Canzone IV.

A poem by Francesco Petrarca

Si è debile il filo a cui s' attene.


The thread on which my weary life depends
So fragile is and weak,
If none kind succour lends,
Soon 'neath the painful burden will it break;
Since doom'd to take my sad farewell of her,
In whom begins and ends
My bliss, one hope, to stir
My sinking spirit from its black despair,
Whispers, "Though lost awhile
That form so dear and fair,
Sad soul! the trial bear,
For thee e'en yet the sun may brightly shine,
And days more happy smile,
Once more the lost loved treasure may be thine."
This thought awhile sustains me, but again
To fail me and forsake in worse excess of pain.

Time flies apace: the silent hours and swift
So urge his journey on,
Short span to me is left
Even to think how quick to death I run;
Scarce, in the orient heaven, yon mountain crest
Smiles in the sun's first ray,
When, in the adverse west,
His long round run, we see his light decay
So small of life the space,
So frail and clogg'd with woe,
To mortal man below,
That, when I find me from that beauteous face
Thus torn by fate's decree,
Unable at a wish with her to be,
So poor the profit that old comforts give,
I know not how I brook in such a state to live.

Each place offends, save where alone I see
Those eyes so sweet and bright,
Which still shall bear the key
Of the soft thoughts I hide from other sight;
And, though hard exile harder weighs on me,
Whatever mood betide,
I ask no theme beside,
For all is hateful that I since have seen.
What rivers and what heights,
What shores and seas between
Me rise and those twin lights,
Which made the storm and blackness of my days
One beautiful serene,
To which tormented Memory still strays:
Free as my life then pass'd from every care,
So hard and heavy seems my present lot to bear.

Alas! self-parleying thus, I but renew
The warm wish in my mind,
Which first within it grew
The day I left my better half behind:
If by long absence love is quench'd, then who
Guides me to the old bait,
Whence all my sorrows date?
Why rather not my lips in silence seal'd?
By finest crystal ne'er
Were hidden tints reveal'd
So faithfully and fair,
As my sad spirit naked lays and bare
Its every secret part,
And the wild sweetness thrilling in my heart,
Through eyes which, restlessly, o'erfraught with tears,
Seek her whose sight alone with instant gladness cheers.

Strange pleasure!--yet so often that within
The human heart to reign
Is found--to woo and win
Each new brief toy that men most sigh to gain:
And I am one from sadness who relief
So draw, as if it still
My study were to fill
These eyes with softness, and this heart with grief:
As weighs with me in chief
Nay rather with sole force,
The language and the light
Of those dear eyes to urge me on that course,
So where its fullest source
Long sorrow finds, I fix my often sight,
And thus my heart and eyes like sufferers be,
Which in love's path have been twin pioneers to me.

The golden tresses which should make, I ween,
The sun with envy pine;
And the sweet look serene,
Where love's own rays so bright and burning shine,
That, ere its time, they make my strength decline,
Each wise and truthful word,
Rare in the world, which late
She smiling gave, no more are seen or heard.
But this of all my fate
Is hardest to endure,
That here I am denied
The gentle greeting, angel-like and pure,
Which still to virtue's side
Inclined my heart with modest magic lure;
So that, in sooth, I nothing hope again
Of comfort more than this, how best to bear my pain.

And--with fit ecstacy my loss to mourn--
The soft hand's snowy charm,
The finely-rounded arm,
The winning ways, by turns, that quiet scorn,
Chaste anger, proud humility adorn,
The fair young breast that shrined
Intellect pure and high,
Are now all hid the rugged Alp behind.
My trust were vain to try
And see her ere I die,
For, though awhile he dare
Such dreams indulge, Hope ne'er can constant be,
But falls back in despair
Her, whom Heaven honours, there again to see,
Where virtue, courtesy in her best mix,
And where so oft I pray my future home to fix.

My Song! if thou shalt see,
Our common lady in that dear retreat,
We both may hope that she
Will stretch to thee her fair and fav'ring hand,
Whence I so far am bann'd;
--Touch, touch it not, but, reverent at her feet,
Tell her I will be there with earliest speed,
A man of flesh and blood, or else a spirit freed.


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