like a Greek she answered, full of guile,
  • And went on arguing in an easy style.
  • Then, looking, I saw Love come silently,
  • Habited in black raiment, smooth and new,
  • 10 Having a black hat set upon his hair;
  • And certainly the tears he shed were true.
  • So that I asked, “What ails thee, trifler?”
  • Answering he said: “A grief to be gone through;
  • For our own lady's dying, brother dear.”
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He rebukes Cino for Fickleness.
  • I thought to be for ever separate,
  • Fair Master Cino, from these rhymes of yours;
  • Since further from the coast, another course,
  • My vessel now must journey with her freight.*
  • Yet still, because I hear men name your state
  • As his whom every lure doth straight beguile,
  • I pray you lend a very little while
  • Unto my voice your ear grown obdurate.
  • The man after this measure amorous,
  • 10 Who still at his own will is bound and loosed,
  • How slightly Love him wounds is lightly known.
  • If on this wise your heart in homage bows,
  • I pray you for God's sake it be disused,
  • So that the deed and the sweet words be one.

Transcribed Footnote (page 108):

* This might seem to suggest that the present sonnet was

written about the same time as the close of the Vita Nuova , and

that an allusion may also here be intended to the first conception

of Dante's great work.

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He answers Dante, confessing his unsteadfast heart.
  • Dante, since I from my own native place
  • In heavy exile have turned wanderer,
  • Far distant from the purest joy which e'er
  • Had issued from the Fount of joy and grace,
  • I have gone weeping through the world's dull space,
  • And me proud Death, as one too mean, doth spare;
  • Yet meeting Love, Death's neighbour, I declare
  • That still his arrows hold my heart in chase.
  • Nor from his pitiless aim can I get free,
  • 10 Nor from the hope which comforts my weak will,
  • Though no true aid exists which I could share.
  • One pleasure ever binds and looses me;
  • That so, by one same Beauty lured, I still
  • Delight in many women here and there.
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Written in Exile.
  • Because I find not whom to speak withal
  • Anent that lord whose I am as thou art,
  • Behoves that in thine ear I tell some part
  • Of this whereof I gladly would say all.
  • And deem thou nothing else occasional
  • Of my long silence while I kept apart,
  • Except this place, so guilty at the heart
  • That the right has not who will give it stall.
  • Love comes not here to any woman's face,
  • 10 Nor any man here for his sake will sigh,
  • For unto such, “Thou fool!” were straightway said.
  • Ah! Master Cino, how the time turns base,
  • And mocks at us, and on our rhymes says “Fie!”
  • Since truth has been thus thinly harvested.
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He answers the foregoing Sonnet, and prays Dante, in the

name of Beatrice, to continue his great Poem.
  • I know not, Dante, in what refuge dwells
  • The truth, which with all men is out of mind;
  • For long ago it left this place behind,
  • Till in its stead at last God's thunder swells.
  • Yet if our shifting life too clearly tells
  • That here the truth has no reward assign'd,—
  • 'Twas God, remember, taught it to mankind,
  • And even among the fiends preached nothing else.
  • Then, though the kingdoms of the earth be torn,
  • 10 Where'er thou set thy feet, from Truth's control,
  • Yet unto me thy friend this prayer accord:—
  • Beloved, O my brother, sorrow-worn,
  • Even in that lady's name who is thy goal,
  • Sing on till thou redeem thy plighted word!*

Transcribed Footnote (page 111):

* That is, the pledge given at the end of the Vita Nuova. This

may perhaps have been written in the early days of Dante's exile,

before his resumption of the interrupted Commedia.

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Of Beauty and Duty.
  • Two ladies to the summit of my mind
  • Have clomb, to hold an argument of love.
  • The one has wisdom with her from above,
  • For every noblest virtue well designed:
  • The other, beauty's tempting power refined
  • And the high charm of perfect grace approve:
  • And I, as my sweet Master's will doth move,
  • At feet of both their favours am reclined.
  • Beauty and Duty in my soul keep strife,
  • 10 At question if the heart such course can take
  • And 'twixt two ladies hold its love complete.
  • The fount of gentle speech yields answer meet,
  • That Beauty may be loved for gladness' sake,
  • And Duty in the lofty ends of life.
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Of the Lady Pietra degli Scrovigni.
  • To the dim light and the large circle of shade
  • I have clomb, and to the whitening of the hills,
  • There where we see no colour in the grass.
  • Nathless my longing loses not its green,
  • It has so taken root in the hard stone
  • Which talks and hears as though it were a lady.
  • Utterly frozen is this youthful lady,
  • Even as the snow that lies within the shade;
  • For she is no more moved than is the stone
  • 10By the sweet season which makes warm the hills
  • And alters them afresh from white to green,
  • Covering their sides again with flowers and grass.
  • When on her hair she sets a crown of grass
  • The thought has no more room for other lady;

  • Transcribed Footnote (page 113):

    * I have translated this piece both on account of its great and

    peculiar beauty, and also because it affords an example of a form

    of composition which I have met with in no Italian writer before

    Dante's time, though it is not uncommon among the Provençal

    poets (see Dante, De Vulg. Eloq .). I have headed it with the name

    of a Paduan lady, to whom it is surmised by some to have been

    addressed during Dante's exile; but this must be looked upon as

    a rather doubtful conjecture, and I have adopted the name chiefly

    to mark it at once as not referring to Beatrice.

    Sig. 8
    Image of page 114 page: 114
  • Because she weaves the yellow with the green
  • So well that Love sits down there in the shade,—
  • Love who has shut me in among low hills
  • Faster than between walls of granite-stone.
  • She is more bright than is a precious stone;
  • 20The wound she gives may not be healed with grass:
  • I therefore have fled far o'er plains and hills
  • For refuge from so dangerous a lady;
  • But from her sunshine nothing can give shade,—
  • Not any hill, nor wall, nor summer-green.
  • A while ago, I saw her dressed in green,—
  • So fair, she might have wakened in a stone
  • This love which I do feel even for her shade;
  • And therefore, as one woos a graceful lady,
  • I wooed her in a field that was all grass
  • 30Girdled about with very lofty hills.
  • Yet shall the streams turn back and climb the hills
  • Before Love's flame in this damp wood and green
  • Burn, as it burns within a youthful lady,
  • For my sake, who would sleep away in stone
  • My life, or feed like beasts upon the grass,
  • Only to see her garments cast a shade.
  • How dark soe'er the hills throw out their shade,
  • Under her summer-green the beautiful lady
  • Covers it, like a stone covered in grass.
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A Curse for a fruitless Love.
  • My curse be on the day when first I saw
  • The brightness in those treacherous eyes of thine,—
  • The hour when from my heart thou cam'st to draw
  • My soul away, that both might fail and pine:
  • My curse be on the skill that smooth'd each line
  • Of my vain songs,—the music and just law
  • Of art, by which it was my dear design
  • That the whole world should yield thee love and awe.
  • Yea, let me curse mine own obduracy,
  • 10 Which firmly holds what doth itself confound—
  • To wit, thy fair perverted face of scorn:
  • For whose sake Love is oftentimes forsworn
  • So that men mock at him: but most at me
  • Who would hold fortune's wheel and turn it round.

Transcribed Footnote (page 115):

* I have separated this sonnet from the pieces bearing on the

Vita Nuova , as it is naturally repugnant to connect it with

Beatrice. I cannot, however, but think it possible that it may

have been the bitter fruit of some bitterest moment in those hours

when Dante endured her scorn.

Image of page [116] page: [116]




He interprets Dante's Dream, related in the first Sonnet of

the Vita Nuova.*
  • Unto my thinking, thou beheld'st all worth,
  • All joy, as much of good as man may know,
  • If thou wert in his power who here below
  • Is honour's righteous lord throughout this earth.
  • Where evil dies, even there he has his birth,
  • Whose justice out of pity's self doth grow.
  • Softly to sleeping persons he will go,
  • And, with no pain to them, their hearts draw forth.
  • Thy heart he took, as knowing well, alas!
  • 10 That Death had claimed thy lady for a prey:
  • In fear whereof, he fed her with thy heart.
  • But when he seemed in sorrow to depart,
  • Sweet was thy dream; for by that sign, I say,
  • Surely the opposite shall come to pass.†

Transcribed Footnote (page [116]):

* See the Vita Nuova , at page 33.

Transcribed Footnote (page [116]):

† This may refer to the belief that, towards morning, dreams go

by contraries.

