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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Meeting of Francesca and Paolo
By Silvio Pellico (1789–1854)
 
From ‘Francesca da Rimini’: Translation of Joel Foote Bingham

PAOLO  [alone]—To look on her— for the last time. My love
Renders me deaf to duty’s voice. To go,
To see her nevermore, were sacred duty.
I cannot that. Oh, how she looked at me!
Grief makes her still more beautiful; ah, yes,        5
More beautiful, more superhuman fair
She seems to me: and have I lost her too?
Has Lanciotto snatched her from my arms?
Oh, maddening thought! Oh! oh! do I not love
My brother? Happy he is now, and long        10
May he be so. But what? to build his own
Sweet lot must he a brother’s heart-strings break?
  Francesco  [advancing without seeing Paolo]—
Where is my father? At the least from him
I might have known if he still lodges here.
My—brother-in-law! These walls I ever shall        15
Hold dear. Ah, yes, his spirit will exhale
Upon this sacred soil which he has wet
With tears! O impious woman, chase away
Such criminal thoughts: I am a wife!
  Paolo—                            She talks
In a soliloquy, and graons.
  Francesco—                    Alas,
        20
This place I must forsake: it is too full
Of him! To my own private altar I
Must go apart, and day and night, prostrate
Before my God, beg mercy for my sins;
That He, the Lord and only refuge of        25
Afflicted hearts, will not abandon me
Entire.  [She starts to go.]
  Paolo—        Francesca—
  Francesca—                Oh! what do I see!
Sir—what wilt thou?
  Paolo—                    To speak with thee again.
  FrancescaTo speak with me? Alas, I am alone!—
O father, father, where art thou? Dost thou        30
Leave me alone? Thy own, thy daughter save!
I shall have strength to flee.
  Paolo—                        Whither?
  Francesca—                                Oh, sir—
Alas, pursue me not! my wish respect;
To my house altar here I am retiring:
Th’ unfortunate have need of heaven.
  Paolo—                                At my
        35
Paternal altars I will come to kneel
With thee. Who more unfortunate than I?
There shall our mingled thoughts ascend. O lady!
Thou shalt invoke my death, the death of him
Thou dost abhor. I too will pray that Heaven        40
Thy vows will hear, forgive thy hatred and
Pour joy into thy soul, and long preserve
The youth and beauty in thy looks, and give thee
All thy desire—all, all!—thy consort’s love and
Beautiful children of him!
  Francesca—                    Paolo,
        45
Alas! what do I say? Alas, weep not.
Thy death I do not ask.
  Paolo—                    Only thou dost
Abhor me.
  Francesca—            And what carest thou for it, if
I must abhor thee? I mar not thy life.
To-morrow I no longer shall be here.        50
  Paolo—Francesca, if thou dost abhor me, what
Is that to me? and this thou askest, thou?
And does thy hate disturb my life? and these
Funereal words are thine?—Thou, beautiful
As a bright angel whom the Deity,        55
In the most ardent transport of his love,
Created, dear to every one,—and thou
A happy consort,—darest to talk of death.
Me it befalls that for vain honor’s sake
I have been dragged from fatherland afar,        60
And lost. Unhappy wretch! I lost a father.
Hope always clung to re-embrace him. He
Would not have made me an unfortunate,
If I had opened up my heart to him;
And would have given me her—her whom I’ve lost        65
For aye.
  Francesca—        What dost thou mean? Talk of thy lady—
And dost thou live so wretched robbed of her?
Is love so prepotential in thy breast?
Love should not be the only flame that burns
In the bosom of a valorous cavalier.        70
Dear to him is his brand, and dear the trump
Of fame; noble affections these: pursue them.
Let not love make thee vile.
  Paolo—                    What words are these?
Wouldst thou have pity? Wouldst thou still be able
Somewhat to cease thy hatred, if I should        75
With my good sword acquire some greater fame?
One word of thy command, ’tis done. Prescribe
The place, the years. To shores the most remote
I’ll make my way; the graver I shall find
The enterprises, and the fuller fraught        80
With danger, so the sweeter they will be
To me, because Francesca laid them on me.
Honor and hardihood before have made
My sinews strong, but thy adorèd name
Will make them stronger. And, with thee intent,        85
Of tyrants now my glories will not be
Contaminate. Another crown than bay,
But woven still by thee, will I desire.
One single plaudit thine, one word, one smile,
One look—
  Francesca—            Eternal God! what sort of man
        90
Is this?
  Paolo—        Francesca, I love thee, I love thee,
And desperate is my love.
  Francesca—                        What do I hear!
Am I in a delirium? What didst
Thou say?
  Paolo—            I love thee.
  Francesca—                      Why so bold? hush, hush!
They might o’erhear. Thou lov’st me! Is thy flame        95
So sudden? Dost not know I am thy own
Sister-in-law? So quickly canst thou cast
Into oblivion thy lady lost?—
Oh, wretched me! let go this hand of mine!
Thy kisses, oh, are crimes!
  Paolo—                    No, no; my flame
        100
Is not a sudden flash. A lady I
Have lost, and thou art she; of thee I spoke;
For thee I wept; thee did I love, do love thee,
Shall love thee always till my latest hour!
And even if I must in the world below        105
Th’ eternal penance bear of wicked love,
Eternally I’ll love thee more and more.
  Francesca—Shall it be true? Was’t me that thou didst love?
  Paolo—The day that at Ravenna I arrived,
Yes, from that day I loved thee.
*        *        *        *        *
  Francesca—                            Thou, alas!
        110
Leave off;—thou loved’st me?
  Paolo—                        Then some time this flame
I did conceal, but still one day it seemed
That thou hadst read my heart. Thy steps thou wast
Directing from thy maiden chambers toward
Thy secret garden. I, beside the lake,        115
Stretched out at length among the flowers,
Thy chambers watched, and at thy coming rose
Trembling. Upon a book thy wandering eyes
Seemed to me not intent; upon the book
There fell a tear. Flushed with emotion, thou        120
Didst draw thee near to me, and then we read,—
Together read: “Of Lanciotto, how
Love bound him,”—and alone we were, without
Any suspicion near us. Then our looks
Encountered one another, and my face        125
Whitenèd,—thou didst tremble, and with haste
Didst vanish.
  Francesca—            What an escapade! With thee
The book remained.
  Paolo—                It lies upon my heart.
It used to make me happy in my far
Sojourn. Here ’tis. See, here the page we read.        130
Look here and see; here fell the tears that day,
From thy own eyes.
 
 
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