Poems for the Stone Lady 

Amor, tu vedi ben che questa donna
 
Amor, tu vedi ben che questa donna
la tua vertù non cura in alcun tempo,
che suol de l’altre belle farsi donna;
e poi s’accorse ch’ell’era mia donna
per lo tuo raggio ch’al volto mi luce,               5
d’ogne crudelità si fece donna;
sí che non par ch’ell’abbia cor di donna
ma di qual fiera l’ha d’amor più freddo;
ché per lo tempo caldo e per lo freddo
mi fa sembiante pur come una donna           10
che fosse fatta d’una bella petra
per man di quel che me’ intagliasse in petra.
 
E io, che son costante più che petra
in ubidirti per bieltà di donna,
porto nascoso il colpo de la petra,               15
con la qual tu mi desti come a petra
che t’avesse innoiato lungo tempo,
tal che m’andò al core ov’io son petra.
E mai non si scoperse alcuna petra
o da splendor di sole o da sua luce,            20
che tanta avesse né vertù né luce
che mi potesse atar da questa petra,
sí ch’ella non mi meni col suo freddo
colà dov’io sarò di morte freddo.
 
Segnor, tu sai che per algente freddo           25
l’acqua diventa cristallina petra
là sotto tramontana ov’è il gran freddo,
e l’aere sempre in elemento freddo
vi si converte sí che l’acqua è donna
in quella parte per cagion del freddo:            30
così dinanzi dal sembiante freddo
mi ghiaccia sopra il sangue d’ogne tempo,
e quel pensiero che m’accorcia il tempo
mi si converte tutto in corpo freddo,
che m’esce poi per mezzo de la luce           35
là ond’entrò la dispietata luce.
 
In lei s’accoglie d’ogni bieltà luce;
così di tutta crudeltate il freddo
le corre al core, ove non va tua luce:
per che ne li occhi sì bella mi luce               40
quando la miro, ch’io la veggio in petra,
e po’ in ogni altro ov’io volga mia luce.
Da li occhi suoi mi ven la dolce luce
che mi fa non caler d’ogn’altra donna:
così foss’ella più pietosa donna                   45
ver me, che chiamo di notte e di luce,
solo per lei servire, e luogo e tempo!
Né per altro disio viver gran tempo.
 
Però, vertù che se’ prima che tempo,
prima che moto o che sensibil luce,             50
increscati di me, c’ho sì mal tempo;
entrale in core omai, ché ben n’è tempo,
sì che per te se n’esca fuor lo freddo
che non mi lascia aver, com’altri, tempo:
ché se mi giunge lo tuo forte tempo              55
in tale stato, questa gentil petra
mi vedrà coricare in poca petra,
per non levarmi se non dopo il tempo,
quando vedrò se mai fu bella donna
nel mondo come questa acerba donna.        60
 
Canzone, io porto ne la mente donna
tal che, con tutto ch’ella mi sia petra,
mi dà baldanza, ond’ogni uom mi par freddo:
sì ch’io ardisco a far per questo freddo
la novità che per tua forma luce,                   65
che non fu mai pensata in alcun tempo.
 
Love, Very Well You Notice How This Woman
 
Love, very well you notice how this woman
scorns and ignores your power all the time,
deeming herself the only lovely woman.
Oh, since she saw she was my only woman,
for this your ray that fills my face with light,              5
she was more cruelty than she was woman,
so that her heart, no more a heart of woman,
is that of some wild beast, hateful and cold;
for, though the weather be quite warm or cold,
with these my eyes I only see a woman                 10
made not of flesh but of a lovely stone
by the most skillful artisan of stone.
 
And I, who am more obdurate than stone
in serving you for loveliness of woman,
carry the hidden blow of this hard stone,                 15
whereby you hit me as you would a stone
that had annoyed and vexed you a long time,
and landed in this heart, where I am stone.
And never could a person find a stone
with so much sun on it or inborn light,                    20
that also had such power or shining light
able to aid my life against this stone,
so that I might be spared the freezing cold
wherein in death I’ll be forever cold.
 
O lord, full well you know how freezing cold            25
changes the water into crystal stone
there in the north where dwells the greatest cold,
and how the air condenses into cold
element, so that water, too, is woman
ruling that farthest region with its cold:                   30
thus with her face, that is forever cold,
she freezes this my blood at any time,
and every thought of mine, made short by time,
becomes in me a body dead and cold,
that is then seen outside through that same light    35
which was an entrance to her ruthless light.
 
She is the harbor of all beauty’s light:
so every cruelty and every cold
run to her heart, that ever shuns your light.
So wondrous in her eyes is the new light               40
that I see splendor even in the stone
or anything that lures my pupils’ light.
'Tis from her eyes sweet light descents to me
that makes me care no more for other woman.
Oh, if she only were a kinder woman                      45
to me, who call her name by night and light!
To serve her anywhere and anytime
is my sole longing for all length of time.
 
Therefore, O Virtue, born before all time,
before all motion and all sentient light,                   50
have mercy on me, in my doleful time:
go deep into her heart, for it is time,
and see that you dispel all that is cold
and leaves me, of all men, bereft of time;
for if you reach me with your strengthy time            55
in such a state, this dear and gentle stone
will see me lay my head on a small stone
whence I will only rise when comes the time
that I shall know if ever there was woman
so fair on this my earth as this harsh woman.         60
 
My song, I carry in my mind a woman
that looks to me as hard as any stone,
yet makes me bold enough to deem men cold;
therefore I dare to make out of such cold
something that through your form shows its new light,65
something no mind imagined any time.

Notes:

Love, Very Well You Notice How This Woman / (Amor, tu vedi ben che questa donna)
 
This is a double sestina which Dante mentions in the De Vulgari as a new poetic experiment. Though he admits its artificiality, he rejoices in its poetic virtuosity and intellectual subtleties. Here we have five twelve-lines stanzas all based on five words-rhymes. The first word-rhyme of each stanza is repeated six times, (e.g. woman, stone, cold, light, time) in each stanza; two words are repeated twice in each stanza (e.g. cold, stone; light, cold; time, light; woman, time; stone, woman). The rhymes are equivocal. The theme of the woman’s coldness and cruelty remains present.

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