Guido Cavalcanti. “Ballata. He reveals, in a Dialogue, his increasing love for Mandetta.”

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1861
Rhyme: Ballata mezzana with two piedi AB and sirima BccX
Meter: iambic trimeter and pentameter
Genre: ballata


“Introduction to Part II” (in The Early Italian Poets), 193-206

◦ Contini, Poeti de Duecento, II. 532-533

◦ Cassata, Guido Cavalcanti. Rime, 145-149


Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the Early Italian Poets text.

Scholarly Commentary


The translation is a splendid tour de force rendering of the rhyme scheme and metrical form of Cavalcanti's ballata. Some of the verbal renderings are quite free but equally admirable for that—as in lines 3-4, where the Italian would be ludicrous if translated literally. Elsewhere DGR chooses, I think rightly, to stay fairly close to the literal sense even when the meaning and form is archaic and artificial (e.g., lines 15-16). In such cases the Italian itself flaunts its own mannered character. The occasion of the ballad is the same as the sonnet it follows in DGR's edition. DGR's note to the poem (line 46) refers to the church of Notre Dame de la Dourade in Tolosa, Spain.

It's worth mentioning that Cavalcanti's argument here implicitly supports the central ideas in Dante's work, particularly in the Vita Nuova: see especially the crucial point, shared by Dante and all his circle, that ladies have “intelligence in love”.

DGR's source text in Cicciaporci (Ballate VII, pages 21-23) puts the stanzas in a sequence no longer regarded as authoritative by scholars: so DGR's stanzas 4 and 5 are set in reverse order in more recent editions. Otherwise the Cicciaporci text is fairly clean.

DGR projected two pictures to illustrate this poem but neither was executed. See WMR's 1911 edition (pages 614-615): a picture of “Mandetta, of Thoulouse, ‘sweetly kirtled and enlaced,’” and a more general picture, signalled by DGR as “the ‘Era in pensier’ subject”.

Textual History: Composition

Date of composition uncertain; perhaps late 1840s. The only manuscript related to the poem that survives is a draft of the prose note to line 46.

Production History

The pictures that were to accompany the text were probably conceived around 1855. According to WMR (see his edition of 1911, pages 614-615), DGR described them in this way: “MANDETTA, of Thoulouse, ‘sweetly kirtled and enlaced,’ with Love in an architectural background, the Daurade, and Giovanna weeping on the other side. Or, Giovanna and Mandetta together, developing the likeness. (Guido Cavalcanti.)” DGR then went on to describe a second possible picture: “For the ‘Era in pensier’ subject.—The two ladies to be very uniform in action. The well and figures to be more at one side of the picture, and the rest occupying a clearer space as large in size as possible. The Church of the Daurade to be the background—ladies issuing from the porch, among them Mandetta; to whom Love, draped, should be introduced by another lady, and offer her the ballad on his knees. Other ladies in galleries, etc.”.

Printing History

The translation was first published in 1861 in The Early Italian Poets; it was reprinted in 1874 in Dante and his Circle.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1