Canzone VI.

A poem by Francesco Petrarca

Spirto gentil che quelle membra reggi.


Spirit heroic! who with fire divine
Kindlest those limbs, awhile which pilgrim hold
On earth a Chieftain, gracious, wise, and bold;
Since, rightly, now the rod of state is thine
Rome and her wandering children to confine,
And yet reclaim her to the old good way:
To thee I speak, for elsewhere not a ray
Of virtue can I find, extinct below,
Nor one who feels of evil deeds the shame.
Why Italy still waits, and what her aim
I know not, callous to her proper woe,
Indolent, aged, slow,
Still will she sleep? Is none to rouse her found?
Oh! that my wakening hands were through her tresses wound.

So grievous is the spell, the trance so deep,
Loud though we call, my hope is faint that e'er
She yet will waken from her heavy sleep:
But not, methinks, without some better end
Was this our Rome entrusted to thy care,
Who surest may revive and best defend.
Fearlessly then upon that reverend head,
'Mid her dishevell'd locks, thy fingers spread,
And lift at length the sluggard from the dust;
I, day and night, who her prostration mourn,
For this, in thee, have fix'd my certain trust,
That, if her sons yet turn.
And their eyes ever to true honour raise.
The glory is reserved for thy illustrious days!

Her ancient walls, which still with fear and love
The world admires, whene'er it calls to mind
The days of Eld, and turns to look behind;
Her hoar and cavern'd monuments above
The dust of men, whose fame, until the world
In dissolution sink, can never fail;
Her all, that in one ruin now lies hurl'd,
Hopes to have heal'd by thee its every ail.
O faithful Brutus! noble Scipios dead!
To you what triumph, where ye now are blest,
If of our worthy choice the fame have spread:
And how his laurell'd crest,
Will old Fabricius rear, with joy elate,
That his own Rome again shall beauteous be and great!

And, if for things of earth its care Heaven show,
The souls who dwell above in joy and peace,
And their mere mortal frames have left below,
Implore thee this long civil strife may cease,
Which kills all confidence, nips every good,
Which bars the way to many a roof, where men
Once holy, hospitable lived, the den
Of fearless rapine now and frequent blood,
Whose doors to virtue only are denied.
While beneath plunder'd Saints, in outraged fanes
Plots Faction, and Revenge the altar stains;
And, contrast sad and wide,
The very bells which sweetly wont to fling
Summons to prayer and praise now Battle's tocsin ring!

Pale weeping women, and a friendless crowd
Of tender years, infirm and desolate Age,
Which hates itself and its superfluous days,
With each blest order to religion vow'd,
Whom works of love through lives of want engage,
To thee for help their hands and voices raise;
While our poor panic-stricken land displays
The thousand wounds which now so mar her frame,
That e'en from foes compassion they command;
Or more if Christendom thy care may claim.
Lo! God's own house on fire, while not a hand
Moves to subdue the flame:
--Heal thou these wounds, this feverish tumult end,
And on the holy work Heaven's blessing shall descend!

Often against our marble Column high
Wolf, Lion, Bear, proud Eagle, and base Snake
Even to their own injury insult shower;
Lifts against thee and theirs her mournful cry,
The noble Dame who calls thee here to break
Away the evil weeds which will not flower.
A thousand years and more! and gallant men
There fix'd her seat in beauty and in power;
The breed of patriot hearts has fail'd since then!
And, in their stead, upstart and haughty now,
A race, which ne'er to her in reverence bends,
Her husband, father thou!
Like care from thee and counsel she attends,
As o'er his other works the Sire of all extends.

'Tis seldom e'en that with our fairest scheme
Some adverse fortune will not mix, and mar
With instant ill ambition's noblest dreams;
But thou, once ta'en thy path, so walk that I
May pardon her past faults, great as they are,
If now at least she give herself the lie.
For never, in all memory, as to thee,
To mortal man so sure and straight the way
Of everlasting honour open lay,
For thine the power and will, if right I see,
To lift our empire to its old proud state.
Let this thy glory be!
They succour'd her when young, and strong, and great,
He, in her weak old age, warded the stroke of Fate.
Forth on thy way! my Song, and, where the bold
Tarpeian lifts his brow, shouldst thou behold,
Of others' weal more thoughtful than his own,
The chief, by general Italy revered,
Tell him from me, to whom he is but known
As one to Virtue and by Fame endear'd,
Till stamp'd upon his heart the sad truth be,
That, day by day to thee,
With suppliant attitude and streaming eyes,
For justice and relief our seven-hill'd city cries.


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