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To his Lady Joan, of Florence.
  • Flowers hast thou in thyself, and foliage,
  • And what is good, and what is glad to see;
  • The sun is not so bright as thy visàge;
  • All is stark naught when one hath looked on thee;
  • There is not such a beautiful personage
  • Anywhere on the green earth verily;
  • If one fear love, thy bearing sweet and sage
  • Comforteth him, and no more fear hath he.
  • Thy lady friends and maidens ministering
  • 10 Are all, for love of thee, much to my taste:
  • And much I pray them that in everything
  • They honour thee even as thou meritest,
  • And have thee in their gentle harbouring:
  • Because among them all thou art the best.
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He compares all Things with his Lady, and finds them

  • Beauty in woman; the high will's decree;
  • Fair knighthood armed for manly exercise;
  • The pleasant song of birds; love's soft replies;
  • The strength of rapid ships upon the sea;
  • The serene air when light begins to be;
  • The white snow, without wind that falls and lies;
  • Fields of all flower; the place where waters rise;
  • Silver and gold; azure in jewellery:—
  • Weighed against these, the sweet and quiet worth
  • 10 Which my dear lady cherishes at heart
  • Might seem a little matter to be shown;
  • Being truly, over these, as much apart
  • As the whole heaven is greater than this earth.
  • All good to kindred natures cleaveth soon.
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A Rapture concerning his Lady.
  • Who is she coming, whom all gaze upon,
  • Who makes the air all tremulous with light,
  • And at whose side is Love himself? that none
  • Dare speak, but each man's sighs are infinite.
  • Ah me! how she looks round from left to right,
  • Let Love discourse: I may not speak thereon.
  • Lady she seems of such high benison
  • As makes all others graceless in men's sight.
  • The honour which is hers cannot be said;
  • 10 To whom are subject all things virtuous,
  • While all things beauteous own her deity.
  • Ne'er was the mind of man so nobly led,
  • Nor yet was such redemption granted us
  • That we should ever know her perfectly.
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Of his Lady among other Ladies.
  • With other women I beheld my love;—
  • Not that the rest were women to mine eyes,
  • Who only as her shadows seemed to move.
  • I do not praise her more than with the truth,
  • Nor blame I these if it be rightly read.
  • But while I speak, a thought I may not soothe
  • Says to my senses: “Soon shall ye be dead,
  • If for my sake your tears ye will not shed.”
  • And then the eyes yield passage, at that thought,
  • 10To the heart's weeping, which forgets her not.
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Of a consecrated Image resembling his Lady.
  • Guido, an image of my lady dwells
  • At San Michele in Orto, consecrate
  • And duly worshiped. Fair in holy state
  • She listens to the tale each sinner tells:
  • And among them that come to her, who ails
  • The most, on him the most doth blessing wait.
  • She bids the fiend men's bodies abdicate;
  • Over the curse of blindness she prevails,
  • And heals sick languors in the public squares.
  • 10 A multitude adores her reverently:
  • Before her face two burning tapers are;
  • Her voice is uttered upon paths afar.
  • Yet through the Lesser Brethren's* jealousy
  • She is named idol; not being one of theirs.

Transcribed Footnote (page 121):

* The Franciscans, in profession of deeper poverty and humility

than belonged to other Orders, called themselves Fratres minores.

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In answer to the foregoing Sonnet.
  • If thou hadst offered, friend, to blessed Mary
  • A pious voluntary,
  • As thus: “Fair rose, in holy garden set”:
  • Thou then hadst found a true similitude:
  • Because all truth and good
  • Are hers, who was the mansion and the gate
  • Wherein abode our High Salvation,
  • Conceived in her, a Son,
  • Even by the angel's greeting whom she met.
  • 10Be thou assured that if one cry to her,
  • Confessing, “I did err,”
  • For death she gives him life; for she is great.
  • Ah! how mayst thou be counselled to implead
  • With God thine own misdeed,
  • And not another's? Ponder what thou art;
  • And humbly lay to heart
  • That Publican who wept his proper need.
  • The Lesser Brethren cherish the divine
  • Scripture and church-doctrine;
  • 20Being appointed keepers of the faith
  • Whose preaching succoureth:
  • For what they preach is our best medicine.
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Of the Eyes of a certain Mandetta, of Thoulouse, which

resemble those of his Lady Joan, of Florence.
  • A certain youthful lady in Thoulouse,
  • Gentle and fair, of cheerful modesty,
  • Is in her eyes, with such exact degree,
  • Of likeness unto mine own lady, whose
  • I am, that through the heart she doth abuse
  • The soul to sweet desire. It goes from me
  • To her; yet, fearing, saith not who is she
  • That of a truth its essence thus subdues.
  • This lady looks on it with the sweet eyes
  • 10 Whose glance did erst the wounds of Love anoint
  • Through its true lady's eyes which are as they.
  • Then to the heart returns it, full of sighs,
  • Wounded to death by a sharp arrow's point
  • Wherewith this lady speeds it on its way.
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He reveals, in a Dialogue, his increasing Love for Mandetta.
  • Being in thought of love, I chanced to see
  • Two youthful damozels.
  • One sang: “Our life inhales
  • All love continually.”
  • Their aspect was so utterly serene,
  • So courteous, of such quiet nobleness,
  • That I said to them: “Yours, I may well ween,
  • 'Tis of all virtue to unlock the place.
  • Ah! damozels, do not account him base
  • 10 Whom thus his wound subdues:
  • Since I was at Thoulouse,
  • My heart is dead in me.”
  • They turned their eyes upon me in so much
  • As to perceive how wounded was my heart;
  • While, of the spirits born of tears, one such
  • Had been begotten through the constant smart.
  • Then seeing me, abashed, to turn apart,
  • One of them said, and laugh'd:
  • “Love, look you, by his craft
  • 20 Holds this man thoroughly.”
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  • But with grave sweetness, after a brief while,
  • She who at first had laughed on me replied,
  • Saying: “This lady, who by Love's great guile
  • Her countenance in thy heart has glorified,
  • Look'd thee so deep within the eyes, Love sigh'd
  • And was awakened there.
  • If it seem ill to bear,
  • In him thy hope must be.”
  • The second piteous maiden, of all ruth,
  • 30 Fashioned for sport in Love's own image, said:
  • “This stroke, whereof thy heart bears trace in sooth,
  • From eyes of too much puïssance was shed,
  • Whence in thy heart such brightness enterèd,
  • Thou mayst not look thereon.
  • Say, of those eyes that shone
  • Canst thou remember thee?”
  • Then said I, yielding answer therewithal
  • Unto this virgin's difficult behest:
  • “A lady of Thoulouse, whom Love doth call
  • 40 Mandetta, sweetly kirtled and enlac'd,
  • I do remember to my sore unrest.
  • Yea, by her eyes indeed
  • My life has been decreed
  • To death inevitably.”
  • Go, Ballad, to the city, even Thoulouse,
  • And softly entering the Dauràde,* look round
  • And softly call, that so there may be found
  • Some lady who for compleasaunce may choose
  • To show thee her who can my life confuse.
  • 50 And if she yield thee way,
  • Lift thou thy voice and say:
  • “For grace I come to thee.”

Transcribed Footnote (page 125):

* The ancient church of the Dauràde still exists at Thoulouse.

It was so called from the golden effect of the mosaics adorning it.

Image of page 126 page: 126


He imagines a pleasant Voyage for Guido, Lapo Gianni,

and himself, with their three Ladies.
Note: In line 6, the final letter of the word “slip” and a semicolon are not printed.
  • Guido, I wish that Lapo, thou, and I,
  • Could be by spells conveyed, as it were now,
  • Upon a barque, with all the winds that blow
  • Across all seas at our good will to hie.
  • So no mischance nor temper of the sky
  • Should mar our course with spite or cruel sli
  • But we, observing old companionship,
  • To be companions still should long thereby.
  • And Lady Joan, and Lady Beatrice,
  • 10 And her the thirtieth on my roll,* with us
  • Should our good wizard set, o'er seas to move
  • And not to talk of anything but love:
  • And they three ever to be well at ease,
  • As we should be, I think, if this were thus.

Transcribed Footnote (page 126):

* That is, his list of the sixty most beautiful ladies of Florence,

referred to in the Vita Nuova; among whom Lapo Gianni's lady,

Lagia, would seem to have stood thirtieth.

Image of page 127 page: 127



Guido answers the foregoing Sonnet, speaking with shame

of his changed Love.
  • If I were still that man, worthy to love,
  • Of whom I have but the remembrance now,
  • Or if the lady bore another brow,
  • To hear this thing might bring me joy thereof.
  • But thou, who in Love's proper court dost move,
  • Even there where hope is born of grace,—see how
  • My very soul within me is brought low:
  • For a swift archer, whom his feats approve,
  • Now bends the bow, which Love to him did yield,
  • 10 In such mere sport against me, it would seem
  • As though he held his lordship for a jest,
  • Then hear the marvel which is sorriest:—
  • My sorely wounded soul forgiveth him,
  • Yet knows that in his act her strength is kill'd.
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He reports, in a feigned Vision, the successful Issue of

Lapo Gianni's Love.
  • Dante, a sigh that rose from the heart's core
  • Assailed me, while I slumbered, suddenly:
  • So that I woke o' the instant, fearing sore
  • Lest it came thither in Love's company:
  • Till, turning, I beheld the servitor
  • Of Lady Lagia: “Help me,” so said he,
  • “O help me, Pity.” Though he said no more,
  • So much of Pity's essence entered me,
  • That I was ware of Love, those shafts he wields
  • 10 A-whetting, and preferred the mourner's quest
  • To him, who straightway answered on this wise:
  • “Go tell my servant that the lady yields,
  • And that I hold her now at his behest:
  • If he believe not, let him note her eyes.”
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He mistrusts the Love of Lapo Gianni.
  • I pray thee, Dante, shouldst thou meet with Love
  • In any place where Lapo then may be,
  • That there thou fail not to mark heedfully
  • If Love with lover's name that man approve;
  • If to our Master's will his lady move
  • Aright, and if himself show fealty:
  • For ofttimes, by ill custom, ye may see
  • This sort profess the semblance of true love.
  • Thou know'st that in the court where Love holds sway
  • 10 A law subsists, that no man who is vile
  • Can service yield to a lost woman there.
  • If suffering aught avail the sufferer,
  • Thou straightway shalt discern our lofty style,
  • Which needs the badge of honour must display.
Sig. 9
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On the Detection of a false Friend.*
  • Love and the Lady Lagia, Guido and I,
  • Unto a certain lord are bounden all,
  • Who has released us—know ye from whose thrall?
  • Yet I'll not speak, but let the matter die:
  • Since now these three no more are held thereby,
  • Who in such homage at his feet did fall
  • That I myself was not more whimsical,
  • In him conceiving godship from on high.
  • Let Love be thanked the first, who first discern'd
  • 10 The truth; and that wise lady afterward,
  • Who in fit time took back her heart again;
  • And Guido next, from worship wholly turn'd;
  • And I, as he. But if ye have not heard,
  • I shall not tell how much I loved him then.

