Saturday, April 10, 2010


(Petrarch by Bargilla)

Your hopes and mine have proven false again.
But let’s aspire to serve the highest good.
We’re happier when we have understood
It benefits one to uplift a friend.

The meadow’s seeming peace appears to bend
And lose its symmetry if serpents could
Be hidden ‘twixt the grass blade and the bud.
Despite this danger, here, our spirits blend.

If you long just to quiet your own mind,
few shadows lead one to a freer space.
Retirement’s best with crowds left far behind.

You might well ask how dare I wear the face
Of teacher, when temptations led me blind.
I was led here, but moved at my own pace.

-- © 2010 by Jack Veasey

All rights reserved. This work may not be reproduced or duplicated in any way without the author's written permission.

This is my English language version of a sonnet written in Italian by Franceso Petrarch (1304-1374). I don't know if I should call it a "translation," because it's not literal -- it takes a lot of liberties. Here's a literal public domain translation by A.S. Kline:

Since you and I have seen how our hope
has, so many times, turned to disappointment,
raise your heart to a happier state,
towards that great good that never cheats us.

This earthly life’s like a meadow, where
a snake hides among the grass and flowers:
and if anything is pleasing to the eye,
it leaves the spirit more entangled.

So you, who’ve always sought a mind
at peace, before the final day,
follow the few, and not the common crowd.

Though you could well say to me: ‘Brother
you show the way to others, from which
you’ve often strayed, and now more than ever.’

You can see how mine has become substantially different. In working toward making the translation back into a sonnet, I changed its meaning. I basically wrote my own sonnet based on Petrarch's.

For those who can read Italian, here's the original:

Poi che voi et io piú volte abbiam provato
come 'l nostro sperar torna fallace,
dietro a quel sommo ben che mai non spiace
levate il core a piú felice stato.

Questa vita terrena è quasi un prato,
che 'l serpente tra' fiori et l'erba giace;
et s'alcuna sua vista agli occhi piace,
è per lassar piú l'animo invescato.

Voi dunque, se cercate aver la mente
anzi l'extremo dí queta già mai,
seguite i pochi, et non la volgar gente.

Ben si può dire a me: Frate, tu vai
mostrando altrui la via, dove sovente
fosti smarrito, et or se' piú che mai.

I'm thinking about producing a number of these based on Petrarch's sonnets. Maybe I should call them interpretations, rather than translations?

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