Poems from the Convivio

Amor che ne la mente mi ragiona
 
Amor che ne la mente mi ragiona
de la mia donna disiosamente,
move cose di lei meco sovente,
che lo ‘ntelletto sovr’esse disvia.
Lo suo parlar sì dolcemente sona,            5
che l’anima ch’ascolta e che lo sente
dice: “Oh me lassa! ch’io non son possente
di dir quel ch’odo de la donna mia!”
E certo e’ mi conven lasciare in pria,
s’io vo’ trattar di quel ch’odo di lei,          10
ciò che lo mio intelletto non comprende;
e di quel che s’intende
gran parte, perché dirlo non savrei.
Però, se le mie rime avran difetto
ch’entreran ne la loda di costei,             15
di ciò si biasmi il debole intelletto
e ‘l parlar nostro, che non ha valore
di ritrar tutto ciò che dice Amore.
 
Non vede il sol, che tutto ‘l mondo gira,
cosa tanto gentil, quanto in quell’ora       20
che luce ne la parte ove dimora
la donna di cui dire Amor mi face.
Ogni intelletto di là su la mira,
e quella gente che qui s’innamora
ne’ lor pensieri la truovano ancora,          25
quando Amor fa sentir de la sua pace.
Suo esser tanto a Quei che lel dà piace,
che ‘nfonde sempre in lei la sua vertute
oltre ‘l dimando di nostra natura.
La sua anima pura,                               30
che riceve da lui questa salute,
lo manifesta in quel ch’ella conduce:
ché ‘n sue bellezze son cose vedute
che li occhi di color dov’ella luce
ne mandan messi al cor pien di desiri,     35
che prendon aire e diventan sospiri.
 
In lei discende la virtù divina
sì come face in angelo che ‘l vede;
e qual donna gentil questo non crede,
vada con lei e miri li atti sui.                    40
Quivi dov’ella parla si dichina
un spirito da ciel, che reca fede
come l’alto valor ch’ella possiede
a oltre quel che si conviene a nui.
Li atti soavi ch’ella mostra altrui              45
vanno chiamando Amor ciascuno a prova
in quella voce che lo fa sentire.
Di costei si può dire:
gentile in donna ciò che in lei si trova,
e bello tanto quanto lei simiglia.              50
E puossi dir che ‘l suo aspetto giova
a consentir ciò che par maraviglia;
onde la nostra fede è aiutata:
però fu tal da etterno ordinata.
 
Cose appariscon ne lo suo aspetto         55
che mostran de’ piacer di Paradiso,
dico ne li occhi e nel suo dolce riso,
che le vi reca Amor com’a suo loco.
Elle soverchian lo nostro intelletto,
come raggio di sole un tale viso:             60
e perch’io non le posso mirar riso,
mi conven contentar di dirne poco.
Sua bieltà piove fiammelle di foco,
animate d’un spirito gentile
ch’è creatore d’ogni pensier bono;          65
e rompon come trono
l’innati vizii che fanno altrui vile.
Però qual donna sente sua bieltate
biasmar per non parer queta e umile,
miri costei ch’è essemplo d’umiltate!       70
Questa è colei ch’umilia ogni perverso:
costei pensò chi mosse l’universo.
 
Canzone, e’ par che tu parli contraro
al dir d’una sorella che tu hai;
che questa donna che tanto umil fai      75
ella la chiama fera e disdegnosa.
Tu sai che ‘l ciel sempr’è lucente e chiaro,
e quanto in sé, non si turba già mai;
ma li nostri occhi per cagioni assai
chiaman la stella talor tenebrosa.         80
Così, quand’ella la chiama orgogliosa,
non considera lei secondo il vero,
ma pur secondo quel ch’a lei parea:
ché l’anima temea,
e teme ancora, sì che mi par fero         85
quantunqu’io veggio là ‘v’ella mi senta.
Così ti scusa, se ti fa mestero;
e quando poi, a lei ti rappresenta:
dirai: “Madonna, s’ello v’è a grato,
io parlerò di voi in ciascun lato”.           90
Love that Converses with Me in My Mind
 
Love that converses with me in my mind
about my lady so desiringly
often about her moves new things in me
whereby my intellect is swayed and stirred.
So is the sound of all her speaking kind                5
that my soul, heedful of his melody,
can only sigh, “Oh, never shall I be
able to praise my lady as I’ve heard.”
If I still long for a describing word,
surely right now ‘t is better to forego                     10
all that is unintelligible to my thought;
and even part of what
I understand I’d fail to let you know.
Therefore, if but deficiency of song,
can now not make my lady’s honor grow               15
it is my intellect that’s weak and wrong,
and this our speech is powerless once more
to tell you all that Love has said before.
 