Transcribed Footnote (page 130):

* I should think, from the mention of Lady Lagia, that this

might refer again to Lapo Gianni, who seems (one knows not

why) to have fallen into disgrace with his friends. The Guido

mentioned is probably Guido Orlandi.

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He speaks of a third Love of his.
  • O thou that often hast within thine eyes
  • A Love who holds three shafts,—know thou from me
  • That this my sonnet would commend to thee
  • (Come from afar) a soul in heavy sighs,
  • Which even by Love's sharp arrow wounded lies.
  • Twice did the Syrian archer shoot, and he
  • Now bends his bow the third time, cunningly,
  • That, thou being here, he wound me in no wise.
  • Because the soul would quicken at the core
  • 10 Thereby, which now is near to utter death,
  • From those two shafts, a triple wound that yield.
  • The first gives pleasure, yet disquieteth;
  • And with the second is the longing for
  • The mighty gladness by the third fulfill'd.
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Of a continual Death in Love.
  • Though thou, indeed, hast quite forgotten ruth,
  • Its steadfast truth my heart abandons not;
  • But still its thought yields service in good part
  • To that hard heart in thee.
  • Alas! who hears believes not I am so.
  • Yet who can know? of very surety, none.
  • From Love is won a spirit, in some wise,
  • Which dies perpetually:
  • And, when at length in that strange ecstasy
  • 10 The heavy sigh will start,
  • There rains upon my heart
  • A love so pure and fine,
  • That I say: “Lady, I am wholly thine.”*

Transcribed Footnote (page 132):

* I may take this opportunity of mentioning that, in every case

where an abrupt change of metre occurs in one of my translations,

it is so also in the original poem.

Image of page 133 page: 133


To a Friend who does not pity his Love.
  • If I entreat this lady that all grace
  • Seem not unto her heart an enemy,
  • Foolish and evil thou declarest me,
  • And desperate in idle stubbornness.
  • Whence is such cruel judgment thine, whose face,
  • To him that looks thereon, professeth thee
  • Faithful, and wise, and of all courtesy,
  • And made after the way of gentleness?
  • Alas! my soul within my heart doth find
  • 10 Sighs, and its grief by weeping doth enhance,
  • That, drowned in bitter tears, those sighs depart:
  • And then there seems a presence in the mind,
  • As of a lady's thoughtful countenance
  • Come to behold the death of the poor heart.
Image of page 134 page: 134


He perceives that his highest Love is gone from him.
  • Through this my strong and new misaventure,
  • All now is lost to me
  • Which most was sweet in Love's supremacy.
  • So much of life is dead in its control,
  • That she, my pleasant lady of all grace,
  • Is gone out of the devastated soul:
  • I see her not, nor do I know her place;
  • Nor even enough of virtue with me stays
  • To understand, ah me!
  • 10The flower of her exceeding purity.
  • Because there comes—to kill that gentle thought
  • With saying that I shall not see her more—
  • This constant pain wherewith I am distraught,
  • Which is a burning torment very sore,
  • Wherein I know not whom I should implore.
  • Thrice thanked the Master be
  • Who turns the grinding wheel of misery!
  • Full of great anguish in a place of fear
  • The spirit of my heart lies sorrowing,
  • 20Through Fortune's bitter craft. She lured it here,
  • And gave it o'er to Death, and barbed the sting;
  • She wrought that hope which was a treacherous thing;
  • In Time, which dies from me,
  • She made me lose mine hour of ecstasy.
Image of page 135 page: 135
  • For you, perturbed and fearful words of mine,
  • Whither yourselves may please, even thither go;
  • But always burthened with shame's troublous sign,
  • And on my lady's name still calling low.
  • For me, I must abide in such deep woe
  • 30 That all who look shall see
  • Death's shadow on my face assuredly.
Image of page 136 page: 136


Of his Pain from a new Love.
  • Why from the danger did not mine eyes start,—
  • Why not become even blind,—ere through my sight
  • Within my soul thou ever couldst alight
  • To say: “Dost thou not hear me in thy heart?”
  • New torment then, the old torment's counterpart,
  • Filled me at once with such a sore affright,
  • That, Lady, lady, (I said,) destroy not quite
  • Mine eyes and me! O help us where thou art!
  • Thou hast so left mine eyes, that love is fain—
  • 10 Even Love himself—with pity uncontroll'd
  • To bend above them, weeping for their loss:
  • Saying: “If any man feel heavy pain,
  • This man's more painful heart let him behold:
  • Death has it in her hand, cut like a cross.”
Image of page 137 page: 137

Prolonged Sonnet.

He finds fault with the Conceits of the foregoing Sonnet.
Note: The following poem is not, in the strict sense, a "sonnet," and is designated by Rossetti a "prolonged sonnet," consisting as it does of a fourteen-line stanza and a couplet.
  • Friend, well I know thou knowest well to bear
  • Thy sword's-point, that it pierce the close-locked mail:
  • And like a bird to flit from perch to pale:
  • And out of difficult ways to find the air:
  • Largely to take and generously to share:
  • Thrice to secure advantage: to regale
  • Greatly the great, and over lands prevail.
  • In all thou art, one only fault is there:
  • For still among the wise of wit thou say'st
  • 10 That Love himself doth weep for thine estate;
  • And yet, no eyes no tears: lo now, thy whim!
  • Soft, rather say: This is not held in haste;
  • But bitter are the hours and passionate,
  • To him that loves, and love is not for him.
  • For me, (by usage strengthened to forbear
  • From carnal love,) I fall not in such snare.
Image of page 138 page: 138


On the part of a Lady of Pisa.
  • Guido, that Gianni who, a day agone,
  • Sought thee, now greets thee (ay and thou mayst
  • laugh!)
  • On that same Pisan beauty's sweet behalf
  • Who can deal love-wounds even as thou hast done.
  • She asked me whether thy good will were prone
  • For service unto Love who troubles her,
  • If she to thee in suchwise should repair
  • That, save by him and Gualtier, 'twere not known:—
  • For thus her kindred of ill augury
  • 10 Should lack the means wherefrom there might be
  • plann'd
  • Worse harm than lying speech that smites afar.
  • I told her that thou hast continually
  • A goodly sheaf of arrows to thy hand,
  • Which well should stead her in such gentle war.

Transcribed Footnote (page 138):

* From a passage in Ubaldini's Glossary (1640) to the “Docu-

menti d'Amore” of Francesco Barberino (1300), I judge that Guido

answered the above sonnet, and that Alfani made a rejoinder, from

which a scrap there printed appears to be taken. The whole piece

existed, in Ubaldini's time, among the Strozzi MSS.

Image of page 139 page: 139



He writes to Guido, telling him of the Love which a certain

Pinella showed on seeing him.
  • Unto that lowly lovely maid, I wis,
  • So poignant in the heart was thy salute,
  • That she changed countenance, remaining mute.
  • Wherefore I asked: “Pinella, how is this?
  • Hast heard of Guido? know'st thou who he is?”
  • She answered, “Yea;” then paused, irresolute;
  • But I saw well how the love-wounds acute
  • Were widened, and the star which Love calls his
  • Filled her with gentle brightness perfectly.
  • 10 “But, friend, an't please thee, I would have it told,”
  • She said, “how I am known to him through thee.
  • Yet since, scarce seen, I knew his name of old,—
  • Even as the riddle is read, so must it be.
  • Oh! send him love of mine a thousand-fold!”
Image of page 140 page: 140



Guido answers, commending Pinella, and saying that

the Love he can offer her is already shared by many noble

  • The fountain-head that is so bright to see
  • Gains as it runs in virtue and in sheen,
  • Friend Bernard; and for her who spoke with thee,
  • Even such the flow of her young life has been:
  • So that when Love discourses secretly
  • Of things the fairest he has ever seen,
  • He says there is no fairer thing than she,
  • A lowly maid as lovely as a queen.
  • And for that I am troubled, thinking of
  • 10 That sigh wherein I burn upon the waves
  • Which drift her heart,—poor barque, so ill bested!—
  • Unto Pinella a great river of love
  • I send, that's full of sirens, and whose slaves
  • Are beautiful and richly habited.
Image of page 141 page: 141


He reproves Guido for his Arrogance in Love.
  • No man may mount upon a golden stair,
  • Guido my master, to Love's palace-sill:
  • No key of gold will fit the lock that's there,
  • Nor heart there enter without pure goodwill.
  • Not if he miss one courteous duty, dare
  • A lover hope he should his love fulfil;
  • But to his lady must make meek repair,
  • Reaping with husbandry her favours still.
  • And thou but know'st of Love (I think) his name:
  • 10 Youth holds thy reason in extremities:
  • Only on thine own face thou turn'st thine eyes;
  • Fairer than Absalom's account'st the same;
  • And think'st, as rosy moths are drawn by flame,
  • To draw the women from their balconies.*

Transcribed Footnote (page 141):

* It is curious to find these poets perpetually rating one another

for the want of constancy in love. Guido is rebuked, as above, by

Dino Compagni; Cino da Pistoia by Dante ( p. 108); and Dante

by Guido ( p. 144), who formerly, as we have seen ( p. 129), had

confided to him his doubts of Lapo Gianni.

