Canzone V.

A poem by Francesco Petrarca

Nella stagion che 'l ciel rapido inchina.


In that still season, when the rapid sun
Drives down the west, and daylight flies to greet
Nations that haply wait his kindling flame;
In some strange land, alone, her weary feet
The time-worn pilgrim finds, with toil fordone,
Yet but the more speeds on her languid frame;
Her solitude the same,
When night has closed around;
Yet has the wanderer found
A deep though short forgetfulness at last
Of every woe, and every labour past.
But ah! my grief, that with each moment grows,
As fast, and yet more fast,
Day urges on, is heaviest at its close.

When Phoebus rolls his everlasting wheels
To give night room; and from encircling wood,
Broader and broader yet descends the shade;
The labourer arms him for his evening trade,
And all the weight his burthen'd heart conceals
Lightens with glad discourse or descant rude;
Then spreads his board with food,
Such as the forest hoar
To our first fathers bore,
By us disdain'd, yet praised in hall and bower,
But, let who will the cup of joyance pour,
I never knew, I will not say of mirth,
But of repose, an hour,
When Phoebus leaves, and stars salute the earth.

Yon shepherd, when the mighty star of day
He sees descending to its western bed,
And the wide Orient all with shade embrown'd,
Takes his old crook, and from the fountain head,
Green mead, and beechen bower, pursues his way,
Calling, with welcome voice, his flocks around;
Then far from human sound,
Some desert cave he strows
With leaves and verdant boughs,
And lays him down, without a thought, to sleep.
Ah, cruel Love!--then dost thou bid me keep
My idle chase, the airy steps pursuing
Of her I ever weep,
Who flies me still, my endless toil renewing.

E'en the rude seaman, in some cave confined,
Pillows his head, as daylight quits the scene,
On the hard deck, with vilest mat o'erspread;
And when the Sun in orient wave serene
Bathes his resplendent front, and leaves behind
Those antique pillars of his boundless bed;
Forgetfulness has shed
O'er man, and beast, and flower,
Her mild restoring power:
But my determined grief finds no repose;
And every day but aggravates the woes
Of that remorseless flood, that, ten long years,
Flowing, yet ever flows,
Nor know I what can check its ceaseless tears.


What time towards the western skies
The sun with parting radiance flies,
And other climes gilds with expected light,
Some aged pilgrim dame who strays
Alone, fatigued, through pathless ways,
Hastens her step, and dreads the approach of night
Then, the day's journey o'er, she'll steep
Her sense awhile in grateful sleep;
Forgetting all the pain, and peril past;
But I, alas! find no repose,
Each sun to me brings added woes,
While light's eternal orb rolls from us fast.

When the sun's wheels no longer glow,
And hills their lengthen'd shadows throw,
The hind collects his tools, and carols gay;
Then spreads his board with frugal fare,
Such as those homely acorns were,
Which all revere, yet casting them away,
Let those, who pleasure can enjoy,
In cheerfulness their hours employ;
While I, of all earth's wretches most unblest,
Whether the sun fierce darts his beams,
Whether the moon more mildly gleams,
Taste no delight, no momentary rest!

When the swain views the star of day
Quench in the pillowing waves its ray,
And scatter darkness o'er the eastern skies
Rising, his custom'd crook he takes,
The beech-wood, fountain, plain forsakes,
As calmly homeward with his flock he hies
Remote from man, then on his bed
In cot, or cave, with fresh leaves spread,
He courts soft slumber, and suspense from care,
While thou, fell Love, bidst me pursue
That voice, those footsteps which subdue
My soul; yet movest not th' obdurate fair!

Lock'd in some bay, to taste repose
On the hard deck, the sailor throws
His coarse garb o'er him, when the car of light
Granada, with Marocco leaves,
The Pillars famed, Iberia's waves,
And the world's hush'd, and all its race, in night.
But never will my sorrows cease,
Successive days their sum increase,
Though just ten annual suns have mark'd my pain;
Say, to this bosom's poignant grief
Who shall administer relief?
Say, who at length shall free me from my chain?

And, since there's comfort in the strain,
I see at eve along each plain.
And furrow'd hill, the unyoked team return:
Why at that hour will no one stay
My sighs, or bear my yoke away?
Why bathed in tears must I unceasing mourn?
Wretch that I was, to fix my sight
First on that face with such delight,
Till on my thought its charms were strong imprest,
Which force shall not efface, nor art,
Ere from this frame my soul dispart!
Nor know I then if passion's votaries rest.

O hasty strain, devoid of worth,
Sad as the bard who brought thee forth,
Show not thyself, be with the world at strife,
From nook to nook indulge thy grief;
While thy lorn parent seeks relief,
Nursing that amorous flame which feeds his life!


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