Piangendo star con l'anima smarrita

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1849? (late 1840s or early 1850s)
Rhyme: couplets
Meter: iambic, irregular
Genre: sonnet, irregular


Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the Huntington MS Text.

Scholarly Commentary


This fascinating text is constructed out of three separate parts of Cino da Pistoia's canzone to Dante, translated by DGR as “Albeit my prayers have not so long delay'd”. DGR has thus put together an irregular sonnet in Italian from the canzone's lines 6-14, 28, 58-63. The text represents another example of DGR's work in pastiche poetry so characteristic of his writings in the late 1840s and early 1850s. It has much in common with “Madonna”, the song DGR eventually incorporated into “A Last Confession”. DGR has written his free (verse) translation of part of lines 2-3 at the top of the page of the only manuscript text that we have. He later brought these lines into the translation of the full canzone he published in in The Early Italian Poets.

Wrenching the separate passages from the original text has made the already difficult Italian even more problematic. We get a glimpse of his reconstructuve act in a surviving transcription of several passages from this canzone: see the verso of DGR's manuscript copy of “Nel tempo santo non viddio mai petra”.

A conscious (even magical) act of archaizing generates this kind of poem. It is born out of an historicist's imaginative reaction against the apparent fate of history, which appears to create an unbridgeable gulf between disparate cultural scenes like thirteenth-century Italy and nineteenth-century England. This is a work that argues the need (and the possibility) of bridging that gulf. It is significant that on the verso of the single surviving manuscript of this work DGR has a series of notes including a reference to Abbate Luigi Rigoli's Saggio di rime di diversi buoni autori. . .dal 14. fino al 18 secolo (Firenze, 1825), which DGR would have used as a tool for constructing this pastiche work.

Textual History: Composition

The only extant manuscript is the copy preserved in a book of early DGR manuscripts in the Huntington Library.


Besides the canzone by Cino from which it is constructed, two texts stand directly behind this work: the canzoni “Donne ch'avete intelletto d'amore” and especially “Li occhi dolenti per pietà del core”, both from the Vita Nuova. Each is a central text in the “poetry of praise” that Dante pursued in relation to Beatrice. The latter is the canzone he wrote shortly after the death of Beatrice in 1290, the former is the opening canzone of the Vita Nuova.


Because DGR picks up the text in (as it were) mid-sentence of Cino's canzone, his translation of the latter—which is in any case fairly free—does not correspond to this reconstruction (see Cino's original and the commentary on it, ”Avvenga m' abbia piu volte per tempo”). My translation below does not follow DGR's translation of the canzone exactly but seeks a more literal rendering. The text is quite difficult.

  • Weeping with my soul bewildered,
  • saying to myself: she has already gone to heaven,
  • she whom men call by the name Blessed One,
  • alas, when and how
  • will I be able to see you in a visible form
  • so that as a living presence
  • I could make you an aid and comfort to me?
  • Then listen to me because I speak on purpose
  • of love, and refrain from sighs.
  • And now she speaks with immortal substances.
  • And all you who are now sanctified,
  • contemplating in heaven where resides
  • your heart, love her who has struck through
  • him who painted within himself such a blessed face.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 17-1853.raw.xml