Page by Page Books
Read Books Online, for Free
0100_005E Oldport Days Thomas Wentworth Higginson

Sunshine And Petrarch

Page 2 of 7

Table Of Contents: Oldport Days

Previous Page

Next Page

Previous Chapter

Next Chapter

More Books

More by this Author

The beautiful earth is the same as when this poetry and passion were new; there is the same sunlight, the same blue water and green grass; yonder pleasure-boat might bear, for aught we know, the friends and lovers of five centuries ago; Petrarch and Laura might be there, with Boccaccio and Fiammetta as comrades, and with Chaucer as their stranger guest. It bears, at any rate, if I know its voyagers, eyes as lustrous, voices as sweet. With the world thus young, beauty eternal, fancy free, why should these delicious Italian pages exist but to be tortured into grammatical examples? Is there no reward to be imagined for a delightful book that can match Browning's fantastic burial of a tedious one? When it has sufficiently basked in sunshine, and been cooled in pure salt air, when it has bathed in heaped clover, and been scented, page by page, with melilot, cannot its beauty once more blossom, and its buried loves revive?

Emboldened by such influences, at least let me translate a sonnet, and see if anything is left after the sweet Italian syllables are gone. Before this continent was discovered, before English literature existed, when Chaucer was a child, these words were written. Yet they are to-day as fresh and perfect as these laburnum-blossoms that droop above my head. And as the variable and uncertain air comes freighted with clover-scent from yonder field, so floats through these long centuries a breath of fragrance, the memory of Laura.

We have hundreds more books for your enjoyment. Read them all!

    SONNET 129.
    "Lieti fiori e felici."
    O joyous, blossoming, ever-blessed flowers!
    'Mid which my queen her gracious footstep sets;
    O plain, that keep'st her words for amulets
    And hold'st her memory in thy leafy bowers!
    O trees, with earliest green of spring-time hours,
    And spring-time's pale and tender violets!
    O grove, so dark the proud sun only lets
    His blithe rays gild the outskirts of your towers!
    O pleasant country-side! O purest stream,
    That mirrorest her sweet face, her eyes so clear,
    And of their living light can catch the beam!
    I envy you her haunts so close and dear.
    There is no rock so senseless but I deem
    It burns with passion that to mine is near.

Goethe compared translators to carriers, who convey good wine to market, though it gets unaccountably watered by the way. The more one praises a poem, the more absurd becomes one's position, perhaps, in trying to translate it. If it is so admirable--is the natural inquiry,--why not let it alone? It is a doubtful blessing to the human race, that the instinct of translation still prevails, stronger than reason; and after one has once yielded to it, then each untranslated favorite is like the trees round a backwoodsman's clearing, each of which stands, a silent defiance, until he has cut it down. Let us try the axe again. This is to Laura singing.

    SONNET 134.
    "Quando Amor i begli occhi a terra inchina."
    When Love doth those sweet eyes to earth incline,
    And weaves those wandering notes into a sigh
    Soft as his touch, and leads a minstrelsy
    Clear-voiced and pure, angelic and divine,
    He makes sweet havoc in this heart of mine,
    And to my thoughts brings transformation high,
    So that I say, "My time has come to die,
    If fate so blest a death for me design."
    But to my soul thus steeped in joy the sound
    Brings such a wish to keep that present heaven,
    It holds my spirit back to earth as well.
    And thus I live: and thus is loosed and wound
    The thread of life which unto me was given
    By this sole Siren who with us doth dwell.

Page 2 of 7 Previous Page   Next Page
Who's On Your Reading List?
Read Classic Books Online for Free at
Page by Page Books.TM
Oldport Days
Thomas Wentworth Higginson

Home | More Books | About Us | Copyright 2004