Vita Nuova

XVI

After completing this last sonnet I was moved by a desire to write more poetry in which I should mention four more things that, it seemed to me, had not yet been made clear. The first of these is that many times I grieved when my memory excited my imagination to think of the transformations that Love worked in me. The second is that Love, many times without warning, attacked me so violently that no part of me remained alive except one thought that spoke of this lady. The third is that when this battle of Love raged within me so, I went in all my pallor to behold this lady, believing that the sight of her would defend me in this battle, but forgetting what happens to me whenever I approach such abundant graciousness. The fourth is that not only did this sight not defend me but it ultimately annihilated my little remaining life. Therefore I composed this sonnet, which begins: ‘So many times’.

So many times there comes into my mind
the dark condition Love bestows on me,
that pity comes and often makes me say:
‘Could anyone have ever felt the same?’
So forcefully and suddenly Love strikes
that my life would all but abandon me
were it not for one last surviving spirit,
allowed to live because it speaks of you.
Hoping to help myself, I gather courage
and pale and drawn and lacking all defence,
I come to see you hoping to be healed;
but if I raise my eyes to look at you
a trembling starts at once within my heart
and drives life out and stops by pulses’ beat.

This sonnet is divided into four parts according to the four things it speaks of, and since they are explained above, I concern myself only with indicating the parts by their beginnings; the second part begins here: ‘So forecefully’; the third here: ‘Hoping to help myself’; the fourth here: ‘ but if I raise’.

 

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