Sestina II

A poem by Francesco Petrarca

Giovane donna sott' un verde lauro.


A youthful lady 'neath a laurel green
Was seated, fairer, colder than the snow
On which no sun has shone for many years:
Her sweet speech, her bright face, and flowing hair
So pleased, she yet is present to my eyes,
And aye must be, whatever fate prevail.

These my fond thoughts of her shall fade and fail
When foliage ceases on the laurel green;
Nor calm can be my heart, nor check'd these eyes
Until the fire shall freeze, or burns the snow:
Easier upon my head to count each hair
Than, ere that day shall dawn, the parting years.

But, since time flies, and roll the rapid years,
And death may, in the midst, of life, assail,
With full brown locks, or scant and silver hair,
I still the shade of that sweet laurel green
Follow, through fiercest sun and deepest snow,
Till the last day shall close my weary eyes.

Oh! never sure were seen such brilliant eyes,
In this our age or in the older years,
Which mould and melt me, as the sun melts snow,
Into a stream of tears adown the vale,
Watering the hard roots of that laurel green,
Whose boughs are diamonds and gold whose hair.

I fear that Time my mien may change and hair,
Ere, with true pity touch'd, shall greet my eyes
My idol imaged in that laurel green:
For, unless memory err, through seven long years
Till now, full many a shore has heard my wail,
By night, at noon, in summer and in snow.

Thus fire within, without the cold, cold snow,
Alone, with these my thoughts and her bright hair,
Alway and everywhere I bear my ail,
Haply to find some mercy in the eyes
Of unborn nations and far future years,
If so long flourishes our laurel green.

The gold and topaz of the sun on snow
Are shamed by the bright hair above those eyes,
Searing the short green of my life's vain years.


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