Guido Cavalcanti. “Sonnet. To a Friend who does not pity his Love.”

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1848?; 1861
Rhyme: abbaabbacdecde
Meter: iambic pentameter
Genre: sonnet


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

◦ Contini, Poeti de Duecento, II. 510

◦ Cassata, Guido Cavalcanti. Rime, 98-100

Scholarly Commentary


The reading of “questa donna” in his source text's first line misleads DGR to see the poem as addressed “To a Friend”. In fact the addressee is the lady herself. “Questa donna” is a rhetorical figure signaling a key distinction in the poem, between the cruel lady's apparition in reality and her later dream “presence in the mind”. The mistake licenses what is perhaps an even more unfortunate moment in the translation, the opening of the sestet (“Alas!”): the exclamation has no equivalent in Cavalcanti, and indeed it seriously misrepresents the poem's argument, which means to explain and justify the lady's behavior in both of her apparitions.

Nonetheless, the translation is impressive in nearly every other respect, and one can easily imagine how a few small changes would translate the translation into something splendid.

The rhyme scheme varies slightly in the sestet from the source text (Cicciaporci Sonnet IV, page 3).

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: 123d-1861.raw.xml