Petrarch Laura Francesco Petrarch and Laura For a woman he would never know
For a woman he could never have
He should change the world forever
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Petrarch:The Canzoniere

Translated by: A.S.Kline
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Information on the sonnet is available here.
Looking for an analysis of a specific poem from the Canzoniere?
Read I go thinking an analysis of poem 264 by Holly Barbaccia.

Listen to this poem (mp3) recited in Italian by Moro Silo

Di pensier in pensier, di monte in monte
mi guida Amor, ch'ogni segnato calle
provo contrario a la tranquilla vita.
Se 'n solitaria piaggia, o rivo, o fonte,
se 'nfra duo poggi siede ombrosa valle,
ivi s'acqueta l'alma sbigottita;
et come Amor l'envita,
or ride, or piange, or teme, or s'assecura;
e 'l volto che lei segue ov'ella il mena
si turba et rasserena,
et in un esser picciol tempo dura;
onde a la vista huom di tal vita experto
diria: Questo arde, et di suo stato è incerto.

Per alti monti et per selve aspre trovo
qualche riposo: ogni habitato loco
è nemico mortal degli occhi miei.
A ciascun passo nasce un penser novo
de la mia donna, che sovente in gioco
gira 'l tormento ch'i' porto per lei;
et a pena vorrei
cangiar questo mio viver dolce amaro,
ch'i' dico: Forse anchor ti serva Amore
ad un tempo migliore;
forse, a te stesso vile, altrui se' caro.
Et in questa trapasso sospirando:
Or porrebbe esser vero? or come? or quando?

Ove porge ombra un pino alto od un colle
talor m'arresto, et pur nel primo sasso
disegno co la mente il suo bel viso.
Poi ch'a me torno, trovo il petto molle
de la pietate; et alor dico: Ahi, lasso,
dove se' giunto! et onde se' diviso!
Ma mentre tener fiso
posso al primo pensier la mente vaga,
et mirar lei, et oblïar me stesso,
sento Amor sí da presso,
che del suo proprio error l'alma s'appaga:
in tante parti et sí bella la veggio,
che se l'error durasse, altro non cheggio.

I' l'ò piú volte (or chi fia che mi 'l creda?)
ne l'acqua chiara et sopra l'erba verde
veduto viva, et nel tronchon d'un faggio
e 'n bianca nube, sí fatta che Leda
avria ben detto che sua figlia perde,
come stella che 'l sol copre col raggio;
et quanto in piú selvaggio
loco mi trovo e 'n piú deserto lido,
tanto piú bella il mio pensier l'adombra.
Poi quando il vero sgombra
quel dolce error, pur lí medesmo assido
me freddo, pietra morta in pietra viva,
in guisa d'uom che pensi et pianga et scriva.

Ove d'altra montagna ombra non tocchi,
verso 'l maggiore e 'l piú expedito giogo
tirar mi suol un desiderio intenso;
indi i miei danni a misurar con gli occhi
comincio, e 'ntanto lagrimando sfogo
di dolorosa nebbia il cor condenso,
alor ch'i' miro et penso,
quanta aria dal bel viso mi diparte
che sempre m'è sí presso et sí lontano.
Poscia fra me pian piano:
Che sai tu, lasso! forse in quella parte
or di tua lontananza si sospira.
Et in questo penser l'alma respira.

Canzone, oltra quell'alpe
là dove il ciel è piú sereno et lieto
mi rivedrai sovr'un ruscel corrente,
ove l'aura si sente
d'un fresco et odorifero laureto.
Ivi è 'l mio cor, et quella che 'l m'invola;
qui veder pôi l'imagine mia sola.

Love leads me on, from thought to thought,
from mountain to mountain, since every path blazed
proves opposed to the tranquil life.
If there is a stream or a fountain on a solitary slope,
if a shadowed valley lies between two hills,
the distressed soul calms itself there:
and, as Love invites it to,
now smiles, or weeps, or fears, or feels secure:
and my face that follows the soul where she leads
is turbid and then clear,
and remains only a short time in one mode:
so that a man expert in such a life would say
at the sight of me: 'He is on fire, and uncertain of his state.'

I find some repose in high mountains
and in savage woods: each inhabited place
is the mortal enemy of my eyes.
At every step a new thought of my lady
is born, which often turns the suffering
I bear to joy, because of her:
and, as often as I wish
to alter my bitter and sweet life,
I say: 'Perhaps Love is saving you
for a better time:
perhaps you are dear to another, hateful to yourself.'
And with this, sighing, I continue:
'Now can this be true? And how? And when?'

Sometimes I stop where a high pine tree or a hill
provides shade, and on the first stone
I trace in my mind her lovely face.
When I come to myself, I find my chest
wet with pity: and then I say: 'Ah, alas,
what are you come to, and what are you parted from!'
But as long as I can keep
my wandering mind fixed on that first thought,
and gaze at her, and forget myself,
I feel Love so close to me
that my soul is satisfied with its own error:
I see her in many places and so lovely,
that I ask no more than that my error last.

Many times I have seen here vividly
(now, who will believe me?) in clear water
and on green grass, and in a beech trunk,
and in a white cloud, so made that Leda
would surely have said her daughter was eclipsed,
like a star the sun obscures with its rays:
and the wilder the place I find
and the more deserted the shore,
the more beautifully my thoughts depict her.
Then when the truth dispels
that sweet error, I still sit there chilled,
the same, a dead stone on living stone,
in the shape of a man who thinks and weeps and writes.

I feel a sole intense desire draw me
where the shadow of no other mountain falls,
towards the highest and most helpful peak:
from there I begin to measure out my suffering
with my eyes, and, weeping, to release
the sorrowful cloud that condenses in my heart,
when I think and see,
what distance parts me from her lovely face,
which is always so near to me, and so far.
Then softly I weep to myself:
'Alas, what do you know! Perhaps somewhere
now she is sighing for your absence.'
And the soul takes breath at this thought.

Song, beyond the mountain,
there where the sky is more serene and joyful,
you will see me once more by a running stream,
where the breeze is fragrant
with fresh and perfumed laurel.
There is my heart, and she who steals it from me:
here you can only see my ghost.

© Copyright 1999-2006
Peter Sadlon
Updated Sept 10th 2007

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