To Laura In Death. Canzone VI.

A poem by Francesco Petrarca

Quando il suave mio fido conforto.


When she, the faithful soother of my pain,
This life's long weary pilgrimage to cheer,
Vouchsafes beside my nightly couch to appear,
With her sweet speech attempering reason's strain;
O'ercome by tenderness, and terror vain,
I cry, "Whence comest thou, O spirit blest?"
She from her beauteous breast
A branch of laurel and of palm displays,
And, answering, thus she says.
"From th' empyrean seat of holy love
Alone thy sorrows to console I move."

In actions, and in words, in humble guise
I speak my thanks, and ask, "How may it be
That thou shouldst know my wretched state?" and she
"Thy floods of tears perpetual, and thy sighs
Breathed forth unceasing, to high heaven arise.
And there disturb thy blissful state serene;
So grievous hath it been,
That freed from this poor being, I at last
To a better life have pass'd,
Which should have joy'd thee hadst thou loved as well
As thy sad brow, and sadder numbers tell."

"Oh! not thy ills, I but deplore my own,
In darkness, and in grief remaining here,
Certain that thou hast reach'd the highest sphere,
As of a thing that man hath seen and known.
Would God and Nature to the world have shown
Such virtue in a young and gentle breast,
Were not eternal rest
The appointed guerdon of a life so fair?
Thou! of the spirits rare,
Who, from a course unspotted, pure and high,
Are suddenly translated to the sky.

"But I! how can I cease to weep? forlorn,
Without thee nothing, wretched, desolate!
Oh, in the cradle had I met my fate,
Or at the breast! and not to love been born!"
And she: "Why by consuming grief thus worn?
Were it not better spread aloft thy wings,
And now all mortal things,
With these thy sweet and idle fantasies,
At their just value prize,
And follow me, if true thy tender vows,
Gathering henceforth with me these honour'd boughs?"

Then answering her:--"Fain would I thou shouldst say
What these two verdant branches signify."
"Methinks," she says, "thou may'st thyself reply,
Whose pen has graced the one by many a lay.
The palm shows victory; and in youth's bright day
I overcame the world, and my weak heart:
The triumph mine in part,
Glory to Him who made my weakness strength!
And thou, yet turn at length!
'Gainst other powers his gracious aid implore,
That we may be with Him thy trial o'er!"

"Are these the crisped locks, and links of gold
That bind me still? And these the radiant eyes.
To me the Sun?" "Err not with the unwise,
Nor think," she says, "as they are wont. Behold
In me a spirit, among the blest enroll'd;
Thou seek'st what hath long been earth again:
Yet to relieve thy pain
'Tis given me thus to appear, ere I resume
That beauty from the tomb,
More loved, that I, severe in pity, win
Thy soul with mine to Heaven, from death and sin."

I weep; and she my cheek,
Soft sighing, with her own fair hand will dry;
And, gently chiding, speak
In tones of power to rive hard rocks in twain;
Then vanishing, sleep follows in her train.


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