Poems for the Stone Lady 

Io son venuto al punto de la rota
 
Io son venuto al punto de la rota
che l’orizzonte, quando il sol si corca,
ci partorisce il geminato cielo,
e la stella d’amor ci sta remota
per lo raggio lucente che la ‘nforca                5
sí di traverso, che le si fa velo;
e quel pianeta che conforta il gelo
si mostra tutto a noi per lo grand’arco
nel qual ciascun di sette fa poca ombra:
e però non disgombra                                 10
un sol penser d’amore, ond’io son carco,
la mente mia, ch’è più dura che petra
in tener forte imagine di petra.
 
Levasi de la rena d’Etiopia
lo vento peregrin che l’aere turba,                15
per la spera del sol ch’ora la scalda;
e passa il mare, onde conduce copia
di nebbia tal, che, s’altro non la sturba,
questo emisperio chiude tutto e salda;
e poi si solve, e cade in bianca falda           20
di fredda neve ed in noiosa pioggia,
onde l’aere s’attrista tutto e piagne:
e Amor, che sue ragne
ritira in alto pel vento che poggia,
non m’abbandona; sí è bella donna             25
questa crudel che m’è data per donna.
 
Fuggito è ogne augel che ‘l caldo segue
del paese d’Europa, che non perde
le sette stelle gelide unquemai;
e li altri han posto a le lor voci triegue          30
per non sonarle infino al tempo verde,
se ciò non fosse per cagion di guai;
e tutti li animali che son gai
di lor natura, son d’amor disciolti,
pers che ‘l freddo lor spirito ammorta:          35
e ‘l mio più d’amor porta;
ché li dolzi pensier non mi son tolti
né mi son dati per volta di tempo,
ma donna li mi dà c’ha picciol tempo.
 
Passato hanno lor termine le fronde            40
che trasse fuor la vertù d’Ariete
per adornare il mondo, e morta è l’erba;
ramo di foglia verde a noi s’asconde
se non se in lauro, in pino o in abete
o in alcun che sua verdura serba;                45
e tanto è la stagion forte ed acerba,
c’ha morti li fioretti per le piagge,
li qual non poten tollerar la brina:
e la crudele spina
però Amor di cor non la mi tragge;              50
per ch’io son fermo di portarla
sempre ch’io sarò in vita, s’io vivesse sempre.
 
Versan le vene le fummifere acque
per li vapor che la terra ha nel ventre,
che d’abisso li tira suso in alto;                  55
onde cammino al bel giorno mi piacque
che ora è fatto rivo, e sarà mentre
che durerà del verno il grande assalto;
la terra fa un suol che par di smalto,
e l’acqua morta si converte in vetro             60
per la freddura che di fuor la serra:
e io de la mia guerra
non son però tornato un passo a retro,
né vo’ tornar; ché, se ‘l martiro è dolce,
la morte de’ passare ogni altro dolce.          65
 
Canzone, or che sarà di me ne l’altro
dolce tempo novello, quando piove
amore in terra da tutti li cieli,
quando per questi geli
amore è solo in me, e non altrove?              70
Saranne quello ch’è d’un uom di marmo,
se in pargoletta fia per core un marmo
 
I’ve Come to the Conjunction of the Wheel
 
I’ve come to the conjunction of the wheel
where the horizon as the sun goes down
gives birth for us to the twin-governed sky,
and Love’s own star is distant from us all
because of the bright ray that crosses it                   5
in such a way that it becomes a veil.
The planet that brings solace to the frost
fully to us through the great arch appears
wherein the Seven a small shadow cast;
and yet not even one                                             10
of all the thoughts of love that on me weigh
relieves my mind, now harder than a stone
in strongly storing images of stone.
 
High from the arid Ethiopian sand,
now heated by the bright sphere of the sun,             15
the pilgrim winds that stir the air arise;
they cross the ocean, whence they take along
such copious mist, that, if by nought disturbed,
closes and strengthens all this hemisphere;
and then, disintegrating, falls in white¯                    20
flakes of cold snow and most annoying rain,
at which the firmament grows sad and weeps.
But Love, who draws his nets,
because of such strong tempest, back on high,
does not abandon me—such is the woman,            25
my only beautiful and cruel woman.
 
Fled are the birds that follow warmer rays
from this our European lands, which lose
none of their seven ever-frozen stars;
the others to their voices give a rest,                       30
which will ring out in the green time again,
unless some sorrow makes them meanwhile cry;
and all the beasts, by nature frolicsome,
are freed and loosened from all cares of love
when all their spirits to the cold succumb:              35
but more than ever I
feel love in me, for my sweet thoughts are neither
taken away nor given for a long time:
a woman gives them, who has little time.
 
Leaves, that the power of the Ram brought forth       40
to brighten and adorn the world, have gone
beyond their limits, and the grass is dead;
all greenleaf boughs are hidden from our glance
except in laurel, or in pine or fir,
or in some other ever-verdant tree;                          45
and, ah, so strong and bitter is the season,
that it has killed in every field all flowers,
too small to bear the burden of the frost:
and yet from this my heart
Love does not want to draw the cruel thorn              50
which I have now resolved to bear forever—
all of my life, were I to live forever.
 
Every stream runs with smoke-infested waves
because of vapors hidden in the earth,
which from deep chasms rise up to the sky;            55
so that a path I liked on sunlit days
has turned into a brook, and will so stay
as long as winter’s horrid furies last;
the earth looks now like an enameled floor,
and the dead water freezes into glass                     60
for the cold air that locks it all without;
but from this war of mine
I have not yet a single step withdrawn,
nor want to; for if anguish is delight,
death must by far surpass every delight.                 65
 
And what, my song, will ever be of me
in the sweet season new, when from all skies
a rain of love descends upon the earth,
when even in this frost
love lives in me alone, and nowhere else?                70
Surely I will become a man of marble
if this my maiden for a heart has marble.

Notes:

I’ve Come to the Conjunction of the Wheel / (Io son venuto al punto de la rota)

This and the following poems were written for the so called Madonna Pietra, Lady Stone, whose identity has never been established. More important than the person is the medieval theme of the harsh, pitiless, disdainful woman who rejects the ardent lover. Even in the coldest part of winter Love does not abandon the poet; just as cold is the woman’s demeanor and her cruelty. The poet insists on this wintry theme throughout the canzone, for this is a topos common to the Middle Ages, as Foster and Boyde point out. The date of composition of the three poems has been set at December 1296, as a result of the astronomical allusions contained in the first nine verses which determine the position of Venus (“love’s own star”) and Saturn (“the planet that brings solace to the frost”) in relation to the Sun (“ the bright ray”). In the envoi the poet wonders what will happen of him in spring, “the sweet season”.


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