Dino Compagni. “Sonnet (to Guido Cavalcanti). He reproves Guido for his arrogance in Love.”

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

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

Scholarly Commentary


DGR's note to his translation comments on the poem as yet another example of “these poets rating one another for the want of constancy in love”. The translation's evident connection to The Blessed Damozel, however, underscores DGR's effort to establish his own credentials of true constancy. In his case, however, the constancy at stake is an aesthetic/cultural one—to the poetry his translations mean to exalt and imitate. In an odd but very striking way, the “courteous duty” that marks the modesty of a proper lover (and artist) gets far more strongly realized in DGR's translation than in the original sonnet. DGR's note underscores this difference by pointing out the contentious spirit that runs through so much of the poetry he is translating. Compagni charges Cavalcanti with coarseness as well as pride in trying to “draw the women from their balconies” instead of trying to “mount upon a golden stair” to the elevated position of the lady. It is much to the point that Compagni associates Cavalcanti with “women” rather than with a single lady.

One final matter must be noted: DGR's use of the word “draw” in the final line. Although it is questionable whether DGR, at this early point in his career, consciously used this word in a double sense, he would later do so in a number of remarkable cases and ways. See for example the crucial three-poem sequence in “The House of Life”: “Soul's Beauty”, “Body's Beauty”, and “The Monochord”.

DGR's source text, as he notes in The Early Italian Poets (p. 217n), was Giovanni Crescimbeni's L'istoria della volgar poesie (first published in one volume in Rome, 1698 and subsequently expanded to 6 vols., and published in Venice in 1731, which was the edition DGR used.)

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: 135d-1861.raw.xml