Canzone II.

A poem by Francesco Petrarca

O aspettata in ciel, beata e bella.


O spirit wish'd and waited for in heaven,
That wearest gracefully our human clay,
Not as with loading sin and earthly stain,
Who lov'st our Lord's high bidding to obey,--
Henceforth to thee the way is plain and even
By which from hence to bliss we may attain.
To waft o'er yonder main
Thy bark, that bids the world adieu for aye
To seek a better strand,
The western winds their ready wings expand;
Which, through the dangers of that dusky way,
Where all deplore the first infringed command,
Will guide her safe, from primal bondage free,
Reckless to stop or stay,
To that true East, where she desires to be.

Haply the faithful vows, and zealous prayers,
And pious tears by holy mortals shed,
Have come before the mercy-seat above:
Yet vows of ours but little can bestead,
Nor human orison such merit bears
As heavenly justice from its course can move.
But He, the King whom angels serve and love,
His gracious eyes hath turn'd upon the land
Where on the cross He died;
And a new Charlemagne hath qualified
To work the vengeance that on high was plann'd,
For whose delay so long hath Europe sigh'd.
Such mighty aid He brings his faithful spouse,
That at its sound the pride
Of Babylon with trembling terror bows.

All dwellers 'twixt the hills and wild Garonne,
The Rhodanus, and Rhine, and briny wave,
Are banded under red-cross banners brave;
And all who honour'd guerdon fain would have
From Pyrenees to the utmost west, are gone,
Leaving Iberia lorn of warriors keen,
And Britain, with the islands that are seen
Between the columns and the starry wain,
(Even to that land where shone
The far-famed lore of sacred Helicon,)
Diverse in language, weapon, garb and strain,
Of valour true, with pious zeal rush on.
What cause, what love, to this compared may be?
What spouse, or infant train
E'er kindled such a righteous enmity?

There is a portion of the world that lies
Far distant from the sun's all-cheering ray,
For ever wrapt in ice and gelid snows;
There under cloudy skies, in stinted day,
A people dwell, whose heart their clime outvies
By nature framed stern foemen of repose.
Now new devotion in their bosom glows,
With Gothic fury now they grasp the sword.
Turk, Arab, and Chaldee,
With all between us and that sanguine sea,
Who trust in idol-gods, and slight the Lord,
Thou know'st how soon their feeble strength would yield;
A naked race, fearful and indolent,
Unused the brand to wield,
Whose distant aim upon the wind is sent.

Now is the time to shake the ancient yoke
From off our necks, and rend the veil aside
That long in darkness hath involved our eyes;
Let all whom Heaven with genius hath supplied,
And all who great Apollo's name invoke,
With fiery eloquence point out the prize,
With tongue and pen call on the brave to rise;
If Orpheus and Amphion, legends old,
No marvel cause in thee,
It were small wonder if Ausonia see
Collecting at thy call her children bold,
Lifting the spear of Jesus joyfully.
Nor, if our ancient mother judge aright,
Doth her rich page unfold
Such noble cause in any former fight.

Thou who hast scann'd, to heap a treasure fair,
Story of ancient day and modern time,
Soaring with earthly frame to heaven sublime,
Thou know'st, from Mars' bold son, her ruler prime,
To great Augustus, he whose waving hair
Was thrice in triumph wreathed with laurel green,
How Rome hath of her blood still lavish been
To right the woes of many an injured land;
And shall she now be slow,
Her gratitude, her piety to show?
In Christian zeal to buckle on the brand,
For Mary's glorious Son to deal the blow?
What ills the impious foeman must betide
Who trust in mortal hand,
If Christ himself lead on the adverse side!

And turn thy thoughts to Xerxes' rash emprize,
Who dared, in haste to tread our Europe's shore,
Insult the sea with bridge, and strange caprice;
And thou shalt see for husbands then no more
The Persian matrons robed in mournful guise,
And dyed with blood the seas of Salamis,
Nor sole example this:
(The ruin of that Eastern king's design),
That tells of victory nigh:
See Marathon, and stern Thermopylæ,
Closed by those few, and chieftain leonine,
And thousand deeds that blaze in history.
Then bow in thankfulness both heart and knee
Before his holy shrine,
Who such bright guerdon hath reserved for thee.

Thou shalt see Italy and that honour'd shore,
O song! a land debarr'd and hid from me
By neither flood nor hill!
But love alone, whose power hath virtue still
To witch, though all his wiles be vanity,
Nor Nature to avoid the snare hath skill.
Go, bid thy sisters hush their jealous fears,
For other loves there be
Than that blind boy, who causeth smiles and tears.