Image of page 142 page: 142



In praise of Guido Orlandi's Lady.
  • A lady in whom love is manifest—
  • That love which perfect honour doth adorn—
  • Hath ta'en the living heart out of thy breast,
  • Which in her keeping to new life is born:
  • For there by such sweet power it is possest
  • As even is felt of Indian unicorn:*
  • And all its virtue now, with fierce unrest,
  • Unto thy soul makes difficult return.
  • For this thy lady is virtue's minister
  • 10 In suchwise that no fault there is to show,
  • Save that God made her mortal on this ground.
  • And even herein His wisdom shall be found:
  • For only thus our intellect could know
  • That heavenly beauty which resembles her.

Transcribed Footnote (page 142):

* In old representations, the unicorn is often seen with his

head in a virgin's lap.

Image of page 143 page: 143


He answers the foregoing Sonnet, declaring himself his

Lady's Champion.
  • To sound of trumpet rather than of horn,
  • I in Love's name would hold a battle-play
  • Of gentlemen in arms on Easter Day;
  • And, sailing without oar or wind, be borne
  • Unto my joyful beauty; all that morn
  • To ride round her, in her cause seeking fray
  • Of arms with all but thee, friend, who dost say
  • The truth of her, and whom all truths adorn.
  • And still I pray Our Lady's grace above,
  • 10 Most reverently, that she whom my thoughts bear
  • In sweet remembrance own her Lord supreme.
  • Holding her honour dear, as doth behove,—
  • In God who therewithal sustaineth her
  • Let her abide, and not depart from Him.
Image of page 144 page: 144



He rebukes Dante for his way of Life, after the Death

of Beatrice.*
  • I come to thee by daytime constantly,
  • But in thy thoughts too much of baseness find:
  • Greatly it grieves me for thy gentle mind,
  • And for thy many virtues gone from thee.
  • It was thy wont to shun much company,
  • Unto all sorry concourse ill inclin'd:
  • And still thy speech of me, heartfelt and kind,
  • Had made me treasure up thy poetry.
  • But now I dare not, for thine abject life,
  • 10 Make manifest that I approve thy rhymes;
  • Nor come I in such sort that thou mayst know.
  • Ah! prythee read this sonnet many times:
  • So shall that evil one who bred this strife
  • Be thrust from thy dishonoured soul and go.

Transcribed Footnote (page 144):

* This interesting sonnet must refer to the same period of

Dante's life regarding which he has made Beatrice address him

in words of noble reproach when he meets her in Eden. ( Purg.

C. xxx.)

Image of page 145 page: 145


Concerning a Shepherd-maid.
  • Within a copse I met a shepherd-maid,
  • More fair, I said, than any star to see.
  • She came with waving tresses pale and bright,
  • With rosy cheer, and loving eyes of flame,
  • Guiding the lambs beneath her wand aright.
  • Her naked feet still had the dews on them,
  • As, singing like a lover, so she came;
  • Joyful, and fashioned for all ecstasy.
  • I greeted her at once, and question made
  • 10 What escort had she through the woods in spring?
  • But with soft accents she replied and said
  • That she was all alone there, wandering;
  • Moreover: “Do you know, when the birds sing,
  • My heart's desire is for a mate,” said she.
  • While she was telling me this wish of hers,
  • The birds were all in song throughout the wood.
  • “Even now then,” said my thought, “the time recurs,
  • With mine own longing to assuage her mood.”
  • And so, in her sweet favour's name, I sued
  • 20That she would kiss there and embrace with me.
Sig. 10
Image of page 146 page: 146
  • She took my hand to her with amorous will,
  • And answered that she gave me all her heart,
  • And drew me where the leaf is fresh and still,
  • Where spring the wood-flowers in the shade apart.
  • And on that day, by Joy's enchanted art,
  • There Love in very presence seemed to be.*

Transcribed Footnote (page 146):

* The glossary to Barberino, already mentioned, refers to the

existence, among the Strozzi MSS., of a poem by Lapo di Farinata

degli Uberti, written in answer to the above ballata of Cavalcanti.

As this respondent was no other than Guido's brother-in-law,

one feels curious to know what he said to the peccadilloes of his

sister's husband. But I fear the poem cannot yet have been

published, as I have sought for it in vain at all my printed sources

of information.

Image of page 147 page: 147


Of an ill-favoured Lady.
  • Just look, Manetto, at that wry-mouthed minx;
  • Merely take notice what a wretch it is;
  • How well contrived in her deformities,
  • How beastly favoured when she scowls and blinks.
  • Why, with a hood on (if one only thinks)
  • Or muffle of prim veils and scapularies,—
  • And set together, on a day like this,
  • Some pretty lady with the odious sphinx;—
  • Why, then thy sins could hardly have such weight,
  • 10 Nor thou be so subdued from Love's attack,
  • Nor so possessed in Melancholy's sway,
  • But that perforce thy peril must be great
  • Of laughing till the very heart-strings crack:
  • Either thou'dst die, or thou must run away.
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After the Pope's Interdict, when the great Houses were

leaving Florence.
  • Nero, thus much for tidings in thine ear.
  • They of the Buondelmonti quake with dread,
  • Nor by all Florence may be comforted,
  • Noting in thee the lion's ravenous cheer;
  • Who more than any dragon giv'st them fear,
  • In ancient evil stubbornly array'd;
  • Neither by bridge nor bulwark to be stay'd,
  • But only by King Pharaoh's sepulchre.
  • O in what monstrous sin dost thou engage,—
  • 10 All these which are of loftiest blood to drive
  • Away, that none dare pause but all take wing!
  • Yet sooth it is, thou might'st redeem the pledge
  • Even yet, and save thy naked soul alive,
  • Wert thou but patient in the bargaining.
Image of page 149 page: 149


In Exile at Sarzana.
  • Because I think not ever to return,
  • Ballad, to Tuscany,—
  • Go therefore thou for me
  • Straight to my lady's face,
  • Who, of her noble grace,
  • Shall show thee courtesy.
  • Thou seekest her in charge of many sighs,
  • Full of much grief and of exceeding fear.
  • But have good heed thou come not to the eyes
  • 10 Of such as are sworn foes to gentle cheer:
  • For, certes, if this thing should chance,—from her
  • Thou then couldst only look
  • For scorn, and such rebuke
  • As needs must bring me pain;—
  • Yea, after death again
  • Tears and fresh agony.
  • Surely thou knowest, Ballad, how that Death
  • Assails me, till my life is almost sped:
  • Thou knowest how my heart still travaileth
  • 20 Through the sore pangs which in my soul are bred:—
  • My body being now so nearly dead,
  • It cannot suffer more.
  • Image of page 150 page: 150
  • Then, going, I implore
  • That this my soul thou take
  • (Nay, do so for my sake,)
  • When my heart sets it free.
  • Ah! Ballad, unto thy dear offices
  • I do commend my soul, thus trembling;
  • That thou mayst lead it, for pure piteousness,
  • 30 Even to that lady's presence whom I sing.
  • Ah! Ballad, say thou to her, sorrowing,
  • Whereso thou meet her then:—
  • “This thy poor handmaiden
  • Is come, nor will be gone,
  • Being parted now from one
  • Who served Love painfully.”
  • Thou also, thou bewildered voice and weak,
  • That goest forth in tears from my grieved heart,
  • Shalt, with my soul and with this ballad, speak
  • 40 Of my dead mind, when thou dost hence depart,
  • Unto that lady (piteous as thou art!)
  • Who is so calm and bright,
  • It shall be deep delight
  • To feel her presence there.
  • And thou, Soul, worship her
  • Still in her purity.
Image of page 151 page: 151


A Song of Fortune.
  • Lo! I am she who makes the wheel to turn;
  • Lo! I am she who gives and takes away;
  • Blamed idly, day by day,
  • In all mine acts by you, ye humankind.
  • For whoso smites his visage and doth mourn,
  • What time he renders back my gifts to me,
  • Learns then that I decree
  • No state which mine own arrows may not find.
  • Who clomb must fall:—this bear ye well in mind,
  • 10Nor say, because he fell, I did him wrong.
  • Yet mine is a vain song:
  • For truly ye may find out wisdom when
  • King Arthur's resting-place is found of men.
  • Ye make great marvel and astonishment
  • What time ye see the sluggard lifted up
  • And the just man to drop,
  • And ye complain on God and on my sway.
  • O humankind, ye sin in your complaint:

  • Transcribed Footnote (page 151):

    * This and the three following Canzoni are only to be found in

    the later collections of Guido Cavalcanti's poems. I have included

    them on account of their interest, if really his, and especially for

    the beauty of the last among them; but must confess to some

    doubts of their authenticity.

