To Laura In Death. Canzone V.

A poem by Francesco Petrarca

Solea dalla fontana di mia vita.


I who was wont from life's best fountain far
So long to wander, searching land and sea,
Pursuing not my pleasure, but my star,
And alway, as Love knows who strengthen'd me,
Ready in bitter exile to depart,
For hope and memory both then fed my heart;
Alas! now wring my hands, and to unkind
And angry Fortune, which away has reft
That so sweet hope, my armour have resign'd;
And, memory only left,
I feed my great desire on that alone,
Whence frail and famish'd is my spirit grown.

As haply by the way, if want of food
Compel the traveller to relax his speed,
Losing that strength which first his steps endued,
So feeling, for my weary life, the need
Of that dear nourishment Death rudely stole,
Leaving the world all bare, and sad my soul,
From time to time fair pleasures pall, my sweet
To bitter turns, fear rises, and hopes fail,
My course, though brief, that I shall e'er complete:
Cloudlike before the gale,
To win some resting-place from rest I flee,
--If such indeed my doom, so let it be.

Never to mortal life could I incline,
--Be witness, Love, with whom I parley oft--
Except for her who was its light and mine.
And since, below extinguish'd, shines aloft
The life in which I lived, if lawful 'twere,
My chief desire would be to follow her:
But mine is ample cause of grief, for I
To see my future fate was ill supplied;
This Love reveal'd within her beauteous eye
Elsewhere my hopes to guide:
Too late he dies, disconsolate and sad,
Whom death a little earlier had made glad.

In those bright eyes, where wont my heart to dwell,
Until by envy my hard fortune stirr'd
Rose from so rich a temple to expel,
Love with his proper hand had character'd
In lines of pity what, ere long, I ween
The issue of my old desire had been.
Dying alone, and not my life with me,
Comely and sweet it then had been to die,
Leaving my life's best part unscathed and free;
But now my fond hopes lie
Dead in her silent dust: a secret chill
Shoots through me when I think that I live still.

If my poor intellect had but the force
To help my need, and if no other lure
Had led it from the plain and proper course,
Upon my lady's brow 'twere easy sure
To have read this truth, "Here all thy pleasure dies,
And hence thy lifelong trial dates its rise."
My spirit then had gently pass'd away
In her dear presence from all mortal care;
Freed from this troublesome and heavy clay,
Mounting, before her, where
Angels and saints prepared on high her place,
Whom I but follow now with slow sad pace.

My song! if one there be
Who in his love finds happiness and rest,
Tell him this truth from me,
"Die, while thou still art bless'd,
For death betimes is comfort, not dismay,
And who can rightly die needs no delay."


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