Canzone XVIII.

A poem by Francesco Petrarca

Qual più diversa e nova.


Whate'er most wild and new
Was ever found in any foreign land,
If viewed and valued true,
Most likens me 'neath Love's transforming hand.
Whence the bright day breaks through,
Alone and consortless, a bird there flies,
Who voluntary dies,
To live again regenerate and entire:
So ever my desire,
Alone, itself repairs, and on the crest
Of its own lofty thoughts turns to our sun,
There melts and is undone,
And sinking to its first state of unrest,
So burns and dies, yet still its strength resumes,
And, Phoenix-like, afresh in force and beauty blooms.

Where Indian billows sweep,
A wondrous stone there is, before whose strength
Stout navies, weak to keep
Their binding iron, sink engulf'd at length:
So prove I, in this deep
Of bitter grief, whom, with her own hard pride,
That fair rock knew to guide
Where now my life in wreck and ruin drives:
Thus too the soul deprives,
By theft, my heart, which once so stonelike was,
It kept my senses whole, now far dispersed:
For mine, O fate accurst!
A rock that lifeblood and not iron draws,
Whom still i' the flesh a magnet living, sweet,
Drags to the fatal shore a certain doom to meet.

Neath the far Ethiop skies
A beast is found, most mild and meek of air,
Which seems, yet in her eyes
Danger and dool and death she still does bear:
Much needs he to be wise
To look on hers whoever turns his mien:
Although her eyes unseen,
All else securely may be viewed at will
But I to mine own ill
Run ever in rash grief, though well I know
My sufferings past and future, still my mind
Its eager, deaf and blind
Desire o'ermasters and unhinges so,
That in her fine eyes and sweet sainted face,
Fatal, angelic, pure, my cause of death I trace.

In the rich South there flows
A fountain from the sun its name that wins,
This marvel still that shows,
Boiling at night, but chill when day begins;
Cold, yet more cold it grows
As the sun's mounting car we nearer see:
So happens it with me
(Who am, alas! of tears the source and seat),
When the bright light and sweet,
My only sun retires, and lone and drear
My eyes are left, in night's obscurest reign,
I burn, but if again
The gold rays of the living sun appear,
My slow blood stiffens, instantaneous, strange;
Within me and without I feel the frozen change!

Another fount of fame
Springs in Epirus, which, as bards have told,
Kindles the lurking flame,
And the live quenches, while itself is cold.
My soul, that, uncontroll'd,
And scathless from love's fire till now had pass'd,
Carelessly left at last
Near the cold fair for whom I ceaseless sigh,
Was kindled instantly:
Like martyrdom, ne'er known by day or night,
A heart of marble had to mercy shamed.
Which first her charms inflamed
Her fair and frozen virtue quenched the light;
That thus she crushed and kindled my heart's fire,
Well know I who have felt in long and useless ire.

Beyond our earth's known brinks,
In the famed Islands of the Blest, there be
Two founts: of this who drinks
Dies smiling: who of that to live is free.
A kindred fate Heaven links
To my sad life, who, smilingly, could die
For like o'erflowing joy,
But soon such bliss new cries of anguish stay.
Love! still who guidest my way,
Where, dim and dark, the shade of fame invites,
Not of that fount we speak, which, full each hour,
Ever with larger power
O'erflows, when Taurus with the Sun unites;
So are my eyes with constant sorrow wet,
But in that season most when I my Lady met.

Should any ask, my Song!
Or how or where I am, to such reply:
Where the tall mountain throws
Its shade, in the lone vale, whence Sorga flows,
He roams, where never eye
Save Love's, who leaves him not a step, is by,
And one dear image who his peace destroys,
Alone with whom to muse all else in life he flies.


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