Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Waddington, ed. > The Sonnets of Europe
Samuel Waddington, comp.  The Sonnets of Europe.  1888.
“So gentle seems my lady and so pure”
By Dante Alighieri (1265–1321)
Translated by Thomas William Parsons
From the “Vita Nuova”

  SO 1 gentle seems my lady and so pure
When she greets any one, that scarce the eye
  Such modesty and brightness can endure,
And the tongue, trembling, falters in reply.
  She never heeds, when people praise her worth,—        5
Some in their speech, and many with a pen,
  But meekly moves, as if sent down to earth
To show another miracle to men!
  And such a pleasure from her presence grows
On him who gazeth, while she passeth by,—        10
  A sense of sweetness that no mortal knows
  Who hath not felt it,—that the soul’s repose
  Is woke to worship, and a spirit flows
Forth from her face that seems to whisper, “Sigh!”
Note 1. The editor has to thank Mr. Brander Matthews for calling his attention to this beautiful translation by Dr. Parsons of what is by many regarded as the finest of Dante’s sonnets.
  Here is another excellent rendering of the same sonnet by Mr. C. Kegan Paul:—
  “So gentle, honester than others are
My lady seems, if any she salute,
That every tongue grows tremulously mute,
Nor any eye to look on her may dare.
Though of her praises she is all aware,
Kindly she goes, humility her suit,
And seems as though she were an heavenly fruit
Dropt upon earth miraculously rare;
And as we look entranced, from out her eye
There goes a pleasing sweetness through the heart,
Which none who see her ever fail to prove;
A phantom sweet, instinct with only love,
She seems if ever her sweet lips she part,
Who to the spirit says in passing ‘sigh.’”
  Mr. William Davies writes respecting these compositions by Dante:—“His sonnets steal over the soul like a breath of summer wind, making it sigh for pure joy of its sweetness—a sweetness so refreshing, and so delicate, that one wishes it might never die, but go on whispering its delicious music for ever. Every word is a breathing vitality; the utmost simplicity of expression being united to the greatest profundity of conception. They have an inevitable ease constituting the most lucid transparency of style, which makes all shade of Confusion fly before it as from the rod of the angel of Order. They seem born out of the soul as naturally as flowers out of the earth, and are as lovely and as welcome; apparently fragile as a gossamer any wind might blow away, yet strong enough to withstand the tempest, and take its rude airs with soft odours, allaying its boisterous disorders with the tender submissiveness of interior calm.”—(Quarterly Review, January 1873.) [back]

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