Poems of Correspondence

Messer Cino Da Pistoia a Dante
 
Novellamente Amor mi giura e dice
d’una donna gentil, s’i’ la riguardo
che per vertù de lo su’ novo sguardo
ella sarà del meo cor beatrice.
 
Io, c’ho provato po’ come disdice,               5
quando vede imbastito lo suo dardo,
ciò che promette, a morte mi do tardo,
ch’i’ non potrò contraffar la fenice.
 
S’io levo gli occhi, e del suo colpo perde
lo core mio quel poco che di vita                 10
gli rimase d’un’altra sua ferita.
 
Che farò, Dante? ch’Amor pur m’invita,
e d’altra arte il tremor mi disperde
che peggio che lo scur non mi sia ‘l verde.

Dante A Cino
 
I’ ho veduto già senza radice
legno ch’è per omor tanto gagliardo,
che que’ che vide nel fiume lombardo
cader suo figlio, fronde fuor n’elice;
 
ma frutto no, però che ‘l contradice              5
natura, ch’al difetto fa riguardo,
perché conosce che saria bugiardo
sapor non fatto da vera notrice.
 
Giovane donna a cotal guisa verde
talor per gli occhi sì a dentro è gita             10
che tardi poi è stata la partita.
 
Periglio è grande in donna sì vestita:
però l’affronto de la gente verde
parmi che la tua caccia non seguer de’.
 
Messer Cino Da Pistoia To Dante
 
Truthfully Love just now described to me
a gentle lady who, if looked at more,
for all the power that her eyes outpour
will be the “Beatrice” of this my heart.
 
But knowing how she breaks her promises,                5
as soon as she beholds her readied dart,
tardily then to death am I resigned,
who to the phoenix am no counterpart.
 
If I but lift my glance, for her new blow
this heart surrenders the last bit of life                       10
left by another wound not long ago.
 
Dante, what shall I do? Love calls me back,
but, on the other hand, so much I fear
lest the new greenness should be worse than black.
 
Dante’s Reply To Messer Cino
 
I saw one day a tree devoid of roots,
but with such copious sap inside it still,
that, where the Lombard stream received its son,
it started shooting leaves of its own will—
 
but not one fruit, for that would be against                    5
Nature, that leaves deficiency alone,
knowing full well all savor would be false,
that by a truthful mother were not made.
 
Thus a young woman in like manner green
has through your eyes so deeply reached your heart  10
that, when she left it, it was much too late.
 
Most perilous is she, who dresses so:
therefore, I do believe your chase must not
pursue all those who just as greenly glow.

Notes:

Messer Cino da Pistoia to Dante
Recently swearing, Love described to me / (Novellamente Amor mi giura e dice}
Dante’s Reply to Messer Cino
I saw one day a tree devoid of roots / (I’ ho veduto già senza radice)
 
Contini thinks that this exchange occurred before Dante’s and Cino’s own exile. The green refers to a new woman, the black to the old one. Dante recommends that Cino not pursue new ones, for he is much too voluble. 
The “Lombard stream received its son,” is the Sun whose son Phaeton fell in the river Po.

Return to previous poem

Home

Next poem