The Northern Way

Song and Legend From the Middle Ages

Italian Literature

Page 8

Sole in thyself that dwell'st; and of thyself

Sole understood, past, present, or to come;

Thou smiledst, on that circling, which in thee

Seem'd as reflected splendour, while I mused;

For I therein, methought, in its own hue

Beheld our image painted: stedfastly

I therefore pored upon the view. As one,

Who versed in geometric lore, would fain

Measure the circle; and, though pondering long

And deeply, that beginning, which he needs,

Finds not: e'en such was I, intent to scan

The novel wonder, and trace out the form,

How to the circle fitted, and therein

How placed: but the flight was not for my wing:

Had not a flash darted athwart my mind,

And, in the spleen, unfolded what is sought.

Here vigour fail'd the towering fantasy:

But yet the will roll'd onward, like a wheel

In even motion, by the love impell'd,

That moves the sun in heaven and all the stars.

Next after Dante, the first name of importance in Italian literature is that of Francesca Petrarca, called Petrarch in English. He was the son of a Florentine exile, was born at Aruzzo in 1304, and died at Padua in 1374. He was a scholar and a diplomat, and was entrusted with many public services. Most of his active life he spent at Avignon, at the papal court, or in Vaucluse near by. When he was twenty-three, he met Laura, the beautiful woman with whomhe was always after in love, and who was the inspiration of all his lyric poetry. She was the daughter of a citizen of Avignon, and was married, probably to Ugo de Sade of Avignon. She was a good woman whose character was ever above reproach.

Petrarch was a very industrious writer. He produced many letters and treatises in Latin, besides a long Latin epic Africa. But his great and deserved fame rests upon his Italian lyric poetry---the Canzoniere. The Canzoniere is divided into three parts: the poems to Laura in life; to Laura in death; and the Triumphs. The Triumphs are inferior in merit to the other two parts. He had studied closely the Provencal poets, and had something of their spirit.

I. To Laura in Life.


He blames love for wounding him on a holy day (good Friday).

'Twas on the morn, when heaven its blessed ray

In pity to its suffering master veil'd,

First did I, Lady, to your beauty yield,

Of your victorious eyes th' unguarded prey.

Ah! little reck'd I that, on such a day,

Needed against Love's arrow any shield;

And trod, securely trod, the fatal field:

Whence, with the world's, began my heart's dismay.

On every side Love found his victim bare,

And through mine eyes transfix'd my throbbing heart;

Those eyes, which now with constant sorrows flow:

But poor the triumph of his boasted art,

Who thus could piece a naked youth not dare

To you in armour mail'd even to display his bow!



He compares himself to a pilgrim.

The palmer bent, with locks of silver gray,

Quits the sweet spot where he has pass'd his years,

Quits his poor family, whose anxious fears

Paint the loved father fainting on his way;

And trembling, on his aged limbs slow borne,

In these last days that close his earthly course,

He, in his soul's strong purpose, finds new force,

Though weak with age, though by long travel worn:

Thus reaching Rome, led on by pious love,

He seeks the image of that Saviour Lord

Whom soon he hopes to meet in bliss above:

So, oft in other forms I seek to trace

Some charm, that to my heart may yet afford

A faint resemblance of thy matchless grace.




There was a touching paleness on her face,

Which chased her smiles, but such sweet union made

Of pensive majesty and heavenly grace,

As if a passing cloud had veil'd her with its shade;

Then knew I how the blessed ones above

Gaze on each other in their perfect bliss,

For never yet was look of mortal love

So pure, so tender, so serene as this.

The softest glance fond woman ever sent

To him she loved, would cold and rayless be

Compared to this, which she divinely bent

Earthward, with angel sympathy, on me,

That seem'd with speechless tenderness to say,

"Who takes from me my faithful friend away?"

-----E. (New Monthly Magazine.)


He despairs of escaping from his torments.

Count the ocean's finny droves;

Count the twinkling host of stars,

Round the night's pale orb that moves;

Count the groves' wing'd choristers;

Count each verdant blade that grows;

Counted then will be my woes.


Index  |  Previous page  |  Next page