    Image of page 152 page: 152
  • For He, that Lord who made the world to live,
  • 20 Lets me not take or give
  • By mine own act, but as He wills I may.
  • Yet is the mind of man so castaway,
  • That it discerns not the supreme behest.
  • Alas! ye wretchedest,
  • And chide ye at God also? Shall not He
  • Judge between good and evil righteously?
  • Ah! had ye knowledge how God evermore,
  • With agonies of soul and grievous heats,
  • As on an anvil beats
  • 30 On them that in this earth hold high estate,—
  • Ye would choose little rather than much store,
  • And solitude than spacious palaces;
  • Such is the sore disease
  • Of anguish that on all their days doth wait.
  • Behold if they be not unfortunate,
  • When oft the father dares not trust the son!
  • O wealth, with thee is won
  • A worm to gnaw for ever on his soul
  • Whose abject life is laid in thy control!
  • 40If also ye take note what piteous death
  • They ofttimes make, whose hoards were manifold,
  • Who cities had and gold
  • And multitudes of men beneath their hand;
  • Then he among you that most angereth
  • Shall bless me, saying, “Lo! I worship thee
  • That I was not as he
  • Whose death is thus accurst throughout the land.”
  • But now your living souls are held in band
  • Of avarice, shutting you from the true light
  • 50 Which shows how sad and slight
  • Are this world's treasured riches and array
  • That still change hands a hundred times a-day.
Image of page 153 page: 153
  • For me,—could envy enter in my sphere,
  • Which of all human taint is clean and quit,—
  • I well might harbour it
  • When I behold the peasant at his toil.
  • Guiding his team, untroubled, free from fear,
  • He leaves his perfect furrow as he goes,
  • And gives his field repose
  • 60 From thorns and tares and weeds that vex the soil:
  • Thereto he labours, and without turmoil
  • Entrusts his work to God, content if so
  • Such guerdon from it grow
  • That in that year his family shall live:
  • Nor care nor thought to other things will give.
  • But now ye may no more have speech of me,
  • For this mine office craves continual use:
  • Ye therefore deeply muse
  • Upon those things which ye have heard the while:
  • 70Yea, and even yet remember heedfully
  • How this my wheel a motion hath so fleet,
  • That in an eyelid's beat
  • Him whom it raised it maketh low and vile.
  • None was, nor is, nor shall be of such guile,
  • Who could, or can, or shall, I say, at length
  • Prevail against my strength.
  • But still those men that are my questioners
  • In bitter torment own their hearts perverse.
  • Song, that wast made to carry high intent
  • 80 Dissembled in the garb of humbleness,—
  • With fair and open face
  • To Master Thomas let thy course be bent.
  • Say that a great thing scarcely may be pent
  • In little room: yet always pray that he
  • Commend us, thee and me,
  • To them that are more apt in lofty speech:
  • For truly one must learn ere he can teach.
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A Song against Poverty.
  • O poverty, by thee the soul is wrapp'd
  • With hate, with envy, dolefulness, and doubt.
  • Even so be thou cast out,
  • And even so he that speaks thee otherwise.
  • I name thee now, because my mood is apt
  • To curse thee, bride of every lost estate,
  • Through whom are desolate
  • On earth all honourable things and wise.
  • Within thy power each blessed condition dies:
  • 10By thee, men's minds with sore mistrust are made
  • Fantastic and afraid:—
  • Thou, hated worse than Death, by just accord,
  • And with the loathing of all hearts abhorr'd.
  • Yea, rightly art thou hated worse than Death,
  • For he at length is longed for in the breast.
  • But not with thee, wild beast,
  • Was ever aught found beautiful or good.
  • For life is all that man can lose by death,
  • Not fame and the fair summits of applause;
  • 20 His glory shall not pause,
  • But live in men's perpetual gratitude.
  • While he who on thy naked sill has stood,
  • Though of great heart and worthy everso,
  • He shall be counted low.
  • Then let the man thou troublest never hope
  • To spread his wings in any lofty scope.
Image of page 155 page: 155
  • Hereby my mind is laden with a fear,
  • And I will take some thought to shelter me.
  • For this I plainly see:—
  • 30 Through thee, to fraud the honest man is led;
  • To tyranny the just lord turneth here,
  • And the magnanimous soul to avarice.
  • Of every bitter vice
  • Thou, to my thinking, art the fount and head;
  • From thee no light in any wise is shed,
  • Who bringest to the paths of dusky hell.
  • I therefore see full well,
  • That death, the dungeon, sickness, and old age,
  • Weighed against thee, are blessèd heritage.
  • 40And what though many a goodly hypocrite,
  • Lifting to thee his veritable prayer,
  • Call God to witness there
  • How this thy burden moved not Him to wrath.
  • Why, who may call (of them that muse aright)
  • Him poor, who of the whole can say, 'Tis Mine?
  • Methinks I well divine
  • That want, to such, should seem an easy path.
  • God, who made all things, all things had and hath;
  • Nor any tongue may say that He was poor,
  • 50 What while He did endure
  • For man's best succour among men to dwell:
  • Since to have all, with Him, was possible.
  • Song, thou shalt wend upon thy journey now:
  • And, if thou meet with folk who rail at thee,
  • Saying that poverty
  • Is not even sharper than thy words allow,—
  • Unto such brawlers briefly answer thou,
  • To tell them they are hypocrites; and then
  • Say mildly, once again,
  • 60That I, who am nearly in a beggar's case,
  • Might not presume to sing my proper praise.
Image of page 156 page: 156


He laments the Presumption and Incontinence of his Youth.
  • The devastating flame of that fierce plague,
  • The foe of virtue, fed with others' peace
  • More than itself foresees,
  • Being still shut in to gnaw its own desire;
  • Its strength not weakened, nor its hues more vague,
  • For all the benison that virtue sheds,
  • But which for ever spreads
  • To be a living curse that shall not tire:
  • Or yet again, that other idle fire
  • 10Which flickers with all change as winds may please:
  • One whichsoe'er of these
  • At length has hidden the true path from me
  • Which twice man may not see,
  • And quenched the intelligence of joy, till now
  • All solace but abides in perfect woe.
  • Alas! the more my painful spirit grieves,
  • The more confused with miserable strife
  • Is that delicious life
  • Which sighing it recalls perpetually:
  • 20But its worst anguish, whence it still receives
  • More pain than death, is sent, to yield the sting
  • Of perfect suffering,
  • By him who is my lord and governs me;
  • Who holds all gracious truth in fealty,
  • Being nursed in those four sisters' fond caress
  • Through whom comes happiness.
  • Image of page 157 page: 157
  • He now has left me; and I draw my breath
  • Wound in the arms of Death,
  • Desirous of her: she is cried upon
  • 30In all the prayers my heart puts up alone.
  • How fierce aforetime and how absolute
  • That wheel of flame which turned within my head,
  • May never quite be said,
  • Because there are not words to speak the whole.
  • It slew my hope whereof I lack the fruit,
  • And stung the blood within my living flesh
  • To be an intricate mesh
  • Of pain beyond endurance or control;
  • Withdrawing me from God, who gave my soul
  • 40To know the sign where honour has its seat
  • From honour's counterfeit.
  • So in its longing my heart finds not hope,
  • Nor knows what door to ope;
  • Since, parting me from God, this foe took thought
  • To shut those paths wherein He may be sought.
  • My second enemy, thrice armed in guile,
  • As wise and cunning to mine overthrow
  • As her smooth face doth show,
  • With yet more shameless strength holds mastery.
  • 50My spirit, naked of its light and vile,
  • Is lit by her with her own deadly gleam,
  • Which makes all anguish seem
  • As nothing to her scourges that I see.
  • O thou the body of grace, abide with me
  • As thou wast once in the once joyful time;
  • And though thou hate my crime,
  • Fill not my life with torture to the end;
  • But in thy mercy, bend
  • My steps, and for thine honour, back again;
  • 60Till, finding joy through thee, I bless my pain.
Image of page 158 page: 158
  • Since that first frantic devil without faith
  • Fell, in thy name, upon the stairs that mount
  • Unto the limpid fount
  • Of thine intelligence,—withhold not now
  • Thy grace, nor spare my second foe from death.
  • For lo! on this my soul has set her trust;
  • And failing this, thou must
  • Prove false to truth and honour, seest thou!
  • Then, saving light and throne of strength, allow
  • 70My prayer, and vanquish both my foes at last;
  • That so I be not cast
  • Into that woe wherein I fear to end.
  • Yet if it is ordain'd
  • That I must die ere this be perfected,—
  • Ah! yield me comfort after I am dead.
  • Ye unadornèd words obscure of sense,
  • With weeping and with sighing go from me,
  • And bear mine agony
  • (Not to be told by words, being too intense,)
  • 80 To His intelligence
  • Who moved by virtue shall fulfil my breath
  • In human life or compensating death.
Image of page 159 page: 159


