Guido Cavalcanti. “Sonnet (to Guido Orlandi). In Praise of Guido Orlandi's Lady.”

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

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


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

◦ Contini, Poeti de Duecento, II. 561-562

◦ Cassata, Guido Cavalcanti. Rime, 222-226

Scholarly Commentary


As so often in DGR's translations, the technical literalness of Cavalcanti's poem is altered slightly but significantly. The “power” (line 5) is specifically a function of the lady's virginity in Cavalcanti's poem; nor is it that DGR has not perceived this fact (see line 2), but he has certainly elided it. His purpose in doing this is clear: to represent forcefully the key idea that the divine character of the lady's power is a function of her mortal virtues.

An even more interesting variance from Cavalcanti comes in the last line: DGR manages to suggest—the move is distinctly Blakean—that the similitude between mortal and heavenly beauties is grounded in the former rather than the latter. This suggestion is to take Cavalcanti into a line of thought that oversteps even the Averroist ideas he is known to have entertained. Finally, the freedom of the translation at lines 7-8 makes it difficult to see an important and precise textual connection between Cavalcanti's sonnet and Guido Orlandi's response.

DGR's source text was Cicciaporci (Sonnet XXIII, page 12).

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: 130d-1861.raw.xml