Guido Cavalcanti. “Sonnet (to Dante Alighieri). He interprets Dante's Dream, related in the first Sonnet of the Vita Nuova.”

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

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


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

◦ Contini, Poeti de Duecento, II. 544

◦ Cassata, Guido Cavalcanti. Rime, 177-179

Scholarly Commentary


The sonnet, one of Cavalcanti's most celebrated, responds to and interprets the opening sonnet of Dante's Vita Nuova (DGR's source text in Cicciaporci's Rime di Guido Cavalcanti prints Dante's sonnet at p. 124 in a note to his text of this poem.) DGR translated two of the other well-known responses, Cino da Pistoia's “Naturalmente chere ogni amadore” and Dante da Maiano's “Di ciò, che stato sei dimandatore”.

The translation at line 6 is based on a reading in the original (“nella piatosa mente”) that is no longer accepted: the authoritative Italian text is “nel càssar della mente”, i.e., in the mind's fortress. The sonnet's last tercet is by no means lucid in the original and DGR's translation, while reasonable (if also somewhat free in line 13), would not be favored by Italian scholars, who take “Che” (line 14) as a pronoun and understand “contrario” as the opposite of the “dolce sonno”, i.e., as the coming of wakefulness. DGR's rhyme scheme in the sestet differs from his model, and his note to the last line explains the point of his translation: “This may refer to the belief that, towards morning, dreams go by contraries”.

The “lord” in line 4 is of course Love, as initially referenced in Dante's sonnet.

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: 126d-1861.raw.xml