Canzone XVI Poem by Francesco Petrarch

Canzone XVI

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O my own Italy! though words are vain
The mortal wounds to close,
Unnumber'd, that thy beauteous bosom stain,
Yet may it soothe my pain
To sigh forth Tyber's woes,
And Arno's wrongs, as on Po's sadden'd shore
Sorrowing I wander, and my numbers pour.

Ruler of heaven! By the all-pitying love
That could thy Godhead move
To dwell a lowly sojourner on earth,
Turn, Lord! on this thy chosen land thine eye:
See, God of Charity!
From what light cause this cruel war has birth;
And the hard hearts by savage discord steel'd,
Thou, Father! from on high,
Touch by my humble voice, that stubborn wrath may yield!

Ye, to whose sovereign hands the fates confide
Of this fair land the reins,—
(This land for which no pity wrings your breast)—
Why does the stranger's sword her plains invest?
That her green fields be dyed,
Hope ye, with blood from the Barbarians' veins?

Beguiled by error weak,
Ye see not, though to pierce so deep ye boast,
Who love, or faith, in venal bosoms seek:
When throng'd your standards most,
Ye are encompass'd most by hostile bands.
O hideous deluge gather'd in strange lands,
That rushing down amain
O'erwhelms our every native lovely plain!

Alas! if our own hands
Have thus our weal betray'd, who shall our cause sustain?
Well did kind Nature, guardian of our state,
Rear her rude Alpine heights,
A lofty rampart against German hate;
But blind ambition, seeking his own ill,
With ever restless will,
To the pure gales contagion foul invites:
Within the same strait fold
The gentle flocks and wolves relentless throng,
Where still meek innocence must suffer wrong:
And these,—oh, shame avow'd!—
Are of the lawless hordes no tie can hold:
Fame tells how Marius' sword
Erewhile their bosoms gored,—
Nor has Time's hand aught blurr'd the record proud!

When they who, thirsting, stoop'd to quaff the flood,
With the cool waters mix'd, drank of a comrade's blood!
Great Cæsar's name I pass, who o'er our plains
Pour'd forth the ensanguin'd tide,
Drawn by our own good swords from out their veins;
But now—nor know I what ill stars preside—
Heaven holds this land in hate!
To you the thanks!—whose hands control her helm!—
You, whose rash feuds despoil
Of all the beauteous earth the fairest realm!

Are ye impell'd by judgment, crime, or fate,
To oppress the desolate?
From broken fortunes, and from humble toil,
The hard-earn'd dole to wring,
While from afar ye bring
Dealers in blood, bartering their souls for hire?
In truth's great cause I sing.

Nor hatred nor disdain my earnest lay inspire.
Nor mark ye yet, confirm'd by proof on proof,
Bavaria's perfidy,
Who strikes in mockery, keeping death aloof?
(Shame, worse than aught of loss, in honour's eye!)
While ye, with honest rage, devoted pour
Your inmost bosom's gore!—
Yet give one hour to thought,
And ye shall own, how little he can hold
Another's glory dear, who sets his own at nought
O Latin blood of old!

Arise, and wrest from obloquy thy fame,
Nor bow before a name
Of hollow sound, whose power no laws enforce!
For if barbarians rude
Have higher minds subdued,
Ours! ours the crime!—not such wise Nature's course.

Ah! is not this the soil my foot first press'd?
And here, in cradled rest,
Was I not softly hush'd?—here fondly rear'd?
Ah! is not this my country?—so endear'd
By every filial tie!
In whose lap shrouded both my parents lie!

Oh! by this tender thought,
Your torpid bosoms to compassion wrought,
Look on the people's grief!
Who, after God, of you expect relief;
And if ye but relent,
Virtue shall rouse her in embattled might,
Against blind fury bent,
Nor long shall doubtful hang the unequal fight;
For no,—the ancient flame
Is not extinguish'd yet, that raised the Italian name!

Mark, sovereign Lords! how Time, with pinion strong,
Swift hurries life along!
E'en now, behold! Death presses on the rear.
We sojourn here a day—the next, are gone!
The soul disrobed—alone,
Must shuddering seek the doubtful pass we fear.
Oh! at the dreaded bourne,
Abase the lofty brow of wrath and scorn,
(Storms adverse to the eternal calm on high!)
And ye, whose cruelty
Has sought another's harm, by fairer deed
Of heart, or hand, or intellect, aspire
To win the honest meed
Of just renown—the noble mind's desire!

Thus sweet on earth the stay!
Thus to the spirit pure, unbarr'd is Heaven's way!
My song! with courtesy, and numbers sooth,
Thy daring reasons grace,
For thou the mighty, in their pride of place,
Must woo to gentle ruth,
Whose haughty will long evil customs nurse,
Ever to truth averse!
Thee better fortunes wait,
Among the virtuous few—the truly great!
Tell them—but who shall bid my terrors cease?
Peace! Peace! on thee I call! return, O heaven-born Peace!


See Time, that flies, and spreads his hasty wing!
See Life, how swift it runs the race of years,
And on its weary shoulders death appears!
Now all is life and all is spring:
Think on the winter and the darker day
When the soul, naked and alone,
Must prove the dubious step, the still unknown,
Yet ever beaten way.

And through this fatal vale
Would you be wafted with some gentle gale?
Put off that eager strife and fierce disdain,
Clouds that involve our life's serene,
And storms that ruffle all the scene;
Your precious hours, misspent in others' pain,
On nobler deeds, worthy yourselves, bestow;
Whether with hand or wit you raise
Some monument of peaceful praise,
Some happy labour of fair love:
'Tis all of heaven that you can find below,
And opens into all above.

