Ladies that have intelligence in Love.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1846-1848
Rhyme: abbcaddcceecff
Meter: iambic pentameter
Genre: canzone


“Introduction to Part II” (in Early Italian Poets) 189-193

◦ Foster and Boyd, eds., Dante's Lyric Poetry I.58-63 (II. 95-104)

Scholarly Commentary


The original canzone is perhaps altogether beyond the reach of poetic equivalence or emulation, but DGR's poem is nonetheless a brilliant work in its own right. Dante's severe and passionate modesty toward his subject gets transformed into DGR's act of aesthetic repetition where Dante's poetry stands to DGR as Beatrice had stood to Dante.

It is important to keep in mind the immediate context of the canzone, its place in the Vita Nuova and in particular its relation to the preceding series of sonnets (see the commentary for “At whiles (yea oftentimes) I muse over”). The elaborate divisio following the canzone underscores the importance Dante attached to the work and its stylistic features; and that divisio reaches back to the prose passage introducing the canzone where Dante lays down his formula for a poetry of praise that lifts the Guinizzellian tradition to this new level. The key moment in that passage comes when Dante says (in DGR's words) “I declare that my tongue spake as though by its own impulse” (“dico che mia lingua parlò quasi come per se stessa mossa”). The remark conceals a crucial play on the word “lingua”, which signifies both Dante's own speech as well as his “mother tongue”. We are being given an explicit introduction to a sweet new style, Dante's poetry “in seconda persona”—the latter phrase in fact also involving a wordplay that signals the nonsubjective ground of Dante's “personal” poetry. The god of Love, according to this representation of the matter, authorizes Dante's verse.

Writing thus in his nineteenth-century post-Romantic context, DGR is making very much the same argument about poetry that is implicit in Browning's dramatic monologues. DGR's translation involves a similar act of poetic ventriloquism, nor should we be at all surprised how greatly DGR admired Browning's work. At the same time we want to see the distinct turn taken in DGR's translational approach to the issue of poetic objectivity. Browning's dramatic monologues have few resources for involving his subjectivity directly in the poetic action. By contrast, moving at the problem through a translational model DGR immediately opens the possibility of an art of “the inner standing point”, as he called it, whereby the Romantic first person can be objectively introduced into his or her own poetic field. The importance of this move for the subsequent history of English poetry cannot be too strongly emphasized.

DGR slightly alters Dante's rhyme scheme, but not in any way that violates the intricate spirit of the canzone. His source text was “Donne ch'avete intelletto d'amore” in the third volume of Fraticelli's edition of Dante's Opere Minori.

Textual History: Composition

This is an early translation, in the 1840s, perhaps as early as 1846.

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
Source File: 10d-1861.raw.xml