Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Waddington, ed. > The Sonnets of Europe
Samuel Waddington, comp.  The Sonnets of Europe.  1888.
The Buried Heart
By Francesco Petrarca (1304–1374)
Translated by Barbarina, Lady Dacre

  NOT 1 skies serene, with glittering stars inlaid,
Nor gallant ships o’er tranquil ocean dancing,
Nor gay careering knights in arms advancing,
Nor wild herds bounding through the forest glade,
  Nor tidings new of happiness delayed,        5
Nor poesie, Love’s witchery enhancing,
Nor lady’s song beside clear fountain glancing,
In beauty’s pride, with chastity arrayed;
  Nor aught of lovely, aught of gay in show,
Shall touch my heart now cold within her tomb        10
Who was erewhile my life and light below!
  So heavy—tedious—sad—my days unblest,
That I, with strong desire, invoke Death’s gloom,
Her to behold, whom ne’er to have seen were best!
Note 1. These two translations by Lady Dacre are taken from the Essays on Petrarch by Ugo Foscolo, who in his dedication writes—“I am prompted to inscribe these pages with your ladyship’s name, as well by my own gratitude, as by the opinion of those distinguished literary characters, whose kind assistance, surpassed only by yours, has enabled me to present my Essays to the English reader. With one voice and with national pride they pronounce, that your poetry has preserved the very spirit of Petrarch with a fidelity hardly to be hoped for, and certainly unattained by any other translation.” Without questioning the correctness of these observations by Ugo Foscolo, which were written in January 1823, during his residence at South Bank, Regent’s Park, I would add that, so far as my own taste and judgment are concerned, there are few, if any, translations of Petrarch’s sonnets more graceful, and in every respect satisfactory, than those by Colonel Higginson, of which six are included in this selection. I have to thank him very heartily for sending me from America his volume entitled Old Port Days, from which they are quoted.
  The translators of Petrarch, whose name is legion, would hardly enable us to credit Filippo Villani when he writes, that “the musical modulation of the verses which Petrarch addressed to Laura flowed so melodiously that even the most grave could not refrain from repeating them.” But the fault in this matter is with the translators, and not with the poet. “His style,” observes Longfellow, “was melodious and polished to the last degree of elaborate finish of which expression is capable.” And his manuscripts which still exist show that he spared no pains in the correction of his work. It is to be regretted, perhaps, that he did not choose other subjects for his verse besides the one monotonous theme of his love for Laura. At the head of one of his sonnets he writes in Latin, “I began this by the impulse of the Lord (Domino jubente), 10th September, at the dawn of day, after my morning prayers,”—and one cannot but wish that he had sometimes been impelled to write on other subjects more worthy of his genius. [back]

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