Stay now with me, and listen to my sighs

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1861
Rhyme: abbaabbacdecde
Meter: iambic pentameter
Genre: sonnet


“Introduction to Part II” (in Early Italian Poets) 189-193

◦ Foster and Boyd, Dante's Lyric Poetry, I.86-87 (II. 138-139) .

◦ De Robertis, ed., Vita Nuova, 207-208 .

Scholarly Commentary


The sonnet takes an important place in the final movement of the Vita Nuova, which began in the preceding canzone “The eyes that weep for pity of the heart”. The moral issues hinge on Dante's effort to depersonalize his story's events, to locate them within the economy of a divine order. This move appears in the canzone as the transference of the expression of Dante's sorrow from his person to his poetry. In this sonnet that transference is constructed according to the narrative explanation that precedes the sonnet in Chapter XXXII: that is to say, the sonnet is imagined as “spoken” by someone else, “a friend”, about “a lady who had died” who was not Beatrice. (This friend was a brother of Beatrice, perhaps the Manetto addressed in a sonnet by Cavalcanti.) Both the friend and Dante, however, are conscious of the duplicity of the entire situation. The sonnet therefore enters the text so thoroughly masked that it becomes at once a figure of Dante's psychic confusion and a secret sign of a transpersonal style of writing. The notorious obscurity of lines 5-8 in Dante's text signals this important doubleness.

This complexity and deliberated confusion re-appears in DGR's translation in (perhaps) an even more acute form; for the first person syntax now acquires a further complication, the masked voice of DGR. Two passages are especially notable. First, lines 5-8: note how DGR leaves this difficult passage in an absolute grammatical space (no syntax makes clear what word is being modified by “Seeing”). Second, similar ambiguities play through the sestet, ambiguities that are not present in Dante's text but that, in DGR's, nicely complement the suggestive obscurities of the original sonnet. So we see the final tercet might mean either that the inmost spirit harbors a “bitter scorn of everything that mourns its joy etc.”; or that there is a “bitter scorn of everything sent by the spirit etc.”. Similarly, line 9's “Also in sighing ye shall hear me call” mistranslates Dante's literal sense, where it is the “sighs”, not the first person voice, that “calls”.

DGR's source text was “Venite a intender li sospiri miei” in the third volume of Fraticelli's Opere Minori di Dante Alighieri .

Textual History: Composition

An early work, 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: 36d-1861.raw.xml