Sestina IV.

A poem by Francesco Petrarca

Chi è fermato di menar sua vita.


Who is resolved to venture his vain life
On the deceitful wave and 'mid the rocks,
Alone, unfearing death, in little bark,
Can never be far distant from his end:
Therefore betimes he should return to port
While to the helm yet answers his true sail.

The gentle breezes to which helm and sail
I trusted, entering on this amorous life,
And hoping soon to make some better port,
Have led me since amid a thousand rocks,
And the sure causes of my mournful end
Are not alone without, but in my bark.

Long cabin'd and confined in this blind bark,
I wander'd, looking never at the sail,
Which, prematurely, bore me to my end;
Till He was pleased who brought me into life
So far to call me back from those sharp rocks,
That, distantly, at last was seen my port.

As lights at midnight seen in any port,
Sometimes from the main sea by passing bark,
Save when their ray is lost 'mid storms or rocks;
So I too from above the swollen sail
Saw the sure colours of that other life,
And could not help but sigh to reach my end.

Not that I yet am certain of that end,
For wishing with the dawn to be in port,
Is a long voyage for so short a life:
And then I fear to find me in frail bark,
Beyond my wishes full its every sail
With the strong wind which drove me on those rocks.

Escape I living from these doubtful rocks,
Or if my exile have but a fair end,
How happy shall I be to furl my sail,
And my last anchor cast in some sure port;
But, ah! I burn, and, as some blazing bark,
So hard to me to leave my wonted life.

Lord of my end and master of my life,
Before I lose my bark amid the rocks,
Direct to a good port its harass'd sail!


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