Poems for the Stone Lady 

Così nel mio parlar voglio esser aspro
Così nel mio parlar voglio esser aspro
com’è ne li atti questa bella petra,
la quale ognora impetra
maggior durezza e più natura cruda,
e veste sua persona d’un diaspro                    5
tal, che per lui, o perch’ella s’arretra,
non esce di faretra
saetta che già mai la colga ignuda:
ed ella ancide, e non val ch’om si chiuda
né si dilunghi da’ colpi mortali,                      10
che, com’avesser ali,
giungono altrui e spezzan ciascun’arme;
sì ch’io non so da lei né posso atarme.
Non trovo scudo ch’ella non mi spezzi
né loco che dal suo viso m’asconda;             15
ché, come fior di fronda,
così de la mia mente tien la cima.
Cotanto del mio mal par che si prezzi
quanto legno di mar che non lieva onda;
e ‘l peso che m’affonda                                 20
tal che non potrebbe adequar rima.
Ahi angosciosa e dispietata lima
che sordamente la mia vita scemi,
perché non ti ritemi
sì di rodermi il core a scorza a scorza,           25
com’io di dire altrui chi ti dà forza?
Ché più mi triema il cor qualora io penso
di lei in parte ov’altri li occhi induca,
per tema non traluca
lo mio penser di fuor sì che si scopra,           30
ch’io non fo de la morte, che ogni senso
co li denti d’Amor già mi manduca;
ciò è che ‘l pensier bruca
la lor vertù, sí che n’allenta l’opra.
E' m’ha percosso in terra, e stammi sopra      35
con quella spada ond’elli ancise Dido,
Amore, a cui io grido
merzé chiamando, e umilmente il priego;
ed el d’ogni merzé par messo al niego.
Egli alza ad or a ad or la mano, e sfida          40
la debole mia vita, esto perverso,
che disteso a riverso
mi tiene in terra d’ogni guizzo stanco:
allor mi surgon ne la mente strida;
e ‘l sangue, ch’è per le vene disperso,           45
fuggendo corre verso
lo cor, che ‘l chiama; ond’io rimango bianco.
Elli mi fiede sotto il braccio manco
sí forte, che ‘l dolor nel cor rimbalza:
allor dico: “S’elli alza                                    50
un’altra volta, Morte m’avrà chiuso
prima che ‘l colpo sia disceso giuso”.
Così vedess’io lui fender per mezzo
lo core a la crudele che ‘l mio squatra!
poi non mi sarebb’atra                                  55
la morte, ov’io per sua bellezza corro:
ché tanto di nel sol quanto nel rezzo
questa scherana micidiale e latra.
Ohmè, perché non latra
per me, com’io per lei, nel caldo borro?          60
che tosto griderei: “Io vi soccorro”;
e fare’ l volentier, si come quelli
che ne’ biondi capelli
ch’Amor per consumarmi increspa e dora
metterei mano, e piacere’le allora.                 65
S’io avessi le belle trecce prese,
che fatte son per me scudiscio e ferza,
pigliandole anzi terza,
con esse passerei vespero e squille:
e non sarei pietoso né cortese,                     70
anzi farei com’orso quando scherza;
e se Amor me ne sferza,
io mi vendicherei di più di mille.
Ancor ne li occhi, ond’escon le faville
che m’infiammano il cor, ch’io porto anciso,    75
guarderei presso e fiso,
per vendicar lo fuggir che mi face;
e poi le renderei con amor pace.
Canzon, vattene dritto a quella donna
che m’ha ferito il core e che m’invola             80
quello ond’io ho più gola,
e dille per lo cor d’una saetta:
ché bell’onor s’acquista in far vendetta.
I Want to Charge My Words with So Much Harshness
I want to charge my words with so much harshness
as this enchanting stone has in her actions,
she who is ever growing
harder in nature and more fierce and ruthless,
and clothes in such hard adamant her being            5
that, either for its strength or her retreating,
never does any arrow
that leaves the quiver find her ever bare:
she slays, and, oh, to no avail can one
withdraw or run from all her mortal blows,               10
which, as endowed with wings,
reach every man and every armor break;
so there is no defense that I may take.
No shield is there for me she would not sunder,
nor any place where I may shun her features;         15
for, as a stem its blossom,
holds she the summit of my intellect.
She seems to care about my suffering
as much as would a ship in tranquil seas;
and such is now the burden                                  20
that pulls me down, no rhyme is fit to tell it.
Oh, pitiless and most relentless file,
so deafly wearing my existence out,
why do you not refrain
from gnawing at my heart, bit after bit,                   25
as I from naming him, who grants you might?
My heart beats faster when I think of her
in places where I am by people seen,
for fear that all my thinking
may so shine through as to be seen outside—      30
more than I tremble at this death, now biting
all of my senses with the teeth of Love;
it is my thought, I reckon,
chews on their strength and makes their functions fail.
Love struck me to the ground and stands above me, 35
the sword that once slew Dido in his hand,
so that for mercy, mercy
to him I cry with every humble prayer;
but oh, no truth—only denial’s there.
Daring my weary life, he often raises                     40
his hand against me—this horrendous god
who keeps me on my back
upon the ground, too weak even to writhe.
Cries of despair then surge up to my mind,
and all the blood that through my veins is coursing 45
comes rushing to the heart,
that calls it: whiteness is all over me.
So fiercely under my left arm he wounds me
that the new pain rebounds deep in my heart.
“If once again,” I say,                                           50
“he lifts his hand, Death will have taken me,
before his blow descends, mercifully.”
Oh, might I see him strike right through the heart
of that most cruel one who quarters mine!
The death to which I’m running for her beauty         55
would only then no more be black to me:
for no good comes by sunshine or by shade
from this my thievish, thankless, murderous foe.
Oh, why does she not yelp
for me, as I for her, in fiery pit?                              60
“Let me now help you,” I would quickly shout;
and gladly I would do, as others would:
in her blond, lustrous tresses,
which Love has curled and gilded for my death,
I’d thrust this hand, to please her then and there.   65
Oh, if I could but seize those lovely tresses
which have become both whip and lash for me,
from very early matins
I’d make them ringing bells unto the night:
and I would not be pitying or kind,                         70
but like a playful bear with her I’d play;
and, since Love whips me still,
I would avenge myself a thousandfold.
Into those eyes, from which the sparks come forth
that burn this deadened weight that is my heart,     75
I very close would stare,
thus to avenge the cowardice of my past,
and then with love I’d give her peace at last.
To such a woman, O my song, go straight—
to her who wounded me and still conceals             80
what I most hunger for:
her heart (oh, now!) with a fast arrow cleave,
for in revenge great honor we achieve.


I Want to Charge My Words With So Much Harshness (Così nel mio parlar voglio esser aspro)
This is the most famous of the “Stone rhymes” for, in the content and in the poetic form, the lady’s harshness is matched. In the De Vulgari, Dante condemns a “harsh rhythm” in poetry unless it is employed to alleviate pain, as it does here. The last verse of the envoi upholds the righteousness of justified vengeance.

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