Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Waddington, ed. > The Sonnets of Europe
Samuel Waddington, comp.  The Sonnets of Europe.  1888.
Of Providence
By Vincenzo da Filicaja (1642–1707)
Translated by Leigh Hunt

JUST 1 as a mother, with sweet, pious face,
  Yearns towards her little children from her seat,
  Gives one a kiss, another an embrace,
  Takes this upon her knees, that on her feet;
And while from actions, looks, complaints, pretences,        5
  She learns their feelings and their various will,
  To this a look, to that a word, dispenses,
  And, whether stern or smiling, loves them still;—
So Providence for us, high, infinite,
  Makes our necessities its watchful task,        10
  Hearkens to all our prayers, helps all our wants,
And even if it denies what seems our right,
  Either denies because ’twould have us ask,
  Or seems but to deny, or in denying grants.
Note 1. I find this translation in the notes to Longfellow’s translation of Dante’s Paradiso…. The sonnets of Filicaja have somewhat of a Miltonic grandeur in their soul-animating strains, and the one, so often referred to, addressed to Italy (page 101), might well have been written by Wordsworth. It is incorporated by Lord Byron in his Childe Harold (canto iv.) in the following stanzas:—

    “Italia! oh Italia! thou who hast
  The fatal gift of beauty, which became
  A funeral dower of present woes and past,
  On thy sweet brow is sorrow ploughed by shame
  And annals graved in characters of flame,
  Oh, God! that thou wert in thy nakedness
  Less lovely and more powerful, and couldst claim
  Thy right, and awe the robbers back, who press
To shed thy blood, and drink the tears of thy distress;
  Then might’st thou more appal; or, less desired,
  Be homely and be peaceful, undeplored
  For thy destructive charms; then, still untired,
  Would not be seen the armëd torrents poured
  Down the deep Alps; nor would the hostile horde
  Of many-nationed spoilers from the Po
  Quaff blood and water; nor the stranger’s sword
  Be thy sad weapon of defence, and so,
Victor or vanquished, thou the slave of friend or foe.”

  “There is, indeed,” writes Sismondi, “only one Italian poet belonging to the seventeenth century distinguished for his patriotic sentiments. That poet is the senator Filicaja. It is somewhat remarkable with what ardour the spark of ancient liberty revived in his breast. He was a Florentine, born on the thirtieth of December 1642, and he closed his career on the twenty-fifth of September 1707. His genius took its source in deep national and religious feelings, and in interests affecting the repose of Europe. It was first excited by witnessing the siege of Vienna by the Turks, in the year 1683, and its gallant defence by Charles V., Duke of Lorraine, with its final deliverance by John Sobieski. Filicaja composed several canzoni, breathing heroic ardour, joy, and religious gratitude, in celebration of the Christian victory, and in a style very superior to anything we find in the works of other poets of the age…. One of his sonnets (see page 101) maintains, to this day, the highest degree of reputation; and it is, perhaps, the most celebrated poetic specimen which the Italian literature of the seventeenth century affords.”—(Lit. of the South of Europe, vol. ii.) [back]

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