Poems from the Vita Nuova

Io mi senti’ svegliar dentro a lo core
Io mi senti’ svegliar dentro a lo core
Un spirito amoroso che dormia:
E poi vidi venir da lungi Amore
Allegro sì, che appena il conoscia,
Dicendo: “Or pensa pur di farmi onore”;          5
E ’n ciascuna parola sua ridia.
E poco stando meco il mio segnore,
Guardando in quella parte onde venia,
Io vidi monna Vanna e monna Bice
Venire inver lo loco là ‘v’io era,                      10
L’una appresso de l’altra maraviglia;
E sì come la mente mi ridice,
Amor mi disse: “Quell’è Primavera,
E quell’ha nome Amor, sì mi somiglia”.
I Felt a Loving Spirit Suddenly
I felt a loving spirit suddenly,
past a long slumber, in my heart arise;
from far away then Love I seemed to see,
so glad, I could his face ill recognize.
He told me, “Do your best to honor me,”                 5
and laughter in each word I did surmise.
With my lord there, I was still eagerly
watching his steps, when I, to my surprise,
saw Mona Vanna and Mona Beatrice
coming towards me, where I still was standing—   10
one bliss pursuing still another bliss.
And—here is what I am reminded of—
Love said, “The first is Springtime, but the second
resembles me so much, her name is Love.”


I Felt a Loving Spirit Suddenly — (Io mi senti’ svegliar dentro a lo core)— (XXIV)

The Christological symbolism of Beatrice is reinforced and concretized in this sonnet in which Mona Vanna appears as a precursor, Vanna being Guido Cavalcanti’s lady, whom Love identifies as Primavera, while Beatrice’s “name is Love.” The narrative part of the chapter reveals that Primavera is analogous to “prima verrà” (she will come first) and that her name Giovanna is from that John “who preceded the truthful light.” The analogy Beatrice-Christ is firmly established, as Dante creates a correspondence between objects and names. By bringing in Cavalcanti and his lady, Dante intends to conduct a theoretical discourse on poetry and its essence, as can be seen in chapter 25 of the Vita Nuova. The result of this discourse in which love is declared “uno accidente in sostanza”— in so far as a sensitive passion is an “accident” not a “substance” — is the composition of the following sonnet, perhaps the most famous in Italian literature.

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