Sestina I.

A poem by Francesco Petrarca

A qualunque animale alberga in terra.


To every animal that dwells on earth,
Except to those which have in hate the sun,
Their time of labour is while lasts the day;
But when high heaven relumes its thousand stars,
This seeks his hut, and that its native wood,
Each finds repose, at least until the dawn.

But I, when fresh and fair begins the dawn
To chase the lingering shades that cloak'd the earth,
Wakening the animals in every wood,
No truce to sorrow find while rolls the sun;
And, when again I see the glistening stars,
Still wander, weeping, wishing for the day.

When sober evening chases the bright day,
And this our darkness makes for others dawn,
Pensive I look upon the cruel stars
Which framed me of such pliant passionate earth,
And curse the day that e'er I saw the sun,
Which makes me native seem of wildest wood.

And yet methinks was ne'er in any wood,
So wild a denizen, by night or day,
As she whom thus I blame in shade and sun:
Me night's first sleep o'ercomes not, nor the dawn,
For though in mortal coil I tread the earth,
My firm and fond desire is from the stars.

Ere up to you I turn, O lustrous stars,
Or downwards in love's labyrinthine wood,
Leaving my fleshly frame in mouldering earth,
Could I but pity find in her, one day
Would many years redeem, and to the dawn
With bliss enrich me from the setting sun!

Oh! might I be with her where sinks the sun,
No other eyes upon us but the stars,
Alone, one sweet night, ended by no dawn,
Nor she again transfigured in green wood,
To cheat my clasping arms, as on the day,
When Phoebus vainly follow'd her on earth.

I shall lie low in earth, in crumbling wood.
And clustering stars shall gem the noon of day,
Ere on so sweet a dawn shall rise that sun.


Each creature on whose wakeful eyes
The bright sun pours his golden fire,
By day a destined toil pursues;
And, when heaven's lamps illume the skies,
All to some haunt for rest retire,
Till a fresh dawn that toil renews.
But I, when a new morn doth rise,
Chasing from earth its murky shades,
While ring the forests with delight,
Find no remission of my sighs;
And, soon as night her mantle spreads,
I weep, and wish returning light
Again when eve bids day retreat,
O'er other climes to dart its rays;
Pensive those cruel stars I view,
Which influence thus my amorous fate;
And imprecate that beauty's blaze,
Which o'er my form such wildness threw.
No forest surely in its glooms
Nurtures a savage so unkind
As she who bids these sorrows flow:
Me, nor the dawn nor sleep o'ercomes;
For, though of mortal mould, my mind
Feels more than passion's mortal glow.
Ere up to you, bright orbs, I fly,
Or to Love's bower speed down my way,
While here my mouldering limbs remain;
Let me her pity once espy;
Thus, rich in bliss, one little day
Shall recompense whole years of pain.
Be Laura mine at set of sun;
Let heaven's fires only mark our loves,
And the day ne'er its light renew;
My fond embrace may she not shun;
Nor Phoebus-like, through laurel groves,
May I a nymph transform'd pursue!
But I shall cast this mortal veil on earth,
And stars shall gild the noon, ere such bright scenes have birth.


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