The sun sees not, who circles all the world,
a thing so gentle as until the hour                         20
where all his beams fall down upon the place
where lives the very one Love bids me praise.
Her from above all Intellects admire,
and those on earth who love, or ever will,
in all their thoughts find still                                 25
when Love makes known the rapture of her peace.
Her life, Love-given, giveth Love such bliss,
in her he makes his virtue overbrim
beyond nature’s control.
The purity of her soul,                                          30
that all such saving grace receives from him,
ever in all her ways reveals it bright:
such are the things that in her beauty gleam,
they make the eyes of those who see her light
send messages of longing to the heart                  35
that, quickly taking wing, as sighs depart.
 
On her descends the selfsame divine power
as upon angels in God’s very view.
Go with her, ladies, who call this untrue,
and in her actions an example find.                      40
When’er she speaks, right then from heaven’
a spirit down descends, that proves anew
how the high virtue that within her grew
by far transcends the merit of mankind.
Her gentle gestures that all glances bind,              45
each vying with the other all around,
so sweetly call on Love, he must but heed.
Of her it may be said:
what’s dear in woman, first in her is found,
and only what resembles her is fair.                      50
And we may also say her beauty’s bound
to help one doubt no more what seems so rare:
wherefore our faith is aided, which was faint,
such was she from eternity ordained.
 
Things in her aspect ever I detect,                        55
that show us ecstasies of Paradise—
I mean, in her sweet smile and in her eyes,
which Love left here as in their proper home.
By far they so surpass our intellect
as ray of sun a feeble sight defies;                        60
and, since my eager gaze most vainly tries,
I gladly will describe but some of them.
Flamelets of fire from her beauty shower,
enlivened with a breath of gentleness
that soon engenders every noble thought:              65
they rend, as thunderbolt,
the vices that make others vile and base.
So let all women, who now hear and see
her beauty blamed for want of humbleness,
watch this example of humility!                             70
She is the one who humbles the perverse,—
planned by the Mover of the universe.
 
My song, you speak the opposite, I fear,
of everything one of your sisters said:
the one you make so humble and so sweet           75
was by her called most fierce and proud, instead.
You know the sky is ever bright and clear,
and, high above, no cloud can alter it:
but many a reason makes our eyes unfit,
which oftentimes even a star call dark.                  80
So, she has called her proud, but only meant
to judge her not as true as truth should be
but just as she appeared to her alone:

for so has terror grown
in this my soul, all things seem fierce to me          85
there, where I see her, who can hear my word.
Let this be your excuse if need there be;
go to her then, and let your voice be heard.
Tell her, “My lady, if you deem it fair,
I will but sing your praises everywhere.”                 90

Notes

Love that Converses With Me in My Mind / (Amor che ne la mente mi ragiona)

Second canzone of the Convivio, which Dante mentions in De Vulgari eloquentia II,vi,6, together with songs authored by Cavalcanti, Guinizelli, Cino and others, as example of the most excellent degree of construction, “gradus constructionis excellentissimus.” The Lady’s praise, or as the author says “the ineffable condition of this theme,” (Convivio III,ii,i) cannot be expressed by human words, thus explaining the poet’s inadequacy in dealing with it which is in essence a topos of humility. The song, in fact, is most admirable in conveying the virtue of this Lady “wherefore our faith is aided” and “one who humbles the perverse” for “Flamelets of fire from her beauty come.” (Cfr. “Ladies who understand Love’s every way”). In the envoi the verse “...one of your sisters wrote”: refers to ballad LXXX of Dante’s Rime, “Voi che savete ragionar d’Amore” (“You, who know well how to converse with Love”) in which the poet laments “a disdainful lady, who with all her worth has snatched my heart away.” The excuse is clarified with the example of the star which may appear “spent” to our eyes, but in reality is not. It depends, therefore, on the condition of the beholder. When he called her “fierce and proud,” it was because his soul was seized by excessive desire and passion. (Cfr. Convivio, III,x). In Purgatorio 2:105-117, Casella sings this canzone at Dante’s request: “l’amoroso canto/che mi solea quetar tutte mie doglie.”


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