Poems from the Vita Nuova

Morte villana, di pietà nemica
Morte villana, di pietà nemica,
Di dolor madre antica,
Giudicio incontastabile gravoso,
Poi che hai data matera al cor doglioso
Ond’io vado pensoso,                                  5
Di te blasmar la lingua s’affatica.
E s’io di grazia ti voi’ far mendica,
Convenesi ch’eo dica
Lo tuo fallar d’onni torto tortoso,
Non però ch’a la gente sia nascoso,             10
Ma per farne cruccioso
Chi d’amor per innanzi si notrica.
Dal secolo hai partita cortesia
E ciò ch’è in donna da pregiar vertute:
In gaia gioventute                                       15
Distrutta hai l’amorosa leggiadria.
Più non voi’ discovrir qual donna sia
Che per le propietà sue canosciute.
Chi non merta salute
Non speri mai d’aver sua compagnia.             20
Villainous Death, O Pity’s Foe
Villainous death, O pity’s foe, and old
mother of misery;
O incontestable and grievous fate
that showed my aching heart so prompt a bait,
pensiveness is my mate                                       5
as I, to blame you, this my tongue make bold.
If I now say you lack a graceful mold,
it also must be told
you show your want of straightness most unstraight,
oh, not to hide from all mankind your state,            10
but just to make more great
the grief of those that Love does feed and hold.
Kindness you’ve banished from our century,
and what in woman is as virtue known.
Gladness of youthful years away is thrown,            15
and wholly wrecked all loving pleasantry.
No longer do you care if one there be
who all these qualities today may own.
Men not deserving of salvation
should never hope to share her company.               20


Villainous Death, O Pity’s Foe — (Morte villana, di pieta nemica) VII-b

In the prose narration the author states that this sonnet and the previous one were written upon the death of a young and gentle woman, who was much admired in Florence. He had seen her keeping company with Beatrice. Because of this association he wishes to speak of her death in a vituperative way, a planctus.

6. As I, to blame you, this my tongue make bold— My poetry tries to blame you with all my effort. “Blasmer,” is a Provençal word (see in the prose, VIII:12). The poet wants Death to be hated, for she lacks any grace and causes grief to all those who nourish themselves of Love, for having deprived the world of a model of “courtesy,” virtue, honesty. In this poem there are several echoes of Guittone D’Arezzo with whom Dante polemizes.

The sonnet is “rinterzato,” or with the following scheme in the original: AaBBbA, AaBBbA/ CDdC, CddC.

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