Poems from the Vita Nuova

Voi che portate la sembianza umile
 
Voi che portate la sembianza umile,
Con li occhi bassi, mostrando dolore,
Onde venite, che ‘l vostro colore
Par divenuto de pietà simile?
 
Vedeste voi nostra donna gentile                   5
Bagnar nel viso suo di pianto Amore?
Ditelmi, donne, ché ‘l mi dice il core,
Perch’io vi veggio andar sanz’atto vile.
 
E se venite da tanta pietate,
Piacciavi di restar qui meco alquanto,           10
E qual che sia di lei, nol mi celate.
 
Io veggio li occhi vostri c’hanno pianto,
E veggiovi tornar sì sfigurate
Che ‘1 cor mi triema di vederne tanto.

Se’ tu colui c’hai trattato sovente
 
Se’ tu colui c’hai trattato sovente
Di nostra donna, sol parlando a nui?
Tu risomigli a la voce ben lui,
Ma la figura ne par d’altra gente.
 
E perché piangi tu sì coralmente,                  5
Che fai di te pietà venire altrui?
Vedestù pianger lei, che tu non pui
Punto celar la dolorosa mente?
 
Lascia piangere noi e triste andare
(E fa peccato chi mai ne conforta),               10
Che nel suo pianto l’udimmo parlare.
 
Ell’ha nel viso la pietà sì scorta
Che qual l’avesse voluta mirare
Sarebbe innanzi lei piangendo morta.
 
Oh, You, Who Show Such Countenance of Woe
 
Oh, you, who show such countenance of woe,
with obvious sorrow in your bended gaze,
where are you coming from? Upon your face
nothing but pity’s color is aglow.
 
Did you see Love’s own tears in sadness flow,        5
mingled with hers—the fount of gentleness?
Oh, tell me, ladies, what my heart can guess,
for I behold you so submissive go.
 
And if you come from so much piety,
oh, for a while remain beside me here,                  10
and all you know of her hide not from me.
 
Your eyes, I see, have shed too many a tear,
for you return in such great misery,
this heart of mine is overwhelmed with fear.

Are You the One Who of Our Lady Spoke
 
Are you the one who of our lady spoke
many a time, addressing us alone?
er voice you liken to Love’s very own,
but like somebody else she seems to look.
 
What makes you now so heartily bemoan,             5
that other people of your grief partake?
Have you seen her in tears, that you should make
whatever pains your mind so plainly known?
 
Oh, let us weep and still in grief proceed,
who heard her speak and tearfully lament              10
(sinful is he, who ever comforts us).
 
Such pity was on her face evident
that, had one dared to see her as she was,
one would have, weeping, in her presence died.

Notes:

Oh, You Who Wear Such Countenance of Woe — (Voi che portate la sembianza umile)
                       and
Are You the One Who of Our Lady Spoke—(Se’ tu colui c’hai trattato sovente) — (XXII)

The poet records the death of Beatrice’s father, Folco Portinari, who died toward the end of 1289 and, having been a most generous and worthy citizen of Florence, was accorded a splendid public funeral. In 1285 he provided funds for a public hospital for the poor which was completed on June 23, 1288. He was one of the Priori in 1282, ‘85 and ‘87. The occasion leaves the poet grief-stricken as he describes the countenance of those women who have “witnessed” Beatrice’s agony and pain. Such is the sadness that “one would have, weeping, in her presence died.”


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