A Dispute with Death.
  • “O sluggish, hard, ingrate, what doest thou?
  • Poor sinner, folded round with heavy sin,
  • Whose life to find out joy alone is bent.
  • I call thee, and thou fall'st to deafness now;
  • And, deeming that my path whereby to win
  • Thy seat is lost, there sitt'st thee down content,
  • And hold'st me to thy will subservient.
  • But I into thy heart have crept disguised:
  • Among thy senses and thy sins I went,
  • 10By roads thou didst not guess, unrecognised.
  • Tears will not now suffice to bid me go,
  • Nor countenance abased, nor words of woe.”
  • Now, when I heard the sudden dreadful voice
  • Wake thus within to cruel utterance,
  • Whereby the very heart of hearts did fail,
  • My spirit might not any more rejoice,
  • But fell from its courageous pride at once,
  • And turned to fly, where flight may not avail.
  • Then slowly 'gan some strength to re-inhale
  • 20The trembling life which heard that whisper speak,
  • And had conceived the sense with sore travail;
  • Till in the mouth it murmured, very weak,
  • Saying: “Youth, wealth, and beauty, these have I:
  • O Death! remit thy claim,—I would not die.”
Image of page 160 page: 160
  • Small sign of pity in that aspect dwells
  • Which then had scattered all my life abroad
  • Till there was comfort with no single sense:
  • And yet almost in piteous syllables,
  • When I had ceased to speak, this answer flow'd:
  • 30 “Behold what path is spread before thee hence;
  • Thy life has all but a day's permanence.
  • And is it for the sake of youth there seems
  • In loss of human years such sore offence?
  • Nay, look unto the end of youthful dreams.
  • What present glory does thy hope possess,
  • That shall not yield ashes and bitterness?”
  • But, when I looked on Death made visible,
  • From my heart's sojourn brought before mine eyes,
  • And holding in her hand my grievous sin,
  • 40I seemed to see my countenance, that fell,
  • Shake like a shadow: my heart uttered cries,
  • And my soul wept the curse that lay therein.
  • Then Death: “Thus much thine urgent prayer
  • shall win:—
  • I grant thee the brief interval of youth
  • At natural pity's strong soliciting.”
  • And I (because I knew that moment's ruth
  • But left my life to groan for a frail space)
  • Fell in the dust upon my weeping face.
  • So, when she saw me thus abashed and dumb,
  • 50 In loftier words she weighed her argument,
  • That new and strange it was to hear her speak
  • Saying: “The path thy fears withhold thee from
  • Is thy best path. To folly be not shent,
  • Nor shrink from me because thy flesh is weak.
  • Thou seest how man is sore confused, and eke
  • How ruinous Chance makes havoc of his life,
  • And grief is in the joys that he doth seek;
  • Image of page 161 page: 161
  • Nor ever pauses the perpetual strife
  • 'Twixt fear and rage; until beneath the sun
  • 60His perfect anguish be fulfilled and done.”
  • “O Death! thou art so dark and difficult,
  • That never human creature might attain
  • By his own will to pierce thy secret sense;
  • Because, foreshadowing thy dread result,
  • He may not put his trust in heart or brain,
  • Nor power avails him, nor intelligence.
  • Behold how cruelly thou takest hence
  • These forms so beautiful and dignified,
  • And chain'st them in thy shadow chill and dense,
  • 70And forcest them in narrow graves to hide;
  • With pitiless hate subduing still to thee
  • The strength of man and woman's delicacy.”
  • “Not for thy fear the less I come at last,
  • For this thy tremor, for thy painful sweat.
  • Take therefore thought to leave (for lo! I call)
  • Kinsfolk and comrades, all thou didst hold fast,—
  • Thy father and thy mother,—to forget
  • All these thy brethren, sisters, children, all.
  • Cast sight and hearing from thee; let hope fall;
  • 80Leave every sense and thy whole intellect,
  • These things wherein thy life made festival:
  • For I have wrought thee to such strange effect
  • That thou hast no more power to dwell with these
  • As living man. Let pass thy soul in peace.”
  • Yea, Lord. O thou, the Builder of the spheres,
  • Who, making me, didst shape me, of thy grace,
  • In thine own image and high counterpart;
  • Do thou subdue my spirit, long perverse,
  • To weep within thy will a certain space,
  • 90 Ere yet thy thunder come to rive my heart.
  • Set in my hand some sign of what thou art,
  • Sig. 11
    Image of page 162 page: 162
  • Lord God, and suffer me to seek out Christ,—
  • Weeping, to seek Him in thy ways apart;
  • Until my sorrow have at length suffic'd
  • In some accepted instant to atone
  • For sins of thought, for stubborn evil done.
  • Dishevelled and in tears, go, song of mine,
  • To break the hardness of the heart of man:
  • Say how his life began
  • 100From dust, and in that dust doth sink supine:
  • Yet, say, the unerring spirit of grief shall guide
  • His soul, being purified,
  • To seek its Maker at the heavenly shrine.
Image of page [163] page: [163]



He interprets Dante's Dream, related in the first Sonnet

of the Vita Nuova.*
  • Each lover's longing leads him naturally
  • Unto his lady's heart his heart to show;
  • And this it is that Love would have thee know
  • By the strange vision which he sent to thee.
  • With thy heart therefore, flaming outwardly,
  • In humble guise he fed thy lady so,
  • Who long had lain in slumber, from all woe
  • Folded within a mantle silently.
  • Also, in coming, Love might not repress
  • 10 His joy, to yield thee thy desire achieved,
  • Whence heart should unto heart true service bring.
  • But understanding the great love-sickness
  • Which in thy lady's bosom was conceived,
  • He pitied her, and wept in vanishing.

Transcribed Footnote (page [163]):

* See ante, page 33.

Image of page 164 page: 164



On the Death of Beatrice Portinari.
  • Albeit my prayers have not so long delay'd,
  • But craved for thee, ere this, that Pity and Love
  • Which only bring our heavy life some rest;
  • Yet is not now the time so much o'erstay'd
  • But that these words of mine which tow'rds thee move
  • Must find thee still with spirit dispossess'd,
  • And say to thee: “In Heaven she now is bless'd,
  • Even as the blessèd name men called her by;”
  • While thou dost ever cry,
  • 10 “Alas! the blessing of mine eyes is flown!”
  • Behold, these words set down
  • Are needed still, for still thou sorrowest.
  • Then hearken; I would yield advisedly
  • Some comfort: Stay these sighs; give ear to me.
  • We know for certain that in this blind world
  • Each man's subsistence is of grief and pain,
  • Still trailed by fortune through all bitterness:
  • Blessèd the soul which, when its flesh is furl'd
  • Within a shroud, rejoicing doth attain
  • 20 To Heaven itself, made free of earthly stress.
  • Then wherefore sighs thy heart in abjectness,
  • Which for her triumph should exult aloud?
  • For He the Lord our God
  • Image of page 165 page: 165
  • Hath called her, hearkening what her Angel said,
  • To have Heaven perfected.
  • Each saint for a new thing beholds her face,
  • And she the face of our Redemption sees,
  • Conversing with immortal substances.
  • Why now do pangs of torment clutch thy heart
  • 30 Which with thy love should make thee overjoy'd,
  • As him whose intellect hath passed the skies?
  • Behold, the spirits of thy life depart
  • Daily to Heaven with her, they so are buoy'd
  • With their desire, and Love so bids them rise.
  • O God! and thou, a man whom God made wise,
  • To nurse a charge of care, and love the same!
  • I bid thee in His Name
  • From sin of sighing grief to hold thy breath,
  • Nor let thy heart to death,
  • 40 Nor harbour death's resemblance in thine eyes.
  • God hath her with Himself eternally,
  • Yet she inhabits every hour with thee.
  • Be comforted, Love cries, be comforted!
  • Devotion pleads, Peace, for the love of God!
  • O yield thyself to prayers so full of grace;
  • And make thee naked now of this dull weed
  • Which 'neath thy foot were better to be trod;
  • For man through grief despairs and ends his days.
  • How ever shouldst thou see the lovely face
  • 50If any desperate death should once be thine?
  • From justice so condign
  • Withdraw thyself even now; that in the end
  • Thy heart may not offend
  • Against thy soul, which in the holy place,
  • In Heaven, still hopes to see her and to be
  • Within her arms. Let this hope comfort thee.
  • Look thou into the pleasure wherein dwells
  • Thy lovely lady who is in Heaven crown'd,
  • Image of page 166 page: 166
  • Who is herself thy hope in Heaven, the while
  • 60To make thy memory hallowed she avails;
  • Being a soul within the deep Heaven bound,
  • A face on thy heart painted, to beguile
  • Thy heart of grief which else should turn it vile.
  • Even as she seemed a wonder here below,
  • On high she seemeth so,—
  • Yea, better known, is there more wondrous yet.
  • And even as she was met
  • First by the angels with sweet song and smile,
  • Thy spirit bears her back upon the wing,
  • 70Which often in those ways is journeying.
  • Of thee she entertains the blessèd throngs,
  • And says to them: “While yet my body thrave
  • On earth, I gat much honour which he gave,
  • Commending me in his commended songs.”
  • Also she asks alway of God our Lord
  • To give thee peace according to His word.
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He conceives of some Compensation in Death .*
  • Dante, whenever this thing happeneth,—
  • That Love's desire is quite bereft of Hope,
  • (Seeking in vain at ladies' eyes some scope
  • Of joy, through what the heart for ever saith,)—
  • I ask thee, can amends be made by Death?
  • Is such sad pass the last extremity?—
  • Or may the Soul that never feared to die
  • Then in another body draw new breath?
  • Lo! thus it is through her who governs all
  • 10 Below,—that I, who entered at her door,
  • Now at her dreadful window must fare forth.
  • Yea, and I think through her it doth befall
  • That even ere yet the road is travelled o'er
  • My bones are weary and life is nothing worth.
Transcribed Footnote (page 167):

* Among Dante's Epistles there is a Latin letter to Cino, which

I should judge was written in reply to this Sonnet.

