Canzone XX.

A poem by Francesco Petrarca

Ben mi credea passar mio tempo omai.


As pass'd the years which I have left behind,
To pass my future years I fondly thought,
Amid old studies, with desires the same;
But, from my lady since I fail to find
The accustom'd aid, the work himself has wrought
Let Love regard my tempter who became;
Yet scarce I feel the shame
That, at my age, he makes me thus a thief
Of that bewitching light
For which my life is steep'd in cureless grief;
In youth I better might
Have ta'en the part which now I needs must take,
For less dishonour boyish errors make.

Those sweet eyes whence alone my life had health
Were ever of their high and heavenly charms
So kind to me when first my thrall begun,
That, as a man whom not his proper wealth,
But some extern yet secret succour arms,
I lived, with them at ease, offending none:
Me now their glances shun
As one injurious and importunate,
Who, poor and hungry, did
Myself the very act, in better state
Which I, in others, chid.
From mercy thus if envy bar me, be
My amorous thirst and helplessness my plea.

In divers ways how often have I tried
If, reft of these, aught mortal could retain
E'en for a single day in life my frame:
But, ah! my soul, which has no rest beside,
Speeds back to those angelic lights again;
And I, though but of wax, turn to their flame,
Planting my mind's best aim
Where less the watch o'er what I love is sure:
As birds i' th' wild wood green,
Where less they fear, will sooner take the lure,
So on her lovely mien,
Now one and now another look I turn,
Wherewith at once I nourish me and burn.

Strange sustenance! upon my death I feed,
And live in flames, a salamander rare!
And yet no marvel, as from love it flows.
A blithe lamb 'mid the harass'd fleecy breed.
Whilom I lay, whom now to worst despair
Fortune and Love, as is their wont, expose.
Winter with cold and snows,
With violets and roses spring is rife,
And thus if I obtain
Some few poor aliments of else weak life,
Who can of theft complain?
So rich a fair should be content with this,
Though others live on hers, if nought she miss.

Who knows not what I am and still have been,
From the first day I saw those beauteous eyes,
Which alter'd of my life the natural mood?
Traverse all lands, explore each sea between,
Who can acquire all human qualities?
There some on odours live by Ind's vast flood;
Here light and fire are food
My frail and famish'd spirit to appease!
Love! more or nought bestow;
With lordly state low thrift but ill agrees;
Thou hast thy darts and bow,
Take with thy hands my not unwilling breath,
Life were well closed with honourable death.

Pent flames are strongest, and, if left to swell,
Not long by any means can rest unknown,
This own I, Love, and at your hands was taught.
When I thus silent burn'd, you knew it well;
Now e'en to me my cries are weary grown,
Annoy to far and near so long that wrought.
O false world! O vain thought!
O my hard fate! where now to follow thee?
Ah! from what meteor light
Sprung in my heart the constant hope which she,
Who, armour'd with your might,
Drags me to death, binds o'er it as a chain?
Yours is the fault, though mine the loss and pain.

Thus bear I of true love the pains along,
Asking forgiveness of another's debt,
And for mine own; whose eyes should rather shun
That too great light, and to the siren's song
My ears be closed: though scarce can I regret
That so sweet poison should my heart o'errun.
Yet would that all were done,
That who the first wound gave my last would deal;
For, if I right divine,
It were best mercy soon my fate to seal;
Since not a chance is mine
That he may treat me better than before,
'Tis well to die if death shut sorrow's door.

My song! with fearless feet
The field I keep, for death in flight were shame.
Myself I needs must blame
For these laments; tears, sighs, and death to meet,
Such fate for her is sweet.
Own, slave of Love, whose eyes these rhymes may catch,
Earth has no good that with my grief can match.


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