O thou, in heaven expected, bright and blest,
Spirit! who, from the common frailty free
Of human kind, in human form art drest,
God's handmaid, dutiful and dear to thee
Henceforth the pathway easy lies and plain,
By which, from earth, we bless eternal gain:
Lo! at the wish, to waft thy venturous prore
From the blind world it fain would leave behind
And seek that better shore,
Springs the sweet comfort of the western wind,
Which safe amid this dark and dangerous vale,
Where we our own, the primal sin deplore,
Right on shall guide her, from her old chains freed,
And, without let or fail,
Where havens her best hope, to the true East shall lead.

Haply the suppliant tears of pious men,
Their earnest vows and loving prayers at last
Unto the throne of heavenly grace have past;
Yet, breathed by human helplessness, ah! when
Had purest orison the skill and force
To bend eternal justice from its course?
But He, heaven's bounteous ruler from on high,
On the sad sacred spot, where erst He bled,
Will turn his pitying eye,
And through the spirit of our new Charles spread
Thirst of that vengeance, whose too long delay
From general Europe wakes the bitter sigh;
To his loved spouse such aid will He convey,
That, his dread voice to hear,
Proud Babylon shall shrink assail'd with secret fear.

All, by the gay Garonne, the kingly Rhine,
Between the blue Rhone and salt sea who dwell,
All in whose bosoms worth and honour swell,
Eagerly haste the Christian cross to join;
Spain of her warlike sons, from the far west
Unto the Pyrenee, pours forth her best:
Britannia and the Islands, which are found
Northward from Calpe, studding Ocean's breast,
E'en to that land renown'd
In the rich lore of sacred Helicon,
Various in arms and language, garb and guise,
With pious fury urge the bold emprize.
What love was e'er so just, so worthy, known?
Or when did holier flame
Kindle the mind of man to a more noble aim?

Far in the hardy north a land there lies,
Buried in thick-ribb'd ice and constant snows,
Where scant the days and clouded are the skies,
And seldom the bright sun his glad warmth throws;
There, enemy of peace by nature, springs
A people to whom death no terror brings;
If these, with new devotedness, we see
In Gothic fury baring the keen glaive,
Turk, Arab, and Chaldee!
All, who, between us and the Red Sea wave,
To heathen gods bow the idolatrous knee,
Arm and advance! we heed not your blind rage;
A naked race, timid in act, and slow,
Unskill'd the war to wage,
Whose far aim on the wind contrives a coward blow.

Now is the hour to free from the old yoke
Our gallèd necks, to rend the veil away
Too long permitted our dull sight to cloak:
Now too, should all whose breasts the heavenly ray
Of genius lights, exert its powers sublime,
And or in bold harangue, or burning rhyme,
Point the proud prize and fan the generous flame.
If Orpheus and Amphion credit claim,
Legends of distant time,
Less marvel 'twere, if, at thy earnest call,
Italia, with her children, should awake,
And wield the willing lance for Christ's dear sake.
Our ancient mother, read she right, in all
Her fortune's history ne'er
A cause of combat knew so glorious and so fair!

Thou, whose keen mind has every theme explored,
And truest ore from Time's rich treasury won,
On earthly pinion who hast heavenward soar'd,
Well knowest, from her founder, Mars' bold son,
To great Augustus, he, whose brow around
Thrice was the laurel green in triumph bound,
How Rome was ever lavish of her blood,
The right to vindicate, the weak redress;
And now, when gratitude,
When piety appeal, shall she do less
To avenge the injury and end the scorn
By blessed Mary's glorious offspring borne?
What fear we, while the heathen for success
Confide in human powers,
If, on the adverse side, be Christ, and his side ours?

Turn, too, when Xerxes our free shores to tread
Rush'd in hot haste, and dream'd the perilous main
With scourge and fetter to chastise and chain,
--What see'st? Wild wailing o'er their husbands dead,
Persia's pale matrons wrapt in weeds of woe,
And red with gore the gulf of Salamis!
To prove our triumph certain, to foreshow
The utter ruin of our Eastern foe,
No single instance this;
Miltiades and Marathon recall,
See, with his patriot few, Leonidas
Closing, Thermopylæ, thy bloody pass!
Like them to dare and do, to God let all
With heart and knee bow down,
Who for our arms and age has kept this great renown.

Thou shalt see Italy, that honour'd land,
Which from my eyes, O Song! nor seas, streams, heights,
So long have barr'd and bann'd,
But love alone, who with his haughty lights
The more allures me as he worse excites,
Till nature fails against his constant wiles.
Go then, and join thy comrades; not alone
Beneath fair female zone
Dwells Love, who, at his will, moves us to tears or smiles.


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