Image of page 168 page: 168


To his Lady Selvaggia Vergiolesi; likening his Love to a

Search for Gold.
  • I am all bent to glean the golden ore
  • Little by little from the river-bed;
  • Hoping the day to see
  • When Crœsus shall be conquered in my store.
  • Therefore, still sifting where the sands are spread,
  • I labour patiently:
  • Till, thus intent on this thing and no more,—
  • If to a vein of silver I were led,
  • It scarce could gladden me.
  • 10And, seeing that no joy's so warm i' the core
  • As this whereby the heart is comforted
  • And the desire set free,—
  • Therefore thy bitter love is still my scope,
  • Lady, from whom it is my life's sore theme
  • More painfully to sift the grains of hope
  • Than gold out of that stream.
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To Love, in great Bitterness.
  • O Love, O thou that, for my fealty,
  • Only in torment dost thy power employ,
  • Give me, for God's sake, something of thy joy,
  • That I may learn what good there is in thee.
  • Yea, for, if thou art glad with grieving me,
  • Surely my very life thou shalt destroy
  • When thou renew'st my pain, because the joy
  • Must then be wept for with the misery.
  • He that had never sense of good, nor sight,
  • 10 Esteems his ill estate but natural,
  • Which so is lightlier borne: his case is mine.
  • But, if thou wouldst uplift me for a sign,
  • Bidding me drain the curse and know it all,
  • I must a little taste its opposite.
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Death is not without but within him.
  • This fairest lady, who, as well I wot,
  • Found entrance by her beauty to my soul,
  • Pierced through mine eyes my heart, which erst was
  • whole,
  • Sorely, yet makes as though she knew it not;
  • Nay turns upon me now, to anger wrought,
  • Dealing me harshness for my pain's best dole,
  • And is so changed by her own wrath's control,
  • That I go thence, in my distracted thought
  • Content to die; and, mourning, cry abroad
  • 10 On Death, as upon one afar from me;
  • But Death makes answer from within my heart.
  • Then, hearing her so hard at hand to be,
  • I do commend my spirit unto God;
  • Saying to her too, “Ease and peace thou art.”
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A Trance of Love.
  • Vanquished and weary was my soul in me,
  • And my heart gasped after its much lament,
  • When sleep at length the painful languor sent.
  • And, as I slept (and wept incessantly),—
  • Through the keen fixedness of memory
  • Which I had cherished ere my tears were spent,
  • I passed to a new trance of wonderment;
  • Wherein a visible spirit I could see,
  • Which caught me up, and bore me to a place
  • 10 Where my most gentle lady was alone;
  • And still before us a fire seemed to move,
  • Out of the which methought there came a moan,
  • Uttering, “Grace, a little season, grace!
  • I am of one that hath the wings of Love.”
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Of the grave of Selvaggia, on the Monte della Sambuca.
  • I was upon the high and blessed mound,
  • And kissed, long worshiping, the stones and grass,
  • There on the hard stones prostrate, where, alas!
  • That pure one laid her forehead in the ground.
  • Then were the springs of gladness sealed and bound,
  • The day that unto Death's most bitter pass
  • My sick heart's lady turned her feet, who was
  • Already in her gracious life renown'd.
  • So in that place I spake to Love, and cried:
  • 10“O sweet my god, I am one whom Death may claim
  • Hence to be his; for lo! my heart lies here.”
  • Anon, because my Master lent no ear,
  • Departing, still I called Selvaggia's name.
  • So with my moan I left the mountain-side.
Image of page 173 page: 173


His Lament for Selvaggia.
  • Ay me, alas! the beautiful bright hair
  • That shed reflected gold
  • O'er the green growths on either side the way:
  • Ay me! the lovely look, open and fair,
  • Which my heart's core doth hold
  • With all else of that best-remembered day;
  • Ay me! the face made gay
  • With joy that Love confers;
  • Ay me! that smile of hers
  • 10 Where whiteness as of snow was visible
  • Among the roses at all seasons red!
  • Ay me! and was this well,
  • O Death, to let me live when she is dead?
  • Ay me! the calm, erect, dignified walk;
  • Ay me! the sweet salute,—
  • The thoughtful mind,—the wit discreetly worn;
  • Ay me! the clearness of her noble talk,
  • Which made the good take root
  • In me, and for the evil woke my scorn;
  • 20 Ay me! the longing born
  • Of so much loveliness,—
  • The hope, whose eager stress
  • Made other hopes fall back to let it pass,
  • Even till my load of love grew light thereby!
  • These thou hast broken, as glass,
  • O Death, who makest me, alive, to die!
Image of page 174 page: 174
  • Ay me! Lady, the lady of all worth;—
  • Saint, for whose single shrine
  • All other shrines I left, even as Love will'd;—
  • 30Ay me! what precious stone in the whole earth,
  • For that pure fame of thine
  • Worthy the marble statue's base to yield?
  • Ay me! fair vase fullfill'd
  • With more than this world's good,—
  • By cruel chance and rude
  • Cast out upon the steep path of the mountains
  • Where Death has shut thee in between hard stones!
  • Ay me! two languid fountains
  • Of weeping are these eyes, which joy disowns.
  • 40Ay me, sharp Death! till what I ask is done
  • And my whole life is ended utterly,—
  • Answer—must I weep on
  • Even thus, and never cease to moan Ay me?
Image of page 175 page: 175



He owes nothing to Guido as a Poet.
  • What rhymes are thine which I have ta'en from thee,
  • Thou Guido, that thou ever say'st I thieve?*
  • 'Tis true, fine fancies gladly I receive,
  • But when was aught found beautiful in thee?
  • Nay, I have searched my pages diligently,
  • And tell the truth, and lie not, by your leave.
  • From whose rich store my web of songs I weave
  • Love knoweth well, well knowing them and me.
  • No artist I,—all men may gather it;
  • 10 Nor do I work in ignorance of pride,
  • (Though the world reach alone the coarser sense;)
  • But am a certain man of humble wit
  • Who journeys with his sorrow at his side,
  • For a heart's sake, alas! that is gone hence.

Transcribed Footnote (page 175):

* I have not examined Cino's poetry with special reference to

this accusation; but there is a Canzone of his in which he speaks

of having conceived an affection for another lady from her resem-

blance to Selvaggia. Perhaps Guido considered this as a sort of

plagiarism de facto on his own change of love through Mandetta's

likeness to Giovanna.

Image of page 176 page: 176


He impugns the verdicts of Dante's Commedia.
  • This book of Dante's, very sooth to say,
  • Is just a poet's lovely heresy,
  • Which by a lure as sweet as sweet can be
  • Draws other men's concerns beneath its sway;
  • While, among stars' and comets' dazzling play,
  • It beats the right down, lets the wrong go free,
  • Shows some abased, and others in great glee,
  • Much as with lovers is Love's ancient way.
  • Therefore his vain decrees, wherein he lied,
  • 10 Fixing folks' nearness to the Fiend their foe,
  • Must be like empty nutshells flung aside.
  • Yet through the rash false witness set to grow,
  • French and Italian vengeance on such pride
  • May fall, like Antony's on Cicero.
Image of page 177 page: 177


He condemns Dante for not naming, in the Commedia, his

friend Onesto di Boncima, and his Lady Selvaggia.
  • Among the faults we in that book descry
  • Which has crowned Dante lord of rhyme and thought,
  • Are two so grave that some attaint is brought
  • Unto the greatness of his soul thereby.
  • One is, that, holding with Sordello high
  • Discourse, and with the rest who sang and taught,
  • He of Onesto di Boncima* nought
  • Has said, who was to Arnauld Daniel† nigh.
  • The other is, that when he says he came
  • 10 To see, at summit of the sacred stair,
  • His Beatrice among the heavenly signs,—
  • He, looking in the bosom of Abraham,
  • Saw not that highest of all women there
  • Who joined Mount Sion to the Apennines.‡
Transcribed Footnote (page 177):

* Between this poet and Cino various friendly sonnets were

interchanged, which may be found in the Italian collections. There

is also one sonnet by Onesto to Cino, with his answer, both of

which are far from being affectionate or respectful. They are very

obscure, however, and not specially interesting.

Transcribed Footnote (page 177):

† The Provençal poet, mentioned in C. xxvi. of the Purgatory.

Transcribed Footnote (page 177):

‡ That is, sanctified the Apennines by her burial on the Monte

della Sambuca.

Sig. 12
Image of page [178] page: [178]




He interprets Dante Alighieri's Dream, related in the

first Sonnet of the Vita Nuova.*
  • Of that wherein thou art a questioner
  • Considering, I make answer briefly thus,
  • Good friend, in wit but little prosperous:
  • And from my words the truth thou shalt infer,—
  • So hearken to thy dream's interpreter.
  • If, sound of frame, thou soundly canst discuss
  • In reason,—then, to expel this overplus
  • Of vapours which hath made thy speech to err,
  • See that thou lave and purge thy stomach soon.
  • 10 But if thou art afflicted with disease,
  • Know that I count it mere delirium.
  • Thus of my thought I write thee back the sum:
  • Nor my conclusions can be changed from these
  • Till to the leech thy water I have shown.

Transcribed Footnote (page [178]):

* See ante, page 33 .

