Translations Of The Italian Poems

A poem by William Cowper


Fair Lady, whose harmonious name the Rheno
Through all his grassy vale delights to hear,
Base were, indeed, the wretch, who could forbear
To love a spirit elegant as thine,
That manifests a sweetness all divine,
Nor knows a thousand winning acts to spare,
And graces, which Love's bow and arrows are,
Temp'ring thy virtues to a softer shine.
When gracefully thou speak'st, or singest gay
Such strains as might the senseless forest move,
Ah then--turn each his eyes and ears away,
Who feels himself unworthy of thy love!
Grace can alone preserve him, e'er the dart
Of fond desire yet reach his inmost heart.


As on a hill-top rude, when closing day
Imbrowns the scene, some past'ral maiden fair
Waters a lovely foreign plant with care,
That scarcely can its tender bud display
Borne from its native genial airs away,
So, on my tongue these accents new and rare
Are flow'rs exotic, which Love waters there,
While thus, o sweetly scornful! I essay
Thy praise in verse to British ears unknown,
And Thames exchange for Arno's fair domain;
So Love has will'd, and oftimes Love has shown
That what He wills he never wills in vain.
Oh that this hard and steril breast might be
To Him who plants from heav'n, a soil as free.


They mock my toil--the nymphs and am'rous swains--
And whence this fond attempt to write, they cry,
Love-songs in language that thou little know'st?
How dar'st thou risque to sing these foreign strains?
Say truly. Find'st not oft thy purpose cross'd,
And that thy fairest flow'rs, Here, fade and die?
Then with pretence of admiration high--
Thee other shores expect, and other tides,
Rivers on whose grassy sides
Her deathless laurel-leaf with which to bind
Thy flowing locks, already Fame provides;
Why then this burthen, better far declin'd?
Speak, Canzone! for me.--The Fair One said who guides
My willing heart, and all my Fancy's flights,
"This is the language in which Love delights."

To Charles Diodati.

Charles--and I say it wond'ring--thou must know
That I who once assum'd a scornful air,
And scoff'd at love, am fallen in his snare
(Full many an upright man has fallen so)
Yet think me not thus dazzled by the flow
Of golden locks, or damask cheek; more rare
The heart-felt beauties of my foreign fair;
A mien majestic, with dark brows, that show
The tranquil lustre of a lofty mind;
Words exquisite, of idioms more than one,
And song, whose fascinating pow'r might bind,
And from her sphere draw down the lab'ring Moon,
With such fire-darting eyes, that should I fill
My ears with wax, she would enchant me still.


Lady! It cannot be, but that thine eyes
Must be my sun, such radiance they display
And strike me ev'n as Phoebus him, whose way
Through torrid Libya's sandy desert lies.
Meantime, on that side steamy vapours rise
Where most I suffer. Of what kind are they,
New as to me they are, I cannot say,
But deem them, in the Lover's language--sighs.
Some, though with pain, my bosom close conceals,
Which, if in part escaping thence, they tend
To soften thine, they coldness soon congeals.
While others to my tearful eyes ascend,
Whence my sad nights in show'rs are ever drown'd,
'Till my Aurora comes, her brow with roses bound.


Enamour'd, artless, young, on foreign ground,
Uncertain whither from myself to fly,
To thee, dear Lady, with an humble sigh
Let me devote my heart, which I have found
By certain proofs not few, intrepid, sound,
Good, and addicted to conceptions high:
When tempests shake the world, and fire the sky,
It rests in adamant self-wrapt around,
As safe from envy, and from outrage rude,
From hopes and fears, that vulgar minds abuse,
As fond of genius, and fix'd fortitude,
Of the resounding lyre, and every Muse.
Weak you will find it in one only part,
Now pierc'd by Love's immedicable dart.

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