Guido Cavalcanti. “Sonnet. He compares all Things with his Lady, and finds them wanting.”

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1848?
Rhyme: abbaabbacdedce
Meter: iambic pentameter
Genre: sonnet


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

◦ Contini, Poeti de Duecento, II. 494

◦ Cassata, Guido Cavalcanti. Rime, 53-55

Scholarly Commentary


DGR's translation is idiosyncratic in the sestet because his Italian source presented him with an uncertain text, and one not accepted by authoritative scholars. The divergence is especially sharp in the first tercet of the sestet, where lines 9 and 11 ought perhaps to read: “ciò passa la beltate e la piagenza. . .sì ch'e' rasembra vile, a chi ciò sguarda”. A notable moment in the translation comes at line 3: DGR's “love's soft replies” is an elegant and inventive rendering of the Italian original. The translation's rhyme scheme departs from the original.

The sonnet is very like the one by Giacomo da Lentino that DGR also translated (“Sapphire, nor diamond, nor emerald”). The move to draw the beloved lady into these kinds of extravagant comparisons was common in the tradition of courtly love lyric.

DGR's source text was Cicciaporci (Sonnet XVI, page 9).

Textual History: Composition

Probably an early translation, late 1840s.

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: 117d-1861.raw.xml