Image of page 179 page: 179


He craves interpreting of a Dream of his.
  • Thou that art wise, let wisdom minister
  • Unto my dream, that it be understood.
  • To wit: A lady, of her body fair,
  • And whom my heart approves in womanhood,
  • Bestowed on me a wreath of flowers, fair-hued
  • And green in leaf, with gentle loving air;
  • After the which, meseemed I was stark nude
  • Save for a smock of hers that I did wear.
  • Whereat, good friend, my courage gat such growth
  • 10 That to mine arms I took her tenderly:
  • With no rebuke the beauty laughed unloth,
  • And as she laughed I kissed continually.
  • I say no more, for that I pledged mine oath,
  • And that my mother, who is dead, was by.
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He interprets the Dream* related in the foregoing Sonnet.
  • On the last words of what you write to me
  • I give you my opinion at the first.
  • To see the dead must prove corruption nursed
  • Within you, by your heart's own vanity.
  • The soul should bend the flesh to its decree:
  • Then rule it, friend, as fish by line amerced.
  • As to the smock, your lady's gift, the worst
  • Of words were not too bad for speech so free.
  • It is a thing unseemly to declare
  • 10 The love of gracious dame or damozel,
  • And therewith for excuse to say, I dream'd.
  • Tell us no more of this, but think who seem'd
  • To call you: mother came to whip you well.
  • Love close, and of Love's joy you'll have your share.

Transcribed Footnote (page 180):

* There exist no fewer than six answers by different poets,

interpreting Dante da Maiano's dream. I have chosen Guido

Orlandi's, much the most matter-of-fact of the six, because it

is diverting to find the writer again in his antagonistic mood.

Among the five remaining answers, in all of which the vision is

treated as a very mysterious matter, one is attributed to Dante

Alighieri, but seems so doubtful that I have not translated it.

Indeed it would do the greater Dante, if he really wrote it, little

credit as a lucid interpreter of dreams; though it might have some

interest, as giving him (when compared with the sonnet at page

) a decided advantage over his lesser namesake in point of


Image of page 181 page: 181


To his Lady Nina, of Sicily.
  • So greatly thy great pleasaunce pleasured me,
  • Gentle my lady, from the first of all,
  • That counting every other blessing small
  • I gave myself up wholly to know thee:
  • And since I was made thine, thy courtesy
  • And worth, more than of earth, celestial,
  • I learned, and from its freedom did enthrall
  • My heart, the servant of thy grace to be.
  • Wherefore I pray thee, joyful countenance,
  • 10 Humbly, that it incense or irk thee not,
  • If I, being thine, do wait upon thy glance.
  • More to solicit, I am all afraid:
  • Yet, lady, twofold is the gift, we wot,
  • Given to the needy unsolicited.
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He thanks his Lady for the Joy he has had from her.
  • Wonderful countenance and royal neck,
  • I have not found your beauty's parallel!
  • Nor at her birth might any yet prevail
  • The likeness of these features to partake.
  • Wisdom is theirs, and mildness: for whose sake
  • All grace seems stol'n, such perfect grace to swell;
  • Fashioned of God beyond delight to dwell
  • Exalted. And herein my pride I take
  • Who of this garden have possession,
  • 10 So that all worth subsists for my behoof
  • And bears itself according to my will.
  • Lady, in thee such pleasaunce hath its fill
  • That whoso is content to rest thereon
  • Knows not of grief, and holds all pain aloof.
Image of page [183] page: [183]




On the last Sonnet of the Vita Nuova.*
  • Dante Alighieri, Cecco, your good friend
  • And servant, gives you greeting as his lord,
  • And prays you for the sake of Love's accord,
  • (Love being the Master before whom you bend,)
  • That you will pardon him if he offend,
  • Even as your gentle heart can well afford.
  • All that he wants to say is just one word
  • Which partly chides your sonnet at the end.
  • For where the measure changes, first you say
  • 10 You do not understand the gentle speech
  • A spirit made touching your Beatrice:
  • And next you tell your ladies how, straightway,
  • You understand it. Wherefore (look you) each
  • Of these your words the other's sense denies.

Transcribed Footnote (page [183]):

See ante, page 94 .

Image of page 184 page: 184


He will not be too deeply in Love.
  • I am enamoured, and yet not so much
  • But that I'd do without it easily;
  • And my own mind thinks all the more of me
  • That Love has not quite penned me in his hutch.
  • Enough if for his sake I dance and touch
  • The lute, and serve his servants cheerfully:
  • An overdose is worse than none would be:
  • Love is no lord of mine, I'm proud to vouch.
  • So let no woman who is born conceive
  • 10 That I'll be her liege slave, as I see some,
  • Be she as fair and dainty as she will.
  • Too much of love makes idiots, I believe:
  • I like not any fashion that turns glum
  • The heart, and makes the visage sick and ill.
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Of Love in Men and Devils.
  • The man who feels not, more or less, somewhat
  • Of love in all the years his life goes round
  • Should be denied a grave in holy ground
  • Except with usurers who will bate no groat:
  • Nor he himself should count himself a jot
  • Less wretched than the meanest beggar found.
  • Also the man who in Love's robe is gown'd
  • May say that Fortune smiles upon his lot.
  • Seeing how love has such nobility
  • 10 That if it entered in the lord of Hell
  • 'Twould rule him more than his fire's ancient sting;
  • He should be glorified to eternity,
  • And all his life be always glad and well
  • As is a wanton woman in the spring.
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Of Love, in honour of his mistress Becchina.
  • Whatever good is naturally done
  • Is born of Love as fruit is born of flower:
  • By Love all good is brought to its full power:
  • Yea, Love does more than this; for he finds none
  • So coarse but from his touch some grace is won,
  • And the poor wretch is altered in an hour.
  • So let it be decreed that Death devour
  • The beast who says that Love's a thing to shun.
  • A man's just worth the good that he can hold,
  • 10 And where no love is found, no good is there;
  • On that there's nothing that I would not stake.
  • So now, my Sonnet, go as you are told
  • To lovers and their sweethearts everywhere,
  • And say I made you for Becchina's sake.
Image of page 187 page: 187


Of Becchina, the Shoemaker's Daughter.
  • Why, if Becchina's heart were diamond,
  • And all the other parts of her were steel,
  • As cold to love as snows when they congeal
  • In lands to which the sun may not get round;
  • And if her father were a giant crown'd
  • And not a donkey born to stitching shoes,
  • Or I were but an ass myself;—to use
  • Such harshness, scarce could to her praise redound.
  • Yet if she'd only for a minute hear,
  • 10 And I could speak if only pretty well,
  • I'd let her know that I'm her happiness;
  • That I'm her life should also be made clear,
  • With other things that I've no need to tell;
  • And then I feel quite sure she'd answer Yes.
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To Messer Angiolieri, his Father.
  • If I'd a sack of florins, and all new,
  • (Packed tight together, freshly coined and fine,)
  • And Arcidosso and Montegiovi mine,*
  • And quite a glut of eagle-pieces too,—
  • It were but as three farthings to my view
  • Without Becchina. Why then all these plots
  • To whip me, daddy? Nay, but tell me,—what's
  • My sin, or all the sin of Turks, to you?
  • For I protest (or may I be struck dead!)
  • 10 My love's so firmly planted in its place,
  • Whipping nor hanging now could change the grain.
  • And if you want my reason on this head,
  • It is that whoso looks her in the face,
  • Though he were old, gets back his youth again.

Transcribed Footnote (page 188):

* Perhaps the names of his father's estates.

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Of the 20 th June 1291.
  • I'm full of everything I do not want
  • And have not that wherein I should find ease;
  • For alway till Becchina brings me peace
  • The heavy heart I bear must toil and pant;
  • That so all written paper would prove scant
  • (Though in its space the Bible you might squeeze,)
  • To say how like the flames of furnaces
  • I burn, remembering what she used to grant.
  • Because the stars are fewer in heaven's span
  • 10 Than all those kisses wherewith I kept tune
  • All in an instant (I who now have none!)
  • Upon her mouth (I and no other man!)
  • So sweetly on the twentieth day of June
  • In the new year* twelve hundred ninety-one.

Transcribed Footnote (page 189):

* The year, according to the calendar of those days, began on

the 25th March. The alteration to 1st January was made in 1582

by the Pope, and immediately adopted by all Catholic countries,

but by England not till 1752. There is some added vividness in

remembering that Cecco's unplatonic love-encounter dates eleven

days after the first death-anniversary of Beatrice (9th of June 1291),

when Dante tells us that he “drew the resemblance of an angel

upon certain tablets.” (See ante, p. 84.)

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In absence from Becchina.
  • My heart's so heavy with a hundred things
  • That I feel dead a hundred times a-day;
  • Yet death would be the least of sufferings,
  • For life's all suffering save what's slept away;
  • Though even in sleep there is no dream but brings
  • From dream-land such dull torture as it may.
  • And yet one moment would pluck out these stings,
  • If for one moment she were mine to-day
  • Who gives my heart the anguish that it has.
  • 10 Each thought that seeks my heart for its abode
  • Becomes a wan and sorrow-stricken guest:
  • Sorrow has brought me to so sad a pass
  • That men look sad to meet me on the road;
  • Nor any road is mine that leads to rest.
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Of Becchina in a rage.
  • When I behold Becchina in a rage,
  • Just like a little lad I trembling stand
  • Whose master tells him to hold out his hand;
  • Had I a lion's heart, the sight would wage
  • Such war against it, that in that sad stage
  • I'd wish my birth might never have been plann'd,
  • And curse the day and hour that I was bann'd
  • With such a plague for my life's heritage.
  • Yet even if I should sell me to the Fiend,
  • 10 I must so manage matters in some way
  • That for her rage I may not care a fig;
  • Or else from death I cannot long be screen'd.
  • So I'll not blink the fact, but plainly say