The Northern Way

Song and Legend From the Middle Ages

Italian Literature

Page 10


Under various allegories he paints the virtue, beauty, and untimely death of Laura.

While at my window late I stood alone,

So new and many things there cross'd my sight,

To view them I had almost weary grown.

A dappled hind appear'd upon the right,

In aspect gentle, yet of stately stride,

By two swift greyhounds chased, a black and white,

Who tore in the poor side

Of that fair creature wounds so deep and wide,

That soon they forced her where ravine and rock

The onward passage block:

Then triumph'd Death her matchless beauties o'er,

And left me lonely there her sad fate to deplore.


In a fair grove a bright young laurel made

---Surely to Paradise the plant belongs!---

Of sacred boughs a pleasant summer shade,

From whose green depths there issued so sweet songs

Of various birds, and many a rare delight

Of eye and ear, what marvel from the world

They stole my senses quite!

While still I gazed, the heavens grew black around,

The fatal lightning flash'd, and sudden hurl'd,

Uprroted to the ground,

That blessed birth. Alas! for it laid low,

And its dear shade whose like we ne'er again shall know.


A lovely and rare bird within the wood,

Whose crest with gold, whose wings with purple gleam'd,

Alone, but proudly soaring, next I view'd,

Of heavenly and immortal birth which seem'd,

Flitting now here, now there, until it stood

Where buried fount and broken laurel lay,

And sadly seeing there

The fallen trunk, the boughs all stripp'd and bare,

The channel dried---for all things to decay

So tend----it turn'd away

As if in angry scorn, and instant fled,

While through me for her loss new love and pity spread.

At length along the flowery sward I saw

So sweet and fair a lady pensive move

Thank her mere thought inspires a tender awe;

Meek in herself, but haughty against Love,

Flow'd from her waist a robe so fair and fine

Seem'd gold and snow together there to join:

But, ah! each charm above

Was veil'd from sight in an unfriendly cloud:

Stung by a lurking snake, as flowers that pine

Her head she gently bow'd,

And joyful pass'd on high, perchance secure:

Alas! that in the world grief only should endure.



He confesses and regrets his sins, and prays god to save him from eternal death.

Love held me one and twenty years enchain'd,

His flame was joy---for hope was in my grief!

For ten more years I wept without relief,

When Laura with my heart, to heaven attain'd.

Now weary grown, my life I had arraign'd

That in its error, check'd (to my belief)

Blest virtue's seeds---now, in my yellow leaf,

I grieve the misspent years, existence stain'd.

Alas! it might have sought a brighter goal,

In flying troublous thoughts, and winning peace;

O Father! I repentant seek thy throne:

Thou, in this temple hast enshrined my soul,

Oh, bless me yet, and grant its safe release!

Unjustified---my sin I humbly own.



The plaintive song of a bird recalls his keener sorrow.

Poor, solitary bird, that pour'st thy lay,

Or haply mournest the sweet season gone,

As chilly night and winter hurry on,

And daylight fades, and summer flies away!

If, as the cares that swell thy little throat,

Thou knew'st alike the woes that wound my rest.

O, thou wouldst house thee in this kindred breast,

And mix with mine thy melancholy note!

Yet little know I ours are kindred ills:

She still may live the object of thy song:

Not so for me stern Death or Heaven wills!

But the sad season, and less grateful hour,

And of past joy and sorrow thoughts that throng,

Prompt my full heart this idle lay to pour.



The third great name in Italian mediaval literature is that of Giovanni Boccaccio. He was born in Paris in 1313, and died at Certaldo in 1345. Like Dante and Petrarch he was a scholar and an industrious writer. He wrote some important historical treatises, and many poems, some of which attained some fame. But it is as a writer of prose that he deserves the name he has. In Italy, as in all other lands, there was in the Middle Ages a large body of tales and fables in circulation. In Italy, during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, these tales came into literature as Novellas or novels. The Decamerone of Boccaccio is a collection of a hundred such novels or tales. They are derived from many sources, probably not more than three or four of them being invented by Boccaccio. The tale we select is interesting as furnishing the basis for one of Keats' beautiful romantic ballads.

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