Fabrizio Frosini 13 October 2015

Here is the ORIGINAL TEXT of this Petrarch's Canzone - [''Canzoniere'',128]: Italia mia, benché ’l parlar sia indarno a le piaghe mortali che nel bel corpo tuo sí spesse veggio, piacemi almen che ’ miei sospir’ sian quali 5 spera ’l Tevero et l’Arno, e ’l Po, dove doglioso et grave or seggio. Rettor del cielo, io cheggio che la pietà che Ti condusse in terra Ti volga al Tuo dilecto almo paese. 10 Vedi, Segnor cortese, di che lievi cagion’ che crudel guerra; e i cor’, che ’ndura et serra Marte superbo et fero, apri Tu, Padre, e ’ntenerisci et snoda; 15 ivi fa che ’l Tuo vero, qual io mi sia, per la mia lingua s’oda. Voi cui Fortuna à posto in mano il freno de le belle contrade, di che nulla pietà par che vi stringa, 20 che fan qui tante pellegrine spade? perché ’l verde terreno del barbarico sangue si depinga? Vano error vi lusinga: poco vedete, et parvi veder molto, 25 ché ’n cor venale amor cercate o fede. Qual piú gente possede, colui è piú da’ suoi nemici avolto. O diluvio raccolto di che deserti strani 30 per inondar i nostri dolci campi! Se da le proprie mani questo n’avene, or chi fia che ne scampi? Ben provide Natura al nostro stato, quando de l’Alpi schermo 35 pose fra noi et la tedesca rabbia; ma ’l desir cieco, e ’ncontr’al suo ben fermo, s’è poi tanto ingegnato, ch’al corpo sano à procurato scabbia. Or dentro ad una gabbia 40 fiere selvagge et mansüete gregge s’annidan sí che sempre il miglior geme: et è questo del seme, per piú dolor, del popol senza legge, al qual, come si legge, 45 Mario aperse sí ’l fianco, che memoria de l’opra ancho non langue, quando assetato et stanco non piú bevve del fiume acqua che sangue. Cesare taccio che per ogni piaggia 50 fece l’erbe sanguigne di lor vene, ove ’l nostro ferro mise. Or par, non so per che stelle maligne, che ’l cielo in odio n’aggia: vostra mercé, cui tanto si commise. 55 Vostre voglie divise guastan del mondo la piú bella parte. Qual colpa, qual giudicio o qual destino fastidire il vicino povero, et le fortune afflicte et sparte 60 perseguire, e ’n disparte cercar gente et gradire, che sparga ’l sangue et venda l’alma a prezzo? Io parlo per ver dire, non per odio d’altrui, né per disprezzo. 65 Né v’accorgete anchor per tante prove del bavarico inganno ch’alzando il dito colla morte scherza? Peggio è lo strazio, al mio parer, che ’l danno; ma ’l vostro sangue piove 70 piú largamente, ch’altr’ira vi sferza. Da la matina a terza di voi pensate, et vederete come tien caro altrui che tien sé cosí vile. Latin sangue gentile, 75 sgombra da te queste dannose some; non far idolo un nome vano senza soggetto: ché ’l furor de lassú, gente ritrosa, vincerne d’intellecto, 80 peccato è nostro, et non natural cosa. Non è questo ’l terren ch’i’ toccai pria? Non è questo il mio nido ove nudrito fui sí dolcemente? Non è questa la patria in ch’io mi fido, 85 madre benigna et pia, che copre l’un et l’altro mio parente? Perdio, questo la mente talor vi mova, et con pietà guardate le lagrime del popol doloroso, 90 che sol da voi riposo dopo Dio spera; et pur che voi mostriate segno alcun di pietate, vertú contra furore prenderà l’arme, et fia ’l combatter corto: 95 ché l’antiquo valore ne gli italici cor’ non è anchor morto. Signor’, mirate come ’l tempo vola, et sí come la vita fugge, et la morte n’è sovra le spalle. 100 Voi siete or qui; pensate a la partita: ché l’alma ignuda et sola conven ch’arrive a quel dubbioso calle. Al passar questa valle piacciavi porre giú l’odio et lo sdegno, 105 vènti contrari a la vita serena; et quel che ’n altrui pena tempo si spende, in qualche acto piú degno o di mano o d’ingegno, in qualche bella lode, 110 in qualche honesto studio si converta: cosí qua giú si gode, et la strada del ciel si trova aperta. Canzone, io t’ammonisco che tua ragion cortesemente dica, 115 perché fra gente altera ir ti convene, et le voglie son piene già de l’usanza pessima et antica, del ver sempre nemica. Proverai tua ventura 120 fra’ magnanimi pochi a chi ’l ben piace. Di’ lor: - Chi m’assicura? I’ vo gridando: Pace, pace, pace. -

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Fabrizio Frosini 13 October 2015

This is the very first poem envisioning a united Italy [= from the Alps -north- to Sicily -south-]. Petrarch, in the XIV century, envisioned Italy free from factionalism and from the 'daily' struggles of townships against townships.. Niccolò Machiavelli loved this song (see the final part of his major work ''IL PRINCIPE'') , where some of Petrarch's lines are quoted.

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Fabrizio Frosini 13 October 2015

I don't know who numbered ''XVI'' this 'canzone' by Francesco Petraca (Petrarch) . It is n° CXXVIII in Petrarca's ''Canzoniere'': CXXVIII: «Italia mia, benché 'l parlar sia indarno» Please, PH, fix the title..

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