To Laura In Death. Sestina I.

A poem by Francesco Petrarca

Mia benigna fortuna e 'l viver lieto.


My favouring fortune and my life of joy,
My days so cloudless, and my tranquil nights,
The tender sigh, the pleasing power of song,
Which gently wont to sound in verse and rhyme,
Suddenly darken'd into grief and tears,
Make me hate life and inly pray for death!

O cruel, grim, inexorable Death!
How hast thou dried my every source of joy,
And left me to drag on a life of tears,
Through darkling days and melancholy nights.
My heavy sighs no longer meet in rhyme,
And my hard martyrdom exceeds all song!

Where now is vanish'd my once amorous song?
To talk of anger and to treat with death;
Where the fond verses, where the happy rhyme
Welcomed by gentle hearts with pensive joy?
Where now Love's communings that cheer'd my nights?
My sole theme, my one thought, is now but tears!

Erewhile to my desire so sweet were tears
Their tenderness refined my else rude song,
And made me wake and watch the livelong nights;
But sorrow now to me is worse than death,
Since lost for aye that look of modest joy,
The lofty subject of my lowly rhyme!

Love in those bright eyes to my ready rhyme
Gave a fair theme, now changed, alas! to tears;
With grief remembering that time of joy,
My changed thoughts issue find in other song,
Evermore thee beseeching, pallid Death,
To snatch and save me from these painful nights!

Sleep has departed from my anguish'd nights,
Music is absent from my rugged rhyme,
Which knows not now to sound of aught but death;
Its notes, so thrilling once, all turn'd to tears,
Love knows not in his reign such varied song,
As full of sadness now as then of joy!

Man lived not then so crown'd as I with joy,
Man lives not now such wretched days and nights;
And my full festering grief but swells the song
Which from my bosom draws the mournful rhyme;
I lived in hope, who now live but in tears,
Nor against death have other hope save death!

Me Death in her has kill'd; and only Death
Can to my sight restore that face of joy,
Which pleasant made to me e'en sighs and tears,
Balmy the air, and dewy soft the nights,
Wherein my choicest thoughts I gave to rhyme
While Love inspirited my feeble song!

Would that such power as erst graced Orpheus' song
Were mine to win my Laura back from death,
As he Eurydice without a rhyme;
Then would I live in best excess of joy;
Or, that denied me, soon may some sad night
Close for me ever these twin founts of tears!

Love! I have told with late and early tears,
My grievous injuries in doleful song;
Not that I hope from thee less cruel nights;
And therefore am I urged to pray for death,
Which hence would take me but to crown with joy,
Where lives she whom I sing in this sad rhyme!

If so high may aspire my weary rhyme,
To her now shelter'd safe from rage and tears,
Whose beauties fill e'en heaven with livelier joy,
Well would she recognise my alter'd song,
Which haply pleased her once, ere yet by death
Her days were cloudless made and dark my nights!

O ye, who fondly sigh for better nights,
Who listen to love's will, or sing in rhyme,
Pray that for me be no delay in death,
The port of misery, the goal of tears,
But let him change for me his ancient song,
Since what makes others sad fills me with joy!

Ay! for such joy, in one or in few nights,
I pray in rude song and in anguish'd rhyme,
That soon my tears may ended be in death!


Reader Comments

Tell us what you think of 'To Laura In Death. Sestina I.' by Francesco Petrarca

comments powered by Disqus