To Laura In Death. Canzone I.

A poem by Francesco Petrarca

Che debb' io far? che mi consigli, Amore?

HE ASKS COUNSEL OF LOVE, WHETHER HE SHOULD FOLLOW LAURA, OR STILL ENDURE EXISTENCE.


What should I do? what, Love, dost thou advise?
Full time it is to die:
And longer than I wish have I delay'd.
My mistress is no more, and with her gone my heart;
To follow her, I must need
Break short the course of my afflictive years:
To view her here below
I ne'er can hope; and irksome 'tis to wait.
Since that my every joy
By her departure unto tears is turn'd,
Of all its sweets my life has been deprived.

Thou, Love, dost feel, therefore to thee I plain,
How grievous is my loss;
I know my sorrows grieve and weigh thee down,
E'en as our common cause: for on one rock
We both have wreck'd our bark;
And in one instant was its sun obscured.
What genius can with words
Rightly describe my lamentable state?
Ah, blind, ungrateful world!
Thou hast indeed just cause with me to mourn;
That beauty thou didst hold with her is fled!

Fall'n is thy glory, and thou seest it not;
Unworthy thou with her,
While here she dwelt, acquaintance to maintain.
Or to be trodden by her saintly feet;
For that, which is so fair,
Should with its presence decorate the skies
But I, a wretch who, reft
Of her, prize nor myself nor mortal life,
Recall her with my tears:
This only of my hope's vast sum remains;
And this alone doth still support me here.

Ah, me! her charming face is earth become,
Which wont unto our thought
To picture heaven and happiness above!
Her viewless form inhabits paradise,
Divested of that veil,
Which shadow'd while below her bloom of life,
Once more to put it on,
And never then to cast it off again;
When so much more divine,
And glorious render'd, 'twill by us be view'd,
As mortal beauty to eternal yields.

More bright than ever, and a lovelier fair,
Before me she appears,
Where most she's conscious that her sight will please
This is one pillar that sustains my life;
The other her dear name,
That to my heart sounds so delightfully.
But tracing in my mind,
That she who form'd my choicest hope is dead
E'en in her blossom'd prime;
Thou knowest, Love, full well what I become:
She I trust sees it too, who dwells with truth.

Ye sweet associates, who admired her charms,
Her life angelical,
And her demeanour heavenly upon earth
For me lament, and be by pity wrought
No wise for her, who, risen
To so much peace, me has in warfare left;
Such, that should any shut
The road to follow her, for some length of time,
What Love declares to me
Alone would check my cutting through the tie;
But in this guise he reasons from within:

"The mighty grief transporting thee restrain;
For passions uncontroll'd
Forfeit that heaven, to which thy soul aspires,
Where she is living whom some fancy dead;
While at her fair remains
She smiles herself, sighing for thee alone;
And that her fame, which lives
In many a clime hymn'd by thy tongue, may ne'er
Become extinct, she prays;
But that her name should harmonize thy voice;
If e'er her eyes were lovely held, and dear."
Fly the calm, green retreat;
And ne'er approach where song and laughter dwell,
O strain; but wail be thine!
It suits thee ill with the glad throng to stay,
Thou sorrowing widow wrapp'd in garb of woe.

NOTT.

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