Poems from the Vita Nuova

Tanto gentile e tanto onesta pare
 
Tanto gentile e tanto onesta pare
La donna mia quand’ella altrui saluta,
Ch’ogne lingua deven tremando muta,
E li occhi no l’ardiscon di guardare.
 
Ella si va, sentendosi laudare,                       5
Benignamente d’umiltà vestuta;
E par che sia una cosa venuta
Da cielo in terra a miracolo mostrare
 
Mostrasi sì piacente a chi la mira,
Che dà per li occhi una dolcezza al core,      10
Che ‘ntender no la può chi no la prova;
 
E par che de la sua labbia si mova
Un spirito soave pien d’amore,
Che va dicendo a l’anima: “Sospira”.
 
So Winsome and So Worthy Seems to Me
 
So winsome and so worthy seems to me
my lady, when she greets a passer-by,
that every tongue can only babble shy
and eager glances lose temerity.
 
Sweetly and dressed in all humility,                       5
away she walks from all she’s praisèd by,
and truly seems a thing come from the sky
to show on earth what miracles can be.
 
So much she pleases every gazing eye,
she gives a sweetness through it to the heart,       10
which he who does not feel it fails to guess.
 
A spirit full of love and tenderness
seems from her features ever to depart,
that, reaching for the soul, says softly “Sigh.”

Notes:

So Winsome and So Worthy Seems to Me — (Tanto gentile e tanto onesta pare)—(XXVI)

Dante has already described the effect of her salutation on himself (chapter 11); now he describes its effects on others. The fact that she is “dressed in all humility” means that she is in perfect peace and tranquility, a miracle, the source of all sweetness. Cavalcanti had previously used the “sigh” departing “from her features”; “parlare uom non le può, ma ciascun ne sospira.” This most harmonious and beautiful sonnet has achieved Dante’s poetic goal of the highest form of love poetry embodied in the stilnovistic credo of Purgatorio 24.


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